Peter couldn't tear his eyes away from the television, but he wished he could. The world was lucky to have protectors like the Avengers fighting to keep them safe, to take down the bad guys and be the ones to suffer the physical blows rather than civilians. But Peter wasn't just watching footage of a group of heroes, he was watching his parents. He was watching them get hit over and over again, watching them fall to the ground, watching them bleed.
"They're okay, Pete," Happy consoled, giving an assuring nod. "They're on their way home now,"
The twelve year old nodded in return, knowing that right now, they were alive and well. But it still hurt to watch what had happened. Peter had watched it all unfold live, his heart hammering away in his chest and his stomach churning in worry. It was like this every time the Avengers responded to a huge attack. Yes, they had survived battles in the past and they were ready for this and they had each other's backs.
But Peter always had a 'what if' in the back of his mind. What if this was the time they didn't make it? What if they didn't come home this time? What if they're hurt worse than they thought? What if Peter never saw them again?
They were hard questions to ignore and Peter's brain had a habit of feeding the voice, making it louder and louder until he felt like he was going to throw up.
"They're supposed to be back now," Peter spoke softly, staring out the window of the tower.
"They're driving, remember?" Pepper sighed, her heart breaking at the sight of the boy filled with concern. "Dad's suit got pretty banged up,"
"He was limping," the boy added, remembering. "And Papa's face was all bloody..."
"They're okay," Pepper repeated. "They're gonna be a little sore, but they're okay. I bet all they need is a big hug from you,"
Peter gave a sad smile to his aunt, turning back to the window. When he was little, his parents would say that a Peter hug could cure anything. But as the boy got older, he saw through all of that. His hugs didn't stop them bleeding or snap their bones back into place, if anything they probably caused more pain. But Tony and Steve always squeezed the boy with all the strength they had left.
It was another twenty minutes before Peter saw them. Covered in dirt, dust, rubble and blood. Tony was leaning on Steve as they hobbled out of the elevator, searching the room for their son. Steve was still in uniform, Tony still in his black under-suit, but neither thought about changing just yet. They still had to do a debriefing, get themselves stitched up, meet up with the team, take a shower. But all that was on their mind right now was Peter.
"Hey kiddo," Tony smiled, the pain and exhaustion clear in his voice.
"C'mere buddy," Steve gestured to his son, lowering Tony onto the couch and kneeling down at his side.
Peter rushed over, throwing himself into Steve's embrace and burying into his chest. He didn't really like the feeling of the Captain America suit beneath his hands. It never felt like real Papa hugs. It made him even sadder this time to feel it torn in spots and see the patches of red soaking through. Peter reached his hands out to Tony next, letting Steve lift him and place him in his husband's lap.
Tony wrapped his arms around the boy and held him close, pressing a kiss to his forehead as he leaned back and melted into the back of the couch.
"You guys are hurt," Peter worried.
"Not too bad," Tony shook his head. "We're okay Pete,"
"I saw it! I saw it all on the TV! I know you're hurt!" he argued.
"Hey, Peter, calm down," Steve soothed. "I know it looked really scary out there and it was for a while, but it's all over now. If we were hurt real bad, we'd be down in the Medbay, wouldn't we?"
"You're bleeding papa," he pointed out, turning to Tony. "And so are you!"
They stared back at their son, hearts breaking at his worry, and watched as his little lips began to tremble and tears fell down his cheeks. Peter couldn't hold it in any longer. Maybe he was too old to be crying over these things, too old to be acting so childish when he could see them and feel them right here in front of him. They were okay, they were alive, but Peter couldn't stop worrying. The images from the news kept flashing in his mind.
Iron Man being knocked from the sky, his armour bent and shattered around his body. Captain America bleeding and swollen on the dirty ground. Being hit over and over again. Seeing it happen to anyone was painful, but watching it happen to his parents made him want to be sick.
"Oh, Petey," Tony sighed, pulling Peter closer and pressing multiple kisses over his face. "Baby, don't cry,"
Steve reached a hand out and ran his thumb over Peter's cheeks, wiping away the tears. This was their least favourite part of the job. The effect it had on Peter. The fear it put into him, the worry that he would be left without his parents, the idea that he could watch them die on live television.
They started this hero journey long before Peter was part of their lives and it came with downfalls back then too, but seeing Peter right now made them want to hang up their suits for good. They always told themselves that they were doing all of this for Peter and his future. Whenever they left the house in their uniform, whenever they took on an enemy, it was all for Peter.
"I d-don't like it when you guys g-get hurt," Peter hiccuped, sobbing onto Tony's shoulder.
"Neither do we, buddy," Steve agreed. "But you know what gets me and dad through it all? Coming home to you, Pete. We will always come back to you."
Tony rubbed his sons back as he uncovered his face, looking over to his papa. His face was red and blotchy from tears and he was sniffling as he rubbed his watery eyes, shaking his head.
"How do you know that?" he asked.
It was a question that any parent would dread to answer. They couldn't guarantee to Peter that they would survive everything the world threw at them. As much as they told the little boy they would always come home, that they would always fight to get back to him, they knew it wasn't realistic. But if they put all of their focus into that, life would be unbearable.
"Every time we're out there, we do everything we can to make sure we do come back," Tony explained. "And you know how much me and papa love you, don't you?"
Peter nodded, his bottom lip still poking out in a sad frown.
"Forever and ever and ever," he answered softly.
"And then some more," Steve smiled, leaning forward to press a kiss to his cheek.
"They were saying you guys wouldn't be making it out," Peter continued, pointing to the television.
"How many times do we tell you not to watch that when we're out there?" Tony sighed. "You don't need to see that, Peter. You'll just get yourself worked up,"
"But everyone else sees it,"
"Everyone else isn't our little boy, are they?" Steve reminded.
Peter pouted, rubbing his eyes again.
"I'm not little,"
Steve smiled, pulling Peter into his arms and letting the boy cling to him knowing he wouldn't be letting them go down to medbay without him.
"No, you're not little," he relented. "You're getting to be a big boy now, aren't you?"
Peter was quiet for a moment.
"I didn't mean to be a baby," he apologised. "Can't help it,"
"You're not a baby for being upset, Pete," Tony shook his head. "Me and papa always want you to tell us when you don't feel good about something, okay? You can be a big boy and still cry, that doesn't mean you're a baby,"
"It's never silly to be worried, okay?" Steve reassured. "It's like when you ride your bike without your helmet and me and daddy get a bit cranky. We can't help it, because we worry,"
"Do you guys have to go again?" Peter asked, gripping Steve's uniform with all his might.
"No, not today," Tony shook his head. "We're all yours, Pete."
"We do have to go get ourselves patched up though," Steve reminded. "Few bandaids here and there, nothing scary, okay?"
Peter nodded, laying his head down on Steve's chest.
"Do I get to come?"
Tony grinned at his son, locking eyes with his husband and reaching over to take his hand. As difficult as some days were, they were unbelievably lucky for this life.