Tony paced the floor in the living room, anxiously waiting for his dumb Spiderling to return from patrol. It was way past midnight and the kid was supposed to have returned over an hour ago.
Peter Parker was in for one hell of a lecture.
He'd tried contacting Karen but he hadn't been able to get through, nor had he managed to track the kid's location.
If Tony found out that Peter and his friend Ted had hacked the suit again, both of them were gonna be in for it.
Peter was staying over that weekend since summer break had begun last week and May had left for some much needed girl time.
He'd left at about nine and hadn't returned yet.
Tony was man enough to admit that he loved that reckless, idiotic Spiderchild to pieces. Yes, the same one who was responsible for all the grey hair he possessed. Whilst Peter successfully gave him multiple near heart-attacks quite frequently, there was nothing Tony wouldn't do for that kid.
"Boss, Peter Parker is approaching the tower. ETA eleven minutes."
Tony would've hugged the AI had she been standing before him. He let out a relieved breath he didn't realise he'd been holding.
Sure enough, exactly eleven minutes later, Spiderman swung inside through the window Tony had left open.
The vigilante pulled off the mask to reveal the face of one Peter Parker. "Hey, Mr. Stark."
Tony first scanned the kid with a quick glance and was pleased to note that Peter was unharmed. "You okay, kid? Any injuries I need to know about? Or do I need to ask FRIDAY?"
Peter shook his head. "I'm fine, sir. I swear."
That's when Tony gave way to the displeasure. He crossed the distance between them until he was a foot away and crossed his arms and raised an eyebrow at Peter.
"So Underoos, care to tell me why you've missed curfew? And why was your suit not responding when I tried to contact you? No you put that lip right back in. Pouting isn't gonna cut it tonight, kid."
Peter stared at his mentor and chuckled nervously.
"Aw come on, Mr. Stark, you can't be mad at me now." Peter wrapped his arms around Mr. Stark and squeezed him in a giant hug. "Could you please, please yell at me in the morning when I'm less zombie and more... awake? I swear I'm fine."
Half his words were muffled by the ginormous yawn Peter let out into the man's shoulder which was suddenly very comfortable.
If Mr. Stark was mad at him now, Peter couldn't even begin to imagine how pissed the man was gonna he when he found out what Peter had been doing out on patrol.
His head was throbbing and he was having a really hard time playing it cool. He buried his face deeper into the warm material of his mentor's sweatshirt.
Peter should have known better than to go after those goons without informing Tony. But they'd been stealing some weird tech and he couldn't let them get away.
In the process, the tech had exploded, his suit had come in contact with the chemicals resulting in the temporary disablement and Peter was sure he'd inhaled something he wasn't supposed to.
But of course he wasn't going to mention all that to Mr. Stark. Not if he wanted to spend the remainder of his teenage life without being grounded.
Peter would rather face a bunch of armed criminals than an angry Tony Stark.
Mr. Stark uncrossed his arms and wrapped them around Peter: one hand rested on his back and the other automatically buried itself in the kid's chocolate curls.
"You're damn lucky I love you, kid."
Peter hid his smug but thrilled smile, a smile which turned to a yelp when Mr. Stark pulled away and tugged his ear, a gesture that was both fond and reprimanding.
"Don't think for even a second that you're off the hook. We're gonna talk about this in the morning. For now, permission granted to hit the hay."
"G'night, Mr. Stark." Peter was relieved when he got away. He reached his room and threw himself on the bed without bothering to take off his suit. The cool pillow underneath his head felt like pure heaven.
Hopefully the next day would be more... boring.
Peter's eyes blinked open to the familiar view of his bedroom at the Compound.
He brushed a hand over his eyes and froze.
Why did his hand look so skinny? Were his fingers always so short?
That's when he noticed the suit. The one he'd slept in last night.
Peter was practically drowning in his suit.
"What the hel—"
He abruptly shut up when he heard the sound of his own voice. He hadn't sounded like that since... forever.
Peter threw his covers off, kicking them away aggressively and ran to the full length mirror next to his wardrobe.
And he screamed.
Tony was in the kitchen, flipping pancakes and waiting for the kid to show up, all bed-headed and adorable, when he heard a high pitched scream from down the hall.
Panic seized him and he dropped the spatula and ran towards Peter's room.
He stopped short when he saw the kid.
Really a kid.
Tony Stark had gone through a lot and seen a lot. Especially after meeting Peter Parker, he'd soon grown accustomed to the kid's idiotic yet oddly lovable tendencies. Which is why he was almost always prepared for everything.
But nothing could have prepared him for this.
Standing in the corner of the room was a kid who couldn't have been any older than six.
One look at the kid was all it took for Tony to recognise him. He'd seen the exact same child in the photo album that May had given him last week.
That and the Spiderman suit that was hanging off his shoulders and pooling around his waist.
His voice came out much calmer than he'd expected, but that was just a facade. There was only one thought in his brain at that moment:
Shit shit shit shit shit SHIT!
What the hell had just happened?
"Mr. Stark." It was a soft whimper, pitiful and afraid.
Tony's legs seemed to have a mind of their own. He walked inside the room and crouched down in front of Peter.
"Wanna tell me what happened?"
Peter shook his head vigorously as his eyes dropped to the floor. "You'll get mad."
The kid's lower lip jutted out, forming what was undoubtedly the world's cutest pout.
Whilst Peter didn't know this, Tony found it hard to be mad at the teenage Peter. Those doe eyes that looked at him like he could do no wrong, the adorable curls that always refused to behave and his perpetually bashful but endearing nature always weakened Tony's resolve when he had to tell the kid off.
He'd dubbed it as the PPE aka the Peter Parker Effect.
Something which had only magnified exponentially with this sudden decrease in size.
He couldn't get mad at this Peter Parker. He'd feel like the worst human being ever.
He'd scold the kid later when the whole situation was less bizarre.
He instinctively brushed a hand through the kid's hair. "Underoos, you gotta help me out here. If we have to fix this, you have to tell me what went wrong, Pete."
Peter felt the heat building up behind his eyes. He hated every bit of this situation. Mr. Stark was being so nice and all Peter wanted to do was curl up against the man and hide.
Where did that childish whim come from?
He clutched his suit tighter around him, acutely aware that he was just wearing his underwear inside.
Underwear that was far too loose.
"I'm waiting, kiddo."
Peter clumsily pointed to the camera that had been installed in the suit.
"Right. Should've thought of that. FRIDAY, do me a favour and play the footage in the kid's suit from last night."
And Tony saw it all. He watched how Peter had gone after those robbers, the fight that had ensued, the mini explosion that had occurred when the tech equipment exploded before the screen went blank.
The room was silent after that for a whole minute. Tony sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose, barely holding all the emotions at bay.
"FRI, send a suit to retrieve what's left of the explosion. We might be able to know more once we've analysed the tech."
He wanted to be mad at the kid, he really did. But when Tony'd seen how dangerous the situation had been last night, he was honestly just damn relieved that Peter had gotten out relatively unscathed.
Minus this different version of Honey I Shrunk The Kids of course.
Another thought struck him at that moment. "What about your powers? Were they affected as well?"
A stricken look crossed Peter's face. "I haven't tried," he whispered.
Peter grabbed the thing closest to him— Tony's shirt, his eyebrows adorably pinched in concentration. And then he let go of it.
He tried again with the wardrobe this time and then again with the nightstand. Tony only watched with increasing confusion.
"My powers are gone! Mr. Stark, I've lost my powers!"
If Peter hadn't been crying before, he most certainly was now. Slowly but steadily, S
soft sobs began to wrack his small frame, the sound completely shattering Tony's heart.
Peter felt miserable. He was half his size, everything was too big, his powers were gone and he couldn't stop crying.
He was sixteen and yet he was bawling like a baby. It seemed that it wasn't just his physical traits that had been affected. He was even acting like a child and he just couldn't stop it!
He blindly swept one hand over his eyes, in a vain attempt to stop the flow of tears. He pressed his palms into the sockets and squeezed his eyes shut.
That's when he felt a pair of large, calloused hands wrap around each wrist and gently pull them away from his face.
"Pete, bud, just... breathe, okay?"
Again, acting on pure instinct, Tony curled his arm around the now little boy and drew him towards his chest. Peter didn't pull away. Instead, he tucked his head in the crook of Tony's neck.
Sure, Tony had hugged Peter quite a few times before, but now it felt different. Kid was a whole lot smaller and that made him even more vulnerable than normal.
Tony pulled back and smoothed the unruly curls that were sticking up in all directions. "We're gonna work this out, kiddo. I promise." Ultimately, Tony was a mechanic. He fixed things and so he was gonna fix this situation as well.
Peter's eyes were moist and his tiny lower lip wobbled dangerously. "But what if we can't? If we can't, I'll be a kid forever and my powers won't return and I can't be Spiderman anymore!"
He was sporting his infamous kicked puppy look again.
"Pete, you're not gonna lose your powers. We will find a way to get 'em back. I promise. FRIDAY will let me know when the suit is back and I'll go and check out the problem and we'll get to the bottom of it. Besides, I'm Tony Stark, Underoos. I can do damm well anything. You're the one who told me that, remember?"
Peter nodded and Tony reached forward and gently thumbed away a few tears.
"Wanna put something else on? Cause I'm pretty sure that the suit's gonna fall off any second and the only thing you're wearing is Iron Man underwear."
"Mr. Stark!" The squeaky voice didn't have the intended effect and Tony couldn't help but smirk.
"I'll be back in a sec, try not to do anything stupid."
Tony went to his own room and into his walk-in closet. He found an old Stark Industries sweatshirt and figured it would do until he bought some proper clothes for the Spiderling.
He wanted to vent but he was keeping it together for Peter's sake and he liked to think that he was doing a pretty good job so far. It wouldn't help if both of them would get upset.
He told FRIDAY to order some stuff and went back to Peter's room saw him sitting on the bed, his feet dangling off the ground.
"Here ya go, kid. Put this on and give me your suit. I'll take a look at it later."
He turned around to give Peter some privacy and once the kid was done, he turned back.
Something funny burst in Tony's heart when he saw the kid wearing his sweatshirt. It practically drowned the boy and trailed the floor and Tony had never seen anything cuter in his whole life.
Shit. He was turning into such a sap.
Peter's stomach rumbled loudly and the boy blushed.
"Yup. Breakfast it is. How's burnt pancakes sound?"
The kid let out a little giggle and it was the most wonderful sound Tony had ever heard. A grin tugged at his lips and he ruffled Peter's hair.
Goddamn freakin' adorable.
He stood up and beckoned for the kid to follow him out. "Come on, Petey-Pie. Hopefully the kitchen's still in one piece and FRIDAY turned off the stove like a good AI."
"Boss, Peter is asking if he can have Mac and cheese for lunch."
"Yeah, yeah. What time is it, FRI?" Tony was currently elbow deep in the technology that his suit had brought back. Behind him, the centrifugation machine whirled at top speed.
He'd left Peter to play in his room with a bunch of Lego's that the kid had left behind from last time. He'd asked FRIDAY to watch him since the lab was no place for a child, especially one as trouble prone as a de-aged Peter Parker.
Peter had argued of course, promising that he wouldn't do anything stupid, but Tony hasn't budged. So he'd left one grumpy Spiderling under FRIDAY's watchful gaze and come down to the lab.
"It's currently twelve thirty four pm and Mr. Parker is hungry."
Tony figured it would probably be better if he headed upstairs now before the kid got into some sort of trouble again.
"Tell him I'll be right up."
When he went upstairs to Peter's room, he saw the kid sitting on the floor, surrounded by Lego's. He discreetly took a photo on his phone before alerting the kid.
"So FRIDAY told me you're up for some grub?"
Peter turned around and grinned at him toothily. He nodded and stood up. "Did you find anything, Mr. Stark?"
"Yeah, kid. I'm working on it. The suit returned with the remains a while ago and the chemicals are being analysed. The tech is pretty average, it's the chemicals that played villain. Once we get to the cause, I can start working on a solution."
Tony mentally grimaced. That was the hard part. "I'm not sure, kid. It's gonna take a while."
Peter's face morphed into one of pure dismay. "Mr. Stark!" He dragged the word out, getting ready to whine. "I don't wanna be a little kid forever!"
Tony refrained from pointing out that in that moment, Peter was indeed acting like a little kid. He figured that wouldn't be the best way to deal with an enhanced and de-aged Spiderling who was on the verge of throwing a tantrum.
"Easy, Pete. You're not gonna be this way forever. We'll work something out."
Tony didn't tell Peter that once the kid was back to normal, his Spider butt was gonna be grounded for a good two weeks. There would be time for the lecture later on.
"How's Mac and cheese for lunch? FRIDAY told me you were hungry."
Like a true six year old, Peter brightened up at the prospect of Mac n cheese.
"Boss, the items you requested for Peter have been delivered and brought up by Mr. Hogan."
Peter's little nose scrunched up in confusion and Tony couldn't hide his smile.
"Yeah. I figured it would be better if we got you into some proper clothes that actually fit. You wanna come outside and take a look? We can eat after that."
They went outside where Happy was waiting with the parcel. Although Tony had already warned Happy about the situation, his eyes widened in momentary surprise when he saw the Peter before returning to its usual impassiveness.
"Hi, Happy," Peter mumbled, suddenly feeling shy.
"Hey, kid. Got some stuff up for you here."
Tony's ego received an especially large boost when Peter pulled out an Iron Man T-shirt, denim shorts and Iron Man themed sneakers from the bag.
Great choice, Underoos.
When Tony noticed Happy's smirk, he realised he'd been grinning goofily for a while. "Don't you have work, Hogan?" He snapped without any real heat behind his words.
"Yeah, yeah. I'll get going, enjoy yourself, Boss."
Peter took his new clothes and went to his room to get changed. He was sorta embarrassed when his mind had inadvertently chosen the Iron Man merchandise, but he decided it was worth it when he saw Mr. Stark's smile.
There had also been an Iron Man plushie in the bag and it had taken every bit of Peter's self restraint and control to prevent himself from hugging that toy.
He was nearly sixteen. Just because he was currently forced to look like a six year old, didn't mean he had to act like one.
Peter took off the sweatshirt Mr. Stark had lent him and bit his lip. The right thing to do was return it, but in the short time he'd worn the shirt, he'd gotten attached to it.
It was nice and super comfortable and the best part was it smelt just like Mr. Stark: his cologne, a dash of freshly brewed coffee and a hint of motor oil.
Finally, he shoved the garment under his pillow and went outside.
Mr. Stark was in the kitchen making lunch. "Hey, kid. Nearly done here."
Normally, Peter would hop onto the island stool. Currently, he was as about tall as said stool.
Tony looked over to where Peter's seat and found it empty. Instead, he noticed brown curls barely just peeking up from behind the island.
Tony blamed his next actions completely on that damn dad-tingle that Rhodey kept going on about.
He walked over to Peter and in one fluid movement, he scooped the kid up and sat him down on the island stool.
He cleared his throat and went back to put the cheese into pan. Geez, when had he become so... paternal?
During lunch, the billionaire noticed that the kid's hand-mouth coordination had also been affected. His movements were clumsy, he got a bit of sauce on his face and spilt a little on the table as well. But Peter was blissfully oblivious to everything except the delicious mac and cheese that had captured his attention.
Once he was done, Peter patted his mouth with a napkin and grinned at him. Tony smirked back at the kid and shook his head fondly.
Tony wanted to go back to the lab after lunch and start thinking about an antidote. But when Peter insisted that he wanted come as well, he decided that it would probably be better to watch a movie instead.
"What'd ya wanna watch, Underoos?"
"What's next on the list?"
"FRI, honey, you heard the kid."
A few months ago, when Peter had discovered that Tony hadn't watched Baby's Day Out, he'd been nearly offended. He had immediately drawn up a list for them to watch every week. You won't be living under a rock anymore, Mr. Stark.
"Lion King's next up, Boss. Shall I go ahead and play it?"
Peter curled up against the armrest of the couch, hugging a cushion. This was standard procedure. He would initially lean against the sofa before his head would eventually come to rest on Tony's shoulder with a sleepy yawn.
The movie began to play. Between scenes, Peter would give little comments and Tony would merely hum indulgently at the Spiderkid. Once again, standard procedure.
It was all going fine until the scene where Mufasa died. It appeared little Simba wasn't the only one who was crying. Tony heard soft, tiny sniffles coming from the small form beside him and turned to look at Peter.
"Pete? Buddy, what's wrong?"
Peter pressed his palms into his sockets. "Simba's dad is gone. He's all... he's all alone now."
Tony was at a loss. He knew that Peter was a sensitive kid. Apparently, that trait of his had been turned up a couple of notches ever since he'd turned into a child again. Plus the whole losing your parents thing hit a little too close to home for the boy.
The genius gently brushed the kid's curls off his forehead, simultaneously working on the tiny knots in them.
Telling an emotional six year old that it was just a movie, probably wasn't a great idea. So Tony tried a different approach.
"Simba isn't alone, Underoos. He's got people to look out for him. There's those two adorable weirdos right? I'm pretty sure they've got his back."
"Yup. He's the hero of the story, kid. He's not alone."
After a moment's hesitation, Tony held out his arms, silently asking if the kid wanted a hug.
He hadn't expected Peter to all but crawl into his lap and wrap his short arms around Tony's neck.
The billionaire curled a protective arm around the boy's middle, only then understanding that Peter Parker really was a child at present. Physically as well as psychologically.
"I've got ya, Pete."
Eventually, Peter cheered up but didn't move from his spot. Instead, he adjusted himself so that he was resting against Tony's chest and continued watching the movie.
Tony knew that the kid was gonna be beyond embarrassed when he was back to normal and the genius would no doubt enjoy teasing him later on.
But for now, he gave in to those instincts—not a tingle, Platypus— that Rhodey teased him for and slowly began playing with Peter's curls. When the boy only snuggled back against him more comfortably, he took it as a positive sign and continued, occasionally smoothing his thumb over the kid's temple.
About a half an hour later, Peter was asleep and Tony hadn't moved from his spot lest he woke the child up. The deaged Spiderkid's nose was pressed against Tony's neck and one hand loosely clutched the billionaire's sweatshirt.
At that very moment, Tony's phone vibrated in his pocket. Thankfully, Peter didn't stir when Tony pulled out his phone.
He'd totally forgotten to tell her what their Spiderling had gotten into in the last twenty four hours.
He answered the call. "Hey, May."
"Uh oh. I know that voice. What's happened this time?"
Nothing ever got past May Parker. He owed her the truth. Ever since Tony had started mentoring the kid regularly, he and May had developed a mutual respect and dare he say friendship. He didn't wanna lose that.
"Why don't you take a look for yourself? Try not to let the shock get the better of you. Kid's literally sleeping on top of me right now."
He transferred to video call and carefully waited for May's reaction.
Her jaw dropped and her hand shot up cover her mouth, barely suppressing the shocked gasp which escaped. "Oh baby."
Tony smirked a bit. "That's one word for it."
"What happened?" The fear in her tone instantly dropped his smirk. "Is he... is it permanent? Was he hurt? How... how did this happen?"
"It's not permanent, May. I'll find a way to fix this, I swear." Tony absently carded a hand through Peter's chocolate mop. "Thankfully, he wasn't hurt. Unless you count being hit by stupidity."
He then proceeded to explain everything that had happened, although he did underplay the danger that had been involved.
By the time he was done, the concern on the woman's face had only magnified. "That's it. I'm taking the next flight back."
Tony shook his head immediately. "No, don't do that. You've earned this time and I daresay it's overdue. We're gonna be fine, May. I'll watch the kid and work on getting him back to his dorky, reckless teenage self."
May purses her lips, trying to decide. "Are you sure?"
"Absolutely." Tony mentally told himself he was crazy.
"Fine. But if anything happens, promise you'll let me know."
"Thank you." Her expression softened into a gentle smile as her gaze shifted to Peter. "God it feels so unreal, seeing him so little again. He'd just turned six when his parents died. He barely said a word to us in the beginning. He's sensitive, you know?"
"Yeah, I know." And truly he did. Months of interacting with the kid consistently had made him accustomed to Peter's little quirks and traits.
"I'll call again in the evening when he's awake. Give him a kiss from me and tell him I love him. Also that he's grounded. Seriously grounded." She then ended the call.
Tony glanced at Peter who was still blissfully asleep. His hair was still the same, the curve of his cheek was rounder, with that tiny amount of remaining baby fat. With great care, he brushed the kid's cheek with his thumb and pressed a kiss to the top of Peter's head.
He was getting dangerously soft.
Tony was about to fall asleep himself when FRIDAY's voice startled him into alertness.
"Boss, the test results are ready."
Tony thanked the AI softly and stood slowly with Peter still in his arms. He laid the kid down on the sofa, making sure that he didn't stir.
"FRI, keep an eye on him, will you?"
With that, Tony left Peter in FRIDAY's care and went downstairs to the lab, bracing himself for whatever was in store for him and the Spiderbaby.