Peter clawed at the arm around his throat, black spots dancing in his vision as he tried to breathe.
"I won't let you take him."
Tony's voice was hard, his gun trained on the inhuman holding Peter hostage. He would have happily shot the man in the head and been done with it, but the guy wasn't stupid and thanks to his hostage, Tony couldn't get a clear shot.
The man laughed. "You can't stop me." He pushed the gun harder against Peters temple, making the boy whimper.
Tony was getting seriously pissed off. How dare he take his kid and threaten him? Tony didn't even care about the diamonds he'd stolen or the jewellery shop he'd trashed. Tony was going to kill him and it would be for daring to touch Peter.
The kid squirmed in his hold, pulling at the arm around him as it cut off his air and drained his strength. Stupid inhuman.
Tony clenched his teeth, not wavering as he trained his weapon on the thug. "You let him go, or I put you down."
The man shook his head and took a step backwards, dragging Peter to his getaway car. "You won't let him get hurt. You're going to let me take him. But don't worry, I'll give him back. You'll find him in a gutter somewhere once I'm far enough away. Let's hope he doesn't turn into roadkill."
Peter looked so scared. He hadn't been Spider-man when he'd been grabbed. He had just been walking home from school when he'd noticed the place being robbed. He'd called Tony but hadn't gotten time to put his suit on before the guy saw him and taken him as a hostage.
He had tried to fight back but the inhuman made him weak, sapping all his strength and making his muscles too fatigued to fight him off.
Tony had to make a choice. The robber wouldn't let Peter go without hurting him first, but Tony couldn't shoot him without hitting Peter.
He found the teenagers eyes as he desperately searched for another option. But there was none.
"Peter. I am so, so, sorry."
The inhuman smiled, thinking he was getting his way, while Peter let out a whimper. "Mr Stark?"
Tony didn't want to, but what other option did he have?
He pulled the trigger, hating the way Peter screamed when the bullet went through his shoulder and into the man behind him.
He fell to the ground, clutching his bleeding arm and Tony ran over as the inhuman slumped to the ground, dead.
"Peter! I'm so, sorry! Are you okay?"
The kid tried for a smile, but it was nothing but a wobbly grimace. "I...no. It hurts."
Tony felt awful, quickly dropping his gun and pressing his hands to Peters shoulder and back.
"I'm gonna get you fixed up, okay? We'll get you to Bruce."
The teenager nodded, gritting his teeth as blood poured from beneath his fingers. Tony quickly scooped him up, holding him close as he flew to the compound, guilt threatening to choke him the whole way.
Peter was trying to be strong but getting shot really hurt and he couldn't stop the tears from falling down his cheeks when Tony lowered him onto the bed in the med bay.
Bruce ran over and quickly assessed his patient, pressing gauze to wounds and placing lines. Poor Peter lay on the bed, flinching with every touch on his shoulder, trying to stop the whimpers that kept forcing their way from his mouth.
Blood poured from his arm, staining his shirt and soaking into the bed below him.
Bruce was muttering reassurances, telling the kid it would all be okay and trying to keep him calm. Tony wanted to help, wanted to take Peters hand and be there for him but he didn't even know if Peter would want that.
Nurses filed into the room, helping Bruce peel Peters shirt away and control the bleeding, one kind woman taking Tony's arm.
"He's in good hands, Mr Stark. Why don't you wait outside and I'll come get you once he's been treated?"
Tony didn't want to leave but he knew it was for the best and nodded, making his way out.
Steve was there, looking in through the window, forehead creased in concern and he raced forward when Tony came out.
He didn't even realise he was covered in blood until Steve made a face at his chest. "Tony, my god. What happened?"
The Avenger looked down at himself, feeling nauseous at the red slicked over his armour, and quickly stepped out of the suit, sitting down on a chair placed against the wall.
"Some idiot was stealing from a jewellery store and decided to take Peter hostage. I didn't have a clear line of sight on him and he had a gun to Peter's head. So I-"
Tony put his head in his hands, pressing his palms to his eyes until he saw stars. "I shot him."
Steve frowned. "I thought you just said you didn't have a clear line of sight?"
Tony looked up at him, face pale. Steve finally got it, eyes widening as his mouth fell open. "You shot through the kid? Jesus, Tony."
His tone was tired. "I don't need a lecture from you right now, I feel bad enough as it is. You should have seen his face, Steve. I promised never to hurt him and then...but I had no choice."
Steve's hand found his shoulder, squeezing gently as he nodded. "No, you're right. I wasn't there to assess the situation. You were and if you think it was the right call, I believe you. I'm just sorry you had to go through with it. I know how much he means to you."
Tony was grateful for his support, he was so tired and filled to the brim with guilt that he couldn't stand to have an argument just then.
Steve nodded. "No problem. And, hey I'm sure Peter will be fine. You're a good shot, I doubt you hit anything important."
Tony let out a breathy laugh, remembering Rhodey teaching him to shoot. "Yeah, thank goodness Rhodey was such a nag about teaching me."
Steve smiled as Tony made a face, imitating his friend. "It's an important skill. You won't always have your suit. You can't rely on others to keep you safe. I can't always be saving your ass."
Steve laughed, nudging Tony's shoulder with his elbow. "You're one to talk about nagging. Peter, do your homework. Peter, don't stay out too late. Peter, don't crawl on the ceilings in the dark, you look like a demon."
Tony shook his head, rolling his eyes. "He did look like a demon. I almost had a heart attack seeing him up there."
Steve was watching his fond smile with a fond look of his own. "You care about him so, you do everything you can to keep him safe. I know it must have been hard to shoot him but if it saved his life then it was worth it."
Tony let out a sigh, shoulders sagging once more. "What if he doesn't forgive me? Maybe I should have let him go."
Steve's arm wrapped around his shoulders, a comforting weight that calmed his heart just a little.
"You don't know what could have happened if you let that man take Peter. He'll be okay, Tony. You'll see."
Peter's head was fuzzy and his whole body felt warm and melty like a marshmallow in a microwave.
"Peter? Can you hear me?"
His words were melted too, coming out all soft and too long. "Hmm. Bruuucccieeeee."
Bruce laughed a little and Peter felt him pat his arm. That was nice. What a nice Doctor.
"Hey, Peter. Are you feeling okay? No pain or nausea?"
Peter's head was so heavy it was hard to nod, so he simply rolled it back and forth across his pillow. "Nuh-uh."
"Good. Tony's here to see you."
Oooh, he loved Mr Stark. He should probably open his eyes if he wanted to see him though.
Tony watched the kid blink his eyes as he approached the bed. He was still high on pain meds but his shoulder was all patched up and Bruce had said he'd be fine.
Tony swallowed his fear and smiled down at the kid. "Hey, Pete. How're feeling?"
Peters' eyes didn't open very far, a smile spreading across his face as his eyes shone.
"I feel good. Marshmellow."
The corner of Tony's mouth quirked up just a little at the corner. "What?"
Peter hummed happily, closing his eyes again as Tony tried to say what he'd come to say.
"Do you remember what happened?"
Peters' eyes opened a crack, his forehead creasing as he concentrated. "Umm. There was a scary man. He made me feel tired."
Tony nodded, leaning forward and looking down at his hands. "Yeah. You remember what happened next?"
Peter blinked, thinking some more before he spoke again, voice soft and unafraid. "You saved me."
Tony looked up at him, frowning a little at the kids choice of words. Maybe he didn't remember what happened.
"No, I shot you, Buddy. Remember?"
Peter didn't seem to be phased by the information, simply nodding and lifting a heavy hand to point at his shoulder. "Yeah, I know. Right here."
Tony pulled his hand away, pressing it back down to the mattress as he tried to understand. "And you're okay with that?"
Peter nodded, smiling proudly. "Yeah. Bruce said that it was a through and through and that I was lucky you knew what you were doing. It's okay, Mr Stark. I knew you did it to save me."
A weight like a heavy stone lifted from Tony's chest and be felt as if he could finally breathe again. "Are you sure? You can be mad if you want, Peter. I would understand-"
"Nah. It's okay. I don't mind. You saved me from the mean man and I'll be better soon. Don't be sad Mr Stark."
Tony couldn't help smiling at the dopey kid. He ruffled his hair, making the boy laugh. "Thank you, Peter. I'm glad you're okay."