Tony Stark did not expect a kid to become one of his best friends.
When he asked Peter Parker for help getting “team Cap” to stop and listen, he thought that it would be all he saw of Peter, excluding the news, that is.
But then Peter showed up at his bedside when he was in the hospital after Siberia.
Then Peter showed up at the compound with a torn suit (which looked deliberate, might Tony add.)
Then Peter showed up at the lab without an excuse, just his backpack and a stack of homework. He didn’t even bother Tony as he worked. He just sat quietly to the side, working on his history paper.
It became regular, and slowly, they spoke more. Tony helped with the homework, Peter helped fix repulsors- they began working together on everything.
Through it all, FRIDAY watched on happily. Tony needed a friend. Rhodey was busy with physical therapy most of the time, while Pepper was busy running the company.
Tony needed to spend time with someone, and Peter was perfect.
Tony ached to be the role model he thought Peter deserved. So he stopped drinking. He started trying to sleep more. He worked to improve his health, because he couldn’t very well be a friend to the kid if he was dead, could he?
Of course, some days were harder than others.
Around this time every year, things get hard. Things get fucking hard. Worse than the anniversary of his parents’ deaths, and turns out, even though now he’s seen his mother get strangled to death by the Winter Soldier, they’re still even worse. Guess months of torture and living off a car battery really have an effect on a man’s mental health.
It shouldn’t trigger a response, but something about the rain outside sets something off. The coffee mug he’s been holding shatters on the ground at his feet, and Tony finds himself stumbling towards the wall, trying to balance himself with shaking hands. All he can hear and see is water bubbling around him, and he feels it filling his lungs and he’s drowning and he can’t breathe, he can’t fucking breathe-
By the time he’s registered his actual surroundings, he’s in the elevator and he’s going down to the workshop. His body has been operating on autopilot, and he vaguely registers that he should be concerned, but then the elevator’s doors open and he stumbles out. He can faintly hear FRIDAY’s attempts to catch his attention, to calm him down, but the water is rushing in his ears again. He can hear FRIDAY’s voice grow panicked, but his mouth is ironically dry, considering he can feel the water filling his lungs. He gasps, his eyes shooting open. Dummy’s rolling around, opening and closing his claw, trying to help but not knowing how.
“I need a drink,” he rasps, and he throws his hand out to grab a hold on a worktable, wincing as his chest begins to burn.
Butterfingers beeps with disappointment, and Tony glares at him. “Come on. ” He waves towards You, but the bot just boops his own disapproval.
Tony groans, scrounging his brain. He knows he had the bots get rid of most of the alcohol, but he’s sure he still has a few bottles stashed away somewhere. He takes a step away from the table, only to tumble onto the floor. He curses in pain, groaning again, before crawling towards one of his suits. He presses the pressure point on the boot, and the armored leg pops open, revealing his much needed drink.
“Boss,” FRIDAY starts, frustrated and exasperated, but Tony waves her off.
“C’mon, FRI, please,” he says, trying to open the bottle with fumbling hands. He hates that his voice sounds sort of strangled. His chest hurts, stings, and his throat burns. He lets out a sort of gasp, and then all he can see is fucking nothing, just stars in the distance, and fuck, no.
He finally gets the bottle open and takes a gulp, his hands shaking wildly. The bitterness makes him wince and curl in on himself. It doesn’t do much to soften the fear, so he takes another drink. And a few more.
The chest pain worsens, and he claws at it, unable to hear FRIDAY’s pressing shouts. There’s nobody in the tower: Rhodey is downtown with Vision, Pepper’s running SI, Happy’s with her, and who knows where the fuck his old family- God, no, teammates. They certainly aren’t standing beside him anymore. Haven’t for a long, long time. He takes another chug of the vodka.
His hands are shaking, and the alcohol only makes it worse. He can feel the water on his face, and the stupid drinks don’t make it go away. He realizes that he’s crying, and that only brings out a sob.
His chest hurts and his lungs feel tight and he doesn’t quite know how to breathe. The vodka isn’t helping like it should. Tony curls in on himself, shuddering. Flashes appear before his eyes, and he lets out a quiet cry, his hands clenching around the bottle. Please, Steve, stop hitting him, please, please.
“Boss, you’re in your workshop in Stark Tower.”
Stark Tower. Not Avengers Tower. They’re gone. They’re fucking gone, and Tony’s alone and everyone left and everyone fucking-
Quivering pathetically, Tony lifts his gaze off the floor, the vodka sloshing in the bottle and spilling onto his shirt. He finds Peter standing at the door, looking heartbroken at the scene. Tony drops his gaze to the floor with shame. God, fuck, this is why he was trying to stop in the goddamn first place. He’s a fucking wreck, shit-
“C’mon, Mr. Stark,” Peter says, rushing over. He gently pries the bottle from Tony’s hands, who’s still fucking crying.
“I’m s- I’m sorr-” Tony hiccups over a sob, “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have-”
“For fuck’s sake, Tony,” Peter interrupts, setting down the bottle on a table a bit harder than he probably means to. Tony flinches, which is stupid because it’s Peter, but Peter quickly joins his side again.
“Shit, I’m sorry, Mr. Stark. Just- just, you don’t need to apologize, okay? Are you alright?”
Tony gives a gross snort, wiping his sleeve across his running nose. He doesn’t think he needs to answer that question.
Peter sighs, grabbing Tony’s hands and pulling him to his feet. “C’mon. We’re gonna head upstairs, I’m going to make us some hot chocolate, and then we’re going to talk. You can always talk to someone, okay?”
Tony nods, not fully registering everything the teenager is saying, but knowing he’s trying to help, that helps.
Peter silently leads Tony out of the lab, the bots beeping with relief. Peter doesn’t complain when Tony presses most of his weight against his side, probably only able to hold him up due to his enhanced strength. Tony tries to stop himself from shaking while the elevator brings them up to his penthouse. He tries to stop looking so damn pathetic.
Peter leads him to the couch, and Tony sits down roughly. Peter says something, he’s not sure what, before disappearing into the kitchen. Tony does nothing, feeling sort of numb. He makes himself lie down, his face smushed unceremoniously against the couch cushions. He can hear Peter using the microwave to heat up the water. Tony usually tells him to use milk, because only heathens use water for hot chocolate, but Peter always just rolls his eyes and tells him to chill out. Hot chocolate is the only thing Peter knows how to make, so it’s what he makes every time he notices Tony going downhill.
A little later, he’s not sure how much later, he feels the cushion under his feet sink as Peter sits down. He allows Peter to yank him into a sitting position, and he lets Peter shove the steaming mug of hot chocolate into his hands, and he even lets Peter throw a blanket over his head. It smothers his vision completely, and his muddled brain actually allows a small smile.
He tugs the blanket down so it drapes over his shoulders instead. He looks at Peter, who’s looking at him with raised eyebrows as he sits cross-legged, his own mug of chocolate in his lap. Tony drops his gaze to his mug with a frankly ridiculous number of marshmallows. (Eight. Eight jumbo ones.) (Thank you, Peter.)
“C’mon, Mr. Stark. What happened?” Peter asks, his voice quiet and worried.
Tony sighs, rubbing a hand across his face. The overwhelming panic from before has died down, Peter’s presence calming him down like it often does. “I’m sorry, Pete. You never should have seen that.”
To Tony’s surprise, Peter rolls his eyes. “Shut up. I’m glad I did. Now answer my question: what happened?”
Tony looks at Peter, before looking back down at his lap. “I… You know how the whole Iron Man thing started?” he says finally, picking a marshmallow from the top of the mug.
“Uh, yeah. Afghanistan, right?” Peter pauses, realization dawning his face. “Oh. ”
Tony nods, chewing on the side of his cheek instead of the marshmallow. “Yeah, uh. Wasn’t exactly a five-star hotel. Horrible service, really. Very, very rude. Pretty demanding, actually. Negative six out of ten.”
“Tony,” Peter says seriously, staring at him incredulously. “Did they… did they torture you?”
Tony says nothing, swallowing hard.
“Yes. Waterboarding,” Tony says, setting his cup down to cover his face with both hands. He hears Peter let out a small breath, and he shakes his head. “No, no, you shouldn’t be fucking dealing with me like this, you shouldn’t-”
“Tony, I was fully aware of what I was walking into when I became your friend,” Peter snaps, glaring at the engineer. Tony startles, just barely. “Colonel Rhodes told me that your mental health was, quote, ‘not-so-good,’ and yes, I didn’t know the details, but I knew that there would be problems. Not that you would be a problem,” Peter adds, narrowing his eyes, because apparently the kid knows him better than he thought, “ “But that there would be problems. I’m far from fully educated on the topic, but I’ve started taking a couple psych classes at school. I know that you have both anxiety attacks and panic attacks, and both can be really severe. I know you have really bad flashbacks and nightmares. I know you have PTSD. I was aware that shit might happen, and I can’t promise I’ll be good at handling it and helping you, but I’m ready to try.”
Tony blinks, staring at the teenager. “Why?” he blurts, unable to comprehend why anyone would be willing to stick around his raging problems, especially a kid who could spend his time doing so much more.
He immediately regrets saying it, seeing the way Peter deflates, his face falling. Peter sighs, setting his chocolate down on the coffee table.
“Because,” he says, like it’s obvious, “You deserve to have a friend who cares. You’ve done so much for so many people, for me... “ Peter shakes his head incredulously. “You’ve helped protect me, you’ve helped Colonel Rhodes walk again, you’ve-”
“That’s because him getting hurt was my fault,” Tony interrupts, giving Peter a pointed look, ignoring the teenager’s groan. “I owed him that.”
“For a genius, you’re really, really stupid, Tony,” Peter says, and Tony rolls his eyes at the insult he’s heard for than a few times from the spiderling. “You’re not the one who knocked him out of the sky.”
“If I’d just gotten to him in time-”
“Seriously, shut the fuck up before I call Colonel Rhodes down here.” Tony does shut the fuck up, and Peter gives him a smirk. “None of this shit is your fault. You’re a good person, Tony. You wouldn’t have become Iron Man if you weren’t. You wouldn’t shut down the SI weapons department if you weren’t. You wouldn’t have flown that nuke into the wormhole if you weren’t. You wouldn’t have offered up your home to the Avengers, you wouldn’t donate hundreds of millions to charity, you wouldn’t help me, you wouldn’t fucking lie to Aunt May about her horrible baking-- you wouldn’t have done all those things if you weren’t a good person, Tony. You deserve so many good things, and I, along with Rhodes and Vision and Happy and Pepper, we’re going to make sure you finally get what you’ve deserved for so long. Friends, family, people who love you and care about you.”
Tony abruptly sets his chocolate down on the table. He grabs Peter’s shoulder and yanks him over roughly. Peter lets out a small oomph before returning Tony’s hug readily.
Tony Stark is absolutely not crying.
There’s… there’s fuckng onions or-- or fucking allergies or something.
When a wet spot forms on Peter’s shoulder, Tony feels Peter wrap him closer. “Thank you, Pete,” he mutters, and Peter simply shakes his head.
“You don’t need to thank me for being your friend,” Peter says, gently pulling away from Tony to look him in the eye. He reaches for Tony’s chocolate and hands it back to him, grabbing his own afterwards.
“This is more than being a friend, Pete, this…” Tony trails off, shaking his head. He doesn’t know what to say. Peter’s done so much for him, he’s helped him so much, and he doesn’t know how to put his appreciation into words. He doesn’t know how to explain these emotions swelling up in him. Rhodey, Pepper, and Jarvis (both Edwin and the AI) were the only ones ever to love Tony like this, like he deserves this.
Finally, he shrugs. “I don’t know. Just… thanks, I guess.”
Peter smiles, holding out his mug. “No problem, Tony.”
Tony grins, the skin by his eyes crinkling, as he clinks his mug against Peter’s.