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The Real Peter Parker

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Tony dreaded it the moment he entered the lounge area and saw May Parker waiting expectantly. She had a steely gaze that he could swear could shoot lasers; a stark contrast to how she was when he first introduced himself to her a few months prior to him recruiting a child into a fight with enhanced super humans. It had started only a few weeks ago. He remembered the visceral fury coupled with a surprisingly strong punch to the face by the woman followed by a massive rant about her nephew. Her rampage had only been stopped when Pepper and Peter intervened and the CEO of Stark industries immediately started up actual negotiations in handling the fallout of Aunt May finding out that Peter Parker was Spider-man.

 

Tony hadn’t really been paying much during the conversation and merely sat to the side like he was a kid waiting at the principal’s office. Peter apologised profusely the whole entire time before the two women agreed on the conditions of Peter’s internship. Tony always intended for the teen to come work at the tower, especially after Peter had turned down becoming an Avenger. When he first proposed the idea of giving Peter the opportunity, Pepper readily agreed to it. She seemed very eager for it to happen, more so than their actual engagement. They were just quickly ironing out the added details mostly pertaining to Spider-man, when the raging inferno of Aunt May came storming towards him dragging Peter in tow.

 

The decision was for a trial period to happen with May observing over proceedings and making the decisions to the schedule. Obviously, it meant Peter had to make sure he attended school, kept his grades up. She agreed that he could have training to fight and defend himself and also able to do lab work at Stark industries contributing to the construction of his Spider-man suits and other projects that interns were supposed to be involved in. This was going to be on Wednesday and Friday afternoons plus every other weekends Peter had a curfew for patrols and he had to make sure that all homework be completed before going on them. May would be involved in making some periodic inspections and this occasion Pepper had arranged that May and Peter stay at Stark Tower for the week.

 

“Good morning, Ms Parker.”

 

“Good afternoon Tony…” May greeted coolly. Tony winced when he realised what time it was when he finally found the courage to emerge from his workshop. May’s inspection week had set Tony on edge and he had wanted to make sure he stayed out of May’s line of sight during the entirety of the time she was at the Tower. He was willing to sit in on any boring board meeting or even with the pompous committee for Accords affairs than meet the ire of Peter’s aunt but now on a Sunday afternoon on the last day of her and Peter’s stay, there was no avoiding it. “Come sit down,” the woman smiled demurely and Tony slowly sat on of the large couches trying to avoid looking at her. Pepper was no where in sight, so Tony was completely on his own. He couldn’t help but feel a little betrayed when his fiancée once told him that he was expected to deal with May on his own at some point after she had set up the schedule. “Where’s Peter?”

 

Tony froze realising he hadn’t really heard hide nor hair from his personal intern. Just as he was about to ask Friday about the teenager’s whereabouts, he heard the door he had come out of open and said teen started walking out in grey shorts and t-shirt and sporting a clear bed head with his curls flying in all directions.

 

“Hey, there’s my little Spider-baby.” May’s gaze softened and the mumbled greeting from the boy brought a smile to her face.

 

“Hey May…” Peter’s eyes were still closed but the teenager managed to navigate his way across the room without bumping into anything and headed towards the kitchen.  Tony noted the relaxed gait and a small smile appear on Peter’s face. It seemed that he didn’t notice that Tony was there as he was rummaging through the fridge looking a lot more relaxed than Tony had ever seen of him.

 

“Peter, do you need any help in there?”

 

“No, I’ll be OK. Friday, can you put on my play list?”

 

“Sure thing Peter.” The computer interface answered and the first song began with a soft and relaxing bamboo flute before the male singer came in with the first verse accompanied with a pop beat and a xylophone. Tony looked between Peter and May as they bantered with each other briefly. May was still seated in the lounge while Peter was in the kitchen area.

 

“He sure woke up late.” Tony commented earning a withering glare from the woman indicating that he definitely stepped on a land mine. Thinking back, he vaguely remembered telling the kid that he needed to be in bed at a reasonable hour and to just leave the lab when he was ready to turn in. Judging from the look it wasn’t the case.

 

“He’s been in the lab with you all night.” May confirmed his suspicions with a deadpan expression making Tony inwardly wince. Then he realised something, a sleepy spider near a kitchen was not a good combination.

 

“Yet you’re ok with him cooking lunch?” Tony whispered to May and he started to worry. He remembered the mishaps that the teen got himself into was when he first started coming into the lab and things subsequently started exploding. Anxiety filled him and he wondered if he should ready a fire extinguisher. It didn’t help when he heard a loud bang which it didn’t help when May just shrugged before returning to the book she was reading. Tony cautiously followed watching as the teen had pounded, twisted and stretched a piece of dough magically turning it from a single blob to several strings. Tony’s eyes widened as the teen went from making hand made noodles to rapidly chopping up vegetables and other ingredients.

 

Peter took out a wok from one of the cupboards. Tony hadn’t even realised that there had been a wok in the kitchen. Within a few moment, there was a satisfying sound of frying shortly followed by an aromatic smell of spices. There wasn’t a single wasted movement as the wok seemed to swirl rhythmically while Peter added more ingredients to the mix with the ladle. Enthralled by the fluidity of motion, Tony almost knocked a bottle of soy sauce over the table. Without even looking, Peter bent backwards and caught it without so much as a flinch and replaced it back on the table. Tony gaped before stepping back to avoid causing any more disruption and perched himself instead on one of the stools to observe. There was a quiet confidence in the way Peter worked. He was neither the nervous, socially awkward and star-struck fan boy or the cocky wise-cracking, never seem to stop talking superhero. He was… well… Tony wasn’t sure what it was but he felt warmth radiate from the pit of his stomach and he couldn’t stop smiling. The music, a far cry from his AC/DC rock based anthems had a relaxing lilting sound from the singer. He didn’t realise that Peter was into K-pop.

 

The hand pulled noodles were added to a pot of water to be cooked just as Peter brought out three large bowls. Soon enough everything was assembled. First noodles, then the sizzling spicy meat and tofu stew and finally topped by a large meatball.

 

“Grubs up.” Peter announced and Tony could hear May literally skip to the island table.

 

“Oooh, is this one of yours, Pete?”

 

“No, I learnt it off YouTube.” Peter murmured as he spooned two more helpings and picked up one of the bowls. “May, I’m taking this down to the lab for M-” Tony was sure that the bowl would’ve slipped out of Peter’s hands if not for his spider powers. He also knew that Peter had not noticed that he had been there all that time. “M-Mr Stark…” he stuttered, throat literally closing up. Tony could literally see the quiet confidence vanish and socially awkward fan-boy had returned with a vengeance.

 

“Hey…” Tony smiled and staring at the bowl of noodles. It looked and smelled insanely good.

 

“It’s so good of Tony to come out of the man cave for once and have a meal with us instead of you constantly taking it down there.” May added.

 

“U-um… it’s OK. Mr Stark is busy after all… I can take this down-”

 

“No it’s fine, I’ll eat here.” Tony interrupted knowing if he tried to weasel his way back to the lab, May would insist on staying another week. Peter set the food down and they quietly started to eat with May interjecting how good the food tasted. The curry sauce that was inside of the meatball added a nice surprise to the Mapo Tofu fusion dish. Tony wasn’t sure who came up with the crazy concoction but it was pretty damn tasty. What interested him more though was the one who cooked it. The teen’s ears was bright red and he was clearly uncomfortable to being there as he tried to eat as quickly but quietly as possible.

 

“So, how have you two been doing with your little tinkering in the man cave down there?”

 

“Fine.”

 

“It’s good.” Peter piped at the same time before ducking his head down to take another mouthful of noodles. There was buzz and Peter went to check his phone. “Um May? I was just wondering if I could go finish this in my room?”

 

“Why?” May asked casually but it was laced with underlying menace.

 

“Homework…” Peter answered. Claws started to unsheathe and Tony had a feeling that she was going to take it out on him. This kid was going to be the death of him via pissed off guardian. It wasn’t exactly the most dignified way to go.

 

“I thought you finished it already.”

 

“It’s Ned. He wants help with his.” Peter answered and May’s frown melted into a smirk, claws sheathed.

 

“Go on then.” Peter shuffled away carrying the half eaten bowl of noodles. Tony inwardly cringed that the boy had abandoned him as well at the first opportunity that he turned up in May’s presence. Of course, he couldn’t really blame the kid. No doubt, Peter had to be the one to deal with Aunt May’s temper the most so as being at least partially to blame for the predicament, Tony decided he would need to an grin and bear it too. Peter for the most part kept really quiet and had reverted to the bundle nerves he had seen when they first met. As much as the teenager loved his aunt, he was also definitely terrified of her. The first month of this arrangement felt like an eternity for them to actually get used to working together with their mutual fear of the kid’s aunt as the, at the time, only common factor they shared. Their brief collaboration at Germany was cobbled under a time pressure of 36 ridiculously stressful hours.

 Tony was not used to having a kid like Peter hanging around at his personal lab. His only experience was with Harley whom he was pretty sure was a miniature clone of him and he was a pain to work with. Even Bruce, whom he worked the best with, never had that kind of privilege and Tony made it clear of how uncomfortable he was of the situation when he often ended up snapping at the kid to get out of his work space. Eventually, the kid had seemed to found a way to keep out of the eccentric billionaire’s way while he worked, Tony supposed that the kid just went out of the lab and decided to pester Happy. He was suddenly aware that he hadn’t really kept track of Peter or attempted to mentor him like he had made a promise to. That was most likely why May was mad. He had a tendency to mess things up after all. Taking another bite, he checked the woman who was expertly splitting the meatball into smaller bite size portion with her chopsticks.

 

“So, is the Michelin style cooking a contingency plan for if the intern thing doesn’t work out?”

 

“What? No.” May scoffed looking both irritated and incredulous at the same time taking another mouthful of noodles. He could almost swear that the woman was chewing viciously at it. Tony winced, he seemed to hit a nerve.

 

“OK… is there some kind of special occasion you two have that I’m not aware of?”

 

“Nothing of the sort, this just used to be a regular thing.”

 

“Wait, ‘that’ is a regular thing?” Tony’s eyes widened. “He cooks 5 star meals for you every day?” Tony was honest, in the months that he had known the teen, the boy’s personality flip flopped from a neurotic mess to a motor mouth who didn’t know when to shut up when he put the mask on.

 

“Not everyday but it used to be often. Between him and his uncle, anyway. That’s the Peter that I’ve known and raised the last 10 years. ” May replied softly, a small wistful smile graced her lips. “The past year’s been difficult for us. For Peter especially.” Tony paused mid-chew, having the extremely uncomfortable reminder of the look that people tend to have after bereavement. Thankfully, this time it wasn’t laced with resentment. Tony swallowed trying focus on May Parker rather than Miriam Sharpe. “To be honest, after Ben died I thought I was losing Peter too. With him going out every night coming back with some new injury he tries to hide from me, the tiredness, the bullying from school.” May sighed, now pushing the food around in her bowl evidently losing her appetite. Tony had read all about Peter’s situation, when looking up the teen’s background and, boy was the kid’s life a mess. “He shouldn’t have to go through all that and now he’s going out there being a superhero and going to Germany to fight Captain America.” May gave Tony a pointed look on that last point. He could shuffle uncomfortably in seat at the decision but  the words the Peter spoke to him that day, the ones that made Tony certain that he needed to recruit Spider-man gave him conviction.

 

“OK, I’ve got enough flak regarding the Germany thing but hear me out, Peter had already started something going with his Spiderling thing long before I came on the scene. He’s got something special and-”

 

“I know that!” May scowled in indignation and took a deep breath. “I need to thank you, for taking in Peter.” The last thing that Tony expected after all the vitriol when she first found out. “Oh I’m still pissed about the Germany thing but if I had the choice, I’d rather there be someone there to look out for him. It helps that he’s finally being his old self again. So… thank you, Tony.” May smiled as she started clearing the two bowls and added it to the washing up. Tony reeled when the tension in his body leaving his body. Then a random thought occurred.

 

“Just one more thing, the K-Pop thing, is that a-”

 

“No, that’s a new thing for him but he seems quite taken with this particular group though.” May said with a smile then gave him a warning frown. “Just don’t badmouth BTS in front of him though ok?”

 

---

 

Things became a lot more relaxed with May afterwards. After having to deal with board meetings, arguing with politicians, pissing off Ross and keeping an eye out for the Rogues(whom he had made clear to the Secretary of State, he didn’t know the whereabouts were), listening to the domestic anecdotes of one Peter Parker was a nice change of pace. Like the time a 3 year old Peter started gathering seemingly random objects only for Ben and May to find out that he was collecting elements of the periodic table. They had to eventually stop him since there was no way they were going to add plutonium to his collection.

 

Before he knew it the sun had already set and May was ready to turn in for the night, except she remained where she was, looking at her watch constantly. Looking at the time, it was 11:24pm. Peter’s curfew from patrol was 11:30pm. Tony was about to ask Friday to trace if he was close by when they heard a faint thump. Friday announced shortly afterwards that Peter was in the building and May visibly sagged with relief before smiling at Tony.

 

“Must’ve been a quiet night.” May whispered as she went to go check up on him leaving the superhero alone to his devices.

 

Tony was relieved that he wasn’t being interrogated since truthfully, he realised he hadn’t been keeping an eye on the teen. He opted to rectify that by pulling up and review video footage of the lab to see how he had been doing before going to bed. Friday had a backlog of it ever since Peter started coming to the lab. He watched when Peter first entered the lab, his shoulders hunched over looking both in awe and terrified that he was in Iron Man’s workshop. Skipping a few days in, the boy awkwardly navigated and got snapped at by Tony for getting in the way. Tony winced watching his own changeable and childish behaviour left Peter looking at a loss. One time his yelling had left the kid running out of the lab on the verge of tears. The subsequent days had Peter enter cautiously and then attempting to leave the lab which earned another round of scolding for absconding his training. Each passing day, the teen was reluctant until one day he disappeared. It didn’t look like the boy had left the lab, Friday would’ve alerted him if the boy had at the time. He confirmed this when he asked Friday and she confirmed that Peter remained in the lab yet he was nowhere to be seen. Tony’s initial thought was that the boy had hacked the system like he did with his suit but Friday was a little harder to break through compared to Karen and even Jarvis so perhaps there was a blind spot in the position of the camera. He was only brought out of his reverie when Friday announced that the boy had entered his lab. Frowning, Tony checked the time. It was already one in the morning and the kid was going to school. He went to the lab fully intent in confronting the teen why he was there and to drag him back to his bedroom.

 

Tony looked around the lab and Peter wasn’t anywhere in sight, though the suit that the teen was wearing for patrol was on the table. “Peter?”

 

“Yeah?” Tony jumped from the voice above him and for the first time he noticed the large red bundle of fabric held up by a by a hook on the ceiling, that happened to be 30 feet high. The fabric wriggled and swayed a little before Peter’s head emerged out from the folds. Tony had come across quite a lot particularly in the super hero business, hell he even went into a worm hole to direct a nuke at a fleet of alien warships but he was surprised how the kid had sneaked something into

the lab without him noticing.

 

“What the-?”

 

“It’s a sensory hammock.”

 

“Why…?”

 

“Aunt May told Miss Potts that I needed one to put in the lab.” Peter mumbled while playing nervously with the edges of the fabric. Tony wondered why when he looked around, the had always been only one chair and the multitude of desks were littered by his own work. There was no where Was he ‘that’ inattentive to the boy’s comings and goings? Or the fact that the Spiderboy had all this time been above him bundled up in his little spider cocoon in the corner of his lab? Also, it looked pretty damn cosy up there.

 

“I tried to tell her to return it but it was non-refundable and I know you hate having my stuff all over your floor space, so this was the only place I could think of where it would be out of the way.” Tony winced realising that the boy was confirming what he suspected. It was probably why May looked so pissed off with him. Tony had ensured to make the new lab have a particularly high ceiling so he could have enough space to test his suits’ hover functions, which in the end he didn’t even do anymore. Multiple accidents of slamming into the walls and getting yelled at by Pepper for getting his head stuck on the ceiling meant he did all his suit’s testing outside. In a way it was true, it was indeed the only space that he didn’t use. “I’ll take it down if you want.” Peter said finally when the billionaire remained silent and the teen had mistaken it for anger. It was quite the opposite.

 

“No, no it’s fine. It can stay.” Tony answered and trying very hard not to compare Peter in his hammock to the holiday postcards of kittens in Christmas stockings.

 

“Can ‘I’ stay?” Peter asked meekly. “I couldn’t sleep in my room and this hammock’s really comfy.” Tony burst into an uncontrolled giggle this time while a warm feeling formed in his chest (that was definitely not from the arc reactor on his chest) at how adorable it all was. He noticed nearby that there was also a cupboard on the ceiling as well, which stored some of Peter’s books, his laptop and what clearly were some prototypes of some of the intern projects organised into two piles of tested and untested. Tony wondered why he was finding little fault with the stuff the college students were sending him lately. Peter must’ve beta tested them and tinkered with them before they reached Tony’s table. Wispy traces of spider silk were there waving around indicating that Peter had used his web fluid to hold them up on the ceiling during the day then packed them into the reinforced storage cupboard. The Avenger grinned at the ingenuity, that rather than giving up, Peter had found a way around his problematic mentor in the only way he alone could do.

 

“Sure kid.” He watched the Spiderling visibly relax and starting to yawn. His curly haired head disappeared back into the folds of his make believe cocoon. There was some wriggling before the hammock became still with only the slightest sway. After a few minutes of just staring to make sure that Peter was indeed asleep in his hammock, a thought occurred to the older super hero.

 

Do I want kids?

 

If someone asked Tony that question 10 years ago, he knew what his answer would’ve been. He would never have been able to appreciate how truly fulfilling raising a kid could be. Hell, he wouldn’t have settled down to get married and now he was engaged to the most wonderful and capable woman in the world. This was what Yinsen could’ve had and he promised the dying man that he would make his sacrifice count. Tony thought Iron Man was the answer and doggedly pursued it in the name of the man who gave up his life to protect him. He realised now what the man really meant. Tony returned back to his screen with a new resolve. Sure there was probably still a huge army waiting out there to attack Earth at any moment but for now Tony wanted to make sure he thoroughly learned everything about the real Peter Parker.