Love Me (Like A Desert Rose)
Peter noticed. He noticed how Tony’s behavior changed, how his looks got this longing look on his dark eyes, how he was always too busy , see you later, baby , how the gifts and money never stopped, but he barely saw Tony now, ever.
He was always away, always driving, always flying, always tinkering.
Peter noticed, that’s the thing.
He just wasn’t sure what to make of it.
“He has bad dreams,” Natasha told him, finishing her bottle of water. “PTSD stuff, from when he was kidnapped that first time.”
“Waterboarded, tortured. I’ve read the file Hydra had on him, too.” Bucky told him, untying his shoes to head for the showers. “It’s really bad.”
“He was just a civilian back then. And even after that…” The Widow grimaced. “He hasn’t led the easiest life, Peter. Creating weapons to see the destruction they waged, before that his father’s negligence and drinking, his own drinking and drugs problem.” She listed. “He walks a thin line every day.”
“Honestly, he’s the strongest of us all.” Bucky put his hand on Peter’s shoulder comfortingly. “He’ll be fine. Just give him a little space.”
Peter nodded, but something inside him still nagged him that it was wrong. That wasn’t the path.
And when it came to Tony, Peter had learned to trust his instincts more than other people’s words. After all, they had all failed him, one way or the other.
When he couldn’t find him, and Jarvis refused to answer on his whereabouts, he called Miss Potts.
“He traveled for a product demonstration in the Middle East, Peter.” She sounded unsurprised. “He didn’t tell you?”
The lock of his jaw was all the answer she needed.
“He gets like this from time to time.” She said, as if she could explain anything about how Tony Stark worked. Despite the time and the love, they hadn’t worked out; what did she know? “It’s best if you leave him be. He’ll be back in no time at all, don’t worry.”
“I won’t.” Peter cut the call and walked straight into Tony’s personal lab.
Bruce was there and saw him, looking at Peter from the corner of his eye as he sat in front of the main computer.
“Peter?” He asked, turning from his experiment to really look . “Peter, what are you doing?”
“Tony’s in the Middle East on a product demonstration.” He said simply, tapping on the symbols that only three people alive understood. He was undoing a whole part of Jarvis’ protocols, aware that the AI would fight him and redo them afterwards, as was also protocol -- but maybe Jarvis was letting him in easy, maybe Jarvis understood , because he’d take less than ten minutes to go in and get the information he wanted by the pace things were going.
“So?” Bruce looked confused. “Is there something wrong?”
“He didn’t tell me.” Peter stopped for a second.
“He probably forgot. Tony gets like that sometim-”
“No.” Peter’s fists made a dent on the table underneath the virtual keyboard. “ No . You are all his friends, and I respect you, but you have all failed him. Give him some time, he’ll be fine, he gets like this sometimes ,” He knew he looked feral, out of control, but he had never felt more in control in his life . “Everything you tell me to do, I know you already did, and failed him by doing so. I’m doing the opposite.” He started tapping again, in and in , pinging Tony’s phone GPS coordinates, taking note of them on his hand.
Bruce’s expression had hardened, but Peter couldn’t care less. Not right now. But there was a grim soft of understanding in his eyes, like he recognized the truth in Peter’s words.
“It’s your relationship.” He agreed, taking a step back. “Just… take care, okay?”
“I will.” Peter threw the promise to the wind, a lie if he ever told one, getting his backpack and his phone while he walked out.
The desert had a distant kind of beauty that Peter wished he could appreciate. As things were, he could not.
He got a cab to the hotel and broke the hinges of the door of Tony’s hotel room, putting them back afterwards.
He was waiting, wishing he could claw his way out of his own skin, when Tony arrived back in the room, repulsor already on his hand, pointed right at Peter’s chest, at the slightest movement.
When his eyes met Peter’s, though, his hands fell down, like his eyes.
He couldn’t even look him in the eye.
“What are you doing here?” He asked, repulsor transforming back to nothing again.
“You didn’t tell me you were going away.” His voice sounded as harsh as the feelings prickling inside his chest.
“It was a last minute decision.” Tony was taking his watch off, his ring, taking his time. Avoiding Peter.
“And you don’t have a phone?”
“I thought you had betters things to do.”
Peter’s scowl deepened. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
Tony sighed, stopped moving. “Do we have to do this?”
“Yes.” He demanded, sitting on the big, white bed. “Yes, we do.”
Another sigh. “Alright. I’ve been having nightmares again.” He explained, detached. “I just need some time, they’ll go away. They always do.” Turned, working on his cufflinks. “You should go home. I know you have a few projects to finish.”
Peter couldn’t believe what he was hearing.
“I won’t ask you why you didn’t tell me about the nightmares, because I don’t want to hear it.” Tony flinched at the harshness of his tone. “But I will tell you this: do not bullshit me.”
“Excuse me?” Tony feigned anger.
“You heard me.” Peter bawled his fists. “You have bullshitted everyone else in your life. All of your friends failed you, but they failed you because they didn’t try hard enough, because you didn’t let them.” He took a step forward, and then another. “You’re not doing that with me.”
“I just needed some time ,” The older man threw back, posture as aggressive as Peter’s.
“Yeah, and I need someone who owns up to his promises.” He spat, seeing the hurt become flames in the other man’s eyes.
“ What? ”
“ You’re mine, Peter ,” He quoted Tony’s words. “You promised me.”
“That’s-” Tony frowned as if he didn’t understand. “That’s a thing people say. A fantasy, something in the heat of things-”
“No.” And Peter was right in his face, matching his fire toe to toe. “You told me I’m yours. If I’m yours, then I’m yours to love, to fuck, to hurt.”
“And I’m also yours to share your pain with. I’m not here for half a ride, to only see the touristic, happy, pretty places around, Tony.” A finger on the man’s chest, he wondered if he was going insane, but it only lasted a second. “I want to see everything . I’m here to see it all, to own it all. Just like you own it all, with me.” He guided the man’s hand to his chest, right over his heart. Right where the repulsor could take his life away in a second.
“Peter, this is not-” Tony’s fingers curled over the younger man’s, a castaway holding onto a lifeboat. “I don’t want to-”
“I’m not standing for it, Tony,” But his voice was softer, and his hands were cupping the other man’s face, and it all seemed just a little better. “I’m not giving you time to battle your demons alone. Whatever you have is mine, too, and I’m only here if you give me it all. I want your terror as much as I want your joy.”
Tony, at least, could face him again, nuzzling the palm of his hand. “Then who’s owning who, here, baby?” A kiss to his skin.
Peter smiled, soft, soft . “Does it matter?”
Tony’s smile said it all.
The man was still a little skittish at breakfast, especially as Peter had witnessed one of his night terrors for the first time.
He had cried, vomited, said some barely coherent things in his overwhelming fear, and Peter took care of him, tried to show him as much love as he felt.
And he knew it would take some time. It would take some time, and some more night terrors, for Tony to actually believe that Peter was there to stay, that he wasn’t going anywhere. That he didn’t need to be in suit and armor in Peter’s presence, too.
But by the sweet smile he threw Peter’s way when they got in line for the continental breakfast at the hotel’s restaurant, he knew they had at least started on that.
And Peter had every intention of keeping his word, so.
Nothing to worry about.
The plane back started to shake a little too much, a little too hard.
When it burst open, along the screams and the wind and the overwhelming cold , Peter could feel the armor enveloping him right before the crash.
And before he passed out, he saw a helicopter, people taking Tony away from him, flying away.
Peter woke up a couple of hours later, rescuers around him, taking all the people, alive and in pieces, from the sea. It looked proverbially red from all the blood dissolving at the spot where the place crashed.
“Are you American?” The man was asking him, trying to get him into the ambulance, but when Peter’s body kicked into action, so did the nanobots, covering him from head to toe.
He was in the air, stumbling at first, but flying straight from where the plane had come.
“Jarvis,” Was all he needed to say.
“Scouring the airspace for helicopters, calling the Avengers, sir.”
Peter flew .
Jarvis had located him through a few nanobots left in his bloodstream somewhere in Kunar’s desert.
“Sounds like the place Sir was taken to before.” Jarvis told Peter.
“What do you mean?”
“His first abduction.”
So, they knew.
And they were playing his fear against him.
Peter felt his blood boil.
“Peter,” Natasha’s voice came through the comms. “Peter, wait for us at the base in Bagram. We’ll get there in T-minus ninety.”
“Negative.” Was his answer, flying and flying.
“Peter, you can’t go in there alone-”
He shut the comms down.
He had stuff to do.
Friendly neighbourhood Spider Man didn’t kill. He didn’t maim, he didn’t permanently damage or scare anyone; he could barely be accounted for destruction of property. He knew how important things could be for the people who had so few of them, so he tried to keep his destruction rate to the bare minimum, even if everything would be repaid afterwards.
The important thing is, Spider Man didn’t kill. Peter Parker never took a life, in any circumstances. It was what made him who he was , the fact that he wouldn’t go to the same depths as the people he was fighting against, much like the other Avengers also avoided stepping that low unless it was absolutely necessary.
Right then, though, he wasn’t himself, not like he knew. Not like Tony, or Bruce, or Natasha, or anyone knew him.
He made his way into that cave blasting repulsors. He took them out like flies, making his way inside, deeper and deeper into Tony’s nightmares.
When he got to Tony, he had been in the interrogation room , wet and barely awake.
Peter took down two, leaving the leader last.
“I surrender!” The man raised his hands in surrender and knelt on the floor. “I’ll tell you everything I kno-”
He never finished the sentence. Bare-handed, Peter broke his neck with a sickening sound, leaving him at Tony’s feet. An offering to the King, assuring him that he would never stand alone again.
The man’s eyes were wild, wide, still hyped on his own adrenalin.
“You-” Like he couldn’t conceive of it. “You killed him-”
“Would do it again.” Peter’s voice and hands were steady as he untied him, helped him up.
“Peter, he surrendered- ” He insisted, as if fear wasn’t still bleaching his every sound.
“He took you away from me .” Peter sounded, looked, feral, untamed animal baring his teeth, showing what it was capable of. And he was. “He took you away from me, there is no trial for that.”
“Peter, you can’t just… you’ll be tried for that, they’ll take the footage of my camera, they’ll arrest you for excessive use of force-”
“ Footage deleted .” Jarvis’ voice came from the suit, irredeemably sharp.
Tony was standing, so Peter fell to his knees, holding the man by his waist, head on his belly, breathing him in. He was alive. He was alive.
“I want the fucking world to know what happens to them if they try to take you away from me.” Peter said, loud and clear and mad against Tony’s dirty undershirt, the man’s hands over his hair.
And then he watched as Peter stood up, armor already off, hidden. Bare handed - it felt right , using his own skin, his own strength for that - he lifted the dead man’s body over his shoulder.
Tony followed him dazedly as he walked towards the entrance of the cave.
Peter broke a machine gun with his hands, holding on the barrel, and jumped. He stuck it through the middle of the interrogator’s body, right on top of the cave’s entrance, sticking him there like a kebab.
A warning, if nothing else.
Then, bloodied hands and fiery eyes, Peter turned to Tony, seeing his feeling mirrored by the man. The devotion, the unbridled, unrestrained need consuming his eyes, painting his features gold underneath the desert sun.
“I will hold your darkness,” He took a step towards Tony, and then another, being met in the middle by the man himself. He framed his face with bloodied fingers, Tony mirroring the adoration spreading warm rivers through his every limb. “And you will hold mine.”
Tony nodded, eyes on Peter’s lips, locking them together for a second.
“Let’s go home.”
Back at the Bagram Air Base, Tony was examined by doctors and took a shower while Peter refused everything but the shower.
“What happened out there?” Bucky asked him, handing him an apple, Peter a constant feature just outside Tony’s room, watching him through the glass walls.
Peter bit on the apple, chewing. “What do you think?”
Bucky hummed, thoughtful. “I think you burned it all to the ground.” He said, darkness coming off like honey from his lips. “I think you made it a warning to others. Anonymous hero saves Tony Stark from kidnapping, leaves a trail of death and terror behind ,” He tried for a headline. “With a picture of the impaled man pixelated right on the front page.”
Peter hummed back, taking another bite of the apple. “Would you have done it any differently?” He asked, but they both knew the truth.
“I suppose not.” Bucky clapped his shoulder and stood up, going, doubtlessly, to meet the Captain and reassure himself of how alive the man actually was, after seeing all the death on the cave.
Peter bit on his apple.
The following day, he was missing for two hours.
Caves in Afghanistan exploded, source of the explosives unknown.
“You two seem to be on better terms,” Clint noticed, sitting beside Peter on the penthouse’s balcony for Tony’s welcome back, I’m alive! party.
Peter had been nursing a beer, feet dangling from the side of the building, and Hawkeye was the only one who was also completely unafraid of heights to go sit beside him.
He smiled, looking back to where Tony stood in all his glory. Shifted, feeling the plug holding the man’s come inside his body, snug and perfect, ownership like Tony Stark saw it. “Yeah.”
“I’m glad he has you, Peter.” The archer slapped his shoulder a couple of times. “It was time somebody loved Tony Stark as fiercely as he loves.”
And Peter, who had been hunching, trying to look smaller and non-threatening as he had been before that trip, settled under his skin. His shoulders shifted back, chin up, chest open. He wasn’t big, but every ounce of power he owned was Tony’s to use, to take, to hold.
“I’m glad, too.” He answered, taking a swing, and Clint, who, noticing the change, winked at him.
He let a few beats pass before he looked up. “I’m sorry I broke your protocols, Jarvis.”
“You’re forgiven, sir.” The automated voice said placidly. “I am actually glad you did so.”
“That so?” Peter sounded amused.
“Yes.” Jarvis answered. “Apparently, you also take good care of what’s yours, sir. And, for that, I can only thank you.”
And Peter’s hands had blood on them now, Peter’s soul a mark, but he regretted nothing. He had been good for too long, the world could pay the bill and make room for him, now.
Because he was Tony’s, through and through. But that didn’t mean he’d stay passive as they tried to take him away from his arms.
“What are you doing there alone?” Tony’s voice came from the balcony door as the man walked towards him.
Peter stood up, smiling at him. “Just taking a breather, Mr. Stark,” And he watched as the moniker fired up Tony’s eyes. It never failed.
“Hmm, and have you been good, Peter?” He tsked, seeing the beer bottle in his hand. His hands slid from Peter’s hips to his ass, fingers sneaking to feel the plug through his slacks.
“I’m not sure, Mr. Stark.” He played coy, a smile playing on his lips. “Have I?”
“I think you’ve been very, very good, baby,” Tony kissed him, uncaring of all the people - the Avengers, mostly, but still - inside, at plain sight.
“Then can you be good for me?” He asked, reaching inside his pocket.
“What?” Tony asked, smile morphing as Peter knelt to the floor. “Peter, what are you doing?”
“I already signed a prenup that Jarvis composed. Ironclad.” He opened the little box, a ring of his own crafting inside. Just waiting to be placed where it belonged. “My place is on my knees, at your feet, Tony. With this, I just hope to prove how long I intend on staying there.”
Tony’s eyes darkened, breath shortened, as he reached for the ring. He examined it carefully before sliding it on his right ring finger. A vow, a promise, a prayer.
“I admit I have been questioning if I should let you make these decisions.” Tony said, ringed finger on Peter’s hair, making him bow his head. “You are so young. So green, still.” He knelt in front of Peter, standing at the same height as the younger man. “But you’ve proven yourself over and over to me, and I think it’s unfair to ask any more of you. You have given me your all, and I’ll make my best effort to match your offering.” He held Peter’s hands together, kissing them. “My everything is yours, baby. For as long as we have. As long as you’ll have me.”
“Forever.” Peter pulled him close, mindful of his injuries, intense regardless of them, “I hope you don’t get bored of me, because I’m not letting go.”
Tony chuckled, pulling him up until they stood on their feet. “That’s not possible, dear. I just hope I don’t end up disappointing you, as the years go by.” He looked regretful. “I have sharp edges, I get defensive, and sometimes I’m beyond caring. But you,” He cupped Peter’s face. “You’ve proven you can take it and more.” He smiled. “You are, by all accounts, impossible, Peter Parker. A desert rose blooming from a dead land.”
“As long as you’re mine.” Peter answered fiercely, kissing the ring on Tony’s finger.
“That I am, baby.” He reassured the younger man once again, holding his hand. “Shall we head back inside? I want to show off my ring.” He winked, playful as a new bride.
But Peter shook his head, put his arms around Tony, breathing him in. “Please, Daddy. Just a little more.” He asked, starting to move his body, starting a dance to the tune playing inside. Slow dancing like their souls could meld together to never be told apart ever again.
“Anything, baby,” Tony whispered and kissed his temple, letting himself be guided by that man, by his need, by the music. Being held, for the first time, just as ferociously as he held.
And Peter was his, to fuck, to love, to hurt, to bear his darkness just as he bore Peter’s. The blood on his hands a holy thing, petals of a crimson tinted flower he would offer Tony as many time as needed.
Peter had given him his soul.
And it was time Tony paid back in kind.
If only by saying yes , and holding on like he couldn’t let go, just like the younger man himself did. No more proof needed, no more lies, no withholding the shadows he carried around like ghosts, the guilt of a thousand lifetimes resting on his shoulders.
He was, now, Peter’s, just as much as the boy was his. He’d give him the world on a silver platter, just like he offered Tony his captor’s body, neck snapped with bare fingers, bare fingers that touched him oh-so-gently a millisecond afterwards.
And this type of devotion, Tony had felt it, but never had it directed towards himself. Never had it mirrored back at him, just as brutal and raw, just as beautiful.
The least he could do was was to hold the door open and trust Peter to hold his crumbling pieces like they were treasures, as he had done all this time.
It was more than he could ask. More than he deserved.
But it would have to do.