The music wasn’t loud enough, but JARVIS complained about the likelihood of damaging his hearing if he made it louder, so he let it be.
Tony was working.
He gritted his teeth, shooting a glance over towards one of the shelves on the wall, where a certain innocuous item sat. Brighter than most of the equipment surrounding it, it stuck out like a sore thumb. It beckoned him. He tore his eyes away, huffing with annoyance.
Tony was trying to work.
He glanced at the clock. It had been an hour since he’d called the kid, but there hadn’t been any return yet. He needed to talk to the kid about the hairs in the drive: he’d discovered that they belonged to four of the Avengers. He needed to know where the kid had gotten the drive. He needed to know everything the kid knew about this. But there hadn’t been so much as a single beep over the comms system to let him know that Spidey was coming.
Tony looked over at Spider-Bear on the shelf, opened his mouth, then snapped it shut again, irritation building in his chest.
He was not going to talk to the fucking bear. Not after last time, when Natasha had caught him doing it. She’d told the whole damn team, that nosy, conniving—
Tony cut off the thought before it could finish. He was pretty sure that Natasha couldn’t read minds, but… it was better to play it safe. He’d decided that a long time ago.
Tony was working.
He tapped a screwdriver rhythmically against the countertop he was working on, staring down at a mass of wiring. It was hard to concentrate, he told himself, when he was also thinking about whoever was collecting Avenger DNA. Whatever they had in mind for it was no doubt nefarious. And they certainly didn’t want this DNA to get into the wrong hands, he thought, mind on Bruce and Thor, most specifically.
Tony spun abruptly to face Teddy-Man.
“You know,” He pointed the screwdriver accusingly at it. “If you would just answer your damn comm, I wouldn’t have to sit here and stew like this.”
The bear, predictably, said nothing. Tony continued.
“I don’t know what the hell is up with you, kid,” Tony complained, eyes narrowed as he stared at the plush, spider-themed toy Spidey had gotten him for Christmas. “It’s not difficult to just tap your damn comm . Or, if you’re not coming because you’re busy, just pick up the phone. Give me a call. Have some courtesy. Kids these days, honestly.” He spun back to face his workbench, petulantly prodding some wires to the side with the handle of the screwdriver. It took another few moments for him to get tired of that and whip his head back around.
“And another thing,” He continued. “If you weren’t so secretive about who you actually are, we wouldn’t have
of these communication issues. What do you think we’re going to do, blab? Not likely,” He snorted, tossing the screwdriver down onto the table as he stood. “I get it, you know?” He crossed the room to pick up the bear, holding it tightly in two shaking hands. Damnit, he thought, feeling his anxiety spiking in his chest. He needed to take a fucking Xanax. “I get that you want to be able to live a normal life, without having supervillains shooting up your apartment, or whatever, while you’re trying to sleep. You think I don’t want that, too?”
He strode back towards the workbench, spinning again to head back towards the shelf when he reached it. “I’m sure it’s great, being able to sleep at night because people don’t know where you live. Hell— I had my house blown up, a couple years ago. Blown right off a cliff, Spidey. You think I don’t wish I could take that back? You think I don’t wish that people didn’t know where I lived? I know how much it sucks, man, I get it. I really do. But you need to get that none of us are going to slip up. Even under torture, kid, none of us would give away who you are. We just want…”
Tony groaned, pacing back and forth across the lab. “We just want you to be safe, you stupid kid, and this whole secret identity thing is a lot more dangerous than you seem to think it is. If something happens to you— if you just disappear, one day— how will we ever know what happened to you? We’ve been through this, Spidey,” He looked down at the bear, heart racing in his chest. “Fuck, kid. I worry about you, you know?”
He paused to gingerly set Spider-Bear on the workbench, crossing his arms over the arc reactor in his chest as he stared down at it.
“It would be a lot easier if I just gave up on you,” He informed it bleakly. “If I just decided not to give a shit. After all, you’re an adult, you can take care of yourself.” He stared down at the silent toy before lifting a hand to rub it tiredly against his eyes.
“Maybe I’ll just check the tracker,” He muttered to himself. “I’ll just… take a peek. He wouldn’t mind. And even if he did, he would probably never even find out. It’s for his own good. JARVIS—” His voice cut off as he gritted his teeth again. He shouldn’t. He promised that he wouldn’t.
“Yes, sir?” JARVIS prompted him, the music quieting so that the soft voice could be heard over it.
“Shut off the music, buddy. Thanks.” The lab fell into silence as JARVIS obeyed, and Tony sat down heavily. “What are we going to do with you, Spidey?” Tony sighed, leaning heavily on one hand as he frowned bleakly at it.
“And here I thought I was your exclusive therapist,” Bruce said, startling Tony as the man pulled up a chair next to him and settled into it. “But, hey, you’re seeking help. That’s really all anybody can ask.”
Tony stared at him as he waited for the doctor to say more, but for a few breathless seconds all he did was stare morosely at Teddy-Man.
“He still hasn’t answered his comm?” He asked finally, and Tony mutely shook his head. No sense pretending that he wasn’t worried. He’d been caught red-handed. “Well, don’t worry. I’m sure he’s fine. Have you checked the news?” Tony shook his head again. “Maybe there’s something there. JARVIS— let us know if anything new about Spider-Man comes up, would you?”
“Of course, sir,” JARVIS agreed pleasantly.
“Alright.” Bruce reached out to pick up Spider-Bear as Tony watched. “You’re worrying Tony, Spidey,” He told it sternly, surprising Tony. “So you’d better swing by soon.” His voice switched into a higher, squeakier register as he nodded the bear’s head and said “I will!”
Tony burst out laughing, startled by the rare display of immaturity from Bruce. His friend joined in, shooting a bright smile over at him that soothed some of the raw nerves he was carrying in his chest. “Let’s go upstairs,” Bruce suggested, still giggling over his own goof as he set down the bear. “I cooked. You hungry?”
“I could eat,” Tony agreed, feeling a little lighter. Maybe he’d take his meds while he was at it, he mused silently. The two men stood together and headed for the elevator, Tony slinging a companionable arm around Bruce’s shoulders.