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Chapter 1
They were all sitting in the conference room, discussing what they must do now about Thanos. They were trying to put together all the pieces of information they had about what happened, most of it being provided by Nebula, as they discovered the strange blue lady was called, and Thor. But they were going around in circles and getting nowhere. And Tony was just about done with it all. He hadn't been able to wash his hands, couldn't bring himself to get rid of the last part of the kid he had. He sat staring at the ashes that remained on his hands. Peter's ashes. The thought sent a jolt of pain through him as it brought the lump back to his throat and tears to his eyes as he slammed them shut and clenched his fists. He took a deep breath, years of hiding emotions behind a careful mask coming in handy, but as he listened to his former- and now current- teammates go on in circles, he felt himself getting restless. Another few minutes more and he felt his patience snap.


"This is getting us nowhere" he huffed, trying to bring some level of nonchalance to his voice. They all turned to look at him. Steve frowned, "We're trying to put together what happened. We have to figure that out before we can even start to think about how to bring everyone back"


"What's there to figure out" Tony snapped "Thanos has some powerful pebbles and a glove and turned half the universe to dust. That's all we need to know about what happened"


"It's not that simple Tony" Steve tried to rein his temper back in. It was no use getting angry with each other now.


"It is that simple!" Tony barked. Tensions were running high as the rest of the team watched the two snap at each other. Steve looked around. Pepper, Rhodey even Happy were all alive and fine, sitting in the room watching the argument take place and Steve felt his anger begin to rise again. Tony had no right to be rushing this along, he hadn't lost anyone, all the people he cares about were in the room with him right now. He, on the other hand, had lost his best friend, had lost Bucky. A sudden understanding filled him.

Tony grimaced as a patronizing look came to Steve's eyes. He had seen Steve's eyes flicker not so discreetly over to Pepper, Rhodey and Happy and had a feeling as to the conclusion that he had come to.

"Tony," Steve began, as a parent to a child. Tony flinched. "I know you feel guilty about what happened, but we can't just rush into things without knowing what we are getting into just to appease your demons" Steve finished before turning back to the others as if dismissing him. Tony lost the little control he had managed to get hold of on his temper as he stood up. Tony Stark did not get ignored.


"You think that this is just about me blaming myself for this mess? That this is just another opportunity for my demons to run wild?" he yelled furiously. Everyone's attention was instantly on him again. "No. It's the fact that he took so much. Too much."


"He took half the universe, Tony," Natasha said eying the fuming man.


"He took the entirety of mine" the fight seemed to drain out of him and he slumped back into his seat and put his head into his hands. The -former and now back- Avengers looked at each other.


"But-" Steve started but Tony's head snapped up and he glared at him.


"You think that just because I didn't lose Pepper or Rhodey or Happy, that I didn't lose anyone. But you're wrong. I lost the most important person in the world to me. He was everything and I just-" Tony broke off and buried his face in his hands again, breathing heavily and willing the tears not to fall. Pepper gasped suddenly. The Avengers looked at her and saw her eyes filling with tears as her hand came up to cover her mouth. "Tony" she choked "how do you know- but he can't be- how could you know that" Tony looked up at her, tearful eyes mirroring hers.


The Avengers shared confused glances. They had never seen the great Tony Stark break like this before and they still had no idea who caused it. It was obvious Pepper knew, even the usually emotionless Happy looked horrified.


"Who are you talking about? Who did you lose?" Bruce spoke up from where he was quietly watching the scene play out. Tony's response wasn't one any of them saw coming.


"My Kid" the words were barely whispered but everyone heard them in the nearly silent room. The Avengers froze. The shock was almost tangible in the room and if it were any other situation, Tony would have laughed, but as it was, laughter was the furthers thing from his mind considering his heart had died right along with the kid he had grown to care about more than anything or anyone else. Then the questions started raining down.


"You have a kid?!"
"Since when!?"
"How long was I gone for!?" that last one has Bruce's incredulous voice and it was almost enough to bring a smile to his face. Almost. Tony sighed.


"He isn't biologically mine," he said answering most of the questions. "But he's basically mine in every other sense of the word so it doesn't matter" he tried not to get swept up in memories of the kid, one of the only people to get a genuine smile out of him. Peter had brought real joy into his life for perhaps the first time ever and had made it stay there. But now the kid was gone, and with him, all of Tony's happiness. A sudden determination filled him, laced with anger as he looked up again. "That kid meant- means- everything to me. There is no power or force in any timeline, world or realm that can stop me from getting him back. So, either we start getting somewhere with coming up with a plan to defeat Thanos or I'm going to consider you useless and an obstacle and find a way to reverse the Snap myself"


The team looked at Tony. Really looked at him. They saw his ashen face and bloody hands, they saw the pain in his eyes as they hardened with determination and there was no doubt in any of their minds that he would do whatever it takes to get his kid back. Whatever it takes.


"I've never been one to allow myself to be called useless" Natasha began, and Tony eyed her warily. Her lips quirked, the closest she has come to a smile for a while. "We had better start coming up with a plan"

Chapter Text

Chapter 2

"Finally," Tony muttered as he exited the medbay. After his outburst and the shock of Tony STARK having a kid wore off, the team- or more specifically Bruce and Rhodey-seemed to notice the wound in Tony's side still slightly oozing blood. After much protesting and denying- and a threat of being held down to the bed by Rhodey, Tony finally allowed Bruce to look him over and stitch and bandage his stab wound. The whole process seemed unnecessary to Tony, who would have much rather started planning a way to take Thanos down now that he finally had the team's cooperation. Healing could wait until he had Peter safely in his arms again. Tony closed his eyes as pain flared briefly at the thought before he was shoving it down, to the place where he shoved all his pain so he didn't have to deal with it, let it instead turn to determination and fuel his work.

Even though Tony complained about the ‘patch-up' he really was starting to feel better. The haze that surrounded his mind had resided, not completely, he was still understandably shaken from the whole experience, but it was much better now that his blood was actually staying inside his body. It had still taken a ridiculous amount of time in Tony's opinion until he was finally able to leave with some stern warnings from Bruce to take it easy and not to tear his stitches. He had mentally scoffed at that. The first thing he did when he got out was grab his StarkPad and go to the living room where he knew most of the Avengers were, courtesy of FRIDAY. When he finally made it there he flopped carelessly to the sofa… and immediately had to hold a cry of pain as his side felt like it was on fire. Right. He got stabbed. Then stitched up. He probably shouldn't throw himself down on things, even if those things were a ridiculously plush sofa. When he had gathered his breath again he looked up at the Avengers, though mainly Thor.

"Right, what can you tell me about the Infinity Stones?" Tony threw up a hologram and clapped his hands. "I think that these little rocks hold the answer to our problem"

Three days later, Pepper walked into Tony's lab to see him working on something. He was moving things around in a hologram and writing things down. She sighed. "Have you even tried to get some sleep at all?" He didn't even turn around, just briefly glanced her way, but in that glance, she caught her answer. She sighed again. "I'll sleep when this mess is sorted" he replied bluntly.

"Then it's a good thing I brought you this coffee then, something tells me you're going to need it," Pepper said resignedly, knowing there was nothing that she could do or say to change his mind when he was like this. Tony finally turned to face her fully, gratefulness on full display on his face as he took the still hot mug from her, "Thank you". Pepper just nodded. She walked past him and to the hologram. "What are you working on?" she asked, not understanding much if anything of what was there. Tony's eyes lit up, just a little but it was enough to light a spark of hope in her. Tony hadn't smiled since he came back to earth, hadn't been himself, and she knew he wouldn't be himself until he had brought back the other half of the universe and defeated Thanos, even if he worked himself to death to get there. His eyes lighting up even the most minuscule amount showed her that he wasn't completely gone to the world and that there was hope for the universe, no matter how small.

"I think I figured out the stones. I just need to tell the others. FRIDAY, tell the Avengers to meet in the conference room" Tony gulped down his coffee before putting the mug down and wrapping his arms around Pepper. This wasn't the first time he had hugged her since he came back. That first night he had broken down in her arms. Crying he had told her what happened, from saving a wizard to a teen who simply didn't listen to instructions, aliens and fights, and thrown moons, of hope and how it vanished. Of brief allies disappearing and a kid who had begged not to go, fading to ash in his arms. She had comforted him to the best of her abilities, but she knew, only a certain curly haired kid with a penchant for getting into trouble could heal this latest wound to Tony's heart, just as he had been slowly healing the others. They had cried together for the loss of the child that was theirs in all ways that were important.

Pepper was drawn back to the present as Tony pressed his lips softly to hers, conveying a message in the way only lovers with the greatest of connections can do. She read his gratitude to her, his determination to set things right and his pain. When they broke apart she gave him a small smile and he squeezed her a tad tighter.

Tony walked into the conference room without his usual flourish, he was past pretending he was okay, but he still had a job to do. All the Avengers here there. Natasha had also called in Clint and Scott who were thankfully whole and not a pile of dust and they were sitting with them too. He must have missed their arrival. He nodded in greeting, he didn't have the energy to greet them properly. They nodded back, the sides for the ‘civil war' were useless now that they had problems bigger than the UN to deal with. Much bigger. Ones where they will need each other.

"Why did you have us come here man of iron?" Thor asked from his seat at the table. "I think I have figured out how the stones work" Tony began and ignored some of the team's surprised faces. "I put together the information I gathered as well as what I could deduce from our encounters." Tony pulled up a hologram showing what looked to be an 8 shape with 6 points which were marked with coloured circles. "All the stones seem to be connected. The Soul stone is powered by the user's mastery of reality and can preserve the soul to allow for life after death. The Reality stone is powered by the user's mastery of Time and can allow a person access to the multiverse. The Time stone is powered by the mastery of space and can allow the user to travel through time. The space stone is powered by the mastery of power and can allow teleportation through space. The Power Stone is powered by the mastery of mind and can make a person more physically powerful. The Mind stone is powered by the mastery of soul and can grant telepathy or intelligence. And so, we have come a full circle. On their own, the stones provide great power. But when combined, they form a circuit- a positive feedback loop granting the user infinite power" the avengers blinked at Tony as he finished, their faces showing a range of emotions, from confusion to understanding, fear to awe to shock. "So, you're saying that with these interconnected stones, this Thanos guy literally controls… everything?!" Clint says incredulously

"Kind of, yeah" Tony shrugged

"How the hell are we supposed to even find him, let alone defeat him?!" Scott asks a worried look making its way to his face.

For the first time in days, Tony smiled.

Chapter Text

Previously

"So, you're saying that with these interconnected stones, this Thanos guy literally controls… everything?!" Clint says incredulously

"Kind of, yeah" Tony shrugged

"How the hell are we supposed to even find him, let alone defeat him?!" Scott asks a worried look making its way to his face.

For the first time in days, Tony smiled.

His smile came as quite a shock to the others. He hadn't smiled ever since he came back, and they certainly weren't expecting it back now of all times, while they were talking about how humanity and the other half of the universe had borderline no hope as Thanos basically controlled every aspect of life. His smile was quite unnerving at the moment, to be honest. But this was Tony Stark. Of course, he had a plan. He always had a plan, and he would come through now. Especially now, since there were such high stakes.

"Well, luckily for us, the stones being so powerful means they give of quite a strong energy signature. There is no way that amount of energy would get by undetected. All I have to do is get my suit back online and go back through the footage and sensors and try to detect the energy signature from the stones from when I engaged Thanos. Even if I get just a hint of the signature I would be able to amplify it and try to find a similar match anywhere else in the universe. Once we get a lock on that, we will know where that bloody grape is, and we can go to him, destroy him for what he did and get the stones to undo the damage done" Tony finished his plan and looked around the room taking in everyone's shocked expressions. Even Rhodey looked impressed and that takes a lot considering how long he has been Tony's best friend. "Wow. You've really put a lot of thought into this, haven't you," Steve said, surprise in his voice. Tony Scowled. "What, you thought we would just go charging at Thanos half-cocked with no plan?" He raised an eyebrow. "Well, no but-" Rhodey decided to intervene before Steve could irritate Tony even more. "What I'm sure he means is that that is a really impressive detailed plan" Rhodey paused, "You came up with that in 2 days?" he asked incredulously. "Three" Tony shifted uncomfortably knowing that Rhodey was probably going to start lecturing him about how he was supposed to be resting since he got stabbed a couple of days ago. He was right. Rhodey set him a disapproving, slightly frustrated look and opened his mouth to start lecturing.

"Boss," FRIDAY's voice rang through the room and he breathed a sigh of relief as she interrupted Rhodey before he could start the unnecessary speech that would fall on deaf ears. "May Parker is here to see you." The blood drained from Tony's face, his previous relief gone as his breathing quickened. The pain that he had so far been marginally good at containing reared up so suddenly and violently, he had no hope of trying to stop it. What was she doing here? What would she do? Probably yell at him and tell him how it would have been better if Peter had never met him. The pain increased. What would he say to her?

"Tony," the voice brought him back to the present. "Who is May Parker?" Bruce asked. Tony took a deep breath trying to use his experience of pushing down pain to put his mask back on and get through the next sentence. "His aunt". That was all he was able to get out without crumbling. Most of the team caught on to who he was talking about, besides Clint and Scott understandably since they weren't there for his declaration of fatherhood. And Steve. "Whose aunt?" he asked with furrowed brows. Tony scowled, everyone else caught on, Steve just had to make it more difficult for him. He looked away and swallowed. "Peter" he whispered, a sliver of vulnerability leaking through without his permission before his mask was back on full force, but it couldn't completely cover the pain and heartbreak in his eyes. "Let her up FRI". the team sat in silence as Tony let himself get lost in his mind until the ding of the elevator brought him out. He stood up and walked into the living room as the elevator's doors opened and out walked May Parker.

She looked terrible. Bags under her eyes, clothes rumpled, hair messy. She almost looked as bad as Tony. He hesitated. "May…" he began but didn't finish. He expected her to start yelling, screaming at him, accusing him of killing Peter himself, that it was his fault. She did none of that. She just walked over and hugged him. He froze for a second in complete shock. This was not what he had been expecting at all. Hesitantly at first, he hugged her, then tighter as he felt a damp spot grow on his shoulder. He felt his own tears well in his eyes as they finally broke through and fell. He rested his head on her shoulder and took a shuddering breath as he let his tears fall, tightening his hold on May, the closest he had been to Peter in days. They both cried silently in each other's arms. Both mourning the loss of a kid that was theirs and was gone too soon.

May broke away first, wiping her face and giving him a wobbly smile. He tried to give her one back, but it probably looked more like a grimace. "I know what you're thinking," she began, sniffling slightly. "But I'm not going to yell at you." She looked up then, staring him straight in the eyes "I can guess what happened. There was an alien attack then half the population of earth disappear, and Peter doesn't come home from his field trip. I can piece together the story. Of course, he would try to be heroic and help, and of course, Peter would be one of the ones who..." she trailed off, another tear sliding down her cheek. Tony felt tears blurring his vision again as he let out a gasp at the amount of pain the reminder that Peter was gone caused. "I also know that you would have done your absolute hardest to try and keep him safe and bring him back home," she said it with such conviction that he let out a sob. He didn't deserve her faith in him. He had taken her kid to space to fight an alien twice his size and he-. Tony couldn't bring himself to finish the thought as he fell to his knees, sobs shaking his form. May fell with him and wrapped him in her arms. "It's not your fault Tony" her voice was shaking, sounding close to tears herself, but Tony just shook his head. "I'm so sorry May" he gasped out between sobs that never seemed to end. Distantly he realized that he should probably be embarrassed for crying like a baby in her arms, but he just didn't care anymore. "It is my fault, it’s all my fault" he continued, "I took him to space, to a planet way too far away, to fight such a huge threat that other defenders of the galaxy were also hunting him down. And then he…. And then he- he died. In my arms May" she sucked in a sharp breath, but he couldn't stop now that he started. "He faded to nothing but dust, begging- begging me to do something, to stop it, to save him. And I could do nothing as he vanished, as the most important person to me faded away into nothing"

May said nothing, just continued to hold him, occasionally petting his hair as she let him get this out of his system. She let her own tears fall again as the man shook in her arms. Strange, she thought she would have run out of tears by now, yet more kept falling.

Chapter Text

Chapter 4

It took a while for their tears to taper off, so much contained grief couldn't be held for long without forcing itself to be shown through tears, and both of them had been holding it for far too long. They helped each other up and somehow moved to the sofa, a comfier surface than the floor had been.

Tony sat staring at his hands in his lap. May sat next to him, almost a mirror image except she glanced up at him. Tony didn't know what to say luckily, he didn't have to think for long as May started speaking. "Now as…. lovely as that was, I didn't come here to cry out my grief with you." Tony looked up at her as she continued talking, "I came to talk to you. I knew you would blame yourself and I know P-peter" she stuttered on the name, "he wouldn't have wanted that." She swallowed. "I'll admit when I first found out Peter was missing I panicked and then you were announced missing as well. I knew he had gone off to be heroic, but I also knew you were probably with him. Then people started disappearing and Peter didn't come back. You did, but he didn't." she hesitated but he just nodded at her to continue, not able to speak past the lump in his throat.

 "At first I blamed you, I'm ashamed the admit. I was furious at you for getting him involved in that world, for taking him with you, for not bringing him back, for not protecting him." Her voice wavered, and Tony choked on his tears, each of her words feeling like a stab to the heart, but knowing they were true. May seemed to compose herself and carried on, "But then I realised it wasn't true" she silenced Tony who started to protest "No, its true. You didn't bring him into that world, he got bitten by a radioactive spider. No one could have prevented that just like no one could have prevented him from becoming Spiderman. You know as well as I do that he is too kind and compassionate to sit by with these powers and not help people when he could. I realised you didn't drag him, he walked – ran- in without hesitating, but you did make it safer for him while he was out there. I also realised that you wouldn't have taken him with you, not to space, the very place you feared for years. I wouldn't be surprised if he snuck on board the spaceship or something" Tony's lip quirked, just the smallest amount at how accurate she was.

"I also know how ridiculous it was to blame you for him not coming back. If he did- if he did… fade" she stuttered. Tony swallowed. "you wouldn't have been able to stop that. He would have disappeared even if he was safe on earth, away from whatever that happened." She stopped and took Tony's clenched hands in hers, her face imploring him to listen to what she was about to say. "I also know, without a shadow of a doubt that you would have done anything and everything to protect him and there would have been no way you would have slacked off that" she squeezed his hands as his breathing became stuttered again, more tears welled. ‘why don't these things ever end' Tony thought as he angrily wiped them away. May just hugged him tight again.

"You are right about a couple of things, but wrong on others," he said as he pulled away. May cocked an eyebrow. "you were right about the fact that he did sneak on to the spaceship. I tried to send him home but-"Tony shrugged and May knew exactly what he meant, having known Peter for all his life. "but you were wrong about the fact that it wasn't my fau-" May cut him off "No it isn't. and you know Peter would be heartbroken if he heard you say that" Tony was going to protest that it was, in fact, his fault before she added that last part in. he swallowed back his protests not wanting to say anything that would break the kid's too big heart, even if he wasn't there to hear it. "and what else was I wrong about?" May asked before he could get too buried in his thoughts. "You said I would have done everything and anything to protect him" she nodded, confusedly. "well, I'm not done yet, so I don't know why that is in past tense." Tony and May shared a look that spoke more than a thousand words.

"Well," May reached for her handbag, "I came to give you something as well" Tony looked to where she was digging around in her bag, his interest piked on something other than how to save the universe for the first time in days. May withdrew her hand from the bag and in it was a simple black memory stick.

Chapter Text

Chapter 5

Tony blinked at the USB. Then looked up with a raised eyebrow at May. She looked hesitant again. Before Tony could come up with a snarky comment about how he had a multi-million-dollar tech company and didn’t need a memory stick, May started talking. “After we had realized what had happened and grieved somewhat, me and Ned, Peter's best friend, we went through some old photos and videos of Peter. It helped, even marginally, even though sometimes it broke our hearts. But looking back at those times made us smile again, remembering Peter and all the times we had fun and laughed.” Tony’s heart clenched as he realized they may never get those times again if they failed. No, a voice whispered in the back of his head, if he failed. And he won’t, he will get his kid back. May continued talking after taking a calming breathe, “Then we thought about you and how you were probably taking this really hard. We know you love Peter as much, if not more than us, in your own way, and we knew you would probably be blaming yourself and Ned brought up the fact that Peter would do anything to protect you. Even from yourself. And he wouldn’t have stood for you blaming yourself for this, not for a second, and we shouldn’t let you do that just because he wasn’t there. He would never forgive us if he knew you were hurting and we did nothing.” Tony was speechless. He opened his mouth then closed it again and swallowed. He knew the kid cared for him, but to hear it said so blatantly by his aunt that the kid would do anything to protect him…

“So we had the idea to compile some of the best photos and videos and ones we thought you would like into a USB to give you. It helped us, just slightly, but still, slightly is an accomplishment at the moment, so it may also help you.” Tony was touched, no one had really done anything like this for him before. He felt the lump in his throat as tears blurred his vision, yet again, but this time he didn’t have the heart to wipe them away and let them fall. May kept her palm open invitingly, memory stick lying flat. He reached out and took it, grasping it like a lifeline. On it were pieces of Peter’s life, and like hell, he was going to lose that too. “Thank you” he tried to speak past the lump in his throat, “thank you so much” May smiled at him and her voice was stronger when she said, “I know you're going to get him back.” So much emotion was held in the strands of her voice, yet it still sounded so firm, so sure. Like she was stating a fact, and he was going to make sure it was. She smirked suddenly, and her voice was lighter, “The rest of the universe will be a bonus” he smirked back at her and nodded.

May had had to leave soon after as she had plans with Ned’s family, which left Tony to stare blankly at the sleek USB lying on his desk. The rest of the Avengers had dispersed after he had walked out of the meeting, not wanting to intrude on his private moment and he was alone again in his lab. He was almost afraid of seeing the pictures, of watching the videos, not sure what he would find, how he would feel. In the end, he decided to call the next best person at holding him together after Peter. He called Pepper. She answered on the second ring.

“Hey Tony, I heard May came to talk to you.” She paused, “are you okay?” the question was soft, almost unsure.

“It was fine, I’m fine” that was one of the biggest lies he had ever told. He was absolutely not fine, he was about as far away from fine as you can get. “I need you. Can you come to the lab please?” his tone was almost begging, but he didn’t care at that moment.

“of course,” she responded, “I’ll be there in 2 minutes” the call ended, and the lab was once again flooded in silence.

He could hear the clacking of her heels before the door slid open and she slipped inside and made a beeline towards him asking what was wrong.

He filled her in on what had happened, on the conversation with May, what she had said, what she had given him. Pepper looked at the USB and then blinked up at Tony, understanding in her eyes. He was so utterly grateful that she knew him so well, that he didn’t have to voice what he wanted. She just led him to the couch in the lab and curled into him after plugging in the USB.

“FRIDAY, what comes first? Picture or video?” Pepper asked but then Tony spoke up.

“Just play them in chronological order FRI,” Pepper smiled up at him softly

“Ready to watch our kid grow up?” Tony snorted

“Not even close”

Chapter Text

Chapter 6
The first thing that came up was a video. The person who was holding the camera facing away from them opened a door. Inside looked like a hospital room and Tony came to the realisation that this was when Peter was born, judging by the quiet gasp from beside him, Pepper must have come to the same conclusion. “Hey guys, so where is he? Where’s the little guy?” the person holding the camera said. The couple sitting on the bed looked up with bright smiles, the woman holding a bundle in her arms. Tony felt the now familiar lump in his throat as he realised the bundle was Peter. The man, Tony distantly noted, had the same bright eyes as Peter had, and the boy shared his mother’s beautiful curls. This must be Mary and Richard Parker.


Someone brushed past the cameraman and walked towards the bed, hand over her mouth and Tony jolted in surprise. The woman was a younger looking May.


“Oh, he’s beautiful!” she exclaimed quietly. The couple grinned again and looked down at the baby with a soft expression.


“Ben, May, this is Peter” So, the man holding the camera was Ben. Ben moved closed and angled the camera down so they got their first real look at the child. He was the most adorable baby Tony had ever seen, granted Tony made it a goal to associate with as little children as possible so hadn’t seen many, but he was sure Peter was the cutest baby ever. He felt a smile creep onto his face involuntarily when Peter blinked his eyes open slowly. Pepper let out an ‘aww’ as Peter yawned, and Tony had to admit, it was sweet. The adults in the video cooed at him as he glanced around, seemingly curious and Tony had to hold in a snort. Of course, the kid was curious right from the moment he opened his eyes.


“Look at you,” someone in the video cooed at him. Peter glanced at the camera and Tony was held in his gaze. It hadn’t changed much, he noted. The baby glanced around once more before gracing them with a sleepy smile. The adults all started fussing over him even more, and this time Tony couldn’t stop his own aww from escaping at the sight of the smile, emotions swelling his chest, so much he didn’t know which would win. Eventually, love one. Love always wins he thought, then erased that fleeting moment of sappiness, though it didn’t leave his mind entirely.

Peter’s eyes seemed to close gently as he fell back asleep. He hadn’t made a sound, which surprised Tony, weren’t babies supposed to never shut up and were little terrors? Maybe they were, but Peter was the exception. Tony almost rolled his eyes. That kid was always the exception. Tony avoided kids like the plaque, yet this one managed to weasel his way into his heart and stay there, hell, he had built himself an entire house there and refused to move. Luckily, Tony no longer wanted him to move. So yeah, he was the exception, but Tony liked that.


“wow, he didn’t make a sound, fell right back to sleep” May whispered amazed, still staring at the child.


“He defiantly doesn’t take after you then, Ricky, you were screaming your head off as soon as you could take in air,” Ben said, and the room laughed as Richard glared playfully at Ben.


“He defiantly doesn’t take after you either, you were the loudest child back then, never knew when to shut up” Richard shot back. Ben exaggerated gasping.


“Excuse you, I was not!”


“Were too, remember the incident with Mrs Franklin? When she got her-”


“Alright alright. I thought we agreed to never mention that again” Ben hissed. The ladies laughed as their men continued to banter like children, Mary’s hand stroking through Peter’s hair which had the beginnings of curls.


“Well, I’m glad he doesn’t take after either of you” May interrupted, “honestly, I think we’re all grateful he most likely takes after Mary”


“You don’t know that sweetheart,” Ben grinned. He must have put the camera down on something because he came into the shot.


“I wonder if he forgot the camera was still on” Pepper spoke up. Tony hummed in agreement, he had also been thinking that.


“He hasn’t really done anything yet, he could be a real menace when he can talk and walk” Ben continued from where he sat next to Richard at the foot of the bed as May sat next to Mary.


“Somehow, I don’t think he will be” Mary grinned as she looked down at the bundle in her arms, moving a bit of the blanket away from his mouth so he could breathe, “He’s going to do amazing things, I can tell, might even change the world” her tone was gentle as she looked down at her baby.


“I don’t doubt it,” Richard said just as softly as he gently placed a hand on Peter’s head. Oh, they had no idea just how amazing their child was, Tony thought as he felt tears rising to his eyes again at the thought that the kid may never get the chance to change the world. The sombre atmosphere was quickly diffused when Ben realised he had left the camera running.


“Oh crap, I left the camera on!” Ben leapt off the bed and reached for the camera, stumbling on his way. The others laughed. “what was that comment you made about me being the forgetful one the other day?” Richard quipped, and the Ladies giggled, and Ben laughed sarcastically.

“Yeah well, I’m not the one who-” his response was cut off as he ended the video.

Tony wanted to laugh. He also wanted to cry. He could decide which to settle for so did nothing, but the gentle smile refused to leave his face.


A photo of baby Peter was next. It was obvious he as still in the hospital, he was asleep in the photo. The next one was also Peter asleep but this time he was in his mother’s arms as she rocked him, a gentle smile on her face and Richard joined them in the next picture, his arm wrapped around his wife and the other resting on his son. They made a nice little family, Tony felt a brief flash of pity that it would not last. That Peter would have his parents ripped from him too soon. Kind of like how Tony had his son ripped from him too soon, but he tried not to delve too deep into those thoughts as he stared at the pictures, Ben and May joining the trio in some. All of them smiling and happy and full of hope for the future.


The pictures progressed. The family left the hospital and Peter grew a bit.

The next picture had Tony grinning and quick glance down saw that Pepper was doing the same. Peter couldn’t have been more than a few months old and he was lying on his back on a blanket in a yellow onesie. His foot was partially in his mouth and he was smiling adorably at the camera. His hair had grown and was in a curly disarray on his head. His eyes were bright and full of happiness as he looked at the camera. Tony might just set that as his wallpaper on his phone if he didn’t find one he liked even better in what was to come.

Chapter Text

Chapter 7
Time passed as Tony and Pepper sat and watched their boy grow up. Tony watched with bated breath as Peter tried to take his first steps but falling, watched his gaze turn hard with determination, the same gaze he still has when determined Tony distantly notes. He cheers him on as he takes his first stumbling steps, falling after a few but not giving up until he is falling into his mother’s arms on the other side of the room. When he finally makes it, both Tony and Pepper let out a cheer and laugh. They watch enchanted as Peter’s babbling becomes pieces of words until he says his first. They watch him discover sand and the beach, watch him running around the house, giggling and laughing happily.


Then comes a few photos where his smile has dimmed a little and Mary and Richard are no longer n them, with a pang, Tony realises that the plane crash must have happened. But sure enough, the kid’s smile comes back. Ben and May are in the pictures and video more now, even Ned makes an appearance. Then a video plays that makes Tony freeze.
It starts out innocent enough, Ned and Peter are playing with Lego on the floor, a cartoon playing softly in the background. Then the cartoon ends, and the news comes on. Peter’s head shoots up and his eyes light up as he scrambles up to sit in front of the TV. His friend looks startled, “Peter?” he questions. “Tony Stark is on!” is the excited reply. Tony freezes and Pepper lets out a shocked gasp. Ned though just jumps up and sits next to him, clearly this has happened before, some sort of repeated ritual. Tony does some quick calculations in his head, the kid was about 6 or 7 now, so he wasn’t Iron Man yet. So why was he so interested in him? He voices his question to Pepper who just shrugs, “I also don’t think the stuff you did back then is appropriate for a 7-year-old to be watching” she adds with a pointed look. Tony winced. He wasn’t proud of those days, and the thought that young Peter could have been watching all of that…


He suddenly wanted to go back and rewrite his entire past just so that this kid didn’t have to know about it. He tunes in back to the video playing as Peter and Ned watch the TV, entranced. Peter lets out a small sigh. Ned glances at him and raises a questioning eyebrow and that seems like all the prompting Peter needs. “One day, I want to meet him. I want to meet him and tell him how great he is. He looks so sad in some of these videos, and no one sees it. He covers it really well, but I can see it.” Tony can hardly breathe at his words. How is it that a kid- a kid of 6 or 7 years- can see something that the rest of the world couldn’t, something he had worked on concealing for so long it was second nature. He had always known the kid had admired him since he was young, but to see it… it was different. Pepper squeezed his hand and brought him back to the present to see her grinning up at him through watery eyes, he just smiled and squeezed her hand back in thanks and they turned back to watching the screen. Ned was talking, “One day, I’m certain, you're going to be so great and do such awesome stuff that you will meet Tony Stark, probably even work with him! I wouldn’t be surprised if he adopted you or something! That how great I know you’ll be! And then I’ll finally be able to say I told you so!” Peter blushed and just shoved Ned, obviously not believing him as he rolled his eyes, but there was a soft smile on his face too. Tony smiled sadly. Oh, the kid had no idea…


Words flashed on the screen then, surprising Tony and Pepper. They read, ‘People care about you’. The couple looked at each other in confusion. Then another video started playing. It had obviously been cut to start there as someone was in the middle of a sentence. A news report began playing on TV and Tony recognised the Breaking News tune. Peter jerked up. he didn’t look too different from the previous video, so it hadn’t been a big time jump. Rushing to the TV, Peter turned up the volume and Tony could briefly hear what the news was. He felt his stomach drop as he heard it and tensed. Pepper also tensed as she heard it and saw it flash across the bottom of the TV screen as the camera moved. She wrapped her arms around him, almost as if confirming they weren’t back in those times. “Peter, honey, what is it?” They heard May ask and Peter turned back to her with distressed eyes before looking back at the screen. “Tony Stark was taken!” He cried, and Tony felt his heart clench at the amount of panic in Peter’s voice, never wanting to be the cause of his pain. But at the same time, he felt his heat warm slightly that the kid cared so much about him, even when he didn’t know him and he was still a jerk. “What?” Ben asked bewildered “How? He has the tightest security in America!”


“But he wasn’t in America!” Peter cried, “He was in Af-Afgan-Afganistan, presenting his new weapon, the Jericho I think” Tony jerked in surprise, how did he know so much? He couldn’t have been older than 7 and people 4 times, hell, 5 times his age didn’t know as much. “Oh God” Tony didn’t have time to figure out who said it before the camera was switched off, but not before he got a look at Peter’s distraught face. He pressed his face into Pepper’s hair, trying to calm himself. He wasn’t even sure what he was feeling anymore. Upset? Definitely. Touched that young Peter cared so much about him? Absolutely. A ridiculous amount of fondness? Yup, that was there too.


All the emotions were waring for dominance in him, but as usual, love won. He felt it flooding through him, and if it were any other emotion, towards any other person, it would have been alarming. But it was love, and it was for Peter and sure it had scared him in the beginning, but it was normal for him now. Granted, it was usually while he was listening to the kid ramble on about something, or when he catches him staring at him adoringly, hanging on to his every word, or even while May was telling him something the kid did, usually accompanied with a muffled whine that would escape a blushing Peter.


‘Continued’ flashed across the screen as another video started up. this time, the footage was kind of shaky and it looked like a video taken on a phone. It wasn’t in the Parker’s apartment, the couple watching had now become very familiar with it after watching the pictures and Peter running around. A door was cracked open silently and the phone stuck through slowly. It became apparent that whoever was taking the video didn’t want the people in the room to know they were taking it. The visual focused and there they could see Ned and Peter playing with Lego on the carpet. “He’s going to be Ok, Peter” Ned was saying “He’s going to get out”


“Of course he is, he’s Tony Stark. I know he’s building something to escape and it will be amazing and take the world by surprise” Peter sighed, “It’s just… it's been 2 months. And he’s being held by terrorists, who knows what they could be doing to him! I don’t think anybody can walk away without being affected.”


“Wow” Pepper muttered as Tony seemed unable to speak, “This kid has unparallel faith in you and your abilities. I knew before, but to see that it was even then, even in that situation?” Pepper looked up at him, “Most of the world had accepted your death and that little kid was certain that you would not only escape but that you would escape by yourself by creating something… I-wow” Pepper trailed off and Tony could understand why. Not even he had that faith in himself, and certainly no one else did. Except for Peter. It was always Peter.


The video ended and another started straight away. “Wow, how many videos do they have of this kid?” Tony muttered. Pepper nudged him. “They’re a sentimental family. They would have a lot of pictures and videos, want to record everything.” Just then, a contemplative look crossed Pepper’s face. “What?” Tony asked. Pepper looked up, her gaze focusing again, “hhm, oh nothing” Tony raised an eyebrow and started to say something before being cut off from a sudden squeal from the screen. The couple quickly looked to the video again to see Peter jumping all over the place. “He did it! He did it! I told you, I told you he would!” Peter laughed. “We never should have doubted you sweetheart” May came into the picture and she hugged him, but Peter shook his head with wide eyes. “No, you shouldn’t have doubted him, not me.” May smiled, “We shouldn’t have doubted either of you, after all, you’re the genius” at that Peter grinned.


“wow, and I thought Rhodey and your reactions to my return were good, Kid blew you out the water with that” Tony tried to joke to keep down his utter affection and appreciation for the boy concealed. Of course, like every time he tries to hide something, it didn’t work with Pepper as she just nodded knowingly and decided to pity him and went along with it.

Chapter Text

Chapter 8

"I am Ironman"

A weird mix between a squeal, scream and cheer erupted from the screen. Tony had never been prouder or more grateful for ignoring cards and going with his gut before in his life than while watching his kid bounce around and talk a million miles per hour as chaos ensued at the press conference on the TV. May was staring at the television open-mouthed and even Ben looked shocked. Wait, who's taking the video then? Tony wondered confused.

 Peter laughed at his aunt and uncle, "I told you so! No one else would be able to be so awesome except Tony Stark" the statement, said with such conviction it left no room for argument, warmed Tony's supposedly ice-cold heart, but that never did apply to Peter anyway. Ben seemed to snap out of his shock first, grinning and ruffling Peter's hair, "Yeah you did buddy, you'd think May would learn not to doubt you when it comes to Tony Stark by now" An indignant sound comes from May as she glares playfully at Ben, she opens her mouth to retort but the video suddenly ends.

Pepper looks up at Tony and grins, "I think he had the best reaction to that disaster of a press conference" Tony snorts, "Yeah well, you didn't exactly have a pleasant one" Tony grimaces at the memory. Pepper scowls, "And with good reason! It was a mess that took weeks to clean up" Tony raised the hand that wasn't wrapped around Pepper up in surrender. "Okay, okay. I've already apologized a hundred times for it" It seemed to appease her for now as she turned back to the screen.

It seemed to be another birthday video, not that either of them minded, they loved watching the joy on Peter's face as he opened his presents. This year, instead of a weird shape or big box Ben and May gave Peter a flat small rectangular box. Peter stared at it perplexed for a moment, seeming to weigh it in his hands before he shrugged looking up at his aunt and uncle before he tore off the wrapping paper and opening the box. His eyes widened comically and his jaw dropped as he released a gasp and then a squeal so high that Pepper and Tony had to cover their ears.

"NO WAY!" Peter continued squealing, "You got me tickets to the Stark Expo!" Tony froze. Pepper felt Tony tense at her side and looked over in confusion. "What's wrong?" she asked as Peter continued babbling on screen and hugging Ben and May.

"He went to the 2010 Expo. The same one that the Hammer Drones attacked." Pepper caught on even with Tony's short explanation.

"But he might not have been there" Pepper tried to reason, "He might not have been anywhere near the attack." Tony didn't look convinced but didn't say anything, Peter had a tendency to get into life threatening situations. They continued watching the rest of Peter's birthday, the Expo almost forgotten. That didn't last long though.

The next video was shaky and was of Ben and May. "I think I clicked the wrong button." Peter's young voice spoke from behind the camera. "I think it's videoing not taking the picture." May huffed exasperated but with a smile, "Honestly, you’re as bad with that camera as Ben is" She said fondly. Ben looked mildly affronted, "What? I am not bad with a camera" Peter giggled as the couple bickered fondly and Tony smiled at the noise.

Suddenly a scream pierced the air and then chaos erupted. The video was moving around and shaking as Peter ran, making the couple watching feel slightly sick. Somehow Peter was separated from Ben and May but continued running. Then he tripped, and the camera went skidding and turning over a few times on the floor, apparently coming to rest on something and was the right way up. Right at the perfect angle to show a small boy in an Iron man helmet get up off the floor. Tony felt his blood turn to ice and he groaned, hoping it wasn't but knowing it was. He just shook his head when Pepper turned to him again, if what he suspected was true, she would see in a second anyway. Just as he feared, a Hammer drone landed just in the frame of the video. And Peter, brave, smart, stupid Peter just stood there, facing down the drone even as it walked towards him, lowering his weapon locked on him. He just raised his Iron man glove at him and didn't move an inch.

Tony's heart was thundering, he could hear the blood pumping in his head and Pepper was clutching onto his arm with an iron grip. Even though he knew Peter would survive as he had met him again years later and had been there anyway, he was still terrified. Peter may survive, but would he be alright? Tony had only seen him after the spider bite had healed many of his physical elements.

Just as the drone was going to fire and Pepper was going to faint with fear, the unmistakable sound of thrusters filled the video, no matter how faint and Tony in his suit landed right behind Peter and raised his hand, mimicking Peter's stance, and blew the Hammer Drone up. Peter, startled, jumped back and before he flew off, Tony heard himself say, "Nice work Kid" leaving a stunned kid behind, staring after him with a corpse of a destroyed drone. Tony felt himself calm slightly as he saw Peter out of harm's way but started panicking again when he realised that he very well may have lost Peter then, if he hadn't arrived in time or if he hadn't noticed in the first place. Peter Parker might just have been another number in the casualty list. Tony would never have known the immense love and fear that came with looking after a kid, that kid in particular. He never would have known the warmth that would come from ruffling his kid's curls or teasing him or having him fall asleep on his shoulder when watching a movie underneath a mountain of blankets.

Tony knew his breathing was speeding up and he also knew that he was about to spiral into a full-on panic attack if he didn't calm down now. He listened as Pepper's voice finally filtered through, giving him something else to focus on instead of the constant what if's that were swirling in his mind.

He felt his breathing even out and his heart rate slow. That was close, he really didn't feel like having another break down like he had the day he got back to earth. He brushed off Pepper's concerned questions with the usual ‘I'm fine' and turned his attention back to the screen, prompting her to do the same, though she did so with reluctance. On screen, May and Ben had caught up to Peter and were hugging him tightly. In between Peter's apologies and reassuring them he was okay (“Iron man saved me! It was the greatest”), Ben had spotted the camera and left May, still crying into Peter's shoulder, to get up and get it. The video cut as soon as he had retrieved it.

Another video started, and they watched Peter walk into school with an Iron man hoody and his Iron man helmet tucked under his arm. "So I was thinking that we- are you videoing?" May's voice was cut off with her confused question. "Yup," Ben's voice responded.

 "Why?"

Ben snorted, "You know just as well as I do what's about to happen and there is no way I am not getting this on camera. This is going to be great!" Ben sounded smug and excited and considering May only hummed in response and didn't try to disagree or stop him, it showed that she agreed with him.

Tony and Pepper watched with confusion, and it was only when they spotted the other children in costumes that they figured this was some sort of superhero day or something but not all children were dressed as superheroes, so they didn't know what it was.

Ben and May, and therefore the camera, were standing not very far from where Peter and his friends were standing, and so Tony could hear Ned gushing over Peter's helmet and hoody. A teacher walked over to the group and for the life of him he could not figure out her age. "So, who are you dressed as? Who is your role model?" Ah, so it was some sort of dress as your role model day. But that meant that-

The kids all started saying who they were dressed as, there were yells of mother and father and siblings, famous celebrities even various superheroes. Then the teacher turned to Peter, "And you Peter, who are you dressed as?" Peter grinned and said without hesitation, "Tony Stark" the teacher nodded, "Ah yes, Iron man" But Peter started shaking his head and from behind the camera Tony and Pepper could hear May's muffled laugh and Ben's quiet, "Here it comes".  

"No, not Iron man. Tony Stark" Peter insisted before unzipping his hoody to show that he was wearing a suit underneath that Tony vaguely recognised as one that looked like the one he wore to the Expo. The teacher frowned slightly, "Iron man is Tony Stark Peter, you obviously know that"

"No, Tony Stark is Iron man" The teacher looked baffled and so did most of the kids. Ned was grinning widely from next to Peter obviously excited for the same thing that Ben and May were, which Pepper was starting to get.

"That's the same thing" But Peter didn't budge. "No, it isn't! By saying that Iron man is Tony Stark it means that Iron man is more important and greater since you’re saying him first. But saying that Tony Stark is Iron man it means that Tony Stark is more important and controls Iron man not the other way around." The teacher looked down at him in disbelief, so were his friends and Pepper and Tony. Peter carried on, "He said it himself, he said that he is Iron man. Tony Stark should be the centre of focus, not Iron man ‘cause Mr. Stark is the one who gave Iron man his importance. He built him and saves people with him and is him." Peter finished his empathetic speech and finally started breathing again.

"Yup, that was it" Ben whispered to May.

The teacher looked dumbfounded and Ned was staring at Peter with awe. The teacher cleared her throat after a length of silence. "Well, okay then. Tony Stark is Iron man. I can see that you really like him huh?" Peter grinned and nodded rapidly. "That was quite a speech you gave. Have you ever thought to try out for the debate team? I'm sure they would appreciate someone with such a way with words like you" Peter blushed and looked down, mumbling something that the camera didn't catch. The teacher bent down and lifted Peter's head gently, "Ah ah ah, now, what would Tony Stark do" Peter smiled wider and shared a look with Ned. "It wouldn't be much of a debate with Tony Stark miss, he would win everything and take control over it completely, like he did against the Congress when they tried to take the Iron man suit. I watched it and Mr. Stark exposed Justin Hammer and walked out. It was so great!"

"He watched what?" May exclaimed, she must have sent Ben glare because he was quick to defend himself and tell her he wasn't the one who let Peter watch it.

Tony didn't know whether to groan or smirk in pride. He knew what Peter was talking about, everyone did. Tony had to admit, he was awesome in that one. Pepper sent him a look and Tony just shrugged. "What? He's right." Tony grinned, "I was great" Pepper rolled her eyes and shook her head exasperated. "Tony, I really don't think what was said and what you said are appropriate for a kid, especially one at that age" Tony then remembered some of the stuff he had said and groaned but it didn't erase the pride completely, and to know that Peter was watching that and thought he was great just made him feel all the better. He pushed down the thought that whispered about how Peter wouldn't be able to think that anymore not when- nope, push them down.

The bell ringing startled him from his thoughts and Peter and Ned followed the other children and teachers into the school just as the video cut out.

The couple continued to watch as Peter aged another year, and then there was a pause and time jump which they theorised was the time of the Battle of New York. Ned was in many of the pictures and so were Ben and May. There were pictures of them at the park and at a science fair, Ned and Peter were eating ice cream together in one and then they were in matching uniforms of a sort in another. Peter looked to be about the age of 12 by now and he looked different to the Peter they knew, but not by much. This Peter had glasses and was much scrawnier. He didn't seem to have the confidence that their Peter had.

Peter grew another year and Tony felt a sense of sadness as he knew Uncle Ben's death was looming closer, and as he predicted, after another year, there was another time jump and this time Peter was different. He wasn't wearing glasses anymore for one, but he was also more hunched in on himself like he was carrying the world on his shoulders and crumbling beneath it. The was a sadness, and in some pictures an emptiness, in his eyes that did not belong there. Tony sighed sadly as he saw another painfully forced smile, though anyone who didn't know Peter that well would have thought it was the brightest. But Tony knew Peter and knew the pain and guilt Peter carried after Ben's murder, he had felt that same pain after all when his parents had died, though he was older than Peter when that happened.

Pepper sighed too, and Tony could tell she could see it too.

Then came a picture in which Peter was smiling, a real bright smile.

"Huh, I wonder what changed" Tony muttered to Pepper and she looked at him knowingly. "He met you," she said simply. Tony snapped his eyes towards her, "What?" he asked incredulously but Pepper only smiled, "Don't you see Tony. That boy was carrying the world on his shoulders and just going through the motions trying to pull his life back together after it was shattered and then you turn up and help shoulder the weight. You gave him something more to live for, a purpose, something he could actively do and strive for"

Tony felt a deep and familiar sense of guilt when he remembered the Ferry Fiasco. "Some job I did at ‘helping him shoulder the weight'. I just shattered his dreams further and left him to fend for himself" Pepper shot him a look and gently hit his arm.

"Hey, I thought we were over that. You and Peter talked that over ages ago and you know he forgave and agreed with your actions. You know he doesn’t blame you" Tony just shrugged. Pepper hit his arm again, "Let's just see. You'll see the change"

Tony raised an eyebrow, "And how do you know the pictures that are going to come up?"

Pepper smirked "You'll see"

Just as the next picture was going to come up, Friday interrupted, "Sorry to interrupt Boss, but Colonel Rhodes has returned"

Pepper looked up confused. "Rhodey left?"

Tony got up and stretched after sitting for a few hours it felt good, except when he accidentally pulled at his stitches. Getting stabbed was not fun.

"Yeah," he finally responded, "He went to Wakanda yesterday to collect something or other. They needed someone we and they trusted to get it and deliver it safely" Tony remembered Rhodey coming down to the Lab and telling him this and then giving him a hug and making him promise he would at least try to look after himself before he left.

"Friday, what did he bring with him?" Tony asked the AI, looking up at the ceiling as Pepper also got up off the sofa.

"Colonel Rhodes seems to have unidentified beings with him. One remarkably resembles a raccoon and the other appears to be a cyborg of some sort"

Tony looked shocked. "Tony? What is it?"

"I think Nebula was brought here"

"Nebula?"

"Yeah, the blue robot lady I told you about who helped me fix the ship and get back to earth"

Pepper seemed to remember the conversation they had when Tony first came back to the planet and sadness briefly flickered in her eyes before it was once again gone without a trace. Tony admired that about her, how she could pull herself together so quickly and smoothly, be able to think with a clear head and solve through problems efficiently. Being able to keep a rational mindset while Tony was falling apart at the seams. She, as well as Rhodey and Happy, were the only ones holding him together right now, and he had never been more grateful for them.

"Okay, let's go see what's going on"

And with that Pepper and Tony left the safety of the comfortable alcove they had built in the lab for the first time all day.

Chapter Text

Many things had happened in the time Tony and Pepper had been in the lab and even before that when Tony had dedicated his time to figure out the Infinity stones. The Avengers had talked.


Thor and Bruce had told the others about their adventures for the past few years while they were off planet, of Thanos' massacre of the Asgardians and Loki's death. And in return, the others had told them of what they had missed on Earth, though briefly. No one wanted to relive those times.


Bruce and Natasha had disappeared together for a few hours. They had talked through what had happened over the last few years in more depth than the overview that Thor and Bruce gave or that the other Avengers gave. Though they hadn't seen each other for a long time, they still had the same connection they had had before and decided to wait until after they had defeated Thanos to rekindle their would-be relationship. It was yet more evidence that failing was not something the Avengers planned to do again.


Tony and Pepper walked into the common room together to find the Avengers there waiting with the beings that Friday had told them about. Thor seemed to be talking to the racoon which was weird, but it was far from the strangest thing Tony had seen him do.


"Hey Nebula" He greeted as he approached, and Nebula and the others turned to him. Nebula just quirked an eyebrow and gave him a small wave and to the shock of everyone, her lip quirked. Just a little.


"So, you're what Rhodey had to collect? And a racoon apparently. Wow. I think Wakanda need to rethink what they consider a threat" Pepper lightly whacked Tony for the sarcasm and rolled her eyes.


"Who are you calling a racoon? And I am a very big threat if tested" the racoon snarled, and Tony and Pepper stared at him in disbelief.


"Pepper, honey, is a racoon talking to me? Or have I actually lost it?"


"No, he is talking. The racoon is talking to you" Pepper sounded incredulous at her own words.


"This is Rabbit, who I told you about" Thor helpfully put in.


"Yeah, well I think you forgot to mention that he is a talking raccoon" Tony snarked, still in slight shock.


"My name is Rocket"


"Well, anyway, now we are all here we can talk about where to go from here," Steve spoke up for the first time from where he was standing near the sofas which the rest of the team were sat on.


"Yeah, where were you anyway?" Rhodey asked turning towards the couple.


"The lab" Tony didn't explain, and no one asked.


"We don't have time to cosy up right now, some of us have work to do so we can take Thanos down, which, you know, is pretty important to me" Rocket spat at them. Tony crossed his arms and scowled.


"Firstly, we weren't ‘cosying up'. And secondly, we care just as much about defeating Thanos as you do" Tony's deteriorating patience was obvious to almost everyone in the room. Though apparently not Rocket who continued to snarl at Tony.


"You can't possibly compare to how much I want to kill him, none of you can" Rocket gestured wildly around the room. "None of you know how it feels to watch your child crumble to dust in front of you, you have never felt that pain." Rocket growled.


Tony stumbled back at the words, feeling his back slam into the wall. The words said with such bluntness had brought forth all the memories and emotions he had been trying to repress, they echoed around in his head. Watch your child crumple to dust… that pain. Nothing could explain the absolute terror that had seized him when Peter had started stumbling towards him, collapsing into his arms and muttering panicked pleads. Nothing could describe the utter heartbreak and pain that came with not being able to stop the inevitable and watching as your child crumpled away in your arms, being powerless to stop it.


Tony felt his breathing speed up. Suddenly he was back on Titan, the memories playing vividly in his mind, and a teenager was stumbling towards him again in the orange-tinted air. A teenager with so much ahead of them. He watched as Peter fell into his arms, begging, pleading, ‘I Don't Wanna go' please. Tony clenched his eyes shut as once again, the kid, his son, faded to nothing. All that remained of his bright life were dust particles slowly swept away by the breeze. Tony gripped at his head, fingers clutching at his hair as he tried to cast aside the images, to no avail.


The team watched as Tony sunk to the ground, eyes squeezed shut, hands gripping head, breathing erratic as is let out what sounded like a scream that was being held back. Rhodey was by his side in an instant, hands hovering over his best friend but not touching, a worried look on his face. "What's wrong with him, what's happening?" asked Steve bewildered.


"He's having a panic attack," Rhodey says, sounding on the verge of panicking himself.


"Can't you help him out of it then?" Clint questioned, glancing worriedly at the duo as Pepper also rushed to her fiancé's side and sunk down on the ground beside him.


"So, can't you?" Clint repeated his earlier question when no one answered. Rhodey shook his head agitatedly as Pepper's eyes filled with tears as another half scream tore its way past Tony's clenched teeth, her words not being heard and having no effect.


"No," Rhodey sounded distressed, "Not when it's this bad. When the panic attacks are this bad, there's only one person able to pull him out it" Rhodey grabbed hold of Tony's shoulder and tried to calm him, to bring him out of whatever nightmare he was experiencing.


"Well, Pepper is here, isn't she?" Natasha questioned confused, only a sliver of worry leaking into her gaze as her eyes slip to Tony's hunched form. Both Rhodey and Pepper shake their heads.


"It's not me that can pull him out" she choked.


"Well, if it's not you and it's not Rhodey then who on earth is it?" Steve asked worry only increasing with every ragged breath the billionaire let out.


Rhodey grimaced, "Peter" it was barely a whisper, but Tony released a choked sob as he started rocking and shaking his head. The team, if they hadn't before, were definitely worried now. They had never seen Tony like this before. It was frankly unnerving to see Tony Stark so broken, especially over someone none of them had ever really seen. A child at that. But without him, it seemed Tony was stuck in this torture he was experiencing until he could pull himself out by himself as the team and Pepper and Rhodey watched on helplessly.


"What are we going to do?" Pepper turned to Rhodey pleadingly as whimpers escaped Tony and he ignored Rhodey's attempts at calming him. He just sighed, "There's nothing we can do, you know as well as I do that the kid was the only one who could pull him out of these ones" Tony started muttering Peter's name in between sobs and whimpers, the despair and pain in the 2 syllables enough to make some of the Avengers flinch. It was obvious to all of them that Tony wouldn't respond to anyone but Peter, which was a huge problem right now.


"Friday, what should we do" Pepper turned to Friday instead, sounding desperate.


"Calling in Peter would be the best course of action when Boss is having a panic attack, especially one with this severity"


"Well, we can't call in Peter right now" Rhodey snapped, his voice cracking on the name.


"Initiating the ‘I'll always be there' protocol"


The occupants of the room looked at each other confused. "Tony never create a protocol with that name," Pepper said, sounding just as confused as them. Suddenly a child's voice filled the room, "Hey Mr Stark, It's okay, it's all okay, it's going to get better you know it is. You will find a way to fix it, you're Tony Stark, you can fix anything, but to do that you need to breath, come on. Breathe with me" The voice was soothing, and a whine ripped out of Tony as he heard it, the first proper response to a voice. The voice started breathing exaggeratedly and to their shock, Tony slowly started to match his breathing to the voice's, it was still too shallow and uneven, but it was something.


"That's it, it's all going to be okay." The voice continued as Tony still tried to get a grip on his hyperventilating. "You know, I watched the sunset last night because it was such a quiet night. I've never really watched the sunset before, have you, Mr Stark? There were so many colours and it was so beautiful, there was red and orange and yellow, about a million shades of each, it's kind of reminded me of that movie we watched a while ago, do you remember? The one with the weird robots that you kept mocking and the weird people that spoke funny and tried to communicate with the humans but it didn't quite work as they hoped; do you remember that? You laughed really hard at those" the kid kept talking about everything he seemed to think of and Rhodey let out a quiet snort.


"Of course, I should have known the kid would do something like this. Should have known he would make a back up to help Tony if he couldn't be there himself for it" Pepper rolled her eyes, agreeing with him, even as the soft smile graced her lips and tears rolled softly down her cheeks, "I bet Tony didn't even know about this protocol that he set up" Rhodey nodded.


Tony's breathing had started to even out the more the kid rambled and his grip on his hair loosened, but his eyes remained resolutely closed.


"Oh, and Ned got a new Lego set that we're planning on building, and its Star Wars themed, as usual. It's going to be epic! We plan to build it this weekend. We're having a sleepover and we're going to marathon all the Star Wars films. Ned said he even found some Star Wars biscuits! That is so cool" The voice pauses for a second, "Huh, I guess I kinda am obsessed"


Another voice piped in then, quieter than the other voice, it seemed further away and feminine, "Of course you are, why are you only now realizing"


The previous voice, who the Avengers assumed was Peter, shrieked. "MJ?" he sounded incredulous, "What on earth are you doing in my room? And how did you even get in here? And why?" another pause, "Ned?!"


"Hi" it was yet another voice which probably belonged to the aforementioned Ned.


"What are you guys doing here?" Peter asked, still incredulous and confused.


"The better question is what are you doing?" MJ said, completely ignoring Peter's question.


"Yeah dude, do you just sit in your room with your mask on talking to yourself because that's cool, kinda weird, but mostly cool" Ned's voice came through this time and it seemed closer this time.


"What? No! No, I do not just wear this normally, that would be weird."


"But isn't that how May found out?"


"No Ned, I was trying on the new suit and she walked in on me"


"Same difference loser. Now answer my question" MJ cut between the friendly bickering and Natasha smirked slightly.


"Firstly, yours isn't a better question than mine. Secondly, I'm recording a … message to Mr Stark"


"Huh, so he would be able to hear if we said something"


Peter sounded wary as he responded, "…yes?"


Turns out he had reason to be wary when MJ raised her voice slightly and said, "Peter still has his Iron man mask from when he was 8 under his bed" Laughter sounded in the background as Peter squawked, floundering indignantly. "MJ!" Some avenger let out a quiet laugh too.


"What?" It was said so calmly and contrasted the complete mortification in Peter's voice.


"How do you even know that?" he asked still horrified. Laughter increased.


"I have my ways"


"Ned!" the tone was accusing and betrayed and the laughter paused for a moment.


"It wasn't me!" he insisted between laughs.


"MJ!" Peter rounded back on the girl who seemed to let out a snicker of her own, "How could you possibly have known that? That's really creepy and borderline stalkerish"


"Oh please. Calm down." She paused, "It's sticking out from under your bed and I can see it"


"What?" some shuffling followed, and the listeners figured it was probably Peter frantically shoving the helmet back under the bed. "That still doesn't explain how you knew it was from when I was 8"


"Hey Peter, is the recording still rolling?"


"Oh crap, I forgot about that"


"May is right. You are terrible when it comes to this stuff"


"Oh shut up Ned"


"Are you going to delete it?"


"Nah, I think it will make him smile. Despite the humiliation and teasing, this is undoubtedly going to cause me." Laughter followed, and the recording ended. Everyone present had an amused smile on their face, fond and bittersweet in Pepper and Rhodey's cases.


Steve looked back at Tony, having forgotten momentarily the cause of the recording in the first hints of amusement he had felt in days, and was surprised to see he had calmed down and even had a small smile on his face too.


"You okay now man?" Rhodey asked Tony softly. Tony just sighed and thumped his head against the wall. "Not even close. But I will be as soon as I have that kid back in my arms so I can tease him about that helmet and make sure he never leaves my sight again" Rhodey just nodded in understanding and gave Tony a strained smile, "Tell me when you do so I can join in. The kid is never hearing the end of this. We'll even get Happy involved"


Rhodey helped Tony to his feet and caught him when he stumbled a bit. Rhodey wrapped his arms around him as Pepper got up from where she had been sitting next to Tony on the floor. Tony took a deep breath and rested his head on Rhodey's shoulder, Pepper running a hand through his hair.


"Lab" Tony muttered, and he walked out the room supported by Rhodey and Pepper trailing behind.


Silence followed their exit. "That was out of line Rocket" Nebula spoke up, startling everyone, they had yet to hear her speak. Rocket sighed, "I didn't know"


Bruce also sighed, "None of us knew it was this bad"


"We didn't even know he had a kid before he told us a few days ago" Clint added, a pained look on his face.


"Yeah, it's like your startling revelation all over again," Steve looked at Clint. Clint shrugged.


"Except worse. Then there was the possibility of the world's population being decreased. Now it has actually happened. And apparently, Tony's kid was one of them." Natasha spoke up. They sat in silence for a few minutes contemplating her words.


"I think I have something I should show you," Nebula said. 


Rhodey and Pepper and surprisingly, Happy, walked back into the room still looking worried and slightly frustrated. "He wanted to be alone." Pepper explained when the others stared at them in confusion. Rhodey grunted as he collapsed onto a sofa next to where Happy and Pepper sat. "More like he basically kicked us out of the lab."
"That sounds about right," Happy grumbled.


"Nebula said she had something to show us" Natasha informed them.

 
After receiving many blank looks Nebula rolled her eyes then began to explain, "I'm part machine and record what I see. And I think that there is something you need to see."


A metallic part on the left of her face, looking slightly like an earpiece rose slightly and a hologram was projected in the air. The video showed an orange landscape with a strange lady with antenna on her head, a grey bulky creature, someone who looked like a human, a man in a cloak who looked like a wizard and Tony, his suit gone and under suit bloodied and torn. "We were on Titan" Nebula narrated, "Thanos had portaled away"


Suddenly the aliens began crumbling into dust, one by one. The wizard was next, his final words directed to Tony who stood in front to him "Tony, there was no other way" then he was gone like the others.


"Dad?" the avengers jolted at hearing the term and Pepper, Rhodey and Happy all gasped slightly, their faces falling in dread. They all heard the waver in the voice and recognized it from the recording they had heard not 10 minutes before. Tony's face turned terrified and he turned slowly, fearfully around. Nebula also must have turned as suddenly a young boy came into view. He was wearing an improved version of the Spiderman suit the Avengers, except Bruce and Thor had seen before. Pepper's hand came up to cover her mouth and Rhodey winced while Happy grimaced.


"I Don't feel so good" He was clutching his stomach then brought his hands up to stare at them, then at Tony, swaying slightly on his feet. 


"You're alright" Tony looked horrified, the angle of the video perfectly capturing his terror, and he seemed to be trying to believe it as much as he was trying to reassure the kid who began stumbling towards him.


"I don't know what's happening, I don't know-" Peter collapsed into Tony's arms and they clutched at each other, Tony's hands finding Peter's hair. "I don't wanna go. I don't wanna go, Dad, please. Please, I don't wanna go. I don't wanna go, don't let me go" They both seemed to collapse onto the ground, Tony no longer able to hold both of them up though he tried cushioning Peter's fall as best as he could. Peter's pleads stopped abruptly.


They Kept their arms wrapped around each other. Peter looked straight up at Tony. "I'm sorry. I-I love you" He whispered, but the recording still caught it. Then he, like everyone else, crumpled into dust. Tony fell forward too from where he was leaning on Peter, his hand falling in the dust. His fingers curled around the particles as he left out a choked sob. "No. no nononon. Peter. Peter come back. PETER!" Tony curled his fist full of dust to his chest and he sobbed out. Then he screamed. It was such a heartbroken scream, of someone who had lost everything and had nothing left to live for. "NO! PETER!" Tony continued to scream and sob until his voice went hoarse.


"He did it," Nebula in the video said. Tony jerked his head up, seeming to have forgotten he was not alone. His eyes hardened, "He's going to pay for this" Tony hissed. "I'm going to kill him" Tony's voice was backed by steel and there was no doubt in anyone's minds that he was going to do exactly as he said he would.

Chapter Text

Pepper was crying into Rhodey's shoulder, and the usually stoic Rhodey and unflappable Happy had a few tears sliding down their cheeks as well. Steve could feel his eyes burning and could see some of the others nearing tears too. He couldn't believe what he had just watched. Logically, he knew that kids would also have been taken, but to see it for himself, and for it to be the child of someone he still considered a friend… He now understood Tony's dementor better from when he had first excited that space ship, he had had a traumatising experience and lost his son. Tony's heartbroken screams would echo in everyone's minds for a very long time.

"He went through it! I'm heartbroken just by watching it, but Tony was there! Oh, Peter, he had to go through watching the others disappear and then know it was happening to him" Pepper cried. Natasha got up suddenly and went over to Pepper, surprising everyone when she put a hand on Pepper's shoulder, "It's going to be okay. We're going to get your kid back." No one said anything about her suspiciously wet eyes

Clint was sitting on the sofa, his head between his hands. He couldn't imagine what the pain of losing a child was like, especially in that way, and he didn't want to, even the thought of one of his kids dying left him with an empty feeling in his chest, he blocked out the thoughts immediately, but he still felt like he wanted to go curl up with his kids and never let them go.

Bruce wiped the tears that had slipped past his eyes off his face and sat next to Natasha, wrapping an arm around her. She didn't protest, just lent in. Her hand never left Pepper's back. Thor was oddly quiet as he wrapped his arms around his waist and collapsed on the sofa opposite Clint.

Steve felt awful. He had been at the tower for almost a week and had still done nothing to try and reconcile with Tony. If he was honest with himself, it was because he was putting it off for as long as he could. He didn't even know where to start with him, and he was grieving losing Bucky. Again.

But Tony was also grieving, and after watching just how horrific the parting was, Steve was determined to alleviate the most pain from Tony as he could, even the smallest amount would help.

Steve clenched his fists and stood up drawing everyone's eyes to him. "I'm going- I've got to go talk to him."

Rhodey opened his mouth, seeming about to protest, but Pepper grabbed his arm, her eyes searing into Steve's. Eventually, she nodded, "Just be careful." The warning in her voice and in Rhodey and Happy's eyes was unmistakable. He nodded quickly before walking out of the room and to Tony's workshop.

When Steve walked in, Tony was sat at one of his desks watching some sort of footage. The video was shaky, and the quality wasn't that good, but Tony seemed enraptured with whatever it was and Steve listened to a young voice talking excitedly, Tony's voice sometimes joining in. He didn't think that Tony had realised that he had come in so when Tony sighed and started speaking, Steve was startled.

"When I first met him and we went on our first… trip together, the kid was so excited, and he made a video diary of the experience. I dug it up later when we were closer. I told him it was for blackmail and entertainment purposes, but it was also because I love seeing him so excited and happy."

Steve was shocked that Tony was opening up to him so much, and he seemed even more lost at where to start than when he first entered. The video on screen ended and Tony turned to face Steve.

"What do you want Rogers?"

He sounded tired, worn out. Steve didn't want to think about the amount of time Tony had been working on ways to win and get everyone back while he and the others had been talking and catching up, but he couldn't help it as he looked around and saw the mess the lab was. Holographic screens filled up with half-formed plans and equations, metal contraptions resting on the many tables waiting to be finished, what looked to be an updated widow bite, a set of arrows and prototype bow, what looked to be a new shield design up on one of the screens. Tony had definitely been busy.

Steve met Tony's eyes. They were guarded, and Steve felt he deserved it when Tony flinched as he stepped forward. "I wanted- I need- we need to talk" Steve finally settled on after fumbling on his words. Tony's eyes remained impassive as he quirked an eyebrow, "About what?"

What wasn't there to talk about? Their disastrous fallout? The separation? The secrets? The wipe out of who they cared most about?

"Everything. We need to talk about a lot. I should have tried to reach out sooner, probably before this whole showdown too. I'm sorry Tony" Steve said earnestly, "Abut Siberia, about your parents, about what I said and did, about your kid." The guards behind Tony's eyes fell, just the slightest amount, but it gave Steve hope and a foothold. He now knew where to start, he now knew what to do. There may be hope for them after all.


 

Rhodey wiped the tears falling from his eyes, one of his arms still wrapped securely around Pepper as the wet patch on his shoulder grew steadily larger. He looked around.

Happy was gritting his teeth and Rhodey knew it was to try and keep his emotions in check, to not start sobbing out loud. Keeping emotions in check never seemed to work through when it came to Peter as could be seen by the stubborn tears that had managed to escape Happy's eyes.

Pepper was near inconsolable. She viewed Peter as her son almost as much as Tony did and to watch him die like that broke something in her. And she wasn't the only one. Rhodey felt his fuel to get them back ignite stronger than before and his hatred towards Thanos and his cronies reach new heights. He would kill them all for what he did to his nephew and countless more people.

He hated that Nebula showed them that footage. It was cruel but he also knew that it was needed. The video broke down the last wall between them and the rogues. It showed them up close and personal the hurt and pain that were caused, that it was closer to them than they originally thought. That it was personal and that Tony had in fact lost someone he loved and was not overreacting. It showed them that their pitiful was just that in the grand scheme of things and gave them even more motivation to work together and get their friends and families back.

Natasha was still leaning into Bruce, the only indication that she required comfort, her eyes as impenetrable as always. Bruce was attempting to pull himself together and Rhodey knew he would want to go to Tony and help in any way he could, he was always quite practical when it came to dealing with grief.

Clint sat on the opposite sofa, head in his hands. Rhodey contemplated him. He had expected Clint to bolt from the room and go be with his family. His wife and children had been moved to the tower with him when he came, and he spent the evenings with them usually or they came up to spend time with the others but that was rare. Rhodey had expected him to immediately go to be with his kids and was surprised when he didn't. He stayed on the sofa cradling his hands.

Rhodey dragged his eyes away from Clint to Thor. He was sitting with his arms wrapped loosely around himself, staring off into space. Rhodey knew what happened to him and his people, how they were decimated and how he didn't know how many survived. He knew that Loki had been killed. He couldn't say he was particularly upset with the death of the man – god? – that had almost killed his best friend and continued to haunt him in his dreams. But he had heard that Loki had changed and Rhodey generally liked to believe in second chances, he'd had to put up with Tony too long for him not to believe in them.

Nebula moved suddenly from where she had been quietly talking with Rocket and came to kneel in front of him, Pepper and Happy. "He was very brave. The boy. He joined the fight against Thanos without fear, in fact, thanks to him we almost got the gauntlet off," Nebula spoke softly to them, but even though she was quiet, the room was quieter and the others could hear. Nebula's lip quirked, "He was quite exuberant and chatty." A wet laugh escaped Pepper and Rhodey and Happy smiled. "You have no idea," Happy groaned fondly and we let out a slightly stronger laugh. It was a running joke, Happy's irritation at Peter's excessive talking (it's not excessive in Tony's opinion, but whatever).

"I think I have slightly more light-hearted footage if you want" Nebula offered, and we nodded with varying desperation, anything to get Tony's screams and Peter's pleas out of our heads, at least for a little while. The same thing as last time happened again with Nebula's face and we looked upon Thanos standing on the orange planet. Clint growled. Then suddenly an orange sparking circle appeared behind him and Peter jumped out to kick him. Bruce let out a surprised laugh. Peter kept going in an out of the portals, kicking Thanos and yelling about magic and kicks. Honestly, that boy knew nothing of stealth, no matter how many times Rhodey tried to teach him. He was a lot like Tony in that aspect, Rhodey though in fond exasperation.

Peter even managed to draw a chuckle from Clint with a particular comment. But then, suddenly, Thanos turned as Peter came out of another portal and grabbed him by the neck. Pepper gasped and Nebula abruptly cut out the video but not before we saw Thanos smash Peter into the ground. Silence followed.

"Seriously?" Clint asked hysterically, "Can this boy not have a few happy moments where his life is not in danger?" Rhodey opened his mouth to respond, though he wasn't sure what exactly he was going to say when Tony and Steve walked into the room and Rhodey's jaw dropped for a whole different reason.

Steve was hovering anxiously around Tony as if afraid he would collapse at any moment. Rhodey's eyes narrowed, scanning over his best friend. He may be willing to accept and work with the rogues but that didn't mean he fully forgave or trusted them yet. He had been there in the aftermath of the fallout, of course, he had seen how Tony was, what Rogers had done to him.

Apparently, he wasn't that subtle with his observing as he thought because Tony rolled his eyes at him. "I'm fine Rhodey, I can look after myself" Rhodey snorted and even Happy cracked a grin at that, "Sure." Tony scowled, "Where have you even been for the last couple of days Happy? I haven't seen you moping around like I usually do." It was Happy's turn to scowl now, "I was with May. Someone has to make sure she's okay. Speaking of which," Happy smirked, "I hear she gave you a ton of Peter's baby pictures. You've been catching up on the kid's childhood I assume?"

Rhodey gasped dramatically, "You were looking through Peter's baby picture without me? I am quite frankly offended that you didn't call me to look at them with you." Tony rolled his eyes.

"Well, lucky for you me and Pep haven't finished them yet. We have reached when he met me then you interrupted us when you decided to finally show up"

"Good, then we'll be there for the best part then" Happy smirked and Rhodey grinned back.

"You have pictures? Please tell me I can see them too. Can I please see some pictures of this kid that don't include him being in mortal danger?" Clint suddenly said from the sofa. Tony looked startled, then narrowed his eyes at him.

"When did you see anything of him in the first place," Clint shifted uncomfortably and suddenly no one was looking at Tony anymore.

"You all have some explaining to do" Tony looked around with an expression that demanded answers. Oh boy.

Chapter Text

Chapter 11

Tony rubbed the bridge of his nose and sighed, slumping into the sofa beside Pepper. The others had just finished recounting what they saw, with no small amount of trepidation, Tony’s recent breakdown still fresh in everyone’s minds and they all hoped to avoid another one. No one knew how Tony would react after all, his unpredictability was part of his charm, but it also often presented reason for caution. He could lash out, yell, turn on Nebula, turn on the others, have another panic attack. There was honestly no telling what he would do.

Pepper rubbed her hand down Tony’s back where he sat next to her, her other hand resting on his bicep, tear tracks still stained her cheeks and it said a lot that the usually impeccable Pepper didn’t bother to wipe them away, her look the last thing on her mind. Clearly this boy was cared for more than they originally thought.

“So, you saw him- you saw his-” Tony couldn’t finish, but his ending was clear. You saw him crumble. You saw him die. In my arms.

“We also saw him doing some kick-butt moves on Thanos. Man, I am going to congratulate him for those when they get back, then ask him to teach me them,” Clint attempted to lighten the tense atmosphere. ‘When they get back’ Tony mused, it was an odd way of phrasing it, like they had just gone on a mission or a holiday and they were just waiting for them to come back. Like Peter would walk in, fling his bag down, probably collapse next to him or on his lap and start excitedly telling him all about it, most likely with wild hand gestures to punctuate his points.

“Kick-butt moves?” Steve’s question pulled Tony from his thought and he was grateful that it was before they could take a darker turn, like so many of his thoughts had in the past week.

“Yes, it was quite impressive, I hadn’t seen such good adaption skill before” Bruce turned to Steve. Steve glanced at Nebula and Nebula, with a slight nod from Tony, started playing the video from earlier, but this time she knew when to end it, so it was before Thanos got his hands on the kid. No one thought it would be a good idea to have Tony see that. Again.

“That- that’s actually really good” Steve said sounding surprised. Tony smirked, “Of course he’s good. He’s better than good, he’s amazing. You should see him when he’s fighting in the streets.”

“Speaking of seeing him, back to my earlier question. Can we please see some photos of this kid, preferably smiling” Clint was practically begging, and it didn’t pass Tony’s notice the slight film of tears in his eyes.

Rhodey snorted, “It won’t be that hard, Peter has almost always got a smile on his face.” Pepper nodded with a soft smile. Tony hesitated before opening his mouth, but Bruce cut him off before he could get a word out. “We should really talk about the progress made though, towards defeating Thanos. We want it done as soon as possible after all” Ever the voice of reason. They really could have used him during the Accords debacle that left then in shambles. But then again, without it Tony would never have met Peter, and Tony wouldn’t take that back for anything.

Steve chuckled quietly, “I don’t think we should worry too much about progress, Tony’s made a lot of it.” Everyone looked at Tony, but he simply quirked a brow, “What? You just thought I was lazing about these past few days? I’m not exactly known for my inactivity. Natasha and Clint, I have upgrades for your weapons, Steve I have a new idea for your shield, it should be lighter and easier to maneuver but just as strong. Bruce, I may have discovered a way to synthesis a fabric that stretches with you when you transform so you don’t have to destroy your clothes all the time.”

The Avengers had to restrain themselves from openly gaping at the billionaire who just shrugged at the stares. “What about locating Thanos?” Thor spoke up for the first time in a while. Tony grimaced, “Turns out there was more damage done to the suit than I thought. The nanobots are still trying to fix it and once they mend the circuits and inner workings, I can get to work triangulating the energy signature. But until then, we’re basically useless, there’s nothing more we can do.” They nodded along knowing that if Tony said there was nothing more to be done then there was nothing more to be done, his logical mind had most probably gone over just about ever option they could think of already. It was quiet for a while before Clint broke it once again, “So, pictures?”


 

Tony wasn’t exactly sure how he ended up here, in his living room surrounded by the Avengers with Pepper tucked into his side, Rhodey on his other side and Happy next to Pepper. Together, the four of them took up the sofa but they were comfortable, they had long ago given up the concept of personal space when sitting on the sofas to watch something, a certain teenager had something to do with that. Rhodey had his legs up on the recliner and Tony had carelessly thrown his legs over his, leaning his shoulder into him. Similarly, Pepper was leaning into Tony, who had an arm around her, and her legs were up on Happy’s lap.

The Avengers were sprawled out on the other sofas, almost how they were before the accords disaster when they would have movie nights and took in the odd position of the group. They had obviously done this before and were comfortable to be practically in each other’s laps. They were all dressed more casual than any of them had ever seen, even Happy who was wearing jogging bottoms and a t-shirt, and Pepper who none of them had ever seen out of dresses and pencil skirts, was wearing a shirt, leggings and pink fluffy socks that said in bold writing, ‘THE BOSS’. Pepper saw Natasha eyeing them and smiled, “Peter got them for me for Mother’s Day” Natasha just nodded with a soft look, Bruce squeezing her hand form where he sat beside her.

“Okay, Friday, play the file from where me and Pepper left off” Everyone stared at the huge screen in anticipation, Clint almost vibrating in restlessness to finally get a picture of the kid when he was smiling. Children were always a soft spot for him, having 3 of your own id that to you, you started seeing bits of them in other kids. Tony had never been that way though, staying clear of kids as much as he could which is what made this kid so intriguing. All the Avengers were wondering about this kid, a teenager of all things, that had managed to break through Tony’s near impenetrable walls, the wall they themselves had barely gotten through.

It seemed that May had decided to start right at the beginning of when they met as Peter’s video diary this came on screen. Happy groaned slightly Rhodey snorted in amusement. The others looked at them questioningly. “When I took him to Germany that first time, when I first met him, he made a video diary of the events to send to his aunt, who didn’t exactly know the actual reason I took him there,” Tony winced at the disapproving looks sent his way, especially Pepper’s, but their attention was soon captured by the exuberant narrating on screen.

Steve recognised some parts from what Tony had been watching when he went to see him in the lab and had to admit that the kid had a certain charm about him. It was near impossible not to smile at some of his actions and comments, at Happy’s obvious irritation with him on screen, though the Happy on the sofa had the beginnings of a smile on his face which spoke volumes about how much he cared about the kid.

“You know, the kid is going to hate this, right? The Avengers watching him embarrass himself with this thing” Rhodey commented mildly, tilting his head slightly in Tony’s directing, not taking his eyes of the screen. Tony smirked, “Oh I know”

The next thing that came up was a picture. Peter looked slightly different, his hair had grown but there was something different about how he held himself and how he looked. It must have been sometime after the video. That was to be expected though. Tony just meeting a kid, hell anyone, and accepting them fully into his life was so out of character that it wouldn’t be Tony, and they would seriously worry that Tony hadn’t been kidnapped and replaced with a look-a-like, so obviously it wouldn’t be just after they got back from the airport battle that Tony would willingly spend time with him.

Peter was standing with Tony next to him, his arm swung around the kid’s shoulders. Peter was beaming at the camera while holding a trophy with a ribbon on it declaring him the winner of first place, Tony had a proud smile on his face as he looked at the camera. “Science fair” Tony muttered in explanation to the others who didn’t know what the trophy was for.

“So not a sport evet then?” Steve asked good-naturedly. Rhodey and Happy laughed at that and Pepper grinned. Tony snorted, “God no, could you imagine trying to get Peter to try out for a sports team?”

“I thought he was Spiderman?” Natasha frowned, “Surely he would be good at all sports with his reflexes and agility, not to mention stamina”

“Oh yeah, the kid would beat everyone, but he doesn’t want anyone to figure out his identity, so he likes to keep a low profile,” Rhodey told them.

“He is also prone to sudden clumsiness,” Happy supplied sounding exasperated, and Steve wondered just what the kid had done to make Happy like him (Which was an achievement all by itself) but also annoy him at the same time. Seriously, who was this kid. Steve was about to find out.

“He is also much more into the academic subjects anyway,” Tony finished as the picture changed. The two in the picture hadn’t changed much from the previous picture but neither of the were looking at the camera anymore and it was clear the picture had been taken with out either of them being aware of it. They were smiling at each other, Tony ruffling Peter’s hair and Peter ducked like he was trying to escape it. The wide grin on his face however, undermined any notion that he was at all annoyed with the older man. The proud grin on Tony’s face had not moved an inch, obviously it was not just for the previous picture then. The next one was similar, but May was in the picture with them, arms wrapped around Peter with a grin of her own stretching across his face.

Rhodey wrenched his arm from where it was wedged between him and Tony, and rest on the back of the sofa just as the picture changed again. This time the pair was stood out side a theatre and Peter had tear tracks on his face that he was wiping away while Tony stared at him, incredulous.

A chuckle escaped Tony, “I remember that. I had taken him to watch the Lion King musical and he cried at Mufasa’s death. I almost didn’t believe he was actually crying but he genuinely was.”

 Pepper rolled her eyes, “And you should have known he would, you had watched the movie with him before, he always cries at that scene.” The 4 were silent suddenly and the others couldn’t help but feel they had missed something.

The next picture came, and it appears that Peter managed to gather his composure as he was, to the Avenger’s surprise, grinning with his arms wrapped around Tony’s waist and Tony’s arms were wrapped around him too. They should probably stop being surprised by Peter and Tony’s open affection for each other, they had a feeling they would be seeing it a lot over the next few hours; they settled in and got comfortable.

Chapter Text

Chapter 12

The Avengers blinked in surprise at the next picture and tried to figure out what exactly they were seeing as Pepper groaned and a sheepish smile spread on Tony's face. The picture was of Tony and Peter, of course, but what was peculiar about this one was that they were both covered in flour... and other stuff. It was everywhere. Flour on their clothes and face, their hair was almost white with it. Butter was smeared on Peter's cheeks and Tony had egg dripping from his shirt as he appeared to chase after Peter around the island. The kitchen behind them looked like a war zone.

"What – what on earth happened?" Bruce spluttered, still not properly computing what he was seeing. The others had to agree with him. They had no idea how this could have happened in the first place. Tony would never let anyone tarnish his perfect kitchen that way.

"Food fight" Tony shrugged though an amused smile adorned his face as his eyes scanned the picture.

Rhodey snorted, "More like food war. I remember that I walked in to immediately have to dodge an egg that then cracked on the wall behind me."

Pepper scowled, "Yes. The kitchen was a disaster afterwards, baking ingredients were everywhere, even on the ceiling"

"Aw, come on Pep, we apologised, and you made us clean it all up. It was fun!" Tony insisted nudging Pepper and finally a small smile broke out over her face, even Thor let out a chuckle, surprising everyone even more. He hadn't laughed since he arrived.

The next picture came on and it was still of the disastrous kitchen scene, but Peter was smearing what looked like buttercream all over Tony's face. Steve felt his jaw drop and he wasn't the only one, Clint gasped, and Bruce's mouth was also open. Steve whipped round to face him as Tony let out a laugh with the other 3 beside him.

"And you just let him do that? No consequences?" Steve asked flabbergasted. In all the time that he had known Tony, this was not something Tony would ever let happen to him, especially without repercussions.

"Oh, there were consequences alright" Tony smirked and before anyone could ask, the next picture arrived and brought with it an answer and presented a hundred more questions. Tony had Peter in a headlock and was dumping a box of cocoa powder over his head. Tony's face was dripping buttercream, but he was grinning, laughing like Steve hadn't seen in a long time. Peter was laughing as he halfheartedly tried to break free. From what Steve knew of Peter, the kid could have easily broken free if he wanted to. But he didn't, he just stood there and allowed Tony to rub the powder into his hair.

Clint stared at the picture still trying to close his mouth. And failing. He just couldn't contain his shock. Sure, he had known the kid was close to Tony and that Tony saw him as his son, but he just didn't expect… this. Honestly, he wasn't sure what he was expecting but it sure wasn't what he was seeing. The picture looked like something he would do with his kids back home. It was certainly not something he would ever expect Tony Stark of all people to be doing, for his pristine kitchen, that probably cost more than his salary for a year, to be wrecked and splattered with baking ingredients, for Tony Stark himself to be covered in said ingredients and to be happy about it. Especially with a kid. Yeah, Clint could not wrap his head around that at all. Though it probably wasn't because he was covered in ingredients, but because of who covered him in ingredients.

He looked back to the sofa to where the family of 4 were cuddling, because, Clint realised, that was exactly what they were. A family going through there photo album and trying to find comfort in each other and the memories to cope with the loss of someone they loved, who was part of this tight knit group the way no one else could be. No one else would be able to get this close to the mismatched group that became a family; the 4 on the sofa, whispering inside jokes to each other, the one that was lost, and the woman who came by earlier to deliver the photos and who Clint heard being talked about right now, the name ‘May' getting thrown around, something to do with pasta and Tony and May being banned from working together to cook anything ever again- Wait, what? Surely, he heard that wrong.

"That was not my fault! I was not the one who got out the blender!" Tony cried whilst Rhodey laughed and Pepper gave him an unimpressed gaze. What.

"Oh, not this again!" A voice came from behind them. Everyone whipped around. The Avengers all took defensive positions, surprised that they were caught unaware. The 4 on their own sofa though just turn normally and grinned.

"May!" Pepper greeted as she got up and hugged the other woman. They embraced and kissed each other's cheeks and the Avengers could not help but be struck with the absolute familiarly that surrounded them, like this was customary and nothing out of the blue. The men got up next, all hugging her and greeting her in different ways.

"And yes, we were talking about that again" Happy filled in cheerily, which was completely out of place for him for the others, but the group just laughed and groaned.

"Why would you even get out a blender?"

"I had read it online somewhere! It was supposed to work!" May responded exasperatedly.

"Don't you know you should never trust all that you read online," Tony tutted

May scowled, "Shut it Stark, you were as bad as me" Seriously, how close was this woman to them that she could address Tony that way and get away with it.

Rhodey laughed then, "Man, I just remembered when Peter walked into that mess" The others joined him.

"How did he react?" Bruce asked curiously though he was just as clueless as the rest of the Avengers as to what the group was talking about.

"Kid walked into the kitchen and didn't even bat an eye before getting the fire extinguisher and putting out the fire on the other side of the room" Rhodey explained, barely containing his laughter. Happy wasn't even trying, he was snickering next to May. The rest of the Avengers were left even more confused. "They were trying to make a salad at this point too" Rhodey continued.

"We didn't even see the fire" Tony mused.

"Yeah, I'd bet you couldn't with all that confetti flying around! Where you got a confetti canon I will never know" Pepper crossed her arms but was grinning.

"It wasn't even that bad of a fire" May didn't argue with the confetti.

Happy raised an eyebrow, "The ceiling was on fire. Peter climbed up there to put it out"

"Almost gave Tony a heart attack too" Pepper giggled, and Tony gave her a betrayed look.

"He did not!" Tony denied.

"You can't deny it Tones, you might as well admit it" Tony turned to glare at Rhodey.

"I'll have you know-" Tony was cut off by Natasha.

"I'm sorry, but what exactly is going on?" She asked slowly, for once just as confused as the rest of them.

"Oh right, May, these are the Avengers I don't need to tell you their names, everyone knows them already. Guys this is May, Peter's aunt." Tony introduced, arm resting around May's shoulders as he steered her towards the others. May's eyes ran over them all coolly, some frostier than others. They softened when they brushed Bruce and Thor but hardened when they reached Steve. Whoever this woman was, it appeared she was more clued in than a normal civilian.

"I decided to make sure you haven't all killed each other yet," She joked as she turned back to the people standing slightly behind her and winked at Pepper who giggled behind a hand. Tony rolled his eyes, "Yes I'm sure. I'll like to take this time to point out that we are fully responsible adults and can look after ourselves"

"That's what you said before you took Peter for the weekend that time in October" May raised an unimpressed eyebrow and Tony winced. Yeah, Steve thought, there was definitely another story behind that.

"Well anyway, now that you're here, do you want to watch the photos with us?" Pepper asked coming up behind May and putting a soft hand on her shoulder when May looked pained and hesitant. May met Tony's eyes and they seemed to share a secret message before Tony nodded once, anguish almost completely hidden in his eyes. Almost. Steve knew that while the group laughed and joked about, they were all still hurting and that Peter wasn't far from any of their thoughts.

They started walking back towards the sofa that was abandoned with May's surprise arrival. "There is no way you're all going to fit on there," Bruce said eyeing the sofa that had barely fit the 4 that sat in it before, let alone one more. Rhodey just raised an eyebrow and smirked before clicking something under the arm of the sofa and proceeding to pull another seat out. The sofa, now extended, could easily hold the 5. Steve's jaw dropped. He did not see this coming.

"It's still Tony Stark's penthouse, did you really expect the furniture to be normal" May laughed at everyone's stunned expressions.

Rhodey took his seat with Tony next to him and Pepper tucked herself back into Tony's side. May now sat between Pepper and Happy. They all looked comfortable and Tony called to Friday to continue from where she had paused the pictures when May arrived.

A photo came up and Tony and Peter were sitting on the Sofa. Peter was practically completely draped over Tony and they both seemed to be asleep. One of Tony's hands were nestled in Peter's curls while the other was around his waist as he lay on top of him.

"Movie night," Tony murmured softly.

"One of many" May said as she stared at the picture fondly, "There are a lot of pictures of you two falling asleep while watching movies in here" And she was right. They all then proceeded to watch a slide show of pictures, all of Tony and Peter asleep together in various positions on the couch. Even Natasha had to admit it was adorable, especially the one where Peter had his face smushed against Tony's shoulder and Tony had his face buried in Peter's hair while their arms were wrapped snuggly around each other.

"Guess you got more sleep than you did before," Clint joked

"Oh, it was more than this. Peter has many of Tony's bad habits of overworking himself and not paying attention to his own needs, so Pepper convinced Tony to lead by example and have a proper decent sleep schedule that he mostly stuck too so Peter wouldn't develop that habit too." Rhodey informed than with amusement.

"Oh, I remember that," May grinned at Tony who scowled, "You told him something along the lines of if you had to stick to the ridiculous sleep schedule then he had to too, that you weren't going to put up with this alone."

Tony shrugged and turned back to the photos to see another one of him and Peter asleep, "You know, I'm getting mildly concerned by how many photos you guys have of me and Peter asleep. Why are they all coming in one go anyway? That's not in chronological order"

It was May's turn to shrug, "I have a folder of these pictures on my computer, I just had to copy and paste the photos on the USB, but they stayed together."

"You have a folder of these pictures" Tony spluttered.

"You guys are adorable, and Pepper takes pictures of things she finds that are adorable and sends them to me"

"Pepper!"

"What?" Pepper blinked innocently.

Tony sighed, they had had conversations about him and Peter's not adorableness before and he never won them for some reason. He knew this would be the same. "Never mind" Then turned back to the photos hoping none of them showed him and Peter in too embarrassing positions.

Chapter Text

Chapter 13

Laughter filled the room and Tony scowled, slumping further into his seat. The picture that was now up consisted of Peter asleep with his head on Tony's shoulder. What made this picture different from the ridiculous amount of pictures of them asleep that had been seen previously was that this time they were surrounded by Lego models.

"Never knew you liked playing with kids toys so much Tony" Natasha smirked. Tony's scowl deepened.

"Peter likes them and wanted me to join in, so I did"

"Oh please, you stayed up all night building them, only stopped because you fell asleep. You were having just as much fun as Peter was building them" Pepper scoffed. The laughter continued.

Thankfully, the pictures of the pair sleeping had seemingly come to an end.

"Thank god for that" Tony groaned, "You guys are actually a bunch of stalkers. No better than the paparazzi"

"You love them really" May looked at him slyly, and if he had a few saved on his private server, well no one had to know.

Summer had come in the next picture and the family had apparently gone on holiday.

"Ah, the vacation" May sighed with a content smile, melting slightly into the couch, seeming to reminisce the memories, some of which the others were about to bear witness to.

"Where did you go?" Thor asked, piping in at last and making Clint, who was next to him, jump slightly.

"I have a holiday place in Egypt. All of us-" Tony gestured around the sofa he was sitting on- "went for a few weeks," he smirked, "I even managed to persuade May's boss to let her have the weeks off"

May huffed, "Yeah well when Tony Stark walks into your hospital and demands to talk to you, you listen, even if you are the one meant to be in charge." She sounded mildly irritated but the smile on her face betrayed her.

Pepper and May were lounging on beach chairs in swimsuits and chatting with drinks in their hands whilst Peter played in the sand next to them like a toddler with a huge grin on his face. Both women were shooting him fond smiles.

The next one showed them all in the same position except now Tony was in the Background and looked like he was trying to sneak up on Peter with a maniacal grin on his face. Then followed with a picture of Tony standing while Peter clung to him, both smiling widely and in swim shorts.

A video was next. It showed Happy, asleep on a beach chair and Peter sneaking towards him with a bucket and a devious grin. Muffled laughter was heard. "You're recording this right?" Rhodey's voice came. A scoff, "Who do you think I am, of course, I'm recording this" That was definitely Tony. When Peter got close enough, he upturned the bucket over Happy and covered him in the water inside. Happy awoke, spluttering, sitting bolt upright. More laughter was heard and along with Tony and Rhodey, more feminine laughter was mixed in as well as Peter's as he ran away. "What the- why you little- get back here you brat, why I oughta-" Happy leapt off the lounge and chased after Peter who was laughing all the way. The video ended there as the others watched Happy chase Peter around the beach. The laughter travelled out of the video too and the family and Avengers laughed, even Happy chuckled.

"Oh, that was hilarious, you never told me your kid was a prankster Tony," Clint smirked, "Oh the fun we can get into together" He rubbed his hands together and had a mischievous grin on his face. Natasha leaned over and whacked him upside the head.

"I think you mean all the trouble you can get into together. Have you forgotten that you are a grown man Clint?" Nat asked with a raised eyebrow.

"Oh, trust me, Peter gets into enough trouble as it is, especially if Rhodey or Tony is involved, or heaven forbid, all of them." May sighed mockingly and Tony and Rhodey glared at her, just as mockingly.

"Come on! Tony I can understand, but me?" Rhodey spoke over Tony's indignant protest with his own equally indignant protest.

It was Pepper who answered, with a raised eyebrow to match Natasha's, "Yes you too, I know you haven't forgotten when you and Tony had a prank war with Peter"

Rhodey and Tony winced. Happy shuddered, "The garage had to be redone completely"

Nat met Steve's eye and gave him an incredulous look, the best he could give her was a helpless shrug.

Next photo was set in a swimming pool. Pepper was on Tony's shoulders in the pool and May was on Peter's. Pepper and May's hands were interlocked over Peter and Tony's heads. They were all grinning at each other.

"How strong is Peter exactly Tony?" Bruce asked curiously, seeing that Peter had no trouble having May on his shoulders at all.

Tony shrugged, "I did some tests, we found that he can lift about 10 tons so far, but he wasn't really struggling at that point. I wanted to do more but we haven't had the chance yet" 

The Avengers gaped at him.

"10 tons!" Steve spluttered, shocked. Even Natasha was stunned speechless.

The pool now had a net stretched across it and the boys were all playing water volleyball. Tony and Peter on one side, Rhodey and Happy on the other.

"I thought you said he didn't play sports?" Natasha raised an eyebrow over to the other sofa. Tony just shrugged and Rhodey smirked, "Oh he's great at sports, just doesn't often play."

"Actually, since when do any of you play sports anyway?" Clint asked as he also looked over to the group.

This time Happy shrugged but Tony let out a huff, "We play sports occasionally, just not stupid ones, like football. What is the point of that? People just kick a ball around on a field and others watch them as entertainment. What idiots."

"Tony, you do realise you played football in the park with Peter 2 weeks ago" Rhodey turned to him with a laugh. Tony faltered before regaining his composure, "Yeah well, you watched that makes you the idiot." Rhodey spluttered in outrage before shoving Tony slightly and turning back towards the screen where a video was just starting.

 It was the same scene as before and showed the boys playing the game. They were all laughing and joking around, trash talking each other as May and Pepper mumbled and giggled at them in the background. As amusing as listening to the bizarre insults was, things got particularly interesting when Rhodey accidentally hit the ball too high to Peter but instead of it going over his head and counting as out, Peter pushed off the ground with his feet, his arm in the air as he reached to hit the ball. His entire body came out of the water before his fist connected with the ball, spiking it on the other side of the net.

 Silence followed as Peter fell back into the water. Then Tony whooped and laughed before wadding through the water to bring Peter, who was grinning and panting slightly, into an embrace. Rhodey and Happy still watched in stunned silence as the ball floated innocently towards them. Pepper had gone over to the edge of the pool to run a hand through Peter's hair and congratulate, her exclamations of surprise could be heard as May walked closer with the camera, laughing at Rhodey and Happy's faces. The video cut to the laughter and surprise.

"I still think that counts as cheating" Rhodey grumbled, crossing his arms.

"Now now honey-bear, you know he can't control it. You're just bitter because we won almost every time" Tony patted his arm.

Thor had been watching all the proceedings quietly, his loss still weighing heavily on his heart. But watching the teasing and laughter and bright smiles in better days gone by eased the weight, if only slightly. It sparked some of his humour which had laid mostly dormant since Loki had gone. He had always been the one that inspired the jokes and laughs when he wasn't bent on destroying him or the world that is. But still, that's the thing about siblings, it often doesn't really matter what they've done or how much they've hurt you in the end. The bond of siblings is one that is stronger than almost all other bonds in the universes. So, no matter how many tricks Loki has pulled, no matter how many times Thor had to hunt him down and stop another of his plans, no matter how many times he stabbed him, Thor would always love him. It didn't make it any easier the fact that Loki had finally been accepting their bond after long last when Thanos attacked. It was like rubbing salt to the wound.

That was why when he saw how looking back on the memories had helped the small family huddled together on the sofa, how it had even helped the other Avengers he decided to stop reliving the destruction of his home and people and start remembering the better times. The times when Loki had looked at him, not in pain and desperation or pain, but with amusement and just a hint of love. He decided to remember and smile, not cry. So, he joined the family who were doing the same.

The holiday pictures ended after some more eventful photos including a sunburn Peter and exasperated Tony smothering him in sun cream, Peter on Rhodey's shoulders in the sea, Peter lifting an outraged Happy out of the water with the other men laughing so hard they had to lean on each other and Peter with May and Pepper with soft drinks in their hands, free arms wrapped around each other.

A video came up next. It was back in the spacious living room of the Tower.

"Tell me why I agreed to this again," Tony was heard grumbling as the camera was adjusted slightly on a table just to the side of the sofas where everyone was sitting in clear view. Rhodey retreated from the camera and flopped down on the other side of Peter, ruffling his hair as he went.

"Because Peter asked" Pepper laughed at him from where she was curled up on the other sofa with May.

"Whatever. Friday, just get on with it" Tony didn't let up his grumbling.

"What did you get dragged into doing?" Thor asked Tony curiously.

"Not just me. Karaoke night" Tony still didn't sound particularly happy about it and from the quiet sniggers coming from the others, they had picked up on it too. "Though I didn't know it was being filmed," Tony stared pointedly at Rhodey who just shrugged. "It wasn't, I just filmed you."

Tony floundered in outrage.

"You've got a friend in me," Friday said.

Tony onscreen pulled a face, "From Toy Story? What the hell? Where did this come from?"

"Probably because you told Friday to only pick ‘kid friendly' songs because Peter was going to be there," May said laughing at Tony's scowl.

"When I said, ‘kid friendly' I didn't mean for babies."

Peter rolled his eyes, "I go to high school dad, I have heard worse than what you try to censor from you and Uncle Rhodey."

The Avengers turn to look at Rhodey who is grinning. They had known about Tony being called dad but hadn't known about Rhodey's new title too.

"I don't even want to know what you hear. You should not be hearing it anyway" Tony grimaced.

"Well, regardless of what Peter hears, you still have to get up there and sing ‘You've got a friend in me'" Rhodey interrupted.

Happy walked in at that moment with bags of popcorn and smirked, "Oh, this should be good. Looks like I came just in time for the show" He handed Pepper and May a bag and two bags to the Peter, Tony and Rhodey before taking the last bag and sitting in the armchair.

"Doesn't that make me Woody though?" Tony asked, "He gets abandoned for a while, replaced by the shiny new Buzz."

"If it makes you feel any better, I'll never replace you," Peter promised. The ladies cooed softly.

"Really? Not even if Captain America would walk in right now?" Tony raised an eyebrow at him.

The Avengers once again turned to look at the group, but Tony only shrugged and didn't take his eyes off the screen.

Peter scowled, "If Captain America came in right now, I would punch him in the face, not replace you with him." Steve winced, he probably deserved that.

"Yeah," Rhodey mumbled seeing Steve's wince, "Peter wasn't the greatest Captain America fan after Germany. We had to basically stop him from hunting you down himself when he found out what you did after. He would have done it too." Steve looked away.

"Here here Pete, and don't hold back like you always do, really give it to him" Rhodey onscreen added while Tony's mouth fell open.

"I approve," Happy said simply before putting more popcorn in his mouth, quiet anger and pride simmering in his gaze.

"May, Pepper, are you listening to this? Aren't you going to say anything?" Tony asked shocked.

"Oh, I have something to say alright, Peter I'm buying you an extra packet of gummy worms next time I go shopping," May told him, which just made Tony flounder even more, "Well done." May looked angry, but not at Peter. Like Happy, her anger seemed to be directed at a certain shield-wielding former national hero.

"Good call Peter, I won't stop you" Pepper added with an approving nod. Peter grinned at them.

"Yeah, well I would. Peter, you are not punching Steve Rogers" Tony said, snapping out of his shock.

Peter pouted- yes, an actual pout- and said, "But he totally deserves it and you couldn't really do anything to stop me, I even have mum and aunt May's permission."

"That doesn't matter, you can't get into a fight with Captain America"

"It wouldn't be the first time, though if I knew what he would do after that, I would have punched him harder" Peter's scowl was back.

Sensing the tension in the room, Tony told Friday to skip a bit. Friday seemed to get his message as when the video started playing again, both Peter and Tony were blushing while the others were laughing, no trace of the earlier conversation visible.

"Well get on then," Happy finally said, "Show us that excellent singing voice Tony"

"What excellent singing voice? I expect you to sound like a dying cat" May chortled.

"You'll be surprised. Once he was trying to land a girl who was really into music and all that and he sang to get to her," Rhodey regaled them.

"Really," May smirked over at Tony.

"Oh yeah, in 2006. Her name was Melinda Voyer she was quite popular at the time," Peter stated matter-of-factly. They all stared at him.

"Uh, kid. How do you know that?" Tony asked him warily.

Peter grinned, "You forget that I'm your biggest fan."

"That's so sweet," Bruce said quietly, and Natasha leaned into him more. Tony looked away, abashed.

A serene silence had befallen them until Happy broke it again demanding that Tony finally get up and sing and to stop trying to get out of it. Tony finally got up, grumbling all the way after passing his popcorn bag to Peter.

"Friday, skip this" Tony said suddenly, ignoring the groans of the others who had been looking forward to listening to Tony sing.

"Nope, there is no way we are watching it, living it was enough" Tony didn't budge.

"I have a question though," Clint smirked, "Were you really surprised May, or was it what you had expected?"

"You know, it was actually surprising. Turns out Tony really is good at basically everything," May said with an amused look.

"Except making a salad," Happy snorted.

 Tony scowled, "I thought we were over that now"

"We will never be over that," Pepper laughed at him.

"How can you fail at making a salad?" Thor asked confused.

Rhodey sniggered, "You should ask Tony"

"Oh, for the love of- it was an accident!" Tony huffed, exasperated.

Another picture filled the screen. It was set in the penthouse, in the kitchen. Pepper, Tony, May, Rhodey and Happy were all sitting around the table, eating. May and Pepper were laughing at something and Rhodey was in a hilarious position of being caught with a huge mouthful of spaghetti half out of his mouth as he tries to suck it in. Peter was at the bottom of the screen, grinning. The picture was obviously a selfie Peter took and tried to get the whole family in. The next one showed that he had gotten every one’s attention as they were all looking at the camera and smiling widely, Rhodey had even wiped away the remnants of tomato sauce from his face.

“Ah, family dinner nights,” Rhodey sighed mockingly.

“What fun they were,” Happy added on with a smile.

“Were they not fun then?” Natasha asked curiously.

“Oh no, they were amazing. Every Friday night we would all come together for a meal and catch up because sometimes we get caught up in our own lives,” Pepper explained.

“Then Saturday nights would be game night.” Just as May finished speaking, the next picture came on and it was of said game night. They were all sitting round a monopoly board, half of them looked like they were arguing, and the other half was laughing. The next one was of Happy slumped over, sulking and Rhodey looked seconds away from flipping the board over while Tony laughed at him and Peter grinned at them both. Finally, it showed Pepper standing triumphantly over the board as Peter collapsed at her feet and Tony lay on the ground, facing the ceiling with an arm thrown over his eyes.

“Yeah, that particular game lasted 2 weeks. And I’m not just talking 2 Saturday nights. It lasted 14 days because everyone wanted to keep playing to see the outcome.” Rhodey groaned, “I don’t see why though, Pepper always wins monopoly.” Pepper smiled smugly.

“Hey, I win sometimes! I did run a multi-billion-dollar company myself for a while you know,” Tony protested.

Happy snorted, “Sure you did.”

“Peter would back me up,” Tony muttered huffily “He knows a freaky amount of my life.”

“Yeah, but he also basically worships the ground you walk on, he wouldn’t go against you,” Rhodey said.

May winced, “Have you really forgotten the many, many times Peter went against Tony’s express orders? Or their arguments?”

Rhodey winced too, “Oh yeah, so maybe he would then.”

The next picture was obviously Christmas if the obnoxious decorations were anything to go by. Peter decked out in a lighting up Christmas jumper and covered in tinsel may also have helped. He was grinning and appeared to be trying to force a medal onto Tony's head. The others were also in the living room with them and were laughing at Tony.

"Ah, the medal," Rhodey said with a smirk in Tony's direction.

"The… medal?" Bruce asked frowning at them.

"Tony told Peter as a joke that he deserved a medal. Peter promised he would get him one, and he did" Happy explained with a small smile.

"You forgot to say that it was the most ridiculous medal ever made! I don't even know where the kid got something like that!"

"Oh, he searched everywhere for it," May leaned over Pepper to poke Tony, "And you secretly loved it."

"That's because he loves everything Peter gets him, not because of the medal itself," Rhodey shoved Tony away as he leaned into him to escape May's prodding.

A picture came up next of all 6 of them, Tony, Peter, Pepper, Rhodey, May and Happy together on the sofa, curled up in fluffy pyjamas and drinking from large mugs of hot chocolate from the mountain of marshmallows seen in half the mugs and the milky moustache Peter was sporting.

"Ooh, hot chocolate. Were they flavours? Peppermint? That’s christmassy" Clint asked.

The group seemed to wince simultaneously. "Ah, no," Tony said with a grimace, "Peter has bad reactions to peppermint. It is toxic to spiders and it got passed to him." The Avengers blinked at them.

"I'm guessing that there was an incident that revealed that to you," Natasha said quietly. They seemed to wince again.

"Yeah, a particularly memorable incident for all the wrong reasons." May sighed.

"Peppermint was banned from the penthouse after that" Pepper added. It was quiet for a while after that. Pictures flickered by, comments being made, and laughs being shared when Friday interrupted.

"Boss, the suit is ready"

Chapter Text

Chapter 14

"What do you mean I'm not going, of course I'm going" Tony thundered.

"I meant exactly what I said. You're not going, Tony. Have you forgotten that you got stabbed through recently? If you go you risk reopening the wound, and with it that big, it is a risk too great to ignore. It's a miracle you survived last time," Bruce told him firmly. Tony may be stubborn, but Bruce wasn't budging on this one. He was worried about his friend. He hadn't had enough time to fully recover yet and another fight with Thanos in his state would only end in disaster, no matter how upgraded his suit was. Bruce shuddered thing how Tony's mindset could also end up killing him if he faced Thanos now.

"He's right Tony," Steve stepped in, "You can't fight and survive with a gaping wound. It would be better if you stayed here."

"No, I need to get out there and get back at Thanos so we can end this bloody nightmare and I can get my kid back."

"It will do Peter no good if he comes back only to learn that you died," Steve told him angrily, "He would be heartbroken and if he's anything like you he would probably do something reckless and get himself hurt." Tony went quiet. Steve's eyes softened, "Look, we're not saying you don't get to fight him, but this time it would be best if you stayed behind. It's just a get in and get out mission after all. There will be another chance."

After Friday had told him the suit was ready, Tony was off the sofa and in his lab working through the footage and energy signatures he was exposed to in the fight. He was able to locate it easily enough, he is Tony Stark after all, and all-powerful stones give off pretty distinct signatures especially when their power hit you point blank. It then took slightly longer for him to be able to triangulate where the source was. He told the team and they started working on a plan to get a stone, one stone should be enough he had said. Unfortunately, that led them to where they are now, with Tony insisting to go and the others shooting him down entirely.

It was to no one's surprise that Tony did not end up going on the mission. He had been mostly stubbornly set on going until May had marched into the meeting room and dragged Tony out to talk to him. When they returned, with Pepper in tow, May had announced that Tony wouldn't be going and Tony just crossed his arms and scowled but didn't say anything to protest. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief.

Before Steve had boarded the ship Tony and Nebula had brought to Earth, he had turned and hugged Tony, ignoring his slight flinch. He smiled softly when he returned it. If something happened to him, he could go easier knowing that he and Tony weren't on the same rocky ground they had been on for over a year. Their once strong friendship was on the mend again and Steve was grateful for their talk in the lab, Steve was happy he got the chance to apologise properly.

Steve looked around at his team on the ship as Nebula and Rocket started it up. Thor, Natasha, Clint even Bruce were all looking steely and determined. They had called up Scott who had been spending the last few days on a different floor with his daughter. They had both needed this time together and everyone was all too pleased to give it to them, especially Tony who hadn't hesitated to tell them that if they wanted anything, to just tell him. He had suited up, and with a last goodbye to Cassie, had boarded the ship.

They were ready for this, Steve was sure. They would not lose. Not again. Never again.


 

Tony was pacing again. Rhodey sighed before heaving himself off the sofa and towards Tony. He gently grabbed his arm and led him to the couch in the lab. Tony struggled at first but eventually conceded and slumped down on the sofa. Rhodey sat back next to him, rubbing his back gently.

"It'll be fine Tony," Rhodey reassured him softly, "You know them, they're a team to be reckoned with. They will win."

Tony snorted bitterly, "Yeah, because it worked out so well last time."

"Things are different this time." Tony raised a disbelieving eyebrow as if to say ‘how?'. Rhodey had been fluent in Tony-language for decades.

"Well firstly, they have the element of surprise. Thanos doesn't expect them to recover and be on the hunt for him so soon, let alone be able to find him or be stupid enough to try. Secondly, they are fighting to get back what they lost. We didn't know or realise what was at risk last time. This time, it has happened, and their broken hearts will work in their favour. Desperation is often one of the best motivators. Kinda like Afghanistan."

Usually Tony would flinch at the reminder of a time he would love to forget, but he was too tired and keyed up and had experienced stuff worse than that now. "I guess so," Tony reluctantly agreed with Rhodey's speech. He was right though, desperation was often a key motivator. He had been attacked by enough desperate people to know that and what they can do. And the desperation, determination and raw power that the team had… yeah, they might just be able to do it.

Tony drummed his fingers onto his knee. Then his leg started jiggling, up and down. Then he was shifting around. Eventually, he just got up.

"No more pacing," Rhodey told him with a glare, "It's fraying on my nerves even more."

"I knew you were nervous as well," Tony smiled slightly. Rhodey rolled his eyes.

Tony didn't start pacing again. he went to his workstation instead and started typing up a code. Then he started working on a new weapon, a powerful one. Then he ran upgrades to his suit and went over nanobot statistics from the data collected from the last suit. He was doing a lot. At the same time. Multitasking was one of Tony Stark's many talents. But he did wonder how it relaxed him so much, working to forget his problems hadn't worked for a while, the job of helping him forget would usually fall to –

Tony hadn't even recognised the chatter filling the lab. Familiar, hyperactive chatter from a certain hyperactive ball of sunshine. Peter's voice had filled the lab. And Tony hadn't really realised it, so used to having Peter nattering on in his ear about his day or a new project he was working on. It was a tactic he often used when he picked up on the fact that Tony was having a bad day and wanted to forget. He would talk about all the mundane things he could think of.

Tony turned abruptly. Rhodey was smiling softly, his phone held up, "So, it helped did it? I knew it would."

Tony stared at him. Tony recognised this conversation, it was one from 2 months ago when Peter was having a Decathlon competition and was nervous so babbled and rambled to Tony for three hours straight. Rhodey had started playing the audio. Tony really loved his brother. "Thank you," He breathed.

"Anytime," Rhodey said back, just as softly, "Besides, I like listening to his rambling as well. It's soothing somehow."

"I know what you mean," Tony replied. Tony turned back to his work, his jittery nerves being smoothed over as his kid's voice washed over him and trying to ignore the ache in his side. Tony immersed himself in his work and hardly noticed time passing by until the doors to the lab opened and Pepper, May and Happy walked him all holding an assortment of food. They went over to the designated snack table to deposit the food there. There had to be a snack table in the lab with Peter's metabolism and Tony's unhealthy habit of not leaving the lab for days without even taking a break to eat or sleep.

Tony turned to face Rhodey again only to find him asleep on the couch he had left him on. Tony couldn't help the swell of affection for his best friend who was obviously tired but refused to leave him on his own. Rhodey snorted awake as Pepper walked over to shake him.

"We brought food," Happy said and Tony rolled his eyes at him stating the obvious. Happy glared at him.

"You both have been down here for hours, we thought you might be in need of food" May added on.

Rhodey got up to walk over to the table and Tony made to get up off his chair before falling back into it with a hiss. The others glanced sharply at him in worry and rushed over to him, entirely ignoring his attempts to brush them off.

"Are you okay?" Pepper asked worriedly

"I'm fine," Tony waved her off. They glared at him. "What?" he asked defensively.

"Forgive us if we don't believe your version of ‘being OK'" Happy retorted.

"Did Bruce check on the wound?" May asked next, ever the practical nurse.

"Yeah, he checked before he left"

"When was the last time you took your medicine?" Rhodey this time. Tony was getting claustrophobic from all the mother-henning.

"I don't know," Tony sighed running a hand through his hair, "Yesterday?"

May immediately left the room as Rhodey helped Tony up and to the table while Pepper and Happy brought chairs around. May came back, as they all sat down, with Tony's medicine and a glass of water. She placed them down in front of him and stared at him pointedly. Tony sighed before downing them all. It was only after he finished that she too her seat with a satisfied look. A small smile played at the edges of Tony's lips. Their mother-henning might be overwhelming at times but it was appreciated. And besides, it was better than not being cared for at all. Unfortunately, Tony knew how that felt as well.

They all tucked into the food, conversations taking place but more subdued than normal with the loudest member not present and the looming threat and worry over their teammates. After they were done and cleaned up, they decided to go to bed since it was so late. Pepper took Tony by and led him to bed with her. Tony thought about protesting and going back to work, he couldn't be lazing about while the others fought for the lives of half the universe, but he was tired and emotionally drained, and his side was starting to hurt again so he got changed and crawled into bed beside Pepper. Pepper turned and curled into his arms, tucking her head beneath his chin.

"I miss him," Pepper whispered into the dark of the room, her voice watery. Tony tightened his arms around her and swallowed past the sudden lump in his throat.

"So, do I Pep, so do I. We'll get him back, don't worry. We'll get them all back. The purple grape doesn't stand a chance against us," Tony blinked back tears and worked to comfort Pepper who had comforted him when he first came crashing to earth and needed to cry his heart out and rant until his voice had gone hoarse.

"I know you will," Pepper said turning her face into his chest. Her absolute, desperate trust in him and the others was overwhelming, but Tony didn't feel it as a pressure weighing him down as the expectations of others did. He knew that he didn't have to pretend to be or do anything with Pepper, the same with Rhodey, Happy, May and Peter. They were his family and he trusted them unconditionally, just like he knew they trusted him. It wasn't overwhelming in the sense that he felt that he could do no wrong or else their opinions on him would change, they've seen him at some of is worst times after all, but instead, their trust helped to raise his spirits. Knowing that people believed in you, even when you mess up time and time again, is one of the most uplifting things Tony has ever experienced. He knows they won't stop believing in him if he messes up and without that pressure that he was so used to having for most of his life, he felt more free and able. He would get them back, single-handedly if needed, but he knows it won't be. He knows he won't be doing this on his own.

Chapter Text

Chapter 15

In the end, the team was back in about a week. It had seemed like forever to Tony who had conjured up every possible scenario for what could go wrong. It had also been a very productive week, after all, Tony had nothing else to occupy his thoughts and lead them away from the disaster scenarios except Peter and constantly working. Tony had managed to complete enough projects that would have taken a team, months, but then again, he had always been the best. He had finished making Bruce's Hulk clothes and finalised planes and finished weapons.

 As soon as the ship breached Earth's atmosphere Tony got an alert and was ready. More scenarios were rushing through his mind as he waited, of how he would find the team. Would any of them be missing? Hurt? Would the ship just be empty and returning to where it was programmed to go back to? Filled with corpses?

The team stumbled out of the ship looking exhausted and dirty but alive and that was the important thing. Clint was limping a bit and Nat seemed to be favouring her left side, Nebula also looked to have part of her arm torn off but that was as worse as it got. Tony finally breathed a sigh of relief and felt as if a burden had been lifted. He ushered them inside and after they all received medical attention, and Tony helped Nebula fix her arm, they gathered in the briefing room.

"So?" Tony asked nervously, "How did it go? Did you get one?" Steve smiled slightly and nodded. Thor placed down a stone on the table. It was small, it could fit in the palm of Tony's hand, and it glowed red.

"The Reality stone," Tony muttered leaning closer. It seemed to call to him, it had a soothing feel though it made no noise.

"Be careful Stark, don't touch it. Only beings of immense power can hold it. It would cause your feeble mortal body to disintegrate." Thor warned. But Tony was only half listening, the stone still calling to him. He quickly snatched it up before anyone could stop him, ignoring the gasps of horror and cries of alarm that went around. The Avengers watched in horror, but nothing happened. Tony turned the stone over and inspected it closely.

"I don't- I don't understand. How is it that you can hold it?" Thor asked in shock.

Tony finally looked up and smirked, "Guess I'm just worthy," He joked. But Thor nodded solemnly, "Indeed you are my friend, for no other mortal being could hold an Infinity Stone as you do." The Avengers all blinked in shock.

Suddenly there was a gasp and they turned to Scott who looked immensely freaked out, but he just pointed at something behind them. They all turned quickly to see the outline of a figure forming. The figure quickly took shape and Tony let out a pained gasp when he saw who it was, for Peter stood before him the way he had on Titan, in the Iron Spider suit with his hair adorably ruffled. He was staring at his hands in wonder. Then he looked up and made eye contact with Tony. A beaming grin broke out over his face.

"Dad!" He said as he ran forward into Tony's chest and wrapped his arms around him. Tony slowly raised his arms to wrap around him back, still in shock and confused.

"Peter?" He whispered, hesitantly. He felt solid underneath his arms and he tightened his hold on him. "Oh, my – Peter!" He buried his face in the curls he missed more than anything, shakily inhaling Peter's scent, traces of his apple shampoo filtering through.

Suddenly he felt an overwhelming need to see his face, to feel that he was actually here with him. So, he did. He pulled back reluctantly and cradled Peter's face in his hands. "How?" He choked out, "How are you here?"

Peter smiled up at him, "You have the Reality stone dad. You control it, so in theory, you control reality. It must have latched on to what you wished you had ‘in reality' and reflected it."

"Reflected?" Tony asked, "You mean you're not really here?" Tony wasn't sure if he could take the heartbreak.

Peter's smile turned sad, "I am here, but I'm not at the same time. I'm still locked in the soul stone like everyone else- yes don't worry we're all fine- but I'm also here with you too. I don't really know how it works, chemistry has always been my strong point, not physics. Though this does defy the laws of physics too" Peter had a look of contemplation on his face and a small smile graced Tony's. he had seen that look often in the lab when working on something new. "Kind of like the Captain's shield" Peter continued; his gaze turned to Steve.

Steve shifted uncomfortably under the weight of his stare. It was completely blank, so unlike the pictures he had seen of him when his eyes were full of life and laughter. They didn't even have any hate or anger in them but somehow, them being blank was worse.

Tony noticed where Peter's eyes were focused on and Steve's uncomfortable stance and decided he needed to break the tension. "Hey, kid, it's alright. Cap and I are fine now, we talked things through so you can stop sending him death glares. He didn't hurt me," Tony added softer. Peter's gaze turned to him.

"Oh, I know he didn't hurt you, or he wouldn't be here right now," Peter said.

Tony's brows furrowed, "What do you mean?"

"You don't honestly think I left you here unprotected dad"

"Unprotec- I am not helpless if you haven't noticed," Tony spluttered indignantly.

"Oh, I've noticed. I just left some little presents if Captain America ever decided to try and hurt you again, whether it be with words or not." He narrowed his eyes, just the slightest bit in Steve's direction. Just then the door to the briefing room opened, just in time too.

"Hey guys, I heard you arrived. Thank you so much for telling me, or conveniently forgetting to by the way Ton-" Rhodey pulled up short, his jaw dropping at who he saw in Tony's arms.

"Peter?" He whispered, not daring to hope. Peter smiled and waved, "Hey Uncle Rhodey."

He didn't have to say anymore. Rhodey flew across the room and tackled Peter into a hug. "How is this possible?" Rhodey asked incredulously.

"Tony held, and now apparently controls the Reality stone," Clint said, sounding slightly incredulous himself.

"Thanos now doesn't have all of the stone, his grip on the Soul stone has loosened," Peter told them all.

"What's it like? In the Soul stone?" Bruce asked tentatively. Rhodey sat at the table, still dazed and Tony sat back down in his seat. Peter flopped down on his lap and Tony's arms wrapped around him like they had done this many times before.

Peter grinned, "It's not that bad. We don't need food or drink or anything, we are just kind of there."

"We?" Steve asked hesitantly, he didn't want to become the focus of Peter's ire again, but he had to make sure that Bucky was okay. Surprisingly though, Peter's eyes softened when they landed on him.

"Yeah, we. Everyone who disappeared is there. Bucky is fine, so are Sam, Wanda, the guardians, Doctor Strange, though he seems to be really exasperated and annoyed with us half the time." Peter's gaze swept across the room until they landed on Rocket who opened his mouth as if to say something, but Peter beat him to it, "Yeah, Groot is fine too" Peter grinned, "He was some really creative insults you know."

Rocket breathed a sigh of relief and smiled, "Oh, I know." Then he frowned, “Wait, you can understand him?”

“Sure can.” Peter grinned. Then he flickered blue for a second before it faded.

"Uh, what was that?" Natasha asked warily.

Peter grimaced, "The Space stone is getting involved. It's not right for someone to be 2 places at once. The three stones are all fighting with each other."

Tony tightened his hold on Peter. "You're leaving?" He asked desperately and Peter turned to him sadly. "I never had much time in the first place, I knew that from the start. You need to beat Thanos to get us back, to free us completely from the Soul Stone. You can do it, I believe in you." Peter flickered again, "You can call me back if you want, just not straight after I go or it won't work. Let the stones settle first." Peter grinned, "I should be going back soon anyway, the others will be worried that I vanished suddenly."

Peter got up from Tony's lap, kissed his cheek and went to stand where he had appeared. He waved at them as he faded with a “See you later dad. Bye Uncle Rhodey”. He was almost gone when Tony swore he heard him say, "For the last time, no I cannot turn into a spider Sam."

While Tony's heart felt like it was breaking all over again, he felt some hope in the fact that he could see Peter again and that he was okay. Not just okay it seemed, but apparently, he had made some new friends too.

Tony felt a hand on his shoulder and looked up to see Bruce standing there with a sympathetic look on his face. "He seemed like a lovely boy, Tony," Bruce told him with a soft smile. Tony smiled back, "Yeah, he is."

"But wow, the kid has a protective streak in him the size of yours Tony," Clint whistled leaning back in his chair.

Rhodey grinned, "Oh, you have no idea. Tony once said something self-deprecating in front of him and, I kid you not, the kid made Tony sit through a full-on presentation about how amazing he is and all he does to help people. It ended with Tony crying like a wimp, though it was, admittedly, a very good presentation. I asked him later why he did it and he just shrugged and said, ‘I don't like people saying bad things about my family, even if they are talking about themselves'. This also excludes the time Peter almost got into a fight at school because someone was slagging Tony off and wouldn’t stop."

Somehow Steve wasn't surprised by any of that. He had seen first-hand how protective of Tony he was, and it wasn't new to him that Peter didn't like him much after the karaoke video, but it was still kind of scary. He definitely did not want to get on his bad side again and wanted to get off it as soon as possible. A kid with the genius of Tony and superpowers? Yeah, that was not someone you wanted to mess with, no matter how sweet they seem. And he really didn't want to find out what it was that Peter had left him if he attempted to hurt Tony. Not that he had been planning to before, he had done enough of that to last a lifetime.

"You control the Reality Stone now Tones, that is a huge advantage to us," Rhodey finally tore his eyes from where Peter disappeared to start thinking things through logically.

"Thanos will come for us. He's not going to take this lightly" Natasha added, face grim.

"Oh, he's going to come and we're going to fight, but we can't let that happen here. New York has too many people and not enough space. Many innocents would get caught in the crossfire." Tony frowned. He knew everyone else would also be thinking of the casualty rates after the battle of New York. They couldn't let that happen again.

"Wakanda," Steve said getting up. "We'll go back to Wakanda. They have the space, weapons and warriors."

"I also know for a fact that Shuri wants to get back at Thanos. She will be very happy about us leading him right to her," Rhodey said, remembering his trip to Wakanda just last week and the temporary queen's fury.

Tony nodded, "Wakanda it is then. Pack your stuff, we leave tomorrow morning." He then stood and walked out. The others followed him out and separated to go to their own places, whether it be rooms or floors.

One of the first things Tony did was seek out Pepper, he needed to tell her what had happened. He knew Rhodey would follow him which comforted him slightly, it would make it slightly easier. He was still shaking from what had happened. He found Pepper and May in the living room talking together. He all but collapsed on the opposite sofa.

"How did it go?" Pepper asked. Tony groaned. Rhodey entered the room, Happy in tow, and answered the question for him, "We leave for Wakanda tomorrow. Thanos will come for us there and we will be ready for him." Rhodey paused, "But I don't think that is what has him so worked up."

"Then what is it?" May asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Peter" Tony muttered, loud enough for everyone in the room to hear. Happy, Pepper and May all stiffened.

"What?" Happy asked softly.

"Tony here found himself controlling the Reality Stone. So, reality as a whole apparently. He also apparently wished Peter was there so apparently reality bent to his whim and Peter appeared"

"That's a lot of apparentlys Rhodey, sure you don't want to tack another one on at the end?" Tony snarked halfheartedly.

"Apparently." Rhodey deadpanned, "I'm still trying to wrap my head around it." Tony didn't blame him. He was still trying to wrap his head around it as well.

"What?" May breathed, "What do you mean Peter appeared?"

"Where is he now?" Pepper asked looking around as if Peter would just walk in at any moment.

"Peter appeared and talked to us but had to go back to the Soul Stone. Something about being unable to be two places at once and 3 Stones fighting," Tony answered both questions.

"Oh," Pepper sounded disappointed. Her face falling, along with May's. He couldn't bear that look.

"He said I can call him back, but to wait a while after he goes so it works. Tonight should work," Tony told them trying to cheer them up. It worked. Hopeful smiles made their ways onto their faces, even Happy looked like he was looking forward to it, but with the man's obvious soft spot for Peter, that was to be expected.

And indeed, that night Tony called Peter back and there were many hugs and tears, smiles and laughter in the few minutes they got but it did wonders to boost their motivation and hope. They would definitely succeed. How could they not when they knew what they were fighting for.

Chapter Text

Chapter 16

Tony scowled at his reflection in the mirror. They hadn’t even been in Wakanda a day and the arguing had already started. As they expected, they were welcomed with open arms. The princess, or queen at the moment, was actually a genius and Tony felt a pang in his chest at the thought that her and Peter would have gotten on great. Shuri was ready to go at Thanos guns blazing, holding nothing back, but she was also looking out for her country, overseeing aid for people and helping in reconstruction. She genuinely had their best interest in mind. She was a great ruler, but she was still only a teenager, a teenager who just had her brother ripped from her and now had to fill in his shoes. It made Tony all the more hateful towards Thanos.

They had had a meeting discussing how to proceed. Shuri had worked with Bruce and Tony in designing new weapons and tech, improving on both her and their designs. Her quick wit and humour had reminded him of another eager teenager he knew. But though she through jokes and sarcastic remarks around, Tony could see the sadness and despair left behind after her brother had disappeared, he could also see it fuelling her and for that her admired her all the more.

They had had everything almost completely planned out when the topic of Tony’s presence in the fight came up. Almost all were against him joining, Tony scowled at the memory. He knew they had his best interest at heart, but nothing was going to stop him from getting his revenge on Thanos and getting his kid back.

“Tony, you were literally stabbed a week ago!” Steve had cried exasperated.

“Shuri helped with that, I’m almost good as new” Tony had responded with a wave of his hand.

“Yeah, key word being ‘almost’” Clint said. Clint and Tony had bonded over the past few days, Tony’s newly uncovered parenthood finally giving them something in common other than being on the same world-saving team. They had spent a good few hours bemoaning all the ridiculous things that their kids did which was an unexpected stress-reliever on the flight over to Wakanda and made for some funny stories. But a result was that Clint had become protective over Tony and his well being, which would have been nice except that it made him a strong advocate for Tony not joining the fight.

“Tony,” Bruce began softly, and Tony knew that whatever he said wouldn’t be good. He was using his ‘doctor voice’, the one he used when delivering bad news and hoped to soften the blow. “I’ve noticed how you hold on to your left arm when you’re stressed.”

Tony shifted uncomfortably in his seat, not liking where this was going or the fact that Bruce had picked up on it. The only other person to notice had been Peter and the kid was always scarily observant when he wanted to be. “It’s just a nervous tick, that’s all,” Tony didn’t even feel all that comfortable telling them that, but he wanted to get them off his case. But Bruce gave him a sympathetic smile that almost covered his small wince. Almost.

“Tony-” Bruce paused before taking a deep breath and pushing through, “It’s a symptom of coronary heart disease.” The world seemed to freeze around him; he barely noticed the others gasps.

“What?” Tony breathed.

“I think you have Coronary heart disease,” Bruce repeated, “And probably other heart problems too, which we can find out if we do some tests. But anyway, what I’m trying to say is that, I don’t think your heart can take this fight if you go through with it. Another hit like you suffered last time and that would be the end. You wouldn’t survive it.”

No one said anything as it sunk in for all of them. “You can’t do it Tony,” Natasha said quietly.

 But Tony just looked up and determination hardened his eyes. “I’m going to fight. I’m going into that fight and I’m walking out with Thanos’ head and a kid by my side. And nothing you can say will stop me.” And with that he got up from the table and went to his room.

Which brings him back to the present. He knew Rhodey was going to find him in a few minutes and try to talk him out of it, probably try and use Peter as leverage to sway him too, but Tony was ready for it and nothing was going to stop him. For that reason, he also wasn’t going to summon Peter again just yet. Knowing him he would also try to talk him out of it if he found out what Tony just did, and Tony wasn’t sure his will could stand against Peter’s teary-eyed pleading, he could already imagine it ‘I don’t want to lose you dad, I can’t’ Peter would tell him, clutching him close. He shook his head, trying to shake the image away with it. He can’t think about that now.

Tony turned his face the other way again, just staring at himself. He had developed more creases on his face, ones that Peter would teasingly call wrinkles (followed by calling him ‘old man’), which was more or less what they were. He could see the beginnings of a few white hairs starting. He had scars and his left arm was beginning to throb again. He had a bone deep exhaustion and his side ached with the reminder of the wound. He could feel what the years had done to him and he knew that what Bruce said was right. He wouldn’t be able to survive another hit like that again, but he couldn’t let that stop him. If his life would be the price for the lives of millions of others, then so be it. He would willingly trade his life a million times over for Peter alone.

Just as he had predicted, Rhodey did arrive and he did pull the Peter card, but Tony didn’t budge. He didn’t budge when the others stopped by, one after the other, taking their turn to try and change his mind, even Scott gave it a shot. Clint almost got down on his knees begging and Natasha almost punched him. In fact he was kind of worried at this point that they were just going to drug him and lock him in some high security closet so he couldn’t follow them out and join the fight.

Steve came in last and after a bout of arguing Tony finally said, “You’re going into that fight for Bucky, right? Sure, for the universe as well but mainly Bucky, he’s going to be at the forefront of your mind, right? What you’re fighting for?” Steve nodded, not sure where this was going, “Then imagine someone trying to tell you not to go, that you couldn’t fight. How would you feel? What would you do?”

Steve’s shoulders slumped in defeat, “I wouldn’t listen. I would go fight anyway. I would save him or die trying.”

“That’s how I feel. Peter is my kid. My son. I have to save him, or at least try. I can’t sit this fight out Steve, I just can’t” Tony was on the verge of begging him to listen and understand.

Steve sighed and looked up with a defeated smile, “I understand Tony.” Then he drew him in for a hug. “We’re just worried about you. We don’t want to lose you.” A couple of months ago, hell a couple of weeks ago and Tony wouldn’t have believed it, he would have brushed it off but now, now he knew how true that was. His arms tightened around Steve, “I know. But I have to do this.”

Steve pulled back, “I know,” He echoed. Tony smiled back.


 

Tony should have expected Rhodey to get Pepper and May on his case. They both phoned him together that night but they, like the others, failed at getting him to change his mind. He told them the same thing he told the others and they reluctantly understood most of his points. That didn’t stop them from telling him that they were flying over to Wakanda first thing tomorrow. Tony only hoped that the fight was over before they arrived, but just in case he didn’t make it, he said his goodbyes there, not that either one of them allowed themselves to believe that that was what it was.


 

“Well, I was right,” Bruce said looking at his vitals. Tony snorted from the medical table he was forced on to. He felt a little like a lab experiment, all spread out on the table with wires attacked to his chest and scans being done. “You do have more heart problems than just CHD, which you also have by the way.”

Tony shrugged, “Everyone and their mother know I have heart problems. My kidnapping in Afghanistan was broadcasted on just about every channel in America, if not the world itself.”

“Well, did you know that you also have liver problems?” Bruce quirked an eyebrow.

Tony snorted, “You know my past Bruce. I started drinking at 16 and didn’t quit for about 20 years. I knew that would have consequences.”

“What about your kidneys?”

“I’ve been in a lot of fights if you haven’t noticed. I am Iron man; I get kicked a surprising amount of times. I’m sure the drinking didn’t help either.”

“What about the state of your lungs?”

“I had a stint with smoking and drugs as well. I expected it all,” Tony wasn’t fazed by the confirmation that most of his organs were close to shutting themselves down.

He had figured all this out years ago. He hadn’t cared, in his early years, what happened to him or the state his body would be in. He hadn’t really cared if he died doing it either, mainly because there wasn’t anyone who would care if he didn’t survive. But then he met Rhodey and after a couple of scares where he overdid it with the alcohol and almost suffered with overdose, he realized how much Rhodey genuinely cared for him and it would matter to him if he didn’t make it. It was enough to make him dial it back a bit but not completely stop. Then he was practically adopted by the Rhodes. Then Pepper and Happy came along and he got slightly better with his drinking, he had not as much as he used to have but still too much. It wasn’t until Peter came along that Tony actually stopped regularly drinking.

Vodka or even Scotch weren’t his go-to drink anymore when he was going through a hard time. Instead he would drink hot chocolate with his kid, buried under a mountain of blankets, snuggling together while a movie played on the TV. Oh, the changes this kid unknowingly brought.

“All of what I just said, everything we’ve confirmed about your body, and you don’t care?” Bruce asked incredulous.

“I care Bruce, believe me, I care,” Tony sighed. Peter is going to be heartbroken when he finds out. That alone makes him regret all those careless years more than his failing organs ever would.

“But you’re still going to fight,” Bruce sounded resigned and Tony felt sorry for putting even more stress on his teammates than was necessary.

“I have to fight this one Bruce. Thanos made it personal.” Bruce just nodded and gave him an understanding half smile. Tony smiled back before taking the wires off his chest and getting up from the table.

“You ready to go sour patch?” Tony asked while putting on his shirt. Rhodey had sat in a chair in the corner with his arms crossed for the whole examination. Tony saw his fists clench and his jaw tick when Bruce listed his problems. Rhodey got up and followed Tony as he walked out the door. He didn’t try to give him another lecture on why he shouldn’t fight tomorrow. Tony was half expecting him to start ranting but he just followed him to his room and finally sat on his bed with a sigh.

“I know there’s nothing I can say to make you change your mind. But I can’t lose you Tony. You’re my best friend, my brother.” Tony went and sat beside him, putting his arm around his shoulders.

“I know. You’re my brother too and I could bear to lose you, I almost died when you fell in the fight. I was terrified that you wouldn’t make it. But you know I have to do this Rhodey.”

“Why don’t you just stay here and talk to Peter while we get them back?”

“Its not just about Peter, Rhodey,” Tony sighed, “Sure, that’s what I’m mainly getting back at Thanos for, but we aren’t the only people who lost someone. I keep thinking about other people who have lost their children because of this. They’ve lost their Peter. Or what about children who lost their parents? Best friends, brothers, sisters. They are all gone. And we have to get them back.”

Rhodey sighed and nodded, wrapping his arms around Tony and hugging him tightly. He buried his face in his hair and prayed that it wouldn’t be the last time and that his stupid, stubborn, self-sacrificing brother walks out of this fight alive. Preferably also with his bright-eyed nephew in tow.

The next morning, Tony and the others who were going to fight went to the battlefield. Steve looked around. It felt like it was years ago that he stood here with Bucky by his side and the universe at stake, and at the same time it felt like just yesterday. Now he stood with rekindled friendships and powerful allies, made stronger by grief and determination. Shuri stood next to him like her brother had only slightly more than a week ago, decked out in weapons of her own creation and Tony and Bruce’s modifications.

Clint was up on one of the nearby tall buildings, ready with his new long range, powerful bow and arrow set that Tony had been working on. Similarly, Nat had the gadgets Tony made for her hidden on her person as she stood by him, ready. Nebula and Rocket stood side by side, waiting for the chance to get their revenge, weapons at the ready. Thor swung his axe menacingly, already almost cackling with lighting. Bruce stood next to Thor in the new fabric suit Tony had synthesised, the Hulk ready to come out when called. Steve didn’t know where Scott was but knew that he had shrunk down and was ready for the fight too.

And finally, next to Steve was Tony. He, unlike the others, did not have his suit on yet but Steve knew that his new suit was locked in the casing in his chest. He walked on a step ahead holding the Reality Stone tightly. He stopped and bowed his head slightly over the stone. The avengers tensed. This was it. And they were ready.

A blue portal suddenly flickered into being on the opposite side of the field and through it was the one being that they all hated the most. Thanos walked through, gauntlet bright on his hand although noticeably missing a certain red stone. The same red stone clutched in the genius’ fist. Thanos looked up at them and smiled, “Ah, I’ve searching for you, you know.” His gaze brushed over them all slowly.

“I’m flattered,” Tony deadpanned, because of course he did. Steve suddenly felt very afraid for him. Tony was stood in nothing but a t-shirt and trousers making sarcastic remarks at the being who wiped out half the universe with a snap of his fingers.

Thanos’ eyes snapped to Tony. “Tony Stark” He said, surprising almost everybody on the field. How did Thanos know Tony? “I thought I had killed you, on Titan. I’m surprised you survived that.”

“You’re not the only one. I’ve been told I’m very surprising” The cold expression on Tony’s face didn’t thaw at all.

“Yes, I can see that. Standing with the people who turned against you, who tried to kill you. Yes, that is very surprising indeed”

Steve flinched and Tony stiffened, “You seem to work very well at uniting people,” His eyes narrowed, “But then again, you were part of the reason why we split in the first place.”

Thanos’ facial expression didn’t change but Steve turned towards Tony in shock, “What do you mean?”

Tony didn’t take his eyes off Thanos and when he spoke it was to him, “You’ve been in my head this past 6 or so years, haven’t you? Since New York.”

“You can’t blame me. The only one who could possibly stand in my way was you. It always was. I had to get you out of the way,” Thanos told him. It shocked everyone who wasn’t Tony, who didn’t move.

“And messing with my mind was the best way to do that?” Tony growled.

“Your mind is the strongest thing about you. Its what makes you powerful,” Thanos stated with just a hint of admiration. “I admire you for it. You have my respect.”

“Your respect and admiration mean nothing to me,” Tony’s scowl deepened.

Thanos studied him for a minute, the tension rising with the others who were getting antsy with the threat just standing right in front of them without attacking.

“Tell me, Tony Stark, why do you still stand here and fight. Why don’t you just enjoy the new balance I have brought to the universe?”

“Balance? Enjoy it?” Tony looked murderous, “You wiped out half the universe. We lost friends and family. You took my kid!”

“Ah, the young spider. What was his name again? Peter wasn’t it?” Thanos smirked. Tony looked like he was ready to attack him… without the suit, looked ready to punch him with his bare fists.

“Don’t you dare talk about him. You don’t deserve to have him as a thought in your twisted mind,” Tony spat at him.

“He fought admirably well; I must admit. You taught him well. He was a wonderful young man, brave and strong and ever so loyal, wasn’t he? Loyal till the end,” Thanos sneered, “In fact, I probably would have taken him on myself if you hadn’t gotten to him first. He would have been such a good son to me.”

At that, Natasha had to hold Rhodey back from attacking and Rocket held back Nebula, her face twisted in disgust and rage at the thought of Thanos taking in the sweet boy she had seen and him being exposed to what she had. Steve gripped Tony’s arm afraid that he would raise to the bait but Tony didn’t move. He did, however, look so frightening that Steve let go at him and begged to never be at the other end of the glare he was giving Thanos. Steve was honestly surprised Thanos didn’t turn to dust himself under that stare. And Tony wasn’t without reason. Even Steve felt a protectiveness rise in him at what Thanos said about Peter, he couldn’t imagine how Tony must feel, or even Rhodey.

“I said,” Tony grit out, “Don’t you dare speak about him. I am going to kill you. You’re not getting anywhere near him ever again”

Thanos laughed, “He’s already dead. I can’t get near him anyway.” Tony flinched back and clutched the Reality Stone harder.

“He isn’t and even if he was, he won’t be for much longer after I pry those stones from your corpse and bring him back myself.” Steve didn’t think he had ever heard Tony say something with that much venom before. But obviously Thanos had a death wish.

“I am a hundred times more powerful than you. You cannot beat me. You cannot save him” Thanos smirked.

“Watch me do it anyway,” Tony said before quickly double tapping his casing and flying at Thanos.

Chapter Text

Chapter 17

No sooner than the suit enveloped Tony did Thanos raise his hand and an army of grotesque beasts started pouring from 2 portals on either side of him. They ran at them and with a battle cry Wakanda’s soldiers and the Avengers ran to face them head on.

The Iron man suit had moulded around the Reality stone, which fit nicely on the back of Tony’s left hand, fitting completely with his colour scheme (Tony then immediately cursed Pepper and May for turning him into such a girl, he never used to even think about colour schemes until he was forced into talks about colour schemes and weddings by the girls). It was another adaptation that he, Bruce and Shuri had come up with, a way to harness its power without frying the circuits of the suit, kind of like how Thanos’ gauntlet worked.

 He was shooting down anything that came in his way on his war path to Thanos. Nothing was going to stop him from killing him now. His suit formed a sword just as a beast leapt at him and he severed it before pulling the sword out and turning quickly to slice the head of another one fast approaching him from behind.

He watched one of Clint’s new arrows soar above his head and embed itself in the chest of a beast that was about to sneak up on Nat. Another arrow immediately followed it to hit another monster in the eye that was nearing Shuri who was rapidly turning every way and shooting down the beasts with repulsers that encased her hands and half her arm, her face set in stone as she stared coldly at them as the fell at her feet. Turning the other way, Tony could see the Hulk smashing his way through enemy lines, Thor’s axe killing them by the dozen as his lightning killed even more and yet they kept coming.

He could see Rocket having the time of his life shooting down anything in front of him that he didn’t consider friend, Nebula close by and Tony hadn’t realised what she had meant when she said she was a trained killer until that moment when she unleashed her power and vengeance on the beasts. Tony saw Steve from the corner of his eye and quickly turned to shoot at the pile that was quickly overpowering the Captain. Steve got up and nodded his thanks to Tony which he nodded back before rapidly ducking as Steve’s shield came flying at his head. It went over him and dug itself into a beast that had been about to impale Tony. It let out an inhumane shriek as it fell, and Tony blasted it to make sure it died before pulling out the shield and trying not to wince at the squelching noise it made as it came loose. He threw the shield back over at Steve and nodded to him once more before moving on.

After carving his way through the battlefield, for that was what it was with the sounds of blasts and roars, thunder and lighting, shouts and the sounds of flesh tearing and the beasts dying at their feet, Tony finally found himself, once again, face to face with Thanos. They stood facing each other for a second, the sounds of battle fading into the background.

“You have fought well Stark, but you cannot beat me,” Thanos told him plainly, breaking the tense silence. “It is impossible.”

“I’ve done the impossible before,” Tony responded before quickly taking aim and firing at Thanos. He apparently took him off guard as the shot hit him dead centre and sent him skidding a few feet. He got up with a scowl, but Tony didn’t give him time for a breather before shooting at him again. Again, it hit and again Thanos fell but before he could get another shot in, Tony was sent flying. Thanos had gotten his bearings together and engaged the stones.

Tony planted his feet as soon as he landed and quickly formed a large shield before slamming it to the ground in front of him. He was just in time because a second later Thanos had sent a powerful blast from his gauntlet that hit Tony’s shield and pushed him back. He had a moment to feel a sense of Déjà vu before Thanos was on him again.

It became an endless cycle after that. Block, move, attack, block, move, attack. Tony wasn’t even paying attention to his surroundings anymore other than his escalating fight with Thanos, so it took him by surprise when he was suddenly knocked out of where he was been hovering, a couple of meters above the ground. He could hear Steve yell his name as he was knocked to the ground and landed on his side with a grunt, a slobbering beast thing on top of him. He could feel one of his ribs crack at the force from the fall. He blasted it off but another one replaced it. He quickly blasted that too and got to his feet only to be hit in the back of the head and be sent tumbling all over again, his skull cracking against the ground.

He scrambled to his feet breathlessly, his head pounding and turned quickly to find Thanos not a meter from him with his gauntlet out. He smiled maliciously before he blasted Tony. It was too close and to strong, Tony didn’t have time to put up any barrier and was sent flying. He skidded on the ground before he got up. But as soon as he had his feet under him, he was hit again. And again, without a break or rest. He was halfway across the field now and he knew there was no way he was going to survive this. He could feel some of his ribs had broken and he thinks he may have punctured a lung. His left leg and right arm were acting funny, his side had gone numb and his left arm was throbbing. His kidney had also taken a rough kick. His heart had undoubtedly had enough, he wouldn’t be surprised if it gave out on him now. He had just enough energy to turn onto his back before collapsing against the ground again in the crater this latest hit had left him in. Thanos loomed into his line of sight and lifted his hand. Tony closed his eyes and let his happiest memories flood his mind.

***

“I love you, you know” Pepper smiled up at him before leaning in for a kiss, the sweet smell of her perfume wafting up between them as their lips met.

***

He laughed as egg dripped off Peter’s face. Peter wiped some off with his hand before flicking it at Tony, they looked ridiculous as covered in baking ingredients as they were. “I love you dad.” Peter said and Tony felt his heart swell, just like it did every time Peter said it, “I love you too, kid. More than anything.” And he wrapped his arms around him, ignoring the buttercream on their shirts and the cocoa power in Peter’s hair

***

“Peter? You’re the one who stole all my drinks?” Tony asked incredulously and slightly afraid. The kid couldn’t fall into the same dark hole he did. He just couldn’t. Tony wouldn’t let him, he would help him like he wished some one could help him.

“Yeah. I didn’t want you to fall back on them,” He had answered erasing any fear Tony may have had and replacing it with an absolute love for this small, soft human who Tony was lucky enough to call his, “Besides, you don’t need them. You’ve got me now” Peter had grinned at him. He could do nothing but wrap his arms around him and bury his face in his curls.

***

Laughter filled the room like the scent of lasagna in the air.

“And then,” May gasps, laughing, “He walks out of the laundry room, completely covered in bubbles and says, ‘What did I miss?’” Laughter erupted again and Tony clutched his side from laughing so hard as Peter blushed a brighter red and sunk lower in his seat, though he was giggling as well. Rhodey reached over and ruffled his hair as Happy wiped tears from his eyes and Pepper high fived May with a grin. Tony loved family dinners.

***

“Oh, come on, he has to be cheating!” Rhodey exclaimed indignantly.

“Nah, I’m just that good honey bear,” Tony laughed as he rearranged his cards. And if he sent a discreet wink over at Peter who was sitting behind Rhodey to see his cards, well, no one but they had to know.

***

The fire cackled and the flames lit up the night around them as the summer breeze floated lazily between them. They were all sat on logs around the fire telling stories, talking and roasting marshmallows over the flames. Peter slumped into his side, head resting on his shoulder as his eyes fluttered.

“You getting tired, bud?” Tony asked him softly. Peter just nodded sleepily and said, “Yeah, but I want to stay out here for a bit longer” before nuzzled Tony’s shoulder and burying his face in his neck. Tony wrapped an arm around him as he continued to listen to the happy sounds of his family and the soft breaths of his kid.

***

So many different memories of better times filled his mind. Memories of family and laughter and love. Better memories than he has had all his life and he could help but love Peter all the more for finally bringing the missing piece to them and helping complete their family by dragging May into it. While they had a rough beginning, she had grown on him and he viewed her as his younger sister. He just hoped they could forgive him for leaving them and eventually learn to move on. He waited for the end to come.

Steve watched as Tony got thrown around the field, hearing his grunts and wincing in sympathy and worry as he fought to get to him and help. That last hit was especially hard. Tony had landed heavily, so hard that he had made a crater. And he wasn’t getting up. Oh God. He wasn’t getting up. Steve fought with renewed vigor. He had already lost his brother; he’d be damned if he lost another one of his best friends too. Thanos raised his gauntlet over Tony.

“NO!” Steve screamed, “TONY!” Everything suddenly stopped. The beasts stopped attacking them and all the Avengers turned to where Steve had screamed, confused. That confusion quickly turned to alarm when they saw Thanos over Tony.

“Behold!” Thanos declared, “Today you will watch me kill Tony Stark, the greatest thorn in my side and notch in my plans. I will be unstoppable now. I hope you remember him; he was an admirable adversary. You should feel honoured you get to watch.” Steve could hear Rhodey screaming too as well as everyone else shouting and trying to get to them, but they were too far away, they would never reach them in time. Steve clenched his fingers in his hair, tears pricking his eyes as Thanos raised his gauntlet higher, everyone still screaming, helpless.

But as the gauntlet came down, it was caught by two hands, clad in red suit. Peter looked up from where he had caught Thanos’ fist, standing protectively over Tony and holding up the hand with both arms. The field went silent.

“What?” Thanos spluttered, “How? This is impossible!” Peter just pushed Thanos’ fist away and Thanos stumbled back, still in shock. Peter straightened out and stood tall, still standing above Tony with fire in his eyes. If Steve was frightened by the glare that Peter aimed at him before, he was downright terrified with the glare Peter aimed at Thanos. It just dripped in venom and hatred.

“I made a promise, not just to him but to myself,” Peter’s voice didn’t waver and neither did his glare at Thanos, “Nothing, not even you, is going to stop me from keeping it.” Peter took two steps forward before drawing back his fist and punching Thanos with all his might, as quick as lightning.

Thanos was sent flying and Steve suddenly remembered that Tony told them that Peter was strong, really strong. And now he was also furious. Thanos had barely gotten up before Peter had done a running kick on him, running towards where he had landed and kicking his chest, hard, using it like a spring board as he jumped into the air and flipped backwards, landing lithely on his feet while Thanos crashed to the ground a few meters away, brought down by the force of the kick. The Avengers seemed to be frozen in place, shocked by this unexpected turn of events that should have been impossible.

“It doesn’t matter,” Thanos stumbled to a half upright position, “I doesn’t matter that you stopped me from killing him, or whatever promise you might have made. He will die anyway. No human can survive so many hits from the Infinity Stones. No human can survive that many hits at all.”

Peter suddenly whipped round to Tony with a gasp, only now seeming to notice the state his father was in. “Friday!” Peter yelled across the field, his back to Thanos who was stumbling to his feet. The eyes of the Iron man suit lit up. “Initiate ‘Bite Me’ protocol, full power!”

“On it Peter. Initiating ‘Bite Me’ protocol.” Friday’s voice filtered through the suit.

Tony’s body suddenly jerked, and Steve was so preoccupied staring at him that he didn’t notice until too late that Thanos had regained his footing and had crept up behind Peter. His scream caught in his throat an he heard Rhodey cry out as Thanos aimed a powerful punch to Peter’s head with his gauntleted hand. But the fist didn’t hit a head, it slammed into an open palm so hard, Steve could hear it clearly from where he was on the field and had little doubt the others could hear it too. Peter had turned at the last second and caught Thanos’ punch. Steve didn’t know how he did it or how that was possible. His arm didn’t even quiver.

Peter didn’t let go of the gauntlet though, even when it looked like Thanos tried to pull his hand free. Peter then carried out a perfect roundhouse kick to Thanos’ head, all the while not letting go of the gauntlet. Natasha whistled lowly, “Damn, kid has skills.”

“He’s stuck to it,” Rhodey muttered in disbelief, “Peter’s stuck to the gauntlet.” Thanos lifted his head from the kick and jerked his hand in a wide arc. Peter was flung with it and Thanos continued shaking it until Peter was thrown off, like a bug.

“You can’t hope to beat me like this little spider,” Thanos taunted. But Peter surprised them all, he grinned. Thanos flinched back in surprise at the unexpected face.

“I don’t need to beat you,” Peter practically laughed, “I just needed to buy him some time.” That was when everyone remembered the vital player that they had all forgotten about in Peter’s surprise battle with Thanos.

Almost as one, everyone turned quickly to where Tony was. Where before he had been lying broken, his arm and leg bent at unnatural angles, now he got up smoothly and stood tall. Peter flickered then and had just enough time to wave and say “Good luck dad” with a smile before he disappeared again.

Tony had been so sure he was going to die. Had been even more sure when he heard Thanos proclaiming about how he was going to kill him. He felt especially sorry that Rhodey would have to watch him be killed and be helpless to stop it. He knew how it felt and he wouldn’t wish it on anyone. But then the hit or blast or whatever didn’t come. Tony didn’t know if he felt disappointed or relieved by that fact.

Then he heard a painfully familiar voice, even though it was faint he could hear Peter’s voice. He would recognise it anywhere, no matter how faint- wait, Peter? Maybe he had died after all.

But then Friday said, “On it Peter. Initiating ‘Bite Me’ protocol.”

‘Bite Me’ protocol? He never had a protocol with that name before. He had just enough time to conclude that the kid had set up a lot of secret protocols behind his back before needles were piercing his skin. He jerked. They were all over his body and they all jabbed in and something cool started to spread in his veins. He was one second away from panicking before Peter’s voice filtered through the suit’s speakers.

“Hey dad, don’t panic about this, its completely fine and under control. If this message is playing then I haven’t had a chance to tell you about this for one reason or another, I was planning on telling you, I promise. But I didn’t really want to have to activate this protocol at all because it would only be for when a worst-case scenario happened, or you wouldn’t make it otherwise which I don’t really want to think about.

“Right now, what is flowing through your veins is a- well it’s a bit complicated. Basically, I experimented with my DNA- nothing dangerous or big, I swear- and I managed to separate some of the spider DNA from my normal human DNA. Only some because the spider DNA and mine fused so became one, but I managed to separate some. This part is going to sound a little weird but I fused it with a bit of your DNA and shocked it so it divided. So essentially, what is flowing through your veins is your mutated DNA and its changing your other cells.

“This is a faster way than for me because my DNA had to fuse and change while yours is already done and being injected all over instead of having to spread completely like mine did. I’m rambling so I’ll quickly give you an overview. Your DNA is mutating- nothing extreme, just to give you enhanced healing like me and a bit more strength and stamina, that should be all but some other quirks may have been passed on too like your reflexes might be faster. I’ll also guide you if you need it on how to control it. I programmed answers for any question you may have or move you may do. Good luck.”

God, what have you done now Pete? Tony couldn’t deny that Peter was a genius, even if this was a bit creepy, he had basically just saved his life. Tony could already feel his bones had mended and his energy was quickly coming back to him. He opened his eyes, gasping. He felt better than he had in years. Fresher, healthier and more energized. He glanced up and almost had to do a double take because right in front of him, Peter was fighting Thanos. He caught the tail end of their conversation.

“I don’t need to beat you,” Peter practically laughed, “I just needed to buy him some time.” He got to his feet and couldn’t help the giddy feeling that erupted by how smoothly and easily the move was performed.

“Good luck dad” Peter waved and grinned at him before he flickered out of existence again. He will be back but next time, Tony would be bringing him back permanently.

“How?” Thanos gasped staring at Tony standing strongly across from him. Suddenly a furious look took over his face and he fired a powerful blast from the Power stone at him. Tony found himself bent over backwards before he could blink as the blast tore through the boulder behind him. Tony breathed quickly as he stood upright again. Okay, that was a surprise. Apparently, he got the kid’s quick reflexes as well.

“How are you doing this? None of this is possible,” Thanos screeched, furious and a bit terrified.

“You said it yourself that my strongest aspect is my mind. I guess you didn’t take into account my kid’s mind as well.”  Tony shrugged, acting nonchalant before having to reign in a laugh at the Avenger’s gob smacked expressions. It was a comically sight. All of them had their jaws on the ground and eyes as wide as dinner plates. They seemed to snap out of it when Tony finished talking though and as one started their attack on Thanos while Rhodey and Natasha can to check on him.

“Tony,” Rhodey cried breathlessly, “What the hell is going on, you were in such bad shape, how are you standing and talking fine now?” He sounded borderline hysterical and Tony quickly placed a calming hand on his shoulder as Natasha inspected him carefully.

“Peter. That’s what happened. Kid did some weird creepy thing with my DNA and his. I’ll explain after we win.” Tony told him briefly before reassuring Natasha and turning back to the fight. As soon as they do, they see Scott suddenly appear and grow, similar to the airport battle, years ago. He dodged a blast and picked Thanos up before reaching to pull the gauntlet off his hand. It would have been easy. That should have won them the fight. But when Scott reached for it, it zapped him and what looked like purple lighting flashed around him and shrunk him down to his normal size. Thanos fell to the ground with a grunt.

“You can’t touch the gauntlet. You’re not strong or powerful enough,” Thor yelled across the battlefield.

Tony stepped forward, “I guess that’s my cue. Keep attaching him.” Tony yelled out while running towards them. At his word, the others start their attack again. Tony punches Thanos as he runs in and Thanos’ head is flung. Natasha brings his head down on her knee, hard. He grabs her neck and lifts her off the ground. The Hulk roars and charges Thanos, tackling him around the middle and catching Natasha as she falls before backing off to see if she is ok.

Wakanda’s warriors continue to attack the beasts as they unfroze while Shuri and some of the warriors form a ring around the Avengers to hold back the beasts and so they can fight Thanos without having to watch their backs for the monsters as well.

“This isn’t working,” Tony mutters before signalling to Rhodey to come over. When he does, he tells him his plan. Rhodey backs off just as Cap’s shield freezes in mid air and gets thrown back at him hard enough to knock him over. “Ok Peter, how do you stick to things?” Tony asks the suit, hoping that Peter had the time to upload those recordings.

“Okay, that ones kinda hard to explain,” Peter’s voice sounded, and Tony breathed a sigh of relief. “You shouldn’t really get this one, but its probably because of a lot of adrenaline in your system right now. Or at least, I’m assuming their adrenaline in your system. Anyway, it took me ages to figure out what was happening. Basically, you need to grip the thing, whatever it is, and kinda tense you fingers a bit, like if you’re gripping something.” Peter’s voice continued to try and explain it and Tony thought he got it.

He quickly tried it a few times on a nearby stone. A crash makes him look up and he finds that Thanos is in hand to hand combat with Thor. Thor managed to get a powerful punch in before Thanos flings him away with barely a wave of his hand. Okay, Tony breathes, what little training he has with these powers will have to do.

Tony approaches from behind and kicks Thanos’ legs out from under him. “Back off everyone,” Tony says and reluctantly, they do what he says. When Thanos gets up he throws a punch at Tony, but eerily to all those watching, he catches it like Peter did only minutes before, but not as smoothly and his arm wavers with the force. Unlike Scott though, the gauntlet doesn’t fling him off. The Reality stone on his hand glows and Tony quickly sticks to the gauntlet. Or at least, he hopes he’s stuck to the gauntlet.

He activates his thrusters at the lowest setting and yells over too Rhodey, “Now!”

Rhodey shoots off from where he was standing, flying quickly parallel to the ground, close enough to touch it. As he passes Tony, he grabs on to him. Tony also activates his thrusters to full power with both hands still stuck to the gauntlet. The momentum is too strong, and the gauntlet is ripped from Thanos’ hand. Rhodey and Tony crash into the ground a few feet away, gauntlet still firmly in Tony’s hand.

“NO!” Thanos roars, charging towards them while everyone is staring, shocked. Tony quickly shoots up, high in the sky before Thanos can reach him. He pulls the Reality stone out from his suit and puts in in the gauntlet. He puts the gauntlet on his hand and it surprisingly bends to fit around it. Tony felt the power coursing through him like lightning in his veins. The stones almost seemed to be whispering to him.

Steve shielded his eyes and could see the others doing the same. He wasn’t sure Tony knew he was glowing almost as bright as the sun, nor was he sure he knew that he was gradually falling. When he finally landed lightly on the ground, the light seemed to fade. Tony’s helmet had bled away, and everyone could see his smirk.

“Oh, this will be fun,” He said.

“What are you going to do Stark?” Thanos sneered, “Kill me?”

“Oh yeah,” Tony said, as if agreeing about the weather, “But first-” Tony brought back his fist and punches Thanos with a strength that Steve had never seen before. Thanos was hammered to the ground and he spat blood. Steve felt savage satisfaction at seeing Thanos get beaten up, he had killed off his best friend just when he got him back. Tony was unrelenting as he pummelled him to the ground. Thanos got a few good swipes in but there was no way he could beat him.

It surprised Steve when Tony didn’t just carry on and kill him. Instead after a while he backed off, wiped blood off his cheek and gestured at Thanos. “Nebula?”

He didn’t have to say more before Nebula was engaging in a hardcore fight with Thanos.

“How come you didn’t just kill him?” Steve murmured to Tony as they watched Nebula viciously attack Thanos.

“We talked a bit on the way back to Earth. She helped me. I was nearly catatonic, and she got me functioning again. She wants to kill him as much, if not more, than anyone. The least I could give her is the chance to avenge her people, and herself.” Steve nodded in understanding. He had heard a little about her background. Just then she pulled a dagger out of nowhere and stabbed Thanos, “That’s for Gamora,” She hissed at him. She twisted the dagger and he crumpled to the ground.

“No one wants trash lying around Tony,” Natasha smirked.

“Yeah, we can’t just leave it littering Wakanda after they’ve been so hospitable to us,” Rhodey joined in with a grin.

“Think you can do something about it?” Steve should not be getting as much sick pleasure from this as he is.

Tony smirked, “I think I’ve got just the thing.” He turned to Thanos and lifted his hand “I want him to feel as much pain as Peter did,” He said to the stones then snapped his fingers. Thanos started twitching and just as the first parts of his feet started crumbling, he started screaming.

“What the hell?” Steve cried out

“What did you do Tony?” Scott turned to him.

Tony looked at the stones bewildered, “He’s only supposed to feel what Peter did as he was, uh, crumbling.”

“Maybe he is,” Natasha said blankly, staring at Thanos screaming at their feet. The Hulk still held her close.

“But Peter Starkson did not scream this way,” Thor said frowning.

“Oh, God,” Rhodey breathed, “What if Peter felt this much pain, but didn’t scream because he didn’t want Tony to know?”

The thought that Peter had gone through so much pain that reduces a being like Thanos into a screaming heap but hiding it to spare Tony pain, made Tony turn away and hurl. He crouched near the ground and threw up, Steve by his side, patting his back. But he couldn’t get rid of the thought of Peter in that much pain. Of course, he was. His super healing probably worked to try and knit his body back together as it ripped apart, Tony could already feel some of his cuts healing and his healing wasn’t as strong as Peter’s. And Peter hid it. He didn’t scream at all, only reached for him when he was in insurmountable pain. The image of Peter staring up at him with apologetic eyes would forever be seared into his brain.

“His eyes were always so expressive, you know,” Tony murmured. Steve tightened his grip on his shoulder. “You could always tell what he was feeling through his eyes. I loved his eyes, I teased him that they were like a bambi. I called him that sometimes. Bambi.” Tony wasn’t even thinking about what he was saying anymore. His mind was blank, his eyes glazed and unseeing, stuck on an image from a different place, a different time, “They were the last part to disappear, you know. His eyes. Everything else was gone but those eyes still looked at me. They will always look at me. I fear the day they don’t.”

Rhodey joined him on the ground and wrapped his arms around him. He looked about 2 seconds from throwing up as well. He had tears rolling down his cheeks. Tony reached up to wipe them away and it was only then that he realised his cheeks were wet as well. He let out a sob and Rhodey immediately enveloped him in his arms. They cried together then turned when their tears ran out and watched with everyone else until Thanos was nothing but a pile of ashes.

Tony sent some nanobots from his suit and they crawled across the ground and encased Thanos’ remains. Tony picked up the ball and turned to the others. By then Natasha had been able to coax Bruce back and Tony was happy to see his new synthesised fabric had worked and Bruce was still covered in the jumpsuit that had stretched back to mold around him.

“Let’s finish this nightmare,” Tony said.

Just then what sounded like 6 voices said, “Tony Stark.” Tony jerked and looked around wildly like the others before their gaze fell on the gauntlet.

“Who are you?” Tony asked warily.

“We are the Infinity Stones.”

“Why are you just starting to talk now? Why now?” Tony asked.

“We have watched over you all your life. We have helped you in your times of need.”

Tony paused, trying to process this through the confusion and shock that came with talking to all-powerful stones that just admitted to watching you your whole life. “Wait, so all those times I managed to escape or do the seemingly impossible, that was you? Was me escaping Afghanistan you?” Tony almost felt heartbroken. Those times, while painful, had been some of his greatest achievements. They had made him who he was and to learn that it was never really him hurt.

“No.” They said, “That was not us. That was you. Just like every other time. We did not cause you to escape every situation, your mind did. That is what drew us to you. You have had a very hard life Tony Stark, yet you have a good heart. You are a mystery. You have tried to do the right thing and have only been met with resistance. It is why we saw fit to reward you.”

“Reward him?” Rhodey asked.

“The boy,” They said together, “Peter. He brought the light back to your world and made you want to keep living.”

“Thank you,” Tony said. He was ever so confused, but he understood that they had brought Peter to him and for that he would thank them for the rest of his days.

“You have always been worthy and powerful enough to wield us. It is why Thanos feared you. You were the only one who could stop him, and he knew that. So, what is it that you want, Tony Stark?”

Tony opened his mouth to ask that everyone who was dusted to be brought back. But then thought about all the deaths that happened because of the person driving the vehicle suddenly disappeared. Of the people hit with those driver-less vehicles. They wouldn’t be included and that wouldn’t be fair.

“I want everyone who died because of Thanos and his actions to return,” He finally stated.

“Are you sure?” The stones asked. That made Tony nervous.

“Why do you ask that? Would there be consequences to that?” he asked.

“You ask that everyone who died because of Thanos or his actions to be brought back. This would include the planets and populations he killed before he decided to use us. It would include everyone he killed himself.”

“I know,” Tony told them, “That’s the point. They shouldn’t have been killed like that.”

“Well done, Tony,” The voices sounded softer, “You have proved your intelligence and good heart. We will grant your wish. Just snap your fingers.”

Tony looked up and saw the painful hope in Thor and Nebula’s eyes and he knew they knew he thought of them, of the genocide of their people and the personal murder of their sibling. He looked around and the hopeful faces and felt it fill him and he smiled slightly at the thought of it all being over and having Peter back by his side where he belongs.

He snapped his fingers.

Chapter Text

Chapter 18

They had done it. Steven Strange looked down as his body finished re-forming and breathed a sigh of relief. They had won, just like he knew they would. He smiled. There was no force in any universe that would stop Tony Stark from getting back his kid. It was that drive and- Strange grimaced- pain that was needed to save the universe. Speaking of which, Strange looked around and saw the Guardians celebrating being, well… alive. But they weren’t who he was looking for. ‘Where was he?’ Strange thought as his eyes swept over the terrain. ‘If he didn’t make it then this would have all been for nothing’ Strange cringed as another thought came to his mind. Tony was going to kill him if his kid didn’t make it, there was no doubt about that.  Suddenly, he spotted a swirl of ash start taking shape and felt relief fill him. The ash molded into a body.

Peter gasped as his eyes flew open and he tried to scramble to his feet, only to promptly fall back to the ground. A scream suddenly filled their ears as Peter curled into himself on the Titan soil.

“What the hell?” Quill said bewildered as the guardians made their way quickly over to them. Strange looked on worriedly as the child continued to scream. Mantis gasped. They looked to her.

“He feels everything,” She exhaled.

“What do you mean everything?” Strange narrowed his eyes.

“He feels every one of his atoms coming together and fusing again, all the little pieces.” Mantis reveals as they look down at Peter with sympathy and worry.

“Dad.” Peter sobs out into the soil “DAD.” He starts screaming again, calling out for his father.

“For goodness sake help him Mantis” Quill exclaims, the child’s screams painful to listen to. Mantis kneels besides him and hesitates before putting her hand to his temple. She cries out, her antennae glowing but she doesn’t stop until Peter’s screams and cries tapper off. She falls back on her hunches. Strange opens his mouth to ask but is cut off.

“He is fine, simply sleeping. But I don’t know how long it will last with the amount of pain he is feeling” Mantis says regretfully.

“Well then, we had better get back to earth. Anyone know where we can get a spaceship?” Quill asks rubbing his hands together.

“I will transport us there” Strange says as he creates a portal before kneeling to pick up the child.


 

They had finally done it. It felt surreal. Steve stood and gazed out at the battlefield. What was once a lush field in Wakanda now lay in ruin, many had fallen, and it would take a long time to recover, but at least it would. Steve looked back and saw Tony standing, his exhausted, hopeful face watching the scene Steve was just looking at. He couldn’t blame him for looking tired. The billionaire had barely slept since he came crashing down to earth in a barely functional spaceship with Nebula. Steve shuddered remembering how the reunion went. People had assumed that Tony hadn’t lost anyone, they were quickly set straight.

“He took half the universe, Tony”

“He took the entirety of mine”

In the end, they had only really won because of Tony. He was the one to figure out how to beat Thanos, it was his idea to get a stone and he was the one able to wield the gauntlet and kill Thanos once and for all.

 “We did it” Steve breathed. Before Tony could say anything there were noises coming from the forest. Everyone who heard turned to look, instantly on guard. But they had no reason to fear for coming out of the trees were their lost comrades, and friends. There were whoops and cries and cheers as everyone ran to their lost ones. Steve saw Shuri run past him and jump into the arms of her brother, both of them crying and hugging each other like they would never let go. Steve looked but still couldn’t see Bucky around.

“I am Groot” he heard a voice and looked over to see Rocket and what looks to be a tree embracing. As he saw Bucky finally emerge from the foliage, he felt like he could finally breathe again. The ran at each other and clutched each other desperately. Finally, he had him back. This time he would try and actually keep him. He could see Natasha with Vision and Wanda off to the side. Clint and Scott talked with their other friends after they finished their reunions as they walked over to them.

Sam had just reached them when Bucky pulled back suddenly with a gasp. “Steve, where is he? Where is-” He cut off and began looking around frantically Sam quickly joining him.

“Where is who?” Steve asked confused. Steve looks back to find Tony leaning against Rhodey, a pained look on his face. He walked over to them, feeling Bucky follow him. “What’s wrong, did we forget anything?” Steve asked worriedly.

“I did.” Tony groans “I failed him…”

“Failed him? Failed who?” Confusion must have obvious on Steve’s face because Tony elaborated.

“Everyone returned where they were when the disappeared, and he was on Titan, a planet which is not even in our solar system! That over-site might mean I lose him.”

Understanding washed the confusion away. “Tony-” A sudden commotion interrupted him, and everyone reached for their weapons as a portal opened up in the middle of the field.

“Friend or Foe?” Bucky asked as he got his gun aimed and ready to fire.

“Nah,” Sam grinned and slapped a hand against Bucky’s shoulder, “I think we know who those sparkles belong too.”

“I’m still alive, did you miss me?” A voice suddenly came as a man walked through. Rocket whooped and began running towards the newcomer, Groot following close behind as a… grey man walked in after the first one, then a woman with antenna?

“Friend” Tony said with a smile. Weapons were lowered but Tony took off running towards the strange people, everyone following behind. Surprisingly, Bucky and Sam were at his heals looking anxious.

 One last person came through the portal before it closed up again. He was carrying a kid in his arms. Tony pulled up short then shot of again as Strange placed the kid on the ground. Tony fell to his knees next to him.

“Tell me he’s not” Tony choked out, hand hovering over the kid, heart beating out of his chest. It seemed his heart thought now was a great time to show him how much its strengthened because he could feel it lodged in his throat, choking him. He just managed to get him back, he can’t lose him again, not now. Not that Tony was planning on losing him later either, the kid wasn’t going to leave his sight at all anymore. But that wouldn’t matter if he didn’t make it, nothing would matter.

“He’s fine. Just asleep” Tony breathed out a sigh of relief that sounded suspiciously like a sob but just before he could take the kid into his arms, he whimpered, and the antenna lady cried out. Eyes snapped to her, but she only looked at the people who she came through the portal with.

“It’s wearing off.” She gasped out, “He’s waking up.”

Strange shot to his feet, yanking an annoyed looking Tony with him. He opened his mouth, most likely to make a scathing comment about how dare someone drag him from his kid, when Strange beat him to it. “Everyone get back” He yelled out taking a lot of them by surprise.

“What? Why?” Someone asked. Strange was about to respond when a blood-curdling scream tore through the air startling everyone as they jumped and a few even let out scream of their own. Everyone stared in shock at the kid on the ground.

“DAD!” The kid cried out in amongst the screaming. That seemed to break Tony out of his stupor as he wrenched himself out of Strange’s firm grasp on him as he tried to rush to the kid’s side, but Strange grabbed him again. “Wait, Stark, we don’t know how touch will affect him” Strange called out. Tony turned slightly a snarl on his face “You’re crazy if you think I’m just going to sit there and do nothing as my kid screams for me” He growls before yanking his way out of his grasp, pleased he could do that easily now, before turning back around.

To his surprise its Bucky who stops Strange from protesting and trying to pull Tony back. He put an arm out in front of Strange, blocking his path, “Leave it. You know it’s what he needs, you saw what he was like. Tony is what he wants.”

Tony quickly falls next to the kid and bundles him into his arms. “Shh, kid, I’m right here, I’m right here Pete, you’re okay, I’m okay, everything’s okay”. Everyone watches, shocked stupid as the infallible Tony Stark, Genius, Billionaire, philanthropist, whispers sweet reassurances to a crying teenager. The kid’s screams quieten to whimpers when they hear Tony’s voice. The kid- Peter, as there can be no doubt about it- finally opens his eyes, well, it was more of a squint, to see Tony as he clutches at him desperately, tears still running down his face. “D-d-dad” Peter hiccups.

“I know bambi, I know” No one is surprised to see tears falling down Tony’s face as well.

“ ’s too much. Too much” Peter whimpers, burying himself into Tony’s chest. Tony seems to understand the mumbled words as the arm that isn’t cradling Peter to his chest darts up to his ear and he starts speaking. “Friday, connect to the iron spider suit and ‘shut eye’ protocol”. A second passes as Tony cards his fingers through the kid’s hair, and everyone watches as he seems to lean into the hand. Then a mask covers his face and his body seems to slump with relief. “Better?” Tony asks softly, so much so that barely anyone hears but the kid nods weakly.

Tony continues to hold him tightly, rubbing his hand up and down his back. The gesture seems to comfort him just as much as it comforts the kid, who occasionally shuddered. Some time passed, but no one seemed to be able to take their eyes off the pair for long. None of them had ever seen or ever expected to see anything like this. Tony Stark and a child. Tony Stark and a child hugging. But as they watched them, the bond between them was obvious. This wasn’t just Tony Stark with some kid. This was Tony Stark with his Kid. With his son. A kid who had been recently dead.

The kid’s shaking seemed to have stopped and he lifts his arms to properly wrap them around Tony. The mask falls away as he buried his face into Tony’s shoulder. His hand immediately starts running through Peter’s hand again.

Suddenly, Tony felt uncomfortable but couldn’t place why. He shifted slightly and Peter jerked up, eyes wide. 

“Do you feel that too?” Tony asked him. But Peter didn’t answer. He jumped out of his arms and stood up before anyone could blink. He turned quickly, snatching the shield out of Steve’s grip and turning again. In the same motion, he flung the shield with a smooth, precise flick of his wrist. The shield flew before being embedded into the chest of a particularly large beast that had been sneaking up behind Tony. It fell to the ground with a gurgle as Tony stumbled to his feet quickly and backing away. He turned to Peter with wide eyes. In fact, everyone had done that. But Peter was endearingly oblivious. He was shaking out his limbs, staring at his arms as he shook them. Strange’s cloak suddenly flew from his shoulders and wrapped itself around Peter, startling everyone. But Peter just pet it lovingly with a grin.

“Hi Cloaky, I missed you too, though we were together like 10 minutes ago. Anyway, guess that’s still working then,” He said before turning to his dad, “What did you mean ‘do I feel that’?” A look of confusion crossed his face before it was cleared away just as quick by a look of understanding. “Oh no, you got the spidey sense too? That wasn’t supposed to happen. Sorry about that.” He looked sheepish.

“We are having a long talk about that, but I only really felt a bit uncomfortable but couldn’t place it,” Tony told him, resolving to ask about the cloak later. Of course, Peter would make friends with magical clothing.

Peter nodded. “It makes sense, all of the new stuff you got is going to be weaker than what I have, your strength, reflexes, stamina, agility, spidey sense will all be more muted because it isn’t the real thing.”

“Uh, is anyone else here really lost, or is it just me?” Sam asked.

Peter turned to him with a smirk, “I would of thought you’d be used to the feeling by now Sam.” Bucky let out a laugh at that and at Sam’s affronted look. Steve looked at him in surprise.

“Excuse me?” Sam demanded. Bucky shoved him, “You’re still miffed that he beat you at cards.”

Sam scoffed, “Oh please, you sulked for ages when he beat you at arm wrestling. Every time.” It looked like he got great pleasure from reminding Bucky of this fact.

“You did? Well done, kid,” Tony high fived a grinning Peter. Rhodey walked over and hugged Peter tightly.

“We missed you Pete,” He whispered in his hair. He drew back and grinned before saying louder, “Tony was a mess without you.”

“Hey!” Tony protested, but Peter interrupted him, “Don’t worry dad, I know what a mess you are without me!” Tony did nothing but huff and pull Peter closer to him. “I think you’ve been spending far too long with Rhodey, he is obviously corrupting you.”

Peter and Rhodey grinned at each other and Rhodey winked at him.

“Hang on,” Clint cut in. “How did you have cards in… there.” He finished awkwardly.

“Peter.” Drax said simply. They turned to Peter but he only grinned and shook his head, “Not me.” Then he pointed at Quill.

“Why do you carry cards with you into a fight?” Clint asked him incredulous.

“I’ve been asking the same question for a while,” Strange muttered.

“You can never be too prepared,” Quill said sagely, then ruined it by shrugging his shoulders. Strange looked closer at Tony and narrowed his eyes.

“You look different Tony.” He finally said.

“I feel different too. God kid, what did you do?” Tony asked flexing an arm to inspect it. Peter shrugged, “Its kind of a long story.”

“How long have you worked on this for?” Tony asked him, turning to look at him.

“Since you were stuck in that bomb attack a while back and were in the med bay for 3 months,” Peter answers without pause. Tony and Rhodey wince.

“That was a year and a half ago,” Rhodey said.

“It took me a while to figure it out,” Peter shrugged before lowering his eyes, “Dr Cho said you barely survived it. You had this long list of injuries and if I hadn’t gotten you out when I did you would have died before you even made it there. She said your past didn’t really help matters either.”

Tony instantly wrapped his arms around Peter tightly, “I’m sorry, she shouldn’t have told you that.”

“She didn’t. She told mum and uncle Rhodey after she asked me to step out of the room, but people forget about my hearing,” Peter shrugged helplessly. “I can’t lose you dad. I wished you had my healing, then you could get healthy easier and your body would heal better and quicker, you would be safer. Then I realised that if my DNA mutated and got rid of my body’s previous flaws then it can do the same to you. I got to work to try and give you my healing as well.”

Tony sighed, “Well, no one can say you’re not a genius, kid. And thank you. You saved my life today.” Peter finally looked up and gave him a watery smile.

“Yeah, but I’m curious. What exactly has happened to your body?” Bruce asked peering closely at Tony. He shrugged, “Friday?”

“Your broken bones have healed though your ribs might need to be examined. Your lungs and kidneys have returned to that of like a healthy person and are fully functioning. Your coronary arteries have cleared of plaque and all traces of trauma have been erased from your heart as well as your valves fully functioning again. All in all, boss, you look like you’ve lost ten years and your body is like you never started drinking. You also have enhanced healing and your senses have become slightly sharper. Your brain has also lost traces of damage done by the drinking and drugs.” Friday rattled off the changes to everyone’s growing shock.

“So Tony is going to be even smarter now?” Clint groaned.

“You already couldn’t keep up Clint” Tony teased.

“Well, we definitely know Peter gets his sass from you then,” Sam butt into the conversation.

“His sass, huh?” Rhodey asked grinning.

“Oh yeah, he has some scathing retorts. In fact, one of the first things he did in the stone was rip everyone a new one about what we did to Tony. Wanda almost cried, he almost punched me and Sam chose the wrong time for a sarcastic comment, especially since he then turned on him and almost killed him for what he did to you.” Bucky informed them.

Rhodey turned to Steve, “I told you about his protective streak.” Steve just nodded, speechless.

“You told him that?” Peter asked Rhodey looking mildly betrayed.

“Oh yeah, I also told him about the presentation and the time you almost got into a fight with someone at school because they slagged Tony off”

“You did what? Oh kid, we need to hear this story,” Sam laughed.

“No, you really don’t,” Peter muttered.

“I have a question,” Natasha suddenly said, “Why are we all still standing out here?”

At that Tony looked around realising that he hadn’t even noticed. The only ones still out were him, Rhodey, Steve, Bucky, Sam, Bruce, Natasha, Clint, Thor, Peter, Strange and the Guardians and that the Wakandans and Wanda and Vision had all gone back to the city while they had stayed on the field.

“That’s a good point,” Bruce said.

“I thought we were waiting,” Bucky said.

“Waiting for what?” Steve asked confused.

“He said he wanted to make a grand entrance,” Peter said, “But he had to pick something up first.”

“Who wanted to make a grand entrance?” Tony asked Peter who was still huddled under his arm. Just then, a giant ship descended and landed on the field, digging up dirt and grass in its wake.

Everyone was immediately on the defensive except the people who had returned from the strong and Thor who was staring the ship wide eyed. Strange rolled his eyes, “He’s ridiculous.” But Peter just shushed him, looking excited and Sam muttered to him about being a spoilsport. The door lowered and out strolled Loki who gazed at them, huddled together and grinned.

Thor had recognised the spaceship but had barely dared to hope. Then the doors had opened, and Loki walked out. He ran to him, hoping against hope that it wasn’t an illusion. He didn’t know if he’d be able to take that right now, or ever again. but when he finally reached Loki, he collided with something solid. He was there. Thor embraced him forcefully, almost crushing him to his chest and almost cried when he felt Loki’s arms wrap around him in return. He never thought he would get this chance again.

“I told you the sun would shine on us again,” Loki murmured softly into his ear.

He tightened his arms around him. “I never should have doubted” Then he pulled back with a small smile, “But that’s your own fault. You should try being more trustworthy.”

Loki grimaced slightly, “You’re not the only one to tell me that recently.”

“What? How did anyone tell you anything recently?” Thor asked him, hand still on his elbow, almost scared to let go of Loki and have him disappear again.

“Well, I haven’t exactly been dead. I was locked away with those other idiots in the stone.” Loki explained rolling his eyes, surprisingly fondly. They started walking towards where the others stood patiently (or not so patiently in some cases).

Then a flash of green caught the Avenger’s eyes at the door of the ship.

“Gamora!” Quill and Nebula yelled and rushed to her, Nebula pushing Quill out of her way to get to her sister first and he huffed as he had to wait.

Thor faltered but Loki kept walking with a purpose towards the group so Thor followed anxiously. Tony eyed Loki distrustfully but then Peter, who had been waiting with barely concealed excitement, broke out of his hold and ran towards him, “Loki!”

“Peter!” Tony yelled after him, alarmed. But Peter jumped at Loki and Loki, to everyone’s infinite surprise, caught him and spun him before giving him a hug, Peter wrapped around him. When they broke the hug, Peter’s legs stayed wrapped around him, like a toddler as he grinned at him.

“Hello little spider. I’m glad to see you are alright after coming back,” Loki smiled up at Peter, his arms under him to keep him up.

“We never got a greeting like that,” Same pouted.

“He was in the middle of sensory overload when we were there, you idiot,” Bucky elbowed him. Tony rubbed his forehead, “What the hell is going on?”

“There wasn’t a lot to do in the stone, we got bored. We were each other’s only source of entertainment, so we bonded.” Peter explained, still, for some reason, hanging off of Loki.

“And how did you become…friends with Loki?” Thor asked, just as surprised as everyone else.

“I was one of the only ones he wasn’t mad at at first.” Loki smirked, “It was very amusing to see this young human yelling at these idiots over there. You did well Stark.”

Tony almost fell over in shock. He wasn’t the only one, Steve looked like he was going to faint, Clint looked like he was considering prying Peter away from Loki himself, Thor looked like he was going to burst from happiness.

“Oh please, you got yelled at too,” Sam scoffed.

“Not as much as others,” Loki retorted.

“He’s right. Pete almost attacked Wanda for messing with Tony’s head,” Bucky nodded thoughtfully.

"He's just jealous because I'm Peter's favourite." Loki said with a smirk.

"What? Now hand on just a damn minute," Sam started in outrage.

Just then, the Guardians finished their reunion and walked over to them, interrupting Sam's protests.

“And how is my favourite Peter?” Gamora cooed, patting Peter’s hair. Quill huffed in outrage while Peter grinned. Obviously this was some sort of inside joke.

“I’m great, how are you Gamora?”

“Great. Its good to finally be out of that stone.”

“I am Groot”

“I agree completely,” Peter responded. It was safe to say; the Avengers were in a near constant state of confusion at what was going on. Surely, Tony thought, this much shock is not good for any of us. Bruce seemed to share his opinion.

“Lets just- just get inside. I feel you have a lot to fill us in on.” Bruce said, dazed.

“Good idea.” Rhodey said.

“Let’s go then,” Tony turned and started walking and breathed a sigh of relief when Peter started walking next to him and interlaced their fingers.

He had no idea what was going on anymore and he expected Peter to fill him in on the many things he seemed to have missed out on. He looked at Loki glancing at Peter protectively every now and again while talking to Thor and Bucky and Sam’s teasing which Peter threw straight back. Yes, there was a lot he needed to be filled in on. This would be interesting. But he had Peter back with him again, and apparently a bunch of new, relatively powerful allies, so he was sure that he could take whatever life threw at him next. He survived this much didn’t he? He could survive anything after this, especially with his kid and family by his side. He just needed to face the wrath of May, Pepper and Happy first. After that, well, he can already imagine the fluffy pyjamas, hot chocolate and snacks that come with a well-deserved movie night. He could already feel the weight of his son on him as he watches the movie and valiantly tries not to fall asleep.

Tony looks over at Peter and catches his eye. He smiles at him and Peter gives him a wide grin back before wrapping one arm around Tony and snuggles into him.

“Can’t even wait till we’re inside, kid?” Tony asks amused, even though he slings his arm around Peter’s shoulders to pull him in closer.

“I missed you,” And well, what can Tony say against that? Especially when Peter looks up at him with his big doe eyes and says, “I love you dad.”

Tony feels tear prick his eyes and he swallows past the lump suddenly in his throat and whispers back, “I love you too, Peter.”

Yeah, everything is going to be fine now. It will be better than fine. No more rocky ground with the Rogues. No more hurt and tension and uncertainty and pain. There will instead be comfort and warms and love. Just how it was always meant to be. And if there are more people to share that with? Well, the more the merrier as they say. Tony knows it will all work out, after all, he got his universe back and nothing will ever take it away again. That is not a promise. That is a fact.

Chapter Text

I was asked that I post here when the 'What happened in the Stone' fic was published. I'm sure that you will all be happy to hear that it is now (finally) up. You might have noticed that this is now a series, in which case you wouldn't have needed me to tell you that the fic is up, but just in case, I am informing you now. Now go and (hopefully) enjoy it!