Bonus. Peter Parker
Peter’s had his powers for almost eighteen years. He can’t believe he still has to put up with this shit.
“I’m okay, I’m okay,” Peter says through chattering teeth. Sweat breaks out, little needlepoint pricks, on his forehead, his back. Shivers race up and down his spine. The hairs on his arms stick straight up, goosebumps everywhere. His clothes are too tight, the silk of his button down (blue, one of his favorites, one Tony bought him a few years ago) rubbing against his skin like sandpaper, his lab coat a heavy weight he stiffly shrugs off before hunching over, wrapping his arms tight around himself as if that’ll help contain his pounding heart, contain the way it feels like he’s about to explode out of his skin. His Spidey sense is going absolutely batshit insane——everything is too bright, too loud, too hot, too cold, too everything.
“Can I touch you?” Tony asks a moment later, voice just barely a whisper and it still rings like a bell in Peter’s ears.
“I—I don’t know, just, just gimme a second?”
Tony nods, hovering close, but not too close, and Peter appreciates it, god, so much. He takes a deep breath, clenches his eyes shut and digs his palms into them until he can see stars, holds. A beat, then he offers a trembling hand, eyes squinting against the fluorescent lights of the lab. “Okay.”
Tony’s careful, so so careful. This isn’t the first time he’s had to help Peter weather through this bullshit side effect to having his senses permanently dialed up. Though it’s been over six months since the last time this has happened, since the last time Peter has dealt with this crap, it’s a routine they’d never forget, a pattern developed over fifteen years. It’s one they’ve had since that first time Tony quietly sat out the tremors and gasps beside him on the workshop floor, when Peter was seventeen and so scared of becoming lost forever in the overwhelming force of his senses, the only point of contact between them a grounding hand on his ankle, not too tight, not too loose and exactly what he’d needed.
(If Peter had to pick the moment his childish hero-worship shifted to something a little more, something a little different, skewed sideways and missing that rose-tinted film that colored so many of their initial interactions, it had to be then.
Because here was Mr. Stark—billionaire celebrity, genius and innovator, Iron Man, a Leader of the Avengers, the World’s Greatest Defender, a Savior of the Universe—patiently waiting out the worst of the attack with him, quiet in a way Peter didn’t normally associate with the man, that usual frenetic energy calm and contained, that calloused hand tethering him to the real world like a balm to his frayed nerves, a beacon for Peter to focus on in the storm.
It had been a beginning, in some ways.
He’d always known he could rely on Tony, even at that point. After everything they’d been through, from the superhero fight at the airport in Berlin to Thanos to the host of bad guys that have come out of the woodwork over the years, he would have been blind, as well as an idiot, not to have noticed. But it was this, and moments like this later on, moments that really showcased just how kind and thoughtful and endearing and just beautiful, god so beautiful, Tony really was—like when he’d be elbows deep in one of the Iron Man suits and shouting along to ACDC; or when he’d play off like he didn’t care about something but would covertly donate hundreds of thousands of dollars to the causes and charities, sometimes as himself, most times through anonymous donation; or when he’d humor the kids, always the kids, taking pictures with them, signing autographs for them, telling them they could make a difference too; Peter could go on forever, honestly.
Through the last of his high school career, through most of his college education, in that time before Peter finally amassed the courage to confront the man and confess—a confession years in the making by that point, and even bleeding and with a few broken ribs, Peter wasn’t about to let his opportunity pass him by once he realized it was there, once he realized he had a chance. He’s a Parker, after all—it was moments like those that so easily shifted his affections into something romantic and mature and just more.
But that’s Peter for you.
He’s always been pretty easy where Tony’s concerned.)
(To be fair, in Peter’s defense and despite what Tony seems to think—about being a handful, about being too difficult to deal with, about not being worth the trouble—he’s very easy to love.
Peter never even stood a chance.)
They start by holding hands, his shaking one in Tony’s. Every burn mark, every scar healed over, the callouses, the pores, the blood rushing under the thin, thin skin, the heartbeat trailing closely after it—he feels everything. It takes a moment, but the awareness, the intense heat of the contact, the way the microscopic hairs on his hand cling and quiver, quickly fizzles out. He tentatively tangles their fingers together, pauses through that sensory overload, then tugs Tony in a little closer, closer, closer, slowly, slowly, until he can just barely rest his forehead against Tony’s chest, right above the glaring glow of the nanobot containment unit. The light burns his eyes, so he scrunches them closed until all he can see is the red behind his eyelids, bright but not overly so. The mixed smell of his sweat and cologne, one of Peter’s favorites normally, is nauseating and sour.
He clenches his eyes shut tighter and just tries to breathe.
A pause, another deep breath, and he finally collapses into Tony’s arms like he’s wanted to right from the beginning. It’s a bit like ripping off a band-aide: his senses go haywire for a moment, white-hot and furiously crushing, he has to grit his teeth through the worst of it—he can hear the way his jaw grinds in its hinge, high pitched and painful—and then it all crashes down like a wave, cool with relief. Even when he’s like this, even though it takes a few minutes, his body, his Spidey-sense recognizes Tony, that Tony is safe.
Tony is sanctuary.
(As far as he can tell, his brain processes and filters out the excess and the repetitive, same as any normal human brain, and usually everything is fine and dandy. His senses work to his advantage, and his Spidey-sense only bothers him when there’s danger afoot.
Good thing too.
Has come in handy, that.
But then, there are times—times when there’s some minute change, something small and practically unnoticeable to a normal person, not even something dangerous. A change in temperature, a change in texture, an unexpected noise, and suddenly he’s hyperaware of it, of everything, everywhere, as far as senses can stretch (which is pretty fucking far), whether he wants to be or not. And all those things just can’t be ignored, or maybe his brain just gets tired of blocking out all those peripheral observations and can’t keep up with the onslaught, or maybe the stress gets to him (and there’s no one more stressed than a superhero, most days), and that’s when this happens.
It’s worse with people, some of the time. People change all the time. Every second they change: skin cells dying, heart rate changing in response to emotions, joints creaking and popping with a particular movement, etc. He spent a while, after that first attack, scared and fourteen and starring at the ceiling as Ned snored obliviously away next to him on the floor. Because what if this became debilitating? What if this kept him from being Spiderman, from interacting with people, from his friends, from his family? What is this kept him from ever going outside?
Thankfully, it’s never gotten that bad.
At best, it’s like a headache. At worst, it’s like a migraine and a panic attack mixed together, both things Peter dealt with before he even had powers, so.
There’s no apparent rhyme or reason to when he gets an attack—though Tony, Bruce, and Stephen Strange all have their theories and ideas about the ‘how’s and ‘why’s, but no sure ‘how to fix it’s beyond medication, which he can’t take because he metabolizes it too quickly for it to be effective, or magic, which he doesn’t really trust, honestly. It’s fine, really, as long as it doesn’t happen that often, as long as it doesn’t show signs of affecting Peter negatively beyond the attack itself, which thankfully it hasn’t in the eighteen years he’s been getting them, then Peter’s fine with letting his nervous system take its course and work out what it needs to when it needs to, even if he hates it. Who knows what trying to suppress something like that would do to his system, to his brain, to his powers. He’s not willing to risk it—and it really doesn’t even happen all that often: an attack here, an attack there, maybe three or four total within the course of a year. Just often enough for it to be annoying. Just often enough for it to remind Peter it’s there, that it’s a thing he has to deal with sometimes.
But the thing with Tony is—
When Peter does get overstimulated, Tony has turned out to be a safe harbor, a point through which Peter can more quickly, more easily come down from the too much of everything else. He’s something to focus on, he’s this perfectly familiar anchor. He doesn’t have to go through it alone. He just has to give his body a little time to readjust, to remember Tony.
And every time, like a switch flipping, his senses start the slow process of dialing back down.)
(Tony’s one of the few who can sneak up on him too, he hasn’t ever triggered his Spidey-sense, a fact which Tony takes advantage of whenever it pleases him, insufferable and smug and almost insecure in the knowledge of it, like he’s checking to make sure he can still do it, that he’s still special, when he’s not doing it just for the chance to tease Peter. But Peter wonders about that, whether there’s a connection there.
Something about Tony being safety and home and a part of him, more familiar in some ways than even himself, probably.
The only other person who gets away with that kind of stuff, who seems invisible to his senses and helps him come down from an attack, effectively and consistently, is May. Others have tried, with mixed and varied results. He doesn’t know how or why.
But that means something to him.
It means a lot.)
(He can think of few others he would trust with such power over him.)
With a sigh, he burrows his face into the dark hollow of Tony’s throat—a space that Peter sometimes swears was made just for him, for all that he fits it so perfectly—pathetically grateful when Tony firmly cups those wonderful, steady hands of his over Peter’s ears, blocking out another sense as much as he can. Peter knows he’s probably squeezing the man a bit too tightly, it’s hard to judge his strength when he’s like this, but Tony doesn’t try to pry him off or give any other indication that he’s uncomfortable. Instead, Tony’s throat vibrates against his cheek as he begins to talk. It’s muffled and unintelligible, and probably just some rambling specifics about an engineering project Tony’s been working on, but it’s another focal point for Peter to use to get through this as he forces himself to breath evenly despite the lingering nausea, to breathe in sync with the rushing beat of Tony’s heart he can hear pulsing through his hands.
God, but this is stupid, so stupid. A superhero brought down by their own powers, what a loser—and they’d been having such a good time before this.
Tony had been flirting with him—which, not too different from an ordinary day. Tony loves to see how much and how often he can get Peter to blush (often and very easily, to Peter’s eternal mortification and Tony’s maniacal delight). It’s one of his favorite pastimes, so he’s said, vocally and regardless of who is around to hear, shameless and oddly possessive because as he’s tried explaining, only he can get Peter to react like that and it’s something he’s quite proud of. It’s another advantage he ruthlessly exploits (it’s a good thing Peter has an advantage or ten over Tony himself). So, he’d been sprawled out in a chair beside him at Peter’s desk, all undone tie and open thighs and those red-tinted glasses that he actually needs for function as well as aesthetic these days, admiring Peter’s biceps with explicit comments and heated eyes. Fuck, how would Peter survive this? Tony was trying to seduce him into mutual handjobs in his “fancy lab. Come on, darling, as the new Head Chemist of Stark Industries, you have to accept your privileges where you can—”
Peter had carefully avoided looking at him, no matter how much he’d wanted to, he was stronger than that damn it, he’d had ten years to learn how to say “no” to a horny Tony Stark—no matter how utterly attractive he was, no matter how much Peter wanted to just give in—he will not desecrate his lab for the sake of Tony’s libido. He didn’t want to deal with ill-timed erections in another place he had to spend tons of time in, let alone a place where he had to be professional and potentially around other people, mostly his underlings, gah. He pointedly finished typing in a section of his work report. “Are you saying it’s a privilege to have sex in my own lab? I’ve been working in this lab for years, and it’s only now that you’re suddenly interested in lab sex? Why not just wait until we get home? The workshop works too, you know it does, and it’s not really that far away. Just give me, like, fifteen minutes.”
Tony had groaned, a noise that had gone straight to Peter’s groin—he was not that strong, he was not that strong, mayday, mayday—and gave Peter’s ass a little grope, saying, “But Peter, you weren’t head of the department yet. Competence is sexy, you’ve said so yourself—”
Peter’s patience had snapped, just like the smirking bastard knew it would.
Okay, yeah, okay, handjobs would be fine, right? At least it’s not something more risqué. It’s not like they’d have the supplies for anything more anyway, but they’d been known to improvise—to great satisfaction on both sides, thanks to their combined intellects—occasionally when things weren’t readily at hand, so. They’d just have to be careful and erase the camera footage (if FRIDAY hadn’t already been tampering with it) and clean up any mess they make.
Peter’d set his report down, fingers dragging on the minutely porous countertop—has it always been so rough?—he can totally handle this—
Except very suddenly he couldn’t, and now, now, this is the complete antithesis of fun.
But there’s Tony and a little bit of added pressure over his ears, like he knows what Peter’s thinking, a light reprimand.
“I’m sorry,” Peter chokes out anyways, because he is accountable for this. He will take responsibility, even if it’s not something he can necessarily control. They’re lucky this hasn’t happened while he was working directly with delicate, volatile chemicals or carrying people away from danger or that he’s had people to cover for him the time or two it’s happened during one of the villainous attacks they’ve dealt with over the years. He takes the low, uninterrupted vibration against his cheek and the occasional press of Tony’s mouth in his hair for the reassurance it is though. It’s nice, just being held like this, even if it’s because of Peter’s overactive nervous system. It’s nice, knowing Tony will hold him like this later on too, that he’ll hold him however long he wants, even if he has prior obligations he needs to attend too.
(Not that Peter would ask him to do that, even though Tony might want him to sometimes. SI Board meetings are boring as hell, and though Peter, having attended more than a few himself as the then rising resident chemistry expert and now Head of the Chemistry department, can agree that those meetings often feel pretty pointless and boring as hell and like they’re pandering to old, white men who don’t actually have the company’s best interests at heart, just their own greed—he knows Pepper would have a suitably awful and completely deserving punishment for the both of them if he asked Tony to ditch it as often as he wanted him to, as often as Tony wanted to. She’s understanding and willing to cover for them for the times they really can’t make it, for superhero business or otherwise, but he respects her and her position too much to be so carefree and flippant like Tony can be when it comes to the Board meetings. It’s the least he can do, helping her keep Tony on track with that kind of stuff, considering everything she’s done for him, for Tony, for them.
Tony may not be the CEO anymore, but he’s still got a lot of power and influence to throw around in the company, after all.)
He relaxes as much as he can and rides out the last of the shivers.
The sensitivity eases away, slow and syrup thick, and his chest isn’t as constricted. He’s stopped sweating. His skin feels only a little clammy now, not raw and over sensitized, and he’s warm, but it’s a comfortable temperature, not feverish and devastating like before. His clothes are kind of damp, but they fit properly again. The smell of Tony’s skin is back to being lovely, and at some point, he notices—there’s a pattern to the way Tony’s throat is vibrating now. It’s something he vaguely recognizes. What is it? He can’t quite put his finger on it; he can feel it, there on the edges of his consciousness. It’s more than talking, it’s humming, and it’s—
Wait a second…
Peter pulls back, throat a little less tight, his skin settling a bit better over his bones, not stretched out at all, and asks incredulously, “Is that Metallica?”
Tony’s hands slide down Peter’s arms, resting lightly on the points of his elbows. He raises an eyebrow, his eyes—god, Peter could get lost in those doe eyes forever, plans to in fact, as long as he has a say—flitting over Peter, up and down and up again like he’s checking for injuries. “Um, yeah? Is that a problem?”
The concern drains from Tony’s face, replaced by a smirk. “What’s wrong with Metallica? I know it’s not that weird dub-step shit you young people listen to these days, but Metallica is a classic piece of musical art—”
And Peter laughs, can’t help it, it just bubbles up and out of him and already he’s feeling lighter, like the overstimulation attack is hours away, for all that his fingers are still trembling lightly.
“Hey now,” Tony says, vaguely annoyed in that mocking way of his, but he ruins it by grinning, a little lopsided and a whole lot mischievous, “Why are you laughing, Peter? I am Iron Man, people don’t laugh at Iron Man—”
All Peter can do is dig his thumbs into Tony’s dimples, press a kiss to his mouth, over and over and over again, even while he’s still trying to talk about the younger generations and their terrible aesthetic tastes, before pulling away with another laugh.
“Tony—Tony, I’m thirty-two years old. Pretty sure I’m not part of the young people anymore—and besides, I don’t even think they still listen to dub-step.”
“Excuse you, Mr. Parker, but if you’re not a part of the young people, then I’m definitely not, and that’s unacceptable,” Tony says, straight-faced. “I’m a young person, obviously.”
“At heart maybe,” Peter says back and smirks, fingers skimming at Tony’s temples, back along the nape of his neck. He tugs at some of the hair there, soft between his fingers. “Those grey hairs say otherwise.”
“Premature.” Then, Tony sighs. “God, thanks for reminding me. Maybe I should re-dye it.”
Peter hums, runs his fingers through the silver strands near his neck again. There’s still a little of that lovely brown color to his hair. It’s still probably considered a ‘salt and pepper’ look, though it’s definitely edging more toward the salt side these days. Peter loves it. “You can, if you want to, but you know,” and here he lets his expression turn flirtatious, like the one Tony had on his face when he was propositioning him not even twenty minutes ago, “grey can be pretty sexy, silver fox and all that. You definitely have that going for you.”
And Tony buries his face into Peter’s shoulder, half laughing, half groaning, and says, “You’re going to be the death of me, kid.”
“Not a kid.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah.” Peter can practically feel him rolling his eyes, but it’s a normal kind of feeling and not a “being able to feel everything including colors and scents” kind of feeling. It’s a knowing Tony really well kind of feeling, and it’s one he gets all the time. He loves that feeling. God, he loves him. Tony pulls back, presses a kiss to his cheek, the stubble on his jaw catching on Peter’s own, prickly and ticklish, not harsh at all. And Tony smiles, crooked and small, but genuine and beautiful and everything Peter has ever wanted. “Okay?”
He breathes, once, twice, easy as anything, easy as loving Tony has been—Tony, who he’s known for over fifteen years now, who he’s loved for more than ten. Tony, who is everything. Who is worth everything and more.
And that’s something he’s always known.
After Credits Scene:
“You ever gonna make an honest woman out of me, Mr. Parker?” Tony asks, all smooth and glib like he doesn’t care. But Peter knows he does, can feel it in the tension of Tony’s fingers tangled with his own as they make their way out of the SI building. Another privilege of being Head Chemist is deciding when he gets to leave early, apparently.
Peter just thinks Tony wants to get him home to relax. There’s probably take-out and comfy sweatpants and cuddling in their future.
Overstimulation attacks are exhausting.
Thank fuck they don’t happen that often.
“I don’t know about making you an honest woman,” Peter says, oddly breathless. There’s something buzzing in his stomach, bees or happiness or maybe he’s just really hungry like he always is after an attack (it’s times like this that he’s reminded why having a high metabolism sucks. He’s lucky he’s got a rich man as a boyfriend, one who loves spending shit tons of money on him, or the food alone would put a sizable dent in his wallet). Probably all of the above.
It reminds him of the feeling he gets when he’s high off a breakthrough for a project he’s been spending weeks working on and all he can think about is telling Tony about it just so he can see that proud look on Tony’s face before they celebrate with mind-blowing sex, or that feeling when Tony stops mid word, mid rant about this, that, or another thing, usually about politics or “idiot superheroes who should know better, who should take better care of themselves, that means you, honey,” to demand kisses because Peter means that much to him, because Tony wants to be close to him always too, that even frustrated or angry, Tony just can’t control himself around him. He represses the grin threatening to split his face in half and rubs at the crinkled line of a burn scar on Tony’s thumb. “But if you’re asking me if I’ll marry you, Tony, then yes.”
Tony sputters, his grip suddenly vice-like. “Peter—”
From behind them, startling them and the poor receptionist they’re passing by, Happy suddenly cries, “Thank God! Where’d I put that damn ring? Oh man, just wait until Pepper hears about this—”
I know you aren’t perfect. But it’s a person’s imperfections that make them perfect for someone else. –Stephanie Perkins