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Whumptober 2019

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He never really realized how much of an impact that night had on him. He just tried to ignore it. He liked to ignore it. He had to ignore it. 

 

He couldn’t acknowledge it. He couldn’t think about how it felt.

 

The walls were collapsing all around him. His brain ran a million miles an hour, trying to figure out an escape plan, but concrete fell faster than he could move.

 

It wasn’t like anyone could do anything about it now-- it was over. It happened. Why dwell on the past shit when life was throwing so much shit at him in the present? Literally. An eraser just hit the back of his head.

 

Peter’s sense had gone blaring off at him the moment before it hit him, and he’d flinched, but didn’t try to do anything about it. The damn thing would go off whenever just about anything even slightly inconvenient would happen-- it was more annoying than helpful at this point. So many times, he felt like he just had to run. Get out of there. Do something. Do something! But whatever ‘danger’ was about to attack really turned out to be absolutely nothing. It’d been bad like that before back when he first got his powers, but ever since Homecoming, he seemed to recess back to that. 

 

It was so stupid.

 

Everything about this was so goddamn stupid.


He was being so stupid.

 

It wasn’t even that big a deal, he just needed to grow up al-freaking-ready! 

 

Worse things have happened to better people, after all. He needed to man the hell up and just move on with his life.

 

“Hey man, are you alright?” Ned had asked him, placing a hand on his shoulder as he did so.

 

To this, Peter nearly jumped out of his seat, but tried his best to play it off with a reassuring-- that actually just came off as awkward-- smile. “Yeah, yeah. ‘Course I am. Why wouldn’t I be?”

 

“Well, you're, uh… Dude, you’re sort of just shaking.” the other teen spoke carefully.

 

“Huh?” Peter didn’t think he was. He would’ve known if he was freaking shaking, wouldn’t he have? But, sure enough, when he looked down at his hands, they were. Just a little, but that was more than enough to alert a best friend. His right leg was also bouncing a lot under his desk, but that happened all the time, so neither teen thought it was a big deal. It was just something that happened with him.

 

"I'm fine, don't worry about me," Peter reassured his friend. "It's nothing. I'm, uh, I'm just kind of cold. I mean, the AC does blow right on me, so... yeah. Cold." It wasn't like he was completely lying--  the AC did hit him directly and it was pretty chilly. That and the fact that this room with the AC was small, cramped, and packed with more people than it should hold since the kids from the class next door were here while the janitors cleaned up someone's vomit. But nope, he could totally breathe just find. His body totally wasn't in a perpetual state of fight or flight and he definitely wasn't counting down the seconds until the bell rang so he could get out  of said room. 

 

Then again, then he'd be heading out into the crowded halls... fuck.

 

"Alright, I guess," Ned replied hesitantly. He  wasn't an idiot, he could tell when something was wrong with his best friend, but unfortunately, he didn't know what. It'd been happening for months now-- Peter would seem to be low-key freaking out, he'd get worried and ask what was wrong,  and then he'd instantly put a smile on his face and tell him everything was fine. He wasn't an idiot, he just wanted his friend to know he could talk if he needed to.

 

How easy that reassuring smile came was concerning though, as was how quickly Peter jumped up from his seat when the bell actually rang. Eventually, Ned thought, he'd have to get to the bottom of whatever this shit was-- if there actually was shit and he wasn't just being a worrier, of course.

 

When someone hates talking about their feelings, they tended to get good at hiding how they felt. Peter always hated talking about stuff that was on his mind, and after his uncle died, he shut down when it came to talking even more. He had felt that while yes, he lost his uncle and one of the parental figures in his life, May lost her husband and the love of her life. That seemed far worse, so he didn’t want to bother her with how he was feeling.

 

Sometimes, it was easy to put on the facade and keep it up all day. Sometimes, it was more… overwhelming. It was hard to hide. It forced its way out.  But the human body wasn’t accustomed to that, and it reacted as such. Sometimes, it would have an emotional break down, and sometimes, well, it caused for some shaking. 

 

The day felt excruciatingly long for Peter, even in the classes he did have with either Ned or MJ. All day, He was just trying to get himself to chill out and just breathe. Breathe. It shouldn't be so fucking difficult, right? 

 

He was sandwiched between tons and tons of concrete. He was being crushed. It was too heavy, he couldn't move. It was too tight, he couldn't breathe. Gravel and debris dust got into his lungs-- he tried to cough, but his lungs couldn't expand that much. He was trapped. He couldn't get out. He couldn't breathe--

 

Finally, the last bell of the day rang. It was sort of bittersweet-- Peter was happy to be out of that suffocating building, but the loudness of the bell felt like someone was driving a nail into his skull. But hey, that was his luck, wasn't it? The more nervous he was, the higher alert his senses became to try and find the unknown danger, and the more sensitive they ended up being. Web-slinging for a while should help though, right? It always did.

 

Peter didn’t stop for sandwiches at Delmar’s today, but went straight to one of the alleys by his school to change into his suit. Afterwards, he webbed his backpack up against the wall in the corner in hopes it wouldn’t get stolen, and went off to start his patrol. It always felt so freeing-- just him and the open skies of the city. It was oddly soothing, and although Peter didn’t understand why that was, he certainly wasn’t complaining. 

 

It was a quiet day, but where that’d usually bother him, today, Peter didn’t really mind. It gave him more time to just practice swinging and even a couple of aerial tricks. Not too many today, today he was mostly working on his speed, but some. It actually did well to help get his mind off of things, and he didn’t feel so overwhelmed anymore. If only he could have took a, like, fifteen minute ‘bathroom break’ during school where he could have gone out swinging. That would’ve made today much easier. 

 

Peter was really starting to feel more like himself now. He’d swung across all of Queens in a matter of only fifteen minutes, and considering that would normally take around forty-five minutes in a car with zero traffic, he considered that to be a record. He was actually pretty proud of it, and decided he might go and try to break another personal record-- swinging from his apartment in Queens all the way to Stark Tower in Manhattan. He’d been over there more and more recently, he actually was starting to have weekly lab days with Tony which was awesome, so he thought it’d be cool to test this out. He grabbed his backpack from outside Midtown High and dropped it off at his apartment first, then began to race over.

 

He had been making pretty great time, truth be told. It wasn’t long before he reached the Queensborough Bridge-- which connects Queens and Manhattan-- but there… well, Parker luck always seemed to get him one way or another. Peter had swung under the bridge with incredible speed, latching his webs onto beams underneath the architecture as he did so. However, just as he was reaching the peak of his arc halfway across the bridge, his webs snapped. He continued to soar up for a couple of seconds, desperately trying to shoot another during this small window of time with no luck, before he started falling. The teen felt absolutely paralysed by fear as he crashed into the water below and sank down.

 

He was stuck.

 

Trapped.

 

He couldn’t get out, his limbs wouldn’t move.

 

Peter could feel how his lungs were desperate for air, how his brain screamed for him to claw his way up to the surface, but he just… couldn’t. He sank further down, the light growing dimmer and dimmer all the while-- damn momentum. 

 

All Peter could think about in this time-- it felt like years, but was actually mere seconds, was the whole incident with the Vulture. With Toomes. He just dropped him like a piece of garbage, and he was left for dead. 

 

How was this happening again?

 

Was he supposed to have died then?

 

Was this time catching up to him?

 

He didn’t want to die. Not now. Not like this.

 

He didn’t want to go.

 

He didn’t...

 

Peter’s vision was going black already, considering his panic, lack of oxygen, and the fact that he hadn’t taken a breath before going under. Just like roughly a year ago, something ripped him right back out of the murky water. Maybe it was his panic, but these arms didn’t feel so helpful-- they felt dangerous. Threatening.

 

His senses screamed at him to get out of whoever’s arms these were. His senses told him the water was safer. His senses told him it was Toomes back for revenge.

 

All whilst still choking on water, Peter squirmed and fought back. His hands shook violently, his heart raced, and his screams were trapped by a watery barrier. Someone was talking, but he couldn’t hear them. His panicked thoughts drowned them out. He’d cough, but end up sucking water back in as he desperately tried to get air. It didn’t help that his mask was also soaked, making breathing difficult in itself. So much input at once was terribly overwhelming, and so much so that the teen couldn’t even put a word to it.

 

Finally, he hit the ground, and immediately, Peter yanked off his mask and coughed violently until all the water was out of his lungs, his entire body trembling now. Tears mixed with river water under  from how much it hurt to have felt like he was suffocating and how terrified he was. Once his coughing fit seemed to have ended, a hand was placed on his back, which startled the boy so that he fell on his side. Desperately, Peter scrambled to back up as that same hand and its accompiance grabbed onto his wrists.

 

“Let me go!” Peter screamed, voice hoarse.

 

“Kid, look at me!” The hands screamed back. Wait… no, not hands. Hands can’t scream that was Tony. He saved his ass again. 

 

Peter stopped struggling and actually took a moment to look at his surroundings. He was… safe. He was on the balcony of the tower. Tony was there, outside the suit, kneeling down in front of him. Despite that he could see that there wasn’t actually any danger, his spider-sense still screamed ‘ LOOK OUT. RUN. DON’T LOOK BACK. HURRY.’ . Although he wasn’t fighting against Tony anymore, Peter still hyperventilated. How was this Tony? He thought. He could’ve sworn that whoever pulled him out of that lake was trying to kill him.  “M… Mister Stark?” He finally spoke up.

 

“Yeah, yeah that’s me,” Tony nodded, visibly relieved to see that the kid was finally recognizing him. “Just breathe, alright? Breathe.”

 

Peter nodded slightly, slowly but surely matching his breathing to Tony’s. The man eventually let his wrists go, but his hands still shook. All of him did, really. 

 

“You alright?”

 

Pete nodded curtly. 

 

“What was that all about, kid?”

 

“N’thing. ‘M fine.”

 

“Pete, I just pulled you out of a god damn river again. You’re not fine.” Tony retorted. “What’s going on?”

 

To that, Peter just shook his head,and just looked so ashamed of himself, that Tony truthfully didn’t have the heart to make him talk right now. Sometime before he sent him home, he’d get an answer but not right now.

 

Tony sighed, stood up, and held his hand out to Peter. “Alright, c’mon, Underoos. Let’s get you warmed up with some cocoa.”

 

After a brief, questioning look, the teen took Tony’s hand and followed him inside, muttering a soft ‘thanks’ as they walked.

Chapter Text

The 4th of July. One of America's biggest holidays. Everything a holiday lover could want. Barbecue parties, children eating too many sweets a and lovely family get togethers.
And one other thing of course.
Fireworks. Also known as the personal hell of many people.
For Peter, it's all of it. The bright, flashing lights. The bangs and shrieks. As someone for whom a whisper can be as loud as a yell, who has to wear noise cancelling headphones just to sleep in the summer, the holiday is worse than any villian he's ever faced.
For Tony, it's the way the exploding fireworks remind him of rockets. Of a damp sweltering cave in the desert. Of buildings exploding and children screaming and every person he's ever failed, every person who's lost their life because of him.
It's safe to say he hates the holiday.

But despite their hatred of the 4th of July, both of them are blindsided by it.
Peter simply forgets. It's summer after all. Days of the week don't matter very much when you're enjoying time off with friends.
And Tony, Tony simply has bad luck. He's asked to attend a briefing in the middle of New York City and before he can escape, the roads are clogged with traffic.

Peter is swinging in between skyscrapers at an easygoing pace, enjoying the cooling air when a blast nearly sends him into a free fall as he loses his balance.
Senses on fire, he cowers under a garbage can, fighting the urge to run. When he get fight it no longer, he lets himself go on autopilot, heading towards home, flinching at each and every flash and boom.

Tony realizes that he's stuck in the city. He could go to the Tower, he still has a penthouse apartment there, but the loneliness would only make his flashbacks worse.
Already he's tasting grains of sand and blood on his tongue as he fights to stay away from the dark places he once had visited.
He has many friends in the city, but there's only 1 person he wants to see.
Peter.
His kid.
A sweet, innocent child.
But Tony knows that no judgement would await him at the Parker home. Peter knew more than enough about PTSD flashbacks, and had helped Tony develop a coping system for them.
The first step of that system is very simple. Reach out to someone! And so as the last of his doubts receded, Tony heads to the small apartment that is home to Peter and May Parker.

Peter has finally made it back to his room, but he can barely breathe. Thankfully, May isn't home, so he's alone with his embarrassing weakness.
Each new firework lit off is like a nail being drilled into his skull and he can't help it anymore. His instincts take over and he rolls off of the bed, tears of pain in his eyes as he tries to escape the input overloading his senses.

Tony hurries out of his car and into the building, breathing a sigh of relief as the sound dulls a little.
He has keys to the apartment so he doesn't bother knocking.
He's expecting an excited Peter to come running, so when no one does, tendrils of fear begin to creep around his heart.
He heads to Peter's room, suddenly worried.

"Peter?"

As he catches sight of the boy, laying on the floor, his breath catches.
"Oh my god, Peter!"

He notices the way the boy is covering his ears, shuddering at every sound and immediately knows what is happening.
Peter keeps his headphones on the bedside table, so he grabs them, slipping them over the boy's ears.

For Peter there is sound. So much sound. And then...blissful quiet. It takes him a minute to catch his breath, but when he does, he realizes who is with him and flings himself at Tony.

How are you feeling? Tony signs at the boy when he pulls away.
They learned sign language after an unfortunate incident cost Peter his hearing for nearly a month, and it had turned out to be useful even now.
Better. Comes the answer, but Peter's fingers are still shaking.
Now that he can open his eyes, he notices that Tony is pale, his hands are shaking as much as Peter's and he's glancing nervously at the window.

Needless to say, they don't end up doing much that day. The rest of Tony's Bury My Past protocol contains Disney movies, ice cream and sleepy cuddles in a pile of fleece blankets on the couch.
Just what they both needed.
And well, if a new tradition is born that day, it only goes to show how much good you can do in another person's life.

Chapter Text

Ever since this morning when he woke up, Peter had felt… off. He thought it was just a combination of his lack of sleep and being all bruised up and physically exhausted from patrol last night-- that seemed like a reasonable assumption. Right? If this was exhaustion, it was different than the other times he’d been sleep deprived. A mix of Spider-Man-ing, midterm reviews, and some crappy psychological effects of Spider-Man left him with only one and a half non-consecutive hours of sleep, so maybe that was why focusing was so hard today. And why he was forgetting a bunch of random words. He probably just needed to try and nap or something.

 

Despite his exhaustion, he felt really, well, fidgety. He was always moving one way or another-- whether that be his leg bouncing under his desk, tapping his fingers or pen repeatedly against his notebook, or just rolling his shoulders a bunch.  Peter thought it was a little weird at the time, but didn’t think much about it. It could very well just be that weird stage of tired when he was so much so that he felt awake-- it was weird. 

 

Peter tried taking a nap during lunch, explaining to Ned how tired he was. Of course, his friend understood-- even before Spider-Man, he saw how worn down Peter would get around midterms and finals, so of course he was a wreck right now. The teenage vigilante thought he’d be able to fall asleep immediately, but for some reason, that wasn’t the case. He just sat there, head resting on his crossed arms which laid on the lunch table the whole time. I’m probably just overtired , Peter thought. That was a thing, right? He remembered his aunt telling him that a while ago, but was having a little difficulty actually being sure that said memory happened-- it was very vague.

 

Thank god it was Friday, at least. He could just crash tonight in that comfortable-as-hell bed at the compound-- it was one of the weekends he stayed with Tony this week-- and just sleep in. To make sure he didn’t accidentally fall asleep in class though, because knowing his luck he would, Peter bought some energy drinks from the school store. He had to get a crap ton so his metabolism would actually work on him, causing the freshman girl working the register to give him a very concerning look, but Peter didn’t particularly care about that right now. Flash made a couple rude comments when he walked into chemistry with all those drinks, but he just ignored it. Actually, he didn’t really process what he said, now that he thought about it. Like, of course, Peter knew that there were words coming out of Flash’s mouth, but it was like his brain didn’t recognize that.

 

It was weird to describe, so he didn’t mention it.

 

When the bell finally rang, Peter nearly couldn’t find his locker. It was weird. He’d been in this school for the last two and a half years, yet when he stepped out of that class, he had felt… lost. Like he didn’t know where to go. Fortunately, he had ran into MJ whilst wandering aimlessly, so he just followed her since their lockers were fairly close to each other. 

 

Thankfully, Peter’s confusion about where to go before didn’t carry over to  when he was heading outside to find Tony’s car-- Happy picked him up during the week when it was a lab day, since those were at the Tower, but for his weekend visits to the compound, Tony himself usually came. It was a nice little routine they had. 

 

Pete, somehow, almost walked right past Tony's car, forgetting what he was doing for a second before the man honked briefly. Yes, it was one of his more 'casual' Audi's, but it still stuck out fairly well. How could he have missed it?  

 

The teen dropped his small, overnight duffle bag in the backseat of the car before climbing in the passenger seat. "Hey, Mister Stark."

 

"Hey, kid," the other returned the greeting, waiting to see Peter buckle up before pulling out of the line of parents waiting to pick their kids up and onto the road. "I know you had to miss last weekend because of your aunt's birthday, but I would've thought you'd at least remember what the car looks like," Tony teased.

 

“Ha ha, very funny,” Peter rolled his eyes. “I’m allowed to make mistakes too, y’know.”


“Too?” Tony raised a brow. “You’re implying that I make mistakes, which I obviously don’t.”

 

“Oh really?” the teen snickered.”You’ve never even made one mistake?”

 

“Not one.”

 

“Not even walking around with your shirt inside out all day?”

 

Tony sighed dramatically. “I knew you would use that against me one day.” Peter smiled cheekily, turning his head as he thought he heard something out the window. “So,” Tony continued. “How was school today?” He turned down the volume of the music playing, expecting a ramble at least twenty minutes long whilst turning off the main road into a Wendy’s drive-thru. He figured the kid was probably hungry, as usual. However, said rambling did not come. “Pete?” Tony asked, concerned and looking over at the teenager sitting besides him. Peter seemed distracted by the buttons on the door, staring at them intently. Tony nudged Peter’s shoulder to get his attention. “Hey, Earth to Underoos.”

 

“Huh?” Peter looked up. Visibly confused.

 

“I asked how school was, but apparently, the ability to lock the doors and roll your window up and down was far more captivating.” He joked, sure, but truth be told, Tony was starting to worry about the kid-- well, more than he already did on a daily basis. Something was off about him, he could tell. What that was, Tony wasn’t sure, but there was definitely something. If he was good at anything, it was telling when something was wrong with his kid.

 

“Oh, uh, sorry about that,” Peter apologized with a weary smile. “I’ve been having a hard time, uhm…” He went quiet, brows furrowing as he looked off to the side. “Crap, what’s the word?...”

 

“Focusing?” Tony prompted.

 

“That’s it!” Peter snapped his fingers, pointing at Tony as well. “Focusing. I dunno why, probably just tired.”

 

“How late were you up last night?” the older man raised a brow.

 

“Wait, when did we get to Wendy’s?” Peter asked, finally noticing that they were in the drive-thru line.”

 

“Kid,” Tony said sternly, thinking the boy was just trying to change the subject as he looked back at his window like someone was trying to grab his attention. “Kid. Look at me.”

 

“Oh, sorry. Uhm, what’d you say?”

 

“I asked how late you were up.”

 

“What?” Peter furrowed his brows as if he couldn’t understand Tony.

 

“How much sleep did you get?” He huffed, frustrated with how Peter seemed to be avoiding his question. At this point, the car in front of them pulled out and it was their turn to order. “We’re not done here. What do you want to eat?”

 

Peter nodded, admittedly confused as to why he seemed to be in trouble right now. He legitimately didn’t know what it was Tony asked him. 

Peter leaned closer in Tony’s direction as he was asked what he wanted to eat, looking at the menu. It was weird, it was just like before in school with Flash. He knew there were words there, he could see that there were words, but it was like his brain was tapping out when it came to processing said words. After a couple moments of no luck, mentally kicking himself and actually worrying this time about why the hell he could not fucking read , he sat back normally in his seat. “I’ll, uh, I’ll just have what I had last time.” Peter opted.

 

Throughout that little ordeal, Tony’s frustration melted back into concern. He saw the little changes in the kid’s expression as he read the menu, and once again, he wasn’t sure why . Nevertheless, he ordered their food, picked it up at the window, and got back on the main road towards the compound. Once they were all settled in with their food, and Tony couldn’t bare the quiet anymore, he nudged Peter-- who seemed distracted by trying to figure out the diameter of the bottom of his frosty for some reason-- to get his attention.”Hey, Underoos. You feeling alright?”

 

“Hm?” Peter turned his head in Tony’s direction, nodding. “Oh, uh, yeah. Yeah, I’m fine.”

 

“You seem a little off today.”

 

“Yeah.. Yeah I feel a little off, honestly,” Peter admitted, which truth be told, Tony was surprised by. “I think it’s just Midterm stress really starting to hit me.”

 

The other nodded-- he knew all too well what that felt like, even if at the time, he acted as though he didn’t care about it. “I get it. Try not to push yourself so hard though, yeah?”

 

“I just really want to pass them.”

 

“You will, trust me. You’re smarter than plenty of adults I know, so I don’t doubt you’ll kick Midterms’ ass.”

 

“Thanks.” Peter said with a little smile, going back to his food while Tony turned the music volume up some more. Not too loud, since the kid’s hearing was sensitive as hell, but a little.


The rest of their day was, well, pretty normal. Peter settled into the compound for the weekend, they did some tinkering in the lab for a couple hours, ate an unhealthy amount of pizza for dinner, and had a movie marathon. When it seemed like the kid was about to fall asleep, he sent him off to bed instead of letting him pass out on him. Whilst he loved when that did happen, he had some boring-ass Stark Industries work he needed to get done. Maybe tomorrow, Tony had thought.

When Peter woke up in the middle of the night, he felt a surge of panic course through him. Where the hell was he? It was so dark, he could barely see. He carefully got out of the strange bed, trying to figure out where the hell he was and how he got there. As he couldn’t find the answers to either of these questions, the teen began to freak out-- his heart was pounding, his breathing was rapid, he was absolutely shaking, and his mind raced with so many thoughts at once that he himself couldn’t even understand them. 

 

“Mister Parker,” a voice from seemingly nowhere spoke. “You seem to be experiencing an abrupt onset of intense fear. Would you like me to  alert Mister Stark?”

 

“W-what? Who’s there?” Peter called out, spinning  in a circle as he tried to figure out what was happening. He jumped nearly two feet in the air when he hit what he later discovered to be a dresser. I gotta get out of here, Peter figured before scrambling out the bedroom door. 

 

“Hello?” He called out after ending up in what appeared to be a kitchen. “Is anyone there? Please, I need help! I-I-- I don’t know where I-I am!”

 

“Peter?” Another voice called. “Hey, kiddo, are you okay?” 

 

Peter jerked his head over to the hallway where a worried looking man with dark, grey flaked hair and a goatee. He looked like he’d just been woken up, but worry was the most prominent feature there on his face. “W-who are you?” Peter asked, stepping back as whoever this was approached him. His words seemed to stop him in his tracks.

 

“Kid, it’s… it’s me,” he tried to explain, a terribly saddened look taking over his expression. Was he supposed to know this man? What the hell was wrong with him? He couldn’t remember anything, that wasn’t normal. “It’s Tony. It’s me, bud.” ‘Tony’ walked towards him, holding a hand out to him. 

 

Peter pulled his arms close to his chest, still very wary and scared right now. Who could blame him? “Don’t-- don’t touch me,” he warned. “Just… just tell me where I am. Please…”


Tony frowned. “Friday, what’s going on with him?”

 

“After reviewing Mister Parker’s behavior throughout the day and brain activity, the most likely conclusion is that he is experiencing delirium.”

 

“Wait, what?” Tony shouted in disbelief. “What the fuck, are you telling me my kid is fucking delirious? He’s only fifteen! He can’t be!”

 

“Further testing is recommended to make sure, but chances are, yes. He seems to be delirious. As for his age, delirium can hit at any age, though it’s most common in the elderly.”

 

All the while this was happening, Peter stood in the corner, mentally freaking out. No. No fucking way. He was delirious . He couldn’t be! “No…” He muttered softly, shaking his head and backing up. His breathing was shallow, and so much so, that his head started spinning. 

 

Tony finally turned his attention back to Peter, expression softening. “Hey, Pete. It’s okay, you’re… you’re gonna be okay.” Once more, the man approached the frightened teen. This time, the boy didn’t back away, but Peter did look white in the face. “Peter, kiddo, you gotta breathe, okay?” He was right in front of Peter now, a gentle hand on his arm.

 

“I don’t… I don’t feel well…” Peter breathed. After that, his eyes rolled back and he collapsed against Tony.

 

Tony, thankfully, caught the boy, feeling fairly overwhelmed himself. “Fri--”

 

“Mister Parker’s fine. A lack of oxygen to his brain as a result of his hyperventilating caused him to faint. He should wake up soon.”

 

“Will his memory return when he does?”

 

“There’s a chance,” Friday answered. “But it’s not one-hundred precent positive. It’s uncertain when these episodes will occur with delirium patient.”

 

How was this happening? How didn’t he know before? What does he do now? What was he going to tell May? Oh shit… 

 

“Friday, get the medbay ready and give me a briefing on how to care for delirium patients.”

 


 

“Hey, kiddo,” Tony greeted Peter with a soft smile. It’d been a couple of days since his first episode, and he’d been staying with him at the compound since. May had driven up the very next day, and it’d been hard to see Peter this way. He'd had a couple of episodes since, but they were handled much better than the first.  It was still rough, especially when May first witnessed it, but at least they knew the cause of it.

 

“Hey, Mister Stark,” Peter looked up from where he was sitting on the couch in the media room with his aunt, forcing a little smile. They were watching reruns of that show ‘Mom’ to try and get his mind off of things-- he was really struggling with all this. It had turned out that his mixing sleeping pills to try and get him to sleep through the night and pain pills from patrol, combined with a general lack of sleep was the most probable result for this happening to him.

 

“How’re you feeling?” Tony sat down beside him.

 

“Uhm, I’m okay, I guess.” he shrugged. He felt humiliated, truth be told, but he didn’t say it.

 

“Okay, that’s good,” Tony nodded, though he didn’t really believe it.  He could tell the boy was struggling-- how could he not be? Tony knew he'd be pretty damn embarrassed if it were him in Peter's shoes. Despite that, if he could take the kid's place, he absoluetly would. “It’s time to take your medicine now, alright?”

 

To that, Peter just nodded curtly, wishing this shit to be over already.

Chapter Text

A heartbeat is all it takes. A fraction of a second and the world is ripped apart.

A flash, a bang, a desperate scream...

"TONY!"... and Peter is flinging himself across the room, impossibly fast, terrified of being too late, because he can't lose Tony again.

And the pain of a bullet ripping through his stomach is worth it, because it means that no one else gets hurt. And Peter is grateful for the darkness that envelops him immediately. 

Tony stares at the blood soaking through his old suit, the blue tie he had taught Peter how to tie that very morning turning purple and stares and stares and...

It's Happy who breaks the shocked silence. 

"We need a medic. Transport him to the med wing, stat."

Tony finally unfreezes and his knees buckle. He drops next to Peter, cradling the boy's head in his lap. Peter is limp, unresponsive and so, so pale. 

The medics run up, securing a vein, placing a breathing mask over the injured boy's face.

They try to pry him away from Tony but he snarls at them viciously, eyes blazing. They let him stay. 

Tony hardly remembers being flown over to the Tower. He couldn't rip his eyes away from the monitor showing Peter's heartrate. It drops impossibly slow several times, but he doesn't flatline.

Apon their arrival at the tower, they're greeted by a familiar face.

Dr. Helen Cho looks worried, but her very presence is soothing to Tony. Unlike the medics, Helen knows that Peter is Spider-man. She knows his specific biology better than anyone. There is no one more qualified to treat Peter. 

Things are said, but it's all static to Tony.

Suddenly Peter is being pulled away from him and Tony rushes to follow, but Dr. Cho stops him with a hand to the chest. 

"Primary wound healing has already begun due to his accelerated healing. The bullet is still inside, but it's giving him blood poisoning. We need to remove it. It's not a hard surgery, it won't be long and we should be able to stop some of the internal bleeding as well". Dr. Cho is steering him towards a chair as she speaks.

Tony blinks in confusion, his mind moving painfully slow. The aftereffects of shock are showing themselves in numbness. He feels like he's underwater, all his senses are dulled.

He blinks and time passes. Dr. Cho is gone and there's a bottle of water in his hands. He blinks again and Happy is beside him, worry showing everywhere.

It's only Dr. Cho's return that breaks his reverie. She looks tired, but somewhat relieved. 

"He just got out of surgery. He's stable. We gave him a transfusion of his own blood, it helped considerably. The bullet is out and internal bleeding is minimal. He's currently intubated but lung function is improving. We'll be working to get him off the ventilator within the next few hours.

Tony swallows hard, throat rough as he asks, " Can I see him?" 

"For a little bit. He's sedated to keep him from fighting the vent. Come on, I'll take you."

 

Peter looks so fragile in the sterile hospital bed. He's connected to so many tubes they just about obscure his face. 

There's a chair by his bedside, where Tony sinks gratefully. 

"Why did you do that, Pete? Why did you take a bullet for me? Are you insane?"

Tony realizes he's crying. He's always felt responsible for Peter. The kid has never had a sense for his own safety. And now, flinging himself in front of a bullet. A bullet. A BULLET THAT WAS MEANT FOR TONY. 

NOT FOR A 17 YEAR OLD BOY.

Tony can't decide what he wants  to do more. Ground the kid for the rest of his life or give him a massive hug and the wrap him in bubble wrap. 

But first, Peter has to wake up. 

He will. He has to. He's the best of them after all.

Chapter Text

Peter just couldn't seem to catch a break lately-- a couple weeks ago, he had a nasty flu; last week, he must've had at least four sensory overloads;  and now, he had a broken leg from Saturday night's patrol. How, one might ask? Well, it may or may not have been crushed under a dumpster. Awesome! Now he couldn’t go out on patrol for at least two weeks! Plus, now, he had to use crutches to get everywhere, which was wonderful . It was only Wednesday, and Flash already had decided it would be absolutely hilarious to grab them and move them just out of his reach. Fortunately, by Tuesday since the first occasion was Monday, MJ helped him out and slapped Flash upside the head as her way of saying, ‘shut the fuck up’ . Sure, that resulted in some more teasing from him, but not much. Pros and cons.

 

Peter got to school early on Wednesday, since getting to his locker and first period class was much more difficult now, especially with how crowded the halls were. He always had a class with either Ned or MJ, so they helped carry his books from one class to the next. MJ was already at his locker by the time he got there, simply waving as a response to his smile. “‘Sup, dork,” She said once the other was close enough. 

 

“Hey, MJ,” Peter replied, accustomed to the nickname at this point. 

 

“Want me to open up your locker for you?”

 

“Nah, it’s fine. This I actually can do, and besides, you don’t know my combination.”

 

“Are you sure about that?”

 

“How-- how-- would you know?”

 

“It’s on your schedule which is taped to the front of your folder. Anyone can see it.”

 

“I swear, only you’d notice crap like that,” Peter laughed, leaning his weight onto his good leg so he could move his arm off his crutch and actually enter his combination.

 

“Not my fault I’m observant.” She shrugged.

 

“Good point, good point.”

 

“So, when are you getting this thing off?” MJ nudged the red cast on Peter’s left leg with her own.

 

“The doctor said in two weeks as the earliest, but it might be three.”


“That’s pretty quick for a broken bone.”

 

“Yeah, but it still feels like a long time.”

 

“I get it. Remember when I broke my wrist freshman year?”

 

“Oh yeah, that must’ve sucked.”

 

"Hey guys," This time, it was Ned who spoke, and by now, Peter had grabbed everything he needed for his first two periods from his locker and handed it over to MJ. He'd just take his backpack around with him if he could, since the added weight wouldn't exactly be much of an issue for him, but that wasn't allowed since it was a 'safety hazard'. Thankfully though, all their teachers agreed to let him not bring a textbook and either just borrow one in the classroom or share with either Ned and MJ so neither of them had to carry two. 

 

"Hey, man," Peter smiled, moving his other crutch back under his arm and following him over to his locker. It wasn't far, just a row over, which was convenient.

 

"I think I overheard someone saying that there's gonna be a pop quiz in APUSH today," Ned warned them, APUSH meaning their AP  US History class. It was one of the few the trio had all together.

 

"Again?" MJ groaned. "There was already one on Monday."

 

"You know how he is though," Peter shrugged. "That guy just uses them as filler grades in place of like, actual classwork."

 

"An AP class shouldn't need filler grades," Ned pointed out.

 

"And an AP teacher shouldn't be hung over while giving notes." Peter retorted.

 

“True.” The other two agreed. 

 

With that being said, MJ transferred Peter’s books over to Ned, considering that she didn’t have geometry with them first period, and headed off to her first class, art, which was on the opposite end of the school. While their math class was close, Peter and Ned began heading over there already. This was to allow Peter ample amount of time to get up the stairs. It took a while, mostly because of people not really giving him any space at all to move-- thanks, New York-- instead of the crutches themselves. Those hindered him, yes, but surprisingly, not as much.

 

“I’m telling you Ned, Rise of the Skywalkers is gonna suck. Don’t waste your money on it.”

 

“It’s what a true fan would do, Peter.”

“You’re gonna regret it.”

 

“Says the guy who bought a Star Trek Into the Darkness poster with that Benedict Cumberbatch guy as Khan.”

 

“I have a collection, and whether it’s good or bad, I’ll have a poster from each movie and series one day.”

“So, I guess you could say that, as a true fan, you stick with the  franchise even though it sucks.”

Peter groaned. “Okay, fine, but I’m not paying for a ticket if you make me go with you.”

“I can live with that.”

 

Although they seemed to come to an agreement now, this conversation carried through all of first and second period, switching over to text during third period since they didn’t share that class-- MJ may or may not have called it the battle for the Crown of Losers-- and even as they entered their fourth period which all three shared. Of course, they diverted topics several times throughout this endeavor, somehow ending up talking about the cast for the new Lord of the Rings Amazon show at one point and planning to save up to go to NY Comic Con at another. This was how it usually went though. 

 

Fourth period was their APUSH class, and just as Ned had said at the beginning of the day, there was a pop quiz. It was quick though, an easy A and a major grade-- because once again, their teacher was lazy as hell-- and all three of them were done in less than fifteen minutes. What took Peter the longest was the short answer question on the back because he had a tendency to answer these sort of questions with far more information than was actually required. But hey, that's why he was an AP student.

 

As well as being their APUSH class, fourth period, and fifth as well, doubled as one of Midtown's lunch periods. Half the school ate during fourth period and the other half, including the three, ate during fifth period. Because of this, seeing how students are constantly moving about in the halls in these two periods, no drills ever happen. There were no set instructions for a shelter in place if you were in the cafeteria, and chances were, you probably wouldn't even hear the announcement if you were. Yes, there probably should've been a plan in place just in case there was an actual emergency, but no one took the time to do that. Besides, what were the chances of a real emergency in their school?

 

Sure, there was that one occasion  where the fire alarm went off in fifth period, but that was because the microwave in the teacher's lounge caught on fire, but that was it.

 

So, when Peter felt the hairs on his arms and the back of his neck stand straight up, he didn't think much of it. The fight or flight instinct kicked in, yes, but it could've been a fluke. It could've been Flash about to chuck an eraser at the back of his head. 

 

“Hey man, you okay?” Ned whispered to Peter, noticing the other slowly covering the nape of his neck. He knew what that meant-- it meant the ‘Peter-tingle’ was tingling.

 

Before Peter could answer, the announcements came on over the loud-speakers, “Attention all staff and students, this is a lockdown. Lockdown, lockdown, lockdown.”

 

There were a few things off in that were off about that announcement, despite that being the exact thing they said every time there was a lockdown drill.

 

First, obviously, was that they were never supposed to happen this period.

 

Second, it was always the secretary who called it, but it wasn’t this time. It sounded like one of the guidance counselors, actually.

 

Third, his voice was… shaky. Like he was nervous.

 

And finally, whilst it was muffled and nearly impossible to understand for his fellow classmates, there was talking in the background. Very faint, as though whoever it was was in another room, but there were threats.

 

“It’s not a drill…” Peter whispered, the shock kicking in as his eyes widened. Oh no. Oh god. Oh shit. It was alright, it was going to be alright. Unlike his peers, Peter, in a way, had trained for this. He dealt with threats. He dealt with violence. He should be.. He should be ready.

 

God, he should be able to do this! As this information settled into his brain, as he realized he was living a school shooting, however, he panicked. It was on the news all the time, unfortunately, but he never expected it to happen here in Midtown. Then again, no one ever does.

 

Peter looked up from his desk, catching all the glances of his confused classmates as they hesitantly moved to sit against the wall before he stood up. Quickly, cursing his leg injury, Peter hobbled over to the door.

 

“Peter! What are you doing?” MJ whisper yelled.

 

“Parker, against the wall,” His teacher scolded. “You know the drill.”

 

“It’s not a drill,” Peter stated simply, pushing a desk in front of the door and quickly stacking another one on top of it.

 

“The fuck are you talking about, Penis?” Flash scoffed.

 

“Just trust me, okay?” Peter had to refrain himself from yelling. “And someone help me barricade the damn door. We don’t have time!”

 

A notification beeped on their teacher’s computer, asking for attendance of all the students to ‘confirm their safety’ and briefly stated the urgency of the situation at hand. That there was an armed group of three in the school.

 

“Holy fuck…” The teacher, Mr Andrews, breathed, eyes widening with panic. Unlike Peter, who took action, he sat down, gripped at his hair, and started freaking out. That was all the proof anyone really needed before helping Peter.

 

I should be ready for this, Peter thought as he pushed one of the long tables across the room to push against the door. MJ and Ned, along with another girl in their class both helped seeing how it was more than difficult with his broken leg. I shouldn’t be freaking out. I should know what to do. I need to stay calm. I need to protect them.

 

He was only Peter right now, not Spider-Man. However, if it came to saving the lives of his classmates  or preserving his identity, he wouldn’t be much of a hero if he didn’t save them. That was the whole point-- putting others above himself.

 

Only as a last resort, Peter thought as the door was covered with desks.  Afterwards, everyone, himself included this time, backed into the furthest corner of the class. Someone started crying, and just about everyone was freaking out. He was freaking out! Yes, he had powers, but he couldn’t even walk normally right now! He was helpless, useless, he couldn’t do anything fucking right, could he?

 

This was going to be one of the most important days of his life today, and somehow, he was underprepared. He knew his luck sucked before, but this took it to a whole new fucking level. 

 

Just about everyone was on their phones, desperately trying to contact their families, but there wasn’t any signal. There was a way for the school to cut off all cell service in the building, yes, but that usually only happened during weeks were there was standardized testing, midterms, and finals. This was… this was very thought out, Peter realized, struggling to not absolutely freak out himself. 

 

I can’t do this. I can’t, I’m not ready.  

 

Before he knew it, his breathing had picked up before MJ nudged him. She was freaking out too, he could see it in her eyes, but the little nod she gave him helped him feel more… capable. 

 

That little bit of relief was short lived, however, as another announcement came over the loudspeaker. Once more, it wasn’t the secretary, but it also wasn’t the guidance counselor or any other member of the school staff. The voice low and gruff, and his message short and brief. “Peter Parker to the main office. Adrian Toomes has sent a message.”

 

Following the message were several gunshots. And screams… Terrible screams. Even people without his enhanced hearing could hear it.

 

“You have ten minutes.”

 

Peter’s heart sank to the pit of his stomach. Oh no… Was all he could think of. It was one of his worst fears come true-- Toomes knew. Toomes knew him and for some god-forsaken reason, he thought he could trust him to keep it a secret. And now… now everyone was looking at him. Literally. Looking at him for answers because it was because of him that they were all in danger. Because of him, people were either hurt or…

 

“What are we waiting for? Just send Penis out there!” Flash yelled.

 

“Flash!” Several people, including Ned and MJ screamed. It was the latter girl who continued, “I know you’re the fucking scum of the Earth, but how the fuck can you say that? He’ll die if he goes out there!”

 

“And we’ll all die if he doesn’t! Is that what you want? You want us all to fucking die?”

 

“The cops should get here before that happens, genius!”

 

“What if they don’t, huh? What the fuck happens if they don’t?”

 

Amongst all the arguing, Peter had shakily got up from where he was sitting and began making his way towards the door of the classroom. His heart was absolutely pounding out of his chest, but he had to do this. He was fucking terrified, but this was his fault. It was all his fault. People were going to get hurt because of him.

 

He put people in danger.

 

“Peter, what the hell do you think your doing?” Ned pulled him away from the stacked tables and desks by his arm, looking just as frightened as he felt. “You remember what happened last time with the Vulture guy right?”

 

“I know,” Peter nodded curtly, voice small. “But… but I beat him once, right? And he’s still in jail, so… so it’s probably just his buddies. I’ll be fine.”

 

“But your leg--”

 

“I’ll be fine, Ned,” Peter forced a reassuring smile. “Promise.” He started taking down the desks.

 

Ned paused, hesitating and his eyes glossing over a bit. He knew Peter, probably better than anyone else. He knew how he was, how fucking stubborn he was. He knew Mister Heroic Peter Parker would sacrifice himself in a heartbeat for others. It was both the best and worst thing about him, in Ned’s opinion. “If you aren’t, I swear, I’ll kill you, dude.”

 

To that, Peter just gave a small, sad laugh. “I know.”

 

The doorway was clear now, and no one was really noticing over the arguing between whether they should or shouldn’t sacrifice him. Some people, much to Peter’s dismay, were connecting the dots. ‘Isn’t Toomes Liz’s dad?’ they asked. ‘Didn’t he turn out to be that guy the Spider-Man fought?’ ‘What does he want with Parker?’

 

Ned simply held out his hand as Peter put his on the door handle. The latter shifted his weight and held his hand right back out. They did their little handshake, both drawing it out and nodding curtly as Peter slipped out of the room. 

 

As the door shut behind him, Peter just leaned against it. He had… he had seven minutes. Seven minutes before someone else gets… he didn’t even want to say it. Think it. Whatever.  All Peter knew was that if he had any chance of getting out of this alive, he’d need his web shooters. Stop stalling Parker, he thought. You know you already have them just go. It was true, they were just disguised as thin, black bracelets on his wrists. The teen activated them, not bothering to go get his suit. The cat was basically out of the bag already, and if Spider-Man did make an appearance, that only confirm it for people. 

 

God, this day was such a mess.

 

Just as he began walking, Peter felt his phone buzzing in his pocket. Who the hell was calling him? Wasn’t the cell service blocked? After some maneuvering with his crutches, he pulled it out and leaned against the lockers. Of course, the one person whose call would get through-- Tony Stark.

 

Peter answered it, and before he could get a word in, the man on the other side began speaking with concern dripping through his tone. “Hey kid, FRIDAY alerted me that there’s an emergency at your school. Is everything okay? Are you alright?”

 

The teen took a couple of deep, shaky breaths. He really was.. Terrified. “Hey, uhm, hey Mister Stark.”

 

By the tone in the kid’s voice, Tony knew something was wrong. “Jesus fuck-- kid, okay, what’s going on.”

 

“You need--” his voice cracked, and Peter felt his eyes started to well up. The stress was really starting to get to him. “You need to get here as fast as you can. Someone’s-- look, just… they need help here. I’m not gonna be strong enough.”

 

“Fuck…” He could practically hear Tony rubbing a hand down his face. “Okay-- okay. Listen to me. Just stay put, and I’ll be right there.”

 

“I’m sorry I was always screwing up.”

 

“Kid, don’t you fucking dare start talking like that. You’re going to be fine, and I swear to god I’ll take your fucking suit if you keep at it.”

 

Peter went quiet. He really didn’t know if he believed Tony. He felt… hopeless. Only three limbs worked right now, and last time, it took everything in him to take down Toomes’ and his crew. “Just please get here soon.” And then he hung up.

 

Each step down the hall felt like a mile. To get to the office, he had to pass by the cafeteria and… jesus, Peter thought he was going to be sick. The door was open, just barely, and what kept it open was an arm on the ground with blood leaking through under the door. Through the little window was a gunman, who after spotting him, spoke into a walkie talkie and then put his eyes back onto what was probably a cafeteria full of terrified students all being held at gunpoint.

 

I did that , Peter thought, pushing down the bile in his throat and continued down toward the office. Said office was right by the entrance of the school, and standing outside the doors, was that Shocker guy who knocked him through a bus on Homecoming. Herman Shultz, the Shocker, opened up the door from outside and just laughed.

 

“So, the kid that ruined our livelihoods has finally arrived,” he said, waving a gun around as he spoke. He had the weird shocking gauntlet thing on the other hand. “And look at you now! Hobbling around all weak and pathetic like. This is too easy! I thought I was gonna have to use all the kids against you!” 

 

“You’d kill countless of innocent lives just to get your way?” Peter asked, putting on a strong and confident face as he walked-- ‘walked’-- towards the Shocker. 

 

Herman just laughed. “You have no idea what I’m capable of kid.” 

 

“What do you want?” Peter tried to seem threatening, but failed.

 

“I want to settle the score,” the shocker was right in front of him now. In the distance, Peter heard both sirens and faint thrusters. Tony. The cops. Finally. 

 

It was gonna be okay.

 

“What do you mean?” Peter tried to stall.

 

“You’re a smart kid, aren’t you? In this fancy-ass nerd school. What do you think.”



“I couldn’t just let you guys keep selling those weapons! Someone would get hurt!”

 

“That’s life, dipshit!” Herman seemed to take a calming breath. “Here’s the gist of it-- you ruined our lives, getting illegal weapons dealer thrown on our names and having to create new identities. So, wouldn’t it be fair to ruin your and some of your fellow smart asses’ lives? I think so.”

 

“So you think killing people is the answer? That’s crazy?”

 

“Crazy huh?” the tall man raised an eyebrow. He spoke into his walkie, “Five more.”

 

Immediately after, gunshots and screams were heard.

 

“No!” Peter cried, stumbling forward. He was failing. He was messing this up. People were dying and it was all his fault… “Stop, I-- I’ll do whatever you want, just don’t.. Don’t hurt anyone else.”

 

Before Shocker could say anything else, outside, the Iron Man suit landed with a smack against the ground, already holding a thruster out at Herman. In response, Peter was pulled in front of him and off his crutches like a human shield, and the barrel of the gun the Shocker was holding was pressed against the  back of his head. He was barely able to stand on his own, and he probably would’ve topple over if it weren’t for the balance his spider-bite allowed him. The cops were all pulling up now as well, including SWAT, all armed and aiming at Herman through Peter. 

 

“No body fucking move!” the Shocker moved. “Or the kid and all the ones inside get it!”

 

The mask of the Iron Man suit lifted up to reveal a terrified Tony Stark. His brow was creased with nerves and worry, his mind racing with every way he could think of to get his kid out of this alive and uninjured. At least alive, as awful as it was to say it.

 

“Kid, are you okay?” Tony asked.

 

“I’m okay…” Peter whispered. The gun was then wacked against the side of his head, causing him to wince.

 

“Hey! That goes for you too, smart ass!”

“Don’t fucking touch him!” Tony shouted, blasters charging, though they all knew it was a bluff. He’d hit Peter if he did that.

 

“Aw, big rich man cares about Queens’ little Spider-Man, does he?” At the confused looks of all the cops, followed by the ‘oh no’ on from Tony, shocker just laughed. “That’s right. I’m doing you a favor and squashing the little Spider for you. He’s illegal anyways, and you think he’d go quietly? No!” 

 

“Put the gun down!” Someone from the SWAT team called, breaking the stunned silence. 

 

Tony didn’t hear it, he was too focused on the kid. His look of defeat was absolutely heartbreaking-- he knew how much keeping his identity a secret meant to Peter.  ‘You’ll be okay,’ he mouthed, trying to console the kid as much as he could.

 

‘Trust me,’ was the response he got from Peter, and as kid put his casted foot down, Tony’s eyes widened. It was too risky, there were too many variables. Too many terrible outcomes. If Peter would just stay still for a little longer--

 

Before Tony could advice Peter against doing anything stupid and rash, the kid braced himself, and pushed off the ground as hard as he could to flip over and behind the Shocker-- thank god for spider powers. It sent a terrible pain through his leg, but he let out a scream of pain when he felt a bullet tore through his shoulder and just barely missing his neck and head. It was blinding, one of the worst things he ever felt. Skin and muscle were merely paper to the bullet that tore through, and blood began pooling around the injury as soon as he hit the ground.

 

“Peter!” Tony cried, and as soon as the kid was out of the way, Herman was shot in the head.

 

Peter didn’t see that though. It was like the pain blinded him, and he immediately passed out.

 


 

When he woke up, all Peter felt was the main in his shoulder. He groaned before recalling what happened and shot straight up. He was suddenly embraced, and tightly so, and a wet spot formed on his opposite, not hurt shoulder. At first, being disoriented, Peter thought he was bleeding but… those were tears. May was hugging him. He was in the medbay at the Tower. He was… safe.

 

“Oh, baby…” The woman sobbed. “I thought we’d lost you! Never pull a crazy stunt like that again, you hear me? I can’t handle seeing my baby hurt all the damn time!”

 

“Is… Is everyone okay?”

 

May hesitated. “Don’t worry about that right now, baby.”

 

“Your friends are alright,” Tony spoke now, smiling sadly at Peter and placing a hand on the kid’s arm. “We, uh… Not everyone is accounted for yet.”

 

Peter knew people were killed though. He heard it as though it happened right in front of him. He didn’t say that though, but just hugged his aunt. He thought he was never going to see her again… 

 

“You were very brave today, kiddo. I’m proud of you.”

 

“Me too, honey… Just never pull this shit again. You don’t need to prove yourself, let alone like this.”

 

“I just wanted to help people… they were getting hurt because of me and-- and now everyone knows, and--”

 

“Shh…” Tony cooed, running a hand through Peter’s hair. He should’ve never let this happen. “It’s okay. We’ll take care of it now. You’ve done more than enough. A lot of lives were saved today because of you.

 

He didn’t know if Peter would believe it now, but Tony knew how guilty Peter must be feeling right now. He didn’t deserve to feel that way though-- he was the best of them all. So young, yet so willing to sacrifice himself for people he, most of the time, didn’t even know. There was a lot of damage control to be done, but Peter didn’t need to know that. He deserved to rest.

Chapter Text

One of Tony's earliest memories is going on a walk with his parents. He was very young, just around 4 years old, but even then seeing both of his parents, let alone going anywhere with them was a rarity.
He had been so excited, he remembered that.
They had walked downtown, surprisingly managing to go unnoticed, a miracle for the Stark family. Tony's mother wanted ice cream and in a rare show of good will, Howard allowed it.
Tony would never find out who had called in the media, but as soon as they walked out, they were surrounded by an enormous crowd. Camera flashes, people shouting questions, fans shouting.
Tony remembers clinging to his father's legs, terrified. Everything was so bright and so loud. He wanted nothing more than to held by his father, protected from the starving vultures.
A pair of strong arms encircle him and he breathes a sigh of relief. The relief lasts for less than a second and is quickly replaced by pure panic as arms bear him away from his parents.
The last thing he remembers is his father's smug face before cameras are being stuck in his face, bright flashes blinding him.
When the crowd finally dispersed, Tony was cowering in a corner, sobbing with fear.
"Why did you leave me, dad ? Why ? I was so scared."
His father had looked at him with icy eyes.
"You're the future of Stark industries. Get used to it. "
When Tony looked at him with wide, tearful eyes, Howard snarled in disgust.
"Quit crying like a little girl. Get up, clean yourself off. We're going home."

And if years later Tony would wonder whether it might have been his own father who had called the media, whether that rare family outing had simply been a ploy to get the heir of Stark Industries in the papers....he would never know. It was better that way. At least that was what he told himself.

It's this terrible memory that Tony thinks of when Pepper tells him that it may be time to introduce Peter to the world.

"Tony, you announced that you had chosen the future leader of SI more than 6 months ago. Except no one has seen him. They don't even know his name. People are beginning to suspect it was just a ploy to get people to invest in stocks."
"He's a kid, Pep. I can't do this to him. I can't."
"Tony, Peter is 18. He's more than ready for the job you're given him. I know how hard this is for you. If you'd like, we'll ask him to decide."
So that's what they do. Peter chooses a date after his graduation, shortly after his 19th birthday. Tony takes all the possible precautions. The reporters are vetted down to the color of their favorite cereal bowl. The questions are prepared in advance. Flash photography is forbidden. The backup plans have backup plans.

But despite all of Tony's meticulous planning, things turn out differently in the end.

It's a simple mistake, really. As innocent as they come.
Tony goes to pick up Peter from school. It's a weekly habit of theirs. Peter comes out from school glowing with happiness even more than usual.
"Tony! Guess who's graduating as valedictorian?"
"Peter, that's amazing! Let me take you out to lunch today. Your pick. Wherever you want." It may have been over thirty years, but Tony still forgets that his life has certain...disadvantages. One of them being that it's impossible to go anywhere without being noticed.
Peter chooses a family run diner in Queens, and they enjoy their lunch. But almost as soon as they walk out the door, they're instantly surrounded by a shouting crowd. Tony doesn't hesitate. He grabs Peter and pulls the boy behind his back.
The scene is very reminiscent of the incident all those years ago, but Tony will not allow for the same thing to happen again. He signals to Happy. The car will be ready very soon.
In his moment of distraction, however, Peter is pulled away from him, grabbed by a hundred arms, flashing lights blinding him.
Except Tony doesn't hesitate. He pushes his way through the crowd and when he finally reaches Peter, he flings a protective arm around him and gets them away as fast as possible.
Happy is waiting right down the street. They stumble into the car, both shaking. Tony with rage and Peter with anxiety, but shaking all the same.
When the door slams shut and the engine starts, Peter breathes a long sigh of relief, burying his head in his arms. When he lifts it up again, Tony is watching him with a sad gaze.
"I'm so sorry Pete, I should have known. I wanted to protect you. I wanted to keep them away from you and I failed."
I'm just as bad as my father...
Tony doesn't say that thought out loud, but Peter notices, of course he does.
"Tony, no, thank you. You could have left me. Yet you didn't. And... Pepper told me about how much prep you put into my press conference and why. I'm so sorry that happened. I promise you're not like that, you never could be. Thank you."
Leave it to the kid to give the greatest pep talks.
"Bring it in, kid."
An armful of shaky teenager is the best thing that's happened to Tony in forever.

Chapter Text

Peter’s always been  good at remembering days-- birthdays, anniversaries (or friend-iversaries considering that he wasn’t with anyone), random historical events, excetera. He easily remembered what day it was when he got bit by the spider on that Oscorp field trip in eighth grade and when Tony Stark showed up at his apartment freshman year. However, of course, there were the bad days too. He remembered the day his parents dropped him off at Ben and May’s for what was just supposed to be for the weekend-- he was learning days of the month back then, that’s why the four year old knew. He remembered the day they were supposed to come home but didn’t. He remembered the first day of school and getting picked on right off the bat. He remembered the day of his biggest damn screw up.

 

It was the summertime, August, and just a day before his fourteenth birthday-- the ninth, to be exact. 

 

Peter had gotten accepted into Midtown that very same day-- they were going to celebrate. They were supposed to celebrate. It was going to be a two day thing, it’d carry over to his birthday, Ben had told him. They were proud of him, Ben had told him. 

 

His mom and dad would be so proud of him, Ben had told him.

 

But they didn’t celebrate. They couldn’t. The three of them had gone down to be just the two of them and it was all his fault. Peter didn’t step in. He couldn’t stop it. He couldn’t save him.

 

Needless to say, Peter didn’t really like his birthday anymore. The year it happened, he and May were too distraught to talk about it, he simply received the presents she and Ben had got him for Christmas instead. Last year, May tried to make it normal-- he was a teenager, he should have a nice birthday-- but Peter was very distant. He locked himself in his room whenever he could. He only spoke when spoken to. It was terribly hard for May too, of course. She loved Ben, and the loss of him in their lives broke her heart, but she knew that her husband would’ve wanted them to continue living their lives and be happy without him. 

 

She had to be strong for Peter, not the other way around. She was an adult, and he was her-- their-- kid. May lost her husband, but Peter lost a parent. No one should have to deal with that at such a young age.

 

“Peter, baby? Are you awake?” May knocked on her nephew’s bedroom door. 

 

“Mhm.” Came a quiet voice from behind the door.

 

“Why don’t you come on out for breakfast?”

 

“I’m not hungry, but... Thanks anyways.”

 

With his enhanced metabolism, May knew Peter was always at least a little hungry-- and she felt terrible for not being able to provide enough food to satisfy him, but then again, Tony hadn’t been too successful in that department either, so she knew she shouldn’t feel too guilty. May wasn’t sure if the heavy emotions of the day were making the boy feel nauseous and that was why he claimed to not be hungry, or if this was just one of his ways of punishing himself for what happened-- she wasn’t naive, she knew that’s what Peter did.

 

“Okay, well, it’s there if you want it,” May offered. She sighed a little, wishing she could make this better. She wish Ben were still here, not only because they missed him, but it was so hard to do this alone sometimes. Not even just with days like this, although these were especially difficult. Raising a child alone was an incredible challenge, let alone one with super powers. “Is it okay if I come in?”

 

Peter seemed to hesitate. “Uhm, yeah. Sure.”

He’s not locking me out, that’s good, May thought as she walked inside. Peter sat on his bed criss-cross, the sheets looking like they hadn’t been laid in all night, not that May could blame him. Although she didn’t witness it like he did, she also had nightmares about that day, especially this time of year. “So… how are doing?” She sat down besides him. 

 

The teen didn’t look up, but just stared down at the book in front of him-- he seemed to be working on summer homework to try and distract himself. “I’m, uh, I’m okay…” he lied. “How ‘bout you?”

 

“Not so good,” May admitted, deciding to be honest with Peter in hopes he’d be honest with her in return. “It’s hard. You know?”

 

“Yeah… yeah I know,” the teen nodded. As May scooted closer to her nephew, Peter didn’t lean into her comforting touch as he normally would. He seemed almost scared to touch her, as if she’d get hurt if she got too close to him. 

 

“You know, Ben would be really proud of you if he could see you now,” she smiled sadly, putting an arm around him and rubbing circles on his back. Peter tensed at her words, and while for a second, May thought she said the wrong thing, she knew it needed to be said. Peter needed to know that he was a good person, even if he didn’t feel like it. 

 

It took the boy a while to respond to his aunt’s words. “I…” Peter hesitated, swallowing thickly.

 

“It’s okay,” She cooed, hearing how choked up he was getting.

 

“I’m sorry… I’m so sorry…” Peter looked up now, eyes closed-- his way of preventing tears from falling.

 

“Oh no, Peter. Baby, you have nothing to be sorry about…” May tried to reassure. This was what she was afraid of, he still blamed himself. Of course he would, that’s how Peter was, but it still broke her heart to see. “It’s not your fault--”

 

“Yes, it is.” It hurt how sure he sounded of himself.

 

“No it’s not, I promise.”

 

“I could’ve done something. I was there. I saw it. But you know what I did? Nothing. How is that not my fault?”

 

“There was nothing you could’ve done. If you tried to, you might’ve gotten hurt instead. It might’ve been you--”

 

“--Which would’ve been better.”

 

May was stunned by Peter’s words, truth be told. As awful as losing Ben was, losing Peter might’ve been worse. Losing a child always was. “No, Peter. No,” she pulled him closer. “It wouldn’t have been better. Look how many people you’ve helped. This world wouldn’t have been better without you.” When he didn’t answer, May continued. “Look, honey. Ben and I promised Mary and Richard that if anything were to happen to them, we’d look out for you. That we’d protect you. Ben wouldn’t have broken the last promise he made to his brother, would he?”

 

“No…”

 

“Exactly. As hard as it was to lose Ben, it would’ve been so much worse to lose you. Or the both of you,” May explained. “But baby, just remember that you don’t have to deal with this alone-- it’s impossible. I’m here for you, I promise. We… we only have each other, so we need to be there for each other, right?” While she wasn’t going to push her issues on a nearly sixteen year-old, May knew Peter’s top priority was to help people, and she hoped this would coerce him into being more open if he thought it would help her. Truthfully, it would.

 

They sat there in silence for a while-- maybe an hour or two of just comforting quiet-- and it wasn’t long before Peter leaned into his aunt’s hold. He was starting to feel a little better after a while. He still felt absolutely awful, but just.. A little less. A little less alone and isolated.  It wouldn’t last very long, sure, but it was nice in the moment. Silent tears didn’t burn eyes as much in the moment. The throbbing pain in their hearts seemed to dull a little with each others’ presence.

 

It was May who finally broke the silence, saying, “I’m going to go clean up the kitchen now, okay baby?”

 

“Okay..” Peter nodded curtly.

 

“You should come try to eat something.”

 

“Okay.”

Chapter Text

A telephone rings through the velvet darkness of a peaceful apartment. 

It rips through the darkness, leaving only shreds behind.

The world weary man in the bed sits up, gasping for breath as he searches for the source of the sound. 

He grabs for the phone where it lays on the bedside table and answers it with shaking fingers.

"Peter, would you like to explain..." he begins, but is halted immediately by the gasping sobs that filter through the phone.

"Tony, help. Please", is all that the boy clutching the phone can gasp out. Pain is shooting down his side, splintering through his lungs as his panic makes it impossible for him to breathe. 

"Alright, Pete, I'll be right there" Tony bites out, fear and frustration tightening his chest. He turns to tell Friday to triangulate the boy's location, but he sees that she's already done so. 

The suit glove arrives first, but the rest surrounds him in mere seconds. 

The pulsing red dot of Peter's location is already entered into the Nav screen. He should be there withing minutes.

He just hopes that Peter can last that long. They're too far away for Tony to access any health stats from the suit, but Peter's raspy breaths are enough to show how serious the situation is.

As he takes off, Tony turns his attention back to the hurt boy.

"I'm on way, kid. Can you tell me what happened?"

The silence scares him for a moment, but when Peter's voice is more embarrassed than anything.

"Stupid robber was trying to break into some store. Got rid of his gun, but I forgot people still use knives. I got him webbed up, but he got it into my side before I could notice."

"Fuck, kid. Please tell me you didn't pull it out."

"Pull it...of course not! It's the only thing keeping me from bleeding out. Plus, the thing's serrated. It would cut me even more."

The boy seems to be getting his strength back as he talks to Tony, but the situation is far from safe. 

In fact, it's highly likely that shock is setting in, lowering the amount of pain Peter is feeling, but also making it harder for him think straight. 

This theory is confirmed a few seconds later when Peter starts to babble.

"Hey, Mr. Stark, ya know what? I'm really happy I've got this big knife in my side. Wanna know why?" He's giggling, but his voice is off pitch and odd. 

Choosing to humor him and keep him talking, Tony agrees.

"Cause you're gonna hook me up with somma those good strong meds and I'll get a full night of sleep for once. In fact, I might just start noooow." Peter punctuates the sentence with a massive yawn. 

"Peter, no. Don't you dare go to sleep now. Stay with me." Tony is still 2 minutes out, and if the kid falls asleep he most likely won't wake up. 

"But To-ony... I'm...I'm so tired..." Peter's voice is faint.

Hold on, kid. I'm coming to get you.

"I know you are, but you can't fall asleep. It's really important. Can you do that for me? Just a few minutes more."

There is silence for 30 seconds or so, before Peter's voice comes back on, sounding queasy.

"Mr. Sta-ark," he slurs, "there's a lot of blood here." 

"I know, kid. Can you do me a favor and look up at the stars? Try and tell me what you can see." Tony is grasping for straws, trying to keep Peter focused.

"Oooooooh stars!" Peter's voice is slurring more and more.

"That's...Ursa Major, the Great Bear, that's Jupiter and....oooh is that a shooting star?"

Tony has to smile at the touch of childish innocence.

Sounding oddly happy, Peter pipes up, "Nope, just a plane."

Tony lands next to Peter just then. 

"Hey there, Mr. Stark" Peter says, and then his eyes roll back in his head and he passes out.

"Sorry kid, this is gonna hurt." Tony says softly as he scoops the kid up, carefully avoiding the large knife handle.

Then he blasts off into the night until the light of his repulsers is just another star in the sky. 

 

 

And when Peter wakes up, three days later, side stitched up and healing nicely, he turns to his mentor and asks, "Will you take me stargazing when I'm released?" 

Tony smiles at the boy through tired eyes.

"Of course I will." 

Because there's nothing he wouldn't do for this boy. 

 

 

Chapter Text

Everything happened so fast.

 

One moment, he was just taking a picture with a nice kid who he didn’t even know the name of, and then… well, everything went to hell. Tony thought he might’ve literally been in hell. 

 

Hell was fire. Hell was pain. Hell was death.

 

That’s everything that resided outside of their jeep. 

 

This was hell, wasn’t it?

 

Maybe I should’ve made better life choices? Tony wondered for the briefest of moments.

 

The car behind them exploded, and it was safe to say that everyone inside was done for. Their vehicle came to a halt, and all around them came more explosions. It was terrifying, truth be told. Who wouldn’t be scared shitless as the world began to go up in flames around them? Tony sure as hell didn’t know.

 

The soldiers that had been accompanying him hurried out the car to try and fight off whoever the hell had decided to attack them, and all Tony could do was duck in cover. Brains couldn’t do much, in this situation, and it made Stark feel utterly helpless. Nevertheless, his brain ran at a million miles per hour to try and figure out what was going on, why, and how he could get out of it alive.

 

The soldiers outside of the car began falling left and right-- they were fighting a losing battle, and while Tony had little to no military training, he felt obligated to do something. He had to try and do something. These men, several much younger than he was, were giving their lives right before him, and Stark knew he wouldn’t be able to live with himself if he didn’t at least make an effort. So, he picked up a gun, but he couldn’t get it to fire. He designed fucking weapons for a living, but he couldn’t even opperate one! Some kind of genius he turned out to be.

 

“Get down!”

 

As soon as Tony heard that, he turned and ran. He spotted a large rock nearby and hid behind it right as what he assumed to be yet another, fiery explosion that likely took more lives. In the heat of the moment, Tony, as terrible as it was, was only relieved that it wasn’t him who perished. 

 

Yet. 

 

The man ripped out his phone and began furiously typing at it, desperate for help and to help. He didn’t even know who to go to, truth be told. 

 

Rhodey? 

 

No, he’d be occupied with what was going on already.

 

Obediah?

 

Nothing he can do for me right now.  

 

Pepper?

 

What could she do to get me out of this?

 

All this ran rampant in his mind before a missile landed right beside him. A missile with his name on it. Stark Industries weapons were being used against him, and possibly about to kill him. How fucking ironic was that?

 

Before he could get far, much like everything else around them right now, it exploded. As Tony hit the ground, his head throbbed, his entire body ached, and the taste of blood and sand-filled his mouth. His chest ached so much, blindingly so. It felt to Tony like he’d just been stabbed in the heart. Like white, hot needles were burying their way through his muscle and tissue to attack that organ specifically. Underneath his shirt, he could feel blood blossoming where the heart-- no time for jokes, Stark-- of the pain lied. 

 

He thought he was dead. 

 

He should be dead. 

 

How was he not dead?

 

Oh, right. 

 

His vest.

 

That damn piece of fabric just saved his life, it seemed. However, not everyone was as lucky as he was. Tony struggled to sit up, adrenalin numbing a good part of the pain, but it was overwhelming still overwhelming. When he would try to move, it was as though tons and tons of metal were crushing his lungs and ribs, driving the white, hot needles of pain in deeper. It made his vision go dark and spots appeared. Everytime he moved, it felt like he was shackled to the ground and his movement tugged on a heavy, metal chain that tore through his entire chest. 

 

You’re not safe, the rational part of Tony’s brain told him. You need to get up. You need to find shelter or somewhere safe. You’ll die if you stay out here.

 

You’ll either blow up or bleed to death, it said. Or worse, someone will find you and take it upon themselves to finish the job. 

 

No, don’t close your eyes.

 

Get up.

 

Get up!

 

His eyelids felt so heavy.

 

You can sleep when you’re dead, which will be soon if you don’t get the fuck out of here!

 

Just five minutes wouldn’t hurt. Just so he could regain some energy.

 

You’re in a god damn war zone! Every second counts! 

 

You’re wasting time!

 

It’s running out!

 

You’re running out!

 

You don’t have…

 

...time…

 

He must’ve blacked out, because when he opened his eyes again, everything was dark. When he opened his eyes again, he wasn’t on the ground in the sand anymore. When he opened his eyes again, he wasn’t alone.

 

Someone was talking, but Tony couldn’t understand them.

 

No, it wasn’t like he hit his head and being disoriented was preventing him from comprehending the man’s words-- whoever it was was speaking in another language.

 

Oh fuck… Tony couldn’t help but think. He’d been captured. 

 

It wasn’t dark outside-- well, maybe it was. He didn’t know how long he’d been out-- it was a burlap sack covering his head. The thread of said sack were sharp as hell, and poked directly into several gashes on Tony’s temples. Blood from those gashing trickled down the side of his face, slowly.

 

It wasn’t long before that sack was ripped off of him, giving Tony some whiplash. It didn’t help his throbbing headache that an incredibly bright light shone right in his face. Tony got a couple looks around the room and noticed several things:

 

He was tied to this chair he’d been put on.

 

He was surrounded by armed men, definitely the guys who tried to blow him up before-- the Ten Rings, he supposed.

 

Whoever was speaking was reading off a script. Someone else was in charge.

 

This was all being recorded. It was a ransom video.

 

Tony let his head hang low, trying to process all the information he just took in.

 

It was alright, he could survive this. He was someone of a very high profile, of course he’d had hostage training before. The question was now that if said training would prove useful or just be ninety hours of his time that he’d never end up getting back.

 

One thing was for sure though-- if he did, somehow, make it out of this shit fest alive, there was no way in hell that Tony would be making more weapons. 

Chapter Text

Massachusetts General Hospital ICU , 1985

The sterile smell of hospital disinfectant engulfs James Rhodes as he walks through the sliding doors of Mass General Hospital. 

He's been here for the past three days, only two hours ago was he persuaded to go home and shower. 

The route to the ICU waiting room seems almost short, as familiar as it is to him now, but he remembers how endless it seemed when he first got the news. He doesn't think he'll ever forget that day.

He'd been in class, trying to tune out the constant whispers of Tony's name. The boy was the subject of constant gossip. He was, after all, the 15 year-old at MIT.

Someone poked him. He refused to turn around, to rise to the bait. 

"Yo, Rhodes. Rhodes! I know you can hear me."

Rhodey groaned internally, turning to face Willoughby. The boy wasn't the worst of the bullies, he could be cruel but was never physical. 

"What do you want?"

Willoughby sneered and then said "I just wanted to ask why you aren't in the hospital with your little faggot best friend?"

The class ended just then and Willoughby made to leave, but Rhodey held him down.

"I'm not finished with you. Tell me what happened. Now. Or I'll clean the floor with your face."

This kind of agression was extremely rare coming from him and Willoughby knew that. Rhodey took pleasure in watching the blood drain from his face.

"I didn't do anything, I promise!"

Rhodey cut him off.

"Clearly you've heard something. What was it?"

The frightened young man looked down sullenly, but Rhodey's hand tightening on his neck was enough to get him to talk.

"Some boys were talking that they'd caught Young Stark kissing some boy behind the dorms. They said they gave him what the little fag deserved. And...he wasn't at his Advanced Engineering lecture either."

Shit.

 

 

Mount Sinai Hospital PICU, present day

Rhodey rushed through the doors marked Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, going as fast as he could. 

He had gotten the text from Tony less than 30 minutes before.

 

Something's happened to Peter. Come quick as you can. We're at the Mount Sinai PICU. 

 

And honestly, Rhodey is terrified. Peter is the best thing that's happened to Tony. Since the day the orphaned 8 year old walked into their lives, he's been Tony's pride and joy.

Tony wasn't his biological father, but he had become his dad. 

Mary and Richard Parker had been some of Tony's few friends at MIT. Brilliant scientists and amazing people. And Peter was just like them. Smart and kind, he brought light with him wherever he went. 

Rhodey is snapped back into reality as Tony sinks into his arms.

"Thank god you're here."

Rhodey steers Tony over to a nearby chair, because they're both shaking.

"What happened, Tony?"

Tony buries his face in his hands and lets out a ragged breath. 

"I got a call from the school and then a few minutes later from the hospital. A gym coach found him. He was barely breathing, unresponsive, in a puddle of his own blood." 

Holding his breath, Rhodey asks the question he can't stop thinking about. 

"Do you know why?" 

Tony met his gaze, and Rhodes knows that they're thinking of the same thing. 

"I don't know, we'll have..."

"Mr. Stark?" A woman in scrubs enters the waiting room and Tony springs to his feet.

"You can come in and see him. The doctor is waiting for you."

Tony walks towards her, but when Rhodey goes to follow, she holds out a hand to stop him.

"Only close family..." 

"He's Peter's uncle." Tony cuts in. 

The nurse doesn't question it and Tony is looking more and more anxious.

The room that Peter is in is white on white and Rhodey is knocked back into the past.

Only the doctor's voice brings him back to focus.

"...concussion, broken ribs, collapsed lungs, ruptured spleen and multiple contusions. He hasn't wokea1n up yet, but we're sure he will. His body needs rest to heal. For now,  he's stable and we think he should wake up within a few days."

 

1985

"Mr. Rhodes, I understand your concern, but our policies do not allow us to give this kind of information to people outside of the patient's close family."

Rhodey buried his face in his hands. 

"I understand your policies, ma'am. The thing is, Tony has no family. HE HAS NO ONE. He's 16 years old and he was just beaten unconscious. If you want to try and keep a teenager calm in an entirely strange environment where all he feels is agonizing pain, then good luck to you."

The nurse gave him a searching gaze, but finally nodded curtly and gestured at him to follow her.

The doctor gave him a quick rundown of the boy's injuries, which included a concussion, a punctured lung and multiple broken ribs. 

"What did they do to you, Tones?" Rhodey sighed to the unconscious young man as he sat down, submitting himself to the thought of a long wait.

 

Present day

Peter wakes up two days later, in the early evening hours. Tony is sitting next to the boy's bed, head resting against the wall as he studies the bruises on his son's face. He's memorized them by now, but the anger at whoever did this is still a roaring flame in his chest and he knows Rhodey feels the same way.

He's just thinking of a particularly humiliating way to get back at the attackers when he sees Peter stir.

The boy blinks a few times before his eyes fully. He looks around for a moment and Tony can see him start to panic, so he reaches out and grabs his hand.

"Dad?" 

"Hey kid. You're alright now. You're alright. Take it easy." 

Peter shows no sign of calming, though, so Tony doesn't hesitate to lean forward and pull the boy against his chest.

Tony's protective instincts are screaming, and the little choking sob that escapes Peter only adds fuel to the fire.

They take a few minutes, basking in each other's presence, until Tony hears Rhodey walk in. 

He shifts so that Peter can see who has entered, and smiles gently when the boy reaches a hand out to his uncle. 

When they've settled again, Tony dares to interrupt the peace.

"I know it's really hard, but I need you to tell us what happened. Can you do that for us, kiddo?"

Peter stares like a dear in headlights for a moment before tears well up in his eyes. 

He struggles through them, but manages to raise his voice enough to speak. 

"We...were just holding hands...we weren't doing anything wrong. And all of a sudden they came around the corner. There was 5 of them. And Avery was really scared. I wanted to protect him so much, dad! That's why I stayed. I knew they were going to hurt me but at least they didn't hurt him."

Peter is sobbing so hard he's gasping for breath. 

"What did we do wrong?"

"Oh sweetheart," Tony's heart shattered to pieces, "you didn't do anything wrong. It's them that are wrong. You're worth a thousand of them."

And as he hugs his sobbing child to his chest, Tony considers how unfair the world is.

Because thirty-odd years ago, this was him and Rhodey at the hospital. He'd been Peter's age and it had been the same. A bunch of guys who thought they had the right to serve out justice. The right to decide that a young man's life is worthless because of who he wants to be with. 

Rhodey is thinking about how this feels like a second chance for both of them.

Back in college, Tony had never told Rhodey the names of the guys who had beat him to the brink of death. He had let himself cry a few times at the hospital, but as soon as he was released, he buried himself in his schoolwork.

But Rhodey knew that it affected him more than he let on. It was only after this that Tony began drinking. There was only so much Rhodey could do. And since Tony refused to open up about it, Rhodey's hands were bound.

But that isn't going to happen again. They will ensure that Peter has a supportive environment through all of this. 

(And if they're both planning a very public ordeal for the sick kids who did this to their Peter, well, they're only human, aren't they.) 

For now, they're both happy to comfort the boy, holding him close until he drifts back to sleep.

Chapter Text

Have you ever heard the expression 'it hit me like a train' ? Like, some news was so intense it just slapped you in the face but a million times worse?  Well, Peter had been experiencing that a lot lately.

 

The whole thing with blipping in itself hit him  like a train-- he remembered how it felt so clearly, how much it hurt and how hard he had fought against it. Peter had asked a couple other people how they felt when they were blipping, and no one else had felt pain. Everyone had shared his fear, yes, but it seemed his body had only tried to reassemble itself as he was, y'know, dying because of his enhancements. Just another thing he knew no one else would ever understand.

 

That battle once they were back had hit him like a train, too. It was so intense, so terrifying,  and one hundred percent nightmare fuel. It was still hard to believe that those aliens were still out there, but they were. And one day,  they might come back. Then what would they do? Peter had no idea, but they sure as hell wouldn't be ready anytime soon.

 

The fact that Tony almost died continued to hit Peter like a train. Yes, he woke up out of his coma a few months ago and just finished up his physical therapy for his new arm for the most part about a week ago, but the teen still felt...guilty in a way. It was weird,  but part of Peter blamed himself and wished he would have fought harder.

 

'Maybe if you were good enough, Tony wouldn't have nearly died.'

 

Beck had hit him like a train. Correction-- Beck had hit him with a train. 

 

Of course, that didn’t mean that the news that Beck had lied to him didn’t absolutely smack him in the face. He thought he could trust him. After everything that's happened in the last eight months, Peter thought that he’d found a friend in Beck. Someone he could talk to about hero stuff. Yeah, sure, he could talk to Tony about that stuff, but he didn’t want to bother the man when he had so much going on already. It’d been… nice.

 

Beck had seemed nice.

 

And then he tried to kill him.

 

With a fucking train.

 

Who does that?

 

Somehow though, Peter survived. Everything hurt like a bitch and he probably had several broken bones-- probably? Most likely is more like it. He got hit by a train!-- but somehow, he stuck to the side of the train and had climbed inside. Once in there, he’d ended up passing out, though that was to be expected. However, he could have woken up in a worse place. Yeah, it was a jail, but a jail in the Netherlands, and these people were all proving to be incredibly nice. Like, insanely nice. 

 

He was pretty sure those guys in the cell with him closed the door after he had walked out.

 

He would never see anything like that in America. Not in Queens, at least.

 

Once out of there, Peter knew he needed to get help. Beck was planning to kill his friends, possibly his entire class, and he had to stop him. Plus, however he was planning to, there were most likely going to be countless other casualties because although all the monsters were illusions, the damage was not. No, that was all very, very real. Sickenly real. 

 

How could someone be okay with that?

 

“Uhm, excuse me?” Peter called out, pulling the orange shirt he had gotten from those nice guys in the jail and limping towards a man in what appeared to be a town square. “Can I borrow your phone?”

 

“Yeah, take it,” He smiled, dropping his old flip phone in the teen like it was no big deal. Again, something that would never happen in New York-- someone would probably steal that phone. 

 

“Everyone is so nice here…” Peter breathed in amazement, opening up the phone and going to make a call, but…

 

Who the hell could he call?

 

He couldn’t call Ned or MJ, because Beck was probably tracking their phones-- why the hell did he give him Edith?

 

Happy maybe? He could work, but he’d also probably telhl May and he didn’t want her to worry…

 

Scratch that, Happy would be fine, there was nothing wrong with calling Happy, but there was someone else Peter wanted to see more than Happy.

 

“Hello? Yeah it’s me. I need a ride, I, uh… I messed up,” Peter explained. “Where am I? Uh…” He covered the mic with his hand before speaking to the man whose phone he was borrowing. “Uhm, excuse me sir, where am I?”

 

“In Broek op Langedijk,” He smiled simply.

 

Peter just blinked at him, not totally understanding what he said or how to repeat it. “Uhm…” he held the phone back out to him. “Could-- could you just say that again please?”

 

“Yeah,” the nice man nodded, holding his head close to the phone. “Hello? It’s Broek op Langedijk.”

 

Peter brought the phone back up to his ear now. “Yeah, what he said. Anyways, uhm… It needs to be just you. No one else. Not Happy, not May, not Miss-- Missus-- Potts, not even any crew on the plane. Just you.”

 

They got the details worked out, but unfortunately, it was going to take several hours-- probably seven at the max-- to fly from New York to wherever in the Netherlands he was. On a commercial airline, seven hours would’ve been the minimum time, so at least they had the perks of a private jet. That at least lessened a good portion of the flight time. 

 

Whilst waiting, Peter let himself sit down for a little. The man who offered him his phone before, Milan, brought him into his home in the town square and gave him something to drink. The teen turned down food, feeling too nauseous from stress,  though he regretted that after a couple of hours. During those hours, however, Peter had once again fallen asleep. His body was absolutely drained from the mental, emotional, and physical toll he'd been through in the last day, and it was... well, it was overwhelming. And on top of that, he wasn't even sure who he could trust anymore. Anyone could be working for Beck or be a fucking illusion, the only reason why Peter wasn't running off from this nice man was because he was too exhausted to.  Everything hurt so bad, it was awful... Plus, Beck probably thought he was dead anyways.

 

Still, he needed to be careful.

 

He couldn't afford to make the same mistake as he did with not-Fury.

 

He needed to tell Fury too, his life was in danger as well.

 

He fucked up so bad.

 

And now, if he didn't do something, countless people would die. And it'd be all his fault.

 

He wasn't ready to be an Avenger, and this was an Avenger level threat. It shouldn't fall on him! He was a fucking kid!

 

With great power comes great responsibility...

 

That sentence was going to haunt him forever, wasn't it?

 

Eventually, Peter made his way out into a tulip field-- it was the meeting place as discussed over the phone. He was right on time too, as a Quinjet began to land in the center of said field as he arrived. The boy limped as quickly as he could, each step sending a shooting pain through his side, and was relieved to see Tony step on out. The man's face contorted from some worry to intense concern as he saw the beaten and battered boy limp towards him, and his mind raced with all the possibilities of what might’ve happened to him. Peter had refused to explain over the phone, which had worried him, but he knew now that this was far more serious than just, perhaps, that MJ girl breaking his heart. 

 

Peter looked worse than he’d seen in a long, long time, and dammit, he hadn’t even had the kid back for a whole year yet and he wasn’t going to lose him again. It looked like he’d been through another life-or-death scenario and he wasn’t going to stand for it.

 

“Pete?” his furrowed his brows with worry as he hurried towards the kid. “Are you okay?” 

 

“Tony? Is that you?” Peter asked, breathing ragged from how much energy this was taking. After that final battle with Thanos, Pete had started calling Tony by his first name finally. Turns out, it only took him dying and Tony almost dying to break the ‘Mister Stark’ habit.

 

“Yeah, of course it’s me,” Tony picked up the pace. “What--”

 

“Stop!” Peter screamed, hunched over and holding his arms out to try and make sure Tony didn’t get to close. As relieved as he was to see Tony, he needed to make sure that it was actually Tony and not an illusion. He didn’t know if he could handle that right now. 

 

“Kid, what are you--”

 

“I need proof,” Peter explained, preparing himself for the worst case scenario and this was Beck. “Tell me-- tell me something only the real Tony would know. Only he would know.”

 

“Something I would know, something I would know.  Uh…” Tony racked his brain, stress mudding his thoughts for a moment. “Oh-- when you got your wisdom teeth taken out and were high off your ass, you told me that you were eleven when you figured out that when astronaut’s said, ‘Houston, we have a problem’ , they were calling Houston, Texas and not someone called Houston. You said it was your darkest secret.”

 

“Okay, okay. I believe you,” Peter spoke with a wave of his hands, still embarrassed by the memory but knowing that it is only Tony who knows that about him. He wasn’t an illusion. He was real. He was safe.

 

Peter nearly collapsed right then and there,  his nerves being the main thing keeping him going through the hurt. Tony saw this and hurried over to the kid, who limped right into his arms and hugged him with such desperation that it made his own heart ache for him. "Thank you. I just--... thank you."

 

"Of course, kiddo," Tony tried to assure, rubbing little circles on the boy's back to try and comfort him. However, he immediately stopped after feeling him wince and feeling a little damp spot on the shirt. "Now, let's get you inside, yeah? We can fix you up and you can tell me what's going on-- you look like you were hit by a truck."

 

"A train, actually." Peter coughed a little.

 

"I'm sorry, what?"

 

"I was hit by a train.. It wasn't my fault though, someone else got me out onto the tracks."

 

"Jesus fucking Chrst...!" he didn't realize it, but he held Peter closer upon hearing that.

 

"I'm okay though--"

 

"--Bullshit."

 

"--it just hurts a little bit."

 

Tony sighed. A little bit , Peter said, like he totally didn't see the kid hobbling over to him before and see how he was covered in bruises and gashes. A fucking train! He was going to kill whoever did that to his kid if May Parker didn't first. Though then again,  she probably didn't know.

 

"Alright, let's go. There's a first aid kit inside, I'll stitch you up," Tony stated simply, pulling out of the hug  and putting an arm under Peter's own to try and support some of the teen's weight and help him walk.

 

"M'kay, thanks," Peter agreed, grateful for the help. It was still... well, he felt mean saying it, but it was still weird for him to feel the Iron Man suit-like metal when he knew Tony was out of him. Of course he was out of it, he was retired. It was just that after that battle at the compound, Tony's arm was no good anymore, so they had to amputate it and give him a new one, which happened to be the same design as the Iron Man armor. Of course it would be. Still, Peter tried not to pay much attention to it because it made him feel guilty. He didn’t talk about that to anyone though. It was stupid.

 

“I’m gonna need you to take your shirt off when we get inside so I can see the damage, okay?” Tony warned the kid, helping him onto the quinjet and closing the door. A fucking train, continued to run through his head. He’s back for less than a year and almost fucking dies because someone hit him with a fucking train.

 

“That’s reasonable,” Peter half-heartedly shrugged. He probably needed medical attention anyways, so he couldn’t really argue against it. Still, with each second that passed, the boy couldn’t help but feel like he was wasting time. 

 

Because each second that passed was a second that Beck got closer to killing Fury and Miss Hill.

 

Because each second that passed was a second that Beck got closer to killing Ned, MJ, and maybe even his whole class.

 

You’re worried about us putting your friends in danger? You do that yourself!

 

Fury was right. He put his friends in danger by giving Beck Edith. For trusting him. For being so fucking stupid! How many people were going to get hurt because of his mistakes?

 

Fury was right. Tony made a mistake picking him.

 

"Kiddo, hey," the man himself broke his train thought. “You gotta calm down for me, okay? I know you’re stressed, but you’re okay.”

 

“Right… right. Sorry.” Peter apologized, not having realized that his stress had become visible.

 

“Don’t be sorry, you’re good.”

 

“Okay, s-- okay.”

 

Once inside, Tony had Peter sit down with his back to him and pull of his shirt off. Tony cursed under his breath as he saw the mess of black and blue bruises and gashes that had been hiding under there. There was one monster-sized bruise, itself a sick, dark yellow and Peter's muscles visibly black and blue, on the teen's side, and Tony assumed that's where he was hit. "Fuck..." He ran a hand through his hair, opening up the first aid kit he brought over to them. "When I said I'd stitch you up, I didn't know I'd literally have to."

 

"Sorry..." Peter apologized again.

 

"Hey, hey it's okay bud. It's not your fault."

 

Yes it is, Peter thought. All of this is my fault.

 

"Here," Tony handed him a couple of wet wipes. "I'm going to clean up your back, why don't you wash off any blood you see on your arms and chest. There a little on your face, but I can help you there if you need me to.”

 

“It’s fine, I got it.”

 

“There’s rubbing alcohol on the wipes, so it’s gonna sting.”

 

“Got it.” He gave a curt nod.

 

The teen would wince a bit here and there as his wounds were being cleaned, though he tried his best to suppress them. Tony didn’t comment on it, understanding and just trying his best not to hurt the kid. He’d seemed a little… different since he ‘blipped’-- he hated that term-- back, and admittedly he was worried. He seemed to be constantly on edge-- more so than he used to be-- and somewhat cut off. He’d shut down just about every time something new from these past five years would come up. Most people didn’t notice it, but he did, and he knew May did too. He didn’t blame Peter though, it must be a difficult adjustment. And as much as Tony hated to say it, he was glad Ned, MJ, and May ‘blipped’ too. It seemed to be a sense of familiarity for the kid.

 

He knew he sure as hell has changed a lot over these last five years.

 

He had a kid now, another one-- yes, he saw Peter as his kid even if he wasn’t biologically so like Morgan. He had for a while, but he did so shamelessly now. The war had changed how he saw things, and he was more careful now not to take things for granted.

 

Peter seemed to adore Morgan, which he loved to watch, but he saw the look in his eyes when he thought no one was looking. How much the change must be. May had once said that the kid was never fond of change.

 

“Alright Pete, you ready? Some of these gashes need stitches.” Tony asked, tossing the dirty, wet wipes in a nearby trash can. 

 

“Mhm, go ‘head.” Peter cleared his throat, leaning his crossed arms against the table in front of him with a few deep breaths. Tony hated how routine this seemed for the kid, but that was part of the job. He wished that a kid didn’t have to do this job, but he knew he couldn’t stop him. All Tony could do was help him, and find out when the situation might be too much for Pete like it seemed to be right now.

 

Tony got the kit out after this confirmation, prepping the needle. He wasn’t perfect with his new arm, but he was still steady enough with real arm to do this. “Alright bud, why don’t you tell me about how this all happened?” Both because he needed to know and he was hoping to distract him from the pain, given that he didn’t have anything to numb it.

 

“It’s a long story.” Peter stated simply.

 

“I’ve got time.”

 

“I don’t…”

 

“What do you mean?” Tony raised a brow.

 

“You-- Have you heard of that new guy who’s been helping with the Elementals?”

 

“Mhm. Mysterio, right?”

 

“Well, uhm-- ow, crap…” the boy clenched his fists. “Yeah, him. Well, I’ve uh, I’ve been helping him out. Mister Fury asked me to--”

 

“--that son of a bitch…”

 

“--and I… I know this sounds selfish, but I didn’t want to. I just wanted to have fun on my trip, y’know?”

 

“I understand, kiddo. That doesn’t make you a bad person, that makes you just like the rest of us. I promise.”

 

“Yeah, well, it’s probably for the best that he basically kidnapped me from the trip, ‘cause Mysterio isn’t who he says he is. He-- Tony, ow.”

 

“C’mon bud, I thought you had super strength.”

 

“It still hurts…”

 

“I know, I’m sorry. I’m almost done.”

 

“Tony-- stop. Tony. ” Peter laid his head down on his arms, hitting his fist against the table. He knew he was hurting the kid, and whilst Tony hated that, he was trying to just get it all done as quick as he could so it wouldn’t be prolonged. Then, he could really pay attention to Peter’s story.

 

“Just relax, Underoos.”

 

That must’ve been the wrong thing to say, because that's when Peter seemed to snap. He jumped up, and for a second Tony allowed himself to be thankful he had just finished,  and pulled his shirt back on while yelling, "How can I relax when I screwed up so bad?"

 

"I'm sure whatever happened, you can fix." Based on the little Peter's told him, he assumed  this Mysterio betrayed him. How? Tony wasn't sure yet.

 

"No, I can't. Mysterio-- Beck-- was faking all those battles, and I believed him. The Elementals are just damn illusions, but all the damage and casualties were real and I didn't even notice! I was right freaking there too! And--"  the kid was starting to choke up. "And I gave him Edith. I willingly gave him the most important thing you've ever given me because I thought he could be the next Iron Man since I'm not ready! And now--... Now he's gonna kill Ned, and MJ, and probably my whole class and I just-- I don't know what to do."

 

Tony swiveled in his chair to look at Peter as he plopped down onto one of the jet's seats, hunched over with his head in his hands. Although it was faint, Tony could hear the boy crying softly. "Oh, Pete..." Was all he could say. The poor kid was overwhelmed, dealing with things someone his age should never have to. He knew how many people were looking to Spider-Man for news about the Avengers since he was the only one of them that was still going out there. Tony wished he could take it all off his shoulders, hop back into the old suit and take care of this asshole himself but he couldn't. He was just a civilian now.

 

“Everywhere I go, I see it,” Peter spoke softly, looking up now with puffy, red eyes. “And it’s been really tough to process everything.”

 

“Yeah, I know,” Tony assured. “It’s been tough for me too.”

 

"And I feel like I can't get away from it, because everyone's asking me about it. Everyone's wondering who the next Iron Man is gonna be, and-- and everyone keeps asking if it's gonna be me, but it can't be! I'm not ready, I'm not Iron Man, and I'm-- I'm not you !"

 

"You're right," Tony agreed, smiling sadly at Peter. "You're not me, and you'll never be me. You're you, Pete. You're better than me, better than just about anyone on the team. You're twice the hero I ever was, even at the top of my game, and you're just a kid. Imagine how great you'll be when you have a couple more years of experience under your belt." When Peter didn't reply, Tony continued. "Spider-Man doesn't need to be the new face of the Avengers, but he is the only one still doing their job right now. The world sees him-- sees you-- as a fighter. As someone stronger than what they've gone through. Someone who can stand up to this Mysterio and show the world his true colors."

 

"But the illusions, I can't beat them."

 

"You can, kiddo. You need to trust yourself and get that, what does May call it? Peter tingle? Doesn't matter, you just need to get it back online, and then Mysterio has no chance."

 

"You really think so?" There was so much hope in the boy's eyes and tone that it panged his heart.

 

"I know so, bud. You're the best of us all." Tony tried to assure as best as he could. “Now, you’re all alone, because I can’t help you, and your friends are in danger. What are you gonna do?” A smile came across the older man’s face as he saw the fire return to his kid’s eyes. The fight was back.

 

“I’m gonna kick his ass.”

Chapter Text

Standing in an abandoned warehouse, fully suited and ready for action, Tony feels time slow down as he watches Peter's limp body where it hangs in the arms of his kidnapper. A gun pressed to the boy's head.

Tony's personal time is suspended, giving him a chance to think over the events that have led them here.

It was a series of unfortunate accidents, really.

It had all started on a Tuesday. Tuesdays were lab days, where Peter spent the afternoon and evening using Tony's labs. Most weeks, he headed out around 10, doing a quick patrol before heading back home to his aunt. 

This Tuesday, though, Peter had fallen asleep in the middle of explaining the newest improvements to his web shooters and Tony hadn't the heart to wake him up. He texted May that the kid was staying the night and he got Peter settled in the guest room.

He had planned to be up in time to see Peter off the next morning, but his alarm didn't go off, so he didn't wake up until noon. 

In the meantime, fate was intervening in other ways.

Happy was not informed that Peter was staying over, so the boy took the subway to school.

He never arrived, but they wouldn't figure that out until much later. 

The school contacted May to let her know that Peter was unexpectedly absent, but chance intervened once again. 

May had dropped her phone running to catch a train, so she never received the calls. 

All in all, they had no cause to be worried until almost 11 Wednesday evening.

But worry they did.

Wednesday

The sound of his cell phone ringing disturbed Tony from his work. A partially made suit lay across his workbench, all in pieces.

He glared at the phone, but it kept spouting it's happy little song, so he grabbed it with a groan. 

His frustration was quickly replaced with confusion. Why was Happy calling him this late?

"Hey, Happy, what's..." he began, only to be cut off immediately.

"Please tell me Peter's with you. Please." 

The voice is not Happy's. Instead a very panicked May Parker is on the line, sending a stab of concern through him.

"He's not with me, but maybe he got caught up doing Spider-man stuff? Hold on, let me try and track him."

He set the phone down and turned to the nearest screen, giving FRIDAY the commands to track Peter's suit as well as his phone. 

He waits impatiently, wondering what's taking so long. 

"Mr. Parker's phone is turned off, making it impossible for me to track it's location. He is not in his suit, therefore the suit's location is equally unavailable."

Where are you, kid?

"Has he been in his suit at all today?"

Tony was hoping for a last location at the very least.

"Negative, sir."

"How about his phone? When was it switched off and where?" Tony has a sinking feeling that this information may not be enough. Something is seriously wrong. It's so unlike Peter to just disappear.

"His phone was turned off at 8:15 AM. I can only get a partial location, but I can triangulate it down to the area of the subway station nearest to the Tower."

Tony makes one last guess, praying that he's wrong. 

"FRI, check if Peter Parker was at school today."

"Will do, sir."

As FRIDAY searched, Tony was mentally calculating. If he was right, Peter was taken at 8 this morning. It was now just before midnight. That gave the kidnappers a lead of...almost 16 hours. Too much. It was too much time.

"Sir, Peter Parker was marked absent from all of his classes at Midtown today."

Shit.

Shit

Shit

Tony felt panic threatening to choke him, but he pushed it away viciously. Now was not the time. 

They had taken his kid, and it was time to get him back. 

He called Happy first.

"Happy, take May, bring her here. Someone has Peter, I don't want either of you at risk."

"What..." Happy begins to ask, but Tony shut him down.

"I don't know anything yet. Just get here ASAP."

He hung up and turned to the computer screen.

"Alright. FRIDAY, are you ready?"

"Of course, sir."

He gave himself a second to think about what he could do. 

"Okay. Prepare the location tracking systems. If we get a ransom call, I want to be ready. Next, start facial recognition software across all the CC cameras in the NYC area looking for Peter. Run the footage from the area around the Tower from this morning through the same footage. We need to know who took him." 

Tony buried his face in his hands, hating how helpless he's feeling. There's so little he can do, and when he thinks of what Peter must be going through....

Happy and May's arrival rips him from his self-hatred fueled reverie.

May's eyes were red and she's shaking, but Tony is surprised when she reaches out to give him a hug. Although he hates himself for it, he lets himself sink into her arms for a moment, letting the comfort soothe him a little.

FRIDAY interrupts them, her smooth voice making everyone jump.

"I've found the moment of the kidnapping, sir, and I've identified the van used in the attack."

Tony held back from joy for now. This was far from over.

"Track the van and show us the attack, please."

He turned towards the screen. 

"Of course, sir."

The three of them watch a boy they all recognize as Peter as he makes his way down the street. He seems perfectly calm, until he freezes for a moment. A black van pulls up, obscuring their vision of the boy, and when it pulls away, he is gone.

"It was well planned, " Tony can't help but point out, "There's a blank wall behind Peter, no cameras on that side and the van hid him from view."

"Sir," FRIDAY says " I've located the van at an abandoned self-storage lot in Manhattan. I'm sending the coordinates now."

Tony spins to get suited up, but May lays a hand on his arm.

"Be careful, Tony. They'll be ready for you. Don't do anything stupid. Please. Peter can't lose you."

"And I can't lose Peter. I have to go, May. I'll bring him back, I promise."

And then the suit was forming around him...

And he's back to the now. 

Peter, unconscious in front of him, gun to his head. Kidnappers and Tony at an impasse. Tony is beginning to despair of fulfilling May's promise when he notices something. It's a tiny detail, only because he knows Peter so well does he notice it.

Peter's limpness has changed. He's no longer loose and floppy. There's a purpose to it. 

And Tony feels a thrill of hope. Peter is no longer unconscious. Tony is sure of it. And if he can distract the man enough, Peter can disarm him and just this once, everyone can live.

And so, he begins to play. It's a horrible game, but one he knows how to play.

He draws the kidnapper out, playing on the subtle weaknesses he can see in the man, making him so angry that the kidnapper lets his guard down. 

A moment is all he needs. 

"Now!" He shouts to Peter, and within seconds, all the men are disarmed and stunned. 

And finally, finally, Tony can pull Peter to him and give him the hug he deserves. 

Peter is shaking and Tony barely manages to catch the boy before his knees give out. 

He knows that the adrenaline crash is hitting both of them hard, so he uses the last of his strength to push off into the sky. 

The Medbay is waiting and so is May.

"You're safe now, kid." he whispers to Peter.

We're both safe. 

Just this once, everyone lives.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Tony had always heard of mother’s adrenalin before, but never thought that it was an actual thing. He thought that it was just one of those ‘old wives tales’ thing. Tony never really thought mother's adrenalin was a thing until he experienced it in his own way. 

 

What would that be? Mentor's adrenalin? Weird-sorta-father-figure's adrenalin? Whatever it was the point was that after receiving this call, it was one of the strongest surges of adrenalin he'd felt, and he'd been in quite a few life-or-death scenarios as well as dealing with Peter Parker's shit for a while now.

 


 

(15 minutes earlier…)

 

Peter and May sang along terribly to the radio as they drove down the street, said music not too loud to account for Peter's naturally enhanced hearing but enough so that it was perfect for karaoke. Both actually had  nice singing voices, even if they were never shown off to the world before, but who actually sang nicely along with the radio? Certainly not the Parkers.

 

They usually didn't use May's-- well, it'd actually been Ben's before her's--  car, always either walking or taking the train and leaving the car for May to go to and from work. However, tonight, the distance was too far to walk and the train  schedule didn't line up to when they needed to be at their destination. They were heading to the retirement dinner for Ben's old partner from work, he'd been a cop, and whilst they didn't visit as much as they had a couple years ago, the man was still a close family friend. They wanted to be there for him,  considering all he'd done for them, especially after Ben passed.

 

It was nice though, they didn't get to go out to a nice dinner very much. Neither could really remember the last time that they had, truth be told. They thought it would be fun though, and even got a little dressed up-- not majorly, Peter just wore a nice button down flannel with blaack jeans as to not seem too casual and May put on a simple dress. 

 

"So, how far away is this place?" Peter asked in between the songs.

 

"What, are you bored already? The song just ended." May teased him.

 

"No, I just wanna know. Is that so bad?" He playfully rolled his eyes, trying to stick a stray curl back in its place with little success.

 

"I'm just busting your chops, sweetie."

 

"I know, I was playing along!"

 

"Oh, were you now?" She received another, light hearted eye roll from her nephew. "Anyways, it's not that far. It's just down by the station."

 

"So like, twenty minutes?"

 

"Unless we run into traffic, yep."

 

"Alright, that's not that bad," Peter shrugged. "I bet I could get there in, like, five to ten minutes if I was swinging."

 

"Racing the car, huh?" May smiled. "That'd be interesting to test, but maybe not tonight. I think people would be suspicious if Spider-Man was seen swinging over to a cop's retirement dinner considering most of them don't like you."

 

"Hey, some do!" Peter defended himself. He knew most cops didn't like Spider-Man because he did their jobs for them-- which you'd think they'd like but apparently not-- and often better than them. Also, he didn't answer to any of them, so maybe that was why?

 

Truth be told, Peter often wondered how his uncle would feel about Spider-Man if he were around to see him.

 

"I didn't say all of them did!"

 

"True, true. But yeah, that would be suspicious. Maybe another day."

 

"Yeah, maybe another day. As long as you’re being safe while you do it, of course.”

 

“I’m always safe, Aunt May. I dunno what you’re talking about.”

 

“Oh yeah, sure you are. ‘Always safe’ definitely gets your eardrums ruptured like they were last month.”

 

“That was not my fault, you know.”

 

“Tony told me Karen was going to call him in as back up but you refused. That’s your fault right there.”

 

“Ugh, alright. You got me, but at least that was a one time thing. Right?”

 

“Peter, you almost lost your hearing for good.”

 

“But I didn’t.”

 

“That shouldn't happen though, you know that.”

 

“I know, but it’s just part of the job.”

 

May just sighed. As much as she loved how much her nephew was willing to help people, she hated how willing he was to sacrifice his own wellbeing. Yes, people’s lives were being saved, but May didn’t want to lose Peter in the process. She couldn’t lose him too. “Please, just try to be careful, okay?”

 

“I will,” Peter nodded solemnly, not wanting to worry his aunt. “I will. Promise.”

 

“Thank you. I’m afraid you’ll give Tony a heart attack if he needs to pull your sorry butt out of danger again. We don’t want that, right?”

 

“Definitely not,” Peter smiled a bit. “Then I’d really have no back up. Besides, I think I’ve given him enough gray hairs at this point.”

 

“You given them to the both of us.”

 

“Whaaat? You’re not going gray. But, uh, but if you were, you’d look really pretty.”

 

“Nice sucking up, maybe a little less subtle next time though.”

 

“Ha-ha, very funny.” 

 

“You’re not the only one who can make jokes, y’know. Where do you think you got your sense of humor from?”

 

“Are you sure you I didn’t get it from Uncle Ben?”

 

May laughed at that, “Ouch, kiddo. That stings.”

 

“I’m just messing with you,” Peter laughed as well. After a moment, however, his smile faltered as he felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand straight up. The teen brought his hand up to cover the name of his neck, expression contorting with concern.

 

“Honey? You okay?” May asked, worry taking her expression as well after seeing her nephew’s change.

 

“You need to swerve,” he spoke softly. “Go left.”

 

“What?”

 

“Left!” Peter shouted, leaning over and grabbing the wheel from May and jerking it to the left and away from the both of them.

 

Just as he did, their car was t-boned on Peter’s side by a pick-up truck going eighty in a forty-five.  Although their seatbelts locked, both jerked forward as glass shattered around them, the airbags failing to go off. Peter tried to cover his aunt’s body with his own as the car began to spin out. May desperately tried to steer them back onto the road, but before either of them could really process anything that was happening, they hit a telephone pole head-on. 

 


 

(Now…)

 

When Tony got a call on his personal phone, he was admittedly confused. Not only was it an unknown number, but only a select few had this number. It couldn’t be a telemarketer, because none of them had access to it, but that knowledge only brought the man worry. Unless one of the select few-- Pepper, Happy, Rhodey, Peter, and May Parker-- changed their number for some reason and was calling him to let him know, then this was destined to be a bad call.

 

With a pit in his stomach, Tony answered the phone. “Hello?”

 

“Hello,” answered a random woman on the other end of the line. “Is this, erm… Tony Stark?” She sounded unsure of herself, as though she thought this was a joke despite the severity of the situation. 

 

“Yes, this is he. How’d you get this number?” Tony spoke with a sort of urgency in his tone, mind jumping to every bad scenario imaginable.

 

“You and this number were listed as the emergency contact in Miss May Parker’s phone. Do you know her?” 

 

Tony’s heart dropped through the floor. Oh no… “Yes, yes I know May Parker. Is she okay?”

 

“She and her… son? Peter Parker?”

 

“That’s her nephew…” Was the only thing Tony managed to say, since at this point, it was the only thing he knew for certain. The only clear thought in his mind amidst all the panic. 

 

“Right, of course. Anyways, she and her nephew were in a car accident on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. Both survived the crash, thankfully, but were still quite injured. They’re both being treated at Mount Sinai hospital.”

 

“On my way…” Tony cleared his throat, feeling like he was about to scream, throw up, and pass out all at once before hanging up and practically dropping his phone on the ground as he did. 

 

Tony slapped the arc reactor-- not the old one stuck in his chest, but one that was detachable and held the nanoparticles of his suit-- as he raced out to the balcony of Stark Tower’s penthouse. “Friday, quickest route to--”

 

“Already sent to your suit helmet.” the AI replied.

 

Normally, when it came to non-Spider-Man related emergencies with the Parker family, Tony would just drive. Drive fast, yes, but still just take a car. Right now, however, there didn’t seem to be a second to lose. Not now. May and Peter had become just like family to Tony. He needed to be there for them. 

 

Tony flew across the city with great speed, landing in front of the hospital not five minutes later. Just as he landed, the Iron Man suit began to dissolve and retreat back into the arc reactor, gone within seconds, all while Tony hurried into the building. The man’s shoes clicked against the sterile tile floor as he hurried to the front desk. Clearly, the woman there was used to seeing panicked people sprinting towards her, because she didn’t even bat an eye at it. She did seem surprised at who he was, but didn’t comment on it in order to be professional. “Tony Stark,” he stated like it wasn’t obviously. “I’m here to see May and Peter Parker. They were recently emitted, where are they?”

 

“One moment, sir,” she quickly typed on the computer’s keyboard, attempting to find the two he listed. “Miss Parker is currently in surgery, but Mister Parker is in room three-o’-five. It says he just came out of surgery himself, so he may not be awake for a while. There’s a cafeteria on the second--”

 

“Thanks, but that’s not necessary,” Tony cut her off as he hurried away towards the elevator. He appreciated the gesture, sure, but there was no way he was going to stop for coffee when his kid was just in a fucking car accident. 

 

The elevator, in Tony’s opinion, was going far too slow. He felt like he could’ve gotten up to the third floor faster if he had taken the stairs rather than the damn machine. Maybe that was the stress talking, the man wasn’t really sure, but he did know that he was out of the elevator before the doors even entirely opened. He easily found his way to room three hundred-eight, bypassing the nurses’ desk, and he just stopped in his tracks once in the doorway. The room was big enough for two, and after seeing the second set of machines in there, Tony assumed that the hospital just decided to put May and Peter in a room together. Speaking of the boy, the sight of him caused Tony’s heart to drop once again. He was covered in gashes and bruises, and hooked up to so many wires and an oxygen mask. They had already put him in a hospital gown, probably from after his surgery.

 

There was a nurse there with Peter, seeming to hook him up to some morphine. Not that it’d do much with the kid’s metabolism, but obviously the hospital wouldn’t do that. “Mister Stark?” She asked,surprised to see him. 

 

Tony slowly made his way over to Peter’s beside, eyes trained on the kid the whole time. He looked so young like this, and so… fragile. Broken. It hurt. “How’s he doing?” he eventually asked, heart in his throat as he gingerly placed a hand on the kid’s arm.

 

“He’s stable,” she replied simply. “The surgery went well--”

 

“--What’d they need to do?”

 

“Well, the accident caused him to break several ribs which ended up puncturing a lung,” the nurse explained. “They needed to remove the fluid from the lung and inserted a hollow needle in it to let the air out. There was also an abundance of glass and debris lodged into his shoulder that damaged a cluster of nerves in his right arm, but there shouldn’t be any permanent damage to them.”

 

“Anything else?” At this point, Tony was sitting down in the chair next to Peter’s bed. He was forcing himself to take slow, deep breaths so he wouldn’t end up freaking out and having a damn panic attack. He felt like he might, but that wouldn’t help anyone, let alone May or Peter. God… he needed Pepper. Or Rhodey. Or Happy. He just needed someone there with him right now. 

 

“A doctor will be coming in shortly to stitch up some of the gashes, but that’s about it. There’s a chance he has a concussion as well, but we’ll be able to confirm this once he wakes up.”

 

“And May Parker?”

 

The nurse seemed to hesitate. “Well, she wasn’t doing as well as him. She’s in surgery right now, but her injuries are more severe than Peter’s.” She paused. “The paramedics say that it looked like he tried to shield her with his body, which definitely saved her life at the time. We’re not sure how he survived, truth be told, considering he took the front of the blow, but I don’t think anyone’s complaining about it.”

 

“What do you mean ‘at the time’?”

 

“If it weren’t for him, she likely would’ve died in the accident, but it’s unclear how she’ll fare from here on out.”

 

Tony simply nodded, staying quiet for a few moments. The nurse assumed he had nothing else to ask and began to make her way out of the room. “When will he be up?” the man asked right before she left. 

 

“We can’t be sure, but we’ve estimated a couple of hours.”

 

With that said, the nurse walked out of the room, leaving Tony alone with his unconscious kid, only the sound of his heart monitor breaking the silence every other second or so. The doctor came in about a half an hour later to stitch Peter up, but that was it. Pepper called him at one point, but he didn’t answer, preferring to simply text her that there was an emergency and he wouldn’t be able to make it to date night tonight. After briefly explaining the situation, she said that she’d make her way over as soon as she could. While Tony was grateful for that, he really just wanted the kid to wake up and for May to come out again so he could make sure she was okay too. She had to be, at least for Peter’s sake.

 

Throughout this whole time, Tony’s brain raced at a million miles an hour. How could this happen? Was the most prominent thought. Wasn’t there something he could do? God, this whole thing was out of his control, and it made Tony feel utterly helpless. All he knew was that once May was back here, he was going to talk to the doctor about transferring her and Peter to the Avengers’ Compound medbay where he could be certain that they were receiving the best treatment possible.

 

For now though, all he could do was wait. 

 

And wait.

 

And…

 

Soft groaning interrupted the rhythmic beeping of Peter’s heart monitor, bringing Tony out of his train of thought and causing him to look up from his lap. Peter was stirring a bit, nose scrunching up underneath the oxygen max in discomfort. 

 

“Hey kiddo, you awake?” Tony cooed,  hand on top of the kid’s own now. 

 

“Mis’er Stark?” the boy murmured sleepily, head lolling to the side Tony was sitting on and opening his eyes. “M’ head hurts… m’ ches’ too…”

 

“I know, bud,” Tony assured. “We’ll get you some stronger meds soon, promise.”

 

“‘Kay…” Peter hummed, looking around a bit to try and get a sense of his surroundings. He didn’t recognize this place-- where was he? Was this a hospital? Why was he--

 

Then it all came back to him. The truck, the crash, and May--

 

Oh god, May.

 

Was she okay?

 

As all this came back to him, Peter hastily tried sitting up, the beeps of the heart monitor picking up as he did. Tony put a hand gingerly on his chest to try and keep him down. “Hey, hey it’s alright. You’re alright bud, just relax for me okay?”

 

“M-May,” he fought against Tony’s efforts to keep him laying down, but he was too weak to really do anything.  “May, is-- is she okay? W-where is she?”

 

“Pete, breathe for me, alright? You’re getting yourself all worked up”

 

Just then, Pepper walked into the room, “Tony, I’m here, I-- Oh, Peter. You’re awake. How are you feeling, kid?”

 

“He just woke up, and is a little disoriented.”

 

Peter’s eyes were wide, his breathing rapid, but he did stop trying to sit up. 

 

“I’ll get a nurse,” the woman stated, hurrying out and towards the nurse's station. 

 

“Mister Stark, please,” Peter pleaded. “Where’s May?”

 

“I-- I don’t know, bud,” Tony admitted. “When I got here, they told me she was in surgery, but that was a few hours ago, and I haven’t seen her. I’m sure she’s fine though, you just need to relax, okay?”

 

Peter bit his lip, before nodding. Slowly, the beeps of the heart monitor began evening out. They were still faster than when he was asleep, but slow enough to let Tony know he wouldn’t be having an anxiety or panic attack right now. 

 

“Good, good. We can ask a nurse about your aunt when they come check on you, okay?”

 

“Okay…”

 

“How are feeling?”

 

“Everything sorta hurts, and this--” he poked at his oxygen mask. “Is bothering’ me. Can I take it off?”

 

“Sorry bud, but I don’t think so. You screwed up your lungs pretty bad, and that’s helping you breathe.”

 

“Oh,” Peter sounded disappointed, but despite this, Tony felt a wave of relief wash over him. Peter was awake, and he was still himself. He was a mess right now, but he was going to be okay. Once they found out what  was going on with May, they could finally relax. “What, uhm… what’s wrong with my lungs?”

 

“You know how your chest hurts?”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Well, you broke some ribs, and they punctured one of your lungs. That’s what this is all about,” Tony pointed to the hollow needle going into the kid’s chest to let the air out. “I think it’ll be better in a couple days, considering that it’d normally take about two weeks to heal. We can ask Doctor Cho about that when we move you and your aunt back to the compound-- if that’s what you two want. I just assumed we’d do that since I trust the doctors there more.”

 

“Me too, honestly.”

 

Pepper returned with the nurse, sitting down besides Tony and placing a hand on his thigh while the nurse walked to the other side of the boy’s bed. “Hi Peter,” the nurse smiled. “My name is Daniella. It’s good to see you awake, how are you feeling?”

 

“Uhm, I’m okay,” Peter nodded awkwardly. “Just, uhm, kinda achey.”

“Alright, that’s good to here,” she smiled reassuringly. “I just need to run a few tests, okay?”

 

“What kinda tests?” the boy asked. 

 

“Well, normal vital tests, checking your oxygen levels, and we need to check how your arm is doing.”

 

“My arm?” he noticed now that one of his arms, the right one, was in a sling. “What’s wrong with it?”

 

“Well, in the accident, a cluster of nerves was damaged. There shouldn’t be any permanent damage, but we still need to check on it.”

 

“Oh.. okay. Sure.”

 

Peter stayed fairly quiet as Daniella checked him over, whilst Pepper and Tony whispered back and forth to one another. She was mostly trying to reassure him that everything was going to be okay, truth be told. Once finished, Peter spoke up, “Uh, Miss Daniella?”

 

“Daniella is just fine, sweetheart,” she assured.

 

“Right, okay. But uh, my aunt, May Parker, she was with me in the accident. She’s here, right?”

 

The woman’s expression fell before nodding. “Yes… yes she’s here.”

 

“Can I see her?”

 

“Not right now, I’m sorry,” she turned to Tony. “Mister Stark? Can I talk to you out in the hall please?”

 

“Of course,”  Tony nodded, standing up. “I’ll be right back, kiddo. Pep will stay with you though, right?”

 

“Of course I will.”

 

Tony followed Daniella out into the hall, shutting the door behind himself. “What’s the problem?”

 

“It’s Miss Parker.”

 

“Is she alright?”

 

“Not exactly…” the woman smiled sadly. “I’m afraid that in the crash, since the airbags failed--”

 

“They didn’t go off?” Well, that would explain how all that debris got to Peter.

 

“Yes. Since they didn’t, Miss Parker ended up hitting her head against the steering wheel. Hard. As a result, she ended up getting a brain hemorrhage.”

 

“What are you saying?” Tony furrowed his brows. “She had a stroke? Is that the problem?”

 

“Not exactly…” the woman sighed. “A neurologist is looking her over right now, but we believe that she might be brain dead.”

 

“Jesus fucking christ,”  Tony swore, covering his mouth with his hand.

“You’re a smart man, Mister Stark. I’m sure you know what that means.”

 

“I do, I do.” Tony nodded.

 

“If you’d like, I can break the news to Peter. I know it won’t be easy.”

 

“No… No, I should do it.” Tony spoke under his breath.  “Would you just explain the situation to Miss Potts while I do it?”

 

“The woman with you?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Of course. Let me know if there’s anything I can do for you three. I know how difficult this must be.”

 

“The kid’s going to want to see his aunt. Is there any way we can make that happen?” Tony asked, heart breaking for the kid. It didn’t even feel real, it seemed too impossible. 

 

Where was Peter going to go?

 

He couldn’t go into foster system, Tony wouldn’t allow it. 

 

He was legally one of the kid’s parents, he and May had set up joint custody a few months back, so that wasn’t an issue.

 

No, the issue was that this was happening in the first place. The kid had lost too much already, and he didn’t want to break his heart after everything that’s happened tonight already.

 

“As long as he’s not up for too long and takes it easy, we can do that. I’ll have to hook him up to a mobile oxygen tank as well.”

 

“Alright, fine. Just-- just give us twenty minutes or so.”

 

“Of course.”

 

With a sigh, Tony entered the room once again. He pointed at the door with his thumb. “Pep, you’re up.”

“You okay, Tony?” She stood up, expression racked with concern as she placed a hand on his cheek. 

 

“Mhm, yeah. You just-- just talk with the nurse, okay?”

 

Pepper nodded heading out into the hall and shutting the door behind her just as he did a few minutes ago. Tony sat on the edge of Peter’s, who was now sitting up, bed.

 

“What’s going on?” Peter asked, and in a way, he already knew it’d be bad. He could just tell, but dammit, he wanted to be wrong so bad. 

 

“Kid, I…” Tony sighed before gingerly putting an arm around the kid, making sure not to touch any of Peter’s injuries. “C’me here, bud. I gotta tell you something.”

 

Peter leaned into Tony, wincing some as the morphine he was hooked up to didn’t do anything for him. “Is May okay?”

 

Yes, Tony wanted to say. She’s perfectly fine. You’re both going to fine and back on your feet in no time. “Not really Pete,” the man sighed, holding him close as he heard the boy gasp. “She’s, uh… she got a brain hemorrhage in the accident, and the doctors did everything they could for her, but… there’s no brain activity. Someone’s checking her over right now, but they think she might be brain dead.”

 

Peter looked up at Tony with wide eyes. As the man spoke, his eyes began to water, and tears were spilling over at the end. The heart monitor’s beeps began picking up as the teen gripped onto Tony’s shirt. “No, no there-- there has to be a mistake!” his voice was wet and it felt stuck in his throat.

 

“I’m sorry buddy, I… I wish there was something I could do.” 

 

Peter buried his face against Tony’s arm, or as much as he could with the oxygen mask on. Each sob that escaped him caused a surge of pain in his chest. No, no this couldn’t be happening! May was all he had left, his only connection to his uncle he had left, to his parents! She was his only other family, and he couldn’t lose her too. He couldn’t have lost four parents!

 

Tony rubbed little circles on Peter's back as he cried. He wouldn’t say it, but he shed a couple of tears himself. He and May Parker didn’t always get along, but they did more so in recent months. She was always very kind, smart, and always there to call him out on his shit. She was always there to give him advice about raising Peter when he needed, and even when he didn’t know he needed it. 

 

Pepper came back after a couple minutes, having got all possible information from the nurse, eyes red herself as she tried consoling Tony as well. The man was less worried about himself and more so on the teen holding onto him for dear life.

 

The nurse came back around twenty minutes, offering the three of them a sad smile. Tony nudged Peter’s shoulder-- the boy had cried himself out a few minutes ago and was curled up against him-- gently. “Hey kiddo, you want to get up and go see her? You don’t have to, we can stay right here.”

 

“I wanna go,” Peter sniffled, his voice almost inaudible underneath the oxygen mask with how quiet he was. 

 

“Okay buddy, that’s fine,” Tony assured. “They just need to hook you up to some stuff, alright?”

 

“‘Kay..”


Tony peeled the kid off himself, wiping the boy’s face a little as Daniella got Peter hooked to a mobile oxygen tank that rested on his IV. She helped him stand up, having him hold onto the IV stand, and lead the three out of the room and down the hall. She kept a slow pace, trying to not overwork Peter considering he was just in a car accident. Eventually, they arrived at the end of a hallway and stopped in front of a room with a large window in front. In there, Pepper, Tony, and Peter could see May laying on a bed hooked up to a bunch of life support.  Peter held onto Tony once again, feeling like he was going to be sick.

 

“I’m afraid there's a choice to be made,” Daniella broke the silence. “We cannot unplug her life support without the say so from a member of her family.”

 

“No..” Peter whimpered.

 

Tony sighed. “Pete, kid, you-- you know as well as I do that--”

 

“Brain dead is dead, I know,” Peter interrupted. “But there’s a chance she can wake up. People have woken up from it before, who says May won’t be like that too?”

Pepper spoke this time, “Honey, that’s only a few people ever.”

 

“There’s a chance ,” More tears fell. “Please, just… just give her a week. Please,”

 

Tony and Pepper looked to Daniella, who merely nodded. “Okay bud,” Tony cooed. “We’ll give her a week to wake up.”

 

But May didn’t wake up in a week, and she didn’t wake up in a month. 

 

She didn’t wake up in two or three either.

 

Eventually, half a year had passed, and May hadn’t woken up.

 

Peter’s hope never wavered, but neither did May’s brain activity.

 

And she didn’t wake up one year later.

Chapter Text

Tears are simply the raindrops from the storms inside of us.

There's something about the sight of a child crying that has the power to melt even the coldest heart, and not even Tony was immune to this sentiment. 

It was for this reason that during the fustercluck that was the 2011 Stark Expo, despite all the chaos around him, Tony was immediately drawn to a small boy who seemed to have lost all sense of self-preservation. 

Despite the Iron Man mask covering the boy's face, Tony could see the his shoulders shake with every breath and whether he was simply scared or something worse had happened, Tony couldn't help the wave of protectiveness that welled up in him. It was such a deep seeded instinct that he didn't even try to fight it. 

He swooped in and blew up the robot that was trying to fry the kid and before he flew away, he pushed back his mask to smile at the young boy.

"Go on, hide somewhere. It's not safe out here," he told the boy, waiting to watch him scurry into a hiding spot.

And when it was all over, Tony went searching, wanting to make sure the little boy had found his parents safely.

It took him a bit to find him, but when he did, Tony's heart shattered into a million shards.

The boy had taken off the mask, but Tony would recognize him anywhere. The boy was around 10, but he looked younger.

The heartbreaking part was where he was. 

The boy was kneeling in the dust next to two bodies, which lay as they had left the world, leaning against a pillar, holding each other even in death. 

And Tony's brain, which had stuttered at the sight, made several quick leaps. 

He noticed the obvious resemblance between the three of them. The boy had the man's face and the woman's curly brown hair.

The boy was crying, deep, heaving sobs that seemed to shake his very being. 

As Tony approached, he heard the boy's quiet whisper. 

"I'm so sorry, Mommy...Daddy, I should have done better..."

The boy looked up at Tony, who braced himself for the wave of blame that was, honestly, warranted.

Instead, the boy reached up to him and asked in a broken voice.

"Can you take me away from here, Iron Man?"

And that's what Tony did. He picked up the boy, who was light as a feather, and carried him to the nearest ambulance. 

He stayed long enough to learn that the boy's name was Peter Parker and that his aunt and uncle were his closest family. 

Tony wished he could have stayed for longer, but a frantic police officer ran up to him and he was pulled away into the chaos once again.

He was sure he'd never see the boy again. 

He thought of him from time to time, though, feeling the kinship that comes from knowing what it feels like to lose both your parents in one moment.

He didn't hear anything about Peter Parker for 4 years, and even then, it was chance that brought the news to him. 

He was reading the local newspaper in the waiting room of a doctor.

That wasn't much like Tony, he hated to wait, but Dr. Roberta Gonzalez was special. She refused to treat Tony as anything special. As a Hispanic woman in a medical field, she had experienced more than enough injustice, and she refused to continue it.

And because Tony respected her, he waited his turn without complaining for once.

And it was in her waiting room that he noticed the article.

Botched robbery leaves former police officer dead

Tony read on, freezing when he saw the victim's name. Benjamin Parker. It couldn't be. 

The last line of the article mentioned that the obituary was in the same newspaper, and so with shaky hands, Tony, flipped through the pages until he found that section.

Benjamin Parker, aged 58, has left behind his wife, May Parker and his nephew, Peter Parker. The funeral will be held on May 11th at the Lewitt Funeral Home. Benjamin Parker will be buried with his brother at the Calvary Cemetery.

Tony's heart ached as he thought of the boy from that night 4 years ago. He had lost his parents that night. And now his uncle. 

And Tony found himself at the cemetery the afternoon of the burial, watching inconspicuously from afar. 

He expected the same little boy, crying over another lost family member, but what he saw was jarring.

Peter was still recognizable, but only barely. He was so much more grown up and he was showing the stoicism that comes with a life of loss, standing tall beside his aunt, who was crying quietly.

Tony knew he wasn't welcome, and after a few minutes he walked away quietly.

Spider-man showed up a few days later.

At first, Tony thought it was just some kid messing around. But when the video of Spider-man stopping a car went viral, Tony started paying attention. 

It took him almost two weeks to figure out who wore the mask, a surprisingly long time.

But when the picture came up on the screen, Tony's jaw dropped to the floor. 

What was the probability of this? How likely was it that a certain Peter Benjamin Parker, aged 14, would show up in Tony's life for a third time?

Except this time, Tony could make a difference. And he did. Within a week, he had made Peter a suit, full of the most recent tech.

And if he added in too many safety functions, well, who could blame him? Fate had given him the opportunity to keep the kid safe, he'd be stupid to not too.

(If the real reason was that he hated to see the kid cry, no one had to know that.)

Chapter Text

[P Parker & T Stark CHAT-- 07:15PM]

 

P Parker: Hey, Mr Stark!

I know it’s not one of our lab nights, but if you’re not too busy, would you mind if I came over?

If not, that’s totally cool too.

 

T Stark: Sure kid, I don’t have anything going on and wouldn’t mind some company. As long as your aunt is fine with it, I don’t care. It’s a school night though, so it’s her call.

Speaking of which, weren’t you and May supposed to go out for a movie tonight?

 

P Parker: Thanks! Just need to throw on some shoes and I'll be right over. I'm probably gonna take the train tonight, not really feeling like swinging right now, so I should get there in, like, a half an hour.

Yeah, we were supposed to, but then she got called in for overtime. I was just going to text her to let her know where I was and be back by curfew since she probably won't see the message until her shift ends.

 

T Stark: Kid, you told me you wouldn't let her do those double shifts anymore. If you two need extra  money, I can help. It wouldn't exactly be making a dent in my wallet.

And since when do you not feel up for swinging? 

 

P Parker: People have overtime sometimes, Mr Stark. It's not a big deal, it happens sometimes. She has tomorrow off, so she can sleep in, anyways. Besides, you know she wouldn't take money from you.

I dunno, just don't tonight. 

 

T Stark: Just because it does happen doesn't mean it should. She shouldn't be working that long.

Well, that sounded so defensive that I could practically hear your voice crack.

 

P Parker: I know, it's not good, but it's just tonight. You can bother her about letting you lone her money tomorrow.

It's not defensive, I was just explaining something.

 

T Stark: Alright, alright. It's not your fault kid, don't stress about it.

 

P Parker: Sorry

 

T Stark: It's alright.

Hey kid, can I ask you something?

 

P Parker: Yeah, of course. What's up?

 

T Stark: Is everything okay? You don't seem like yourself.

 

P Parker: Everything’s totally peachy, I don’t know what you mean. 

 

T Stark: Peachy? Really?

 

P Parker: I take an honor’s English class, I’m trying to expand my vocabulary.

 

T Stark: Uh-huh, sure. 

Why don’t you get your spider-butt on over here, yeah? I can send Happy and order pizza.

 

P Parker: I’m coming, I’m coming. I wouldn’t say no to some pizza, I haven’t had dinner yet and was gonna get snacks at 7-Eleven on my over anyways. You don’t need to send Happy though, I’m cool with walking and then train.

 

T Stark: Are you sure?

 

P Parker: Positive.

 

T Stark: Alright, well, let me know when you’re here. You know how to get in.

 

P Parker: Got it! 

 

T Stark: See you soon, bud.

 

P Parker: Yep, be there soon.

 


 

Peter made his way to the Tower fairly quickly despite going on foot. He caught the train into Manhattan, thankfully, which saved him a lot of time. Could he have just web-slinged there? Sure, but today, Peter wanted to take his time, mostly because he was trying to lessen the swelling on what was going to be a black eye pretty soon in hopes that Tony wouldn't notice it. Unfortunately, one downside of his accelerated healing was that yes, it healed quickly, but it ran through the stages of healing quicker too. That meant that, for him, bruises appeared faster, but thankfully went away faster. Peter could probably hide the bruising with some of May's concealer, even though it was not his shade, for a few days, sure, but the challenging part was going to be keeping the swelling down. 

 

There was bound to be some, but hopefully his cover story of just getting bullied at school would be enough to not raise suspicion. 

 

By the time he was nearing the Tower, his little bag of ice had melted a considerable amount, so the teen just tossed it. Peter briefly applied some of May's concealer, which he brought with him in his backpack, to his eye before heading in, hoping it was good enough. Right now, the skin was red and irritated, but Peter would bet five bucks that, by tonight, black and blue would start popping up.

 

Despite the warm June weather, the boy was clad in a baggy sweater. That was, however, to hide some non-patrol injuries he did not want to discuss. He just... Peter didn't want to worry anyone or bother them, so he hid what was bothering him. Truth be told, he was also pretty scared to talk about what's been going on the past month or so. He rode up the elevator to the floor FRIDAY said Tony was, and Peter's stomach growled upon smelling the pizza. Along with his injuries, Peter was also becoming increasingly skinnier, since he wasn't leaving his room and going to the kitchen to get the food his metabolism required throughout the day. He'd always been skinny though, so Peter just hoped that excuse would suffice. "Here, Mister Stark!" Peter called as he walked further into the room. "Pizza smells great, like usual."

 

"Hey kid, long time no see," he joked with a teasing smile. Tony would never admit it but he was starting to worry about Peter. The kid would normally go out of his way to plan visits in advance, even though he had told him he was always welcome. It wasn't like Peter to just randomly show up on their doorstep, or randomly swing through their windows. That though seemed to be happening more and more often. Tony respected Peter's privacy and he knew that if something was really wrong that Peter would talk to him when he was ready. Tony knew that if things ever got too bad that they would step in and have Peter talk to him about what was going on. That didn't seem to be necessary yet. Tony just figured that Peter and May were having it out over something. The man knew first hand what it was like to disagree with the beliefs of your parental figures. He'd decided that the Tower would be a safe place for Peter if he ever needed to get away from home. 

 

“Hey, Mister Stark,” Peter returned the smile with a little eye roll at the tease, plopping on down besides Tony who was sitting on the couch in the media room and grabbed a slice of pizza and began stuffing it in his mouth. Already, Peter felt more at ease and happier, but he hated that he was beginning to lose that feeling in his own home and he hated that it might be affecting his and May's relationship. They were all each other had, after all, and now he was starting to distance and seclude himself. Even though he knew nothing would happen while she was around, Peter's spider-sense would flare up and bounce off the walls when he even heard people were walking around in the other room. It made sleeping at night difficult, causing the boy to increasingly look more exhausted and the bags under his eyes to get darker, and it could be sorta overwhelming. 

 

"You really are a human garbage truck," Tony teased.

 

"Not my fault," Peter said with a shrug through a mouthful of pizza. "I used to eat as much as a bird, to quote my aunt, before the whole spider thing." He used napkins when picking up the food, not wanting his sleeves to get greasy or dirty or anything like that. Then someone might suggest he take the baggy sweater off, which wouldn't work. 

 

"How are you not sweating in that?" Tony raised an eyebrow after having glanced over at the boy's outfit, frowning. 

 

"Hmm?" Pete looked over from the food he was shoving down his throat. "Oh, uh... You know That weird temperature thing where if you don't have a sweater on you're cold but if you do you're warm? It's like that right now, and I'd rather be warm. "

 

Tony skeptically listened to Peter's explanation-- it was the beginning of summer after all. However, he knew that Peter's internal temperature was sometimes off,  so he had Friday up the thermostat a few degrees hoping that would help. "So what are you in the mood to do tonight?" Tony asked, changing the subject. 

 

"Well, I was thinking maybe we could work in the lab a little," Pete suggested as he continued to shove pizza down his throat, halfway through his second slice now. Maybe human garbage truck wasn't the worst way to describe him after all?  "I gotta fix something with my webs anyways."

 

“Sure thing, kiddo,” Tony nodded, sipping on some ginger-ale he got with the pizza and sliding Peter his own can on over. “Then we can test them out to make sure that the formula works well for you. Don’t need them snapping on you mid swing.”

 

"Yeah, yeah. Sounds good. I was gonna try working on it in chem class, but we had a test, so I couldn't get any of the equipment," he explained with a wave of his hand, thanking Tony for the soda and sipping on it between bites.

 

“Remind me again when you have to go home? Just so we don’t lose track of time.”

 

"Usually, the latest would be, like, ten or whenever you wanted me gone. Whichever comes first." Peter explained.

 

"I don't mind late night lab sessions with my favorite spidey kid," Tony pointed out, playfully punching the kid’s shoulder. “When you’re ready, we can head down to the lab. Sounds good?”

 

“Mhm.” Peter hummed, giving the other a quick thumbs-up before moving onto his third and final slice. 

 

It didn’t take long, but the two watched a crappy Game Show Network show while Peter finished up his dinner. He ended up having a couple more slices than he anticipated as well, which wasn’t the worst thing in the world. Once finished and dinner was cleaned up, Tony lead Peter to the elevator and down to the lab they usually tinker in. It might've been a shitty day, yeah, but lab time with Tony always made him feel better. Hell, just being here in the tower made him feel better and more at ease. Peter got up to follow the older man, like a puppy at his heels. "I brought the shooters with me just in case, but it's mostly the formula I think needs work."

 

"Well of course we'll need the web shooters to see how they'll interact with the new formula," Tony pointed out, heading into the lab and holding his hand out for them before handing Pete a pair of safety glasses. "Your shirt's too baggy, it's a safety hazard, go change into one of your science pun shirts." 

 

Pete took the glasses from Tony as they stepped in, putting them on top of his head first. The teen's expression faltered for a moment at the mention of his shirt before he forced the smile back to it as quickly as he could. "Uhm, you really, uh, really think that's necessary?" Curse the cracks in his voice.. "I mean, it's not that baggy on me. I think it's fine. No safety issue whatsoever."

 

"You look like you're practically swimming in that sweater, and you know the first rules of screwing-with-science is no unnecessary risks," Tony stated matter-of-fact-like and tossed the kid a t-shirt he had left over. Peter's things were slowly making their way into Tony's lab, but the man didn't mind at all.

 

Peter caught the shirt with ease, and biting his lip a little bit, he just... Looked at it. "Well..." He hesitated. "Rules are boring anyways, so I think I'll leave it on. Plus, like I said before, the cold thing."

 

"Kid I can turn up the thermostat more if you are really that cold," Stark rolled his eyes. "Come on, you wanted to test the new formula didn't you?" He leaned against the lab bench, watching the kid carefully as he fiddled with some tools. 

 

"I did-- I do," Peter put the shirt down, picking nervously at the skin around his fingers. "Look, I just don't wanna change my shirt right now, is that really such a big deal? I mean, it's just a freaking shirt. I've done lab stuff before with sleeves and bagginess and nothing's happened." He hadn't meant to sound so annoyed or have an attitude, it just came out that way.

 

Tony stopped with his tinkering and looked up at Peter's harsh tone. "What is your problem? You know you're not allowed to wear your hoodie down here. I don't wear anything that could get chemicals on it, especially when we are working with chemicals.”

 

"Nothing!" He said, a little too loudly. This time, however, Peter caught his tone and paused. Calm down, he told himself. You're just going to seem more suspicious. Nothing good whatsoever can come from that. "Sorry," he sighed quietly, still some harshness to his tone. "Think I'll just work on the shooter's themselves first. Sensitivity's a little off. Don't think a sweatshirt can screw that up, right?" Peter didn't look at Tony, but instead walked over to one of the work benches, pulled out his web shooters from his backpack that he had brought with him, had them expand, and set them down on said workbench. 

 

Tony sighed as he watched the kid turn away from him, getting an uneasy feeling about this whole ordeal. Was this sweater really important to Peter somehow? But he had never seen him wear it before, and if it was something of his uncle's, then Pete would never take the risk of getting chemicals on it. Screw it, Tony thought and walked over to the lab bench and sat on the stool next to Peter. "What's going on, kid?" He asked bluntly. 

 

"Nothing's going on," he insisted, subconsciously tugging the end of one of his sleeves over his hand. “Why does there have to be something going on for me not want to do something? I’m a teenager, I don’t want to do things all the time.” Peter’s nose scrunched up a little as he turned his side to Tony. His eye was seriously starting to ache, and probably swell, and the teen didn’t want him to see him struggle to keep it all the way open.

 

"Because you're not like most teenagers Peter, it's why we’re able to have lab time like this together," Tony sighed, shaking his head. This wasn't like he was asking Peter to take some time off from patrolling. "Because you can handle stuff like lab safety but if you don't want to tell me, fine, we don't need to work in the lab today," Tony sighed heading to the door. 

 

Peter opened his mouth to argue, to claim that it wasn't fair, but bit his tongue instead. Screw it , he'd rather not work in the lab. "Fine," He sighed, leaving his web shooters there on the table and following Tony to the door. "I'll just do it in school tomorrow or something." Peter was ticked off, admittedly-- he just wanted to distract himself with the fun that came during their lab days-- but he didn't want to press his luck and make it so Tony asked him to leave. Whether he actually would do that or it was just his own worries, the teen couldn't tell, but he didn't want to find out. "Can I at least get a couple Advil? I have a headache."

 

Tony's face softened when Peter asked for some medicine. Maybe he was just getting sick or something and that’s why he was, frankly, being a bit of a pain in the ass? Yes, that was mean to say, but Tony was still a bit irritated."Sure, I'll get the painkillers Dr. Cho developed for you. Go pick out a movie or something." 

 

It wasn’t a headache, per se, but the ache was on his head, so close enough. Right? Right. “Thanks,” Peter spoke softer now, feeling bad for getting so ticked off when he knew Tony didn’t have any bad intentions. He just wanted him to be safe. Dammit, he needed to get a better handle on his emotions. “Something new or one we’ve seen?”

 

"Let's do one of your favorites, last time we picked something new you had me bawling through Lilo and Stitch and Pepper still won't let me forget it," he gave the boy a light smile. "I'll bring the medicine to the living room." 

 

“That’s what makes it such a great movie, it gets you emotionally attached. Probably means I shouldn’t show you Up though. The first ten minutes or however long are a roller coaster.” Peter returned the smile slightly. “Do you think we could watch one of the Hobbit movies?”

 

"Sure thing kiddo," he ruffled Peter's hair to reassure him that he wasn't truly angry at him. He had been working on giving the kid more patience to come to him to talk to him, but it was hard sometimes. When he knew something was wrong, he wanted to just be able to fix it for the kid, but he couldn’t if he wouldn’t tell him what was wrong to begin with.

 

The teen seemed to relax some at the hair ruffle, easing into the touch. “Maybe the first one, it has a great soundtrack.” Peter paused for a couple moments before continuing. “Sorry about getting all pissy before, by the way.” 

 

"You know if something's bugging you, you can always tell me," he offered Peter. "Especially if it's something you can't tell your Aunt about like girls or something. Actually Pepper might be the best on that front." 

 

“Thanks, I really appreciate it. There’s nothing I wanna talk about though,” he shrugged as nonchalantly as he could. “But if I ever needa talk ‘bout girls, I’ll call Ms Potts. “

 

"She'll talk to you about stable relationships and boring stuff like that. I'll teach you how to impress a girl on a first date. Or a guy, whatever you prefer.” Tony explained with a smile.

 

"I need to learn how to talk to people first before any of that," he quipped. And find someone who's dad isn't a crazy guy selling illegal weapons and trying to kill him. That'd be nice. As Tony left the room, Peter went to go get their movie set up. He plopped down on the couch once it was, and practically sinking into the thing. It was so comfy, and he was so tired. He hadn't gotten a proper night's rest since.. well, it'd been a couple of weeks. The teen rubbed his eyes briefly, unbeknownst to himself, smudging some of the strategically placed makeup, before getting up again to grab a water bottle. 

 

Tony brought some of the medicine that he had worked to develop for Peter because of his high metabolism. They needed something to allow him to have some pain relief for a substantial period of time. Peter thanked Tony for the meds with a soft grin, downing two of the pills with one swig of water. He'd usually taken two painkillers at a time when his metabolism was, well, normal, so that little thing still persisted. It was nice, with these, he didn't have to try and figure out how many regular Tylenol or other painkillers would effect him without potentially overdosing. Obviously, that wasn't good.

 

Tony sat down besides Peter and noticed the black eye he had and frowned. Peter hadn't gone patrolling in the past few days and usually his healing helped bruises fade within hours. "What's up with that?" 

 

"Hm?" Peter hummed behind another drink of water, eyebrows knitted in confusion for a moment before realization hit him. Shit. "Oh, uh..." Think, think, think! "I... Fell. Oh my way over. Yeah, yeah, I, uhm, tripped over my shoelaces and my face hit the doorknob. Not exactly the prettiest thing, so... I borrowed some of May's makeup and covered it up."

 

Tony looked at the kid for a moment before standing up. He went over to the refrigerator and got a bag of frozen peas before handing it to Peter and he sat down next to him once again. "It's not usual that you're clumsy, anything else hurt? Ankle twisted at all?" 

 

"Uhm, thanks," Peter took the pea bag and held it against the bruise. Well, that went over way better than he expected. Not that he was complaining, of course, but Peter's mind had instantly raced with dozens of stories for the eye injury. "No, nope. Just the eye. Ankles are both fine and peachy."

 

Tony knew that Pepper had told him it was important to give Peter's privacy, but the kid had a track record of hiding stuff so that others wouldn't worry and though he said everything else was fine he couldn't help but say, "Friday, run full injury report."

 

Peter's expression absolutely collapsed as Tony said that, utter fear replacing the light-hearted one. "Friday, don't!" He practically yelled. 

 

"I'm sorry, Peter, but you don't have the authority to do that." The AI said simply. 

 

"Mister Stark, c'mon, do you really need her to--"

 

"He has several first degree and three second degree burns on his arms, and along with the black eye, a multitude of other bruises on his torso. They're mostly on his arms and back, it seems. Nothing will leave any permanent damage, besides possible scarring from the burns." Friday paused. "Now it seems Peter's heart rate has picked up exponentially since you asked me to give the report. I'm also seeing signs of heightened stress levels over an extended period of time and signs of a lack of sleep."

 

" Shit, kid," Tony swore and rushed over to him. He had been expecting maybe some other bruises but nothing like this. How the hell had this happened? He crouched in front of Peter, expression contorted in concern. "What's going on?" He demanded from him. 

 

Peter couldn’t help but take a couple steps back when Tony rushed over, feeling himself panicking some. No, no this wasn’t supposed to happen! None of this was! Hell, he was supposed to be having Thai food with May and seeing a movie, but then she got called into work and that asshole decided to pop in in her stead and everything just took a turn for the worse. “N-nothing’s going on,” he still tried to insist. “I’m fine, really, just— I-I gotta go now.”

 

"No, Peter we got get you down to the medical facilities," he insisted to Peter. "Buddy, come on, this is why you didn't want to take off the shirt?" He sighed rubbing his forehead. "Let me help you patch it up. If not, your aunt will just be getting a call from me." 

 

“Do not call my aunt!” Peter said, pointing his finger. He paused, getting quieter and softer now. “...please. Don’t.” The teen took a step forward now, anxiously picking at the skin on his fingers. “‘Nd Yeah... yeah that’s why I didn’t want to take off my shirt. I don’t want to talk about it though. I’ll go down to medical with you, but.. please don’t make me talk.”

 

"Let's get you taken care of first," Tony gave him a strained smile to reassure him, but also not giving any false promises about what he was going to tell May or not. Obviously, he was going to have to. "You health is what's key right now," he sighed, extending a hand to Peter.

 

Peter took Tony's hand gingerly, his heart still pounding out of his chest, but the man wasn't freaking out on him, and that was somewhat reassuring. "Okay," he spoke just above a whisper now. "Sorry. About this. It's really not that bad, but still.. sorry." God, he hated feeling like this. So... Weak. He got hurt worse on patrol all the time, he heard worse insults at school, yet this made him feel like a helpless child. It was ridiculous! He was Spider-Man, this shit shouldn't be bothering him! 

 

"Second degree burns are nothing to joke around about," Tony pointed out and led them down to the medical facility at the tower. It was hardly as extensive as the one at the compound, but he had Helen Cho had trained him on basic first aid to for Peter when he went on patrol. He patted the edge of the examination table and tried to gather some supplies. 

 

“They’re almost healed anyways,” Peter shrugged as if it was no big deal. “They’re mostly scabs now.” 

 

Tony simply sighed to that. he kid hadn't gone patrolling in several days, so what the hell was going on? Was it a kid at his school? He turned around, "I need you to tell me the truth and trust me, kid." 

 

The teen had followed Tony uncharacteristically quietly down to the tower’s medical facility, trying to assure himself that it was going to be fine. Normally, he didn’t have much of an issue showing Tony his injuries, but those typically Spider-Man related and a sign he accomplished something that night. These made him feel weak and were, well, embarrassing. That’s how Peter thought of them, at least. “I do trust you,” The teen said softly as he sat down on the table. “Seriously, I do. I’m not telling you because I don’t, I just... I really, really don’t wanna talk about it.”

 

"You know I didn't want to talk about anything either about Afghanistan or New York or anything like that. I mean I was Iron Man, I was a superhero I was supposed to be better than that," he rambled while arranging bandages and antiseptic. "You know what happened?" 

 

Peter continued to fiddle with his sleeves some as he listened to Tony. Some of those words, the ones about being a superhero and supposed to be better than that, hit uncomfortably hard and close to home . He tried not to let that be too visible though. “What happened?” Peter asked, though he had a couple guesses given the situation and the moral of this story obviously being about why he should talk.

 

"I had basically a breakdown. I started acting more and more recklessly and I put those in love in danger," he explained with a heavy sigh. "Pepper cornered me when I was at my lowest and made me talk. Said that if I was still a superhero or super human, that I was still human and needed to work through my shit. Did you know that Pepper triple majored and one of them was psychology? So I started with her. It sucked at first but made things better down the road."

 

The teen listened quietly. Tony was right, and Peter knew it. He knew that he would have to talk about what was going on one day, and it’d only get harder the longer he waited, but... it was a little scary. Nerve racking and embarrassing. Part of Peter did really want to tell him, to spill his guts outs and hope he could make everything better, but then there was the scared part. “So... is this my low point?” He asked after a moment. It definitely wasn’t a high point, that’s for sure. “And I get what you’re saying, by the way. I know talking is healthy and all that stuff, but it’s just... it’s stupid. It’s not anything big like the Afghanistan or New York. It shouldn’t even be bothering me. I should be able to deal with it!”

 

"There was a lot of other things that I talked about with Pepper. Stuff that happened when I was a kid, my Dad basically ignoring me and when he did pay attention, yelling that I was a disappointment," Tony explained simply. "You would think with him being dead that it wouldn't matter anymore. Or how much I still missed my mom, you think I'm stupid for that?" 

 

“No, I don’t. That’s not what I meant,” Peter shook his head as he spoke. He could understand missing parents, even if he didn’t know his own very well. Parents’ deaths or one of them being a complete jerk was a big thing, something to worry about and feel upset about. Maybe his problem was that he didn’t like to think that he had any big issues? Normal people didn’t have as many as he did, and something the teen wanted was just to feel like a normal teenager sometimes. “Look, can— do you think maybe we could do the talking part last? Like, med stuff first and after that, I can try to explain stuff?”

 

Tony nodded and didn't press the issue wanting to give Peter some time to process what he was saying and he nodded. "I'm going to need to take off your shirt. Do you want to do it or me?" Tony asked him carefully. 

 

 “Yeah, yeah. ‘Course,” Peter nodded. Tony has to be able to see the injuries to be able to treat them. “Uhm, I can do it.” Peter breathed a small sigh before grabbing the hem of his sweatshirt and pulling it up and over his head.

 

 Okay, he had some extra time now. At least he could try to figure out what to say and how to say it now. Obviously, there wouldn’t be a non-concerning way to explain the situation with Jared,  but maybe there’d be a less concerning way? He doubted there was a way to get Tony to avoid telling May, as much as he wanted to keep her in the dark about it. She didn’t deserve to find out that stuff, she’d had it rough enough. 

 

Just as Friday described, bruises both dark and light littered his pale skin. There were cigarette burns sporadically placed along his arms, not going higher than his biceps or lower than his wrist. Some looked old, scabbed, and blistered, and some were still an angry red. There were faint pink scars as well, some Tony knew terribly too well, and broke his heart to see.

 

The man saw red when Peter finally pulled off his sweatshirt. Some of his injuries were days, if not weeks, old and he had been coming over to the tower hurt, more and more often and he didn't notice at all. Peter was perfectly content with hiding them which scared him even more. He tried to run down a list of those who smoked around him. May would never because, being a nurse, she knew the risks and knew she was the last of Peter's family. Who else could it be? "I want to check that those aren't infected, ok?" He gently took Peter's arm. 

 

“M’kay,” Peter nodded as his arm was taken. “I, uh, I tried cleaning them out the best I could, but ‘m not sure if I totally got it all. This one still sorta hurts, but I’m not sure if that’s, y’know, normal or not.” he pointed at one of the dark, scabbed on his forearm. The area around it was a pinkish red color. “I tried looking up how to take care of these things online before, but it was wikihow, so probably not the most trustworthy source.”

 

"No wikihow was probably not the best option," Tony quietly agreed trying to contain his anger as he saw the puss oozing from one of the burns. Peter needed to go talk to an adult if this was happening, not Google how to take care of fucking cigarette burns. "Some might scar, especially the older ones," he sighed. 

 

“WebMD would’ve told me I had brain cancer or something, so,” Peter gave a tense, awkward laugh. Humor, the best way to deal with serious situations! “Okay yeah, I guess I should expect that. Couple scars aren’t the worse thing though. I mean, Spidey alone is gonna give me a lot.” He shrugged. 

 

"This is going to sting but it will be better then losing an arm to infection," Tony stated simply as he started to drain the dark scabbed one. 

 

The teen gave a curt nod at the sting comment. Yeah, it is better than losing his arm. That would be terrible, actually. He gripped the fabric of his jeans and bit down on his lip as the puss was being drained, taking a sharp breath through his nose. It was fine, just some stinging. He’d felt worse, he was fine. 

 

Tony rubbed some antiseptic cream over it before wrapping it and doing the same to a few others on his arm. He tried to keep quiet throughout the whole process, not sure if he could respond to Peter's rambles without yelling about how wrong they were. "Who around you do you know who smokes?  He finally sighed getting some salve for the bruises not able to keep that question in anymore. 

 

“It’s, uh, it’s sort of a long story,” he more or less answered. “You, Uhm, you wouldn’t know him, ‘cause I haven’t talked about him, but, uh... “ he cleared his throat. “He’s this guy who’s been around my apartment building recently. Smokes a lot. It’s actually, Uhm, pretty gross.”

 

"And he just jumps out and burns you randomly? For shits and giggles?" He asked as he sat down across from Peter watching him carefully. 

 

Trying to be vague wasn’t going to work, Peter knew that, but he had to try. He just wanted both to end— the conversation and the situation— as quick as possible. If he talked, the latter could come true, but there was no way to get out of the former. “Shits and giggles might be the reason, I don’t really know.” 

 

He knew that it would make the boy uncomfortable but he needed to end this tonight. "How did you two meet?" He changed the line of questioning. 

 

The teen shifted uncomfortably, fiddling with his removed shirt in his lap. Answering this question was going to reveal just about everything. “My aunt, she— a couple months ago, she got a new boyfriend from work. We, uh, she first brought him home last month, and he’s been over a lot since, and... well, I think you can sorta guess how that’s been going. “

 

Tony's face softened when he realized exactly what had been going on and to know that this had been happening for at most a month broke his heart. Peter needed to feel safe at home and that must be the reason he was spending more time at the tower. "Alright, you're going to be spending the night tonight. I'll let your aunt know. Come on kiddo, let's get some hot chocolate."

 

Peter stared down at the floor as he spoke, internally cursing about how stupid he was being by letting this effect him so much and not personally stopping things earlier. He was Spider-Man, and Spider-Man wasn’t some scared little kid. Spider-Man wasn’t afraid of standing up to people. Why was Peter Parker if he was supposed to be the one behind the mask? “Really?” He looked up, almost a glint in his eyes. “Wait, you’re not gonna tell her about him, right?” Some fear took his expression. “She can’t know. Jared, the guy, is the first person she’s even considered going out with since my uncle, and it’d break her heart. I-I haven’t seen her this happy in a long time, and--“ he sighed. “I don’t wanna risk her get hurt too.”

 

"Let's go upstairs and talk. This is definitely a hot cocoa situation," Tony tried to encourage him to follow him. Of course, May was going to know, but he needed to not lose the kid's complete trust while doing it. He could easily just fly to Peter's apartment and kill the bastard but it would add a lot more trouble to Peter's plate. He went to heat up some hot milk in the microwave before turning back around to face the kid. "Do you know why I know that you're probably going to end up with some scars?" 

 

Peter was incredibly relieved about not having to go to his apartment again tonight, yes, but he knew that there were to be a lot more uncomfortable and difficult conversations in the near future that he was not looking forward to. Oh well, nothing he could do to avoid it at this point. Or avoid telling May— he wasn’t naive, he knew it was bound to happen, but he just wanted to think that maybe it didn’t have to. Peter followed Tony into the kitchen and watched as he began prepping the cocoa. “Uh, not really,” he shook his head. “‘Cause you’re smart and those just seem like something that’d scar? Educated guess?”

 

Tony brought over a mug of hot chocolate before rolling up his sleeve showing him his forearm. There were two faint circles on it, similar scars to the brighter pink ones Peter had himself. "My father when I was twelve. He had occasionally hit me around before and I thought nothing of it. Then, he got really drunk, and my mother was at a charity event, and... these happened. I tried to hide them for days before Jarvis, my butler not the actual AI, saw the blood on my sleeve when doing laundry." 

 

Peter was, admittedly, pretty shocked by what he saw. He knew Tony and his father didn't get along, to say the least, but he didn't know it had been like that. God, he hated that this was something they could both relate to. Looks like it wasn't just him who had shitty luck, unfortunately. "Jeez," he breathed. Twinsies , said the part of the teen's brain still trying to cope with humor. "He sounds like a complete jerk. I mean, I don't wanna be rude and talk crap since he was your father and all, but if you're gonna purposely hurt your kid, you really shouldn't have one." At least he didn't have to live with Jared, even though it seemed he was at their apartment more than his own home.

 

"You can talk crap about him," Tony encouraged getting up to get his own drink. "And in general if you are going to live with a kid or interact with them, then you are also going to need to treat them at least decently. All adults know this rule," he told Peter carefully. "That includes your aunt's boyfriend." 

 

“Okay good, ‘cause the guy sounds like he was an asshole.” He didn’t usually swear in front of adults, but Peter felt it was appropriate in this situation.  Whether it was Jared or Howard Stark, you don’t do that crap to a child that was supposed to trust you. He’d never be able to understand either men’s reasoning. Peter’s expression fell a little more at the comment on how this was a rule for everyone, taking a small sip of his hot cocoa. “Yeah, yeah I know it does. I just didn’t wanna mess this up for her. You haven’t seen it, but she’s been really, really happy with him.”

 

"Have you ever thought that perhaps he might hurt her too?" Tony tried to explain knowing this was how Jarvis guilty tripped him into talking to his mother about the incident. "If he sees that he can get away with it with you and there's something in him that tells him that he needs to control those around him in whatever means possible, then May doesn't do something he likes, he might lash out at her. And then she finds out sometime down the road that he had been hurting you too, don't you think that would hurt her even more?" 

 

“That’s what I’ve been afraid of. Why I haven’t said anything!” Peter explained like it was obvious. Tony had to understand at least a little, right? He’d been in his place, after all. He’d been petrified of Jared hurting May since this shit fest started, truth be told. He was afraid that if he told her, and then she confronted Jared, he’d lash out, but he was also afraid of the situation Tony described. He didn’t care so much that the man was hurting him, but more so his aunt. “I just... it felt like no matter what I did or didn’t do, I was putting her at risk, and it was kinda overwhelming. I felt like I couldn’t tell anyone just in case I was overreacting or she did get hurt, you’re the first to find out, so.. I guess I’ve been chicken about it.”

 

"Don't you dare call yourself that Peter," Tony fiercely looked at the boy straight on. "What you are doing right now is incredibly brave and I'm very proud of you," he needed Peter to understand that this wasn't easy, but that he was doing exactly what he needed to do. "I think what would be best is that tomorrow we have your aunt pick you up here. I texted her that you were sick so you're staying here so that she wouldn't worry. When she comes to pick you up, you'll tell her what's been going on, and your aunt and I will figure out what to do next. That way she has Iron Man on back up if she wants to confront him." 

 

Peter felt anything but brave right now, but the look in Tony’s eyes made it hard to not believe him that he was proud. That meant more than anything right now. “Thank you...” he spoke just above a whisper. He should have so much more, but those two words were all he could think to say. The teen took another, small sip of his hot cocoa as the older man explained the plan for tomorrow. His stomach felt unsettled from his nerves about all this, so Peter only drank a little bit at a time. “Okay. Okay, yeah, that sounds good,” He nodded along. “Uhm, do you think you could maybe, I dunno, help a little when I have to tell her?” He asked sheepishly. “Even just being in the room or something. If you don’t mind, of course. Just, it was pretty hard telling you, and it’s probably gonna be more so with her, and... yeah.”

 

"I'll be wherever you want me to be," he promised Peter. "I just think that it will be better coming from you and you'll feel better than if I just told her. This has been a lot on your plate, but you aren't alone in handling this anymore. I still think you're actually still looking out for the little guy by doing this." 

 

“Mhm, I get that,” as much as he was already dreading it and knew he’d hate it, Peter knew he was the one who had to do this. Hopefully, there wouldn’t be much of a need to have to drop this bomb on anyone else after he told his aunt. Two terrible conversations were more than enough for him. “Thank you, Mister Stark. Seriously, that means a lot,” The teen offered a small, short, and soft smile. “And really? How? I don’t really see it.”

 

"If you just let him get away with it, then say what happens if your aunt were to break up with him? He would probably hurt another kid in Queens. By doing this you're telling him that it's not ok what he's doing and that there are consequences to his actions," Tony explained. 

 

“Huh,” Peter said softly after a moment. “I, uh, I hadn’t thought of that before. Well, at least something good came outta all this crap.” As much as what had been happening sucked and felt positively awful, at least it wouldn’t end up being all for nothing. If his going through that shit meant some other, non-superpowered kid wouldn’t, then it was sorta worth it in the end. “At least this wasn’t pointless then, I guess. Sort of worth it all too if it’s not gonna happen to other people. Well, at least with this guy.”

 

"And you did this all on your own, no superpowers or anything, just Peter Parker being brave," he praised the boy knowing that it wasn't going to fix himself overnight but Peter needed all the support that Tony could give him tonight. He squirted some extra whipped cream in Peter's hot chocolate. 

 

“Thank you, Mister Stark. That really, really means a lot to me. Seriously,” Peter still didn’t feel brave, but he did feel... better. Getting what happened off his chest, talking about it some, and knowing he wasn’t going to be going back to that mess. “I’m sorry for, uhm, y’know, lying before and trying to hide things. I probably should’ve just told you or Aunt May when stuff started happening.”

 

"Yes, we would have preferred that you came as soon as this started because neither of us like seeing you hurt," Tony told him firmly. "But I can understand that this was hard for you and I'm glad that you came and talked to us at all," he settled down across from Peter calmer now. "We all need help sometimes, being a superhero doesn't make you exempt." 

 

“Honestly, I thought that ‘cause of the whole superhero thing, I should’ve been able to handle it with no problem,” The boy admitted sheepishly. “Like, since I’ve been hurt way worse on patrol, and I can handle more than most people because of my powers, I should’ve just toughened through it.” He paused. “It’s dumb, I know. I’ll try to be better about that, but hopefully, this sorta thing won’t happen again. With my luck though, who knows?” Peter laughed briefly and nervously. He certainly did get into more than his fair share of bad situations.

 

"Superheros still need to ask for help. You weren't safe in your own home, I think that's pretty terrifying," he admitted to Peter trying to get him to understand that this wasn't the same as fighting off a mugger. It was more personal.

 

“Well... yeah, actually. It was kinda nerve racking. My senses were starting to go ballistic there even when he wasn’t there, which sucked.” The worst part was that because of his enhanced senses, he could always hear Jared walking around the apartment and that alone drove him out of there once or twice. 

 

Tony's eyes softened even more when he brought up that he had basically been on edge for the past month and Tony hadn't picked up on it at all. Sure Peter was jumpy, but he was always a ball of nervous energy. He hadn't thought that it was more than usual. "Don't worry, I'll offer your aunt a thorough background check on any potential dates in the future. And I'll have Pepper set her up with one of our engineers for a date to make up for this." 

 

“Thanks, I think we’ll both really appreciate that. Honestly, I still wanna hunk it’s kinda weird that she’s dating, maybe that’s just me and I’m not used to it, but whatever makes her happy.”

 

Tony nodded when Peter talked about how it was weird that May was starting to date, "It's definitely a big change kiddo, especially because you told me how much  she loved your uncle."

 

“Yeah,” his own expression softened as he thought back to how his aunt and uncle had been together. God, he missed all that. Things  were so much easier and simpler back then. Peter loved what he had now too, but he still missed Ben and being a normal kid. “I dunno, maybe it would’ve been easier to get used to if, y’know.. stuff hadn’t happened.” He shrugged a little. “Maybe I will eventually, maybe not. Guess we’ll have to wait and see.”

 

"It would've definitely been easier if things didn't turn out how they did," Tony agreed. "But I doubt that it would be easy regardless." He knew that once May found out what had been going on, she would feel guilty for starting to date again, opening up their house to this man, but it was healthy that she was trying to move on from her late husband. "You know even if this didn't happen and having someone like that makes you uncomfortable, you need to tell May. The right one for her will understand that she needs to put your needs first." 

 

“Yeah, there’s probably no way to make ‘your aunt dating again‘ easy, but there should be an easier way,” Peter could make jokes about the waiter at the Thai place flirting with May, but it was still a weird feeling. Maybe he just wasn’t ready to move on from Ben yet? He didn’t want that to hold his aunt back though. “I know, yeah. I’ll try to be better with being honest about any guy she brings home. With both you guys.” Peter paused. “Talking about this stuff with you has been really nice.”

 

"You feeling safe is one of my top priorities kiddo, especially at home," he informed Peter. "It's your aunt's too. Let the adults help you on this one because let me tell you this isn't fun to deal with but we're helping you share the burden," he gave Peter a gentle smile. "Did you still want to watch the Hobbit tonight?" 

 

“Well, just this once. Only ‘cause you insist,” he kidded with a small grin. “And May’ll probably rip me a new one if I try to hide crap again.” Peter said things like this, but he hated trying to deal with this on his own. However, he also didn’t want to bother anyone, so it’s a tough decision. “Mhm, yeah,” Pete nodded, still sipping on his drink. He wiped his mouth with his sleeve. “As long as you’re okay with it, ‘course.”

 

"I'm serious Peter," he told the teenager carefully. "I want to trust you and give you space for you to come to me. Pepper says that's important for you at this age, helps you grow maturity or something. Recognizing where your limits are and all that jazz," he walked over to the couch tossing the fluffy blanket to the boy. 

 

“I know you are,” He returned the serious tone. “And I swear, I know this is a big thing and not something to joke around about. Sorry for doing that. Maybe it’s a comfort thing, I dunno. I’ll stop though.” Peter caught the blanket with ease, plopping down on the couch and laying it over himself a bit. He was sort of warm wearing a sweater and all, but he didn’t want to look at that stuff, so warmth it was. “I’ll try coming to you or May or even Miss Potts more though, promise. Maybe not all the time, cause I don’t want to bother you guys all the time, but maybe start with the big stuff? Like this?”

 

"You can bother us with the little stuff too," Tony pointed out as he stretched out on the couch. "That's why there's three of us, one of us will always be free for you. Hell even if I were busy in a meeting or something I would love to get out of it to strategize on how to ask out that friend of yours," he teased him. 

 

Peter scooted over a little closer to Tony, offering some of the cozy blanket as he did. “Probably not all the little stuff, ‘cause that would get annoying fast, but I can do some of it.” The teen’s flushed a bright shade of pink now as he shoved Tony’s arm. “Shut up,” he said, embarrassed, and pulled the part of the blanket he gave Tony back. “I'm taking this back now.”

 

Tony laughed at that, "It's cute that you have a nickname for her that only you use, you know it means she likes you since she lets you use it.”

 

The tint increased some as he kept the shove up. “Shut uuuuup!”  Peter stopped the pushing at the second comment, looking up at the man with a hopeful look in his eyes as the movie began playing. “Wait, seriously? You think so? Like, not joking around?”

 

"Totally. If she didn't like it she would've pointed it out by now, but I bet if anyone else tried to call her that, she wouldn't like it since it's your special nickname." 

 

There was a moment of internal squealing about his crush not being one sided, including a huge grin and a couple excited kicks of his legs. “Okay,” Peter began after a moment. “You’re officially more help than Ned. Then again, he’s none at all, but you get the point.”

 

Tony laughed seeing the boy's reaction. He could insist all he wanted that he was grown up but seeing Peter like this reminded Tony of truly how young he was. "I'm touched that you think that I'm more useful than a fifteen year old boy." 

 

“More useful than my best friend is more what I intended. That’s a better compliment than what you said, don’t you think?” At this point, Peter wasn’t looking at Tony when he spoke but instead at the TV watching the movie. He leaned slightly on the man after a little while— May was right, he was clingy when he wasn’t feeling too well, mentally or physically. 

 

Tony welcomed the small touches knowing that it made both him and Peter feel safe. If he could touch the boy, it reassured him that he was still safe and that Tony could protect him. He wrapped an arm around Peter's shoulder and pulled the blanket up so the boy was more covered by it. 

 

Peter scooted closer as he felt the arm go around his shoulders, letting his head fall on Tony’s own. He hadn’t been getting much sleep lately, or good sleep, because of his heightened anxiety levels, so the teen pretty much always felt exhausted. Now, feeling safe in Tony’s touch and cozy under the blanket, said tiredness was only emphasized. Not to long into the movie, perhaps fifteen minute, Peter failed to stifle a yawn.

 

Slowly, Tony began to turn down the volume of the TV to allow the boy an easier time falling asleep. He had had a rough day today, and tomorrow wasn’t bound to be any easier, unfortunately. He needed his rest. Thankfully for Tony, he felt the kid fall asleep not long after, and he was glad to know that Peter felt safe enough, for now, to fall asleep right now. Tony didn’t fall asleep right away, being too stressed about Peter and wanting to protect the kid, but eventually sleep took him too. 

Chapter Text

Morgan had been looking forward to this day since she could remember. After being on the sidelines for years, she was finally being allowed to join the greatest game ever : the Avenger’s yearly paintball tournament. It was incredibly complex and a very serious occasion. Tony would spend months creating special suits for all of the competitors, as well as paintball guns that suited each of the team member’s specific skills. 

Morgan had started asking her father if she could join in when she was 8 years old, but he had refused outright. Avenger’s paintball was intense. 

At the time, Morgan had been pacified by the offer of a live stream video up to the penthouse TV, where she could watch the entire battle unfold. And when she had watched the whole thing, she had been honestly relieved that she hadn’t been part of it. It looked like too much for her.

But now, she was 12. She was a big girl, going into the 6th grade. (Tony still refused to believe that his baby girl was in middle school.) The real reason Tony was finally letting her join, however, was that she had spent the whole summer training with all her aunts and uncles, and she now knew how to defend herself quite well. 

The tournament was to take place on August 29th, the last big event before summer’s end. 

Preparations had started long before that, though.

In early July, the two floors that were usually used for practice missions were cleaned out and prepared. They were a maze even in normal times, but they became even more complex now. A series of secret tunnels, bridges and slides connected the rooms, which were filled with padded walls. Over all, it took the shape of many a child’s dream - an obstacle course of massive proportions. 

The night before the tournament, Morgan could hardly sleep, she was so excited.

Tony sat her down to go over some ground rules. He knew that none of the team would ever do anything to hurt his girl, she was adored by everyone, but that didn’t change the fact that she was still a child. 

“Alright, kiddo. Listen up. I’ve paired you up with Pete for tomorrow’s game. He’ll take good care of you.Most important thing is, if you ever get overwhelmed and think you need a break, just tell any one of us and someone will get you to an exit. There’s no shame in that.” Tony hoped she would be willing to follow through with this. She had always been easily overexcited, often pushing herself too hard and then crashing with exhaustion after.

Morgan nodded obediently, but she was still bouncing with excitement. 

The game was starting at 9AM, but Morgan was up at 5:30, waking her parents by jumping on their bed. When they refused to get up that early, she raced into her brother’s room, intent on waking him up. She wished Peter didn’t have to go back to university so soon, he was the coolest brother ever. Sure, she couldn’t really tell people that Peter was Spider-Man, but nowadays, even the name Peter Parker was big news. At 24, he was the head of the Stark Industries R&D Department and also the heir to the entire company. Not that Peter himself would tell you any of this, he was still rather shy and insecure about all of his successes.

To Morgan’s surprise, her brother was already up, modified Spider-Man suit already laid out on his bed. 

When she walked into the room, Peter turned to face her with a wide grin. 

“How’d you sleep, Mo?”

“Good.” She replied, returning his bright smile. 

“I’m going to guess you haven’t eaten yet. How about we go make some pancakes and talk strategy?”

As they walked out of the room, Peter asked his little sister, “So, who are we going after first?”

“My dad, obviously!” the girl responded with a laugh.


 

 At 9 AM, the whole team gathered in the central room of the whole course. Some of them chose to work in pairs, like Steve and Bucky, while others were strictly loners, like Natasha. 

Pepper counted down from 5 and everyone disappeared into the hallways of their choice.

The game was on.

Peter and Morgan had already picked their room this morning. It was on on the second floor, and it was perfect for them. It had onl one door and one secret slide, and it was full of padded walls to hide behind. It was the perfect base. Peter lay down a few booby traps - the webs he had would only hold for 20 minutes, but they didn't much more than that.

He simply lay a few strands over the door, so they'd know if their base was secure.

As per Morgan's wish, Tony was their first target. They found his position on the map each player had and headed out. 

Using Peter's wall-climbing abilities and Morgan's small size and stealth, they quickly cornered Tony and got they're first "kill" of the day. 

After that, they were on a roll. 

They got Clint easily enough, he didn't even notice Morgan until she was right behind him. 

Steve and Bucky were much more challenging, they even had to retreat at one point, but after they'd regrouped, the two super soldiers fell as well. 

At this point, their largest competitor was Natasha. She had the highest score so far, undefeated so far. 

Eventually, they got even her. 

Morgan barely ducked a shot that flew right over her head and Peter ran out of webs. 

That wasn't the end quite yet, however. 

At the end, the losing players would form a large team, getting one last chance to change the result. 

Peter and Morgan hadn't planned to do this well, but they quickly figured out what to do. 

The two of them retreated to their base, choosing a defensive strategy for their last stand. 

To their surprise, Bruce walked in alone, weaponless. They looked at him in confusion, but only for a moment.

Someone tackled Morgan suddenly, pinning her down and starting to tickle her. 

It was her father, of course. 

She was helpless with laughter, but she managed to get her breath back enough to whine.

"No fair!" 

But her dad just grinned at her. 

Peter had also suffered a bit of roughhousing at the hands of his teammates, but they let up quickly enough.

They all changed out of their paint spattered suits before heading to the common room. 

Pepper, Rhodey and Thor were waiting for them. 

"We present to you the new champions of The Annual Paintball Tournament! Peter Parker and Morgan Stark!" 

Everyone settled down to the rest of the evening - a replay of the day's best battles and lots of food. 

They ended the day with a team sleepover, and Morgan couldn't be happier. She would remember this day for a long time.

 

Chapter Text

At this point, Tony had developed a certain system of knowing what to expect whenever Peter would call him. 

 

If it was during the day, it was most likely a Spider-Man report. Anything else was likely communicated through a text message.

 

If it was during school hours, the kid probably needed to be picked up early and May couldn’t come.

 

If it was after nine, then Peter was probably hurt on patrol one way or another. 

 

Those were the only times Peter had every called him, since being a teenager, he was more prone to text. Calls usually meant something bigger, more pressing, and in need of a quicker answer when it came to the teen, even if he would text about big, pressing issues. Perhaps it was a comfort thing, Tony assumed. The ability to hide emotions behind a screen and really be able to think about what to say and how to say it.

 

All this ran through Tony’s head as he looked down at his phone with a puzzled expression-- it was ringing, the caller ID showing up with Peter’s face, and it was too early for him to have gone out on patrol just yet. 

 

Maybe he just forgot something here this weekend and wants me to look for it?

 

“Hey kid, what’s up?” Tony answered the phone. 

 

“Mister Stark,” Immediately, Tony knew something was wrong. The kid sounded like he was in the middle of crying right now, sniffling and what he assumed to be trying to clear his throat. His voice was heavy and wet, and it sent the world crashing around him. What the hell had happened to hurt his kid like this? “I-- I-I need your help..”

 

“Of course,” Whatever it was Peter needed help with, Tony thought it’d be better in person, so he already began making his way to the elevator that’d take him to the garage. “What’s the matter?”

 

“Something bad happened,” Peter’s voice shook with each word, and he could hear his breathing hitch over the phone. “And-- and I don’t know what to do. I-I thought I could handle it, b-but I can’t. I can’t a-and I don’t know what to do anymore and--”

 

“It’s okay buddy, it’s okay,” Tony assured, interrupting Peter soling because he knew he was getting overwhelmed. “Just breathe, okay? In for three seconds, hold in for four, and exhale for five. Okay?”

 

Peter went quiet, but the man could hear him trying the breathing technique as he asked. 

 

“There you go,” he cooed, hoping the assurance would soothe the boy. “You’re okay. See? Now, where are you kiddo? Sounds like I should be there.”

 

“My apartment,” Peter spoke with a small voice, barely audible over the phone speakers. This raised a red flag for Tony-- of course, he couldn’t know why the kid was upset, but there was something unsettling about the fact that he was this distressed at home. “I-I’m on the roof. I--... I-I didn’t wanna be inside right now.”

 

“Are you hurt?” He had to ask. He had to be sure.

 

“No…”

 

“Are you near the ledge?” Once again, he had to ask.

 

“No. I-it’s-- no, it’s not s’mething like that .” 

 

Words couldn’t describe how relieved Tony was to hear that. He hadn’t known Peter to have those sort of thoughts before, but he had to be sure just in case. “Okay, okay good. Do you think you can you tell me what’s going on, bud? I’m on my way.” He was climbing into the driver's seat of one of his cars as they spoke.

 

Peter seemed to hesitate, resulting in a nervous stirring in Tony’s stomach. “Uhm…” the boy finally said something. “Not-- n-not yet. Just… please get here soon. Please.” 

 

He sounded so desperate, so… small. It broke Tony’s heart to hear. “Of course, kid. I’ll get there as fast as I can? Okay?”

 

“‘Kay…”

 

“Want me to meet you up there?”

 

“Uh-huh.”

 

“The fire escape would work, right?” That was how his apartment building worked, right?

 

“Uh-huh.”

 

“Alright, I’ll see you in ten minutes, kiddo.”

 

“Okay.”

 

“Kid?”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“You’re gonna be okay, I promise. Whatever this is, we can figure it out.”

 

“...please, just get here quick.”

“I will, I promise. Just sit tight for me, Underoos.” Tony assured, letting Peter hang up so it was his choice in case he had anything else to say. The kid did after a few moments, and Tony wasn’t sure how far it was over the speed limit he drove in order to get from Manhattan to Queens in that ten-minute window he gave himself.

 


 

After hanging up, Peter just sat there… There was a little bench up there he claimed for himself that night, sitting hunched in on himself and his foot tapping anxiously. He held his phone tight enough to the point that his knuckles went white and cracks formed in the screen, but the teen didn’t really care about that at this current moment. Tears fell off his face and would land on the now broken screen and travel along the pattern of the cracks. 

 

Eventually, Peter heard footsteps traveling quickly up the fire escape, to which he responded by hastily wiping his face with the sleeve of his sweater. He didn’t want Tony to see him cry, even if it would be obvious by his puffy red eyes, tear tracks stained on his rather pale cheeks, and the sound of his voice both on the phone and right now. 

 

Without looking up, Peter heard Tony hop over the ledge and onto the roof where he sat and over to where he was sitting on the old, wooden bench. He seemed to hesitate before sitting down beside him, and once more before placing a hand on his shoulder. “Hey, kid. How you doing?” he spoke softly, and Peter just hated the pity he heard in his voice.

 

He didn’t need pity , no one needed to pity him. Poor, orphan boy Parker. Can’t seem to have a steady home-life for more than a few years at a time.

 

He just wanted to have a normal life for Christ’s sake.

 

The anger Peter felt was misdirected, he knew that, but there were just so many emotions swirling inside him right now that even the slightest thing like this made him irritable. Instead of verbalizing this frustration, however, Peter simply shook his head ‘no’. To this, Tony pulled him a little closer in a sort of side-hug fashion. “Yeah, that’s what I thought.” he sighed lightly. “Do you wanna tell me what happened?”

 

Peter shook his head again.

 

“I can’t help you if I don’t know what’s wrong.”

 

Peter took a slow, deep breath before speaking, “It… i-it’s my aunt.”

 

“Mhm. You two fight or something? I know it’s not easy to get into a heated argument with a parent.”

 

“No,” Peter shook his head again. “No, we didn’t… uhm…”

 

“It’s okay, take your time, kid.”

 

“She’s gone…”

 

Peter felt Tony tense up against him at those words, as well as hearing a string of curses under his breath. Then, the man turned to face him and pulled Peter into a tight hug. “Oh, Peter… I… I’m so sorry, bud.”

 

Peter absolutely melted into the hug, holding onto Tony as tight as he could as though any loosening up whatsoever would cause him to disappear into thin air and leave him alone again. Any fight against crying in front of Tony Peter had had left him in an instance now, the teen burying his head into Tony’s shoulder and letting the flood gates open up. 

 

He cried, and cried. His whole body trembled and shook with each sharp inhale of breath, and the grief seemed to just rip through the boy. He cried himself dry, all whilst Tony shushed and tried to soothe him, rubbing small circles on his back.

 

“It’s okay,” Tony cooed. “You’re gonna be okay. I know it doesn’t feel like it now, but you will be.”

 

“It’s not fair..!” he cried.

 

“No… no, it’s not, buddy. Nothing about this is fair, but you’re strong, and I know you will survive this.”


“I-I don’t know what I’m gonna do anymore…”

 

“It’s okay, you… you can stay with me. Does that sound okay?”

 

Peter gave a curt nodded, sniffling some more.

 

“Okay, then that’s step one. It’ll take a while, but soon, with enough steps, we’ll get through this. You’re not alone, Peter. I promise.”

 

“Promise you won’t leave me too?”

 

“I’ll stay with you, promise.”

Chapter Text

"Calm before the storm" had never been a phrase Tony had really believed in. He believed that either you could see the storm coming, or you were already in the middle of it.

It would only take one Saturday to change his mind.

It was one of those special Saturdays when May worked long shifts, so Peter stayed overnight at the compound. 

(May had tried leaving him alone, but he had nearly burned the apartment down cooking eggs and since then he stayed with Tony.)

Not that he would admit it to anyone, but those weekends were Tony's favorite. Most of the time, they'd fall asleep on the couch, wrapped in blankets, lulled to sleep by the soundtrack of some Disney movie. (Because why watch action movies when your life might as well be one?) 

They'd wake up late in the mornings and eat pancakes or waffles or whatever else they wanted.

These weekends were a reprieve for both of them.

This particular Friday , Tony and Peter had gotten caught up in the lab, working on a new type of battery that had the promise to be a revolutionary product for the tech industry.

They started their movie marathon late, and Peter was asleep halfway through Tangled, Tony following him to sleep soon after.

They were roused at 8AM by an alarm that blared through the compound. 

Peter's frightened eyes found Tony quickly, looking for reassurance.

"FRIDAY, turn it down please." Tony asked, noting the relaxation in the boy's shoulders when the sound faded to the background.

"That's a code red, kid. All hands on deck." Catching sight of Peter's pleading gaze, he added, "I guess you can join, but no getting hurt, or your scary aunt will eat me alive."

Tony grinned at the kid's excitement, interrupting Peter's litany of thanks to send him to get suited up. 

"We head in 30 minutes, Pete. If you're not there, we leave without you."

He would regret taking the kid with him a million times over, but he couldn't have known what was going to happen.


Nat briefed them on the plane. 

"A team of gunmen are holding up a convention center full of children, who were there for a large book fair. Despite it being a small group, they have managed to secure the entire building, which is why we have been called in. We don't believe they are enhanced in any way, they simply appear to be highly trained and very efficient. Roles will be assigned as follows..."

Tony turned to Peter, who was watching it all with wide eyed wonder.

"You're with me, kid. We're on hostage duty, they're more likely to trust Spider-man. No running off. Clear?"

Peter nodded in agreement. 

The whole team fell silent when they were 30 seconds out from the target, using the last moments to concentrate on what was to come. 

As the jet swooped over the parking lot farthest from the building, they all jumped out, immediately falling into attack formation, spreading out to saturate the building. 

Scott was doing recon, leaving beacons at places with large groups of hostages (or attackers).

Natasha headed to what appeared to be central command of the group of attackers, hoping to find out more about their origins. 

Bucky targeted the snipers.

Steve, Wanda and Bruce fought to open secure exits to evacuate hostages. 

Sam  and Clint provided cover for the rest of the team as needed. 

And Tony and Peter worked their way through the beacons Scott had left, leading out hostages. 

It was going very well, they had gotten through nearly half of the groups of children when it happened.

The next beacon was a group of 5 very young children, no more than 8 years old.

Tony was just ushering them out along a fire escape when Peter screamed out.

"No!" 

And dived in front of the children as a single gunshot rang out. 

Peter hadn't had the chance to shoot out his webs before he jumped, and so down he fell. 

They were only a story up, but it was still a good 15 feet.

Tony's heart stopped at the sickening crash that meant Peter had fallen down.

He wanted to fly to Peter immediately, but the children were screaming with fear. He needed to get them out first.

"Sam, cover Peter. Now." Tony snapped as he herded the children towards the barricades the police had set up.

As soon as the last child was through, he flew back to Peter as fast as his thrusters could take him. Sam was standing over the boy, blocking him from sight. 

FRIDAY found Tony the nearest bathroom with a double set of doors, so he blasted a hole in the wall, picked up Peter carefully, and headed there.

He locked both sets of doors behind him, hoping they'd hold up. He wished he and Peter had had a chance to perfect Peter's newest design - a set of high-tech locks on the basis of static and magnetic charge that could withstand almost anything.

Turning his attention back to the boy, who was beginning to stir, Tony lay him on the floor. 

"FRIDAY, scan for injuries. While you're doing that, send out a beacon on the secure com line with our location." 

Tony let the team know he was calling for med evac.

FRIDAY listed out Peter's injuries.

"A gunshot wound that hit him in the hip and then lodged into his right arm. A dislocated shoulder and broken wrist on his left side. A severe concussion and multiple broken ribs." 

"What needs to get taken care of now?" Tony asked, studying Peter. 

"Peter's accelerated healing is working slower than usual, but it's still nearly twice as fast as normal. His dislocated shoulder needs to be repaired immediately, it's already beginning to heal wrong, and the bullet needs to be removed from his arm as the skin is already healing." The AI sounded almost worried.

"ETA on Med Evac, FRI?" 

"18 minutes, sir."

Tony was on his own. 

He decided to fix the shoulder first and then remove the bullet.

He knew how to pop a dislocated shoulder joint back in, but there was a big issue.

They needed to be quiet. The bathroom was somewhat safe, but it could very easily become a trap if they were discovered.

And that was the biggest issue. 

He needed to grab Peter by the wrist and pull - except Peter's wrist was broken.

This would be extremely painful for the boy. 

Tony felt a wave of nausea wash over him as he thought about what he needed to do, but he knew he had no choice.

He grabbed a towel hanging on a nearby hook and folded it up.

"Hey Pete? I need you to do something for me. I need you to bite down on this and not let go. It's gonna hurt, but you can't make any noise. Can you do that for me?" 

Peter's eyes were teary, but there was a grim determination in his eyes. 

Tony steeled himself and put the towel between Peter's teeth.

He waited until the boy bit down, then grabbed him by the wrist and pulled forward.

He heard Peter start to scream as soon as Tony grabbed his wrist, but the towel muffled it enough that the sound didn't carry. 

He let the boy catch his breath, wiping the tears off of his face, but he knew he needed to get the bullet out, and soon. 

He asked the boy to lay down, and his heart broke when Peter shook his head desperately. 

"I know, kiddo, I'm sorry." He soothed, and Peter calmed down after a moment. 

Tony hated that he was using his ability to calm Peter down in order to cause him more pain. He knew it was necessary, but that didn't really lessen the pain.

Peter bit down on the towel again, and Tony began removing the bullet. 

Peter didn't start screaming right away this time, for a few minutes it was just sobs that shook his body with every breath, but when Tony started digging deeper, the screams began anew. 

Peter fell unconscious halfway through, and Tony couldn't help but be grateful.

He finally removed the bullet, just as the Med Team came in. 

They immediately transferred Peter to a gurney and the boy was surrounded with a flurry of motion as the EMT's secured veins, measured vitals and slid an oxygen mask over the boy's face.

And Tony stood there, frozen , the boy's screaming playing on repeat in his mind. 

He didn't think it would ever go away.

Chapter Text

Peter and Ned didn’t get invited to too many parties-- scratch that, they rarely ever got invited to parties-- so it was sort of exciting whenever it would happen. And when we say whenever, that means they were excited when Liz invited them to her party last year and they were excited now that Betty was inviting the Decathlon team to an ‘End of the Year’ pool party. It wasn’t going to be as crowded as Liz’s, just simply the Decathlon team and some of Betty’s other friends, but in a way, Peter liked it better. Less people, less overwhelming, more fun that’s able to be had. It’s a win-win.

 

Although he brought a swimsuit, Peter didn't really have any intent of going in the pool. He just wanted to fit in with everyone else and not be the only one wearing regular clothes around. No, instead of going in the water, his plan was just to sit around near it and 'guard' the snacks. Maybe he could get some cool pics of Ned and MJ too? Water always had such a great effect in photos, and that was something he could appreciate. 

 

And that was what he was doing. The teen sat near the shallow end, both his  swim trunks and washboard shirt-- he was supposed to be unathletic, he couldn't be showing off abs-- completely dry, not even dipping a toe in. MJ and Ned were hanging out in the water nearby, trying to catch chips in their mouths when Peter would toss them. He had pretty good aim, so the other two really just needed to keep still and hold their mouths open. It was fun, even if they were a little secluded from everyone else in the deep end. 

 

“I’m gonna go get something to drink,” Peter let his friends know, standing up and stretching a little. “You guys want anything?”

 

“I’ll take a Sprite if there’s any, thanks,” Ned smiled.

 

“I’m good,” MJ shrugged. “But you should probably throw on some more sunblock when you’re in there, ‘cause you’re starting to look pink.”

 

“Oh crap, really?” Peter held his arms straight out in front of himself, looking at the pigment of his skin. Yep, he was going pink alright, and therefore, those ten minutes of applying sunblock was a complete waste.

“You gonna help again?” she raised an eyebrow.

 

“Uh…” Peter glanced briefly at Ned, who simply nodded to him, and smiled-- if a bit awkwardly-- back at MJ. “Yeah, yeah sure. Thanks.”

 

“No problem, dude.” MJ assured, climbing on out of the pool. 

 

Peter picked up a towel from the chair besides him and handed it to her. “Here ya’ go, in case you’re, like, cold or something.”

 

“Thanks,” she smiled, wrapping it around her shoulders and following Peter inside. 

 

Betty’s home was really, really nice. Maybe not as big and fancy as Liz’s from the party last year, considering most of that money was a result of illegal weapons dealing, but it was still way more fancy than his little apartment in Queens. 

 

Before they could walk inside, MJ tugged on Peter’s shirt a bit, “Hey, wait. There’s some spray right out here. It’ll be quicker to get on than cream.”

 

“Oh yeah, good idea,” he nodded, grabbing the little can of spray on sunscreen and turning back around to his friend. He held it out towards her, asking, “So, uh, do-- would you mind?” 

 

“That’s why I came along, right?” she took the can from him.

 

“Oh, uhm. Right, you’re right. My bad.”

 

“It’s okay dude, really. Just hold your arms out, okay?”

 

“Yeah, yeah. ‘Course.” Peter nodded, doing just that as MJ sprayed him down. Just because he was already a little burned didn’t mean he should allow himself to be even more so. 

 

Once finished with that, MJ grabbed the little bottle of sunblock cream from the same little side table Peter had grabbed the spray. “Alright,” she stood back in front of him now. “Close your eyes.”  The teen nodded, complying just like before, and maybe it was just MJ’s imagination, but she could’ve sworn his face got a little redder as she rubbed the sunscreen in.”Uhm… There you go.” She cleared her throat, putting the bottle and can back where they had originally found them.

 

“Thanks,” Peter smiled awkwardly. “Do-- do you need some too?”

 

“Nah, I’m, uh, I’m good. Thanks though.” Somehow, the girl seemed just as awkward as her friend, and that was saying something. 

 

“O-okay. Okay, cool.”

 

“Cool.”

 

After a couple moments of awkward quiet, MJ cleared her throat. “I’m, uh, I’m gonna go back in the pool. See you there?”

 

“Yeah, yeah,” Peter nodded along with a soft smile. “Sounds good.”

 

With a little skip in his step now, Peter made his way inside, internally celebrating. So, maybe he had started developing a crush on MJ recently. Maybe , it wasn’t a definite! He could just be being dumb! That was a possibility, right? Totally. 

 

The kitchen was the room attached to the backdoor, so lucky for Peter, he didn’t need to go looking for it to get him and Ned something to drink. He went over to the fridge and opened it up, searching for two sodas. He found Ned’s Sprite easily enough, despite it being the last one, but nothing for himself. There was some fruit punch sitting out in a bowl on the counter, so he decided to go with that. Peter stood up from where he’d been kneeling on the floor in front of the refrigerator, though the feeling of hair raising on his arms and neck caused the teen to quickly, step back and pull his hands close to his chest and off the fridge itself. Just in time too, because just as he took his hand off of it, the door slammed shut. If he had left his hand there, his fingers would’ve been shut.

 

“‘Sup, Penis,” Snarked the door slammer, who obviously, ended up being Flash. Why wouldn’t it be him?

“What do you want?” Peter grumbled, attempting to appear tough while grabbing a cup for his drink.  

 

“Just getting a drink,” Flash shrugged, snatching the soda can out of his hand. 

 

“Hey!” He reached out to grab the drink back. 

 

“What, you can get another one. Don’t get your dick in a twist.”

 

“There’s not another Sprite in there. And besides, I thought you didn’t even like Sprite.”

 

“Yeah, but I like doing this.” With that being said, Flash opened up that can and dumped in onto Peter’s head. After that, he squished the can flat and threw it at his as he walked back outside. “Don’t leave a mess in there, Penis! This place is probably is worth three times as much as whatever shack you live in.”

 

As the door slammed shut behind Flash, Peter  just sighed, drenched in Sprite now. Great. Knowing Flash wouldn’t clean it up and not wanting to be a bad guest, the boy crouched down and began cleaning up the mess. It didn’t take long, but he felt really sticky now from the soda. Welp, Peter thought. At least it was just my swimsuit and not my regular clothes.

 

Now that that was all taken care of, Peter poured another cup of punch to give to Ned instead of the Sprite. He had a cup earlier, so he knew he liked it at least. He didn’t change into his regular clothes just yet though, just in case Flash had anything else planned. Just to be safe.

When he walked back outside, he saw Ned and MJ over in the deep end with everyone else. Peter sat down on the ledge, and handed Ned his cup once he swam over. “They didn’t have any Sprite, so I just got you some more punch,” Peter explained simply.

 

“Thanks,” Ned smiled before his brow furrowed. “Also, what happened to you, man?”

 

“Oh, uh, I just spilt something on myself.”

 

“It smells like Sprite,” MJ pointed out when she swam over as well. 

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“Whatever he spilt on himself.”

 

Both Ned and MJ looked to him now to confirm MJ’s theory. “Oh, uhm… Yeah, yeah I spilt the Sprite on myself. I was gonna open it up for Ned, but I guess I shook it too much, and it kinda exploded on me. That’s all.”

 

MJ clearly didn’t a hundred percent believe what he was saying, but she didn’t mention it. She did, however, go underwater for a couple seconds, and a little before she was back up for air, Flash shrieked a bit as something seemed to tug his leg down briefly. He had scrambled on out of the pool to see if anything was on him.

 

MJ came back up smiling. 

 

“Hey guys, we should play a game!” Betty suggested, ignoring Flash’s attempts to defend himself from his screaming like a little kid. There was a murmur of agreement in response.

 

“Like what?” Someone asked.

 

“Marco-Polo?” Someone else suggested.

 

Once again, there was a murmur of agreement amongst the group. MJ volunteered to be ‘it’ first, and no one seemed to have an issue with this. Betty swam over next to where Peter sat on the edge. “You should come in, Peter.”

 

“I’m, uh, I’m okay. Thanks though.” He smiled.

 

“C’mon, you haven’t been in at all!”

 

“Well...” Peter paused, thinking. “I-I could referee from out here? You know, to make sure no one cheats?”

 

“I mean, I guess,” Betty shrugged. “If that’s what you want.” After that, she swam away to one of the corners as MJ began counting in the shallow end.

 

Although playing would’ve been nice, Peter also had fun watching the game. He would be the verdict if a ‘fish out of water’ call was valid or not and call people out when they weren’t saying ‘polo’ loud enough.

 

One round, Peter and Ned were talking a little after he had gotten out, so neither were really paying attention to the game going on. Apparently, he should’ve been. 

 

Peter heard quick footsteps behind him, but he just assumed that someone moving out of the water to get to a different part. A fish out of water. 

 

“Hey guys, Penis Parker’s gonna play too!” Was all Peter heard as he was roughly shoved forward, causing him to fall into the water. 

 

Panic surged through him, and he couldn’t get a breath in before going under, causing him to suck in a bunch of water. His senses screamed at him, but he felt like couldn’t move. He wanted to kick and claw his way to the surface, but he just… couldn’t… move!

 

It was like something was entrapping him, keeping him from moving.

 

And it was dark.

 

It was getting dark.

 

It was like the river--

 

Before the darkness could fully take over his vision, someone yanked him above the water. Well, actually, it was a couple someones, and they hoisted him out of the pool and onto the concrete. A different someone began pushing down hard on his chest, and just about all the water he had breathed in was being coughed up. He heard people yelling angrily whilst he heaved and gagged out water, still feeling like he couldn’t breathe properly.

 

“It’s not my fault Penis can’t swim!”

 

“You don’t fucking do that to someone though, idiot!”

 

“Oh, but if he didn’t fucking sink like a rock, you’d all be laughing!”

 

“But he did, that’s the point, dumb ass!” 

 

“Well, shit, sue me I guess!”

 

A softer voice spoke now, closer and kinder. “Hey man, you okay?” It was Ned. MJ was the one screaming at Flash, and just about everyone else was backing her up.  

 

“I… I think so,” Peter replied, voice hoarse from coughing as he sat up.

 

“You sure?”

 

“I feel kinda off, to be honest, but…”

 

“You want me to call May?”

 

“Not her this weekend.”

 

“Want me to call him then?” He didn’t say ‘Tony Stark’ aloud, because with other people around that could lead to a bigger mess.

 

“No,” Peter shook his head. “No, I should be fi--” Before the boy could finish his thought, he heaved over and bile ended up coming out instead of coughed up water this time.  There was a collective cringe and even some gagging from others there, including Ned. Eventually, he and MJ hoisted him back up. 

 

“Okay, let’s get you into regular clothes. You gotta go home, dude.” MJ stated like fact.

 

“I’ll call him to get you.”

 

“Fine…” Peter agreed. Yeah, he couldn’t exactly claim to be fine right now. Before they went back inside, he turned his head and called out, “Sorry, Betty!”

 

“It’s okay! Uh, feel better!” 

 

Peter got dressed into his normal clothes as Ned called up Tony to pick him up. He was still in the city, they were going to drive up to the Compound after he picked him up from the party, but turns out, it was going to be earlier than anticipated. It didn’t take long for the man to arrive, and after profusely apologizing to Betty again, he met Tony outside. Of course he wouldn’t go up and knock on the door, there wasn’t any need for a scene to be made anymore than there already was.

 

Tony fussed over him for a little bit, but the ride upstate and the rest of the day was pretty quiet. He started looking better after a little while, but something still felt off… Lab time distracted him for a while, but he was still coughing a lot throughout the day. His breathing was a little short too.  

 

After dinner, however, Tony noticed Peter wasn’t looking so well again. His skin, especially in his face, was paler than normal, and he seemed to be in a daze and stumbling more than usual.

 

“Kiddo, you feeling alright?” Tony asked, brows furrowed. “You don’t look so hot, and you’ve also been coughing a lot today.” He placed a hand on Peter’s forehead to see if he had a fever. “Hmm… you’re not warm.”

 

“Yeah, yeah I’m fine,” Peter assured with a weak smile. “I’m, uh, I’m just feeling a little tired… and sorta light headed.”

 

“Okay, okay why don’t you sit down for a little bit, yeah?” Tony frowned, guiding Peter over to the couch. He noticed that the teen’s breathing was a little ragged still like it was when he picked him up earlier in the day. “Are you breathing okay? Seems like you’re… struggling.”

 

“Uhm, it’s a little hard,” Peter admitted before falling into yet another coughing fit..

 

“You think your asthma is acting up?”  Tony knew that the kid had asthma before Spider-Man, and whilst he also knew it hadn’t bothered him since, it might be why he was having issues breathing. 

 

“No, I don’t… I don’t think so.” Peter shook his head. “It feels different than that.”

 

“Hmm…” Tony hummed. Something felt off about this, and he did not like it. “Hey, FRI?”

 

“Yes, boss?” The AI answered.

 

“Why don’t you run a scan over Peter, see what’s up with his breathing.”

“On it.” FRIDAY went quiet for a couple of moments, running her scan. “Helen Cho and along with a medical team are on their way.”

 

Excuse me? ” Tony furrowed his brows. Peter sat up straight, concern contorting his expression as well.

 

“Mister Stark?” He asked. “Why is that happening.

 

“I dunno, kid,” Tony admitted. “Mind explaining yourself, FRIDAY?”

 

“Mister Parker appears to be experiencing dry drowning,” she explained. “He needs to be kept calm  until first responders arrive.”

 

“Why the hell is he dry drowning ?” Tony practically shouted.

 

“Dry drowning is typically an after affect of when someone nearly drowns and some water remains in the lining of the lungs. Thankfully, his condition has been discovered within the first twenty-four hours, so while the situation is still serious, it’s not as critical of one as it could’ve been.”

 

Tony looked to Peter now, who was clearly forcing himself to stay calm with his breathing. However, his eyes were bugged. “Alright, you’re gonna be alright, Pete. I promise.” He tried to assure.

 

“I know… I know. It’s just a little scary.” 

 

“I know bud, but the med team will be here soon and they’ll fix you up.”

 

“Yeah, yeah I know.”

 

Tony placed a hand on Peter’s shoulder. “Can you tell me how you might’ve gotten so much water in you?” He asked carefully.

 

“Uhm.. Well, Flash sorta pushed me in the pool today. It, uh, it kinda freaked me out and I breathed in a buncha water. That’s probably.. Y’know, why .” Peter more or less thought aloud.

 

“Shit, kid,” Tony swore. “You should’ve told me!”

 

“Mister Stark?” God, his head was spinning.  

 

Upon seeing how pale Peter’s face was, Tony spoke softer. “Yeah, bud?”

 

“I think I’m gonna…” His eyes rolled back before he could finish his sentence, passing out.

 


 

Peter woke up a couple hours later, laying in his bed. His chest hurt a little bit, but other than that, he felt… fine. He was fine. 

 

“You really need to stop scaring me like this, Pete.” 

 

Peter turned to look at Tony, who was sitting next to his bed on what looked like a chair from the kitchen. “Sorry…”

 

“It’s alright, I’m just pulling your leg,” Tony assured. “I know it’s not your fault.”

 

“Right… still though, I probably should’ve told you something felt off.”

 

“Really kid, it’s alright. I’m not mad at you.” He paused. “However, I may murder this ‘Flash’ kid.”

Chapter Text

 

Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.

- Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

 

 

 

Ding!

Peter's phone bleeped, announcing a new notification, ripping through the quiet of his room.

Reaching over from where he sat, writing an essay, Peter grabbed his phone and turned it on, frowning at the screen.

He froze immediately, rereading the message before jumping up and racing into the living room.

"May? May! Turn on the news, please!"

He waited impatiently while May found the channel, the message ricocheting around his brain uncontrollably.

Tony Stark injured in attack on Stark Industries Gala

He didn't know what had happened yet, but already guilt and terror were forming a pulsing ball of panic in his chest as his mind went into overdrive.

Was Tony really hurt? Was it serious? What if he's dead? Why didn't I go with him? I could have stopped it....

Only the opening jingle of the evening news ripped him from this wave of self-hatred and he turned his attention to the screen.

BREAKING NEWS! ran across the screen and Peter held his breath.

"This just in from New York and the Stark Industries Gala that was being held there earlier this evening. We have information that it was attacked by multiple armed men. We have information that Tony Stark himself was able to intercept the men, but it is being reported that he was injured. Nothing further is known about the severity of his injuries, nor whether or not he has been stabilized..."

Tears stung Peter's eyes and he sprang to his feet, ignoring May's worried look.

The panic that had been building throughout the news report exploded in Peter's mind and he bolted for his room.

Panic clouded his thoughts and all he could think of was getting out of this stifling small room.

May called for him from outside his room, asking for permission to come in, but he didn't want to see her.

Everything was too much.

His heart pounded in his chest.

Goosebumps ran down his back as his senses went into overload.

His entire chest tightened, every breath was a struggle.

He pressed a hand to his face, one last ditch effort to slow his racing thoughts.

And then, unbidden, several images came to mind. 

Tony, bruised and bloodied, bleeding out in an ambulance.

Tony hurt.

Tony dead.

Peter tried to imagine living in a world without his mentor and a sob rippled through his chest. 

May knocked on his door again, and this time he snapped out. 

"Leave me alone!"

He regretted it instantly, but he didn't feel capable of talking to anyone right now. Not even May.

Desperate to escape, Peter grabbed his suit and pulled it on, feeling a bit of relief as the sensory friendly material replaced his itchy clothes and the mask immediately dimmed and numbed everything.

The need to run away, however, was still incredibly strong, so he opened the window.

 

Snow blew in on a gust of wind, blowing right through Peter's suit. 

He couldn't stay where he was, though, so he sprang through carefully before pulling the window shut behind him.

 

Another wave of panic built in him as he stared out over the city, so he took off swinging, not knowing where to. He was on autopilot really, too far gone in his worries and fear to be able to stop himself.

 

Roughly twenty minutes later, Peter no longer felt cold. He knew he should be shivering, and some tiny part of his brain was worried, but it wasn't registering just yet.

He landed on the rooftop of a skyscraper and looked around warily. 

Honestly, he had no clue where he was. 

He was pleasantly warm, though, and the adrenaline drop had left him absolutely drained.

A little nap couldn't hurt, could it?

He was about to sit down when Karen spoke for the first time.

"Peter, it is my responsibility to inform you that you are suffering from severe hypothermia and falling asleep now would be a very bad idea."

Peter's brain was moving very sluggishly now, so he struggled to understand what was happening.

Karen continued a moment later.

"I would recommend that you head to the Tower to recieve medical attention."

Not the Tower...

"Navigating there now."

He didn't really have a choice, apparently.

Peter got to the Tower eventually, although he had a few close calls with birds, street lights and large windows.

It seemed Friday had been alerted to his arrival, because the window on his room opened and he stumbled in. His legs felt like jelly, they wouldn't hold him. 

He fell down, and laying there on the floor, he drifted to sleep. 

A second later, someone was shaking him awake. He looked up weakly.

Happy was standing over him, looking incredibly worried. 

"Come on, kid, we have to get you down to the Med Bay." 

Peter tried to stand up, he really did. But the room was spinning way too much and he tumbled back down.

Happy looked even more worried, but he was trying to hide it. 

When Peter failed to stand up a second time, Happy simply picked the boy up and carried him.

Peter fell asleep again in Happy's arms.

 


 

Peter woke up and didn't know where he was. There was an IV in his arm and a warm blanket covering him. He could hear the quiet beeping of his own heartrate monitor, but he suddenly became aware that there was someone else in the room.

He sat up quickly, looking around fearfully. It took him a moment, but he eventually relaxed. 

Tony was laying in the bed next to Peter's own. He was pale and there were bandages on his stomach, but he was breathing without any sort of ventilation and he seemed quite stable.

Happy was sleeping in the chair between them.

The familiar faces were enough to calm Peter, and eventually he turned around and fell asleep again.

When he woke up a second time, there was light shining through the windows and the IV had been removed from his arm.

Peter sat up, slower this time, and looked over at Tony. 

The man was looking right back at him.

Peter stumbled out of the bed and hurried over to his mentor.

"Do you need me to go get the nurse, or help you with something, or..?"

Tony smiled at Peter's babbling and patted the bed next to him.

"Come on then, I don't bite." He urged when Peter stared at him, frozen.

When the boy was comfortably beside him, Tony looked at Peter cautiously and then asked the burning question.

"What happened last night, Pete?" 

Peter's breath caught, but he fought through it.

"I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to worry you, sir." He choked out, full of sudden guilt.

"Hey, no, none of that. I just want to know, you didn't do anything wrong."

Peter took a few breaths, grounding himself again before continuing.

"I saw that you had gotten hurt, it was on the news, but nobody knew how bad it was and I couldn't stop thinking what if you were dead and it was all too much so I went out, just to escape, but it was really cold and I got lost, and I'm so sorry!"

"Hey, hey, kiddo. You're okay. You need to try and breathe for me. Can you do that?"

Peter was able to regain his breath pretty quickly, but he was still avoiding Tony's gaze, cheeks red with embarrassment.

Tony pulled him closer, and a moment later, Peter turned and buried his face in Tony's shoulder.

"I'm okay, Pete, I promise."

Peter shivered a little but otherwise showed no sign of moving.

After a few minutes, Tony spoke up gently.

"I'm not angry at you, but your aunt chewed Happy out pretty well this morning..."

Peter looked up with abject terror and Tony had to laugh at his pitiful expression. 

All would be well.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

“Mister Stark!” Peter called out excitedly as he ran into the room. Happy had just picked him up from school for one of their after school lab days, and the teen rode the elevator up to the penthouse of the Tower where FRIDAY said that Tony was.

 

“Hey kiddo, how was school?” Tony smiled, turning to look behind himself from where he was sitting on the couch in the media room. He couldn’t help but grin, the kid had such an infectious happy energy about him. 

 

“Awesome!” he dropped his backpack on the floor beside the couch, plopping down on it besides Tony with his arms stretched out above his head. 

 

“Someone had a good day.” The man observed, nudging the kid’s side with his elbow. “Anything special happen?” 

 

“Mhm,” Peter sat up normally now, absolutely grinning ear to ear. “Do you know what?”

 

“No, but I know you’re dying to tell me.”

 

“Ready?” Peter asked, facing Tony and sitting criss-crossed after kicking off his shoes.

 

“I’m ready, kid.” he had to stop himself from laughing, as the kid was practically bouncing off the walls. It was nice to see that Peter was having a good day though.

 

“He asked me.” the teen bit down on his bottom lip, his smile somehow growing more.

 

“He did? That’s great, kiddo!” Tony patted the kid's shoulder affectionately, happy for the kid. For the past week, Peter had been going on and on about his new crush from his English class and how MJ was convinced he was going to ask him to this school dance Midtown was having on Friday night. He was clearly head-over-heels for this guy, Tony had observed, considering Peter had joined the drama club as a stagehand in order to spend some more time with him. Learning that information had resulted in quite a bit of teasing. “What was his name again?”

 

“C’mon, I’ve told you, like, ten times already.” Peter rolled his eyes, though playfully so. He just had a great fucking day, nothing was going to ruin that for him!

 

“I’m old, you need to remind me of the little things like this.”

 

“Does you calling yourself old give me permission to and to make jokes about it?”

 

No ,” Tony playfully shoved Peter away, faking being serious. “Now c’mon, tell me.”

 

“His name’s Scott.”

 

“And are you a hundred percent sure that this one’s dad won’t try to kill you?” Now he was being a little serious. The kid had crazy bad luck, so he wouldn’t be entirely surprised if history repeated itself. He’d feel awful for Peter, yes, but unfortunately, not surprised.

 

“Oh c’mon, Mister Stark. I’m not gonna stalk the family of everyone I like’s family every time to see if they’re, like, mob bosses or something like that.” Not every time, but this time, he might’ve. Just a little. He actually really wanted to go to this dance.

 

“I can run a background check?” Tony offered.

 

Peter hesitated, not wanting to be invasive but also wanting to have a normal teenager experience for once in his goddamn life. “You know what, let me get back to you on that.”

 

Tony smiled, ruffling his kid’s hair a little. “Of course, kid. Now, what do you say we put off lab work until Wednesday and do something else today?”

 

“What do you mean?” Peter asked, raising a brow in his confusion.

 

“Well, it’s a dance Friday, right?”

 

“Yeah, it’s junior cotillion.”

 

“And you’re going to need a suit for it. An actual one.”

 

“But I have one from last year.”

 

“You need your own one though.”

 

“But the one’s at home fit just fine.”

 

“No kid, they don’t. Trust me, they don’t.”

 

“But--”

 

“Look, Pete, I know why you would want to wear one of those suits,” Tony explained. “But I also know you’d be one-hundred percent against tailoring them in any way, shape or form, which I understand completely. However, you and your uncle are clearly different suit sizes, given that those fit properly on him, since it was far too baggy on you from the pictures May showed me. You don’t have to take up my offer if you don’t want to, but I would like to get you your own, properly fitting suit.”

 

Peter considered his offer for a moment. It would be nice to have his own, so… maybe. “Uh… alright. Alright, sure. Thanks.”

 

Tony smiled at him. “You know, I won’t be offended if you told me you didn’t want to.”

 

“I know, but it would be nice to have one that’s actually mine.”

 

“Alright, I’ll call my tailor. If we can get your measurements today, a suit should be ready for you around Wednesday or Thursday.” He paused. “Why don’t you let your aunt know, in case she wants updates or wants to tell me to fuck off. Whichever.” Tony teased, though he did want to check with May to be sure he wasn’t over stepping here. Whether he felt like Peter was his kid or not, the fact was that he was actually May’s kid. He needed to remember that.

 

“I don’t think she’ll say that,” Peter laughed. “But yeah, I’ll let her know. Thanks, again.”

 

“Don’t worry about it, kid. I’m happy to do this.”

 

After getting May’s approval, with the obligation of taking many pictures, Tony called in a tailor to fit Peter for a suit. It took a good portion of their afternoon up, guaranteeing that it was done right, but also because Peter was having difficulty sitting-slash-standing still. It was kind of funny, Tony had to admit, and he couldn’t be upset about it because of just how happy he was. It was sweet. By the time that process was over and done with, there wasn’t enough time to work in the lab before Peter needed to be home for dinner, so they just chilled out on the couch whilst Tony gave him some advice for this dance Friday night.

 

It was just a couple hours from the time Peter arrived from the time he had to go, but it was really nice. It was heartwarming to see him so excited. It made Tony wonder if this was what he missed last year when he was still keeping the kid at arm’s length, which he was regretting more and more as each day passed. He knew why he did it, he didn’t want the kid to get hurt by being affiliated with him, but the facts were that Peter as going to get hurt either way, so he had a choice of being there to help him get back on his feet or watch in silence what was likely going to be the face of the next generation of the Avengers struggle. 

 

Besides, now, he couldn’t even imagine not having this ball of energy in his life.

 

The suit ended up being ready on Wednesday, and Peter was able to take it home with him after they had their afternoon. Much like on Monday, as other activities were occuring, questions about how the date may go were asked and answered, and some mentorly-slash-fatherly-ish advice was given. Tony didn’t go into ‘the Talk’ part of date advice, because not only was he definitely not qualified for that, but he assumed May had taken care of that already. He hoped.

 

He was not having that talk with Peter.

 

If he had questions, he’d try to answer, but he was not initiating that conversation. 

 

On Friday, instead of getting picked up and going to the compound like he would normally, considering this was Tony's weekend, Peter headed back home to his apartment. It made it easier for him so he wasn't carrying a duffle bag of his things all day, since Tony was going to grab it from said apartment before picking him, and May wanted to help him get ready to go. She was almost equally excited about this as he was-- she even took the day shift off so she could be there when he got home. Sure, that meant she'd be working grave yard, but she slept in today, and it was just worth it. 

 

Cotilian started at seven, so by the time five o'clock rolled around, May was already fussing over Peter getting ready. He had convinced her to let him go out on patrol for a couple of hours, seeing how he wouldn't be able to at all the weekend, being upstate and all, so he really should've expected her to rush him once back. 

 

"You gotta eat something before you go," May told him, already ordering them some Chinese take-out. "You know whatever snacks they have there won't be enough."

 

"I know, I know," Peter nodded in agreement. "I'm gonna, but I literally just got home." It was true, he was still in his suit and everything.

 

"Clearly," she rolled her eyes. "You still stink of sweat."

 

"Ouch--"

 

"Go shower while the food comes," May playfully began pushing Peter out of the living room and towards the bathroom.

 

“I’m going, I’m going!” 

 

“Don’t put the suit on until after dinner!” she called from behind the closed bathroom door.

 

“I won’t!”

 

“And get your weekend bag ready!”

 

“I will!”

 

Peter got showered and packed up in less than a half an hour, just as the food arrived. He just wore some comfortable shorts and a random shirt for now, just to be sure no Chinese food got on his new suit.  May was getting the different cartons out of the box when he walked into the room, hair still dripping wet a bit. 

 

“Oh come on, Pete. Did you even brush your hair?” she ran a hand through his hair when he walked past her.

 

“It’s fine, May. I’m gonna fix it, I swear.” She had a habit of messing with his hair anyway, so doing it now would’ve been useless.

 

“Alright, I’m sorry. I’m just excited for you!”

 

He ate relatively quickly, rushing partially out of his own pure excitement, and after cleaning up, May helped him get ready. They had to look up how to tie a tie once again, considering both of them had forgotten, but by the time it was time to go, Peter was all ready. He felt great, looked great, and just knew tonight was going to be great. 

 

May dropped him off in front of the school’s gym about five past seven-thirty-- he and Scott had previously agreed to just meet inside the bleachers-- and held up two thumbs up as he walked on inside.

 


 

“Hey kid, how was it?” Tony smiled as Peter climbed into the passenger seat. 

 

“Uhm… it was fine,” the teen said simply, to which Tony frowned. He had seemed so excited on Wednesday, so obviously, the man assumed Peter would be bouncing off the walls with glee. 

 

But… he wasn’t. 

 

He didn’t even seem indifferent, but instead… upset. Not like he’d been crying or was about to, but hunched in on himself and very much on guard. He even looked a little disheveled, which raised some red flags in Tony’s mind.

 

“Just fine?” the man raised a brow. “I thought this was going to be the event of the century.”

 

“I was excited, sorry I made a huge deal.” Oh yeah, something was definitely wrong.

 

“It’s okay kid, you don’t have to apologize. It’s normal to be excited about that.” When Peter didn’t say anything in response, Tony continued. “So, did you and Scott have fun?”

 

Peter, who had been staring out the window while the car drove down the busy New York streets, snapped his head around to look at Tony now. “What do you mean?” He asked urgently.

 

More red flags were being raised now, and Tony didn’t like it. “At the dance. Did you two at least have a nice time? Maybe, well, dance?” Something was seriously wrong, but he couldn’t place it. Something had to have happened at that dance. Maybe that Scott guy ditched him? As much as Tony would hate to hear that, it would at least be something minor, relatively speaking, to all the possibilities of what could’ve gone wrong.

 

“Yeah, yeah we danced a couple times..” 

 

“And how was that?”

 

“Okay, I guess.”

 

Tony drove for a little while more, waiting for Peter to elaborate or give any sort of hint as to what may be bothering him.  About fifteen minutes had passed before he broke the silence, “Hey, Pete?”

 

“Mhm?”

 

“Is everything okay?”

 

“Mhm.”

 

“Are you sure?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Are you lying to me?”

 

“Why would I do that?”

 

“Because you don’t like talking about things that bother you.”

 

“I’m fine.”

 

“You can talk to me, you know.”

 

“I know.”

 

“I don’t have to tell May if you don’t want me to.”

 

“Okay.”

 

“So, is there something you want to talk about?”

 

“No.”

 

“Did Scott say something that bothered you?”

 

“I said I didn’t want to talk.”

 

“Did he?”

 

“He didn’t say anything, okay?”

 

From then on, the car ride was quiet. The only sound in the vehicle was the music playing off the radio, which Peter had turned up after Tony gave up on trying to get him to talk. Even when they got to the compound, Peter simply grabbed his bag that Tony had picked up for him and hurried off to his room. “I need to shower,” the teen had said.

 

Obviously, Tony was still very worried about the kid and curious as to what was going on, so he had tried going up to Peter’s room to talk. However, when he did, FRIDAY informed him that he was still in the shower. The kid usually was very concerned with taking up a lot of water, but today, he stayed in the shower for over two hours. With how late it was, about two o’clock in the morning since the dance had ended at eleven and the drive up had taken an hour, Tony assumed that Peter would be going to sleep and he could talk in the morning. 

 

With this assumption in mind, Tony went to go work in the lab for a while. He had some Stark Industries work he needed to get done, and with his increasing worry about the kid he assumed was sleeping upstairs, he doubted he would get much sleep of his own.

 

“Boss,” FRIDAY broke his train of thought.  “I strongly suggest you go check on Mister Parker.”

 

“What’s going on? Is he hurt?” Tony instantly stood up from where he was sitting at his desk, beginning to make his way out of the lab and towards his kid’s room. 

 

“Not that I’m picking up, but he is researching a matter of concern on his cell phone.”

 

“Which is?”

 

“The effects of flunitrazepam, also known as Rohypnol.”

 

Tony stopped in his tracks. “Why would he be looking that up?”

 

“Would you like me to ask him for you?”

 

“No,” Tony shook his head as he began walking again. “No, don’t do that. I can do it.”

 

“Of course, Boss.”

 

Tony was at Peter’s door in minutes, knocking on it a few times. “Hey kid, you up?” he asked softly.

 

There was a moment of hesitation before a soft response came, “Yeah…”

 

“Can I come in?”

 

“Sure..”

 

Before Tony could open the door himself, he heard Peter unlocking it and allowed the kid to open it up. After that, he stepped quickly back into his room and sat down on his little homework desk chair.  Tony turned the lights on low as he stepped inside, sitting on the foot of the kid’s untouched bed. “You okay?” he asked.

 

“Mhm, why?” Peter lied. His eyes were red and puffy, and there were some tear stains on his cheeks. 

 

Tony just looked at him sadly, hoping to fucking god that he was incorrectly connecting the dots. “Kid… what happened? FRIDAY told me what you were looking up.”

 

Something changed in the kid’s expression, something that broke his heart. Please be wrong , Tony thought. Please, please be wrong…

 

 “I…” Was all Peter managed. 

 

“C’mon, Pete,” Tony patted the space on the bed beside him. “C’me here. You’re okay.”

 

Peter moved hesitantly next to Tony, silently looking down at the floor.

 

“Can I touch you?” Tony asked softly.

 

Peter seemed to think about it, but ended up nodding. To that, Tony pulled him into a gentle side-hug. “I’m okay…” the boy muttered, as if he was trying to convince himself.

 

“It’s okay if you’re not.”

 

“I want to be though.”

 

“I know,” he soothed, rubbing the kid’s shoulder with his hand. “I know you do.” He paused. “Did something happen to you tonight?”

 

Peter was so incredibly tense, he was as stiff as a wooden board. Much like with Tony’s previous question, he ended up noddin after a moment of hesitation. “Yeah…”

 

“Can you tell me?”

 

Peter went to take a sip of his drink, but hesitated before the rim of the cup touched his lips. Something made his senses scream at him to stop before he could.

 

“What’s wrong?” Scott asked him.

 

“I dunno…” he admitted. “Something just feels off about the punch.”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“It’s-- it’s hard to explain. Something just feels different about it.”

 

“Someone probably just spiked it, man. You’ll be fine.”

 

“Okay…” And against his better judgment, Peter took a sip. He drank the whole cup, even though each time he went to sip at it, he felt that ‘Peter tingle’.

 

“I don’t know…” Peter replied.

 

“Can you answer yes or no questions?”

 

“Maybe.”

 

“Did someone put something in your drink?”

 

He was starting to feel woozy… disoriented. He was so excited before, but now he felt like he was about to fall asleep. His head was spinning. “Scott?”

 

“Mhm?”

 

“I’m not feeling that well…”

 

“Huh?”

 

“I feel really dizzy.. Can we go sit somewhere?”

 

“Sure, sure.” He took Peter’s hands, leading him out of the gym. “Follow me, I know a nice spot.”

 

“I think so,” the kid answered.

 

“Was it Scott?”

 

“Probably.”

 

Tony was seeing red. “Did you pass out?”

 

“No…”

 

“Did you feel like you were going to?”

“Yeah.”

 

“Do you remember what happened?”

 

Scott lead him into the auditorium and backstage. There was a little couch back there that they normally would hang out on during drama club-- Peter didn’t really understand or care about what was going on, he was only there to hang out with his crush, and didn’t bother paying attention-- and Scott helped him lay down on it. 

 

“Mhm, I remember.”

 

“Did he hurt you?”

 

“I mean, I wouldn’t really say it was hurt …”

 

“Did he… did he touch you?”

 

“Scott--” Peter tried to pull away from the kiss. “Scott, stop it…!” They’d kissed a little before, but this was different. Rough. It was… he didn’t like whatever it was.

 

“Just relax, you’ll be fine.”

 

Peter swallowed thickly, nodding a little now. Tears pricked his eyes now.”

 

“Did you want him to?”

 

He shook his head.

 

“Did you say that?”

 

He nodded.

 

“Did he…?”

 

Once more, Peter hesitated, but nodded.

 

“Oh, Pete…” Tony pulled the kid closer into a full hug. “I’m so sorry bud… Oh god, I’m so sorry.”

 

“I-I tried to stop it,” Peter’s voice broke as he spoke.

 

“I know, I know.”

 

“I-- I don’t understand why…!

 

“I don’t either, buddy.”

 

“I’m s-sorry,” he was crying now, and Tony tried to soothe the kid by rubbing up and down his back.

 

“Peter, do not be sorry,” the man said sternly. “This was not your fault, not at all. It’s his completely. You did everything you could, it’s not your fault that-- that it happened.”

 

Whether he would believe him or not, Tony wasn’t sure. He hoped Peter would, but knowing the kid, he wouldn’t just yet.

 

“He’s going to pay for what he did to you, I promise.”

 

“What-- what if no one believes it?”

 

“We’ll make sure people do, the right people. I’ll make sure of it, and that this never happens to you again. I’m sorry I couldn’t this time, but there will not be a next time, Pete. I promise.”

Chapter Text

"There are times when the mind is dealt such a blow it hides itself in insanity. While this may not seem beneficial, it is. There are times when reality is nothing but pain, and to escape that pain the mind must leave reality behind.”

Patrick Rothfuss

The battle ends.

The dust and ashes settle.

The sun rises.

The warriors go home.

The world keeps spinning.

The lives of most people go on.

But for Peter, reality takes a little longer to set in. 

He spends the days after the battle in a daze, expecting to wake up any minute, to find out that it was all a dream. And the worst part is, his mind refuses to believe that Tony's really...gone. Peter's on bed rest for a week after the battle, and every time someone walks through the door, he finds himself expecting (hoping) for it to be Tony, with his bright smile, telling Peter that everything will be alright.

Except that never happens.

The sun rises.

The sun sets.

People go on with their lives eventually.

Peter does not. 

Not even the funeral is enough to make the truth set in.

He knows what he saw, what he heard, but the reality of Tony's death does not compute with his understanding of the world.

A month passes, and Peter is forced to move on as well. 

Life is like a tide, slow, but steady and strong, and not even Peter can withstand it's force.

He goes back to school.

Slowly returns to the job of being Spider-man.

But everyone can tell that his heart isn't in it. 

Ned notices the lack of enthusiasm, and tries to spend more time with his friend, inviting him over for Lego building evenings and movie nights.

Peter goes, but the nights are have an empty feel to them, and Ned doesn't ask as often anymore. He hates not being able to help Peter, but he doesn't think he can. There's too much he just doesn't know.

MJ notices how little Peter eats. She starts slipping him granola bars in class and extra portions at lunch. He eats them, but he's still thin, and she worries.

May finds Peter with wet bloodshot eyes on many evenings, and she gently brings up the subject of grief counseling.

Peter's face goes hard, and bitterly, he asks "How could anyone possibly understand what I'm going through?" 

May tries to formulate an answer, but Peter is gone before she can find the right words.

He's out for the rest of the evening and long into the night. 

May doesn't mention it again.

She hopes he'll mention it himself when he's ready. 

Pepper notices the ever-expanding dark circles under Peter's eyes. Even Morgan notices them. They're hard to miss.

She starts asking Peter to come and watch Morgan more often. The girl loves him, of course, but that's not the main reason.

The main reason is that most of the time, babysitting Morgan will end with the two of them fast asleep on the couch, and Pepper has a feeling that those nights are the most sleep he gets, maybe even more than in an entire week.

She keeps on inviting him over, even when she's home. Maybe it's the presence of her and Morgan, but Peter always falls asleep there. It seems to help, at least a little.

When Peter feels like he's finally settling into this new normal, something odd happens.

He's fighting his way through the crowd outside his school after the last bell when he catches sight of someone.

Someone he never thought he'd see again.

Tony Stark is standing at the edge of the crowd, eyes locked on Peter.

There's no mistaking him. 

The immaculate tailored suit, the tinted glasses, it's Tony for sure.

Peter doesn't hesitate.

He shoves his way through the crowd, running as fast as he can, desperately trying to get to Tony.

By the time he gets to where Tony was standing, the man is gone.

Over the coming weeks, Peter tries to persuade himself that it was only a trick of light, that he had mistaken another person for his mentor.

He almost believes it. Almost.

And then it happens again.

This time, he walks into his room and freezes. Tony is sitting in his bed, watching him calmly.

The flame of hope in Peter's chest flares up, burning brightly, but he needs to be sure.

"May? Can come here for a moment?" He asks, fighting to keep his voice steady.

She walks in, and he asks the first question that comes to mind.

"I was just wondering if it would be okay for me to start Academic Decathlon again. MJ has been looking for someone."

May smiles brightly. "Of course you can, sweetie."

She turns and leaves.

She makes no comment about the dead man sitting on Peter's bed, and when the boy turns to look, no one is there.

In the crushing silence of his room, Peter buries his face in his hands and cries.

 


 

It happens more often after that. Tony appears next to Peter all the time. 

He never speaks, nor makes any move to communicate. He's simply there.

Peter knows it isn't normal, but he can't help but feel a bit of comfort. 

It feels like Tony is still watching over him.

Every time Tony appears, he's several feet away, and Peter no longer tries to run to him. He's tried a few times. It never works. Tony is gone long before Peter can get there.

And yet, in the depth of his heart, he wants nothing more than a hug from his mentor.

And so, when he's sitting on the top of an apartment building, taking a break from his afternoon patrol, and suddenly his mentor is right next to him, Peter's heart nearly jumps out of his chest.

He reaches out with a shaking hand, eyes shut tight. 

It lands on something hard.

Peter stares at his hand on the nearby wall and his mind goes completely numb. 

He goes home and spends the rest of the day staring at the wall blankly.

After that, the visits become even more frequent. 

And Tony starts talking. 

It's little things at first.

Pointing out mistakes in calculus homework.

Warning him of a low hanging wire as he's about to go swinging.

And eventually, it becomes full conversations. In the darkness of Peter's room, they lead long conversations about anything and everything.

Peter knows he might be going mad. He can't find the energy to care.

 


 

Tony had planning to reveal himself to Peter for weeks now. He knew that it had been far too long, and he worried about the boy.

Pepper had already told him how stupid he had been, staying away from his family for this long.

 

He guessed that Peter would be on patrol at this time of the evening, so he waited in front of the apartment building where the boy lived with his aunt. 

It only took a few minutes and the boy was walking around the corner nonchalantly.

Tony had been expecting anything, from violent rage to tears. Any reaction.

What he didn't expect, however was no reaction at all.

"Right on time. Come on, we can talk inside." The boy says easily.

Tony stares in shock, but is able to regain enough control to follow the boy.

In the elevator, Peter avoids his gaze, looking embarrassed.

"I know I should be wearing a coat, you told me last time that one day I'll get sick. It wasn't supposed to rain today, though."

Last time...

These words leave a bad taste in Tony's mouth.

What have I done?

"Peter...when did we last talk?" Tony asks, gently.

"Last night, don't you remember?" The boy answers easily enough. 

Tony stays silent for the rest of the ride, mind racing.

They enter the apartment and Tony follows Peter to his room.

"Pete..." Tony can't help it. He reaches out to the boy.

Before he can even touch him, though, Peter jumps away, terror and anger mixing on his face.

"Don't touch me!" The boy snaps before burying his face in his hands.

"You're not supposed to be able to touch me. You're not real. You're a figment of my imagination. A hallucination, damn it!"

With that  Peter collapses against the wall, sobbing. And Tony crouches next to him, helpless like never before in his life.

Eventually, Peter leans against him, and Tony pulls him close gratefully.

The thing is, Tony has no clue how to fix this. He's made a terrible mistake....

 

 

Chapter Text

”Alright, Petey,” Ben smiled. “I’m going to grab May’s lunch stuff for tomorrow. Why don’t you pick out a snack and a movie for tonight?”

 

”Like from the Red Box rental?” Peter asked as the two of them walked into the convenience store.

 

”We can buy it, if you want?” Ben suggested. “Didn’t you mention that robot superhero movie was out on DVD now?”

 

“Big Hero Six? Yeah, I saw the commercial.”

 

“If you can find it, we can get it. You got a scholarship to Midtown, you’ve earned it, kiddo. “

 

The two Parker men-- well, one man and one boy-- separated to their selective parts of the Quick Check. Each had a mission, each happy to do so. Ben headed to the back of the store where lunch meats and bagged chips, along with a little off brand SubWay sandwich counter, were for his wife’s lunch tomorrow. He enjoyed making special little lunches for May, especially leaving little messages on rice krispies. That was Pete’s idea, and it always made her smile. Sure, that might’ve been years ago, but it stuck.

 

Speaking of Peter, what he needed was in the front. He grabbed a Crunch bar and a York peppermint patty for himself. The thirteen year old boy searched the first two aisles for any sign of the movie-- so what if it was animated? It was still good-- and nearly passed by it before spotting it out of the corner of his eye. Before heading to the back, Peter grabbed Kit Kat for his uncle. “Hey, Uncle Ben,” he called. “You want a Kit Kat? They have the dark chocolate ones.” Besides the cashier, there wasn’t anyone else inside, so it wasn’t like they were disturbing anyone.

 

“Sure, why not?” he replied. “Just a small one though, not a king sized or anything like that. Maybe one of the little bite sized one, if they have it”

 

“Alright,” He swapped out the bar of chocolate to the little packet of bite sized ones. Double checking that he had the right items and wasn’t missing anything, Peter made his way to the back. He plopped Ben’s snack on top of a small box containing rice krispy treats with a smile. “They had the bite ones.”

 

“Yeees,” Ben grinned. “Best candy, ten out of ten.”

 

”I wouldn’t say the best, but they’re pretty good.”

 

”Dark chocolate plus wafers equal heaven,” the older man argued. “Didn’t you just get into a STEM school? Shouldn’t you know basic math?”

 

”I dunno, I think I’m going to have to double check your work.”

 

”I might be able to allow that.”

 

The two then made their way to the front counter, happily teasing back and forth. The store’s front door clanged as they briefly stopped to go grab a carton of milk down one of the aisles.

 

Everything felt perfect-- they were going to order Chinese, eat a bunch of junk food for dessert, and probably pass out watching the movie. He got into Midtown with a full paid scholarship! Of course, regarding his grades stayed up, but still! Peter felt on top of the world. He was caught up in his internal celebration so much that he hadn’t quite noticed Ben holding his arm out in front of him, “Peter, be quiet and stay behind me.”

 

”What? What’s going on?” Peter asked, brows furrowed in concern.

 

”Shhh,” Ben shushed. “I don’t know yet…”

 

”I told you to open the register. Now!” A gruff voice shouted from the front of the store.

 

Oh god. Oh shit. Holy shit. Peter peaked tried to peak over the rack of items to see what was going on before his uncle pulled him down into a crouch. “Stay down,” He whispered. “And follow me.”

 

As silently as they could, the two snuck along the back towards the front doors, abandoning their items from the store. There wasn’t an easy access to the back door-- that was behind the counter. Their best bet was the front.

 

”How many people came in here, bitch?” the robber screamed at the cashier, who was trembling and trying her best to stay alive. She pressed the under the counter button that automatically calls the cops, but until they got here, she was on her on. “How many?”

 

”N-n-nobody,” She lied. “J-j-just.. Just me.” That man walked in with a kid. A child. She wasn’t going to risk their lives.

 

”You’re lying. I saw people come in here…”

 

”N-n-no! I-I promise, I-I-!”

 

Bang !

 

Peter felt himself jump a little as the gun went off, trying his best to not hyperventilate in fear that the noise might give them away. Ben place held his shoulder tight. He was trying to console his nephew, but he had to admit, he was just as terrified. Truthfully, he didn’t know how they were going to get out. If they could get out. All he knew was that he was going to protect his nephew with his life. Peter was like the son he and May never had, even if he weren’t their own. He would protect his brother’s son. His son.

 

The robber started walking up and down the aisles, loudly, and his footsteps echoing on the grimy tile. He stayed silent, keeping and ear out for away sounds of shuffling as he cocked the gun. He was getting close. He was going to see them. Ben knew this, and he had to act fast. Think fast.

 

Parents would do anything and everything for their kids, right? Having a kid meant sacrifice, in every sense. You gave up your free time for them, spent money on them instead of yourself, and lived for them. It was rewarding to watch the child grow up in return. Sometimes, in extreme cases, you really did have to make a sacrifice for your child. Ben saw a cardboard Goldfish cut out holding different flavors and boxes, and as he knew, the backside was hollowed. Peter loved hiding in it as a child, and even though he hadn’t for years, it still looked like he could fit. 

 

“Peter,” Ben whispered, holding both of the boy’s shoulders. “Listen to me. I need you to hide behind this like you used to, okay? You can’t come out of there until it’s safe. You need to stay quiet and hidden now. Promise me you’ll do that.”

 

“W-wait, what about you? We both can’t--”

 

“Promise me, please.”

 

Peter was silent for a moment before nodding and murmuring a promise almost too quiet to hear.

 

”Thank you….” Ben ushered Peter back with this, hoping to whatever god there was that he was doing the right thing. “I love you, kiddo.” Although he was complying with his uncle’s wishes, Peter couldn’t help how terrified he was-- there was a robber, the cashier was shot and is probably dead now, the robber was walking around looking for them, and Ben wasn’t hiding.

 

He wasn’t hiding.

 

This couldn’t be happening.

 

It can’t.

 

He could hear police sirens speeding towards them. It was going to be okay, it had to be. Someone was going to save them. They were going to go home and have their family night. Right?

 

Just as Peter was out of sight, the criminal man rounded the corner to see the eldest Parker right there in the open. It wasn’t like in any of the movies-- there wasn’t any back and forth. There wasn’t any pleading. No dramatics. Just….

 

Bang!

 

”I knew that bitch was lying,” The criminal grumbled. The sirens were close now, and he took that as his cue to leave. Meanwhile, Peter was left on his own. The only survivor. The teen’s hands were clamped tightly over his mouth, hot tears pricking his eyes and streaming down his face. He wasn’t even able to cry out for his uncle in risk of exposing himself. All he could do was watch his uncle slump down from a small hole in the cardboard. Once the murderer had gone, Peter crawled out from being it and too his uncle’s side. There was a bullet hole in his chest, right where his heart should be, and an increasingly growing blossom of blood coming out of the wound.

 

“No… no, no, no, no!” Peter cried.

 

No response. Ben wasn’t moving. No heart felt dying speech, just silence. Cold, dead, silence.

 

“Please…! Please, Uncle Ben,” he pleaded, ripping his sweater off and using it to apply pressure to the wound. “Wake up.. You have to wake up… you’re gonna be okay…” 

 

The blood soaked through the fabric and stained his hands red. A terrible, terrible red. The copper smell filled his nose as water did the same with his eyes. Tears fell off his face and onto Ben’s own, and for a moment, Peter thought he saw his eyes flutter. 

 

But they didn’t.

 

Peter was sobbing uncontrollably now, his uncle’s blood all over him. “I-I’m so sorry…” The blood wouldn’t stop. “I-- I-- I need you to wake up! P-Please! Ben, please! Wake-up! I-I-I…. I’m s-sorry…!”

“Step away from the body!” The cops had finally arrived, footsteps fast approaching him, and a pair of hands grabbed him to move him away from Ben’s body.

 

“No!” Peter cried, desperately clinging onto the man. He was a hysterical mess, still trying to revive his uncle despite all the blood surrounding him. “Don’t touch me!”

 

“Son, we need you to--”

 

“No! Please!”

 

Knowing he wouldn’t be willingly letting go anytime soon, someone forcibly pulled him off. “No!” The boy screamed, voice hoarse  as blood mixed with tears. “Let me go! I-I-- I need to save him!”

 

“Son, I… I’m afraid he’s gone. There’s nothing we can do.”

 

“No…” Peter shook his head. He’d been pulled out of the convenience store and sat on a bench outside. Someone laid something, most likely a shock blanket, as he hunched over himself. Tears poured like rivers out of his eyes, and he felt like he just couldn’t breathe. 

 

It took him a while, but eventually, he had cried himself dry. At this point, someone sat down beside. They asked,

 

“Can you identify him for us?”

Chapter Text

Sometimes a little misunderstanding starts gathering speed, and it grows and it grows and it grows until you're no longer sure of anything at all.

This Peter knows to be true.


The day had started so normally. Peter had accidentally slept in a little too long, so he had barely managed to make it to school on time, but that was nothing unusual.

After the stress of his morning, the day at school passed quickly enough for Peter.

Before he knew it, he was hurrying into the nearest alley to change for patrol.

The first few hours of patrol were uneventful, so 6PM found him sitting on the roof of an apartment building, watching the sunset while eating an apple.

The alert came through unexpectedly and Peter nearly jumped when Karen spoke.

"Peter, there's been alerts of the beginnings of a gang fight three blocks from where you are, and there appear to be many civilians in the area."

Barely had she finished before Peter was flinging the apple core across the roof and swinging through the streets.

He arrived at the place Karen had told him about, but hung back, assessing the situation.

For a moment he considered calling in for backup, but with a flare of pride, he decided against it. 

It was just a small altercation after all, nothing big enough to warrant the attention of the Avengers.

Just then, Peter noticed that his time for assessment was up. One of the men was pulling a gun.

Without missing a beat, he swept into the middle of the fight, webbing the man's gun to his side.

"Well, hello there," he deadpanned, "I'm sure we can all find a nonviolent solution to this, can't we?" 

The response to his question was a large knife, thrown at his back. Peter ducked it, but just barely. 

"I guess not, huh." He continued bitterly and the fight was on. 

There was a lot of people, but Peter had them all subdued in a few minutes. 

He was gone as soon as the police sirens rang in the distance. 

It was only when had found a safe place that he relaxed, and in relaxing, he became aware of a deep pain, tearing up his side with every breath. 

Peter winced as he examined the cut. Something (likely a knife or a bullet) had carved a deep line across his side. Clotting had started, but the wound was still bleeding sluggishly. 

Unfortunately, Peter had seen enough of these to know it would most likely require stitches. And stitches meant going to the Tower.

Peter winced as he remembered what had happened the last time he had gone to Tony for medical help after an unfortunate accident on patrol.

"What the hell were you thinking? Huh? You wanna tell me that? 

Do you want to explain how exactly you came around to having a 6 inch knife stuck in your side?"

Tony's tone was so sharp it stung and  Peter had bowed his head, flinching under Tony's anger.

He missed the look in his mentor's eyes that would have told him that Tony wasn't really angry, just very worried. As it was, he kept his head down, hid the t ears that wet his eyes, gritted his teeth through the stitches and bandaging a left without uttering another word.

It was safe to say Peter wasn't enthusiastic about the fact that he had to face this anger again, less than two weeks after the original incident.

He decided to call ahead, to make sure Tony was there.

The phone rang several times before Tony answered and Peter immediately noticed the clinking of silverware in the background, muted, but audible.

What solidified Peter's decision was the first thing Tony said.

"Hey Pete! I'm just out for dinner with Pepper, do you need anything urgently?"

Tony was having dinner with Pepper. Pepper, who had spent most of the past month travelling all around the world, trying to solidify legal protections for vigilante superheroes just like Peter. Also the same Pepper who hadn't seen her fiance in more than 3 weeks. 

There was no way Peter was going to ruin this night for her. It was just a cut, it would heal on its own.

"Oh, Mr. Stark, I'm sorry! I meant to call May, I must have hit your name by accident. Sorry again, and I hope you and Ms. Potts have a nice evening."

Peter hoped his voice wasn't too shaky, the pain was beginning to get to him. 

"That's okay, Pete. Are we still on for lab time tomorrow, by the way?" 

"Yeah, of course!" Peter responded.

"Alright, have a nice night, kid."

Tony hung up and Peter sighed. His side was still bleeding, and he doubted he could swing all the way back home. 

Thankfully he was close, it would only take 15 minutes to walk home.


Peter was incredibly thankful that May was out on this particular evening, because it gave him enough to time to clean and bandage his wound. 

By that time, it had finally stopped bleeding, and the tissue was showing signs of healing.

Peter chose to ignore the heat around the wound, the surefire signs of infection.

Hopefully his metabolism would take care of it by morning.


Peter woke up the next morning with a head full of fog. His side ached and burned, and his stomach was roiling.

With a sigh, he dragged himself to his feet, wincing as the sharp light stung his eyes, instantly doubling his headache.

He wished he didn't have to go to school, but he had an important test third period, and there was no way he would allow himself to miss it.

By the end of first period, however, Peter was regretting his decision.

It was nearly impossible for him to focus on the lessons through the sharp ache in his head, and his side was burning constantly.

The next period was chemistry, and Peter knew it would be hell. 

All the smells would make him incredibly nauseous.

 He considered calling May, but she was working, and he had an APUSH test anyway.

He'd just have to get through it.

The bell rang, and Peter stood up, but the world turned sideways in an instant and before he could catch himself, everything went black.


Of all the phone calls Tony would have been expecting, this was not one of them. The secretary at Midtown briskly informed him that Peter had passed out in class, if he could come pick the boy up, it would probably be for the best. 

Tony hurried across the city without a second thought, incredibly worried.

When he walked into the nurses office, Peter was sitting on the cot, looking very pale.

The nurse gaped at Tony for a moment, but recovered quickly.

He asked to talk to Peter alone for a moment and she hurried out.

"Alright, Pete, spill it. What happened?"

The boy looked away and mumbled, "I just forgot to have breakfast, that's all. I was feeling a little lightheaded..."

"Yeah, right," Tony scoffed in response, "and that's why you unconsciously grabbed at your side just now. Do you want to try that again?"

Peter silently pulled up his shirt, pulling the bandage with it, revealing the infected wound.

"Oh, kiddo," Tony sighed, wincing at the sight.

"Why didn't you tell me?" 

Peter winced at the question, his cheeks coloring.

"The last time I got hurt you...you yelled at me. I didn't want you to be angry. Plus, you were out with Pepper, and you haven't seen each other in a really long time. I didn't want to ruin that." 

Tony couldn't help it. He pulled the boy into a tight hug, carefully avoiding his hurt side.

"I wasn't angry, kiddo, just worried, and I'm sorry I yelled at you. And Pepper wouldn't have been angry, you know that. If you're hurt, you come to me. I don't care where I'll be, I'll always help you. I promise."

Tony just wished that was a promise he could truly keep...

Chapter Text

Despite being told on multiple occasions about how terrible of a secret keeper he was, Peter managed to keep a few very well hidden which was good considering how large they were. For example, his being Spider-Man. Sure, when people did figure it out, they thought it was, in their words, 'so obvious', but clearly not obvious enough to connect the dots for them before.

 

Well, Tony Stark was able to figure it out without him knowing him behind the mask before, which Peter still had no clue about how he did, but he didn't count. He had too many high-tech scanners and things like that that probably helped.

 

Well, that being said, that would mean just about anyone with ‘high-tech scanners and things like that' could figure out his secret, including the government if they really wanted to put a stop to the local spider vigilante. 

 

Peter really hoped they didn't,  because that would be a mess and a half...

 

The point was, Peter thought of himself as a pretty good secret keeper. People just didn't think so, because it always such a big thing when they would find out about something, which was just another reason to hide the thing. 

 

While Peter hated the fact that a few people-- at least people he trusted-- knew about Spider-Man, he, admittedly, thought it was sort of funny that more people knew about that than his other thing. At least with Spider-Man, he was proud of it and maybe got a little excited when he got to talk about it. Still, it was a five to two-- or three if you wanted to count his uncle-- ratio here. Well, that ratio would be far more uneven if he were to count staff at school and doctors, but Peter didn’t really.

 

When people found out about Spider-Man, nothing really changed. Sure, they’d be a little more worried about him, but besides that, just about nothing would change, and the conversation after the discovery would be simple questions. With the other thing, no matter how supportive people were, there was always a little awkwardness right after… like, they didn’t know what to say. They didn’t know how to ask the necessary questions while trying not to be offensive. 

 

People would be so careful at first, seeming to walk on eggshells around him, just because he told them that he was, well, a ‘he’ . Not all people, of course. Tony hadn’t been like that when he told him, but the teachers were. Gym teachers were the absolute worst when told, even though they would have to deal with this a little more than, say, a science teacher. Still, though, it wasn’t that hard. There didn’t need to be an entire side conversation with all the other gym teachers about whether they should allow him to use the boy’s locker room or not! 

 

God, he just wanted something, anything, to be normal about him for once. Was that so much to ask? 

 

It felt like it was.

 

 

It was one of those days at school where they had to fill out forms for standardized tests. They went to homeroom instead of their first-period class and fill out a ton of forms about what colleges they were interested in, their backgrounds, and all that shit. Right now, Juniors were filling out their forms for the PSATS/NMSQT exams they'd be taking next week, which involved them all having to pick out what fields of study they'd be interested in going for in college, if they wanted to go to a college of course. Unfortunate for Peter, those forms required a ton of legal information, including legal names. He and May were in the process of getting his name legally changed to Peter, sure, but it hadn't been finalized yet, so legally he had to put his birth name, which he hated. It was just on a form though, no one besides the college board had to see.

 

When they were finished, they had to bring up their exam forms to their homeroom teacher's desk and turn it in. Some people were quicker than others of course, even if they were going to be sitting in here for the first forty-five minutes of the day and it didn't matter how quick they were. Flash happened to be one of those people who thought he was 'cool' for finishing early for god knows what reason. After putting his form on the teacher's desk, who was out of the room at the moment, he turned to see Peter casually filling out his paper. Being the asshole that he was, he ripped the paper out from under his pencil. "So Penis, what'd you pick as a major? Not that it'd matter with your dumbass, but you might have a chance with 'dance' or some shit like that."

 

"Give it back," Peter went to snatch his paper back, nerves crashing into him. No, no, no, Flash having that was not a good thing. Not at all!

 

"Chill out, I'm just looking," Flash rolled his eyes, flipping to the front page of the four-page packet. His brows furrowed in confusion. "Why the hell does it say Penelope?"

 

"Flash, give it back!" He was up on his feet now, ripping the form right back out of Flash's hands with his heart in his throat. Oh god... Oh please don't think of it... Please, please, please...!

 

"C'mon, Penis. I thought your name was--" Something clicked in his mind, Peter could see it on his face, and his heart dropped. "Oh my god, you're one of those, aren't you? The girl name, the F in the gender marker spot."

 

"Flash, don't--"

 

"I'll be damn, Penis Parker doesn't even have one!"

 

Flash headed back to his seat, and word spread like wildfire as Peter tried to stop himself from having a panic attack. No, no, no... No, this could not be happening! Whispers and snickering began filling the air, and Peter couldn't seem to drown them out.

 

“I can’t believe you thought she was cute. Does that make you gay?”

 

“What? No way. I thought she was cute when I thought she was a boy, I’m not into girls.”

 

“Sheila almost got trapped!”

 

“Shut up!”

 

Peter felt his heart pounding out of his chest. ‘Shut up!’ he wanted to scream back. He wanted to scream about how he wasn’t a girl, about how wrong they were, but instead quickened his pace. And hurried down the hall to his class. He was feeling overwhelmed and he just wanted to go home, but he pushed through anyway. If he went home earlier, Flash and all those other assholes would know they got to him. They would know that it bothered him to such an extreme, and then it’d only get worse. This would be their main ammo against him if he showed that it bothered him.

 

So, Peter pushed through the day, but there were a couple close calls where he almost couldn’t do it anymore. It was just… all day, the news spread like wildfire, and there were constantly whispers when people thought he couldn’t hear them. He shouldn’t have been able to hear them, but that was just another one of the oh so lovely gifts of  the spider bite.

 

“He-she.”

 

“Queer.”

 

“Fairy.”

 

“Tranny.”

 

Just shut up…

 

“I heard he’s actually a girl.”

 

Shut up...

 

“Cuntboy.”

 

Shut up.

 

“She’s just a lost lesbian. Trying to get with straight girls.”

 

“Not like she was actually able to though. What a weirdo!”

 

They were laughing.

 

“Poor Liz though. I wonder if she knew?”

 

“Of course she didn’t know! She wouldn’t have gone to Homecoming with her if she knew, she’s not a lesbo.”

 

Shut up, shut up, shut up!

 

School could not end quicker for him.

 


 

When Peter got to the tower, he simply went up to the penthouse and just slumped onto the couch in the media room. He felt like shit and was exhausted. He didn’t have the energy to have fun in the lab right now, he just-- ugh, he just wanted to scream! He felt fucking humiliated! And this wasn’t something that just went away either, people talked about it. There were a couple out transgender kids in his school, yeah, so it wasn’t something new to Midtown, but Peter overheard them getting made fun of them just as he was today. It calmed down after a while for them, sure, but it persisted still.

 

Another reason why he was dreading anyone finding out he was trans himself. 

 

“Peter, Boss says he’s downstairs in the two of your usual casual tinkering lab.” FRIDAY informed Peter.

 

“Can you tell him I don’t wanna do that right now? Please?”

 

“Of course.” She answered. After a moment, she spoke again, “He’s now wondering if you’re alright. He’s also on his way up.”

 

“Yeah, I’m fine.” Peter stated simply, not bothering to further elaborate. 

 

Before FRIDAY could further question his emotional and-or mental state, Tony stepped out of the elevator, frowning. Peter didn’t bother looking over when he heard it ding like he typically would. “Hey kiddo, what’s up? Since when don’t you feel like tinkering?”

 

“Had a bad day at school.” Peter grumbled. Tony sat down beside him, studying the kid’s facial expression. Peter was slumped far down on the couch, arms crossed over his chest, and staring at the coffee table in front of them. 

 

“Anything in particular make it a bad day?” He prompted. While it was nice Peter was opening up to him a bit right now, it wasn’t like him. Usually, Tony had to pull it out of Peter for him to finally admit he wasn’t feeling well that day, and he seemed so drained already, so perhaps he simply didn’t have the energy to put on the facade?

 

“Mhm…”

 

“Like what?”

 

“Flash found out about the thing and told everyone…”

 

Tony’s eyes widened. “He found out about Spider-Man?”

 

“No,” Peter shook his head. “He-- he found out about the other thing.”

 

Tony’s expression softened now, and he pulled Peter into a gentle side hug. "Oh kiddo, I'm so sorry to hear that." There were two things the man knew Peter never wanted people to know-- the fact that he was Spider-Man, and the fact that he was transgender. He tried to reassure the boy constantly that it was okay, he could tell this was something he was ashamed of for some reason, but his insecurities seemed to win every time. "...how'd it go?"

 

"Terrible." he muttered under his breath, leaning against Tony now. "Everyone called me 'she' all day, and I heard every freaking slur in the damn book. And-- and in gym, because people were so convinced I was really just a girl trying to sneak into the boy's locker room, the teacher told me to consider going to the girl's locker room. It felt like a punch in the face!" Peter vented.

 

"Oh god, kid... That's terrible," Tony frowned, sympathizing with the boy. He didn't know how it felt to go through what it was Peter was going through, sure, but he could imagine how soul-crushing it was. To feel as though all his hard work had been for not. "I can talk to the school, clear things up with your teachers. They're in no place to tell you to do that, and I'm going to make sure they know it."

 

"It doesn't matter anymore, everyone already knows," he sounded so defeated, and Tony just wanted to wrap the kid up and protect him from the harsh, cruel, unaccepting words of people. "The worst part was that for the first time in... in eight years, people called me by that name." He sniffled a bit, and Tony hadn't realized it before, but a couple tears were falling off the kid's face. In response, Tony held Peter closer, running a hand through his curly hair in hopes it'd help a little. He wasn't sure how this happened, but he wasn't going to make Peter talk about that right now. He could, however, do his best to make sure this didn't happen again.

 

"Look, bud..." Tony sighed. "I can't make sure that no asshole kids call you that again, but I can make damn well sure that falculty use the right name and pronouns unless they want to deal with a severely pissed off Iron Man and his lawyers."

 

"Thanks, Mister Stark..." Peter forced a polite smile. "It still sucks, but... I guess that's a little better."

 

"I know it sucks, bud. I know. One day, you won't have to deal with any of this anymore. I promise."

 

"I thought I was at that point already. Guess not."

 

"It might not be for a while, unfortunately, but it'll be sooner than later. I'm sure of it."

 

"How do you know?"

 

"Well, you've been passing well enough to not be misgendered for at least nearly three years now, right?"

 

"I mean, besides with Spider-Man, basically."

 

"How the hell does someone misgender you as Spider-Man? 'Man's literally in your name!"

"I don't know! Apparently, I sound feminine as hell."

 

"That's bullshit, you sound like a dork, not a girl."

 

"Thanks, Mister Stark." Peter rolled his eyes.

 

"You're welcome," Tony smiled at him playfully. "In all seriousness though, kid, if anyone tries to tell you who you are and are not, fuck them." he paused. "Well, don't fuck them--"

 

"Ew, first off."

 

"The point is that you're you, and you know that. People told me I would never be anything and that if I did succeed at all, it would be because I had my dad's company and was starting out on top already, but look at me now. I didn't need his 'help', and you don't need to prove yourself to anyone to be who you are."

 

"I know, I just... I hate it still."

 

"I know you do, Pete. I know. I wish I could do more for you."

 

"It's okay, it just, y'know."

 

"Sucks?"

 

"Mhm."

 

"Well, why don't we drown our sorrows in absurd amounts of junk food? Sound good."

 

"It sounds awesome."

Chapter Text

That went well. 

 

That was the thought on repeat in Peter's mind.

 

That went well.

 

The boy leaned against the park bench behind him, wincing as the bruises across his back made themselves heard.

 

He had no idea where he was, and no idea how to get home.

 

The day had supposed to have been fun.

 

Now, Peter was bemoaning the fact he had even gone.

 


 

Tony had called early that morning.

 

"Hey, kid, I have a little mission for you." 

 

Peter had been on his feet instantly, adrenaline pulsing through him.

 

"Be ready in ten, kid."

 

Tony had briefed him on the way over.

 

A small city in Massachusetts had been having trouble with a gang of men using alien technology based weapons.

 

"It shouldn't be too challenging." Tony had said. "We go in, disarm them and let the police take over." Peter had only been half listening, but Tony snapped his fingers in front of the boy, catching his attention.

"It is a relatively easy mission, but I still want you to stay close by, you hear me? No running off by yourself!"

 

Peter had nodded along, willing to agree to anything just to be allowed to go on the mission. Tony rarely took Peter along. He didn't think Peter was ready, and no argument the boy could come up with would persuade the older hero. 

 

Peter hoped he'd be able to prove himself on this mission. 

 


 

They had found the warehouse easily enough, informed local police of their plans and gone in. The beginnings were smooth. 

 

Tony and Peter were a well oiled team, they had practiced many times, just the two of them and the entire team. Tony was the scary one, frightening the men into dropping their guard, and Peter webbed them up before they could realize what was happening.

 

It was towards the end of the mission that things had gone truly and properly wrong.

 

The last few men had locked themselves in a back room and were threatening to blow up the entire building. Scans had shown that their threats were well founded. They had several barrels of gasoline with them. A single match could bring everything down, and that wasn't the only problem. 

 

There were children there.  Two girls. Maybe 8 or 9 years old.

 

They had to get them out.

 


 

They had a plan, originally, but it went bad all too quickly. A few mistakes later and the building was on fire.

 

And the girls were inside.

 

"Tony, I have to go get them! They're going to die!"

 

"Peter, don't you dare. The building is structurally damaged and...Peter!"

 

The boy got the girls out just seconds before the building fell.

 


 

Tony was furious. 

 

They were sitting in the park.

 

"What the hell were you thinking Peter? You could have died! How could you be so reckless? You disobeyed a direct order!" 

 

"There were children there, Tony! I couldn't leave them there to die!"

 

"Give me the suit." Tony snapped, voice ice cold.

 

"What?" Peter didn't understand what was even happening.

 

"Peter, you disobeyed an order and put yourself in danger. You haven't shown me you deserve to have the suit at all." 

 

Peter stared at him in disbelief. It was the ferry all over again, wasn't it? Said disbelief began to turn into his own anger and annoyance-- he hadn't shown him he deserved the suit? Really? He was constantly trying his best to make Tony proud, and all his work was for naught? Was he serious? "You can't be serious!"

 

"Dead serious. Come on, hand it over."

 

"So what, I'm supposed to just go around in my underwear?"

 

"We'll get you clothes, but for now, yes. You are. Hand it over, Peter."

 

"But--"

 

"Now!"

 

"Alright, fine! Jesus..." Peter grumbled, taking off his mask first before stripping out of his suit completely. This was humiliating. Peter slapped the suit down on the park bench, huffing. "You know you can't stop me from being Spider-Man, you know."

 

"I can and I will until you prove you can be trusted with that responsibility."

 

"No, you can't! I was doing this before you came along. I was fine on my own before you came along! These are my powers, and you can't stop me from using them!"

 

"Watch me!"

 

"Why are you so pissed off? I was doing my job!"

 

"You could've died!"

 

"That's apart of the job!"

 

"You're a fucking child, you shouldn't have this job!"

 

"Well it's too late for that, isn't it?"

 

Tony managed to look even more furious than he had been before. "I'm not going to argue with a fucking kid about why he shouldn't risk his life," he grumbled, knowing full well Peter could hear him. He stepped back into his suit. "There's a clothing donation bin down there. Get some pants on and find your way home." The suit closed up around him now. "I knew you weren't ready yet." Before Peter could say anything, Tony flew off-- there was damage control to be done with the mission, and he simply didn't have time to deal with a reckless teenager.

 


 

 

That went  well.

 

He had to find a way home, he couldn't just sit around waiting for Tony to come back. 

 

My job's to save people. The mission was about saving people. My responsibility is to save people. What'd I do? I saved people!  Peter internally vented as he began walking out of the park. There should be a bus stop nearby, right? He just needed to find one. What'd I get into trouble for doing? Saving people! What kind of logic is that?

 

The more upset he got, the faster he was walking, not really paying attention to where he was going. Not that it really mattered, he didn't know the area anyways.

 

He's such a hypocrite! When he risks his life, he's being heroic and responsible-- just doing his job! That's the job! But when  I do it, I'm "reckless" and "immature". Wouldn't I be more mature for doing this? Ugh!

 

People his age got in trouble for doing drugs, alcohol, sneaking out to parties, and screwing around in school. Did he do any of that? No! No, what Peter got into trouble for was for being a helpful-fucking-person. It wasn't fucking fair!

 

As he walked, Peter turned down what in retrospect was a shady looking alleyway. If he had been paying attention to his surroundings, Peter probably would've realized this and not have gone down that way. If he was paying attention, Peter also would've noticed a pair of footsteps following close behind him since he left the park. If he was paying attention, he wouldn't have gotten into yet another dangerous situation. 

 

Peter felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand straight up, but he disregarded the warning screamed at him by his sixth sense. It's probably just 'cause I'm lost, Peter had rationalized in his mind.

 

He was wrong.

 

Suddenly, a cloth was shoved over his mouth. Peter struggled under it for a moment, but even for him, the smell was so strong. Plus, it wasn't like he could Spider-Man himself out without giving himself away. Peter hadn't had time to even consider that, as his senses quickly dulled and the world around him began to fade to black.

 

He slumped to the ground, only to be dragged away.

Chapter Text

It’d been a week since that mission, and Tony hadn’t heard a word from Peter. For the first forty-eight hours, he just assumed the kid was pissed off at him for taking his suit. He considered the idea that he was too hard on Peter, but he was tired of constantly being in a position where he almost lost the kid. He was sixteen! He should be hanging out with friends and doing teenager things, not hanging around a bunch of adult superheroes and fighting crime!

 

Sure, he was still impressed by how willing Peter was to help people, but he didn't want to lose him in the process. Was that so unreasonable?

 

He just needed the kid to not be so willing to give his life. To not be so careless. That was all.

 

On the third day, however, he had received a rather peculiar and concerning phone call from a certain May Parker. Apparently, Peter didn’t go to school that day, and she was wondering if he knew if he was okay. The woman also had thought that Peter was with him for the last couple of days since their mission. Of course, however, Tony thought he sent Peter home to May.

 

That’s when they knew something had gone terribly wrong.

 

They filed a missing person’s report and have been non-stop searching everywhere and anywhere they could think of, but truth be told, they weren’t even sure where to look! Despite that, they searched just about every inch of New York top to bottom, but sadly, with no luck. Not even a whisper of where Peter might’ve gone! Tony had brought May to the Tower-- they were staying there in hopes to be more centralized if they found out where Peter was-- not only to make sure she was okay, since this whole situation was really taking its toll on her, but to make sure nothing happened to her either. They had been told to keep in mind the fact that Peter might’ve ran away, but it wouldn’t be like him to do something like that. It would be so much easier to think that that was the case, but unfortunately, chances were that someone had taken him. 

 

If someone had targeted the boy, Tony had to make sure they didn’t target his aunt as well. That would only complicate things.

 

“Boss,” FRIDAY interrupted his train of thought. “May Parker is currently looking for you. Should I send her down to the lab?”

 

“Yeah, sure. Send her down.” Tony murmured. He had barely slept since finding out Peter was missing, spending just about all his time trying to figure out what happened to Peter. It showed on his face too, dark circles under his eyes incredibly prominent. May arrived not long after FRIDAY asked about her, and she looked equally distressed. You couldn’t blame her either-- her baby was missing, and they had no idea how or why.

 

“How you doing?” She asked him, pulling a chair over to sit beside him. As hard as this was on her, she knew it was just as hard on Tony. Whether she liked it or not, Peter had become as much as his kid as hers.

 

“I’m fine,” Tony assured. “Just working on the case. How are you?”

 

“I’m… I’m holding up,” May swallowed thickly. “Have you found anything?”

 

Tony hesitated before shaking his head. “No… no, I’m sorry May.”

 

“It’s okay,” It was her turn to try and assure him this time, though it panged Tony’s heart to see the hopeful look in his eyes fade away. “I talked to his friends again today, and they haven’t heard from him.”

 

“We’ll find him, don’t worry.” He had to find him, Tony couldn’t live with himself. Not only was it his fault Peter was missing-- he never should’ve left him there-- but their last conversation was a heated fight. The last thing he said to him was ‘I knew you weren't ready yet.’ God, what had he done?

 

“Boss,” It was FRIDAY again. “You have an email notification from an anonymous contact. I believe it might pertain to Mister Parker’s situation.”

 


 

Peter wasn’t really sure how time had passed, considering that he hadn’t seen sunlight since the day of the mission. It felt like a hellishly long time though, and by now, his entire body had an ache to it. No one had said a word to him yet, but they were giving him basic needs like food and water thankfully. Of course, said food and water was absolutely wretched and portioned to only the bare minimum. Peter knew it was probably drugged as well, seeing how his powers weren’t working right-- he wasn’t able to break free from the handcuffs that bonded his hands behind his back and felt incredibly weak-- but he didn’t want to starve to death, so.. He dealt with it.

 

The boy learned quickly that there were certain things he wasn’t allowed to do as well. If he seemed to be trying to break out of his handcuffs, someone would come into his room and, well, basically beat the shit out of him.

 

If he tried to pick the lock of the door, someone would beat him senseless.

 

If he talked too much, the shit was beaten out of him. Peter was pretty sure they had broken his nose the last time that had happened.

 

If he didn’t start eating his food in a couple minutes after it was tossed inside, someone would come force it down his throat. Yeah, it was probably drugged, because why else would his kidnappers care so much about if he ate or drank?

 

Speaking of which, who the hell even were these guys? What did they want from him? Why did they abduct him anyways?

 

Peter could only think of two reasons, and both were terrible-- either they knew about Spider-Man, or… or maybe they wanted to use him to get to Tony. But he’d save him, right? He wouldn’t just leave him to die here, right? He must have noticed he was missing, May too. Sure, he was mad at him, but not mad enough to not care. Right? He sure hoped so.

 

He hoped it would be soon too.

 

Peter was sitting in the center of his room, trying to figure out a way he could break on out of here, when he heard footsteps coming from down the hall. Immediately, the boy backed up into a corner, now wondering what he had done to provoke his kidnappers. Although he wasn’t sure what time it was, he knew that it was too early for them to be tossing in his food for the day, since he had memorized the daily routine. What he heard of it, of course, but still. 

 

One of what the boy assumed to be a guard came barging in after unlock the door with a keycard, and as Peter suspected, no food in hand. His eyes were wide with fear, despite his attempt to act tough and unafraid, as the burly man approached him. He had a knapsack in hand, and once he was in front of Peter, shoved it roughly over his head. After that, he pulled the teen up onto his feet by his bicep and began dragging him on out of his room. 

 

He had no idea where he was going, but he had a feeling that they weren’t planning on letting him go.

 

Eventually, the man stopped him, nearly knocking him over when he did, and shoved him down onto a chair. Rough ropes tied him to said chair, and he heard shuffling around him. 

 

Stay calm, Peter told himself. It’s fine. You’re gonna be fine. Everything’s gonna be fine. Don’t know how, but it will. It has to be.

 

For the first time in a week, Peter heard someone else speaking.

 

“Tony Stark,” a gruff voice said. “One of the richest men in the world, Avenger, entrepreneur. There’s barely anything you couldn’t replace if you were to lose it, correct?” There was a brief laugh from the narrator. “Of course, that only counts for material possessions. What we have that you lost would not be as easily replaced as say, a car.” 

 

The bag on his head was roughly ripped off, and Peter saw an old camera right in front of him and a man different from the one that brought him out here. The boy looked around, trying to get a sense of his surroundings, but there were no disternaple features of the room that would allow him to escape this place. In the camera lense, he could see his reflection and he cringed a little. He looked like shit-- he looked way thinner than he was at the beginning of the week, though he noticed that before hand, his hair stuck out every which way, and blood was stained on his shirt and face. He had a couple of nasty looking gashes on his forehead and temples as well, and his lip was busted up. His nose was also most definitely broken.

 

“Your “intern” here, Peter Parker. Just how important is he to you?” The man-- who wore a mask to cover his face, and he assumed his voice would be modified in the recording as well-- asked the camera. “And how important would you say his little secret is? I guess we’ll have to see.” He smirked, and the sight of it sent chills down Peter’s side.

 

The man walked over behind Peter and grabbed him by his hair. He forced the boy to lift his chin up and lightly dragged the blade of a knife, which the teen supposed was in his pocket, across his throat. It cut his skin a bit, but only a little,  though a bit of blood still trickled down his neck. 

 

“You have three days to send us five billion dollars, as well as a fully functioning Iron Man suit.” The man demanded. “Information as to how to do this will be provided after you agree to our terms listed below. Any tricks, and this little boy may not be returned to you in one piece. Or at all, for that matter. If you’re late to comply, first will reveal his little secret to the world. After another day passes, we might just send you a finger or toe. You know, as some encouragement. I’d suggest you don’t let it get to the point where we send you an entire limb.”

 

Peter tried to look strong for the camera, but truth be told, he was terrified.  ‘I’m okay’ he mouthed to the camera, wanting to reassure Tony when he watched the video, because for now, he was. Maybe not for much longer, but he had to be strong. 

 

Tony was going to save him.

 

He had to.

 

“Remember, you have seventy-two hours.”

Chapter Text

The video playing on the holo screen in Tony's lab fades to black and in the ensuing silence, Tony can still hear the hysterical laughter of the kidnapper echoing through his mind.

He lets his eyes fall shut, letting his guilt and anxiety take over for a short moment.

It's May who interrupts the silence, and Tony jumps. He'd forgotten she was there as well.

She steps forward into the bluish light from the screen. Her eyes are wet and worry lines crease her usually relaxed face, but in the set of her mouth and the strength in her eyes, Tony can tell that she's ready to fight.

The look in May's eyes is the look of a lioness, ready to fight to the death to protect her cubs, and Tony feels his emotions mirroring her's. 

Peter may not be his by blood, but Tony sees too much of himself in the boy and he can't help but feel responsible for him.

"He's gonna be okay, Tony. He just needs us to find him."

They both saw Peter mouth "I'm okay" at the camera, which gives them both hope that he's still holding on, but neither of them can quite get the image of Peter's bloodstained shirt out of their minds.

Tony gives himself another second to wallow before he refocuses.

He slips an arm around May before speaking to FRIDAY.

"Alright. Get as much information as you can about the origin of the email. Pull as much as you can from the video as well. Even a very general location would help us."

They watch as information began running across the screens. Hopefully the video will be enough to figure out where the kid is... 


Locked back up in his dark cell, several hundred miles away, Peter is hoping the same thing. He knows Tony has access to some of the most advanced technology out there, if anyone can get a location out of a ransom video, it's Tony Stark.

Even in his drug-numbed state, Peter is getting restless.

Maybe if he can figure out a way to escape, he can save Tony the effort. (And just maybe prove to his mentor that he can, in fact, take care of himself...)

The first step towards escape is to start getting these drugs out of his system. As soon as he can clear his mind, he knows he can escape easily. 

And so, when they bring his meal that evening, he's ready. There's a drain the far corner of the room, half hidden by the dirty mattress they have given him to sleep on. 

When they bring him the tray with a bit of bread and water, he carries it over to that corner and, sitting down, pretends to take a few sips. 

After a few moments, he manages to spill the water down the drain without being noticed.

The bread was harder, but he figured it out in the end.

They had clearly been keeping him on closely controlled doses of whatever drug it was, because the fog is clearing from his mind by the minute. 

His mind is whirring with ideas, but he forces himself to keep calm and lay down as if nothing were happening.

He decides to wait until the early morning hours, hoping even his guards will be unable to withstand the pull of sleep.

Hours passed, and the hope in Peter's chest blooms.

When the night outside lay still and quiet, Peter stands silently and creeps to the door.

The lock is picked easily, and the boy slips into the labyrinth of hallways that form his prison.

He wanders for several minutes before he's able to reorient himself and figure out which doors and windows lead outside.

He's just noticed a window with bars wide enough to slip through when his Spider Sense pings and he turns immediately, ready for a fight. 

He's still not fast enough, however, and the last thing he feels is a needle stab into his neck...

And the world fades to black once more.


 

May is finally asleep, but Tony is still working in his lab, trying to retrace the kidnapper's steps when FRIDAY informs him that there's another anonymous message in his inbox.

Tony decides to watch it alone, fearful of what it may contain.

The video opens to the same room, same chair, same grainy camera, same crazy kidnapper.

And yet it's still different.

Peter is shackled to the chair, his head slumped down, clearly unconscious.

The kidnapper appears on the frame and Tony can't help but get excited. They have the face of the main threat, and that's very important.

His excitement is nearly immediately replaced with pure dread, as the young man begins to talk.

It seems unscripted this time, he's yelling about all sorts of things, so it takes Tony a bit to figure out what he's saying.

When it registers, though, his heart clenches.

Peter has attempted to escape.

Tony watches with horror as the man grabs a bucket of water and spills it over Peter, waking him up. The boy sits up and looks around, fear on his face, but he quickly suppresses it when he notices the camera. 

Peter, always the strong one. 

Tony feels bile in his throat as he watches the man proceed to systematically beat up the helpless teen. 

When it all ends, Tony shuts his eyes, tears on his cheeks. 

Peter is unconscious again, except this time it’s due to the pain. His face is covered with blood from several head wounds, and Tony can see bruises already forming around the boy’s eyes. From what he saw, Peter also has several broken ribs as well as broken fingers and toes. 

When the video fades away, Tony is momentarily caught in a wave of rage so powerful he has to fight back the urge to destroy everything around him. This urge disappears after a minute, but the rage remains.

“Find me everything about that man.” he snaps at FRIDAY, knowing that’s his only chance at finding Peter.

It takes a minute, but files start rolling across the screen.

….Carl Waterson, illegitimate son of late millionaire Justin Hammer...




Chapter Text

Peter really just wanted to know how much time was passing by him. He at least wanted a sense of that when everything else seemed to be so uncertain. He wanted to know how long he was lasting here on his own. That way, he could figure out if he was really as weak as he felt or not. 

 

The teen was incredibly malnourished and sleep deprived at this point, and if he thought everything ached before, he really didn't know anything. This was an ache. This , where he couldn't even lift his arm up without feeling his muscles on fire. Peter had experienced being burned several times before, he knew what fire felt like. This felt like fire. God, he felt like he couldn’t even move! Even something as simple as rolling onto his other side caused him excruciating pain along his torso that was so intense, it brought him out of his unconscious state. He could’ve sworn he felt his ribs crunch when he did so, and it was hard not to vomit at the sound. 

 

That’s not a good sign… Was his only thought. It was funny, in an odd way, how calm his thoughts sounded when he was terrified out of his mind right now.

 

When he woke up, he was lying face-down on the floor of his room. There were blood stains on the floor, old and new, that attacked his sense of smell was a strong copper one. Slowly and painfully, Peter sat himself up. Everything hurt so bad… It was agonizing.  

 

“So, the little shit’s awake,” Cursed someone else in the room. He recognized the voice, unfortunately, as the man who was sort of like the face of this operation and his eyes widened fearfully as he scooted back against one of the walls. He must have had some injuries on his back, because the fabric on his shirt being pressed onto the skin on his back hurt terribly.  It was hard to really get against the wall though, considering his hands were re-cuffed behind his back. 

 

Peter didn’t say anything in response, afraid to anger this asshole even more than he already had. However, the fact that he was sitting in his cell with him on his, frankly filthy, bed told Peter that he was probably still incredibly pissed off.

 

Said asshole laughed-- laughed-- as his fearful expression and stood up, pacing back and forth. “So, not that cocky anymore, hm? I guess you really can beat sense into people. Well, you learn something new everyday, don’t you?”

 

“Wh… What do you want?” Peter mustered up the courage to ask, though he felt his heart pounding in his chest. 

 

“Huh, I don’t think I’ve heard your voice until now. Of course, save for those pitiful cries. Both are as weak as you, it seems. Makes sense.” Carl Waterson smirked.

 

“What do you want?” He spoke with a little more fake confidence this time.

 

“Excuse you? Is that sass I’m hearing?” The man snarled, stepping towards Peter who cowered back almost instantly. This brought forth another sick laugh from this psychotic bastard, who continued to approach the boy and pulled him up by his hair. “You really shouldn’t bite the hand that feeds you. We could’ve easily killed you by now, but have shown mercy instead. Isn’t that kind? You should be grateful.”

 

“This... isn’t mercy…!” Peter tried to sound tough and defiant, to stand up to this asshole, but couldn’t help but whimper a little as pain shot through his body.

 

Carl frowned the continued defiance his prisoner seemed to have despite the continuous beatings. He was a little impressed that this little kid hadn’t broken yet-- he underestimated him. Just because he was impressed didn’t mean he was going to ease up on the kid though-- quite the opposite actually. He wanted to see how much it took to make the cracks appear. Carl spat at him, “You’re so pathetic, can’t even stand up for yourself.”

Peter was tossed back down against the floor roughly, wiping the spit off his cheek with the part of his shirt on his shoulder. It hurt like hell, but Peter continued to glare at Carl. 

 

Said man began walking towards the cell door, grumbling to himself, “Dumbass kid won’t survive the week like this.”

 

“Tony’s gonna find me,” Peter warned him. “And… and he won’t let you get away w-with this.”

 

Carl stopped in his tracks now, glaring at the kid lying limp on the floor with a fiery hatred in his eyes. “What did you say to me?” He approached Peter once again, yanking him up by the collar of his red-stained shirt. “You want to fucking say  that again?”

 

“I said…” Peter coughed a little blood up and spat it in Carl’s face this time. He knew he’d end up regretting that decision later, but it felt good right now. “You won’t get away with this.”

 

“That’s it!” Waterson shouted, punching Peter right in the teeth. He let out a pained gasp as he fell back  onto the ground. His mouth filled up with blood now, and he spat out a couple of teeth that were knocked out in the punch. As though to add insult to injury,  he slammed his foot into Peter’s stomach, knocking the air out of the boy and scooped up the teeth lying on the floor. “Stark’s getting a present…” He continued, walking out of Peter’s cell. “Get the white room ready!” He shouted, slamming the door behind him.

 

Not too long after Carl had left him did one of the guards barge on in. It wasn’t for a beating this time, thankfully, but he was confused as the sharp, skin tearing handcuffs were removed. Confusion turned to concerned as he was forcibly stripped out of his clothes and redressed into all white ones. From there, he was dragged down the hallway. After that, the guard opened up a thick, steel door, and tossed him  onto the floor inside before slamming it shut.

 

Inside, well, it was a nightmare for his senses. Everything was white-- white lights, white clothes, and even the food he would be given would simply be white rice. There were bright, white, luminescent lights  all around making it so there were no shadows whatsoever, and they burned a blinding headache into his head within minutes. There was also a deafening silence-- no noise whatsoever, and all the walls were padded with chalk floors that felt terribly weird under his feet.  It was like a totally void of all sensory input, which Peter thought would be wonderful all those days of sensory overloads, but was really as terrible, if not worse.  



Peter sat in silence for the first couple of hours, telling himself it wasn’t that bad, but it became overwhelming very quickly. 

 

White torture, a form of torture like sensory deprevation, is one of the most intense forms of pyscological torture there was. It can drive a person mad, numb them to everything around them and potentially even void them of their personality. 

 

For Peter, it was the feeling of numbness that came first, within twenty-four hours. For a regular, unenhanced person, psychological damages tend to occur within three days, but considering how his senses were stronger and more intense, under this lack of input, these damages occurred much quicker.

 

Sometimes, it was too painful to even move.

 

Other times, Peter was desperate for some sort of sensory input. He just needed something, anything! He was so desperate at these times, that he would continuously punch the wall until it made his hands bleed. It hurt terribly, considering his fingers already were broken, but there was a different color now. There was some red amidst the white, and that red dried as brown. It was a little something, but at least it was something. Something!


He was three days in, and hanging onto his sanity by a thread.

 


 

Peter heard banging on the other side of the door and choked on a sob. He wanted it to be Tony so bad, he wanted to be saved so bad, but… at this point, it felt like a fantasy. He’d imagined being rescued so many times by now, and had been so heartbroken by what he thought was an open door to freedom turning out to be solid one too many times, that Peter wasn’t even sure he’d even believe it if someone were coming to save him.

 

Like right now.

 

He saw Tony in his Iron Man suit standing in the doorway, said door broken off of its hinges and lying on the ground. Here he was, standing right there, and Peter couldn't seem to care. Even as he rushed over to him, the metal of the suit clanging again the floor and wonderfully creating a sound besides his own voice, Peter just huddled back into his corner. He held himself in a tight fetal position despite the pain it caused him, but then again, no matter what he did, he'd be in some sort of pain.

 

"Peter, kid," Tony breathed, carefully approaching the boy. "We're here to get you out, bud. We're gonna take you home." He had to admit, he was expecting Peter to be, well, excited to see him. Relieved. Maybe even tears, which he wouldn't blame him for because there were some in his own eyes. But... the kid didn't react at all. It gave Tony a terrible feeling in his gut.

 

This time, Peter simply just shook his head. "No, you're not..." His voice was small, broken, and hoarse. It had broken a little bit as he was speaking.

 

"Yes, I-- I am. It's me, Pete. Of course, I'm going to get you out of this hell-hole." Frowning, Tony knelt down beside the teen, looking him over. His body was mutilated--- his fingers and toes were still broken and crooked from that horrific ransom video he had to watch... with those screams, those terrible, haunting screams. Goddammit, how could he have let this happen? Peter didn't deserve it-- no one did, besides these assholes, but especially not his Peter. "Can you stand for me?" With the clearly broken toes and whatever else he didn't know about, Tony honestly wasn't sure if he could.

 

"It doesn't matter."

 

"Kid, what are you talking about?"

 

"You're not even real. None of this is real, it-- it's all just in my head."

 

Tony’s heart sank. Those monsters locked Peter in this completely white-- save for some horrible blood stains-- room with no shadows, no sound, no nothing… It was white torture, he realized, and it had some of the worst psychological effects on a person. “It’s real, bud. I promise. Now c’mon, we gotta get you home.”

 

“No!” Peter shouted, trembling. “It’s not real, you-- y-you’re not real! You say we’re going to go home, a-and we’ll get to the door, but it’s gonna be closed even though it looks open!  And-- and then it’s gonna open, but someone’s gonna come in and they’ll hurt me… They’ll hurt me for being too loud a-and for trying to get out and…” Tony could hear the sobs escaping his kid, and it broke his heart in a terrible way he’d never felt before. Suddenly, Peter screamed, “ Is this too loud?! Is this too loud for you?!” Before he broke down crying. 

 

Knowing he wasn’t going to get up and follow him, nor should he be walking considering his physical state, Tony gingerly took hold of the boy and lifted him up onto his feet. He helped him stand by wrapping an arm around the kid who was too distracted in his weeping to realize what was going on. “Here, how about you let me carry you, buddy. That’ll show you that this is real, right?” What was he supposed to do right now? Tony hadn’t prepared for this-- yes, he knew Peter wasn’t going to be ‘okay’ , but this… this was worse than he could’ve imagined.

 

With a vacant expression, though tears still flowed freely, Peter moved himself out of Tony’s touch and hobbled towards the doorway. “I’ll show you…” he mumbled weakly. “Then you’ll disappear…” Tony tried to help him, but Peter shooed him away. When he got to the doorway and felt that there wasn’t, in fact, an invisible door, terror took over the boy’s expression. “What is this?” He asked Tony. “What’s going on?!”

 

“Pete, listen to me…” Tony reached out for Peter. He could save the kid from this place, but his mind… that wasn’t going to be such a quick fix. First, he needed to get Peter out of this prison and back home.

 

“Don’t touch me!” Peter screamed. “You’re not supposed to hurt me! Tony wouldn’t hurt me!”

 

As much as it pained him, Tony found that he had no choice but to carry the kid on out of here whether he liked it or not. Sure, it wasn’t a very delicate handling of Peter’s mental state, but the kid was physically a disaster as well, and he had to focus on that right now. So, Tony scooped him up and wrapped the poor boy around his chest-- like a front-facing piggy-back, but neither was enjoying it. “I’m sorry, buddy,” He whispered as Peter began thrashing about. “But I need to get you to safety.”

 

“Let me go!” The boy just screamed, over and over and over. He was hysterical-- hyperventilating and sobbing, and by the sound of his breathing, he could tell Peter definitely had some broken ribs. “I don’t wanna go in the chair! Don’t put me there! Just let me go!”

 

“Tony, what the hell is going on?” Rhodey hurried over to the two of them after hearing the terrified screams. The kidnappers were unconscious in the other room, which was the only reason War Machine dared to take his eyes off of them.

 

“I-- I don’t know,” Tony admitted. “I think he thinks he’s hallucination right now. They had him locked in a white room, and it’s really screwed him up.”

 

Peter was only screaming now. No words, just screams.

 

“Tones, you-- I don’t think you can get him  back to New York like this.” Rhodey spoke carefully, heart-wrenching for the kid.

 

“I know…”

 

“Should-- do you need me to…?”

 

“I think so.” Tony sighed.

 

This caught Peter’s attention, as he stopped screaming and looked between Tony and Rhodey, still trying to push away from Tony. “What are you going to do to me?” he asked, voice shaking from the terror that was coursing through his veins. “I-I’m sorry, but-- please, don’t hurt me… I-I’m sorry, please! Please-- ” 

 

Before he could say anything else, a needle laced with sedatives was jabbed into his bicep, causing Peter to blackout and slump down in Tony’s arms.


Chapter Text

The quiet beeping of a heart rate monitor is the only sound filling the hospital room. 

After seeing the room Peter was being held in, after seeing the worried look on the doctor's faces, but especially after reading about the horrific impact of white torture on the human mind, Tony was beginning to hate the sterile whiteness of the hospital rooms, and he quickly decided to paint them in pastel colors as soon as possible.

 

For now, though, he's made sure Peter's room had as much color as it can. He'd hate for the boy to wake up and think he's back in that...horrible place.

 

Flowers, balloons, even a few nice cards are set out on the bedside tables, eye level with the patient.

 

Not that Peter can see them.

 

The sedation they had been forced to use during the rescue had lasted them until they back to the Tower. 

 

Once there, the ER doctors had taken one look at the boy, who was covered in wounds, and began to consider treating him under heavy sedation.

 

When Tony had explained the psychological trauma, however, they decided that he would be placed in a medically induced coma until they could stabilize him.

 

They kicked Tony out then, and he went, albeit reluctantly.

 

He came out finally very numb. They had spent so long looking for Peter that now that they had him, it all seemed like a bad dream.

 

It was equally hard for him to reconcile the ball of energy and excitement that was Peter with this...psychological wreck. It was jarring to see how much damage those few days had wrought on Peter.

 

And the guilt hit Tony like a train, so strong his knees nearly buckled.

 

If only he hadn't let himself get so angry. 

 

If only he hadn't been so stupid.

 

If only he hadn't left Peter alone, defenseless...

 

None of this would have happened.

 

What had he done?

 


 

 

After a quick shower, Tony went to wake May. It was hard for him to face her as he realized how much this was his fault, but Tony made himself do it.

 

Walking into the living room of his apartment, he saw May. She was sleeping on the couch, a blanket pulled over her. 

 

For a moment, he was loathe to wake her. She looked so peaceful there, asleep.

 

In the end, he did. He shook her gently and she sat up, eyes full of hope.

 

"Tony? Did you find him? Did you find Peter?"

 

"We found him, but...he's in the hospital." Tony's voice was thicker than he expected, making him choke on his words.

 

May looked even more worried, but her voice was steady.

 

"Is he going to be okay?"

 

"I don't know...God, May, I'm so sorry. They hurt him really bad and it's all my fault. I shouldn't have left him there. I'm so stupid, damn it!"

 

"Hey. Enough of that. Don't you dare go down that road right now. As soon as Pete wakes up, he's gonna ask for you and if you refuse to see him, you and I know exactly what he's going to think."

 

And Tony knew she was right.

 

"He's going to think I'm angry at him."

 

May nodded.

 

"Let's go see our kid."

 

They spent almost 2 hours in the waiting room before the doctor came out.

 

The three of them went into Peter's room.

 

The doctor turned on a small light, but it still left most of the room lost in shadows.

 

May immediately hurried over to Peter.

 

The boy's face was covered in wires and tubes, obscuring it almost completely.

 

Tony took in the bruising, the scratches, the damage that had been done to the boy's face and it made his heart clench once more. 

 

He didn't think he could ever get used to the sight of his kid looking so beaten up, so he couldn't imagine how hard it was for May.

 

She stayed oddly calm, though.

 

She sat next to Peter's bed and stroked his cheek with an open palm.

 

Tony watched as she studied Peter's face and she turned suddenly to look at him, eyes blazing with anger.

 

"Who did this to my kid, Tony? Did you catch him?"

 

"Not yet, but we will. I swear, May, we will."

 


 

Carl hadn't been there when Tony and Rhodey broke in, either he had a heads up from someone or he was just lucky.

Rhodey had stayed behind to track him down.

 

Tony had wanted to stay as well, but Rhodey had sent him off without a second thought.

 

"Peter and May will need you. Don't worry, I'll make sure to tell him you send your regards."

 

By the angry look on Rhodey's face, Tony knew that those "regards" would most likely a bit more bloody than usual.

 


 

After a bit, Tony and May returned to the doctor, who gave them a rundown of Peter's injuries.

 

In short, the kidnappers had broken almost all of Peter's fingers, toes and ribs. Most had begun to heal, but the doctors had to rebreak several of them in order to get them to heal right.

 

As for the psychological damage, well, the doctors weren't sure. It depended on Peter's ability to deal with the trauma, and only time would tell how he would handle it all.

 

As for when he would wake up?

 

No one could really say. It depended on how fast he would heal.

 

Recovery was a waiting game, it seemed.

 

 

Chapter Text

Peter was asleep for a little over a week, making this whole ordeal stretching to nearly three weeks.

 

One week from the day he went missing to the first ransom video.

 

The day after that, there was the second video when he tried to escape.

 

Then there were his three days in the white room before Tony and Rhodey had saved him.

 

Those eleven days of captivity along with the nine days he’d been in a comatose brought it up to twenty total days Tony and May had been without their kid. Sure, he was physically present, but… but he was just laying there. Asleep. That didn’t really count, but it was still better than him being in that place, so… well, nothing about this situation was easy.

 

May had let Ned and MJ know when they had found Peter, just so the teen’s minds could be at ease, but she didn’t go into the state of her nephew with them. They didn’t need to see or know about that heart wrenching mess.

 

Tony had been helping Rhodey search for the man responsible for this, Carl Waterson. However, while Rhodey was in the field, Tony searched through drones and cameras from the Tower, not leaving Peter’s side.

 

However, sometimes, May would make him take a break and rest. She, thankfully, had been able to take a leave from work during this all, so she was always there to help out with Peter and alternate shifts in watching him with Tony. She also allowed him to help her with the rent for her and Peter’s apartment, considering she wasn’t working, after nearly a year now of denying his help. They had to help each other out though, because neither could go through this alone.

 

It was hard, but they were managing. For Peter.

 

Right now, it was May on shift. Tony had been up all night, watching the boy for some sign of waking up, but it had been a fruitless effort. After finally locating and bringing in Carl the other day, Tony had been driving himself crazy. He had been putting all his time and effort into this case for the past three weeks, and now, there was literally nothing else he could do besides wait. Just wait for Peter to wake up. It was driving them both crazy, in all honesty.

 

The woman was on her phone, trying to occupy herself instead of just letting her thoughts overwhelm her. She had already lost her husband and brother and sister-in-law, and she just… god, she couldn’t lose her nephew too. She and Ben hadn’t originally wanted kids, but Peter was like the son they never had, and they wouldn’t have given that up for the world.

 

May’s self-inflicted forced concentration was broke instantly when she heard shuffling sheets, practically dropping her phone and leaning in towards the boy. She saw his eyelashes flutter, and he was lolling his head from side to side. “Friday, get Tony in here..!”

 

“Right away, Miss Parker.”

 

Peter felt foggy as he came to, confused for a second about where he was and what had happened, before his senses warned him of someone else being in the room. Survival instincts kicking, Peter laid perfectly still, not knowing if it was safe for whoever was in the room to know he was awake.

 

“Peter, baby? Can you hear me?”

 

It was May. 

 

May was here! 

 

How?

 

Oh… it was probably just his mind tricking him again.

 

Right… Of course May couldn’t be here. 

 

But Tony, he and Colonel Rhodes were just there. He walked out-- was that real?

 

And, whatever he was laying on didn’t feel like a cold, chalky floor. It felt more like a soft bed, sort of like the ones in the med bay

 

Was he… was he really free?

 

Peter cracked his eyes open now, looking in the direction the he heard his aunt. The hospital room was dark, and honestly, Peter had never been more grateful for a couple of lights being turned off. The walls and floors were white, which had sent terrible anxiety coursing through him, but there was color too. There were flowers and ‘get well’ cards in just about about color there was, and he was dressed in a light blue hospital gown. There were several casts on his hands around his fingers with a similar light blue shade as well. Color , finally! Not the white of his walls, not the red of his spilt blood, and not the brown of his hair, but yellows and greens. Orange, blue, purple, and everything in between. 

 

It felt too good to be true.

 

“M-May?” Peter whispered, hesitantly sitting himself up now, eyes welling up with tears of hope. Most of his hallucinations took place in his cell, and he never slept long enough to dream, and here he was. Sitting in the medbay of the Tower back in New York.

 

“Oh, baby!” May cried, going to hug the boy-- thanks to his metabolism, even with how malnourished he had been at first, the doctors said his ribs were mostly healed. He still had more healing to do, but significant progressed had been made, considering he wasn’t really hooked up to many wires anymore-- before he flinched back. It broke her heart to see, but… god, what those monsters did to him, no wonder he’d be scared. 

 

“Is… are you…?” 

 

“I’m here, baby. This is really me,” May smiled sadly, unable to look away from the terrified boy. “Can-- Is it okay if I hug you?”

 

“Uhm…” Peter hesitated, eyes darted around the room for signs of danger he knew he felt. “C-can you… please, open the door?”

 

He sounded so broken and scared when he spoke, it was just ripping her heart apart. “Of course, hon. Anything for you.” May got up and hurried over to the door, opening it wide up. “Is that okay?”

 

“Can you walk through it?”

 

May nodded, walking back and forth through the doorway.

 

“C-can… can I?”

 

“Honey, you should really be resting, your body still has a lot of healing to do.” May spoke in a gentle whisper as she sat back down besides Peter, a hand on the edge of his bed.

 

“Please?” Peter asked desperately, gripping the sheets of his hospital bed.

 

May pursed her lips, thinking. From what Tony told her, his touch on reality wasn’t that strong, so it was only natural for him to want to make sure what was going on around him was real. “Okay… but you have to lay down right after. Alright?”

 

“Okay…” Peter said with a nod, moving his legs over the edge of his bed which revealed a few more casts on his toes. Huh, so they were broken. He had thought so, but couldn’t have been sure before. He let his legs hang over the edge for a moment. “Uhm…”

 

“Do you need help?” May asked. He really shouldn’t be walking around yet, but she didn’t have the heart to tell him ‘no’ .

 

“I think so…” Pete nodded solemnly. May happily obliged, unhooking Peter from some of the vital and heart monitors for the moment-- she was a nurse, she knew what she was doing and how to reattach them once they were sitting back down-- and wrapping an arm gently around the boy’s torso as he shakily stood up. She couldn’t help holding him close, feeling a few tears fall. As much she had tried to be hopeful, she really did fear that she lost Peter forever at several points. She wheeled the IV stand he was connected to behind them as well.

 

Slowly but surely, the two made their way towards the door. As they walked through it, Peter choked on a sob, and his knees buckled. It was real, it had to be! He-- he really was free! 

 

“Honey, are-- are you okay?” May’s voice was layered with concern.

 

“Mhm, yeah, just--... I-I didn’t think i-it’d work…”

 

“Oh honey… I know. You’re safe now, I promise. You’re home.” 

 

May helped Peter back into bed, both of them crying a little bit. May wiped both of their tears, and Peter let her sit with him and hold him close. His heartbeat was still elevated, considering the only physical contact he’d experienced in the last three weeks wound up hurting him, but he had missed May so much… He thought he might have never seen her again and she wouldn’t know why. 

 

Peter’s eyes shot up to the doorway after a moment, such a look of terror taking his expression now. “Someone’s coming…” he whispered, as stiff as a board now. No more than a second later did May hear quick footsteps making their way down the hall.

 

“It’s okay,” May rubbed his arm. “No one will hurt you here.”

 

Tony ran into the room, appearance disheveled from stress, and eyes widening as he saw the teen sitting there. Awake. It killed him to see the fearful and hurt expression there, but he was awake again. He looked so broken, so… so small and vulnerable, but he was safe now. He was awake and safe at home. He couldn’t ask for anything more. “Kid…”

 

“Tony…” Peter looked up at the man in the doorway, the faintest smile pulling at his lips.

 

May reluctantly got up and moved back to the chair beside the bed, knowing he was sure as hell going  to need to hold the boy as much as she did. Yes, they could see him there, but holding him close was almost a reassurance. A reassurance that they could protect him. Of course, that feeling was nearly gone now, so it was more or less a desperate want to protect him.

 

Tony hurried over to the boy, sitting down beside him nearly the same time as May stood up. He saw the woman mouth ‘careful’ to him, and assumed Peter was wary of being touched. He wanted to hug him until it hurt, but he didn’t want to cause Peter more pain than he must already be feeling. “Is it okay if I…?” He asked, holding an arm out.

 

Peter glanced at the arm for a moment, as though to determine it was safe, before nuzzling himself into the crook under said arm. He could feel the tension in his muscles, but Tony simply held him closer. “I missed you so much, kid…”

 

“I missed you too,” he murmured.

 

“I’m-- I’m so sorry,” Tony had wanted to put some distance between himself and Peter after finding out it was because of him he was targeted so he wouldn’t get hurt again, but May and Rhodey both reminded him that Peter would likely be hurt more if he did, at least emotionally if not physically threatened.

 

“It’s okay… it’s not your fault.”

 

“I shouldn’t have left you there.”

 

“It’s okay, I--... I was being stupid.”

 

“It’s not an excuse.”

 

There was a little moment of quiet before Peter spoke up, “I-I’m sorry for freaking out… Yesterday? I-I don’t know how long ago.”

 

“Don’t you dare apologize for that, Peter Parker,” Tony said seriously. “None of that was your fault at all. At all. Understand? Not what they said, not what they did, not why they did it, and not for how you reacted to it. You held out so long, y’know. You were so strong for us.”

 

The quiet returned, but doctors broke it this time. They wanted to check on Peter and how he was doing now that he was awake, but were careful not to overwhelm him, knowing his mental state. They said that a psychiatrist would be needing to see him, the sooner the better. 

 

After that, May and Tony took turns answering Peter’s questions about what had gone on while he was missing, and in turn, answering a few-- very, very few-- basic questions. Tony assured the boy that everyone involved in his disappearance had been taken into custody and the authorities were piecing together a case against Carl Waterson downstairs.

 

Peter knew what they said about his seeing Carl being bad for his ‘condition’ , but… he had to. He had to know why everything happened the way it did-- there had to be a reason, right? With all the major bad guys he’s dealt with in the past, there was always a bit of good in them, even if it was just a sliver, that helped to explain why they were that way.

 

With Toomes, for example, it was Liz. He was doing it all to try and make sure she had a good life, even if he did go about it the completely wrong way.

 

Peter needed to find out what Carl’s Liz was.

 

Despite all the pain and torment, Peter wanted to understand.

 

“You don’t have to do this, bud.” Tony assured as he helped him down the hall. Peter could tell he and May were both strongly opposed to his decision, but… they knew how Peter was. They knew he desperately wanted Carl to have a redeemable quality for some god-forsaken reason, and they just hoped it didn’t break his heart too much when there wasn’t one. Maybe though, just maybe, the kid could get a little closure.

 

“I know…” Peter replied quietly, limping along with Tony’s help. “I want to.”

 

“You don’t owe him anything.”

 

“I know.”

 

“And you’re sure this is what you want?”

 

“Mhm…”

 

“You can change your mind at anytime, I hope you know that,” Tony pulled the boy a little closer now. “It wouldn’t make you weak, Pete. You’ve been so, so strong, and I’m so proud of you.

 

“Thanks, Tony.” Peter said with a forced smile.

 

“That doesn’t mean you have to be strong and wear those fake smiles, as much as I miss you being happy. After everything that's happened, no one would blame you for letting yourself have a moment of ‘weakness’ . In fact, most of us are expecting it. You’ve been through a lot, kid.”

 

“It’s okay, I-- I just need to do this.”

 

“I’m going to be right outside the door if you need me,” Tony prefaced once again, opening the door for Peter as they walked into the interrogation room. 

 

Carl was sitting on the opposite side of one-way glass, and several investigators and detectives who had been involved in Peter’s case since he was missing sitting there, piecing together data about the case. They wanted to talk to Peter themselves and get his side of this whole story, but Tony wouldn’t let them. He might, but only if absolutely necessary. He didn’t want Peter to be any more involved in the case anymore than he had to be so he wouldn’t have to think or worry about this all any more than he already would naturally. Hopefully, ideally, there’d be enough evidence against trial to the point where Peter wouldn’t even have to attend the trials.

 

“Mister Stark,” One of the detectives approached them. “We believe we’ve completed the timeline of the production period, including length and depth of planning. We also have--”

 

“Okay, sure. Great. Why don’t we talk about that later?” Tony dismissed, wanting to get this over and done with as soon as possible. “Is he ready for Peter to talk to?”

 

“Yes,” they confirmed, glancing over at Peter. “Whenever Mister Parker’s ready.”

 

“I am,” Peter swallowed thickly. Just because he was choosing to do this didn’t mean he wasn’t wracked with nerves. “I’m… I’m ready.”

 

Tony reluctantly lead Peter over to the door now, holding him closer with each step. “Five minutes, okay?” 

 

“Okay.”

 

“If you’re uncomfortable, call for me. Okay?”

 

“Okay.”

 

“I’m going to be listening in too, and if he says something I don’t like, I’m pulling you out of there.”

 

“Okay.” 

 

After looking at his kid for a couple more long moments, and against every instinct he had, Tony opened the door for Peter and let the boy go ahead in, the door shutting firmly behind him. The teen couldn’t help but feel a strong surge of anxiety when it did, but he didn’t have time for that right now. He just needed to do this and get out.

 

Carl just smirked when Peter walked in, that same fucking smirk from when he called hin weak. He was doing it again. Whatever that asshole thought, he still survived. That was still something. “So, I heard about your little outburst.” He snarked.

 

Peter ignored it, sitting down on the opposite side of the table. “Why?” Was all he asked.

 

“Look at you, trying to act all tough,” Carl ignored his question. “You think you’re invincible now, hm? You think you’re such hot shit now that our roles are reversed, don’t you?”

 

“I just want to know why.”

 

“You were conscious when I explained my demands to Stark, weren’t you?” The man rolled his eyes. “Or are you already trying to block it all out? Is it too much for you, kiddie?”

 

“You said you wanted money and power,” It was hard for Peter to ignore Carl’s jibes at him, but he had to stay focused so he could be in and out of here. “But… but there has to be more to it.”

 

“And why’s that?”

 

“It-- It felt… personal.”

 

Carl snaked, “Tell you what, smart-ass. You really want to know? You really want to know? I’ll tell you. You’re Stark’s kid, yeah? Maybe not by blood, but even a blind man could see it, see you much he cares about you.

 

“Well, Stark took someone that I cared about-- my father, Justin Hammer. Heard of him? People didn’t appreciate his genius, is innovations-- especially not that rusted fuck of a man out there. I didn’t get to have a father, why should he get to have a son, hm? And sure, I might’ve been caught, but it was worth it. I still won.”

 

“But… I-I survived. You didn’t ‘win’ , he found  me like I said he would.”

 

“Did he though?” Carl smiled his sick, sick smile.

 

“What do you mean?” Peter asked, brows furrowed in confusion. 

 

"Stark will never really have his kid back. The one he lost is a completely different one than the one he saved." 

 

"No..." Peter shook his head a little, feeling himself beginning to get overwhelmed. "No, you-- you're wrong. I-I'm still the same person..!"

 

The handle of the door was being fiddled with now, he could hear it-- Tony was coming to get him out of there.

 

"Oh yeah?" Carl cocked an eyebrow and leaned in. "How do you know this is even real?"

 

Peter stared at the man who previously held him hostage in a stunned silence. Okay, yeah, he was definitely beginning to freak out and panic now-- tears had begun pricking his eyes. Before he knew it, Tony had stood him up and began hurrying him out of that room. Meanwhile, Carl just... just laughed.

 

The sound of the door slamming brought Peter back to reality, and apparently, he was hyperventilating now. Tony was holding his shoulder with one hand and cupping his cheek with another, wiping away some of the tears.

 

"Breathe," he spoke softly, demonstrating the slow, deep breaths he wanted Peter to take. "You're okay, you're alright. You just need to breathe."

 

Peter was too upset to do that right now, however. "Tony, he-- he's right! I-I-I don't-- how do I--"

 

Tony pulled the kid, his kid, into a tight embrace now, still breathing deeply and slowly in hopes that Peter would emulate him in this way. “Just breathe for now Pete, okay? Listen to my heartbeat, can you hear it?”

 

“Mhm…”

 

“That’s real. That’s me. I’m here and I’m going to make sure nothing bad ever happens to you again.” he paused, holding Peter closer now. “I love you, bud. That’s real.”