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Waiting Room

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The scent of antiseptic burned the boy's nostrils. The soft lights glowed in the slightly darkened room. He stared at the patterned carpet below him, ignoring the wet sting in his eyes. Everything was calm, quiet, and still. Nearby he could hear whispered conversations of others in the waiting room. There was no visible panic.  There weren't any screaming doctors or frightened nurses. Families and individuals sat quietly, waiting for whatever news the doctors could give about their loved ones. All the while he sat, still and silent, clenching and unclenching his hands to stop their trembling.

That car came out of nowhere. If it weren't for Peter's spider-sense telling him to jerk the wheel to the right, he and May would be dead. Instead he was sitting in a hospital waiting room without a scratch on him, while May—

Well, there was a reason he was in a waiting room.

"Look kiddo," May said with a frown, "you know how important this is—"

"It's one bat mitzvah. For a girl I barely know!"

"Pete, this is Lynn's girl. Lynn who would babysit you. Lynn whose son you grew up with. You're going. Henry will be there. You guys can catch up."


"Nope," she said firmly, turning at the corner. "You're going. It's not up for negoti—"

In an instant, his spider-sense flared to life and he reacted. His hand shot out and grabbed the wheel, making the car speed toward the sidewalk instead of straight down the street. An oncoming car that had swerved into their lane hit the side of May's beat up Buick, sending them into a lamppost. May's head hit the steering wheel, stunning her. Peter pulled the latch of his door, and realized it was pinned against the post beside the car. He pressed and pushed, managing to squeeze past the warped metal. Once he was free he ran to the driver's side of the car and ripped the door open, paying no heed to the bystanders hovering by both cars.

May was pale, too pale, and stared at him with confused eyes.

"Pete?" she asked as he pulled her seatbelt off of her. Her carefully pulled her from the car, alarmed at the red wetness coating his hands. She had some kind of wound on her chest or stomach that he couldn’t see. Peter opened her shirt and found the source of the bleeding on her side between her ribs and hip, and quickly applied pressure. As he held his aunt's life in his hands, he looked up to see some kid with his phone out, pointed at the wreckage.

"What are you doing?" He screamed, catching the kid's alarmed attention. "Call 911!"

Peter caught sight of men and women in scrubs quietly entering the room to deliver news the ones who were waiting. Mostly, there were relieved sighs and an expression of gratitude. Occasionally, there were sudden tears, and people being escorted from the room by some kindly looking woman who made a grieved, sympathetic face.

Peter was terrified of her.

"Peter!" someone called, quietly. Peter looked up, hands still tightly closed into fists, as he watched Tony enter the room. An even bigger hush seemed to fall over the patrons, eyes following the billionaire who made a beeline for the teen. Peter rubbed his eyes with his fists as Tony dropped into the seat next to him. Suddenly, his enhanced senses flared to life and the whispered chatter filled his ears.

"What is Iron Man doing here?"

"That's Tony Stark, oh my Gosh—"

"Who's the kid?"

Peter let out a pitiful whine and drew in on himself as Tony wrapped an arm around the boy and glared at the gossips.

"Do you mind?" he asked, coldly, and everyone suddenly went back about their business. Peter sniffled.

"Sorry, Mr. Stark," Peter said. "You didn't have to come down here—"

Tony wasn't having it. He gripped Peter's shoulder tightly. "You listen to me, kid," he said, tone brokering no argument, "I will always come for you, got it? No matter what, no questions asked. Always."

Peter let out a sob he was holding in a threw his arms around Tony, hands shaking violently against the man's back while he made soothing, shushing sounds. "I c-c-can't lose her—"

"Shh," Tony hushed him, rubbing his shoulders. " Shh. It'll be okay, Pete."

He held Peter like that a little longer until his cries died down. Peter drew away from him, returning his shaking hands to his lap. Tony caught sight of their trembling and reached out, grasping one in his own and rubbing gentle circles into the heel of his palm by his thumb. Peter allowed the comfort, relaxing his body as the pair waited for whatever news was coming.

Peter was grateful he wasn’t alone.