Peter jumped a little when May put a hand on his shoulder, blinking awake and staring up at her in worry. Had something happened? Was someone sick? Was he late? His blankets were warm in the freezing apartment, and he huddled under them, rolling over a little more so that he could see his aunt in his dark bedroom. She was smiling, though, and she tucked him in a little more firmly.
"Schools are canceled today. We're supposed to get some bad snowstorms, so no patrolling, okay?"
"Mkay," he muttered. Honestly, all he'd really heard was 'canceled' and that was enough for his sleepy brain to decide to shut back down.
"I'm leaving for work early, and I won't be back until tomorrow. I love you."
"Love you." He was already mostly asleep, but he heard her soft laugh, and felt the press of her lips against his cheek.
"Bye, baby." And then he was dreaming again. Dreaming of being cold and huddling under blankets that were his only hope of warming up. His phone went off at six, and he reached an arm out to snatch it from his bedside table before shutting it off and stuffing it under his pillow. Rolling over, he ignored the vibrating under his pillow to go back to sleep, not bothering to see who was calling him so early.
When he finally woke that Friday morning, it was to find that he'd completely encased himself in his three blankets, knees to his chest, arms crossed like a mummy, and still he was cold. Why was he so cold? He snuggled back under his blankets, searching blindly for his phone which was still connected to his charger, he realized, but wasn't charging. Peter frowned, rolling over and trying to peer more closely, wiggling the charging cord, then braving a hand out of the covers to feel along the wall to make sure it was plugged in. It was.
That's when it hit him. The power was out. Peter groaned, yanking his arm back into his blanket nest. Outside, if he peered his head out and risked frostbite to the nose, he could see a sea of white outside his window. The city was blanketed. And his apartment didn't have power. Checking his phone again, he saw that he had a full charge, and that Ned had been the one to text him earlier, letting him know that there was no school. It was the last day before winter vacation, and really, that would have been more exciting had his power just shut off. Apparently Ned was off to Florida with his parents for the break and wouldn't be back until Christmas. Peter sighed, dropping his face in his still-warm pillow, and wondered if he could hold out until the power came back on.
His bladder quickly vetoed that idea.
Groaning, Peter sat up and swung his legs off the bed, shuddering when his feet touched the floor. His wood floor felt like ice, and he hadn't put socks on that night. He yanked his drawer open, grabbing the first pair of socks he saw and shoving his feet into them. It didn't do a lot of good, but he figured it was better than nothing. With his feet covered, he used the bathroom, then wandered into the kitchen, stomach growling. He'd had spaghetti for dinner with May, and they were just about out of any kind of food you didn't have to cook. He settled for a nearly empty package of cookies, scarfing down the last five, then searching the fridge. They had a gallon of milk and some cheese left, along with a carton of eggs, but she'd planned on going to the grocery that weekend.
The cabinets were bare except for a few cans of beans, some canned vegetables, and a box of pasta. He searched all of them, wondering why he had never mentioned his metabolism to May. But of course he knew the answer to that. They had enough financial troubles as it was. No way he was going to add to them by telling her that he had to eat twice as much as normal people. He was usually fine anyway, eating just a little more at home and using his allowance to buy extra food while he was out. But he doubted anywhere would be open for a while, especially anything nearby if the power was out.
Giving up on food for the moment, he went back to his bedroom and curled up under the blankets, trying to get some of that warmth back. His bed was cold, though. Knees to his chest, he pulled the blankets up over his head and shivered. Then, when he still couldn't get warm, he grabbed his suit from his backpack, pulling it on over his pajama pants and t-shirt and asked Karen to turn on his heater.
The knock on his front door jolted him out of sleep, and Peter sat up straight, yanking his mask off, then slammed a hand onto his chest, slithering out of this suit and kicking it under his bed. Still dressed in only his pajamas, he headed for the front door, figuring it was one of his neighbors asking if his power was out too. A quick glance at the clock told him that it was almost one, and his stomach gave a painful clench as the cold air seeped into his clothes. All he wanted was to get back into his suit and turn the heater up, but he figured he would see who was banging on his front door first.
He pulled it open, not checking to see who exactly was knocking on his front door, then froze when he found himself face to face with Tony Stark. The man looked him up and down, lifting his eyebrow, and Peter had to fight the urge to shut the door in the man's face and get some real clothes on. As it was, he just crossed his arms uncomfortably, hoping to preserve some of his body heat while also trying to stop Mr. Stark from seeing the science pun on his old pajama shirt.
"Hi yourself, kid. You gonna invite me in or you want to chat in the hallway?"
It took Peter a minute, but he finally nodded, stepping back. "Yeah, uh...of course. Come in." He kept his arms crossed, shivering a little, and Mr. Stark, dressed in a coat and scarf, stepped into his apartment. He shut the door behind the man, noticing that it was equally cold in the hallway. All the other doors were shut, and he wondered if his neighbors had gone elsewhere until the power came back.
He hadn't seen Mr. Stark in a while, and he watched as the man took in the blank microwave screen and oven clock, eyes narrowed as if he was solving some kind of puzzle.
"I knew teenagers liked to sleep in but I was sure you'd be up by now." He said it almost like an apology.
Peter shrugged. He was still sleepy, and the longer he stood there, the more tired he got, his gnawing hunger moved to the back-burner. Mr. Stark was watching him closely, eyes narrow like Peter was a puzzle.
"When did your power go out?"
"Uh...this morning," Peter told him, blinking a few times to keep his eyes open.
The man hummed under his breath, giving the apartment another once over. "Alright. Come on."
"What?" Peter asked, a little irritated with the cryptic conversation. Why was Mr. Stark even there?
"Get dressed, kid. We'll head back to the tower."
"Didn't you sell the tower?"
"Eh. Bought it back. Thought I could use a base in the city. And Pepper was kind of attached." Mr. Stark gave a careless shrug. "Lucky for you, it has power. Come on, kid. Chop chop. Get dressed and we'll go."
Peter hesitated for a second, then shook his head, eyes too heavy to keep open much longer. "That's okay, Mr. Stark. I'm just going to…" His words trailed off, knees buckling, and then Mr. Stark was holding him by his shoulders.
"Woah...hey, Pete?" The man called, holding him up, and Peter blinked, shivering in the cold. "Kid, what's wrong? You sick?"
"Sick?" Peter repeated, then shook his head. But Mr. Stark was already leading him to the sofa, pushing him down, then hesitating before grabbing a blanket from the back of the sofa and draping it over him.
"Talk to me, kid. What's going on? You get hurt? Karen didn't report anything."
"'M not hurt."
"Then what's with the...hey!" The man patted his cheek none too gently and Peter realized he must have been dozing off again.
"Yep. Got that." He wrapped the blanket more firmly around Peter, then pulled his glasses out of his pocket and put them on. "Friday? What's wrong with him."
Peter didn't hear Friday reply, if she even did, but the next thing he knew, Mr. Stark was standing and he heard him rummaging in the kitchen. Was Mr. Stark hungry? They didn't have anything. Not really...not anything that they could eat without cooking. "The power's out, Mr. Stark." He told him, raising his voice a little and dropping his head against the back of the sofa. The blanket was warm...he wanted to be warm again. Maybe he could put the suit back on.
"Geez, kid, don't you have any food?" He sounded concerned, and despite his exhaustion, Peter felt his face flush.
"May's going to the grocery tomorrow." There was silence for a moment, and then Mr. Stark was back, pulling him to his feet. Before he could speak, though, Peter pulled away. "Why are you here?" He asked, voice a little less friendly than would be polite. Any other time, he would have apologized immediately. Instead, he was fighting sleep again, and for a moment, Mr. Stark just stared at him, looking baffled.
"I saw that you were in the suit for a few hours...with the heater on. In the same spot." The man's voice was just as baffled as his face, but that wasn't what Peter really cared about. Sure, it was kind of weird that the man had just shown up and was apparently kidnapping him or something, but all he really cared about was going back to sleep, so he tried to pull away again, only for his knees to give and for Mr. Stark to catch him again.
"Going back to bed…."
"Nope. Not here, you're not, Spider-cicle. Come on." Then, bafflingly, he was being led to his room where the bed was.
"Bed," Peter insisted again, but Mr. Stark kept a firm hand on his upper arm and grabbed something from his closet...a hoodie. After pulling that over Peter's head and pulling the hood up, he sat Peter down on the bed, keeping a grip on his arm as he grabbed a pair of shoes from under his bed...and the suit.
"Why is this under the bed?"
"Surprised me," was all Peter had the energy to say, and Mr. Stark sighed, tossing it, along with his mask, onto the bed before, even more surprisingly than his actual presence, he pushed Peter's feet into the shoes carefully, not scraping them against his ankle or tying them too tight, then pulled Peter back to his feet.
"Come on. Stay awake, Underoos. We've got places to be, and those places are warmer than this apartment, I promise. Plus there's food." He was trying to make his voice enticing, but Peter just stumbled along after him, still somewhat surprised by both his presence and his arm around his shoulders. Still, he followed the man into the hallway, and then out the front door of the building which was, somehow, only a little colder than his apartment. Before he knew it, he was lifted into a seat, the door shutting behind him, and as soon as another door was shut, heat was being blasted at him.
He must have slept, then, because one second they were pulling away from the sidewalk in front of his apartment building and the next, his door was open again and he was being tugged to his feet, an arm around his shoulders leading him to an elevator, then to a sofa, and then...then he was warm. Really, truly warm. He let out a breath, curling up happily, ignoring the strange noise that took a moment to register in his ears.
"Did you just...did the kid just purr?" Mr. Stark asked, as if he couldn't decide if he was amused or concerned.
"Some species of spider have been known to purr under certain circumstances." Another voice answered, and a hand rested on his head.
"Okay. Well...not gonna lie, Pete, that's a little weird." The voice was full on amused then, and something else. Maybe fond. Maybe happy. Whatever it was, Peter was warm so he just snuggled down into the blankets and the noise happened again. Mr. Stark laughed, a sound Peter tried to remember if he'd ever really heard. Not a chuckle or a snort, like the man had done before. A full on laugh. "Alright, kid. You get an hour, and then you're eating. Okay?"
When Peter opened his eyes again, he wasn't exactly sure where he was. He'd gone back to bed, he remembered that much. And he'd been curled up under all of his blankets. Because...because the power was out. He'd had some kind of weird dream about Mr. Stark and now, he found himself staring at an unfamiliar ceiling, soft light filtering in through white curtains. He was covered in something warm...something so delightfully warm that all he wanted to do was roll up in it. But his stomach was demanding food, and his head was just a little spinny, a sign that he'd better eat something.
"There he is. How about some food for the Spiderling?"
The voice made Peter jolt upright, and he spun around, eyes wide, before it registered as familiar. The man standing behind the sofa had taken half a step back, eyebrows raised, and after he took a moment to study Peter, he lifted a hand in mock surrender. "Easy, Spider. I come bearing flies." He was smiling, amusement warring with concern on his face, and Peter stared at him for a moment more, then his eyes darted down to the hand that hadn't been lifted. On the plate he was holding was an entire plate piled with lasagna, a piece of garlic bread sitting off to the side, and his stomach growled so loudly that he was sure Mr. Stark heard it. Instead of laughing, though, the man just came around the sofa and handed him the plate, then walked back into the kitchen. Peter didn't turn to see where he was going, instead doing his best to eat quickly without choking himself.
A glass of something dark and fizzy was placed on the table in front of him after a moment, and Mr. Stark sat on the sofa, grabbing the remote and apparently giving him just a modicum of privacy to scarf down his lunch. Or dinner. He really had no idea what time it was but was too busy eating to ask. Well-aware of the billionaire beside him, he tried to at least chew with his mouth closed and swallow before taking another bite, but his body was demanding food and he wasn't really able to say no with the food right in front of him.
The TV was showing the news, and Mr. Stark turned it up a little, the coverage focusing on the snow that had made the roads unsafe and that continued to fall. "Wait…" Peter asked, turning to Mr. Stark and praying he didn't have pasta sauce on his mouth. "Didn't we drive here?"
"Well, we didn't fly." The man shrugged, but his voice was almost gentle when he went on. "I have a four wheel drive. All terrain. And I took it pretty slow."
"Penny for your thoughts? Unless you're still hungry, in which case, a penny for you to keep eating."
"You're a billionaire and all you're going to give me is a penny?" The words slipped out, and Peter wondered if his filter was malfunctioning when Mr. Stark laughed again
"Fine. A thousand dollars for you to keep eating. Cash or check?" Peter started to stammer out an apology, but the man was grinning, and he lifted a hand to ruffle Peter's hair with a familiarity that he'd never shown before. "Eat. There's more in the kitchen. We can talk after." Then, as if he spent every Friday sitting on the couch with some nobody kid from Queens, he turned back to the news and let Peter eat unobserved.
Well, he felt unobserved. Peter doubted that he actually was.
When he was done, Mr. Stark grabbed his plate before he could even protest, then brought it back, full of a smaller portion of lasagna and more bread. He wanted to insist that he was fine, but his stomach was still growling and so, with a resigned flush, Peter began eating again.
He was nearly done when Mr. Stark spoke, voice gentler than before. "Does your aunt know?"
"That I'm Spiderman?" Peter asked, using the paper towel he'd been giving to self-consciously wipe his face. "Yeah. Remember, she…"
Mr. Stark waved a hand. "That you have to eat more than other people."
Peter was grateful that he hadn't said 'normal' people, but he still found himself blushing. "I...I mean, she…" He trailed off, lowering his eyes.
"It's...it's not that I...it doesn't matter. She doesn't need to know…"
"I'd say she does, especially when you're left stranded in an apartment with no power and nothing to eat all day."
"She didn't know the power was going to go off," Peter defended, and Mr. Stark lifted his hands.
"I know that, kid. I didn't think she did do it on purpose. But you were about to go into hibernation mode and you hadn't eaten anything since the night before."
"I had breakfast," Peter muttered uncomfortably. The man lifted his eyebrows, obviously inviting Peter to go on. "There were cookies…"
"Why wouldn't you tell her?"
He opened his mouth, then closed it, dropping his eyes to his mostly empty plate. He was almost full, but not quite, so he just shrugged and took another bite of bread. He didn't want to have this conversation. He didn't want to discuss this with the billionaire sitting beside him. So he kept his mouth shut, just focusing on his food.
Mr. Stark was quiet beside him, and Peter kept waiting for him to ask more questions or insist they call May. Instead, he waited for Peter to finish eating, then took the plate again. Peter let him take it to the kitchen, trying to figure out how he was going to get back to his apartment. In the end, he just stood, brushing his hands off on his pajama pants a little self-consciously. "So, um...thank you. For, uh...lunch. But I should probably head home."
Mr. Stark crossed his arms, lifting an eyebrow and looking Peter up and down. "Home? To the apartment with no food and no heat?"
Peter felt his cheeks redden. "May's going to be home tomorrow afternoon. I'll be fine."
"You'd really rather go back to an apartment without food or power than stay here tonight?" The man sounded genuinely baffled, and Peter shrugged.
"I just...I know you're probably busy and I…" Peter thought back to all those phone calls that had been ignored and the way he'd taken Peter's suit. And yeah, he'd apologized, but it was obvious that he didn't really want anything to do with him. "Why'd you come get me?"
Something passed over Mr. Stark's face...something sad, but just as quickly as it appeared, it was gone, and the man softened a little. "Karen alerted me that you were sleeping in the suit. I was…" He hesitated before going on. "I was worried."
"Because I got to your apartment and you were about to pass out, Peter!"
"But I'm not your…" Peter cut himself off, dropping his eyes and crossing his arms. He just wanted to go home. He'd already given up on any kind of relationship with Mr. Stark. This was only going to make it harder. He had his suit, and he had his friends. He had May and his memories of Ben. He didn't need anything else. "I turned down your offer," he finished lamely, not wanting to hurt Mr. Stark's feelings or make him angry.
For a moment, the man's face was unreadable. "You think that because you turned down my offer to join the Avengers, that I'd let you freeze to death in your apartment?"
"I wouldn't have frozen to death," Peter muttered.
"Yeah, the fact that you're not answering my question concerns me." Mr. Stark moved over to his side, putting a hand on Peter's shoulder and guiding him to sit back down. Peter let himself be pushed down, and Mr. Stark, in a strangely paternal gesture, pulled the blanket back over his lap. "Look...kid...Peter...I kind of suck at this." He admitted, voice soft. "In case you haven't noticed. But...kid, I wasn't going to let you stay in an apartment without heat in the middle of a snowstorm."
Peter didn't look at him, wouldn't let himself lift his eyes, until Mr. Stark reached out, a hand under his chin tilting his head up."
"I know we had a rough start. And that...it's partly my fault. No, it's mostly my fault. And I think we could have a good thing here." Peter realized with a start that Mr. Stark seemed almost nervous. "What I'm trying to say, kid, is...look, I get why you turned me down. That was a good move. You should stick to the ground for a little while. Get some training under your belt. But I didn't want you to think just because you aren't an Avenger that I don't want...that I don't want to be your…" He waved a hand, the gesture almost careless but not quite. "Super hero mentor or whatever. Because I do. It's just...there's been a lot going on. But I'm here for you kid. I wasn't before, but I'm here now. Whatever you need, okay?"
Peter had no idea if he believed that...if he really trusted it. But Mr. Stark's face was sincere, his smile a little sheepish but genuine. "Okay," Peter murmured, still unsure.
Mr. Stark seemed to understand, nodding and patting Peter's shoulder. "Alright, kid. I've got you fed and warmed up. How about I give you a tour of the lab since we're going to be stuck here for a little while?" The man gestured at the window, and Peter turned to look, surprised when he saw huge flakes of snow still falling from the sky. "What do you think?" Mr. Stark prompted, and Peter gave a little smile, nodding and hoping.