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Anything But Temporary

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“Are you sure?” Peter asked for what felt like the billionth time. This, to put it mildly, was the worst thing that could’ve happened to them. To May.
“Yes, Peter, I’m sure. Me, and about three other equally capable physicians. She can’t be moved until she regains complete control of her leg. I’m sure that won’t be happening for at least another 6 months, or a year, even. Both leg bones were shattered on impact. The hip bones were affected and thankfully, there was minimal damage to her spine. We’re lucky that only her lower body was affected and not her upper, and especially not her spine. She could’ve ended up an invalid.”
The doctor (Peter kept forgetting her name) must’ve noticed Peter’s dismal reaction to her diagnosis so she added:
“But she will heal in due course. All we need is time and good medicine and physiotherapy, both which we have. Relax and let us do the work. Eat something. She’s still asleep, you know.”
And money, Peter’s brain unhelpfully supplied. They needed money. It sucked that was his first thought, but it was. Treatment this detailed should cost a bomb, and the Parkers were the find of family that ate leftovers for days to save up for a new paint job. This would shred any funds they had left.
Peter wiped one last tear from his face and stood up a little straighter. Strong. He needed to be strong. For May.
“When can I see her? When will she wake up? She’s not in pain, is she?” He asked, his voice quaking a little.
“She’ll be asleep for another two days or so. Don’t worry, she’s just fixing herself. The medicine is working it’s magic. She’s not in any pain.” The doctor gave him one last sad smile and walked away.

As if on cue, another woman walked up to him, looking much less nicer than the doctor. The first thing Peter noticed about her was the ghastly pink lipstick she wore. She extended her hand.
“Hello, Peter. I’m Gloria, the social worker assigned to your case.”
“Social…what?” His brain couldn’t register what she was saying. He had a social worker?
“Yes. We understand your aunt was in a car accident that will take months to recover from. She was your only guardian, and we can’t let you stay alone; you’re a minor by law.” She looked like she couldn’t care less if he slept in a dumpster.
“Emancipation.” Was all he managed before the tears came again.
“Not possible. Your aunt will be back to normal in the future, taking you under her care again. She’s not gone forever.” She muttered something under her breath about teenagers and their fucking independence.
He stared mutely back at her. Stay with someone? Ned? His parents would take him in for the time being, but for months at a stretch? That would be asking for too much. MJ? He knew she had daddy issues, though she refused to talk about it. He was pretty sure another kid living under her roof, friends or not, was the last thing she needed. After that, his mind failed to think up of anything. May didn’t know too many people, so he had nobody.
“So, Peter, I have a foster home lined up for you, and they have another boy your age, so I’m sure they’ll be—“
“No!” he shouted. Anything but a foster home.
“Well, do you have anywhere else to go?” The pink lips curled inwards to form a sneer.
To be honest, there was one person he could call. He wasn’t so sure they would appreciate it, or even pick up his call, but Peter thought he would do anything to delay getting into a foster family.
“I hope.” He said, fishing out his phone from his pocket.
“Try your luck then.”
He walked away from her and dialled.
“Hey Happy. It’s Peter. Something’s happened.”
***
When FRIDAY’s voice woke Tony up, he half considered temporarily shutting her down. He’d been doing well! Rhodey had (finally) persuaded him to go to bed before the sun rose, and he hadn’t had a nightmare in two days.
“What is it.” He demanded more than asked, his voice gruff from sleep.
“It’s Happy, sir. He stresses the urgency of the situation.”
“Well, tell Happy to go fuck himself. It’s dead ‘o’ clock in the morning.” Tony replied, burrowing himself in pillows again.
“I will not, sir. That’s highly inappropriate.” Was that cheekiness he heard? “And in his defence, you are usually awake at this time.”
“Nope. I’m asleep.”
“Sir, he says that it concerns Mr. Parker.”
Tony shot up. Peter? It was 2 in the morning, and the kid usually didn’t stay up that late. He felt and unfamiliar sense of dread choking him. Almost…protectiveness.
“What…what did he say it was about?” Tony managed.
“He said that Mr. Parker was calling from the hospital and that he needed to be picked up.”
Tony was out of bed and changing into a suit in seconds. The dread intensified. Why would Peter be at a hospital? Had something happened? But he healed faster than regular people! Would he receive the right care?
Downstairs, he found Happy waiting with a car. Wordlessly, Tony got in and the car started. The hour’s drive from the compound to the hospital was spent in tense silence, except for Tony initially drilling Happy on Peter’s message. Gazing tiredly at the black landscape, Tony wondered when he’d started caring so much about his ‘intern’. After the Homecoming fiasco, he’d started to keep a better eye on the boy, giving him his personal number, which he rarely called. When his relationship with Pepper had gone south, he had invited Peter over to his lab to take his mind off things. But what was one lab session became two, then three, slowly progressing to bi-weekly. The pair had started to branch out their activities, watching movies, cooking together and even playing Monopoly.
Tony didn’t know how, but somehow during all this time, Peter had managed to worm his way into Tony’s heart, something Tony didn’t know was possible. After Siberia, then breaking up with Pepper, he swore not to let anyone close enough to hurt him, but apparently that rule hadn’t extended to cute Spider-Kids who were a lot more trouble than they were worth.
His train of thought was interrupted when Happy pulled up into the parking lot of Queens General Hospital, honking rudely (something he’d under normal circumstances refuse on doing) at a crossing pedestrian. Tony hopped out of the car before it stopped and rushed into the emergencies wing, ignoring gaping stares from passers-by.
In the waiting room, he spotted someone curled up into a chair, shaking ever so slightly. He’d recognize that mop of brown curls anywhere. God, Peter looked so young. He walked up to the back of the chair and carded a hand through his hair, overwhelmed with sadness.
“Oh kid.”
***
Suddenly, Peter felt a hand stroke his hair heard a familiar voice.
“Mr. Stark?” He turned, and saw Tony Stark standing behind him, looking devastated. “Why…how…you’re here.” He finished lamely.
“Of course, kid. You OK?” Mr. Stark asked, looking like he genuinely cared. Did he? Genuinely care? Why else would he be here in the middle of the night? He only remembered calling Happy. “Kid. Kid? You with me? Are you OK?”
Peter swallowed, wiping away persistent tears. “No.” He said. “I’m not. May…May’s hurt, Mr. Stark. There was an accident, and she got hurt bad.”
Mr. Stark didn’t say anything. He just enveloped Peter in a hug he didn’t know he needed. He waited for him to break away awkwardly, but he didn’t. He held on until Peter felt ready to let go.
“Better?” he asked.
“Yeah.” He sniffled, wiping his face furiously. He didn’t want to cry in front of Mr. Stark. He’d already wet his Armani jacket, which probably costed thrice their rent.
“Peter.” Mr. Stark said, as if reading his mind. “Kid. It’s OK to cry. Let it out, Peter. It’s OK. I’m here. I’ve got you.”
Ten minutes later, when he was all cried out and speaking in slightly coherent sentences, he explained the accident to Mr. Stark. He was a good listener, making all the right noises and ignoring the way a few stray tears still made their way down his face.
“It’ll be OK, kid.” Mr. Stark said once he had finished. “I know it doesn’t feel like it right now, but it will. May’s safe. You aren’t hurt. She’ll get better soon, and I’m sure she won’t be too happy knowing how worried you were.”
“No, Mr. Stark, it’s not. You don’t get it.”
“What don’t I get?”
“Nobody’s there. I met this—this foster lady. She said I have to stay at a foster home temporarily. I have no one. I—I’m alone.” His voice cracked on the last word and he broke down again. Great work, Parker. He’s been through worse; you don’t wanna waste his time with your sob stories.
“What do you mean, alone?” Mr. Stark said, looking surprised. “You’re many things, Peter, but you’ll never be alone, at least while I’m around.”
“What do you mean?”
“You’re staying with me,” Mr. Stark said it with a sense of finality, as if he was shocked that Peter would think of anything else.
“You’d do that? I mean, I know you’re busy, you probably like, have meetings and stuff—“
“Peter.” Mr. Stark cut him off. “Of course I would. The meetings don’t matter. Actually, you might give me an excuse to get out of them. Now, once that’s settled, you wanna get outta here? Get some sleep? You look like you need it.” Joking as his tone was, Mr. Stark looked perfectly serious.
Peter nodded mutely, leaning on the older man as they got up and walked (more like Tony walked and Peter dragged) towards the exit.
But life threw another curveball in the shape of a woman with pink lips. Peter felt a wave of new exhaustion hit him, and zoned out staring at the empty reception while he let Mr. Stark deal with her. They argued for a whole ten minutes, Mr, Starks’s arm around him the whole time. He didn’t listen to their entire conversation, though he could make out the words lawyers, sue you, and I’ll do what I want, along with other jargon he found unintelligible in his current state of mind. He felt himself being walked to a sleek Merc outside the emergency wing and he slid into the blissfully comfortable leather seat. The car purred to life and he fell asleep with his head on Mr. Stark’s lap, staring into the passing black nothingness.

Chapter Text

Peter woke up sleeping on something soft and oh, so comfortable. Rubbing at his eyes, he looked around to see that he was on a bed positioned on a slightly elevated pedestal in a large room that looked lived in. Unfinished projects littered one half of the room, and a few photos were hung up a little haphazardly above a dresser near a door he supposed lead to the bathroom. (You never knew with rich people).
Rich people? It all came rushing back: the accident, May wounded, May in hospital, the rude social, Mr. Stark. Oh god. He looked around in horror. He was lying in Mr. Stark’s bed. Oh my god. Had he really been that out of it that he kicked Mr. Stark out of his own bed?
FRIDAY’s voice interrupted his thoughts. “Good morning, Mr. Parker. I have notified Boss that you are up.”
“Oh, you don’t need to do that, I’m sure he’s busy…” Peter stuttered, still little sleepy.
“No, he’s asked me to notify him when you wake up. I’m just following orders, Mr. Parker.” FRIDAY replied.
Seeing that there was no way to get out of it, Peter resigned. “Um, FRIDAY? Can you call me Peter?”
“Of course, Peter.”
Peter slipped out of bed and saw that he was wearing an oversized pair of sweatpants and an Iron Man T-shirt. He rolled his eyes and walked towards the door. Just as he was about to open it, it swung towards him, startling him a little.
Mr. Stark walked inside face lighting up when he saw Peter. “Kid! You’re up. How’re you doing?”
“Better…I think.” Peter said. Then he realized he was still in the older man’s room, wear his clothes. “Mr. Stark, I’m so sorry to inconvenience you, and I slept in your bed, in the middle, and I took up so much and did you sleep, and I’m wearing your clothes, for heaven’s sake are you OK with that? I mean it’s fine if you’re not, I can just change and I don’t need breakfast and then I can go—“
“PETER!!” Mr. Stark shouted. “It’s OK. I didn’t sleep anyways. And you can keep the clothes, god knows I have too many of them. And what do you mean you’re leaving?”
Peter paused. “Why didn’t you sleep? That’s not healthy.”
Mr. Stark barked out a surprised laugh. “God, kid, you keep surprising me. You should be worrying about you, not me. Like how you need to eat breakfast.”
“No, Mr. Stark. It’s really fine. I can go, I don’t wanna hold you up.” Peter said, all the while thinking how he could use another hug instead. Mr. Stark sounded so concerned.
“No.” He paused, as if considering what to say. “Peter, I want you to stay. You’re not inconveniencing me, so get that out of your head, OK? I want to spend time with you. I want you to stay. Now, how about some nice, homemade waffles?”
Peter nodded mutely and gestured towards the bathroom. After the quickest teeth-brushing-showering-hair combing session he’d ever taken, he shuffled out of Mr. Stark’s room, FRIDAY guiding him to the kitchen where he found Mr. Stark trying to fish out burnt waffles from the toaster. Once he noticed Peter’s presence, he turned around and gestured to the waffles.
“OK. Not exactly homemade, but still made at home. What do you think, is it edible?”
Peter shrugged. He knew the man was trying, but all he could think of was May: if she was OK, when she would wake up, and most importantly, what to do now?
Mr. Stark must’ve seen his expression, because he left the waffles alone and strode towards Peter and laying an arm somewhat awkwardly on his shoulder.
“I called the hospital today. She hasn’t woken up yet, they’ve had to up the pain meds. It might take a little longer, Peter.” He said, as if reading his mind. “She’s stable, kid. She’s gonna be fine, she’s just healing.”
“Oh. OK. But what about the bill? Mr. Stark, we can’t afford something like that, it’ll amount to thousands…”
“I’ve already paid. I’ll pay more if necessary.” Mr. Stark said with finality.
“Oh, no, you didn’t have to do that!” Peter said, horrified. Not only had he slept in the man’s bed and worn his clothes, now he was making him spend thousands of dollars?
Mr. Stark sighed. “No, I didn’t. but I felt that it was the least I could do. You don’t need this over your head, and neither does May. Now, eat?”
Peter, still a little miffed but admittedly feeling a lot better now that the hospital bills weren’t going to hang over his head like a rain cloud, nodded enthusiastically. And then he saw what he was going to be eating.
“Uhh…Mr Stark?”
“Yeah?”
“I don’t think that’s edible. It’s transgressed to another physical state, I think.”
Mr. Stark was obviously relieved that Peter wasn’t going to have another breakdown and smiled until he turned and saw the waffles for himself. He gagged and actually took two steps back, before hesitating, swallowing, and finally saying: “Right. That. Sorry, it’s just that, uh, Pepper used to cook all the time when we were dating. This whole…” He gestured in the general direction of the kitchen, “Is not my mojo. Like, at all.”
“Oh, that’s OK. I know the basics. I can make breakfast. What about pancakes?” Peter suggested.
“Oh, none of that. I know a great breakfast place, I order out from there all the time. Shall we add bacon and eggs to the pancakes while we’re at it?”
“Sure!” Peter’s stomach grumbled at the thought.
While they waited, they put up the next episode of Lucifer, and sat on the sofa laughing at the Lucifer’s obvious obliviousness while sharing a box of nerds. It was blissfully like the old days where Peter would come over and work with Tony until they were tired enough for TV and dinner. He could almost forget about May in the hospital, sleeping while her body worked to fix itself. Almost. But Peter was mature enough to know that if he brought it up again, Mr. Stark would get sick of the constant complaining and nagging and then Peter would lose him. So he just let Netflix distract him until the next hurdle came along.

***
Tony still couldn’t believe how apologetic the kid was being. As if he really couldn’t believe that someone would take him in and feed him and care for him. Tony resisted the urge to reach over the middle cushion of the sofa and hug him. Peter seemed strangely withdrawn, not talking much at all. Tony imagined that if he was in the kids place, he would be pestering an adult with questions.

Seeing him the night before, scared and small and young, had reminded Tony of himself after his parents had died. Obadiah hadn’t been much of a comfort; he just helped him financially. (At least now he knew why). No one had been there to tell him it was OK, and make him breakfast and make sure he got home alright. Peter had gotten lucky. His aunt would survive, but she wouldn’t be able to care for him the way she did before for a long, long time. This was the least he could do, because Peter didn’t deserve this. The kid had lost his parents and then his uncle, and now almost his aunt. He would not, could not, let Peter be alone. And also, something in Tony’s heart, something he didn’t know existed, throbbed almost painfully when he saw Peter miserable. A primal urge that told him to make Peter happy, no matter what the cost. He was still figuring that out.
FRDAY’s voice rang out: “Sir, an incoming call from Mr. Evans.”
“Transfer it to my phone, FRI.” He got up, his back cracking. God, he was getting old. “I’ll just be a minute,” he said to Peter. Noticing his alarmed expression, he added: “It’s not the hospital. Accords stuff, kid. Nothing for you.”
He picked up the phone once he was one the balcony. “Evans? What’s the status? Did it go through?”
“Tell me what you think.”
What did he think? He’d been working towards getting the rogues pardoned since Siberia and the phone call from Steve. One year later, he stood on the precipice of either the fruition of his hard work or his absolute failure. Yes, of course he wanted them pardoned. He owed it to them, especially Wanda. He didn’t think his conscience could take ruining another Maximoff’s life. That, and also she was a passionate young woman with her whole life ahead of her. She wasn’t the only one: Steve, Nat, Clint and his family, Sam, even Scott.
“I don’t know, just tell me, goddamn it!” Tony barked.
“They’ve been pardoned! Stop shouting. All of them. It went through.”
Tony stopped breathing for a second. It had worked. All those negotiations, him and Rhodey flying back and forth from DC, the terms and conditions, the arguments. He should’ve felt happy, but he felt nervous. Nervous about meeting them, or rather, him.
“All of them?” He asked, hating the way his voice shook slightly.
Evans seemed to understand. “Even Barnes.”
“Oh. That’s good.”
“Tony.” Evan’s tone softened slightly. “He’s been through rehab in Wakanda. You know how good the princess is. He’s become himself again.”
“I know. I just have to talk it out with him and Steve, I guess. Anyways, how soon till they move back?”
“Immediate effect. Tomorrow, basically. They're welcoming it, in fact. A luxury tower is significantly better than a cave on the run.”
“What?” Tony shouted so loud that he was sure Peter was startled, super hearing and all.
“I thought that this was what you wanted!”
“Well…something…” He didn’t know how to explain it. “It’s OK. I’ll deal with it.”
“That’s all. Good luck. They’ll be here tomorrow. Please, for fuck’s sake stick to regulations. Cooperate, and it’ll be fine.” Evan said.
“OK, mom.” Tony said. “You know we’re grown adults, right?”
“Act like them then.” Evan said before disconnecting.
“Fuck.” Tony said, looking at the city. He heard the tell-tale padding of footsteps and then saw Peter peek around the door.
“Mr. Stark?” he asked. “Is everything OK? Do I need to go?”
“What? No! Why would you think that?”
Peter shrugged. And that’s when it hit Tony: he was taking in a teenager. A small, dependent child, who would be relying on him. And to top off the fact that Tony would probably be a terrible guardian/parent, it happened at the worst time possible.
“OK kid. Here’s what’s going on. The Accords, right?”
Peter’s face brightened now that he knew it wasn’t about him and he nodded vigorously. “Yeah. What about them?”
“Well, I’ve been working on getting the Rogues pardoned for the past year or so, and it finally happened.”
“OK?” Peter gave him a quizzical look. “I mean, that’s great, but why were you upset?”
“They’re gonna be moving back here, kid. Off of them. This is their home, you know? You don’t have to move out!” He quickly added before Peter could say anything and the boy gave him a small smile.
“But Mr. Stark, why are you upset? Is it because of Captain America?” Damn the kid and his intuition.
“Well, lets just say we have a couple things to work out between him and his bestie. Don’t’ worry about it. Has the food come? I’m starving.”
“Why are you always hungry Mr. Stark? For someone who claims to live on coffee, you know.”
“Hypocritical, kiddo. You're being so hypocritical right now. You’re talking? The mini human garbage disposal?”
“Your sarcasm doesn’t work on me, I’ve told you a thousand times…”
They continued the friendly banter as Tony helped Peter roll up the sleeves of his old MIT sweatshirt (the kid was drowning in it) and dig into the meal. Tony hadn’t really fit in with the Avengers, and become totally part of their family, as what it was meant to be. Fury was right. He wasn’t a team player, and considered Rhodey, Pepper and Happy the only people he kept close. And after the break up, he didn’t know where Pepper stood either. But something told him that the kid sitting next to him and sneaking some of his bacon bits when he thought he wasn’t looking had someone crawled his way onto that short list, and wouldn’t do anything to betray Tony.
What was he doing? Getting all mushy inside like a grandma. That wasn’t Tony’s usual style. But as looked at Peter again, he figured he wouldn’t mind switching it up a bit.

Chapter Text

They’d gone to the hospital that day, but all they saw of May was her asleep. Peter was crestfallen by the sight of her unmoving, but comforted by the steady beeping of the monitor and her soft, deep breaths. Not to mention Mr. Stark’s hand on his shoulder the entire time.
When they got back, Mr. Stark put Doritos into a bowl, grabbed a spray can of nacho cheese and led him to the couch.
“Mr. Stark? Am I in trouble? Because this isn’t what you should do if you’re mad at me.” Peter joked as he walked over, but was feeling a little nervous all the same.
“Nah, kid, you’re not in trouble. Let’s just say…things are gonna be changing unexpectedly from now on.” He took a deep breath and started talking. “Well, first of all, you’ll be staying here.”
Peter nodded. “About that, I know I said this before, but thank you so much, you have no idea how much this means…”
“Peter.” Mr. Stark smiled a little sadly. “None of that. I told you, I was sure of what I was doing when I signed those papers. Yes, it’ll be different because you’ll be here, but I’m talking about the Rogues returning. Are you sure you’re OK with that? I can say no if you want. It’s still my payroll.”
Peter was shocked. Mr. Stark was willing to trash all his hard work for him? Peter Parker, some kid he took in like, literally yesterday? There was no way he was going to make him do that. Peter would talk to Captain America all day if it meant that it would help Mr. Stark.
Speaking of Mr. Stark, he saw the man looking at him weird. Oh oh. He must’ve not been responding. To cover up, he awkwardly picked up a Dorito and bit it, wincing at the loud crunch at produced.
“Osh kosh meehr shark.” He said, nodding vigorously.
“Sorry kid, I don’t speak nacho. You gotta try human interaction.” Mr. Stark looked like he was trying to keep a straight face and failing miserably.
He swallowed, blushing. “Of course, Mr. Stark. I’m OK with anything, you know me.”
“Peter, think about it. Are you absolutely sure? It’ll be 10 loud, high maintenance people. Not to mention all the internal conflict…” Mr. Stark winced again, and Peter wondered why Mr. Stark was allowing the Avengers into his own home again, after all the shit that went down in Siberia. Because, you see, Peter knew something. Something Mr. Stark didn’t know he knew, and Peter planned on keeping it that way.

1 Year Ago:

“Hey FRIDAY, can you tell me how to cheer Mr. Stark up?” Peter spun once more on the rolly chair he swiped from the desk next to him. “He seems sad these days.”
“I do not know how to cheer the Boss up, Mr. Parker. I am still only an artificial intelligence, I do not work smoothly with feelings. Would you like me to perform a psycho analysis instead?”
“What? No! I’m pretty sure that’s a violation of privacy.” Peter said. “No, maybe you could tell me why he’s upset? Has anything happened in the past couple of months? Like maybe his fallout with Captain America?”
FRIDAY was oddly silent.
“FRIDAY?” Peter prompted.
“I think I might know what might be bothering boss. But I can show it to you if you promise you will use it to help him.”
Well. That was cryptic. FIRDAY was never cryptic. Peter knew that there were al lotta things Mr. Stark didn’t told him, but this was confidential? Peter felt bad.
“Hey FRI? Would it be a violation of privacy if I use it to help him?”
“You would need to help him, Peter. It is clear that he trusts you.”
“OK then. Let me help Mr. Stark. Show me.”
And she did. Peter watched all of the footage. Mr. Stark arriving in Siberia, trying to make up with Captain America and the Winter Soldier, being shown that footage of the Soldier murdering his parents in cold blood. Him attacking Captain America. Them resisting. The Captain plunging his shield. Into Mr. Stark’s heart. Not even having the courage to stab him in the back but actually his chest.
An eerie silence filled the room after FRIDAY stopped playing. Peter realised he couldn’t move to wipe the one tear streaking its way down his cheek. He couldn’t fathom it. He wouldn’t. How was Mr. Stark OK with that? How was he even functional? Sure, he’d fought a bunch of evil villains who’d all hurt him pretty badly, but this? A team mate; friend, even?
“Mr. Parker?” FRIDAY’s voice shook him out of his stupor. He cleared his throat.
“Yes. Thanks, FRIDAY. I’ll help him. You be sure of it, OK? I’ll keep Mr. Stark company even if nobody else does.”
“Thank you, Mr. Parker.”
***

“Kid? You look like an upset puppy.”
“What? Nooooo…” Peter said, knowingly extending the no to distract Mr. Stark from the fact that he looked like he wanted to punch something. Not an angry puppy. What was he, 10?
“You haven’t answered my question. You OK with it, or not?”
The innocent Peter Parker would have been OK with it! Excited, even. He would’ve worn his Captain America t-shirts and jumped up and down in pure ecstasy by being given the chance to meet his heroes. But that Peter Parker didn’t see what happened in Siberia. The Peter he now was didn’t own any more Captain America t-shirts. This one had given them away to Goodwill and cracked a weird science pun whenever Mr. Stark brought up Captain America, looking a little sad every time. Eventually Mr. Stark stopped talking about the Accords to Peter.
But he though he didn’t understand why Mr. Stark was being so nice to his ex-team mates, he respected his decision. If he wanted to go this, he should be able to without some kid voicing his opinion. So he nodded. “Perfectly fine, Mr. Stark. I don’t get disturbed easily.”
***

Tony still wasn’t completely convinced that Peter was fine with him inviting the Avengers back over, but the kid seemed insistent that he should, so he texted a go-ahead to Evan. Also, he was tired of being called Mr. Stark. That was his father.
“Hey Peter,” he said. “Call me Tony, won’t you? Mr. Stark was my father, and I am many things, but I am not like him. At least I hope I’m not.”
“OK. M- Tony.” Peter corrected. “It’s weird you know? I feel I should give you a title of respect. But maybe I shouldn’t? Have we crossed that line? Can I have that hug now?” Peter joked, and looked shocked out of his skin when Tony reached out and actually wrapped him in his arms. Bony. The kid was too thin. He’d have to eat him to eat more.
“Mr- Tony?” Peter asked after they parted, slightly glassy eyed. “Are you OK?”
“I think we both needed that.” Tony replied simply, letting a little of the fear and anxiety he was feeling slip into his voice.
“Hey.” Peter tentatively put an arm on Tony’s shoulder, as if afraid he would flick it off at any moment. Suddenly it was very important to Tony that the kid knew that he wouldn’t ever not want him around. So he took Peter’s hand in his own.
“I know I’m not an adult or anything but you can like, confide in me. And stuff. Only if you want to! Oh my god, am I being too awkward? I probably am. Way to go, Peter…” The boy’s voice trailed off at the end of the sentence. Tony stifled a laugh.
“Oh kid. You are something special, you know that? And I’m supposed to be worrying about you, not vice versa. Please don’t get anything else into your stupidly brave head. You have the self-preservation quotient of a mosquito.
“No I don’t! I’m responsible! I’ve gone to bed before bed before 3 three whole times in a row!”
“You sleep after three?” Tony said sharply, and Peter winced.
“I probably wasn’t supposed to say that; see? I’m just awkward, not irresponsible!”
“You are very irresponsible, kid, don’t convince me otherwise. My mind is set. Set. Did May ever know you didn’t sleep properly?”
Peter looked down. “Nah. She always went to work before I woke up anyways. We aren’t big on breakfast. Thai for dinner is more our thing. We larb Thai.” Peter grinned wickedly, probably at some inside joke.
Tony realised then that Peter might be just as lonely as he was.
“Kid. Wanna go get your stuff from your apartment tomorrow? As flattering as it is that you find my clothes comfortable, you sort of look like a scarecrow.
“Aren’t the…people, coming tomorrow?” Peter asked, saying people like Tony would say healthy relationships. Did Peter know something? No. He probably didn’t.
“That’s in the evening, kiddo. We have all the time in the world in the morning.”
“But what about your meetings?”
“I’m the owner. Just because we don’t get summer vacations like you lot, doesn’t mean we can’t make advantageous changes to our own company’s schedules.”
He did have meetings. Multiple. But spending time with Peter was like hanging out with Rhodey, or Happy. Maybe even better. And plus, he was sure Pepper would enjoy the break from seeing his face after that nasty fight that finally ended it.
“Then sure!” Peter gave him a 100 watt smile, and Tony hoped he was just as happy to spend a day with Tony as Tony was to spend a day with Peter.
“You’re on, kid.”
***

He’s my friend. Steve’s voice echoed in his ear as he stalked closer to Tony. But it wasn’t just Tony this time. He was shielding Peter, who was shaking with fear.
“I’m sorry, Tony. It has to be this way.”
But instead of hitting Tony, he aimed for Peter, crushing his small, fragile beneath the vibranium shield that his father had made him.
Tony saw Peter bleed; without an arc reactor, the shield had hit home, and Peter was floundering.
“M-m-mr. Stark?”
“Shush, shush, Pete, breathe for me, shush, calm down, kid. Breathe. Please, for fuck’s sake, breathe.”
“T-tony. S-save me…” Peter’s eyelids fluttered shut as his grasp on Tony’s hand faltered, then broke.
Steve and Bucky stared coldly from a distance as Tony wept endlessly over Peter’s broken body, muttering his name from time to time, his tears blurring his vision…

And he woke up, tears still blurring his vision. Thank god. Oh, yes, thank god. It had been a dream.
“FRIDAY, is Peter OK?” he asked. Please let him be OK.
“Peter is asleep and has been for the past 6 hours. Would you like me to wake him?”
“No. No, that’s fine.” But he still felt the urge to check up on him, so he got out of bed and tiptoed inside Peter’s room. Still not satisfied, he walked to the edge of his bed and ran a hand though his hair, his deep breaths giving him reassurance that he was alive and well.
Huh. Apparently Rogue’s return was going to kick start more nightmares. But this time, amplified as they included his kid. Then and there, Tony made up his mind. Steve and his buddy could torture Tony as much as their hearts desired, but they would sure as hell fucking pay if they laid a finger on his kid.
His kid? When had Tony started thinking about him that way? He didn’t know, but he liked it.

Chapter Text

Peter unlocked his apartment and stepped inside. It felt weird being here without May. Looking around, he noted that there was a fine layer of dust coating the desk and TV table in the living room. May would’ve hated it. They might have had a small apartment, but she would always insist on keeping it immaculate.

“Uh, M- Tony? I’ll just go, and uh, grab some stuff.” He said and went into his room. It was the exact opposite of the living room and kitchen. In defiance to May’s strict cleaning routine, Peter prided himself on keeping a room that could only be described as orderly chaos. He was the only one who knew where everything was. He didn’t notice Mr. Stark enter behind him.

“Good lord, kid. Do you know where anything is?”

“Yeah! It’s, just…a little messy, that’s all.”

“Understatement of the century,” He heard Mr. Stark mutter behind him. Tony, he mentally corrected himself. The man insisted on Peter calling him Tony.

“It’s not that bad, Tony,” he said, walking over to his cupboard and opening it. Whoosh. He was temporarily knocked out by the hurricane of t-shirts falling on his head.

“Whoa, kid! You’d be Happy’s worst nightmare. Wait, is this an Iron Man t-shirt?” Tony delightedly picked up a black shirt with Iron Man holding out a repulsor. “I’m honoured!” He put one palm on his heart in mock pride.

“Give it back!” Peter snatched it back, going an embarrassing shade of red. “You weren’t supposed to see those!”

“Those? You have more?”

Peter’s expression was answer enough. But he wouldn’t let Tony go through any more of his stuff, lest he see anything he could use as future leverage. In the end, the older man relented.

“OK, OK. I’ll just go out and make a call. Shout when you’re done, and you can get those clothes of May’s you were talking about.”

Peter nodded solemnly and ushered Mr-Tony out before mechanically shovelling clothes into one of their spare duffel bags. His mind wasn’t on the packing, though. So many things were gonna change. He was gonna be living with Tony now. Living. And May was still asleep. Steady, but asleep. And who knew how long she was gonna be in hospital and couldn’t care for him? His four month summer break had just started but he had no idea how he was gonna get to school and back if he still lived in the compound when school reopened. What about Ned? He’d been ignoring his phone on purpose since the accident and his messages were being bombarded. Not to mention their group with MJ too. She usually wasn’t the type of girl to worry, but even she was starting to show signs of anxiety.

He paused, wondering he should pack his Avengers socks, before adding them to the pile. Mr- Tony had seen enough already.

When he walked out Tony was just putting down the phone. “Hey, kid. You’re done. Those were the cleaners. They’ll be here once every fortnight to tidy up the place, starting today.”

“Thanks…Tony.” He was getting the hang of it! “May hates messy places.”

“Yeah, I feel you. Pepper used to hate those too.” Tony blurted out before realising what he’d said. “Never mind. Onwards we go. May next?”

“Yup.” Peter said, popping the P. He figured Mr. Stark would talk about the breakup when he was ready. From what he’d heard, it had been pretty messy. And, he’d already told him (very awkwardly) that he could confide in Peter if he wanted to. He hadn’t been sure if Mr. Stark had taken him seriously when he said that, but he’d nodded as if he’d understood.

After packing some of May’s most comfortable clothes and taking out any perishable trash from the fridge, the two of them finally drove the 1 hour drive back to the compound. Peter celebrated silently that he could sit in the front seat of the car, since Happy made it very clear that he preferred Peter in the back and silent.

When they got back to the compound Peter jumped on the couch headfirst, Mr. Stark staring a little weirdly.

“What now, Mr. Stark? When are the others turning up? Like, what do we do now? Is there some official stuff you have to get done? I mean, I can do something else if you need to. That’s sort of what I’m asking, like if you want me to stay. Or go? Cause I’m fine going.”

“Kid.” Mr. Stark sighed. “How many hints do I have to drop before you figure out that I like spending time with you? I prefer this to meeting or official stuff OK? And as to what we do, we wait. I finished signing everything 2 weeks ago. And for the billionth time, it’s Tony. I thought you were getting the hang of it.”

“I was! I just…slip back into it when I’m nervous I guess. Wanna watch a movie?” He said, hastily changing the subject.

“Why not? As long as it’s not Star Wars. I think you’ve subjected me to that torture enough over the past year. Anything else in mind? Which does not, by chance, include aliens? I happen to hate aliens. Especially homicidal ones.”

Peter looked at him thoughtfully. “What about Death at a Funeral?”

“Never heard of it.”

“Cause you’re old, Mr. Stark.”

“I’m experienced, kid, not old. You’re a baby.”

“Am not.”

“You are.”

“No”

“Will we ever start this movie or are we going to be having petty fights until the new age Pirates of the Caribbean return this evening?”

“You’re right. Um, FRIDAY, can you play Death at a Funeral? The Kevin Hart one, I mean.”

“Wait! FRIDAY, not yet. Popcorn first, always. Understood, young Padawan?”

***

Tony felt utterly relaxed as he carded his fingers through Peter’s hair, watching the admittedly funny movie. Peter had good taste, even though he fought the lecture to lecture the boy on how inappropriate this movie was. Especially for a kid who couldn’t even say sex without turning fifty shades of red.

If it was up to him, he’d spend every day like this, just hanging out with the kid. He’d never imagined this…domestic type life would ever fill him with this much happiness. Spending time with the kid is easy. Maybe even better than Rhodey, who’d known him at his worst. So obviously life had to throw something else at him to disrupt that little peace he had.

“Boss,” FRIDAY said, pausing the movie. “Evans is calling you. He says it concerns the Rogues.”

Tony didn’t want to move. He’d told Peter everything anyways. Well, almost everything, but even Evans didn’t know what happened in Siberia.

“Tony,” Evans voice echoed through the living room. “Slight change of plans. The team will be there in about 10 minutes.”

“Slight change of plans?!” Tony echoes. “What? Why? How?”

“God knows. They just got here early, I guess. They’re heading over now. You told me the rooms were ready three days ago, right. So you’ll be fine.” It wasn’t a question as much as a statement.

Tony looked over at Peter, who was staring back at him wide eyed. “You good, buddy?” he mouthed.

“Yeah, I guess,” Peter said.

“Who’s that?” Evans asked sharply. Damn FRIDAY and her impeccable speaker system.

“Nunya” He replied, looking Brooklyn slang to cheer Peter up. It seemed to work; Peter looked in between throwing up and laughing.

“If it’s that intern you keep talking about, tell him I say hi. And Tony,” His tone softened slightly. “Good luck. You all will be fine. Even if you don’t believe it.”

“Thank you. Really.” Tony replied.

The call cut.

Silence presided until Peter finally said something. “Really, Tony? Nunya? You could’ve tried. At least a little.”

“Shut up, kid. We’ve got bigger things to worry about.”

***

Tony and Peter stood on the helicopter landing on the top of the compound and watched as the Quinjet flew closer. Tony put his arm around Peter’s shoulder when it landed smoothly. Huh. Clint must be driving. The others could never learn, no matter how hard they tried.

The doors opened and Steve walked out. Steve. With a beard. Fuck, life on the run must’ve taken a hard hit on him. The others followed, and it was almost like old times. Nat. Sam. Clint. Wanda and Vision, together. That Scott guy who could shrink. And Barnes. Emphasis on almost.

Steve cleared his throat and held out his hand. It looked weird, without the signature shield hooked onto it. “Tony. Good to see you.”

Tony could’ve laughed. But he had to be cordial. “You too, Cap. I see you’ve switched up a little,” he said, gesturing to the beard.

Steve chuckled a little self-consciously. “I’ve grown to like it.” Seeing that they hadn’t stared hurting each other, the other approached, Nat leading the group.

She pushed Steve aside and pulled Tony in a hug he didn’t know she was capable of giving. He held on a little, savouring the company of a friend after so long. He and Nat. The ones who’d started all this. He’d missed her the most.

“Miss me, Agent Romanoff?” He asked, and she recognized the throwback.

“You know you’ll never hear me say it, Stark. Now, is my bed warm? I’m tired.”

“How little you think of me.” And just like that, the ice was broken. It wasn't half as bad as he expected it to be. It was happy, even; something he found himself thoroughly enjoying. Tony greeted all of them, feeling an emptiness in his chest disappear. His team. The only thing everyone felt was the absence of Dr Banner and Thor, but no one said anything. He shook Vision’s hand and had a cordial conversation with Sam, before he noticed a certain Spider Kid was missing.

He looked around in alarm before seeing him deep in conversation with Wanda, both of them looking at Peter’s phone and laughing. Laughing? He’d never seen Wanda laugh before. The kid was a miracle worker, he thought fondly.

Steve and Clint must’ve caught him looking, because suddenly there was a voice in his ear.

“Who’s the kid?” Clint asked.

“He’s going to be staying with me for some time.” Tony didn’t elaborate.

“Tony,” Steve said, his voice implying his unasked question.

“No, no, he isn’t mine,” he said, feeling a pang after that.

“But you wish he was.” Clint completed for him. “I’m a dad too, Tony. You are his dad, biologically or not. I can see it by the way you look at him.”

“You’ll do good, Tony.” Steve said. “Even if you don’t believe in yourself.” Oh Steve. Always the voice of reason and comfort. Perhaps it was the lack of it that caused Tony to spiral in the past year. But all that didn’t matter. He had Peter now. And his team. But there was still one small thing he had to clear up, and Tony’s engineer brain didn’t allow him to rest until he had cleared it.

“A minute, hotshot.” He told Steve. “I’m going to go formally introduce himself to someone.” He knew Steve understood.

He approached Barnes, standing on the side with Sam, and Sam dutifully excused himself.

“Sargent.” He started.

“It’s Bucky now,” he interrupted softly. “Please, call me Bucky.”

Tony noted his change of tone in surprise. Perhaps he really was back to normal now. This was a man who looked in control and not violent at all.

“Bucky. I hear you’re yourself now. After a field trip to Wakanda.”

“Yes, they helped me. I’m not the Winter Soldier anymore. I don’t harm anyone now.”

“I know.” Tony inhaled deeply and started talking, not without noticing Peter staring at him worriedly from where he was standing with Wanda, and now Clint.

“Whatever happened, I want to put it behind us. This is a new start. A new team, and I want to start with a clean slate.”

Bucky nodded. “Me too. I hope you will forgive me—“

“I have.” Tony cut in. “You weren’t in control, and I shouldn’t have lashed out the way I did.”

“It was the fault of both parties.” Bucky held out his hand. “I hope this works out. I have a feeling it will. Unity was what we lacked. United, we will work much better. Maybe all that happened only to lead to this.”

“Maybe,” Tony said. “But that’s in the past. I think I’ve become a better man. I hope. And I have someone,” he looked at Peter, “who I don’t want to let down. So, do we trust each other?”

Bucky’s hand was still extended. “We do.”

It felt like a new beginning. New people, a new team, fuck, a kid, who he loved more than his own life. And for once, Tony didn’t feel dread.

Tony shook.

Chapter Text

The elevator dinged, depositing Peter in the kitchen and meal floor. (Peter still couldn’t believe Tony had a whole floor for meals. At his apartment, he still used the chair Ben had fixed up when he was six.) Apparently, he wasn’t the only one. The Winter Soldier and Sam Wilson were seated at the breakfast bar, stirring cereal absentmindedly, both seeming to still be half asleep. Natasha Romanoff (Holy hell, the Black Widow!!!) was eating a salad while looking at her phone and Ant-Dude (Peter felt terrible for not knowing his name) was next to her, tongue sticking out while attempting a newspaper crossword.

It was weird to see the Avengers look, well, this domestic. Peter had always imagined them as crazy cool superheroes, and after actually fighting with some of them in Germany, that vision had expanded. He guessed he had to come to terms with the fact that they were human too.

He tentatively approached Ant-Guy, as he looked least harmless and looked around for a bowl to put cereal in. He hadn’t been to this floor before; he’d always eaten in Tony’s private kitchen. Ant-Guy looked up.

“Hi! I’m Scott Lang. But you can call me Scott. I don’t think I’ve met you?”

Peter smiled. He seemed sweet. “Peter Parker. But you can call me Peter. Pleased to meet you.” He said, a little shyly.

“What are you doing here, Peter?” said a low voice from across the room. Peter started, turning fast and noticing it was the Black Widow who’d spoken. “Miss Black Widow ma’am! Well, uh, I’m just here cause um…you see…”

“That’s OK Peter,” she smiled, a genuine smile. “You can call me Natasha, but my friends call me Nat.” She winked. “I didn’t mean to come over as condescending.”

“No, problem, Natasha. Nat.” Peter said, internally screaming. He was on first name basis with the Black Widow! Wait till he told Ned, he’d probably have an aneurysm. Oh, crap balls. Ned. He’d forgotten to text Ned! It was just that these days had been so consuming and devastating and fun that he’d totally forgotten to tell his best friend what had happened in the first place. Ned would be freaking out. And MJ. Way to go, Parker. Ignore the girl you want to ask out when you’re finally in a good place with her.

“Peter?” Natasha’s face scrunched up. “I’m sorry, did I say something?”

“Leave the kid, Nat. You’ve probably freaked him out enough already. He looks what, 12?” Sam said, turning around. He gave Peter a little hand wave. “I’m Sam, kid. And this little ray of sunshine here is Bucky. Or you can call him dickwad. Your choice.”

“Shut up,” Bucky said. “Hello, Peter. I’m Bucky.” He sounded almost scared, like Peter would run away at the mere sight of him.

“I love your metal arm!” Peter blurted out before he could help himself. “Oh shit. Did I say that out loud?” He must’ve done the right thing, even if it meant embarrassing himself, because Bucky’s face lit up.

“Thank you, I don’t get that often.”

“Well, you should. Cause, you know, it is.” Peter said. “And no, Miss Natasha, it wasn’t anything you said. I just remembered I haven’t called my friend in 3 days. He’ll probably be worried. And mad.” He added as an afterthought.

“I’m sure he’ll forgive you though,” Natasha said, flashing him a smile once again. “And no miss, Peter. It’s Natasha or Nat.”

“OK, Natasha. And I’m not 12! I’m almost 16!” He protested.

“You know they’re young when they say almost…” Scott said, scratching away at the poor paper.

“Hey! And I don’t really like the name dickwad, it reminds me of someone persistently annoying. I’m not really his favorite person. ” He shuddered, thinking of Flash and his never-ending taunts.

“Bucky it is, then.” Sam shook his head sadly. “We could’ve gone places, kid.”

“Shut up, Wilson. I like him” Bucky said, coming closer to Peter. “Maybe it’s not my place to ask, but what are you doing here?”

“Nah, it’s OK.” Peter said. When had he gotten so comfortable around these people? It felt right, somehow. He’d seen the video. He’d watched Bucky attack Mr Stark. But somehow he didn’t blame him as much as he blamed Captain America. Maybe it was because he knew Bucky had been brainwashed? And the absolutely self-conscious way the man held himself reminded Peter of himself, and that was something he sympathized with. “I’m staying with Mr. Stark, temporarily.” He was glad no one asked why. He didn’t wanna talk about May, right now.

Natasha nodded like she understood, and Scott changed the topic. “Where is Tony, anyways?”

Peter munched his cereal, trying not to let his disgrace to table manners show. “You never know. He could be coming down right now. Sometimes he sleeps in. Sometimes he’s up by five.” But he wished Mr Stark would come down now. He wanted to know if May had woken up.

“How long have you been here anyways?” Sam asked.

“It’s my third morning.” Peter said.

“I hope you don’t mind us moving in,” Scott said a little apologetically. “I know it must’ve been a shock.”

“It’s OK, really. And also, it’s not my place. I’m still a guest.”

“Not by the way Stark treats you; you might as well live here.” Natasha smiled.

“What?” he didn’t really catch what she said. Something about Mr Stark? He was going to ask but he was interrupted by the elevator opening and a certain blond, all-American hero walking in. he immediately tensed. He couldn’t be in the same room with him! Not after what he did to Mr Stark, knowingly, that too.

But Captain America smiled as if all was right in the world. “Hi, you must be Peter. I’m Steve.”

“Yeah.” He shook his head a little bit. “Pleased to meet you,” he muttered, the words almost dying in his throat.

Captain America looked a little hurt. The others looked confused. They were probably wondering how such a talkative kid clammed up so much after the Captain’s arrival. He didn’t care, though. All he knew was that right now he couldn’t be civil to a person who’d been so horrible to Mr Stark.

He got up suddenly. “I have to call that friend I was talking about. See you guys later!” He couldn’t get out of the room fast enough.

***

Tony walked out of his room as Peter rushed past, refusing to meet his eye. What was wrong? “Hey kid! Wait up! No good morning for me?” Fuck, he’d almost slipped up and said old man instead of me. He mentally slapped himself. He should stop considering himself Peter’s father. He wouldn’t want someone like Tony anyways.

“Um…hey Mr Stark!” Peter shouted. When had he reverted to Mr Stark? “I, uh…have to use the bathroom! I’ll see you! The others are eating breakfast!” He rushed past without looking back.

God, the kid was a terrible liar. And what others? Had Peter met the whole wolf pack without Tony being there? He decided not to stress out too much about it until at least 2 cups of black coffee and proceeded to the kitchen floor.

Where he found the others with frowns on their faces.

“A very jolly morning then, I gather?” Tony said. “Or do you find the accommodations not to your favour?”

“Tony,” Natasha said, “Is Peter OK?”

“Peter?” He tensed up immediately. “What happened to Peter? Is he hurt? I mean, he just ran past me without saying hi and he never does that. Never. Did something happen? What did you ingrains say?”

“Nothing. He was perfectly fine, all chatty…” Barnes said.

“Until I came in.” Steve looked very upset. “I don’t understand. I just said hi!”

“He never said anything to me. He seemed perfectly happy all of yesterday. I think he and Wanda are actually friends now, even.”

Sam choked a little on his milk. “Kid made friends with Wanda? God, he’s like a walking puppy.”

“That’s why…why doesn’t he like me?” Steve said again, and Tony wanted to throttle him. Brave, noble Steve was used to everyone liking him. But it still puzzled him. Steve was likable, whether Tony had a…small problem with that or not, and Peter was one of the most open, friendly people he’d ever met. Unless…he knew about Siberia? No. No way did he know about that. No one knew about that, except Rhodey.

“I’ll be back.” He spun on his heel and walked out of the room and straight to his workshop. Once safely locked inside, he called FRIDAY.

“Hey, girl. Have you shown any footage of me lately?”

“What footage, boss? The one of you singing along to Senorita, by Shawn Mendes?”

“No! No one can ever see that, do you understand?”

“Yes, boss.” Damn FRIDAY. She sounded amused.

“No, the one from…” He inhaled. “The one from Siberia.”

There was a long pause, almost as if FRIDAY didn’t want to answer. And FRIDAY always, always answered to him.

“FRIDAY?” He asked slowly. “What the FUCK did you do?!”

“It was around 11 months ago, boss. You were still reasonably upset from the incident that had occurred in Siberia. Peter was reasonably worried, and wanted to see what was wrong because he wanted to cheer you up.”

Tony fought the tears that threatened to slip from his eyes. Oh, god. Peter had noticed that he was upset. Peter had wanted to help. Pure, innocent, Peter.

“I offered to perform a psychological analysis but he objected, saying it was a violation of privacy.” At that, Tony cracked a smile. God, his kid was such a saint. No. Not his kid, he forcefully reminded himself.

“But he was adamant to help, so I showed him the Siberia footage only if he promised to help you. A few days after, I noticed reductions in your nightmares and more dopamine in your system, so I assumed Peter had helped.”

He had. No wonder the kid changed the topic whenever Cap came up, and was there with a mug of warm cocoa whenever Tony had a nightmare. He’d helped Tony without him even realising it. God, he’d been so stupid. Stupid and selfish.

Oh, fuck. Something else hit him along with that. Steve. No wonder the kid refused to be around Steve. He must think badly of him, because he’d hurt Tony. But he was nice to Barnes? That didn’t matter. Right now, he had to find the kid. The kid who’d seen him at his worst (actually seen, and not heard, like Rhodey) and decided to stay and be with Tony. The kid who would’ve been great friends with Captain America if Tony hadn’t ruined all of that for him.

Tony dropped everything and ran to Peter’s room. He knocked once, sharply, before throwing the door open and rushing in. A little too late. The bed was empty and the window was open. And, Tony noticed with horror, the bag in which he’d so devotedly packed his Spider-Man suit, was lying on the floor empty.

Chapter Text

Peter sat on top of an insurance building, absentmindedly munching on a churro (Old Mexican ladies loved giving them out). He’d just finished stopping two robberies, a mugging, and a kidnapping. So far, a good day. But before that, he’d visited May (out of suit, of course) and placed two purple orchids on the desk next to her bed. May loved orchids, and he hoped the smell would wake her up faster. Yeah, he was really getting desperate now.

He didn’t know why he just ran like that after saying good morning to Tony. He didn’t want him to know how he’d reacted to Captain America. There was no other word for it—Peter was ashamed of how he’d behaved. He’d been childish and rude to someone who’d meant no harm. He didn’t know how to justify it, but seeing Captain America after knowing about Siberia filled him with rage and protectiveness for Tony he couldn’t explain. He just wished there was someone he could talk to…

Wait! There was! “Karen, can you call Ned?”
He wanted to talk to MJ too, it was just that she could be more open to Ned, who’d seen him at his worst. Add the fact that he needed five minutes to settle himself and prepare for a conversation with MJ if he didn’t want to stutter and act like a lovesick puppy.

“DUDE! WHAT THE FRICKETY FRIKKIN HELL! WHY HAVEN’T YOU BEEN CALLING ME???!”

“Ned. Calm down, man, I’m fine. I’m sorry I didn’t call, OK?”

“THAT WON’T COVER IT PETER!” Ned shouted, completely ignoring Peter’s soft tone. “YOU KNOW THAT WITH YOUR….extra-curricular,” Ned’s voice hushed when he said that, “THAT ANYTHING COULD’VE HAPPENED!!!! DO YOU EVEN KNOW HOW WORRIED I WAS? OF COURSE YOU DON’T!!!”

“Ned. Believe me, I’m sorry. Let me explain why I didn’t call.”

“Peter, are you OK?” Now that he’d gotten the shouting out of the way, Ned was a lot more calm.

“Me, yeah. But May, uh…she had an accident.”

“God, man, is she alright?” Ned did sound extremely worried, and that struck Peter with guilt.

“She will be. She’s still sleeping, but the doctor said she’s just healing. After she wakes up, it’s gonna be more difficult for her. It’s gonna take some time to help her use her legs again. Her, her spinal cord was damaged, her hip bone was shattered, and her legs are worse.” Peter got all of it out in one breath, trying not to linger, in case he cried again.

There was a pregnant pause. Then, finally, Ned breathed out harshly. “Peter…I…I don’t know what to say. That sucks man. It really sucks. You know you can come over anytime, right? I’m here for you, so are my parents.”

“Yeah, thanks so much. But Ned, I’m fine.”

“Dude. It’s OK to cry if you want to, you know that right?” Ned could always read his mind. Always knew what he was thinking even if Peter didn’t know it himself.

“Yeah,” Peter replied, a little choked. His throat was starting to feel really heavy, as if he was holding something in. he hated it. “But I think I’ve done too much of that, yeah?”

“Peter,” Ned said, as if it had just struck him, “Do you have a place to stay? Like, are they allowing you to stay in your apartment? You know you could always stay with me, right?”

“Yeah I do. But Tony took me in, its fine. He’s been really awesome, actually.”

“Tony?” Ned asked, sounding confused. “Wait, Tony as in Tony STARK? You’re on first name basis with IRON MAN? You LIVE with Iron Man? How? Dude, what even is your life?”

Peter chuckled. Trust Ned to cheer him up. “Yeah, first name basis took some time to get used to, but he insisted.”

“He insisted…” He heard Ned whisper-repeat, sounding awe-struck.

“Yeah I stay at the compound. But it’s...” He gulped. “Temporary. Until May’s well enough to become my care-taker again.”

“By what you told me, that seems like a long time. It’s really cool that he did that, man. Especially with the Rogue Avengers returning. Oh, I guess they’re not Rogue anymore, then. But it’s been all over the news. You’d think a busy guy like him would need some alone time with all that stress piling up on him. Wait, did you meet them? The non-Rogues?”

Peter couldn’t help it; he had to show off a little. “Yup. Black Widow told he to call her Natasha. Or Nat.” He grinned evilly, picturing Ned’s reaction.

You’d better introduce me, then!” Ned managed to gasp out. “Holy hell, Peter, Black Widow! Who else did you meet?”

“Bucky, Sam, Scott, and Captain America.” The last name brought a sour taste to his mouth, reminding him of the incident in the morning. He thought he heard Ned faint.

“Captain America?????????” Ned was so excited, his voice was actually quivering. Unlike Peter’s, Ned’s hero worship for the oldie hero hadn’t worn off. “What did you say to him, Peter?”

“I was horrible to him.” Peter said bluntly.

“Why?” Ned’s tone changed completely. You’d think he called Flash a sweet guy by how offended Ned sounded.

“He and Tony…had a little disagreement.” Well, that was putting it lightly. “And I was on Tony’s side. So lets just say I don’t like him much.”

“But that was all the way in Germany! I thought they were friends now. There’s a picture of them shaking hands on the Daily Bugle.”

“Ned, you know the Bugle’s trash. And yeah, they’re friends now again, but I still don’t like him. And what’ll Tony think? You said it yourself, he was no nice taking me in and stuff, and I just went and screwed it all up by being rude to his teammates and friends, who he’s known MUCH longer than some kid from Queens!”

“Peter, stop stressing out. Mr. Stark’s not gonna send you away because you don’t like Captain America. Did you talk to him about it yet?”

No. Tony had been sending him texts since when he fled to come back, and he’d ignored all of them guiltily. He just couldn’t work up the nerve to approach the man yet. God, he probably hated him.

“No,” he said in a small voice.

“Then why on earth are you freaking out? For all you know, he’d probably be fine with it!” There was a shout in the background, and Ned spoke again, this time rushed. “OK dude. Mom’s calling for dinner. I’ve gotta go. I’ll call you tomorrow, OK?”

“Yeah sure. Thanks for hearing me out, Ned.”

“Always.” Ned replied. “And dude? Call MJ. She’ll never say it but she’s super worried too.”

“I’ll try,” Peter joked, and then said bye again, cutting the call.

***

 

As soon as Peter cut the call, Karen jumped into action. “Hey Peter. How was your conversation with Ned?”

“Really, good. Thanks for asking, Karen.”

“Always a pleasure, Peter.” Karen responded easily.

Peter loved the fact that Karen took time to ask him about his day and personal life; it was like he had a friend during patrol. But just thinking about the amount of time Tony must’ve spent programming her to work like that made him feel guilty for ignoring the man all over again.

“Peter, you have one voicemail from Tony. He stresses the urgency.” Speak of the Devil. Peter gulped. A voicemail? Tony always texted, he never called unless it was urgent or Peter had done something wrong. In this case, Peter supposed, it would be the second. God, Tony was probably so mad at him. But he saw no other alternative, so he asked her to play it for him.

“Hey Pete. It’s me. Um, I don’t know why you just left like that…wait I think I do know why you left? I think we need to have a talk. I’m not mad, I’m just…I don’t know. Just come back soon. I know you’ve been avoiding my texts. Please, Peter, just come back soon.”

Oh, crap. Tony said he wasn’t mad. He didn’t even sound mad—he sounded much worse. He sounded disappointed. And what did he mean when he said he knew why he left? He couldn’t have known that Peter knew about Siberia, right? No way. He’d hidden that way too well, only subtly changing the topic whenever Tony brought up Captain America, claiming he didn’t want to know about the politics surrounding the Accords.

He sighed and slung a web on the next building. He supposed he’d just have to wait and see what music he’d have to face for disobeying Tony like that. Maybe Peter had finally done it. Maybe he’d finally pushed Tony to a point where the man decided Peter was much more trouble than he was worth, and realised what a big mistake he’d made by taking him in.

***

When Tony got to the meal floor for dinner, it was already 10:00 and Steve and Bucky were the only ones there, looking at baseball scores on Steve’s new Starkpad. Both looked up when Tony walked in.

“Hey,” Steve said. “Is Peter back yet? Did you find out what was wrong?”

“No, and yes.” Tony replied. He’d checked—Peter had heard his message after talking to his friend -Ted, was it? – for about 20 minutes. (So what if Tony tracked his phone? He was always worried.) And one look at the baby monitor live footage showed that Peter was web-slinging back to the Compound.

“OK.” Bucky said. It amazed Tony how composed the man was when he was in control of his actions. “Why did Peter take off like that?”

“Well, if you want to put it in kindergarten terms, Peter doesn’t want to be friends with Cap cause he punched me in the playground.”

Both of them stared at him.

“Oh, god, why are you making this conversation harder? You wanna know why Peter didn’t speak to you? It’s because he sweet-talked FRIDAY into showing him Mark’s footage from Siberia. He saw the whole thing. What happened with my parents, what happened after, everything. And I didn’t even fucking know because I was absorbed in my own fucking problems!!!”

Steve opened his mouth to say something but Tony wasn’t done yet.

“And you wanna know why he did it? Do you? It was because he noticed I was fucking upset and the poor kid wanted to know why I was so depressed because he wanted to cheer me up! And the worst part? He did. He helped me through all the pain and trauma and nightmares just as much as Rhodey and Pepper, well at least until we broke up. And I didn’t even know. And for God’s sakes, I’m sorry.” His voice finally broke. “I’m so sorry Steve.”

No one said anything for a whole minute, the only sound in the room being Tony’s harsh breathing. Finally, Bucky spoke up. “Shouldn’t he be mad at me too? Technically, the entire thing happened because of me. You shouldn’t apologise, Tony. It was my fault.”

Well, this was escalating quickly into a sob story. Totally not the way Tony imagined.

Steve inhaled. “Can I please talk? This all started because Peter is mad at me. Just—just let me talk. I’m sorry he had to see that, Tony. I’m sorry it even happened in the first place. There’s no one person to blame the entire thing on, and I know both of you naturally blame yourselves for everything bad that happens. That’s why you’re so similar. In fact, it’s surprising I haven’t been able to see it before. Both of you have to understand that you’ve had bad days, but you don’t have to pay for that for the rest of your lives.

And I’ve had bad days too, where I get my emotions get the better of me and let solvable things grow into something uncontrollable. And we fought. We fought hard. And all three parties lost something. Tony lost his team. Bucky lost his freedom. And I, I lost a valuable friend. One of the best I’ve ever had.”

At this he looked directly at Tony, and Tony felt his eyes burn trying to stop the tears.

“But that’s over now, right? We can still make up for lost time. Be a team.” Bucky said. “It’s just…it’s been so long since I had a team—I just really, really want this. Tony, you know I’m sorry about your parents. I have been, ever since I did. But I want us to be friends.” Bucky sounded close to tears too.

“Me too. I’m happy you guys are back. I was nervous before, and…” Tony stuttered. Should he say this? Expose his weaknesses? But they were all having a heart to heart now, and he felt he needed to say this. To his friends. “I was scared. Hell, I was scared as fuck. But now I’m just really happy I have my tem back. It’s better now, yeah? Barnes, you have your freedom back, I have my team back, and Steve, I think I can say with absolute confidence that you haven’t lost me. I’ll always have your back. Ever since we put together that shitty team in SHIELD headquarters to stop Loki and his army of robot murder dragons, I’ve had your back.”

There was another silence. Finally, Steve broke it. “So. The three of us? We’re good?”

Tony cracked a smile, a real one this time, and saw Bucky do the same. His completely open face reminded him of Peter, always so wholly trusting.

“Yeah.” The two of them said at the same time. “We’re good.”

“So,” Bucky said, “about the kid…”

“I need to talk to him. It has to be me, Tony.” Steve said, when Tony was about to open his mouth. “I want to get to know him. He’s so important to you, and the others couldn’t stop going on about him. Especially Wanda. And, let’s face it, the kid’s a little ball of sunshine.”

Tony nodded. “Fine. Tell me how it goes. And I guess I need to talk to him privately too.”

Right when he said that, the elevator dinged and Peter stepped out, heading towards the muffin tray, seemingly not noticing them. He must’ve persuaded FRIDAY not to announce his arrival. Tony cleared his throat, and Peer turned in a flash. He went red, with half a chocolate chip muffin in his mouth, and almost choked trying to swallow it.

“Oh. Hey, guys. Just, uh, felt a little hungry. I’m so sorry if I interrupted something, I’ll just, uh, go, yeah.”

“Peter,” Steve smiled sincerely at the stuttering kid. “We were just finishing up. And,” He added in a more solemn tone, “I really would like to talk to you.”

Chapter Text

Steve watched as Peter looked worriedly at Tony before the other man ruffled his hair a little sadly, grabbed the muffin Peter was holding and walked out of the room. Peter’s anxious eyes followed Tony until the elevator doors closed behind him and slowly looked back to where he and Bucky were standing, still holding the previously abandoned StarkPad.

“So…” Peter’s voice came out a little squeaky. “What’d you wanna talk to me about?” He gave a little wave to Bucky, and Steve tried to ignore the wave of hurt that hit him when he did that.

“Tony, Bucky, and I were talking about Siberia.” Steve decided to just cut to the chase. Something told him that this kid, like Tony, hated beating around the bush. Peter nodded in response, his Adam’s apple bobbing nervously.

“Peter, we fought. I’m not denying that. But that happened a long, long time ago. We all made mistakes, and we all regret it. What we were discussing…it was about being a team again. Being friends. Because we’re finished with the past.”

“I know, right? That’s kinda why you’re back…” Peter said.

“Look.” Steve sighed. He didn’t know how to do this; he’d never dealt with children before, even though he’d always wanted some of his own. “Tony told us that FRIDAY showed you the suit footage from Siberia. The whole thing.”

Steve could actually see Peter’s defenses going up. “What?” He yelped, before regaining composure. “How? I mean…when? Was he mad? I….I know I wasn’t supposed to- I mean, I…I know that was personal and…and I just wanted to know why he was so sad. Because. He was so sad. I’d never seen him so sad before.” Peter looked up when he said, and Steve could see the tiniest glint of accusation in his Bambi eyes.

“He wasn’t mad.” Bucky stepped in for the first time. “He was touched, Pete. That you cared so much to investigate. And about what you saw, I understand.”

Peter looked shocked. “He wasn’t mad at me? I thought….never mind. You…understand?” He said, before looking down and murmuring, “I thought you’d hate me. For knowing.”

“I’d feel the same way.” Bucky said. “If someone I loved was hurt by someone else. I understand that you’d be mad.” Steve was still in awe of how Bucky always knew the right thing to say.

Peter seemed to get more confident at this. He looked up at Steve again, threading and unthreading his fingers. “I’m sorry I yelled.” It was almost a whisper. “I was just…so angry. At how you could do that to Mr. Stark. Just…plunge your shield into his heart like you had only one friend. Because you didn’t. He was your friend too.”

Hearing the incident narrated by Peter was like having a shard of ice poked through his heart. He’d never heard it like this. But this, a child, telling him exactly what he’d done, as it was…that was something else. He was hit with a wave of fresh guilt he hadn’t felt before.

“Peter. I’m sorry. I still am, and I will keep repeating that until you forgive me. Because Tony has.”

“Then I guess it’s none of my business.” Peter started murmuring again.

“Of course it is,” Steve said. “He clearly means a lot to you, and I hurt him. I understand that. In fact, so much so that that was why I hurt Tony in the first place.”

At this Peter looked up. “I take it that Tony hasn’t told you the whole story. He were going to make up, but then he found out that Bucky killed his parents while he was brainwashed. The same protective instinct hit him and he charged. I saw him hurt Bucky, so I hit back.”

Peter’s mouth twisted into a grimacing smile. “I know.” He sighed. “Love. So all of this, this destruction, was for love, huh? The things it makes you do…”

Steve thought he sounded too old, too wounded, for his age.

“Peter?” Bucky asked quietly. “Are we good?”

“But why did you hurt Mr. Stark? He was your friend too.”

“I…I don’t know, Peter. Tony hurt Bucky and I saw red. I’m not proud of it, and I never will be. Thinking about that, sometimes, it makes me wonder if I’m good enough to be the super hero everybody expects me to be. Would a hero hurt one friend to save the other? No. But I did. So what does that make me?”

Steve thought he saw a light of understanding in the kids eyes. But why would Peter ever feel like he wasn’t good enough?

“You shouldn’t have hurt Mr. Stark. But what you’re saying, about morality, I guess I understand.”

Peter nodded a little jerkily. “Mr. Captain America, sir, I’m sorry. I overreacted. This was none of my business and I just butted in as usual, and hurt you guy’s feelings. And I never got to introduce myself.” My stuck out his hand a little shakily. “Peter Parker.”

Steve shook, a huge weight lifting off of his shoulders. “I know. I’ve heard a lot about you, young man.”

A real smile broke across Peter’s face for the first time, warming Steve’s heart. Steve wondered how bright it would be at full force. “All embarrassing, I presume?” he could see the boy was trying to break the ice. It was working, too.

Then Bucky. “Why don’t you blame me too?” he blurted.

“What?”

“I was in this too. Why only Steve? Why not me?”

“I guess…you didn’t know what you were doing.” He looked like he wanted to say something else but he stopped himself. “Yeah. You weren’t yourself, Mr. Bucky.”

Bucky barked out a sharp laugh that conveyed more than words could have. “Cut out the Mister, kid. We’re in the 21st century, and I plan to live it.”

“Bucky” Peter corrected, and looked just as relieved as Steve felt that this was finally over.

“Hey, if you don’t mind me asking, how did you and Tony meet? Last I checked, he said that the day that he took in a kid would be the day he calls Thor the strongest Avenger.” Steve joked. And when he saw Peter’s stricken face, added: “I meant, you must be someone special, if you could make him change his mind like that.”

“Oh, I’m nothing, Mr. Captain America Steve Rogers sir.” Peter said, finding literally all the names Steve had been given. Bucky looked like he wanted to laugh again. “Just some kid from Queens. But I intern for him, so…”

“You know, I once met a kid from Queens. He had heart.” Steve said, and the kid actually went red. Steve thought Peter would be more than just some kid if he was good enough to intern for Tony Stark.

“Well, uh, definitely not me. I’m just Peter. Nothing to see here.” It broke his heart how much Peter reminded him of Tony. The self-depreciative attitude, the way they held himself, the way they threw themselves into wholly loving someone.

“Well, Peter, what about a little dinner?” Bucky asked. “Sam loves extra salt in all his food and he hardly has anytime to take care of himself, so I’m sure he’ll appreciate it if you add a little for him before he comes…”

“Are you sure that’s what he wants?” Peter looked up at Bucky with wide eyes and Steve could see the cogs turning in his head.

“Yes, kid. Absolutely.” Bucky nodded seriously and Steve considered warning the kid, but decided a little bit was fun was just what everyone needed.

***

“What the fuck? Why the fuck is all my food so salty? This is disgusting!!!” They’d just started eating when Sam interrupted an interesting seminar about teenage lingo Peter was giving. (“Mr. Bucky, I don’t even know what you’re saying; English, please”)

Peter opened his mouth and closed it again. Bucky was cackling evilly, and with great effort shot Peter a side eye clearly telling him not to say anything.

Tony put his fork down and closed Peter’s ears with a mock offended expression, saying something about a baby in the house just as Steve said: “Language!”

“Mr. Sta- I mean, Tony!” Peter blushed at his stutter. “I’m not a baby! I swear!” Tony glared at him. “Only when I’m really mad.”

“Let the kid off the hook, Tony.” Steve said, and Peter shot him one of his classic Peter smiles, warming his heart. Steve was ecstatic the kid was talking to him now. “We all know who’s fault this is.” He pointedly looked at Bucky, who was choking on his soup now.

Tony looked surprised at seeing Bucky so light-hearted but soon reverted to his sarcastic drawl. “Oi, Birdbrain, you’ve never been pranked before?”

“He’s…he’s very sensitive.” Clint said in between peals of laughter. “Doesn’t liked to be messed with.”

“And that makes messing with him more fun.” Wanda added, sneaking two fries from Peter’s plate.

“Hey!” Peter protested but was still smiling. He got her back by sipping her milkshake and she shook her head, laughing at him.

“OK, which idiot did Bucky recruit to do this? Was it you, arrow boy? I haven’t forgotten the time you two replaced my toothpaste with shaving cream.”

“Nope. Not this time, though I would’ve loved this.” Clint replied, reaching over to grab the gravy.

“Who was it?” Sam pointed his butter knife at Bucky. “Tell me, peasant.”

Peter slowly lifted his hand up, looking torn between guilt and laughter.

“You? Kid? I thought we were on the same side!”

“Nope. He’s with me. He pledged solemn allegiance earlier today, and this whole thing was his idea.” Bucky said.

Steve scoffed. Peter spluttered. “Did not! Mr. Sam, Bucky said you liked more salt in your food and you’d really appreciate it if someone added it for you.”

"Kid, for HEAVEN'S SAKE, it's Sam. How come you're calling him Bucky?" Sam asked, and then Tony raised one hand.

“Did he now?” Tony asked. “If y’all are gonna be involving the kid in your little civil wars, I might consider grounding you guys.”

“Mr. Stark, I can handle myself…” Peter retorted.

“Yeah? Like that time you tried to play a prank on me with Dum-E? And both of you managed to get the purple jello all over yourselves? I spent 45 minutes cleaning out his gear. And you spent longer in the bathroom.”

Peter went red again as the entire table burst into laughter again, this time at Peter's expense. “Don’t embarrass me, Tony.”

“But that’s my one purpose…”

Steve watched them banter back and forth and soon the conversation went back to a lull. (After Bucky went to wash off the buttermilk Sam ‘accidentally’ spilt on him.)

Steve smiled to himself, ignoring the look Vision gave him. It wasn’t hard at all going back to normal. Except for the previous 2 conversations, but Steve had seen that coming. They’d been necessary. Tony wasn’t as withdrawn as Steve had expected him to be; on the contrary he seemed to glow with happiness whenever he talked to Peter. He didn’t know where the kid had come from, but he was a world of good for Tony, and worshiped him just as much as Tony clearly loved him. It was a good look, Steve decided, on both of them.

Chapter Text

“So you’re saying this is a good thing?” Peter repeated.

“Yes, Peter. It’s a sign that May is healing, however slowly.” The doctor proceeded to explain something about her red blood cell count increasing, but all Peter could think about was how May would wake up soon. He squinted slightly; could he see a little more colour in her pale cheeks? He shook his head. He was being stupid again.

“Kid. Why are you shaking your head at me? I asked if you wanted dinner, not to tap dance.” Oh, right. Tony had asked him a question.

“Um. I mean, yes! Always yes to dinner, you know me.” Peter marveled at how easy it was to call the man Tony now. Things had started to follow a weird new normal routine since his talk with Captain America and Bucky a week ago. Daily visits to May at the hospital (she was healing! Finally!), morning jogs with Sam and Captain, scrolling through Twitter with Wanda (it was like having an actual sister!), pranks with Natasha and Clint, training with the actual Avengers team, movie nights…it was a new normal. But Peter could live with it.

But he would never, ever trade anything with all this extra time with Tony. Yeah, Peter thought he knew the guy when he visited him twice a week, but something had changed after they started living under the same roof. They had like, a billion inside jokes. Tony taught him to jack a car and change a tire! (On a MERCEDES; Ned freaked out when Peter told him). They made dinner for the team together, actually managing a full meal after burning it the first two times. Its edibility was debatable, but hey, it was solid!
Things were going good. But he did really miss May and sometimes felt really, really guilty. It hit him at different times. When he was baking a batch of brownies with Tony, or watching MasterChef Australia reruns with Natasha. He would just stop for a second and think: hey, May would love to be doing this right now. And she’s not. She’s in hospital. So what gives me right to have fun when she’s suffering like that?

It didn’t happen that often so far, but those moments were occurring more constantly. He didn’t say anything to Tony; he’d already graciously invited Peter into his home and had done so much for them. He didn’t want Tony to think that he was being selfish or ungrateful.

And, Peter had started to unconsciously think of Tony as his dad. He didn’t remember Richard Parker, and, much to his horror, had started to slowly forget Ben. The way his laugh sounded, the way he’d carried Peter on his shoulders when Peter was crying because he was the smallest in class. (Something Flash had taken immense pleasure in.) He hadn’t had a father in a long, long time, but living with Tony, it was like he’d known him forever. Tony understood when he wanted to talk (almost always) and when he needed alone time. Tony had comforted him when he’d broken down after May’s accident. Tony had laughed at him when he’d doused himself in egg whites when they’d attempted to bake cookies. That was stuff dads did, right? But would that be betraying Ben’s and Richard’s memories? Would they even want him to do this? Think of another man as his father, after all they’d done for him? That made him even guiltier than how he felt about May. The worst part was, his eyes refused to cry about this too, so he just lay on his bed for hours trying not to tear his hair out or scratch his arms at how miserable he felt about the whole thing.

So Peter just filed those thoughts into the ‘Do Not Open’ compartment of his head, right with the memories of Ben’s death and that night at the collapsed warehouse. He carried on. He went on patrols, went to Ned’s place once and built a new Lego set, and even texted MJ! He didn’t have the guts to call her yet, though. His brain stopped functioning whenever he looked into her hazel eyes. Hazel eyes with 7 flecks of gold in the right and 9 in the left. And framed by those frizzy bangs that nobody else could pull off…

“Kid! Why’re you zoning out so often today? This is the second time! What do you want for dinner?” Tony was holding a phone to his ear in the car, and he could sense Happy getting annoyed from his spot in the driver’s seat.

“Food? Anything.” Peter pinched his hand to get back to reality.

“Kid.” Tony stared at him.

“Uhh…pizza? With olives, pepperoni and sundried tomatoes?” Peter tried.

“This is a Chinese joint.” Tony said. “Were you even listening to a word I’ve been saying for the past few minutes?”

“Just noodles then. Anything you want in it, I’m fine.” Peter purposefully ignored the second question. He definitely didn’t want Tony finding out about his guilt little conscience. And god forbid he found out about his crush. He’d never let Peter live that one down.

“Noodles. OK. Pay attention.” Tony made the eye to eye gesture and went back to his conversation, neatly ending it in 2 more minutes.

“Why do you need to order before we get there?” Peter asked.

“I’m Tony Stark, kid. I don’t do waiting.” Tony answered back immediately. “And plus, it was just your order they needed. They know mine already. It’s kind of a favorite haunt of mine.”

And…there it was again. The guilt. Pre-ordered food? May and him were lucky if they got to the restaurant before it closed. Was he inconveniencing Tony? He hadn’t thought about it before, but how much had Tony had to push aside to go with him to the hospital every day? Maybe he should just offer to go by himself next time? Tony probably had meetings, after all. And Ms. Potts was coming to the Compound for some work thing tomorrow for the first time in ages, and Peter could see Tony was stressed, though the man didn’t say anything about it. He hardly talked about Ms. Potts.

He hardly registered getting out of the car and entering the small restaurant, and almost walked into a waiter before Tony had to hold him by the shoulders and guide him to a small booth.

“Kid. You’re doing it again.” Tony said, fiddling with the salt shaker.

“Doing what?” Peter asked. He hoped Tony wasn’t on to him.

“Thinking too loudly. So, tell me. What is it?”

“What do you think it is?” He’d been watching Castle yesterday and hoped imitating Beckett would get him out of this. Or at least make him look smart. Apparently, none of them were working.

Tony raised his eyebrows. “Talking to Nat too much? I’m serious, kid. You’ve a problem, you spit it out. That’s kinda my job as guardian. To solve your problems, I mean.”

“Uh…” Peter hated how his voice turned squeaky when he was lying. “No problem at all, Tony. No need to worry. Nothing to solve here!” The food arriving was a welcome distraction. Peter dug in gratefully, scarfing down the noodles and chicken as fast as he could to avoid talking. Tony was still giving him a look from across the table, though.
Tony’s phone rang, interrupting the silent war. Tony gave him one last ‘we’re not done with this’ look before walking away to answer it, and Peter let out a breath of relief. Hah. One problem avoided, at least for now.

Tony looked at the caller ID and sighed. Why on earth was Ross calling him now? The Accords were sorted out, what more could the incessant louse want? More money and credit to feed his ego? Possible. He didn’t want to answer. He wanted to walk back to the table and eat Chinese and grill Peter until his kid told him what was wrong. He’d been quiet for an entire hour, not doing his usual word vomit thing. And that was concerning for a kid whose natural state was speech.

“Tony Stark. May I just inform you before you start talking that I don’t wanna talk to you, so if I snap at you or start yelling, be sure to take it personally.”

“Funny. I see you still pride yourself on that sardonic sense of humour.” Ross replied dryly.

“You guessed it. OK, to the point now. Why’re you calling? The Accords are settled. Your little time in the spotlight is over. What more do you want? A retirement plan?”

“I’m just calling to say that there’s been a discussion off the record. There’s quite a number of people who didn’t approve of the moving-in that’s happened last week, Stark.”

“Your point is?” Tony said tiredly.

“When I say people, I mean many people. We want to add our inputs on the current Accords. Let’s see…um…modify it to suit everyone’s needs, if you will?”

"We’re not some kind of Lego manual, Ross. We’re not gonna fucking modify the documents cause you and your little boy band of old men don’t wanna play by the rules.”

“That’s some language there, Stark.” Ross said, clicking his tongue. “Here I was, calling to you to see if I could make our additions a little less harsh on you, but if you’re gonna talk this way to a superior, then…” He trailed off.

“I don’t want any superior treatment. What happens to my team happens to me. And how the hell are you superior to me?” Tony said sharply. “Plus, I don’t believe for a second that your little inputs,” He made the last word bitter, “are gonna actually make it into the official Accords. So, farewell, senator. Go back to shoving a stick up your ass.” He cut the phone before Ross had a chance to reply.

He made his way back to Peter, who was absentmindedly stirring his dumpling soup and staring into the distance. What was up with him? Yeah, he’d been a little off the past couple days, but since two hours ago when they’d visited May, he looked like he was at someone’s funeral.

“Earth to kid.” Tony waved a hand in front of his face, startling him back to reality.

“Oh, hey, Tony. How was your call?” Peter asked, a smile lighting up his face.

“Meh.” Tony answered, still trying to figure out what was bringing the kid down. He probably would’ve been happy at the news that May was getting better, right? So why did he look sadder at that? Maybe he was having fun with Tony and was sad that he’d have to go back to Queens soon?

No. Stop that, he scolded himself. You’re being a selfish asshole again. May was a good person, who’s raised Peter right and deserved him more than him. What right did he have to call Peter his own? But Tony had always been selfish. Always wanted what wasn’t his. And he wanted Peter. Wanted to call him his son, not Richard’s or Ben’s. He’d never felt affection like this before. Never had someone look up at him with wide eyes, so dependent on him. Yeah, he and Pepper had been in love, but she was a strong woman and was more than capable of carrying on without him. And Peter was dependent on him, just like Tony was slowly becoming dependent on Peter. He needed those impish smiles in the morning, or the extra hand in the workshop, or those lame jokes and whines when things got heated up.

Tony figured it didn’t matter. Even if he couldn’t call Peter his kid to his face, he’d always be his son in his mind. That would be enough. Tony didn’t think he deserved Peter that way anyways.

Chapter Text

“So Ross called.” Tony never had liked beating around the bush. The newly (re)formed Avengers were at one of their weekly meetings. There had never been anything new to talk about, until now, apparently. Tony had bailed on the last meeting a week ago after a business meeting with Pepper had gone horribly downhill and he refused to talk to anyone until Peter had to pry him out of his workshop.

“What?” Bucky said, standing up as to start running right then and there.

“Calm down, Tinfoil.” Tony said. “Personally, I think he’s bullshitting…fishing for some semblance of power that he used to have. Said he had an off the record meeting with some Accord board members and they’re gonna make some changes.”

“We should give it some thought,” Rhodey reasoned. Steve had been glad when the man landed from Oklahoma the day before. He could keep Tony calm, and was a good friend to everyone, not just Tony.

“I know Ross.” Natasha said. “Tony could be right.” Tony gave her an incredulous look which she ignored. “This so called off the record discussion could have been an alcohol fired Whatsapp group chat. He’s a power hungry loser.”

“But that could make him dangerous.” Scott interjected. “What?” He said when everyone gave him a look. “Haven’t you guys read all the Game of Thrones Tumblr posts? Never mind. But the point is, he could be willing to go to great lengths to get some control back. I’m with the Colonel.” With this, he seemed to have said his bit and lay back on his seat and sipped his juice contentedly. Steve had liked Scott while they were on the run. He was easy-going and sometimes stupidly optimistic. Sometimes Clint used to joke that Scott was good competition for Steve himself.

Tony looked at Steve expectantly at Steve and he realised he was supposed to contribute to the conversation instead of musing on his team. “I think we should give it some time. See if his supposed threat worsens and if it does, we act on it. We don’t want to look provoking. As frustrating as Ross is, he’s still relatively important and friends with the President. We don’t want to anger the President.”

Tony nodded his consent and continued. “OK, so even if he were to make changes-“

The door was flung open and a very wet, very cold Peter ran in cradling something in the crook of his arms. “Tony you’ll never guess what happened!!!!”

Steve could literally see Tony’s concern levels shoot up. “Kid! Whoa! You’re so wet! And is that a fur coat?”

“What? No! But look, Tony, someone wants to meet you!” He held out his arms and something small and fuzzy moved and let out a small meow. It wouldn’t have been heard if there wasn’t a pin drop silence in the room.

Tony let out a breath. “Peter. Is that an animal?” Tony said animal like the way Steve would say high school bullies.

“Um… it’s a kitten, Tony. And it needed rescuing!” Peter looked around as if just realizing they were in a meeting. “Oh my god! Am I interrupting something? I’m so sorry, I’ll just go back to my room now.”

“It was boring anyways.” Natasha said. “And I think a kitten is a welcome distraction.” Wanda was already cooing over the little guy, stroking it softly.

“What did you name it?” Wanda asked, finally looking up.

“Why are you wet?” Tony asked at the same time, looking horrified. “Peter, you get cold easily. It’s not good to stay so wet so long. You could get a fever!”

Peter looked like he didn’t know what question to answer but he wanted to answer Wanda’s.

“Well?” Tony said. “How…what happened?” He jumped up and actually took of a Tom Ford jacket that probably cost more than Steve’s salary as an Avenger and wrapped it around Peter. Steve noticed Bucky and Clint staring open-mouthed too.

“Noooo Tony, I don’t need a jacket, I’m fine…” Peter tried to protest but Steve could see that he was getting cold.

“Nope. Adult makes decisions, remember? You don’t get a say in this.” Tony tried to cover up with his usual humour, but Steve could see the undercurrent of worry. Thankfully, Rhodey shot up, wincing a little from his leg braces.

“OK, Pete, let’s get you into a hot bath before Tony has an aneurysm, OK?” He pushed the kid by his shoulders toward the elevator. “There we go, nice and slow.” He stopped when Peter unconsciously snuggled into Rhodey for warmth.

“T-thanks, M-mr. Rhodey.” Tony looked like he wanted to throw up. If Peter was shivering, it had to be bad. Steve had always seen the kid bright eyed and bushy tailed. Rhodey led Peter into the elevator and nodded at Tony before the doors closed and they went up.

Tony turned around as if just remembering the others were there. “I-I’ll be going now. Nice talking to y’all. Cap? You got this?”

“Yes, of course, Tony. Take care of your kid.” Steve replied.

Tony nodded and hurried towards the elevator, leaving the rest of the team behind along with the cat which Wanda was still holding, though she looked a lot more stricken.
Silence persisted for a short while before Scott said: “Notice how he didn’t say Peter wasn’t his kid?”

“Yeah.” Steve smiled. “They really love each other.”

“Who knew, right?” Clint said. “Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist, and now a dad. Everyone who thought Tony would be like this in 6 years, raise your hands.” No hands went up, and Clint cracked a smile. “Thought so. It works well though. Peter grounds him.”

“That he does.” Nat said. “Trust me, I’ve seen him at his worst.”

“I haven’t known the guy much, but he’s really different from how he was at Germany.” Sam added. “Lot less tense, more…domestic.”

“That’s the word.” Wanda said thoughtfully. “Like a dad. With a family.” She was still stroking the kitten. “I hope Peter will be OK. He looked sick.”

“We all do.” Steve said. “He’s like a beacon of optimism and a little ball of energy.”

“I’m sure he’ll get better and be back to beating us at Go Fish in no time,” Scott said. “Cassie got sick really often but she got better real fast too. It’s probably just a chill.”

“I’m sure Tony hasn’t seen him sick before. Probably why he’s freaking out.” Bucky said.

“First time dad.” Clint joked and the room burst into laughter. “I guess the cool parent thing isn’t really gonna work for him, huh?”

“Nope.” Sam said, popping the p.

“So, anything else to talk about?” Bucky said, a little impatiently. He’d been eyeing the kitchenette for almost an hour now. Thinking about it, Steve was a little hungry too.
“Ross is a jerk. End of story.” Scott said. “We good? Nothing to worry about there, right?”

“We’ll keep our eyes open, though.” Wanda said understandably. She’d been skeptical about the Senator since he hated her most.

“Of course.” Steve said. “But he hasn’t posed an immediate threat. Tony could be right, this could be nothing. But we will keep tabs on him. There’s absolutely no need to worry.” He addressed the whole room but looked specifically at Wanda. He wanted her to know that she would be completely safe.

She smiled a little and turned her attention back to the kitten, who was now trying to rip Sam’s folder, unbeknownst to him. She let him and winked at Bucky, who was shooting her encouraging expressions.

Steve sighed. The team was content. There were no threats. He could live like this.

***

An hour later, Peter woke up. Mmph. He felt gross, like he’d been doused in mud and the mud had dried on him, leaving him dry but still sticky. He looked around. White walls, high bed, medical equipment? Oh oh. He’d only been here once before, when he’d broken his arm on patrol and Tony’s head had almost blown up looking at his funnily bent arm.

What had he done? Oh yeah! He wanted to get wet in the rain and decided to swing/walk back to the Compound instead of taking a train. He must’ve gotten cold, that’s all. No wonder he felt so gross. He blinked and sat up, feeling completely normal. Thank god for his healing factor.

“Peter?” Tony put his phone down and frantically turned around to face him from the chair he was sitting in.

“Hey Tony. Whatchu doing here?”

“What do you mean, whatchu doing here? You had a fever! A high, high fever! What was I supposed to do, go out and rendezvous?”

“Yeah?” He tried. It was just a fever that was all. Why was the man so worried?

“Peter, you were so cold. So cold! Of course you don’t understand how worried I was! You were grabbing at everything that could possibly give you the teeniest bit of warmth! Your temperature was 105C! That isn’t normal! We had to use Cap’s meds to get your fever down.”

“Oh. I’m sorry.” Peter said. “I don’t wanna worry you, you should have just gone for your meetings. I’m fine.”

Tony took a deep breath. “Peter, you were sick and cold, I didn’t want to attend a stupid meeting. Sorry if I came on too harsh at first. Just…just don’t do that again. You really scared me there.”

Peter thought that if this scared Tony, he was really glad that he took off his suit for most serious injuries before Karen could report his condition to Tony. And he was really, really glad that Tony didn’t know that the Vulture had collapsed an entire building on him. He planned to keep it that way.

“Oh, no, that’s fine, really.” Peter replied truthfully. “It’s actually kinda nice to have someone worry, actually.” He stopped telling May when he got sick after the spider bite.

Tony ruffled his hair. “So, how’re you feeling, kid?”

“On top of the world.” Peter said, emphasizing that by bouncing up and down. “Healing factor, Mr. Stark! Works like magic.”

“Well, lets not push it too hard,” Tony said. “And it’s been Tony for a week, what’s with the Mr. Stark now?”

“Donno.” Peter changed the subject. “Can I go out again?”

“Absolutely not.” Tony said. “An hour ago you were shivering in 6 blankets.”

“A movie, then?” Peter asked.

“Sure, kid. Let me guess, you wanna watch Star Wars.”

Peter nodded eagerly. “And where’s the kitten? Can I see it?”

“Kid, you’re lucky that I’m letting you use your eyes so soon, asking for a mangy street animal while you’re in the med bay would be pushing it, don’t you think?”

“Not a mangy street animal,” Peter murmured, but decided not to bring it up while Tony was still in such a state.

Peter settled back into the cushions and the movie started up, the familiar opening comforting him. He fell back asleep towards the end of the movie with Tony’s hand still running through his hair. He thought he was the luckiest person to have a dad like him around. He was fast asleep before he could tell himself that Tony wasn’t actually his dad.

Chapter Text

The next morning, Peter went down to the meal floor. (It had been a week and he still was in awe of a whole floor for food. Food! And each Avenger already had their own kitchen.) He felt normal. Better than normal, even: well rested, happy, and very, very hungry. Tony told him that it was apparently his healing factor which needed more food while it was on duty.

“Hey you guys! Morning!” He waved at Bucky and Natasha who were munching on toast.

“Hey Peter.” Bucky said. “You feeling better? Gave us quite a scare there.”

“It’s fine, Bucky. It was just a fever, it happens all the time, no need to worry.” Peter reassured, before wishing he hadn’t.

“All the time? That was pretty serious, Peter? Does anyone know about this?” Natasha asked. “Does Tony?”

“Uhhh…no? And I hope he never will, I mean, it’s just that he already worries so much when he has so much work to do…” Peter stammered. The last thing he needed was a bunch of mother-hen adults telling the most mother-henny guy that he lacked essential self-care. So what? It wasn’t a big deal. May had never been too fussy and Peter had never given her a reason to be. Never told her when he was sick or anything. To be completely honest, Peter had never been fussed over this much. Every time he found himself secretly enjoying it, the guilt returned. Whenever Tony cared about his day to day activities a little more then May’s busy schedule allowed her to, the guilt would reappear. How did he have the right to be placing Tony over May? May, who’d faithfully raised him into the person he’d become? He didn’t have the right to another parental figure; he just didn’t deserve it.

Deciding to drown out these thoughts with chocolate milk, he grabbed a box from the fridge and plopped down next to both of them just as Tony walked in. Speak of the devil.

“Morning Pete.” Tony smiled, his eyes crinkling. “Better?”

“Yup. Thanks for the movie, Tony. Sorry I fell asleep.” Peter poked the straw through the circle foil area (did that even have a name?) and took a sip.

“No prob, kiddo. If anything, it gave me an excuse to turn the wretched thing off. I don’t especially like Star Wars.” Tony noticed his offended expression and seemed to take pleasure in it, seating himself next to Bucky and spreading jam on toast.

Bucky nodded good morning and Tony smiled back. Peter was happy. Contrary to his Netflix Original fueled-imagination, the two teammates were getting along pretty well. That talk they’d had on the day of the Captain America Debacle had really set things straight.

“So, Peter, next time you get sick, we’ll know, right?” Natasha said, shooting him a knowing look. Peter made a mental note that she was a spy.

Tony looked up in surprise. “Is there something I don’t know about?”

“No, Tony, just looking out for the little guy, here.” Bucky covered, and this time he shot Peter a ‘you owe me’ look.

“Looking out for the little guy, huh? Think I have that covered.” This time it was Tony’s turn to give Peter a mischievous look, and Peter thought his heart would burst. He had an inside joke! With Tony Stark! How cool was that?

…And there it was again. The guilt. What about his inside jokes with May? And the Thai guy who larbed her? He should be thinking about that, not making more without her in it.
“Hey.” Tony noticed his downcast look. “You OK?”

“Yeah!” he said, voice squeaky. “When can we go visit May? Just asking.”

“Definitely after breakfast, Peter. And preferably a shower.” Tony replied, but he looked like he wasn’t satisfied with Peter’s answer.

Thankfully, Wanda and Vision walked in, the former carrying a freshly scrubbed kitten. Peter perked up immediately.

“Tony! Look! The kitten! Yay, Wanda you washed it! Wait, is it a he or she?”

Tony rolled his eyes and shot the kitten a dirty look. “Why is that still here? Now that it’s experienced the excellent services of Stark Hotels, can we return it to its dumpster homestay now?”

“Don’t insult what you don’t understand, Tony.” Wanda shot back. “If it makes you feel better, I’m sure he doesn’t like you either.” She looked at Peter. “It’s a he, by the way.”

“We were waiting for you to feel better to name him as you were the one who found him,” Vision said matter-of-factly as he served Wanda toast and eggs.

“That’s really nice of you guys.” Peter said, already thinking of possible names. He’d never had a pet before. May had been adamant about it: if he couldn’t even remember to wash his hair twice a week he’d probably starve a poor animal. But now he had Wanda to help him. And Vision? He wasn’t sure if robots liked cats.

“You’re keeping him?” Tony asked, and both Peter and Wanda nodded as if it were obvious. He didn’t say anything but made a pained noise in his throat and went back to his orange juice.

“So guess what?” Wanda said. “I googled possible names yesterday and the top website said Loki was the 9th most popular male cat name.”

“NO WAY.” Peter said. “Loki? Are you serious?”

“One hundred percent.”

“OK I will personally throw that cat out of the window if you two name him Loki.” Tony said. “What about Milo? It looks like his fur used to be white but it’s just brown now. Looks like Peter’s pathetic attempts at chocolate milk.”

“Hey!” Peter protested weakly.

Natasha actually laughed.

“That’s horrible motive but Milo’s a pretty cute name.” Bucky said. “Who votes Milo?”

Everyone raised their hands. Natasha picked up her spoon and patted Milo’s head lightly. “By the powers vested in us, we now name you Milo. May your life be long and filled with purpose.”

Milo purred and jumped on the table, upsetting Tony’s milk.

“Actually, for all I care, he can go soon. He has nine lives anyways.” Tony said, getting a cloth, and wincing when some of it split on his shirt.

“That’s quite insensitive, Tony.” Vision said and Tony glared at him.

“That,” Sam said, walking in with Captain America, “might just be the weirdest thing I’ve witnessed. And I’m a therapist.”

“How long have you two been watching?” Bucky asked.

“Since Nat christened him Milo with a spoon?” Captain said, sitting next to Tony, getting himself some toast. “I can’t believe Tony agreed to let an animal in here.”

“I can’t believe Tony let one in either.” Tony remarked, putting away the cloth. “I was forced, by puppy dog eyes. And no opinion.”

“Trust me, Stark, you had a lot of opinion.” Natasha said, and the whole room burst into laughter.

Peter laughed along with them. He couldn’t believe it. He’d adopted a cat with the Avengers. Watched the Black Widow name it Milo with a spoon. Had inside jokes with Iron Man. Hell, even drooled on Iron Man the night before; what even was his life? Just a month ago he was happy with his bi-weekly workshop times with Tony.

“Where’s the OG birdman and Scott?” Tony asked. “They’re missing the party here.”

“Still sleeping. They had a ridiculous contest last night involving cards and chocolate pudding. They’ll probably be sick to day, just you watch.” Sam said.

Peter got up and dusted the crumbs off him, letting Milo climb onto him in the process. “Well, I guess I’m done eating. Where do you and Sam go every morning, anyways?” He asked the Captain.

“Jogging.” He replied. “You’re welcome to join us, Peter, once you feel better.”

“I am better!” he said, bouncing a little to prove it. “Can you call me before you head out tomorrow?”

“Sure thing.” Sam said, throwing a Reese’s puff into the air and crunching on it. “The only question is, are you worthy enough?”

“He’s worth more than enough.” Tony cut in. “Just don’t kill him, will ya?”

Peter smiled at the pride that bloomed in his chest. “Of course, I can run.” Milo scratched his ear a little. “OK, I’m gonna go shower now.”

“You wanna head out in half an hour?” Tony asked.

“Yes please.” Peter replied.

*

Tony walked back to the hospital room, a cup of coffee and hot chocolate in his hands. Peter had been in there for a whole forty five minutes. God knows what he’d been doing for so long, but Tony knew it wasn’t his place to intrude. Maybe he’d fallen asleep?

Something had been off with the kid for the past couple days, and Tony could be damned if he didn’t find out what it was. Yeah, Tony had been scared, no scratch that, terrified, when Peter got a fever, and the stupid cat the kid loved so much had been a good distraction, but something told him his kid was still down in the dumps.

No, not his kid. He didn’t deserve the kid. Not after he’d screwed up so many people’s lives. The woman who’d come up to him at that disastrous MIT conference deserved a kid. Heck, Pepper deserved a kid. But he was too old, too volatile, too chaotic. He guessed that MIT talk had been some sort of horrible foreshadowing to what was to follow. He was fine. He was good at being alone. He had Rhodey. And Happy. And now his team. He didn’t need a typical family. Even if he wanted to be domestic sometimes, and liked the feeling of Peter asleep on his shoulder, or Peter asking for help with his homework. Yeah, he was missing out on the whole dad experience, but he didn’t want to follow in his old man’s footsteps. He shuddered thinking just thinking about how Peter would have turned out if he’d raised him instead of May.

Oh god, May. How did he even have the right to just mentally (although involuntarily, he comforted himself) claim him like that when she’d done all the hard work raising him and shaping him into the person he’d become? He was being selfish again. Another reason why the kid was probably better off without him.
He stopped at the door.

“…and then we named him, Milo, May! Because apparently I can’t make proper chocolate milk, and it turns out really light brown like his fur. We even had a christening and all, he’s our official mascot slash pet now! And you told me I’d never have a pet!

I really miss you. I wish you could meet Milo. He’s really sweet, you’d really like him. Well, Tony doesn’t, but I’m sure he will soon. Milo’s just that cute. Just...soon, OK? I miss you.”

Was May awake? Tony peeked in. She wasn’t. But the kid was still talking to her like she was up. Just witnessing the scene tore Tony’s heart in half. Peter did not deserve this. If Tony was a doctor, he’d raise hell to wake May up just so the kid could have a double sided conversation. But how he’d love Peter talk to him like that, like he’d known him his whole life and his opinion and preferences mattered…he thought that was what a father had all his life, and for the first time, he regretted not building a family instead of focusing on work and fun.

But if he had to have a kid, he’d choose Peter. He couldn’t imagine any other kid being his son. Building up courage, he knocked and pretended not to have heard the conversation.

“Hey kid! You want something to drink?”

Peter’s face lit up and Tony’s heart actually melted.

“Sure, Tony. I was almost done anyways…”

“You want to pick the music on the way back? I think you’re sick of AC/DC by now. I have a couple other options built into the car if you want…”

“Sure! Finally, I was wondering when you’d offer. What do you have?”

“Well, I was thinking Dire Straits…”

“Noooooo, Tony, does everything you listen to have to be a hundred years old?”

“These are classics, kid. Learn from the best.”

“Classics are subjective Tony. If you play Dire Straits I’ll be forced to sing. And I know you don’t particularly enjoy that.”

Tony figured the kid’s singing was better than his horrible music. And definitely better than the classical shit Happy insisted on playing. The point was, Peter made car rides bearable, even fun. That was better than Happy’s skill set.

Who knows? Maybe he’d join Peter for a ballad or two.

Chapter Text

“Hush, Peter!” Tony chastised. “Don’t disturb her anymore.”

“But Tony!” Peter said. “She woke up! For the first time!”

“Only for a minute, kid. Let her rest, it’s finally proof that it’s helping her heal. Calm down.”

“Hmph.” Peter retorted, but he knew Tony was right. May had only been up for a minute, enough to recognize Peter and give him a tired smile before looking at Tony with the most confused expression he’d ever seen on her face before falling asleep again. But May had woken up! Actually woken up! That removed a tight ball of worry in his stomach that Peter didn’t even know existed. This was assurance that she wasn’t in a never-ending coma, or something.

“That’s what you do when you don’t have a comeback. Beat you this time, kid.” Tony said, adjusting a wire that lay a little too close to May’s head absentmindedly.

“This is one time. How many times have I left you speechless, Tony?” Peter challenged.

“Only when you talk so much that my ears bleed out, kid.” Tony retorted. Peter blinked.

“Ha! Again! Stark 1 Parker 0.” Tony said, just as the doctor walked in again.

“Hey Peter.” She smiled at him, the same woman who told him of his aunt’s condition that first horrible day. She was actually really nice. She even had a dog with her husband, whom she’d shown Peter pictures of.

“Mr. Stark,”

“Hey, Dr. Clearwater.” Tony replied. “So? How’s May looking?”

“Just the fact that she woke up, if only for just a minute is wonderful. It means the medicine and painkillers are working. The reason why she’s been asleep so long is because her body is focusing all it’s energy on fixing itself.”

“So?” Peter asked. “How much longer will she be asleep? I mean, she woke up once right? It can’t be too long now.”

“It’s great that she woke up, it definitely means that more energy is going to other bodily functions, which indicates that the amount she needs for healing have significantly decreased. She needs it less. But we still have no timeline on when she’ll actually be up. Everyone heals differently, you see.”

“Oh,” Peter deflated. “Ok, then.”

Seeing Peter’s crestfallen expression, Tony quickly added: “But this is still great news, right?”

“Yes. Yes it is.” Peter perked up a little at that. Now that he knew May was doing well, the adrenaline was slowly fading, and he was starting to feel hungry.

Almost as if reading his mind, Tony asked: “Wanna pick up a sandwich on the way back to the compound? You look hungry.”

“Yes please. The corn, spinach and cheese one. With apple soda.”

“Yech.” Tony made a face. “I really don’t know how you manage to eat that. Thanks, Doctor.”

She smiled and the two of them left, leaving her to start her examination and adjust the IV bag.

*

Once the two of them had finished eating (Tony was insistent on his Pesto sandwich having just the right amount of feta in it, and had sent the first one back after claiming it was too salty. Peter had rolled his eyes and told him to try Walmart pick-ups.) Peter spotted a pet accessory shop next to the diner that he’d never seen before.

“Really, kid? That cat’s taken over the Tower and now you want to pamper it? What more does it even require? All Milo does is eat and sleep anyways.”

“Be a little compassionate, Tony,” Peter said.

“I’ll tell you what’s compassionate: letting a stray join a movie night, that’s what’s compassionate.”

“Oh come on, Tony, Milo absolutely loved Zootopia!”

“Of course he loved Zootopia! It’s a movie about multiple strays competing for control! Don’t you see, that’s exactly what that cat’s trying to do! Usurp the entire place.”

Peter rolled his eyes. Tony would get it one day. Meanwhile, Peter rooted through the entire store before digging out a litter box that read ‘Super-Kitty.’ He held it out to Tony as if presenting him a prize.

“Kid. No. No. I’m cringing. Happy is cringing, from his apartment. Hell, even Thor is cringing in Asgard.”

“It sticks with the theme! Don’t you get it?”

“Are you sure, Peter?” Tony was asking him that like he was picking NYU over MIT.

“Of course I’m sure…ooh, look at this little hat, Tony! Won’t Milo look cute in this? And when it gets cold he can stay warm like the rest of us…”

“God bless me if anyone shops this hard for me. Ok, kid, we’re billing. I have a meeting in two hours.”

Peter nodded and pulled out his wallet, fishing for a $20 bill before snatched it out of his hand and pulled out his own wallet instead. Yves Saint Laurent. Of course.

“Nope, I’m the adult, I pay, capiche?”

“But, but I’m the one who wanted the stuff…”

“Nope, reason still doesn’t qualify.” He handed over a crisp $100 bill to the cashier, who looked like he’d never seen that much money before. “What?” Tony asked. “I don’t carry around change. And please don’t tell TMZ that I was ever in a pet store shopping for cat stuff.” The cashier nodded, wide eyed, and handed over 80 crumpled dollars, which Tony handed over to Peter.

“What? No! I don’t need this? Why’re you giving this to me?” Peter said.

“I donno? Lunch money and the works? Keep it, kid.”

“Tony this is so much money…” May had never given him 80 whole dollars at the same time. Hell, even May didn’t carry around 80 dollars in her purse. This just made him feel guilty again. Damn it. He thought he was doing so well today. He hadn’t felt guilty the entire morning, but apparently today’s episode decided to feature a new reason to feel guilty: inconveniencing Tony.

He made him take in a stray kitten. The man couldn’t stick most human beings, and Peter made him adopt an animal. And what had Tony said about TMZ? Peter was sure it wasn’t just the pet store part that Tony wanted to maybe avoid getting into the public? Peter didn’t want to think about the consequences of Peter and Tony being seen in public together. What would the tabloids say? Tony Stark’s secret son? Illegitimate child? That would cause Tony’s reputation to plummet. He was sure the man didn’t want that. Peter realized that maybe he shouldn’t have been asking Tony to accompany him to hospital every day. What with the team back and new training exercises and whatnot, Tony had to be missing out on so much. For what? Chauffeuring some kid to and fro from Queens.

What Tony said about people not shopping as hard for him made Peter’s heart twist painfully. Tony deserved all the love in the world. It struck him how lonely Tony must have been before Peter and the team came to the Compound. With Rhodey away for so long it would’ve been just Tony by himself. No wonder he kept inviting Peter over twice a week. Because he was lonely. Not because they had some ‘connection’ or something; Peter was stupid to think that. Then and there, he made up his mind to make Tony’s life as nice as possible. Peter wouldn’t be a thorn in the man’s side anymore. He wouldn’t make him spend money or time on him.

And the man kept throwing money at him. Peter got it, he’s a literal billionaire. But that doesn’t mean that he should going out of his way to make Peter comfortable. Like, Tony just spend $20 on stuff for a cat he probably didn’t even like. It may not have been much to Tony, but for Peter, it was a lot.
In the car on the way back, Peter decided to bring it up.

“Tony?” He asked, turning down the AC/DC (he preferred Dire Straits any day. They were even actually good.)

“Yeah kid?”

“Maybe I think you should stop, you know, keeping me company when I go visit May.” Good, Peter, just rip the band aid off.

He didn’t miss the flash of hurt across Tony’s face and he wished he had. “What? Why, kid? Am I being intruding, did I do something wrong?”

Oh shit. He didn’t want Tony to feel bad. Think fast. Think fast. “No! it’s not that, it’s just that I think this is something I should be doing on my own.”

“Oh.” Tony’s face was passive. Peter wished he would say something. “Ok, then. You’ll take the metro? Or you want Happy to drive you?”

“Metro is cool. My card still has some cash on it.” He didn’t wanna inconvenience Happy either. The man already hated driving him around.

“So that’s settled then.” Tony went back to driving. He didn’t turn the music back up.

*

Back at the Compound, Tony went straight into his workshop and had FRIDAY lock the door to anyone except Steve and Peter. As much as he didn’t want to see Steve right now, he was the leader of the team and everything Avengers related came by him.

Why was the kid pushing him away? Everything was going fine! Was it the cat? Had he been too critical of the cat? Yes, he hated animals but seeing Peter (and Wanda) so happy around the animal did funny things to his heart. He’d let the cat sleep in his own bed if it meant keeping the kid happy. Maybe Peter missed May. Yeah, Tony was probably being the usual horrible people repelling person who happy-go-lucky people like Peter didn’t gel with. Lovely. Great job, Stark, the voice in his head that sounded like Howard said. You’ve succeeded again! This must be a record. First Pepper, now Peter? Who’s it gonna be next?

“Tony. Tony.” A voice of reason interrupted his thoughts. Steve. Ugh. He regretted giving him access now.

“What? Can’t you let me self-destruct in peace?” Oops. He’d meant to say work. Work in peace.

“You were staring at DUM-E like you wanted to kill him.”

“Right. In my defense, he tried to force feed me motor oil again. What do you want? Is there something we need to go out for?”

“No. Are you OK? How are things going?”

“Just dandy.”

“We’re talking about this later. Ok, what I came to tell you is, Ross came looking for you.”

“Ross?” Tony perked up. “Where? He came here?”

“Reception.” Steve nodded. “Said he needed to talk to you urgently. When you didn’t respond to FRIDAY calling you, he left. He seemed mad. Did you two have some kind of discussion that we don’t know about?”

Oh yeah. He’d had FRIDAY mute all summons except the ones from Peter too.

“No.” They didn’t. Why would Ross be here? Then it hit Tony: on the call they’d had, Ross had told Tony that if he agreed to their crazy new conventions, Tony’d have some extra benefits. He must’ve stopped by to bribe him with that. He’d deliberately decided not to tell the team that. As much bonding as they were doing recently, their relationship was still like fresh grass. Tony didn’t need to trample that by telling them that Ross still favored him.

“He was probably looking to wrangle me with his new terms. Ignore that.”

“You’re sure that’s all it is.” It wasn’t so much a statement as it was a question.

“Do you trust me?” Tony countered.

“I do.”

“Then it is what it is. I don’t deal with that bastard anymore, Steve. I would’ve actually fought him to bring you guys back if the President hadn’t interfered when he did. And plus, the last time, I was desperate.”

“I believe you, Tony. I trust you. And I cannot thank you enough for all that you and Rhodey did to help us get pardoned.”

Tony waved a hand lazily. “That’s all over.”

“So we’re good?” Steve asked.

“Yup.” Tony popped the p. Peter was starting to rub off on him.

“Now, you wanna talk about what’s obviously getting you down? Talking helps, Tony.”

“God, you sound like my therapist. No, I don’t want to talk. Hence the private workshop.”

“I saw Peter in the kitchen floor. He looked pretty upset.” Steve didn’t elaborate.

“Figures,” Tony murmured. “Anyways, nothing to get your pretty mind hassled on. Go back to worrying about baseball.”

Steve sighed. “Eat, Tony. And for god’s sake, don’t let DUM-E spill that on you.” DUM-E was hurtling towards Tony with motor oil proudly displayed on a tray. Tony dodged and the oil splattered loudly on a cleanable wall Tony designed just for accidents like this.

“Thanks for the heads up. Bye, Capsicle.” Steve waved and headed back out towards the elevator.

He immediately called Ross. “Why the fuck were you here?”

“So polite, Stark.” Ross answered.

“Just answer me, goddamn it. I’m in a bad mood already.”

“A last chance to agree with my terms. Our terms, if you include all the other people who are in on this.”

“I notice you’re being accidentally-on-purpose vague, I should know, I’ve done it before.”

“Oh really? When? I’m so honored.”

“When I used to sell arms, not clean energy.” Tony answered.

“Well, you’ll know the rest when you join me.”

“Not gonna happen. Never gonna happen. So let me tell you this now, and don’t make me repeat myself. I’m not gonna join your kindergarten schemes to put your nose where it doesn’t belong. I don’t want to. I’m finally in a good place. After years of fucking torment, no thanks to you, if I’m being honest. I hate you and what you stand for. I always will, no matter how much money or power you offer me. So don’t fuck with me, or my team, again. Understood?”

“Sure, Stark. No more niceties.” Ross cut the call, and Tony threw his phone across the room. It hit the wall and fell to the ground with a thud. It didn’t break. Tony had designed it himself; he was better than that.

DUM-E looked at the phone with concern, before turning to Tony and shooting him almost a quizzical look. Tony picked it up and walked out of the room. He had bigger problems than stupid Ross and his hunt for power. His kid was mad at him. His kid was upset, and he was going to figure out what was wrong with him.

He made his way downstairs to get himself a bag of Doritos. As much as he wanted to work on something now, he was hungry. Everyone was already there, eating dinner.
“Y’all.” He acknowledged, grabbing the desired chips off a shelf and turning towards the elevator.

“Wait! Mr. Stark!” Peter called, and he froze. When had it gone back to Mr. Stark? “What about dinner?”

“Not hungry, Peter. Your sandwich took my appetite away,” He joked, trying to ease some of the tension away, but Peter actually flinched as if he’d hurt him. “Joking.” He added.

“Oh,” Peter murmured and looked back at his pasta.

“Tony,” Natasha said. “He’s right. Sit. Eat. Have some fun, we’re talking about Tumblr.” Peter nodded enthusiastically.

Tony figured it wouldn’t be too bad to have a team dinner and plopped down next to Scott, who was also sitting next to Peter. Scott looked at both of them in turn and looked like he wanted to die of awkwardness. Tony ignored him.

Clint cleared his throat. “So. Peter. What were you saying?”

“Well, just that the headcanons for Lucifer on Tumblr are hilarious, has anyone seen Lucifer?” In true Peter style he didn’t wait for a reply before going straight on. “Especially the ones between Dan and Lucifer, cause he calls Dan detective douche and ever since they made that crouching tiger hidden douche joke more and more came out until…”

Scott, to Tony’s surprise, was nodding along eagerly and adding his input. “The ones with Chloe included are even better cause she’s somehow like Beckett from Castle; you’ve seen Castle, yeah? Modern classic for crime.”

Tony instantly calmed down. Peter wasn’t huffy and in an off mode. Thank god. Everyone seemed to be having a good time, and Tony contributed to conversation only a few times because what the fuck was a headcannon?

“Mr. Stark, you’re hogging all the pudding.” Peter’s voice cut him out of his thoughts. Right. He’d absentmindedly shovelled 5 spoons of pudding into his bowl. “You’re gonna get diabetes.”

“Jokes on you, I probably already have it kid, from all the shit I’ve done.” Peter looked mortified, in a good way this time.

“Please say sike.”

“What the fuck’s sike?” Tony asked. He felt old and behind the times. And Tony Stark was never behind the times.

“Hell if I know.” Sam shrugged, grabbing the pudding away from Tony. “Kid’s been busting gen-z lingo on us all evening.”

“You’ll get it soon, you just have to learn.” Peter was joking around with him again, yeah, but ever since he told Tony to back off in the car he hadn’t been meeting his eyes. Tony decided that he’d sit Peter down after dinner and a nice movie and ask him what was wrong. That was what dads did, right? He wasn’t technically a dad, but hell if he didn’t consider himself unofficially Peter’s. Not that he planned to tell him that—the kid would freak and Tony knew it’d break his heart when Peter probably didn’t reciprocate his feelings.

Obviously, something had to royally screw up that plan too.

“Boss,” FRIDAY chimed in. “You have a recorded message.”

“Do people still do that? You keep telling me I’m old fashioned and that it’s the 21st century.” Bucky shot Sam an accusing look.

“And I’m right. Who’d record a message for you?” Sam asked.

“I have not detected the sender’s location on the face of this planet. Judging by previous voice recording data and information given in the message, I have been able to identify the senders as: an unknown woman, Thor, Loki, and Dr. Bruce Banner.”

Chapter Text

Text Group: Life is soup I am fork

Peter: omg u guys won’t believe what just happened

Ned: what

MJ: I’m not interested unless it’s about women’s rights, environmental rights or milo

Ned: hush mj let peter finish

MJ: did u know trump removed a law restraining methane emissions? mop top. peter ask stark to repulse him.

Peter: we were @ dinner and we got a message from thor loki dr. banner and some woman!!!!!!!

MJ: I thought bruce banner was mia? did u see my previous statement

Ned: apparently not anymore. What did they say? he did that? i'm not surprised honestly after the paris thing. everyone knows trumps a loser. wait till the next election he'll get trashed.

Peter: guys. Wtf. Asagrd doesn’t exist anymore. They had to destroy it to save it from thor’s elder sister hela.

Peter: i saw that mj. it sucks but that's who we have. hopefully this'll come up soon. and tony's not allowed to hurt the president

MJ: ok now ur making shit up. both about thors sister and the president.

Peter: am not. The entire planet is coming back to earth they needed tony and the rest of the avengers to help them find shelter and shit

Ned: OMG OMG peter if this is real

Peter: it is

Ned: dude. Ur gonna be meeting thor. And loki. And dr banner! DR BANNER u know how much hes contributed to the science community im considering moving in with u

MJ: im considering leaving this chat. So get to the point

Peter: what

MJ: as in what did the avengers decide? Is it real? The msg I mean. And loki kinda hurt threw tony stark out of his own building in the battle of new York. There's gotta be some animosity there

Peter: duh they're helping but they’re still listening to the msg over and over. Friday confirmed it to be real

Ned: Friday?

MJ: Friday?

Peter: tony’s ai

Ned: HOLY SHIT TONY STARK HAS ANOTHER AI?????

MJ: another?

Ned: nevermind

Ned: dude what is ur life

MJ: thor has a sister? That family...

Peter: ikr. Well what happened happened. That’s what loki said.

MJ: that’s expected. Now can u send another pic of milo?

Peter sent a picture captioned: sitting on my head

MJ: finally. A reason to be in this grp.

Ned: dude keep us updated. how long until frikkin asgard comes to earth?

Peter: the woman said about 3 days

MJ: cool. Gnite guys

Ned: night

Peter: night

*

Peter got off bed, wrestled Milo off his head, and waddled back to the dining floor. The Avengers sat exactly as he left them, sans dinner, listening to the track for perhaps the 20th time.

Thor’s voice boomed first. “Hello. Hello? Is this recording? Banner? It is? OK, then, here goes. Hello, Avengers! Thor here. The STRONGEST Avenger, Stark, so you hear that? We don't want any misunderstandings here. Did you miss me? Never mind, I know you did. What can you have done without me after all? Well, I have a favor to ask of you.”

Then the unknown woman: “This colossal idiot has an even bigger idiot sister who decided that the best way to go about things was to take over Asgard as soon as Odin died. Long story short, in order to save the planet, we had to destroy it with the help of a large flaming monster.” Peter thought she would get along well with MJ.

Loki: “And me. You always seem to forget me. Wretched woman. So, in conclusion, we now have our entire planet loaded onto one of the Grandmaster’s favorite ship, plus one Dr. Bruce Banner, who I’m sure is one of yours. Surprise!”

“Loki, stop scaring them. Look, guys I know this is sudden and naturally there are many things you don’t understand. But right now you guys are our best hope of getting the Asgardian population safely situated on Earth. So far our voyage has been going smoothly, and we’re going to reach the Earth’s orbit in about 3 days. So yeah, rushed?” Dr. Banner’s rational, calm voice came out next.

“So, yes. Whatever they said. We fully expect you to have accommodations ready for my people by the time we reach your planet.” Thor finished. There was a sound of someone being punched and then he added: “No pressure, of course. Pretty please?”

“A word in advance, I’ve decided my intentions are better suited now towards the well-being of the people of my planet, and decidedly not destroying yours. So, Stark, before you protest at my presence, and I know you will, I would just like to say that I’m coming with a white flag. Please do not try to kill me. Although if you annoy me to a certain extent I will not hesitate to pulverize you.”

“Loki! We practiced!” Dr. Banner’s voice rang in the background.

“OK, OK, beast, I’m kidding. I will not kill anyone. Maybe with the exception of Miek, but that’s none of concern.”

The woman came back. “So that’s all. Sorry, not sorry for the rush, but you humans are our only hope. Thank you. OK, Banner, make it stop now.” And then it ended.
“Wow.” Nat sipped some wine. “That’s a lot to take in.”

“Odin’s dead? Like the Asgardian king? Who fights battles and shit?” Scott said, scratching his head.

"Who's the Grandmaster?" Wanda added. "He sounds like someone from a circus..."

“Can we focus on the main point? A whole planet’s coming to earth. In 3 days! And this…this is a huge thing to ask of us.” Clint pointed out.

“Bruce…” Nat sighed. “Bruce was with Thor all this time? When we thought he was missing? Why didn’t he come back immediately?”

Steve was clenching and unclenching his fingers. “This is not going to go down well with the committee. We have to go through a lot of regulations to get them permits. Where are going to find them a place?”

“Loki. Can we please talk about Loki?” Tony said, finally. “So what now? He’s become all chummy with Thor and Bruce now? Bruce? After Bruce threw him around like a rag doll in the Tower in 2012? You’re telling me you’re believing his bullshit about being good now?”

“Tony, we’ve got to work with what we’ve got.” Rhodey replied. “If they say that this is what they are, we don’t have anything else to back this up on.”

“But still,” Tony argued.

“We need to focus on the permits, etc.” Rhodey got up, his leg braces creaking. “Where they need to live.”

“I could help with that.” Bucky said. “I know this place in Norway which is mostly uninhabited. They wouldn’t be disturbed if they were there.”

“You think we could get clearance?” Rhodey asked.

“Yeah, the Norwegian government’s lax about these things. If we throw the words extra-terrestrial emergency they’ll make an offer.”

Milo scratched Peter’s ear and he let out a little yelp. Everyone whipped around to where he was hiding.

“Peter?” Tony asked, rubbing his eyes. “I thought you went to bed?”

“Nah, kid probably texted his little friends gabbing about recent developments and came back for more, am I right?” Sam said, and Peter went red.

“Peter,” Steve said seriously. “This has to go nowhere, you know that right? At least until we get this sorted. Then it’ll probably make every paper.”

“MJ and Ned wouldn’t tell anyone, Mr. Rogers.” Peter said. “I swear. Nobody else in school bothers to talk to us anyways, so no one will listen even if we try.”

He saw small flashes of sympathy across their faces, even understanding in some, before he quickly clarified: “It’s been this way forever. Half the guys in my school suck anyways, so it’s not that I mind.”

“Ok, Peter, I trust you, OK?” Steve said.

“OK,” Rhodey said. “Barnes and I will deal with the government. Steve and Tony, will you explain this, err…situation to the Accords committee?”

“We’re on it.” Tony said. “I was planning to give DUM-E a makeover tomorrow, but I suppose this colossal pain will have to take priority. Kid: back to bed. It’s 11.”

“Tonnnnyyyy….”

“Non-negotiable.” Tony finished. “You were up too long as it is. Bed now, spider-kid. I mean it.”

“Fine.” Peter huffed. “Wanda? You wanna keep Milo tonight?”

“Nah, it’s fine. Vis and I were planning to watch a movie anyways.” She and Vision shot each other gooey looks and Peter was happy that Milo wouldn’t be there to witness that.

“Night, y’all.” He said, waving Milo’s little paws too. “See you guys. And good luck!” He smiled brightly.

“Wait,” Tony said. “I’m gonna escort you up so I make sure you head to bed and don’t end up marathoning some crime show till the wee hours.” He got up, grabbing a fruit yogurt in the process.

“We’ll see you,” Steve nodded.

“Dad.” Clint added, and Sam laughed. Peter pretended he didn’t hear that. Tony didn’t seem fazed by it either and simply rolled his eyes (he noticed with disappointment).

Once they were in Peter’s bedroom and Peter had slipped into bed (he’d already changed into his pajamas before he’d started talking to Ned and MJ) Tony pulled up a chair and sat next to his head. He looked like he wanted to say something but soon changed in mind.

“Look, Peter, you heard that message. There’s another big change coming up. I wish it wasn’t like that. I didn’t think even the Avengers would come before I took you in.”

Would Tony not have taken him in if he’d anticipated all of this happening? Probably, Peter thought. Would Peter have to find a new place to stay now?

“Hopefully we’ll have a place for the Asgardians to stay that’s not here. But Thor, Bruce, and god forbid, Loki might be moving in too. That woman too, maybe.”

“That’s OK, Tony, I’m sure one of May’s friends would be OK having me for some, I mean, she’s come over loads of times and she says she’d love to have me over for sleepovers anyways cause she has a 4 year old son anyways and now that May’s woken up it can’t be too long now, so—“

“Wait, what? What are you saying?” Tony interrupted, looking shocked.

“I mean, I understand if you need some more space cause more people are coming now so I’m just saying I can probably find a place to stay if you need me to move out so it’s fine. It’s fine.” He was saying it more to reassure himself than to reassure Tony.

“Peter.” Tony sounded like he was searching for words. “Why do you keep thinking that I’m gonna throw you out? I’m not. I’m gonna rephrase that: you are my first priority. I would throw the Avengers out in a heartbeat if it meant keeping you. OK? I meant it when I signed those papers taking your guardianship. If Thor and Bruce moving in means no space for you, I’d very gently let them down, OK?”

“Oh.” Peter said, feeling like an idiot. So Tony really did want him around. He wasn’t a waste of space!

“Peter,” Tony gently touched his face for a millisecond before recoiling like his hand was burnt. He sighed. “I’m sorry if I’m shit at this parenting thing. I’m sorta going by ear right now. But if you need to tell me something, you need to tell me, do you understand? If you’re upset, if you need anything, stuff like that, OK?”

Peter almost scoffed. Like he would do that. He’d just figured out that Tony didn’t think he was a waste of space. He didn’t want to screw that up anytime soon.

But he still nodded. “Yup, Tony. For sure.”

“OK, then.” He still didn’t mention the Car Incident, thank god. Tony looked around. “God, kid, this room is like a blank slate. It needs some doing up, don’t you think?”

“W-what? No, no, it’s great, Tony. I mean it’s already twice the size of my room at the apartment, it’s way more than I could ask for…”

“But it could be much better. I’m thinking: some Star Wars geek merch, Lego sets, hmmm…what do say about an Iron Man poster?”

“That…that actually sounds great, Tony.” Peter confessed.

“Great! You wanna go to the mall tomorrow, then? They have a Bed Bath and Beyond and an entertainment store with basically everything under the sun.”

“But I thought you had that Accords thing with the Captain?” Peter asked. He didn’t want to burden Tony again. Not when he had to go for something so important. And god, he’d be spending money on him again! No! Peter didn’t think he could stand that. He would drown in the guilt.

“We’re gonna do a video call, kid. I’m not gonna fly to Brussels and back in a day. It’ll be an hour, tops.”

“But still, it’s so important, and this is just a bedroom.”

“This is important. This room is crying, kid. It needs character.”

“If you’re sure…”

“Of course I’m sure kid.” Tony ruffled his hair, and Peter found himself leaning into the touch. “Goodnight, spider baby.”
“Night, Tony.” Peter snuggled into his covers, Milo sleeping on his stomach, his anxiety ridden mind already wrung with guilt over spending that hadn’t even happened yet. Thankfully, thoughts of the upcoming visit and the excitement of meeting Thor and Bruce-freaking-Banner soon took over, and he drifted off into a dreamless sleep in about half an hour.

*

Tony stood outside Peter’s bedroom, watching his steady breathing through the darkness. Like a coward, he’d backed out of that discussion, skipping the whole ‘what’s up’ part and asking him about his bedroom. He figured he’d bring it up after shopping. Find a nice café, sit the kid down, the works.

He couldn’t believe the kid actually thought he would pick Thor and his buddies over him. Hopefully, once he sat the kid down and asked him what was wrong, he’d find out why. He was nervous about a lot of things, Loki being a major contributing factor. He was not really to shake hands with the man who’d pushed him out of his own building and ask for a drink afterword. But if Bruce trusted him, Bruce being the most sensible Avenger and one person Tony actually considered a good friend, Tony trusted him.

Of course, his mind provided his with the usual worst case scenarios: Loki mind controlled the whole of Asgard, this was a prank call, etc. But he ignored that. He would deal with that as it came. For now, he’d just care about the kid sleeping in the room next to his, and maybe, just maybe, work up the courage to kiss him on the forehead.

Chapter Text

Sam tried to overtake Steve again. Steve smirked and just ran faster, urging Peter to come up to his left. Peter happily obliged, and Sam changed his pace to come up to Steve’s right. Peter ran a little faster, and Steve actually panted. Just how fast was this child? Boundless energy to add to that too. If he wasn’t assured that he was normal, Steve would’ve thought he was a super.

“Come on, Mr. Captain!” Peter said, taking a deep breath and actually waving to a passing squirrel. No wonder Tony was in love with this child. He could sweet talk Ross.

“Keep it constant, Peter, you don’t want to mess up your pace and finish faster than you wanted to.” Steve replied.

“Don’t listen to this idiot. Go slower.” Sam ground out. Though Sam had wings, he didn’t have a crazy metabolism and annoying him on runs was one of Steve’s favorite pastimes.

“Little shit.”

Peter slowed and jogged next to Sam. “So, Mr. Wilson, are you gonna play any more pranks on Bucky? Since the salt thing at dinner the other day?”

“How come you call Bucky by his actual name and all of us are misters?” Sam asked.

“Cause…he asked me to?” Peter replied quizzically.

“OK, so we’re asking you too—no mister, Peter. Makes us feel old.” Steve said, grinning.

Peter shot him a shit eating grin, reminding him of Tony. “But Captain, you are old.”

“Aah, I like this one.” Sam said. “Yeah, definitely pulling a couple on that tin man, don’t worry. But I’m not telling me if you gon’ be a double crossing lil’ asshole, get it? If FRIDAY tells me that you’ve been tattling you gon’ get it from me.”

“I’m just an,” Peter jumped over a rock, “innocent bystander. I don’t want to get in the middle of your wars.”

“But that could be a good distraction from this upcoming Thor stint. If you take a solemn oath, you can be on my side.”

“Sam.” Steve said. “We decided we wouldn’t bring this up, remember? Not during the run. Already dreading talking to Brussels today. Hopefully Tony and I will be able to draft out a deal.”

“OK, ok, just offering the kid an opportunity of a lifetime.” Sam said. “You want it, half-pint?”

“Nope. I’m good just watching.” Peter said. “Hey, we’re back!”

“So we are.” Steve said. “You’re not tired?”

“Not in the least. So, we going to the gym next?” Peter bounced a little on his toes.

“Gods, no. Peter, these are the endorphins. We ran quite a bit. You’ll be hungry but you just don’t feel it now. You need to eat breakfast.”

“And Stark’ll kill us if he finds out we killed his kid.” Sam added, and Steve glared at him. Therapist that he was, the idiot still didn’t know when to approach certain sensitive subjects.

“Not his kid,” Peter whispered before actually jumping over the Compound gate. Steve and Sam stared.

Sam swiped his card and the gate opened the normal way, revealing Peter impatiently tapping his foot against the sidewalk.

“What?” He asked. “Oh, that? I take acrobatics in school, I just like practicing.”

“You on top of your class?” Steve replied.

“Donno. I don’t like to think of it that way.” Peter blushed, or maybe that was just him tired from the running.

“Sincere too—on second thought, I don’t think you’d make a great partner in a prank war. You’d probably feel guilty and tell Bucky beforehand.” Sam mused. “OK, now, to breakfast, shall we?”

They walked into the compound (the lady at the reception kept making eyes at Steve. It was getting really uncomfortable.) and FRIDAY took them to the communal meal floor.

Everyone was already there, Steve noted. He loved team meals. Maybe it was just him or they were actually getting closer as a collective unit, and sharing a meal filled with meaningful conversation was something Steve took immense pleasure in.

“Kid!” Tony said, putting his croissant down, “You’re back! Tell me, did Cap and Little Red Riding Hood here drill you too hard?”

“No, actually.” Steve cut in. “He was really impressive, actually. Almost beat me! He’s really good, Tony.”

Peter glowed from the pride. Was it this easy to compliment a kid?

“That’s awesome, Pete.” Tony said, and Steve could see the proud dad in him. “But you have to eat. Can’t let that sp- crazy teenage metabolism of yours get out of hand now, can we?”

What had Tony meant to say? Steve forgot about it—it was probably just a slip up. Tony’s brain ran so fast that sometimes his mouth had trouble keeping up, and he’d had many of those slip ups in the numerous team presentations they’d had over the years.

“You don’t have to worry so much,” Peter squirmed when Tony reached out to ruffle his hair. “I can take care of myself.” Nat shot Peter a look.

“K, I’m gonna go take a bath. I feel yucky.” Peter waved, and Tony glared at him. “THEN I’ll eat, god.”

He walked back towards the elevator and Tony looked back at them like he meant business. “OK. Rhodey, you and Bucky are flying to Norway today to talk it out with the government, right?”

Bucky nodded. “Yeah, we notified the UN yesterday and asked for a joint meeting with them and the Norwegian government. We leave in an hour, and the meeting’s at about 12.”

“You positive they’ll be OK?” Wanda asked.

“They’re more open to these kinds of things than all the other countries. Less population, cooperative officials, lots of empty space. They’ll at least agree to negotiate.” Rhodey added.

“And Tony and I have the video call with the Accords committee today at 11.” Steve contributed. “Since this is an extra-terrestrial thing which we had no control over, we are the best equipped team to take these guys in, especially since two of them are part of our team.” He and Tony had talked it over the previous night. They couldn’t shoot them down on this.

“That’ll get over in an hour.” Tony continued. “Sam, Clint, and Nat? You guys are working on sending a transmission back, right?”

Clint nodded.

“Vis and I are taking care of the landing spaces, so on and so forth.” Wanda said. “Everything’s covered, right?”

“I guess.” Steve said. If we finish all the nitty gritty stuff by today, tomorrow max, all the have to do is sit and wait.”

“Nervously.” Tony added. “Nervously sit and wait. God knows what gonna happen after their little party lands up.”

“Be optimistic, Tony.” Vision said in his usual tone, beating Steve to it. “We have to way of calculating the odds of what is going to happen once Thor and his comrades land.”

Tony rolled his eyes. “I should’ve programmed you with a sense of sarcasm. OK? We good? Come on, Captain, we gotta style our hair to impress the members.”

It was Steve’s turn to roll his eyes. He stood up, the others following suit. They’d deal with this—they’d make it work. They were the Avengers; this was what they did.

*

“It is out of your control, but I’ve got to admit, this is still a little too coincidental for my liking,” The President of the Accords committee said.

Tony sighed and brushed his hair back from his eyes. He hadn’t had a haircut in days. Steve thought he was ready to collapse.

“Look, President.” Tony started. “There is absolutely no legit way you can link this to us. We have no way (still) to communicate with people from outer space. That’s why we never had strong communication with Thor either. There is no way we could’ve known about this.”

“He’s right.” Steve added. “We got the transmission yesterday, remember? You forced us to send it to you? Even they were apologizing.”

“Rashly, though.” The president butted in. “Loki. Do you really think we could trust him after 2012?”

“We trust Thor and Dr. Banner.” Tony said, and Steve looked at him in surprise. This was something he expected Tony to agree on.

“A god and a rage monster,” The President said. “Convenient enough, it seems.”

“Dr. Bruce Banner is a hundred times the man you will ever be!” Tony lashed out. “And I won’t hear another word against him.”

“Calm down, Stark.” One of the other guys on the committee said. He was sitting to the left of the president so Steve thought he was probably important.

“Look. We’ve made our point. We talked about this: Loki, Dr. Banner, everything. There’s nothing stopping you from giving this to us.”

The President looked like he wanted to protest but stopped himself. “OK.” He relented.

“Say what now?” Tony said.

“I said, OK, Stark. Fine. There’s nothing against this situation. But still,” He made the ‘I’m watching you’ sign with his hands and abruptly cut the call.

“Something doesn’t sit right with that man,” Steve said.

“Yeah, just what I was thinking. The way he ended things and cut the call reminds me a little too much of our good friend Ross.” Tony replied.

“Should we keep a closer eye on him?”

“No. That’ll just make us look even more worthy of investigation. I’ve dealt with these morons before, and trust me, the Avengers do not want to get caught tailing the President of the Accords committee.”

“OK then. So, where are you headed now?” Steve asked. He wouldn’t have minded a coffee.

“Taking the kid to the mall. His room needs a desperate makeover. It looks like a middle-aged lady’s.”

“Oh. Tony, are things OK between, you know, you two? You seemed a little down before dinner last night.”

“Hoping to sort exactly that out. I don’t know, Steve, he’s been distancing himself lately. Quite. It’s OK. I’ll talk to him.” Steve had a feeling it was more than that, but he kept quiet. It was a miracle that Tony had consciously told him this much.

“See you then. I’ll check up on the others.” Steve waved as Tony headed towards the door.

“Don’t.” Tony said without turning around.

“What?”

Tony turned. “I mean it. Don’t. Take some time off, Cap. God knows you need it. Let the other idiots do their jobs.”

“You do have a point…”

“And plus.”

“What?”

“Jenna from reception has a thing for you. Why don’t you see if that’ll work out?” He winked.

Steve rolled his eyes dramatically. “I’m not that in need of company, Tony. Go now. Have fun with your kid.”

And with that Tony smiled one of his rare smiles, only brought out when he was talking about Rhodey, Happy or Peter, waved, and stepped out.

*

“Mr. Stark! The bill is $750!!!!” Peter exclaimed. “You can’t buy all this stuff!”

“Kid,” Tony sighed. “How many times do I have to tell you? I have more than this in my wallet.”

“That doesn’t justify it.” Peter pouted.

“Not gonna change my mind.” Tony started unloading the contents of the stuffed cart onto the check-out conveyor belt. This kid. As if he didn’t know Tony would buy him Netflix if he asked. And he knew that even if he relented and put the stuff back, Peter’s heart would break over the loss of his precious Star Wars posters, bed linen and Legos.

After the cashier put everything they’d purchased into a bag and Tony’d had it sent to the car, they walked over to a Starbucks and sat down at a booth in the corner. Tony sucked in a breath. If he did this right, he’d finally get Peter to open up.

Don’t screw up, he willed his brain.

“Thanks, Tony.” Peter spoke as he swished coffee in his mouth, and Tony made a face. “I mean, for the stiff for my room.” Peter said as he swallowed. He had a coffee moustache and Tony fought the urge to wipe it off like a cheesy mother hen.

He took a sip of Peter’s coffee and almost spat it out. “Peter. How do you drink this? This isn’t coffee. This is sugar.”

“It’s an acquired taste.” Peter aped, shooting him an impish grin. Damn it, the kid was like a sponge. Two days ago, Peter had asked him how he listened to Pink Floyd and he’d said it was an acquired taste.

Tony shook his head. “You Gen-Z kids. I’ll never understand you.”

“That’s cuz you’re old, Tony.”

Tony rolled his eyes. Time to dive into the deep end. “Kid, I wanted to talk to you about something.”

Peter’s eyes widened marginally. “What about?”

“What you said in the car.” Oh shit. That seemed the be the wrong thing to bring up, because Peter seemed to shrink into himself.

“Um, I’m sorry.” Peter murmured so softly that Tony almost didn’t hear him.

“No! No! I didn’t mean to offend you, Mr. Stark!” There it was again, that Mr. Stark. Peter seemed to call him that when he got nervous, it seemed.

Peter looked at his watch before realizing he didn’t have one. (Tony made a mental note to order a Timex one that night. The kid insisted on being basic, after all.)

“Actually, I have to go to the bathroom. I mean, like right now. Just a second, Mr. Stark.” He got up and almost ran away from the café. Tony blinked. How did he manage to screw it up so badly again? Again? God, he was terrible at this. The kid definitely didn’t want to talk to him. He probably hated him. He shuddered at the thought of Peter hating him. He didn’t think he could stand that.

Peter was back. “Hey, Mr. Stark. I just remembered, visiting hours are gonna be over in like, 2 hours. I need to go see May.”

Tony nodded, blinking back tears. When was the last time he’d cried? After Siberia? He didn’t know. “Of course, Pete. I’m gonna head back to the Compound.”

Peter hesitantly said: “I—I’m sorry, Mr. Stark. That’s just…something I’m weird about.”

“Yeah, I understand.”

Peter waved and slowly walked away, tearing Tony’s heart. As soon as he was out of sight, Tony allowed the tears to flow freely. He couldn’t stop them. He didn’t try to.

*

Tony was working on his suit when he heard the workshop’s doors open. He turned around, expecting Cap, but was greeted with a red-eyed Peter.

“Kid.” Hid defenses immediately went up. “What happened?”

“Nothing.” Peter rubbed at his eyes. “I just wanted to say that I’m sorry.”

“Sorry?”

“For just running off like that.”

“Oh. That’s OK.”

“No, it’s not!” Peter exclaimed. “Not when I…when you…”

“When you what?” Peter was finally, finally talking and Tony was not going to let him go again. “Do you wanna sit down? And talk?”

Hesitantly, Peter nodded and walked to the beat up couch Tony kept in the corner, Tony on his heels.

“How’s May?” Tony started.

“Good. They say she’s improving, so that’s great.” Peter replied, fidgeting with his t-shirt. Tony decided to let him continue. Apparently, it was the right thing to do because he stared to talk.

“The reason I asked you not to come with me to the hospital anymore was…was because I didn’t wanna make you, to like…I didn’t wanna waste your time, OK?”

Tony was completely blindsided. Waste his time? What was Peter going on about?

“What? Waste my time?” he asked.

“I mean…the Avengers are just back and you should, you know, be with them and stuff. And here I am, like I’m incapable of getting myself to Queens and back and asking you to drive me and like you’re just not supposed to do that!” Now that Peter was talking he didn’t seem to be able to stop.

“Why not? Why can’t I drive you?”

“Because you’re Tony Stark.”

Tony raised an eyebrow. “I think we’ve established that, kid. What else about me is so bad that I can’t drive to the hospital and back?”

“Bad? What? No, you’re not bad. It’s just that, you should be doing, like, bigger things than driving some poor sad random kid to Queens and back every day. I don’t deserve to be driven.”

Fuck. That was what was worrying the kid so much? He felt undeserving? That hit a little too close to home for Tony; it was an emotion he felt more than often. Peter Parker, of all the 8 billion people on the planet, was the last ever person who should feel undeserving.

“Peter. Let’s get one thing straight. You are not, never was, and never will be undeserving. Do you understand?”

“But you spend so much money on me—“

“Nope. Let me finish. Kid, I love driving you to Queens and back. Heck, you’re a much better car companion than Happy, let me tell you that. Have you ever listened to his ‘culture’ podcasts? Be glad you haven’t."

Peter cracked a small smile. Tony considered that a victory.

“Screw the Avengers, you’re much better company. And kid, is that what you’ve been thinking? That you’re some random kid from Queens?”

Peter nodded miserably. “I am, aren’t I?”

“Definitely not. Right now, I want you to change that view of yourself. Kid, you’re the best kid from Queens there is. In fact, I think you might be the best kid, period.”

Peter looked up at that. “You really think that?” He asked. “That I’m the best kid?”

“Of course!” Tony suddenly needed Peter to know that. “You are the best, kid.”

Peter’s face lit up. “You don’t think spending time and money on me is a bother?”

“Give me one reason why I’d think that.” Tony replied. Peter opened his mouth, but Tony stopped him. “That was a rhetorical question.”

“Kid.” He put his arm (albeit a little awkwardly) around Peter and Peter snuggled in. “All this time I thought you were mad at me.”

“Peter looked up at him in shock. “Why on earth would I be mad at you, Tony? You’re awesome.”

Tony ran his fingers through Peter’s hair, the softest, silkiest thing he’d ever felt. “Good. So. Two lessons you learnt today. One: you are not worthless, and I love spending time with you. And kid, I have loads of money, and that’s the best way I show…affection. Ask Pepper. Once I gave her his giant teddy bear…you know what, forget that. Don’t feel guilty. That’s all. You are much better than all the Avengers combined.”

Peter looked at him like he was an idiot. Perhaps he was.

“And two: we need to communicate. I meant what I said last night. You have anything to say, or anything that you need, you ask me, OK? No exceptions. I don’t want you holding shit like this ever again.”

“OK.” Peter replied. “It actually is kinda better now that’s off my chest.”

“See?” Tony poked him on the nose, and he scrunched his face up adorably.

Tony was so, so relieved that the reason Peter had been so withdrawn was because of him. Peter was the last person he wanted to scare away. What could he say? The kid had grown on him; so much so that he couldn't imagine the Tower without him now. Minutes passed before Tony realized Peter had fallen asleep in the crook of his arm. Kid must’ve been exhausted. Tony hesitated just a minute before softly brushing a kiss to the top of Peter’s forehead. All his previous anxiety dissolved. He felt at peace.

Chapter Text

“Kid,” Sam said. “They’re not gonna get here any faster. Stop. Bouncing.”

“Sorry, Tony. It’s just, Thor, Tony! And Dr Banner. Dr Banner, you know how awesome he is? And Loki! Sorry, I know you don’t like him…yeah, I should probably shut up now.”

Peter stopped bouncing. Before he’d begun the bouncing, he’d been tapping his fingers on the table top, and Sam had been shooting him dirty looks.

What? It wasn’t really his fault he was so excited. The day after Tony and him had finally talked, he’d had to fly to Norway to meet the Asgardians there. To Peter’s massive disappointment, they were not heading to New York first, since there were way too many people to accommodate. Turns out Natasha had managed to establish contact with Grandmaster dude’s ship and they’d managed to send over coordinates. Three long, Tony-less days had passed, where Peter visited Ned often (Happy had been furious), went to the hospital to see May (Happy was weirdly pleased to do this. How did Happy know May?) and played trash video games with Bucky, Sam, Scott, and Clint.

Finally, Tony, Steve, Natasha, Thor, Dr Banner, Loki, and Mysterious Lady were heading back to the Tower to meet up with the rest of the team. Peter was overjoyed. Finally! Everyone was gonna be back!

Sam rolled his eyes and lightly hit Peter on the head, bringing him back into reality. “They get annoying once you’re forced to live with them, kid. Don’t let the hero worship blind you.”

“Gah! I can’t wait any longer! Ned asked me to video call him, kinda like live-streaming the whole thing, but I think that’d be a little intrusive, right?”

“Ya think?” Sam said sarcastically.

“Well, I waited with Tony when you guys came for the first time too, and I’m already a little short on the patience factor, so…”

“That’s an understatement, half-pint,” Clint said, coming a little closer. Even he seemed to be getting a little fidgety. “A little short on the patience factor? God, you’re like a mini Stark.”

Peter didn’t know whether to be insanely proud of that or say something back. He decided to go back to staring at the sky expectantly. Still nothing. Maybe he should go back and grab a breakfast bar or something? But they’d just had dinner. Figured Peter was already hungry. Tony was the only one who knew how much to feed Peter, and Peter always ended up underestimating how much to eat.

“Y’all, I think they’re here!” Scott waved his hands around, pointing at the sky. Peter made out a small black blob.

“Yeah, that’s them.” Sam said. He went to the control station and performed the necessary procedures to assure a safe landing. It was the same jet Tony and the others had used on their way to Norway. Since there was an addition of only 4 people, Peter thought they wouldn’t have needed anything bigger.

The first one off was Tony, stretching sleepily.

“Hey kid! How are you?”

Peter bounded forward without thinking and flung his arms around the man, making him oof in surprise.

“Great, Tony!”

“How’s your aunt?”

“Still asleep. But she was conscious around midnight a day ago. They should’ve called me.” Peter pouted.

“Kid.” Tony shook his head. “She’ll be up and talking in no time. Don’t scare the hospital.”

“Tony? You have…a teenager? How long was I away?” A different voice came from the ship, and Peter let go of Tony only to see THE Bruce Banner. Fuck. All this while he was hoping to make a good, mature impression on the scientist and now he’d ruined everything after acting like a pre-schooler after the first day of school.

“Oh! Uh. Um, hey. I’m uh, um, Peter!” He managed. Great job, Parker. Now you sound childish and mentally ill. “I mean, Peter Parker. Honor to meet you, Dr Banner. I’m a huge fan of all your works in the field of nuclear radiation, especially gamma rays. I’ve read all your papers. I mean, they were just on the recommended reading list in my Physics class, but I read everything anyways and it was awesome. Awesome.”

Dr Banner looked pretty flustered. “Hello, Peter. I’m glad you’ve heard of my research. Not many teenagers are fans.”

“Damn straight.” Tony finished. “Only little geniuses have.”

Peter blushed again. “Stop it!” He shook Dr Banner’s hand, and took a moment to process that.

“So, Tony? A kid? I wouldn’t have pegged you for the…” Dr Banner left it hanging.

“Not mine.” Tony replied, “I’m his temporary guardian, though.”

Dr Banner nodded and Peter tried to ignore the pang that came with his words. What did he expect? That Tony would profess his undying love for Peter right then and there?

Next out of the ship was the Captain and Natasha, who waved back to Peter’s enthusiastic hi and went forward to greet the others behind them. Then: Thor and Loki. Thor. Loki. Wow. Peter actually rubbed his eyes. He was meeting literal gods. If you’d told him that back in 2013, Peter would’ve said that was as likely as him beating Jordan in a game of basketball.

“Stark!” Thor thundered. “So good to be back, so good. So, I see you’ve decorated! And, who is this tiny human?” He asked, looking at Peter inquisitively.

“This,” Dr Banner said, “is Peter Parker. He’s staying here too.” Oh my god, Dr Bruce Banner remembered his name! This was like meeting Tony for the first time all over again.

“Stark-son! Pleased to meet you! I’m Thor.” He stuck out a hand, and Peter shook.

“Uh, we don’t really say that here on earth, Mr. Thor.” Peter said shyly. Should he say he wasn't Tony's son? He decided not to bring it up again. “You can just call me Peter.”

“Hmm. I’ve seen Bilgesnipe bigger than you.” Loki seemed to materialize next to Thor, startling Tony.

“Watch it, Voldermort.” Tony snapped.

“What’s a Bilge Snipe?” Peter asked, mimicking the foreign syllables as best as he could.

“No one mention Bilgesnipe.” Natasha said, walking up to them. She and Thor shared a look. “Where’s Valkyrie?”

“Who’s Valkyrie?” Peter was starting to feel slightly stupid.

“Witch is probably drunk off her gourd, snoring on the largest couch,” Loki grumbled. “Last I saw her, she threw a glass bottle at my face and laughed when it shattered over my head instead.”

“See, I don’t blame her. Last I checked, brother, throwing bottles at you is quite a favored pastime of mine. Even Bruce likes it, right Bruce?” Thor said, and Tony laughed.

Dr Banner simply shook his head and headed back to the ship. “I’ll find her. You guys head inside, we’ll join you.”

The five of them joined the rest of the party and headed towards the dining place. Sam seemed to be wary of Loki, and Clint outright ignored him. Was there bad blood there? Again, Loki had bad blood with almost everyone he met. They all picked random seats on the dining table, and the people who’d arrived couldn’t get enough to eat. Thor kept complaining about the small portion size, and how at Asgardian feasts, he could polish off an entire peasant.

Loki was slowly turning Natasha’s red blouse pink with tiny flourishes of his hand. Peter caught his eye and smiled, hoping to silently convey a warning of impeding death if he managed to finish. Loki simply shook his head and continued, picking at some grapes.

Peter looked to the other side to see Bucky slowly pouring vinegar into Sam’s whiskey. Peter scooted closer.

“He’s gonna kill you.”

“Not if he can’t catch me.” Bucky replied cheekily. “He’s slower than one of Thor’s Asgardian peasants.”

Peter hid a laugh. “How potent are you gonna make it?”

“As bad as salt in an undershirt. So, pretty fucking potent.”

“So THAT’S why you were so irritable in the gym yesterday!” Bucky pursed his lips and nodded, and Peter mock clapped encouragingly. “Go get him, Bucky.”

Bucky gave him a thumbs up, right when Natasha shouted: “Why the fuck is my shirt fucking pink? Loki, you asshole.”

“Language!” Captain, of course, never letting a single thing go. “There’s a kid in here.”

“I’m almost 16.” Peter protested, and Tony ruffled his hair.

Loki simply raised his eyebrows. “Never attribute to malice what can be simply explained by stupidity. I didn't fool you, Romanoff. You were too preoccupied to notice your shirt change color. You were a spy, last we met?”

Natasha showed him the middle finger. Tony rolled his eyes.

“And, the child didn’t seem to mind,” Loki added, and Peter silently cursed. He was getting involved in way too many pranks. Natasha shot him a look, and Peter raised both his arms as if in surrender.

“One more time and you’ll wish you were back in space, frosty.” Natasha warned. “Change it back.”

Loki shook his head, and with a snap of his fingers, her shirt was red again. Conversation resumed, and Peter waited for Sam to take a sip from his glass. Bucky was watching him intently.

Wanda cleared her throat. “So, Thor, who is this Grandmaster? Is he in some sort of Asgardian circus? Do you even have circuses there?”

Thor and Loki shared a knowing look. Peter thought that even though they didn’t look alike, they couldn’t have looked more like brothers in that moment.

“The Grandmaster,” A woman’s voice came from the back, “is a story for a long, drunken night.”

They all whipped around. Dr Banner was walking in with a woman in tow. She was dressed like she was ready to go to battle at any moment, and somehow even managed to make the armor she wore look fashionable. Maybe it was an Asgardian thing.

She surveyed the room. “I’m Valkyrie, and if you’re anything like these three massive idiots, I don’t have the patience to deal with you.”

“I like you already,” Clint said. “I’m Clint Barton.”

She turned to Thor. “Oh, so this is birdy!” She was clearly hungover.

“Birdy?” Clint spluttered. “Thor what the-“

“Wait,” Peter said before he could stop himself. “Aren’t Valkyrie the choosers of the death in Norse mythology? You ride unicorns? Oh my god, you guys are real? That’s so cool!”

Valkyrie turned to look at him. She would have been intimidating except she was looking at him like he was a puppy or something. “Not unicorns. Banner told me about the Earth myth.” A dark look came over her face. “And yes, we are real. But, now it’s just me.” Peter didn’t want to question her further.

Scott gestured to the food. “Come. Sit. Eat!”

She looked at the food. “Do you have wine? Or mead?”

“That’s not very healthy.” Sam commented. “I’m Sam Wilson, by the way.”

“No time to remember all of your names. Birdy was a formality.”

Sam shook his head. “Still, woman. It’s like, 8 ‘o’ clock. Don’t you wanna hit the sack soon?”

“I never sleep.”

“Now that,” Tony said, getting up, “is something I can relate to. Alcohol too. And I’ve seen how much you drink, you’re clearly an alcoholic. Trust me, I’ve been through that.” Thor shook his head furiously from behind him.

She looked at him like he was an idiot. “I don’t drink too much.”

“Denial.” Sam coughed.

“Call it what you want, Wilson. I’m immortal. More for me!” With that, she grabbed Sam’s (tainted) whiskey and swigged, immediately spitting it out.

“What the fuck is this? Loki, you said the drinks here were good! Especially, where did you say…Berlin?”

Tony, the Captain, and Natasha gave Loki a look, whose mouth looked like it was torn between a laugh and a poker face.

“Uh, that’s very…taste specific, ma’am.” Bucky said, taking the glass from her. “It was customized to Sam’s preference. Can I get you another one?”

“Finally!” She said. “Someone speaks my language.”

Bucky went to the drink table, and Sam shot him daggers from behind. “Little shit…”

Valkyrie and Dr Banner took the seats on either side of Peter. Dr Banner smiled at him and they launched into a conversation about physics projects and science fair practicals and man, it was even better than what Peter had imagined.

“So, uh, Dr Banner, are you gonna be staying here with the rest of the team?” Peter asked. He hoped he would. He could spend hours talking to him. It was like when Peter was 10, and run into Neil deGrasse Tyson in the mall. They’d spent an entire hour in the coffee shop and May was ready to die at the end of it. He hoped he hadn’t annoyed the poor man too much himself.

“Yes.” Valkyrie confirmed, instead. “Thor, his lunatic brother, and Banner are staying here, and I’m going back to New Asgard. Apparently Loki is hated by your government. Frankly, I’m not surprised.” she smirked. “Thor will be doing some back and forth, though. He’s still king.”

“Oh. That’s awesome.” Peter said.

“What’s your name, little person? You don’t look like and Avenger.” She scrunched her nose. “In fact, I think I’ve seen Bilgesnipe bigger than you.”

There it was again. “What’s a Bilgesnipe?”

Thor jumped in, his face lighting up. “Asgardian specialty. Large antlers, really scaly? Repulsive creatures, to be honest.”

“I swear to god you are saying that to piss us off.” Clint said.

“Well, they don’t exist anymore, so take that. Maybe I miss them.” No one knew what to say to that.

“I’m not. An Avenger, I mean. I just live here.” Peter said awkwardly. He hated silences.

“There you have it, people.” Scott said. “Peter Benjamin Parker, living meme.”

“Well, Peter, why don’t you and I work in my lab together sometime? I’d love to see what you can do. I mean, if Tony is OK with it. He is responsible for you, after all.”

Peter glanced up at Tony, eyes wide. This was his DREAM COME TRUE. Lab time with the Dr Bruce Banner? Yes, sir. This was the only thing better than lab time with Tony Stark. That is, lab time with both Tony Stark and Bruce Banner.

“Of course, kid. Don’t blow yourself up, I still need my assistant.” Tony smiled at him fondly, just as Bucky walked in with two bottles of whiskey.

“I brought some extra, just in—oh. OK. You want both. Sure, why not?” Valkyrie had taken both bottles.

"Cheers!”

Bucky took his place next to Sam, the latter glaring at him, eyebrows raised. Bucky shrugged. Conversation lulled, Peter getting back to his conversation with Valkyrie and Dr Banner. They were pretty awesome. They’d actually been flying in a spaceship in space. Lived out Peter’s dream. He had half a mind to ask them to take him along for another ride, but from what it looked like, Dr Banner was more than happy to be back on earth.

“I had to wear Tony’s clothes for some time. It wasn’t the best experience.” He explained. “Don’t tell him. I think he liked those pants.”

“But Dr Banner, it’s space.” Peter said, as if that justified the entire thing. (It did.)

“Kid, I’m much happier here. Specifically, non-stress inducing environments.” Dr Banner said. “And please, call me Bruce. Dr Banner seems really formal, doesn’t it? Just don’t push it to Brucie.” He looked pointedly at Tony, who shrugged from across the table.

All in all, it was a good night. The only regret Peter had was not talking to Loki more. The Asgardian in question had spent most of the night talking to Scott, out of all people. Peter figured. Scott was the only person (other than Peter) who hadn’t had any encounters with Loki. They’d been hunched over Scott’s phone over dessert and Peter thought he heard the words ‘GIFs’ and ‘memes’ uttered. Peter desperately wanted to get in on that one.

All in all it was a good night. He ended it with a movie, but just him and Tony this time. Tony claimed he’d missed some mentor-mentee bonding time, and since they sucked at communication anyways, they needed to spend some quality time together after three whole days apart. Peter wasn’t annoyed at all—he was overjoyed. He would’ve brought it up, but he didn’t want to come on as too clingy. He was glad the older man had suggested it before he did.

Halfway through Ghost Busters, Tony leaned over. “You’re sure you’re OK with the new additions?” he asked.

“Tony—this is Bruce Banner and Thor we’re talking about. I’m way more than OK with it.”

“Watch it, kid. I don’t want Brucie staling my lab partner. Don’t let your hero worship blind you to my overall baddass-ness.”

“Is that even a word?”

“It is if I say so.”

“Debatable.” Peter finished, and Tony chuckled.

“You’re getting sassy, kid.”

“Hmmm…wonder where I got that from?” Peter joked, hoping he wasn’t going too far. Thankfully, he wasn’t, Tony ruffling his hair again.

“Don’t worry, Tony. You’re still my favorite.” Tony’s face lit up at that.

“Damn straight, kid. You’re my favorite too. Now we’re even.”

“Thanks, Tony.”

They both fell asleep on the couch that night. Tony ignored the pictures (with added family emojis) Rhodey sent him the next morning.

Chapter Text

Peter handed back the frenzied cat back to its relieved 12-year-old owner and took his turn to sigh in relief. His arms were gonna be bleeding for sure, and how will he explain with dignity to the others (who didn’t know about his….extra-curricular activities) that the slash marks (which were on his wrist, they definitely looked like self-harm) were because of a bad tempered tabby? Yes, yes, the suit was meant to protect him from stuff like this, but yesterday at Ned’s the two of them had taken the time to remove both the trackers Tony had installed in his wrist areas, and accidentally torn the suit.

Of course, they’d sown it back with Peter’s stitching skillz (he’d have to tell Mrs. Wilson her Home Science class was actually useful once school started) but it was weaker than it usually was, and the damn cat’s claws had been enough to rip through it.

He supposed he’d just have to stay out long enough for his healing factor to completely erase the marks. Deciding on an impromptu trip to the hospital, Peter gave the kid (the yellow braces were blinding him) a little salute and started webbing himself towards Queens General. He supposed he should wait for Tony, but still, the cuts. And no one had to know. He’d already been sneaking around by removing the trackers anyways. It had been a week since Thor and Loki and Dr Banner had moved in, and May was finally, FINALLY awake. She did sleep most of the day, but it was normal sleeping, and not an induced coma, which Peter couldn’t be happier about. If he was lucky, she’d be awake when he came.

And Peter hadn’t even gone through half the list of things he wanted to tell her. The hospital was probably sick of him.

After heading into an alley to change back into jeans and a hoodie, Spider-Man walked out as Peter Parker. There was a TV showroom next to the alley, and Peter peeked at one of the displays. Boring news again; adults had no fun in their lives. Wait, no, this was interesting…

“Yes, Kelly, we’ve had two deaths over the past one and a half weeks all in the same area. Wait, not deaths, murders. Two citizens of Queens have been strangled in their beds. The police have reported no evidence whatsoever.”

“There is no break in, either.” Kelly continued. “The neighbors do not report any suspicious activity. Could it have been one of the inhabitants?t.”

“People are questioning the efficiency of this city’s police, and calling for further, even though it is quite early in the investigation…” The man continued, and Peter lost track of what he was saying when someone pushed him aside rudely.

Getting back to the glass display, he heard the conversation again.

“…are calling for the attention of the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, a man whose identity remains shrouded in secrecy. But tell me, Kelly, can a guy in spandex who rescues kittens from trees take on a serial killer?”

What? Of course he could! Why hadn’t he known about this sooner? Maybe he should have Karen keep an alert for these sorts of things. What should he do now? He had no idea. He’d talk it out with Ned later, and probably pay a visit to one of the houses to see what’s going on. If he got past the crime-scene personnel, that is.

“Personally, Mark, I have full faith in Spider-Man.” Kelly replied, and Peter brightened. Tony always said that you’d have haters, but you’d have people who supported you too, and that always helped. “I don’t know where you are, and if you’re listening to this, Spider-Man, but it’s in times like this that we need you! Help these families find redemption.”

“Yes, Spidey, please do. Now, moving on to international news, Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament may lead to…”

Peter stopped paying attention than and started to walk towards the hospital. Who was this mysterious guy? Someone with super-powers? But then the circumstances seemed like something you’d see on a regular episode of Castle. Maybe it was just like that. And there were murders in Queens anyways, right? But something about this didn’t sit well with him. They were reporting it on TV. That didn’t happen often.

“Peter Parker to see May Parker, please? Room 303.” He said to the receptionist absentmindedly.

“I know,” she replied, predictably annoyed. “Where’s um…your…adult?”

Ugh. This woman had a crush on Tony, and it was the most awkward thing ever. Frankly, Peter thought that she only let him in so many times a week because Tony always flashed her with his trademark press smile that everyone fell for.

“He has a meeting. Can I go?”

She slid the register across grumpily, picking up the phone. “Yeah, it’s the kid again. Oh, Dr Clearwater! I didn’t expect you…no adult, is that OK? That’s great! Sure, Doctor. I’ll send him up.”

“What?” Peter asked, trying not to smile.

“You’re in luck. May’s awake, and Dr Clearwater is with her. You know the way.”

Peter bounded towards the elevator and soon he was tiptoeing into May’s room. He waved to Dr Clearwater, who was measuring May’s blood pressure.

“Hey, May! You’re awake!”

“Yeah, sweetie.” She smiled tiredly. “A little wiped out today. You do the talking.”

He nodded. “No problem! I love talking!”

Dr Clearwater chuckled. “You should’ve seen him the other times, May. Talking Mr. Stark’s ears right off. He really is the sweetest, though.”

May smiled again. “I know. You still haven’t finished the Oreo toothpaste prank, sweetheart.”

“Ohhhh, yeah! That was awesome! Because the vinegar thing didn’t work out, Bucky took out one side of the cream inside the biscuit and replaced it with toothpaste. He offered it to Sam and when he asked for proof that it wasn’t tampered with, he bit the regular crème side.”

“Oh no,”

“Exactly. You should’ve seen Sam’s face when he bit the toothpaste!!! I think he scarred poor Milo forever. He ran out somewhere, and Tony was hoping he got lost forever, but he was just under my blanket.”

“I think you shouldn’t be trusted around an animal, sweetie.” May said, coughing. “Where is Tony, anyways?”

“Uhh…” Peter did not want her to know about the tabby incident. “He sort of…doesn’t, know I’m here?”

May shot him a look.

“Sorry…”

Dr Clearwater, who’d been filling something out on her pad, walked over. “Peter, I let you go just this once; this doesn’t mean you keep coming without an adult, OK? You’ll be stressing not only Mr Stark out, but also your aunt, and she’s already got so much to deal with.”

“Sorry, Dr Clearwater.” Peter said sheepishly. “May’s fine with it though. Right, May?” Looking over, he saw that May had fallen asleep again. Wow. Dr Clearwater wasn’t kidding when she had said that May slept all the time.

“Well, I guess I’d better go.” Peter said. Dr Clearwater nodded.

“She’ll be asleep for another two hours now.”

Peter thanked her again and walked out of the hospital, not before shooting a grin at the receptionist. He had a serial killer to investigate.

*

“Peter, where were you?” Tony said, as soon as Peter stepped foot in the dining area. It now also served as some sort of common area for all the Avengers.

“Ned’s place.” Peter replied. That was their code for Spider-manning. When he actually went to Ned’s place, he told Tony beforehand and Tony had Happy drop him. (That was something that Happy was very vocal about.)

“Kid,” Tony sighed. “How many times have I told you not to overdo it?”

“How is doing to his friend’s place overdoing it?” Nat asked. She was cleaning a gun on the corner of the big couch with Milo curled into the space between her shoulder and the couch’s back. It was the one of the weirdest things Peter had ever seen.

“You haven’t seen their joint force,” Tony warned. “OK. Thor’s cooking today. Some weird Asgardian dish, with chicken as a substitute for some creepy sounding bird.”

“He seems to be intent on massacring their culture,” Loki said from the bookstand, and Peter jumped. The man was incredibly quiet on his feet and in presence. “Soon, you humans will tire of it too, and I will be forced into witnessing my brother sing a patriotic duet with Miek. Again. I’d much rather prefer death.”

Natasha rolled her eyes. “Thor is dealing with some stuff right now, and we, as his team mates, will give him whatever emotional support he needs to get through it.”

“Banner said that at first too. Notice how he slips out of the room so often?”

Now that he thought about it, Bruce did always have ‘urgent lab work’ whenever Thor decided to give the team an impromptu session on Asgardian culture.

“Shut up, ice pop.” Tony said, going back to his phone. “Thor cooks well, and I’ll eat anything known and edible. Never mind its origins.”

Peter suddenly remembered his wrists and pulled up his sweatshirt sleeves to check up on the wound. Good, they were gone! Thank you, god given healing factor. Tony noticed him and raised his eyebrows.

‘I’ll tell you later.’ Peter mouthed. Tony chuckled.

“By the way, Natasha?” Peter asked. Natasha looked up. “Have you seen the TV news thingies about that serial killer going around Queens?”

Tony looked at him in alarm.

‘It’s not that, I swear.’ Peter mouthed again, and Tony gave him a look strikingly similar to the one May had given him before.

“He hasn’t killed enough to be a serial killer, Peter.” Clint said, walking in. “Why would you be interested in that anyways?”

“But it’s two people!” Peter said. “That’s a lot!”

“Oh, innocence.” Loki said. “Never change, child. The world has no mercy.”

“Can you stop talking like a Greek prophecy?” Tony snapped. “The police will handle it, Pete. No need to worry.” Peter heard the silent warning in his voice. He chose to ignore it. What Tony didn’t know won’t hurt him.

“SHIELD will only track him or her if they show signs of supernatural ability.” Natasha said. “It’s not really Avengers level pay-grade, Peter. Tony’s right—the police will probably figure out who did it. You watch all those crime shows, right? Maybe you can help,” She joked.

“No, Peter will not help.” Tony said, and Clint, Loki, and Natasha gave him a weird look. “What? Anyways, kid. Ned’s mom called, she’s asking if you’re free on Saturday. God, what have I come down to? Organizing play dates for preschoolers…”

Both Tony and Peter missed the look Natasha and Clint shared when Tony said that.

*

After dinner (Thor’s Asgardian-chicken broth was pretty good), Peter took to FRIDAY and Google to look up this killer while Milo dozed on his Pre-Calc books. He couldn’t help it. Something was up with this, he felt it in his gut. Or maybe it was his Spidey-sense, it didn’t matter. People were calling for Spider-Man, and Peter wasn’t about to let Queens down. It was time that Spider-Man became more professional than rescuing mean tabbies, anyways.

“FRIDAY, what can you find about the recent killings in Queens?”

“Two victims, Peter. One Sasha Lin of Koreatown, North-eastern Queens, aged 27 years, and one Clay Wilson, of Jackson Heights, Central Queens, aged 36 years. The victims had no common factors. Would you like me to access confidential police files?”

Peter stopped. He knew FRIDAY could hack into any network if asked, but would she report any illegal hacking to Tony?

“Hey, FRIDAY, would Tony know if you accessed the police files?”

“I report anything of value to him.” FRIDAY replied. Ugh. He didn’t want Tony asking why he was poking his nose into a murder case.

“Fine. I’ll do it myself.”

*

In another room after dinner, Tony sat in a conference call with the President of the Accords Committee and Steve.

“I don’t know why you arranged this call, president.” Tony said.

“So, Spider-Man.” The president was curt, that was for sure. Tony tried to hide his heart stuttering.

“What?” he asked sharply. “What about him?”

“After some discussion, we’ve decided that Queen’s latest vigilante has to sign the Accords, his real name and credentials, mind you. We can’t exclude him from the party, can we?”

“Why, though? He’s not tackling anything big.” Tony had to fix this. Not Peter. He had to protect Peter.

“He’s still a self-proclaimed super-hero.” The President said. “it’s only fair that he signs too.”

“He didn’t ‘self-proclaim’ shit!” Tony exploded. “Why don’t you lay off him?”

“Tony,” Steve put an arm on Tony’s shoulder. “It doesn’t sound that bad. You yourself said that Spider-Man was only taking on kitties and helping old ladies cross streets. It won’t really hurt him to sign. It’s only fair.”

Tony wanted to strangle Steve. Of course he’d support the President; he didn’t know about Peter. Now Tony had to get his way without his only ally’s support. Fine. He’d only done that a million times before.

“Listen to the Captain, Stark. Remember, you’re a team now.” The President smiled, flashing pearly whites.

Tony sighed. “No. Still no.”

“Remember your place, Stark. You have a month.” He warned. The call cut.

The room was silent for a couple minutes. Then:

“Why are you so against Spider-Man signing? You warned me against going the Committee’s wishes. Plus, you know him. You recruited him.”

"That's precisely the point, Steve: I recruited him." Tony said. Steve looked at him, perplexed. He still didn't know, and Tony planned on keeping it that way.

Tony put his head in his hands, feeling like the world was crumbling around him. Not Peter too. He couldn’t drag the kid into it. As much as he hated quoting Loki, the man was right. Peter was too innocent, and the world would trample him if he let it.

Chapter Text

Sure, Peter had a lot of will, but did he have a way? The more time passed, the less likely a criminal investigation seemed. People would not react well if they found Spider-Man breaking and entering a murder victim’s house. Argh. This was going nowhere.

“Peter!” Tony’s voice interrupted his thoughts. “What did that cereal do to you? You’ve been staring at it for 2 minutes, buddy.”

“Just thinking.” Peter replied.

“You can do that?” Sam replied, and Peter glared at him.

He figured he would just walk around the neighborhood as Peter Parker. Maybe knock at the ‘wrong house’? That would work, right?

“Peter.” It was Natasha this time. “Eat. Are you feverish again?”

“Nooooo.” Peter replied.

“Thinking again?” Sam said again.

“Teenage angst.” Scott said. “It’s the trending thing these days. You should see the Tumblr posts on it….”

“Is Tumblr all you do?” Bruce (he was on first name basis with Dr Banner!) looked legitimately concerned.

“Hey! It’s for the dank memes.” Scott defended.

“I’m sorry, dank what?”

“The mortal has a point.” Loki said. “I find these…dank memes to be quite amusing. Especially the ones with the, what is it? Enslaved…things.”

Oh. My. God. Loki liked dank memes. What had the world come to?

Apparently Tony was thinking the same thing, because he chose to get up. “That’s it. One gen-z nuisance is enough. Now fully grown men? And a god?” He shook his head. “What’re you up to today, kid?” He shot Peter a look Peter had never seen on his face before. Almost...regret? He couldn't figure it out.

“Uhhh…I donno, Tony. You have meetings, right?”

Tony winced, and that was answer enough. Meetings to him were like history classes to Peter. “Sorry, Pete. Pepper said it’s compulsory.”

“Didn’t you break up with Pepper?” Scott asked, mouth full of Cocoa Puffs. “You can technically do what you want now.”

“She still,” Tony put on his coat, “is the CEO of my very large company.”

“Oof.” Bucky said. “How’s that working out for ya?”

“She runs it better than I used to, so very well. And I think we’re on civilized terms now, and I just do what she tells me. Ship sails smoothly. It’s fine.”

“You think?” Sam asked. Tony glared at him.

“I don’t see a dashing woman on your arm, Wilson.”

Sam decided to look back at his toast. “Whatever.” Bucky snorted.

Tony headed out, ruffling his hair a little. “Bye, kid. Don’t spend too long at Ned’s.” He said pointedly. “Who’s that girl you’re besotted with? Michelle something?”

Peter blushed. “MJ, Tony. And I’m NOT besotted with her.”

“Peter has a girlfriend?” Sam looked like Christmas had come early. “Why are we hearing about this only now?”

“Because.” It was Peter’s turn to glare at Tony. “I told you not to tell anyone.”

Tony shrugged nonchalantly. “Sorry, kiddo. Go and meet up with her, after you see your aunt. Maybe make some progress. Don’t screw it up.”

Peter blushed again. “I won’t, Tony. Don’t keep…saying that.”

Bucky coughed, but it sounded more like: “No game.” Natasha swatted him on the arm.

“I’m sure Peter’s completely capable of wooing any girl he wants. Aren’t you, Peter?” She asked.

“Uhhh…MJ’s different, Natasha.” He explained. “It takes a lot to impress her—she’s not a flowers girl. And she’s crazy smart, and pretty, and she has these frizzy bangs, and no one can pull that off but I don’t know how, but she does, and…”

Bucky burst out laughing.

“She sounds nice.” Bruce said, smiling at him. “I hope we get to meet her soon.”

Thor, who’d been silent so far, let out a sigh. “She sounds a lot like Jane; well, except the bangs. Jane was smart too; she was an astrophysicist and god, she would shut me down so fast…”

Loki and Tony promptly walked out of the room. Peter had never seen them so something in tandem before. Wow.

*

MJ: so ur at the hospital now?

Peter: yeah. May watching greys anatomy.

MJ: tell her I say hi. And I hope she gets well soon. I miss talking to her.

Peter sent a picture

Peter: she says hi too.

MJ: so whatchu up to?

Peter: donno. Where r u?

MJ: out of station. Dad has work ugh

Peter: oh

MJ: oh what?

Peter: nothing! Just…wanted to see if u wanted coffee of something.

MJ: oh

Peter: oh what?

MJ: oh meaning. I would’ve liked to come. If I was there.

Peter: that’s nice :)

MJ: its boring here. U and ned are better company than these chauvinistic old men.

Peter: is that a compliment, or…

MJ: interpretation is open

Peter: I’m gonna take it as a compliment. :) ned will be thrilled.

MJ: y do u use so many emojis?

Peter: why not

MJ: I just feel that ppl are pressured to use it. U can have a perfectly good conversation without the presence of weird yellow ppl.

Peter: *dancng emoji* see there r other ones too

MJ: smh no hope 4 u

Peter: thought I was making progress

MJ: ur much better than Eugene

Peter: that made my day :):)

MJ: :)

Peter: but u just….

Peter: u know what leave it

MJ: I was trying it out. Turns out I don’t like it. As expected.

Peter: oh shit gtg. Nurse hushing me out.

MJ: bye parker.

Peter: bye MJ

*

Peter hopped out of the metro station in Jackson Heights. What could he do? His curiosity had gotten the best of him again. After handing over a few crumpled notes to a nearby vendor, he proceeded to walk around with a newly acquired hot dog and ice cream cone, slowly heading towards the neighborhood where Clay Wilson was murdered. Maybe he’d get something out of his neighbors?

Clay Wilson’s house was easily seen. A lone police car stood outside, and tape still barred anyone except crime scene investigators from entering the house. Wow. Peter was at a real life crime scene! How cool was that? Ned would freak. But he couldn’t tell Ned yet. Not until he had something concrete.

As he was eating the smallest, last part of his ice cream cone (arguably the best part) an old lady hurried past him, struggling with three large bags of groceries. Instincts kicking in, he offered to take two of them.

“Oh, what a darling? I’d love some help, dearie. Here, you just take this one and the one with the dairy…there we go!”

“It’s really no problem, ma’am.” Peter said sincerely. He turned to see if they were any changes in Mr Wilson’s house.

The lady must’ve seen him looking. “Oh, yes. Poor Clay. Such a good man. You know, he used to help me with my groceries too. I don’t know a soul who’d want to hurt him.”
Peter nodded. “It’s really sad. Have you heard about the other murder in Koreatown?”

“Of course. Sasha something. They didn’t deserve to die, god bless them.” She said. “I didn’t catch your name, dear.”

“Tony.” Peter said. Where did that come from? Tony? Really? “Anthony.” He was on a murder investigation, after all. He couldn’t go around revealing his identity. Think of it as an…addition of his Spider-Man stuff. He couldn’t be exposed.

“A beautiful Italian name.” The woman beamed. “I’m Malory, dear. Thank you so much for helping me with my bags. I live right next door to him, see that house with the shrubs? Hardly anyone thinks of us oldies anymore, you know?”

This lady lived right next door to a guy who was murdered. Peter shivered. He would have moved away if he was in her place. She must be pretty brave. “No problem, ma’am.”
“Really. I’m almost late for my one-on-one with Grace. I wouldn’t want to miss it, she has her finals coming up next semester.”

“One-on-one?” He asked. Did she take extra classes or something?

Turns out he was right. “I offer tuition classes, dear. For students who are struggling. I only charge a small fee, just to support myself, because my pension is honestly laughable. And also, children shouldn’t pay so much to excel, right?”

She sounded pretty nice. He decided to ask further.

“Ma’am? What do you take?”

“Math and physics, dear. I used to teach back in the day, along with a few other jobs.”

Opportunity was staring him in the face. Ms Malory lived RIGHT next to the location of this murder. If he could manage to get a few one-on-one sessions, maybe in the evenings, then maybe he could discreetly spy on the house and see if whoever did it came back. He’d carry his suit in his bag too, just in case.

“Ms Malory?”

She huffed as she climbed up the steps to her patio. “Yes, Tony?”

“If you teach math and physics? It would be great if you could tutor me a bit too. I kind of, you know, suck at math and physics.” God, if Tony were here now.

“Really? You seem like a smart, sensible young man.”

“You should see my report card.”

“Well,” she fumbled with her keys before opening the door. “If you really feel that you need the help, I’d love to tutor you.”

Peter dropped the bags gently on a little table near the door. “Ms Malory, that would be great!”

“Of course, I’d need the consent of your parent, Tony. I don’t do things the informal way.”

“Of course, of course, I’ll get that. Uhhh…when can I come back here with it?”

“Whenever it’s convenient, Tony. But do try to be a little fast, so I can arrange timings.” She walked over to a drawer next to the TV and pulled out a form. “Here you go. Fill out the details, with your signature and your parent or guardian’s, and we’re good. OK?”

“Perfect. Thank you so much, Ms Malory. Can I have your name?” Peter asked.

“Malory Whitman. It’s on the form, dear.”

“Thanks again, Ms Whitman.” Peter said genuinely. “You have no clue how much this means.”

She smiled, eyes crinkling. “No problem. Now run along, dear. You have a way back home?”

Peter nodded, said bye again and walked around. Once outside, he pumped his fists in the air. Yes! Yes! He didn’t have a plan (yet), but he had a way to come here often. He’d just wing it. After all, that’d gotten him so far. Now. He couldn’t ask Tony to fill out the form. The man would definitely ask May about it once he could. That meant he had to ask May. What should he say? He looked at the form. Name, Guardian’s Name, Grade, School, Address…doable. Class needed. Signature of Student. Signature of Guardian. He should probably ask May to sign it first, and say he’d fill it out later.

His conscience gnawed at the back of his head. He hated lying, but this was the only way. He’d be lying to Ms Whitman, May, and heck, even Tony. But what could he do? Pop out after telling all of them he was investigating a murder? They’d murder him. He was a little out of his element, he will admit. Spider-Man usually stuck to robberies, etc. But people were calling for him, and he couldn’t stand to ignore that.

*

Tony was pacing again. He didn’t want to do it. He didn’t even know if he should do it. Telling Peter that he couldn’t be Spider-Man would devastate the boy—Tony knew he lived for webbing across Queens in his little spandex suit and preventing bank heists. Tony knew enough psychology to know that he even used Spider-Manning to cope with some of the darker things that happened in his past.

But he couldn’t ask Peter to sign the Accords. That would be exposing him to monsters like Ross and his lackeys. Peter would be 16 in 3 months; he was way too young for this superhero bullshit! What was Tony even thinking, encouraging him? He shouldn’t have gotten him into this in the first place. He felt the familiar weight of anxiety and guilt crushing him again, and almost welcomed it. He’d felt so light for days—he should’ve figured something would bring it back again. He just thought that having Peter with him sort of worked like a shield against the darkness. The kid was a literal light bulb.

Speak of the devil. Peter bounded out of the elevator. “Hey Tony? How was your day?”

“Fine, kid. I need to—“

“Can you believe how much May loves Grey’s Anatomy? It’s kinda creepy. I don’t know any of their names, but she clearly has a crush on the blond guy, and I know it’s, you know, just May but it’s weird to see her have romantic feelings, you know?”

Tony smiled. See? How was it possible to feel sad around this sunshine child?

“And I talked to MJ. She’s somewhere with her dad. I’m not gonna tell you more, cause apparently you’re a big gossip, Tony, and as much as I like the Avengers, I don’t want anyone knowing about MJ. And that sort of should just stay private, right?”

“Kid. Kid. Stop talking for a second.”

Peter stopped.

“We need to talk.”

“Oh. What about? I swear I wasn’t involved in the Oreo thing, Tony. I’m just a bystander.”

“Not about that. Serious stuff.” Tony lowered his volume. “Spider-Man stuff.”

Peter actually brightened, and Tony’s heart dropped a couple more inches. “Oh. OK. What’s up?”

“You can’t. Spider-Man anymore, I mean. No more Spider-Man.”

Peter’s eyebrows furrowed quizzically. “Is this a prank, Tony? Are you talking too much to Sam and Bucky?”

“Peter. Be serious. I’m not kidding.” Peter took in his expression then and sobered up.

“Tony. What are you saying?”

“I mean it. No more Spider-Man, Peter.”

“What? Why?” Peter said, volume bordering on shouting. “I didn’t do anything! I didn’t even get into trouble lately.”

Tony looked at his shoes. “Peter. I’ve been thinking. You need to focus on school. You’re only 15, Peter. This is a little too young to be saving people, don’t you think?”
“No! It’s never too young! What are you going on about? Where did this come from? I don’t understand.”

“I mean it. Peter. I mean it. No more Spider-Man.” Tony wanted to cry. The kid still didn’t understand where this was coming from. He didn’t expect him too. He was in such a good mood. And Tony had ruined it. He ruined everything, eventually. He wished he weren’t the one to tell him.

“Why?” Peter whispered. “Did I do something? I know I stay out late, but that’s just habit. Did I say something?”

Tony didn’t know what to say. He kept his face passive. Apparently that was the wrong thing to do because Peter’s face turned indignant.

“You can’t stop me. I’ll just do it anyways.” He was bordering on desperate now, and Tony felt like clawing himself apart. The pain in his chest felt like a physical hurt. He was hurting Peter. He was hurting his kid.

“No, you won’t.” He said instead. Calmly. Like this didn’t matter to him. “Peter,” he put a little more emotion into his voice. “Please. Do you trust me?”

Peter nodded, his eyes tearing up.

“Then please. For me. Just stop. Please.”

“You wouldn’t ask me to do this.” Peter replied. “Tony Stark wouldn’t ask me to do this.” Oh, but he would. Anything to keep Peter out of that mess.

“Did someone threaten you?” Peter demanded. “Are you in danger?”

“No.”

“Then why? You know what, forget that. I’m still gonna do it. You can’t stop me from being Spider-Man.”

Oh fuck. Tony had to tell him. “Peter. Have you spoken to Karen since morning?”

“No. Why? Tony, what did you do?”

“She’s deactivated. Not permanently, mind you. But only FRIDAY can get her back online. With a voice command and finger-print recognition. From me.”
Peter just stared at him for a minute, as if not believing he’d gone to such drastic measures. Even he couldn’t believe he’d betrayed Peter like that. But if Spider-Man was inactive, that meant there was no Spider-Man to sign, right? Clause 4 of the Accords said that if a super was inactive for 30 days, then the super was not considered for any missions, meaning they got to skip out on the added benefits of being controlled, identity-reveal, and signing anything to do with the documents.

Finally, Peter smiled a ghost of a smile. “Last time, I get it. You didn’t know me. You got pissed. But I thought we were past that. You know, Tony, I was in a good mood today. It was a good day. Got some stuff done. I don’t know what happened to you, but I hope you come out of it soon.”

Tony’s heart tore at the fact that Peter hadn’t said that Tony could talk to him. The whole time he’d known the kid, he’d always insisted that Tony come to him whenever he was upset. He guessed taking the suit away for the second time had finally done it. Tony had finally scratched away one more person off a very short list of people who genuinely cared about him. To make things worse, the person he’d chased away was the most important one.

Chapter Text

Peter woke up in a thunderous mood the next morning. He went ahead and jogged without waiting for Sam and the Captain, earning him surprised looks. He didn’t care. How could Tony do that? Just stop him from being Spider-Man like that? Like Peter was just some switch he could turn on or off when he wanted to? Peter legit thought that they had something more than just a mentor mentee relationship going. He thought that Tony cared about him. Well, he was wrong. As usual, Peter had to fight his own battles.

But as angry as he was, something still kept nagging at the back of his head. The Tony he knew he wouldn’t do something so mean and rash like that. Heck, Tony encouraged him to be the best Spidey he could be. He’d never tell Peter to just stop like that. Was something wrong? Was Tony in danger? Was Spider-Man in danger? But who’d wanna hurt Spider-Man, out of all heroes? No one knew Spider-Man, much less Peter Parker, was investigating a random Queens murder. There had to be something there.

Running in from his jog, he showered slowly and headed straight down to breakfast. He figured Tony probably wouldn’t want to see him anyway. Also, he really felt like crying but showing weakness was the last thing he needed if he wanted to prove to Tony that he was capable of mature behaviour. (Was that it? Did Tony think he was too immature to be Spider-Man? Was this whole living-together thing a test? If it was, Peter should have seen it coming.) Maybe Tony thought he was incompatible with the other Avengers. Or maybe he just got sick of Peter? He didn’t think he would survive if Tony got sick of him.

He walked into the meal place, not bothering to look around. With how early he was, he was probably the first one there. Wanda had Milo today, and even though he’d wanted the cat around for comfort the night before, it was her turn to have him, and it wouldn’t be fair to demand him back for a reason she didn’t even know about. He’d had dinner in his room last night, sneaking here early and grabbing dinner before anyone asked why he was crying. The Big Bang Theory kept bad company.

He wasn’t even hungry. It seemed a tad dramatic, but his anxiety seemed to rob him of his hunger.

He slapped two waffles onto his plate.

“Hey. What’ve those poor waffles done to you?” There stood Tony himself, acting like nothing was wrong.

“What do you care?” Peter muttered.

“Peter.” Tony sighed. Maybe Peter was a problem. Maybe he should just get breakfast at Delmar’s. “Please don’t do this right now.”

“Do what? I’m literally just eating breakfast. Or am I not allowed to do that too?”

Tony looked on the verge of pulling his hair out. One part of Peter told him to stop; that he was hurting Tony’s feelings, but another part told him to go ahead. What Tony had done was so unjustifiable. The second part won.

“Peter, please don’t be mad at me.”

“I’m not mad. I don’t know what I am. I don’t know what you are. But that doesn’t matter, does it? Because I’m not allowed to do my thing anyways.”

“Pete—there was a reason for my-“

“What? What reason, Tony?” Peter couldn’t help the hot tears that sped down his cheeks. He wiped them away furiously. He couldn’t cry. Not while making his case. “It seemed completely unreasonable to me.”

“Nothing you need to know!” Tony had finally reached his breaking point too. “Why on earth can’t you just fucking trust me for once?”

“Well, the last time I did that, and you took away my suit, we both know what happened right?” Peter bit back sarcastically, and Tony physically flinched. He’d never lashed out like this at anyone before, and the reasonable, empathetic part of him was horrified at what he was doing.

“Don’t say that. That was a mistake.” Tony breathed. “Please don’t say that.”

“What? It did happen. I crashed the plane, a building fell on me. I survived. So why can’t I just go on being Spider-Man? I’m not even doing anything dangerous right now.” Lies. Well, maybe lies. He didn’t know what the murder would turn out to be like.

“What the fuck?”

“What?”

“A fucking BUILDING fell on you? Why didn’t I know this?” Tony cried. Shit. He’d forgotten that Tony didn’t know about the building. He wasn’t supposed to ever know about that. Great. He’d probably just smashed his chances of being Spider-Man now.

“Peter.” Tony continued, wiping a tear from his own eye. “A building fell on you?” His voice was small now, quiet, and it did something to Peter’s heart that made him feel like he couldn’t breathe.

“Yeah.” He replied, equally quiet. “I guess I forgot to tell you that.”

“Why didn’t you…fuck a building? Fuck. Fuck.” Tony seemed to be hyperventilating. “A building, Peter. A fucking building fell on you, and I was…oh shit. Shit.”

“Tony, Tony, you need to calm down.” Peter said. He hadn’t meant to go so far. He really hadn’t. Tony was actually crying now. Fuck. He needed to get him to calm down.

He cautiously walked over to him and rubbed circles on his back in slow motions. Tony slowly came back to his normal state, after a few minutes of sitting down and a few sips of cold water. Whew. That had been close.

“Peter.” Tony gulped. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

“It’s OK. Really. I’m better now, see? I can still be Spider-Man.” Tony’s eyes widened. Shit. That had been the wrong thing to say.

“You’re telling me,” Tony breathed, “that after all this crap, you still want to swing around in a suit? After being fucking crushed by a fucking building? How did you even get out? How did I not know?”

“I didn’t have Karen. And for getting out, I remembered what you’d told me about how I’m not just my suit, so I sorta…lifted the building off me. Without the suit. Cause, you know…but yeah. The point is, I’m capable, Tony!”

Tony had been getting more distressed with each word he was saying. The tears were making a comeback. For both him and Tony.

“No.” He said. “Absolutely. Not. No. No. I’m not allowing you to go out. This, on top of the initial reason…”

What? This was going in the complete opposite direction that Peter was hoping it would! He’d been hoping the building thing would at least show Tony that he was strong without the suit, but apparently it’d had the opposite effect. What other reason?

“What other reason?”

“Like I said before, adult stuff! It’s adult stuff Peter! Nothing for you to get into!”

“Haven’t I already proven that I’m an adult? What is it that I can’t know, Tony?”

“Nothing! Especially after a building fell on you!”

“Stop bringing it up!”

“You should have told me! You should have told me that the fucker dropped a building on you!”

“This is exactly why I didn’t tell you! You think I’m too immature to make my own decisions! Or you just hate me, one or the other. Personally, I don’t know which makes me feel worse.”

“I don’t hate you, Peter! I fucking love you!”

“Then what’s wrong, Tony?”

“The Accords is what’s wrong!” Tony finally relented. The Accords?

“What?”

“The Accords, Peter. Basically official prison documents for all superheroes, you know the deal. They want Spider-Man to sign.”

“Spider-Man…what? They want me to sign?” That was what all of this was about? God, he felt like such an idiot. All of this hurt and pain over some stupid document.

“Yeah. Not just as Spider-Man. As Peter Parker. Confirming your identity to the whole committee.”

“Oh.”

“That’s right.”

“So making Spider-Man inactive would mean I don’t need to sign? Is that why you were asking me to stop?”

Tony smiled a painful smile. “You always were a smart one.”

“Oh.” His brain couldn’t think of anything else to say. As usual, Tony had been pulling strings to save his own ass and he’d acted like a spoilt, petty child. He hadn’t hated him before, but he probably had done the trick now. Tony had even said he loved him. Loved. Him. Peter Parker, some scrawny kid from Queens. No, don’t think about that now. He filed that away at the back of his mind to ponder on later.

“So. That’s why I asked you, Peter. The last thing both of us want is you signing those documents. If you do, it would leave you at the mercy of those monsters.”

Peter nodded. “Tony, I’m so sorry. If I’d known, then…”

Tony raised a single hand, silencing him. “Don’t be. I was an idiot to think I could stop you from Spider-Manning just like that. It was my cowardice and fragile ego coming in again.”

“No. Tony. I understand. But…I can’t sign those.” He couldn’t. Already, hardly four people knew who he really was. And two of those people found out by accident. He couldn’t risk being monitored. That too by people he didn’t even know!!! Would they ask him to do their evil bidding? The way Tony often talked about the Accords committee, they always seemed like the faceless men in black he’d seen in a Buzzfeed Unsolved episode once. Also, what would happen to his murder investigation if he signed? He’d finally made progress; he couldn’t just let it go like that.

“I know. That’s why—“ Tony began.

“But I can’t stop being Spider-Man.” Peter said. It was the truth. It has horribly inconveniencing and downright ungrateful, he knew, but it had to be done. He couldn't help it. Spider-Man was a part of him. Spider-Man had the confidence and gall and bravery Peter Parker had always lacked. Spider-Man helped people. Spider-Man made a difference where Peter Parker couldn't.

“Peter—“

“Tony—“

Tony just walked forward and hugged him. Contrary to what it might look like, Tony Stark gave the best hugs ever, right up top with May. He smelt of cologne and Tony, relaxing Peter instantly. It was a smell he now associated with home and safety. They hugged for almost two minutes, breathing in each other.

“We’ll figure this out. We will, I promise.” Tony said from his shoulder. “I will not let them touch you, alright?”

“OK.” Peter said back. He fully believed him. Would Tony tell him to stop being Spider-Man again? He’d hate that but at least he knew Tony’s good intentions now.

They parted.

“OK,” Tony said, wiping away a tear from Peter’s cheek. The gesture was so blissfully…domestic. Peter loved it.

“What about breakfast? I think we’ve had enough angst for a week.” Tony asked, ruffling his hair.

“Yeah.” Peter said bashfully. He hoped they’d never have another episode like this one.

“And.” Tony poked his forehead. “We have a LOT to talk about, Peter. Like buildings. And vultures. And not keeping secrets.”

“Tony.” Peter groaned. “I’m sorry. It just happened.”

“Hmm...let’s add safety features to that list.”

Tony put an arm around Peter’s shoulder and Peter pretended it didn’t make his day. Tony didn’t hate him. Tony (fucking) loved him!

Grabbing coffee (Tony) and the previously abandoned waffles (Peter) the pair headed towards the door. It opened, revealing the rest of the motley crew, staring at the two of them with gaping mouths.

Shit. How much had they heard? How were they gonna talk their way outta this one?

A minute passed. Then: “You’re Spider-Man?” Bucky exploded. “I hit a child?” he looked horrified.

“I threw a car at a child!” Wanda was equally distressed, repeatedly curling her finger around Milo’s tail.

“What’s going on?” Rhodey asked.

Tony gulped. Peter gulped. They looked at each other.

“How much did you hear?” Tony finally asked.

Sam leaned on the door. “Pretty much everything, man. Next time, hold secret, emotional talks in privacy, away from professional spies and superheroes before breakfast. You’ve got a lotta explaining to do.