When Tony tells Peter that he can come train at the Avengers compound, Peter isn't sure if Tony is mostly there for him or to hit on his Aunt May. Not that she knows about the Avengers training thing--Mr. Stark told her that Peter was getting to intern at Stark Industries. People tend to ignore the fact that Tony Stark is no longer CEO of Stark Industries.
He winks at May and compliments her cooking again and Peter imagines, for a moment, a world in which Mr. Stark became Uncle Tony.
Except Tony keeps staring at a flip phone--flip phone, Peter can barely believe his eyes--like it holds all the answers he's too afraid to ask.
He shows Peter all kinds of new tech, lets him test his webs on things that Peter would never be able to get his hands on otherwise, but sometimes...Peter will turn to ask him a question and Tony will be staring at that old phone.
The first time Peter notices, he wants to ask, but he gets distracted by the whole falling thing that happens when he misses his shot.
And the next two times, Peter is trying too hard not to embarrass himself again in front of Mr. Stark.
But then...he just can't help himself. "What's up with the flip phone? I didn't know they still even made those."
Tony Stark shoves the phone in his pocket and smiles. "You are so very young."
Peter drops the subject if only because he would very much like to keep hanging out with Mr. Stark and getting new tech.
One day, it rings.
Or, at least, Mr. Stark scrabbles for it from his pocket like he thinks it did and then realizes it was his other phone.
"Are you expecting somebody to call you? Because I'm not sure that thing even works."
"No. Yes. Shut up." Tony's hand is still on the phone, fidgeting with it. "It works," he says. He eyes it skeptically. "I think. I've never actually used it."
Peter juts his chin towards it. "Then what's it for?"
"Pining, mostly," Tony Stark answers with a self-deprecating smile.
"For Ms. Potts?" Peter asks. He knows they were a thing. He also is semi-aware of the fact that he's being nosy but, hey, he's curious.
Mr. Stark laughs, but it's bitter. "You're a smart kid. In this instance, wrong. But smart."
"Mr. Stark, I see you staring at that flip phone all the time. It just seems kind of...weird." Peter tries to play it cool as he takes a seat, but nearly topples the heavy table between them. "You can talk to me. I mean, who am I gonna tell? May? No one else even believes I know you."
Tony sighs. "You want the truth, Petey?"
Peter doesn't remember approving that nickname but he's not sure he has a choice in the matter so he just nods.
"This," Tony says, gripping the flip phone, "is an emergency contact. For Steve. As in, Captain America. Who knows if he'll really get the call, but there."
"So why do you stare at it like that? If you want to talk to him, can't you just...talk?"
"Last time we were in the same room, we tried to kill each other. Literally."
Peter grimaces. "Yeah."
Tony raises an eyebrow. "Yeah," he repeats.
And then, as if this conversation had been broadcast worldwide, the goddamn phone actually does ring.
Tony stares at Peter for a moment, wide-eyed, before Peter squeaks, "Aren't you going to answer it?!"
Tony fumbles opening the phone. "Hello?"
The person on the other end clears their throat. "Is this Tony Stark?"
"Yeah," Tony answers, then swallows. He tries to shoo Peter away, but the kid doesn't take the hint so he stands up instead.
"Steve?" Tony replies. He sounds like an idiot.
"That's him?" Peter calls. "I'm not over it."
Tony waves Peter off but there's only silence on the other end of the line.
Eventually, he hears a shaky breath. "You never called."
"Yeah, well. Didn't think I should. After...that."
"Yeah." Steve clears his throat again. "I--"
"I miss you," they both say, at the same time.
Tony's breath catches and Peter is suspiciously quiet.
"Do you--" Steve starts, but he stops. "Never mind."
Maybe it's just wishful thinking as Tony mentally fills in the blanks. He thinks about how much better things were, even when they were fighting. He thinks about Rhodey. About JARV-- Vision. Wanda and Natasha and Clint and Sam and even Thor and Bruce.
He brought this kid to the Avengers compound, but are there any Avengers left, really? Should he just give up?
Or can they-- he still fix things?
"I need you," Tony says. And he can't breathe. Thinks about flipping that phone closed and pretending he doesn't care.
Steve breathes and Tony hopes against hope it's a sigh of relief. "I'll be there."
The line drops and Tony stares at the phone for a moment before he hears the scrape of a chair and sees Peter squirming as he tries desperately to look nonchalant.
"Did anyone ever tell you it's rude to eavesdrop?" Tony asks, but he's...smiling. Genuinely smiling.
"Are you getting the Avengers back together?" Peter asks. "Or just you and Captain America?"
"Nothing," Peter replies. "Never mind."
Tony waits until Peter is playing with the newly designed web shooters before he says, mostly to himself, "Too smart."
Peter pretends he doesn't hear him...but he feels a little bit better about letting Tony near his aunt.