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Let's Whump the Spider-Kid and Friends!

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“That’s it, I’m taking you to Strange.”

“Mr. Stark—”

“Nope, it’s official. You’re cursed, Parker. Some voodoo priestess put a curse on your family name and it’s high time we got it removed. How else would you keep ending up in situations like this?”

“Um, hello?” The man currently holding a gun to Peter’s head looks thoroughly put out. “I’m doing a thing here.”

“Oh, sorry!” Peter says, almost sounding like he means it. He probably does mean it, and Tony doesn’t hold back the eye roll. “You go on. I’m sure you’ve practiced really hard and everything.”

Tony lets the Iron Man helmet melt away so he can fix Peter with a look—Tone it down, kid, we’ve got company.

They’re in the New York headquarters of Stark Industries, on one of the busiest floors of the building, and it’s filled with employees currently cowering under desks and trying to not make themselves look like targets. There are five intruders total, ready to open fire with machine guns at the first sign of trouble. Tony wouldn’t normally be that worried—he has a pulse in his suit ready to fire that could take the intruders out in seconds. The problem with that plan is that their leader has done his homework, snatching Peter right from Tony’s side the moment they had burst through the doorway. And just to make everything more complicated, the baddie of the week not only has Peter at gunpoint, but is also holding him barely an inch from a broken window.

They’re several stories up, and if Tony fires the pulse to knock everyone without a suit unconscious, Peter’s going to fall the second there’s no balaclava-wearing bad guy holding him up, and Tony has never regretted insisting Peter take a day off from Spider-Man to be a regular intern more. No web-shooters. No suit. No using his powers without exposing his identity to a dozen or so strangers, a few of which are sneakily filming. Tony really hopes that’s with the intent of giving evidence later and not for Tik Tok clout, or he’s going to have a long chat with HR about what kind of people they hire.

“Surely you know we don’t pay ransoms,” Tony begins, but the leader cuts him off.

“This isn’t ransom. This is compensation.”

He looks proud of that line, and Tony braces himself for the usual spiel. Property damage during the Battle of New York. A lost home in Sokovia. Someone who had it better during the Blip than after. “Okay, let’s talk compensation,” Tony says slowly, lowering his repulsor a fraction. If it’s money they want, and not revenge, that lowers the chance that they’re going to shoot Peter.

Great, now he’s gone and pictured it.

The man readjusts his grip. It looks as though he’s just trying to get a firmer hold in Peter’s t-shirt, but it still knocks Peter’s feet against the edge of the broken window. His heels are now over the long drop, and Tony’s heart stutters. It must show on his face, if only for a split second, because he can hear the man’s grin in his next words. “So, our sources were right. You do care about this intern.”

Tony makes a mental note to track down any sources that are leaking to low-level bad guys that Peter is a pressure point for him. Which the kid is, but they really don’t need every criminal and their grandma to know about it. “I care that you’re holding a gun to a seventeen-year-old’s head on my property, yes. If you shoot him, I don’t even think my PR team can turn the press in my favor again. So how about you tell us what you want so we can all go back to work, yeah? These people are on the clock.”

He belatedly hopes that his employees recognize that the nonchalance is for show—everyone in this room is getting two weeks paid leave minimum after this—but the man with the gun isn’t amused. “You don’t even know who I am, do you, Stark?”

“How is he supposed to know who you are when you have a balaclava covering your face?” Peter points out.

The man starts a little, realizing. With a curse, he shifts his gun arm so it’s wrapped tightly around Peter’s chest, leaving a free hand to pull off the cloth mask. It’s…a guy. Mid-forties, brown hair, totally unremarkable. Didn’t Tony’s villains used to have class once upon a time? Or at least a little flair? “There! Remember me now?”

“This is very awkward,” Tony replies. “But no.”

“And if you wanted him to know who you are,” Peter adds. “Why did you cover up your face in the first place?”

Tony shrugs. “Kid’s got a point.”

The man’s response is to get both arms around Peter again, shoving the gun so tightly against his head that he breaks skin. “I don’t think you understand the gravity of the situation. Or did you forget who has the hostage here?”

“Yeah, about that,” Peter continues. “Um, Mr. Stark, can we wrap this up? This really isn’t a cool enough bad guy to take me out.”

“Yeah, no bad guys are taking you out, Underoos, period.”

“That so?” The gunman tries to get ahold of the situation that’s quickly slipping through his fingertips. “Then you’re going to give me what I want, Stark. What I deserve—what all of us deserve!”

There’s a murmuring of agreement from the other hostage-takers. “Yeah?” Tony counters. “And what do you deserve?”

“Mike Snow.”

“I—what?”

“That’s my name,” the guy snaps. “What, doesn’t ring any bells?”

“No, Mike, it doesn’t.”

Peter groans. “Your name is Mike? That’s so lame, dude. Couldn’t you have, like, a cool villain name or something?”

“I’m not a villain!” The words come out as a yell, jostling Peter a couple of centimeters further out of the window. “I’m a victim! Of Tony Stark.”

Tony decides it’s time to take Peter’s advice and wrap this up. As incompetent as this guy is, his intern’s still being dangled out a window and his employees are being traumatized. “Alright, bring it. What did I do?”

Snow narrows his eyes at him. “You really don’t remember me.”

“I ruin a lot of people’s lives,” Tony says bluntly. “And when I try to stop doing that, when I try to save people, it always ends up worse for someone—look at the Flagsmashers. Welcome to real life. So why don’t you tell me what I did that was apparently so horrible that it justifies holding a teenager hostage?”

Snow casts an almost surprised look at Peter, as though actually seeing him for the first time. “I won’t hurt him if you give me what I want. I won’t hurt anyone except you. Because you deserve it. Because you fired me.”

Tony blinks. “That’s it?”

“You think you’re so high and mighty,” Snow retorts. “You think you saved us from the Blip? What about all of us that came back and didn’t have jobs to go to? At your company? So much for taking care of your employees.”

Tony looks around at the multiple people cowering under furniture. “Yeah, I’m not buying your ‘concern for my employees’ angle right now.”

Snow flicks the safety off the gun, the small click deafening.“Okay, okay.” Tony holds up his hands, placating. He’s not sure if Snow will actually shoot Peter, but now an accident is just waiting to happen, and with Peter’s luck he doesn’t want to risk it. “I’m here, I’m listening. You got me. What do you want? And please don’t say your job back, because that’s going to be a very awkward conversation.”

“He can have my job,” Peter offers. “I’m not a big fan of it right now.”

“I don’t want my job,” Snow snaps. “I want you to get out of the suit, Stark. Now.”

“Okay, if you want the suit, I have to warn you that it comes with a very complicated set of piloting instructions and security codes that—”

“I don’t want the suit!” Snow’s finger twitches against the trigger, and Tony has a minor heart attack. “I want you out of it, so I can shoot you.”

The room goes deathly silent, except for the harsh breathing and occasional sob from the trapped employees. Peter breaks it. “I really want to say ‘Cool motive, still murder.’ But decidedly uncool motive, dude. It’s a job.”

Snow turns on Peter. “Like a rich little brat like you would understand.”

“I understand that Stark Industries set up like a million foundations for when people got back from the Blip,” Peter retorts. “Including a fund to help the unemployed. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than scaring a bunch of innocent people.”

Snow actually looks thrown for a moment. “They’re not innocent. They’re Stark’s employees!”

“What, like you’re so upset at not being anymore?” Peter counters. “Come on, they’re not part of this, why don’t you just let them go?”

Tony feels a swell of affection and admiration for the kid. If the civilians get out of the way, Tony has a much better chance of taking out the people with guns without anyone getting shot. And if some Spider-Man mojo is needed to help that happen, the fewer witnesses the better.

But Snow isn’t buying it. “They can leave after Stark takes off the suit.” Snow switches the arm wrapped around Peter’s shoulders to gripping the back of his t-shirt again, pulling him backward until he’s leaning right out over the drop. The move lowers Tony’s chances of getting to Peter before he either gets shot or shoved out of the window to pretty much zero. “Or I can kill your intern. Either way, I’m getting my payback.”

Tony’s brain shorts out for a minute, It’s so stupid—all the security measures he’s put in place around Peter’s safety and some asshole with a grudge just waltzes right through every one of them. He doesn’t see a way of getting them both out of this without either one of them or the civilians getting hurt.

“Take the suit off,” Snow repeats, voice dangerous, and Tony realizes that he means it. This is happening. And if it’s him or Peter, then—

“No!” Peter protests, seeing Tony move to retract the suit. “No, Mr. Stark, don’t!

“Yes, Mr. Stark, do,” Snow mocks him, levering Peter so far out of the window that only his toes are left on the edge, Snow’s grip on his t-shirt the only thing keeping him from falling. “Or say goodbye to the kid.”

Tony runs through scenarios, making a catalog of Peter’s powers. But even if Peter can escape his captor, Tony also knows that the kid isn’t going to do anything while there are other people held at gunpoint too.

“Don’t,” Peter repeats, but this time it’s bolder, more confident. He’s looking around, glancing out the window at the ground below him, and Tony knows him well enough to recognize when Peter’s coming up with a plan. He shuffles himself backward, carefully so Snow won’t catch him, and Tony realizes with a fresh stab of panic that Peter is preparing to jump. He meets Tony’s eyes, letting Tony read the message there. Do you trust me?

Slowly, Tony nods. Peter knows Tony has that pulse ready—he helped Tony design it. He’s getting himself out of the way so Tony can use it. Peter can be reckless, but he’s far from stupid. He’s found a way to catch himself. Or, the Avengers have been alerted and there’s now someone with flight abilities around to catch him—Rhodey, Sam, Vision, Wanda. Hell, it could be Pepper, this idiot is messing with her company after all.

“Yes,” Tony decides. “I trust you.”

Peter nods. “Thanks, Mr. Stark.” Then he steps backward and tumbles out of the window.

Tony’s immediately moving, taking advantage of the intruders’ shock to send out the pulse wave, knocking every soul in the room except him unconscious. It takes out the hostages too, but it can’t be helped, and as much as a vindictive part of Tony wants to watch Snow fall, he still does his duty and flies forward to catch him before he can topple out the window.

Through it all, he listens intently for the sound that will indicate which of the Avengers swooped in to catch Peter, or maybe the thwip of a concealed web-shooter that means Peter caught himself. Tony hears neither.

Instead, he hears the crunch of Peter’s bones as the kid hits the sidewalk.

 


 

“For the last time, Mr. Stark, I knew exactly what I was doing!”

“Kid. You yeeted yourself out a window.”

“And I’m fine!”

Tony sighs, beyond exasperated. “I can’t even count all the bones you broke, Webs. Look at you.”

To say Peter’s a mess doesn’t even cover it. He’s laid out in a hospital bed, and Tony can barely see his intern’s body for all the splints and bandages being used to help his shattered skeleton knit itself back together. “The doctor said I would be out in a week! Or did you forget that I heal, like, crazy fast?”

“I feel like you’re missing the point.” Tony slumps back in the hospital chair, back complaining at him from sitting in it for so long. He doesn’t care. He wasn’t going to move until Peter woke up. “I trusted you, and you go and pull that stunt?”

Peter deflates a little, but he stays defiant. “That guy was going shoot you.”

“It’s not your job to worry about me, okay? You put yourself first.”

“What, and let you get shot?” Peter sees Tony about to argue, and presses on. “I could see that you were about to take your suit off. And I knew I was going to be fine. I did the math.”

“The math,” Tony repeats flatly.

“Yeah,” Peter insists. “It was just gravity and velocity and stuff. I’m not fifteen anymore—I know what my body can take and what it can’t. I knew I’d live. I wasn’t sure you were going to. So I jumped.” His lips twitch. “You could say that I did understand the gravity of the situation.”

Tony ignores that last sentence. “You still got hurt,” he points out. “Very, very hurt, kid.”

“Yeah, but you didn’t die, and neither did any of the hostages. I don’t mind a few broken bones that will heal in a week if it means no one else got hurt.”

Tony sighs again, but this time he can’t stop it from sounding affectionate. “You’re making it really hard to be mad at you right now.”

“If it helps, I think May is mad enough for both of you.” Peter bites his lip. “That guy. Did he really lose his job?”

“Do you care?”

“Well…I know he overreacted, big time, but I’ve seen what happens when people lose their employment. It happens around my apartment building all the time. It really messes with people’s lives.”

“So, funny story. Yes, the guy did lose his job. But not because of the Blip. He was actually lined up to be fired the morning of, but before HR could tell him he was fired…” Tony snaps his fingers. “Dusted.”

Peter still sounds concerned. “But why was he fired?”

“Inappropriate workplace conduct towards female employees.”

Peter wrinkles his nose, concern evaporating. “Oh. Gross.”

“Yep.” Tony leans forward, voice turning sincere. “For what it’s worth—you did good, okay? But next time, if there’s a way out that doesn’t include you getting hurt, you take that one. Especially if the option you’re considering includes jumping out of any buildings, and especially especially if you’re asking me to trust you with something like that.”

A smile tugs at the corners of Peter’s lips. “But I heard it’s a good team-building exercise.”

“What is?”

Peter lets himself grin. “Trust falls.”

Tony groans. “That’s it. You’re fired now.”

“You can’t fire me when I’m injured! That’s workplace discrimination.”

“When you’re healed then. You’re out of here, Parker.”

“Fine. Did you want me to leave via the door or the window?”

“Too soon, Pete. Way too soon.”

“When then?”

“Give me at least three days to recover. Then we can joke about it. Deal?”

“I think I can manage that. I understand that situation needs some gravity.”

“I will leave this hospital room.”

“No, you won’t.”

Tony sighs. “No, you’re right. I won’t.” He pats the last of Peter’s unbroken limbs. “Get some rest, kid. You earned it.”

“Then I won’t miss my window of opportunity.”

“Peter!”