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Iron Man vs Nail Polish

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Tony had known Peter for a few months now. They’d met on May 23rd, then left a month later for Germany and proceeded to have a gap of silence until homecoming happened a couple of months after that. After that, well, Tony decided to step up and mentor the kid properly, lend a hand, share some knowledge and hey, it’s not like he wasn’t enjoying it, Peter was a good kid.

Originally he’d mostly known that the kid was smart, had been through a lot for an average teenager and, most importantly, Peter Parker was Spider-Man. That knowledge hadn’t exactly changed, although he realised the kid was genius levels smart, not just slightly ahead of his age group, but capable of helping Tony smart. He still had some way to go but the intelligence was undeniably there, just not all the knowledge, though his ‘hobby’ of reading academic papers certainly aided him. What he didn’t know, Tony could generally tell him. Give it a few years and Peter would probably know more than him.

But beyond that, he knew more about the kid, like what he liked to eat and how much (learnt after the afternoon where he realised he could just keep leaving snacks on the kid’s workbench and they’d all be eaten within minutes, the kid could eat), his friends from school, some vague family history, but mostly he got to know his personality more.

Peter was kind and could really talk once he felt comfortable, he was always happy to help and energetic to the point where Tony felt tired, there was a quiet mental strength and well, a blatant physical strength. There was a lot to him really, but overall he was a good kid. The one thing Peter struggled to do was ask for help, hence why he found himself surprised that Friday afternoon.

Tony looked up as Peter waltzed into his lab, looking like a man on a mission, only to slap his hands down on the table in front of him and look right at him. Intimidated wasn’t the right word, but unnerved would certainly describe him right now. Peter didn’t tend to be super bold or sure of himself but this was a picture of certainty right now. The silence wasn’t helping

“Peter?” He tried.

“Mr. Stark. I need help. Your help.” Peter moved to make direct eye contact with Tony, eyes straying slightly as he seemed to waver a bit.

Well, that wasn’t exactly the direction Tony was expecting things to go in. Tony looked at Peter more closely, noting that he didn’t seem hurt anywhere, or even particularly worked up, and he knew for a fact he hadn’t patrolled yet today. But coming to him and asking for help? Peter must be pretty desperate.

So… “What kind of help?” At this point there was very little he’d deny the kid but that was for him know and no one else to find out.

Tony watched as Peter lifted up his hands, closed them into fists and splayed them out again dramatically facing him. And opened and closed them a few more times. And proceeded to slap them back down on his workbench again, staring at him like he ought to be understanding this nonverbal communication.

Which he didn’t. “Peter...I don’t understand.”

“Mr. Stark! My nails!” He sounded frustrated.

Okay? Tony glanced back down at his hands, noting that the nails of Peter’s left hand were painted red and blue which he snorted at, that was obviously a nod to his superhero personality, especially since there was a poorly done white cobweb on his thumb and the right hand’s nails was unpainted, but the skin surrounding the fingertips was somewhat red, like they’d been irritated.

“They’re...nice? Not at all Spider-Man fan worship. No, totally just a fashion choice, I’m sure.” He still wasn’t sure where his help came in here.

“That’s not the point, I’m going out tonight with Ned and MJ and,” Peter waved his right hand around wildly, “I have a goose level problem.”

Tony frowned, “goose level?” The hell? As much as he normally understood Peter, sometimes he just said the most bizarre things.

“A big problem, like really big.” Peter stretched his arms wide to emphasis his point, which really wasn’t that wide, he wasn’t the biggest kid ever but Tony guessed that wasn’t the point.

Of course, that totally clears everything up, makes perfect sense- Whatever. “Alright. So, let’s pretend I’m following you here. How can I help with this?”

Peter gestured at the wires he’d been soldering before FRIDAY alerted him Peter was on route to his lab. “You have steady hands.”

Tony nodded slowly, “I kind of have to if I want to make anything precise, which I do. You also have steady hands, you work on the same kind of things.” Within reason. Anything explosive, or, well, anything too explosive was out of bounds. Tony was a lot of things, but the trait of being excited to explode a child was not one of them.

Peter was clearly leading up to something here but for the life of him, Tony couldn’t figure out what. They’d reached stating the obvious. He was missing something here.

“Yeah, but I’m right-handed!”

“So?” So was Tony, and he was pretty sure Peter knew that.

“So. I can’t paint my right hand very well with my left hand. And I need you to. Otherwise, I’m going to look dumb. Or I’ll have to remove the polish on my left hand which I really don’t want to do. I’ve already tried and scrubbed off nail polish at least three times. It isn’t working very well at all.” And now everything was out in the open.

Ah. Help needed, nails, goose level problem, his steady hands. Well, it’s not as if he’d mind but he didn’t exactly have a record of doing that, so why the hell would Peter be coming to him?

“Why can’t May do it?” Nurses needed somewhat steady hands, right? He didn’t like the idea of someone inserting an IV into him with shaking hands, so surely they did. Maybe May was still working?

“I know that she’s a nurse. But Tony? Those steady hand skills don’t translate to nails. We’ve tried.” Peter stared off into the distance before glancing down at his hands like he was remembering something unpleasant.

Tony figured he didn’t want to know whatever May managed to do with nail polish and Peter. How bad could you get? Surely, at worst you’d just get the polish on the finger? Peter’s expression said otherwise though so perhaps it was best to stay in the dark this time.

“Fine. But only if they’re red and gold. And you’re not allowed to complain if they’re terrible, I’ve only done this like, twice before.” And he may have been drunk on at least one of those occasions. It was only fair that if Peter had Spider-Man themed fingernails done by him, he could do Iron Man themed fingernails done by Tony. Mind you, all it would take would be the kid asking otherwise to get him to cave. But Peter didn’t know that. Hopefully.

Peter stared at him and reached out his right hand, “deal.”

Tony took it and shook it, “I’m going to teach you about negotiation after we do this, saying deal at the first offer is rarely a good plan in business, kid.”

“What if I wanted Iron Man themed fingernails this whole time? And you walked right into it?”

Tony shrugged, “deal of the century then? Anyway, do you have the nail polish or are you dragging me out into public to buy some for you?” He would buy a whole store for him but again, Peter didn’t need to know that.

Peter rushed to slide his backpack straps off, getting it stuck in the process, wiggling his arm until the strap slid off and he dumped it on the floor, rummaging through it like a raccoon in a trash can. Which probably wasn’t all that far off, Tony thought, as he squinted and swore he saw at least 3 muesli bar wrappers. This was more like the Peter he knew.

He watched Peter finally pull out what looked like a light red bottle and a yellowy-gold bottle of nail polish.

“They’re not exactly the Iron Man colours but I don’t really have anything closer. I think they’ll do.” Peter put them on the workbench near him.

Tony twisted and kicked a stool in Peters direction, gesturing for him to sit. “They’re fine, kid, we’ll have to get you some better ones though, it’s a crime not to have the exact colours of my suit in nail polish when you’re my intern. I won’t stand for that.” He pushed aside his work so there was more room for his task.

Peter sat down, nudging his backpack to the side with his foot so it wasn’t in the way and put his right hand up on the workbench. And immediately starting bouncing his leg. “You don’t have to, Mr. Stark, I only use it sometimes anyway.”

“I don’t have to do anything, I just do it because I want to, Peter. Now, number one, do you have an artistic vision or are we going red, gold, red, gold, red? Or dare I say, gold, red, gold, red, gold? Now that’s bold. Number two, I respect your leg bouncing and I get it, and by all means keep it up if you want me to get nail polish all over your fingers, but otherwise how about you cease that while I’m anywhere near your fingers with this.” He lifted up one of the bottles of nail polish to make his point,

Peter stopped bouncing his leg immediately and rested his left hand on it like he was holding it down, “sorry. I didn’t even realise I was doing it. But you’re in control here, do whatever you want.”

Tony could picture tiny Iron Man helmets on each finger, painstakingly drawn out, maybe on a silver background. Tony, however, was also realistic and knew that would never happen with his current skills, in fact, solidly red and solidly gold nails were probably a big enough test for his current nail painting skills. So that would be what Peter would be getting if all went well.

“We’ll just start off simple, Pete, I doubt I could do anything fancy. Let’s start with the red.”

Peter pushed the red closer to him and he started to unscrew it, getting a feel for what he was working with. A few tiny paint flakes fell off as the lid came off and he brushed them aside, lifting the lid up to inspect the attached brush. It was seconds away from dripping red polish off the brush but seemed pretty flexible and in good condition. He brushed it against the neck of the bottle, partly to thin the amount of polish on the brush and partly to get a feel for how the brush bent.

Then the smell hit him. Strong and distinctly chemical and honestly? Kind of horrible. But he’d pushed through worse. This probably wouldn’t kill him. Right? Probably. He’d look that up later.

He looked up at Peter, who was watching him quietly, “alright. Here goes nothing.”

Peter gave him a smile, “I’m sure it’ll be fine.”

He rested his left hand on top of Peter’s right hand to make sure the hand would stay still (because this is Peter he’s talking about) before moving his right hand with the brush towards Peter’s thumb, shifting his left hand down to hold the thumb in place as he carefully touched the brush to the nail and stroked it towards him.

He let a breath out he hadn’t been aware he was holding. “Okay, first stroke wasn’t bad. That’s good.”

Peter gave him a look, “you covered like, less than half the nail. You’re far from done.”

“Who’s doing your nails here? Don’t judge the one in charge.”

Peter lifted his left hand like he was showing he meant no harm, “by all means, continue.”

Tony moved the brush back onto Peter’s thumbnail, moving the polish around on there in careful strokes, trying not to get it on his skin, slowing down even more as he tried to get the edges. In under a minute, he was done and he leaned back to inspect his work.

“Hey, that’s not bad actually.”

He lifted his head at Peter’s words, “excuse me? Do you see this? No polish on your skin, all the nail covered and all you have to say is ‘not bad’? Wow. I see how it is.”

“No no! It’s good! I just didn’t expect you to actually be able to do it so well.”

“Thanks for the faith, Pete. I’m going to do your middle and little finger with the red now, might as well do all the red first.” Also because one open nail polish bottle was enough, adding another to the mix might just kill him. The smell was not improving. Was he supposed to have a well-ventilated area to do this in? On a scale of one to ten, how poisonous was this stuff actually? More research for later.

Tony continued onto the middle finger quietly as he focused, shifting his left hand to get a gentle grip on that finger next, but having done yet another successful nail he decided to break the silence as he moved onto Peter’s little one, shifting his left hand yet again. “So, what are you and your friends up to tonight?”

“Oh, we’re just going to grab dinner and watch a movie. But we don’t go out a huge amount, so I wanted to put some effort in, you know? We all kind of do when we plan on dinner. It’s mostly just fun.”

Tony hummed as he listened while finishing off the little finger. “Yeah? What movie? I’m gonna move onto the gold now, if you can really call it that. It seems more yellow to me. Anyway, keep talking.”

Peter continued on as Tony screwed the red one back in its bottle and honestly, how long would that smell take to go away anyway? The lid was on, surely it had to start disappearing. Shaking his head, he unscrewed the ‘gold’, “oh, I don’t know actually. We normally do this once a month if we can, we rotate turns to choose the movie and don’t tell the others until we get to the theatre, it’s kind of fun. Plus, that way no one can get out of it if anyone picks a bad movie. Anyway, it’s MJ’s turn to pick this month and you can never really predict what you’re going to see when she chooses. Ned and I regularly inspect all the movies showing at the theatre we go to and guess which one she’ll choose and we’ve been right I think like, once. It’s so weird. But it keeps things interesting!”

By the time he was finished talking, Tony was in the middle of his index finger and he hummed distractedly. “Well, I hope she picks well tonight. You’ll have to make sure to keep your right hand in front of your face at all times though so everyone sees the nails I did. And tell me of all the compliments!”

He finished the nail and looked up, paying more attention and noted how Peter shrugged then went, “the first bit is excessive but I can do the second. Are you done now? They look good!”

Tony looked down at Peter’s nails, thinking about how they’d look better with mini Iron Man helmets painted on but...he sighed. That wasn’t happening. He’d better not mess with them anymore. “Yeah, I just got a bit on your index finger, do you have any nail polish remover? I’ll just rub that bit off carefully.”

“Oh! Yeah, in my bag. Uh, can you maybe grab it? It’s in the open pocket, but I don’t want to mess these up before they’re dry.” He’d better not mess them up before they’re dry.

Tony eyed Peter’s bag and sighed, “Peter, if there’s anything living in there, and it bites me, I’m never talking to you again.”

Peter started indignantly, “hey! I’m clean! It’s a clean bag!”

Tony reached his hand in and immediately pulled out at least six wrappers. Huh, more than he expected. “Oh?”

“...I get hungry. But those aren’t dirty! There just wasn’t a bin nearby and I’m not about to litter.”

Tony got up, stretching his arms above his head to free up his muscles from being hunched over and walked over to put them in the bin. “Well, at least it wasn’t living. Yet.”

He sat back down and rustled through the bag some more, this time ignoring the numerous other wrappers because he didn’t want to know what else was in that pile. After a minute or so he pulled out the nail polish remover and put it on the desk, pushing the bag far away from him again. Realistically, it’s probably already too late for him if there was some disease in there but maybe he’d get lucky.

“I don’t suppose you have cotton swabs or something in that bag of yours?”

Peter shook his head, “no, I figured you’d have some if we needed it.”

“Well, I’m sure I do somewhere but I don’t know where so I’m going to try using my finger and hope for the best. I’m sure it’ll be fine.” Tony was not sure it’d be fine but he’d definitely had worse ideas...which will remain in the past and unspoken.

He unscrewed the bottle and put his finger on the small opening, tipping it upside down so a small amount of the liquid fell on the tip of his finger. “Okay, I’m going to just...rub, I guess. Stay still.”

Peter nodded. “I solemnly swear my fingers will not break out in the dancing plague.”

Tony sighed, “why do I even do anything for you?”

Peter shrugged, “because you make bad decisions?”

Tony decided not to answer that and moved his finger to Peter’s index one and carefully placed it along the right side, rubbing gently against a small spot of nail polish that went over the edge, moving his left hand to hold it in place. Surprisingly, that was the only finger he messed up on. One out of five was not bad if you asked him, he decided he must have a talent for it. Luckily, it came off after a few attempts of rubbing and checking to see if it was gone. Nail polish on skin would survive the apocalypse, he swore.

“There we go, all done.” And he felt kind of sad about it. It was definitely best to stop there since Peter actually wanted to wear this out but he kind of wanted to see what else he could do. Plus, it was nice to spend time with the kid like this. As much as he loved the movie nights they sometimes had and tinkering in the lab, helping Peter with his homework or having dinner together, this felt like something closer and he liked the feeling.

Ah well, maybe another time.

“Thank you! They look really good. They’re definitely not quite the Iron Man colours but Iron Man did them so honestly? That makes them cooler than anyone else’s.” Peter smiled widely at him.

Tony waved him off, this kid was really worming his way into his heart. “Not a problem, just don’t forget to show them off to your friends.”

“Of course not, Mr. Stark! I can do that. Anyway, I thought I’d avoid too much physical work today, don’t want to ruin them before tonight. I have a bit of physics homework to do and then I thought I could work on some of the coding for my suit? Unless you have something you wanted me to do.”

Tony stared at him, “no, we’re doing negotiation as I said before.”

Peter paused for a moment before leaning forward, “oh? How about, an hour of negotiation, an hour of my own work, then I leave for dinner?”

Tony laughed, “make it an hour and a half.”

“An hour and fifteen minutes.”

“Twenty.”

“Seventeen.”

“Not too bad, kid, we’ll get you there.”

Chapter Text

About a month had passed since Tony had painted Peter’s fingernails. Well, he knew for a fact that it was exactly a month because he was keeping track of the days on a physical calendar that was hidden in a locked drawer in a secret compartment in the wall of his workshop behind the couch. What? Nobody was about to find it there and question him.

Pepper had let him practise on her, and it was something he thoroughly enjoyed. But with Pepper, it was more romantically intimate, more like feeling good for doing something for the person you love and enjoying the time spent close to them. He’d roped Rhodey into it too, but he wasn’t around much and it was more of a joke. No protests, no laughter over his request, but certainly a chaotic time of catching up loudly while he did it, TV playing in the background, enjoying time close to his friend.

Somehow with Peter, it felt different, like he was getting closer to his kid, attention just on each other rather than on a project or food or a movie at the same time. The aspect of enjoying being close time to him was the same but it certainly wasn’t romantically close, and not exactly like a friend. Anyway, whatever the reason (he chose not to analyse it too deeply), he wanted to do it again. And Peter hadn’t asked. He liked it last time! So did his friends, Tony remembered the video Peter sent him from outside the theatre.

The video started with Peter squinting at his phone before smiling and launching energetically into what he wanted to say, “hi, Mr. Stark!” He lifted his right hand up, “I showed Ned and MJ what you did! They liked it! Well, Ned did, MJ was...well, anyway, here they are!”

The camera panned to show Ned and MJ off to the side watching Peter, Ned moving over immediately to wave while MJ stayed back, watching quietly. Peter moved the camera to include just him and Ned.

Ned started, “Mr. Stark! Hi, Peter’s nails look, like, super cool. It’s so cool you did them!”

Off-camera was heard, “you’d think it would be cool even if he accidentally painted Peter’s entire hand in nail polish because he kept missing the nails.” MJ, clearly.

Ned paused and looked off-camera towards where MJ was presumably standing, “well, yeah, it’d be cool. But this is cool AND good, MJ. C’mon, they look pretty good.”

MJ moved into frame, grabbing Peter’s hand (and Tony noted Peter blushing but he decided not to question that) and inspecting it, “it’s alright. Basic, but I suppose he did fine.” Then she let go of Peter’s hands and stepped back, her face turning more bored, “plus, I suppose the nail polish fumes will contribute towards removing the rich.”

Peter sighed, “MJ! This is a nice video!”

MJ shrugged and stalked out of frame. Tony assumed that ‘alright’ was practically a compliment from her anyway, so he’d take it.

Peter turned back, “anyway, the movie is starting in like...five minutes? So we’re gonna go in now. But thank you! Bye!”

Ned added, “and they’re definitely awesome.”

Tony heard, “Ned, you basically already said that” from MJ just as Peter hit the end button.

It wasn’t much but he wasn’t exactly looking for validation to continue. He had a plan. And it involved waiting for a month but he’d done that now so he could get started on the next parts of it.

First, he had to talk Pepper into letting him take Peter to a gala, but considering how much she’d been asking him to make a public appearance lately, he figured she’d cave pretty easy. He’d say something about how it’d be good for Peter to learn to fend off digging reporters and asshole businessmen. On second thought, might be best to leave that out and say he wants to teach Peter some more business skills and introduce him more to the life of being in this high position blah blah blah, responsibility and so on.

Pepper did not cave easily. Where Tony saw taking Peter to a gala, Pepper saw a PR nightmare and five hundred reasons why that would be a bad idea. He’d admit some of them were good reasons but Peter could be snuck in through the back, avoid the cameras out front and only be in the eye of those invited. Less of a PR nightmare...probably. Plus, they wouldn’t stay long, less chance of trouble that way and less overwhelming for Peter. Eventually he managed to talk her into it, with some bribery perhaps but a paid vacation was really nothing if it got his plan to work. And confessing his real plans to her. But she wasn’t allowed to judge him.

Now the second part of the plan brought Peter into it, he’d bring the gala invitation up, offer to buy Peter a new suit for the event, take him shopping, weirdly enough end up in the nail polish section of a store as he tried to find the checkout counter he accidentally lost, act like he just suddenly got a brilliant idea and offer to do Peter’s nails for the event. That’d work, right? He just had to act casual. And get Peter to agree. But surely it’d work.

———————

He waited until Friday came around and gave May a call once he was sure Peter was in school and she was on a break at work. She mostly agreed once he mentioned that Pepper had approved it (but he was going to ignore that fact) with the conditions that it’d only happen if Peter was actually okay with it, he covered any costs, Peter wasn’t kept out too late and either he, Pepper, or Happy had an eye on Peter at all times.

It was a lot fewer conditions than he was usually given, but he supposed bringing Pepper into it made the situation sound more reasonable. Even though he was totally a responsible adult too. Sometimes, anyway. Not to mention, the condition about covering all the costs played into his plan. Now he just had to wait for Peter to arrive.

———————

When Peter arrived in the lab that afternoon, he started rambling about an English test he had earlier that day and Tony half listened, half kept an ear out for any opening where he could slip the gala question in, but he mostly ended up listening because sue him, the kid could be interesting.

Peter continued on oblivious to what Tony was thinking, “I mean, I kind of realised I had a problem for the last question, you know? English is pretty easy to bull- I mean, to make stuff up for normally but I couldn’t quite remember the environment in the text. Oh, the question was asking how the setting revealed things about the person or something like that, I don’t remember exactly. Anyway, point is, I then remembered the curtains were blue! Blue, Mr. Stark! That’s like, the best evidence. The author made the curtains blue to show the character’s inner sadness. I mean, that’s obviously not true but my English teacher loves that kind of stuff. I’m feeling pretty good about the test.”

Tony nodded, “sometimes you just need to give the teachers what they want to hear, huh?”

Peter agreed. “Anyway, what are we working on today? I think my suit is actually fine for once, it’s been a quiet week on patrol, and I don’t have any ideas for things I want to add currently.”

Well, this seemed like as good a place as any. “Actually, Peter, I was wondering about something, and you don’t have to say yes but maybe think about it?”

“Sure?” Peter said slowly.

“Alright, so there’s a gala next Friday and Pepper’s been insisting I make more appearances at these things so I’d figured I’d go. But Friday is normally our afternoon so I was wondering if you wanted to come with me? As my intern, of course. You know, pick up some more of how the business side of things work and how these gala sorts of events work.” And to help lead Tony into a position of painting Peter’s nails but whatever, that didn’t need to be said.

If you asked Tony if he’d considered just asking Peter if he could paint his nails, he’d say yes and he wouldn’t be lying. But he’d also say he’d never willingly ask that so an excessively large plan was the next best option, obviously.

Peter looked surprised but...possibly excited too? Maybe, it was hard to say. “I’d love to, Mr. Stark! It sounds interesting...but I don’t really have a suit or anything and I’m guessing I need that.” His tone dropped at the end in disappointment.

“Okay, well, first of all they are not interesting, but this one is for a good cause so it’s tolerable. Second of all, we can easily get you a new suit before then so don’t worry about it.”

“Oh, I’m not really sure if I can afford a new suit though. Maybe a second hand one?” Peter sounded like he seriously expected Tony to make him pay for it himself. Which was clearly ridiculous.

“Pete, don’t worry about it. I called May earlier and she agreed to you going but one of her terms was me covering all the costs, which will include the suit, so like I said, don’t worry about it.”

“Suits are expensive though!” And now he sounded uncomfortable, great.

“Do you want to accept the suit or argue with your aunt?”

“...so when did you plan on going shopping?” Well, that worked strangely well even though he’d pick the same option without hesitation.

And now most of the work had already been done, his plan was working out perfectly. The crucial thing was somehow ending up in an aisle containing nail polish in a completely different shop from the tailor’s. The current plan was telling Peter they should look for a tie in another place (a place that, of course, was diverse and also had nail polish) because it’s always good to have more options. Yeah, that was definitely going to go well.

“Tomorrow, if you’re okay with that, it’s good to leave them as much time as possible to get the suit made up although they usually push me through pretty fast.” Tomorrow also meant that if his plan failed terribly, he still had almost a week for his other plans. That he didn’t have yet. But one should never underestimate his ability to come up with schemes when it meant getting what he wanted.

“Sounds good, Mr. Stark! What are we doing today then?” How did the kid manage to move on so fast? He’d be thinking about this for the next week straight!

God, he was almost stressed out about it now, he probably wouldn’t be able to sleep tonight and how ridiculous was that? Pep would tell him to just ask the kid but he was long past that point.

———————

It was 4am and he was definitely too stressed to sleep. This was fine. Missing one night of sleep wouldn’t kill him. Probably, anyway, missing sleep probably wasn’t good for the heart and Tony’s was already bad but that problem could wait for later.

———————

It was about 8am and Tony found himself sitting in the kitchen, nursing a cup of hot coffee to wake him up, a pile of pancakes in front of him. They weren’t for him but if he timed it right then…

“Good morning, Mr. Stark!” Peter came bounding into the kitchen way too awake for this time of the morning and especially for a teenager. Clearly, Peter took all the energy in the tower and left Tony exhausted. Though that might also be caused by only getting an hour of sleep in the end.

“Morning, Pete, there’s pancakes here if you want them, bread in the cupboard, eggs in the fridge, cereal also in the cupboard, and so on. You know where it is. And eat as much as you want. Remember, nobody is going to eat your weird cereal anyway so you’re only saving food here.” Peter had a terrible habit of trying to eat less than he needed even though Tony could easily afford to feed the kid. But he’d gotten better after Tony kept finding weird foods only Peter would eat and insisting it’d be a waste otherwise.

“Thanks!”

Tony watched as Peter first slid over the plate of pancakes to himself and ate them all (not before insisting Tony ate at least one, which he did hesitantly) probably too fast, then made himself four slices of toast with peanut butter on them, then poured two bowls of cereal and sat back and announced he was finally full. Tony’s coffee was long since gone and he’d mostly just been expecting the kid to announce that he was going to start on the eggs (in fear, he actually only had half a dozen in the fridge and the kid didn’t seem to be stopping). Surprised, he stood up and stretched.

“Alright then, brush your teeth, get dressed if those are your PJ’s, do whatever you have to do and meet me back down here and we’ll leave.”

“These are my normal clothes?” Peter asked, confused.

Tony blinked, “ah. Hard to tell. Anyway, off you go.”

———————

Tony took him into a place in a mall, it wasn’t the place he usually went to but on the bright side, people didn’t really expect to see him here which helped. He’d been here enough that he trusted them still. Plus, weirdly enough, he found a small shop that had both ties and nail polish just a few shops down. There were, he was sure, a million other things they sold but he wasn’t exactly focused on their selection of screaming children’s toys so it was all frankly irrelevant. He had the layout memorised and the way he’d go to ‘accidentally’ lead Peter to the nail polish section figured out. As long as Peter didn’t get distracted and drag him to other things, it’d be fine. That was, admittedly, quite unrealistic though.

He greeted the shop owner and explained what they were after, mostly stepping back and letting Peter take control, only stepping in to suggest a few things here and there with smaller decisions. Eventually, it was done and paid for, arranged to arrive the day before the gala and he dragged Peter out of the shop just as Peter started to ask if he needed a tie to match.

Once they were safely out of range of the store he looked over at Peter and said, “they make good suits in there, they do. I’ve had a few made there. But their tie range isn’t incredible, I found this shop further down that has a larger range. Thought you might find something more fun there, not every aspect of your suit has to be serious after all.”

Peter looked at him suspiciously, “are you saying that because it’s true or because that’s the rule you follow?”

Tony shrugged, “it’s never been a problem for me before. Anyway, let’s head in here.”

Tony knew the ties were towards the back of the store but he played along wandering slightly like he didn’t have the map of the store seared into his mind, because that would be ridiculous.

Once they reached the tie section, Peter looked back at Tony and asked, “so I’ve got a dark blue suit, what colour ties are you supposed to wear with that?”

Tony shook his head and said, “just choose whatever you want. A lot of people go for black or another shade of blue or red but make it interesting! Pick whatever you like.”

Peter had a look through them and held up a bright green one, “you’d let me wear this?”

Tony matched his look and said, “absolutely, in fact, I dare you.”

Peter screwed up his nose and said, “I’m not a fan of this one but I kind of love this super bright purple,” he held up the one he was talking about. Perfect. This worked well for him.

Tony smiled, “sure, kid, love the boldness. If you’re sure, we can go get that one now.”

Peter nodded, “it’s kind of growing on me.”

Tony turned and started ‘leading him to the checkout area’, taking probably the worst path possible and, weirdly enough, ending up in an aisle that had a display of nail polish. So weird. However did they get there? Tony told himself to shut up and keep acting casual while scanning the shelf out of the corner of his eye.

Perfect, that purple off to the left practically matched the shade of Peter’s tie. He turned his head casually like he was looking around then stopped, acting like he suddenly spotted something. “Hey, Pete, that purple matches your tie. I bet it’d look cool if you wore it.” ‘Cool’? Since when did he just say ‘cool’? Whatever. Now he just needs to turn and look at Peter curiously, waiting for an answer, appearing indifferent. He’s got this.

He turns and looks at Peter who’s looking between him and back at the nail polish, seemingly trying to figure something out. Tony raises his eyebrows in a sort of, ‘well?’ type movement. Internally he’s panicking, sure Peter is onto him, he’s totally going to call him out and it’s going to be weird and he just likes painting the kid’s nails and talking to him, is that really so bad? It’s nice spending time with Peter, sue him! He can handle being sued. But what if the kid finds it weird? Then he really will have to fake his own death to survive. Why did he even make this plan up? It’s so dumb. He should’ve just asked the kid like Pepper said. God, why didn’t he just ask-

“Sure! Maybe you could do it before the gala?”

Oh, he’s definitely about to pass out. The kid aiding him in his plan was not, in fact, part of the plan. The kid is giving him an opening? He had a whole other plan to offer to do it for him casually and the kid is just-

Whatever. He just has to say yes normally. Casually. Not weird at all. Oh god, Peter’s been waiting for an answer for like ten seconds, just, “yes!” Oh no, too excited, tone it down, back up, this is terrible, why did he do this? “I mean, I’ve been practising on Pepper lately, it’d be no problem. It’s kind of good to just focus on one thing like that, you know? But Pepper’s been busy lately and Rhodey hasn’t visited in a while so you can be my lab rat for the time being.”

Did he just overexplain? He totally just rambled like the kid, didn’t he? This is fine, he just needs to keep a straight face, buy the stuff, get out of here, get home, find a soundproofed room, scream a bit to dispel the built-up nervous energy and continue on normally.

Peter shrugged, “sounds good to me. Where’s the checkout around here anyway? I feel like we’re lost.”

Tony couldn’t be lost in this store if he tried with how well he had it memorised. There was actually a checkout next to the tie section but he’d sooner die than admit that so he leads Peter towards the front checkout before heading back to the tower with him.

———————

The day of the gala had arrived and Tony had Peter sitting at the table with his hands on it (on top of a paper towel, of course, he wasn’t about to risk staining the table. Pepper liked it, and what Pepper liked, he wasn’t about to mess with) and his sleeves pulled up as far as they could go. Without using super-strength, that is, he pulled Peter’s sleeves up carefully himself to ensure there would be no tearing of the sleeves (with a lot of protests on Peter’s end, but he’d live).

He looked smart in his suit, though the formal appearance and his very informal personality were a weird comparison. A dude in a suit on the ceiling looked badass in movies, more dorkish in real life. Though maybe that was just Peter. The tie looked ridiculously bright compared to the suit and almost ridiculous and Tony loved it. He was sure the nails were going to make this even better. Not that it would matter as much as just spending that time with the kid.

He was also sure that if the avenger’s alarm went off right now, he would simply turn it off and tell Peter to ignore it too because he had waited over a month for this now, any villain must have a death wish trying to interrupt this. New York was cool and all but there were more important things, like Peter. After a pause in thought slightly too long he added Peter’s nails, more specifically. No need to analyse his first thought.

He slid the purple closer until it was in front of him and unscrewed the lid. Huh. New nail polish actually manages to smell worse than old nail polish? He was pretty sure that shouldn’t be possible and he was also mildly alarmed. But he would accept death by nail polish scent in order to do this.

God, he had two of Peter’s hands to do this time. Twice as much.

He moved the brush against the neck of the bottle and got off any excess nail polish before getting right into doing Peter’s nails. It wasn’t like last time where he was figuring it out as he went along, he was more confident and faster, plus smoother in painting them.

He may have been doing it slower on purpose, but no one could prove anything. He took his time dipping the brush back into the bottle and moving onto a new finger, careful not to get any on Peter’s skin. It wasn’t anything special, but it definitely did look nice with his tie and almost pulled the outfit together.

Peter was talking about what he thought the gala would be like as he finished off one hand. Tony was partially paying attention but mostly he was immersed in the job he was doing. Plus, the kid was going to be incredibly disappointed by the reality of a gala if he thought it was going to be anything like the event he was describing. Still, Tony found himself calmed by the work he was doing and like he’d noted before, he just enjoyed being close to the kid.

He started in on the second hand, Peter’s left hand, carefully. It was nice to just focus on the kid and listen to him talk as he worked. Plus, he’d always been one for physical contact. Peter was absolutely a hugger, but just touching his hand as he worked was nice as well. It was grounding in a way, that the kid was here and really part of his life. He’d gotten to know the best kid, for sure.

Eventually, he found himself finishing off that hand, surprisingly both hands took less time than one hand had taken last time. He guessed that was progress. He sat back and looked at his work and grinned as he looked at it next to Peter’s tie.

He started screwing the lid back onto the nail polish, “I think it turned out great, Pete. Bold, but cool like I thought it’d be.”

“Thanks, Mr. Stark! Now we just have to let it dry and I have something to tell you while that happens.”

Tony looked up from what he was doing, “oh?” Did he get his physics test results back already? That was quick. Maybe something else to do with his school? Oh, it was probably something May said before he came here considering the future events of the night.

“Miss Potts told me you set up a plan for this and told me every single detail.”

Tony stared. Shit. She said she’d keep that to herself!

Peter continued, “you know, she really was right, you could’ve just asked. It’s kind of nice, I like it too! I just didn’t realise you actually liked it last time, I kind of forced you into it.”

Tony continued to stare.

“I mean, I still want to go to the gala but any time spent with you is good, I like doing this. I could probably fall asleep with you doing it, it’s weirdly relaxing. And c’mon, the plan was a little excessive, you have to admit.”

Tony sighed, “yeah, okay. But you’re not allowed to ever bring this up again.”

Peter mimed zipping his mouth, “promise! But Miss Potts already told Colonel Rhodes.”

Tony hit his head on the table.

Chapter Text

When Peter walked in, Tony knew something was wrong. The first clue was that he immediately didn’t break into a long tale about his day at school and what he and his friends had been up to, instead choosing to just say “hi” quietly before starting to make his way over to his workbench. That was out of character and enough to make Tony alert but it wasn’t like Peter wasn’t allowed to be quiet so he gave the kid a look over.

His hair was a mess, like he’d been running his hands through it constantly. His shirt was distinctly creased in one spot like someone had taken an iron to it with intentions to crumple, not straighten, or maybe like someone with super strength had been gripping it. His hands were currently gripping the straps of his school bag so tight, Tony wouldn’t be surprised if the bag was permanently disfigured by now and he was just generally hunched into himself.

As Peter sat down at his workbench, he ventured to ask, “you alright, kid?” He’d like to think their communication had improved at least slightly recently, and he’d be damned if he let anything get in the way of finding out what was wrong. Because the kid was clearly not alright, but step one was seeing if he’d admit that.

He watched as Peter clenched his jaw before saying, “fine,” in a voice that fell quite short of being certain, it was a lot shakier. So he wasn’t going to admit it then.

Tony pushed himself out of his seat and moved towards Peter, stopping on the other side of his workbench, “Peter, look, I don’t want to overstep my limits but you’re clearly not. Now, maybe it’s none of my business but I’m not just going to sit here and watch you struggle, so how about you talk to me? And if you don’t, the way I see it, Pepper should be arriving here in about ten minutes if you feel more comfortable talking with her, or you can call May. I know she has a break soon because she usually texts you to see if you got here safe on Friday’s. Or, if you’re not up to talking, you can tell me what would help and we’ll see about talking later. So, what’s it going to be? I’ll consider other options if they’re not inaction.”

Peter sighed, seemingly only just managing to keep himself together, “I’d, uh, rather not talk right now. May usually…”

Tony moved around the workbench so he was next to Peter, crouching down to try to make himself look less intimidating, “what, Pete? No judgement here.”

Peter looked down, not meeting Tony’s eyes and not saying anything either.

So Tony continued, “seriously, one time I was having a panic attack in some dark alleyway of Manhattan-don’t ask and don’t do that-and a stray cat jumped out at me, hissing, claws out and all. It honestly startled me so much that I snapped out of it for long enough to call Happy to take me home. I mean, okay, it didn’t exactly help but it did work enough for me to be somewhere safe to work through it. So, like, if you need a wild cat to attack you for being audibly upset in its general vicinity, I’m not really on board with that but I also won’t judge, you know? I’m sure I’ve coped in worse ways and you probably have something healthy and reasonable you just don’t want to ask for. Seriously, just ask, kid.”

Peter met his eyes for a bit, probably trying to see if he was lying or not (he wasn’t. But it was a while ago now) and started saying something, “well, normally we....” before breaking off and starting on something else, “can you paint my nails?”

Tony wasn’t really expecting to hear that. He certainly wasn’t complaining but that was a little unexpected. He also knew that wasn’t what Peter was going to say originally but he’d let it slide unless this did not, in fact, help. Besides, between wild cats attacking you and painting nails, he was pretty sure his therapist would point unamusedly at the latter option if asked what the healthier choice was. Not that he didn’t already know! Obviously. But he’d defend the cat thing until the day he died. Maybe he would’ve been stabbed in the alleyway otherwise, who knows.

“Sure, Peter, if that’s something you think will help, we’ll just head on up to the penthouse. Maybe put on a movie in the background? How about Star Wars?”

Peter nodded, “it was relaxing before so I just thought…” he paused before simply stating, “I’d like that.”

Then so be it. Maybe Tony’s stash would get a smile out of him. Stash of nail polish, that is, not anything dodgy. If he had to embarrass himself to start improving Peter’s mood, then he would dive right in.

“Want to pick a colour from my collection?” he asked as he gestured for Peter to get up, putting a hand on his back and guiding him to the elevator. “I say collection, but Pepper refers to it as the nightmare cupboard. It’s tidy, I swear. It’s just...growing exponentially at this rate. Not that she complains when I paint her nails.”

Peter shrugged and declined, “not right now.”

Tony nodded, not wanting to make him do anything he didn’t want to, he could feel the kid was already less tense under his hand and he didn’t exactly want to backtrack. Plus he was getting steadier sentences. “That’s fine. I’ll pick some. I’ll show you another day.”

He moved into the elevator with the kid, FRIDAY immediately closing the doors and moving them up to his penthouse. Silence with the kid was comfortable, normally, but it felt kind of wrong here so he kept talking, “I’ve started watching youtube videos on it, you know? I don’t think I’ve really learnt much because it all seems a bit beyond me. But they’re cool to see at least and I’ve started experimenting a bit. Can’t say I’ll be winning any awards but it’s the thought that counts, I think.”

As the elevator opened, he guided the kid out with his hand still gently on the kids back and lead him into the lounge and over to the couch. “Here, sit.” He moved his hand to the kid’s shoulder as he sat down.

Tony passed Peter a heavy blanket he kept over the back of the couch, he mostly used it for late nights watching movies but the heaviness would probably help keep Peter grounded rather than zoning out while he was away. “Chuck this on you, kid, it’s a bit chilly in here.” It wasn’t that cold, really, but Peter was always more sensitive to the cold and he had the feeling that the extra warmth would just be comforting. “Just sit here and I’ll be right back. Oh and FRIDAY?”

“Yes, Boss?”

“Turn on Star Wars: A New Hope, low volume.” God knows Peter had seen it enough times, the more familiarity he could give him, the better because he had his suspicions about what was going on.

The TV turned on and started playing the movie quietly, Tony suspected anything louder would be overwhelming right now.

Peter moved slowly to unfold the blanket more and Tony reached over to help him. When he was satisfied that Peter was comfortable, he started to move out of the room before stopping and reminding Peter, “if you need me like, immediately, just tell FRIDAY, remember.” Peter nodded his head slightly.

Tony left the room, first heading to the kitchen to pour some soy milk into Peter’s favourite mug (it was one Peter made and ordered online, it had a selfie of him and Peter on it, they were both making horrific faces and Peter found it hilarious. Tony loved it a little too much), scooping in two teaspoons of hot chocolate powder and stirring it a little before chucking it in the microwave to heat it up since Peter rejected boiling water in his hot chocolate. He’d enjoyed Tony making it from scratch a few weeks ago but Tony figured that first of all, he’d like something more familiar and second of all, this was way quicker.

While that was heating up, Tony headed to his stash, which really was just in a cupboard off the hallway near his room. There was...a little too much. Sue him, he’d discovered it wasn’t just Peter, it was actually fun in general and it was still a reasonable amount if you asked him. But he may be misjudging things. He quickly grabbed a bright yellow bottle from his yellow section (okay maybe having colour sections implied he had too much) and a simple black bottle of nail polish from his dark section (having an overall dark section seemed more reasonable though. It was fine) and shut the door again.

From there he called out, “FRIDAY?”

“Yes, Boss?”

“Text Pepper and ask her if she can avoid the penthouse for maybe the next hour? Or just tell her to come in quietly and avoid the lounge. Say it’s for Peter, not me.”

“Done.”

He had a plan. It was kind of...cliché and cheesy but maybe that was what was needed. Cliché and cheesy weren’t always bad, sometimes they were called for.

Tony headed back to the kitchen, walking in just as the microwave started beeping at him. He opened it and pulled the (very) hot drink out, putting it down on the counter and stirring it until the powder was all mixed in with the milk. Grabbing that and a coaster for the drink, he headed back into the lounge.

He noted that Peter hadn’t really moved much from his position. He looked like he’d leaned back a bit more into the couch but was still tense and clearly a bit out of it.

Moving on, he placed the coaster on the coffee table with the drink on top. “That’s for you if you want it. You don’t have to drink it but it might help. I can always heat it up again if it goes cold though, no pressure.”

Then he placed down the nail polish bottles, “and these are my choices. I’m not making you a bumblebee (today), I promise. I’ll just grab one more thing.”

He went into the kitchen and located a placemat, placing a paper towel on top. It’d do. He wasn’t aiming to make art worthy of museums here, anyway. If it was a bit rough then it was a bit rough, the world would keep turning and he’d still be doing what the kid requested anyway.

Coming back into the lounge, he placed it on the kid’s lap, over the blanket. “I’m going to have to ask you for your hands to do this, then that’s all I need from you and then you can relax.” Or try to.

The kid moved his hands out from under the blanket where they’d been warming up and put his hands on the placemat gently. Tony thought he caught a quiet, “okay” from the kid. At least it wasn’t silence. He could work with this. He kneeled down on the carpet and silently hoped he’d be able to get back up after this.

He unscrewed the bright yellow bottle and set to work on Peter’s left hand first. He used his method of holding each of Peter’s fingers as he was doing them but also set about rubbing circles on Peter’s hand gently with his thumb even though it was awkward (like, contortionist awkward. But he wouldn’t complain). Sometimes that helped him focus more on reality.

He made sure to take his time with each fingernail, partly because the way he was holding Peter’s hand was causing him to be slow and partly because he figured drawing this out might be a good plan. The yellow stood out bright against Peter’s pale skin and seemed to bring some warmth into the room. Each stroke was done carefully and slowly, Tony trying to convey wordlessly that he had plenty of time for Peter and didn’t mind just sitting here.

Tony wasn’t sure if him talking would help Peter any or if the background noise of the TV and the frankly horrific scent of the nail polish would be enough, leaving Peter to become more aware of his surroundings and come back to himself. He settled for making a few comments here and there.

“I used this yellow on Pepper once, I made little suns out of it. Well, that was the intent. You know, the whole you’re the light of my life, sunshine, sort of thing? Anyway, she just ended up with yellow fingernails because it turns out you need more than just an attached-to-the-bottle brush and fingers to do that kind of thing.” She appreciated the thought behind it anyway. Or at least, she said she did.

He continued on with two more of Peter’s nails before he started again, “I used it on Rhodey too once but that was just to call him a rotten banana. The theme was yellow and brown. I didn’t tell him until afterwards.” He looked up at Peter’s face and detected a small smile as he said that. He decided not to mention Rhodey hiding a rotten banana in his bed afterwards, that was...a mess to say the least. And probably deserved.

As he finished off Peter’s right hand, and therefore all the yellow, Tony started explaining his next step to him, “so I chose the black so I could draw on your fingernails but obviously I don’t have the tools for that. But I do have the next best thing. Give me twenty seconds.”

Tony got up and moved into the kitchen, searching through his cupboards quickly until he came across what he was after and walked straight back into the lounge, noting how Peter had pretty much eased up entirely as he moved to sit in front of him again (and god his knees were going to protest later).

“Listen, Pete, I’m telling you, why use all those other tools when you have these!” He held up a container of toothpicks. Okay, so, not his best moment. But he really hadn’t figured out what tools he needed exactly and toothpicks? They were pointy and therefore precise. He would make this work.

This time he definitely saw Peter smile at him and heard him say, “seriously?”

“I thought about getting some nail art pens because they look simple and easy to use. But then I thought, why would I do that when I have toothpicks at home? I’m sure I’ll get the same precision out of it.” He was actually still working on figuring out what to get, but he might as well commit to this.

“It’s not going to work.” He was almost offended at how sure Peter sounded.

But if so, then he’d just fail and get Peter to laugh at him which wasn’t a bad thing here...but surely he’d at least manage to do what he wanted to do with a toothpick. “We’ll see about that.”

He unscrewed the black nail polish bottle and stuck the toothpick in, resting the lid back on top so the brush didn’t drip everywhere. He touched it to Peter’s finger and a reasonable amount of nail polish came off which he drew down carefully in a straight line. There was a bit too much though so he tried using some of it for the second line. Then, using what was left he completed a smiley face. There was definitely too much nail polish but that was distinctly a face and oh-the left eye was connecting with the mouth slowly. “Okay. So. Too much nail polish. We’ll consider that one the test one and move on.”

Peter stared at him.

“Just wait.” For the next nail he tried drawing down again but all he got was a thin, scratchy line. So he tried picking up more nail polish from the first nail but it didn’t really work. So he finally tried sticking the toothpick back in the nail polish bottle, and touching it to the second finger again. Nothing really came off the tip, it was still making a thin and barely-there line. He dipped it in once again and touched it to Peter’s finger. Nothing. Then he noticed there seemed to be a lot of nail polish sticking slightly higher up on the toothpick so he tapped it a few times and watched as it slowly fell down then...

An entire black blob fell onto Peter’s finger and he stared. Peter snorted out a laugh from above him, quietly laughing.

“Sometimes you just need to keep at it.” And he would, he was determined to do at least one nail right because he was not just going to let his plan fall through. But first, he got up and grabbed a tissue from the kitchen, dabbing at the blob because that was a disaster nail polish waterfall waiting to ruin his life. The nail looked horrific but hey, he’d just call it abstract.

Peter seemed highly amused now and in that case, he would continue this disaster attempt until his death bed if that’s what it took.

He took his toothpick and wiped it against the sides of the bottle before dipping it back in carefully, squinting at how much was on the toothpick still before touching it to Peter’s third fingernail. It made a thin line again but he could build upon that patiently. Once he was satisfied with his first line down, he moved to the second. Then he drew a curved line underneath carefully and grinned, “look! That one’s okay.”

Okay was...relevant. It didn’t look like something he wanted anyone to see, exactly, but it was distinctly a smiley face. And that was the main thing.

Peter looked down at it, “it’s cool, Mr. Stark. You got there eventually.”

“Three fingers isn’t ‘eventually’! It’s like, ‘you got there quickly!’”

Peter nodded, “uh huh.”

Tony decided to try to finish off all of Peter’s fingernails to see if Peter would warm up more to talking. As he went along there were two more blob disasters (and some curses he warned Peter not to repeat), three wonky and badly drawn smiley faces and two half-decent ones on Peter’s right index finger and pinky finger. It wasn’t horrible if you asked him.

He leaned back to look at his work and up at Peter, “it could definitely be worse.”

Peter nodded, “it could also be better though.”

Tony rolled his eyes and moved off his knees (ouch) to sit next to Peter on the couch, lifting the blanket first so he could sit comfortably under it. “So. Up for talking now?”

Peter shrugged, “I don’t know. Everything was just a bit much. It wasn’t anything specific. I don’t even know if I could pinpoint it.”

“Well, how about you tell me a bit about your day then?”

“Yeah. Okay. I can do that.” Peter took a deep breath in, “it wasn’t a good day. I woke up this morning and already felt bad. Not like, sick bad, just tired and...wrong, I guess.”

Tony hummed, “I’m guessing you went to school anyway?”

“Of course, I had a test today. But Ned wasn’t there, he said he was sick with some viral bug. That was still okay though. My senses were acting up all day, not quite a sensory overload but enough to throw me off. Then Flash was being worse than usual, plus, I don’t know, he said some things about the text afterwards that made my anxiety act up. Then in physics, which was the last period of the day, we discussed upcoming exams and its just...it was a lot. I’m sure it’ll be fine but it seemed overwhelming at the time and I think that was what sent me into an anxiety attack. I remember getting into Happy’s car but I kind of blacked a lot of it out.” He noted Peter’s eyes watering slightly after getting it out.

Tony suspected as much but now his suspicions were confirmed. “So why’d you come here, kid? Not that I mind, and I’m glad you got somewhere safe, but I also would’ve understood you cancelling and going home.” He was clearly in no position to be working like he intended to.

Peter shrugged, “May’s not going to be home until really late tonight anyway and I just…”

“Didn’t want to be alone?”

“Yeah.” Tony could relate.

“Well, I’m glad you came here then. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you can always come to me for anything.” Nearly anything, he wasn’t killing or removing spiders for Peter no matter how much he begged him. Okay, if asked like, three times, he’d probably cave. But Peter didn’t know that.

Peter smiled and wiped at his eyes slightly, “I know. Thanks, Mr. Stark.”

Tony pulled him into a side hug and turned to the TV. “How about we finish this off then?” He suspected it wouldn’t be long until Peter fell asleep anyway, now that he was fully coming out of it.

“Yeah.” And then more quietly, “this is what May normally does.”

“What? Watches a movie with you?”

“Uh. Yeah. That and the, uh, hugging.”

“Oh, cuddling? You could’ve just asked. We’re definitely there, kid. We’ve established we both like physical contact by now.” Tony wouldn’t tell the kid no.

Peter blushed, “yeah. That. It was just easier to ask for the nails. It helped, anyway.”

Tony smiled and pulled him closer, resting Peter’s head on his chest, running a hand through his hair. “I’m glad, kid.”

Then Tony caught sight of the now definitely cold hot chocolate on the table and groaned, “please don’t tell me you want your hot chocolate now. I just got comfortable.”

Peter pulled back and looked at him innocently, “there is nothing I want more, Mr. Stark.”

Tony jokingly glared at him, “leave me alone and watch the movie.”

Chapter Text

Tony was bored. It was all official now, Peter came over on Friday’s and stayed the weekend. Saturday was their movie night. Well, they called it a movie night but Peter had forced him into everything from watching the expected Star Wars movie, to aiding him in building lego, to making cookies because Peter was hungry, to actual chess (and the kid was surprisingly good) but normally the night ended with at least one show episode or movie, hence why it was called movie night, not Peter-drags-him-into-things night.

He’d decided to go all out this Saturday since he’d managed to clear his schedule almost completely and Peter had gone off to Ned’s for part of the day, which he sometimes did. He really put together a feast (well, it was probably more like a snack for the kid but one should not judge a meal in terms of Peter’s metabolism), have a selection of choices of things to do for the night (he honestly dared Peter to suggest something he hadn’t prepared for) and he’d even made a nice, comfortable pillow fort type structure.

Well, it was less of a fort and more like a nest because Pepper saw him bringing planks of wood into the lounge and banned him from building anything that went upwards out of fear of what he’d build. He was just thinking of making something like a tiny cabin with three walls, one wall missing so there was a clear view of the TV, maybe some small windows, he probably had some glass and maybe a skylight so it didn’t get too dark in there.

In retrospect, he was glad he listened to Pepper. He did not currently have enough glass on him and he probably wouldn’t have been able to get the rest in time so it would’ve looked like a hole infested structure. And okay, off the record, maybe it was slightly excessive for a temporary structure but no one was allowed to quote him on that.

He’d put a California King size mattress on the floor in front of the couch and gone overboard with blankets, everywhere. He said overboard because no matter how many blankets he pulled back once he was done, there was yet another underneath. Tony suspected he’d zoned out during the blanket placing and potentially taken most of the blankets in the tower. Not to mention, there were still blankets folded to the side, to smother them in.

There were also some comfortable sleeping bags because although he’d never been camping with the kid, he just knew the kid would gravitate to them, make a caterpillar joke and be absolutely delighted. Tony was willing to bet his entire fortune on it. Plus, a good stack of pillows was leaned up against the couch and further down the mattress so you could easily sit up or lay down comfortably (and fall asleep without permanently destroying your neck or back). It was an absolute mess but in his opinion, a messy arrangement was way better than something placed carefully and neatly.

He’d placed small, low tables on each side (he didn’t exactly own tables that size before today...but making tables of that size and (half-decent) quality didn’t take too long) where they could place the food and drinks and where Peter could place his stash of objects that he kept in his pockets because they could not be comfortable to lay on. And he knew Peter had a stash, because no matter what Peter said, his spider-sense did not tell him that they’d need a certain part in the workshop that day that Tony didn’t happen to have. Not to mention, that didn’t explain the other wires and small pieces of metal and approximately two batteries and a cool rock he found five weeks ago that he pulled out before the part.

Kid had a stash of things in his pocket no matter what he said. And he’d been delighted to see what it was this time. One time Peter pulled out a snail and the only thing he said was, “where’d the leaf go? Oh...Snailey must’ve eaten it.” He named the damn thing! How long was it in there? How was it still alive? He supposed he could continue thinking about the things he’d seen Peter pull out of his pocket to entertain him (and it would entertain him for a long time. Don’t even get him started on the kitten. Kid had massive pockets in his sweatpants that day, the head was still sticking out though) but back to the point.

He was bored. Because he’d made everything up nice (which might have been his downfall), then he’d shown it to Peter when Happy dropped him back off here and asked if he just wanted to watch movies tonight, which he did. So he told him to go get ready and he’d get ready too. Except, when he came back Peter was already asleep, sprawled across one side on his stomach, face in the pillows (he checked if he was still capable of breathing. The answer was yes, he had not accidentally suffocated himself), right leg on the mattress and the other leg thrown out onto the floor for any demons to grab, his right arm somewhere under the pillows (he could only hope it was still attached) and his left thrown onto the table, hand over his phone like he’d been holding it.

“Kid.” No response.

“Pete.” Literally not even a stirring.

“Peter.” No external indication whatsoever that he could even hear when asleep.

“Peter Benjamin Parker.” If he wasn’t going to wake up for his full name then what would he wake up for? Wasn’t that supposed to scare kids?

But no, there was nothing. Nada. Zip. Zero.

Well, at least someone liked the nest creation. Heathen hadn’t even grabbed a blanket before he passed out though. He knew for a fact that Peter had gone to sleep at a reasonable time last night because he had to carry him from this very room to bed since waking him was apparently straight-up impossible and he wasn’t going to leave the kid there. He also knew the kid had woken up late because he saw him wander into the kitchen this morning (11:58am was still technically morning) and walk into a counter which he proceeded to apologise to and pat it fondly before moving onto the cereal cupboard. Weird kid.

Which meant he had no reason to be sleeping now. Teenagers, man. Peter probably didn’t even see the feast he made. In fact, he worked hard on that, surely the kid could wake up for five minutes to appreciate it. Waking him wasn’t cruel, right?

He walked over and shook Peter’s shoulder, “Peter.”

He shook his shoulder harder, “Peter! Kid, you know how the other week you said tomato sauce and vanilla ice cream was actually quite nice together and I told you I was immediately filing a report to get you banned from the tower? I have tomato sauce in my fridge and vanilla ice cream in my freezer. I won’t even make fun of you. Okay, I might leave the room, but I won’t comment! I wasn’t going to let you know I had both but I’m going all out here. Kid. Seriously. FRIDAY? He’s still breathing, right?”

“Yes, Boss. Mr. Parker is just sleeping.”

“You know. This never would have happened if I hadn’t gotten close to the kid. Now he trusts me and feels comfortable, hence the literal record-breaking inability to wake around me. It’s horrible.”

“Terrible, I’m sure, Boss.”

Tony sighed, so here was Tony now. Bored. He’d literally cleared his entire night for this. There’d been a few Saturday nights where he had a lot of projects and work he was putting off and his full attention hadn’t been with the kid. Sure, he’d been listening to the kid talk him into buying a massive rubber duck to put in his school’s swimming pool partly, but he’d also been considering how he could best negotiate the deal he’d been pushing back with a smaller yet demanding company.

So, after those nights, he’d tried to get as much of his work done as possible on time. It wasn’t everything, not even close at first, but as more time went by and he finished months-old work, he didn’t have nearly as much. Weird how doing work when you got it sometimes kept you on top of everything. And tonight? His schedule was completely clear for the first time, hence all the things he organised. Pepper had been thrilled with his new attitude and all the paperwork she was suddenly getting back on time (he’d actually finished all his paperwork for once tonight!) and everyone else was thrilled with all the new projects he was getting out on a more timely basis.

It’s not like he didn’t have ongoing projects, but he’d specifically left them at points where they needed at least 8 hours before he could work on them again for various reasons (FRIDAY running tests, materials setting into place, literally locking himself out for 8 hours, etc). He could start a new project but he didn’t really have anything on his mind. So he was bored and he had nothing to do, had he established he was bored yet? Because he was. Bored that is, to clarify.

He could still watch the movies and eat the food in his comfy creation anyway, it’s not like he’d wake the kid, he certainly couldn’t purposefully. Unless he had a freak accident and Peter’s spider-sense woke him up, the kid would sleep through anything. But it wasn’t the same. This was Peter’s and his thing. He could just watch movies any night he wanted to.

So he sat on his side of the mattress and looked around when his eyes landed on Peter’s hand, or fingernails more specifically. Well now. A completely cooperative lab rat (or, well, lounge human, but the point remained). Serves him right. He had some new things he wanted to try out anyway.

Tony got up and wandered down the hall in no rush, making his way to his collection of all things nails including a large hammer as the centrepiece in case anyone got too nosy. He assumed they’d jump to their own conclusions about why that was there in a clearly fingernail based cupboard and that was really just their own fault for assuming the worst.

He pulled open the cupboard and reached into his Iron Man section first, grabbing bottles of the exact red and gold shades of his suit in nail polish which he got made specially because it was honestly offensive how many colours being sold as the Iron Man colours were just slightly off and he wanted the real deal. He added a black nail polish bottle to that mix which would be crucial to the vision forming in his head. Then he grabbed the necessary tools (because he’d expanded from toothpicks) including striping tape, tweezers, large scissors (for intimidation. Not because they needed to be), one of his smallest brushes (turns out they made lots of brushes) and a topcoat. Because everywhere he looked online said that was important.

Once he had all those things mostly stashed in various pockets on his clothes because he currently only had two hands, he shut the door and made the trip back to the lounge. Peter hadn’t moved much, except one leg was definitely crossing over onto his territory now. The biggest problem was that he needed both of Peter’s hands for his plan...but he’d worry about acquiring the right one later.

He made his way over to the opposite side of the table from where Peter was sleeping and sat down on his knees on the ground. Then stood up and grabbed a cushion, putting it below him before sitting back down because his knees cursed him enough last time, he wasn’t about to test them again. And sitting any other way would mean he didn’t have good enough access to Peter’s nails. Unless...no, stacking pillows was a terrible idea that would only end in him falling over backwards.

He fished all his objects out of his pockets and placed them on the table, lined up nicely so he could reach any of them when desired. It did occur to him that there was nothing protecting the table but he made the table literally a few hours ago so if you asked him, he was the one that decided if it could perhaps end up a little colourful or not, and he said it could.

He moved Peter’s phone out from under his hand carefully so he was all ready to start, the only thing he needed was for Peter to not move his hand which was nicely flat against the table now. His legs? He could move those all he wanted as long as he didn’t kick the table or Tony. The hands had to behave like a statue though, not that he could enforce that with Peter’s super strength. Kid wanted to move his hand? Tony had better let go or else he’d be moving with him and he wasn’t exactly in the mood to be thrown across the room.

He wanted to try out his striping tape first of all because it looked like it made patterns easier and in order to do that, one person had said to paint with the lightest colour first. Which was probably the gold, not the red. After considering it for at least ten seconds, he committed to it.

He started by painting Peter’s nails a simple gold. Up until now, that had pretty much been half the work done with the kid but today it was only step one of many steps. He’d stepped up his research recently and he was ready to go from basic to...well, still somewhat basic perhaps, but with way more steps! Which may have been a mistake. But that’s why Peter was his lab rat, lounge human, whatever.

Since he was only doing one hand at first, it didn’t take too long to do the gold. Plus, he’d gotten quicker and better. Each brush stroke was confident now though still mildly hesitant near the edges because no matter how much he did this, that was dangerous territory. Once he was done, he screwed the gold bottle shut again and waited for it to dry. As it turned out though, staring at it didn’t make it dry any faster so he went and helped himself to some of the food in the kitchen for his dinner since Peter clearly wasn’t going to enjoy it.

He walked back into the lounge and checked Peter’s nails which were mostly dry now but he’d wait another five minutes just to be sure. He pulled out his phone and started to write some conspiracy theories about himself on twitter under a secret account until the five minutes were up. What? He had hobbies other than nail painting and Tony had a following there to keep him entertained. His near-death experiences made it really easy to present believable ‘he was replaced by a clone or alien’ theories.

From there he covered all the nails with a top coat and stepped away for thirty minutes because that one definitely had to be dry for the striping tape apparently. In those thirty minutes he texted both Pepper and Rhodey, responded to some questioning of his conspiracy tweets, ate some more, discussed with FRIDAY the best way to remove Peter’s arm and examined scans indicating where exactly it was in the pillows, practised his bomb disarming skills in a simulation and bought some long rope ladders he intended to attach together to hang out a window in his penthouse so he could climb up it one day to see if he caused any chaos with his (well, Pepper’s, technically) employees lower in the tower (he’d have a suit to catch him if he fell, obviously, but it’s not like they knew it with any certainty. He had to keep up his eccentric reputation).

Once he was sure they were absolutely dry he started cutting some striping tape long enough that it’d cover Peter’s fingernail diagonally and extend out so he could grab it. Using the tweezers, he carefully stuck them down diagonally, leaving the same amount of space in between as the width of the tape which wasn’t super skinny, ending up with about five bits of tape on Peter’s middle fingernail and less on the others. He made sure there was absolutely no space underneath any of them and grabbed the red nail polish.

Here, he had to move fast because otherwise it’d all be messed up, or at least that was what Tony assumed anyway. It was stressed that he should be quick in what he read. So he put the red polish on in a few confident strokes before putting the brush back in the bottle and immediately grabbing the tweezers to pull all the striping tape off. And then he was surprised, it actually mostly worked, there were a few spots he’d missed with his quick application of the red so it was a little rough but the concept was there. Headache-inducing diagonal stripes in the Iron Man theme colours.

It was...pretty cool looking and the tape worked well, which was nice. From there, he moved to do the same on all the other nails one by one. Three of them were almost perfect but his first and third could definitely be improved. Still, Peter was a lab rat here, it didn’t all have to be perfect.

Next, after it was all dry (and he may have waited forty minutes here...he didn’t want his hard work being ruined) he placed another layer of the top coat over it all and declared it done. Well, it’d be done when it was dry for sure and he knew Peter wasn’t going to roll over and wipe it everywhere, but he was almost in the clear. Besides, Peter had barely even twitched this entire time.

Now, his next move was to fish out Peter’s other arm and repeat the process...surely it’d go fine. He pushed his hand into a gap between all the pillows and fished around until he found something that felt like an arm, presumably Peter’s or else he’d have a problem. He pulled gently and slowly tugged it out until an elbow was visible and from there, sliding out the rest of the arm was easy enough. He put it down carefully so it stretched out towards his side of the mattress and decided to grab and place a blanket over Peter, because that arm was warm and he didn’t want him getting cold.

From there, he wandered into the kitchen to grab a placemat and a paper towel since he wasn’t about to get nail polish on the blankets. Sure, they might be his, which would be fine, but they also might be Pepper’s, which would be significantly less fine.

Tony walked back into the lounge and shifted all his materials to the table on his side and then sat down cross-legged on his side of the mattress, lifting Peter’s hand up only to place it back down on the placemat. From there he repeated the process he’d done on Peter’s left hand, having significantly more success with the pattern. All fingernails came out looking good this time.

Around three hours had probably passed between starting the first hand and finishing the second and the only development was that Peter had started snoring softly. Great background noise, really. Plus he’d put one leg up straight in the air at one point under the blanket for about ten seconds before dropping it. Tony wasn’t going to question it, at least he wasn’t kicked.

He only had one more thing he wanted to do which would require a bit of awkward sitting. Tony stood up, grabbing his black nail polish bottle and his small brush and walked around to Peter’s side again, this time manoeuvring himself in between the table and the mattress, wiggling his legs underneath the table with his chest right against it. Well, this was going to be uncomfortable, he thought.

He’d given it some thought. This was going to be payback for the kid falling asleep. Peter had ten fingers which meant ten letters. Or at least, he should have ten fingers, he’d never actually counted…

He twisted his head to look behind him and count Peter’s fingers, five there, and five on the table in front of him. So there were definitely ten nails he could write something on. He considered writing ‘I fell asleep’ but that was 11 letters. ‘Sleep>Tony’ would take up 10 nails but he didn’t particularly like it. Eventually, he settled on ‘Tony is best’, deciding Peter would have to live with that on his nails until it chipped. It wasn’t exactly the best wording but he only had ten letters here.

He unscrewed his black nail polish bottle and carefully started spelling ‘TONYI’ on Peter’s left hand in capital letters because he figured that’d look nicer. It was facing Peter, of course, because this wasn’t for the public, it was just for Peter to remember.

He hadn’t really attempted letters before and it was definitely something he had to take slowly and carefully, some letters a bit wonky, but overall they were readable and he was suddenly glad that his name had mostly easy letters to draw.

From there, he wiggled himself out from under the table, which, in retrospect, he could’ve just moved. But he’d committed to that struggle by now and he wasn’t about to make it easier on himself.

Tony walked back over to Peter’s other side with his nail polish and brush, sitting back down, this time close to Peter in order to finish it off with “SBEST” on his right hand, letters still facing Peter himself. When he was done, he sat back and admired his work before grabbing the top coat and walking around to the other side of the table.

Luckily, this time he could do the top coat from the far side of the table so he didn’t have to squeeze back into that small gap. He waited a bit after that to do the right hand to allow it time to dry completely.

From there, he went to put away all his stuff in the cupboard, except the brush which he went and cleaned carefully before putting it away too. Then he came back into the lounge and sat down next to Peter, laying back and claiming his side of the mattress. He asked FRIDAY to play one of Steve’s PSA’s as a last resort because if he knew Peter, Peter would wake up to make it stop, like his spider-sense had a setting specifically for those videos.

As Tony sat there listening to a detention chat, he felt Peter stirring next to him and watched as he pushed his head up enough to say “FRIDAY, stop it,” before he hit the pillow again. FRIDAY stopped playing the clip.

Tony poked him.

Peter said, “FRIDAY, stop him.”

Tony, first of all, stared offended, and second of all, “FRIDAY, don’t.” FRIDAY had a soft spot for Peter and he wasn’t about to test what would be unleashed on him.

“Peter, come on, you’ve been asleep for like, four hours. It’s ten now, first of all, you have to eat something, and second of all, you owe me at least one movie.”

Peter twisted his head to face Tony, “oh, why didn’t you wake me up before?” Why didn’t he wake him up before? Might as well ask him why he didn’t bring back the dinosaurs in his spare time. Although...that was potentially more plausible.

 

“Oh I don’t know, maybe the fact that you tried to set my own AI against me?” Tried successfully, probably, but he wasn’t about to wait to find out.

Peter squinted at him, “you would’ve been fine.”

Tony shrugged, “maybe. Maybe not. I didn’t wake you up because I’m pretty sure it’s physically impossible to when there’s no threat, luckily enough, Captain America PSA’s seem to do the trick.”

Peter went to push himself up off the pillows with his hands in front of him when he caught sight of his nails and just said, “oh, mood.”

Tony stared, “I’m sorry, what?”

“Did I sleep through this?”

“Did you just react to that by saying ‘mood’?”

“Huh. I guess I do sleep deep.”

“Peter!”

“Oh. Uh, yeah. You know. Like, what a mood. Truer words have never been spoken. All that.”

“You weren’t supposed to like this. You were supposed to groan and say seriously?” Like saying ‘oh no, why would you do this to me,’ complaining and whining, all the usual Peter dramatics.

“Mr. Stark, realistically, you could’ve drawn dicks on my face with sharpie or something. Then I would’ve complained. This? This actually looks nice. Colours are a bit intense, but nice. I’m okay with this.” Peter yawned, “you are the best anyway.”

Tony looked away, damn this kid. “Hey, c’mon, let’s go get something to eat so your metabolism doesn’t kill you then come back, yeah?”

The kid nodded, “help me up?”

Tony stood up and reached his hand down to pull the kid up only to be pulled down himself, damn near faceplanting into the mattress.

Peter snorted, “that never gets old,” then Tony, who had decided to stay there for the near future so he didn’t have to admit to being tricked, felt Peter get up and grab one of his hands and pull him up. It’s not like he had a choice in the matter with the kid’s superior strength.

“I hate you.” He definitely loved this kid, even if he was a little shit.

“Sure and I’m secretly a robot person built to spy on you.”

There was a silence.

“FRIDAY, scan-”

“Mr. Stark! I was kidding!”

“Can never be too sure, kiddo,” Tony ruffled Peter’s hair and pushed him towards the kitchen. “C’mon, go eat me out of house and home.”

“You own more than one house.”

“Then you better get to eating.”

———————

Later found Peter inside a sleeping bag, halfway unzipped so he could stick one leg out for temperature control, caterpillar joke long since made, curled into Tony’s side, entirely ignoring his side of the mattress, full attention on the frankly awful movie. It’s not like Tony minded though, he thought as he ran his hand through Peter’s hair, it was never really about the movies anyway.

Chapter Text

It had been a rough mission where Tony and Peter had been separated, which wasn’t unusual, Tony was aware that Peter could handle himself and wasn’t concerned, but then their comms link had broken and Tony had assumed the worst. Out of sight was one thing, out of a communication link was another.

Spider-Man had been directed to get all civilians out of the area to give the avengers some space to work with and to catch any stragglers from getting away. They weren’t even fighting anything particularly dangerous, or fighting at all, just helping Strange round up some interdimensional creatures and send them back to their dimension because they’d gotten lost apparently. Doctor Strange had assured them that they posed no particular risk as long as they were contained and brought back to their dimension as quickly as possible.

Stage one of their behaviour was curiosity, stage two was lashing out in defence so as long as they worked quickly and efficiently, they had nothing to worry about and would probably make it out without a scratch. They weren’t the most intelligent species, apparently, more like animals on Earth or as Peter said, neutral until provoked minecraft mobs. Tony wasn’t 100% sure what that meant, he thought minecraft was about building, not mobs with pitchforks but he guessed it was an accurate description. Probably, anyway.

Up until that point, everything had been going smoothly, the creatures didn’t seem to mind being herded out of this dimension and back into their own, though they didn’t make it easy (it was like a game to them, like when you were trying to dress a small child and they thought it was a game that involved running away and escaping the adult). Peter clearing everyone out had really just been a precaution in case things went south, plus the extra space was welcomed.

But when he was no longer getting a response from Peter, he couldn’t help but assume the worst. Strange had said the creatures might lash out if they got too pushy or if any of them hurt one but he hadn’t exactly clarified if they would be dealing with the equivalent of a baby throwing a punch or a grizzly bear. His heart had dropped after he called out for Spider-Man to respond multiple times and received no response, so he yelled out to Barnes to take his place while he went and located his kid.

He was also highly aware of the cold weather they were fighting in, Peter’s suit had a heater in it but he also didn’t thermoregulate very well and fighting in snowy, negative temperature conditions spelled a whole other sort of trouble. Peter hadn’t alerted him that he was starting to freeze but then again, would the kid really come to Tony with that in the middle of a fight? Probably not until the last minute which wasn’t even remotely reassuring.

The suit’s location was still online and he had FRIDAY pull it up, flying straight to it. Peter hadn’t gotten too far but anything could be going on. It was really the unknown that pushed him to get there faster, what if the kid was seriously hurt? Or freezing to death? Within thirty seconds, he’d landed in front of the kid and staggered slightly from relief at seeing him upright and talking to...boxes? But with the relief came the flood of anxiety he’d mostly pushed aside to focus on finding the kid. It was a clash of feelings.

“Spider-Man, what the hell? Why weren’t you responding to me on comms?” He wasn’t actually angry but his tone certainly came across that way, he knew Peter would have a good reason he was just...a little freaked out. Uncharacteristically so, but his therapist could analyse that later.

The kid had the decency to look sheepish, “I was planning on telling you this weekend, I swear! I didn’t exactly expect this to happen before then. It’s just, I was fighting some dude who was like, really into electricity, like I mean, potentially a little too into it? It was weird but he got a few hits in on me which was shocking, I know! Literally. Anyway, it seemed to make my suit play up a bit but I figured I’d just take a look at it with you this weekend. I’m guessing my comms went out?”

Peter seemed to sense his worry and immediately apologised, “I’m sorry anyway, but I’m fine! I swear! I just noticed one of those little guys hiding back here in the alleyway and I was going to grab them and bring them back to Doctor Strange.” Peter gestured towards the pile of boxes he’d been talking to when Tony landed.

Tony pushed everything else to the side, took a deep breath and focused on them too. Everything else could wait for later, they were still in the middle of a job.

Together they grabbed the creature, or, well, he cornered it and Peter grabbed it and decided to hug it to his chest on their walk back because it reminded him of Gizmo the Mogwai and even Tony knew what that was. He couldn’t argue with it either, it was clearly keeping the thing calm. Although he wasn’t fond of the image of them turning into the bad gremlins, they just had to avoid stage two.

By the time they reached Strange, the little guy seemed to be asleep in Spider-Man’s arms and Tony wasn’t even going to comment on the way Peter carefully handed them over like a baby being put into a crib to sleep because really, it was probably a fully grown interdimensional creature being put back into their dimension. Big difference.

They were all wrapped up not long after that and as Tony took a minute to get back into more of a normal mindset rather than high alert, mission mode, the worry for Peter came back. Realistically, he knew the kid was fine. He was chattering about how cool they (the creatures) were, doing a 180 degree turn in his opinion when he suddenly remembered furbies which were apparently toys designed purely to terrorise everyone (according to him). Plus, FRIDAY’s scan of the kid revealed no injuries. The scan wouldn’t catch everything but it cleared most things which should’ve reassured him.

But as he allowed his guard to fall, he found himself feeling still slightly shaken, like he was allowing the worry he didn’t work through before to flood back in. Peter’s Spider-Manning had put him through far worse but the weight in his stomach was setting up a permanent residence. Maybe it was the lack of sleep from the late nights fixing a mess in the R&D department lately, or the fact that Pepper had been away on a business trip for almost two weeks now, or that he hadn’t even been able to say one word to Rhodey in months because of the secretive work he was currently assigned to. Frankly, he wasn’t even sure if he’d eaten enough recently, that was probably contributing too. It just left him tired...and mentally vulnerable to things he could normally shake off.

Whatever it was, he wanted the kid in his sight for just a bit longer so he sent a text off to May and, after receiving a threat and an affirmative response, cut the kid off by asking him to come back to the tower with him.

“You don’t have to, but May already said it’s fine as long as I get you to school in time tomorrow, which I can and feed you and all that and…” Tony debated how open he wanted to be, “and I guess you stressed me out a little there. I wouldn’t mind having an impromptu movie night with you or something, or if you have homework I could help you, maybe. We could stop off at your apartment to grab anything you need but you pretty much already have a room at the tower, bud, but maybe homework? May would want-”

Peter cut him off by walking in front of him and gripping the shoulder of his suit with his left hand, using the other hand to gesture up and down, towards and away from his mask, exaggerating the breathing motions. “That sounds, great, Mr. Stark. But just breathe first.” He couldn’t see Peter’s face but he could imagine the concern, he also hadn’t realised how fast he was talking without breathing. He could, however, see his teammates faces beginning to look at him worriedly and he wanted none of that.

He took a few deep breaths and cleared his throat, “so, want a lift there, kid? Or are you going to swing?” He was fine, just a little on edge still, he just had to reassure himself that nothing was wrong with the kid and maybe get a meal, definitely some sleep too.

“A lift sounds good!” And now he knew Peter was just indulging him because Peter almost never accepted a lift anymore. He said it was cool the first few times but he admitted he liked the feeling of swinging more, unless he was hurt or tired and as far as Tony was aware, Peter was neither right now.

Still, no time to waste and all that, time to escape the well-meaning but unwanted conversations heading his way in the form of his teammates. He picked Peter up, making sure he was stuck to him and the nano-tech of his suit formed partially around him to make sure he’d be safe before lifting off, calling out a short farewell before shooting back to the tower.

Maybe it was the stress really, from the lack of sleep, from the mess he was fixing, from the people close to him being gone for extended periods, just messing with his anxiety, telling him he had to keep the kid in sight to keep him safe, to make sure he really was fine. It’s not like he’d keep the kid prisoner, if he wanted to go home then he’d take him there, but god was it more calming having him right there.

He wasn’t comfortable exposing the kid to a full-on anxiety attack but he was pretty confident he was going to be fine and that wouldn’t happen. Earlier was just the tipping point, but the kid was literally in his arms and he couldn’t get much more reassured than that, though he’d prefer to be able to see his face and have a little less metal between them. He wasn’t going to freak out that much, he really was just a little shaken in the most ordinary sense.

———————

Later found them on a couch together, under a few blankets, an actual fire going in his fireplace, warmth radiating out. It was damn near winter now and there was only so much their suits could do to keep them warm, plus Peter got cold easier and he’d definitely caught him shivering when he first appeared in the room.

Once they’d gotten back, Peter had taken his time changing into normal clothes while Tony had disappeared into his room to catch his breath and slow down his heart rate. Peter had been the first in the living room, while Tony had stopped to grab a bunch of nail polish and a few brushes along with paper towels on his way back, not even really noticing what he’d collected until later, after he’d gone and collected a stack of blankets and dumped them on Peter, arranging half of them around the kid when he only chose to take one and was still shivering.

He’d gotten FRIDAY to order some pizza which Peter had devoured (always hungry after a mission) and he’d only managed to eat a piece of, not super hungry at that moment even though he should’ve been. He’d noticed Peter saving a couple more slices for later anyway, probably hoping he’d eat them. But he just couldn’t right then.

After that, and as soon as he sat down on the couch with no intention of getting up anytime soon, he just stopped...being quite as present. He was aware of everything happening but it was also like he was watching real life play out on a TV or something, there was a slight disconnect.

He was aware that he was painting Peter’s nails now, but it was mostly just to keep his hands busy, and to have an excuse to stay close. Not that he really needed one with the kid anymore but there was only so open he could comfortably be right now and asking for that was a little more than he could handle and Peter, thankfully, didn’t question it. Plus, sitting completely still, just watching a movie, was probably beyond him right now.

There was a movie playing in the background that Peter was watching but Tony wouldn’t even be able to name one character if asked later. He was focused on the feeling of Peter’s head on his shoulder, body leaning into his side as he stole one hand to have on his lap, not that Peter seemed bothered by it in the slightest.

It really took him aback in a moment of clarity what a good kid Peter was. Not just a good kid, but a good person. He didn’t have to agree to any of this and he could’ve said no at any point but he didn’t. He just sat there, and he was genuinely happy about it, not questioning things, sensing that sitting in silence near him was all Tony needed right now. Tony really got lucky, clearly the universe had sent another good person his way.

Peter’s nails currently had a white base coat with a top coat on it. He was experimenting with his new fan brush to see what he could create. It was more of an absent-minded stroke of each colour, it wasn’t that his mind wasn’t focused, it was. It was just more on Peter in general rather than only his nails. The colours did stand out to him though, currently blue and pink lines crossing and running side by side, bringing out the best in each other with no particular reason or pattern other than mostly going side to side. He couldn’t quite zone in fully though, just the feeling of Peter by his side, the smell of the nail polish, the murmur of the TV and the colours in front of him seeping through to process in his brain, still enough input to keep him present.

But as time passed by and he added purple lines to the nails after the other colours were dry, he found himself more and more aware of his surroundings, brain really kicking back in fully. And he was tired. It was always tiring zoning back in and finally receiving all the sensory input of everything going on. He put the fan brush down, vaguely regretting that it was probably going to dry and ruin the brush and moved his paper towel palette off his lap slowly (he’d been using it to drip colours on and dip the brush into. It wasn’t ideal but he didn’t really care about using something better at the time).

Once everything was gone, he moved to put his right arm around Peter, feeling his body move slightly as he breathed in and out, and rested his left hand on top of the wrist still on his lap, fingers instinctively curling inwards to reach the pulse point to keep himself aware that Peter was right there. Peter shifted slightly to make himself comfortable there.

Lowering his head on top of Peter’s, still on his shoulder, he turned to face the TV, slowly drifting off feeling comforted by the kid’s hair tickling his face and the way he could feel both his pulse, and his breathing. The kid was fine, he was right here and he wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon. As the knowledge fully sunk in, the weight disappeared from his stomach and the tension from his body and he let himself be lulled to sleep knowing everything was alright.

Chapter Text

Tony was nervous to say the least, but incredibly happy. He was waiting for Peter to arrive at the tower, hoping he’d end up saying yes to his question.

It’d been over a year now since he’d met the kid but it only took half that time for him to start thinking of Peter as family, as much as he kept that to himself. His family was pretty chosen these days, blood wasn’t exactly the most important factor in defining family to him. The people who he cared about and loved, and who gave him the same feelings in return alongside their unconditional support but who also wouldn’t hesitate to tell him when he was being an ass? Well, that was family. His family anyway. He didn’t care much for who society claimed was and wasn’t family.

There was Rhodey, who he’d known the longest, Happy, who was undeniably a big part of his life by now, Peter and his aunt who got brought into their group the most recently and of course, Pepper. They weren’t married yet but marriage only magically turned you into family by law, and only if you had children if you considered society’s view of a nuclear family…

Still, the entire family collectively had Peter to be the child of the bunch so society could take that and suck it. When he talked about his family, he meant all of them.

Peter wasn’t his kid exactly, he was May’s and Ben’s and the parents that came before them, but May had never indicated minding Peter and Tony growing closer in a familial way. In fact, she’d practically encouraged it after she got to get to know who he really was. So maybe Peter was kind of his kid, not that he could take any credit for the raising of him. Still, he knew Peter looked up to him in some kind of way and if he had to name the part of his chosen family Peter filled, it was definitely the son part. It’s not like there was a limit on how many parental figures a kid could have throughout their life.

Which was why he was dragging Peter into his plan. He’d arranged for all his family to meet up tomorrow, Rhodey being in town was the main reason why he was doing it now, he wanted everyone there. But he wanted Peter, as his kid, to help him with one of the main parts. It felt right. So he’d asked him to meet him at the tower briefly this Thursday afternoon before going on patrol, he should be arriving any minute now unless traffic was particularly bad.

“Boss, Mr. Parker is coming up in the elevator now.” And speak of the devil, here he was.

The doors opened and Peter bounced out, looking around before his eyes locked onto Tony and he immediately broke out in a wide smile before bounding over and giving him a hug. Tony smiled and hugged him back, resting his chin on top of Peter’s head. “What’s the hug for?”

Peter leaned back, “oh, I just saw you and I was like wow, I feel like hugging him, and you normally let me hug you so I figured why not just go up and hug him? And then I did so…”

Tony snorted, “I know. I did observe you doing that. In a good mood then, kid?”

“Yeah! I mean, I knew I was going to get to see you tomorrow anyway but then you asked me to pop in today and I was like wow! I get to see you a day early! That’s pretty cool. Plus, I accidentally caught a pigeon while I was walking to Happy’s car and I’m weirdly happy about it? Like, at first I was like woah! What just happened?! What did I catch?! But then I saw the pigeon and it was still weird and I let it go but the more I think about it, the funnier it is, you know? So I think I’m happy about that weird experience too. Happy chucked hand sanitiser at me through the window though because he saw it happen and wasn’t letting me in the car unless I cleaned my hands first.” Peter had moved away from Tony into the kitchen and sat himself down on a stool facing him while he was talking excitedly.

Tony leaned himself against the doorway to the room, “how do you accidentally catch a pigeon, Peter?” Because really, that had now claimed the position of the most important question he had to ask today.

“I mean, it wasn’t really a cool catch because I just jumped up while explaining something to Ned and it flew into me and I reflexively grabbed it as it started to drop? So I definitely didn’t look cool while doing it. But! I think the experience made up for it.” Peter twisted himself around and grabbed an apple from the fruit bowl on the counter, biting into it.

“You’re a weird kid. Anyway,” Tony pushed himself off the doorway and came and sat next to Peter, “I just wanted to talk to you and ask you something and then you can be on your way. After you eat my entire fruit bowl, of course.”

Peter paused, “am I in trouble? Did I do something? I told KAREN not to snitch on me when I got attacked by a raccoon when trying to pat it! Crap, that’s it, isn’t it? I can explain. Also, I’m not going to eat your entire fruit bowl. You have a single brussel sprout in there at the bottom for whatever reason and I want nothing to do with it. The rest though...well, I might.”

Tony paused, “I have a what in there?”

“Brussel sprout!” Peter pulled it out and showed him, “technically, Mr. Stark, that’s not fruit. So I’d have to disqualify your fruit bowl in a fruit bowl judging competition if that’s a thing. Just a tip for next time.”

Tony grabbed it and moved it over to the fridge, in the vegetable drawer, absolutely baffled at how that came to be in there and even more confused by the kid’s commentary but whatever, “thanks for the tip, kid. I’ll keep that in mind.”

Peter nodded to himself like he’d actually said something useful, “you’re welcome!”

Tony came back and sat down, “anyway, no you’re not in trouble, no you didn’t do something, yes we’re going to be talking about the raccoon thing later because no I didn’t know-”

“Dammit!”

“-until you told me, it’s unrelated to any of that.”

“Okay then, hit me!”

“Like the pigeon?” Come on, Peter practically set himself up there.

Peter whined, “Mr. Stark! You can’t use that against me!”

Tony smiled and ruffled the kid’s hair, “so you know we have that gathering tomorrow night with everyone?”

“Yeah! May asked if she should bring something but I talked her out of cooking anything, I swear, although she might buy something little.”

“Oh, well, tell her she doesn’t have to bring anything, Pepper has everything organised but May could text her if she really wanted to bring something and wanted to know what. I’m sure Pepper could think of something. Anyway, I wondered if you’d help me with something.”

“Oh, of course!”

“You don’t even know what it is yet.”

“Doesn’t matter, I’m in.”

“I’m pretty sure there’s never a situation where you should just automatically agree, Peter.”

“I only do it with you and May! I’m not that bad.”

Tony felt a rush of affection with that admission and continued on, “Okay, well, you have to keep it a secret. If you agree then you agree to not tell a single person.”

Peter mimed zipping his lips, “I swear I will not tell a single person, people in relationships, however-”

“Peter, c’mon, stop telling that joke, it’s not even funny.” It was a little funny the first time.

“You laughed the first time. Okay but I’m sworn to secrecy, you can tell me now, I want to know!”

“We all make mistakes.” Laughing the first time was clearly a big mistake since it seemed to only encourage Peter to tell the joke again...and again...and again.

Peter mock gasped.

Tony laughed, “so, you can paint nails fairly well, right?”

Peter paused, “I mean, yeah. Not mine but I make you do that for me, or you make me sit through it. But I do May’s sometimes, and Ned’s and once I did MJ’s. How is this top secret?”

“Because I want you to paint mine before everyone meets up tomorrow night. You’ll be here straight after school with Happy like normal but we’re officially meeting up for dinner so there’ll be a couple hours in between.”

“Okay...but why not just get a professional to do it? Not that I don’t want to! Just wondering. And why is this top secret?”

“Because I don’t want a professional to do it, I want you specifically. I know nail painting has kind of turned into my thing with you and I want to bring some of you, as...well, I consider you to be sort of a part of my chosen family. You know, Pepper, Rhodey, Happy, all them.” He watched as Peter’s face turned shocked but before he could speak he continued, “they’re not blood, you’re not blood, but hell, why should that matter? You don’t have to feel the same way, of course. But as someone I care about, at least, I want your influence here.” As he paused to explain why it was top secret, Peter decided to add his part.

“I do, you know, consider you family too if we’re cool with that now. I don’t exactly have a whole lot anymore and well, the more the merrier, I think. I’d love to be considered part of your family.”

Tony smiled, “I’m glad.” And he really was, kid just kept warming up his supposedly cold heart, but he could have that breakdown later. “So I want you to write something on my nails specifically which is why it’s top secret.” He paused again, “FRIDAY, Pepper isn’t in the building, right? And you swear not to snitch?”

“Yes, Boss, she’s not here currently, and I will not share this conversation with anyone.”

“Great! So, can I get you to write ‘Marry Me?’ on my nails?” And now it was out in the open.

Peter’s eyes went wide and his mouth seemed to lock open until Tony snapped his fingers in front of his face, “oh my god. Really? Oh my god, me? Oh god. Okay. Don’t mess this up, Peter. Okay, right. Got it. Cool cool cool. You’re going to ask her? Woooow! This is so exciting. I can’t wait. Oh my god, in front of everyone? Is that why we’re gathering? Awesome. I mean, sounds good. I can do that, sure, no problem. I’m just. Wow, okay.”

Tony stared at him, “Peter, I’m pretty sure you’re freaking out more than I am, and that’s not how this is supposed to work. I’m supposed to be the one having a breakdown.”

“I know, but like! Wow, I’m just so happy for you guys, you know? Tomorrow night is going to insane. I’m going to tell May to buy tissues. Oh, but I can’t say why! Maybe I should just buy them myself. I’m going to cry so much.”

“Okay, now I think you’re reacting more than Pepper will.”

“I’m sorry but c’mon! This is a lot! You have to admit it’s exciting.”

Tony smiled softly, “well, I’m definitely looking forward to it.”

Peter grinned back at him, “okay, so, I’m not going to tell a single soul, I would sooner die, and I’m going to give you the best nails tomorrow, I swear. Like, I’ll stay up all night practising on myself even though I suck at doing my own nails. Except, I won’t write that exactly because that would be weird. But I’ll practise letters! And I’ll research and-”

“Peter, chill, seriously. All I’m asking for is it to be mildly readable and if that means using a sharpie because all else fails, I’ll love it anyway. Actually get some sleep tonight.”

“Oh, I’m going to be too excited to sleep. I’ll cry myself to sleep after.”

“Peter. Seriously. You’re reacting a little too much here. Take a breath, calm down.”

Peter exaggerated a deep breath in, “oh man. I can’t wait until tomorrow.” He flopped back on the counter, head hitting it a little too hard and Tony winced. Peter didn’t seem bothered though. Kids were weird.

“Neither can I, kiddo.” He ruffled Peter’s hair again (because Peter hated it and Tony loved it) before pulling him back up and gesturing towards the door. “Go on, go save some people as Spider-Man and stay safe. I’ll see you tomorrow. You better be in one piece.”

———————

Tony watched as Peter walked in with Happy looking normal and composed as he said hello and Happy let Tony know that he’d meet him back here later after he finished his day off, assuring him that he wouldn’t be late. Tony nodded and said he’d see him them. Peter remained still, smiling at the place where Happy left, seemingly listening carefully.

Once Happy had left the room, and definitely earshot according to Peter’s super hearing, Peter immediately shot up to the roof and started pacing. And, based off the moments he’d been watching Peter, which was most of the time, he hadn’t remained still since. Whether it was random backflips out of a surge of excitement (because the kid could just...do that) or fingers tapping as he literally vibrated, there was no stilling the kid. He kept shooting grins towards Tony and talking about how excited he was.

Tony found Peter’s excitement contagious, and as composed and neutral as he was trying to remain, he couldn’t help but smile softly at the kid. It was heartwarming, especially since he knew that this wasn’t about him being The Tony Stark with The Pepper Potts (turns out the kid was a fan of her too), but rather it being about just Tony, and just Pepper, as people that Peter loved being around.

As soon as he finished responding to an email, he went to grab the colours he’d already picked out, putting them in a small bag, planning to get started as soon as possible and requested FRIDAY warn him if anyone else started heading towards him. Then it’d be mission hide everything wherever you can (yes, including the roof, Peter. No one ever looks up at the roof).

When he came back, Peter was dangling from the ceiling on one hand doing some sort of breaststroke-type frog-kick in the air with his feet. Well, if it burned off Peter’s bursting source of energy then he wouldn’t question it. Well, not right now anyway. He was definitely saving this footage for later use against the kid.

“Peter.”

Peter fell off the ceiling and disappeared behind the kitchen counter before popping back up, seemingly in one piece, “yeah?”

“C’mon, come with me down to the lab, bud. We’ll get started now down there where there’s a lower chance of us being seen and see what time we have left for actual lab work after.” He felt a little bad using up the kid’s afternoon in the lab but as Peter jumped the counter and sped to a stop in front of Tony, tripping over, he started to realise the lab wasn’t even on Peter’s brain right now. Well, only God knew what was on Peter’s brain right now but he imagined it wasn’t very comprehensive.

They walked over to the elevator together. Well, Tony walked, Peter practically skipped and God, did he really want to be trapped in a small box with a hyperactive kid? Too late. Luckily, Peter mostly seemed to calm down on the trip down.

The second they walked out, Peter started with, “okay, so, how do you want this?” Straight into it then, probably for the best in case they accidentally caused and had to clean up World War III before dinner.

“Alright, so on the left hand I want my thumb to be yellow, for Happy, and my little finger to be grey, for Rhodey. The rest will be red. On the right, I want the thumb to be green, for May and the little finger to be blue, for you. The rest of that hand will be red too.”

“Oh, that’s weirdly thought out.” Peter had a point, to be fair.

“Well, I think my family is important and I know Pepper does too, I just want a little bit of everyone with me even though you’ll all be there. It’s cheesy, but I don’t think Pepper goes for big and showy despite dating me of all people. I think...this is better. Our weird little patchwork of a family.” Tony Stark was practically a household name, at least in the US, and with millions of people knowing of him, it was hard not to learn that the ones who knew the real him were invaluable and important and hard to gain at this point of fame. Everyone already had an opinion of him from whatever they heard and he just...really loved the people that knew who he really was and stuck with him, hence why he wanted to carry them with him.

They walked over to one of his benches and sat down on two stools, Tony emptying his small bag onto the bench. Peter grabbed the grey nail polish to get started right away, “so, explain the colours.”

“Oh, well, they’re not particularly special. Not like, deep down I associate this colour with them due to certain characteristics. I suppose you could say I just went with the first colour I thought of.” It really wasn’t anything deep.

Peter hummed and screwed the grey shut, doing the yellow next on his left thumb, painting quickly but also neatly like he’d done this many times before. And he probably had.

“I think I just thought of grey with Rhodey because of his suit...also as a nod to his greying hair because he keeps sending me insults in meme form that I don’t understand and he deserves it.”

Peter snorted, “I’ll make sure to point him towards some more.”

He knew Peter absolutely would if given the chance and he definitely didn’t want to deal with that. “I’ll get you back for it.”

“Yeah, but not right now, because you don’t want this ruined.” Peter moved onto the green.

“Anyway, I think Happy is obvious. Happy is a pretty yellow emotion and he shares the name so there you go. Also because his real name is Harold and I went to New Zealand once and came face to face with Harold the Giraffe. Traumatising, but also yellow. May is green because the birthstone for the month of May is emerald, and she just so happens to be born then.”

Peter moved onto the blue. “So how about mine?”

“I mean, yours is just a nod to your suit. But this whole idea is kind of you. Like I said yesterday, nail painting is our thing so I see you in all of this. But also the red. Red for Pepper’s hair, red for my suit, and red for your suit too. A weird little iron family?”

Peter grinned up at him, “Femily!”

“We’re not calling it that.” They were not.

“It’s shorter! And clever!”

“And sounds dumb.”

Peter finished off the blue and started filling in the rest with red. “Fine, but I’m telling Pepper about the Femily and I bet she’ll love it.”

Tony groaned, “don’t try and spread it, you’re awful.”

“You love me!”

“Clearly. But that doesn’t negate the awful.”

“Suuuure.” Peter went quiet for a bit, carefully finishing off his left hand before starting on the right as Tony watched, mostly seeing the kid’s curls from this angle. Tempting to ruffle, but not worth Peter’s wrath for ruining his work.

“How are you going to hide this anyway? Keep your hands in your pockets? Walk around with your hands weirdly behind your back until you want to ask? Oversized sweater and a refusal to show your hands?”

“Gloves are a thing kid.”

“Okay...but it’s technically Summer now, isn’t that a little questionable?”

“Questionable? Yeah. Something I can get away with? Definitely. Pepper, Rhodey and Happy have known me long enough to just leave it be if I’m otherwise acting normally and politely. You know what’s going on so you’re not going to question me-” Tony caught sight of Peter’s face and reiterated, “you are not going to question me or else.”

Peter deflated and nodded disappointedly. Little shit.

“And I’m betting on May following the crowd and deciding that if everyone else accepts it, she might as well too. Aren’t I seen as eccentric anyway? I’d say it’s pretty tame for me. Plus if she gets too suspicious, you get to go whisper a lie to her.”

“A lie?”

“Yeah, like, Tony lost his hands in a lab accident this afternoon and didn’t want anyone to know in case he ruined the get together.”

“Do you want her to raise the red alarm and set everyone else on high alert trying to rip the gloves off you to check to see if you’re actually okay or not? You’re going to be in a room of people who absolutely would.”

“Alright, so, not that one then. You’re smart. You’ll think of something.”

“Yeah, okay, I’ll just tell her I gave you some gloves and you won’t take them off even in these temperatures.”

“That’s not believable.” Peter looked up and gave him a look as if to say ‘really?’

“Okay...yeah...maybe I’d do that.” Okay...he probably would if Peter gave him them.

“You would and no one would find it weird.”

Peter was just about finished his right hand by now and Tony lifted his left hand up to inspect it, “looks good, Pete. Hey, and, thanks for doing this.”

“Thanks! And it’s no problem, Mr. Stark! I’m glad you wanted me to!” Peter finished off the last finger and looked up. “Cool, so, we wait for these to dry, put a top coat on, then do the lettering, yeah?”

Tony hummed, “you’ve got it, kid.”

The conversation continued to flow as they waited and Peter added the top coat. Tony was mostly letting Peter ramble but there wasn’t much else better than that. Still, in a matter of a few hours he’d be asking Pepper to marry him with their family around them and wow...the nerves were definitely starting to set in.

But at this point, it seemed mostly seemed like a formality. Pepper had probably stuck with him through more than most marriages would go through in a lifetime, this would really only recognise it in the eyes of the law. So he wasn’t really nervous if she’d say yes or not, but still...this is the woman he loved, he wanted to do things right and she always had the right to say no, of course. He’d misjudged things before.

Before he started spiralling unrealistically, he felt Peter tap his wrist a few times to get his attention and he looked down, “oh, sorry. Zoned out for a few seconds there. You were talking about casso...not casseroles...what was it?”

“Cassowaries, which isn’t important. I mean, they are, but not right now.” Peter squeezed his wrist, “it’s gonna go great, Mr. Stark. Before I knew you personally, you guys were like the power couple of the century. Possibly of the entirety history. But now I do know you, and that hasn’t changed, you’re a match no one would want to mess with, but you’re also just your best selves around each other, you know? I love spending time with you alone, or with Miss Potts, but there’s not much that beats the feeling when you’re together and everyone’s around like a family. You’re like, goals, basically.”

Tony snorted, “you were really hitting that emotional speech until you said goals, Pete.”

“You get my point! Plus I totally saw your eyes watering.”

“Allergies.” That was a lie.

“Whatever. Anyway, can you write down Marry Me? So I don’t make a spelling mistake?”

“Kid...you know how to spell that.” Peter was literally an actual intern here, he definitely knew how to spell.

“Well yeah, but like, what if I actually don’t and turns out it’s not spelt the way I think it is because all the dictionaries mutually decided to change the spelling of ‘marry’ last night or something and everyone knows except me?” Well now, that was an interesting shade of anxiety.

“They didn’t.” Probably.

“Okay but like, what if-”

“Fine! I’ll talk you through each letter. Doing all of them in capital form is easier so do that.”

Peter grabbed the black nail polish and a small brush. “Okay so…”

“So?”

“First letter?”

Tony groaned, “oh my god, Peter. M. It’s M.” Peter was really going to make him do this then.

“Great!”

Tony watched as Peter took his time with each letter, tending to put on less nail polish than needed at first to try and avoid mistakes. Tony did indeed continue telling Peter each letter as he moved onto it and made FRIDAY pull up an R on his phone to show Peter that it really did look like that (seriously, you can’t just change a letter of the English language, and many other languages, overnight and expect everyone to just accept it. Peter’s anxiety was on some form of drugs).

One of the R’s ended up looking a little wonky and Peter started to worry until Tony assured him it just gave it some more character. Which it did, more Peter’s character showing through.

He didn’t think he’d ever seen Peter this still in his life, the kid could focus really well like he was doing here but there was always a leg bouncing or fingers tapping but right now the only movement happening was Peter’s breathing. Hell, he moved more in his sleep. Considering how much he was moving before, it was heartwarming how much the kid cared.

Once Peter had checked about six times at least how he wanted the ‘me?’ placed on his right hand, he started on that too.

It looked perfect. The letters clearly weren’t done by a professional, they weren’t straight and nicely curved, or artsy. But it was still recognisably Peter’s handwriting and he wouldn’t want it any other way. Pepper adored Peter too, even with the limited time they’d spent together and he happened to know that she was soft enough for the kid that she’d love this. Peter was a bit oblivious there though, the kid meant the world to all of them really but he just seemed to enjoy spending time with all of them without overthinking it too much. At this point, they were all wrapped around his finger.

“Done!”

“Yeah, bud?”

“Oh. Well, I need to do a top coat on those too but like, basically, yeah!”

Tony twisted his hands around so they were palm up and curled his fingers in to look at his nails, “they look amazing.” It was exactly what he wanted, readable and done by Peter. Really, a low bar to meet, but he wasn’t aiming to be flashy.

“Thanks! It’s hard to write steadily but I did my best.”

“That’s all I asked for, kid.”

Peter grinned and started rambling about how much he was looking forward to later and Tony couldn’t bring himself to feel anything but excited alongside him. After the top coat was done, they actually started doing lab work until dinner, Peter banning him from doing any physical work in case his nails were ruined and squinting at him suspiciously every five minutes to make sure he was still just working on holograms (he was. Peter had super senses. He’d know otherwise. He also had super strength and could forcibly remove Tony from any physical work which didn’t sound particularly fun).

———————

Later found Tony pushing Pepper’s empty plate and drink aside after dinner with his still gloved hands (spider-man themed, of course. Peter insisted it would fit with his lie to May best). Pepper looked up at him in alarm, as her and Rhodey started to ask what he was doing as he leaned back on the table in front of her and took his gloves off slowly, watching as her attention shifted to his hands.

He grabbed both of her hands in his, making sure his nails were facing up and raised them to face level, proceeding to make eye contact and raise his eyebrows questionably.

Pepper seemed to freeze for a bit before looking up at him, silently asking, “really?”

He removed one hand and reached it into his jacket pocket, pulling out and popping open a box with a small ring, “Pepper Potts, will you marry me?” A hush fell across the room.

Pepper suddenly came back to life and nodded vigorously, covering her mouth, “yes, Tony! Of course!”

Tony slid the ring onto her finger, then kissed her and pulled her into a long, tight hug with nothing but pure happiness flooding through him. When Pepper pulled back eventually, happy tears in her eyes, crinkles showing at the edge, smiling widely, he didn’t think she’d ever looked more beautiful. He kissed her again and as she ducked her head as the kiss broke, smile still there, the bubble around them popped and he realised the table was alive with nothing but happy words and congratulations.

He watched as Pepper looked up and over to Peter and gestured for him to come over to join their hug too.

Peter seemed bewildered and caught in the act of pulling tissues out of a hidden tissue box in his shirt to wipe his eyes but stopped, got up and walked over.

Pepper reached out for Peter’s arm to gently tug him into her side in a hug, “thanks, sweetie. I can tell you helped. I appreciate it.”

Peter blushed and ducked his head, stuttering out something that violently shoved all the credit onto Tony, how characteristic. He stretched one arm out and pulled Peter fully into their hug, pressing a kiss to the crown of his head, nothing but joy to be here with his kid, his family, and his fiancée.

Tony looked around at everyone else grinning stupidly and he grinned back. Yeah, he loved his family.