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The Unexpected Shovel Talk

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Tony’s on a business trip in Tokyo and Peter’s not handling it well. Judging by how quickly Tony had responded to his text earlier, neither is Tony, and that’s not helping either. Tony’s not been so far away since Thanos, and being unable to check upon him easily makes Peter freak out like everything is a product of the gauntlet and it’s all going to fade away. Somedays it’s the gauntlet, but sometimes it’s the idea that Tony’s left – left him – running away from the Rogue Avengers who had hurt him before and could probably hurt him again. Natasha’s made her apologies – had cornered Tony to ask sincerely if he’d allow her to apologise (he really needs lessons from her) – and Sam had never been asked for one. Peter thinks that Tony finds Barnes rather irrelevant but Steve…

If anyone can hurt Tony enough to make him leave, it’s Steve. Maybe he won’t mean too, but Peter remembers, a PTSD episode that Peter had only been able to sit and watch at the time; all because Peter had wanted to understand why he’d been in Berlin. He’d researched afterwards, and he’s sure that Friday found him things he wasn’t meant to see because he knows more than is public record even if he doesn’t know all of it. He knows that Tony would’ve died in Siberia had the arc reactor been in his chest – and knowing who was there, and the state of Tony’s suit afterwards when he’d dropped by to see Peter get back to Queens, it doesn’t take a lot to work out why.

It’s none of his business. Peter keeps telling himself that – and it’s an odd thing to be thinking about on 6 hours sleep in the last two days, at 4am eating Lucky Charms in the kitchen of the common floor. He’d never really liked Lucky Charms before moving to the tower, and now he just blames Clint. It’s none of his business – Tony is perfectly capable of making his own choices, and has (from what Peter can gather by the conversations he catches part of) loved Steve since the Battle of New York, and the feeling is somewhat mutual. Loving each other didn’t stop them fracturing over the Accords though, and Peter can’t help but worry.

Maybe it is a little bit his business, because he’s legally Tony’s son now. He’s going to suffer the fall-out too.

He’s jarred from his thoughts – and his milk is nearly jarred from the bowl – by the elevator doors opening; they’re back from the mission. Tony had wanted to be here, but the mission had dragged on longer than anticipated and Tony had been unable to put off the trip any longer. Pepper obviously hadn’t wanted to make him go, but Stark Industries couldn’t afford to be neglected. Sam and Natasha are nowhere to be seen - the message had come through eight hours ago that they were on their way back, and he happens to know that Natasha piloted the jet back while the others slept. She and Sam have probably retreated to their floor – and Barnes and Steve are here.

Steve looks surprised to see him, but Barnes simply raises a hand in greeting, steals a carton of OJ from the fridge and bids Steve a goodnight – Peter’s fairly certain he’ll go and join Sam and Natasha, but he’s not sure how to raise the question without being murdered. Steve hovers by the edge of the counter still, and Peter’s oddly pleased that Steve doesn’t know how to react to him here. Peter nods, and carries on eating his cereal, too tired and too wound-up for more detailed interaction. Steve nods in return, and moves around the counter at last to root around in the fridge for something to eat.

He returns with take-out, and as he puts it in the microwave to reheat, he leans against the counter where he’s facing Peter. “Rough night?” he asks kindly, and Peter’s not as surprised as he thought he would be that it sounds like genuine care.

“You could say that.” Peter replies, not looking up. His throat his dry and his voice is croaky, and he jumps when the microwave dings. Steve retrieves his meal before sitting down opposite Peter.

“Want to talk about it?” he asks, blowing on a forkful before just shovelling it in – Steve’s endless appetite is actually quite fascinating, but now isn’t the time. Peter scrapes the last few charms from the bowl.

“I don’t sleep when Tony’s not here.” He settles on. “And without us both, I doubt Tony’s sleeping in Tokyo.” Peter tells him, and Steve’s face goes impossibly sad at that – there’s a small bit of bitter satisfaction.

“I’m sorry…” Steve says, and he might mean it, but Peter’s too tired to tell. “Anything I can do to help?” he asks, earnest and actually pausing in his meal to await an answer.

“There is actually.” Peter swallows, speaking without entirely thinking through what he’s doing but unable to keep it in. He knows in the back of his head somewhere that if he wasn’t effectively about to give Captain fucking America a shovel talk he’d be laughing at the way Steve brightens up at knowing he can do something. “Promise me something.”

“Of course!”

“Never, ever, raise your shield to Tony, ever again.” Peter tells him, impressed that his voice stays level even as the colour drains from Steve’s face. “I don’t claim to know everything that happened between you. My biggest reference to you now is a tie between glorified history books and Tony’s gauntlet dream. You might actually be the great guy he thinks you are, and you might actually love him back like he dreamed – but if you hurt him, I will hurt you.” Peter tells him, and his voice is shaking because when he thinks about it, he can’t believe that the Rogue Avengers dare to stay. They’re only here, only pardoned, because Tony granted them a kindness they didn’t deserve. Even fighting Thanos shouldn’t have earnt them that forgiveness, not for the betrayal Tony suffered. “If I ever find that you, or anyone else here, have betrayed him again…” Peter trails off, closing his eyes against the end of the sentence because he shouldn’t want to hurt them but god, Tony’s all he’s got now.

He expects Steve to protest, for him to have to say more, but Steve swallows and licks his lips and nods. “I won’t.” His voice is barely above a whisper, and he sets his fork down and runs his other hand over his face. “I promise. I- I wish I never had, that we’d never-“ he tries to say, and maybe Tony wasn’t the only one who suffered for it, but he was the one left alone.

“I don’t want to hear it.” Peter cuts him off, suddenly feeling very tired. “It’s so above my pay-grade,” Steve huffs a tiny laugh at that, but he still looks shaken – had he thought Peter wouldn’t say anything? Or maybe after the colossal strip-down he got from Sergeant Rhodes and Miss Potts, he’d thought that was it. “Just… be good to him. I can’t watch him go through that. Watching him relive it…” Peter swallowed. “Too much.” He whispered. Steve nodded, but didn’t speak.

Peter got up and put his bowl in dishwasher, intending to head up to bed, when Steve called out as he reached the elevator. “I’m going to try.” It was a promise – determined and almost pleading. “Not just for him, but for you, and the team. We all deserve better… and I can be better.” Peter stalled, not having expected such an admission, but after a moment, he smiled and Steve relaxed a little. “You’re a good kid, Peter. Tony’s lucky to have you."

“Thank you.” Was all he replied, and let Friday take the elevator up.