“Look, Dude, all I’m saying is that if you like her then go for it,” Ned said as they walked to their lockers following Decathlon practice, the hallways were practically empty save for the odd straggling student who had just finished detention or chess club, “there’s no point in beating around the bush, just tell her how you feel.”
“Oh, yeah, that’s so easily done isn't it?” Peter asked sarcastically as he twisted the knob on his locker.
“Just walk up to her and say, ‘MJ I think you're cute, wanna grab a drink sometime?’ and then you wink and walk off.” Ned said with a grin and a suave nod.
“Dude, there are so many things wrong with that,” Peter said, “first of all, this is MJ, second of all we’re fifteen - we can't go out for a drink nor do I think either of us would want to, and third - I don't think I’d get an answer if I walked off.”
“True,” Ned decided after a moment of thinking, “actually, if you winked at her I think she’d poke your eyes.”
“True.” Peter mumbled.
“She’s scary, what do you see in her?” Ned asked suddenly.
“See in who?” Another person asked.
“No one!” Peter said quickly as MJ appeared beside him.
“You look shady and nervous, why were you being so shady?” MJ asked, her eyes narrowing suspiciously. “Is it because you don't trust me?”
“What?” Peter asked in shock, hating himself for how high his voice went when he was nervous. “Of course, I trust you, you just know the person and I don't want to risk you being impartial.”
“That was a quick excuse.” MJ commented. “Since it was so fast, I almost want to believe you.”
“You mean you don't?” Ned asked, seemingly shocked.
“Of course not,” MJ said with a sniff, “I know him, and that’s his guilt face. He’s not as good at keeping secrets as he thinks.”
“Hey!” Peter protested. “That’s just-”
Peter broke off to clutch at his chest as a sudden sharp pain sparked through him.
“Just what?” Ned asked.
Peter just continued to clutch at his chest - slightly to the right - as he panted through the pain that was stabbing at him. It was taking his breath away; he couldn't actually breathe because of it.
“Peter?” Ned asked, sounding suddenly very unsure of himself.
“I-I’m good.” Peter panted.
“Your lips are starting to turn blue.” MJ told him and Peter was surprised to hear that she sounded genuinely worried about him.
“N-No.” Was all that Peter could get out.
“Stop talking.” MJ said strictly. “Ned, where is that person who normally picks Peter up parked?”
“I don't know who-”
“Ned!” MJ shouted, as Peter lost his ability to stay standing and slowly leaned against the lockers, sinking himself down to the ground. “This is not the time. Where is he?”
“Out back, where the fire markings are.” Ned admitted quietly.
Peter watched through heavy lidded eyes as she sprinted away from them, his breathing coming out rapid and shallow and every single damn breath igniting that furious, stabbing pain in his chest that seemed determined to end him.
“N-Ned, ‘m scar’d.” He panted.
“Don't talk.” Ned said quickly, his voice squeaking with the stress of the situation despite not knowing exactly what was happening, merely that his friend was struggling to breathe. “Just wait for MJ and Happy to get back.”
“Peter shut up!” Ned snapped harshly, fear seemingly fuelling his tone.
“S’rry.” Peter couldn't help but say, before taking Ned’s advice and letting his head drop back against the lockers with a dull, metallic thud.
Happy would be there any moment and then he would get Peter the help that he so desperately needed. Something was so terribly wrong, and he had no idea what it was, just that breathing was painful and seemingly getting harder. Was he suffocating? No that was impossible, there was nothing over his mouth or nose, and yet… he couldn't help but feel like he was drowning in the air.
“Peter!” MJ shouted, terror lacing her voice enough so that Peter opened his eyes to see her racing towards him, a red faced and heavily breathing Happy a few paces behind her. “Oh, thank god.”
Peter was sure he hadn't been meant to hear that last statement, and so he let his eyes flutter closed again, choosing not to say anything in reply.
“Kid, come on,” Happy said, sounding desperate, “open your eyes for me.”
“I can’t,” Peter mumbled, “too t’red.”
“No,” Happy said, refusing to accept that and reaching out to shake his shoulder, which sent another wave of sharp pain through him causing his eyes to jerk wide open as his face twisted in pain, “sorry Kid, but I need you awake.”
“Why?” Peter whined, not that anyone was in a rush to answer him.
“Help me get him up.” Happy said to the others and Peter felt hands on him, pulling him upright despite the pain that shot through his chest.
“Ah, ‘m bein’ stabbed.” Peter mumbled.
“No, you're not.” MJ said tightly. “You’re fine.”
Peter wasn't sure who she was trying to convince but he appreciated the attempt, even as he was hauled through the empty hallways towards the back door to the school. Happy had left the engine running - a brave and foolish choice, as anyone could have stolen the car while they had been inside. It was a fancy one, maybe not the most expensive that Mr. Stark owned, but the man was a billionaire, he didn't own cheap cars.
“Nearly there, Kid.” Happy said. “You’ve got this.”
Peter just groaned pitifully in response, feeling bad for how much of his weight the group was taking, he barely felt like he could keep his head up, never mind walk himself to the car.
“Can't breathe.” Peter muttered, not sure who he was telling.
“Then stop talking.” Happy said. “You’re wasting your breath.”
“Is that poss’ble?” Peter wondered.
“Probably. Now shut up.” Happy snapped.
Peter let his mouth close with an audible snap that he hoped the older man heard - he was scared and staying silent meant that he didn't have the ability to distract himself, so he was forced to focus on the fear that was filling every fibre of his being. His chest hurt and he felt as though he was suffocating. Was he having a heart attack? Was this it for him?
Would they make it to the Avenger’s Compound in time?”
Peter was awkwardly shoved into the backseat of the car, surprised to find that Ned and MJ were instantly on either side of him.
“Keep breathing moron.” MJ said to him, the harshness of her words softened by the genuine concern in her voice.
“I-I’m trying.” Peter said tiredly, letting his eyes close and his head fall to the side.
“Where are we going?” Peter heard Ned ask, confusion lacing his voice.
“Hospital.” Happy answered tightly.
“But nothing.” Happy snapped. “The Compound is upstate, and there’s no way we should be wasting all that time travelling there when Dr. Cho and her team don’t reside there now. They’d have to travel in too.”
“What about his…” Ned trailed off, and Peter felt him shift, probably looking at MJ as he tried to insinuate that a hospital was a bad idea because Peter had freaky DNA without alerting her to the fact that he was Spider-Man.
“Doesn't matter.” Happy said tersely. “We can deal with that once he’s stable.”
“Stable’s for h’rses.” Peter mumbled.
“Great contribution, Nerd.” MJ said. “And you guys can stop speaking in tongues, I know he’s Spider-Man”
That woke Peter up, his eyes sprang open wide before narrowing at her, “you what”?
“You heard me.” MJ said. “It’s not exactly like you're good at keeping secrets, in fact, I’m surprised more people don't know.”
“Great.” Happy muttered. “I’m going to get a migraine. Tony told me that this would be a good job for my blood pressure; I’d like to see him driving around New York City during rush hour, dealing with an overly chatty superhero, and dealing with said annoying superhero’s friends and medical emergencies. I’m going to be driven to an early grave.”
“At the rate you’re running red lights we all are.” MJ commented.
“Damn right I am.” Happy snapped. “This is an emergency, the kid had blue lips, he could die!”
Did he? He could only vaguely remember someone saying that back at the school; that wasn't a good sign was it? Peter knew that he was panting shallowly and struggling for breath, but he hadn't realised that things were that bad. Blue lips meant that he was either too cold or not getting enough oxygen, he knew that much, and since his temperature felt fine and he wasn't shivering… that meant only one thing…
“Don't say that.” Ned said, sounding scared.
“It’s the truth.” Happy said. “I’m not babysitting right now, I’m getting him to a hospital before things become even worse, so let me do my damn job and, I don't know, maybe you could comfort the damn kid.”
A thick silence fell in the back of the car and Peter was surprised that not even MJ had a reply to that. Peter used some of his precious air to let out a wheezing breath of laughter that seemed to remind Ned and MJ that he was there.
“Uh, don't worry man, you’re going to be fine.” Ned said, sounding more like he needed the reassurance not Peter.
“Yeah, you’re going to be alright you dweeb.” MJ said.
Peter snorted, “you know… it doesn' count… when prompted,” he gasped out.
“Yeah, yeah, appreciate the attempt and shut up.” MJ said. Peter had never seen her look so concerned.
Happy swerved around a corner causing Peter, who was seated between his friends, to be crushed painfully between them and he couldn't help but let out a pathetic sounding squeak of pain, which was immediately following by a loud curse and apology from Happy as he slammed on the breaks and climbed out the car faster than Peter had ever seen him move.
If he hadn't felt so awful, he would have probably been cracking jokes about that, but instead he was being pulled from the backseat as Ned and MJ also scrambled out of the car.
“We’re here?” Peter half panted; half slurred in shock.
“Breaking the law gets you places apparently.” Happy muttered.
“Yeah when you're a white man.” MJ muttered sourly, but Peter noticed that she wasn't as committed as she usually was as she was hooking one of Peter’s arms around her shoulders while Happy did the same on the other side.
Together, and with Ned trailing along behind them, they made their way into the Emergency Department, the receptionist looking up with a shocked expression before immediately picking up the phone to request help.
It took perhaps thirty seconds for a group of people in scrubs to appear, a trolley with them that Peter was unceremoniously dumped on and then he was wheeled away from the only people he knew and surrounded by medical professionals.
He was scared.
In all his days as Spider-Man, Peter had never been this terrified - not even when he was lying beneath the collapsed warehouse and hand concrete digging into his body from every side - but now he was, now he was looking into the grim faces of stranger's and he knew that he had to depend on these people who didn't owe him anything to diagnose and treat him.
“You’re going to be fine, Kid, we’re just taking you to another part of the department where we can keep a closer eye on you and we’re going to do our best to get you back on your feet.” A man promised him.
“Get obs.” Someone called out, Peter was sure that they weren't talking to him, but he was still confused, get what?
“Just gonna pop something on your finger to check your oxygen levels and then I’ll get a blood pressure from you, you’re going to feel this cuff getting tight on your arm, chum.” The man said.
“O-o... kay.” Peter slurred.
“That’s it, Kiddo, you’re doing great,” the man said, “I’m Daniel by the way, I’ll be the nurse that looks after you this evening. You’ve got a good team on your side.”
That was reassuring, although Peter was sure that Daniel probably said that to all his terrified patients.
“Your name is Peter?” Daniel asked. Peter merely nodded, too exhausted to try and talk any more. “That’s a good name, Kid.”
“Guy outside says this is Peter Parker, fifteen years old.” A woman spoke up. “Had been finishing up at school when he appeared to get a sudden pain in his chest, was noted to have been guarding, shortness of breath began around the same time, with cyanosis of the lips being noted.”
Something was placed over Peter’s mouth and nose, he tiredly shook his head, trying to remove it from his face.
“Sorry, Bud, it’s just a little extra oxygen, bear with us for a while.” Daniel said to him, before turning to speak to one of his colleagues. “Sats were 86%, I’ve put him straight on 15L through a non-rebreathe and they’re rising. Give me a minute.”
Peter couldn't deny that he was breathing a little easier, even if the drying air that was blasting at him was annoying.
“Alright, we’re just teetering between 95 and 96%.” Daniel said.
“103/78.” Daniel read out. “Pulse is 123, resps 32, temp 36.3, pupils appear equal and reactive.”
“Alright,” the woman said, “Peter my name is Dr. Roshen, you can call me Kat, I’m just going to check your chest and listen to your lungs, alright?”
Peter nodded tiredly.
“Good man.” She said with a reassuring smile.
Peter’s shirt was pulled up, and he did his best to help them remove it but ended up being mostly useless.
Peter lay there breathing rapidly as she tapped against his chest a few times, seemingly listening for something, but his inexperienced ears couldn't tell what that was, then her and Daniel helped him sit forward and the cold stethoscope was pressed against his back.
“Alright, can we get an arterial blood gas please?” She asked one of the other people in the room who Peter didn't know. “And someone request a portable X-Ray.”
“W-what?” Peter asked, hoping someone understood what he was trying to ask.
“What’s happening?” Daniel asked, seemingly knowing what Peter had wanted to know.
“I want to get the X-Ray to confirm,” Dr. Kat said, “but it looks like your right lung has potentially collapsed. Now, I know that sounds scary, but we can do a quick procedure right here to make sure that you can breathe if it is the case.”
“H-how happen?” Peter gasped.
“Did you hurt yourself?” Dr. Kat asked. Peter shook his head. “Do you have any problems with your lungs or breathing normally?”
“A-asthma but… not… since kid.” Peter gasped out.
“Hm.” Dr. Kat said. “Had you had any shortness of breath throughout the day, or anything out of the ordinary?”
Peter shook his head.
“Well, Kid, sometimes these things can just happen.” Dr. Kat said. “Especially in young, thin men - usually there more common in taller guys, but you know these things don't listen to rules.”
“J-just happen?” Peter asked, as a tourniquet was wrapped around his arm and a thin black needle was held above his wrist.
“Afraid so, Kiddo.” Dr. Kat said. “Now, that’s going to nip, but I’m afraid we need that blood gas.”
Peter nodded – she was right it did hurt; he was forced to grit his teeth and breathe rapidly through them.
“X-Ray is here.” Someone called out.
And then Peter was pulled about a bit more and forced to sit straight up as a hard, cold board was shoved behind his back.
“Relax your shoulders.”
“Breathe in and hold.”
The commands were shot at him in rapid succession and before Peter knew it, he was done and the staff were all huddled around a screen looking at the picture of his lungs - morbidly, he wanted to look at it too, after all how often would he get to see his own insides?
“Right, Peter, the scan and the blood test have confirmed our thoughts.” Dr. Kat said to him. “So, we’re going to need to put something called a chest drain in to help get rid of that air so that your lung can inflate.”
“Ok.” Peter said, it didn't sound pleasant, but he knew that it was necessary - he felt like absolute shit.
“Now, we were trying to phone your guardian - May Parker but she isn't picking up and the second contact is well…”
Peter knew what she was trying to say, Mr. Stark was Peter’s second contact and there was every chance that the doctors thought he’d been joking around while filling in his contact information - kids were kids after all.
“Mr. S-Stark.” Peter slurred. “D-don’ w’rry.”
“Don't worry?” Dr. Kat asked, as though she was beginning to question Peter’s sanity.
“He’ll… already k-know.” Peter mumbled.
The doctors exchanged a look between each other, and he could even see Daniel’s brows raise a fraction. They didn't believe him - that was ok, he was feeling too rotten to try and prove them wrong.
“Well, normally we’d wait for a guardian to be present but given the circumstances we need to just go ahead, is that alright?”
“D-do what you gotta.” Peter said.
“Do you want me to talk you through what I’m doing?” She asked him.
Peter shook his head quickly, he didn't want to know anything, the thought of a chest drain was unpleasant enough, he didn't want to know exactly what was going on.
“Alright.” Dr. Kat said. “Just focus on Daniel then, I’ll warn you when there’s going to be an injection.”
So, Peter did his best to focus on the kind nurse on his left side while Dr. Kar got everything ready to do something to him that would help his collapsed lung.
“So, kid? Tony Stark huh?” Daniel asked. “You a fan?”
Peter gave a slight nod, “in-intern.”
“Really?” Daniel asked. “At fifteen? You must be crazy smart.”
“He’s j-just gen’rous.” Peter stammered.
“Sharp scratch, Kid.” Dr. Kat said, “just a little bit of anaesthetic for the site.”
“N-no.” Peter said. “W-won’t work.”
“Trust us, Kid.”
Peter did trust them, he just knew that his body burned through anaesthetic at an alarming rate, no sooner than she had put that regular stuff in would Peter’s body have burned it all off. It would be pointless. Sometimes Peter’s powers sucked - like what was the deal with his body denying him the relief of anaesthetic while also letting his lung collapse? He was Spider-Man, he was meant to be stronger than this.
“Can you feel this?” Dr, Kat asked, and a spike of pain shot through him causing him to wince.
“Alright, no worries,” she said, I’ll just give you a little more.”
“It won’t work.” Peter said strongly, mustering all his energy up to say that one sentence with all the conviction he could.
Peter couldn't finish as the doors to the room they were in flew open and a shaky “you can't go in there,” could be heard.
“Hey, Underoos, fancy meeting you in here!” Mr. Stark said cheerfully, although Peter could see the tenseness in his jaw and the hardness in his eyes that made him mentally groan.
“M-Mr. Star’.” Peter mumbled in greeting.
“Mr. Stark, you can't-”
“-be in here.” Mr. Stark said, interrupting Dr. Kat. “I know, they told me, but judging by what I can see here, it’s a good thing I ignored everyone. That won’t work on him.”
“I know.” Mr. Stark said. “And it won’t work on him, he’s a funky thing, aren’t you Underoos?”
Peter groaned and let his head fall back against the pillow, he was feeling too bad to deal with all of this. Daniel gave him a sympathetic - albeit slightly stunned - smile.
“Now, first of all, here’s an anaesthetic that will work,” Mr. Stark said, “and then once he’s stable, I have a stack of NDAs here and everyone in this room is going to sign.”
The threat was clear, there would be no room for arguments, and no one would refuse.
“Mr. Stark.” Dr. Kat said patiently. “We can't use a random, unlabelled vial on a child because you said so, we don't know what that drug will do to him.”
“It will stop him feeling the pain of you shoving a tube inside his body,” Mr. Stark said, Peter squawked in shock, they would be doing what? “Sorry, Kid, but that’s what it appears to be the plan judging from the layout you’ve got going on there, right?”
“He won’t feel it.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“Because the kid is Spider-Man and has a metabolism to rival Captain America’s, hence why I’m holding Cap’s drugs.” Mr. Stark said, shooting Peter an apologetic look as he revealed his closely held secret. “So, either you inject him with this, or I will. Either way, he’s getting it, and you’re all going to save my kid and sign the NDAs. No one will ever hear about this.”
“I- I was not trained for this in medical school,” Dr. Kat admitted and Peter couldn't deny that he felt bad for her, she wasn't equipped to deal with an injured enhanced individual, she was a doctor for the regular person, she fixed Mr. Stark with a stern look, “you care about this kid?”
“As if he was my own.” Mr. Stark said deadly seriously, and if that didn’t cause Peter to gape like a fish…
“Alright, I want everyone out except Mr. Stark, Daniel and myself.” Dr. Kat said.
“My lawyers will meet you outside.” Mr. Stark told them. “Thank you for your help with Peter.”
Many of them looked disappointed at being told to leave, apparently the excitement in the room was too tempting and unusual for them, so returning to their regular work paled in comparison - but hey, they now knew Spider-Man’s identity, and not many people could say that, could they?
“I sure hope you’re right about this, Mr. Stark.” Dr. Kat said, taking the vial from his hand.
“I wouldn't hurt my kid.” Mr. Stark’s response was hard and sure and made Peter feel warm inside, he made his way around to Peter’s other side. “Hey, Kiddo, don't you worry, you’re going to be absolutely fine. I’ve got Pepper ordering that gross pineapple monstrosity of a pizza for when we get you home.”
“I-It’s good.” Peter panted out, seeing a flash of concern on his mentor’s face when he noticed Peter’s struggle to even talk.
“You seriously get yourself into the weirdest of situations, don't you?” He asked. “Like, we were meant to be designing new legs for Rhodey tonight - I was going to make them Spidey colours you know? And then look at us, sitting in a regular old hospital.”
“Happy… saved me.” Peter said.
“He sure did, Kid, I owe him a raise.” Mr. Stark muttered. “This is going to be a legal headache, but I wouldn't have wanted him to do anything different.”
“You still good there, Peter?” Dr. Kat interrupted.
“Pressure.” He said. “N-no pain.”
“Good man.” She said as she fell silent once more, continuing to do something that Peter didn't want to know about.
Mr. Stark continued to murmur so that Peter wouldn't focus on the fact that a drain was being inserted into his body because his lung had randomly decided to say ‘fuck you’ to him and give up. Peter wasn't sure how much time had passed; all he knew was that Mr. Stark had talked so much that Daniel had given him water because his throat had turned dry and his voice was hoarse.
“Once he’s stable, I’ll arrange transport to my medical facility.” Mr. Stark said, changing the subject suddenly as he looked at Dr. Kat.
“I understand.” She said. “We’d be glad to continue to care for him, but I get that he has needs that are a struggle for us to even comprehend.”
“You have no idea.” Mr. Stark muttered.
“You’re strong though, Kid, you’ve done well.” Dr. Kat said, complimenting him.
“Is it in?” Peter asked.
“Yeah, how do you feel?” She asked.
“I- I thought… it would b-be… instant.” Peter panted.
“We’ll get another X-Ray to confirm the position but then the relief will come as the lung inflates again, it’s coming I promise.”
The X-Ray didn't talk long ad by the time it arrived Peter was able to speak in short sentences, meaning the X-Ray confirmed what they already knew - the tube was in the right place.
“Is Happy ok?” Peter asked, now that the fear and the stress of being unable to breathe was gone, he was mostly feeling the effects of the exhaustion.
“He’s fine, just worried about you.” Mr. Stark said. “I think we all are, jeez, Pete, you scared us shitless.”
“I didn't mean to.” Peter mumbled.
“I know, Underoos,” Mr. Stark said comfortingly, “but damn, I thought the only thing we needed to worry about was guns and knives - not your own body sabotaging you!”
“Do I still get my pizza?” Peter asked.
“Do you- of course you still want that curse against nature,” Mr. Stark muttered, “your lung collapses, you scare us all shitless and your priorities lie with your pizza.”
“It’s good pizza.” Peter said defensively.
“You’re such a fifteen-year-old.”
“You’re the one who ordered it.” Peter said.
“Yeah, because you like it, not because it’s a good pizza.” Mr. Stark said.
“I never thought this department would have two bickering heroes in it,” Daniel muttered, “but here we are.”
“Who’s your favourite?” Peter asked with a tried, but cheeky grin. “Spidey or Iron Man?”
“You can't ask me that.” Daniel said shaking his head.
“I can.” Peter said determinedly.
Daniel seemed to pause for a moment in thought, “I suppose I’m pretty much on Spidey’s side.”
Peter grinned widely, as though he hadn't been through such an ordeal.
“I don't take offence,” Mr. Stark said easily, “he’s also my favourite, but ask the kid who his fave is.”
“Who is it?” Daniel asked, and Peter knew that he was probably expecting him to say Iron Man.
“Thor.” Peter said with a smirk.
“I take this kid in, give him a new suit, feed him pizza, and this is how he treats me.” Mr. Stark muttered.
“You sure you want to go back with him?” Daniel asked Peter jokingly. “We could hide you in a cupboard somewhere.”
“Hmm,” Peter pretended to consider it, “I would have taken you up on that, but he’s got my pizza.”
“You little shit.” Mr. Stark muttered, before an evil grin appeared on his face. “I could leave you know, see if MJ wants to come and sit with you, I’m sure you’d love that.”
“On second thought, Daniel, I’d love that cupboard.” Peter said quickly.