...he deserved that.

September 03, 2018:

Spider-man comes by Stark Tower to visit Tony as lies in his coma and comes away with a new gift.

Stark Tower

Characters

NPCs: JARVIS, Dummy

Mentions:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Stark Tower is a mess.

I mean really. Worse than usual.

The first floor looks like a freight train went though it. Then reversed. Then went back though it. The mid-floors are covered with debris from the multiple impacts that tossed items everywhere.

At the top floor, where Stark usually works, is windowless. Evidence of the violence done there.

Stark himself? Well he could go to a hospital, even SHIELD offered, but the man was always more comfortable at home. The Tower's med-bays are some of the most advanced on the planet anyway. His experimental tech pulled from across the globe to make sure his employees have the best care around. Thankfully none of the employees are actually hurt. In fact there are only two rooms occupied.

One by Miss Jessica Jones, and the other by the man himself. Tony Stark.

The room that they put him in still holds touches of his personality. Holoemitters all around, pictures of himself in Iron Man suits from magazine covers. More pictures from him from various missions. The bed is of course one of the most modern medical beds on the planet. He doesn't even have to be hooked up to anything for it to monitor him, so it looks like he's just…asleep. Eyes closed, breathing steady, his color even came back.

And next to the bed rests Dummy. The little bot recharging from his own damage in trying to repair Stark. Fire extinguisher close at hand.

Just in case.

*

There are police. A respectable number; not really a swarm. The crime isn't that important. One is waiting outside the door for you when you arrive.

It's the confusion you feel at first. A sort of red-hot flare that touches your cheeks and rings in your ears as the officer addresses you. The feeling that you're not really here. That it's not really happening. That you'll close your eyes and…

… it's how hard your heart is beating. That's what you recognize best as you push past the officer; it practically feels like it's lodged in your throat as you rush in, as if on some hopeless hope that you won't see what's waiting for you past the opened door:

"… tried to rob him, and in the altercation, your uncle…"

The most important person in your life, gone.

+++

There aren't any police here today.

It doesn't lessen the pounding in Peter Parker's ears any less.

He's not sure when he actually arrived at Stark Tower. As soon as he could. As soon as he heard. Why he didn't hear sooner, well — that's something that he's been beating himself up over since he's arrived. Much of the time since has been lingering within the medbay, near those two doors. Two rooms. Two people, important to him. He hadn't even realized Jessica Jones had been in trouble either, and that too had been a shock to his system. He's spent the better part of a half hour staring at those doors and dreading what he'll see past either one.

Because he knows well no amount of wishing is going to change the reality of what's behind him.

He stares. Past the lenses of his mask. One room, to the next. His hands curl into fists.

And when the door leading to Tony Stark's room hisses closed, there is a sizable dent in the wall of that now-emptied hall.

That's just like him, Peter thinks, as he sees all those photographs of Tony, and really that wry observation just makes the circumstances sting all the harder. There he is. Tony Stark. Asleep. Maybe forever.

And all for… what?

"Hey, Dummy," murmurs the vigilante, after a few long minutes of silence. He stands at the end of Tony's bed, unable to move an inch — as if frightened even the slightest nudge might make those vitals shift to something much more bleak. Behind his mask, he bites hard at his lower lip.

"Mister Stark… what happened to you?"

*

There is a whirr of gears as Dummy 'looks' up, the manipulator arm focusing on Peter for a moment before he begins to roll. Whirring towards the red-clad vigilante to awkwardly try to pat him on the shoulder. Just a little, brief, robohug. Maybe Peter needs it. Maybe Dummy needs it. It is hard to tell.

"Mister Parker," JARVIS' voice usually comes loud and from everywhere. Now it is quieter. Modulated. "I had hoped that you would come by." He doesn't mention the dent in the hallway. The AI knows better than that. "Dummy, could you get package twenty three for Mister Parker?"

As the robot starts to trundle off JARVIS continues. "I can tell you what happened if you like…"

*

There is a mild start from the slim spider-hero as he feels that mechanical hug. Somehow, it manages to be awkward, and yet… Peter still only hesitates a second before his hand reaches out to pat Dummy back. Maybe Dummy needs it. Maybe he needs it.

Maybe they both do.

"I don't know what to do," he confesses, his voice little more than a whisper. He feels so angry. And frightened. And powerless. He feels like that day—

Mister Parker.

White lenses flicker in an approximation of a blink as Peter looks up and around him. "JARVIS?" He sounds different. So quiet. Like he was far away, despite being practically everywhere.

"Yeah, I…" he hesitates for a moment and looks down, towards Tony. "… I wish I could have come sooner. I'm sorry. I… wait, package?"

A second passes by, before he his curiosity is sidelined by something more important. His lens-covered gaze looks up towards one of those many pictures of Iron Man, inviting old memories, before he finally takes hold of his mask and peels it off so that he may rub at bloodshot eyes.

"I… yeah. Yeah. I — I need to know. Tell me everything, JARVIS."

*

And JARVIS does, is soft measured tones. The Extremis project, FuturePharm, the strange enhannced soldiers who were terrorizing the world. The mutants that he felt responsible for in some way.

Then yesterday.

A frame job, delivered at the right time, by the right person, with the right information. A lie that turned the leaders of the Brotherhood of Mutants against Stark like a guided weapon. The X-men who were, by some magic, here fast enough to save him.

"Do not blame yourself, Mister Parker. No one could have seen this coming. Someone at FuturePharm planned this very carefully, they knew exactly what to say to set the Brotherhood off into a rage. Almost no one could have gotten here in time."

The AI sounds a bit stronger now, as if his attention is finally back to this room. His attention elsewhere for some time. "Forgive me, Mister Stark did something…reckless and I'm trying to assist him with it." There is a pause before the voice continues. "He'll be fine, Mister Parker. Eventually. He /will/ wake up."

"He left a message for you though, if you wish to see it."

*

And he listens. To all of it. And in the end, he just feels… angrier, with no idea where to direct it. At the Brotherhood, for doing this to one of the most important people in his life? At FuturePharm, for arranging all this? For the people behind Extremis, for setting everything into motion?

Right now, Peter Parker's answer is 'all of them.'

He knows exactly the last time he felt this angry. And he does a poor job hiding it without his mask. Jaw tense to a tremble, lips pulled tight, brows marching toward their center like they're about to go to war with one another, he is a portrait of directionless fury. He wants to lash out. At everyone.

… But he knows it can't be like that. He knows too well. Hands shaking, he slowly relaxes them at his side as he reins in that kneejerk response. It won't solve anything. Won't help anything. He can't keep himself from the blame or the guilt, but… at least he can focus on what to do next.

"You're right. You're right. I just…" Hazel eyes shut. Peter breathes out a sigh. "It's fine. I'm fine. I'm gonna kick someone's dumb Extremis butt with spider-strength, and then I'm gonna be fine. And then Mister Stark is gonna wake up and be like, 'wow Peter, you kicked all that Extremis butt all by yourself?? That's Secret Superavengers Squad material right there!' and it's… it's gonna be fine. He's gonna be fine." Because really, all he can do right now is believe that.

"… Wait. Reckless the what now?"

Hazel eyes open into a blink. They instantly roll down towards the prone form of the sleeping Tony Stark. "… Jeez, Mister Stark, you already almost died. What did he do, JARVIS-?"

It's a question that lingers, if only for a moment, before the AI makes that offer. His head tilts at a confused angle, lips pursing faintly. "… a message? For me? What — why? What is it?"

*

There is almost a smile heard in the AI's voice. "That is exactly what he will say, Mister Parker." JARVIS replies as he AI sends his mind though the system picking out the message that Stark had recorded for the vigilante.

However there is an electronic sigh for a moment. "Ah yes, he…took one of his newest inventions. The physical damage with severe after what happened. Between everything Mister Stark decided to risk taking an Extremis antigen he had just developed in order to ensure his survival."

A pause from the AI.

"Miss Foster is assisting me in making sure everything turns out well. He will pull through this. I have already been assured by Miss Summers that his mind is quite intact. She is one of the ones that saved him, a powerful telepath by all accounts so she does at least know what she is talking about."

This is about when Dummy rolls back in with a wrapped package. "Ah yes, the package and the recording. He was going to give you this today. I took it upon myself to get it for you, and the recording." A holoscreen pops up in front of Dummy at that, a blinking play button in the middle.

"You can play it now, or watch it at your leisure if you wish."

*

Between everything Mister Stark decided to risk taking an Extremis antigen he had just developed in order to ensure his survival.

Peter Parker just sort of… bonelessly slumps into a nearby chair, like a fatigue he didn't even know he was nursing was just decided to make itself known. Face settling comfortably into the palms of his hands, he drags his red-clad fingers downward.

"… You really just can't do anything the simple way, can you Mister Stark?"

But he's still smiling, just a bit, in the aftermath of that exasperated observation.

He should be worried. In fact, he can think of a thousand reasons, literally, why he should be worried and also probably should be yelling at Tony about how crazy that was (like he has room to talk). And yet, instead of all that, Peter just feels… relief. Palpable, exhausting relief.

Because Tony's still Tony. And that just gives him faith he'll make it out of this.

"… Hey, JARVIS, can you, like — hook me up with the details of this antigen Mister Stark was making? And whatever you've got on the Extremis? It's not like — I mean, Doctor Foster is super smart even though her kids are kinda weird-" it's a joke but also don't ask "-it's just…"

He wants to know. He wants to know what's going on. What might happen. If he can help, even just a little…

But his thoughts stray upon Dummy's return. Tilting his head up from its perch upon his hands, hazel eyes peer at the approaching package with the mild furrow of brows. "He was — planning on giving me this? Today? This isn't — I mean, it's not like, my birthday. … is it?" A second passes by. "E-er yeah of course it's not, I knew that. Shut up. But then what's…?"

His sentence trails. He looks at the package, and then the recording. And, frown at his lips, he takes one more look at Tony as if he could answer all Peter's questions even in this state, before tentatively reaching out to take that package… and press that blinking button.

*

"No Mister Parker," There is that same exasperation in the AI's voice. "He really can't."

"But yes, I'll have the notes sent to your suit." A pause. "Oh and she has children? I shall send her and Mister Barnes a congratulation basket!"

This is sure to go fine. Right? Fine.

The button is pressed then, as JARVIS is going on about the wonders of children. Stark's image pops up on the screen. He's dressed down really, button up white linen shirt. Linen slacks, and he seems to be on a plane. Waiting somewhere.

"So kid, if you're watching this it means something happened. What likely happened is I got held up in Spain for a few extra days with a hot blonde doing things I'll tell ya about when your older. Yeah, pretty sure that's all that will happen to me." …well Tony defiantly recorded this. But even then there is look he has. A specific look, an acknowledgement of his own mortality, a need to leave messages to make sure things are in order if something happens. "Anyway, since my dad was basically the worst and we have this mentor thing going on. I wanted to make something for ya. Just ask JARVIS for it." Dummy points to the package in Peter's hand at this point.

Stark pauses for a moment as he looks around the camera, as if trying to figure out how close someone is to getting on the plane. Apparently it is far enough away because he looks back to the camera.

"You're doing good, kid. You are. I know it is hard to believe that sometimes, whoo boy do I know but trust me. You are. Keep helping the people you can, and don't always blame yourself for the people you can't."

A pause.

"God I sound like Steve, JARVIS edit this out and make me sound cooler and edgey or something in post would you?" Stark pauses a moment. "Anyway, I know it bothered you with the Extremis stuff. So I developed an antigen. That's what you got there, modifications for your web blasters that can shoot the stuff. It'll look like gold glowing goo, but it should work. It'll cancel out the bad stuff. Just try not to get it on someone without Extremis in them, I haven't tried it on a normal yet."

JARVIS just sighs at this point.

"If you need more, just ask JARVIS. And remember not all of them are innocent but…at least now you can give em a choice right?"

He pauses a moment.

"I really do sound like Steve! This is why I hate leadership! I'm not lead—"

The sound of expensive shoots on a landing deck can be heard.

"Ooop, gotta go, kid. Take care of yourself. And say hi to your Aunt May for me. She's still single right?" A flash of that grin again before Stark reaches up to tweak the recorder off.

…and in the package? Are the little tweaked mods for the webspinners. All ready to go.

*

Oh and she has children? I shall send her and Mister Barnes a congratulation basket!

"Er, no, I-" begins Peter Parker, before he hesitates. Maybe they would like to get a gift basket? Bucky seems like someone who could really use a gift basket.

"-nevermind. Maybe just uh… keep the reason, I dunno, vague I guess? They're — easily embarrassed about it."

This is fine.

"You know, because it like, makes them feel super old or whatever."

This is definitely fine.

It's a strange thing, to see Tony Stark standing there, talkative and lively as ever. Peter has been to will readings before; his Uncle Ben didn't have a video will, but there is some sort of strange cognitive dissonance that is hard to grapple with even then. Now, watching Tony talking, rambling, even as he is no more than a few feet away from Peter now, recovering from a near-fatal encounter?

It's dissonant in a way that Peter cannot put into words, like watching the spirit of a person outside their own body.

But even trying to wrap his head around this, he listens. He listens, even as he looks down at that package. Listens to the significance of the gift he has been given. Listens to how proud Tony is of him. Listens to Tony urge him not to blame himself. Listens to Tony be Tony. Be Mister Stark.

Keep helping the people you can, and don't always blame yourself for the people you can't.

By the end, Peter Parker is hugging that gift to his chest, curled mildly against it.

It helps hide the glimmering sting of tears, even just a little bit.

"O-okay," he breathes out, voice thick with emotion to the point of choking. "… okay."

He inhales a soft sniffle through his nostrils; rubs his eyes with the back of his hand in a vain attempt to wipe away beading tears. For at least fifteen seconds, he doesn't say a single thing.

He is going to put this gift to good use. He swears it, quietly, to himself. He's going to help end all of this. Give people their second chances.

He's going to live up to what Tony sees in him.

But first:

"… Dummy, can you get me a permanent marker?"

*

Dummy 'looks' at Peter, then at Tony, then back to Peter.

And slowly reaches down to a storage compartment to pull out a sharpie.

…after everything they have gone through. The little AI thinks they deserve this.

*

And with a grim nod, tear-stung eyes filled with serious resolve, Peter Parker takes that sharpie and gravely tugs his mask over his head.

"You've done well, Dummy. I do this for both of us."

And with that, the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man first leaps to the ceiling. He scribbles something there, swiftly, before dropping down once more to land quietly next to Tony's bed. He pauses. He looks at his sharpie. Looks at Tony. Lenses whirr into a squint.

"… I promise I'm gonna make you proud, Mister Stark," he says, quietly.

And then he gets writing.

"But you kind of have this coming."

By the time Spider-Man is gone, his work is done. The first message is perfectly positioned on the ceiling so that when — not if, when — Tony awakens, the first thing he'll see is:
SHE'S
NOT
INTO YOU

Written right there. Just for him.

And then, of course, the first time he looks in the mirror, he'll find:

REJECTED

written on his forehead.

Helpfully in reverse so he can read it, because mirrors.

Also, sharpie-scrawled tears have been dabbled down his cheeks, because this news will presumably be very sad.

And this is Peter Parker's gift to his most important mentor-father-figure guy.

The confidence that he will pull through to see all of this heartfelt art.

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