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Let's Whump the Spider-Kid and Friends!

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Really, Peter’s had better days.

Like the day he had saved Dr. Pipp’s cat from the window ledge, and the doctor had filled his pockets with the reception’s secret supply of candy. Or when he had scored the last question in the decathlon finals with only a second left on the clock. Or when Tony had let him repair the Spider-Man suit solo for the first time, then clapped on the back with, “Great job, kid. You’re a natural.”

Yeah. All of those were good days.

This is not a good day. Peter missed his alarm. He forgot the homework assignment that had taken him well over two weeks to finish. And it was raining, because when Parker Luck strikes, it strikes hard. Peter hasn’t had the heart yet to tell May that his school shoes are worn down so thoroughly that rainwater leaks through in seconds. On rainy days, he makes a wet trail and accompanying squelching noises down the school corridor which Flash used to never miss an opportunity to point out, as loudly as he possibly can, until one day MJ socked him hard in the stomach.

It’s not raining now. It’s actually a beautiful day out. As far as silver linings go, it’s a pretty crappy one, considering that Peter is currently stretched out on his stomach along the roof of a building that's towering over an empty construction site, metal bands he can’t break pinning him in place. Whoever has left him like this has his arms out in front of him, rather than pinned to his side, but a band hugging his shoulders means he can’t lift or move them beyond flexing his wrists and wiggling his fingers.

In the palm of each hand is the knotted end of a length of barbed wire, which is currently stretched out to wrap around Tony Stark’s wrists.

Tony had come to consciousness later than Peter had, Peter burning faster through whatever drug that had been used to knock them out . He can’t have been out that long though. He’s still soaked from the rain, and he’s been awake long enough to assess the situation. To see exactly what’s coming.

Tony’s not on the roof. Tony is laid out on a platform overhanging the roof, bound down exactly like Peter is. The barbed wire starts at his wrists and wraps all the way up to his elbows. It hadn’t been cutting him when he’d been unconscious, but since his mentor’s been awake he’s been struggling to find a way out, which has only succeeded in making the wire start to dig into his skin.

“Mr. Stark,” Peter protests after Tony sheds first blood. “That’s not helping.”

“You got something else we can try, kid?”

“Not yet.” Peter’s tried everything he can think of, but they’re both locked down tight. Neither of them are going anywhere. He's tried calling for help with not so much as a bird flying by for an answer.

Every few seconds, Peter's eyes are drawn to the hinges of the platform Tony’s tied to. He can see where the restraints will retract; can see the long drop into the construction site below. Can see exactly where this is going if they don’t get out soon.

Tony must catch Peter’s dejected tone, because he stops struggling for a moment to look at him. “Hey. Eyes here.” He waits until Peter looks at him before he continues, “We’re going to be fine. We’re going to get out of this and then it’s going to be an awesome story to share with the crew later. I know you’ve been wanting to one-up Wilson and Barnes for ages, yeah? Well, here’s your chance.”

Peter swallows, shivering. The sky above him is bright after that morning’s rainstorm, but he’s soaked through enough that, as bright as the sun looks, the meager rays are doing nothing to dry him off. He tries for a deep breath, focusing on the smell of rain and the faint scent of the second cologne Pepper had bought Tony for their anniversary. The first had been too strong for Peter’s enhanced senses to handle, as he was able to taste the chemicals underneath, so Pepper had taken Peter out shopping until they found one Peter could stomach. Then Pepper had bought one for Peter too, shushing all Peter’s protests about the price tag.

“Wouldn’t it be easier for Tony just not to wear anything scented?” Peter had pointed out. “This seems like a lot of work, just for me.”

Pepper had given him a knowing smile. “Alright, caught me. I may have some ulterior motives for this little shopping expedition.”

“Sinister ones?”

“Not this time. If I was craving ice cream, would you indulge me?”

They moved from the mall into the park next door, weaving in and out of joggers and cyclists and prams. “Ice cream is the ulterior motive?”

“One of them.” Pepper delicately catches a stray drip before it can run onto her fingers.

“And the other?”

“Maybe I just wanted to spend some time with you.”

“Oh.” Peter is taken aback. He had spent time with Pepper before, but always with Tony or in a group setting. “Why? Not that I don’t want to!” he hurries on. “This has been really fun.”

“I agree.” Pepper is quiet for a moment before she says, “You mean a lot to my husband.”

Peter flushes. “I—”

“That wasn’t a question.” Pepper finishes her cone, depositing the napkin in a nearby trashcan. “Does he mean a lot to you?”

“I mean, yeah,” Peter says, trying to keep up. “I…yeah. Of course he does.”


“Because…” How does Peter even sum it up? Germany, the Vulture, Titan, the final battle against Thanos. The Avengers had stayed scattered for some time after that, but this time it wasn’t due to infighting or a devastating defeat. Earth’s mightiest heroes had needed a break, and they sure as hell had deserved one—from fighting, at the very least.

Which didn’t mean there wasn’t still work to do. After returning the Infinity Stones to their proper timelines, Steve had announced to the team that he was retiring in order to spend more time with Bucky and Sharon, and would be passing the shield onto Sam. Sam had respectfully turned it down, saying that the world needed repair more than people in costumes right now.

Displaced from their apartment, Peter and May had spent a gorgeous summer in Wakanda. Peter became fast friends with Shuri almost right out of the gate, only for them to become a trio when Cassie Lang had joined them.

Peter and Shuri had been busy, firstly with helping Bruce Banner and Carol Danvers recover from their own Snaps, and then with bringing Wanda over in order to resurrect Vision. Tony and Shuri had attempted it alone after the Snap, but Wanda’s powers had been the final ingredient they had needed to bring the android back online. Clint had come with her for emotional support, and had brought over Scott and Cassie too, as they were still easing the transition of Cassie’s guardianship. After the loss of his kids during the Snap, and after the surviving Avengers had located a newly orphaned Cassie, Clint hadn’t wasted a moment into stepping into Cassie’s life to raise her through her teenage years.

Then there had been a world to start rebuilding—people without homes, jobs, who had been separated from their families, and so Tony and Pepper had started building every foundation they could think of to get people back on their feet. But five years of damage didn’t vanish overnight, as seen with the rising of the Flagsmasher movement, and Sam decided that maybe Captain America—a real Captain America, and not a murderer disguised as a marketing ploy—was needed after all.

So they’d reassembled. Tony set up the Tower for them after the destruction of the Compound, and Peter couldn’t deny the thrill of being given his very own bedroom in the New (Old?) Avengers HQ. He now split his time between there and Queens, working alongside the Avengers as the world began to return to some sort of normal again, and the team solidified into a routine.

With the return of familiar faces, the team said goodbye to others as well. Thor announced he would be accompanying Rocket, Nebula, and the rest of the Guardians into space to locate Gamora. During the time heist, Nebula and Rhodey had traveled to Vormir to seek the Soul Stone, with Nebula making the argument that it belonged to her as the closest person in her life had already been sacrificed for it. As Steve had since returned the Soul Stone and a version of Gamora from the past had accompanied them into battle, the green alien’s state of being remained something of a mystery. Carol Danvers too had jetted off into space after her recovery, saying she was confident the Avengers had this planet well protected.

“He’s my mentor,” Peter lands on, even as he reads in Pepper’s expression that that isn’t the answer she's looking for. “And…my friend, I guess?” The idea of having adult friends had initially felt a little odd, but he's seventeen now and almost an adult himself. Besides, it’s not as the team acts like adults half the time anyway.

“Mentor and friend,” Pepper repeats. “Not like…a dad?”

Peter turns beet red, hastily taking another lick of ice cream to try and cool himself down. “No. I mean, I know the Avengers joke about it sometimes, but I had a dad. When he and my mom died, May and Ben raised me. And it’s not like Tony’s a replacement for either my dad or Ben. He’s just…a new addition. Still important. But separate. I’m not making any sense.”

“I think you’re making perfect sense.” Peter might be imagining it, but he's sure that Pepper looks a little more relaxed than before. “Thank you for telling me. I just want to make sure we’re on the same page.”

“Same page?”

The next smile Pepper gives him is tinged with sadness. “Tony hasn’t let many people into his life. And even so, some have slipped through the cracks that have hurt him. Badly. I want to make sure you’re not one of them, whether directly or indirectly.”

Peter halts mid-step. “I’d—I’d never hurt Tony. I think. I hope. I’d certainly never try to deliberately, I wouldn’t—”

“Peter? Take a breath. That’s all I wanted to hear.” They walk on in silence for a little longer before Pepper says, “You say the Avengers joke about it sometimes. With Tony being your dad. Does that make you uncomfortable?”

“A little,” Peter admits,

“Okay,” Pepper says simply. “I’ll make them stop.”

“Just like that?”

“Just like that.”

Peter makes a mental note to never get on Pepper Potts’s bad side. Which letting her husband fall off a building into a construction zone just might. “Hey,” Peter protests. “My stories are way better than Sam and Bucky's." 

Tony snorts, even though Peter can see he’s fighting to keep the tone light. “What, like that cat thing?”

“Saving a cat is like, Hero 101 stuff, Mr. Stark! It’s a classic. You never saved a cat?”

“How about I save a Spider-Kid? How does that sound?”

“Oh, you won’t be saving anyone, Tony. This time, it’s on Peter to save you.”

“Ah, cue the creepy disembodied bad guy voice. An oddly familiar disembodied bad guy voice.” Tony’s brow furrows. “Hey, Jigsaw—do I know you?”

“Well well well, the great Tony Stark remembers me. I’m honored, really.”

Peter turns his head as best he can, looking for the source of the speakers. It sounds as though it’s coming from above them, but that makes no sense. There’s nothing above them but blue skies. “What do you mean, I have to save Mr. Stark?”

“Do you really have to ask, Peter? And I thought you were smart. Then again, Tony wouldn’t know brilliance if it slapped him in that stupid goatee.”

“Hey,” Tony protests. “This goatee is iconic.”

The voice on the speaker turns to anger “You stole my life’s work, Tony. Only fair I steal your life in return.”

“Actually, that doesn’t sound fair at all,” Peter chimes in. “There’s more to life than work, you know? Maybe you should get out more, mystery man, see the world.”

“Kid’s got a point,” Tony adds. “What, you had nothing better to do than set this up? How long did this little contraption take you? I’d give you points for originality, but when you’ve been in the hero business as long as I have, you’ve pretty much seen—”

The platform under Tony drops.

It happens so fast that Peter reacts completely on instinct. He sees the platform hinge to vertical, sees the restraints keeping Tony in place fall away, and he clamps down on the one thing that's stopping his mentor falling to his death.

There are about three disorientating seconds when it doesn’t hurt. Peter feels the wire cut into flesh, but it’s abstract, distant. There isn’t even any blood.

Then Tony hits the side of the building with a yell, the barbed wire stretching tight, and it slams into Peter all at once. Blood blossoms from both palms as his shoulders scream out in protest at the unexpected weight. He can just about see Tony, and swallows back a wave of nausea when he sees his mentor dangling from the wire with nothing else to hold onto, the metal spikes piercing his skin from wrist to elbow.

“The rules are simple,” the voice announces. “The second Peter lets go of the wires, the restraints around him will release. He’s free to go. Of course, Tony will have broken every bone in his body by then, but it’ll be fun to see how much pain your intern is willing to go through before that happens.”

The pain in Peter’s hands and shoulders intensifies as he realizes the full impact of their situation. “You’re crazy! I’m—I’m not going to let go, ever.”

“We’ll see about that,” the voice taunts him. “And as much as I’d love to see the ending, I must be on my way.”

“You’re leaving?” Peter feels the wire slip and grips it tighter, feeling a barb slice even deeper into his palm. “But—”

“But nothing. As fun as it would be to see how long young Peter can last before he lets his beloved Iron Man tumble to his death, I have no desire to hang around and get arrested. Toodles, Tony. Have fun watching your protégée let you die.”

“Wait!” Peter tries, but the voice is gone. They’re alone.

“Pete?” Tony’s voice is strained, obviously in incredible pain, but also fighting to keep it level. “You good?”

“Um…” Peter forces himself to take several steady breaths, locking on to the faint scent of the cologne he’d picked out with Pepper still lingering in the air. “I mean, yes? I don’t really have a choice in the matter.”

“I mean, you can choose to let me fall.”

“Not funny, Mr. Stark.”

“And I thought Gen-Z was all about gallows humor.” Tony’s voice turns serious. “Alright. We’re two certified geniuses, right? We can figure a way out of this, starting with the obvious. Can you pull me up?”

Peter strains, wincing as the movement sends the barbed wire deeper into his palms, but the way his shoulders are pinned gives him no leverage. “I don’t think so.”

“Yes or no answers there, bud.”

Peter hesitates for a moment, then admits, “No.”

“Alright. Calling for help?”

“Tried it. I don’t think anyone’s around, Mr. Stark.”

Tony swears under his breath. “Okay. So we do this on our own. How badly are you bleeding?”

Peter checks his palms. “Not too bad, actually.” He peers over the building again, taking in the numerous cuts up Tony’s arms. The blood is soaking into his t-shirt, staining the white AC/DC art red.

“The wire is in your palms, yeah? Give it a minute.”

“A minute to what—woah!” Where a second ago there was nothing, now the blood is flowing thick and fast, streaming from his palms. It’s not super heavy, and he doesn’t think he’s going to pass out from blood loss any time soon, but if they’re up here long enough— “Can you try walking up the building?”

Peter hears Tony exhale, considering. “Yes. It’s going to suck, real bad, but yes. You got a good grip on me?”

Peter looks down at the wire biting into both palms. It’s already beginning to throb, and even the smallest of twitches from Tony sends the barbs in deeper. “Hold on,” Peter calls down. “I can get an even better grip if I wind it around my wrists as well.” He inhales, readying himself. “What was that you were saying about sucking real bad?”

“Do it,” Tony says without hesitation. “Come on, kid, I got stuff to do today.”

And if that’s not an indication of how much pain Tony’s in, Peter doesn’t know what is. Tony goes to sometimes suffocating lengths to stop even the mildest of pain headed Peter’s way, in a way Peter often finds frustrating. He’s Spider-Man, something he swears Tony forgets daily. “I’ll heal,” Peter calls down as reassurance. “Advanced healing.”

There’s a half a beat too long before Tony replies. “Good. That’s good. Don’t want to see you hurt more than what’s necessary.”

Peter blinks, something off about that phrasing that he can’t pinpoint, but Tony’s dangling off a building right now so he has bigger priorities. “Okay, Spider-Man,” he mutters, readying himself. “Just a few tiny stabs that’ll heal in minutes, you’re fine. You’re fine.” Then he braces himself and pulls, wrapping his wrists into the wire.

It only pulls Tony up by an inch or so, brutally and messily if Tony’s howl of pain is anything to go by, but it has the effect Peter wants. Not that he exactly wants barbed wire cutting into his wrists, but it’s a firmer grip than just hanging on with bleeding hands.

“I got it,” Peter gasps then, louder, so Tony can hear, “I got it, Mr. Stark! Start walking!”

“You sure?” Tony presses him. “Because once I start this, my life is totally in your hands. You get that, right?”

“I mean, your life is already in my hands,” Peter points out. “And you’re heavy, so can you please start moving?”

“When did you get bossy?” Tony shoots back, and Peter relaxes a bit at the more familiar teasing tone. “Alright. No time like the present, and all that.”

Peter hears Tony pull in a breath, bracing himself. Then he swings himself at the building.

The movement doesn’t shift the wires like Peter expects it to, but Peter is distracted from that thought a second later as he’s hit with the scent of blood, both his and Tony’s. It’s growing thicker by the moment, making Peter gag, and Peter buries his head on the concrete below him for a moment of reprieve. Then Peter hears shoes hit the side of the building.

He dares to lift his head, hopes rising when he sees Tony take his first step up the building. It’s gruesome, the wire slicing a little deeper into Tony's skin with every inch Tony manages to gain, but it’s worth it to know that they solved the puzzle. They’re getting out of this. They’re going to be okay.

Tony is only a couple of feet from the edge of the building when he slips.

They both see what’s going to happen before it does, but there’s nothing either of them can do to stop it. Peter sees Tony’s eyes go wide as his shoe loses its grip against the building’s side, scrambling for purchase. But there’s no purchase to gain, and then Tony’s falling, only to be jerked to a halt by the wire.

“Mr. Stark!” Peter forces his eyes open, ignoring the tattered remains of his skin to check on Tony.

What remains of the skin on Tony’s arms is in ribbons. Peter can barely see flesh for all the blood, the silver wires glinting in the torn muscle. Tony is still conscious, and Peter has no idea if that’s a blessing or a curse as he takes in the pure agony written over his mentor’s face.

Peter gives them both thirty seconds to recover, but all the extra time is doing is increasing the pain and fatigue, not assuaging it, so Peter pulls himself together and calls down. “Mr. Stark? I don’t know…I don’t know how much longer I can hold on. We need to find a way to—”

“We need to do nothing.”

Peter freezes. He’s never heard Tony sound like that—at least not aimed at him. Tony’s yelled at him before, sure, but it’s always been when Peter has done something particularly stupid on patrol or during a mission. Peter knows the signs well enough now to know that Tony only ever snaps at him out of fear, because he’s worried about Peter getting hurt. He’s never heard Tony sound actually angry at him. “We can think of something else, we—” Peter tries, but Tony cuts him off.

“No. No more out of you. Climb up the building, what a stupid idea.”

“I—” Peter stutters, completely thrown, before he remembers that Tony is dangling off a skyscraper by nothing but sharp metal burrowed under his skin. “I’m sorry.”

“Sorry isn’t going to get me back up there, Peter. So shut up and let me think.”

“Um, okay,” Peter agrees, voice small. He’s actually pretty sure Tony has never called him Peter—it’s always some kind of nickname—and he’s certainly never told Peter to shut up.

Barbed wire. Dangling. Drop to the death.

Peter repeats that mantra until the sting of Tony’s words reduces somewhat. It’s a high-pressure situation. They’re both in extreme pain and Tony is about to die, the least Peter can do is try and cut his mentor some slack.

The silence goes on until it becomes oppressive, and Peter checks on Tony to make sure he hasn’t passed out. “Mr. Stark?”

“What?” Tony must read the look on Peter’s face, because the harshness in his expression reduces somewhat. “Right. Sorry, kid. Just in a lot of pain down here, I shouldn’t be taking that out on you.”

“It’s…it’s okay.”

“No. It’s not. I’m the adult. I should be getting us out of this.” Tony heaves in a breath that looks more like a grimace. “Don’t suppose you have any handy forms of rescue on you?”

“I don’t think so.”

“What did I say about yes or no answers?”

“Right.” Peter feels himself flush. He’s messing this up so badly. “No. I can’t feel my phone, and even if I had it I can’t move.” He strains against the metal bands, testing for weaknesses he knows aren’t there. “But someone will notice we’re missing, right? The team will notice?” Peter peers past Tony to the ground below, but the construction site has remained empty. “It’s a Thursday. Shouldn’t people be working?”

“How am I supposed to know what hours normal people work?”

“Maybe people will come in later,” Peter tries. “Or the team will notice and come find us. Or—”

“Are you really going to be able to hold on until then?”

Peter swallows, forcing himself to look at his ruined wrists. “I don’t have a choice.”

“You can choose to let me fall.”

“You already made that joke.”

“Who says it was a joke?”

“I’m—I’m not just going to drop you!”

“You might not have another option,” Tony argues. “That wire is cutting deeper into your skin every second. Eventually, it’s going to rip right through, and then it’s goodbye to me. If you don’t just let go before then.”

Peter tightens his grip instead, ignoring the fresh well of blood the movement causes. “I’m not letting go. Not ever. You’re going to be fine, Mr. Stark, I promise.”

“Or I fall and take most of your hands with me. Not sure even your super-healing will fix that, kid. So maybe it’s better if—”

“Stop it!” Peter buries his head back in the ground. He’s shivering now, and he still feels soaked through, which he guesses must be sweat added to the morning rain. He crunches up his toes in his soaked shoes, not an ounce drier than when he’d been snatched on his way to school. “I’m not letting go. Someone will come. I’m not letting go.”

He hears Tony’s exasperated sigh from beneath him, but when he speaks his voice is soft. “Alright, Pete. We’ll hold out. See if somebody comes.”

Tony stops talking after that, and while Peter wishes he had him as a distraction, it’s not fair to expect Tony to provide that when he’s so badly hurt already. Instead, Peter tries to think of anything else; running through his decathlon flashcards, seeing how much of A New Hope script he can recite from heart, mentally rebuilding the Spider-Man suit from scratch. And all the while keeping an eye out for help, occasionally screaming out an SOS or leaning over to check on Tony. His mentor has gone so still that more than once Peter is sure he’s passed out, only to see Tony’s eyes blink open, establishing that he’s just trying to prevent further damage while they wait.

And all the while, the barbed wire cuts in a little deeper with every passing minute.

“Peter.” Tony’s voice is exhausted, beyond pain. “You have to let go.”

“What?” Peter’s eyes fly open, staring down at Tony, deliberately avoiding looking at his own hands. His mentor’s torso is soaked in blood now. “No! You’ll die!”

“I’m dying anyway,” Tony whispers back. “Blood loss. You are too.”

“Someone will come.”

“They’re not coming, kid. You pass out from lack of the red stuff too, you’re screwed. You heard what the crazy man said. Let me drop, and you’re free to go. Let’s have at least one of us make it out of this.”

“We’re both going to make it out of this, Mr. Stark, I—”

“You’re not strong enough, Peter.”

Peter goes rigid. “I am,” he insists. “I am, Mr. Stark, you’re going to die if I’m not, you—”

“Either I die, or we both die,” Tony interrupts him. “Either way I’m done.” He looks up, so he’s staring right at Peter. “This is on me, okay? I never should have put so much pressure on you, dragging you into this hero business. You’re a kid, you should be out there doing kid things, not trying to live up to my legacy, or whatever.”


I just wanted to be like you.

And I wanted you to be better.


A lump that has nothing to do with the pain forms in Peter’s throat. “I—I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay,” Tony presses. “Like I said—it’s all on me, alright? I never should have roped you into a life you couldn’t handle. It’s over, and there’s no point prolonging the pain—mine or yours. So just let go.”

Tears burn Peter’s eyes. “But I’m Spider-Man.”

“Sure,” Tony replies, voice still gentle. “But looks like Spider-Man isn’t enough for this one, bud. It’s okay. You can give up now.”

“No.” Peter squeezes the wire in his palms, the fresh wave of pain giving him focus. “No, I am strong enough. I am. I am.”

“I’m one of the smartest men in the world, Peter. If there’s a way out of this, I would have seen it. And I can’t see it, so it doesn’t exist. So let go and save yourself. Consider it my dying wish, okay?”

“I’ll heal,” Peter insists, and then it strikes him. “I’ll heal.”

And then he forces himself to look at his hands.

It’s so subtle that he would have missed it if he wasn’t looking for it, but there, around the jagged corners of the multiple cuts is fresh skin, slowly growing over the wire. “I heal,” Peter breathes, and then, down to Tony, “I’m healing.”

“Pete, you have barbed wire wrapped up in your veins right now.”

“And I’m going to heal over it,” Peter insists. “So I’m going to stop bleeding. I won’t pass out from blood loss, I’ll be fine.”

“Fine, huh?” Tony shoots back. “And what about when we have to pull that wire out later? Are you going to be fine then?”

Peter’s stomach lurches, but he forces the trepidation down. “Better than you dying.”

Tony swears, although not as creatively as Peter is used to hearing from the mechanic. “I’m still going to die of blood loss, you realize that right?”

“Rescue will come,” Peter insists. “It will.” Because there’s no other option.

Peter doesn’t know how long they're up there, although it’s enough for an ache to begin in his stomach, a scratch growing in the back of his throat. The thirst becomes a problem before the hunger does, given the amount of Peter’s blood now staining the rooftop, but even so Peter doesn’t feel as thirsty as he should be given the mockingly sunny skies above him. He’s still wet too, and cold and shivering and miserable, but Tony’s still here, still alive, as Peter’s skin starts to close around the barbed wire.

“We’re going to be okay, Mr. Stark,” Peter calls out at intermittent intervals, more to himself than Tony. “Rescue is coming, it’s got to. We’re going to be okay.”

He doesn’t know how many times he says it before he hears the familiar whine of repulsors.

Peter slumps against the rooftop in pure relief as he sees the War Machine suit incoming. It lands with a thump next to Peter’s side, the faceplate opening up to reveal a both frantic and relieved Rhodey. “Peter! Are you okay?”

“Get…get Mr. Stark.”

Rhodey reaches out, testing Peter’s restraints. “Wow, he locked you down good, didn’t he?”

“They’ll open up when I let go.” Peter lifts his head. Why isn’t Rhodey doing something? “You need to get—”

“Kid. I got him.”

Peter squints at his hands, to where Rhodey is now gripping the barbed wire in the War Machine gauntlets, right below where it's enmeshed in Peter’s skin.

“I got him,” Rhodey insists. “You did great, Peter, you really did, but I got it from here. You can let go.”

“Listen to him, Pete,” Tony calls up, voice strained and exhausted. “Good job. I’m saved. Let go.”

Peter swallows, picturing tearing the barbed wire out of his skin. “Wouldn’t it be better if you grabbed Mr. Stark instead? Flew him up here?”

Rhodey fixes him with a look. “Who’s the more experienced one here, Peter?”

“I mean, you, but—”

“Then trust me. Let go.”

“But,” Peter scrambles in his tired brain for the reason Rhodey would have for insisting on doing it the more painful way. “Can’t you just—”

“Pete, not to rush you, but I really want this over with,” Tony calls up. Then, softer, “It’s okay, son. We got this.”

Peter freezes. “What did you call me?”

“Peter, come on, we don’t have time for this,” Rhodey tries to prompt him, but Peter’s not listening.

“Pepper said you’d never call me that,” Peter says. “That none of the Avengers would anymore. Because of Dad. And Ben.”

“I’m dangling off a roof by my now skin-less arms kid, give me a break.”

“Count of three,” Rhodey says, gripping the wire tighter. “Then you’re letting go, and we’re getting you both straight to the hospital. Three.”

Peter squints up at Rhodey, the sun gleaming off the armor blinding him. The sun. The sun when there had been a rainstorm just that morning.


The sun that Peter has been lying in for god knows how long and he still isn’t dry.


“No!” Peter's head spins as it tries to wrap itself around the new information. “What's happening? Where am I?”

“You’re holding me off the edge of a roof,” Tony’s pained voice reminds him. “So—”

“You’re not Tony!” The moment Peter says it out loud, he’s sure it’s true. Snapping at him. Telling he wasn’t strong enough. Son. It’s not Tony. It never has been. “This—this isn’t real. I don’t understand how but I know—I know that.”

“Aw, Peter, why’d you have to go and ruin all the fun?”

The words come out of Rhodey’s mouth, but it’s not Rhodey’s voice. A very un-Rhodey-like grin splits the colonel’s face, only for him to flicker and fade out of existence.

The rooftop goes with him. And the construction site. And the blue skies.

The restraints and the barbed wire stay.

Peter’s inside. It looks like an old warehouse, judging by the shape of the roof, the huge garage doors on the far side of the building, all closed. Peter’s still high up, still tied down, but it’s not to a rooftop. He’s on top of what looks like a large stone pillar, and the wire isn’t connected to Tony at all, it’s connected to—

A sack. Frayed, dusty, ordinary. Filled with just enough bricks to make it feel like Peter was holding up his mentor.

Tears sting his eyes with the pure unfairness of it all, before anger takes over. “Why?”

“Because Tony Stark ruined my goddamn life, Parker, that’s why. So I thought I’d have some fun with his precious little intern as payback.”

Peter twists his head, looking around the warehouse, just catching the corners of what might be drones in the edges of his vision. “It was a hologram.”

“Good, aren’t they? So many uses. So many applications. And your moronic 'hero' turned them into a therapy gimmick with a crappy acronym and didn’t even credit me.”

Peter bites down on his lip, staring down at his now almost healed over wrists. He’s going to have to tear the wire out if he wants to free himself of the heavy sack.

“Well, I hope Tony enjoys the little home video I’m making for him,” the voice continues. “Why don’t you finish it off there, Peter? Grand finale time!”

Peter doesn’t want to. Even though it means an end to the ordeal—if whoever the crazy voice belongs to even lets him go—the idea of ripping the wire out through his freshly healed skin makes his empty stomach turn. “You can do this,” Peter breathes, trying to psych himself up. “Just pull, and then it’ll be over. You can do this. You can do this.”

He readies himself, pulling in some deep inhales to steady himself, breathing in the scents of, not a construction site, but a warehouse, all of it tinged with—

Blood. But not just his. Peter has a split second to register that it’s kind of gross and messed up that he knows what Tony’s blood smells like before he catches the other lingering scent.

The cologne.

“Aw, is little Petey scared?” the voice taunts him. “So much for big bad Spider-Man. Come on, Peter, you’re only going to heal more the longer you wait.”

It’s too much detail. There’s no way whoever this is got enough of Tony’s blood to make this work. There’s no way whoever this is knows the exact cologne Pepper Potts buys her husband so that his intern won’t have a reaction to it.

No. Tony’s here. He’s bleeding and he’s hurt and he’s here.

Peter’s resolve strengthens. “Where is he?”

There’s a pause over the loudspeaker. “You’ll have to be more specific.”

“Tony,” Peter demands. “Where. Is. He.”

Another long pause. Then a bout of surprised laughter. “I have to say, Parker—I did not give you enough credit. I can see why Tony took you under his wing. Shame you’re about to let him die, though.”

There’s another shimmer, and Peter braces himself, waiting for his setting to change again. It doesn’t. It’s still the warehouse. He’s still on top of the stone pillar. But there’s no longer a sack dangling from his abused wrists.

It’s Tony. He’s battered and exhausted and every bit as bloody as the holographic version of him had been, something thick and black wrapped around his mouth. Below him isn’t a construction site. It isn’t a stone warehouse floor. It’s an honest to god spike pit, a dozen or so jagged bits of steel pointing straight up to where Tony is helplessly dangling.

Peter sees Tony’s eyes widen when he realizes that Peter can finally see him, then indicates with his head the far corner of the warehouse. Peter follows his gaze, catching the tiny camera there. “Well, this has been fun,” the voice crows. “You should have seen Tony’s face when his cute little mentee thought his hero was telling him he wasn’t strong enough to save him.”

Tony’s eyes narrow in an indignant glare in the direction of the camera.

“Come on, Tony, don’t look at me like that. It’s not like I’m wrong. We’re right back to where we started. Peter, I meant what I said about releasing you once you let go. And you are going to let go—everyone here knows it.”

Tony swivels his head back to Peter, shaking it, and Peter reads the message in his mentor’s eyes. You got this. You are strong enough.

“I got this,” Peter repeats, a new energy surging through him. This guy doesn’t get to win, Peter isn’t going to drop Tony, and they’re both going to walk out of here. “I got this.”

“Adorable,” the voice mocks him. “You really did pick a plucky one, didn’t you, Tony? I hope it doesn’t ruin him too much, knowing that he caused Iron Man’s death.”

Tony frantically shakes his head at Peter. Not your fault.

“Doesn’t matter,” Peter gets out. “You’re not dying.”

The voice is saying something else now, but Peter blocks it out. He has one task now. Don’t let go.

He doesn’t know how much time passes. He can feel the wire burying into him, feel the last of the flesh close shut around it. Thoughts are trying to crowd him, the voice on the loudspeaker not helping, reminding him that Tony could still die of blood loss, that the damage to both of them might be irreparable even if they both survive, but he crowds them out and replaces them with three words.

Don’t. Let. Go.

The next time he hears Rhodey’s repulsors, they’re real, and accompanied by the flap of metal wings and the singing of a vibranium shield.

The shield cuts right through the metal band trapping Peter’s shoulders to the top of the stone pillar. Peter scrambles upright, finally having the space to try and heave Tony upright, only to have the weight vanish entirely.

There’s a heart-stopping moment of panic when Peter is sure he somehow dropped Tony after all. Then he sees a flash of silver as Rhodey soars upwards, gripping Tony around the waist and guiding them both onto the roof.

“Mr. Stark?” Peter tries. Tony looks awful, pale and bloody and exhausted, and from the concerned look his mentor is throwing him, Peter doubts he looks any better.

Tony fumbles for the gag, his ripped-up fingers ineffectual, so Rhodey reaches up and snaps the straps for him. Tony tosses it aside, and Peter just gets a glimpse of sound-proofed padding before Tony’s tilting Peter’s chin up, worry lining his face. “Pete. Kid. Are you okay?”

There’s the clash of metal on metal, and Peter twists around to see Sam using the shield to free the rest of him. “But—the guy—”

“Bucky has it,” Sam explains, a second before a scream echoes out over the loudspeaker. “Sounds like he really has it.”

“What the hell?” Rhodey flips the faceplate of his suit up, looking down in disgust at the wire still connecting Peter and Tony’s arms. “Is that stuff in you, kid?”

“Um…” Peter looks down at where the wire is poking out from the newly grown skin. Now that the urgency of the situation has passed, the full gruesomeness of it hits him. “Guess we really went down to the wire on that one.”

Tony groans. “Please don’t tell me puns are going to be your new thing.”

“I make no promises.”

“Here.” Rhodey leans forward and breaks both wires in two, so at least Peter and Tony can move without pulling on each other. “We’ll sort the rest out in the Tower med bay.”

“Is there going to be…” Peter swallows as he looks over Tony’s emaciated arms, remembering the voice’s words. “You know. Permanent damage?”

“Not if we move fast,” Sam assures him. “The Cradle should even prevent the scarring being too bad.” He claps Peter on the shoulder. “Amazing work, Peter, really.”

“Hey,” Tony protests. “That’s my line. I mean it,” he adds, looking at Peter. “Beck should have known better than that you’d fall for his cheap tricks. It was the son comment, right?”

“That and I’m wet,” Peter explained. “If it was that sunny I would have dried off, holes in my shoes or not.”

Tony stares at him. “I think this is the blood loss talking, but did I just hear holes in shoes?”

“They’re fine,” Peter says quickly. “Really. Just not when it’s raining.”

“Kid, do you even remember who I am?” Tony sighs, leaning heavily against Rhodey’s side, Rhodey wrapping a protective arm around his shoulders. “Alright. Here’s the plan. Med bay. Get this stuff cut out of us. Replace some blood and other important bits. Then I’m buying you a pair of top-of-the-line shoes for every day of the year.”

“No, Mr. Stark, you don’t have to—”

“You just saved my life, kid, so—”

Rhodey interjects. “How about for every day of the week, like a slightly more normal person, and I get to take you to the med bay right now?”

Peter meets Tony’s gaze, seeing the pride there behind the pain and exhaustion. Remembered how Tony had looked at him, trusted him. You got this. You are strong enough.

“New shoes sound great,” Peter gives in. “I get to choose.”

“Fine. But nothing cheap.”

“I just said I get to choose.”

“Or Captain America-themed.”

“Hey,” Sam protests. “My merch is way better than Steve’s ever was.”

Peter zones out after that, letting them bicker, not even complaining when Sam scoops him into his arms to carry him back to the med bay. It’s over. They’re safe.

He was strong enough.