“Alright, kid,” Tony says, lifting his prosthetic hand—the glaring war wound from wielding the gauntlet and defeating Thanos' army—to gesture vaguely at the hallways and doors around them. “Welcome to your temporary home. You're gonna be staying here for a while, so get familiar, alright?”
Tony turns to look at the teenager standing next to him, still suited up in his iconic (Stark-made) Spiderman getup. Peter Parker's uncharacteristically silent, and Tony shifts uncertainly. “Kid, you alright?”
Peter blinks at his surroundings, pulling off his mask and staring at Tony. “Mr. Stark, I'm—I’m gonna be staying at the Avengers headquarters?”
So he’s starstruck. Tony grins to himself. “Yeah, Pete. I mean, c'mon. You managed to defeat that shithead in Europe, dealt with Fury all by yourself, and got, what, hit by a train?”
“Yeah.” Peter furrows his brows. “I hate trains.”
Tony laughs. “And you ended up in the Netherlands. Man, you've got to tell me this story.”
“I will.” Peter scratches at his arm. “But—the Avengers headquarters? Really?” His voice comes out as a small squeak—evidently still nervous at the concept of staying at a military base built for heroes. No matter how many times the headlines praise Spiderman, or hell, how many times Tony lets slip praise about Peter, he never seems to deem himself worthy of being a 'hero’.
“Yeah, kid. You need the rest. I took the liberty of telling Happy to ask May to call ahead and give you a few days off from school.”
“You know about…” Peter's voice drops to a whisper. “... Them?”
The two of them round a corner in the corridor, and they stop short, Tony stumbling—not really knowing what's going on—as Peter immediately leaps to the ceiling and shoves his mask back on.
“Pete, what—” Tony glances from Peter, clinging to the ceiling, to the view in front of them. “Oh.”
Steve Rogers stares back, along with Rhodey, Sam, Clint, and Barnes (Tony still hasn't gotten used to the idea of calling the Winter Soldier Bucky) , the five of them sitting around a table with a few beers and other drinks strewn on the surface.
Tony closes his mouth. Then opens it again. “Friday,” he starts. “That was today?”
“Actually, Tony, today is Sunday,” his A.I. responds, her artificial voice blasting from speakers installed in almost all the rooms in the base.
The five sitting across from them are still staring at them—or, namely, the masked teenager currently clinging to the ceiling in terror of his secret identity being exposed. Tony sighs.
“Pete, it's fine. You know these guys. You've met.” On opposite sides of a battlefield, yes, but those are technicalities.
Peter lowers himself down with one hand and drops to the floor. “Hi, everyone,” he says, still not taking the mask off. He sounds nervous and on edge, but at least he doesn't seem about to leap through the nearest window at a moment's notice.
“Queens,” Steve says in greeting. Peter's eyes widen—probably not used to Captain America in civilian wear greeting him like an acquaintance.
“Uh… Mr. Cap. Cap. Mr. Brooklyn, sir,” Peter stammers. “Um. Mr. Rogers.”
“Steve is fine,” Steve says.
“It really isn't,” Peter squeaks out. He glances at the other Avengers. “Oh, it's metal arm guy!”
Barnes’ eyebrows shoot up. “Metal arm guy,” he repeats.
“Yeah, um.” Peter chuckles nervously. “Sorry for… sticking you to the ground and all that. And I never really got your name?”
“It was all over the news,” Barnes says.
Peter probably blushes under the mask. “Um, I don't… watch the news?”
“Really?” Steve turns to Tony. “How old is this kid?”
Tony shrugs. “Depends on whether or not he wants to tell you that. Peter, you wanna stay, or you wanna go check out your room?”
Peter considers it, rocking back and forth on the balls of his feet. “I'll—I’ll stay,” he decides. And with a hand, he tentatively pulls off his mask, holding it tightly in his grip while his free hand waves uncertainly.
There's a moment of silence, before—
“Holy shit,” Sam blurts. “You let us beat up a fourteen-year-old in Germany?”
“What the hell,” Barnes says, staring at Peter. Then he stares at his metal arm. Then back at Peter. “Oh, god, I punched you.”
“You tried to,” Peter corrects automatically, before freezing. “Oh—Uh, shit, was that—Sorry.”
But Barnes laughs— laughs, and Tony stares, because he's never seen the guy even smile before. “No, no, don't worry about it. You're right.”
“I'm Peter,” Peter introduces himself. “Parker. Peter Parker. And I'm technically twenty-two, but I… Um, with Thanos. So I'm seventeen.”
Steve glances at Tony, and their eyes lock. Tony knows what the other is thinking of— “I lost the kid,” Tony manages, his voice wrecked and his grip weak as he tries to stay upright, having just been starved and dehydrated on an alien spacecraft for days. “I lost him.”— and he nods, just slightly.
Steve's face softens, and he looks to Peter. “Tony's spoken highly of you,” he says, and Peter's eyes widen.
“Tony—I mean, Mr. Stark has—?” Peter bites his lip, probably trying his best not to make a fool out of himself in front of the other Avengers. “S’cool. Cool. Cool, cool, cool. Cool.”
Clint snickers. “I like him. Tony, is he staying for reunion night or what?”
Clint's referring to their biweekly reunion nights, where the Avengers try their best to drop in back at (their newly rebuilt after Thanos’ final stand) base and just… relax for a night. It's open to all the Avengers, intergalactic or human, if they can manage to attend.
“Thor might be dropping in later,” Steve says. “If he doesn't, I'll make him stop by.”
“The last time you summoned Mjolnir,” Barnes reminds him, “you had to hold your arm out for two days straight.”
Peter smiles, and he turns to Tony. “Can I stay?”
Every parental instinct is telling Tony to put the kid to bed, but Peter deserves a break, too. Deserves to meet people like him, become friends with them. Especially after what happened with the Mysterio guy—with Beck , the mild-mannered tech-dev on a team working on B.A.R.F., who'd been smart but not exactly an eye-catching genius.
Tony wondered what the hell he could have done to have done such a number on Peter, the brightest, smartest, kindest kid he knows.
“Sure, kid,” he hears himself say. “You can stay. But no one, and I mean no one, give him alcohol.”
Steve, out of all people, snorts.
Peter has never interacted outside of a fight/life-or-death situation with any Avenger outside of Tony, and he's, unexpectedly, having the greatest time of his life.
Steve's hauled over two additional armchairs, and Peter perches in one now, listening to the other Avengers talk about… Well, almost every topic, really, with Peter pitching in an opinion every once in a while and the others seeming thrilled to let him talk.
God, if only Flash could see him now.
“So, like, I knew that Mr. Stark wasn't dead, right, but Mr. Beck—uh, Mysterio didn't, so he threw me into this weird illusion world, but it was just made with holograms and projections but it felt so real ,” Peter says, so immersed in his tale that he barely registers the other Avengers’ eyes on him. “And so he showed me a tombstone of Mr. Stark and told me that if I was good enough then maybe he'd still be alive and then there was this zombie like Iron Man that climbed out of the grave and started chasing me—”
“Wait,” Tony interrupts. Peter shuts his mouth and glances over at him. “That son of a bitch did— said— what ?”
Peter's mouth opens and closes. “Yeah,” he manages, finally. “But it wasn't real, though.”
“It kind of is.”
“Tony's right. That's messed up, man,” Sam says.
Peter falters. “Yeah, it kinda was,” he admits quietly.
Before the mood sombers any further, a loud peal of thunder cracks through the air, the sound echoing in from the outside and undoubtedly resounding through Manhattan. A subtle tang of electricity coats Peter's tongue, and he blinks twice.
Sam snorts. “Glad to see the landing pad's working out,” he says.
“What's—” Peter's cut off by Steve raising a hand and grinning as a blur of silver and white flies through the air from where the doorway was, slamming home into Steve's grip and filling the room with the buzz of latent godly power. “Oh.”
“Avengers!” a loud voice booms, and the (co-?)owner of Mjolnir bursts through the doorway after his weapon. “Greetings!”
“Thor!” Clint says. “Finally.”
Laughing, Steve tosses the hammer lazily back to Thor, who catches it casually. Peter watches in awe at the show of that much barely bridled power being tossed around like an inflatable ball at a teenagers’ beach party. “Thought you'd never arrive,” Steve jokes.
“I was a little caught up with the rest of my team,” Thor explains.
“Excuse me? Your team?” a new voice pipes up. A man dressed in a red leather jacket pokes his head into the room, and the rest of him follows as he steps closer to the group. “I thought we established this, Thor. I'm the leader.”
“Oh, you brought him,” Rhodey says, none too enthusiastically.
“Yes, yes, Quill, I remember that,” Thor says dismissively. “Your team, yes, indeed.”
Quill shakes his head, crossing his arms. Then he seems to notice Peter. “Hey, he's new.”
“Actually, we might have met,” Peter pipes up. “I'm Spiderman. Uh, we might have crossed during the battle?”
“Oh!” Quill doesn't look like he recalls Peter, but he nods nonetheless. “Awesome. I'm Peter Quill.”
“Peter Parker,” Peter says. Then something hits him. “Wait, did you say Peter Quill?”
“Yeah, Peter 2.0.. You also might know me as…” Quill gestures to himself flamboyantly. “Star Lord.”
“Doesn't ring a bell,” Peter says, mystified, and Thor laughs. “It's just—I saw a video on you once. It was from BuzzFeed Unsolved. Is it true that you were abducted by aliens?”
Quill blinks. “Technicalities aside? Yeah. Why?”
Peter pumps his fist. “Ned owes me ten bucks!” he crows, then falters—remembering the fact that he is, in fact, surrounded by worldwide vigilantes and intergalactic heroes, all of whom are way cooler than he is and ever will be, and blushes, embarrassed. “Um. Ignore me.”
“Do not apologize for being yourself,” Thor says, “young… Parker. I am Thor Odinson.”
“I know,” Peter says before he can stop himself. “Uh, we study you in physics class. And… thank you?”
“He studies me in physics class!” Thor announces, gleeful, and that was that.
The night drags on, but to Peter, it feels like time practically flies past them at light speed. He's lost track of how many hours he's spent immersed in the group when he suddenly yawns—loudly—in the middle of Thor recounting a run-in with Skrulls and only noticing because Quill hadn't said a word about wanting to find Gamora in twelve hours.
“Sorry!” Peter rubs a hand over his face, embarrassed when all eyes land on him. “I'm not—It’s just been a long couple of days, I'm not saying that what you're saying is boring—”
“Pete, do you want to retire for the night?” Tony asks.
Peter's eyes widen, mortified. “No! No, of course not!”
“You sure? We'll still be here, you know,” Rhodey says. “Don't push yourself like Tony does.”
“No, I'm fine,” Peter insists, and no one pushes it.
A few minutes later, someone—Peter can't really tell who it is since his vision's getting slightly blurry—asks him about his powers, and he jolts upright. “Um. My powers?”
“Yeah,” Steve says, and oh wow that was Steve “Captain America” Rogers—Peter’s heard that Sam was now Cap but the sentiment remained all the same—was asking Peter Parker, Midtown Tech honors student, a certified nerd, about his superhero powers —“We saw you on the ceiling and in action at the airport in Germany, but what exactly is your gig?”
“My gig?” Peter asks. “Um. I have spider-like powers, I guess. I was bitten by a weird lab experiment spider some years ago and now I have spider-like powers. I've said that already. I'm repeating myself now.”
“Take your time, kid,” Bucky says, and Peter nods nervously.
“Right, right. So I can climb up walls now, like some crazily enhanced inbuilt anti-grav tech, and Mr. Stark made me a suit that could actually let me do that even through the fabric. I also have enhanced strength, hearing, sight, and… that's kind of it? The strength is cool, although it doesn’t measure up to the big guys that come after me. They always use lethal strength,” Peter says, “and I always try not to hurt them. And the hearing and stuff—enhanced senses? It's handy, but it’s also a pain, because I get sensory overload often. And...” He sucks in a deep breath. “Yeah. It's really cool though. I think I'm pretty cool,” he adds self-deprecatingly.
“He's not letting you in on everything,” Tony says. “Kid's a genius. Peter made his own web fluid—strong enough to hold up buildings and support his swinging around New York all the time, and he made it with the materials inside a highschool chemistry lab. He also helped out a lot at our labs—that Stark internship certificate wasn't just for show. He's also, you know, a hero. Local crime-fighting stubborn vigilante, with the occasional excursion into space.”
“Oh, god, so there's two of you now,” Rhodey says, and the rest of the group laughs. Peter stammers out some kind of nonsense, because really, who'd expect him to be coherent when he's being held to the same light as Tony Stark?
“Nah,” Tony says, and Peter's heart sinks a bit before the man adds, “He's way better.”
Sounds of agreement and praise come from the present Avengers, and Peter sinks back into his seat, certain that his face is red and that if anyone prompts him to speak, he'd be stuttering through even the simplest word. “Thank you,” he manages quietly, and Tony pats him on the back.
“Alright. Thor, did you bring that Asgard beer thing?” Clint asks. “Because they've been talking it up, and frankly I'm curious to see what would happen if these two—” he points at Steve and Bucky, the two enhanced supersoldiers—“would fare with it.”
Thor grins. “Hawkeye, my friend! You are a genius,” he says, and unhooks a flask from his belt. “Valkyrie found out a way to brew it even on Midgard, so there's plenty to go around.”
Peter shifts uncomfortably in his seat as people start clamoring for glasses and beer. It isn't that he doesn't drink alcohol—he doesn't, but that's not the point—it’s that the idea of either getting shitfaced with the Avengers as a technical minor or being around the Avengers while they're drunk…
Tony probably notices this. “Hey, Pete, this might be a good time for you to hit the hay.”
“I'm not a kid,” Peter says, but he starts yawning halfway through the statement, so there's not much merit to any protests he makes.
“Let him live a little, Stark!” Thor says, and grabs an empty cup, pouring it full to the brim with his flask—which seemingly never runs dry—and handing it to Peter. Peter takes it, bemused, and looks from Thor to Tony and back to the beer.
“Thor, no. He's seventeen,” says Steve, who's gripping a glass himself.
Thor's eyes brighten with understanding. “Ah! A child. My mistake,” he says, and swiftly fills another cup with beer and shoving it into Peter's free hand. “You are a growing boy.”
“No,” Tony says firmly, and takes both cups from Peter. “Pete, bed.”
“Yeah, probably a good idea,” Peter admits. As he makes to stand up, the rest of the group gives him warm farewells and promises to see him again, and Peter smiles shyly and waves tentatively. “Night, guys. It was nice meeting you, Mr. Thor, Mr. Rogers, Mr. Bucky, Mr. Rhodey, Mr. Quill, Mr. Barton, Mr. Wilson.”
Then, before he can make a fool of himself (further), Peter turns and is met with Tony, who ruffles his hair and points him in the direction of his room.
His room. Peter Parker has a room at the Avengers headquarters. He says it twice to himself to make it sink in, then twice again in Spanish because he can.
Man, Ned is going to combust when he hears about this.
“So…” Tony lets the word hang. “How do you like him?”
“Preferably medium-rare,” Clint says, already red-faced from the beer. “What was the question?”
“He seems like a good kid,” says Steve, who isn't as affected, if at all, by the alcohol. “He looks up to you. Like you're his dad.”
“Oh, no. I'd be the worst father.” Tony muses on it. “Maybe like… a cool uncle.”
“No, you're definitely his father figure,” Rhodey says. “We're the cool uncles.”
“So you guys do like him!” Tony says gleefully. “You're already starting to adopt him.”
“He called me Mr. Bucky, ” Bucky says disbelievingly, with the beginning cadences of fondness. “Jesus Chirst.”
“You've got a good son, Stark,” Thor says.
“He's not my son,” Tony says automatically, although his mind lingers on it.
“Peter Starkson,” Thor continues, ignoring Tony. “A great legacy of great minds and heroic actions.”
“Stupid actions, maybe,” Tony mutters. “Peter’s… God. He's not new to this, not really, but he's almost like a veteran when it comes to impulsive, reckless, and improvised decisions in action.”
“So he's just another one of us,” Sam says.
“Hello,” Steve pipes up. “War criminal speaking.”
“ Former war criminal,” Rhodey says.
“The sentiment remains.”
“I get it,” Tony says. “New Yorkers—no brains at all.”
Steve shrugs. “Hey, I'd say Brooklyn and Queens have distinct—”
“At,” Tony interrupts. “All. Anyway, I need to talk to you guys about something. Originally, I hadn't planned for everyone to be shitfaced, but we'll work with that.
“I'm going to be out of town discussing the new Accords with a newer, more open-minded and complicit group of officials. See about getting us full freedom and liberty to move about as we please—and discuss Barnes’ exoneration. It's just going to be me and Rhodey on the trip, so that means I'll need to leave one of you in charge—”
“Of the base?” Steve says. “It's self-sustaining, isn't it?”
“—of Peter,” Tony finishes. “Someone needs to look out, if not after, Peter Benjamin Parker, because God knows that that kid's a mess right now.”
And then Tony spills what happened during Peter's time in Europe. The parts he gleaned from Happy, hacked from European surveillance cameras, EDITH’s—whose acronym was originally a worst case scenario kind of thing but now was just cute—logs, and the confessions of those arrested on Quentin Beck's team. By the time he finishes, everyone's looking decidedly more sober.
“Christ,” Sam says. “That's a hardcore superhero origin story.”
“Peter's origin story is even more messed up,” Tony says. “But that's besides the point. The point is—Peter’s unstable. His entire situation is unstable. He's not going to know who to trust, even back here, and he's not going to know how to function after Beck died.”
“Because he killed Beck?” Rhodey asks.
“Because Beck died, and he didn't stop it.” Tony rubs a hand across his face. “Peter doesn't kill people. He doesn't. Even with the Vulture—which, by the way, what is it with people and naming themselves after birds?—he prevented Toomes from flying away with the malfunctioning reactors, which saved him from being blown up, even after Toomes had tried to kill him.
“Peter Parker doesn't kill people, but Beck's hurt him, and a large part of it is on me. Beck used the rumor of my death to drive home a point, and that point is that Peter isn't good enough. He is. Peter's got this hero gig down. He just wants to save everyone, and when he can't, when he sees that he can't—even when it's an illusion—it hurts him.”
“So your solution is that we manage him?” Clint asks.
“Not manage. No. Just… look out for, you know? Be cool uncles. Try to prevent him from getting killed by trying to save the world single-handed.”
There's a period of silence that's broken, surprisingly, by Bucky. “I can do it.”
A pause. “You?” Sam asks, not bothering to hide the disbelief in his voice.
Bucky glares at him. “Yeah. Me. Who else here has experience dealing with a headstrong impulsive kid with no regard for personal safety who thinks he can save the world all by himself?”
Steve chokes on his beer. Bucky ignores him, and takes the silence from the rest of the group as agreement. “Exactly.”
“How about a compromise?” Clint suggests. “We take turns with the kid. We're still heroes. We still have to duck out of Manhattan every once in a while to deal with some threat somewhere else. So whoever's here and equipped to look out for Peter can do so.”
“I think that's a good idea,” proclaims Steve, who receives an elbow to the chest from Bucky. “Ow—I mean, Bucky's more than well-equipped for this situation, but working together is a good idea.”
Tony absorbs all this with a nod. “Alright. Alright. You guys saved the world, you can protect a kid.”
“But we can still get, like, absolutely shitfaced tonight, right?” Clint asks.
“Go for it, Legolas.” Tony turns to leave. “I've gotta pack and drop a few things off for Pepper, but I'll leave you all to it.”
A few hours later, deep into the night, with most of the present Avengers already drunk well into next Monday, Steve—who’s still coherent but tipsy—receives a text from Tony.
“I’m trusting you with my son, Rogers. Don't let him get hit by a drone or something.”
Ever since Steve came back from returning the stones with a determined want for retirement and moving on from Captain America, and passed on the shield to Sam, Tony's gone from calling Steve “Cap” to the slightly more personal but still kind of chilly “Rogers”.
Which is fair, but weird, since Tony's become surprisingly okay with Bucky (although, he called him “Barnes” as well), especially after getting a prosthetic arm of his own, albeit Iron Man themed. Maybe it was something Steve did on his own.
Shrugging down the notions that'd lead him into an unwanted rabbit hole of spiralling thoughts, Steve texts back, careful not to misspell anything in case Tony takes the opportunity to make fun of him.
“Yeah, yeah, Tony. Enjoy your trip. Don't worry about it.”
A few minutes later, his phone chimes again.