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Letters Leading Me Home

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October 18, 2010

Dear Mister Tony Stark,

Hello, my name is Peter Parker, and I'm almost ten years old. I hope you can read my letter okay and that there aren't too many things I spelled wrong. This is my third time trying, because the first one was really dumb and the second one had a lot of mistakes, so my mom corrected it. She's pretty cool, and I love her a lot because she always helps me. That part isn't sposed to be there, so please ignore it. I am writing to you because I am your biggest fan! I read about you all the time, except my mom doesn't let me see some stuff because she says that it's adult things, but I don't get it. But I have posters and stuff, and my dad bought me some of the technicle drawings of Stark Industries desines that were signed by you. You are very smart and you wear really cool sunglasses. Someday I want some just like them, because then I will look more like you.

You are probly the smartest person in the whole world, which is probly saying a lot because the world has lots of people and some of them are pretty smart. But I think you have them all beat, because you desine things that are very important and easy to use. Plus you also desine weapons to keep people safe. My dad is a soldier, and he says that your guns are the best because they don't jam up like some of the other guns do. He hates the things Justin Hammer desines the most, which is good because I don't like him. He isn't as smart as you and he looks dumb in the sunglasses he wears.

Mom says I'm not being nice, but I'm just being honest, so I don't think that's bad.

Someday I want to work at Stark Industries to make things with you, but not guns. I would rather make things like phones, because phones are the coolest. My mom has a phone desined by you, and it runs games the best. Better than her old phone. I would also like to help you desine more things to help people. There is a girl in my class who is missing one of her legs, which is sad. But I bet you could desine her a really cool replacement one. I tried to think one up by myself, but I think you could do it better. To help you come up with ideas, I put a copy of my desine in with this letter. I signed it so when I come work with you then you'll remember me.

The kids in my school make fun of me when I talk about you, but that's because they don't know how cool and how smart you are. Next year my mom says I might be able to go to a different school, one where the kids are more intrested in science and math. I think I'll like that better because then other kids won't tease me for liking them. It's called Midtown School of Science and Technology - how cool is that? I have to take some tests and stuff, and I hope I do good because I think you would like to hire someone who went to a school like that.

I also wanted to say that I hope you have fun at the Stark Expo. I wanted to go, but my mom didn't get tickets in time. She said they were gone in a flash, but I know she tried because she's a really good mom. She promised we would watch it on tv and the internet together, so it will be almost as good as if I could go. I know you'll have a lot of new, cool desines to show, and I really hope you have fun because it looks like it would be a lot of fun to be there.

You probly get a lot of letters, Mister Stark, so it's okay if you don't answer this one. My mom won't tell me a lot, but she says you are having a very hard time, and I wanted you to know that there are people who like you very much. I hope you feel better, and that things aren't hard forever. I really am your #1 fan, and someday I will get to meet you and tell you that in person.

Your future employee,

Peter Parker

PS - If you do write me back, please tell me what you think of my desine for a leg for my friend.

PPS - You are the best Mister Stark even if not everybody knows it. I want to be just like you when I get old.


October 24, 2010

Mister Peter Parker -

I'm going to stick with Peter from now on, without the 'mister' or the 'Parker', even if 'Peter Parker' has a nice ring to it. Thanks a lot for your letter, kid. There weren't very many mistakes at all, and I could read it just fine. Your mom does sound pretty cool, and she's right - some things that get written and said about me are only for grown-up ears. Being almost ten means you aren't a baby but you aren't ready to venture out into the big bad world of negative press.

My sunglasses are awesome, aren't they? If you want to wear ones like them when you're older, you're going to have to get a killer job - they aren't cheap. Lucky for you, Stark Industries pays pretty damn really well, so if you get a job working with me you'll be able to afford them. Almost ten year olds usually aren't so lucky, so I sent you an 'Awesome Sunglasses' starter kit that should have gotten there with this letter. It might lag behind a little bit since the post office isn't always as great at their job as I am at mine.

Justin Hammer is pretty much the worst. Since you know that at almost ten, I'm pretty sure you'll have no problem landing a job at my company when you're old enough. I'm glad you think I'm the smartest person in the world - you're probably right. But you seem pretty smart too, Peter. You already know that you don't want to design guns, so good for you. I didn't know that until I was too old to stop. I loved the design for that prosthetic leg, but I had some suggestions to improve it. I kept the original plans, but I made a copy and wrote some notes on it. That should be in with the 'Awesome Sunglasses' kit, along with a few books on mechanics, anatomy, and a few other things you should study if you want to work on medical tech. Some of it may be over your head right now, but in a few years they'll be able to help you figure out if that's where you want your focus to be.

I hope you get into that new school. Sounds like a great place - I wish I could have gone somewhere like that. I got teased a lot when I was younger too, Peter, and I gotta say that it sucks. But it gets better. I know, I know, everyone says that and it doesn't help a lot right now, but it's true. Someday you're going to be working at SI, designing robot limbs for people and they'll be working odd jobs and remembering school as the best years of their lives which is just sad. The best years should happen after you're done with school.

Oh, and I scored you some passes for the Stark Expo. They're in with all the other stuff. I got you four - one for you, one for your mom, and two more for guests. Or you could sell them on the internet, whatever.

Thanks for writing Peter. I wasn't having a good day, but when my assistant Pepper showed me your letter it made me smile. Enjoy the Expo, read some books, and keep liking math and science no matter how many people say stupid shit things about it.

Your future boss,

Tony Stark


November 10, 2010

Dear Mister Tony Stark,

Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you!!!!! THANK YOU!!

I had SO much fun at the expo! It was the best thing ever! I got to see so many things, and some of the grown ups didn't really want to talk to me, but some of them were SO COOL! One of them even let me take one of his robots APART and showed me how to PUT IT BACK TOGETHER!!!!! It was awesome!! Thank you thank you thank you!

My mom didn't like it as much, but she said it was enough to see me have fun. My dad would have liked it better, but he's over in another country. He was real excited for me when I talked to him though, and I can't wait to tell him all about it. He told me to make sure I said thank you, which I didn't even need to be told because THANK YOU. Him and mom say thanks too, and also my friend Gwen. My friend Harry was gonna come too, but his dad runs Oscorp, and his dad wouldn't let him come to something sponsered by the enemy. I like Harry but his dad is weird.

It was so much fun, Mr. Stark. I can't even tell you how much fun it was unless I saw you in person. When I come work for you it can be the first thing we talk about!

Also, the notes you made on my desine were amazing. I couldn't have thought of half of them! My dad said that when he comes home we can try to build a little one to see if it works. If it does, I'll send you pictures. Dad said that we're colabrating now, so the desine belongs to both of us. But I couldn't ever make it for lots of people, and lots of people might need something. So if you wanted the desine to be just yours so you could make it I wouldn't mind. Everyone should have a cool replacment leg if they don't have their own. Plus sometimes soldiers step on bombs and get hurt, so they should get new legs too. If my dad ever steps on one, I'd want him to get a cool leg like the one we colabrated on. But maybe with a gun hidden in it so he could still fight.

The sunglasses and books were also super cool. I wanted to wear the sunglasses all the time because so do you, except my teachers took one pair because I guess you aren't sposed to wear them in class. But I'll get them back at the end of the week, and now I know better so they won't get taken again. Plus they're so cool that everyone is jealous and I don't want to make them feel bad, so I think maybe I should wear them mostly for special days. I did give one pair to Gwen because she liked them a lot and she's my best friend, so I hope you don't mind. Most of the books I don't really understand but I like to look at the pictures. Maybe if I get into the other school one of the teachers will help me.

I took the test to get in, and I guess I did pretty well. But I heard mom and dad talking after they sent me out of the room, and they're worried because I guess schools like that cost a lot of money, and I might not get the scolership they thought I would. Even if I don't get in though it's okay. I promise I'll still work really hard so I can come work for you because it's my dream job. I want to invent really cool things with you and maybe have my own booth at the expo. Except I would be nice to all the kids and I would let them do things like touch what I bring, and I would explain everything real good so they could understand. Because science is better when somebody explains it and I think if more people understood it the world would be better. And if they understood, maybe more kids would get real excited like I am, and think how many more cool things would get invented if everyone was working together!

There's something I didn't tell my mom, because I think she would get upset, but I tried explaining some science stuff to a kid in class the other day. One of the other kids heard, and he started calling both of us names. I don't mind because it happens a lot, and I know science isn't dumb and since I understand it so much I know I'm not either. But the kid I was helping doesn't know that, so he got real upset, so I stuck up for him. Because if people keep telling him science is only for dumb nerds then maybe he'll stop trying to learn it and that would be sad. Because he got so excited when he started to know what I was talking about, Mister Stark. Maybe if he doesn't keep hearing he's a stupid dweeb, he'll keep trying. Maybe he could be really smart and come work with us at Stark Industries, but he won't never know because people told him he shouldn't like science or math.

I think that would be sad.

So I think science is better if everyone is excited about it. Because then kids wouldn't feel dumb for liking it, and maybe I could help people understand it without getting into fights. Mom was angry when I came home with a black eye and I wouldn't tell her how come it happened and so I'm grounded. I'm happy it didn't happen before the expo because she's really strict about groundings and I wouldn't have gotten to use your really awesome present. Thank you again so much for sending the passes!

This letter got really long, so I should probably stop now. I hope you don't get mad at me for how long it is. Also, I know you're very busy, so if you can't answer this one that would okay. You answering even that one time was probably the best thing that ever happened to me except for being able to go to the expo. Thank you Mister Stark, and I hope you have the best day ever and then they keep getting better.

Your biggest fan and colabrater,

Peter Parker


November 14, 2010

Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater -

You know what? I had the best day ever today when I got your letter. I told Pep and the mail room to keep an eye out for anything from Peter Parker, and Pepper-pot brought me your last one right before I had to go to a shitty really boring meeting - it gave me something to think about instead of listening to the members of SI's board. The board of directors that help me run my company don't understand science at all but they still get to tell me what to do. Lame.

Anyway, your letter saved me from having to think about the boring stuff they were talking about. 'Big expense, blah blah blah', 'huge risk, yak yak yak', 'not a weapon, words words words'. I don't think they're gonna let me produce the leg you and I are collaborating on, Peter Pan, but maybe I can have R&D whip up a prototype anyway. If it works we could give it to your friend, but you'll share all the credit with me. I don't steal ideas, even when people give me permission. Hold on to your work, Peter. Sharing is great, but if you don't keep some control people will use your ideas for bad things.

The expo was pretty great, wasn't it? I'm glad I decided to revive the tradition. Did you know my dad ran the first one in 1943? For 31 years SI sponsored one every year - a lot of good ideas were born right there, Petey. They stopped because my old man started drinki the board of directors decided it was too expensive to sponsor it every year and no other corporation wanted to step in. I decided that was bullshit really stupid. SI needs new ideas now more than ever because - and this is hush hush, kiddo, so no spreading it around - we want to expand the company to build more kinds of things. Things like prosthetic limbs for wounded soldiers or other people who lost them, even better phones, maybe even cars that can drive themselves. There are so many things to build and I want SI to be a leader in building them.

Pepper and the board would kill me if they knew I told you this, Peter, so it's a secret between us, okay? Just like I won't tell anyone how you got your black eye.

Which, by the way, must hurt like a motherfuc a lot. I've had a few in my day, and they aren't fun. Ice it, kiddo, and try not to poke the bruise. I always used to poke the bruises which probably didn't help them heal. It's like wiggling a loose tooth though - I just couldn't help it. Don't follow my example, Petey-pie. No touchy the bruisy, capiche?

You're right about making displays at the expo kid friendly, by the way. Next year I'll make an area where you can ONLY have a booth if you have kid friendly activities. I would be proud to have you join them someday, even if you don't get into the new school. I know you'll work hard wherever you end up doing your learning because you're a smart kid with a lot of good ideas. If more kids were as excited about science and math as you are it could change the world - you're right about that, and it's great that you want to help your friends at school understand how it works. The kids who were picking on you and the guy you were trying to help were doing it because science confuses them and they're probably pissed off angry about that. I know it doesn't help when they're picking on you or giving you a black eye - so not cool - but try to remember that. They're jealous that you understand science and they don't, so try to remember that when they're being assholes mean.

I'm realizing as I write this that I swear a lot. Don't start swearing, Peter, 'cause it's a bitch really hard to stop. See? Even while I'm telling you not to do it, I'm swearing.

If you get a mini-version of that leg working with your dad, kiddo, I want a shit-ton lot of pictures. And I promise that if anything ever happens to your dad and he's missing a leg or an arm or anything like that, I'll design one just for him. Because you're right - everyone should have limbs that work if we can manage it. I hope your dad stays safe while he's out there defending freedom, justice, and the American way. I'm going to Afghanistan soon, so maybe if he's stationed there I'll meet him. That would be pretty cool, huh? Then we could talk about his awesome kid who loves science and has amazing ideas.

Oh, and Pepper just said I should discourage you from fighting because fighting is bad. So, uh, no fighting? Keep your nose clean, kiddo. Though if you're going to fight, defending someone else is a reason to do it. Pepper hit me in the back of the head when I pointed that out though, so maybe don't tell people that even if it's definitely true.

Also, I've been holding this in through the whole letter, so I'm pretty proud of that, but I can't hold it in any longer. Oscorp sucks and Norman Osborn is a fucker real jerk. Sucks that your friend Harry has to deal with him and that he couldn't come to my expo. Listen, if he and that Gwen girl are as interested in science and math as you are, you tell them that there might be a place for them at SI too - always interested in young blood to move the company forward. I'm gonna be keeping my eye on you, Peter. If you work hard and keep having great ideas, I bet you will be working here someday.

Don't work at Oscorp, even if Norman wants you to. Oscorp sucks, SI rules.

Alright, kiddo, I gotta wrap this up. It was great to hear from you again, Peter. I hope your day is as awesome as you made mine.

Your #1 fan (besides your parents) and collaborator,

Tony Stark

PS - Call me Tony, okay kiddo? Mr. Stark was my father. I don't call you Mr. Parker, do I? So it's Tony from here on out.


November 22, 2010

Dear Tony,

I can't believe I get to call you Tony!!! Harry said I was lying when I told him and I almost showed him your letter, but then I remembered you told me a secret in it. Even if I don't think Harry would tell anyone, I didn't think you'd like it if Norman Osborn's kid saw it. So he can think I'm a liar if he wants, because I know I'm not and so do you and that's supposed to be all that matters.

Plus Gwen punched him in the nose when he kept going, and then he said sorry for it and stopped, so I guess it's okay.

My dad said that it's cool of you to want to make fake legs and arms for soldiers! He also said that they should be for everybody because soldiers are only people like anybody else. I told him you said they would be for other people too though, and he said good. I think he likes that you're writing back, because he was smiling a lot while we talked. He knows you're pretty much my hero and all, and so he isn't jealous that I've been talking to you even though you know more about science than him. When I said you were my #1 FAN besides him and mom he got really really happy, I could tell.

My mom still doesn't know why I got a black eye and she's still mad about it. I think you're right about standing up for other people though, but I guess I'll try not to start any fights while I do it. It's just that words don't work on some people.

Gwen said she doesn't care about science because she's crazy, but she would like to work for SI anyway. She wants to be a lawyer. Her dad is a policeman but he tells us all the time that good lawyers are EVEN MORE IMPORTANT!! I didn't believe it, but I guess it makes sense. If the lawyer proscuting the bad guys isn't good at her job they can get away, and then the cops have to catch them again. So she wanted to be a lawyer to help her dad, but she said it might be intresting to be a lawyer for your company too. She watched it when Justin Hammer who is still a loser sued Stark Industries, and she said it was really, really intresting. Harry said he'd rather work for his dad, sorry.

My dad is sposed to maybe come home for Christmas, so we'll try to build the leg then. I will send you lots of pictures and he said maybe we could even send the whole leg to you in the mail for you to see. He's not really so good at science, but he's really really good at helping me put things together. My mom is mostly only good at cooking, which is why she works at a restaurant, so I don't like to ask her. But she made me some really cool cupcakes for my birthday that had pictures of molcules on them, so that's pretty cool. I guess baking is kind of science, plus you get to eat it.

ALSO! Guess what?!!! I got into the school!!!!! Plus I got a really good scolership, even better than the one I was maybe gonna get. Instead of paying a little bit of money and buying my uniform and some other stuff, my parents don't have to pay anything. My mom cried when she found out. So did Gwen, but it's because she's going to miss me. Harry just sort of glared, but I think he'll miss me too. But he said maybe he might try to get his dad to let him switch too. His mom was the one who wanted him to go to public school. She's dead now, but Harry's dad never changed his school. Maybe now he will. Gwen doesn't always get along with Harry, so she might be happier if we both go instead of just me. And I wouldn't ever work for Oscorp, because you're my hero and I want to work with you. You're the best, Tony, and I can't wait to be an adult so I can get a job at SI.

Having a place for kids to learn about science and stuff at the expo sounds really cool! Hopefully my mom can get passes in time next year, because I don't want to miss that. I got a kit to build a robot online because of the guy at the expo who let me mess with his. I can't wait for it to get here! It isn't a really impressive one and it won't do much, but still. Really cool. I think I should be able to do it without my dad, but if I can't I guess I'll have to wait, because I really don't think my mom would be good at helping with robots.

I'm really excited about my new school, but it sucks that I can't start until NEXT YEAR. There's six WHOLE MONTHS of school left once it's December, and it's too long. I wish I could start right now, but I guess maybe I understand why it's a bad idea. I'm also going to have to work with a tutor over the summer to make sure I know everything I should, since the new school is more advanced. That I don't mind so much, because she'll come over in the mornings and I'll still have the whole day to hang out with Gwen and Harry. Mostly Gwen, because Harry travels a lot during the summer with his dad. It would be cool to be able to go lots of different places, but Harry always seems sad to go and even sadder when he comes back and I think it's probly because his dad is a jerk, but I'm not allowed to say that because mom says it's rude and Harry gets really angry.

My dad isn't in Afganstan, but he says there's lots of fighting there. I hope you stay safe while you're there, and that you have a good time. You've been real nice about writing me back, Tony, but I get it if you don't want to because you're too busy. Sometimes when I remember you write me back I think I'm dreaming. I'm just a kid, and you're the most famous and smartest genius ever, and you're taking the time to write to me. It's really cool, but you don't have to.

Your friend and still future employee because I'll never work at Oscorp,



December 2, 2010

Dear Tony,

You didn't come back from Afganstan yet. The news and my mom say that you're missing, and I'm really worried about you. I know you won't get this until after you come back, but I thought maybe when you did you might like to know that I was thinking about you. I pray for you every night and also before dinner when I'm the one saying the prayer even if mom says we're sposed to be thanking God for our food then. I think maybe God doesn't mind WHEN you ask him to look after people.

I saw Miss Pepper on the news, talking about you, and she does look like someone who would smack the back of your head. She reminded me of Gwen, who is also praying for you and hoping that you are okay. I also saw Mr. Stane, who looks kind of mean but I guess you don't mind working with him so I won't either. Mr. Rhodes who is in the Air Force looked like he really wanted to find you, and he even said a REALLY bad word to the reporter who tried to ask him about you. I like him.

When I asked my dad how long it would take the army to find you, he didn't smile at all. He looked upset, which I guess probly means it will be very hard and take a long time. I hope that you aren't hurt, and that you come home soon.

Your friend,



December 17, 2010

Dear Tony,

You're still gone and it's almost Christmas. My dad came home before you, and you were only sposed to be gone for a couple days. I am still very worried about you, but my dad says people are still looking and they could maybe find you any day. We finished the small version of the leg you and me colabrated on, and it's really, really cool. It works pretty good, and dad says that maybe next time when he comes home we can try to make one that is full size. I wanted to send you pictures and the leg like I said I would, but my mom said maybe I should wait until you come home and I guess that's a good idea because Miss Pepper looks really sad whenever I see her on the news and if she saw a package that was for you come in the mail it might make her sadder. I hope my letters don't make her sad, because I don't want to stop sending them.

I think if I ever went missing, when I came home I would like to have letters people wrote me while I was gone. I think it would be nice to know they didn't forget me.

So I'll keep writing until you come home, Tony. Please be safe, and not just because I want to work with you. You never had to write me but you did, and you sent me nice things and you were really nice in your letters even if you crossed out a lot of swears. I think you're a good person, and so you should be able to come home safe and soon. If you are hurt I hope it isn't too badly, and that the next time I turn on the news they say that Mr. Rhodes found you and you are on your way home.

Your friend,



December 26, 2010

Dear Tony,

My mom and dad are dead and it isn't fair. They're dead and you're still missing, and I have to live with my aunt and uncle who I hardly know and I hate them and I hate this. Life is stupid, and even cool science can't make it better.

I broke the leg me and dad built because when I saw it I got so mad. Now I just feel really bad about doing it and I wish I could fix it but I can't. I want my mom and dad back and I want you to be home and safe. Christmas time is sposed to be happy, but I don't think I'll ever not be sad in December ever again.

Please come home soon.

Your sad friend,



January 10, 2011

Dear Tony,

I'm sorry I didn't write for so long. I was angry and scared, and I was busy moving in with my Aunt May and Uncle Ben. They used to live in Connecticut, but they decided it would be better if they came to New York and lived here instead. Aunt May works from home, so she came to stay with me while Uncle Ben waited to be transfered nearby. Because of their jobs we can't stay in my house, and I don't like the apartment they found because it's small and smells kind of funny.

But I guess I'm just glad I didn't have to move really far away. Gwen stays over a lot and gives me a whole bunch of hugs whenever I need them. Harry gives me hugs too, but I think maybe thinking about how my mom and dad are dead makes him think of his mom and it makes him sad so he isn't with me as much. That's okay though because I don't want him to be sad.

I don't want anyone to be sad.

My Aunt May said that my parents are angels now, and that they watch over me all the time to help me. But I keep praying to God that he sends them to you instead, because you're still gone. I'm okay because I have my aunt and uncle and also my friends. My teachers have been very nice too, so I'm okay. I'm sad, but okay. You might not be okay because no one knows where you are and you are alone. So I hope my mom and dad go watch over you instead, or that they go help Mr. Rhodes find you. I miss them and I miss you. I hope you come home safe soon.

Your friend,



January 26, 2011

Dear Tony,

I punched Harry today.

He told me that you're dead just like my parents, and I just got so mad. You aren't dead because you can't be, and because you're sposed to be here for when I get older so we can work together. You have lots more stuff to invent and lots more people to help, so you can't be dead, Tony. And we don't know that you are because we don't know where you are, and Harry shouldn't have said what he did. I don't feel bad for hitting him even if I'm spended from school and my Uncle Ben grounded me. He shouldn't have said that.

Gwen let me cry later because I'm still sad a lot, and because she knew Harry was being mean and she felt bad for me. She never makes fun of me for crying, which is why she's my best friend. Just like me she thinks you're still alive, and we both still pray and think about you everyday. I miss getting your letters. I started wearing the sunglasses you sent me again, and I don't care if anyone is jealous. They look nice with my dad's favorite sweatshirt, and nobody can make me give either one up.

I know you're alive and I hope you aren't hurt and that you come home very soon.

Your friend,



February 2, 2011

Dear Tony,

Today Mr. Stane was on the news today and he said you're dead. He's dumb.

Miss Pepper was with him and I think she was crying.

I know you aren't dead. I don't care how many people say it, it's still wrong. Mr. Stane is stupid and so is everyone else. I believe in you Tony. You aren't dead.

Your friend,



February 13, 2011

Dear Tony,

It's my birthday in two days, and I don't know what to ask for. Aunt May and Uncle Ben keep asking, and they look worried whenever I say I don't know. I can't get what I want because not even Santa could bring my parents back and he probably couldn't bring you home either. My aunt and my uncle are nice, but they aren't Santa so I think probly they couldn't give me what I want either. I guess maybe I should tell them I want something to do with science, but I don't ever feel much like doing science anymore.

Birthdays are dumb when you know you can't have the things you really, really, really want.

Gwen doesn't say it, but I know she stopped praying for you. Harry and me are friends again, but whenever I talk about you coming home, he gives me a really mean look.

I think me and Mr. Rhodes are the only people who know you aren't dead. He said another really bad word in the news the other day, I know it was bad because they beeped it. I think maybe the army isn't looking for you very hard anymore, but I know Mr. Rhodes is. Mr. Rhodes is my new second favorite hero, and I think he'll find you and bring you home. I want to write to him, but I won't, not until you come home because I think if I wrote him it would feel like I was writing him instead of you because he can answer, and that's not what I think. I know you'll come home and read these letters and know that I never gave up, and I didn't need a new favorite hero because I didn't need to pick one because you're still alive to be it.

Please be safe and come home soon.

Your friend,



February 20, 2011

Dear Tony,

I don't care how many people tell me that you're gone, I will never ever, ever give up on you.

I know that my mom and dad are watching over you because I asked them and God to make sure you weren't alone. So even if maybe you're hurt or if the bad guys have you I know that you're going to be okay. You'll come home and Mr. Stane and the news and Harry and Gwen and Aunt May and Uncle Ben will have to say sorry for thinking you're dead.

It's almost March, and you've been gone almost three months. I still miss you and your letters, and I hope all the letters I sent you make you smile when you come back. I know some of them were sad and I was sad when I wrote them, but I hope you still smile because you know that I thought of you. I never forgot you and I never stopped thinking you were alive. I'm also not as sad anymore. I started doing science again, and my Uncle Ben bought me a really cool thing from the store that lets me do experiments. I made a couple cool things that I took pictures of, and I'll send those to you too once you get back.

I have a lot of things to send you even if I broke the leg I made with my dad. I have a whole bunch of pictures and I thought you might like to see my robot I made too. I followed the directions and then added my own ideas too, so he's much cooler than he would have been if I didn't do that. I know he isn't as good as what you would have done and that you could make your own robots, but I thought maybe he might be nice to keep you company when you come home. If I ever got lost for so long, I would be really scared and I know when I get scared I don't like the dark. I keep the light on in my room at night since my parents died, and Aunt May says that it's okay to sometimes need that because it's better than being scared. So you were maybe scared even if you are the smartest, coolest person in the whole world, because even the smartest and coolest person can be afraid. So my robot that I built has a light that will shine when you go to sleep because I thought maybe an adult might feel silly leaving the light on. But if a robot has it on that's pretty cool so maybe it would be better.

I hope Mr. Rhodes finds you soon and that you can feel my mom and dad watching over you.

Your friend,



He could still taste sand and brackish water in the back of his throat no matter what he did or what he ate. Even the finest aged scotch couldn't get rid of the taste, and he was pretty sure that it would coat his tongue until the day he died. Sleep had been in short supply in the cave; any hope that might change now died his first night 'home'. The mattress was too soft and the noises were too different from what he had become used to, and he couldn’t let himself relax. No matter how many times JARVIS assured him that he wasn't in the desert anymore, no longer at the mercy of terrorists, he didn't really believe it. Not in his bones, in his gut, in his heart. Most of him was still waiting for the Ten Rings leader to get fed up with his stalling and shoot him.

Like they'd shot Yinsen.

Fear had been a constant for what he only knew now had been three months. When he could let it go, for a handful of minutes at a time, he didn't feel... anything. Numbness had settled bone-deep and he knew that the people around him who could see it were worried. They didn't understand why he didn't smile, or laugh, or cry. They kept asking him if he was alright and were obviously disappointed when his answer was a shrug. They wanted him to talk about how he was feeling, and he didn't know how to tell them he didn't feel anything.

A distant part of him wanted to cry over what had happened and what had been lost, but he just... couldn't. He couldn't smile, either, and instead spent most of his time staring into space, listening for the sound of approaching combat boots and a soft, cultured voice with an Afghani accent.

Pepper tiptoed around him and Obie wouldn't stop talking about how he needed to pull himself together for the good of the company. Rhodey was better than Pepper and Obie, because his platypus was close to being perfect, but he wasn't around as much as Tony would like. Rhodey would sit in silence with Tony, and even though he didn't push Tony to talk about what he had experienced he didn't act like Tony was made of glass either. Tony thought that if Rhodey could just... just stay, and be with him for a while, he could recover faster and more efficiently that he could alone. Rhodey was too important to the Air Force to spend too long babysitting even Tony Stark, and he'd only managed to wrangle two weeks out of the top brass.

Tony didn't want to die - he hadn't fought so damn hard to stay alive just to fuck it up now. At the same time he did want this to be over, or at least wanted things to go back to the way they were. He wanted to stay out all night drinking and take beautiful people to bed with him. He wanted to spend days locked away in his workshop working on bringing the future to life today. He wanted to feel something, anything. Tony wanted to be a rich playboy without a care in the world again.

He didn't want to be wrestling with the future of his company the way he was.

"Mr. Stark?" Pepper's hesitant, tremulous voice interrupted his dark thoughts and blank staring. No matter how soft and sweet it had been, it still scared the shit out of him because he hadn't heard her come in the room. He managed to keep from either throwing himself on the floor or standing with his hands in the air, but he couldn't stop himself from giving a start that was violent enough to cause him to half slide off of the couch. "Sorry! I'm so sorry. I thought you... oh Tony, I'm so--"

"Sorry, I know," he answered, wishing he could inject the wry sarcasm his words deserved. "Don't be sorry, Pepper. What did you need?" As he spoke he carefully turned towards her, phantom aches and pains shooting through his limbs. His chest always hurt, but he wouldn't think about his chest or the thing they'd put in him or the way he had had to improve it or... or any of it. The only thing he'd worked on since he'd gotten home had been synthetic skin to cover up the horror - it was only a band-aid, but it meant he didn't constantly have to see the evidence of how broken he was.

"I just... I've been keeping these for you," her voice was still almost a whisper, and for just a moment he hated her for that. "Mr. Stane started having most of your mail destroyed when he thought... when he thought you were..." she trailed off then cleared her throat, probably to keep from crying. She cried a lot these days, and Tony hated himself that. "But the mailroom never stopped flagging these, I don't know why. They kept ending up in my inbox, and I just... it was so stupid of me, but I thought if I threw them away then you would never..."

Tony did stand then and walked over to her, gently taking hold of her elbows. "It's not stupid, Pep," he told her, searching her eyes. He wished he could summon a smile for her, but the best he could do was give a soft squeeze before pulling away. "What did you save for me?" His eyes dropped to what she had in one hand - paper, maybe, or letters? He'd think it was something important, most likely to do with the company, if it wasn't for her behavior and what she'd said about them.

"Do you remember that boy, Peter? You set up a fund for him to go to school right before you left."

"Peter?" Tony remembered him alright, he was sure the way his voice had suddenly gone hoarse let her know that. She gave him a tiny, fleeting smile and pressed the letters into his hands. Thoughts of Pepper, Rhodey, Happy and Obie had helped him get through the hell that had been Afghanistan. They had given him strength when he needed it, helped him get through the work even when he was close to falling the fuck apart.

But when he was allowed to lay down and get a few moments of what passed for peace in that hell, he had found his thoughts turning to Peter. When he and Yinsen were given their brief breaks to eat slop and play backgammon, he wondered what Peter was doing, if he had finished the leg he was building with his dad, if he had found out that he was going to Midtown School of Science and Technology.

His friends and family had gotten him through the hardest times, but thoughts of a smart kid with a bright future at SI had given him hope. Tony didn't know why that had been the case, exactly. Maybe it was because he'd been thinking a lot about the kid before he'd been taken, maybe because what little he knew of the boy reminded him of himself when he was that age. Whatever the reason he held onto thoughts of Peter tightly, needing the small bit of light it brought him.

He'd been thinking that he should write the boy, but had talked himself out of it constantly. The almost-ten-year-old didn't need to be dealing with his shit.

Now... now he had letters - plural, more than one - that Peter had written to him, ones he hadn't seen. Tony stared down at the unopened letters, and something, some hint of feeling, twinged to life in his chest. Peter had to have known he was missing - the whole fucking world had known he was missing. But he'd still written more than once, which meant he'd been thinking of Tony too, and he... he almost felt something about that. Maybe if he read them…

He heard Pepper excuse herself and gave a distracted wave of dismissal in her general direction before he sat back down. Tony noticed his hands were shaking as he sorted through the letters to find the one with the earliest postmark date but ignored it. Opening the first letter was the work of nearly a minute because he couldn't bring himself to just rip it open.

He took his time making the opening as perfectly as he could, because, dammit letters from Peter deserved that kind of care. It felt like Peter's first letter had come a lifetime ago, but as he read through the one that had been sent just before his ill-fated trip to Afghanistan, he started to feel. God, Peter had been through so much and he'd still never... everyone had thought he was dead. Even Rhodey had been expecting to bring home a body if he found anything at all.

Not little Peter Parker, who was now ten years old. Peter, who'd sent his dead parents to watch over Tony because he was young enough to think praying worked. Fuck... his parents had died and he was worried about writing to Tony. It was insane, and so... so…

The sob that ripped itself free from his chest came without warning, leaving him gasping for air. He curled over his knees, arms clenched tight around his stomach. Pepper, JARVIS and Rhodey he could have dreamed up - and frequently had, when he had desperately needed to pretend he was anywhere but in a cave with his head being shoved under water. Obie hadn't appeared to him as often in those daydreams, but it had happened. He had pictured a rescue so many times, and even when the latest version had been him rescuing himself... he had wondered. Tony had been terrified that it wasn't real, that maybe he was just living in one of those dreams. He kept expecting it to end, to blink and find himself back in the hands of the Ten Rings.

But even when he'd thought of Peter, he wouldn't ever have imagined the kid sending him letters while he was missing for three months. His mind never would have taken away Peter's parents, or had him break that leg he'd made with his dad, or add lights to a robot to send to Tony to make him feel better. None of that would have ever occurred to him.

That meant this was real.

That meant he was home.


March 14, 2011

Peter -

Hey kid. Sorry it took me so long to write back. December sucks ass and it always has. I am sorry that now you know it, too, though. Next year I'll put out flowers for your parents and maybe you can do the same for mine.

I'm sorry this letter isn't... I've been having a hard time since I got back.

I bet you could fix up that leg you and your dad made though, Peter Piper. You're having a hard time too, I know that, but I also know that you're a great, smart kid. So you could put it back together, but once you do, hold onto it, okay? Don't send it to me, just keep it forever. I will take that robot thought. You're right, I do feel dumb leaving the light on, so something that would make things a little brighter at night would be great.

Thanks for believing in me, Peter. I think maybe your parents did come watch over me. Maybe that's why I got home.

Sorry the words are shaky and shit. My hands aren't as good as they used to be. When you come work for me, I might have to use yours instead.

Life is hard, but I hope yours gets better kiddo because you've improved mine a ton.