Bruised, bloodied, and battered, Tony is so tired. But it wasn’t the same type of tired as when he first landed back on Earth. He was just physically exhausted, but his mind, his very soul, was roaring. They’d defeated Thanos, and managed to undo the effects of the snap.
Wong had helped them with the Time Stone, and all the different minds that now made up the team were able to help make sure that everyone came back alive and whole. If all went well, everyone would appear where they had been hours before everything had gone to shit. The reversal of time meant all the second-hand casualties of the Snap (such as those who had been hit by cars that no longer had drivers in them) would come back as well.
This also meant that Peter should appear outside his school. Tony knew Peter was on a field trip to MoMA before leaving the bus and helping him against the big ugly alien that he was fighting. Tony was anxiously tapping his foot outside Midtown. Clint was antsy next to him as well.
Instead of immediately flying back out to his farm, he’d decided to stay with the team in New York until he was certain the effects of the Snap had reversed. Clint said he couldn’t bare it if he was stuck waiting for nothing to happen at home. Tony already had a Quinjet ready for Clint to hop in if nothing went wrong.
“Ready, Stark?” Wong asked him.
He nodded back. “I’ve been ready a long time.”
The stones glowed in the contraption Tony made. None of them were going to try wielding the Infinity Gauntlet after what it did to Thanos; none of them (besides probably Thor) would be able to.
It felt like ages before anything happened. Around him, it was like he was watching a crappy CGI movie in reverse: ash started collecting together, forming living human beings.
Everyone held their breath until the students were whole, all of them looking shocked and frightened. Some were patting themselves down like they couldn’t believe it, while others were crying and hugging each other. Few paid attention to the group of superheroes standing nearby.
But Tony had no eyes for them. He was waiting for a familiar head of curly hair to reveal itself.
After a few moments and no one else was reappearing, Tony’s heart broke. “Where is he?” Did it not work? Did he fail?
Steve gives him a comforting pat on his back, and Tony can’t bring himself to look at the man’s pitying look. Before he could work himself up into a panic attack, someone gasps behind him. “Tony, look!” Clint yells, sounding ecstatic.
Tony whirls around, heart in his throat. Down the sidewalk is Peter, looking down at his hands like they would disappear any second. It seemed like Peter had been late for the field trip; leave it to the Spider-ling to give Tony a heart attack. After a moment, Peter raises his eyes and meets Tony’s shocked gaze. Instantly, tears well up in both of their eyes.
The older of the two starts sprinting as quickly as he can down the sidewalk, and then Peter starts shakily running to meet him in the middle. By the time the two collide—softly, Tony makes sure not to hurt his protégé—tears are running down their cheeks.
“ Oh my god, Peter.” Tony breathes, arms wrapped tightly around his kid. “I’m so sorry, Peter. I’m so, so sorry.”
“Mr. Stark,” Peter sobs into his chest, arms around Tony’s torso. “You found me.”
“Of course I did, Pete. I wouldn’t stop until I found you.” Tony’s mind is on a loop of Peter’s safe, he’s safe, he’s in my arms, he’s not dead.
“I was so s-scared.” Peter hiccups.
“I know, I know, kiddo. But you’re fine now, I promise.” And this was a promise Tony was going to keep, even if it killed him. “Oh, god, kid, I was scared too.” I was scared I would lose you before even being able to tell you how much I cared, just like my father did.
Peter nuzzles into the fabric of his mentor’s top. “Good to know you do want me around after all.” It’s meant to be a joke, but Tony just squeezes tighter.
“Of course I want you around, Pete. I care about you. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you before.” Tony lamented, running a hand through Peter’s soft hair. He’d never been so thankful for a head of hair before, but it was like a weight dropped from his shoulders when he felt the familiar curls under his hands. He presses a kiss to his forehead and mumbles, “I care so much.” I love you, Peter, as if you were my own.
Peter cries harder. “I care about you, too, Mr. Stark.” And Tony is smart enough to read between the lines: I love you, too.
Despite all the snot that is no doubt getting on his shirt, Tony smiles. “I know, kiddo. I know. And call me Tony.”
The boy laughs wetly at the joke. “Sure thing, Mr. Tony.”
“Still better than Mr. Stark.” He ruffles Peter’s hair, and Peter whines weakly at him. Tony laughs again and leans the side of his face on the top of Peter’s head.
Tony’s back is to the rest of the team, so he doesn’t notice them come closer to him until Clint rests a hand on his shoulder. “Tony.”
The mechanic jolts, loosening his hold and turns around to look at him, but then Peter lets out a distressed sound and holds on tighter, causing Tony to quickly turn back around to his kid and running a hand through his hair again.
“Don’t go, please.” Peter whimpers, and Tony’s heart breaks at the terror he can hear in his voice.
“Hey, baby, I’m not going anywhere, I promise.” Tony soothes, rubbing his kid’s back. “I’m not leaving you. I’m just turning to talk to Clint, alright?”
He wait until Peter nods into his chest before turning, a lot slower than before and making sure that their arms stay wrapped around each other. Once upon a time, Peter would have been over the moon to have been able to meet the Avengers, but now it seemed like all he wanted to do was hang onto Tony and never let go. To be honest, Tony felt the same way.
Tony turns his gaze to the archer, who was now looking at him and his kid with a fond look on his face. In fact, the entire team seemed to be looking at the pair with the same look in their eyes. “Clint?”
“I’ll be seeing my family now, Tony. This is goodbye for the time being.” Tony gives the agent a nod and a smile.
“We’ll walk you to the Quinjet.” Tony offered, but Clint just shook his head.
“You’ve got your kid to spoil; I can walk a few hundred meters.” Clint waves and jogs away, a few of the Avengers following him. They all had people they lost, and were going to go meet them. Tony was lucky he was able to get Peter so soon.
In the time it took to reverse the Snap, Tony had come clean about how Peter wasn’t really his blood-related son, but that didn’t seem to change much in the others’ eyes. They still referred to Peter as his kid, and Tony never corrected them; it would be a little hypocritical since Tony himself called Peter his kid.
For these reasons, the team readily agreed to reverse the effects near Midtown. And now he’s got his arms filled with a teary-eyed Spider-kid and it was the best feeling in the world.
The rest of Midtown (and the universe) were still celebrating, and now that it’s been a few minutes students have started to notice that Tony Stark and quite a few other heroes were in the vicinity. Tony could hear one of the kids whisper harshly to someone ‘dude is that Penis Parker with Tony Stark?’ and stiffened. That must have been the asshole that bullied Peter about him having a fake internship; it was actually one of the reasons Tony had gone out of his way to make the internship official. Fortunately, Peter didn’t seem to have noticed; small mercies.
“Hey, Pete.” Tony said softly. “Wanna go back to the Compound? We can see May and Pepper there.”
“May’s okay? Pepper too?” Peter lifted his head just enough to be able to look into Tony’s eyes. Peter had always had really expressive eyes, similar to Tony, and they’d always had the power to make Tony turn to mush.
“Yeah, kid, they’re fine. They miss you.” Tony replied, running a hand up and down Peter’s back. “I’ll have to bring you with my suit, is that okay?”
Peter hummed in agreement, and while it was a little difficult to maneuver Peter into his arms and take off, he managed it. May and Pepper had gotten closer and closer over time, and he and May had subsequently also gotten to know each other better. They’d both be over the moon when they see Peter.
Tony, as always, was right. When they spotted Peter in Iron Man’s arms, they’d both burst into tears and came running towards them. After a solid half-hour of kisses and tears and hugs, they’d managed to move onto the couch and put a movie on. Peter was sandwiched between Tony and May, with Pepper on Tony’s other side.
Peter hadn’t stopped holding either of them for a while now, and Tony couldn’t bring himself to care. The feeling of Peter’s warmth beneath his arm meant that Peter was alive, and was safe. The only time Tony had left his side was to go to the bathroom, where he received word that everyone had reunited with those they had lost. Clint sent him a photo of his family in a pile similar to what him and Peter have been doing.
He made sure to tell FRIDAY to send Clint a picture in return.
After only a single movie, the cuddle pile (and Tony’s hand carding through his hair) had made Peter into a drowsy mess. He looked about half a second away from passing out onto Tony’s side, and while Tony usually didn’t mind, he thought Peter would rather sleep in a more comfortable position.
“I’ll get him to bed.” Tony whispered as lowly as he could to the two women beside him, and he got two nods in return. Pepper gave both him and Peter a kiss on the cheek, and May pressed multiple onto her nephew’s face and gave Tony’s arm a comforting squeeze.
“Up and at ‘em, kiddo.” He draws Peter up into a semi-standing position with most of his weight on Tony. This would be as good as it gets with Peter, Tony knew, so he just started walking towards Peter’s bedroom.
The problem revealed itself when Tony was trying to get Peter to undress himself so he’d be able to sleep more comfortably. It took a lot of maneuvering but he managed to get the kid’s sweater off and convinced him to at least change into a pair of sleep shorts (he did have to bribe him with the promise of using an Iron Man glove, but he never told him if the glove would actually have any weapons on it).
By the end of that, Tony was ready to flop onto the floor and take a nap. The soft carpet would make a great bed.
“Night, Pete. See you in the morning.” Tony pressed a kiss to the mop of curls, not expecting much of a reply from the sleepy spider. He stands up to leave, but a hand shoots out from under the duvet.
“No, please.” Peter whimpers, eyes wide and not at all the adorable droopy ones they were just a moment ago. “Stay. I d-don’t want to be alone. Please, Tony.”
The elder man was already convinced to stay from the moment he had seen those scared brown eyes. “I’ll stay right here, Peter. You’re not alone.”
Peter’s grip on Tony’s arm relaxed, and he heard a relieved sigh come from the teen. The boy shuffled over so now there was a Tony-sized space for him to lay down. He kicks off his shoes and shuffles in next to him, thankful that he’d been forced to take a shower and change earlier by Pepper.
As Tony settles down, Peter scoots closer to him so Tony lifts an arm so Peter can tuck himself right into Tony’s side even though this means Tony will be trapped there until morning. Once they’re all comfortable, Tony presses another kiss to Peter’s forehead. “Goodnight for real now, Peter. Sweet dreams.”
“Hmm, ‘night, Dad. Love you.” Then the boy buries his face into Tony’s body to hide his flushed face. Instead of making a big deal and risk Peter being too embarrassed to say it again, Tony just grins at the title and rubs Peter’s back. He kinda wants to scream in joy, but settles on pressing yet another kiss to Peter’s face.
“I love you too, Peter. More than anything.”
Ever since getting close to Peter, Tony had realized he had always wanted kids despite always saying he didn’t, and was simply scared he was going to mess up spectacularly like Howard did. And while Tony had made plenty of mistakes in the pretty short amount of time he’d known Peter, it meant the world to him that Peter was still willing to look up to him and love him just the way he was.
Peter was one of the few people Tony associated with the word ‘love’. He was colorful sticky notes plastered on fridges, he was printed pictures placed all around the flat, he was the footprints that were on the ceiling. He was a handful, but Tony had two hands.
The next morning, Pepper and May both came in and took about two dozen photos of them as they slept. And if one of the photos ended up in a frame around the floor, well, it wasn’t that surprising to anyone.