“Physics is like sex: sure,
it may give some practical results,
but that's not why we do it.”
Tony knows hangovers. He’s pretty sure he’s had every kind of hangover imaginable - the kind that leave your eyes dry and aching, feeling like they’re about to swell out of your head, the ones that stick in your throat like a dry-swallowed pill.
He’s spent hours sprawled out on the couch (or bed, or floor) where he’s woken up, summoning up every last inch of willpower to close his eyes against the daylight only to realize that his eyes are, in fact, already shut tight.
This is not anything like those hangovers.
It feels like the white-hot pain of a migraine, except somehow the nexus feels like it’s in his neck rather than his head. He groans. Presses his face harder into the sheets underneath him.
Things are looking up. He appears to be in a bed, at least.
There’s a shifting of weight on the mattress from somewhere in front of him, and a soft exhalation of breath. Which begs the question - whose bed?
Given that the other occupant is apparently still present, he resigns himself to an awkward morning-after. Been awhile since he’s had one of those, actually.
He cracks one eye open cautiously.
“Oh thank god you’re awake, Mr. Stark!”
Tony swallows. Closes his eyes again. Opens them, wincing against the glare of the brightly lit room.
Nope, nothing has changed.
Peter is sitting there, leaning his bare back against the headboard, knees bent and legs pulled up to his chest, arms wrapped around his calves. He looks pale, which. Of course he does.
The thing is, Tony is pretty well versed in facing his monumental fuck ups head-on. His vices have always had the upper hand against the better angels in his head. Or, if not necessarily the upper hand, then at least a sneaky way of turning the tables on him when he least expected it.
That this whole new level of fucked up is unexpected is literally the very least you could say right now.
Peter is fidgeting with the edges of the sheet pulled up over his legs. He frowns. “You are awake, aren’t you? Please say you’re awake. I’m kinda freaking out over here.”
“Kid,” Tony starts. Stops. He levers himself upright, moving slowly. Carefully. Doesn’t want to startle the kid, doesn’t want to get too close. Give Peter his space. Little late for that, his traitorous brain taunts.
He scrubs his hands over his face as if he can wipe the (most-likely) drug-induced grogginess away. It’s not until then that he looks around. Wait.
This isn’t his bedroom - not the one at the compound, or the suite in Milan. Definitely not the penthouse in New York. In all honesty, it looks like the inside of the fucking Spaceship Earth ride at Epcot.
“Kid,” he tries again, more urgently now, “where the hell are we?”
“Uhh, the guy said we’re someplace called Sakaar.”
“The guy? What guy?”
“The weird guy,” Peter explains. He unwraps one arm and gestures towards a blank screen embedded in the opposite wall.
“He say anything else?”
Peter shakes his head. “He said he’d wait until you woke up.”
Which means… Yep, now that his higher brain functions are coming back online, he can pick out cameras scattered around the room. A lot of them.
He really doesn’t want to ask the next question, but he can’t see any way around it. “What’s the last thing you remember?”
“Well, um. There was a portal thing that opened up in the sky, with these weird energy readings coming through. We were trying to figure out what was going on when everything kind of exploded. And then I woke up here.”
It says something probably not-great about Tony’s life that that’s actually kind of a relief, but right now he’ll take good news wherever he can get it. He hasn’t done anything unforgivable with the kid. That counts for something.
Actually, it counts for everything.
Tony stands to pace the room, only to discover he’s naked. Shit.
By the way Peter is still nervously clutching the sheet around his legs, he would bet the kid is too. Okay, that’s… not great, but he gets it. They’d both been suited up for training when the portal had opened, whoever had taken them must have taken their suits and clothes while they’d been knocked out. It’s as much about security and control as it is about psychological manipulation; a power play.
And it’s working. The idea of someone else messing around with his and Peter’s suits rankles fiercely.
But Tony’s not a self-conscious seventeen year old kid - he’s not exactly going to let a little nudity keep him confined to the bed. He searches the room systematically - tapping on the walls, searching for weak points. He finds none. The room is square, the walls some kind of reinforced metal panelling. He thinks Peter could probably bust through with enough effort, but not without the cameras noticing.
There’s a shower, a toilet, and a sink in one corner of the room, a table and two chairs in another. The bed is the only thing occupying the opposite wall. One large panel near the table sounds like it’s hollow behind.
And that’s it, other than the cameras, and the lights, for which Tony notes there are no switches. Right.
“I already looked, when you were asleep. I couldn’t find a way out,” Peter says quietly.
Peter is studiously looking anywhere but at Tony. He looks like he’s freaking out.
“Listen Pete, we’ll figure this out. We’re fine. I’ve been in plenty worse situations than this.”
Peter finally looks up at him, trusting and grateful and very obviously not picking up on Tony’s lie.
It’s then that another voice chimes in.
“Ah, you’re awake!” The figure on the screen claps his hands together, grinning wide. “That’s great, that’s really good. I’m so glad. So, now that you’re both awake, I figured we should probably talk.”
“Great idea,” Tony says. “How about we start with who the hell are you?”
“Me?” He looks oddly pleased at the question. Peter wasn’t wrong to describe him as the weird guy. Something about his mannerisms seem… off. “You’ll have to excuse me, I’m not used to having to introduce myself.
“I’m the Grandmaster, but you can call me - well, you can call me the Grandmaster. And you two - ” the man practically shivers with glee, “you’re my newest stars.”
There’s a long pause. The Grandmaster stares out at them from the screen expectantly while Tony’s mind pitches and discards possible explanations as quickly as they come.
“Your stars, what does that mean?”
He has to ask, but the truth is there’s already a creeping suspicion in Tony’s mind, a lead ball of dread in his gut because he thinks he knows why their clothes are gone. Why the room is so conspicuously well lit. Why there are so many cameras - far too many than would be needed for simple surveillance.
The Grandmaster grins all the wider, he must’ve seen the realization dawning on Tony’s face. Dammit.
Tony schools his expression back to careful blankness. He’s spent his life in front of cameras, this is nothing. This is fine.
The thing is, Peter hasn’t.
The kid must’ve cottoned onto the same suspicion that Tony has - when he looks back, Peter’s eyes are flitting around the room, noting the locations of each of the cameras.
“You’re gonna love this, seriously, this is so much better than the arena stuff.” The man on the screen shudders.
“It was riveting to watch, of course, fantastic entertainment value - but it was all so violent, and messy, and you wouldn’t believe how many Dougs we went through. Anyway, we had a bit of a… you know, ‘uprising’ is such a contentious word, I don’t like to call it that. I like to call it an enthusiastic discussion about power structures, rights of the common people, and societal change.”
Peter shoots Tony a look, What the hell?
“You want to get to the point, Padme?” Tony interrupts.
“The point is, sex sells. And I have a very large, demanding constituency to keep happy. Now, you two - you’re all new and shiny and exciting, which is just great. You also happen to be my prisoners, so...”
He makes a hand gesture that’s probably meant to imply the rest is a foregone conclusion.
Tony’s eyes narrow. “You can’t make us have sex,” he fires back.
“Really?” The Grandmaster turns to someone off camera. “I can, can’t I? I’m pretty sure I can do that.”
Whatever answer he gets must be in the affirmative. “Yes, I can.”
Tony isn’t sure he should be pushing the issue, but if nothing else he wants to know what the game plan is if they don’t play along.
“So what, you’re going to torture us if we don’t?”
“Ehh, I don’t really like that word either. That’s not a good word. I prefer to think of it as persuasion.”
“Your species needs to eat, at least I’m pretty sure. You don’t have - ” he waves a hand vaguely around his head. Tony has no idea what that’s meant to imply. “Play along, and life can be pretty good. Don’t play along, and I guess we’ll find out for sure about the food thing.”
With that, the screen goes blank.
Tony breathes in, breathes out. He can’t force himself to turn around yet.
Damn. The kid must be putting some serious effort into not sounding scared. It doesn’t entirely work.
They both need to eat; that much is obvious. Peter moreso than Tony, since his super-strength comes hand in hand with a super-metabolism. Tony is pretty sure they could hold out for a little while, but that would only leave them both weaker in the long run.
Tony frowns at his own reflection in the now blank screen. Compliance it is, then. But only to a certain point. He turns around to face Peter with feigned confidence.
“Liberace wants a show, I’ll give him a show,” he says.
“Hey, the operative word there is ‘I’. You - ” he points at Peter, “will in no way be involved.”
“You’re really gonna...”
“This isn’t exactly new ground for me, Pete.”
Peter’s expression does something complicated, too quickly for Tony to parse. It eventually settles on something halfway between disbelief and concern.
“Aliens have kidnapped you and made you have sex for entertainment before?”
Tony rolls his eyes.
“I wasn’t talking about this exact situation. C’mon, you had access to the internet back on Earth, you didn’t live under a rock. I meant this won’t be the first time a planet full of people have watched me get off. At least this time I get to perform knowing it’s for an audience.”
Peter swallows and his face reddens in a way that basically confirms he’s seen the tapes.
Tony’s not exactly surprised - the lawyers and the PR team had initially done their best to contain the story. But the internet never forgets, after all. Eventually Tony had told them to stop wasting their time - it wasn’t like a sex tape or three was bad for his image, anyway. Hell, his stock had actually jumped a couple points after the second one.
Still though, there’s a difference between knowing the kid had watched the videos and openly putting on a show with the kid right here in the room.
“Why don’t you - ah, move over there, so I can - ” Tony gestures at the bed.
Peter nods a little too quickly, starts to move then stops, his lips pressing into a thin line.
“Take the sheet with you,” Tony says, gently. “Not like I need it.”
Peter ducks his head, wrapping the sheet around his waist as he crosses over to the small table and settles down in one of the chairs, turning to face the wall, probably trying to give Tony the illusion of privacy, for all the good it’ll do.
Tony stretches out on the bed, takes his time getting comfortable.
The thing is, he keeps tripping back over the Grandmaster’s words - all new and shiny and exciting.
He’s spent enough of his life putting on a(n admittedly very different kind of) show for the press. He knows how to play to an audience, how to grab back their attention when it wanders. How their attention does, inevitably, wander. How that isn’t always a bad thing, because it makes the splash all the bigger when you reel them back in with a new trick.
And what the means here is, that right now he has the advantage of being a novelty, but that novelty will wear off. And if he wants to keep them both fed long enough to come up with an escape plan, then he’s going to need to ration out just how exciting he makes each little show. Which means he’s going to start with the basics.
He starts off slow.
Licks a wet stripe over his palm and fingers, feeling it cool slightly as he trails his hand down his chest to his dick. He’s dimly aware of the little black half-globe cameras crawling their way along the walls and ceiling to get better angles. Huh, he hadn’t realized they could move.
It takes a little longer to get things going - it’s not like he’s in the mood. Plus, he’s not a twenty-something anymore, he’s way past the point where he feels the need to rush through to the finish line.
He spreads his legs wide, bending his knees just enough that his heels dig into the mattress, his head tipped back against the pillow. He knows how it must look.
Tony keeps his eyes fixed on the ceiling, mostly because he knows if he looks anywhere else, Peter will be in his line of sight. He can’t look at the kid while he’s - no. Not thinking about that.
Tony bites back a groan, precum slicking his hand as he palms the head of his cock, then closes his fist back around the base for another long pull. He hears Peter shift in his chair, the soft sound of the sheet being rearranged.
He can bite down all he wants, there’s no way Peter can’t hear the hitches in his breathing or the now-wet sound of Tony’s hand on his dick, super-hearing or no.
There’s nothing he can do about that, though, not now.
Tony drags it out as long as he can, but eventually the friction and lack of lube threatens to leave his skin rubbed raw. He shuts his eyes and comes, his breathing ragged and his body slick with sweat.
For a few moments he lets himself float on the endorphin high, eyes still closed, one hand lazily tracing through the spurts of come coating his stomach.
After a feat beats, he puts on his best papparazzi-mask of an expression. He opens his eyes, stares up at the camera directly above him and raises an eyebrow.
“Did you enjoy that?”
There’s no visible response.
He levers himself upright in bed, makes his way over to the bathroom to clean himself up. He doesn’t look at Peter, but from his peripheral vision he can tell the kid hasn’t moved from his seat.
He scrubs the drying come off his belly with a wet washcloth, then wrings the washcloth out and leaves it to dry over the edge of the sink.
“You can have the bed back,” Tony says over his shoulder.
Peter makes a kind of half-strangled noise before clearing his throat. “N-no thanks. I’m good here.”
Tony turns around, slightly alarmed by the strain evident in the kid’s voice.
That’s… not entirely unexpected. Peter still has the sheet wrapped around his lower body, but he’s pulled his heels up to rest on rest on the outer edges of the seat. His head is ducked down, but not far enough to hide the way his cheeks are flushed red and his eyes are screwed shut, clearly trying to will away his erection without moving a muscle.
Tony figures discretion is the better part of valor here, and turns his focus back to the cameras.
He makes another circuit of the room. Slower this time, and with a different goal. The first time he’d been looking for security weaknesses, this time he was mentally cataloguing resources.
There are some obvious plumbing fixtures that could be disassembled. The corner containing the shower has two rows of nozzles on either side, which Tony figures are for air drying after a shower, which would explain the lack of body towels.
The bed frame itself is simple but sturdy, and Tony makes a point not to think about why it’s clearly been over-engineered. There are a few screws he could remove, cross braces that he could do something with. He’s not sure what yet.
He gives the table and chair a wide berth, or at least a wide a berth as is possible in the small room. Peter seems to have relaxed a bit by now, although he hasn’t moved from his seat. He keeps glancing over at Tony, watching him as he examines their surroundings.
Tony catches his glance, raises his eyebrows in question.
Peter looks away. “Sorry,” he mumbles.
“Sorry for what?”
Peter’s eyes shoot back up to meet his, a pained expression on his face. He opens his mouth. Closes it. Tries again.
“Please don’t make me say it out loud,” he says in a rush.
“No kid, that’s not what I - ” Tony wipes a hand over his face. Christ. “I didn’t mean it like that. You don’t have anything to apologize for. Okay?”
Peter doesn’t look convinced, but at least he doesn’t try to apologize again.
However that conversation was going to, and to be honest, Tony wasn’t particularly looking forward to it, it doesn’t happen. Peter frowns like he hears something, then whips around to face the wall behind him just as a panel slides open.
There’s a compartment inside, just wide enough that he’s pretty sure Peter could fit through - if there were anywhere to go. They both peer inside. There are two trays laid out, which Tony ignores for the moment. Instead he reaches out, knocks on each side in turn. The left, right, bottom, and top sound solid, but the back panel sounds hollow.
The only way out must be through.
He examines the seams of the back panel, the thickness of the front panel on their side of the compartment, filing as much information away as he can. The bed frame looks to be the same material, if he can get enough leverage they can probably - hold on.
Peter had moved the two trays out of the way while Tony had been busy poking around, so it takes him a minute to process what’s on them. Or isn’t on them, as the case may be.
One has a cup of what he hopes is water and a plate of what he assumes is food. The other just has a cup. He looks over at Peter, who is looking down at the empty tray, anxiously chewing on his thumbnail.
The screen beside them flashes on.
“Bomb apetite, boys!”
“Bon appetit?” Tony asks without thinking.
“No, I don’t think that’s right. It’s like a big explosion of flavor, a bomb of an appetite. Right? That’s right,” he agrees with himself.
“Except I think you forgot one of the appetites. What the hell is this?” Tony points at the empty tray. “We did what you wanted.”
The Grandmaster holds up one hand, waggles it back and forth. “Weeeeell, one of you did, yes.”
Peter isn’t looking at the screen, he’s staring down at the empty tray in front of him, the implication clearly sinking in. Well, fuck that, Tony thinks.
“Fine, we’ll share it then.”
“I wouldn’t recommend that, personally,” The Grandmaster says.
“I wasn’t asking you.”
“Okay, then go ahead.”
Something about the way he says it sets Tony’s teeth on edge. Like he’s almost eager. Peter looks up at Tony, clearly catching onto it as well.
The shitty thing is, they don’t know enough about their captor yet to know where to push and when to retreat. And there’s no way to figure that out until they test those boundaries.
Tony takes the second cup of water and shoves the empty tray back into the compartment. He pushes the plate to the middle of the table. There isn’t any silverware, so Peter follows Tony’s lead and picks up a cube of what looks like meat (if meat were naturally purple) and brings it to his mouth.
One second, Peter is sitting across from Tony, the purple thing just centimeters from his mouth. The next he’s on the floor, body contorted and writhing.
Tony drops to the floor next to him, running his hands over Peter’s face and chest, trying to figure out what’s wrong. The boy’s eyes are rolled back in his head, face screwed up in pain as he shakes and twitches. Eventually the fit passes, leaving Peter curled up on his side, breathing raggedly.
On the screen above them, the Grandmaster is holding up a small device and shrugging, as if to say, I warned you, didn’t I? Tony seethes.
“What’s that, your DVR remote?”
“Do you really want me to demonstrate again? I can, all I have to do is push this bu - ”
“No!” Tony shouts back. “I get it, we get it.”
“Do you? My advisors told me your species was of at least middling intellect, but what I’m getting from you so far hasn’t been promising. So just to make sure we’re all working together on this little endeavor here - I didn’t lock the two of you up together so I could watch solo performances. So tomorrow, I expect some teamwork. Yes?”
Peter is still occasionally twitching with the after-effects, his forehead pressed against Tony’s knee, clearly in no condition to answer. Tony swallows.
“You should eat. The food’s just gonna go to waste otherwise.”
Tony shakes his head, pointedly ignoring the tray of food still sitting on the table.
Peter is sitting up in bed, now that the lingering tremors have finally passed. He looks a little pale, but otherwise okay. Once the screen had gone blank, Tony had hauled Peter over to the bed and covered him with the sheet, then dragged one of the chairs over so he sit watch while Peter struggled his way back to consciousness.
Eventually his eyes had fluttered open and he’d groaned. Tony had propped him up against the headboard with one of the pillows and held the cup of water for him to sip until Peter’s hands had steadied enough to hold it on his own.
“Please just eat it, Mr. Stark.”
“Nah, I don’t need it.”
“That’s playing into what he wants.”
“So is eating.”
Peter’s stomach growls audibly and he clenches his jaw in frustration. “Then there’s no way to win anyway, there’s just one option that sucks less than the other, right?” He pauses. “I get that you don’t want to because I can’t. But please just eat the freaking food so I don’t have to keep looking at it.”
The kid has a point.
Without a word Tony heads back to the table and takes a seat.
The food itself isn’t bad, just weird. He chews and swallows mechanically, not really tasting much at all. He manages to polish off most of the plate without even realizing it. There’s a small bowl of slices of something that look like nectarine slices but taste like a kind of spicy mango peanut thing.
Tony lets one slice sit on his tongue for a moment, then feigns chewing and swallowing. He takes another, tucks it under his tongue, pretends to chew and swallow again.
He waits for a while, long enough that he hopes no one will have caught on, then heads back over to Peter, who is rubbing at his neck like he’s got a pulled muscle. Tony reaches up and Peter drops his hand, tilting his head away to grant Tony access.
The muscle underneath his fingers feels taut, probably an aftereffect of the tremors - but there’s something else there that must be what Peter was rubbing at, a small bump about midway between his jawline and his collarbone.
Tony reaches his other hand up to his own neck, finding the same thing.
They’ve been fucking chipped, like dogs.
It’s good information to have, but it’s not why Tony had come over here, and it’s not like he can explain anything to Peter without tipping off the cameras. He brings the hand on Peter’s neck up to cup the side of his face and leans in close.
“Mr. Stark are we - I thought we didn’t have to until tomorrow. Oh god, wait was there like something in the food?”
They’re close enough now that Tony is certain none of the cameras has a good angle on his face, at least not front-on. Without turning his head, Tony looks pointedly over at the empty tray, and then back at Peter, dropping his eyes down to Peter’s mouth.
He hopes it’s enough of a hint - Peter’s reaction in the next few seconds could make or break this little trick.
Tony leans in to press his lips against Peter’s, whose mouth opens in surprise almost instantly, which Tony takes full advantage of. He pushes the little slices of fruit into Peter’s mouth, one hand still clamped down holding Peter’s head in place, hoping to god that the kid doesn’t start to sputter and spit out the food, or worse, choke on it in surprise.
Peter freezes in place. Tony nudges his chin until he closes his mouth and then pulls away like it’s any other kiss, then pulls Peter’s head down against his shoulder so the kid can chew and swallow out of the line of sight of the cameras.
They stay like that for a full minute afterward, Peter leaning forward against him, Tony’s hand carding through Peter’s hair, idly playing with the curls. Waiting to see if retribution is coming.
Peter looks up, gratitude evident in his eyes. He licks his lips, probably savoring whatever taste of the fruit still remains there. Their faces are inches apart, it’s too close.
“Than - ” Peter starts to say, but Tony shakes his head.
He drops his hand from Peter’s hair. Dammit.
They can’t - he can’t do this if he wants to get them out of here with his sanity intact. Tony retreats to the other side of the room. He shoves the now-empty tray back into the compartment, swallows down the rest of the water. He’s glad it worked, a little food is better than nothing, and neither of them have any idea what tomorrow will bring. But.
He shouldn’t know what the kid tastes like. And he absolutely shouldn’t be thinking about tasting him again.
Peter isn’t the only looming threat to Tony’s sanity.
There’s nothing to do. No books, no computer, nothing to tinker with. He pokes at the screen embedded in the wall for a bit, but none of the wiring or other components are exposed.
“I could punch it?” Peter offers.
Tony shakes his head.
That would probably only result in Peter getting zapped again, which is something he wants to avoid at all costs. There’s also another issue - he’s not sure if their captors have any sense of Peter’s abilities, but on the off-chance that they don’t know, he’s not eager to help them figure it out, even if Peter still looks like he’s running on half-empty.
They spend a while talking over what they remember from before they got beamed up into the weird portal thing. Peter mentions some of FRIDAY’s readings from outside the singularity, which leads to a discussion about Einstein–Rosen bridges, which leads to Tony trying to explain Kruskal–Szekeres coordinates without a pen or paper or any way to write out equations and graphs.
Peter has a solid grounding in physics, but he’s missing a lot of the advanced theory - even with that as a handicap, the kid picks up on new concepts pretty quickly. It’s fun to watch as the lights go on, some of the anxiety and exhaustion dropping from his face as he gets lost in new concepts.
It helps pass the time.
Regardless of how engaging Peter is, in the back of his mind Tony keeps turning their situation over and over.
He can probably find a way to jimmy their way out of the compartment, but then the question becomes what next? He’s pretty sure they’ll both get zapped for trying, and even if they don’t - Tony doesn’t have his suit. He’s confident in his ability to jerry-rig weapons and tools as needed on the fly, but at the end of the day he’s only human. Anything requiring brute strength or wall-climbing is going to have to fall to Peter.
And Peter… Tony doesn’t know how long they were knocked out for, but getting zapped plus the lack of food today has left the kid visibly pale.
The kid isn’t weak, not by any means, but he’s definitely not up to his usual superhuman strength, and depending on what’s outside these four walls, they may very well need every ounce of strength and healing ability Peter can bring to bear.
Which means he needs to eat, and a heck of a lot more than just a few smuggled not-nectarine slices.
The lights in the room begin to dim as they talk, Peter yawning drowsily but fighting to stay awake. Tony figures it must be getting close to dark outside, but it’s impossible to know for sure without any windows.
He settles down on the bed next to Peter, both of them blinking up at the ceiling in the half-dark, unable to sleep.
“I can hear your mind turning, kid.”
Peter snorts. “No you can’t. But I can hear yours.”
“I didn’t mean literally, and I really hope you don’t either,” Tony says, turning to look over at him.
“It’s your heartbeat. I can tell you’re not asleep.”
“I hate to break it to you, but that’s not as impressive as you seem to think it is.” He’s lying, of course, because the idea that Peter knows his heartbeat well enough to tell if he’s sleeping or not is frankly terrifying but also very, very cool. “You want to know another really good superhero secret to figuring out whether someone is awake or not?”
Tony wouldn’t even need to see his face to know that Peter’s eyes widen. “Um, yeah.”
“When their eyes are open and they’re talking to you,” he says flatly.
Peter shoots him an annoyed look.
“Go to sleep, Peter.”
Tony rolls onto his other side, tries to settle in. He can feel right down to his bones that it’s not going to work. Any other night like this and he’d be down in the workshop, music blaring, coffee in hand. Lights and screens and half-deconstructed projects all around him to keep up with his racing mind.
Tony sighs. “Yeah, kid.”
“What are we gonna do tomorrow?”
Tony swears under his breath. He’s been trying his best to avoid this exact conversation, but then again maybe Peter is on to something. Maybe it’s easier to talk about it in the dark, when they can both pretend to have some figurative space from one another, if not any actual, literal space.
“What -” he clears his throat, “what do you want to do?”
“I want to eat. And I want to not get zapped again by that remote thingy. But I’ve never really - I mean, I’ve messed around some? But not like, done it, done it.”
Tony winces at the phrasing. As if he needs a reminder that Peter is so plainly, painfully young.
“We don’t have to do that,” he says, knowing it might be a lie. He doesn’t know how long it’ll take him to figure out a plan, and he doesn’t know how far the Grandmaster is going to keep pushing things. But it’s a lie that will probably hold true for tomorrow at least, and right now that’s enough for Tony.
He props himself up on one arm, craning his neck over his shoulder to look at Peter. There’s just enough light to make out his expression. What he’d like to do is promise Peter he won’t have to do anything he doesn’t want to, but they would both know it was a lie.
“He said you have to participate, he didn’t say we had to do anything specific. Just… pretend you’re in your bed at home. Pretend he’s not here, pretend I’m not even here. Okay?”
Peter looks doubtful, but maybe just slightly less strained around the edges.