Warnings: graphic injury, compartment syndrome
Characters: Peter Parker, Ned Leeds, Michelle Jones, Betty Brant, Tony Stark, May Parker, FRIDAY
Mentioned: Happy Hogan
Day Twenty: Lost
“‘Come hiking with us,’ they said. ‘It’ll be fun,’ they said.”
Peter huffed as he finally managed to drag himself to the overhang he had found. He sat down harshly, rolling up his pant leg to see how swollen it was. “This is just how I wanted to spend my senior trip.”
For their senior trip, Peter’s class had decided to travel to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. So far, it had been amazing. They had gone to Dollywood the first day, then spent the second day in the city. The third day they had gone to Clingman’s Dome, the highest point in the Appalachian Mountains, and Cade’s Cove, where they had seen deer and bears.
Today was supposed to be a free day. They were allowed to go wherever they wanted as long as they stayed in a group of four or more. That’s how Peter ended up on a hiking trail with Ned, MJ, and Betty. How he got separated from them was a longer story.
“I’m going to scout ahead,” Peter told the three as they stopped to rest. With his powers, he was able to go much longer than his friends without needing to rest. Sure, Ned and MJ knew this and would understand if he decided to climb some trees or swing from the branches with his webs, but Betty had no idea he was Spider-Man. Getting ahead would give him a chance to let out some of his energy.
“Please be careful,” Michelle told him, squeezing his hand. “You have your bear spray?”
“Right here,” he told her, patting the can in the pocket of his backpack. “I’ll be okay.”
Except, he wasn’t. Peter may be Spider-Man. He may be strong and fast and heck, he could lift a bus, but he was a klutz by nature. The boy had caught his foot on a root and ended up tumbling down a gorge. He knew that, in reality, he was lucky. Because anyone else probably wouldn’t have gotten out with nothing more than a broken leg and some cuts and bruises, but he was still lost in the woods and in extreme pain without a single bar of cell service. And to top it all off, it was starting to rain.
“Okay, okay,” he murmured to himself. “Let’s weigh our options.”
Peter propped his leg out in front of him, trying his best to keep it straight for when his powers decided to start mending the bone. Chances are, he would have to have it rebroken and set either way, but maybe he would get lucky. “You can either stay here and wait, see if anyone finds you, or you can try to make it back to the trail with a broken leg.”
He sighed and shook his backpack off, opening it up and taking out a water bottle, hoping it would ease his nausea. He had already puked once, immediately after he stopped rolling and felt the pain in his leg, and he couldn’t risk getting dehydrated out here. It was summer, and he only had a few bottles of water packed. He didn’t have much food either, just a few sandwiches and bags of chips, but he knew he could go longer without food than water and he wasn’t too hungry with his stomach in knots.
“Worst case scenario staying here is that they never find you and you starve to death or get eaten by a bear,” he continued talking to himself. “Worst case scenario trying to get back to the trail is you get lost deeper in the forest and make it harder for them to find you.”
He sighed, unsure. “Okay, okay, it’s okay,” he told himself. “You can’t get worked up and panic. That’s not going to make this any better.”
He continued thinking for a moment before finally reaching a decision. For now, at least, he would stay at the overhang. He would rest, give his leg time to heal, and wait to see if help arrived. They would start close to the trail, so he needed to stay as close as he could. With the rain, he was bound to fall again and get injured worse anyway.
If they didn’t come by the time he was out of supplies, he would start trying to find a way out on his own, but hopefully it wouldn’t come to that.
“God, that hurts,” Peter huffed, wincing as his leg throbbed. He dug through his bag carefully, relieved when he saw the high-powered pain pills that he had packed. He had almost not brought them on the trip, knowing that he wouldn’t be fighting crime on vacation, but Tony had insisted he take them because accidents happen. Sure enough, they had.
“They’re going to freak out when they find out,” he murmured. “Him and May both…”
“Boss, you’re getting a call from May Parker,” FRIDAY announced, catching Tony off guard. He raised an eyebrow as he looked up from his work.
“Yeah? Put her through,” he told her. Then, when he heard a click. “Hello, May.”
“Tony,” she started. Immediately he knew something was wrong from the tone of her voice. She sounded as if she were crying, her voice breaking a bit. “I just got a call from Peter’s teacher.”
He felt his blood run cold at that sentence. Peter was on a school trip nearly twelve hours away from New York City right now. “What? What happened? Did he get hurt? I can have a plane ready in five minutes if we need to get down there.”
“They can’t find him,” she cried. “He-he was hiking with his friends. Ned said he went to scout ahead and they never caught up to him. He just disappeared. He’s not— he’s not answering his phone.”
“Okay, okay,” Tony started, taking a shaky breath. He knew that he had to keep his panic at bay if he was going to do anything to help. “Okay, I— I’m going to get a plane ready for you. I’ll have Happy pick you up and bring you here. I’m going to go ahead and fly down there and help look for him, okay?”
“Wh-what if— what if he—”
“May, listen to me,” he told her. He heard her hum in reply so he continued. “I promise you that I will not stop until we find him, okay? Day or night. We’re going to find him and bring him home safe.”
“O-okay,” she replied. “Okay. Thank you, Tony. I-I’m sorry, I just— I’m just—”
“You’re worried,” he said softly. “It’s okay. I am too, but it’s going to be alright. Don’t forget what all he can do. He can take care of himself until we find him. He’ll be okay.”
Peter had never been in so much pain in his life. Days had passed since his fall, and his leg wasn’t getting any better. In fact, he thought it was getting worse. The medicine he had barely touched the pain, and the swelling wasn’t going down at all. He was sure that he had a fever, too, making it almost impossible to sleep. Already, he had drunk nearly all of his water, but he hadn’t been able to touch his food since the first day, being in too much pain to have the slightest bit of an appetite.
The fact that no one had found him yet terrified him. At this point, he was sure that he had some sort of infection in his leg, maybe even compartment syndrome. If that was the case, he knew that there was a good chance he wouldn’t survive. Even with his powers, he would need surgery, and quick. For a normal person, it would probably already be too late.
As his condition worsened, Peter started to lose track of time. With that, he was losing hope. How could he even be sure they were still looking for him? They may have given up at this point, thinking a bear had gotten him. It wasn’t an unlikely possibility, after all.
“What a way to go out,” he mumbled to himself one night. His fever was keeping him awake, as usual, and his painkillers were doing nothing for him anymore. “Spider-Man dies from a broken leg. How would have thought?”
He sighed and turned his head to look out at the trees. He was too weak to sit up at this point, and he was sure that meant he wasn’t going to last much longer without proper treatment. If no one found him in the next day or two, he was a goner.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I don’t wanna go…”
It had been five days since Peter went missing. At this point, most people had given up. The local officials told Tony that most people didn’t survive the first night. Most people who went missing on hiking trails had gotten injured or been attacked by the area’s wildlife. They said that at this point it would be more of a retrieval than a rescue, but he knew that he had to keep looking.
Because Peter wasn’t normal. He would last longer than most people, even if he was injured. He wouldn’t believe that he was dead unless he saw it for himself. He couldn’t. Peter wasn’t someone he was willing to give up on like that.
The whole time, he had only slept once. He searched for three days and nights like he said he would before finally giving himself a few hours of rest. Then he set out again, searching for any sign of Peter. “Pete?” he called, ducking under a branch. “Peter?”
Most times, there was no response. This time, however, he thought he heard a faint reply somewhere in the distance. “Peter?” he called a bit louder. “Are you there?”
He strained to hear, closing his eyes in an attempt to focus his senses. Sure enough, he heard a very weak reply. “H’llo?”
“Peter!” Tony hurried in that direction, soon seeing a rock overhang that could be used as a shelter from the elements. “Peter?”
“‘M here,” he heard the boy reply. Sure enough, the sound came from the rock. He rushed that way and found Peter laying inside, struggling to try to sit up. His cheeks were flushed red, and one of his legs looked swollen and jutted out at an awkward angle, but he still tried to sit up. A small smile crossed his face when he saw Tony coming towards him. “T’ny.”
“Hey, Buddy,” he said softly, carefully brushing the bangs of his dirty hair to the side. His eyes were glassy from fever, and he seemed a bit out of it, but it gave him hope at the fact that he was lucid enough to recognize him. He let out a small breath of relief. “God, you’re still alive.”
“Mhm,” Peter hummed. “M’ le’s bro’en. ‘S no’ goo’.”
“Yeah, Kiddo, I see that,” he told him, his voice a bit wet. He could tell that Peter was in pain despite his obvious effort to hide it. He stood up slowly and backed up, tapping the casing on his chest to let his suit form around him. He made sure to keep the helmet off, having no need for it right now. “I’m going to pick you up, alright? It’s probably going to hurt, and I’m so sorry for that, but we’ve gotta get you to a hospital.”
“Mmkay,” Peter murmured. “‘S a’ight.”
“Okay,” he said, bending down and carefully sliding a hand under his back and another under his legs. “Let’s get you out of here.”
When Peter woke up, his head felt foggy. He wasn’t sure where he was at first, but he knew he was safe. He felt cooler than he remembered feeling before, and he wasn’t in any pain. It was nice. Perfect after all that he had just been through.
Feeling a hand in his, Peter forced his weak muscles to move and squeeze it. He smiled when the grip tightened slightly and a hand moved to brush his cheek. “Hi, Baby.”
Peter forced his eyes open, smiling as he saw May sitting beside him. “May,” he murmured, his tongue feeling heavy in his mouth as he spoke. He didn’t sound coherent, but he could tell from May’s smile she understood him.
“I’m here, Sweetie,” she whispered. “I’m here.”
Peter gave her a lopsided smile before turning his head slowly. He squinted as his eyes landed on the couch that was pressed to the wall. Tony was laying there, fast asleep, holding something in his arms. Peter’s mind was too drugged to realize that it was one of his blankets and another was laying on him now in the hospital bed.
“He looked for you for five days,” May told him, noticing her nephew’s staring. She continued when he turned to look at her again. “He only slept five hours the whole time you were missing. He fell asleep an hour after you came out of surgery and hasn’t stirred since.”
Peter blinked at her in reply. He thought he could faintly remember the man finding him, but he wasn’t sure. He had a fever at the time, and now his head felt like it was filled with cotton. “Go back to sleep, Sweetie,” May insisted, kissing his forehead. “We’ll talk once you more with it, okay?”
“Mmkay,” he murmured. “Love you, May.”
“I love you too, Peter,” she replied softly. “So much.”