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The Merchant of Death

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Ned was quiet for a second before coming back cautiously.

“I mean there is an obvious answer here, it’s not a great option, but like if you're careful you can make it work and even then it’s gonna be bad, but not like catastrophic and adults know this kind of stuff so I mean it’s better then you just doing it yourself-”

“Who can I call Ned just say it!”

“You can call Aunt May.”

Peter froze for a second before practically yelling back at his friend.

“I can’t call Aunt May!”

Out of the corner of his eye he saw Tony flinch at the volume and he gave him a small grimace of apology before he turned the other way and said again in a slightly lower tone.

“I can’t call Aunt May! She doesn’t know about any of this stuff!”

“Dude everyone knows about this stuff, it's not like you have to tell her about you! Just tell her a half truth. This guy saved you from a villain attack a while back and you kept in contact because he seemed cool and you both were really into science. You were out taking pictures for the Bugle tonight because it’s early enough in the evening and that’s where she probably figures you are anyways and this guy tagged along for whatever reason and then the villain got a close hit and he protected you!”

Peter started to argue more, but his friend was right. He hated lying to his aunt, but Tony needed help and if he explained what happened she would definitely help him.

“Okay, okay you’re right. Alright I’m gonna call her, I’ll keep you updated. Thanks man!”

“Good luck!”

Peter ended the call and with shaking fingers brought up the contact he had for Aunt May. Oh god he couldn’t believe he was about to do this. He glanced back over to where Tony was still hunched over and hesitantly called over.

“Hey Tony? You still doing okay man?”

There was a short pause before the older man’s? God’s? hand turned over and he gave a shaky thumbs up. Peter nodded and swallowed, looking back at his phone.

“Okay good just hang in there yeah? I’m gonna call someone who can help.”

The other gave no response to that and Peter wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or not. He took a few more steadying breaths before he finally managed to press his thumb to the call button.

It picked up on the second ring and his aunt’s voice immediately burst from the speaker.

“Peter? Peter where the hell are you? Do you realize how late it is! When I agreed to you taking pictures tonight I thought you would be home at a reasonable time! It’s dangerous out there at night you know that!”

Peter was stunned silent for a moment by the rush of words before he quickly cut her off.

“Aunt May I’m really sorry I didn't realize how late it had gotten and I was taking pictures of Spiderman for work with a friend, but the villain noticed us and attacked the building and I’m fine not even a scratch but my friend got really hurt and I don’t know what to do cause he’s not human so I can’t take him to a hospital but he’s really hurt-”

“Peter!”

Peter stopped and gasped a quick breath realizing he hadn’t taken one in his panic to tell her what was happening.

“Peter, where are you?”

“Uh somewhere on the southside? Uh hold on I'm near a bus stop for the Lynx busses, uh it’s stop 14.”

“Okay where is your friend? Where are they hurt and how bad?”

Peter could hear the frantic rustling of clothes and jangle of keys and was swamped by relief that his aunt was coming. He knew she would grill him later, but for now she was going to help.

“Uh, I don’t really know. He was really dizzy so probably got hit in the head, and I know his right arm is hurt and his leg too. There’s a- a pretty big amount of blood but his clothes are dark and it’s hard to tell where it’s coming from and I really don’t want to move him a lot.”

“That’s fine that’s okay just stay there, and I’ll be there as fast as I can. Is he conscious?”

Peter glanced over at the other to check really quick before coming back on the phone.

“Yeah, yeah he’s still conscious, but he was unconscious right after the attack.”

“Okay, Peter I want you to hang up and make sure he doesn’t lose consciousness again okay? I’m almost there.”

Peter nodded before remembering she couldn’t see him and giving a quick affirmative and hung up. Putting his phone in his pocket he walked back over to the bench where Tony was still hunched.

“Tony? Hey, listen my Aunt May is coming to get us and she can help okay? How are you doing? Is anything worse?”

There was a long moment of silence before Tony’s dark eyes opened and drifted up to look at him, though Peter was concerned by how wide the other’s pupils were and the fact he seemed to be looking a little to the side.

“I’m doing dandy kid, no worries.”

Peter frowned at the rasp to the other’s voice.

“Are your powers healing you yet?”

“Not really, I really smoke checked them pulling you back kid, I can feel them starting to work on me, but it might be a few hours before I have enough juice to heal anything major.”

Peter nodded and looked up at the sound of a car approaching, smiling in relief as he recognized his aunt’s car. She rolled to a quick stop and jumped out leaving the keys in the ignition as she quickly ran around the other side of the car. She paused a little at the sight of Tony and Peter realized she had probably been expecting someone closer to his age and not an adult.

The pause was only momentary before she carefully knelt in front of the hunched man.
Tony must have been watching as he immediately raised his head a little to look at her before she could say anything and rasped out a greeting.

“Ah the famous and beautiful Aunt May I’ve heard so much about. Sorry we had to meet like this I promise I’m usually a much more charming person to be around.”

May looked a little thrown off for a minute before she smiled indulgently.

“I’m sure you are though I’m afraid I haven’t heard much about you, though I’m sure Peter will be willing to fix that once we get home, right Peter?”

At the last part she threw a glare at Peter over her shoulder and he winced causing Tony to chuckle a little before groaning. This drew May’s attention back to him as she, probably without realizing it, began to run her hand over his hair in a soothing manner as she looked him over closely.

“Okay we need to get you into the car so I’m gonna help you up really slow and you let me know if anything hurts too bad. Alright?”

Tony gave a grunting affirmative as he forced himself to straighten as May and Peter moved under his arms to keep him steady.

“Okay three, two, one up!”

At the end of the countdown the two stood bringing Tony up with them as he swayed dangerously for a moment before regaining a little of his balance. Together they moved their way to the side of the car where Peter broke off and opened the door as May carefully maneuvered Tony into the seat before leaning carefully over him to buckle the seatbelt.

It was a quiet ride to the apartment as May and Peter shot worried glances at Tony as he instead focused at not getting sick from the motion of the car as his head swam.

Before long they had parked and maneuvered Tony from the car, to the elevator and into the apartment with no incidents. Peter once again moved ahead of the other two and cleared off the couch and quickly laid a blanket down as May and Tony finally stumbled into the living area. Both May and Tony were out of breath as she finally helped him lower to the couch.

“Peter go get the first aid kit from the bathroom and grab some of Ben’s old clothes from the closet for him to change into.”

Nodding quickly Peter bolted from the bathroom as May moved to the kitchen and grabbed some dish cloths and wetted them under the tap.

Coming back into the room she found the man had leaned back into the couch and had his eyes closed again and May paused a second to get her first good look at him.

He looked even worse under the harsh overhead light and she could see slightly darker patches on his dark shirt. Peter had said the man wasn’t human, though she could see no signs of such a thing and she couldn’t help but wonder how Peter had met this man in the first place.

She approached and was about to get his attention when she realized that she didn’t even know the man’s name.

She was saved when Peter came back into the room and sat down next to the other and gently nudged him.

“Hey Tony, we gotta take your shirt off real quick and clean you up then you can just lay back and relax yeah?”

Tony grunted a confirmation and May moved forward to sit on his other side. They quickly found the poor man couldn’t raise his right arm, so they had to cut the shirt off, May hissing slightly at the amount of bruising the other man sported on his chest and right side as well as a long, but thankfully shallow cut near the bottom of his ribs. At least now they knew where the blood was coming from.

May worked quickly and as gently as she could, quietly explaining what she was doing as she did it and giving quiet encouragement as she moved from one injury to another.

After they had cleaned up his torso and did her best to immobilize his shoulder she moved on to the nasty clumps of blood that clung to the side of his head. She had taken the time to wet it earlier and the dried blood had loosened enough that she was able to get all of it off his skin and hair giving her a clear view of the damage beneath. From her earlier checks she already knew he had a concussion and she desperately hoped it was only that and not something more serious.

She told Peter to go get a fresh washcloth and wrap some ice in it to hold against the area for now as she carefully used medical tape to apply a small gauze patch as to not have the open part of the injury pressed on directly by the cloth and potentially become stuck in the blood still oozing slowly from its deepest part.

After that she checked his ankle thankfully finding only a sprain, which she wrapped in an ace bandage for support, and cleaned up the area. Peter was still hovering nearby as he watched the man thank May and continue to hold the ice pack to his head.

Once finished she carefully helped Tony pull on the old shirt and sweatpants. May offered to help him lay down to rest a little to which he gave a thankful acceptance. Once Tony had been settled May finally turned her attention to Peter who looked even more nervous now.

“Peter let’s let Tony rest, and in the meantime, we can have a chat upstairs.”

May felt a vindictive pleasure when she saw Peter’s eyes widen in surprise and a hint of fear. Good, he should be scared after tonight.

Peter climbed the stairs ahead of his Aunt doing a pretty good impression of someone approaching the gallows. They finally reached his room and he couldn’t help the slight flinch when he heard Aunt May close the door behind them.

“So, Peter would you care to explain how exactly I’ve come to have an adult man with a multitude of semi-serious injuries that I apparently can’t take to the hospital sleeping on my couch? And better yet, how and why you know this man?”

“Uh, well you see I was out taking pictures for the Bugle a few months back and I got a little too close to one of the fights and Tony came out of nowhere and saved me so after I thanked him we started talking and he was actually really smart and cool and fun to hang out with, so we started meeting up every once in a while.”

May really didn’t like the idea of her teenage nephew hanging out with a random adult, but he had saved Peter’s life, so she kept quiet for now.

“And so uh, he started coming with me when I tried to take action shots of Spiderman fighting, you know to make sure I stayed safe and everything and that’s what we were doing tonight, but- but the fighting got more intense and suddenly the building we were in came down and Tony, he-he saved me Aunt May, but he got really hurt and I didn’t know what to do so I just got him away from there as fast as I could and called you.”

“And why can’t we take him to the hospital?”

Peter hesitated a minute before looking down.

“Because he’s a mutant Aunt May and you know that they have a different biology so that already makes it harder and with all the protests and stuff I thought it would be safer to do it here.”

Aunt May frowned at the mention of the recent mutant hate that had been circulating and felt her heart break for her boy who obviously had been shaken by what had happened and was still worried for his friend.

She took a deep breath before letting it out slowly.

“Okay, he can stay here, but Peter you know we aren’t really equipped to handle it if any of his injuries get worse. I’m just worried that we missed something.”

Peter shook his head quickly.

“No, Tony would have said something if we missed any and I don’t think it will take too long for him to heal, he told me his mutation helps him heal way faster than other people. I was just worried that it would be harder for him to heal if we didn’t at least clean him up a little.”

Aunt May nodded slowly before her eyes suddenly turned hard again.

“Alright now that we got that out of the way we can talk about how reckless you were tonight!”

Downstairs Tony couldn’t help but smile as he listened to May lecture Peter relentlessly. He was just lying there for now and he wondered if he should sleep, but he had quickly realized that he had never slept before and didn’t even know how to fall asleep, so he guessed just being still would have to do.

It was a while before the yelling stopped and he heard footsteps coming down the stairs. A few moments later May appeared and made her way over.

“You really should rest, Peter explained about your healing, but I can’t imagine some shut eye would hurt.”

Tony huffed a quiet laugh, so apparently Peter hadn’t explained everything.

“It’s fine, thank you for allowing me to stay here, I can’t imagine having a complete stranger in your house is easy to do.”

May sighed a little and began to tidy up the clutter from when they had treated his injuries.

“I’ll admit this isn’t how I expected my evening to go, but I know that you saved Peter’s life, more than once it seems, and I am beyond grateful for that, plus how could I turn away someone who already has it so hard? No, I am disgusted by how people act, that anyone should have to fear doing something like getting medical help. You can stay as long as you like, and you will always be welcome in our home.”

Tony was silent for a moment as he processed this, more than a little surprised at the venom he heard in her tone. Peter had told him about mutants before, and how they were often the target of a lot of hate and discrimination. He must have told his aunt that Tony was one to avoid any awkward questions. Tony had to hand it to the kid, it was quick thinking.

“Thank you, Mrs. Parker, I am extremely grateful for your help and kindness. As for helping Peter, he’s a great kid. He’s smart, talented, kind, which all came from you I’m sure.”

May gave a small snort causing Tony to grin.

“But really in all seriousness Peter is a fantastic kid and I am actually pretty honored to be his friend. I’m sure that me being an adult gave you some worries, but Pete is like a younger brother to me and I swear on my life I will do what I can to keep him safe and happy.”

May paused in her cleaning and looked over at him with warm eyes.

“You know, I don’t know why, but I believe you. More than I probably should with nearly a stranger, but I do somehow believe that you will keep my Peter safe.”
Tony smiled at that and May moved over to the light switch. After a nod from him she turned it off and began to make her way back to the stairs but paused at the bottom.

“Tony?”

“Yes?”

“I’m glad Peter has a friend like you. He’s been happier lately and I think you have a lot to do with that. Goodnight.”

“Goodnight Mrs. Parker.”

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Peter woke later than usual, cursing himself for accidentally turning his phone’s sound off, before the previous night’s events caught up to him. He quickly pulled himself from bed and after tugging on his jeans and a shirt made his way downstairs.

In his rush he didn’t even registered the voices in the kitchen till he rounded the corner and was met by the sight of Tony sitting at the kitchen bar still looking a little banged up but smiling as he talked to Aunt May who was leaning on the counter with a cup of coffee.

Tony was the first to see him and his grin widened.

“Hey Pete, nice of you to join us. Don’t you have school today?”

Peter paused a moment and visibly gave the older man a once over to check if he was still injured, before grinning and making his way over to give Aunt May a hug and grab some cereal.

“Yeah, my alarm was off. What about you? Did you heal? You still look kind of hurt. I thought your healing was supposed to kick in by now?”

Tony was about to answer when May stepped in and handed a mug of coffee to Tony who smiled in thanks and immediately began to chug it.

“Tony says that he is almost completely healed, and I checked to make sure he was telling the truth.”

Tony nodded as he placed down his now empty mug.

“Yup, your beautiful aunt is correct! I’m almost good as new, any cosmetic damage is just left over right now since my healing took care of the more serious stuff first, but it’s just a matter of time till I’m back to my dashing and handsome appearance.”
Peter nodded as he shoveled down his breakfast and May grabbed her bag from the counter.

“Okay boys I’m heading out for work, Peter make sure you get to school on time and Tony please be careful and take it easy, you’re free to stay here for now and you are always welcome back.”

“Thank you Mrs. Parker, but I think I’ll head out with Peter. It was nice to meet you and thank you for all your help and kindness.”

“Of course, have a good day both of you.”

With that she closed the front door and Peter stopped eating to look Tony in the eye with a serious expression.

“Are you really okay? Not just saying that?”

Tony nodded and leaned forward onto his elbows.

“Yeah, kid I really am, my healing took care of everything that was serious, and I can heal the rest by hopping back to the other realm, but I figured it looked more convincing to your aunt if I still had some cuts and bruises so I figured I’d hold off on that for now. Speaking of all that I really owe you one kid, I’ve never had something like that happen, but you handled it like a champ and helped me out so thanks.”

Peter stared in shock before coming back.

“Are you kidding? I should be thanking you! You almost died saving me and then you had to suffer! And I didn’t handle it well, I panicked!”

“But you still got me help and kept both of our identities a secret so really I call that a win! Plus, I got to meet your Aunt so that’s a plus.”

Peter stared for a second longer before huffing out a breath and shaking his head.

“I’m just glad everything worked out. Listen, go ahead and heal the rest of your injuries and then if you want, you could come back and walk to school with me?”

Tony nodded.

“Sure, thing kid, go grab your stuff and I’ll be back in a second.”

Peter gave a salute and put his dish in the sink as Tony seemingly blinked out of existence.

As he was making his way back up the stairs he heard some clattering and the water in the kitchen turn on.

“Geez kid were you raised in a barn? You know what, no, I know your aunt taught you to wash your own dishes!”

Peter grinned and grabbed his books and bag and made his way back down to the sound of Tony shouting insults about his manners and “back in his day”.