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Years in the Life

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“Please, Steve. Please, just one cup!” Tony begged, holding the giant cup out to Steve across the diner’s counter.

“How many cups have you had today?” Steve asked, not looking to Tony as he continued his work.

“Just one!” Tony pushed the mug out more, hoping for some coffee.

“Plus?” Steve asked, not believing Tony for a second. He was a serial coffee drinker, an addict. He’d come in every day and practically drink the place dry.

“I’m hurt, Steve. Hurt and betrayed. I have only had one cup of coffee today. Thanks to Peter finishing it all. You should’ve seen him, he was like that episode of Futurama where Fry drinks 100 cups of coffee and time actually slows down around him.” Steve let out a long drawn out sigh. Both Tony and his son Peter were in here almost every day and just watching the two of them eat gave Steve stomach issues. Tony seemed to talk a mile a minute, and Steve could hardly keep up with him. The constant obscure references were hard enough to catch, let alone the speed.

“I’ve never seen that show, Tony.”

“Never?”

Shaking his head, Steve poured coffee into the cup Tony was holding out.

“Well if that’s not the most ironic thing I’ve heard all week then I don’t know what is.” Pausing only to take a sip out of his coffee cup, Tony smiled before walking back to sit down at the table for two. “Besides, your coffee is the best in town.”

Before he could say anything else, the diner phone rang. “Stars and Stripes Diner, this is Steve.”

Sitting at the table, Tony sipped his coffee as Peter walked in, dropping his backpack and skateboard onto the ground next to their table.

“Hey, it’s freezing outside.” Taking off his jacket, Peter sat down.

“Good thing you got all that nice hot coffee this morning to keep you warm.” Tony smirked before taking another big sip.

“I said I was sorry. I was up all night reading and needed to stay awake. If I didn’t then my entire sleep schedule would be all over the place until Friday.”

“You hungry? There’s time to eat before school.” Tony asked, he sure as hell couldn’t cook, but that wasn’t a problem when their house was in walking distance of every food place in town.

“Yeah, you think I can get Steve to make me something to bring for lunch too?”

“Isn’t there a rule about eating in class?” Steve walked over to the table, putting down a glass of orange juice for Peter.

“What’s this for?” Peter asked, looking up at Steve with a confused look on his face.

“You shouldn’t be drinking so much coffee at your age. Eat healthier; it’ll do you some good. The both of you.” Steve answered in his usual mother hen voice. He’d taken it upon himself to make sure the both of them ate better. Of course Tony always thought Steve was slightly gloating about how he’d gained the body of an Adonis during his time in the Army. Of course Steve was ever humble, but that didn’t stop Tony from catching the smugness in the man’s tone.

“Absolutely. A growing boy needs milk, orange juice, Molly Ringwald, and the complete Breakfast Club.” Tony joked, holding out his mug to get topped off.

Not refilling the mug, Steve shook his head before turning to leave before looking to Peter one last time. “Yeah, why do you think your dad stopped growing at 17.”

“Hey! I’ll have you know I am a perfectly average height for the American male. Just because everyone around this town looks like they’re out of one of those overrated superhero movies doesn’t mean that the rest of us normal folks are short.” Tony replied loudly as Steve moved back behind the counter. “In fact, I’m insulted! You’ve just lost two of your most loyal customers!”

“Are you gonna order or just keep making out of date references?” Steve asked, despite Tony’s yelling across the room, Steve had his pen and notepad ready to jot down their food.

“Clark Gable is talking to me about being out of date!” Tony exasperated as he turned to look at Peter.

Putting down his notepad, Steve shook his head before heading back into the kitchen, ignoring Tony.

“Can I have pancakes?” Peter shouted.

“Eggs and bacon?” Tony followed.

Rushing into the diner, Pietro Maximoff ran over to the counter, waiting for Steve to come over and serve him.

“Hey Pietro.” Peter called over.

Turning to look at the two, Pietro walked over to their table, “Hey Peter, Tony.”

“You want to join us for breakfast?” Tony offered.

“No thanks, I’m just here for a donut then I have to run. Wanda should be here soon though.” Pietro answered.

Steve came back from the kitchen, standing behind the counter, “What can I get you, Pietro?”

“A donut and a coffee to go.” Pietro answered, handing over his money.

With his donut and coffee in hand, he turned back to the two sitting at the table with a quick, “See you at school,” before rushing out the door again.

“Does he ever slow down?” Steve asked, the kid gone before he could even close up the register.

“No.” Both Tony and Peter answered.

“Can’t blame him. I’d probably be running away too if Erik was my father.” Tony commented before sipping his coffee, frowning once he realized he was out.

Seeing Steve go back into the kitchen with another customer’s order, Tony stood up. As he made his way around and behind the counter, Wanda, Pietro’s sister, walked in.

“Hey Wanda, you just missed your brother.” Peter explained as Wanda pulled over a chair to sit with them. She watched curiously as Tony poured a cup of coffee for himself.

“Yeah he’s been rushing all morning trying to get to school early. Doesn’t Steve hate it when you do that?” She explained, sipping the untouched orange juice that had been in front of Peter.

“Pietro? Early for school?” Peter asked, watching his dad try not to get caught behind the counter. For all the running and rushing Pietro did, the guy never seemed to be on time to anything.

“What Steve doesn’t know won’t hurt him. Do you want coffee, Wanda?” Tony offered, the pot still in hand.

“No, but I’ll take a donut.” She answered, “Pietro’s been excited about meeting up with this girl at school. Says she’s the love of his life.”

“Tony!” Steve got loud as he walked back out of the kitchen, plates in hand. “How many times do I have to tell you not to come behind the counter!”

“I know, it won’t happen again!” Tony said, putting the donut onto a plate before moving out from behind the counter, his coffee in hand.

“It’ll happen again a week from now and you’ll try to talk your way out of it again.” Steve moved over to their table, placing down their breakfast.

Sitting back down at the table, Tony smugly drank his fresh coffee, “I promise, I won’t go back behind the counter.”

Ignoring Tony, Steve turned to Wanda, “Can I get you something to eat?”

“No thanks, Steve. I have to get going soon.” She answered as Steve turned to a customer calling him over.

Taking big bites of his breakfast, Peter paused to ask, “Already? You just got here.”

Wanda nodded through the last bite of her donut, “I have to pick up a book I ordered from Bucky before school. I’d go after class, but I have German Club today.”

“Your dad is making you go to German Club again?” Tony asked as he ate his bacon.

“I’m still trying to figure out how to get out of it.” Wanda answered, finishing off the glass of orange juice.

“What about Pietro, he’s going too?” Peter asked, reaching across the table to sneak a sip of his dad’s coffee.

“He hasn’t been to a single meeting,” She sighed.

“Your dad hasn’t caught on yet?” Tony prompted, glaring at Peter but letting him take the mug.

“How could he? Pietro isn’t in one place long enough to interrogate him. Me on the other hand,” Wanda trailed off as she took a bite of the toast from Peter’s plate.

“Bad huh?” Peter asked.

“Like Samuel Jackson interrogating that guy in Pulp Fiction where he quotes the bible.” Wanda continued as she stood up, her bag slung over her shoulder and ready to leave, “That is my life, a gun point interrogation and Ezekiel 25:17.”

“Well at least your life won a Golden Globe.” Tony added, as he finished up his food.

“Hang on, I’ll go with you, I’ve been meaning to stop at the book store this week.” Peter said, standing up and finishing off his Dad’s cup of coffee.

“So you can get yet another thousand page novel to squeeze into your already overflowing bookshelves?” Tony asked, a note of sarcasm in every word.

“Well if you built me another bookcase that wouldn’t be a problem.” Peter explained as he grabbed his skateboard from the floor.

“Don’t worry I won’t let him buy anything.” Wanda explained, pushing Peter towards the door.

“Do you mind bringing these over to Bucky while you’re over there? I’m a little too busy today to bring him his usual breakfast.” Steve asked, a brown paper bag with the diner’s logo on it and a to-go cup of coffee in hand.

“Sure, maybe if I bribe him with food he’ll agree to let me switch out the book sleeves to something that wont make my dad judge me too harshly.” Wanda took the bag and coffee, ready to walk out the door with Peter.

“Just make sure Peter doesn’t drink the coffee in the ten steps over to the book shop.” Tony added, holding out his mug to Steve for a refill.

“Thanks guys, have a good day at school.” Steve placed the check for their meal onto the diner table before heading back into the kitchen and pointedly ignoring Tony’s empty mug.

With both of the kids out the door and on their way to school, Tony left his money on the table before grabbing his things. Noticing that Steve had gone back into the kitchen, Tony went back behind the counter and poured himself a cup of coffee to-go and left before Steve could see.

-

Walking up the pathway to the front of the Independence Inn, Tony finished off the last drop of his coffee, greeting guests as he made his way inside the lobby of the Inn, Tony’s pride and joy. The Inn is a nice old-fashioned hotel with big open lawns, perfect for weddings and other kinds of events.

Stopping at the front desk, Tony waved to Phil, the concierge, as he was on the phone.

“Independence Inn, Phil speaking. I’m very sorry Mr. Lee but we are completely booked for that weekend.” Phil explained to the man on the line while his hands were busy sorting through mail, “Yes I’m sure. No there is really nothing I can do. Positive.”

Tony strolled behind the counter, grabbing his mail from the cubbies behind the counter, flipping through to see if there was anything urgent. Phil handed him a letter with a familiar crest on the front, Tony turned it around to read his name scrawled in tight neat cursive.

“No, sir I don’t have to look,” Tony turned to see Phil, his always cool demeanor not cracking under the annoyance of a persistent guest, “Of course I’ll look.”

Placing the phone down onto the counter, Phil continued sorting silently before picking the phone up again, “I’m sorry we’re completely booked.”

Slicing open the letter, Tony unfolded it and started reading, his eyes widening. Taking the letter with him, he went towards the door behind the counter and went towards his office. Before the door shut behind him, he could still hear Phil arguing with the guest on the phone.

“Sir, you have no idea how desperately I’d like to help, but I’d have to build a room for you myself and I’m not a man who works with his hands. So the best I can do is suggest that you choose any other weekend.” Waiting by the door, Tony wanted to hear how this ended, “Ah, the 16th. Hold on, I’ll look. No I’m sorry, we’re completely booked.”

Looking at the phone in his hand for a second before returning it to the dock, Tony assumed the guest hung up, leaving Phil hanging. Shaking his head, Tony head for the phone in his office.

-

Walking into the small bookshop, Wanda and Peter started looking around, no sign of Bucky or his three-legged cat named Soldier. Both Steve and Bucky had grown up in this town, their parents ran their own businesses in town, staples of the community. When both young men returned from their time in the U.S. Army a few years ago, bringing a new military buddy with them, they each took over the family businesses, and their friend Sam opened up an ice cream parlor.

Of course, all three businesses were patriotic to high hell and Peter couldn’t get Tony to stop making MASH references for at least a year.

“Any ideas on what you’re going to do to get out of German club?” Peter wasn’t exactly one for after school activities, and Wanda certainly wasn’t thrilled about most of the strict rules her dad set for her.

“I don’t know, I’m still working on it. I was thinking of telling him that it’s on the same days as Academic League.” Wanda rang the small bell on the counter, jumping a little when Soldier hopped up onto the counter right in front of her.

Setting down the food and coffee on the counter, Wanda started petting the needy cat as she saw Peter start to look through Bucky’s selection of weekly picks.

“But you’re not in Academic League, why not just say you’re going to German club and not go,” Peter asked, picking up a copy of something by Marcel Proust.

“Yeah I guess you’re right. Maybe I’ll say I’m worried about it taking time away from bible study? That should pull the heart strings right?” Wanda knew her father well enough to know that if she said she wanted to focus more on her religious study then he’d be putty in her hands.

“Might need a heart string to pull on first.” Both teens looked up to see Bucky coming out of the back room, his long hair in his usual bun style. When Bucky first returned to town after a while in the military, the townfolk were shocked at the drastic difference from the punk kid with a big mouth, and the blunt but kindhearted, and even gruff looking young man he’d turned into.

“Yeah, you might be right. If there’s one thing my dad cares about more than our religion it’s our heritage,” Wanda sighed, “I’ll figure it out, but we brought you some breakfast from the diner. Steve said he was busy this morning.”

“Thanks kids,” Bucky said before taking a sip of his coffee, “And Wanda, I have you’re book.” Reaching under the counter, Bucky pulled out a crisp, clean copy of ‘Taking Punk to the Masses,’ “Just don’t let your dad know you got it from me.”

“Please, if my dad sees this I’ll end up tarred and feathered in the town square as a warning for sinners threatening our wholesome ways.” Wanda stuffs the book into her backpack.

“Or he’d end up kicking open the door to my house and dousing my dad in holy water saying it’s our fault you’ve strayed from the righteous path.” Putting his book down onto the counter, Peter reached into his pocket to grab his wallet.

“You’re seriously buying another book? You’re dad will kill me.” Wanda warned, eyeing the lengthy novel.

“He’ll live, besides, I just finished one last night so I have to refill my ‘To Be Read’ pile.” Peter handed Bucky the 20.

“Gotta say kid, you’re my best customer,” Bucky handed Peter his change as the boy put his book in his backpack, “If you’re ever looking for a job just let me know.”

“Thanks Bucky but the last thing I need is to be around books more than I already am.” Peter joked as he grabbed his skateboard, ready to head to school.

“Yeah, it’s kind of like how you don’t let an alcoholic into a bar,” Wanda added, giving her final pets to the friendly cat that had been devouring her attention since she walked in.

“See you later, Bucky.” Peter waved as the two teens walked out.

“Have a good day at school kids.” Petting the cat, Bucky smiled before putting on his reading glasses and returning to his ledger.

-

Rushing into the bustling kitchen of the Inn with a paper shopping bag in his hands, Tony called out for the chef, “Clint!”

“Can’t stop, Tony, we got the early bird dinner rush coming gotta prep.” Clint, the masterful chef was on high speed, slicing this and dicing that.

“This is more important, it’s here, it happened, he did it!” Tony goes on, a giant grin on his face and he’s practically bouncing on the balls of his feet.

“I’m gonna need more than that Tony.” Wiping his hands on his apron, Clint turns to focus on Tony as he comes closer with the letter in hand.

“The Chilton School, Peter got in!” Holding up the letter, Tony shows Clint it’s fancy crest and the official signature of the headmistress, “Look. ‘Dear, Mr. Stark we are pleased to inform you that we have a vacancy at Chilton Preparatory starting immediately. Due to your sons excellent credentials and your enthusiastic pursuit of his enrollment’ I offered to do the principal to get him in. ‘We’ll be happy to accept him once the first semester’s tuition has been received.”

“Tony this is incredible!” Clint claps Tony hard on the back in a bro half-hug.

“I know, this is it! He can finally got to MIT and get the education I couldn’t and do all the things that I never got to do and I can resent him for it. It’ll be amazing!”

Clint threw his head back in laughter at how excitable Tony is, “I look forward to the bittersweet graduation speech.”

Both men quickly went silent as Peter walked in through the back door of the kitchen, grabbing one of Clint’s homemade cookies on the way in. Looking between the quiet pair, Peter saw their weird grins.

“You two seem happy.” Leaning against the counter, Peter finished his snack, popping the rest of the cookie into his mouth.

“Here, open this,” Tony handed Peter the shopping bag in his hand as his son looked confusedly between the two men.

Pulling out a navy blue blazer, Peter jokingly asked, “We’re going to the horse track?”

Before Tony could say anything Clint blurted out, “You’re going to Chilton!”

Tony smacked Clint on the arm for ruining his moment.

“Dad?” Peter asked, turning to his dad for confirmation.

“You did it, kiddo. You got in.” Holding up the letter, Tony smiled even wider.

“How did this happen? You didn’t…with the principal did you?” Peter looked hesitantly at his dad, clutching the blazer in his hand.

“No, Peter, that was a joke,” Tony snickered, “They have an open spot and you’re gonna start on Monday.”

“Oh my god, I’m going to Chilton!” Stuffing the blazer back into the back, Peter leaned in to hug his dad, then turned when Clint gave him a strong clap on the back.

“Good work, little man.” Clint smiled before he smelled something burning, “Mac what did I tell you about that fish!”

As Clint turned to deal with his kitchen staff, Peter said, “I have to go call Wanda.”

“Go, go. I’ll be home in an hour. And try on your uniform!” Tony called out after Peter started running out the door.

Making sure he had the letter from the school in hand, Tony went to stuff it back into the envelope when he saw another paper in there. Heading back towards his office, Tony unfolded the paper before nearly having a panic attack. Picking up the phone, Tony started dialing the number at the top for the school’s bursar.

After being on hold for almost 20 minutes, Tony finally got through to someone, “Hi, I’m on hold for Mr. Charleston, I’ve been trying to get ahold of him all day.”

Waiting another second, Tony had gotten through, “Hi, yeah, uh, my son Peter has just been accepted. Thank you, and I got the invoice for your enrollment fee. Wow, that is a lot of zeros behind that five.”

Sitting down into his desk chair, Tony grabbed some aspirin, feeling a headache coming on as the man on the other end spoke, “Uh-huh. Okay, well, what I’m wondering is if you couldn’t take, say, part of it now, just to get him started.

“He’s supposed to start Monday, it just doesn’t give me a lot of time to pull a bank job,” Tony half chuckled at his own joke, “Well, nevermind, I was just kidding…no, a bank job is robbing a bank but…Uh-huh. Oh no.”

Standing back up, Tony started to pace, mad at himself for not having something to do with his hands right now, “No, no, I don’t want you to give up his space. I’ll just, I’ll have to figure it out. Okay. No, thank you. It’s been a real treat talking to you.”

Slamming the phone down on the receiver, Tony pinched the bridge of his nose before grabbing his keys and heading out. Saying a quick goodbye to Phil on his way out, Tony began his short walk home.

Passing by the town dance studio, converted from an old barn and still used weekly to house the town meetings, Tony waved at Natasha, the resident Russian ballerina.

“Congratulations, I hear Peter is going to Chilton.” The red head smiled, leaning against the open barn door.

“How could you possibly have heard that, I only told him a little while ago.” Tony should know better than to ask by now. It was a small town he’d lived in for 16 years now, he knew everyone. But Natasha, she knew everyone and all their secrets and gossip and wasn’t afraid to tell them that she knew.

“A little birdy told me.” Sometimes Tony wanted to smack that smirk off her face, but he knew she could probably beat him in a fight. He’d seen plenty of times what her thighs were capable of.

“Clint then, lovely. And thank you, I’ll pass on your congratulations to Peter.” Tony waved and continued on his way home, using his cellphone to order a pizza on his way.

-

Later that night, Clint and Tony were outside on the wrap-around porch of Tony’s house, each one drinking a beer as they spoke.

“What the hell am I going to do?” Tony repeated for the millionth time that night as he paced back and forth.

“You can have anything I own. My car, sell my car.” Clint suggested as he sat up from the bench to stand next to Tony.

“Clint no one wants your car.” Tony had been the one to fix Clint’s car countless times. If it wasn’t for him, Clint may as well be barreling down the street in a deathtrap that’s more duct tape than car.

“Yeah, you’re right.” Clint sighed before taking another sip of his beer, leaning against the porch railing.

“There’s something that I just haven’t thought of. It’s staring me right in the face I just haven’t seen.” Tony made sure to keep his voice down so Peter wouldn’t hear from inside while Jan, the town interior designer and tailor was fitting him for the new uniform.

“You know, you might consider calling your par-“ Clint suggested before Tony cut him off.

“No.”

“But I don’t think you have-“ Clint tried again, more insistent this time.

“Stop.”

“You can at least go and-“

“Uh.” Tony held up his hand, trying to get Clint to stop.

“Okay, can I say something?” Pausing to see if Tony would object, Clint continued, “I think it might be your only option.”

“Clint, there are several chapters of a Stephen King novel I’d reenact before I resorted to that option.” Tony took another sip of his beer.

“Fine, I’ll drop it.” Before either man could say anything else, Peter called them from inside.

Grabbing their beer before walking into the living room, they could see Peter standing on top of a small stool as Jan finished putting in her final pins into the blazer and pants of Peter’s uniform so she’d be ready to make the alterations by next Monday.

“What do you guys think?” Peter asked, a big grin on his face.

“It makes you look smart.” Clint suggested, flopping down onto the couch, propping his feet up on the coffee table next to Jan’s open sewing box of supplies.
“Dad?” Peter turned to Tony, making sure not to get in Jan’s way while he moved.

“Like you’re ready for high tea.” Tony grinned.

Jan stopped making her last adjustments, “Alright, you’re all done Peter. It looks great on you!” Jan clapped, her usual smiling and bubbly self, “You can take it off now.”
“Thanks Jan!” Carefully Peter stepped down from the stool and made his way to his room, attached to the small kitchen just off the living room.

“Thanks Jan, I appreciate it.” Tony said, as the woman packed up her supplies.

“Oh no problem Tony, I’m always happy to help. Besides, I just finished working on my last wedding dress for a little while. ‘Busy Bees’ isn’t going to be so busy until around Christmas time.” Referring to her shop ‘Busy Bees Tailor & Decorating’ Jan usually had a small break before people brought her dresses for spring and summer weddings as well as prom.

“Would you like to stay and have some pizza?” Tony offered as he gestured to the 3 boxes on the coffee table, as usual they ordered too much food and kept the left overs to last them through the rest of the week. Of course between Clint, Tony, and Peter they’d at least get through a pie and a half of sausage and green peppers, leaving the third pie of pepperoni for the weekend.

“Nah, I better get going, Hank will be expecting me home soon.” Jan picked up her sewing box and made for the door as Peter was walking back out of his room, now dressed in sweatpants and a t-shirt that had a space shuttle caught in the tentacles of a blue space squid.

With a thank you, Peter handed Jan the uniform jacket and pants carefully, not wanting to move any of the carefully placed pins.

“No problem, Peter, I’ll have them back to you by Saturday.” Jan said before a final goodnight as she went out the door.

“I can’t believe Friday is going to be my last day at Stars Hollow High, I only have 2 days left.” Peter said excitedly as he sat down next to Clint, grabbing a slice of pizza on his way down.

“You’re better off without that place kid, Stars Hollow High isn’t exactly the best high school, just the only one around.” Clint had graduated from Stars Hollow High and he wasn’t exactly the best student, but he certainly wasn’t the worst. “I remember me and my brother once stole every single baseball from the gym, the baseball team had to practice with tennis balls.”

“Why would you steal baseballs?” Tony asked, grabbing the remote for the TV and slice of pizza for himself.

“You ever seen people try to play baseball with a tennis ball? It’s the best fun you’ll have all week.” Clint said as he finished off his beer. “Alright, I gotta get going, you mind if I bring some pizza with me? Lucky loves sausage on his pizza.”

“Are you sure pizza is the best thing to be feeding to your dog?” Peter asked as he handed Clint a paper plate.

“Well I’m not gonna tell him no, the guy loves this stuff.” Clint took three slices with him before grabbing his coat, “I’ll see you guys tomorrow.”

“Night Clint.” Both Tony and Peter replied before they heard the front door shut.

-

The next day, Tony was sitting in his car, just outside of the manor his parents lived in. He made sure to park his car just outside the gates so his parents or any of their staff wouldn’t see him out there for what must have been 15 minutes now.

“Come on Tony, this is for Peter. Just suck it up.” Taking the last sip of his coffee, Tony left the empty cup in the cup holder and went out to ring the doorbell.
Fidgeting slightly with his fingers, Tony rang the bell and waited, pulling his coat tighter to keep the cold September air out as well as give him something to do with his hands. When the door opened, Tony put on the best smile he could.

“Hi, mom.”

Taken aback slightly, Maria smiled, “Anthony, isn’t this a surprise. Is it Easter already?”

Chuckling nervously, Tony tried to smile as much as he could without it seeming forced, “No, I ugh, finished up my business class and thought I’d stop by.”

“To see me?” Maria asked again, confused by the sudden appearance of her son.

“Yes.”

“Well, isn’t that nice. Come in.” Maria held the door open, letting Tony walk through.

“Thanks.” Tony couldn’t help the dryness in his throat, wishing he had more coffee. Stepping into the foyer of his childhood home, Tony took off his coat as he walked with his mother to the sitting room, “The place looks great.”

“It hasn’t changed.” His mother remarked, taking the second to examine Tony’s clothes.

“Well, there you go.” As they went to sit down, Tony tried to fill the growing awkward silence between them, “How are the girls at the bridge club?”

“Old.” Maria supplied shortly, as she sat down on the couch opposite the one Tony sat on.

“Well, good.” Tony agreed, running out of things to say.

Maria crossed her legs, “You said you were taking a business class?”

Feeling more on edge by the second, Tony could feel the stutter on his lips as he answered his mother, “Yeah, mm-hmm, yeah. I’m taking a business class at the college twice a week. I’m sure I told you.”

“Well, if you’re sure then you must have.” Maria nodded.

Looking down to the ground, Tony bit his tongue nervously.

“Would you like some tea?” His mother asked, politely trying to fill the awkward silence.

“I would love some coffee.” Tony answered quickly.

Before Maria could call the maid to come bring them drinks, they heard Tony’s father call out from down the hall, the front door shutting behind him. “Maria? I’m home.”

“We’re in here.” Maria answered before Howard entered, his head down as he flipped through the mail, his reading glasses on his nose.

“Hi, Dad.” Tony announced.

Pausing at the door, taking his reading glasses off, Howard asked, “What is it, Christmas already?” Looking to Maria for an answer.

“Anthony was taking a business class at the college today and decided to drop in to see us.” Maria supplied.

“Hm, what business class?” Howard asked as he made his way towards the bar cart that was behind the couch Tony sat on.

“Well, he told us about it, dear, remember?” Maria asked, a tone in her voice that seemed to tell everyone in the room ‘of course he didn’t tell us, he doesn’t tell us anything.’

“No.” Howard answered as he poured himself some scotch.

“Well, actually, I came here for a reason. Dad, would you mind sitting down for a minute?” Tony asked, feeling his nerves build, and why the hell hadn’t the maid brought any coffee?
“You need money.” Howard answered, not even looking up from the bottle of scotch on the cart as he poured.

“I have a situation.”

“You need money.” Why his father held this tone, Tony wouldn’t understand. Ever since Tony had left with Peter at 16, he never once asked his parents for a single coin, why did he assume he was only here for cash?

Well…he was. But that didn’t mean that Howard had any right to be this way.

“Dad, will you please just let me get this out. Peter has been accepted to Chilton.” Tony finally managed to say, clutching his hands in his lap.

“Chilton? Oh that’s a wonderful school. It’s only five minutes from here.” Maria said, a delighted smile on her face. Tony knew he’d be able to win her over with talk of her one and only grandson. Even Howard turned to look at him as he spoke, moving the stand behind Maria.

“That’s right, it is. He can start as early as Monday.” Tony felt a bit more calmed, Peter being one of the only things he can safely talk about with his parents. “Well, the problem is that they want me to put down an enrollment fee, plus the first semesters tuition. And I have to do that immediately or he loses his spot.”

“So, you need money.” Howard reiterated.

“Yeah,” Tony sighed, his shoulders sagging. “But it’s not for me. It’s for Peter. And I fully intend to pay you back every cent. I don’t ask for favors, you know that.”

“Oh yes,” Maria looked up to Howard, “We know.”

“I’ll get the checkbook.” Howard said, turning to leave.

“Thank you,” Tony let out a sigh, feeling like a weight has been lifted, “You have no idea, thank you.”

“On one condition,” Maria held up her finger, telling everyone to hold on a second.

“So close,” Tony muttered under his breath.

“Because we are now financially involved in your life,” Maria paused to make eye contact with Tony, “I want to be actively involved in your life.”

“What does that mean, mother?” Tony asked hesitantly, and as Maria went on to continue, Howard sat down on the couch beside her.

“I want a weekly dinner.” Maria said.

“What?” Maybe he hadn’t heard her correctly.

“Friday nights you and Peter will have dinner here,” Maria explained, “And you have to call us once a week to give us an update on his schooling and your life. That’s it. That’s the condition. If you agree you’ll come to dinner tomorrow night and leave here with the check. Otherwise, I’m sorry, we can’t help you.”

Tony paused, looking down and not making eye contact with either of his parents; he couldn’t help the feeling his parents gave him. As though he were small and powerless, “I don’t want him to know that I borrowed money from you.” Tony pretended not to notice the pointed side-eye look his father gave his mother, “Can that just be between us?”

“Seven o’clock work for you?” Maria asked, a small smile on her lips.

“Perfect.” Tony tried to return the smile.

As Howard returned to reading his mail and opening the newspaper, Tony sighed, looking up at the portrait that was above the mantle next to them. It was him, as a little boy sitting in front of his parents.

He felt the same feeling now, small and dependent.

-

“And we get to wear uniforms, everyone dressed alike in boring clothes and just there to learn.” Peter said excitedly as he cleaned out his locker at Stars Hollow High, explaining more and more of the great things about his new school to Wanda.

“Okay, there’s academic minded, and then there’s Amish.” Wanda said smugly as Peter shut his locker, his arms filled with a box stuffed with his books and other belongings.

“Real funny,” Peter said as he tried to balance the box while his skateboard was tucked under his arm.

“So I told my dad this morning that you were changing schools,” Wanda added, just grabbing the skateboard from Peter, as she got frustrated watching him struggle.

“Was he thrilled?” Peter asked, knowing that Erik never liked him or his dad.

“The party’s on Friday.” Wanda joked as the two headed out the doors of the school.

“It just sucks that after all these years of being friends your dad still hates me.” Peter said, nudging his way past the other kids in the hall.

“He doesn’t hate you.” Wanda said, making sure the skateboard didn’t hit anyone.

“He hates my dad.” Peter said, matter-of-factly.

“He just doesn’t trust single-parents.” Peter rolled his eyes at Wanda’s answer, he’d long given up on getting his best friend’s dad to like him.

Looking at her watch, Wanda groaned, “Ugh, I have to go, I have German club today.”

“Still haven’t found a way out of it?” Peter asked as he let Wanda tuck his skateboard under his arm.

“Not yet, I’m planning on telling him tonight it’s getting in the way of my religious study.” Wanda explained, “How do I look?”

Taking a step back, Peter looked Wanda up and down. Her hair long black hair in it’s usual high ponytail and wearing her usual red leather jacket and a plain t-shirt over some skinny jeans, “Like you have nothing better to do with your time than go to German club.”

“Perfect, I’ll see you later.” Wanda said as she started walking.

“Later.”

Turning to head towards the doors of the school, Peter dropped his skateboard from under his arms. Leaning down to pick it up he came face to face with a red-headed girl also leaning in to pick up the skateboard.

“Oh, hi. Sorry, if I uh, got in your way.” Peter said as the girl took the board in her hands.

“Oh no problem, you look like you need a hand.” The girl smiled as they both stood up.

“Yeah, thanks.”

“Are you moving?” She asked, a small smile on her lips.

“Oh no, just my books are.” Peter answered, suddenly feeling awkward.

“My family just moved here from New York.” She continued, keeping his skateboard in her hands.

“New York. Good pizza.” If Peter could kick himself he would.

“Yeah I never got the whole deep dish thing out in Chicago.” The girl smiled, chuckling at Peter’s lame joke. “I’m Mary-Jane but most people call me MJ.”

“Nice to meet you, I’m Peter.”

“Well, nice to meet you Peter, but I better go. I have to look for a job.” Mary-Jane handed him his skateboard.

Before she could turn to leave Peter added, “Oh um, you should check with Natasha.”

“Natasha?” MJ questioned.

“She’s the dance instructor in town.” Peter continued.

“Oh well, I don’t really dance much.”

“Oh I just mean she kind of knows everything that’s going on around here, she’ll know if anyone is looking.” Peter explained, trying to not make himself sound any more stupid than he must already seem.

“Okay, cool. Thanks Peter, hopefully I’ll see you around?”

“Yeah, hope so.” Peter nodded as he watched Mary-Jane walk out of the school.

-

Sitting silently across the table from Peter in the diner, Tony couldn’t help but feel weird. Picking at his salad, Tony tried his best to find something to talk about.
“So, you were late getting home tonight.” He said.

“Yeah, I went to the library.” Peter said hurriedly, looking up from his own salad.

“Oh,” Tony tapped his fingers nervously on the rim of his coffee cup, “I forgot to tell you, we’re having dinner with your grandparents tomorrow night.” Tony got out quickly before taking a sip.

“We are?”

“Mm-hmm”

“But it’s September.” Peter said, a confused look on his face.

“So?”

“So what holiday’s in September?” They never saw his grandparents unless it was a holiday.

“It’s not a holiday thing, it’s just dinner okay?” Tony said, probably a bit snappier than he meant it.

“Fine, sorry.”

Before anything else could be said, Steve dropped off their burgers and fries, “Try finishing a salad once in a while, it’ll do you both good.” Then Steve left to attend to other customers.
Tony chuckled, not saying a word to Steve.

“So, Jan said she’ll probably have your uniform done by tomorrow night.” Tony supplied, hoping for some excitement from Peter. When nothing came he continued, “A grunt of acknowledgement might be nice.”

“I don’t understand why we’re going to dinner tomorrow night. I mean, what if I had plans? You didn’t even ask me.” Peter suddenly seemed upset and angry.

“Well if you’d had plans I would have known.” Tony answered, hand on his coffee cup again.

“How?” Peter asked.

“Well, you would have told me.” Tony answered, confused about where this came from.

“I don’t tell you everything.” Peter said more insistent.

“Hey, I had dibs on being the jerk tonight.” Tony pulled back, trying to lighten the conversation with a joke like he usually did.

“Just tonight?” Peter said just loud enough to make sure Tony heard.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” Tony asked, concerned about what was going on all of a sudden. Before school today his son had been all smiles.

“I’m not sure I want to go to Chilton.” Peter finally answered.

“What?” Now Tony was confused all over again.

“The timing is just really bad.”

“The timing is bad?” Tony repeated, trying to wrap his head around it.

“The bus ride to and from Chilton is like 30 minutes each way.” Peter explained, getting himself worked up.

“I can’t believe what I’m hearing.” Tony said, looking for some kind of real logic.

“Plus, I don’t think we should be spending that money right now. I mean, I know Chilton’s got to be costing you a lot.”

“Oh you have no idea.” Tony felt his headache coming back.

“That money should be going into you opening your own inn, you and Clint.” Peter added.

“What about college? What about MIT?” Tony asked, not believing for one second that any of this was what was bothering Peter.

“We don’t know that I can’t get into MIT if I stay where I am.”

“Okay, okay.” Tony paused, “I appreciate your concern but I have this covered.”

“I still don’t want to go.”

“Just tell me why, Peter.” Tony said. When his son stayed quiet, Tony continued, “I have to get out of here.” Tony stood up and grabbed his coat. Slamming down some cash on the table to cover their bill and then some.

Peter quickly followed behind, throwing on his own coat.

Walking quietly side by side, the two passed by Natasha’s, a practice going on inside the studio. “Hey Peter,” Natasha waited for the both of them to stop walking, “I think I found a job for your cute friend.”

“What cute friend?” Tony turned to Peter.

“They need a new cashier over at the supermarket. I already talked to Nick Fury about her. You just send her over tomorrow.” Natasha finished.

“Okay, thanks.” Peter said, turning to go.

“What cute friend?” Tony asked a second time.

“Oh she’s very cute. You have good taste.” Natasha turned back to her class as Peter started fast-walking towards their house.

“Oh you’ll have to walk faster than that.” Tony started following, “You’re gonna have to turn into Usain Bolt to get away from me.”

-

Storming into the house, Peter slammed the door behind him, just for Tony to open it again, following Peter on the warpath to his bedroom. “This is about a girl. Of course, I can’t believe I didn’t see it. All this talk about money and bus rides. You got a thing going with a cutie at school and you don’t want to leave school.”

“I’m going to bed.” Peter said dryly.

“God, I’m so dense. That should have been my first thought. After all, you’re me.” Tony said, wildly gesturing to his son.

“I’m not you,” Peter paused at his doorway, turning to look at his dad.

“Really? Someone willing to throw important life experiences out the window to be with some girl. It sounds like me to me.” Tony explained.

“Whatever.” Peter turned to shut the door, just for Tony to catch it before it could close and enter the bedroom.

“So who is she?”

“There’s no girl.” Peter said again, louder this time.

“Red hair, wrinkles her nose when she laughs? Maybe she wears crop tops, show the midriff, those are the easy ones.” Tony continued on.

“Thanks for the knock.” Peter said, taking his shoes off and flopping down onto his bed.

“Okay,” Tony sighed, “How about we start over. You tell me all about the girl and I promise not to let my head explode.” Peter stayed silent, turning on his bedside lamp and grabbing a book from his backpack on the floor. “Peter? Please talk to me.”

When Peter stayed quiet, Tony continued, taking a seat on Peter’s bed, “Okay, I’ll talk. Don’t get me wrong, Girls are great. Hell, guys are great, whatever you like is totally fine with me, and you know that. I am a huge fan of people in general. You don’t get to be a single dad at 16 by being indifferent to people.”

When it looked like Peter was going to continue ignoring him, Tony went on, “But girls are always going to be there. This school isn’t. It’s more important, it has to be more important.”
“I’m going to sleep.” Peter said, bringing his knees to his chest, pulling himself away from the spot where his dad had sat down.

“Peter, you’ve always been the sensible one in this house. I need you to remember that feeling now. You will kick your own butt later if you blow this.” Tony added, not going anywhere.
“Well, it’s my butt.” Peter said, putting his book down and turning away from his dad.

“Good comeback.”

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” Well at least they still had manners in an argument, Tony at least knew he did something right, “Peter, come on.”

“I don’t want to talk about this, can’t you just leave me alone like any regular dad.” Peter said.

“Okay, fine.” Tony stood up, crossing his hands over his chest, “We always had a democracy in this house. We never did anything unless we both agreed. But now I guess I’m going to have to play the dad card.” Tony had never felt more like his own father in his life, “You are going to Chilton whether you want to or not. Monday morning, you will be there, end of story.”

“We’ll see.” Peter said as Tony turned to shut the door behind him.

“Yeah we will.” Tony slammed the door.

-

“Get those plates out Jay. Mack you have exactly five second to take that fish out before I smack you with it. Liz, you’re slicing not dicing, I can see it in your wrist.” Clint was firing off instructions to his kitchen staff left and right, trying to keep up with their lunch rush in the Inn dining room.

“Slow down, Clint you’re gonna give me a migraine.” Tony said, sipping his coffee as he leaned back against the counter.

“Peter still mad at you huh?” Clint asked as he continued frosting cupcakes.

“Hey, I’m not so thrilled with him either.” Tony added.

“It was a fight, kids fight with their parents.” Clint replied, switching from frosting to baking green beans.

“No, we don’t fight. We never fight.” Tony said, exasperated, “We’re best friends, we go together like peanut butter and jelly, green eggs and ham, it’s like I’m a superhero and he’s my sidekick.”

Picking up a plate, adding the final garnishing before leaving it to the servers, Clint chuckled, “Wasn’t there something about a Civil War?”

Phil poked his head into the kitchen, “You told me to let you know when your son arrived. Well he’s here, and his scowl is scaring the guests.”

“Hold on Clint.” Tony head out towards the front desk.

Walking over, Tony saw Peter, his nose stuck in a book, “You left a note to meet you here.” Peter said without looking up.

“Thought you might want to work a couple of hours, earn some extra cash waiting tables.” Tony answered, flipping open his work portfolio.

“Fine.” Peter said shortly.

“You’re not gonna give me the ‘Mommy Dearest’ treatment forever are you?” Tony asked, pulling open one of the desk drawers, trying to find his reading glasses.

“You wanted me here, I’m here. Should I do something or what?” Peter asked, finally looking up from his book.”

“Yeah, go home.” Tony dropped his portfolio onto the desk counter, “Dinner’s at 7, be ready to go.”

“Fine.”

“Fine.”

-

Both Tony and Peter stood silently in front of the front door of the Stark Manor, a cup of coffee clutched in Tony’s hand. He had to dress up or face the judgmental eye of his mother all night, so he was fitted in one of his finer suits and his best tie.

“So, do we go in or do we just stand out here all night reenacting ‘The Little Match Girl’ all night?” Peter asked snarkily.

“Okay, look,” Tony turned to look at Peter, “I know you and me are having a thing and I know you hate me but I need you to be civil. At least through dinner, and then on the way home you can pull a Menendez. Deal?”

“Fine.”

Tony shook his head before reaching past Peter to hit the doorbell to the house.

When the door opened to reveal Maria standing there, Peter smiled, “Hi grandma.”

“Well, you’re right on time.” Opening the door wider, Maria let both of the boys in so that they could take off their coats.

“Yeah, yeah, no traffic at all.” Tony could already feel his coffee buzz wearing off as he spoke.

“I can’t tell you what a treat it is to have my boys here.” Maria said, shutting the front door and taking both of their coats.

“Oh, well, we’re excited too.” Tony smiled.

“Is that a collector’s cup or can I throw it away for you?” Maria asked, gesturing towards the disposable coffee cup still in Tony’s hand.

“Oh,” Tony said, just realizing that he was still holding it, before he turned to throw it away in the trash can by the front door.

“In the kitchen, please.” Maria added.

“Sorry.” Tony stopped.

“So,” Maria turned to Peter, taking her grandson’s hands in her own as she turned them to walk towards the sitting room, “I want to hear all about Chilton.”

“Well, I haven’t actually started yet.” Peter said to his grandma as they walked, leaving Tony by the front door.

Before walking to join them, Tony dropped the paper cup into the trash bin by the door.

As Maria and Peter walked into the sitting room, they saw Howard already sitting there waiting, “Howard, look who’s here.” Maria said excitedly, leaving Peter standing in front of his grandfather as she made drinks.

“Peter,” Howard looked up from his newspaper, taking a look at his grandson, “you’re tall.”

“I guess.” Peter smiled, feeling like he was being watched like prey to a hawk.

“What’s your height?”

“Five-eleven?” Peter explained, not seeing why his grandpa wanted to know.

“That’s tall,” Howard said, before turning back towards Maria, “He’s tall, must not take after your father too much.”

“Hi, dad.” Tony greeted as he walked in.

“Anthony, your son’s tall.”

“Oh, I know. It’s freakish, we’re thinking of having him studied at Columbia.” Tony joked, hoping to lighten the thickness in the air.

“Champagne anyone?” Maria came over carrying a silver tray with tall champagne flutes.

“Oh, that’s fancy.” Tony said, taking one and passing another to Peter.

“Well, it’s not every day I have my boys here for dinner.” Turning to smile at her son, Maria held up her champagne, “A toast. To Peter entering Chilton and an exciting new phase in his life.”

“Here, here.” Howard said, holding up his own champagne glass.

“Well, let’s sit everyone.” Maria gestured to the sofas. Peter sat down next to his grandfather while Maria and Tony sat on the opposite couch.

“This is just wonderful, an education is the most important thing in the world, next to family.” Maria said to Peter, and in a way, Tony was grateful that his mother was saying this. Hopefully it would convince Peter to go along with attending Chilton.

-

A little while later, sitting around the dinner table, Tony was thankful that nothing seemed to blow up in his face just yet, but they had only just started eating and there was plenty of awkward silence.

“So, Peter, how’s the lamb?” Maria asked, sitting at one head of the table.

“Oh, it’s great grandma,” Peter answered, not making eye contact with his dad across from him.

“Too dry?” She asked again, trying to make sure that he was enjoying his meal.

“No, it’s perfect.” Peter smiled to her.

Another stiff silence filled the dining room.

“So,” Peter tried filling the silence again, “grandpa, how’s the inventing bizz?”

“Oh, haven’t invented anything in a few months now. Mostly doing research these days.” Howard said before turning to Tony, “How are things at the motel?”

“The Inn? They’re great.” Tony said, trying not to get defensive as he reached for his drink.

“Anthony is the executive manager now, isn’t that wonderful?” Maria smiled, trying to get Howard’s attention. Tony turned to his mom, not sure why that pleased him so much.

“Speaking of which, Maya called the other day,” Howard announced.

“Speaking of which? How is that a speaking of which.” Tony asked, not liking where this was going.

“She’s had a big breakthrough in her research. Expects another academic paper with her findings to be out next month.” Howard didn’t look up from his food as he spoke, “Very talented woman, your mother.”

“He knows,” Tony tried to cut in.

“And very smart, you must take after her.”

Tony put his fork down onto the table before sliding his chair out and standing up, “Speaking of which, I’m going to grab a coke,” As he walked behind his father’s chair to get through the door to the kitchen, Tony added, “or a knife.”

Heading into the kitchen, Tony looked around for something to do with his hands, settling on pouring himself a cup of coffee, luke warm from sitting out for a while.

Back at the table, Peter tried to get up, “Maybe I’ll go talk to him,”

“No,” Maria interrupted getting up and getting halfway across the room already, “I’ll go. You stay and enjoy your dinner.”

Swinging the door open into the kitchen, Maria put her hands onto the island counter as Tony turned to look at her, “Anthony, come back to the table.”

“Is this what it’s going to be like every Friday night? I sit here while you and dad attack me?” Tony asked, tapping his finger against the rim of his mug.

“You’re being very dramatic.” Maria said.

“Dramatic? Were you at that table just now?” Tony asked, feeling himself get riled up.

“Yes, I was, and I think you took what your father said the wrong way.” Maria explained.

“The wrong way? How could I have taken it the wrong way? What was open to interpretation?” Tony asked, his words getting faster the more upset he got.

Back at the dining table, Peter could here his grandmother say, “Keep your voice down.” And his father responding with a curt, “No. I can’t take it anymore. Tonight just seems like a nightmare.”

Tony put down his coffee mug onto the counter, standing on the opposite end of the island from his mother, “Why do you pounce on every single thing that I say?”

“You barely uttered a word all night.” Maria answered.

“Why would he bring up Maya? Was that really necessary?” Tony asked, feeling his head start to pound. He swore he never got headaches before this week started.

“He likes Maya.”

“Isn’t that interesting? Because as I remember, when Maya was pregnant, Dad didn’t like her so much.” Tony started pacing slowly back and forth, sick of the circle that he got into every time he saw his parents.

“Oh, please, you were sixteen. What were we supposed to do? Throw you a party? We were disappointed. The two of you had such bright futures.” Maria said, Tony could hear the waver in her voice.

“By not getting married we managed to keep those bright futures.” Tony explained for what felt like the thousandth time.

“When you get pregnant, you get married. A child needs a mother and a father.”

“Mom, do you think Maya would have her own company right now if we’d gotten married. Do you think she would be anything at all?”

“Yes, you would have finished your degree and you’d be living a lovely life right now.” Maria crossed her arms.

“I am living a lovely life right now, Mom.” Tony explained, he could feel an all too familiar sting behind his eyes.

“Right, far away from us.” Maria said, pulling the sweater she wore a touch tighter over her shoulders.

“Oh, here we go.” Tony took another sip of coffee.

“You took that boy and completely shut us out of your life.” Maria continued.

“You wanted to control me.” Tony argued.

“You were still a child, Anthony. You were still my young boy.” Maria was doing her best to keep the tears at bay and Tony hated doing this, he hated that this happened every time they saw one another.

“I stopped being a child the minute I saw my son, okay? I had to figure out how to live. I found a good job.” Tony tried to explain.

“As a maintenance man, a janitor. With all your brains and talent.”

“I worked my way up, I run the place now.” Tony would go to the ends of the earth to defend his Inn, he loved it almost as much as he loved Peter; “I built a life on my own with no help from anyone.”

“Yes, and think of where you’d been if you’d accepted a little help.” Maria added, “And where Peter would have been? But no, you were always too proud to accept anything from anyone.”

“Well, I wasn’t too proud to come here to you two, begging for money for my kid’s school, was I?” Tony asked, his voice near breaking. He hated these conversations and he hated how much it hurt to fight with his mother, how much he hurt her.

Peter turned towards the kitchen door, his shoulders slumping; boy he’d really done it now.

“Well, now you have your pride, and I have my weekly dinners.” Maria said, grabbing a spare napkin from the counter, “We both win.” She turned towards the door again, dabbing her eyes dry as she walked out and back out to the dining room.

-

Leaving the manor house, Tony shut the front door behind him, sticking his hands in his coat pockets as he leaned against the stone masonry that made up the front archway. Peter pulled on his beanie before crossing his arms.

“Dad?”

“I’m okay,” Tony smiled, standing up straight, “Just, do I look shorter? Because I feel shorter.”

“How about I buy you a cup of coffee?” Peter asked, heading towards the car.

“Yeah, but you drive though. I don’t think my feet will reach the pedals.” Tony joked, handing Peter his keys.

-

“I think tonight went well.” Peter said, sitting down at their usual table at Steve’s diner.

“Oh yeah, so much coffee has never been consumed under that roof.” Tony chuckled.

“You and grandma seemed to have a nice talk.” Peter said, playing with his napkin.

“How much did you hear?” Tony asked, not making eye contact.

“Not a lot,” Peter looked around, not many people around in the diner, “Snippets.”

“Snippets?” Tony questioned, his eyes rising to meet Peter’s.

“Little snippets.” Peter nodded, sticking to his story.

“So basically everything?” Tony smirked, knowing he’d been found out.

“Basically yes.” Peter confirmed, spotting Steve coming from behind the counter to bring dessert to an older couple at the opposite end of the restaurant.

“Well, the best laid plans.” Tony gave up, he was now officially resigned to his mother always winning.

“I think it was really brave of you to ask them for money.” Peter confessed, waving to Steve who finally noticed them and was grabbing his pen and paper. Peter couldn’t help but notice that Steve had forgone his usual t-shirt and jeans and was instead in a button down and slacks.

“I don’t want to talk about it.” Tony sighed.

“How many meals is it gonna take till we’re off the hook?”

“I think the deli spread at my funeral will be the last one.” Tony smiled, “Wait, does that mean, you’re pumped for Chilton again?”

“Can’t let a perfectly good blazer go to waste.” Peter joked, happy that his dad was back to himself after such a long night.

“Kid, you won’t be sorry.” Tony smiled.

As Steve came over to their table, Tony noticed the change in clothes, “Wow, you look nice. Really nice.”

“I had a meeting earlier at the bank. They like nicer getups.” Steve smiled, “You look nice too.”

“I had a flagellation to go to.” Tony snarked, his usual smirk back and better than ever.

“So, what’ll you have?”

“Coffee, in a vat.”

“I’ll have coffee also, and chili fries.” Peter answered.

“That’s quite a refined palate you got there.” Steve shook his head before turning back to the kitchen.

Tony leaned in closer to Peter, “Behold the healing powers of a pressed shirt and slacks.” As Peter shook his head, Tony remembered something and continued, “So, tell me about the girl.”

“You know what’s really special about this father-son thing we got going?” Peter asked, smirking back at his dad, “The total understanding about the need for one’s privacy. I mean you really understand boundaries.”

“So tell me about the girl.” Tony tried again.

“Dad.”

“Is she dreamy?”

“That’s so Nick at Nite.” Peter shook his head.

“I’m gonna find out anyway.” Tony said nonchalantly.

“How?”

“Uh, I’ll spy.” As though it were the most obvious thing in the world.

“Here’s your coffee and fries.” Steve put down the drinks and the dish, and as Peter picked up the coffee, Steve sighed, “Alright I can’t stand this. This is so unhealthy. Peter, please put down that cup of coffee. You do not want to grow up to be like your dad.”

“Sorry, too late.” Peter said, sipping his coffee before digging in for some fries.

Tony just smiled up to Steve before picking up his own coffee.