Orange flashes through his closed eyelids and lingers in his vision as he blinks them open. There's a fading tingle across his skin hidden beneath the suit caused by running through the magical portal. He flips and lands on solid ground, scents of Earth's soil and grass overtaking the smell of ash.
Stephen's words were clear. Five years - it's been five years and there's a battle harder than the one they'd just finished waiting for them.
They fade from thought, falling into irrelevance as the world around him comes into focus.
It was probably lovely only minutes ago. Now, it's at least a good couple miles of shattered dirt, tumultuous waves pressing against the shore, dozens of heroes and villains in an image Peter thinks he might see in one of his comic books. It'd be awesome; if he weren't standing in the middle of it.
When he'd woken on Titan, body thrumming with leftover pain, he'd instantly spun in circles in search of one specific person. Only to find him missing.
His eyes landed on Doctor Strange, and the three Guardians, but there was no Tony Stark.
A failed battle, five years. Neither made his heart drop the way realizing his mentor was missing did.
On the other side of the orange portal, he scans the faces of allies and strangers in search of the one that'll ease the pain in his chest. He skips over a red and blue shield, a shining hammer, guns of all shapes and sizes, and magical barriers. His eyes eventually land on red and gold out in the distance.
Peter knows, better than most, that there's a chance no one in inside that suit. He can't feel reassured until he gets closer and sees the face behind the metal. To be sure. He only manages half a step.
The battallion, because they're no different to soldiers at this moment, moves forward in one coordinated movement and Peter follows the tide lest he be left behind. The frontlines meet in a clash of metal and bullets and bloodshed. His mask slips back into place mostly to protect his eyes from dirt and rocks being kicked up in all directions, and he throws himself into the battle with the sole intent of getting to the other side.
He recognizes some of the enemy as Chitauri; he and May had spent that battle huddled in their apartment while Ben had been out on the streets getting people to safety. The news had played the footage for weeks. He webs some in place and someone else shoots it in the chest and he looks away.
That's not the kind of hero he's ever been or wanted to be, but he looks around and knows this is war. There's no place for him to object.
Over the years, he's learned that his senses settle the stronger his adrenaline pulses through him. Calm and relaxing in bed, he can smell the burnt toast on the top floor, and 'watch' the entirety of Orange Is The New Black from the TV two floors down without ever turning on Netflix. In the middle of battle, his senses dial into his environment and he can finally focus into what's happening directly around him.
His ears pick up the sound of repulsors, and he lets himself be drawn to it. Everything else can be pushed back, not what he deems important right now.
He flips around the enemy, webbing them down and landing a few heavy kicks and punches to knock some back. There are dozens of amazing people around him, some he recognizes from his time in Germany - such as the giant guy and the guy with cat claws.
How insignificant he feels, in comparison. He's not mature, and strong, and powerful, and calm, and battle-ready. He's no soldier.
He's a kid from Queens.
His eyes fall on red.
A well-placed web on Scott's arm launches him to the opposite side of the frontline and close enough to Ironman to see the faceplate has been withdrawn, or removed, or broken. The man behind the armour is visible. A bit of blood and dirt, but alive. There's some Chitauri thing approaching Tony, and Peter webs it back and jumps into its now vacant spot.
Tony looks from the creature to Peter, and his expression stills. His eyes are slightly wide, lips slightly parted for words that won't come.
"Hey! Holy cow! You will not believe what's been going on. Do you remember when we were in space? And I got all dusty? I must've passed out because I woke up and you were gone. But Doctor Strange was there, right? He was like, 'it's been five years. Come on, they need us' and then he started doing the orange sparkly thing that he does all the time-"
"He did? Oh, God." Tony takes a stuttered step toward him, his expression unchanging.
"What are you doing-?"
Tony's arms come up around him and tug him right in. Peter stumbles into the impromptu hug but doesn't hesitate for a moment in returning it. His cheek presses into the metal shoulder and he squeezes. He can catch the racing heartbeat beneath the layers and there's a whiff of the familiar fancy cologne Peter would bet is foreign. This is Tony, alive with a bit more grey in his hair and somewhat safe, minus the current scrapes and bruises.
"Oh. This is nice," he mumbles.
He's given a squeeze of his own, and then Tony's drawing back. His hands stay on his shoulders to keep him at arm's length.
"God, kid..." he whispers. There's a look of awe and reverence on his face, but Peter thinks he might be seeing that wrong.
Peter smiles, "Doctor Strange said something about five years, and I guess we're fighting bad guys again? Is Thanos here? What do you want me to do? I can help; let me help."
"Not that you've ever waited for my permission, but you're already helping, Pete. Plenty." A metal hand brushes across his cheek, and his smile widens.
He nods once, determined, "Let's kick some alien ass."
"You got it, kiddo." It's choked, and Peter can't question it. Tony's gaze flickers past him.
A repulsor blast is shot over his shoulder, and Peter's focus shifts from Tony back to the fight at hand. Now that he's reassured of his safety - alive and in one piece - he can finally let himself be drawn into the battle.
It's a whirlwind of action from there. The enemy seems neverending - dozens upon hundreds suddenly appearing in his line of sight every time he manages to knock down a couple of them. They aren't particularly strong, but it's the sheer number of them that has them up against the wall. If they have to fight until they're all beaten...
There's a plan coming through to him in the suit speakers about sending the stones back in time with a van (and now is not the time to ask about that, he has to tell himself). He wonders, briefly in the second between a flip and a punch, if maybe the stones should serve their side of the battle for once. Is there, somewhere around this field, a secret weapon he doesn't know about? Because from where he's swinging, it looks like they'll need one.
When he'd first accidentally activated the Instant Kill mode in his suit, he'd made the swift decision to never do that ever again, no matter the circumstances. Now, surrounded with no way out with the world's most precious item in his hands, he can't hold that same reserve. This isn't the New York City streets with muggers and thieves and the occasional weapons dealer; if he's not aggressive, he's not getting to the other side.
The six limbs extend out of his back, sharp metal immediately beginning to pierce armour and he tries to ignore the sound of cracking bone and torn flesh.
Captain America tosses Thor's shield (wicked) and he finds himself from one corner of the battlefield to the other with Pepper and Valkyrie's help.
He stumbles into a nook as the airstrike falls down upon them. His teeth are left rattling and there's a thumping in his temple from an imminent migraine. The radiation in his veins has made him as battle-ready as any teenager could be, but it didn't strip the humanity from his soul.
Without a moment's doubt, he hands the gauntlet off to the glowing woman. She certainly seems like a secret weapon - he has no idea who she is, but she tore through that ship like a piece of paper and the stones are better off in her hands.
That doesn't stop him from following after her.
He doesn't have a plan, exactly, but he figures ensuring the gauntlet is safe is as good a plan as any.
It's not exactly easy-going. The swarms are endless. He loses sight of her at one point and follows the glow.
She puts up a good fight against Thanos, but he only catches glimpses of it. He hears a few shared words between Thanos and Tony, somehow now involved in what's going on. He pushes and shoves because he needs to know what's going on. His heart is racing to a point where it's echoing in his ears, in his throat. His hands are shaking and beating right along with it. His nerves are on fire from the incessant jolt down his spine warning him of a danger he's fully aware of already.
The rushed breathes pouring into the mask is starting to bother him, knowing he should be calmer but unable to quell the fear.
"I... am..." Thanos isn't speaking particularly loudly, especially not amidst all the fighting, but Peter can hear him loud and clear.
What comes next sounds like electricity, but that's not quite right.
Peter, entire body shivering with adrenaline and fear and a need to get moving, looks up and finds his opportunity. He latches on to a swooping giant's arm and launches himself over the horde between him and Tony. He's moving fast, but everything slows for him. He's up in the air, the Chitauri have slowed to a crawl beneath him. The wind's pressing into him in an all too familiar way.
He spots Thanos first, right hand up in a fist, thumb and forefinger up to snap. Expression surprised and a little bit angry, and maybe a little bit impressed. There's no glow to him. Peter looks further to the side and there's Tony. Kneeling, right arm up. Full-on glow. Face bloody and bruised and ready to end this battle. This war.
Peter knows hardly anything about these stones. There's no way to know the effect they're having on Tony, but he can see it. Hear it; the electricity he'd heard the sound of magic pouring into flesh and bone and blood in an inhuman way. The colours and glow are sliding up his arm and there's a hint of pain in Tony's hard, determined, expression.
He doesn't know what he's meant to do, but he's landing. His adrenaline, and the speed of his thoughts, can only go so long before the world keeps spinning and he has to take action.
Like figuring out how to land a plane on a beach from the outside, like lifting a building off his back, like saying 'yes' to Tony Stark when he hadn't truly wanted to; it's instinct. There's something in his chest that aches and says, "go". And says, "here's what you must do". And he obeys.
Tony's lips are moving.
The words come to him, muddled and angry. Fierce. A hero speaking what might be his last words.
"And I... Am..."
Peter takes that final leap from his landing point, a few feet from Tony, and falls, kneeling right in front of him. He clasps his hands on either side of the gauntlet just as Tony snaps his fingers.
Tony's eyes widen in instant fear, staring at the point where they sit joined together. The glow seeping through his veins retreats, a bit, and Peter's hands start to burn as it transfers into him. Into his hands, and his wrists, and his forearms. Up to his elbows. The glow lights their eyes and Peter meets his mentor's frightened gaze with a forced smile. He wants to scream and cry because this is... excruciating. But Tony needs him. Right here, helping.
Like keeping the events that happened on his field trip to Oscorp a secret from Ben and May, like keeping Spider-Man a secret from May (as long as he could), like pursuing Toomes after being told to stop; it's the right thing to do. To sit here and share this pain. This is where his heart tells him to be, and so he'll sit here.
Body on fire, arms glowing, and doing what he can. Just like everyone else on this field. Trying. Helping. Doing that little bit.
Tony's eyes tear up first and Peter's follow suit with hardly a moment's pause.
He smells ash. Burnt flesh. Blood and dirt. He doesn't tear his eyes away from Tony's glistening gaze
The glow on both of their bodies fades, nearly as quickly as it had consumed them.
He hadn't noticed how draining it was until the power is gone and he slumps forward. The nerves in his hands are fried; he can't remove his hands from around Tony's no matter how much he tries. He lets them fall in his lap, gauntlet heavy on his thigh. Tony is no better, but he moves to the side to let his legs extend and wraps his free arm around Peter's shoulders to tuck him under his chin.
They sit there breathing ragged and drained. Long inhales and short exhales. They're both shivering with pain and completely lost in thought.
Peter can think of nothing more than the warmth at his side, and the searing fire coursing through his hands. A fight on Titan, another fight on Earth. He's so exhausted. He rests his cheek on cold metal and his eyes flutter closed at the quick, but present beating heart beneath the suit and Tony's soft muttered words meant only for him.
"It's okay, Pete, it's okay." His voice is choked with tears. "I got you, I got you. You'll be okay."
They'll be okay. Together. Ironman and Spider-Man. The way it should be.