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Presumed Dead

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**Trigger warning for mentions of attempted suicide**


The first text from Peter didn't wake Tony. It had been a late night of trying to get Morgan to sleep with bedtime stories and juice pops and outright begging. And then he'd gone to the lab, trying to get some Stark Industries work done. And finally, finally, at three in the morning, he had gone to sleep. Later, he would see that the first text from Peter came at 3:30am, the second at 3:35 am, and that the one from May came at 4:00am, just two hours before Morgan usually woke him. The phone buzzed on his bedside table and Tony slept, dreaming dreams he would never be able to remember.

The world was saved. He was retired. And something was wrong with Peter. He'd known it for a few weeks now. The kid had been quiet, almost withdrawn, nothing like before...before the snap and before he had been both dead and not dead. Before all of that, Peter had been laughter and constant motion and big smiles and so much brilliance in one kid...but now he was different. Oh, he still smiled at Tony, and he'd told Morgan that it was nice to meet her. He had told Tony that he was happy for May now that she was dating again, and happy that she had her own charity and he was proud of how much she was helping.

It had been noticeable before the whole Mysterio debacle. Now it was worse. He didn't patrol anymore...his original suit had been destroyed and the one Tony had given him, the Iron Spider suit, sat unused in his room according to May. His grades were slipping a little. Not enough to keep him out of MIT, but enough that May and Tony were worried. And he never wanted to come to the lake house anymore.

That last part had hurt Tony the most. But more than that, it had worried him. The kid had been pulling away ever since Europe and Tony didn't know why but it scared him. So he'd asked May if Peter could take a week off of school at the end of the month to spend at the lake house. He would try then, Tony thought. He would figure out what was wrong with his kid and he would fix it, because that's what he did. He fixed things. He was a mechanic after all. Peter would be okay. The kid was always okay. This was just a rough patch.

The phone rang at 5:30, but it was on vibrate, so it only buzzed on the table. He woke briefly, but didn't check to see who was calling. He was so tired...he had to start getting to bed earlier now that he was old. No way Morgan would let him sleep in. She was too excited about Peter visiting and too excited about life in general. She had no idea how close she had come to losing close she had come to losing everything to Thanos. But, Tony reminded himself as he rolled over and tried to go back to sleep, she would never have to.

The phone ran again and again, and he dreamed of bees and humming until Pepper grabbed his shoulder, shaking him hard. "Tony!" She practically screamed his name, and her tone had him sitting upright in seconds.

"What? What?" he asked, staring up at her tear-stained cheeks. "Pep? What's wrong?" He demanded, scanning the room for Morgan. But of course his daughter was asleep in her room. The clock told him it was barely 6.

"You have to get to the…" She was choking on her words, a hand covering her mouth and part of her red, blotchy cheeks. "I'll get someone to watch Morgan…"

"Why? What's going on?" Tony demanded, reaching out and taking her hands. "Pep, what's wrong? Who's in the hospital?"

"Tony…" She shook her head, closing her eyes and more tears spilled down her cheeks and ran over her hands. "It''s Peter…"

"What?" His voice was dry like sandpaper, and just getting the word out was almost impossible. That didn't make any sense. Why would Peter be in the hospital? He grabbed his phone that told him he'd missed two calls and a text from May Parker...and two texts from Peter. He started at the bottom, looking at May's text.

"Tony! Please call me! It's Peter!"

Then he looked at the ones from Peter.

"Mr. Stark? Are you awake?"

And then, five minutes later.

"I'm so sorry, Mr. Stark."

He stared at the words until they blurred together, none of it making any sense. "Was...was he in the suit? How...what happened?" Without realizing it, he'd thrown his legs over the side of the bed and was starting to stand, a hand reaching out to touch Pepper's arm in an attempt to comfort her. She just shook her head.

"He wasn't in the suit."

"Then what…"

"He took all of his pain pills."

Those words hit Tony hard, and his knees folded, landing him back on the bed once more., Peter knew better. If he was hurt he would have just taken one. They were strong enough...Peter knew that. He knew that those pain pills were strong and a bottle held thirty so if he took all of them...he knew. Tony knew what she was saying, suddenly, and it knocked the breath out of him.

Why hadn't he pushed? He'd known something was wrong. He'd known that Peter had been going through something big and he'd known that things must be hard on the kid after literally coming back to life and he'd known all this but he hadn't...he hadn't tried…

"He's alive. For now...he's alive. We have to get to the hospital…" Pepper whispered, trying to speak through her tears. "Now...May and Happy are already there but we have to…"

Tony nodded, lurching to his feet and dressing in a daze. Pepper would meet him later but he had to drive there now. By himself. Peter had taken all of his pain pills. Peter had tried to text him. He'd been asleep and Peter had tried to reach out to him. He'd apologized. Just like Titan.

Peter had tried to kill himself.

He cried as he drove, tears that dripped down his face without him noticing much. He'd let Peter down. He'd let him down in the worst way...he'd brought him back to life only to let this happen. Peter had needed him and he'd...Tony shook his head hard, wiping his hand roughly across his face. No. He didn't have time for that. He had to get to Peter and May and he would talk to the kid and figure out what was wrong and he'd fix it and...and Peter would be okay. His kid was going to be okay. He had to be okay. Tony had already tried living in a world without Peter. He didn't think he could bear to do it again.

Why hadn't he checked on him more? Why had he worried so much about hovering?

May was sitting next to Happy in the waiting room, and he spotted them before they spotted him. He hurried to May's side, dropping into the chair beside her, and she finally looked up, showing off red-rimmed eyes and cheeks covered in mascara. "I couldn't...couldn't get you so...I called...Sam and…"

Tony nodded, reaching out and grasping her hand. "I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry I didn't answer the phone. I was asleep."

"Sam...he got Doctor Strange and they...they brought him here…". She swallowed, shaking her head. "He wasn't breathing…". Her voice broke then, and she covered her face with her hands, Happy moving to put a hand on her arm. "I didn't find him until 4...I got up to the...bathroom and he…"

Happy pulled on her shoulder, letting her hide her face in his chest as he turned to Tony. "I gave him CPR until Sam got there. Strange is with him. They had to pump his stomach and they're not sure how much damage was done. He was having trouble breathing…"

Tony just nodded, not sure what the hell else he was supposed to do. Strange was with him. Doctor Strange was one of the best but Helen was his doctor. Pulling out his phone, he sent her a quick text.

"He...he's been acting so strange and…". May tried to take a deep breath and calm down, but it wasn't working. "I thought...I thought it was just...after he came back and…". She gave up, shaking her head and covering her face with her hands. "He wasn't moving...he was just laying on the floor…"

Tony wanted her to stop. He didn't want to imagine it. Didn't want to picture Peter Parker dead on his bathroom floor. "He tried to text me…I was asleep."

No one had an answer for that.

Doctor Strange emerged from the hallway after a moment, going straight to Tony and May, his face as somber as ever, but there was a sadness in his eyes that hit Tony right in the gut. "He hasn't regained consciousness, but we were able to purge the drugs from his system for the most part. His healing ability is definitely working in his favor." The man hesitated, lowering his voice. "Does Peter have a history of any kind of drug abuse?"

May shook her head, adamant. "Nothing. You can ask Helen. He never…we kept them in the medicine cabinet and he never…"

Happy squeezed her hand when her words cut off in a sob, and Tony had never wanted Pepper so badly in his life.

"Something's been off...he's been pulling away lately and...I should have tried to talk to him. I should have tried harder." Tony whispered the words as if admitting defeat.

"When he wakes, I want to place him on suicide watch for 24 hours. If you can get him to talk to you, that would be ideal. If not, I believe Sam can recommend someone."

Tony and May both nodded, and Strange led them back to Peter's room just as Tony got a text that Helen was on her way. Happy had volunteered to wait outside, since Stephen didn't want too many people in his room at once, and Tony had to grab at the door frame when he saw the boy laying in the hospital bed. He'd obviously lost weight, with his cheekbones sticking out and bruise-like shadows under his eyes telling Tony that he hadn't been sleeping. He had a tube going down his throat, breathing for him, and a blanket was pulled up to his neck, arms resting at his sides. An IV ran from the inside of one of his elbows, and although he had a little color in his face, he was still so pale.

May practically collapsed in a chair at his side, and Tony knew, as he sat down at Peter's side, that they would have to talk. That they would have to find a way to get Peter to explain to them what was going on. No matter what it took, he didn't think he could survive this twice, and he knew May couldn't. They had to fix their boy. Somehow.

It wasn't until an hour had passed that Tony thought to ask Karen. Sure, Peter hadn't been in the suit recently, but he could have her check his phone and see if there were any clues there. So, excusing himself and telling May he was going to find her some food, he headed outside, then found a deserted corner to pop an earbud in, bringing up Peter's phone display on his own, not feeling remotely guilty about it. If invading his kid's privacy got him answers, then he'd do it. Gladly. After connecting to Karen, he brought up the voice command. "Hi, Karen."

"Hello, Mr. Stark. How can I be of assistance?"

" tried to kill himself tonight." He whispered the words, closing his eyes to hold the tears back. No time for tears. Not now. First he had to help Peter. "I want to see anything on his phone that might explain why."

"Would you like to see the logs of his correspondence with me that he began after his trip to Europe?"

Tony didn't hesitate. "Yeah. Bring it all up."

The video diary started with Peter in his room, knees to his chest, obviously in bed. He was holding the phone with a shaky hand, eyes looking anywhere but at the screen. "Hey, Karen." He whispered.

"Hello, Peter. Your vitals suggest that you are on the verge of a panic attack. Would you like me to call Mr. Stark?"

Peter shook his head on the screen. ", you talk to me? For a little while? About anything. Please."

"Would you like to hear tips on how to calm down after a nightmare?" On the screen, the boy closed his eyes, and then the screen went dark.

The next entry was the next night. "Karen? Can you tell me some of those tips please?"

That's how it went for a few days, Peter waking up and talking to Karen, asking her to help him calm down and shaking his head every time she suggested calling for help. And then, almost a week later, Peter brought up the screen and he wasn't in his bed. He was in what looked like a bathroom, head pressed against a tile wall. "Karen?"

"Yes, Peter?"

"I can't breathe...Karen…"

"Would you like for me to call…

"Stop asking that!" Peter snapped, closing his eyes as a tear ran down his cheek. "He's...he's busy Karen! He has a real family now! He doesn't have time to…"

That's when it hit Tony. Peter hadn't come to him because he didn't see himself as Tony's family. He didn't understand how much Tony loved important he was despite the fact that there was another child in the picture now. How had Tony missed that? How hadn't he made it abundantly clear.

The recordings went on, with Peter suffering from more and more panic attacks, more and more nightmares, until the recording from that night.

Peter sat on the floor of the bathroom, hollow eyed and shaking. He was crying, but didn't seem to notice. "Karen?"

"Yes, Peter?"

"I can't..I don't know what to do."

"Would you like to call for assistance?"

"It's crushing me...everything...the nightmares and...and I can't even go one day…"

"Peter, would you like…"

"I don't belong here." The boy said it like it was a revelation, eyes widening as he looked at the camera for the first time. "I was supposed to stay dead."


"Mr. Stark has his family and May has Happy and I'm supposed to be dead."

Tony shook his head despite the fact that it was a recording...despite the fact that it had all already happened.

"Peter, might I suggest…" Karen tried, but Peter went on, something manic and desperate in his eyes.

"They're all so worried about me. It would be better...Karen….". He sobbed out her name, closing his eyes. "Karen, would it be better?"

"Peter, I believe you need to call for help."

He nodded, swallowing hard. "Okay….um….can you just text Mr. Stark? Ask him if he's awake?"

Then, five minutes of torturous silence. Because Tony knew what happened next. He'd been awake. Slowly, the hope in Peter's eyes faded.

"Peter, I believe he might be asleep. Should I call him? That might wake him."

Peter on the screen shook his head. "No….um….don't do that. Just text him? Um...just say, I'm so sorry, Mr. Stark." His voice broke, and he was barely able to get the name out.

Peter waited for almost five more minutes, something so heartbreakingly hopeful in his eyes as Tony felt his heart break in his chest. He hadn't answered. He'd been asleep. He hadn't pushed hard enough and he hadn't been there and now…

Then Peter stood on shaky legs, wiping at his eyes. "Karen?"

"Peter, I must insist you…"

"Power off."

Tony stared at the black screen and had to swallow the scream. How had he missed it? How had they all missed it? He'd returned from the dead and had been in a major battle with a deranged lunatic all within a two month span...of course the kid hadn't been okay!

But Tony has wanted him to be okay so badly.

May was asleep when he returned to the boy's room, and he sat in his own plastic chair, gripping Peter's hand and resigning himself to wait. But Peter was going to wake up, and when he did, Tony was going to be there. Hell, the kid would be begging him to leave his side before long. But never again was Peter going to think that he didn't belong.

On the bed, Peter flinched a little in his drug-induced sleep, head moving to the side as much as the tube would allow.

Tony leaned forward."I'm right here, buddy. You're not alone." He squeezed the cold hand resting in his. "I've got you, Pete."