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There may be hope after all

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Tony was so immersed in the engine he was repairing that he didn't hear the doors to the lab slide open. He did, however, hear the person that came in. Not that it was particularly hard considering that person was not trying to be discrete and was already chanting his name and rambling as he ran in. Luckily for them it also happened to be Tony's favourite person or they would be in for a lot of yelling for startling him and causing him to whack his head against the bottom of the machine he was under. He rolled out from underneath in slowly, rubbing his head as he got up before turning to address the bundled-up teenager who had already chucked his bag across the room and was spinning in his chair.

"Hey Kid" Peter paused in his spinning, coming to face him as he smiled widely. The look caused a fuzzy feeling to fill his chest and he couldn't help but grin back.

"Hey, Mr Stark. What were you working on?" The kid looked genuinely interested, not just asking to be polite and it was something Tony had to get used to. Not many, if anyone, had cared what he did in the labs unless it was for or affected them. Many didn't understand what he did anyway. But Peter understood. He was one of the few people that could keep up with him in the lab, even if he didn't understand everything, Tony found that he didn't mind teaching him, which came as a surprise considering his lack of patience for many things. He never got tired or bored of Peter though. And the kid was so genuine, it was hard not to love him with his passion and excitement.

"Oh, just an engine that's been acting up. So, are the coat and gloves working?" Tony gestured to said coat and gloves which were haphazardly thrown over the back of a chair across the room. "Oh yeah, Mr Stark, they were great, I could barely feel the cold which was a nice change since I'm usually cold all the time in winter."

When Tony had first started getting close to Peter, he had done some research on spiders, and by that, it means he became an expert on them overnight. One of the things he found out was that spiders couldn't thermoregulate, so in winter they either hibernate or die. That had worried Tony, but he had no way of knowing if that aspect of being a spider would transfer to Peter or not.

 He got his answer quite dramatically and in true Peter fashion. The kid had gone out patrolling and stayed out for more than he should have, returning to the tower shivering and half asleep. He almost gave Tony a heart attack when he curled into his chest, grappling on to him with frozen fingers, trying to leach some of his warmth and then not responding to his frantic questions. It was only when Tony had scooped the boy up in his arms to rush him to the medbay that he looked up drowsily, Tony's panic not diminishing as Peter only answered his questions with grunts or short words, muffled by his shirt as Peter turned his face back to his shoulder, his cold nose burying itself into his neck. Tony had gritted his teeth against the cold, refusing to jerk away and take with him Peter's source of warmth, even though the suit's heaters were on full blast. Tony made a mental note to go back and install stronger ones after this was over.

 After reaching the medbay, Tony had laid Peter down on the bed but when he tried to pull away, Peter had just reached for him sleepily, a whimper leaving his lips and so, of course, Tony has left to helplessly get into the bed with him allowing him to bury his face into his abdomen. As if he had a choice anyway. Tony stroked his hair as Bruce performed the needed tests, trying to bury his panic when Bruce confirmed that his body was indeed trying to hibernate. He didn't succeed very well. "Well, what do we do? His body is trying to freaking hibernate!" Bruce had to work to calm Tony down before they both got to work synthesizing the chemical the hypothalamus in certain animals usually releases to bring the body out of hibernating. After injecting it into him and watching him wake up slowly, Tony could finally feel his tense muscles start to relax. Especially when Peter let out an adorable yawn and brought his fists up to rub his eyes before slowly blinking them open, a sleepy smile spreading slowly across his face as his eyes locked on to him, curls untamed just the way he liked it. The kid was adorable, no matter how much he protested against it. After that Tony had made it his mission to make sure Peter never got so cold his body starts to shut down again. Hence the heaters in the coat and gloves and the improved heater in the suit.

Returning to the present, Tony looked up to notice that Peter had started to work on his web shooters that he said have been acting up, so Tony returned to the engine. They worked in comfortable silence, sometimes talking but it would often fade off again. Not that either of them minded the quiet, nor did they work so quietly every time, but it was a nice comfortable silence that made you feel as though you could speak of anything you wanted to, anytime you wanted to, but you're not forced into saying something. It was safe and warm.

A few hours into working on their different projects Peter suddenly gasped and dropped his web shooters with a clang. Tony scrambled out from underneath the metal contraption in a slight panic while asking what's wrong, only to see Peter pressed up against the window, a look of awe on his face. "It's snowing," he said, voice breathless and fogging up the glass. Peter wiped it quickly with his sleeve, not taking his eyes off the landscape that had been covered with the slowly falling white snow while they had been engrossed. Tony raised an eyebrow. They lived in New York, the kid had seen snow before. He summed it up to Peter's innocent wonder with the world. Very few people were blessed with the gift of seeing beauty in the every day, Peter was one of those few. He could look at even the most mundane of things and would see more than others. And slowly, Tony could see some of the effects rubbing off on him, how he had started also seeing more beauty around. It was something he cherished dearly. From a young age, the view that there was more out there than what seemed was cracked by his father and broken childhood. That view had been shattered in Afghanistan and crushed further in the events that followed. He no longer saw beauty, but a cruel world with even crueller people. But Peter was gathering up those shattered fragments and forming them into something new, something better. His view of the world would never be the same as the early days of his youth, he had seen and done too much for that. But maybe he could look past that and see that there was still hope, after all, how could there not be hope for the world when it has Peter Parker?

"Can we go play in it?" Peter turned excitedly from the window, tearing his eyes away from the snow-covered view to lay on Tony. Tony's eyebrows shot up

"What?" he must have heard that wrong, there was no way he just said-

"Can we go play in the snow?" He repeated. Tony blinked.

"I don't play in the snow" Tony scoffed, "And even if I did, where would we play? The roof?" Tony paused when he saw Peter seriously considering it. "No. You are not playing in the snow on the roof of a building this high." Just the thought sent a shiver up his spine. There was no way he was letting him do that.

"Ok, not the roof then" Peter conceded, "But we can play somewhere else"

"Where kid? I don't think it would go unnoticed if Tony Stark was playing in the snow of New York with a teenager" He so did not want to deal with the paparazzi or the articles that would be sure to be published. Peter seemed to be thinking hard obviously not willing to give up on the snow day. Suddenly his face lit up and he clicked his fingers.

"I know just the place to go, Mr Stark," He said beginning to bounce again. "There is a small park that no one knows about that's separated from the bigger park a couple of blocks from here by some big bushes and trees but there is a hidden way through them. No one will see you there. I found it one day in my early days as Spiderman" No need to tell Mr Stark that it was because he didn't calculate the force of his swing correctly and ended up crashing into said small park. Or that the way through to it was because of said crashing.

Tony didn't even have time to respond before the kid was breaking out the puppy dog eyes and pleading. He could already feel his resolve crumbling. He really couldn't deny the kid this. "Fine" He sighed but it quickly turned into a smile when Peter let out a quiet "Yes" and fist pumped the air before rushing off to put on his coat and gloves. Tony shook his head as Peter fumbled with the zipper and realized that it would have been better to zip up the coat before putting on the gloves.

"Come here" Tony eventually said as he started walking towards him, batting his hands away and zipping it up for him. He looked into Peter's bright eyes and wide smile and couldn't stop the affection bubbling in him if he tried. Not that he ever would. He reached his hand up and brushed some of Peter's soft curls behind his ear and out of his face, leaving his hand resting on his cheek. They stared at each other for a moment before Peter to another step forward and into Tony's arms, wrapping his own around his back tightly. Tony rested his chin on top of the kid's head, savouring the unique smell that was just Peter. It smelt of home. In the way few things did, like Pepper's perfume, often complemented by her shampoo, and Rhodey's aftershave that he hadn't changed since he first met him, even Happy's sent off he didn't even know but it was just Happy. It all smelt of home, and now, so did Peter.

Peter pulled away after a while but didn't go far, only enough to grab hold of his sleeve and start dragging him out the door after shooting him an understanding smile. "Come on Mr Stark, you have to put on your gear so I can beat you in a snowball fight" That caused Tony to laugh and shake him off, "Oh yeah? You sure about that?"

"Definitely" Peter grinned. They continued teasing each other as Tony put on his coat, gloves and scarfs since he knew they would be out for a while, he even managed to wrangle Peter into a hat and wrap a scarf around his neck.

Christmas music filled the car as they drove to this ‘super secret park' as Peter had so eloquently named it. Tony was almost worried about how the kid could sing along to every song that came on, even the carols. "It's not Christmas if you don't sing the carols Mr Stark" Peter had said sagely causing Tony to have to muffle his laugh "Whatever you say kiddo".

The finally reached the park after hiking in the snow for a while and Tony had to admit, it was impressive. He didn't think he had ever seen such a winter wonderland before. Living in New York meant that the perfect snowy picture never stayed for long and after a few hours it would just be dirty sludge against the side of the road. But here the snow was untouched by the business of the city and the clearing had an even layer of perfect white snow across it glinting in the sun. Full icicles were hanging from the trees, some reflecting the sunlight and making the most beautiful scenery. Clearly, he wasn't the only one who thought so either judging from Peter's excited and awed gasp. They both just stared at the park for a while taking it all in. "Is it had that I don't want to walk in it ‘cause it would ruin it?" Peter asked softly breath coming out in a white mist that dissipated quickly. "No buddy, I feel the same" Tony continued staring. "Well someone's got to make the first move" he heard before he felt snow slamming into his head from behind. He turned quickly to find Peter standing a few feet away from him with a cheeky grin and another snowball already ready in his hands. Tony matched his grin as he scooped down and grabbed a fistful of snow, starting to form it into a ball, "Oh it is on you little brat."

They lost track of how long they played for, but it reached the stage where they tried building forts only for them to be shot with snow and having to retaliate instead of building. Eventually, they stopped trying to make balls altogether and just chucked the snow at each other. Carefree laughter was the main sound that filled the park and Tony found himself truly happy for the first time in a long time. Here he didn't have any responsibility or doubt or regret, there wasn't pain or fear, he was just spending the day having fun with his kid. It was effortless, the jabs and jokes and Tony found himself despising his father all the more. It wasn't hard to spend time with your kid; the praise often came easily from Tony whenever Peter did even anything remotely good and Tony found himself wondering even more about why his father never even tried, why the praise never fell from his lips when it was so easy and he was constantly proud of his kid, so why wasn't Howard proud of his?

Tony pushed the dark thoughts away, he would not let them taint this precious time. He smiled and throw another wad of snow at Peter. They continued for a while until they were both lying on the ground panting and staring up at the sky. Peter began moving his arms and legs in the snow, moving them away from him then back in again and again and again. "What are you doing?" He finally asked.

"I'm making a snow angel" He replied simply. Ah, that made sense. Peter rolled his head and looked at Tony expectantly. He gave him a deadpan one in return. Tony Stark did not make snow angels. Peter raised an eyebrow and Tony sighed. Tony Stark didn't have kids but yet here they were. He started moving his arms and legs and it was worth it to see the grin that lit up Peter's face.

After they got up and looked at their creations, Peter then insisted they have a snowman competition. Tony had rolled his eyes but had started gathering snow anyway. The things he did for this kid. He had strict instructions not to look over at Peter's until he as done which had resulted in another eye roll. "The things I do for you kid" He grunted as he rolled the giant ball of snow he now had, "I should get a medal or something" he was honestly surprised the clearing had so much snow left even after their snow war.

"Sure sure, I'll get you one for Christmas" Peter replied absently from behind him.

He pushed the last pebble into the snow of his snowman as Peter announced that he was now done. After Tony had said he was also done, he was given permission to look. Peter was wearing a very self-satisfied smile and as Tony looked at the snowman he could see why. On the head of it a wonky but identifiable outline of his Ironman suit and on the chest there were 3 small sticks pushed into the snow in the shape of a triangle which was surrounded by a circle. It wasn't had to guess that it was the arc reactor.

Tony felt emotion clog his throat as he looked at it and clearly saw the amount of care Peter had put into it, for as wonky as the helmet's outline was, it was still quite accurate, and he could just make out the outlines of the rest of the suit too. "Do you like it?" Peter looked at him shyly through his hair that had fallen out of his hat. His self-consciousness making the gesture seems so much more heartfelt. Tony walked over an pulled him into a tight hug "I love it."

"I thought about drawing a goatee on, but I thought that was a bit over the top" Tony snorted and wiped the tears that had managed to slip free from his eyes. "Yeah, I think so too."

They built a snowman together after that and Tony had to admit, he liked the simplicity of it, of gathering snow and rolling it into a ball, of piling it on top of each other and adding the details.

By the time they were done, they had spent more than a few hours at the park and it was late in the afternoon. Tony couldn't really feel his hands anymore, even with the gloves, or his ears and nose for that matter. When he looked over, he could also see Peter shivering slightly. He frowned and rubbed his hands up and down Peter's coat clad arms hoping it would help but knowing it was most likely useless. "You cold bud? Why didn't you say something?" Peter looked up at him with a smile, "I'm fine" and before Tony could protest, "Can we get some hot chocolate, please? I know where to get the best hot chocolate in New York" Tony still wasn't convinced, the concern on his face unmistakable, "I don't know kid, I don't want you to ty hibernating on me again, you scared me half to death that time and I do not want a repeat" Peter's eyes softened, "I promise to tell you if I get too cold or even slightly sleepy" Tony conceded, he was cold and could use the warmth anyway.

"Okay Kid, let's see this legendary hot chocolate then"

Fingers wrapped tightly around the cup, Tony tried to take in as much warmth as he could from it. He really was cold. And that caused him to be concerned about how Peter was doing, but he seemed to be doing the same thing as him. He was almost curled around his cup of hot chocolate, face hovering just above the steaming rim while his fingers were clenched around it. While the hat and scarf had mostly done their job of keeping his head, ears and neck warm, his nose was left out to face the harsh climate and as a result had turned red from cold. Peter was hoping to warm it up by breathing in the warm steam from the hot chocolate. Even though he was worried about him being too cold, Tony thought that Peter looked adorable. Sheesh, how many times did he use the word adorable to describe Peter? But he couldn't help it, it was a word that could almost always be related to him.

"I have to hand it to you kiddo, this is really good hot chocolate" Peter grinned at him and that and his rosy cheeks and bright eyes made him look so happy that Tony decided he would brave the harshest winters and still play in the snow to see Peter smile like that. ‘It's almost scary how much I would do for this kid' he usually hated the cold, it brought back too many memories he would rather forget, but now he could make new memories, ones he would look back on fondly.

Christmas soon came and with it a hyperactive teenager who loved Christmas more than any other time of the year. He had explained before why. It was because everyone seemed happier and nicer, people were more willing to help each other out and compliment others, and if they could do that at Christmas, then there was hope they could do it when it wasn't Christmas too. Peter's innocence and hope made his all the more endearing to Tony.

The unwrapping of presents was not like any other year. The family gathered together, and by that I mean Tony, Peter, May, Pepper, Rhodey and Happy. They exchanged gifts an by the end of the night Peter was sporting a Christmas jumper that Tony had installed lights into so the Christmas tree on it had fairy lights that worked (He was so happy about it that Rhodey had made a joke about him wearing it to bed and never taking it off again which had resulted in the adults laughing and Peter turning bright red and halfheartedly glaring at them). Peter had also received a new CD Player and a CD with all his favourite Christmas songs on it ("And carols. You can't forget the carols") which he had immediately started playing and which caused Happy to put to use his new noise-cancelling earphones made by Peter. The others were not so averse to them though and Peter had them all up and dancing with him, although he was the most active no doubt about that. Happy was unmoving when it came to this though and refused to get up and dance, he did, however, watch them with fond eyes and almost fell off the sofa laughing when Peter almost fell straight into the tree after an overly enthusiastic spin and Tony had to dive to grab him before he crashed.

Pepper and May chatted happily in the corner, catching up after almost 2 weeks of not seeing each other. The two of them had grown closer over time, united by their linked interests and similar personalities and together they were a force to be reckoned with. You do not want to be on the receiving end of their joint glare and both Peter and Tony and even Rhodey on occasion had been on the wrong end too many times.

Tony was holding onto his new mug. It was designed and made by Peter himself. It looked like a travel mug and it changed colour depending on the temperature of the drink inside. It also had a reheat factor so the coffee in it (let's be real, that's all Tony really drinks anyway) will stay hot for a long time. Tony had loved it, especially because written on it are the words "#1 IronDad" on it. The first time he had seen it he had not cried out of sheer force of will and the determination that the others would not see him cry. Rhodey and Happy would never let him live that down. Ever.

Currently, Peter is trying to force him into wearing a chocolate medal and Tony is vehemently refusing. "Come on, you said you wanted a medal, didn't you? I said I would get you a medal and I did. Now you have to wear it"

"I didn't think you were paying attention when you said you would. And even so, could you have not picked a better-looking one? That one is hideous" Tony shoved away Peter's attempt. The others grinned at the bickering duo knowing they would be cuddling in half an hour after all that food, drink, warmth and loving atmosphere. They were wrong. It only took them 10 minutes.

With Peter curled up in his lap, safe and warm, with his loved ones around him, it was the best Christmas Tony had ever had and he intended for there to be many more.