“FRIDAY, block all calls unless it’s Pep, Rhodey or the kid.” Tony spoke as he walked into the lab, preparing for another long session.
He had to work on a few upgrades for Peter’s IronSpider Suit before he gave it to him. He was working on using nanotechnology for him just like with his own suits, and was focusing on getting the bots to house in the spider in the centre of the chest piece. Peter wasn’t coming over that afternoon, he’d sent a text last night about some night out with May and something else he needed to do and Tony had brushed it off. The kid could come over any time.
So, having no mentee that he needed to be with or talk to, Tony was free to lock himself in his lab all night and drink enough caffeine to sink a battleship, and nobody could stop him.
Literally, nobody could physically stop him. After Peter had said he wasn’t coming, Tony had given Happy the night off and Pepper and Rhodey were both in DC working on whatever. He was completely alone, which was just the way he liked it.
He didn’t realise how long he’d been in there until he looked up and it was dark outside. Huh.
Sir, your phone has been ringing constantly for the past hour, I know you said to block all calls unless—
“Is it something with Pepper or Rhodey?” Tony asked.
No, Boss, but it’s—
“Is it the kid?”
Well I’m not sure—
“Then block them all FRI, I got shit to do.” With that, his AI shut up and his playlist resumed. This was his happy place, blasting ACDC and Def Leppard in his private lab with nobody around to tell him to go to sleep or eat something or have a break. Honestly, they treated him like he was incapable of looking after himself.
That was debatable.
After a couple more hours, Tony stepped back from his work, a little impressed with himself. He let his mind drift to Peter and how excited the kid was gonna be when Tony showed him his new suit. “FRI, text Pete and ask him how his date with May’s going.”
The message could not be delivered, Boss.
Tony was confused. “What do you mean? Try sending it again.”
I’ve tried multiple times, Sir. I believe there might be something wrong with Peter’s phone.
Tony knew that couldn’t possibly be the case. Peter had the newest StarkPhone. It hadn’t even hit the shelves yet. It ran seamlessly and Tony had made sure that his contract was paid for.
“Can you track it?”
Tony swore and picked his phone up, the screen coming to life.
“Wow, someone really wants to get hold of me, huh?” He mumbled, scrolling through all the missed calls from one number. He was just going to brush it off before he realised that the call was coming from Queens.
Peter’s phone wasn’t working and there was someone in Queens trying to get ahold of him. What if Peter’s phone crapped out and he was trying to get ahold of Tony? What if he needed his help?
He was about to call the number when his phone rang again, the same number flashing up on his screen. He hastily accepted it.
“Hello, is this Tony Stark?”
“Speaking.” His concern grew with every second.
“Mr Stark, i’m sorry to bother you but you’re listed as the emergency contact for two of our patients here at Queens Memorial Hospital.”
Tony’s heart dropped. There were only two people he knew in Queens. Peter and May. And he was emergency contact for both of them.
“Y-Yes, I am. What happened? Are May and Peter okay?”
There was a little hesitation on the line. Hesitation was never a good thing. Never.
“Mr Stark, I think it would be best if you came down here to talk with the doctors. How fast can you be here?”
“I can be there in fifteen minutes.” He could take the suit.
“I’ll see you then, Mr Stark.”
With no more information, the receptionist hung up the phone and Tony’s mind began to race. He tapped twice on the housing unit for his own suit and it melted into place just in time for the closest window to slide up.
Tony couldn’t focus the entire way to Queens, and the only way he knew that he was going in the right direction was because FRIDAY had put his suit on autopilot to follow the route to the hospital. He couldn’t think straight. The man on the phone hadn’t said anything about what was wrong with May and Peter, but it must be bad. Peter. Peter’s powers. Tony gave another boost to his thrusters when he realised the hospital would have to run tests. If Peter had to go down for surgery, they’d use the normal dosage of general anaesthetic. Peter’s metabolism burned through general anaesthetic in a fraction of the time. He’d feel everything, he’d wake up. Tony willed himself to go faster and it seemed like days before he finally touched down outside the main doors of the hospital.
He raced through hallways to the third floor where he’d been told by the woman at the desk was the surgery floor. That wasn’t good either. The surgery floor. Surgery meant big injuries. Surgery meant life-threatening stuff.
Tony was told to sit and wait. Tony didn’t like sitting and waiting. Tony liked standing and finding things out, but apparently that wasn’t the way a hospital was ran. And sadly, he couldn’t use his fame or billionaire status to get him any further ahead in the ‘news’ queue. So, despite his pleading and his bickering and his moaning (and yes, a little bribery), Tony reluctantly parked his behind on a very uncomfortable plastic chair in the waiting room.
His knee jigged up and down nervously and the need for more caffeine hit him like a scratch he couldn’t itch. He would not stoop so low as to get hospital coffee. He’d done it once before in 2006. Never again. No, instead he fumbled about with the zip on his drawstring hoodie when he realised with a start that it wasn’t his drawstring hoodie, it was Peter’s, one that the kid had left in the lab after their last session because it had run so late that Tony had told him to get some sleep. He must’ve left it there and Tony must have pulled it on when he got a little chilly in the lab instead of asking FRIDAY to raise the temp a little. He felt like a complete and utter child wrapping it around him closer, but he did, and he could smell Peter’s shampoo in the neck line. And waffles. Peter at this point was about 90% toaster waffle and maple syrup. Tony always teased him for it and Pepper always scolded him for making the kid shite instead of feeding him healthy stuff, but now it was a comfort.
He felt as though he’d been there for a week before a doctor came out to speak to him, peeling off a set of blue latex gloves and throwing them in the medical waste bin in the corner. Tony knew she was coming to speak to him. And he was shitting himself over what she might have to say.
“Mr Stark?” The doctor asked and Tony nodded, standing up. He shook the woman’s hand and she pulled him back down to sit, taking the seat next to him. The look on her face told Tony that this wasn’t going to be a pleasant conversation at all. “Mr Stark you’re here because you’re the emergency contact for May and Peter Parker, is that right?”
Tony nodded. That’s just about all he could do at the minute.
The doctor let out a sigh. “There was an accident involving the vehicle they were in and—and a semi-truck.”
Tony’s heart dropped. A semi? Who the fuck was in a car accident with a semi and lived? Nobody. That’s who.
“Oh god,” he whispered, a hand coming up to rub at his eyes. This was not happening.
“They were both brought here in the same ambulance. May was injured far worse than Peter, so our focus was on her. We’ve just—I’ve just spent the last six or so hours in the OR trying to do something but there was so much blood loss and so much trauma that her body just couldn’t take it, I’m sorry, Mr Stark.” The doctor covered his hand with hers and she gave it a little squeeze. Tony wondered how many times she’d given this same speech, and if it got any easier delivering it.
“Oh god,” he said again. Apparently that was all he was capable of at the minute.
“I’m so sorry for your loss.”
“What about Peter?” Tony asked, his eyes filling with tears.
The doctor sat up straighter and removed her hand. “I believe Mr Parker is in a better situation. The injuries he received from the crash were less intense and less advanced than his aunt’s. He’s currently being seen to, and I think that eventually, with a lot of care and rest and a little physical therapy, Peter will be okay.”
Tony squeezed his eyes shut tight. Peter was okay. He was going to be okay. He wasn’t dying. He wasn’t dead.
“Can I see him?” The doctor looked at the clock.
“Strictly speaking, visiting hours are up, but given the current situation and with Peter’s loss, I believe I can make an exception and sneak you in. He might not be awake, though.”
Tony sniffed and nodded. “That’s fine.”
He was escorted down a maze of hallways until they finally reached a private room at the end of a corridor. Room 3068.
He looked so young. Obviously he was young to begin with, the kid wasn’t even fifteen yet. But laying there, in the narrow hospital bed, a large pad of gauze taped to his head, a cast on his arm, and wires poking out of him in every direction. He looked about ten years old.
Tony stumbled forward, almost falling into the seat next to his bed.
“It’s okay, Petey, I’m here.” Tony whispered. “I’m here, it’s okay, I’m gonna make it all better.” He took the kid’s hand again, warming it up between both of his own.
Peter remained almost lifeless on the bed, the steady beeping of the monitor Tony’s only reassurance that he was alive.
“I’ll leave you two be for a little while but someone will be in periodically to check on Peter’s progress. And someone will be around to talk about Peter’s living situation and whether Ms Parker made any prior arrangements for him in her will.” The doctor spoke softly and Tony nodded. He thanked her before she closed the door and left him to it.
One look at the kid told Tony that he wasn’t letting him go anywhere. He would not stand by and watch as Peter was shipped off to a foster family or a group home. No way.
Someone came around to do the night check and brought Tony a blanket and a small pillow. He thanked them and tucked the pillow behind his head, resting it against the chair. The blanket was small, but it was soft and comfortable, which was good. He wasn’t going anywhere. Peter was going to have a lot to deal with very soon, and Tony wouldn’t let him wake up alone.
Rounds that morning were eventful to say the least, the small group of interns shocked to the core to find Tony Stark sitting in the chair beside their patient. The doctor in charge was the same doctor that had spoken to him the day before. She checked Peter’s vitals and reassured him that Peter should wake up today, and that providing he improved during the day, he could be authorised for a transfer to the Compound, where Tony had wanted to move him.
With a promise to sign NDAs, the intern group moved on and they were left alone for a few more hours.
It was just before lunch when Peter started to stir. Tony’s heart began to race and he panic as he began to choke against the tube in his throat. He pressed the emergency button at the side of his bed and soon a nurse appeared and helped take out the intubation tube so that he could breathe.
“Mr—” Peter tried to clear his throat. “Mr Stark? What’re you d-doing here?” He coughed again and Tony reached over to the table and poured him a little cup for water, holding it up to his lips and watching as Peter downed it.
“Hey, Underoos.” Tony leaned forward and pushed his hair away from his sweaty forehead. “You remember what happened last night?”
Tony saw the moment that it clicked in Peter’s head, his eyes blowing wide and filling with tears immediately.
“M-May?” He stuttered out and Tony ducked his head. Peter took a sharp inhale. “No. No. That’s not—that’s not fair.” He let out a sob and Tony grabbed his hand, squeezing it tight.
“I’m so sorry, kiddo. I really am, I wish I could do something.”
“Y-You have to—to fix this, you’re T-Tony Stark, you have to fix this.”
Tony’s heart broke. “I’m an engineer buddy, and a pretty good one at that. I’m good at fixing things. But—but I can’t fix this, I’m so sorry.”
Peter cried and Tony shifted forward to hold him in a loose hug, worried about hurting him further. He held him and made what he hoped were comforting noises as he ran his fingers through Peter’s curls.
Eventually, after a lot of crying and a little more water to rehydrate, Peter fell back asleep. Tony assumed it was his healing factor kicking in. For it to work properly, it took a lot of Peter’s energy.
The next notable event was the social worker coming into the room. Peter was still asleep and Tony wanted to keep it that way, knowing that him waking up and seeing a social worker would remind him of what he’d lost. He didn’t want him to hurt any more than he already was.
“Mr Stark?” The man asked and Tony nodded, extending his hand and shaking the other man’s. “My name is Arthur, I’m the social worker assigned to Peter’s case. I have a copy of Ms Parker’s will here with regards of what was to happen to Peter in the event of her death.”
Jumping straight into it then.
Tony cleared his throat. “A-And?”
He scanned across the paper and nodded before looking back up at Tony. “It appears that Ms Parker listed you as the primary caregiver for Peter, Mr Stark. She has listed you as his legal guardian.”
Tony froze. That wasn’t something they’d ever discussed. Sure, he was their emergency contact and he was down as the second person of contact for Peter at school, but this? This was a whole other ball park.
Arthur nodded. “Were you made aware of this when Ms Parker wrote her will?” Tony shook his head. “Well, nothing’s set in stone yet, Sir.”
“What do you mean?” Tony’s brows furrowed. “You could still take the kid away?”
“If you don’t want to assume responsibility for Peter, then you forfeit your right to legal guardianship of him and he will go into the foster system. Since he’s fourteen years old, he’ll mostly likely be taken to a group home.”
Tony’s stomach dropped. Absolutely not. That was not happening. Not now, not ever. He’d already made that decision.
“Nope, I’ll take him. I’ll take responsibility for him, I want to be his guardian.” Tony said without a waver of his voice and Arthur smiled at him, jotting something down.
“That’s excellent news, Mr Stark. There are a few procedural things that we need to do. I need to have a chat with Peter alone when he’s able to do that to make sure that this is what he wants too, and I have to inspect the premises in which you intend to live with Peter to make sure that it’s up to code and Peter will be safe. If all goes well, you will be granted legal guardianship of Peter and we’ll then meet every couple of months to check on Peter’s progress.”
Arthur went into the legal spiel and Tony zoned out a little. He’d get Pepper to check everything over once he got Peter to the Compound and seen to by a real doctor. It wasn’t that he didn’t appreciate the work that the hospital had done for him already, it was just that Cho knew about Peter’s powers and his metabolism and she was much more equipped to deal with his injuries than any doctor here was.
“I understand. I’ll get your contact details from the hospital and I’ll let you know when Peter’s transferred to my Compound upstate for further treatment.” He thought about Peter’s school and the tower. “I, uh—we won’t be living at the Compound though, we’ll be living in my Tower in Manhattan, I’ll have a viewing scheduled with you at some point.” Tony was just saying anything to get the man to leave now so that he could think about what in the everloving fuck was happening.
He was taking in a teenager. He was taking in a teenager with superpowers. He was taking in a teenager with superpowers that was fourteen years old and had lost four parents in the last eight years. Fuck.
And he hadn’t told anyone yet.
God, Pepper was going to kill him when she got home and realised there was a kid in the guest room and he hadn’t told her.
Helen Cho was his first phone call.
To be fair, Helen was currently working somewhere in Asia, so she’d take the longest to get back to the States. The conversation with Pepper could wait for now. Tony had given her the briefest run-down in history and demanded she fly back to New York immediately. He said he’d pay her whatever she wanted as long as she came to the Compound and was ready to treat Peter. She’d agreed, saying she was going to get the jet that night. Tony really didn’t know what he’d do without Helen Cho.
Peter woke up an hour or so later and cried again, and Tony had tried to provide as much comfort as possible, even though he was sure he was doing a shit job of it. No amount of comforting could undo what had just happened. Nothing could take away from the pain that he was feeling. Nevertheless, he ran his fingers through Peter’s curls and tried to soothe him.
“It should have been me,” Peter muttered and Tony stiffened.
“No.” He said, no question in his voice. “No. Do not say that. Don’t you ever say that, kiddo.” Tony shook his head and took a breath. “You are the—I’m not a father, I don’t have any children, but you’re the closest thing I’ve got. And when I say I would give my life for yours, when I say I would jump in front of a moving car or a bullet for you, I mean it. You were May’s kid. She loved you like you were her son. And I know that she would do the same without a second thought. So don’t you dare say that it should have been you, kiddo. Don’t you dare.”
That seemed to quieten Peter and he gave a small nod. He let out another sob and Tony shifted so that he was perched on the side of the hospital bed. He reached forward and pulled Peter into his arms, the kid resting his head on Tony’s shoulder as he cried. Peter’s good arm came up to wrap around Tony’s torso, his other arm still in the cast.
“What am I supposed to do without her?” Peter croaked and Tony didn’t say anything. He didn’t know. All he knew was that he was going to be there for him.
Helen made Peter stay in the Med-Bay for another day before releasing him and saying that he could go back to his room. He had to stay away from Spider-Man from the time being while he healed properly. He had a few cracked ribs that would still take time to heal. Tony wasn’t concerned about Spider-Man. He figured Peter would need some time to work through some stuff before thinking about going back to his vigilante ways.
Peter was transferred to the Compound the next day. Helen had arrived at some point in the last few hours, and the doctor in charge of Peter’s case had signed off for the transfer. The social worker had turned up again, and said that he would be going with them to the Compound to inspect it, even if Peter wasn’t going to be living there for that long.
“W-Why is he here?” Peter had asked Tony, nodding to Arthur.
“He needs to do an inspection on the Compound, bud, make sure that it’s safe for you to live here.”
Peter nodded. “Yeah, I got that, but doesn’t that happen only for like permanent placements? Like are they only doing this because it’s you and you’re Iron Man and you’re dangerous?”
This time Tony was confused. “Only for permanent placements? Kiddo, what do you mean?” Tony shook his head slightly, furrowing his brow.
“I mean I get that you came and I’m really thankful for that, I am. and it’s great that I get to spend like a few days here with you and everything but why’s—” Peter looked around the bedroom that he’d been given, all decked out in Avengers merch and Star Wars posters. He eyed the boxes in the corner. “—why’s my stuff here?”
It wasn’t technically his new room, it had been there waiting for him for months. When Tony had offered him a place on the Avengers, he hadn’t been kidding, but Peter had refused. The room had stayed as it was, Tony saying that the kid could still use it if he ever came to the Compound to work in the lab. Now it was finally being used, albeit not under the most ideal circumstances. Tony was certain that if given the chance, Peter would much rather be back in the small apartment in Queens with his aunt alive.
Tony felt like an absolute idiot. In all the panic of finding out and moving him to the Compound and settling him in, Tony had forgotten to tell Peter that he was his legal guardian, inspection impending.
“Kiddo, I—I signed for you," Tony cringed, not wanting it to sound like Peter was a parcel he'd just been given. "I—I’m your legal guardian now. I didn’t want you going anywhere and May named me as your guardian if anything happened to her so you—you live here now, well, and the Tower. But you’re here for good.” He said, placing his hands on Peter’s shoulders.
Peter’s eyes filled with tears and Tony scolded himself. He’d made the kid cry already and he hadn’t even been up here an hour.
“I—I—what?” Peter closed his eyes. “You mean I don’t—you mean I don’t have to leave?”
Tony let out a breath. “No, Peter. You’re not going anywhere. Not if I have anything to do with it.”
Peter slumped forward, his head coming to rest on Tony’s shoulder as his arms went around him. Tony hugged him back gently, not wanting to hurt his ribs.
“Thank you,” Peter sobbed, his breath stuttering. “I—thank you, Mr stark.”
“I wouldn’t have it any other way, kiddo. I didn’t want you going anywhere else that wasn’t with me.” Tony hugged him a little tighter and he felt Peter finally relax a little. “I care about you, kid. There was no way I was gonna let you go into the foster system, not when could do something about it.” The whole thing was a little awkward with Arthur just standing there like a melon, pretending to look around the room and probably jotting little notes down about it’s habitability.
Tony walked them down to the Med-Bay and showed Arthur around. Peter would still be staying there for a couple of nights, until Cho cleared him for leaving. But he’d had to show Arthur his bedroom anyway so Tony figured he might as well take Peter for a look. Arthur had a chat with Helen about her treatment plans for Peter and what his round-the-clock care would look like. She explained everything in detail and he seemed satisfied with everything. After a quick chat with Peter, he left, saying that he’d be in touch to get updates on Peter’s recovery.
He sat with Peter in the Med-Bay for the rest of the day, playing old sitcoms on the tv and gently combing through his hair with his fingers whenever Peter got upset again. Eventually, the kid fell asleep and he figured that he’d go to his own bed. At least he knew that Peter was safe now, that he was here with him in the Compound getting the best medical treatment money could buy. He would be fine.
“FRIDAY? I need you to go online and search for the best parenting books that deal with grieving children. Order the top five and have them sent to my StarkPad.” He said once he’d got into bed.
He wanted to do right by Peter. His father was shitty, and Tony always thought he’d just go through life never having that responsibility. But here he was, the only legal guardian of a grieving superhero teenager that had lost four parents in the last decade. And god help him, he was going to be the best guardian he possibly could be. He wasn’t the kid’s father. Not yet, at least. He didn’t want to it to seem like he was replacing Richard or Ben. But he knew he cared about Peter, knew that he loved him, and he was going to do whatever he could to make sure that Peter got through this and knew that he wasn’t alone.
“Wake me up if he has a nightmare,” Tony said. “Make that a new protocol. If Peter ever wakes up in the night, I want you to wake me up too, I don’t want him to be alone.”
Of course, Boss.