"It was really nice to be able to spend time together with you Doctor Strange! I know with everything that's been going on with the dimensional stuff you haven't really had any free time," Peter chirped excitedly, his neck craning almost dramatically as Stephen led the excitable teen through the Sanctum’s foyer with a certain mogul in tow.
Tony had held off on his more warm-hearted greeting for Stephen, standing behind the youth with a grin on his face, hands behind his back with a bag full of Halloween goodies.
They'd only recently begun to test the waters conditionally given their turbulent and very busy lifestyles, and one of the things Tony figured was that simply for the time being it was best Peter not get the impression they were dating until it was all sorted out.
In the meantime, that didn't stop the not-so-subtle exchanges of glances the two often shot to one another, the playful smirks behind the youth's back. The two were playing a game the teen would be none-the-wiser to and it took monumental self-control given their limited exposure for Tony not to jump Stephen's bones right there.
"Right, well handing out candy on Halloween sounded like it would be much more enjoyable this year doing it with friends, and maybe we might be able to dish out a few scares," Stephen winked with a soft chuckle.
"Well, that and every time you've tried to do this the candy has never made it past the first half of the day between you and Wong. I swear you two are no better than unsupervised toddlers when it comes to candy," Tony jested with a boyish laugh and Stephen shot him a playful warning glance.
"Yes, well it was charitable of you to bring some of your own, Stark." Tony flashed Stephen a funny look for referring to him by his last name as if the sorcerer was overcompensating with the formalities simply because Peter was here.
Stephen only responded with a sly smile, turning away to gesture around a little. “Naturally, you both know where the entrance is and that’s where people will be knocking. Expect it to be busy, there are a fair number of children who come by-”
“Doc, you know it’s supposed to rain, right?” Tony pointed out with a chuckle. “This is most likely going to turn into watching movies and us eating the candy. I even brought stuff to make some caramel apples.”
“But Mister Stark - an apple a day keeps the doctor away, you know. It might be rude to eat apples in the Sanctum!” Peter grinned widely, nudging at him as Stephen rolled his eyes.
“I happen to like caramel apples plenty, so I won’t be going anywhere unless there’s an emergency.” Stephen defended.
“Well, if there’s an emergency we might all be going somewhere, don’t you think?” Peter pointed out with a warm smile, and Tony reached to ruffle his hair.
“Not you, kiddo. You’re going to wear your Spider-Man outfit and make sure the children are safe if anything goes wrong. Or, you know, just keep supplying children with candy when they knock and making their Halloween awesome.”
“In any case,” Stephen interrupted with a warm smile at their antics, “the sitting area and fireplace are over here. We have lots of blankets to keep warm and once started the fireplace doesn’t go out until it’s told to-”
“You talk to your fireplace?” Peter piped up excitedly. Stephen and Tony exchanged a brief look at that.
“Oh, kid, just wait until you find out what else this house does.”
"Now, I have to quickly check in on Wong at Kamar-Taj about some morning class assignments for the new recruits. I trust you two will be alright on your own. Tony, I'll leave the cloak with you, Levi can guide you two around if you should need any assistance.”
"Do I look like I need babysitting, Doc?"
"Tony, you always need babysitting, and unfortunately it never seems to help," Stephen shook his head and Levi hopped off of the sorcerer's shoulders and took up residence around Peter's, giving the youth a gentle squeeze.
Peter looked between the two men as if there was electricity, or chemistry going on that he somehow seemed to sense with his 'Peter tingle.'
"Wow, I am personally offended by that, doc."
"Good, get used to it. Now, I should be no more than half-an-hour, try not to get yourselves into trouble while I'm out. Well, Tony, I think you're really the only one that needs supervision here," Stephen teased with a bright chuckle.
"Don't wander, listen to Levi, and most importantly behave. I won't be long," Stephen smiled softly to Tony before that professional exterior returned and he retreated to the Sanctum's upper levels to head to his spoken destination.
Once Stephen was out of both eye and earshot Tony clapped his hands down on the youth's shoulders and grinned.
"So… Let’s check this place out, with ol' red here we can explore the craziness of the place."
"You seem a lot more friendly with the doctor as of late..." Levi squeezed Peter's shoulders and the engineer chuckled.
"Yeah, he's part of the team!"
As Tony started to lead the way off into a hall to explore, he heard Peter sigh and quip to the cloak, “I swear, they’re hiding something.”
“You’re sticking your nose into business that’s best left to adults again, Pete. As usual,” Tony called back, as the teen plodded along behind him.
“Says the one who’s peeking into doors in the Sanctum the moment Doctor Strange is gone,” Peter quipped quickly. Tony grinned. He knew there was a reason he liked the kid.
“Are you trying to tell me you’re not curious, underoos?”
“Hey, I didn’t say that! But I was going to wait a few minutes! And maybe sneak some chocolate,” the teen responded with a little huff, looking pointedly at the bag Tony carried.
“Ah yeah, I should drop these off in the kitchen first. Along with the apples and caramel for later,” Tony closed the door that seemed to lead to a rather unremarkable closet as he gave a heavy sigh. “Alright, let’s check out the kitchen, show you where the bathroom is, and then get ready to investigate. You better put on your best sleuthing hat for this, investigator. I’m counting on you.”
“Yes sir! … was I supposed to bring one of those?” Peter asked as the pair made their way to the kitchen, where Tony found a bowl to dump all the sweets into before setting aside the caramel and apples.
He regarded the teen with a little grin before pulling two hats out of the bag for he and Peter, leaving the teen’s eyes to widen. “Oh my god! I can be Sherlock! ”
“Does that make me Watson?” Tony laughed a bit as the teen put the hat on and rested his hands on his hips.
“Elementary deduction, dear chap!” Peter grinned.
Tony gestured for Peter to follow him up to the second floor, ushering him towards a random direction.
Levi hopped off of Peter's shoulders and started following the both of them as they trekked around the Sanctum. They turned down a narrow hallway that almost seemed endless.
The hallway itself was masked in eerie darkness and as they wandered through it the walls seemed to take on a much more earthy countenance with vines, grass and moss which seemed to pock the irregularities in its appearance.
The cloak continued to follow patiently behind as Tony turned to the first door on his right. Old oak, an incomprehensible inscription on the door? Sure, this seemed like fun! He opened it up with no protest and it led to a rain-forest type setting. Growth, trees, it almost looked like a picture of the Amazon with wild birds of paradise flying around as he turned to see his exit the door was literally floating in thin-air above basically nothing.
"Well, seeing the Amazon was one thing on my hit list, but I never actually expected to see it in person," Tony joked softly. "Say, Fri where are we?"
"Exactly where you expected, boss. The Amazon rainforest."
Tony tilted his head, and Peter seemed bewildered by their destination, looking around at all the flora and fauna in the area.
"Whoahhh I never expected I'd be here, but hey, isn't this kind of dangerous?" Peter perked softly.
“Only if we were planning to stay for too long,” Tony shrugged a little, picking a flower before waving for Peter to follow him back through the door. “This guy, I tell you. He can open portals anywhere, and he has doors that lead places. What do you even need portals for when you have all this? Wanna see where else the Sanctum can lead?”
“Will Doctor Strange get mad about us wandering around like this?”
“Only if he finds out,” Tony teased, knowing full well that Stephen would likely just roll his eyes at the antics rather than actually being mad, but razzing Peter about it was too fun to resist. “You wanna pick where we go next?”
“Okay!” Peter chimed, taking off in a direction almost faster than Tony and the cloak noticed, leaving the engineer scrambling to catch up after a moment. Unfortunately, the Sanctum took that precise moment to change itself.
Tony nearly crashed into the sudden wall in front of him as he stared widely at it, and the atmosphere of the Sanctum changed around him. He didn’t have the cloak - it had hopefully caught up with Peter - leaving him alone as the hall seemed to grow considerably darker and more dreary.
When he stepped back the floor creaked ominously beneath him and Tony shuddered as the air became damp and clammy. “Ah shit. House, why are you like this? Did I offend you or something? Is this some ‘no running in the Sanctum’ rule I’ve broken?” he griped at the building a bit, as the lights seemed to dim into spots that vaguely resemble eyes here and there in the fog.
“Friday, can you give me a thermal scan? What’s going on here?”
“I don’t know what you mean, boss. Everything reads normal.”
Tony walked down the now unfamiliar hallways. There was a mix of relief and panic in his veins. Of all things, he was glad that at least Peter had the cloak with him, but he wasn't too happy that he was on his own now.
To make things easier, he considered that venturing off into new rooms would probably not be the greatest of ideas. He didn't recognize this wing of the Sanctum and the further he walked the more abandoned and dishevelled - even dilapidated - the place seemed to look.
The normally pristine and elegant walls had torn wallpaper upon them with knots in the wood, oddly skewing into eye-like formations. There were red stains through said holes in the wood, with nothing to see on the other side as he continued to walk and even looking back he was more daunted than moving forward.
Curiosity got the better of Tony and he threw open a door, upon looking in he saw a green tint to the room but at his feet a deep crevice. It was manmade but seemed to lead into a place that was almost masonic in architecture and looking down he saw glowing green at the distant depths more than a thousand feet down. Across the crevice another doorway or archway among many. He quickly enough shut the door and moved on.
He walked a bit farther, a creeping dread at his backside that urged him forward, and a quiet whispering as the sharp fall off into the shadows behind him was the only thing he could turn back to see aside from a visual distortion of the hallways stretching.
'Tony...' it whispered and almost seemed to approach and the man's steps hurried, obviously not scared, but in slight discomfort of his situation.
'You really shouldn't be here...' he heard the formless voice echo in his head and he reached a more overgrown part of the Sanctum, jungle-esque, vines hanging, tree roots untamed as the halls grew thicker and he debated whether he wanted to continue or head back into the encroaching darkness behind him.
Shadows cast their way across the room, grasping hands causing a slight start before Tony realized they were only tree branches as light continued to skew the shadows into entirely unrecognizable shapes - mouths and eyes and ribcages…
“Friday,” he started quietly, “remind me to tell Stephen that his house is misbehaving,” he instructed rather pointedly, hurrying a little more as he heard what sounded like something slithering across the floor.
“Yes, boss,” she responded clearly, though there was an unfamiliar static in the background. He was certain it was the house. She hadn’t sounded like that earlier.
Kicking at a low branch that nearly tripped him, Tony huffed. “What’s the deal, Sanctum? If you’re trying to spook me, you’re going to have to work harder at it than this!”
He regretted that statement quickly as the lights died out entirely but for a strangely placed exit sign glowing in the distance, blocked out in part by several shadows. There were no exit signs in the Sanctum that Tony knew of, and he had no way of knowing whether it was a trap or not, but with it being one of the few sources of light in the place he made his way towards it, tripping and stumbling despite himself even as he adjusted his coat to allow his reactor to shine some.
Once again a long, grasping hand seemed to reach out and while at first he thought it was a tree branch, the feeling of something thick, gooey and wet dribbling onto his shoulder left Tony to shudder and look up, following the path of the branch as it grabbed him, wrapping entirely around his waist. Two bright dots stared down at him from above, illuminating an angular, human-like face that protruded from an entirely too long neck of bones, it’s mouth opened wide as Tony stared in mute horror at the beast.
“You shouldn’t be here…” it hissed, a long tongue flicked out of a void-like mouth, and Tony raised his hands to shoot his repulsors at it, closing his eyes as he did.
A bright light went off and stayed, and as he opened his eyes again, Stephen stood there with a shit-eating grin on his face, leaning rather close to him. Tony's eyes went wide as he was face-to-face with Stephen again. The sorcerer braced him with his hands, holding the engineer's elbows knowing the man was off-kilter and about to teeter over.
“Boo,” the man teased, leaning in to steal a quick kiss as Tony stared at him in bewilderment.
The brunette shuddered, still disturbed by the experience but he still mustered up the strength to return the kiss, and in the blink of an eye the Sanctum returned to normal, distant sounds of Peter talking to someone or something as Tony leaned back into the kiss.
"I had you there, didn't I?" Stephen purred playfully in a low voice as he bumped his nose with Tony's, giving the man a quick squeeze before pulling away.
"Admit it, you were shaking in your boots," Stephen laughed haughtily, seemingly rather proud with his elaborate prank.
"What happened to being gone for half-an-hour?!" Tony retorted back with some surprise, intent on detracting from his state.
"I got there and it turned out Wong was nearly done, got off early and when I realized you both went off on your own I figured I'd have a little festive fun of my own," Stephen continued to grin.
"Yeah well, poor Peter is probably terrified!"
"No, just you, Tony. Peter is in the foyer, he found his way back instantly, he's with Wong - but you, you got special treatment," Stephen ran a hand down the side of Tony's face and the engineer turned red and huffy for a moment.
"Alright, well let's not keep them waiting..." Tony turned to head back as if he knew where to go.
"What, you don't want to stay and make out for a bit? How very unlike you Tony," Stephen pushed into Tony's space and the engineer looked surprised once again.
"This is… forward of you, Stephen. Let me guess, sugar high?"
"Maybe..." the doctor hummed softly.
“The chocolates are for the kids, you know,” Tony huffed a little, trying to pull himself back together properly as he ran his fingers briefly through the silver streaks along the side of his boyfriend’s head.
“I can be a kid for Halloween if it means I get candy. But then, I could get a lot of that sweetness from you,” Stephen grinned cheekily, leaning to steal another brief kiss.
“You really are an asshole sometimes,” Tony huffed.
“For wanting to sneak in a little time with you? I thought that was how relationships worked? If we have to hide away in dark hallways so that I can steal a couple of kisses, then I’ll make that happen. Spooking you in the process was just an added bit of fun.”
“For the spooking. You could’ve easily snuck us away without that…” Tony frowned, sighing after a moment. “Come on, you. Maybe Peter will crash later from a sugar overload and we can send him home early, and make out in front of that fire for a while, hm? You owe me for this.”
“Worth it,” Stephen grinned.
“Boss? You wanted to remind Doctor Strange that the house was misbehaving…”
“Thanks, Fri. I think we’re good, though,” Tony rolled his eyes as Stephen grinned all the more brightly at that. “C’mon. Let’s make sure Peter’s being on his best behaviour with Wong. We don’t want him getting in any trouble.”
“I doubt that’ll be a problem. Wong was introducing Peter to the ghost dog he’s taking care of…”
“A… sorry, a what?”
“A ghost dog. His name is Bats, and it seems he’s a big fan of Spider-Man. And Peter’s in costume, so…”
“I think I need to stop questioning things at this point," Tony smiled, chest feeling faintly soft as he stood up on his tippy-toes to snatch another quick kiss from the sorcerer. He stole Stephen's hands, their passage completely clear as they walked back towards the foyer, a trek that was significantly shorter than the venture out.
Tony tried to pull his hand away once they were near the others but Stephen reluctantly held his pinky, unwilling to let go until the last second where he let Tony finally pull away with a wink and they both walked down the stairs.
Peter was sorting candy and bags of chips into bowls while Wong was kicked back on a chair in the lobby watching some horrible movie on one of Tony's holo-pads, the lights on the Sanctum's stoop in full bloom for the kids.
"Mister Stark! I thought I'd lost you there."
"Well you did, and then this asshole found me," Tony pointed a thumb at Stephen. "Or, more to the point, separated us for a good scare."
"Worth it," Stephen grinned, pleased as pie.
"I only wish I was there to see it," Wong looked away from the screen for a moment to cackle.
"Well hello to you too, Wong!" The engineer only grunted in response.
"I'm sorry I wasn't there Mister Stark, Levi here took me back down to start getting things ready and then Doctor Strange came back."
“I see how it is,” Tony gave a dramatic huff at that, resting his hand on his chest. “Abandoning your mentor, leaving me in danger!”
“No!” Peter gasped in horror at that. “I would never!”
“Tony, don’t get him worked up like that. I can see the empty candy wrappers already, and I don’t need him literally bouncing off the walls to prove his loyalty,” Stephen chuckled, summoning a couple of tables over to rest on either side of the door, one with peanut- and gluten-free treats, and the other with everything tooth-rotting.
“Are you costuming up or what, doc?” Tony prodded at his boyfriend with a grin. “Or just going as a frumpy wizard?”
“Sorcerer,” Stephen sighed heavily, rolling his eyes even as his lips twitched in a little smile. “And yes, I suppose it’s time… Think you can behave yourself for a few minutes this time?”
“... you’re such an asshole. I have Wong to babysit me. And you said something about a ghost dog…?”
Stephen just chuckled, and Peter’s eyes got wide. “Oh my god, Mister Stark! You need to meet the ghost dog! Bats! Bats come here, boy! Come meet Iron Man!”
“Another Avenger?” a voice popped up from nowhere, and a ghostly basset hound came around the side of the couch to inspect him. “Hello, Iron Man!”
"That dog did not just talk to me..." Tony looked down at the frankly radioactive-translucent animal at his feet. Bats looked up at him with excitement and Tony’s eyes darted to Stephen and his look said everything.
"Friday?" Tony knelt down to examine the animated ghost dog and then turned to Stephen curiously.
"As the doctor mentioned, the animal is indeed a ghost."
"You're welcome, boss!"
"Bats," Stephen said plainly, gesturing to the undead pooch that simply scratched himself.
"Yeah, I got that." Tony knelt down to pat the animal on the head gently, standing up to look at Peter who was excited enough. The doorbell rang and Peter rushed to it immediately. In that moment, Tony walked over and hooked a finger around Stephen's collar and yanked him in for one last kiss, not caring in the least if Wong was witnessing it.