This is for galactixart! Merry Christmas, and I hope you like it!

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Tony Stark always had a deep connection with the ocean. When he was seven years old, he started cleaning up trash on the beach once a week. When he became a teenager, he became a lifeguard, and which lead him to meet James Rhodes, or Rhodey and Steve Rogers, the other two lifeguards for Malibu beach.

He also ended up getting the hots for a strawberry blonde surfer girl named Virginia Potts, but he immediately started calling her Pepper. For no reason other then that he forgot her name due to nerves on their first date, but saw the pepper shaker on the table and rolled with it.

As he entered his 20s, he and the other two lifeguards decided to join the ocean patrol, and Tony loved it. The open sea, with the cool salty air blowing in his face, and his chance to actually help people and wildlife alike.

He would be on his boat every night, but Rhodey and Steve would switch off as his partner, well into their thirties. A lot of things had happened with Steve, between meeting Peggy Carter and having three young children with her, so he saw less of Steve.

He picked up another job with more flexible hours so he could spend time with his kids and would join them when he could, but it was mostly just Tony and Rhodey.

Tony had married Pepper years ago, but the two of them both agreed that they weren't ready for kids. Pepper was a very successful surfer, and would be gone a lot for meets or interviews or for her cameo work.

Meanwhile, Tony felt as if he didn't have the capacity to be a good parent. He had babysat a old co-worker's son a few times, but then they moved to Tennessee, and he hadn't seen them since.

And Tony was happy right where he was at. Two miles from the beach with his gorgeous wife and his best friend on the ocean patrol.

Except, he wasn't happy at this moment. It was nine thirty p.m., and Pepper had just gotten back from filming a documentary in Vancouver, so they were planning a celebratory dinner for the two of them. But, they had gotten a report and it was their job to go see what was going on.

"A mermaid stuck in a fish net"? Tones, this is ridiculous." Rhodey insisted, putting the piece of paper down and punching in the coordinates into the GPS.

"Look, whatever is caught in that fish net needs to be patched up and released. As much as I wanna be sitting down for dinner with my wife right about now, we need to see what it is." Tony insisted, and they steered the ship to the direction of the report. The boat sputtered to a stop, and Tony put his life jacket on before saying to Rhodey. "The fish net should be on the starboard side."

"Found it. Now where is this mermaid?"

"I doubt it's a mermaid." Tony responded, before grabbing the side of the ship with his hand and slinging himself over on the other side. "Rhodes, shine some light down here." The ocean was illuminated with white. That's when Tony saw it.

A child, no more then sixteen years old, with his head sitting just above the water, the tangled fishnet below him.

Tony immediately softened his demeanor, and spoke in a quiet, calming voice. "Hey, little guy. Let's get you out of here." The kid shook his head, wincing when he did. "Hey, try not to move too much. Don't hurt yourself more." Tony insisted, and that's when he heard it .

A faint, quiet whisper that nearly shocked him to his core with how fragile the teenager sounded.

"Help."

"We're gonna get you out. Rhodes, get the raft ready and get the scissors." Tony commanded before turning back to the teenager. "I'm gonna climb back around and get you in the raft, okay?" And with that, Tony hoisted himself over the railing. He climbed in the raft, and paddled over to Peter, leaning over the side to cut the net free from the weights.

"Alright, kiddo. Can you wrap your hand around my wrist, please?" The teenager wrapped his hand around Tony's wrist, and Tony pulled him into the raft. That's when he saw it.

The bottom half of the teenager was encased in a red tail, his feet covered by blue fins.

Tony wanted to panic. He wanted to scream and run. But he couldn't abandon the clearly injured teenager. That's when the teen finally spoke up.

"Please don't tell anybody..."

"I'm not gonna do that. Don't worry." Tony insisted, before turning on his walkie-talkie. "We're coming in. Over." And with that, he started paddling the raft back to the large boat.

"They'll see me."

"It's just one other person. We need to get you patched up, and then we'll let you go. I promise." Tony insisted, and paddled the boat back to shore, laying the teen on a laid out towel while Rhodey brought in the raft.

"It is a mermaid." Rhodey gawked, and that's when the first glint of something other then fear.

"Merman."

"Rhodey, he's been there for a couple hours and his tail is all scratched up, not to mention still stuck in a fish net. Can you go get the first aid kit for the merboy?" Tony questioned, using the term on purpose to try and keep the teenager talking when Rhodey went into the engine room.

"I'm a merman."

"Standing by merboy."

"I'm fourteen."

"See? Merboy." Tony insisted and let a small smile escape when he saw Rhodey come with the first aid kit. "Thanks, Rhodey." Tony reached for the scissors and started working through the thick rope that made up the fish net, but stopped when the teen's tail kept twitching sporadically. "Try not to wiggle your tail around while I'm doing this.

"I can't help it." The merman mumbled, and that's when Rhodey insisted.

"Hold him. I'll take care of the fishnet and the cuts."

Tony nodded, and helped the teenager lay his head against his chest, using his free hand to hold down the tail from twitching involuntarily. He decided it was time to ask the question that had been on his mind this whole time. "What's your name, kid?"

"Peter."

"Well, Peter. My name is Tony, and that's Rhodey. How did you get caught in the fish net?"

"Strong current. I got swept off course just as those guys were fishing and got stuck." Peter explained, hearing the final snap of the rope falling off of his tail.

"These cuts look really bad. I'm gonna get the peroxide to help with some of the tearing. I don't know if it'll work on him, but it works on fish." Rhodey insisted as he stood up and started to go back to the engine room hearing Tony call after him. "Can you give a fish stitches?!" Rhodey responded with a "no" before going out of earshot.

"W-what's that?" Peter stuttered, feeling a wave of fear wash over him, despite his attempts to calm down. "D-does it hurt?" When Tony answered his question with "yes, it hurts a bit" Peter shook his head furiously, and started to try and break out of the man's hold.

But Tony only tightened his grip around the merman, and mumbled words of encouragement. "Easy, Pete, easy."

"I'm scared."

"It is scary, but if you don't relax, you could hurt yourself more." Tony told him, smiling at Rhodey when he came back with the bottle of peroxide and knelt down next to Peter's tail. "Alright. Peter, you really need to hold still, okay? I can hold you and you can squeeze all you need if it'll help."

Peter nodded, and wrapped his hand around Tony's, trying to drown out Rhodey's warning about starting, and just trying to focus on what he was being told.

Then the peroxide started to sting in the multiple scratches and cuts, causing the fourteen year old to inhale sharply and tears to start falling out of his eyes and onto his cheeks. "It hurts..."

"You're almost done." Tony insisted, feeling the teenager flinch as Rhodey finished. Peter started sagging against Tony's chest, and he could feel him starting to fall asleep.

"I'm tired."

"Is it okay for you to be out of water for this long?" Tony questioned, feeling the teen snake his head. "Rhodes, go fill the raft. We can use it as a makeshift bathtub until he's gotten his energy back."

Rhodey nodded, and filled the inflatable raft with water. Then, the two men lifted Peter up, setting him down in the raft.

Tony couldn't help but smile when he saw him fall asleep.

He figured it was best if they got farther out into the ocean to limit Peter getting stuck a second time on his way home, so while Rhodey watched him, Tony steered the ship further out, before returning to the side of the raft and asking his best friend.

"He'll be alright, right?"

"I think so. You did really well with him. He trusted you so quickly."

"You saw how scared he was. With the report that came in, I wonder how many people passed him without helping."

"Poor kid. But he could be on his way home now. Yet he's still here. Glued to you."

"He's exhausted. Probably hasn't slept in awhile."

"But the natural move would've been isolation. He chose something else."

"You do have a point." Tony agreed, and the two of them went silent for a few minutes . That's when a realization hit Tony. "Pepper's gonna be mad that I missed dinner."

"Good luck with that, and if you don't make it back, thank you for being my best friend."

Tony chuckled while rolling his eyes. Then, he clapped Rhodey on the back, trying to force away his anxiety about the teenager waking up.

•••••••••••••••••

He didn't have to wait for long. Thirty minutes later, the teenager's eyes opened, followed by a yawn and some stretching.

"Hey, kid. Feeling better?" Tony asked, trying to force some of the concern out of his voice.

"Yeah. My tail doesn't hurt anymore. I've gotta get home, or my aunt will kill me." Peter explained.

Tony nodded, telling Rhodey that he was gonna help him off the starboard side before turning back to Peter. "Try not to get caught in any more fishnets, okay?" Peter nodded in response. "Good boy. Your aunt is gonna be so excited to see you."

Peter smiled widely as he held tightly onto Tony, who led him to the starboard side before letting him dive into the ocean water below. Peter felt a wave of relief as he rehydrated before sticking his head back out of the water to see Tony leaning over the railing.

"You gonna be okay? You know your way home?"

"I think so. I have to swim down, but then I can get directions."

"Be safe. And if you ever need any help, I'm on the boat every night, but Rhodey and Steve switch off being my partner." Tony explained to the teenager, who thanked them before swimming downward.

Tony would be lying if he said he didn't watch him swim down into the black ocean until he couldn't see the red tail with the blue fins.

All he could hope for was that if he did see the teenager again, it was under way better circumstances.