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soon enough we'll die

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After Happy drops him off, Peter rushes up to his apartment despite knowing May wouldn’t be home for a while, but that doesn’t slow him. He fumbles with the keys for a moment before stepping inside.

It’s been a hot minute since he’s been the apartment alone; if May knew she was working late, she’d usually send Peter to Tony, and a lot of the time she just ended up joining him at the Tower anyway. Tony was still pretty spooked since it was when Peter was walking to the apartment when he got kidnapped the first time, and insisted the two spent as much time at the Tower as possible despite May’s protests.

Their apartment was pretty good for New York standards, and it was probably the most well-protected place in all of Queens thanks to his dad’s overprotective nature (“Tony, we don’t need you to install FRIDAY.” “But May—” “No, Tony!”). It held all of the Parker’s knicknacks over the years, but there is the unmistakable yet subtle addition of things that scream Stark.

They ranged from the new lighting fixtures that were able to dim when Peter was overwhelmed to the new color on the walls that Tony helped them paint; now that was a fun time. Little things that have been added in over the months. Lord knows Tony would have wanted to add a whole lot more but May Parker was never one to accept extravagant gifts, even if they were from one of the richest people in the world.

Not only that, but new photos were added all around. Next to a picture of May and Ben holding a squirming 8-year-old Peter was one of the rejected photos of Peter and Tony holding the Stark Industries certificate (there were many rejected photos that day, and this one was of Peter doing the splits in mid-air behind Tony who was doing the Super-man pose while somehow managing to still display the certificate). The most recent addition was a photo of May and Pepper smiling at the camera, taken during one of their weekly get-togethers outside of the Tower. 

Peter’s favorite of the new photos was truly a masterpiece captured by May: Tony was in the ugly dad sweater Peter gave him, Peter laughing at the monstrosity with tears in his eyes, Pepper giggling as she tried to take a photo of them with her phone as blackmail, Happy in the distant background looking grumpy as usual, and May’s face smushed in the corner of the frame, sending the viewer a peace sign.

Looking at it now brings a smile to his face, making him momentarily forget the worry he had for May’s well-being. 

...Well, now he reminded himself about it, great.

“Ugh.” Peter groans, flopping face-first into the sheets of his bed (a hand-me-down from Pepper, because the fabric didn’t grate on his skin when it was overly-sensitive). “This sucks.”

Peter almost forgets, but he remembers to text Tony to tell him he’s arrived home.

 

Sticky Dude: i just got home 👍

Metal Man: thank god you actually remembered to text me this time

Sticky Dude: did you hear anything from may?

Metal Man: No, but FRIDAY would’ve informed me if something happened

Metal Man: Don’t fret, young grasshopper, and instead go do your homework

Sticky Dude: But i don’t wanna >:(

Metal Man: Too bad. My house, my rules.

Sticky Dude: i’m not in ur house >:) suck on that

Metal Man: You’re banned from the lab, for time eternal 

Sticky Dude: WHAT

Sticky Dude: NO

Sticky Dude: DAD

Sticky Dude: I’LL DO MY HOMEWORK DON’T BAN ME

Metal Man: I wouldn’t ban you, kid, you’d just end up causing explosions where I can’t supervise you

Sticky Dude: ...true

 

The short texting session with Tony was enough to get rid of the edge of Peter’s anxiousness. It was nice to know that there was someone else looking out for May too. For far too long, it was just May and Peter, and they were all the other had. If May was in trouble, and Peter was busy, or vice versa, it would quickly become a disastrous situation. Before getting close to Tony, their emergency contacts used to be each other and some of May’s co-workers who had their own lives, and couldn't drop everything they were doing to help.

But now, they both had a small army worth of people who cared for them, and would drive (or fly) as quickly as they could if they ever got a distress call.

Even the Rogues were all kind, and even though they didn’t know May nearly as well as they knew Peter, he knew that every single one of them would help out if asked. Even Steve, who Peter had recently found out tried to kill his dad, but the past is the past (sort of, he’s still working on it).

“Homework, got it.” Peter mutters, taking out his books. “I can do that.”



Turns out he couldn’t. It kept going back to May, and if she was alright. Peter was just about to go ‘fuck it’ and put on the suit and swing to see her when the doorknob jingled.

“Peter? I’m back-oh!” May gets the wind knocked out of her as Peter immediately pulls her into a hug. “Wow, what’s gotten into you all of a sudden? You feeling okay?”

“Missed you.” He mumbles into her hair. She doesn’t smell like much after a whole day of working, but he can still get whiffs of her body-wash and shampoo. “Was worried about you.”

He feels May chuckle in his arms, her own coming up and around him and squeezing tight. “Sorry, baby, my phone was off and I didn’t see your messages until I was coming home. I should’ve sent a message.”

Peter shakes his head. “Nah, it’s okay, I was just nervous.”

May hums, patting his hair. “You get it from your dad, I can tell.”

“Mayyyyy,” he whines, releasing her to cross his arms over his chest. “I’m insulted. I’m not that crazy overprotective.”

She just smiles. “Glad to see you didn’t fully deny it. You hungry?”

“Starving.”

"Good. Tell me about the Parent-teacher conference. I got a rundown from Tony already, but I really need to know if he actually made your teachers cry."

"No one cried, but one was very close to tears. Like, extremely close.

May’s fine, he thinks. She’s bouncing around their kitchen, slicing some onions to make stir-fry (she has the gift of being able to chop onions and not burst into tears, something Peter doesn’t have unfortunately) and humming an old Italian song Peter has heard over and over again through the years. May’s fine, this won’t be like Ben. Peter tries to relax into the couch, keeping an eye on her.

His spidey-sense is getting worse rather than better, and he can’t help but blurt out, “Are you sure you’re okay, May?”

She stops her chopping to look at him through her glasses. “What makes you ask? Do I really look that bad?” She teases him, moving to wash her hands from the onion residue and walking over to him.

“No, I’m just not feeling that good.” Peter admits. Normally he tries not to talk to May when he feels off, but it’s been a long evening of worrying. 

“Not feeling good as in sick or not that good as in Peter Tingle?”

“Do not call it the Peter Tingle.” He warns her as she places her hand on his forehead. “...Does Dad actually call it that behind my back?”

May smirks, but doesn’t answer. “So? Normal sick or superhero tingle?”

“It’s my spidey-sense, Aunt May, spidey-sense. Been worried about you all day and this is the thanks I get.” Peter fake grumbles.

His aunt laughs at him, ruffling his hair. “I’m just a little lightheaded ‘cause I’m tired, Peter. I’ve been on my feet for close to 12 hours. I’m going to be checked over tomorrow just in case I caught something, but those who did get sick looked real bad, kiddie, so I don’t think I’m going to keel over anytime soon.”

Peter nods hesitantly, watching her stand up to go back to dinner. She seemed to be telling the truth, but he knew not to underestimate May’s need to keep Peter from worrying about her. “Alright. Let me know if it gets worse?”

May turns to look at him, a grin on her face and a joke on her tongue. If Peter were to guess, it was probably going to be another comparison to Tony, but he’d never know, because his spidey-sense screams and May’s eyes roll to the back of her head and she drops to the floor.

Thunk.

“May?! MAY!” Peter screams, scrambling over the couch to where she lays on the ground, almost face-planting in his haste. His heart pounds loudly in his chest and it’s all he can hear, and it makes him panic because what about May’s heartbeat? Logically, he knows that if he isn’t in sensory overload he can’t really hear other peoples’ heartbeat that well, and in his stress he can’t focus enough to hear hers, but he’s not in the right state of mind to understand all that.

“Please, please, please, please.” He chants under his breath, placing his fingers on the side of her neck and one palm over her chest. Thump thump. Peter lets out a cry of relief, tears finally overflowing down his cheeks. “May. May, wake up. Aunt May, please open your eyes, just for a bit.”

May doesn’t respond to his words or when he lightly shakes her. His momentary relief disappears, and he’s starting to hyperventilate the longer she stays disturbingly still. In his panic, he doesn’t notice the vibrating phone he left on the couch. “Auntie May!”

“You are my daaad. You’re my Dad! Boogie woogie woogie.” Peter’s head shoots up at the sound, confused. What the hell was that?! “You are my daaad. You’re my dad! Boogie

He snatches his phone from the couch after realizes where it’s coming from. Peter himself had never put that custom ringtone, and it was always on silent so he never even noticed someone changed it (he’s not even sure who did, but Ned is a very strong suspect). “Dad—?”

“Pete! What’s going on?! Why are your vitals going haywire?” Tony’s voice comes out of the phone speaker, and Peter goes back to May’s side, calming down when he can feel her pulse. “Where’s May? I’m looking at her vitals too and

“She collapsed.” Peter whispers, as if speaking any louder would make things worse. “I-I dunno why, but she was just walking and then she dropped and I don’t know how and she said she was feeling fine only a little lightheaded and I dunno if she was lying or what but she’s not waking up not matter what I do and I’m so scared, Dad, please—”

“Okay, it’s alright, kid. Take a breath, I’m already on my way. Paramedics have been called and will be there very soon, just stay calm for me, okay, Pete?” Listening to his dad’s deep rumbly voice doesn’t do much to get rid of the fear, but it’s enough to loosen his lungs to get some much needed air into them. Peter gasps, choking on sobs. “You’re doing so good, buddy, I’m almost there. Just a little longer, okay? May’s going to be fine.”

 

Tony is freaking out while he shoots through the New York City skyline, weaving through skyscrapers until they get to the Parker’s apartment building. The suit drops him off on the fire escape before zooming off.

It’s a little odd to crawl into the (fortunately) open window, and he almost trips and falls on his face, but he manages to get into the (fortunately) empty hallway, and get through the (unfortunately) locked door.

“Peter?” He calls out, eyes darting around the room.

“Dad!” He zeros in on Peter’s frantic voice, and the sight almost sends him to his knees.

May was paler than he’d ever seen her, unconscious with her long hair splayed out in every way. He’d never actually seen the woman alseep before, but she sure didn’t look asleep ; she looked... dead. But FRIDAY would have alerted him if her pulse stopped, and Peter was still grabbing onto her pulse point.

Oh god, Peter. His kid looked an inch away from a panic attack, so Tony was quick to move his frozen limbs to go beside him.

Peter doesn’t move away from May’s body, which he had moved into the recovery position, as if letting go of her would somehow make her condition worse. Tony understands, and instead of dragging Peter to stand up he sets himself on the floor next to his son, wrapping an arm around his shoulders.

“Paramedics are coming up right now, we have to let them take her.” Tony whispers, rubbing a hand up and down Peter’s arm when he tenses. “They’re going to take care of her, but we have to let them, okay?”

After a moment, Peter nods, whispering back. “Okay.”

Paramedics swarm into the room right then, and Peter lets them take May without a fuss. The two of them follow her body quickly as they put her in the back of an ambulance, EMTs shouting orders at each other. They let both Peter and Tony get into the van with her, which only mildly surprises Tony, but they probably just didn’t want to argue with him.

Peter is being alarmingly quiet, staring at May’s prone state with a glaze in his eyes, like he’s not really there. “Pete? How are you feeling?” Tony re-wraps an arm around his kid’s shoulders, squeezing him close to his side. 

Tony worries Peter won’t even acknowledge the outside world, but the kid leans into him, squishing himself as close as he can. “Not doing great.”

The elder sighs, using his free hand to find Peter’s. “I know.”

As soon as Tony heard Peter’s sobs over the phone, he was in a suit and flying over as quickly as possible. He let FRIDAY inform Pepper of what was going on, who was still at the tower quietly freaking out. He’s sure Pepper had called Happy, because FRIDAY had informed him Happy had texted while he was still in the suit, and the man was most likely rushing to the hospital. With Happy’s driving skill, he might even arrive before the ambulance.

The rest is sort of a blur to Tony: arriving, watching May get wheeled into the emergency room, being told they had to wait outside.

As much as Tony loved May and worried for her health, he was most concerned with Peter, who got more and more withdrawn the longer May stayed away from their sight. Tony didn’t have many words to say that wouldn’t just be him repeating himself, and all his jokes got caught in his throat. They end up huddled together on the waiting room couch, quiet, with only Happy’s pacing as entertainment.

It’s not long before a doctor comes in, saying that May most likely caught the virus at work but that she was stable and they could see her—that is, see her through a window. They wanted to keep the risk of contagion to a minimum, and they don’t want to risk getting May sick due to her compromised immune system.

He couldn’t help but think walking to May’s room felt like walking to their deaths. Or May’s death. No. Tony pushes the thought away. She’s fine.

Still, he worries.

Her room is in a secluded spot, and when they open the door, they can see May in her own room with a large glass window.

Peter seems to finally understand the severity of the situation, because as soon as he catches sight of May in her hospital bed, he breaks down into hysterics. Large, hacking sobs echo in the room before Peter turns and buries his face into Tony’s chest. Tony flounders, not expecting the onslaught of tears.

“She’s gonna be okay, right?” Peter sobs. “Dad?”

Tony runs his calloused fingers through Peter’s sweaty curls—to comfort Peter or himself, he’s not sure. “I hope so, kiddo, I really do.”

Peter continues to cry, it each hiccup into his chest breaks Tony’s heart just a little bit more. Honestly, Tony’s sure if he was less emotionally constipated he would’ve also started tearing up, but it’s hard to break the rules he was taught since he was young. Stark men are made of iron, they don’t cry. But since Peter was introduced into his life, those lifelong lessons started to hold less weight to them, because he could never even dream of telling Peter those things, so it would be hypocritical of him to still follow those rules that his father—his literal, blood-related father—told him if he didn’t believe they were true for Peter—who might not have been blood, but was still his son.

Even so, Tony refused to cry. There was nothing to cry for, he reasoned. May would get better as soon as doctors developed a vaccine or a pill or… something. He couldn’t really bug the doctor for specifics in front of Peter, and the man had been kind enough to save sharing the scarier details for a later meeting.

Pepper would get there soon enough; she could be the one to ask.

Tony focused his attention at the woman of the hour.

May was one of the strongest women—no, people Tony knew. She had ripped him a new one when she found out about Spider-man, and before they formed their unlikely co-parenting bond, Tony felt the need to obey her every whim like she was the queen. The only person who had been able to do that to him at this day and age was Pepper (and Peter too, but that was different). May might not have been a superhero, but she was a parent, and a damn good one at that, and she knew how to get what she wanted when she wanted to.

Watching her be wheeled in on a stretcher, pale and sickly, was jarring to say the least. He couldn't imagine what it was like for Peter to see her fall.

Tony continues to comfort Peter, whose sobs were starting to die down but still had tears streaming down his face, watching Happy pace in front of him.

"Hap, come sit, you're giving me second-hand stress just making me watch you." Tony said, breaking the quiet of the room. Peter flinches a bit, making Tony feel a bit bad for scaring him.

Happy takes a look at him, and at Peter still hidden in his arms. "Sorry, Boss, can't sit still."

"Then would you mind getting us something from the food court? It'll give you something to do." Tony sees Happy's eyes dart to where May lays in the other room. "I'll call you if something happens, or FRIDAY will tell you. Try and relax if you can."

Happy hesitates a but before nodding, coming over to place a hand on Peter's shoulder. "Anything you want, kid?"

Peter shakes his head, but Tony knows Peter needs to eat soon or his metabolism will start eating through his body's reserves. "How about something easy on the stomach? And some coffee for me, preferably not the disgusting instant ones. Treat yourself to whatever you'd like, Hap. We'll be right here."

Happy gives Peter's shoulder a squeeze, saying 'call me if you need me' before disappearing down the corridor.

"Feeling any better?" Tony questions when he feels Peter's shaking stop. 

The boy sniffs, whimpering. "A little."

It's obviously a lie, because Peter sounds absolutely wrecked. But Tony doesn't know what else to do. He can't make May better, doesn't even know exactly what's wrong with her, and can't exactly go asking around in fear of bringing too much attention to the Parkers and because he's got his hands full with Peter. He hopes Pepper is almost here.

"How about we go get cleaned up, hm? I bet a splash to the face will feel good."

Peter looks doubtfully at him, but he is covered in snot and tears and can't really breathe, so some tissue sounds like a good idea.

Tony lets his arms drop from around his kid, standing up with him before Peter stops him. "N-no, it's fine, I can go myself. Really, I can," Peter interrupts when he sees Tony about to protest. "Can you stay here? In case, May, you know, something happens? Please?"

Tony is absolutely useless in the face of Peter’s puppy dog eyes, even if they're red and swollen. Tony swallows, nodding. Peter brightens just a little bit at winning the argument, and so Tony feels a little better about leaving Peter alone. "Text me if you need me, alright? Promise me."

Peter rolls his eyes, the picture of an exasperated teen. "Yes, Dad . I know how to use the bathroom."

Tony smirks. "Go clean your face, you brat."

Peter sticks his tongue out and walks away. While Peter was using humor as a coping mechanism, it was a huge relief to see Peter was somewhat okay if he was able to talk back. Tony lets out a breath, looking back at May. 

Unfortunately, Tony never bothered getting a PhD in medical fields, and the charts around May don’t give him much to go on. This was more Bruce’s thing, but Bruce was with Thor and Loki in New Asgard, and he can’t really call the man to fly back to New York to help him; not to mention the media frenzy if they caught wind of Bruce Banner and Tony Stark in a hospital room. He should get May transported as quickly as possible to the Tower, or even the Compound, now that she was more-or-less stable.

He hears female voices outside the room, and soon enough Pepper steps inside. She’s still dressed in her work outfit, and looked a lot more put-together than Tony was feeling despite also being in a suit.

“Pep,” he whispers her name, relief evident in his tone, “Pepper, oh my god.”

She looks at him first, giving him a smile that looks more like a grimace, but it quickly turns into a look of grief when she sees May. “Oh my god. Tony, May, oh my god. ” It just sounds like neither of them know how to say anything that isn’t a name or ‘oh my god’.

It’s almost as jarring to see Pepper frazzled as it was to see May sick, but Pepper, always the more capable one, schools her features until she looks normal again. She'd spent years dealing with her fiancé's antics and his need to throw himself into dangerous situations. This wasn't the first time seeing someone she loved in the hospital, and will not be the last. She turns to Tony, who had moved to stand next to her, grabbing his hand and squeezing. “Are you okay? Where’s Peter?”

“He’s in the bathroom.” He takes her other hand as well, concerned. “Are you okay? I know you and May got really close.”

She gives him strained smile. “Yeah, I’ll be fine. The doctors say May’s pretty stable, and they’re figuring out exactly what’s wrong with her, but it seems like it’s the same thing that all the other people got infected with near Fisk. No one has died yet, but it’s weakening all of their immune systems, and there’s no cure yet either. Fisk is under surveillance, and police are working on getting a permit to investigate his tower because they suspect he’s behind it.”

Tony frowns. “Why haven’t they just put the guy behind bars already? He’s a known mob boss.”

“They don’t have any solid evidence yet; Fisk knows what he’s doing.” Pepper turns to look at May again, freeing one of her hands to place on the glass separating them from May. “They’re calling it ‘Devil’s Breath’. Not much is known about it yet, but it seems to be airborne, but only people who were in direct contact with it for extended periods of time catch it.” She gestures to May. “May was there the entire day. Most of her co-workers didn’t stay as long as she did, but they’re calling in to check on everyone just in case some got sick and no one was there to help.”

“‘Devil’s Breath’.” Tony repeats. “Fitting. Do we have people working on a cure?”

Pepper nods. “Dozens of people are working on it already, but I’ve also set a Stark Industries’ research team to help. Helen Cho is part of the group, so I’m certain we’ll be able to figure something out soon enough. I’ve also called Bruce because as much as I trust Helen, I wanted to cover all our bases, and he agreed to come back ASAP. I’m also thinking about asking Princess Shuri because she’s intelligent, but I’m not sure if her skills lie in medicine or if she’s just into engineering like you or chemistry like Peter and I just—”

“Pepper, hey, take a deep breath.” Tony intervenes when she starts to stress rant, pressing a light kiss to her cheek. “You’re doing great. If Helen and Bruce don’t manage to find something, we can get the Wakandan team to help out too. So far, this hasn’t proven to be lethal yet, just inconvenient.”

Pepper doesn't respond, keeping her eyes on May, someone who was practically her sister. Tony didn't want to think of Pepper losing a sibling she just gained, and he has to admit May had become something like a sister to him too, and he really did not want to think of Peter's response to losing yet another loved one. Wasn't even sure if they'd all survive if May didn't.

His own words echo in his mind. So far, this hasn’t proven to be lethal yet, just inconvenient.

But how long would it take until someone died of this? Would they be fast enough to save May?