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Why Walk When You Can Fall

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Tony wasn’t sick. Iron Man didn’t get sick. Iron Man was always ready to protect people, and Tony was Iron Man. So Tony wasn’t sick.

Tony was having a Bad DayTM. Well, that’s how it had started. Good old hump day had got him good, but now he’d spent most of the last two days in his workshop because nightmares kept running him out of bed. The last twelve hours had been the worst though. The temperature seemed off. Initially he’d asked FRIDAY to turn it down, but now he couldn’t get warm. Normally when he got on a workshop binge there was nothing that could distract him, but now he was having trouble focusing. He’d had to stop trying to build his ideas because his hands had started shaking too badly about 4 hours ago. FRIDAY kept asking him to go to bed, but he just couldn’t. What did an AI understand about nightmares anyways?
“Mr. Parker is here to see you, Sir,“ FRIDAY’s voice cut through the music.
“What’s he doing here? He’s supposed to come Friday.”
“Sir, it is Friday.”
“Oh, well send him up.”
“Are you sure that’s wise in your state?”
“What state? The kid’s always allowed in here. You know this stuff, FRI.”
He pulled up the holograms of his latest designs for the Spidersuit, but they seemed too small. He was busy blowing them up when Peter walked in.
“Hey Peter, I made this and plans, but blue smooth and broke. Can you try and lift the web from KAREN?”
“Mr. Stark, you’re not making any sense. Are you all right?”
FRIDAY said something, but Tony’s brain was already off and running. He didn’t make sense to a lot of people, that’s what made him a genius. But Pete was supposed to understand. Had he failed the kid again?
“No, Mr. Stark! You haven’t failed me. You’re just sick. You should go to bed.”
What was with everyone telling him he was sick? Sure, his vision was a little fuzzy, but that could happen for all number of reasons. And his balance wasn’t the best right now, but that was just as well because DUM-E’s cool chassis felt really good.
“Come on, Mr. Stark. Let’s get you to bed.”
All of a sudden there were arms around him like a hug. He liked hugs, but hugs were bad. Hugs meant being weak, and no one wanted a weak superhero.
“You can hug me Mr. Stark. I like getting hugs too.”
Was that Pete? He was really good at reading minds. He heard a chuckle coming from somewhere, then it hit him. Peter was here! That was good. Peter was safer here, and it was important that he was safe. That’s why he spent so much time making stuff for him. Not because he missed him. No. Tony Stark doesn’t get to miss people. But just the same, maybe he should give Peter a real job here, then he’d get to see him more. JARVIS should make a note of that. Where was JARVIS? Was JARVIS the one giving him this nice hug. Probably not. There’s a reason why Jarvis doesn’t give him hugs anymore, but he can’t remember why right now.
All of a sudden the world shifted and he was laying down. Normally he would complain and get back up, but the floor was a lot softer than it usually was. Then his hug went away, and he tried to complain about that, but there was a blanket, and wasn’t that wonderful. Maybe the blanket would keep the nightmares away if he took a quick nap.

Tony woke up with a stuffed-up nose and a pounding headache, but feeling better rested than he had in weeks. He couldn’t remember how he got to bed. He thought Peter might have been there, by the also though he remembered Jarvis giving him a hug, so that was probably just wishful thinking. There was a bottle of Tylenol and a glass of water by his bed, which he took before regretfully standing up. After a quick shower to rinse off the sleep sweat, he headed down to the kitchen. Stumbling in, he found it already occupied by his favorite science bro, who was making a meal that liked like it would smell delicious – if he could smell.
“Welcome back to the land of the living. Are you hungry?”
“Always,” Tony took the plate Bruce handed him.
“Was Peter here?”
“He still is. I sent him to bed a couple of hours ago because he was going to make himself sick if he didn’t get any sleep. You’ve been out for the most of two days, and he’s barely left your side the entire time. You should have heard him when he called to tell me your temperature and ask for help. He sounded terrified, Tony. I know you said you never wanted to be a dad, and your reasons are your own, but I think you’ve already lost that battle.”
“The kid’s going to be even more clingy than before, isn’t he,” Tony sat down with a resigned sigh. It wasn’t that he didn’t like the kid. On the contrary, he loved having Peter around, but his track record showed that it just meant that it was one more person he would disappoint or hurt, and he didn’t want to do that to Peter.
When he finished his plate, Bruce helped him over to the couch. As he was settling in, they heard a worried call from down the hall, “Mr. Stark?”
“Out here, Peter.”
Peter pounded down the hallway and stopped just short of Tony.
“Oh, Mr. Stark! Are you okay? Do you need anything? Probably water, right? I’ll get you some. Oh, wait! What about a blanket? Both? Both is good. I’ll bring both.”
And with that he bolted off again. That kid had way too much energy. When he finally stopped running around and was just hovering, Tony spoke up.
“Sit down kid. You’re making me tired just watching you. Bruce tells me you’ve been working hard. Let’s just watch a movie or something, okay?”
“Okay, Mr. Stark.”

Tony’s mind crept to awareness to the sound of Bruce doing the dished. He knew it was Bruce because he was the only one currently in all of NYC that would willingly choose to not use the dishwasher. He sat up and covertly wiped drool from the corner of his mouth. Looking over, he realized his pillow was a sleeping Peter he had been cuddling with. The TV was off, and probably had been for some time based on the light in the windows.
Disentangling himself from Peter turned out to be quite the task, but eventually he made it. Bruce gave him a smile and some peppermint tea when he came in the kitchen.

So maybe Tony had been sick, and he might have needed some help, but if Peter gave him a hug on his way to school the next morning, no one needed to know.