“So did that help you narrow it down any?” Tony asks the kid as they step out of the exhibit hall.
“Uhh…” Peter is flipping through the various brochures he’s accumulated throughout the day, looking dazed. Tony can’t blame him—the New York STEM College Fair is a lot to take in. He and Peter have been hopping from booth to booth since nine o’clock that morning, and after a full day of enthusiastic recruiters, brilliant technological exhibits, and numerous college presentations, even Tony is feeling a bit overstimulated.
Happy is tailing behind, his arms loaded down with the free college merch he keeps picking up from various tables. “RIT had the best cookie samples,” he comments.
“Mm…” Peter hums, nodding in recollection. “Those were the ones with the M&Ms, right?”
“Yup,” Happy confirms, “unlike Princeton with that oatmeal raisin crap.” His face screws up in disgust. “It’s the twenty-first century—why are we still putting shriveled grapes in baked goods?”
Peter lets out a tired giggle, and Tony just rolls his eyes. “So aside from the snacks, did any of the schools stick out to you?”
Shrugging, Peter steps onto the escalator that leads to the downstairs lobby, the other two following behind. “I dunno, a lot of them looked cool,” he says non-committedly.
“I’ll always be partial to MIT,” Tony says casually. “But I do understand if CalTech swayed you—that robotics demonstration was impressive. Or there’s always UCLA if—”
“God no,” Happy butts in with a groan. “Over my dead body.”
Tony sighs exasperatedly at Happy. “Just because they kicked you out doesn’t mean they’re a bad school.”
Happy waves a hand dismissively. “Yeah, yeah, say that all you want, but I was set up, I tell you...”
Peter glances quizzically in Tony’s direction, but then just shrugs again and goes back to staring straight ahead as they continue their descent. Tony figures the kid must really be tired if he’s not even curious enough to question Happy further.
Peter muses, “I was talking with a couple student reps from Hopkins who said their cafeteria food is actually pretty decent...”
“Hopkins?” Tony frowns. “You wanna be a doctor now? I thought you were going the physics route.”
Peter hums a bit and grips the side rail. “Not really, just looking around…”
“That’s good—look all you want,” Tony says with an approving nod. “Besides, it’s only your junior year. You’ve got plenty of time to figure it out.”
Today has been fun for Tony, getting to show Peter all of his college options. This fair is exactly the kind of event Tony never got to attend himself when he was younger, given that Howard had all of Tony’s education planned out for him before he could even walk. He huffs humorously. “At least you’re older than I was. I’m telling you, kid, when you start college before your balls even drop, you—”
All at once, Peter’s legs give out and he goes pitching forward, his knees crashing into the step in front of him.
Swearing sharply, both Happy and Tony make a grab for the kid’s arm, but Peter is two steps below them and gravity is winning this round. Peter continues to tumble limply down the rest of the moving stairs, eliciting cries of surprise and horror from bystanders.
“Peter!” Tony cries. His heart pounding, he races down the rest of the stairs, Happy hot on his heels. Peter hits the bottom, his head landing mere inches from where the stairs disappear into the ground. Thankfully, someone slaps the emergency stop button on the escalator and it comes to a halt before the receding stairs can catch Peter’s curls.
A small crowd gathers as Tony drops to his knees beside Peter’s unconscious body. There’s a bloody gash near Peter’s hairline that matches the sharp grooves on the edge of the escalator steps. He stretches out a hand to touch the kid’s arm, but is interrupted by a frantic-sounding lady.
“Don’t move him, don’t move him!” she cries. “I’ll get help!”
Happy drops his armfuls of free merch onto the ground and immediately assumes his head of security stance, pushing the crowd back. “It’s alright, ma’am, we’ve got this under control,” he assures.
Tony taps Peter’s shoulder urgently. “Hey, Pete, time to wake up, buddy…” He’s scanning the kid’s body for any obvious signs of other injuries. “C’mon, rise and shine,” he commands.
Finally, Peter groans. His eyelids flutter open, causing Tony to breathe out a sigh of relief. “...Wha’ ‘appen’?” he mumbles.
“Yeah, that’s what we’re all wondering, kid,” Tony says with a huff. Peter is already starting to gingerly push himself up, so Tony helps him the rest of the way to sitting. He pulls a handkerchief out of his jacket pocket and presses it to the cut on Peter’s forehead. “Kinda hoping you could shed some light on why you just decided to take a swan dive down the escalator.”
“Huh?” Peter looks confused. “...I did what?” He blinks around, taking in the conference center and crowd surrounding them. “Oh.” The color is rapidly returning to his cheeks now and he moves a shaky hand up to take the handkerchief from Tony. “Whoops.”
Tony’s eyes narrow. “When’s the last time you had something to eat?”
Peter thinks for a second. “Um… there were some Hershey’s Kisses at the Vanderbilt table? So… maybe three hours ago?”
With an exasperated sigh, Tony pinches the bridge of his nose. Curse these damn superheroes and their super metabolisms—he recalls when Steve once swooned while walking across a busy street in London because they were forty-five minutes late for lunch.
“Alright, kid.” Tony stands and hoists Peter up to his feet. “Let's get some McDonald’s into you.”