Actions

Work Header

Mistakes

Chapter Text

Tony could remember the day it happened clearly.

It had started like any other. He woke up, left whatever woman he had had in his bed the night before to go start working in his lab. And there he stayed, for a good many hours with only Dummy and Jarvis and the other bots as his companions. Pepper came by, talked to him for a bit, wanting paperwork like always.

And then, not like always, Jarvis went off line. Tony spent a few minutes working to get him back online, Pepper hiding in the safe room, until Jarvis was up again.

“Jay,” Tony said jokingly. “Sleeping on the job isn't part of your protocols. What's goin’ on?”

“Someone seemed to have cut power, temporarily, to the network,” the AI said quickly. “However, there is something, or rather, someone at the door.”

“Do you recognize them?” Tony asked, moving towards the stairs. “And tell Pepper she can come out.”

“It's hard to run facial recognition on a child when no child has ever been to the house, sir.”

In that moment, Tony felt his heart lurch, his stomach roll and clench at the same time. His first thought had been ‘Oh God’ and the second was ‘Pepper told me so’. And, of course, his third was ‘Pepper can never know’. She'd never trust him again!

“Delay the order to Pep!” Tony said, rather manly, and not at all in a panicked squeak. “I'll… I'll deal with it!”

Jarvis, thankfully, didn't say anything. He hurried up the stairs, nearly tripping on the last step, and through the living room. When he got to the front door, he paused, unsure, before opening it. And, sure enough, there was a basket with a wrinkly sniffling baby wrapped in layers and layers of blankets.

Quickly, Tony reached out, picking up the basket by the handle, doing his best not to touch the kid. The baby squirmed, making Tony flinch and fidget himself. He carried the basket as far from him as he could placing it on the table.

“Jay, perform scans.”

“Scans for…?”

“Injuries,” Tony said, though it came out more like a question. “Illnesses? I don't know!”

At his confused cry, the baby started to cry himself. Or… herself. God, Tony didn’t even know this kids gender. Or, if it was even his! He tried to make shushing noises, trying to get it to stop crying. The noise only made it worse.

“Performing scans now, sir. Should I call out Miss Potts?”

“Yes,” Tony said in an instant, because Pepper made everything better. “No,” he said quickly after, because he didn't want to see Pepper’s disappointed face. “God, I don't know!” was his final reply because he really didn't know!

“Calling up Miss Potts, sir.”

Tony couldn't hear, waving his hands in front of the baby, trying to get it to calm down. “Don't cry,” He said desperately. “Come on, I can't deal with crying babies! I can't deal with any babies! What do you want?!”

The wailing increased, and Tony nearly began to cry himself. Then, the blessed and horrid clicks of heels on the floor entered his ears over the wailing. And just like that, Pepper was by his side, mouth open and gaping at him and the basket.

“Oh my god,” Pepper said, a hand over her mouth. “Tony!”

“Pepper,” Tony managed. “Help…”

She moved fast, biting her lip as she reached into the basket, pulling out the baby. He continued to cry, wriggling within the blanket. Pepper immediately started to unwrap it, leaving the babe in a little blue onesie. Freed arms went to wrap around Pepper’s neck, crying wildly as she swayed. It was then that Pepper noticed the letter at the bottom of the basket.

She reached for it, still trying to bounce the baby as she opened the letter. And, with Tony panicking and staring dumbly at the red faced baby from as far as he could, she had to. Once it was open, she began to read aloud.

“‘Dear Mr. Stark, I understand that you aren't the father type-” Pepper scoffed at that, “-but I'm eighteen, with no parents, siblings, or family to speak of. The baby is yours, as you were the only one I'd had sex with since my first time at 16. I know what I'm asking is a lot, but I hope that you will take care of him. I named him Peter.

“It would, of course, have been easier if I had put him up for adoption, I know, and you just might, but I wanted to do my best to prevent that. I was in the foster system myself, since I was three, and the living conditions at so many of the foster homes and orphanages are terrible. Older kids, at all the places I went to, usually beat of the younger ones, since they had a better chance of adoption. But because of my condition, Peter would never get a chance.

“After we had our… night, when I went to the doctor, it wasn't because I thought I was pregnant. I'd been feeling sick, of course, but the reason for that was-” Pepper paled, voice shaking. “-was because I was dying of bone cancer. I hadn't noticed it before, no doctor had, but to get treatment would mean that I would need to have an abortion, and I couldn't do it. Because even if I did treat it, my chances of survival would only be an extra year.

“I nearly died during birth, and I probably would have. But, thankfully, I didn't. I've just been released from the hospital, last week, and I'm sure Thanatos is waiting for me. So, I leave Peter to you. Hopefully, you keep him.

“From, the little blond hacker from California State University you met a year ago.’”

Pepper looked up at Tony, the baby- the boy- Peter now quietly sucking his thumb in her arms. Tony stared at the boy, getting up without a word. He couldn't take care of a baby. He was an alcoholic, and a workaholic, and a fuck ton of other bad things. Without a word, he turned and walked to where his tablet sat, starting to type.

“Tony?” Pepper asked. “What are you doing? We need to talk about this.”

“There's no need to,” Tony said, going to sit on the couch. “You get him tested, see if he's mine, and when you prove that he is, I call my old nannies and hire them again. They can raise him.”

“That's no way for a kid to live.”

“It's how I was raised, why not him?”

“Tony-”

“This is how it's going to be, Pepper,” Tony snapped, then turned, guilty, to go back to his workshop. “Jarvis will take care of everything else.”

And, with that, Tony left his first and only child in the hands of someone else. That was his first, and most unforgivable, mistake.

XxXXxX

Months passed, and Tony fell into a quick routine.

The nannies were set on a four person rotation, covering twelve hour shifts. Peter seemed to learn just as quick as he had, and Tony got biweekly reports on Peter's progress. There were times that Tony did see Peter, briefly, when one nanny was relieving another. Peter didn't seem to like the nannies as much as he liked Tony. Though, Tony had never even picked him up, even though Peter was nearly one.

Tony couldn't have Jarvis be in charge of the nannies, since he needed him in the lab. So, on a whim, Tony built a second house AI to be head nanny and Peter's teacher. Her name is Friendly, Rather Interesting, Daily Advisor of Youngling, or Friday. She was in charge of creating Peter's schedules and routines, based on a collection of child rearing advising books off the internet that she routinely updated for milestones two months in advance.

By the time Peter was two, walking and talking, Friday had become an essential part of Peter and Tony's lives. Tony was still drinking, and working in 72 hour shifts, so Friday kept Peter occupied with books and cartoons on holoscreans. The nannies were cut to two, only coming to clean, feed, and put Peter to bed.

Tony's absence from Peter's younger years was the second mistake he made.

Though he was never there, whenever Peter saw Tony, he was excited. He called him Dad, or a word that he didn't know, surprisingly. Friday would later inform him that it's what the ancient greek word for father was. Apparently, Peter's mother had a second major in Mythology. Peter liked the stories of his mother's gods.

Since Tony had kept Peter as far from the paper's as he could by having Pepper say he was her nephew, it didn't matter what Peter did. At least Tony could do one thing right...

XxXXxX

When Tony left for Afghanistan, Pepper had taken charge of Peter, and brought him with her to wave him off at the strip. Tony didn't do anything other say give Peter's hair a ruffling before getting on board with Rhodey.

They partied, and there were strippers.

After the demonstration, Tony road with three soldiers, drank and listened to loud music. They took pictures. It was the epitome of the funvee!

What wasn't fun was that they were attacked. And then getting blown up with his own shrapnel bomb. And then getting kidnapped and a car battery attached to his chest.

Yensin helped him, in so many ways. He translated, was his lab assistant, and helped him install the mini arc reactor. They ate together, came up with a plan to escape, and worked together to build the suit.

One night, as they played a board game, Tony got a little chattier then normal.

“So you never told me where you're from,” he said.

“Gulmira,” Yensin had said casually. “A small village.”

“Got family?”

“Yes,” he said simply. “And I will join them once we leave here.”

There was a pause, as they played for a bit longer. Then, Yensin looked up. Little did the man know, what he said next shook Tony's very being.

“What about you, Mr. Stark?” Yensin asked. “Do you have family waiting for you?”

And in that moment, everything changed. Before this, when he thought about the people he would leave behind if he somehow died, when he wrote his will not long ago, he'd thought of Pepper first. He left the company to Pepper, then some of his stocks and fortune to Rhodey. Happy would get enough money to keep him healthy and happy for all the shit he'd given him. Then some money to his nannies, for helping to much. Then Obie, a few other people. Then he'd thought of Peter.

Now, with the chance of actually dying, Tony thought only of Peter. He thought only of his… of his son that he'd had since he was four months old, but had never held. He'd never even picked up his own son! He had become the one thing he had never wanted to be. He'd become his own father.

“Oh god,” Tony gasped. “I… I do…”

“You don't sound to happy about it, Mr. Stark. Why is that?”

“I… My son… He's five and I never… I've barely even spoken to him! I've never even picked him up!”

For a moment, Yensin said nothing. He looked at Tony curiously, frowning ever so lightly. Tony was having a major freak out and all Yensin did was stare at him. He was horrified with his own actions. If he continued this way, Peter could end up as bad as him… God, the only thing he probably did right was make Friday! Friday was like Peter’s Jarvis, and Jarvis was… Jarvis was Tony’s life line…

“So you are a man,” Yensin began slowly, “Who could have everything, but chose to have nothing.”

And, Tony’s only thought was that Yensin was right. His only thought was that he had to get back to Peter. He had to correct his mistakes. God, he had to correct his will . He had to tell his son how much he really meant to him.

Several days later, when they staged their escape, Tony stood over Yensin’s dying body, and promised that he would make things right, with Stark Industries and with his son. He promised to never waste his life again. Then, he had to walk away. He walked out, torched everything, and flew off, leaving only a flaming and exploding crater behind.

When he crashed, he climbed his way out of the suit, and began to walk. He walked for hours, hoping to find help, or shade, or for help to find him. And when Rhodey flew overhead with a helicopter, Tony fell to his knees, screaming with joy.

“How was the funvee?” Rhodey had asked, grinning as tears welled in his eyes. “Next time… you ride with me.”

And Tony just hugged him, because Rhodey had to deal with so much of his fucking crap. They went back to the states after that. And, God, when the plane's ramp finally lowered, showing him everyone standing there, waiting for him… Pepper, with her red eyes and serious face, stood with the one person Tony needed right now, hands on Peter’s shoulders, as the body stood frozen in place.

As soon as Tony saw his son, saw the moment his son grew teary eyed and stiff, he forced himself to stand. He walked down the ramp, Rhodey trying to help him, then broke into a jog, and finally a run. As soon as he was close enough, Tony dropped to his knees on the cement, reaching out and pulling Peter into his arms.

Peter went stock still for a moment, before wrapping himself so tightly around Tony, he almost couldn't breath, not that he could in the first place. Tony held his son, one hand holding him close at his back, and then the other threaded through Peter’s messy brown hair.

“It’s okay,” Tony choked out, eyes squeezed shut. “I’m okay. Daddy’s here now…”

Peter wailed louder, burying his face in Tony’s shoulder. Mumblings came out, incoherent words that Tony really didn’t care what they meant. With a deep breath, Tony hefted Peter up, holding him to his chest as he smiled at Pepper.

“Your eyes are red,” he said. “A few tears for you long-lost boss?”

“Tears of joy,” she said, glancing at Peter. “I hate babysitting.”

“Yeah,” Tony said, smoothing a hand through Peter’s head. “You’ll never have to babysit again.”

They moved to the car, Tony carrying Peter with him. God, he felt so heavy. Was Peter supposed to be that heavy, or was it just because he was five? He’d ask Friday about it later.

“Where to, sir?” Happy asked.

“Take us to the hosp-”

“No,” Tony said, Peter still clinging to him, though he seemed interested in the soft glow of the arc reactor under his shirt.

“No?” Pepper asked. “Tony, you have to go to-”

“No,” Tony said again. “There are two things I want to do. I want an American cheeseburger, and the other-”

“That’s enough of that. There’s a child-”

“My child,” Tony corrected, making Pepper turn to him in surprise. “I want you to call for a press conference now.”

“Call for a press conference? What on earth for?”

“Hogan, drive. Cheeseburger first. You want a cheeseburger, Pete?”

Peter looked up, as if he blinked then Tony would be gone again. He nodded, almost shyly. Tony grinned, hugging Peter tight to him. They ended up going through a Burger King, and Tony made sure Peter got a kids meal. One with a burger, and one with chicken nuggets, once he found out Peter barely ate while he was gone. So maybe Peter wasn’t heavy… Maybe he was light. Tony didn’t want to risk it.

When they pulled up to the press conference, Obie opened the door for him. He had Peter move to the center seat for a moment, then turned to reach in and pick Peter up. Now, with the knowledge that Peter hadn’t eaten much while he was gone, he felt painfully light. Everyone was silent as he turned, Happy bringing over the bag.

“Tony,” Obie said quickly. “What are you…”

“Having a burger,” Tony said as he looked at Peter, who he held to his hip with his good arm. “Could you hold the bag, my little angel?”

“Not an angel,” Peter said, pouting, but took the bag from Happy anyway.

“You are to me,” Tony said, grinning as he walked towards the entrance. “Come on, Obie. Pete, can you grab me my other burger?”

They went inside, people muttering around them as they do so. Once they were in the conference hall, reporters went crazy, shouting questions. Obie went to stand behind the podium, but Tony went and as on the floor in front of it, Peter on his knee.

“Alright,” Obie said. “Let’s get started. Uh…”

“Hey!” Tony called out, Peter holding onto suit jacket tightly. “Would it be all right if everyone sat down? Why don’t you just sit down? That way you can see me, and I can… Little less formal then. Pete, can you open this for me?”

As the reporters sat, Peter opened up the burger, holding it out to him. Tony took it, placing a kiss to Peter’s temple in thanks. Peter didn’t say anything, and Tony reached into the bag to pull out the box of nuggets. He got a smile in return, and watched as Peter shyly ate his nuggets.

“Good to see you,” Tony said first to Obie.

“Good to see you,” he got back.

“I never got to say goodbye to Dad,” Tony said as he looked first to Obie, then to Peter. “I never got to say goodbye to my father. There’s questions that I would have asked him. I would ask him how he felt about what this company did. If he was conflicted, if he ever had doubts. And not just about the company.”

It was then that he looked up. “There are two things that I’m here to talk about today, and the first, before there are rumors that are just gross, is about this little guy. Peter, can you say hi to all the reporters?” His heart, or rather the arc reactor, seemed to skip a beat as he felt sick saying it. Well, if he was going to start acting like a father, he’d need to set the record straight first.

Shyly, Peter looked up, mouth half hidden behind a half eaten chicken nugget. “Hi…”

“This little guy,” Tony said as he ruffled Peter’s hair. “This little guy is not, in fact, Pepper’s distant nephew she’s raising. No, he’s her nephew, just not by blood. Everyone, this is Peter Parker Stark. My son. And before you start shouting for answers, please keep in mind that Peter isn’t used to loud groups and so many people watching him like I am.

“Now, about my father. I don’t know if he knew, or if he had doubts. Or maybe he was the very man we all remember from the newsreels. But I saw young Americans killed, by the very weapons I created to defend them, and to protect them. And I saw that I had become part of a system that is comfortable with zero accountability.”

“Mr. Stark,” a few people whispered, raising their hands.

“Hey,” Tony said, pointing to one he remembered. “Ben.”

“What happened over there?”

“I had my eyes opened,” Tony said, moving Peter off his lap so he could stand. He moved behind the podium, Peter following to cling to his leg. “I came to realise that I have more to offer this world than just making things that blow up. I came to realise that that isn’t the legacy I want to leave behind for my son. And that is why, effective immediately, I am shutting down the weapons manufacturing division of Stark Industries-” Everyone one jumped to their feet, shouting for his attention, and making Peter cling painfully tight to his leg. “-until such a time as I can decide what the future of the company will be, what direction it should take, one that I’m comfortable with is consistent with the highest good with this country, as well.”

Obie quickly led him away from the podium, and Tony took Peter’s hand as he was ushered away. Obie took over the conference, and Tony led Peter outside, scooping him up as they went. He had Happy drive him to the factory, to go see the big arc reactor. Peter was amazed by it all, and Tony couldn’t blame him.

“That’s Daddy’s heart now,” Tony said to Peter, who he once again had at his hip.

“That?” Peter asked, eyes wide.

“Not exactly that one,” Tony corrected. “A smaller one. A much smaller one.”

Peter nodded, rather sagely for a five year old. “It’s pretty.”

His face was so serious, Tony couldn’t help but laugh, pressing his forehead to the top of Peter’s mess of hair as he did. That’s how Obie found them, Peter looking confused but serious and Tony laughing his ass off.

“Tony,” Obie started, catching his attention. “What were you thinking? We’re a weapons manufacturer.”

“I don’t want a body count to be our only legacy,” Tony returned, holding Peter just a bit tighter.

“It’s what we do. We’re iron mongers. We make weapons.”

“It’s my name on the side of the building.”

“And what we do,” Obie said, ignoring him, “keeps the world from falling into chaos. To keep people here safe, like this little miracle that I didn’t know about.” He reached out, to ruffle Peter’s hair, only to have the boy, duck his head away from him.

“Not from what I saw,” Tony said, moving to set Peter down, but still have him close. “We’re not doing a good enough job. We can do better. We’re gonna do something else.”

“Like what?” the man practically hissed, giving a pointed look at Peter. “You want us to make baby bottles?”

“I think we should take another look into arc reactor technology.”

“Come on!” Obie cried dramatically. “The arc reactor? That’s a publicity stunt! Tony, come on. We built that thing to shut the hippies up!”

“It works,” Peter said, rather insistently, glaring up at Obie from his hiding spot behind Tony’s legs.

“It’s a science project,” he scolded Peter. “It’s not cost effective. It’s a dead end.”

“Maybe,” Tony said, turning to look down at Peter as he scurried to his front as Obie went behind him.

“Am I right? We haven’t had a breakthrough in what? Thirty years?”

“That’s what they say.” Tony turned to face him, studying his face. “Could you have a lousier poker face? Just tell me, who told you?”

“Never mind who told me. Show me.”

“It’s Rhodey or Pepper.”

“I want to see it.”

“Okay, Rhodey.” Glancing around, Tony picked up Peter, who shied away from Obie. “Pete, can you help me open up my shirt? I’ll show you my new heart, okay?”

Peter glanced at Obie, then unbuttoned the top few buttons of his shirt. There, in the center of his sternum, sat the mini arc reactor. Peter stared, Obie forgotten, and reached out to touch it. Obie seemed to dislike this, and quickly reached out to button Tony’s shirt back up.

“It works,” Tony said, shifting his hold on Peter.

“Listen to me, Tony,” Obie said, frowning at Peter. “We’re a team. Do you understand? There’s nothing we can’t do if we stick together, like your father and I.”

“I’m sorry I didn’t give you a heads up,” Tony said, turning to walk towards the exit. “But if I had-”

“Tony-”

“If I had, you would have stopped me. Look, I gotta go. Need to get Peter home.”

He turned, bouncing Peter at his hip as he did. The kid seemed happy to go home, and reached out almost greedily towards the car.

“Tony,” Obie called behind him, making him pause as he put Peter in the car. “Just lay low for a little while.”

He gave a mock salute, sitting down with Peter secured and buckled next to him. Happy drove them home, and Tony carried Peter all the way inside.

“Greetings, Sir,” Jarvis said as soon as they entered. “It’s good to have you back.”

“Hey there Boss,” Friday chirped cheekily. “Welcome back. Peter, you-”

“Friday,” Tony said instead, humming to himself as he put Peter down. “Clear his schedule for the rest of the day- No, the rest of the week, at least. And get me a carseat, to. Also, tell the nannies they won't be needed anymore.”

“On it Boss,” Friday cheered.

“Daddy?” Peter said, looking up with him.

Tony took a deep breath, then knelt on the floor beside him. “Peter, I know I haven’t been around much, but that’s going to change right now. Today, it’s gonna be you and me. Why don’t you go up to your room and find your three most favorite toys, and bring them down here to show me, okay?”

It was amazing to see how Peter’s eyes sparkled at that before he ran off towards the stairs. If Tony had any guess, if Peter was anything like he was, he’d probably take a good few minutes on each toy before he finally chose. He knew he’d bought Peter a lot of stuff. Or, at least, ordered it.

Quickly, Tony walked to the lab, heading down and setting things up as fast as he could. He didn’t want Peter to see this, and he knew that he wouldn’t leave his side for long. Jarvis would already have the new arc reactor made for him with the schematics he set up in the car on the way over.

However, he ran into a snag rather quickly, and called the first person he knew would be in the house.

“Tony?” she asked as soon as she answered.

“How big are your hands?” was his even faster response.

“What?!”

“How big are your hands?”

“I don’t understand why-”

“Get down here. I need you.”

She hung up, and Tony could hear her as she came down the stairs. She stared at him through the glass at the entrance, and he grinned a little. The new, even brighter arc reactor sat in his hands.

“Let’s see them,” he said quickly. “Show me your hands, before Peter comes down and ends up seeing.” She lifts her hands, staring. “Oh, wow. They are small. Very petite indeed. I just need your help for a sec.”

“Oh my god,” she gasped. “Is that the thing that’s keeping you alive?”

“It was,” Tony hummed, looking at the new one. “It is now an antique. This is what will be keeping me alive for the foreseeable future. I’m swapping it up for an upgraded unit, and I just ran into a little speed bump.”

“Speed bump, what does that mean?”

“It’s nothing, just a little snag.” He reached up, pulling out the original reactor. “There’s a loose wire under this device. And it’s contacting the socket wall and causing a little bit of a short.” He snapped it out. He didn’t have much time before Peter came back.

“What do you want me to do?” Pepper asked, taking the old reactor from his hands.

“Put that on the table over there. It’s irrelevant. I want you to reach in, and you’re just going to gently lift the wire out.”

“Is it safe?”

“Yeah,” he said quickly. “It should be fine. It’s like Operation. You just don’t let it touch the socket wall or it goes beep.”

“What do you mean, Operation?”

“It’s just a game. Nevermind.” Just gently lift the wire. Okay? Great.”

She moved to reach in, then quickly pulled back. “You know, I don’t think that I’m qualified to do this.”

“No, no,” Tony said, glancing at the timer Friday had set up for estimated time. Peter would be leaving his room any second now. “You’re fine. You’re the most capable, qualified, trustworthy person I’ve ever met. You’re gonna do great. Is it too much to of a problem to ask? Cause I’m sure Pete would-”

“No,” she said quickly. “No, I got it. I can do it.”

She reached in, making a disgusted face. When he hand touched the plasma discharge, she looked about ready to run. Then she made a comment on the smell, and hey! That was just rude. She eventually got the wire, starting to pull it out. As she pulled, it touched the walls, and Tony jerked.

Tony screeched, gasping in pain, as Pepper appolicized. Slowly, the wire came out more and more, and Tony began to warn her about the magnet. Just as he said it, she pulled it out, surprising him. Pepper moved to put it back in, but he reflected her.

“What’s wrong?” she asked frantically.

“Nothing,” Tony said, breathing hard as he glanced at the timer. “I’m just going into cardiac arrest just about a minute before my son comes running in here, ‘cause you yanked it out like a trout-”

“What?! I thought you said it was safe!”

“We gotta hurry,” he said, holding up the new reactor. “Take this. Take this. You gotta switch it out really quick.”

Like the champ she was, Pepper took deep breaths, reaching in to attach it to the base plate as he started to feel dizzy. And, just like that, he was back to life, giving a shout of surprise. Pepper jumped, though she thankfully didn’t yank out the reactor, and slid it into place. He laughed, watching her as she stared at her plasma covered hands.

“Don’t ever,” she started, reaching for a towel, “ever, ever, ever ask me to do anything like that ever again.”

“Don’t worry,” Tony said, pulling off the electrodes, just in time to see Peter appear at the glass door. “There’s my Peter! Jay, let him in!”

“What should I do with this?” Pepper asked, holding up the old arc reactor as Peter ran in, three little toys in his arms. Though, he dropped them in favor of being picked up.

“Why don’t we let Peter decide,” Tony said, turning to let Peter see the old one as well as the new one. “That’s Daddy’s old heart, Pete. What should we do with it?”

“Trophy,” Peter giggled, grinning widely. “Best heart in whole wide world!”

“The whole world?” Tony asked, turning to lift Peter as high as he could, holding him under his armpits. “But the best one is in Daddy’s chest!”

Peter giggled, spreading his arms as far as he could before Tony’s arms hurt a little, and he had to put him down. Pepper smiled, leaving them to their bonding.

“What’s that?” Peter asked, pointing to Butterfingers.

“That,” Tony said with a grin, “is one of my robots. His name is Butterfingers, and he cleans my workshop. Or he’s supposed to. Hey, Butterfingers! What’s all this stuff doing on top of my desk? That’s my phone, that’s a picture of me and my dad. Right there. In the garbage. All that stuff.”

Peter giggled, covering his grin with both his hands. Tony returned the grin, instead turning to start moving some things around. They set up a special area, over in a spot where Peter could see everything that was going on in the workshop. It would be where Peter would be whenever he came down with him. Tony would, of course, have to stop sleeping in the shop, and drinking while doing so.

But it would be worth it, for Peter.

They called in chinese for dinner, and Tony found out that Peter loved egg drop soup. Noodles were his second favorite, and he was strangely delighted when he found brocoli. Didn’t kids hate brocoli? Once they finished, and after Peter had insisted he eat lots and lots of food to, they went back down to the lab so Tony could do a little bit of work, making plans for a new suit, and so Peter could play and watch.

And it turned out that now that he was actually taking part of Peter’s life, Friday told him when it was Peter’s bed time. Peter was, in fact, yawning when Friday warned that it was ten minutes before nine and Peter still hadn’t taken his bath.

“That’s fine,” Tony said as he pulled the sleepy boy up into his arms. “He can take one in the morning.”

“Sure thing, Boss.”

“Since you’ve fired the nannies,” Jarvis drawled. “Should I wake you when Young Sir awakens?”

“Nah. He can come get me once he’s up,” Tony said as he made it towards Peter’s room, only just then realizing how far it was from his own.

“Daddy,” Peter whined sleepily. “Don’ go…”

“I’m not,” he assured. “Why don’t you sleep with me tonight, okay?”

Peter nodded, ever so slightly, as Tony carried him to his room. Tony’s room, big and spacious, was more used then Tony remembered. He rarely slept there, except when he had, uh, company over. Now, it looked like someone had been sleeping in the bed daily for months.

And then, as Tony tucked Peter in on one side, and slid in on the other, Tony knew who’d been sleeping there. Who else but the little five year next to him? Tony winced, then looked down as Peter wriggled over to him. He sighed, and went to reach for his tablet, only to realise just how tired he was, and fall asleep.

XxXXxX

The next day, Tony regretted telling Peter he could wake him up. He regretted it so fucking much. But, what he regretted most was the five year old sized bruise forming on his ribs.

“Daddy!” Peter was cheering, jumping on the bed, and on Tony. “Daddy, wake up!”

“Okay,” Tony said, snagging the kid right out of the air before he could get another pair of knees to his ribs. “That’s enough of that. Daddy needs coffee. Jarvis, time.”

“Friday, time,” Peter mimicked.

“It is currently six eighteen, Sir,” Jarvis said rather chipperly. “And the coffee machine has already started. It is currently 62 degrees outside, with a supposed high of 82 degrees. High tide has already passed, though there is a fair chance of higher waves this evening.”

“It’s six eighteen, Baby Boss” Friday said cheerily. “Its supposed to be hot today, like the old bot said.”

“I am not old,” Jarvis gasped, scandalized.

“You are, you-”

“No fighting, Tony groaned, still holding a wriggling Peter and very much wanting coffee. “If you two are gonna fight, do it where I can’t hear you.”

“My apologies, Sir.”

“Sorry, Boss. Baby Boss still needs his bath, and I can get the water started now, if you want.”

“Right,” Tony yawned, moving instead to the kitchen as Peter ran ahead of him, jumping up onto a bar stool. “Start the bath. Jay, is the coffee ready?”

“Yes Sir. Also, the carseat you asked for has been placed in the garage.”

“Great.”

“Reminder that Baby Boss likes waffles for breakfast. There are frozen ones in the freezer. Just put them in the toaster.”

“Right.”

Tony moved on auto pilot. First pulling a pair of frozen round waffles out of the freezer, then putting them in the toaster, before finally pouring himself a cup of coffee. He drank it in one go before pouring another, Peter’s waffles popping up. Tony put them on a plate, poured a bit of syrup on them, then handed the plate to Peter, who ate and made a mess.

“Sticky!” Peter giggled, showing Tony his hands.

“Yup,” Tony said, yawning a bit. “Finished and now it’s bath time.”

Peter nodded quickly, grinning, and hurried to the bathroom. Tony followed, finding the tub already filled, only halfway, and Peter already pulling of his clothes. He set his coffee cup on the counter, rolling up his sleeves. This would be easy. Piece of cake.

Not even five minutes later, the tub was nearly empty of water. He had lost the bar of soap somehow. And when the hell did a rubber duck get in his pants? Peter kept splashing, and Tony was wide awake now. God, he had been wrong. Not a piece of cake. Peter was a water devil . But he eventually got clean…

The boy giggled the entire time that Tony spent drying him off. He grinned at him, and Tony couldn’t help but smile back. Then, he sent him off the go get dressed, while Tony showered himself. He watched Peter scurry off, wrapped in a big, fuzzy towel three times his size, and then went to take a sip out of his coffee cup. Bad idea.

At least he found the bar of soap.

When Tony came out, he went to his own room to get dressed himself. A simple pair of jeans and a random band t-shirt would do. He put on a leather jacket and his shoes after a second of thinking. He would go ask Rhodey about his idea today.

When he came out, Peter was waiting, looking up at him with big brown eyes he definitely got from Tony.

“Are you leaving?” Peter asked, eyes seeming to somehow get bigger, as his lip seemed to quiver.

“We’re going to go see Uncle Rhodey,” Tony said. “Go get your shoes and a jacket. And meet me in the lab”

In an instant, Peter was off, running back to his room. Tony went down to the lab, going over to the cars. He stepped on something as he went, looking down at it. It was Peter’s toys. One was a bag of marbles, and another was a box of what looked to be legos. The last one, however, was a plushie. A Captain America plushie.

Tony knelt, picking it up easily. It was old, he could see by the mended seams and neatly replaced patches. And, not only that, but it looked home made. The singled round bubble of a head, on a plump little body with floppy arms. This was a plushie that Tony knew. This was the plushie his Aunt Peggy had made him when he was Peter’s age.

“Sorry,” a voice came behind him, Peter running up in a thin black jacket. “I’ll pick up.”

Tony frowned, watching his son for a moment, picking up toys and taking them to his little area of the workshop.

“Peter,” he said, when the boy reached for the plushie. “Where did you get this?”

“Aunty Peggy,” Peter said, as if he were getting scolded, though Tony was more surprised then anything. “She came to the house while you were… While you were gone and watched me for a while. She gave this to me when she left… Am I not supposed to have it.”

“No,” Tony said, handing it back. “You can have it. It… It was mine when I was little. Aunt Peggy made it for me. She knew Captain America.”

Peter went wide eyed, holding the plush close to his body. “Really? Cap’n ‘merica is my favorite superhero!”

“Yeah. Mine to, Pete… Now come on! Time to see Uncle Rhodey. Why don’t you bring Cap with us?”

Peter nodded eagerly, holding the plush so hard that Tony could have sworn the head would pop off. It didn’t, thank god, but it looked like it would.

After a hassle with getting the car seat set up, Tony eventually got them on the road. Peter slept most the way, though only after asking what felt like a game of a million questions. Peter was… definitely a Stark. Only Stark men could ask that many questions without breathing.

When they finally reached the base, Tony showed Peter around for a bit. He loved looking at the different planes, and somehow ended up sitting on Tony’s shoulders as he walked around, the Cap plush sitting on his head. When they found Rhodey, he was lecturing about pilotless planes.

“Colonel,” Tony said, as he walked up, holding onto Peter by his shins. “Why not a pilot without the plane?”

“Look who fell out of the sky,” Rhodey said, rather strained. “Mr. Tony Stark.”

“And Mini Stark,” Tony said, moving to shake a few hands. Most eyes were on the giggling five year old on his shoulders though, anyway. He didn’t take any offence to that. Peter was adorable. “Speaking of manned and unmanned, you gotta get him to tell you about the time he guessed wrong at spring break. Just remember that. Spring break, 1987. That lovely lady you woke up with-”

“Don’t do that!” Rhodey sighed.

“-what was his name? Wasn’t it Ian?”

The cadets were all snickering, and one looked just about to die from his red face. Tony smiled, though Peter seemed confused.

“They’ll believe it,” Rhodey sighed. “Don’t do that.”

“Okay,” Tony said, giving the cadets an apologetic shrug that made Peter giggle. “Sorry guys. He’s right. It was me. Ian and I still text, though.”

“Give us a couple minutes, you guys.” As soon as all the cadets leaving, Rhodey spoke. “I’m surprised. I swear, I didn’t expect to see you walking around so soon.”

“I’m doing a little better than walking.”

“I can see that.”

“Rhodey,” Tony said seriously. “I’m working on something big. I came to talk to you. I want you to be a part of it.”

“You’re about to make a whole lot of people around her real happy,” he said with a smile. “‘Cause that little stunt at the press conference, that was a doozy.”

“This is… Not for the military. I’m not… It’s different.”

“What?” Rhodey asked, all humor gone. “You a humanitarian now or something?”

“I need you to listen to me.”

“No. What you need is to get your mind right. I’m serious.”

“Okay. Peter, say goodbye to Rhodes.”

Rhodey scowled at him, even as Peter gave a little ‘bye-bye, Uncle Rhodey’. And with that, Tony turned and left. He drove back to Malibu, and set up in the garage. The project file was ready, on a secure server, and he opened it up. Once he was sure that Peter was safe in his little space, Tony really got to work.

The first thing he had to work on, was the flight capabilities. He built the boots, heavy but movable, first. The first model was done by the time they broke for lunch, and Tony managed to make PB and J for lunch.

Testing came after eating, and dear god. It was bad. So bad. He hit the ceiling. And Dummy doused him with the fire extinguisher. And Peter started crying. That was the worst part. Being mildly concussed and having Peter crying. Tony felt like he was getting his heart ripped out.

After testing came more building. Flight stabilizer this time. Peter was let out of his space during this time, and clung to his leg as as he did the 3D hologram modeling. By the time he was on to second building stage, it was dinner time, and Pepper was coming down to get him.

“Obadiah's upstairs,” she said as she put down a coffee cup and placed a package in his desk. “What would you like me to tell him?”

“I’ll be right up,” Tony said, lifting up the flight stabilizer. Peter quickly scurried off into his protective space, though he left the door open.

“I thought you said you were done making weapons.”

“I am,” Tony said, taking a deep breath. “This is a flight stabiliser. Completely harmless.”

To prove such, Tony charged it up, and let it rip. And it did rip. It ripped him right off the floor and into the wall. And possibly his arm out of its socket. Definitely his pride out of his chest as he gasped for breath.

“I didn’t expect that.”

Eventually, he made his way upstairs, after some more crying from Peter, and scolding from Pepper. Obie was sitting at the piano, a pizza box on the table. Oh look, Obie brought dinner.

They talked for a while, Peter eating a slice with him. Pepper and Obie seemed to team up on him, and Tony managed to get out of it for a bit when Friday said it was bed time. Thankfully, Tony figured out to do bath time before bed time, since Peter was tired in the evening. No ducks in pants, and no soap bars in coffee mugs. Definitely more water staying in the tub.

Tony vaguely remembered drying Peter off and dressing him in pajamas, but after that, it was a haze of sleepy mutterings and a weight on his chest. Then, his back hitting bed and the weight cuddling up with him. A door seemed to squeak open, and Tony thought he saw someone there, big and looming and dangerous, but they were gone, and the bed was warm.

He didn’t remember when exactly he fell asleep.

XxXXxX

Tony did more testing after that, over the next week or so. Peter continued his routines, now adjusted for lessons and reading to take place in the sectioned off area of the lab. Friday was mainly in charge of Peter, for that time, though Tony made sure to keep an eye on him even as he was testing out the suit.

U was recording everything, and Peter loved to watch as the boots got better and better. He loved watching him fumble around with flying. And when Dummy drenched him with fire extinguisher foam.

After the first test flight, and Tony’s mild concussion, they sat and talked about Peter getting one. Tony knew with every bone in his body that he couldn’t let Peter fly one yet. They made a deal that once it was totally finished, no kinks in it, they’d talk again.

It was then that Peter brought out the package Pepper had left them days ago. They opened it, together, to see the old reactor mounted on a little pedastal. Around it read ‘Proof That Tony Stark Has the Biggest Heart.’ Peter couldn’t help but grin and point at it. That was his idea. That was his daddy’s award. And Tony could only hug him, and accept it.

As they sat in the lab, trying to figure out what to eat for dinner, the news playing in the background, Tony noticed the party. It was being held under his name…

“Did we get an invite to that, Jay?” Tony asked, playing with the suit's faceplate.

“I have no record of an invitation, Sir.”

“None for Baby Boss either, Boss.”

Tony hummed, listening to the reporter until she said that people thought he had PTSD, and that he was hiding out with Peter. Trying to hide. Stark men don’t hide. The render was completed, and Tony drank a bit more veggie sludge before heading to get himself and Peter into some suits.

Peter brought his Cap Plush, though it stayed in the car when Tony pulled up to the concert hall. He tossed the key to the valley, instead helping Peter out. In seconds, reporters who had been swarming Obie were suddenly around him. People called out to him, and Tony was pleased with the ever present hold Peter had on the leg of his slacks.

“What’s the world come to when a guy’s gotta crash his own party?” Tony asked making sure that he kept a hand at the top of Peter’s head at all times.

“Look at you,” Obie said, forcing a smile. He glanced at Peter, who puffed up his cheeks and tried to look bigger. “Hey, what a surprise.”

“I’ll see you inside,” he said quickly, Peter reaching up to take his hand instead as they started to walk away from Obie.

“Hey!” the bald man called back. “Take it slow, all right?”

“Just cabin fever. We’ll just be a few minutes. Pete’s got bed time in an hour anyway.”

At this point, even Tony could see that Obie didn’t like him being there. He took Peter inside, making sure he had some water and the he didn’t drink. Well… Much.

“Give me a Scotch,” Tony said, then reaching down to pat Peter’s head. “And an empty cup, plastic if you have it, with olives? This little guy loves ‘em.”

“Olives,” Peter said, nodding his head sagely.

“Mr. Stark?” a man in a fed suit asked. He sounded serious. “Agent Coulson.”

“Oh yeah,” he nodded. “The guy from the…”

“Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division.”

“That’s long,” Peter chirped, as he got his olive cup.

“Thats right, Peter,” Tony said, sitting at his scotch. “You guys need a new name for that.”

“We get that alot,” Coulson sighs, though Tony’s eyes were wandering over the whispering crowd. “Listen, I know this must be a trying time for you, but we need to debrief you. There’s still a lot of unanswered questions, and time can be a factor with these things. Let’s just put something on the books. How about the 24th at 7pm, at Stark Industries?”

“Tell you what,” Tony said, holding out a hand. “You got it. You’re absolutely right. Why don’t you go clear it up with my assistant, over there, while I get my kid some real food to eat with those olives?”

“Like olives,” Peter insisted, though he followed when he walked towards a small time with spreads of crackers and cheese.

Coulson did in fact go to Pepper, who was off on the dance floor. Tony got Peter some different crackers, some cheese, and picked him up as he ate. Peter was getting tired, Tony could see. Not that he could blame him. Events like this took a lot out of Tony, too.

“Wow,” a woman said, coming up to his side. “Tony Stark.”

“Oh,” Tony gasped, trying his best to not sound startled. Peter looked up at the woman with droopy eyes, half chewing the cheese piece that was partially in his mouth.

“Fancy seeing you here,” the woman said, glancing at Peter as he laid his head on Tony’s shoulder.

Tony struggled with a name, until she finally gave it to him.

“You have a lot of nerve showing up here tonight,” Cristine hissed at him, making Peter squint. “Can I at least get a reaction from you?”

“Panic. I would say panic is my reaction.”

“Because I was referring to your companies involvement in this latest atrocity.”

“Yeah, they just put my name on the invitation. I don’t know what to tell you.”

“I actually almost bought it, hook line and sinker.”

“I was out of town for a couple months, in case you didn’t hear.”

“Is this what you call accountability?” She handed him a stack of photos, which he struggled to look at one haned. “It’s a town called Gulmira. Heard of-?”

“Yensin?” Peter asked, looking up at the sound of a familiar name. Tony had, of course, told Peter all about how he escaped with Yensin’s help. He hadn’t had the heart to tell him that Yensin was dead, and instead said Yensin returned to Gulmira.

“So you have,” Cristine said, crossing her arms.

Tony ignored her, looking at the different photos. It was definitely the Ten Rings, carrying cases with his company's logo. And then, he saw it. The Jericho missile. It was right there, clean and brand fucking new.

“When were these taken?” Tony asked, deathly serious.

“Yesterday.”

“I didn’t approve any shipment.”

“Well, your company did.”

“Well, I’m not my company.”

With that, Tony turned, walking pulling Peter with him to go find Obie- No, Obadiah. The man had been strange since he returned, and if Tony was right… He could never be Obie again. He was outside, still, with reporters pushing camera’s in his face.

“Do you mind?” Obadiah said more then asked, pushing a reporter out of the way as Tony came up, Peter clinging to him, now on high alert.

“Have you seen these pictures?” Tony demanded, practically waving them in Obadiah’s face. “What’s going on in Gulmira?”

“Tony, Tony. You can’t afford to be this naive.”

“You know what?” Tony asked as Obadiah led him off to the side. “I was naive before, when they said ‘here’s the line, we don’t cross it. This is how we do business.’ If we’re double-dealing under the table… Are we?”

Obadiah said nothing for a moment, simply looking away. Then, he turned, looking out at the sea of reporters.

“Let’s take a picture. Come on. Picture time!”

He threw a hand over Tony’s shoulders, but Tony was having none of it. He pulled away, turned and picked up Peter, who seemed to realise they needed a way out. Peter yawned in his cutesy little way, big open mouth and a little fist rubbing his eyes. Tony gave is award winning smile, all fake, but still believable.

“Not today,” Tony told the reporters. “It’s way past Pete’s bed time.” Turning back to Obadiah, he said “This isn’t over.” And then, he left.

Putting Peter in the car, he buckled him into the car seat and drove. He drove a little fast, glancing into the mirror every now and then to check on Peter. The kid fell asleep rather quickly, and didn’t make even the slightest of peeps the entire ride. And for that, Tony was thankful.

When he got home, he carried Peter upstairs from the garage, and into their bedroom. Tony tucked him in, leaving him to sleep, before heaving down to the lab. He sat on the couch down there, putting on a gauntlet, and tweaking it as he watched the news.

“The 15-mile hike to the outskirts of Gulmira,” the reporter was saying, “can only be described as a descent into hell, into a modern day Heart of Darkness. Simple farmers and herders from peaceful villages have been driven from their homes, displaced from their lands by warlords emboldened with a new found power.

“Villagers have been forced to take shelter in whatever crude dwellings they can find in the ruins of other villages, or her in the remnants of an old Soviet smelting plant.” There were sounds of gunfire from the tv, and Tony took deep breaths, clenching and unclenching the gauntlet fist. “Recent violence has been attributed to a group of foreign fighters referred to by locals as the Ten Rings.

“As you can see, these men are heavily armed and on a mission. A mission that could prove fatal to anyone who stands in their way. With no political will, or international pressure, there’s very little hope for these refugees.”

Tony stood, tossing the screwdriver aside. Then, the reporter talked about a woman whose husband had been kidnapped. He looked at it, then turned, and raised the gauntlet. It whirled, and fired a blast over the workshop. A light sparked and clanged as it fell, and Tony felt anger welling in his chest.

Turning, he saw his reflection in the glass of the doors. In a fit of rage he blew them all out, then went and dressed in a tight body suit, to get in the armor. He let it form around him, connecting with the arc reactor.

“Friday,” he said as he moved towards the door. “If I’m not back before Peter wakes up, tell him not to worry and go eat breakfast without me. I’ll be back later.”

The AI said nothing, and Tony took off.

When he arrived in Gulmira, it was a slaughter. Men were dragged to a slaughter wall. Women and children were forced to watch. He arrived just before one could be shot. He knocked three men away, turning to find five more holding hostages. Woman, teenagers, children, even a baby. He lowered his gauntlets, letting the targeting system take them all out.

A boy, held by his clearly terrified mother, pulled from her grip and ran to his father. They embraced, holding each other tightly. The boy looked at him, as he passed, going to grab the leader of the group. Tony pulled him through a wall, tossing him down in front of the crowd.

“He’s all yours,” he said, voice masked by a modifier.

He didn't wait to see what they did, instead flying out to go find the Jericho. And he did, only to get knocked from the sky. When he stood, he faced off with a tank. He dodged the first missile, and sent a little counter of his own, destroying the tank in one go. And, with men firing bullets at him, he rose, and destroyed the Jericho in one move.

As he flew back home, he got a call from Rhodes.

“Hello?”

“Tony,” he said, though it was hard to hear. “It’s Rhodes.”

“Sorry? Hello?”

“I said it’s Rhodes,” he said again, this time a bit louder.

“Speak up please,” Tony said, sounding as casual as he could.

“What the hell is that noise?”

“Oh yeah,” Tony said, thinking fast. “Pete and I are out, driving with the top down.”

“Yeah, well, I need your help right now.”

“Funny how that works, huh?”

“Yeah. Speaking of funny, we got a weapons depot that was just blown up just a few clicks from where you were being held captive.”

“Well, yeah, say that’s a hot spot.” He was a little out of breath, now, taking in a deep gulp of air as he went. ‘Sounds like someone stepped in and did your job for you, huh?”

“Why do you sound out of breath, Tony?”

Think, Tony think! “I’m not, I was just jogging in the canyon.”

“I thought you were driving with Peter.”

“Right,” he said quickly. “I was driving, uh, to the canyon, where Peter and I are going to jog.”

“You sure you don’t have any tech in that area I should know about?”

“Nope!”

“Bogey spotted!” someone in the background shouted.

“Okay,” Rhodey said, sounding a little distracted, and oh, that can’t be good. “Good, cause I’m staring at one right now and it’s about to be blown to kingdom come.”

Two jets came up behind him, and Tony did his best not to groan. Great. Just, fucking great. Turning, he gave a quick “That’s my exit,” and hung up.

He gave Jarvis the order to go speed up, and went supersonic. Then, a missile came in and he deployed the flares. Things just got worse from there, the jets opening gun fire on him, and he had to deploy flaps and cling to the bottom of one of the jets.

“Jarvis,” he gasped, holding on tight. “Call rhodey’s cell!”

“Calling, Sir.”

After a second, the man answered.

“Hello?”

“Hi, Rhodey, it’s me.”

“It’s who?”

“I’m sorry, it is me. You asked. What you were asking about is me.”

“No, see, this isn’t a game. You do not send in civilian equipment into my active war zone. You understand that?”

“This is not a piece of equipment,” Tony ground, the hud going staticy for a second. “I’m in it. It’s a suit. It’s me!”

Just then, the jet he was under turned, belly towards the other jet. And dear god was he fucked! The jet rolled, and he lost his grip. He flew back, hitting a wing. The pilot flew out, caught for a second in the explosion, and fell. No chute was deployed, and Tony turned, acting fast, to go help him out. The second jet followed, and Tony just had just enough time to get the man’s chute open before Jarvis reengaged evasive maneuvers.

“Tony,” Rhodey said, sounding terrified. “You still there?”

“Hey, thanks,” Tony panted, grinning to himself.

“Oh my God, you crazy son of a bitch. You owe me a plane. You know that, right?”

Tony laughed. “Yeah, well, technically, he hit me. So… Now are you going to come by and see what I’m working on?”

“No no no no no,” Rhodey said quickly. “The less I know, the better. Now, what am I supposed to tell the press?”

“Uh, training exercise. Isn’t that the usual BS?”

“It’s not that simple.”

And with that, Tony hung up and finished his way home. Friday told him that Peter eaten, by then, and Tony gave him permission to come down, with shoes. Peter did come down, and stared up at him as he went to the dismantler.

Eventually, Tony got Peter to go sit on the couch, to wait, while he got the suit off. It was hard, getting the suit off, and Peter was giggling as the bots tugged at the pieces.

“It is a tight fit, sir,” Jarvis was saying. “Sir, the more you struggle, the more this is going to hurt.”

“Be gentle,” Tony said, jokingly. “This is my first time. I designed this to come off, so… Ow! Hey!”

“Please, try not to move, sir.”

“Yeah Daddy,” Peter giggled. “Look silly!”

“What’s going on here?” Pepper asked, surprising him, and he went still.

Slowly, he looked over his shoulder at her. Then, because he was tired and hurt, he spoke without thinking.

“Let’s face it. This is not the worst thing you’ve caught me doing.”

“Are those bullet holes?”

“Can we talk about this once I’m out?”

Thankfully, Pepper agreed, leaving to go cool off and taking Peter with her. As much as Tony loved his son, he needed a moment. However, within an hour, he had forgotten the deal, making some fixes to the armor. When she returned, without Peter, he looked up.

“Hey,” he said as casually as possible. “You busy? Think you could run an errand for me? I need you to go to my office. You’re going to hack into the mainframe and you’re going to retrieve all the recent shipping manifests.”

Picking up a USB, he held it out ot her. “This is a lock chip. This’ll get you in. It’s probably under Executive Files. If not, they put it on a ghost drive, in which case you need to look for the lowest numeric heading.”

“And what do you plan to do with this information if I bring it back here?”

“Same drill,” Tony said simple. “They’ve been dealing under the table, and I’m going to stop them. I’m going to find my weapons and destroy them.”

“Tony,” she started, then sighed. “You know that I would help you with anything, but I cannot help you if you’re going to start all of this again.”

“There is nothing except this,” Tony snapped. “There’s no art opening. There is no benefit. There is nothing to sign. There is the next mission, and nothing else.”

“Is that so?” She asked, voice soft and filled with hurt. “Well, then I quit. Peter can come live with me, and you can keep your missions.”

She tossed the flash drive onto the desk, causing Tony to flinch at the clank. He didn’t know what came over him. Peter… Peter would always come first. It was Peter, then he mission. As she turned to walk away, she spoke quickly.

“The mission is for Peter,” he said, causing her to stop, pause and turn to him. “I spent years, with you by my side, reaping the benefits of destruction, instead of caring for him, about how he saw me. And now, when I don’t want to be the Merchant of Death, to be a villain in his eyes, and trying to protect the people I put in harm's way, be the hero that Peter deserves, you’re just going to walk out?”

“You’re going to kill yourself, Tony,” She said. “And I’m not going to be a part of it. I’m taking Peter, and I’m leaving.”

“He forgave me. Peter. He wouldn’t have done that, unless it was for a reason. I’m not crazy, Pepper. I just know, after I saw what happened in Gulmira, and Peter when I got back, what I have to do. I had spent years, as a kid, trying to make my father proud. But now, I know, that I need to make Peter proud. To make him proud to say, when he’s older, ‘that’s my dad’. And I know, in my heart, that this is right.”

Taking a deep breath, she walked back over to the desk, picking up the lock chip. She looked at it, then back at him, before smiling.

“You’re all he has, you know.”

And with that, she left. Tony went back to work, fixing up the suit as he waited for Pepper to come back. He ordered pizza, for dinner, and went up to eat with Peter until it was bath and bedtime. The kid slept pretty easy now, and after some work, Tony had moved Peter’s room closer to his. With only a wall between them no, and a night light that Tony had built to give the exact same glow as the arc reactor, Peter could sleep in his own bed, most nights.

As he went back to the sitting room, looking for more pizza and wondering about Pepper, the phone rang. He was tired, after such a long day, and walked slow, picking up a few pillows before he found it. Pepper calling… He answered, sitting down.

“Tony?” she said, only for his body to go ridged, a ringing in his ears. “Tony, are you there? Hello?”

The phone was lightly pulled from his grip, and he was eased backwards onto the couch. If he wasn’t paralyzed, he’d probably be having quite the heart attack. Someone was in his house. Some one was in his house with Peter asleep in the other room !

“Breathe,” the sickeningly familiar voice said as stared at the device in Obadiah’s hands. “Easy, easy… You remember this one, right? It’s a shame the government didn’t approve it. There’s so many applications for causing short-term paralysis.”

Obadiah got up, smiling as he moved around to Tony’s front. He grabbed his face, turning him to look, as he chuckled.

“Ah, Tony,” he practically laughed. “When I ordered the hit on you, I worried that I was killing the golden goose.” He reached into a bag off to the side, pulling out a device that he put against the arc reactor. “But, you see, it was just fate that you survived that. You had one last golden egg to give.”

And with that, Tony jerked, the arc reactor being pulled from his chest. Stane looked down at it with an evil smile, the glow casting light over both of their faces. Then, Stane pulled hard, the cord snapping as he looked at it with greed. Tony couldn’t move, could feel the shrapnel moving towards his heart.

With that, after bragging and saying words that Tony couldn’t understand in his haze of hate, betrayal, and fear, Stane left, the arc reactor in hand. Once he was gone, Tony worked his hardest to get to the elevator. He managed to get inside, stumble his way into the lab. Jarvis nor Friday said anything, the network had to be down. He couldn’t say anything, couldn’t call to Peter for help, and crawled his way across the lab floor.

When he got to the desk, where the case with his ‘Best Heart’ trophy was, he tried to grab it. He did. But he couldn’t reach, and laid on the floor. Then, a soft whirring sounded above him. The case appeared in his peripheral vision, and Tony nearly cried when he saw Dummy, looking down at him with his camera, claw turning ever so slightly.

“Good boy,” Tony managed before he turned, smashing the trophy on the floor.

He took the arc reactor with shaking hands, and managed to fit it into his chest. For a minute, he blacked out, feeling weak and off center, and oh so dead . But he wasn’t. He could hear Rhodey, blessed Rhodey shouting out. But, man, stupid Rhodey! Didn’t he know Peter was sleeping.

“Tony?” his friend called. “Tony? Peter?”

“Uncle Rhodey?” a softer, much younger voice called back, and oh, Rhodey’s done it now!

“Peter,” he heard Rhodey say. “Where’s Tony?”

“He said he still had work to do,” Tony barely heard. “Lab?”

And then, there were feet on the stairs, two sets. One big with boots, one small with slippers. Tony managed to turn just as they saw him, Peter screaming and running to him without caution for the shards of glass still around the broken windows. God, he needed to fix that… Peter could get hurt.

“Daddy!” Peter wailed, and Tony reached up to grab him.

“Tony,” Rhodey gasped.

“I’m fine,” he managed to slur, one hand holding Peter and the other grabbing Rhodey’s sleeve. “Where’s Pepper?”

“She’s fine. She’s with five agents. Their about to arrest Obadiah.”

For a second, Tony stared at him, as they sat him up. “That’s not going to be enough.”

Rhodey helped him up, Peter still clinging to him. He had them help him into the suit, taking deep breaths as he got used to the weaker reactor.

“That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen,” Rhodey said, standing with Peter, who looked scared and worried.

“Not bad, huh?” Tony said, though he could tell it was a bit more subdued. “Let’s do it.”

He stepped off the assembler, using a repulsor to push his ruined car out of the way of the hole in the ceiling. With quick steps, he moved into place, Jarvis and Friday still rebooting but online. Turning back to Rhodey and Peter, he smiled, eyes watering. He took in the sight of them, not sure if he would come back from this.

“You need me to do anything else?” Rhodey asked, his own eyes watering.

“Keep the skies clear,” Tony said, then, in a much more serious tone after the faceplate snapped into place, “And watch Peter.”

They both knew that it was probably more then just a temporary babysitting, and he took off, heading for Stark Industries factories. He couldn’t stand waiting, and he eventually asked Jarvis.

“How do you think the Mark I chest piece is going to hold up?”

“The suit’s at 48% power and falling, sir,” the AI said truthfully. “That chest piece was never designed for sustained flight.”

“Keep me posted.”

He sped up just a bit, having Jarvis call Pepper.

“Tony!” she cried, clearly frightened. “Tony, are you okay?”

“I’m fine. How are-”

“Obadiah, he’s gone insane!”

“I know. Listen, you’d better get out of there.”

“He built a suit.”

“Get out of there right now!”

“And he’s-”

Tony gave up on talking with her, now having the factory in sight. He dived, as Stane opened fire on him. They crashed, through cement parking lot, then through the wall of the lab. They ended up on the street, cars blaring horns.

Stane got up first, picking up a car, before getting read to throw it at him. Collateral damage, Stane had called them. Tony gave shot at Stane through the chest piece, and caught the car, though power went down to 19%. Probably shouldn’t do that again!

He car, of course ran him over, and Stane attacked him with a motorcycle. Then literally stomped on his chest and threw him into bus. For extra measure, Stane even blew it up with a missile. He managed to right himself, after the blast, power getting lower, and hovered. Stane lifted up, his own suit able to fly. Tony didn’t appreciate Jarvis snark, and rose to maximum altitude.

Stant, thankfully, followed. As they reached where ice had begun to build up the first time, suit now at 7% power, Stane reached out, grabbing hold of Tony’s bot and pulling him down by the throat to look at him.

“You had a great idea, Tony,” Stane laughed, ice covering his face plate but still climbing. “But my suit is more advance in every way!”

“How’d you solve the icing problem?” Tony asked, smirking behind his own, ice free, faceplate.

“Icing problem?” Stane got out, before the lights of the faceplate went out.

Tony grinned, hitting Obadiah’s helmet, and letting the man fall. He stayed there, watching, as he hovered. He’d done it. He’d actually done it. Stane would be finished after a fall like that, and Tony hadn’t died!

“Two percent,” Jarvis said, just as the thrusters cut momentarily.

He fell, slowly, thanks to emergency power, and thrusters jumping in and out. Eventually, he stumbled into a land on the roof, calling Pepper again.

“Potts,” he said quickly.

“Tony!” She cried. “Oh, my God, are you okay?”

“I’m almost out of power,” he explained, starting to pull off the suit, gauntlet first. “I’ve got to get out of this thing. I’ll be right there.”

There was a thud behind him, and he had just enough time to turn to Stane to dodge the first attack. Like an idiot, he held up his empty hand to attack, looking at it stupidly for a second before being nearly punched off the roof. He threw a punch, only to get held in a tight hold, weapons crushed.

Thinking fast, he managed to set off the flares, blinding Stane and ducking out of view. Think, he thought, though an idea came quickly.

“Potts?” he whispered.

“Tony!”

“This isn’t working. We’re going to have to overload the reactor and blast the roof.”

“Well, how are you going to do that?”

“You’re going to do it. Go to the central console and open up all the circuits. When I get clear of the roof, I’ll let you know. You’re going to hit the master bypass button. It’s going to fry everything up here.”

“Okay,” she said, as Tony turned to look at what Stane was doing. “I’m going in now.”

“Make sure you wait till I clear the roof. I’ll buy you some time.”

Just as Stane came to where he could see him, Tony went around, managing to get onto Stane’s back. He held on tight, using his gloved hand to punch in and pull out some wires. For a moment, Stane flailed, before managing to throw him off, taking his helmet, and opening up his own.

“I never had a taste for this sort of thing,” Obadiah said with a smirk, crushing Tony’s helmet like a tin can. “But I must admit, I’m deeply enjoying the suit!”

He tossed the smashed helmet to Tony, who looked up at his old father figure. Never again, he thought, however, as Stane joined him on the center of the roof.

“You finally out did yourself,” Stane said. “You’ve made your father proud.”

“No,” Tony said, glancing down at Pepper below. “I’m making my son proud. Pepper!”

Obadiah laughed, shooting at him with a mistle, but missing. “You tried to rid the world of weapons, but you gave it its best one yet.”

“Time to hit the button!” Tony called down again, trying to move, but failing.

“You told me not to!” Pepper cried back.

“Hold still you little prick,” Stane laughed.

“Just do it!” Another missile sailed over his head.

“You’ll die!”

“Push it!”

Tony had just a second to see her hit the button, and run before the first wave pushed him out of the way, and into a wall. Stane, heavier, didn’t move, and was caught in the second wave of the blast, his suit over powered as the entire factory went out, and he fell into the large reactor.

Tony turned, as the blast flared over him. He could hear Pepper screaming, and then… nothing.

XxXXxX

The next day, Tony sat in a room with a newspaper, Pepper, and Peter, as Rhodey spoke to the press outside.

Pepper was fixing up his bandages, while Peter sat in his lap, having refused to let go for the last hour or so. He was looking at the paper in Tony’s hands, though he couldn’t read it.

“Iron Man,” Tony said, smirking to both himself and Peter. “That’s kinda catchy. Got a nice ring to it, doesn’t it, Pete? I mean, it’s not technically accurate. The suit’s made of a gold-titanium alloy, but it’s kind of evocative, the imagery, anyway.”

“I like it,” Peter said, holding onto Tony with one arm and the Captain America plush with the other. “Superhero name. Like Cap’n ‘Merica…”

Tony grinned, about to speak, only to have a set of cards shoved into his face by Coulson.

“Here’s your alibi,” the agent said. “You were on your yacht. We have port papers that put you in Avalon all night, and sworn statements from 50 of your guests.”

“See, I was thinking maybe we should say it was just Peter and me. Showing him the island.”

Coulson gave him that smiled. “That’s what happened.”

With a sigh, Tony looking through the cards. “All right.”

“Just read read it word for word.”

“There’s nothing about Stane here.”

“That’s being handled. He’s on vacation. Small aircraft have such a poor safety record.”

“And what’s with the whole story that it’s a bodyguard? He’s my… I mean, is that… That’s kinda flimsy, don’t you think?”

“This isn’t my first rodeo, Mr. Stark,” Coulson said simply, turning to leave. “Just stick to the official statement, and soon, this will all be behind you. You’ve got 90 seconds.”

Tony sighed, looking over the cards as Pepper thanked Coulson. Peter looked at the cards, then at Tony, and made a sour face as he got up. Tony stood, still looking at cards, and let Pepper help him put on his jacket.

“You know,” Tony said, Peter at his side. “It’s actually not that bad. Even I don’t think I’m Iron Man.”

“You’re not Iron Man,” Pepper insisted, buttoning up his coat. Peter had different ideas.

“Iron Man!” Peter said, holding up his arms to be picked up.

Tony, finding his son forever adorable and precious, pandered to his whim and picked him up. They grinned at each other, then at Pepper. She gave a long sigh.

“Will that be all, Mr. Stark?”

Tony smiled, and turned to walk out as Rhodey introduce him to the crowd. He stepped up to the podium with Peter still in his arms, ever the one to be different, and set him down to stand with Rhodey.

“Been awhile since I was in front of you,” he said, holding up to cards. “I figure I’ll stick to the cards this time.” They laughed, Tony cleared his throat. “There’s been speculation that I was involved in the events that occurred on the freeway and the rooftop-”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Stark,” Christine said with a hand raised in the air. “But do you honestly expect us to believe that that was a bodyguard in a suit that conveniently appeared despite the fact that you-”

“I know that it’s confusing,” Tony interrupted. “It is one thing to question the official story, and another thing entirely to make wild accusations, or insinuate that I’m a superhero.”

“I never said that you were a superhero.”

“Didn’t? Well, good, because that would be… outlandish and fantastic.” Christine made a face, so he tried again. “I’m just not the hero type. Clearly. With this laundry list of character defects, all the mistakes I’ve made, largely public.”

“Just stick to the cards,” Rhodey said, leaning to whisper in his ear.

“Yeah,” Tony said, lifting to look at the cards. “The truth is…” He trailed off, turning to look at Peter. His son stared up at him, big eyes practically pleading. So, Tony turned, and cleared his throat. “The truth is… I am Iron Man.”

Instantly, everyone jumped to their feet, asking questions and trying to get him to answer. He ignored them all, in favor of scooping up his son, who was grinning from ear to ear. They left quickly after that, Rhodey ushering them out to keep himself from ‘killing Tony himself’. Then, when they were finally out, and in their car, Tony grinned at Peter in the back seat.

“Where you wanna go, bud?”

“Home,” Peter said with a grin. “Go home and have donuts!”

Tony laughed, reaching back to ruffle Peter’s hair before driving. They went through a Krispy Kreme drive thru, and then went to eat them somewhere for while before heading home. When they walked in, it already growing dark outside. Peter was asleep in his arms, and mumbled as Jarvis welcomed them.

But, the lights were out, and a man stood at the far end of the living room, looking out of the floor to wall.

“I am Iron Man,” the man said, rather disapprovingly. “You think you’re the only superhero in the world? Mr. Stark, you’ve just become part of a bigger universe. You just don’t know it yet?”

“Who the hell are you?” Tony demanded, holding his son closer to him.

“Nick Fury,” he said, stepping out of the shadows.“Director of SHIELD. And I’m here to talk to you about the Avenger Initiative.”

Tony’s first thought was ‘nice eye patch’. His second was ‘must have really pissed off SHIELD’. His last one, however, was ‘Why do I think of Captain America when he says Avenger?’

Chapter Text

Months passed, with Peter turning six, and fixing things with Stark Industries. They were making personal technology, and security equipment like cameras. Jets, even. It was a good turn around, thank god, and it worked. Especially after he started planning for the Stark Expo again.

In fact, Tony thought, standing in a jet flying over the Expo on opening night, Tony was thinking about changing some personal things in his life. Maybe move to New York again… So, with a thumbs up to the pilot, he dives out of the jet and lands on a stage.

The crowd screamed for him as the suit was dismantled around him. They chanted his name, as he held up his hands, the chorus girls behind him being shuffled off stage.

“It’s good to be back. You missed me?” The crowd roared. “I missed you too.”

“Blow something up!” Someone shouted at him, and he turned to look.

“Blow something up? I already did that. I’m not saying that the world is enjoying its longest period of uninterrupted peace in years because of me. I’m not saying that from the ashes of captivity, never has a greater phoenix metaphor been personified in human history. I’m not saying that Uncle Sam can kick back on a lawn chair, sipping on an iced tea because I haven’t come across anyone who’s man enough to go toe-to-toe with me on my best day.”

The crowd cheered, someone shouting that they loved him.

“Please, it’s not about me. It’s not about you. It’s not even about us. It’s about legacy. It’s about what we choose to leave behind for our children and  future generations. And that’s why for the next year and for the first time since 1974, the best and brightest men and women of nations and corporations the world over will pool their resources, share their collective vision, to leave behind a brighter future. It’s not about us. Therefore, what I’m saying, if I’m saying anything, is welcome back to the Stark Expo!”

He waited for the cheering to die down before diverting everyone’s attention to the screen behind him. “And now, making a special guest appearance from the great beyond to tell you what it’s all about, please welcome my father, Howard.”

The video began to play, and Tony stepped off the stage. He didn’t care much for his father, but he didn’t want Peter to know that. Family was important to the boy.

Especially his father, Tony thought, as he looked at his blood toxicity. It had risen to 19%. Not bad, considering that it had been six months since he first got the arc reactor. Bad, considering that he’d had only 7% just the week before. It was rising exponentially…

There was a clatter behind him, and Tony stuffed the tester in his pocket before turning to find Peter and Happy coming up to him. Peter, giddy on adrenaline, ran to him, practically jumping up and down.

“Daddy, Daddy!” Peter squealed. “That was so cool! And there were all those dancing ladies, and explosions, and-!”

“Whoa there,” Tony chuckled, picking Peter up. “You’re a talkative little jumper today! Tell me all about it later, we’re heading out now. Happy?”

Peter giggled, nodding quickly as he squirmed his way out of his fathers grip, running in circles around him as they made their way outside. Peter, thankfully, always stayed within arms reach of Tony of Happy, as the crowd would have been easy to get snatched from. Eventually, they did make it outside, and got into their car.

“Come on, you two,” Happy said as he opened the last door. “There we go.”

“Very mellow,” Tony joked, Peter still jumpy at his side.

“Wasn’t to bad.”

“It was perfect.”

They walked towards the car, finding a woman leaning against it. Tony’s first thought had been ‘Who the hell is she?’ His second was ‘this is totally a breach of security and Peter’s safety’.

“Who are you?” Peter asks for them.

“Marshal,” the woman said, pulling out a letter. “And I have a subpoena for Mr. Stark.”

“Yikes,” Tony said, picking Peter up to put him in the back seat, where his car seat had been placed. “Happy, get the thing.”

“Right,” Happy sighed, taking the letter. “He doesn’t like to be handed things.”

“I have a peeve,” Tony shrugged, sliding into the front seat once he was sure Peter was buckled.

“I got it,” the marshal said. “You are hereby ordered to appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee tomorrow morning at 9 am.”

“Can we see the badge?”

“You wanna see the badge?”

“The kid likes the badge,” Happy said, pointing a thumb back to Peter.

She pulled it out, smirking. “Still like it?”

“Yup,” Peter chirped.

Tony laughed, starting the engine. “How far to DC?”

“DC?” Happy asked, raising a brow. “250 miles.”

“Great,” Tony said, reaching to adjust his rear view mirror to see Peter a little better. “Think you can take a nap in the car, bud?”

Now able to see Peter in the mirror, Tony found the kid fast asleep. He chuckled, taking off for DC.

XxXXxX

OFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT - DO NOT ALTER
SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE HEARING
TESTIMONY: ANTHONY EDWARD STARK
REGARDING: IRON MAN ARMOR

SEN. STERN: Mr Stark, could we pick up now where we left off? Mr Stark. Please.

[Stark turns around. Appears distracted with a child and a blanket]

STARK: Yes dear?

[Laughter]

SEN. STERN: Can I have your attention?

STARK: Absolutely. Just gotta… Can’t have the kid getting a cold. He gets all whiny and I make terrible soup. Tastes kinda like soap for some reason.

[Laughter.]

SEN. STERN: Mr. Stark.

STARK: Right, right.

SEN. STERN: Do you or do you not possess a specialised weapon?

STARK: I do not.

SEN. STERN: You do not?

STARK: I do not. Well, it depends on how you define the word weapon.

SEN. STERN: The Iron Man weapon.

STARK: My device does not fit that description.

SEN. STERN: Well… How would you describe it?

STARK: I would describe it by defining it as what it is, Senator.

SEN. STERN: As?

STARK: It’s a high-tech prosthesis. That is… That is… That’s actually the most apt description I can make of it.

SEN. STERN: It’s a weapon. It’s a weapon, Mr Stark.

STARK: Please, if your priority was actually the well-being of the American citizen…

SEN. STERN: My priority is to get the Iron Man weapon turned over to the people of the United States of America.

STARK: Well, you can forget it. I am Iron Man. The suit and I are one. To turn over the Iron Man suit would be to turn over myself which is tantamount to indentured servitude or prostitution, depending or what state you’re in. You can’t have it.

SEN. STERN: Look, I’m no expert…

STARK: In prostitution? Of course not. You’re a senator. Come on.

[Laughter.]

SEN. STERN: I’m no expert in weapons. We have somebody here who is an expert on weapons. I’d now like to call Justin Hammer, our current primary weapons contractor.

[MR. HAMMER, entering court room.]

STARK: Let the record reflect that I observed Mr Hammer entering the chamber, and I am wondering if and when any actual expert will also be in attendance.

HAMMER: Absolutely. I’m no expert. I defer to you, Anthony. You’re the wonder boy. Senator, if I may. I may well not be an expert, but you know who was the expert? Your dad. Howard Stark. Really a father to us all, and to the military-industrial age. Let’s just be clear, he was no flower child. He was a lion. We all know why we’re here. In the last six months, Anthony Stark has created a sword with untold possibilities. And yet, he insists it’s a shield. He asks us to trust him as we cower behind it. I wish I were comforted, Anthony, I really do. I’d love to leave my door unlocked when I leave the house, but this ain’t Canada. You know, we live in a world of grave threats, threats that Mr Stark will not always be able to foresee. Thank you. God bless Iron Man. God bless America.

[Applause]

SEN. STERN: That is well said Mr Hammer. The committee would now like to invite Lieutenant Colonel James Rhodes to the chamber.

[COL. RHODES, entering the chamber.]

SEN. STERN: I have before me a complete report on the Iron Man weapon, compiled by Colonel Rhodes. And, Colonel, for the record, can you please read page 57, paragraph four?

COL. RHODES: You’re requesting that I read specific selections from my report, Senator?

SEN. STERN: Yes, sir.

COL. RHODES: It was my understanding that I was going to be testifying in a much more comprehensive and detailed manner.

SEN. STERN: I understand. A lot of things have changed today. So if you could just read…

COL. RHODES: You do understand that reading a single paragraph out of context does not reflect the summery of my final…

SEN. STERN: Just read it, Colonel. I do. Thank you.

COL. RHODES: Very well. “As he does not operate within any definable branch of government, Iron Man presents a potential threat to the security of both the nation and to her interests.” I did however, go on to summarise that the benefits of Iron Man far outweigh the liabilities and that it would be in our interest…

SEN. STERN: That’s enough Colonel

COL. RHODES: …to fold Mr Stark…

SEN STERN: That’s enough

COL. RHODES: …into the existing chain of command, Senator.

STARK: I’m not a joiner, but I’ll consider Secretary of Defense, if you ask nice

[Laughter.]

STARK: We can amend the hours a little bit.

SEN. STERN: I’d like to go on and show, if I may, the imagery that’s connected to your report.

COL. RHODES: I believe it is somewhat premature to reveal these images to the general public at this time.

SEN. STERN: With all due respect, Colonel, I understand. And if you could just narrate those for us, we’d be very grateful. Let’s have the images.

[Images are projected to a screen.]

COL. RHODES: Intelligence suggests that the devices seen in these photos are, in fact, attempts at making manned copies of Mr Stark’s suit. This has been corroborated by our allies and local intelligence on the ground indicating that these suits are quite possibly, at this moment, operational.

STARK: Hold on a second buddy. Let me see something here.

[Images have changed.]

STARK:  Boy, I’m good. I commandeered your screens. I need them. Time for a little transparency. Now, let’s see what’s really going on.

SEN. STERN: What is he doing?

STARK: If you will direct your attention to said screens, I believe that’s North Korea.

[Video playing.]

SEN. STERN: Can you turn that off? Take it off.

STARK: Iran.

[Video has chan

OFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT - UNFINISHED DUE TO COURT REPORTER SICKNESS

XxXXxX

By the time they got home, Peter was wide awake, and they were eating donuts. It seemed like a tradition now, to get donuts when they came back from something big. And with both the opening of the expo and the hearing, Tony let Peter have some extra. Four instead of two seemed fair.

“Wake up,” Tony said as they wandered down to the lab. “Daddy’s home.”

“Welcome home, sir,” Jarvis said. “Congratulations on the opening ceremonies. They were such a success, as was your Senate hearing. And may I say how refreshing it is to finally see you in a video with your clothing on, sir.”

“And welcome home, Baby Boss,” Friday called. “You’ve got some more learning today, if you wanna join the first grade class next year. Mind heading up to the study?”

Peter pouted, but went up to the study with a huff. As much as he loved watching Tony work, he loved learning. Even if he pretended he didn’t. So, Tony watched him go before turning to look around the lab.

Since the creation of the first suit, Tony had found that he couldn’t stop making them. He had made at least seven, each better then the last in one way or another. The Mark V was always in his car, since it was able to fold down into a suitcase. It was next to something Peter didn’t know about. It was something jokingly called the Iron Lad, meant to look like a plain backpack on the outside, but really be a miniature Iron Man suit for Peter to use if an emergency came up. While the Iron Man was connected with Jarvis, Friday was the one running diagnostics for the Iron Lad.

But his near addiction with making armors caused a bit of a crunch for space. The lounge area, with the kitchen and the couch and the TV, was turned into a massive display case to hold the armors. Well, not just that. It was an entrance to a vault, one that he’d already had, under the mansion. The display case held the Mark I, II, IV, V, and VII armors, though the center case slid back to reveal an elevator.

With the removal of the original lounge, Tony had to take a step back and rearrange his entire workshop. He had to expand the garage, section it off entirely, to keep his cars. Peter’s little area had to be moved, and with the bit of extra space from removing the cars, Peter’s space became connected with the lounge. Peter had complained about it at first, then gave in, since he wasn’t allowed to build things yet.

The kitchen section of the lounge had to be placed outside of the lounge. There was a door into the now shielded lounge right next to the kitchen, of course, but Dummy was mostly in control of the kitchen. Making smoothies, but mostly making a mess.

Like right now, Tony realized as the blender whirred to life.

“Dummy!” he shouted, only to have the bot turn and knock it over. “I swear, I will donate you to the community college!”

Dummy looked down, making a soft whining sound before turning to try again. U went to go get a premade smoothie, rolling through Dummy’s mess as the other bot went to go get another blender.

“Jarvis,” Tony sighed, scowling at the smoothie after drinking it. “How many ounce a day of this gobbledegook am I supposed to drink?”

“We are up to 80 ounces a day to counteract the symptoms, sir.”

“Great… Check palladium levels.”

“Blood toxicity, 24%. It appears that the continued use of the Iron Man suit is accelerating your condition. Another core has been depleted.”

WIth a sigh, Tony pulled off his shirt, popping out the core. It was rusted, and smoking, a lot more then the last core had been.

“God, they’re running out quick.”

“I have run simulations on every known element, and none can serve as a viable replacement for the palladium core.”

He frowned at the rusted core, comparing the reddish brown metal to the shiny silver of the new core. Quickly, he tossed the old one, putting in the new one. The blue jagged lines on his chest were growing longer around the core.

“You are running out of both time and options. Unfortunately, the device that’s keeping you alive is also killing you. Miss Potts is also approaching. I recommend that you inform her-”

“Mute.”

Tony pulls on a shirt, turning away from the door as Pepper comes inside.

“Is this a joke?” she asked. “What are you thinking?”

“Hey, I’m thinking I’m busy. And you’re angry about something.” Tony paused to look at her, ten started to walk around the lab. “Do you have the sniffles? I don’t want to get sick.”

“Did you just donate our entire modern art collection to the…”

“Boy Scouts of America.”

“...Boy Scouts of America?”

“Yes. It is a worthwhile organisation. I didn’t physically check the crates but, basically, yes. And it’s not ‘our’ collection, it’s my collection. No offence.”

“No, you know what? I think I’m actually entitled to say “our” collection considering the time that I put in, over 10 years, curating that.”

“It was a tax write-off. I needed that.”

“You know, there’s only about 8,011 things that I really need to talk to you about.”

Tony paused to point at a bot. “Butterfingers. Hey, stop spacing out. The Bridgeport’s already machining that part.”

“The Expo is a gigantic waste of time.”

“I need you to wear a surgical mask until you’re feeling better. Is that okay?”

“That’s rude.”

“There’s nothing more important to me than the Expo. Well, besides Peter. Peter is the primary point of concern. I don’t know why you’re-”

“The Expo is your ego gone crazy.”

Tony ignored her, turning as he found a painting of Iron Man leaning against the counter in the lounge. It was really good, and not really a painting. It was a photo, that Peter had taken with the camera he got for his birthday, and run through photoshop. For something by a six year old with a camera and a single photo, it really was amazing. Friday or Jarvis must have finally gotten it printed.

“Wow. Look at that. That’s modern art. That’s going up.”

“You’ve got to be kidding,” Pepper sighed.

“I’m gonna put this up right now,” Tony said, looking around. He quickly found a small portion of the wall that was free. Well, besides the painting already there.

“No, no, no, no. You are not taking down the Barnett Newman and hanging that up.”

“You don’t like it?” a little voice said from the door.

Tony immediately looked over, having jumped onto the counter. Peter looked so hurt, with big eyes turned up to Pepper with a lip that was just threatening to quiver. Tony wouldn’t be able to handle if his little boy started cry, and shot Pepper a pointed look.

“She does like it Peter,” Tony said, hanging said painting up. “We both think your photo looks amazing. Aunt Pepper is just worried about what might happen to this dull, super expensive painting.”

“Oh.” Peter frowned, thinking for a moment. “Dad, you’ve been really busy. Seem really stressed.”

“Where’s this coming from, Pete?” Tony asked as he hopped down, giving the ceiling a narrow eyed glance.

“You do a lot of stuff for SI,” Peter explained. “And now you’re really busy with Iron Man, and I love Iron Man, but what if you don’t have time for me?”

“I’ll always make time for you. In fact, I’ll make time for you right now! Pepper, I just had an excellent idea. You run the company.”

“Yeah,” she scoffed. “I’m trying to run the company.”

“Pepper, I need you to run the company. Stop trying to do it and do it.”

“You will not give me the information in order to-”

“I’m not asking you to try, I’m asking you to physically do it. I need you to do it.”

“I am trying to do it.”

“Pepper, you’re not listening to me!”

“No, you’re not listening to me.”

“I’m trying to make you CEO,” Tony groaned, making her freeze. “Why won't you let me?”

Pepper stared at him. “Have you been drinking?”

“You know I don’t drink anymore,” Tony said, grabbing a bottle of white grape juice that U brought over, pouring a glass for Peter first, who made excited grabby hands for it. “I hereby irrevocably appoint you chairman and CEO of Stark Industries effective immediately. Yeah, done deal. Okay? I’ve actually given this a fair amount of thought, believe it or not.”

He held out a glass to Pepper, though she didn’t take it. “Congratulations? Take it, just take it.”

“I don’t know what to think,” she eventually said, still staring at them.

But she took the glass, and they clinked classes, Peter excitedly getting more juice.

XxXXxX

Tony grinned as he watched Peter practice the moves Happy had taught him. He’d been boxing for a while, as a way to defend himself outside the suit, and he’d started Peter on it as well. After all, there hadn’t been any kidnappings yet, but it wouldn’t be too long before someone tried. Tony just didn’t want to make it easy for them.

So Tony stood in the corner of the ring, watching as Peter ducked and weaved around Happy. It was clear that even with how new he was at fighting, Peter was the one with the upper hand. Even if Happy wasn’t going easy, Peter was too fast for the big guy.

“The notary’s here!” Pepper called. “Can you please come sign the transfer paperwork?”

“I’m on happy time,” Tony said, then laughed as Peter hit Happy in the face with his elbow. “Go easy on him, Pete! Happy’s old!”

“The hell was that?” Happy asked, stepping back and away from the giggling six year old. “Where’d you learn that, kid?”

“Mixed martial arts,” Peter chirped. “Daddy taught me! It’s new!”

“It’s called dirty boxing, there’s nothing new about it.”

“All right,” Tony said, reaching out to scoop Peter up by the underneath his arms. “Time for a break.”

They turn, Peter giggling and squirming as they get out of the ring. A woman was walking into the gym. She was dressed in a white blouse, tucked into a pair of black slacks. The woman gave him a look that Tony felt was oddly familiar, and Tony tried to figure it out.

“I promise this is the only time I will ask you to sign over your company,” Pepper said jokingly.

“I need you to initial each box,” the woman said, holding out a folder.

Tony set Peter down, picking up their water bottles. He handed Peter his, then drank from his own. He frowned at the notary, trying to figure out that look she’d given him.

“What’s your name lady?” Tony asked, pushing Peter’s snack box to the boy to encourage him to eat.

“Rushman,” she said. “Natalie Rushman.”

“You box?”

“A bit.”

“Happy,” Tony said, pulling up the ropes to let Natalie into the ring. “Give her a lesson?”

“No problem,” the bodyguard said, and helped Natalie up.

Tony turned, moving to sit at the table. Peter followed after him, with his little box of celery sticks and carrots. Unable to ignore the boys pitiful pleading look, Tony let him squirm up onto the chair with him.

“You really shouldn’t indulge him like that,” Pepper was saying. “He’s going to-”

“Pepper,” Tony interrupted, still watching Natalie. “Who is she?”

“She is from legal. And she is potentially a very expensive sexual harassment lawsuit if you keep ogling her like that.”

‘I need a new assistant,” he dismissed, tapping at the glass of the table to bring up a search.

“Yes, and I’ve got three excellent potential candidates. They’re lined up and ready to meet you.”

“I don’t have time to meet. I need someone now. I feel like it’s her.”

“No it’s not.”

Tony ignored her. “How do I spell your name, Natalie?”

She glanced up, spelling it out for him. Peter was giving her an odd look, and Tony tapped it into table screen.

“What,” Pepper said, “are you gonna google her now?”

“I thought I was ogling her.” He brought up the woman’s file, and nearly whistled. The woman had nearly everything he wanted, making quite the interesting resume. He flicked through files, pictures, and wondered how odd it was that the perfect assistant just happened to be their notary. It was suspicious, but Tony needed a good assistant, fast, who wasn’t just a dumb blond but could protect Peter as well. She seemed to be doing pretty good against Happy… “Wow. Very, very impressive individual.”

“You’re so predictable, you know that?”

“She’s fluent in French, Italian, Russian, Latin. Who speaks Latin?”

“No one speaks Latin,” Pepper said, now getting a bit suspicious herself.

“No one speaks Latin,” Tony agreed.

“It’s a dead language. You can read Latin or you can write Latin, but you can’t speak Latin.”

“I need her,” he said again. “She’s got everything that I need.”

From the ring, they could hear Happy saying something. The next thing he knows, Tony is watching as Natalie is flipping Happy over and pinning him to the ground. Pepper screamed, and so did Peter, but for different reasons.

“That’s what I’m talking about,” Tony nearly cheered.

“I just slipped,” Happy coughed out.

“Did you?”

“Yeah,” the man groans, as Natalie lets him up.

“Looks like a TKO to me.” Tony got up, ringing the bell as Natalie steps out.

“Just…” She took a deep breath. “I need your impression.”

“You have a quiet reserve. I don’t know, you have an old soul.”

She held out the folder. “I meant your fingerprint.”

“Right.” Tony dipped his thumb into the ink, then pressed it into the page.

“So,” Pepper said as she came over after helping Happy. “How are we doing.”

“Great,” Tony said cheerily. “Just wrapping up here. Hey. You’re the boss.”

“Boss lady!” Peter cheered, grinning.

“Will that be all, Mr Stark?” Natalie asked.

“No.”

“Yes,” Pepper sighed. “That will be all, Ms Rushman. Thank you very much.”

Tony turned to Pepper.

“I want one.”

She sighed, giving him a suffering look.

“No.”

XxXXxX

Peter was bouncing excitedly in his seat. Tony was about ready to take a nap, but the kids excitement was infectious. He was getting pretty hyped, to. Pepper looked like she wanted to throttle them.

They were in Europe, to watch the Grand Prix. Peter was so hooked up on adrenaline and sugar that it was unlikely he would sleep anytime soon.

“You know,” Tony said to Pepper as they got out. “It’s Europe. Whatever happens the next 20 minutes, just go with it.”

“Go with it?” Pepper asked. “Go with what?”

It was then that Natalie came up to them. He’d tracked her down after she’d left, and had offered her a job. Thankfully, she had taken it, but Tony was more interested in the mystery behind her rather then whatever Pepper thought.

“Hello,” Natalie said. “How was your flight?”

“It was excellent,” Tony said.

Peter hopped up and down by his feet. “It was so cool! We were in the air, and it was awesome and-”

Tony laughed, pulling out a rice crispy treat - Good god, the things were like tiny miracles! - and shoved it into the kids hands. Peter was instantly distracted, chewing down on the treat and looking around the room.

“We have one photographer from the ACM, if you don’t mind. Okay?”

Tony nodded absently, ruffling Peter’s hair as the boy ate his snack. Sure, it would only hype him up with more sugar, might even ruin his lunch, but he’d be quiet for just a bit while Tony got the ball rolling.

“When did this happen?” Pepper asked, scowling.

“What?” Tony said absently, trying to scrub a bit of marshmallow from Peter’s face as they went to find a place to sit. “You made me do it”

“I made you do what?”

“You quit,” Tony explained, looking around. “Smile. Look, right there. Stop acting constipated. Don’t flare your nostrils.”

“You are so predictable.”

“That’s the amazing thing.”

“Right this way,” Natalie said.

“What’s on the docket?” Tony asked her, then saw the best table, near a tv that Peter could watch. “This us?”

“You have a 9:30 dinner,” she said, frowning at the table. “And it can be.”

“Great,” Tony said with a grin. “Make it us. And I’ll be there at 11:00.”

Natalie gave him a sharp nod, hurrying off. Tony, as he wanted to get something to drink and something better for Peter then a marshmallow and cereal treat, went to the bar. Peter followed after him, one hand on the leg of Tony’s pants, and the other holding the treat to his mouth as they went.

The bartender looked up, obviously recognizing him, and went to grab things to make margaritas. Tony reached across the bar, knowing better then to become that again, and simply grabbed a cup to put olives in and motioned to get some cranberry juice.

“Anthony. Is that you?”

The voice made Tony groan, and he turned to find Justin Hammer, with Christine Everhart. He gave Peter the cup, lifting the kid up to sit on one of the stools. Hammer grinned at them, coming up to them with his hands in his pockets, and even dared to greet Peter.

“Hey, pal.”

Peter looked up at him, and Tony could swear he could practically hear Peter’s thoughts. Should he put the crispy treat in Hammers hair, or throw the olives in his face?

“Justin Hammer,” Tony said curtly, getting the man’s attention again.

“How you doing?” Hammer asked. “You’re not the only rich guy here with a fancy car. You know Christine Everhart from Vanity Fair. You guys know each other?”

“Hi,” Christine said carefully. “Yes.”

“Hi,” Tony said.

“She’s actually doing a big spread on me for Vanity Fair,” Hammer said. “I thought I’d throw her a bone. You know, no one has really got the story behind your kid. Right?”

Tony narrowed his eyes. “She’s not interviewing Peter.”

“I’m not saying that she’d interview the kid. I just think everyone would like to hear more on this little scandal of yours.”

Tony glared at the man, ready to tear him a new one. But he knew that he shouldn’t, not with Peter right there, watching them. So, he smiled, turning to Hammer.

“So how’d it turn out for you, when you got your contract revoked-”

“Actually,” Hammer was saying quickly. “It’s on hold.”

“That’s not what I heard. What’s the difference between ‘hold’ and ‘cancelled’? The truth?”

“Yes,” Christine said. She clearly hadn’t liked the way Hammer had been talking about Peter either. “What is it?”

“No. The truth is… Why don’t we put that away?” Hammer pushed the recorder away, turning to Tony. “The truth is, I’m actually hoping to present something at your Expo.”

“Well, if you invent something that works, I’ll make sure I get you a slot.”

“Mr. Stark,” Natalie said, as she seemed to appear from nowhere. “Your corner table is ready.”

“I actually have a slot this year,” Hammer insisted. “Yes, I do.”

“Hammer needs a slot, Christine,” Tony insisted, picking Peter up. “Come on, kid. Let’s go wash your hands before we go sit down.”

They head off to the bathroom. Peter, being a kid and having chugged nearly a liter of juice on the jet ride over, had to use the bathroom. As the kid took his potty break, Tony pulled out the tester. He pricked his finger, taking a breath once he had pulled back, and shook out his finger. His blood toxicity was already 53%.

He glanced up, unsure of what to do. The suit was killing him, but the arc reactor was keeping him alive. He didn’t need to be a genius to know that he was going to die.

“Got any other ideas?” he asked himself in the mirror.

“What did you say, Daddy?”

He looked up, seeing Peter come out of the stall to come to the sink to wash his hands. Tony smiled, hiding the tester, and helping him clean his hands.

“Nothing,” he said. “Do you think you can make it back to the table without me? I was just thinking that maybe I should race in the car instead.”

“Do I have to?”

“There’s a TV right next to the table. You’ll get to see me race.”

Peter pursed his lips, but nodded, and went off to get to the table after Tony had ruffled his hair and had made for the door.

XxXXxX

In all fairness, it had started out pretty well. He was familiar with driving cars, especially fast ones. He raced Happy to the airport often enough, after all, and he had even designed the engines for a few of the cars on this road. Of all people, he was probably the best one to drive.

Then the man with the whips had appeared and had cut up his car.

Once he’d recovered from the throw, Tony managed to pull himself out of the seat. He makes his way around the wreckage, picking up a good sized sheet of metal. Once he was behind the man, he went to give him a good whack. The man seemed to expect this and they grappled for a moment before Tony was thrown to the ground.

When he saw the petrol on the ground, he moved quickly. The whips came down, sparking the gas alight, and Tony clung to the fence. Then Happy came out of nowhere, slamming the man into the fence as Tony stared down at them. At Happy driving and Pepper in the back seat, and good god, where was Peter?

“Where’s Peter?” Tony asked first.

“With Natalie,” Pepper snapped. “Now get in the car!”

“I was attacked,” Tony said, moving to get to the door. “We need better security.”

“Get in the car,” Happy agreed.

“You’re CEO,” Tony continued. “Better security measures. God, it’s embarrassing. First vacation with Peter, and this is how it goes.”

A whip came out from behind him, as he opened the door. It was sliced in half, and Tony dropped the half of the door in his hands. It was a clean cut, and wow, how did those whips work? He knew better then to ask, and he stepped back as Happy backed the car up, to smash it into the man again. Pepper was screaming.

“I got him!” Happy called out.

“Take the case!” Pepper cried out, trying to hold it out through the half of the swinging door. “Take it!”

“I got him,” Happy called again. “Give him the case!”

“Stop banging the car!”

A whip came down, slicing the car in half. There was more screaming from Pepper, and she finally threw the case at him. He set it down, placing a foot on it, before pulling it up to form around him. He turned, quickly, and started in on the fight.

Eventually, he pulled the arc reactor out of the man’s center piece, and crushed it.

“You lose,” the man was yelling as he was dragged away. “You lose Stark.”

Tony watched him go, then turned to go find Peter.

XxXXxX

On the airplane ride back, Tony did his best to cheer Pepper up. Peter refused to be put down, simply clinging to Tony’s shirt and risking it getting ripped if Tony tried to put him down. So he had a baby leech on him as he was trying to make a make up omelet for Pepper. It didn’t turn out very well, but he took it to her anyway, finding her watching Stern on a news.

“Mute,” he said, setting down the plate, and sitting so Peter was in his lap. “He should be giving me a medal. That’s the truth.”

“What is that?” She asked, sounding tired.

“This is your in-flight meal.”

The look she gave him made him smile. “Did you just make that?”

“Yeah,” he said, turning to smooth out Peter’s hair. “Where do you think we’ve been for three hours?”

“Tony, what are you not telling me?”

And there it was. He’d never been able to keep anything from Pepper, not for long. But he couldn’t tell her, not here with Peter sitting on his lap. So he sighed, carding his fingers through Peter’s hair as his son fell asleep, still clinging to him.

He had missed so much of Peter’s life already, of those first five years where he had stayed as far away as he could to keep from becoming his father. Tony had been so afraid of doing what his father had, he hadn’t realized he had been worse then his father. And now, with the Palladium poisoning… He’d miss the rest of Peter’s life before he could even make things right.

“Tony?” Pepper said, drawing his attention. “What aren’t you telling me?”

“It’s nothing,” Tony said, looking out the window. “It’s really nothing, Pep.”

She didn’t look to convinced, but she didn’t press the question further.

XxXXxX

When they got back to Malibu, Tony managed to get Peter to bed without waking him up. Natalie and Pepper watched him as he went to his lab, but didn’t say anything. He sat in one of his cars, researching Ivan Vanko for what felt like hours.

At some point, he felt his chest tighten, and he heard someone at the stair. Peter? No, just Rhodey. He let out a breath, not really hearing what his friend was saying, and went to get up. Not a good idea, as he almost instantly fell.

“-ey,” he heard. “Hey! You alright?”

“Yeah,” Tony gasped out. “I should get to my desk.”

He felt Rhodey pull him up, felt himself be half dragged towards his desk. Tony was dropped into a chair, taking a deep breath and telling Rhodey to get the cigar box from his desk. He pulled out the arch reactor, coughing as it smoked.

“Is that supposed to be smoking?” Rhodey asked.

“Neutron damage,” Tony managed to say, replacing the core. “From the reactor wall.”

“You had this in your body? And how about the high-tech crossword puzzle on your neck?”

“Road rash.” He replaced the reactor, wincing at the taste in his mouth before reaching for one of his health smoothies. Tony could see Rhodey giving him a strange look. “What are you looking at?”

“You,” Rhodey said crossing his arms. “You wanna do this whole lone gunslinger act and it’s unnecessary. You don’t have to do this alone.”

“I know,” Tony said, leaning back in his chair. “The games getting dangerous, and-”

“Game?” Rhodey practically hissed. “You think this is a game ? Tony, you-”

“I know ,” he stressed, running a hand over his face. “Being Iron Man, it’s a part of me. And this guy, Vanko… I’m sure he’d not done yet. He’ll be back. Hell, even more guys will probably show up. But I need to-”

“What do you mean ‘not done? The guys in prison, you’re safe, and they guys-”

“Rhodey, you’re not listening to me, I’m-”

“Not listening?! Tones. I’m trying to talk some sense-”

“I’m trying to ask you to be Peter’s godfather!”

The room went still, and silent. They stared at each other, Tony looking tired and exhausted. Rhodes clearly didn’t know what to say, and slumped into a chair behind him. Then, he looked up, narrowed his eyes at Tony.

“Why?”

And Tony let out a laugh. It was a thick, choked sound, because hell! Tony had barely let Peter out of his sight since he’d come back from Afghanistan. Tony hadn’t even showed any sign that he was thinking about what happened when he was gone. In fact, Tony had acted as if he’d be there for the rest of Peter’s life.

“Being Iron Man is dangerous,” Tony finally said, leaning back in his chair. “The thing with Vanko showed me that. And if more guys show up, I need to be ready. If I can’t be there for Peter, I need someone who can. Think you can do that for me?”

Rhodey gave him a skeptical look, and Tony held up a hand, hearing small feet on the stairs. “Don’t answer yet. After the party.”

Tony turned, grinning as Peter opened the glass door with his access code. “Hey, Pete! Up already?”

“Aunt Pepper said that it’s time for you’re birthday party!” Peter chirped, grinning. “You and Uncle Rhodey have to come upstairs!”

Tony nodded, getting up from his chair and heading for the stairs. He shot Rhodey a look, the message clear. Think about it.

The party, unlike the ones in the past, was private. They had it in the evening, rather then at night, and only close friends rather then whoever wanted to come inside. Hell, Tony even cooked. There was a grill by the pool, so he figured he could do up some hotdogs and hamburgers. Rhodey had to take over after the first few burgers were turned into charcoal hockey pucks.

For fun, they played darts, talked and posed for Peter to take pictures. It was so disgustingly normal, that Tony was almost laughing. For once, he wasn’t smashing drunk on his birthday.

Though, he did cut a watermelon in half with a katana. Pepper had been confused, since she didn’t know where he would even get a katana. Rhodey, on the other hand, remembered their college days quite clearly, and was happy to tell Pepper and Natalie about their real life fruit ninja game. Tony had to deal with Peter’s pouting that he didn’t get to play with the katana, but Peter was easily distracted by watermelon slices.

All in all, his party went well, and Tony was a bit sad to see his friends, and employees he supposed in Natalie’s case, go at the end of the night. Rhodey stayed, even helped with bathtime as Peter was sleepy and sticky. Once Peter was tucked in, asleep after the fun evening, Tony walked with Rhodey down to the lab.

“So?” he said, moving to type into the vault control panel. He knew Rhodey’s answer, and he wanted to give his friend a little thank you present.

“I’ll do it,” Rhodey said. “But, Tones, you gotta promise me that you won't do anything reckless. Don’t go dying just because you have a backup plan. If you need help, with anything, we can- Hey!” Rhodey seemed to have finally noticed the suit coming out of the vault. “Are you taking off? Now ? We’re having a serious conversation here.”

“As much as I hate serious,” Tony said, moving over to prick Rhodey’s finger, making the man glare. “This suit’s not for me. Figured I’d give you a little present, to say thanks. Been thinking about giving you a suit for a while. Just have to finalize the biometric locks.”

The man gave him a confused glare. “For me? Tony, what…”

“Call it a thank you, for agreeing. And for all my shit you’ve put up with over the years.”

He put in the final touches for the biometric locks, so only Rhodey could access the suit. When he turned, to gauge his friends reaction, he got a hug, and what sounded like sniffles. Tony chuckled, patting him on the back before sending him on his way.

XxXXxX

The next day, Tony started by finally telling Peter about the baby suit. He’d had it in the works for a while, and it was mainly just something to help keep Peter safe if anything happened. Currently, it had no offensive gear, and was pretty much just a light suit that Peter could wear and be safe in.

When Peter found out, he instantly squealed and asked for some special changes. Tony, unable to deny his child anything, made the changes and they sent it to fabrication. It was still light, much lighter actually, and went from being a suit to a set of three robotic spider legs run by Friday with a HUD like visor for Peter. Since it was a lot smaller then the actual suit, it finished quickly, and they went out to go run some quick testing.

Quick testing, actually, turned out to be them going to a donut shop in the middle of nowhere, and renting the place out for the day. Peter’s robo spider legs helped him climb up and down from the donut that they were sitting in, and worked well. It helped a bit that Peter was already pretty good at climbing things.

As they were sitting in the donut, Friday holding the box with two of the legs, and securing Peter on the donut with the other, black vans rolled up. Tony recognized Nick Fury walking up, and raised a brow over his sunglasses.

“Sir,” Fury called up, sounding equal parts bored and amused. How even?! “I’m gonna have to ask you and the child to exit the donut.”

“We’re field testing,” Tony called back, taking another bit of his donut.

“Yeah!” Peter cheered, leaning back and giving Tony a heart attack as he flipped upside down to hang from the donut with only one robot leg. “We’re field testing!”

Fury rose a brow, and Tony decided that maybe Peter had had too much sugar for the day. He lifted up and out of the donut, grabbing the two other legs to lower Peter to the ground as he pouted. At Fury’s less amused look, Tony shrugged, and followed the SHIELD director into the shop.

“I told you I don’t wanna join your super-secret boy band,” Tony said, as they were sitting down by the window, where Tony could watch and make sure Peter didn’t get hurt.

“No, no, no,” Fury groused. “See, I remember, you do everything yourself. How’s that working out for you?”

“It’s…” Tony trailed off, looking from the eye patch to Fury’s real eye. “I’m sorry. I don’t wanna get off on the wrong foot. Do I look at the patch or the eye? Honestly I haven't slept in a while. I’m not sure if you’re real or if I’m having-”

“I am very real. I’m the realest person you’re ever gonna meet.”

“Just my luck,” he sighed, leaning back. “What do you want?”

Fury pointed at the lines of Palladium poisoning on Tony’s neck. “That’s not looking so good.”

“I’ve been worse.”

Behind him, he hear footsteps. He had the oddest feeling he knew who it was… And sure enough, when he looked up, it was Natalie.

“We’ve secured the perimeter,” she said. “But the boy is rather… excited about seeing Agent Coulson.”

Tony smiled. “You’re fired.”

“That’s not up to you.” She sat down next to Fury, giving him an impassive look.

“Tony,” Fury said with a grin. “I want you to meet Agent Romanov.”

“I knew something was wrong with her,” Tony mused, sipping at the coffee he had gotten.

“Then why did you hire her?”

“Because I needed someone who could also keep Peter safe.” Tony turned to Romanov. “I suggest you apologise.”

“You’ve been very busy,” Fury said, redirecting the conversation. “You made your girl your CEO, you’re giving away all your stuff. You let your friend fly away with your suit. You made your kid a tiny spider suit. Now, if I didn’t know better-”

“What do you want from me?” Tony asked, watching as Romanov got up.

Fury scoffed a laugh. “What do we want from you? What do you want from me . You have become a problem, a problem I have to deal with. Contrary to your belief, you are not the centre of my universe. I have bigger problems than you in the southwest region to deal with.” He looked behind Tony. “Hit him.”

There was a sharp pain in his neck, and he jerked, wide eyed as he looked up at Romanov.

“Oh, God, are gonna steal my kidney and sell it?” Romanov grabbed his face, turning his head. “Could you please not do anything awful for five seconds?” Tony turned to Fury. “What did she just do to me?”

“What did we just do for you,” the man corrected. “That’s lithium dioxide. It’s gonna take the edge off. We’re trying to get you back to work.”

“Awesome,” Tony said, taking a deep breath, because good god, he would get to see Peter grow older then six! “Give me a couple of boxes of that. I’ll be right as rain.”

“It’s not a cure,” Romanov said, dashing his hopes. “It’s just abates the symptoms.”

“Doesn’t look like it’s gonna be an easy fix.” Fury, the bastard, was fucking smiling!

“Trust me,” Tony hissed. “I know. I want to live to see my kid grow up, because hell knows I was a shit dad for long enough. I’ve been looking for a suitable replacement for palladium. I’ve tried every combination, every permutation of every known element.”

“Well, I’m here to tell you, you haven’t tried them all.”

XxXXxX

When they got back to the house, Tony was left with Agent Coulson, a bunch of boxes of his dad's old stuff, and a few things that he didn’t know about his old man. With a warning from Romanov, or Natasha, that there was no more communications, Tony huffed and turned to Coulson.

“First thing,” Tony said, watching as Coulson was showing Peter a few of his tools. “I need a little bodywork. I’ll put in a little time at the lab. If we could send one of your goon squad down to The Coffee Bean, Cross Creek, for a Starbucks run, or something like that, that’d be nice. And get a hot chocolate for Peter.”

Coulson looked up, holding that looked to be a tazer just out of Peter’s reach. “I’m not here for that. I’ve been authorised by Director Fury to use any means necessary to keep you on premises. If you attempt to leave or play any games, I will tase you and watch Supernanny while you drool into the carpet. Okay?”

“You do realize my kid is right there, and any threat to Peter’s safety will cause the house to be shut down, meaning you’ll never get out?”

“I do.” Coulson actually smiled. “Enjoy your evening’s entertainment.”

And with that, Coulson was gone, leaving Tony to drag the box left to him down the stairs on his own. Peter tried to come with him, asking questions and what not, though Tony got him redirected to go do his lessons upstairs with Friday.

Setting the box on the lab couch, Tony flipped it open, pursing his lips as he found old arc reactor blueprints, newspaper clippings and old expo tapes. He put one on, and flipped through his dad's notebook. He didn’t find anything, unsurprisingly.

He tossed the notebook aside, sighing as he tried to think.

“Tony,” his dad said on the tape, drawing his attention. “You’re too young to understand this right now, so I thought I would put it on film for you. I built this for you. And someday you’ll realise that it represents a whole lot more than just people’s inventions. It represents my life’s work. This is the key to the future. I’m limited by the technology of my time, but one day you’ll figure this out. And when you do, you will change the world. What is, and always will be, my greatest creation is you.“

The tape ended, flicking around the reel as Tony took a few deep breaths. His dad was an ass, but he’d still… Tony stood, knowing exactly what he needed, and moved to the stairs.

“Friday!” he called. “Tell Peter to get ready. And tell him to pack an overnight bag to.”

“Right away, Boss.”

XxXXxX

When Tony got back from getting his dad's stuff from Pepper, and after convincing Peter that he would be at the Expo, he took the boards of the Expo model and set them up in the workshop. He examined it, blowing some dust off it, and having Jarvis making a digital scan.

With a few spins, and color coding, he turned it on its side. He mused to himself, and Jarvis. He flicked away footpaths, trees and shrubbery, landscaping, parking lots. With a laugh, he arranged the pavilions on the sphere, blowing it up.

“Dead for almost twenty years,” he mused. “And still taking me to school.”

He slapped his hands together, pulling up the Mark VI. Jarvis warned him about the possibility of using an unknown element. Then, he suggested doing scans.

“Yeah,” Tony said absently, getting up to head for the door. “You do that. I know it’s gonna work, so I’m gonna go take a shower. Get me everything from projects Pegasus, Exodus, and Goliath. Get ready for a major remodel. We’re back in hardware mode.”

He came back from his shower, feeling refreshed and ready to wreck his shop. Tony was building a neuron collider, to synthesize a mostly synthesizable element. Coulson came down, not looking very amused, and entered the workshop.

“Heard you broke perimeter,” the Agent said.

Tony didn’t even look up. “Yeah, like three years ago. Had to drop my kid off at his aunt's to go see the expo. Can’t have the kid running around while I’m fucking up my stuff. Where you been?”

“I was doing some stuff.”

“Yeah? Well, me too and it worked.” He placed a level on the pipes, frowning at the unevenness. “I’m playing for the home team Coulson, you and all your Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers. Now, are you gonna let me work or break my balls?”

Coulson doesn’t reply, not at first, then Tony hears the scraping of metal. “What’s this doing here?”

Tony turned, frowning. But he knew exactly why the shield replica had been there. Peter was still obsessed with Captain America, still made Tony tell one of Aunt Peggy’s old stories about the guy to get him to go to sleep. He’d been planning on turning the replica into a clock or something, for Peter’s next birthday, but…

“That’s it.” Tony said as he set down the thing he’d been holding. “Bring that to me.”

Coulson looked surprised. “You know what this is?”

“It’s exactly what I need to make this work. Lift the coil. Go, go. Put your knees into it.” Tony wedged the replica under the coil. “There you go. And… Drop it. Drop it.” He placed the level on it, pleased. “Perfectly level. I’m busy. What do you want?”

For a moment, Coulson stared at him. “Nothing,” he eventually said. “Goodbye. I’ve been reassigned. Director Fury wants me in New Mexico.”

Tony would never say it out loud, but he’d miss the guy. “Fantastic. Land of Enchantment.”

“So I’m told.”

“Secret stuff?”

Coulson smiled. “Something like that. Good luck.”

“Bye. Thanks.” Tony held out his hand, letting the man shake it.

“We need you,” Coulson said, still holding his hand.

“Yeah, more than you know.”

“Not that much.” And with that, Coulson was gone.

XxXXxX

The new core worked, which was good news. Only, it was ruined by Vanko calling in.

In a flash, he had the new reactor in, and was in the suit. He could taste coconut, and metal, and boy was that weird. But he had bigger problems, and he needed to get to the expo before Hammer could get on stage.

Sadly, he was too late, Rhodey standing in front of a horde of drones. And had a machine gun attached to his back. Rhodey, no. The suit, the beautiful suit!

“We got trouble,” Tony said as he landed, next to his friend.

“Tony,” Rhodey sighed. “I’m here on orders. I know you don’t approve of Hammer, but he’s got a military contract, and-”

“I think he’s working with Vanko.”

“Vanko’s alive?”

Tony didn’t respond, instead stepping up towards Hammer. “Where is he?”

“What?” Hammer asked, clearly surprised.

“Where’s Vanko,” Tony pressed.

“Who?...” Hammer asked, trying and failing to act innocent.

“Tell me.”

“What… What are you doing here, man?...”

“Whoa,” Rhodey was suddenly saying. “Whoa, whoa, whoa!”

The drones behind Rhodey were suddenly taking aim at Tony, the guns locking onto him.

“Is that you?” Tony asked, tensing to take off, already knowing the answer.

“No, I’m not doing that,” Rhodey insisted. “That’s not me. I can’t move. I’m locked up. I’m locked up!”

Tony lifted up, the drone guns following him. Jarvis pulled up the coding for Rhodey’s suit, and he let out a breath. The biometrics were working. Vanko was trying to get in, but he couldn’t without a DNA scan. The suit was locking down as a defense.

“Get out of here,” Rhodey was saying. “Go! This whole system’s been compromised.”

Tony laughs. “Alright. Let’s take this outside.”

He zips out of the main building, the drones close behind. Or, at least, the ones that could fly. Jarvis started in one getting Vanko completely out of Rhodey’s system. He breezed past a few buildings, barely dodging a swarm of bullets.

Below, Tony could see the streets dissolve into chaos. Drones rained explosives down onto the crowds, who screamed and scattered and clustered together at exits. He didn’t see Peter or Pepper, and hoped to god Natalie or Romanov or Natasha, or whatever he was supposed to call her had gotten them somewhere safe.

He had thought to soon.

“Boss,” Friday said urgently as Tony dodged shots from ground drones. “Baby Boss, directly below! Drone locked on him!”

Tony cursed, swerving as Friday turned his lock onto the right done in the screaming crowd. And there, in the coat Tony had zipped up for him, the shoes Tony had tired, was Peter, without his spider legs backpack and wearing an Iron Man mask. He dropped down behind Peter, shooting the drone before it could shoot Peter.

“Take that off and get inside,” Tony ordered sharply. “Now!”

Peter turned, yanking off the mask just in time for Tony to see his wide eyes. Then, Tony took off, as the drones got close again, and Peter took off for cover. At least that was one crisis averted.

He led the drones away from the Expo, away from Peter and Pepper and panic civilians. They dived through a parking garage, and Tony lost a couple of them, though they set off literally every care alarm.

“Incoming call from Miss Romanov,” Jarvis told him.

“How’s Rhodey’s suit coming?” Tony asked, swerving to go after a drone unit that had peeled off towards the Expo.

“Not well. Miss Romanov, Sir?”

“Put her through,” Tony eventually replied.

“Stark,” Natasha’s voice filtered through. “You got your best friend back.”

“Awesome,” Tony said, ready to lose the last few drones. “Hey Rhodes, what’s your-”

A heavy metallic thunk filled his ears as Rhodey barreled into his side. They went spiralling off course, leaving the drones to smash into the metal globe. Tony let out a sharp hiss of pain as they practically bounce across the water of a river. Rhodey remained on his back, groaning.

“Thank you,” Tony grit out, “very much, Agent Romanov.”

She ignored his pained sounds as he got up. “Well done on the new chest piece. I am reading significant higher output and your vitals all look promising.”

“Yes,” he agreed, feeling his back pop as he sat up. “For the moment, I’m not dying. Thank you.”

And then it got bad again. “What do you mean you’re not dying?” Pepper asked as her own ID popped up. “Did you just say you’re dying?”

“Oh, Pepper,” he said, trying to play it off. “Is that you? No, I’m not. Not anymore.”

“What’s going on?”

“I was going to tell you,” Tony tried. “I didn’t want to alarm you.”

“You were gonna tell me?” Pepper demanded. “Does Peter know? You really were dying?”

“Daddy’s dying?!” a squeaky little panicked voice called from behind Pepper. “Daddy?! Daddy, are you okay?!”

“I’m fine,” Tony said as Peter’s teary eyed face appeared in the camera’s view. “Oh, no, Peter! Don’t cry! I’m fine. I’m-”

“But you’re dying!”

“I’m not dying! I’m fending off a Hammeroid attack. We’ll talk about this later, okay, Bud? We’ll sit down, you and me and Cap-Plush, and we’ll have a little talk, okay?”

Peter sniffled, but nodded.

“Okay. I’m gonna see how you’re Uncle Rhodey is, okay? Gotta hang up. Stay with Pepper, and get your bag, okay kid?”

Peter nodded again, and the video cut out.

Tony let out a sigh, turning to walk over to Rhodey’s prone from. He chuckled, tapping at the faceplate.

“Rhodes?” he said. “Snap out of it buddy. I need you. They’re coming. Come on, let’s roll. Get up.”

The helmet snapped open. “Oh, man. You can have your suit back.”

“Not a chance,” Tony said, holding out a hand for Rhodey to take. “You okay?”

“Yeah, thanks.” There was a pause. “So… you’re dying.”

Tony threw up his hands. “I’m not dying!”

“Not anymore?”

“No!”

“Great.”

Tony resisted the urge to sigh. “They’re coming in hot, any second. What’s the play?”

“Well, we want to take the high ground, okay? So let’s put the biggest gun up on that ridge.”

“Got it.” They both moved towards the ridge. “Where do you wanna be?”

“Where you goin’?”

“What’re you talking about?”

“I meant me.”

“You have a big gun. You are not the big gun.”

“Tony, don’t be jealous.”

“No. It’s subtle all the bells and whistles.”

“Yeah. It’s called being a badass.”

“Fine,” Tony sighed. “All right. You go up to. I’ll draw them in.”

Rhodey started towards the ridge. “Don’t stay down here. This is the worst place to be.”

“Okay, you got a spot. Where’s mine?”

“It’s the kill box , Tony. Okay This is where you go to die.”

There was a roar and drones started to surround them. They shared a look, and their face plates snapped down. Drones rushed at them, firing at them from all directions. For military drones, they had the aim of fucking Star Wars Stormtroopers, nearly every shot missing them as they tore down drone after drone.

The fight was more of them trying to show off. Rhodey was firing with three guns, and then Tony would follow up with growing up three drones at once from the inside out. Then Rhodey tried to how odd with a missile, and Tony used his lasers.

“You should probably lead with that next time,” Rhodey said as he looked around them.

“Yeah well, I can only use it once,” Tony said. “Kinda a one off.”

Then Vanko showed up. In a full fucking suit. Then Rhodey tried to use fucking HammerTech.

They spent a while getting tossed around, and Tony ended up getting choked out like a bitch. Then so was Rhodey. And then they crossed the streams.

Tony was pretty sure he might have gotten a concussion.

Vanko chuckled, lifting his head. “You lose.”

Red lights flashed, and beeping began. Tony went wide eyed.

“Peter!”

He took off, Friday connecting him. Tony could see them, and shouted into the comm. Peter looked up, the legs of his backpack extending instantly. Tony grabbed Pepper, Peter jumping onto the back of the suit and clinging with the help of the legs.

As they took off, the drones exploded. Tony flew both of them to a rooftop, breathing hard and his helmet sparking. He landed, Pepper pushing away from him and Peter sitting on the roof as he coughed, smoke swirling around them. Tony yanked off the helmet.

“Oh my god,” Pepper gasped. “I can't take this anymore.”

“You can’t?” Tony asked, trying to find where he put the oxygen mask in Peter’s backpack. “Look at me! I’m messed up six way to sunday and Peter might have asthma. Friday, does Peter have asthma?”

“Baby Boss does not have asthma,” Friday sigh.

Pepper stared at him. “I quit. I’m resigning. That’s it.”

“What did you just say?” He managed to put the mask on Peter’s face. “You’re done? That’s surprising. No, it’s not surprising. I get it. You don’t have to make excuses.”

“I’m not making excuses. I’m-”

“You actually were just making excuses. But you don’t have to. I mean, I’ll never have time Peter, but hey I can figure something out.”

“Tony, no, I-” She took a deep breath, glancing at Peter who was looking up at her rather pitifully. “I’ll stay. I’ll handle everything, just…” She smiled. “Go get Peter checked out, alright?”

“Already on it,” Tony said, turning to let Peter onto his back again. “Come on, Spiderling.”

Peter smiled, tired, and jumped on, the oxygen mask still on his face.

XxXXxX

A few days later, Tony found himself sitting in a SHIELD briefing room. He had gotten Peter a check up with a doctor friend of Tony’s, who, while strange, gave them both a clean bill of health. Natasha explained everything to Pepper, or at least as much as she was allowed.

He noticed some SHIELD folders on the table, and pulled one to him to look at. There was the SHIELD logo, then ‘Avengers Initiative’ underneath. It was a preliminary report, probably for Fury’s super secret boy band. That Tony totally didn’t want to join. Because, seriously, solo work is awesome. Though… fighting with Rhodey had been pretty cool…

Maybe just a peak wouldn’t hurt…

“I don’t think I want you looking at that,” Fury said, easing the folder out of Tony’s hands. “I’m not sure it pertains to you anymore. Now this on the other hand,” he held up another folder, “is Agent Romanoff’s assessment of you. Read it.”

Tony took it, looking it over, and reading it over.

“‘Personality overview. Mr Stark displays compulsive behaviour.’ In my own defence, that was last week. ‘Shows signs of dependent personality disorder.’ I was dying, I wanted to be around my kid. Is that a crime? ‘Textbook narcissism’?” Tony glanced at Fury. “Agreed. Okay, here it is. ‘Recruitment assessment for Avenger Initiative. Iron Man? Yes.’” He set down the folder. “I gotta think about it.”

“Read on,” Fury said instead.

Tony frowned. “‘Tony Stark not… Not recommended’? That doesn’t any sense. How can you approve me, but not approve me? I got a new ticker, I’m doing what’s best for me and Peter, I have a good working friendship with Pepper.”

Fury stood, walking around the table. “Which leads us to believe at this juncture we’d only like to use you as a consultant.”

Tony pursed his lips, then smiled. Standing, he offered his own hand, letting Fury shake it.

“You can’t afford me,” he said, then turned to leave, but paused. “Then again, I will waive my customary retainer in exchange for a small favour. Rhodey and I are being honoured in Washington and we need a presenter.”

The man chuckled. “I’ll see what I can do.”

XxXXxX

The look on Stern’s face had been priceless, but the grin Peter was giving him as he got his award was infinitely better.

Chapter Text

Steve Rogers was very, very bored. While he hadn’t been awake and out of the ice for long, he hadn’t found anything to entertain him since he got out. He was staying in SHIELD quarters, after all, where they were undoubtedly keeping most things away from him.

He was spending most of his time in the gym, beating down bags and running an obstacle course SHIELD had used to test his recovery. It was a bit easier then he would have liked, but he was getting bored. He’d wanted to go out, maybe travel the US, get his bike back. Hell, he could probably spend a few months alone exploring just New York.

It was as he was beating down another bag that Fury came to see him.

“Trouble sleeping?” the director asked.

“I slept for seventy years, sir” Steve said as calmly as possible. “I think I've had my fill.”

“Would have thought you’d have liked to be meeting other agents.” Steve shot him a look. “We've made some mistakes along the way. Some very recently.”

“You here with a mission, sir?”

“I am.”

Fury held out a folder. Steve took it, frowning, then opened it up. There wasn’t nearly as much info inside as Steve was used to, only a single sheet of paper. It was the cube, Hydra’s cube. A picture, a short briefing on the cube.

“Hydra’s secret weapon,” Steve said.

“Howard Stark fished that out of the ocean when he was looking for you. He thought what we think, the Tesseract could be the key to unlimited sustainable energy. That's something the world sorely needs.”

“Who took it from you?”

“He's called Loki. He's not from around here. There's a lot we'll have to bring you up to speed on if you're in. The world has gotten even stranger than you already know.”

Steve sighed. “At this point, I doubt anything would surprise me.

Fury smirked. “Ten bucks says you’re wrong.”

And with that, Steve was left to pack up his gear and go find his tablet in his quarters. A more detailed mission briefing would likely be sent to his email.

XxXXxX

Tony was doing great. Just over four years had passed since the whole ‘I am Iron Man’ thing, and he was living better then ever before. He had Peter, his adorable spider monkey like child, and was working hard as the world leader in clean energy. He made more suits, helped Peter advance his spider legs, and the kid was getting better at them, even at age ten. By the time he wanted to enter the field with Tony (or not) he’d be a pro.

At the moment, Tony was making the last of the connections for the new Stark Tower energy lines. He connected the line, humming to himself as he pulled out of the water.

“You're good to go on this end,” he told Pepper in his ear. “The rest is up to you.”

“You disconnected the transition lines?” she asked in return. “Are we off the grid?”

“Definitely,” Peter said in the background. “Turning on power now. How’s it look, Dad?”

The Tower had lit up, bright and shining, as Tony headed towards it. He grinned at the shining beacon, the massive Tower that was magnificent.

“Like Christmas,” Tony laughed. “But with more… us.”

With a thud, he dropped onto the landing pad, walking along the disassembler to head inside. He could see Pepper and Peter inside. Pepper was standing by the window, looking things over on a tablet as Peter spun around on a stool with a tablet of his own. When he walked in, he looked to Peter first.

“How’s the science project?” Tony asked.

“Going good,” Peter said, not looking up. Tony should see a model of a DNA over Peter’s shoulder. “I’m looking at the blood sample you had from the whole… palladium thing, and comparing it to before and after samples. I’m not sure if I can use it for my project, since I haven’t really found anything worth while to put in my report.”

Tony nodded, almost letting out a sigh of relief that Peter didn’t ask about getting a sample from Doctor Banner. He’d know Doctor Banner before the experiment that went wrong, and had tried to track the man down. Other then the brief conversation they had a year ago, when Tony had tracked the man down and gave him a first pick on any medicine that Banner wanted.

Then he turned to Pepper for the readouts. They’d be celebrating, Pepper with champagne later after she had left, and Tony and Peter with some juice. Tony missed drinking, just a bit, but he’d wait to have that scotch he’d been saving until he was either going to die for sure, or when he watched Peter walk onto the stage to get his diploma.

“Sir,” Jarvis said. “Agent Coulson of SHIELD is on the line.”

“I’m not in,” Tony said, moving to go get the sparkling cider that Peter liked so much. “I’m actually out.”

“Sir, I'm afraid he's insisting.”

“Close the line Jarvis. It’s father-son time.”

“No Jarvis,” Pepper said. “Answer the call.”

Tony shot her a betrayed look, though it wasn’t the phone that Coulson’s voice came through. It was the elevator. And there was Coulson, all fine pressed suit and polished shoes, walking in with an ever present folder.

“Mr. Stark,” Coulson said.

“Uncle Phil,” Peter said, looking up with a grin.

Tony gasped. “Uncle Phil?”

“I can’t stay.”

“Uh, his first name is Agent.”

Pepper sighed. “Come on in, we're celebrating.”

“Actually, I’m doing homework.” Peter waved the tablet. “Well, sorta.”

“Which is why he can't stay,” Tony told the room, though no one really listened.

“We need you to look this over,” Coulson said, holding out a folder and a flash drive. “Soon as possible.”

Tony scowled at the folder, and Pepper took it quickly for him. She looked bored, or exhausted, and carried the folder to the desk for Jarvis to scan. The fact that both Peter and Pepper seemed to be familiar with Coulson was a bit unnerving. Or, rather, concerning. As far as Tony knew, Peter hadn’t had any interactions with Coulson alone.

“Official consulting hours are between eight and five every other Thursday,” Tony said, crossing his arms.

“This isn't a consultation.”

“Avengers stuff?” Peter questioned, looking up from his tablet and readings from Friday, and not at all bothered by the raised brow Coulson gave him. “Is Dad being asked to be in the super secret boy band?”

“The Avengers Initiative was scrapped,” Tony reminded Peter, casting a glance at Coulson. “And I didn’t qualify.”

“I didn’t know that,” Pepper said with a frown.

“Apparently I'm volatile, an obsessed helicopter parent, and don't play well with others.”

“That I did know.”

“This isn't about personality profiles anymore,” Coulson said, and left without another word.

Tony sighed, opening up the file and his jaw instantly dropped. There were pictures and video clips on the flashdrive. There was so much, of Doctor Banner, of a man with a hammer and red cape, of Captain America.

Peter was looking over his shoulder, eyes wide at the footage of Captain America, modern footage, of training in an obstacle course. The man was wearing a full costume, though it was old, battered, but Tony couldn’t see the man’s face. The file on the guy, on the other hand, had a full explanation. Found frozen in Antarctica, Steve Rogers had been found alive and defrosted by SHIELD. Apparently Peter had been spending the Thursday’s Tony would go to work on the Triskelion, to help Coulson make the Captain a new suit.

Tony gave his son a betrayed look.

“Hey!” Peter said, holding up his hands. “I didn’t know that they had found him. I would have told you if I had!”

Tony huffed, leaning back as he looked at the other members, then noticed the name of the man with the hammer and the cape. “Hey, look! Thor!”

Peter’s eyes widened. “Like… Like mom’s stories?”

Tony chewed his lip, nodding. “Looks like we got our work cut out for us.”

XxXXxX

Hours later, Steve was sitting on a jet, reading over the mission briefing. It was filled with his potential teammates, five people he might end up on a team with, though one was currently AWOL. He mostly just skimmed the files, not wanting to hear about these people from SHIELD, who clearly wanted him to be in their pocket. If he was going to work with these people, he’d make decisions of their character in person. He did read the basics, however, and watched a few videos.

There was Agent Romanov, Black Widow, who Steve had already met. She’d been the woman that had come to talk to him. With her ability at fitting in, blending in, and faking her identity, she could be anyone, and Steve had a hard time getting a read on her. There was only a video of one of her training exercises, and a short background that had more blacked out spaces then Steve had ever seen.

The next was for Clint Barton, another Agent of SHIELD by the call sign Hawkeye. He was currently AWOL, under Loki’s control, but the guy was a real sure shooter. Always hit the mark. Good at acrobatics, too, if the training video sample had any merit.

Thor was apparently the brother of Loki. SHIELD didn’t have much on him, just a blurry video, a few pictures, and a scan of the guys hammer. Truth be told, Steve already knew a bit about him. His mother had been a pagan, and had immigrated from Germany before world war one with her own parents to go into hiding. While they had mostly followed the teachings of Freyr, Steve’s mother had spent the long nights during his sickest days as a child telling him the tales of the norse gods.

The one that really got his attention was Anthony Stark, Iron Man, and Howard’s son. There was more then enough footage of him from the last… God, nearly thirty years. The man partied, got wasted and liked to make things go boom. The man was volatile, a danger to any team… Then again, most teams did have a loose cannon…

He moved on rather quickly, and found Bruce Banner, and the Hulk. A real life Jekyll and Hyde. The guy had apparently been a part of a program for recreating the serum. By the look of the video’s… It hadn’t ended well.

“You were the world's first superhero,” one of the agents of the jet said, noticing what he was looking at. “A lot of people wanted to recreate the serum that they used on you. Banner thought gamma radiation might hold the key to unlocking Erskine's original formula.”

“Didn't really go his way, did it?” Steve asked absently, setting aside the tablet.

“Not so much. When he's got that thing though, guy's like a Stephen Hawking.” Steve rose a brow at him. “He's like a smart person. I gotta say, it's an honor to meet you, officially. I sort of met you, I mean, I watched you while you were sleeping.”

Steve shot the agent an amused look. The agent, Agent Coulson if he remembered correctly, had the forethought to try and reword his statement.

“I mean, I was...I was present while you were unconscious from the ice. You know, it's really, it's just a...just a huge honor to have you on board.”

“I just hope I’m the man for the job,” Steve told him, getting up to see if they were close yet.

“Oh, you are,” Coulson insisted, moving to stand across from him. “Absolutely. Uh...We've made some modifications to the uniform. A coworker and I had a little design input.”

“The uniform?” Steve asked with a frown. They’d had him run the obstacle in his old uniform, once they’d given it back to him, but he hadn’t thought that the uniform would be necessary. It was… “Aren't the stars and stripes a little… old fashioned?”

“Everything that's happening, the things that are about to come to light…” The agent’s face was grim. “People might just need a little old fashioned.”

Steve stared at the man, frowning as he tried to decipher that sentence. Then, the jet landed, and Steve followed the agent out. Romanov was waiting for him. She gave a brief nod to Coulson, then turned to focus on Steve. They exchanged a quick set of words, about Coulson, and went to find Banner.

The man seemed nervous, hesitant to work with either of them. But Steve was able to smooth things over, and they went inside to have a chat with Fury, and to be kept from being blown off of the Helicarrier as it took off. Steve was less impressed, and more amused. They had flying ships, but not flying cars. What a wacky world he found himself in.

After a bit of a talk, Steve was finally sent out, on a real mission, to… Germany. What was it always Germany?

XxXXxX

When Tony got the alert through his in on the SHIELD servers, he was instantly getting stuff ready to be shipped to the Helicarrier for him. He spent a bit extra time making sure Peter had Spider Legs, an actual case of clothes and books, and a lunch box with snacks incase Peter got hungry, because the SHIELD cafeteria food was shit.

Sadly, he had to let Peter go with the cargo to the Helicarrier. But once he was finally off, he kept the line open for Peter if he wanted anything when Tony was on the way back. Germany had other interesting things besides booze and hot women, right?

As he drew closer to the sight, where he’d be fighting with a god from the stories that Peter read, Peter connected with the helmet to get camera feed and watch. Tony grinned, knowing he could get Peter’s help making an entrance.

“Jarvis, get me into Romanov’s Quinjet speakers,” Tony said, causing Peter to look up in the little screen at the side of the HUD. “Hey Pete, got a good entrance song for me?”

“How about Shoot to Thrill?” Peter grinned. “And say hi to Aunt Tasha for me!”

“Someday we’re gonna have a talk about why you shouldn’t adopt SHIELD agents at aunts and uncles.”

But he got into the quinjet’s speakers, and had Jarvis play Shoot to Thrill. The music blared, and Tony could see Captain America look up in surprise, along with the guy that had to be Loki. With an in on the quinjet, Tony connected himself with their comms.

“Agent Romanov,” he said with a grin. “Miss me?”

She didn’t bother to reply to him, though he swore he could hear her sigh. Tony knew from the way she’d interacted with Peter that she wasn’t as cold as she appeared. She was good at hiding her emotions, and put on a good facade, but that facade was always fueled by real emotions. She just had good control.

Tony zipped down, making a sharp turn over the fighting. He raised one repulsor, hitting Loki right in the chest, and sending him flying. With his usual style and flare, Tony made a three point landing before standing, both repulsors raised, and the weaponry at his shoulders popping up.

“Your move reindeer games.”

The man raised his hands in surrender, the armor around him dematerializing. Tony lowers his weapons.

“Good move.”

Captain America clears his throat, making Tony glance at him. “Mr. Stark.”

Tony gave him a nod back. “Captain.”

Peter was nearly bouncing in the little window in the side of his vision. “This is so freaking cool!”

“Finish your homework,” Tony told him, having Jarvis close the window as he turned to follow Romanov, Loki, and the Captain into the quinjet.

“What?” the Captain asked.

Tony shook his head, reaching up to take off the helmet as they entered the Quinjet. There was a lot to do, once they got back. He had to find the cube, figure out why hey hadn’t called him in on their little ‘clean energy’ project, then ask Doctor Banner for a cheek swab, and maybe try to get one from Loki if possible.

But before any of that, he’d have to go check on Peter. If there weren’t any interruptions, it would be pretty late when they got back. He knew that while Peter looked to be fine for now, but by the time he got back to the Helicarrier, Peter might just be falling asleep.

For now, Tony would remain focused. He stood to one side of the quinjet as they took off, fiddling with one of his repulsors using a screwdriver. There wasn’t much he could do for now except play escort, make sure there were as few interruptions as possible.

XxXXxX

Steve wasn’t sure to say after Tony Stark had shown up. The man was reckless, clearly, from the way he came charging in without warning. He really was volatile…

He watched as the man pulled off his helmet, a SHIELD agent pushing Loki into a seat. While Steve had seen pictures of the man, of Stark, he had to admit that seeing a picture and seeing Stark in person was two very different things. The man had a strange beauty about him that made Steve want to draw him, even though he knew that kind of beauty couldn’t be captured on any kind of paper.

Shaking off the thought, Steve turned to watch Loki. It was suspicious, the way the Asgardian had just given up after Stark’s attack. Loki was strongg, had been knocking Steve around with almost no effort. Surely he would have been able to take both him and Stark.

“I don’t like it,” Steve said, attempting to start a conversation with Stark.

“What?” the man asked, not even looking up from where he was prodding at his glove with a screwdriver. “Rock of Ages giving up so easily?”

Steve frowned. “I don't remember it being ever that easy. This guy packs a wallop.”

“Still,” Stark said, actually looking up. He gave Steve a once over that actually made Steve want to fidget. “You are pretty spry for an older fellow. What’s your thing? Pilates? I can barely keep up with Pete. Could probably use a little of whatever you got going on. Well, besides your serum stuff.”

Pete? Steve wondered. So Stark was… queer?... Or, rather, gay? Though, there were pictures of him with women from his younger days. And men, now that Steve was thinking about it. So he supposed that Stark was what they called ‘bi’, maybe? At least it explained the look Stark had given him.

When Steve didn’t say anything, Stark continued.

“It’s like calisthenics. You might have missed a couple things, you know, doing time as a Capsicle.”

Steve had the urge to knock the guy’s ego down a peg or two, but resisted.

“Fury didn’t tell me he was calling you in,” he said instead.

“Yeah,” Stark said, like it was obvious. “There’s a lot of things Fury doesn’t tell you.”

And boy, wasn’t that the truth! Since day one, Fury had been hiding things from him. They’d been keeping him indoors, under surveillance, like he’d snap like Red Skull. Or like he was an untrained dog on a leash.

There was a rumble from outside, lightning flashing dangerously close. A boom of thunder was close behind, and Stark gave an irritated grumble. Steve had flown through a few storms, and was about to suggest to Romanov they should land for a while, before going on, but that’s when he noticed Loki. The man looked positively terrified.

“What’s the matter?” Steve asked. “Scared of a little lightning?”

“I’m not overly fond of what follows,” Loki drawled, looking up.

Steve frowned. What on earth did that mean? But he knew. And he looked toward the hatch as it was pulled open. He knew in an instant that it was Thor, saw the flash of the hammer at the man's belt, then watched as the Asgardian grabbed Loki and disappeared.

“Now there’s that guy,” Stark said as he snapped his helmet into place.

“Another Asgardian?” Romanov asked.

“Think the guys still a friendly?” Steve asked at the same time.

“Doesn’t matter,” Stark told him, stepping up to the hatch. “If he frees Loki or kills him, the Tesseract is lost, and we’ll never get to go home.”

Steve felt his eyes widen because surely the man wasn’t… Stark wasn’t thinking of going after Thor on his own, was he? That was dangerous, without a plan. Thor was the god of thunder, and Stark was in a suit run by electricity. Steve didn’t really know anything about mechanics, or engineering, but he could assume that if Thor hit Stark with lightning, the suit could explode.

“Stark,” he tried, “we need a plan of attack!”

“I got a plan,” Stark said. “Attack.”

And just like that, the man had jumped out the hatch. Steve let out a sigh, moving to unlatch a parachute. He slipped the straps up his legs, quickly, and the other two over his shoulders.

“I’d sit this one out Cap,” Romanov called from the front.

He nearly laughed, clipping the front together. “I don’t see how I can.”

“These guys come from legends,” she said, as if he didn’t already know. “They’re basically gods.”

So, SHIELD didn’t know about his mother. That would explain why they had given him a bible and several pamphlets on joining different christian churches. He’d have to figure something out for that later.

For now, he jumped out of the plane.

It was slow going, compared to Iron Man and Thor. He eventually landed not far from where the two were brawling up a storm. They’d knocked over a few trees, scratched up a cliff, and were about to beat into each other a gain.

“Hey!” he called, throwing his shield. It bounce off of Thor’s head, then off of Iron Man’s shoulder and back into his hand. “That’s enough!” Steve jumped down, talking calmly once he was standing before them. “No, I don’t know what you plan on doing here-”

“I come to put an end to Loki’s schemes,” Thor boomed, interrupting him.

Steve, slightly impatient and wanting to just get back to the Helicarrier, sighed. “Then prove it. Put that hammer down.”

“Uh, yeah, no,” Stark said. “Bad call, he loves his-”

Thor swung wide, slamming the hammer into Stark's chest and sending the man flying back. “You want me to put the hammer down?!”

Steve barely had time to register Thor leaping into the air. He crouched, raising his shield over his head. When the hammer his the shield, a shockwave threw both of them apart. Steve grunted, getting up as his leg shook, weak but already mending what was likely a fracture.

“Are we done here?”

XxXXxX

Tony was exhausted. He’d fought an angry Asgardian, so he supposed it was to be expected. There weren’t anymore interruptions after that, and they made it to the Helicarrier pretty quickly after that.

It was well past midnight by the time they got they back, and Friday informed him the Peter was in one of the temporary quarters. Tony took off that way as soon as they landed, waving off the Captain’s calls with excuses that he needed to get out of the suit. He did have to get out of the suit, true, but he was more concerned with Peter.

When he got to the room, Coulson was doing paperwork at a small table off to one side. The man looked up as he entered, Tony stepping off to one side to step out of the armor. Peter was laying down in one of the beds, blankets tucked in around him, and his Cap Plush tucked in next to him. Even at eleven, Peter could barely sleep without knowing Tony was in the lab, or without that silly plushy.

“He fell asleep about an hour ago,” Coulson said, closing his folder. “Though he did attempt to convince me to let him stay up until you got back.”

“Yeah?” Tony smiled a little at that, taking one of the blankets from the other bed to tuck that around Peter as well. He could see Peter’s Spider Legs bag dropped carelessly on the floor, along with a few of Peter’s other things, and started to pick them up to put them where they belong.

“Yes, he said that you should have been back hours ago.”

“We had a conflict with Thor.”

Coulson nodded, moving to the door. “The others are waiting, I’m sure. We’ll need to have a discussion. Banner is there.”

Tony nodded, studying what he had just picked up. It looked like some kind of… arm guard? It was probably what Peter had been working on in his spare time, when he got stuck on his science project. He’d have to ask about it later.

They exited, Tony turning off the lights as they went. It was quiet for a moment, as they walked. Coulson wasn’t much of one for small talk, and Tony didn’t know much of anything to talk about with the man. He got along well with Peter which was good, and he was pretty good friends with Pepper, as far as Tony knew.

“So Pepper told me that you’ve been seeing a cellist,” Tony tried.

“In a way,” Coulson said. “I haven’t seen her in a while. She was in Portland last time I saw her.”

“Oh really?” Tony grinned. “Well, I could fly you out there. Just pick a weekend and I’ll let you borrow my jet.”

“I doubt she’s still there. She moves around quite a bit.”

He could hear the other talking, now. He could hear Banner ask, “What did they need the Iridium for?”

“It’s a stabilizing agent,” Tony said, as they reached the meeting room, then turned back to Coulson. “Just find out where she is and I'll fly you there. Keep the love alive.” He turned to back to the group. “Means the portal won't collapse on itself, like it did at SHEILD.”

Tony walked around, patting Thor on the shoulder. “No hard feelings, Point Break. You’ve got a mean swing.” Then, as he was walking to Fury’s main console. “Also, it means the portal can open as wide, and stay open as long, as Loki wants.”

He looked out over the working SHIELD agents, bored and wanting to just go back to see his son. “Raise the mid-mast, ship the top sails!” Tony swerved, pointing at an agent in his peripheral. “That man is playing Galaga! Thought we wouldn’t notice. But we did.”

Then he frowned, covering one of his eyes, the one that he knew was covered on Fury. “How does Fury do this?”

“He turned,” Agent Hill said, sounding exhausted.

Tony hummed, subtly placing a bug on the underside of Fury’s desk. He was already make blueprints for a new desk for the man. While the guy was the spy of spies, he’d done a lot for Tony. The guy deserved a good desk.

“Sounds exhausting,” he said instead, turning to look at the others. “The rest of the raw materials, Agent Barton can get his hands on pretty easily. Only major component he still needs is a power source. A high energy density, something to kick start the cube.”

“When did you become an expert in thermonuclear astrophysics?”

“Last night,” Tony said, looking at the others expectantly, only to get blank looks. “The packet, Selvig’s notes, the Extraction Theory papers? Am I the only one who did the reading?”

Rogers practically sighed. “Does Loki need any particular kind of power source?”

“He's got to heat the cube to a hundred and twenty million Kelvin just to break through the Coulomb barrier,” Banner said, seriously.

“Unless,” Tony said slowly, grinning. “Selvig has figured out how to stabilize the quantum tunneling effect.”

“Well, if he could do that, he could achieve Heavy Ion Fusion at any reactor on the planet.”

Tony grinned. “Finally, someone who speaks English.”

“Is that what just happened?” Rogers asked.

“It’s good to finally meet you in person, Doctor Banner,” Tony said, moving to shake the guy's hand. “You’re work in anti-electron collisions is unparalleled, and it’s been fun helping your humanitarian work over the last few years. An I’m a huge fan of the way you lose control and turn into an enormous green rage monster.”

Banner looked away, either nervous or embarrassed, Tony wasn’t sure. “Thanks…”

“Doctor Banner is only here to track the cube,” Fury said as he walked in. “I was hoping you might join him, Stark.”

Tony thought about arguing. He thought about reminding Fury that Peter was on the Helicarrier, that this was a weekend, and they were supposed to be doing fun things as a father and son. But he knew better then to bring up Peter in front of a bunch of spies, so he just shrugged.

“I’d start with that stick of his,” Rogers said, looking up at them. “It may be magical, but it works an awful lot like a Hydra weapon.”

“I don’t know about that,” Fury said, “but it is powered by the cube. And I’d like to know how Loki used it to turn two of the sharpest men I know into his personal flying monkeys.”

“Monkeys?” Thor asked, confused. “I do not understand.”

“I do!” Rogers chirped, and Tony rolled his eyes. “I understood that reference.”

Tony turned to Banner, grinning. “Shall we play, Doctor?”

“Let’s play some,” Banner said, giving him a nervous smile in return.

He turned, leading Banner out of the meeting room and back to the labs. It looked like he’d already been working, Loki’s scepter sitting on a stand on one of the tables. Tony’s boxes of equipment were all placed neatly to one side.

They set into working, Banner doing scans for gamma rays as Tony was messing with algorithms on his own monitor. He was also simultaneously cracking the code on SHIELD’s servers. Apparently, Peter had already placed a bug, letting Friday chip away at a bit of it for them while Tony had been gone. It would shave an hour or two off their work, but it probably wouldn’t be completely done until early, maybe mid morning.

“The gamma readings are definitely consistent with Selvig’s reports on the Tesseract,” Bruce told him. “But it’s gonna take weeks to process.”

“If we bypass their mainframe and direct a reroute to the Homer cluster, we can clock this around six hundred teraflops.”

Banner chuckled. “All I packed was a tooth brush.”

“You know,” Tony said as he stood up. “You should come by Stark Tower sometime. Ten floors, all R&D. You’d love it. It’s candy land.”

“Thanks, but the last time I was in New York I kind of broke…” Banner trailed off, looking for the right words. “Harlem…”

Tony had read about that.

“Well,” he said, “I promise a stress free environment. No tension, no surprises.”

He pulled out a little shock stick, poking Banner with it. It was only a small shock, nothing like a taser or anything. He’d made it for giving Peter’s back pack a little boost, a jump start that only needed a light tap of electricity to reboot rather then a sharp kick like Tony’s suit.

Banner, though he should really start calling the man Bruce, jumped, looking startled, but was quickly calmed. Not even a little green. Huh. He’d have to start collecting data.

“Nothing?” Tony asked.

“Hey!” A sharp voice called from the door. Great, Captain Sourpuss. “Are you nuts?”

Tony ignored him, staying focused on Bruce. “You really have got a lid on it, haven’t you? What’s your secret? Mellow jazz? Bongo drums? Huge bag of weed?”

“Is everything a joke to you?”

Tony shrugged, moving to go back to his desk. Oh! Peter’s snack box! There were blueberries in there! “Funny things are.”

“Threatening the safety of everyone on this ship isn’t funny.” The blond paused, turning to Bruce. “No offense, doctor.”

Well that put a damper on his fun. He had the feeling that Bruce wouldn’t Hulk out until it was really bad, but the captain's words suggested that he was putting Peter in danger. And that didn’t sit well with him. Not. One. Bit.

“No,” Bruce said, rubbing at the bridge of his nose. “It’s alright. I wouldn’t have come aboard if I couldn’t handle pointy things.”

“You’re tiptoeing, big man,” Tony said, fishing the blueberry back out of the snack sack. “You need to strut.”

“And you need to focus on the problem, Mr. Stark.” Tony was really starting to not like this guy.

“You think I'm not? Why did Fury call us and why now? Why not before? What isn't he telling us? I can't do the equation unless I have all the variables.”

And then the look of Roger's face changed. It was the look of a man who had finally heard someone say what he’d already been thinking. That was the look of a man that Tony might just be able to recruit to their team.

“You think Fury’s hiding something?” Rogers asked, like it was a test.

“He’s a spy.” Tony shook his head. “He’s the spy. His secrets have secrets.” He pointed to Bruce. “It's bugging him too, isn't it?”

“Uh,” Bruce said, looking between them. “I just wanna finish my work here and…”

“Doctor?” Rogers asked, sounding almost hopeful.

“‘A warm light for all mankind’, Loki’s jab at Fury about the cube.” Rogers nodded, and Bruce gestured to Tony. “Well I think that was meant for you. Even if Barton didn’t say anything, it has been all over the news for the last few months. I’ve been in a third world country without any american news and I still heard about it.”

“The Stark Tower?” Rogers asked. “That big ugly building in New York?”

Tony shot him a hurt look.

“It’s powered by Stark Reactors,” Bruce explained. “Self sustaining energy source. That building will run itself for… What? A year?”

“Most likely longer,” Tony boasted. “And that’s just the prototype. I’m kind of the only name in clean energy right now.”

“So, why didn’t SHIELD bring him in on the Tesseract project?” Bruce asked Rogers. “I mean, what are they doing in the energy business in the first place?”

“It’s on my list,” Tony said absently as he tossed a handful of blueberries into his mouth. “Once my decryption program finishes breaking into all of SHIELD’s secure files. Friday’s been setting it up for hours, and Jarvis has been running it since I hit the bridge. In a few hours, we’ll know every dirty secret SHIELD has ever tried to hide.” He held out the bag. “Blueberry?”

Rogers stared at him, though Bruce did take some. “And you wonder why they didn’t want you around?”

“I know why,” Tony said, popping a few more into his mouth. “They can’t keep me under their thumb, but I’m around more then you think. Probably know the agents better then you do, and you live in their barracks. Plus, an intelligence organization that fears intelligence? Historically, not possible.”

“I think Loki is trying to wind us up,” Rogers warned. “This is a man who means to start a war, and if don't stay focused, he'll succeed. We have orders, for now, we should follow them.”

“Following isn’t really my style.”

“And you’re all about style, aren’t you?”

No, he was all about making the best world he could for his son. “Of the people in this room, which one of us is A) wearing a spangly outfit-” Wait! Peter had helped with that outfit! It looked good, actually. Very Captain America, and made of what looked like the special kevlar similar to what Tony had designed for Peter’s under armour. Lightweight, flexible, and very breathable. “-and B) not of use?”

“Steve,” Bruce said, still trying to convince the guy that they were right. “Tell me none of this smells a bit funky to you?”

Rogers frowned. “Just find the cube.” And then left. But Tony could see that they had gotten to him, he believed them. He was to stuck in his way to admit it,

“Jeez,” Tony sighed, running a hand through his hair. “That’s the guy my dad never shut up about? Man, Pete’s gonna be so disappointed.”

“Pete?” Bruce asked. “I didn’t know you were…”

“Yeah, you probably wouldn’t, with how old the news is. He’s sleeping down in the sleeping quarters right now. Got so excited about meeting Captain Tight-Pants he tired himself out. To bad the guy's an ass.”

“He’s not wrong, though,” Bruce said. “About Loki. He does have the jump on us.”

“What he’s got is an ACME dynamite kit. It’s gonna blow up in his face, and I’m going to be there when it does.”

“And I’ll read about it.”

“Right,” Tony said, smirking a little. “Or you’ll be suiting up like the rest of us.”

“Ah, see…” He seemed to be looking for words, shaking his head. “I don’t have a suit of armor. I’m exposed, like a nerve. It’s a nightmare.”

“You know,” Tony said, rubbing a small circle over the arc reactor. “I’ve got a cluster of shrapnel trying every second to claw its way into my heart. This… This stops it. This little circle of light. It’s a part of me now, not just the armor. It’s a terrible privilege.”

“But you can control it.”

“Because I learned how.”

Bruce looks away, looking grave. “It’s different.”

“Hey,” Tony said, frowning. “I’ve read all about your accident. That much gamma radiation exposure should have killed you.”

“So you’re saying the Hulk- they other guy saved my life?” Bruce paused, smiling a little. “That’s nice… It’s  a nice sentiment. Saved it for what?”

“I guess we’ll just have to find out.”

“You might not like that.”

Tony grinned. “You just might.”

XxXXxX

Steve went looking. He had to find out. For a good hour or two, he was searching for the storage rooms. He got lost, after a while, gritting his teeth as he tried to figure out where he was, where he should go.

Currently, he was standing somewhere near what seemed to be sleeping quarters. He was half tempted to knock on a door to ask for directions, but it turned out that he didn’t have to.

A door slid open, a sleepy little kid stepping out. He looked to be about ten, twelve, wearing a baggy shirt and sweatpants, rubbing at a eye from under his glasses. For some reason, Steve found something familiar in the mess of brown hair, and the big doe like brown eyes. He waved it off, thought, since the kid instantly froze when he saw Steve.

“Uh,” Steve started. “Um, hi.”

The kid blinked up at him.

Steve sighed, kneeling to look the boy at eye level. “It’s late, son. You should be in bed. What are you doing here?”

“Dad’s a scientist,” the kid said, voice a little squeaky, though it leveled out. “He got called in because of the cube thing.”

It irritated Steve that a father could just leave their child alone on a place like this. If the boy's father was so busy, then he should have left the kid at home! “Why aren’t you at home with your mother, then?”

The kid rose a brow in a strangely familiar way. “My mom’s been dead for years.”

Steve winced. “Sorry, son. I didn’t think… What’s your name?”

“Peter,” he said. “Are you lost?”

He winced again. “That obvious?”

“Super obvious.” Peter grinned. “I can show to where ever you wanna go. My dad helped build this place, so I know my way around pretty well.”

“That would…” Steve smiled a little. “That would be great, Peter. Can you show me where the storage rooms are?”

“Sure.”

The boy turned, and was instantly off on his way down the hall. Steve had to hurry to catch up with him. They went down several more halls, taking turns and going down stair wells. Eventually, Peter stopped, next to a door next to a keypad.

Steve was prepared to tell the kid to go, let him figure out the rest of the way, but Peter just tapped the side of his glasses twice and punched in a key code. The door slid open effortlessly, and Peter stepped inside. There were several more doors with keypads, each with different numbers above them. Clearance numbers?

“Thank you, Peter,” Steve said. “You should probably head up to bed. We’re almost done with out search for the cube, and your father is probably looking for you.”

“He’s not,” Peter said with so much certainty that Steve winced again. The kid didn’t even seem all that bothered by it! “He’s kinda a helicopter parent. Hovers a lot. He thinks I’m still in bed, sleeping.”

“Then all the more reason for you to go up to bed.”

Peter seemed to consider this, then nodded, smiling. “You’re right. And you’re welcome, Captain America, sir.”

“Please,” Steve said, as the boy left for the door. “Call me Steve.”

“Sure thing Mr. Steve!” Peter chirped, then was gone up the stairs.

Steve sighed, shaking his head. Kids now a days sure were strange. But he had other things to worry about, and went to pry one of the doors open. The number above was 10-C, opening into a large warehouse like room, filled with crates. There was another level above him, and making a guess, Steve lept up to the catwalk.

He moved further into the room. Opening a few crates, he didn’t really find anything at first. Records, old weaponry, and what looked to be bits of metal from the thing Thor had fought in his video clips. So Steve went deeper, futher, looking for anything that could confirm. And then, in the very back of the room, he found it. A crate full of weapons like Hydra’s, but more advanced.

He grit his teeth, feeling like a fool, and grabbed one of the weapons. Steve stormed his way up to the lab, just barely hearing the ends of a conversation.

“What is Phase 2?”

XxXXxX

They were talking about the possibility of Bruce coming to stay at the Tower when Fury walked in. It was drawing closer morning, and there was light starting to filter through the window. Peter would be up soon, and Tony was thinking about going down to see him. Of course, Fury put a wrench in his plans.

“What are you doing, Mr. Stark?” he hissed, looking less then pleased.

“Was kind of wondering the same thing about you,” Tony said, humming to himself. He was eating grapes now. Apparently he was putting too much fruit in the snack sack. He’d need to reorganize when they got home.

“You’re supposed to be locating the Tesseract.”

“We are,” Bruce said. “The model’s locked, and we’re sweeping for the signature now. When we get a hit, we’ll have the location within a half mile.”

“And you’ll get your cube back, no muss, no fuss.” The computer beeped. The decryption was done, and a set of files were pulled up. Of some twenty odd files, the most recent was labled ‘Phase 2’. “What is Phase 2?”

“Phase 2 is SHIELD uses the cube to make weapons,” Rogers hissed as he entered the room, tossing a weapon onto the desk with a clang. Glancing at Tony, he shrugged. “Sorry, the computer was moving a little slow.”

“Rogers,” Fury said as Tony flicked open the files. “We gathered everything related to the Tesseract. This does not mean that we’re-”

“I’m sorry Nick,” Tony said, turning the screen to show them development plans of the gun. “What were you lying?”

“I was wrong Director,” Rogers said, voice dripping with disappointment. “The world hasn’t changed a bit.”

The room was quick to drop into chaos soon after. Thor entered with Romanov, moving towards Bruce.

“Did you know about this?” Bruce asked, gesturing towards the screen.

“You wanna think about removing yourself from this environment, Doctor?

“I was in Calcutta,” he hissed. “I was pretty well removed.”

“Loki’s manipulating you.”

“And you’ve been doing what exactly?”

“You didn’t come here because I bat my eyelashes at you.”

“Yes, and I'm not leaving because suddenly you get a little twitchy. I'd like to know why SHIELD is using the Tesseract to build weapons of mass destruction.”

The room was still for a moment, before Fury pointed an accusing finger at Thor. “Because of him.”

Tony was about ready to burst into laughter.

“Me?” Thor asked, offended, because really, who wouldn’t be?

“Last year earth had a visitor from another planet who had a grudge match that leveled a small town. We learned that not only are we not alone, but we are hopelessly, hilariously , outgunned.”

“My people want nothing but peace with your planet.”

“But you're not the only people out there, are you?” Fury said, almost accusing. “And, you're not the only threat. The world's filling up with people who can't be matched, they can't be controlled.”

“Like you controlled the cube?” Rogers snapped.

“You're work with the Tesseract is what drew Loki to it,” Thor warned, “and his allies. It is the signal to all the realms that the earth is ready for a higher form of war.”

“A higher form?”

“You forced our hand,” Fury tried. “We had to come up with something.”

“Nuclear deterrent,” Tony nearly snorted. “Cause that always calms everything right down.”

“Remind me again how you made your fortune, Stark?”

“I’m sure if he still made weapons, Stark would be neck deep-”

“Wait, wait!” Tony cried, stopping Rogers. “When did this become about me?”

“I’m sorry, isn’t everything?”

“I thought humans were more evolved then this,” Thor seemed to sigh.

“Excuse me?” Fury snapped. “Did we come to your planet and blow stuff up?”

“Did you always give your champions such mistrust?”

“Are you really that naive?” Natasha asked Thor. “SHIELD monitors potential threats.”

“Captain America is on the potential threat watch list?” Bruce asked, looking through the info Tony had uncovered.

“You’re on the list?” Tony asked Steve, fake gasping. “Are you above or below angry bees?”

“I swear to god, Stark, on more wisecrack-”

“Threat!” Tony shouted. “Verbal threat! I feel threatened!”

“You speak of control,” Thor said suddenly, gravely. “Yet you court chaos.”

“It’s his MO, isn’t it?” Bruce asked. “I mean, what are we? A team? No, no, no. We’re a chemical mixture that makes chaos. We’re… We’re a time bomb.”

“You need to step away,” Fury said darkly, and very threatening. Oh, Tony SO did not approve.

“Why shouldn’t the guy let off a little steam?” Tony asked, doing his best to be casual  and throwing an arm over Steve’s shoulders.

“You know damn well why!” Steve shouted, pushing him off. “Back off!”

“Oh,” Tony said, getting close to Steve. “I’m starting to want you to make me.”

“Big man in a suit of armor,” Steve snarled. “Take that off and what are you?”

Tony spoke on auto pilot. “Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist.” He only put Playboy in there as a joke, now a days. Peter thought it was funny.

“I know guys with none of that worth ten of you. I’ve seen the footage. The only thing you really fight for is yourself. You’re not the guy to make the sacrifice play, to lay down on the wire and let the other guy crawl over you.”

Tony felt his anger begin to boil. He couldn’t be sacrificing himself every day. He’d never be able to stand the look that Peter would give him every time he came home.  

“I’d rather just cut the wire,” he said, voice low and threatening.

“Always a way out,” Rogers snorted, shaking his head. “You know, you may not be a threat, but you better stop pretending to be a hero.”

The words stung, Tony could feel it. He didn’t ask to be called a hero. He didn’t pretend that he was one. All he did was try to make the world a better place. He’d fucked it up with his weapons, and generations before him had fucked it up even more with bad energy and fossil fuels. What he did was try to fix that, fix his mistakes so Peter wasn’t left to clean up his mess.

But the words cut deep, and he couldn’t stop the retort.

“A hero?” he asked. “Like you? You’re a lab rat, Rogers. Everything special about you came out of a bottle!”

Rogers crowded into his space, glowering at him as he spoke in low, angry tones. “Put on the suit. Let’s go a few rounds.”

Thor rumbled a laugh behind them. “You people are so petty.” Then he continued, as if in an after thought. “And tiny.”

“Agent Romanov,” Fury said quickly. “Would escort Doctor Banner back to his-”

“Where?” Bruce snapped, loudly. “You rented my room.”

“The cell was just in case-”

“In case you needed to kill me, but you can’t! I know, I’ve tried!”

Tony felt his heart stop. He turned, eyes wide as he stared at his new friend. He hadn’t know Bruce had gotten like that. Had gotten… Tony had been there. He’d lost his parents young, then the original Jarvis just days after and he hadn’t been able to cope. He had built Dummy in a drunken stupor, knowing that if he didn’t have someone, anyone, there, he’d get the handgun from his fathers office, or mix pills and booze.

“I got low,” Bruce said, looking straight at Tony. “I didn’t see an end, so I put a bullet in my mouth and the other guy spit it out. So I moved on. I focused on helping people. I was good.” He turned to scowl at Romanov and Fury. “Until you dragged me back into this freak show and put everyone here at risk! You wanna know my secret, Agent Romanov? You wanna know how I stay calm?”

“Doctor Banner,” Rogers said, not only snapping Banner out of his thoughts, but Tony to, “Put down the scepter.”

Tony stared as Bruce looked down at Loki’s scepter. He didn’t want to look at Bruce, didn’t want to say anything he shouldn’t, not here with all these people. But the computer beeped, and Tony sucked in a breath.

“Got it,” he said, turning to head towards the door. He needed to see Peter. He… He needed to see his son.

“Sorry, kids,” Bruce said from behind him. “You don’t get to see my little party trick after all.”

“Located the Tesseract?” Thor asked.

“I can get there faster.” Peter. He needed Peter.

“Look, all of us-”

“The Tesseract belongs on Asgard,” Thor boomed. “No human is a match for it.”

“You’re not going alone,” Rogers told him, getting in his way.

Tony tensed, eyes narrowing. “You gonna stop me?”

“Put on the suit, let’s find out.”

“I’m not afraid to hit an old man.”

“Put on the suit.”

Then, the Helicarrier was rocked as something exploded. They were all thrown, in different directions. Tony groaned, pushing himself shakily to his feet, mind racing. Something exploded. Right engine. Opposite side from the sleeping quarters. Peter was safe. But the Helicarrier would be falling.

Next to him, Rogers sat up, looking wide eyed. “Put on the suit!”

“Yep!” Tony called, sprinting towards the barracks, Rogers on his heels. He had to check Peter, get his suit. There would probably be a need for a second engineer. Rogers wouldn’t understand the wiring…

“Turbine’s loose,” someone was saying over the comms. “Mostly intact, but it’s impossible to get anyone out there while we’re in the air.”

“We lose one more engine, we won't be,” Hill said. “Somebody's got to get inside and patch that engine.”

“Stark!” Fury barked. “You copy that?”

“I’m on it,” he said, turning to Rogers. “Find enine three. I’ll meet you there.”

With a sharp nod, Rogers peeled off in another direction.

“Dad!” Peter called, as he slid into the hallway. “What’s going on?”

“Someone blew up an engine,” Tony explained, both of them on their way into the room. “I have to go fix the turbine. Captain America is the only other one available to help, so I need you to go meet him at engine three. Take your legs and stay close. There might be enemy agents onboard.”

“Got it,” Peter said, pulling on the backpack and the arm guards Tony had seen earlier. “I’ll see you out there!”

And with that, Peter was racing down the hall to go meet with Rogers, as Tony put on the suit.

XxXXxX

Steve slid to a stop at a broken catwalk, after forcing a door open. The engine, or what he assumed was the engine, seemed to be gone. It looked to be torn in half, destroyed beyond fixing. Ignoring that dreadful thought, he turned to bellow into the skies.

“Stark! I’m here!”

“Good,” the man's voice said over the comms. “I got a engineer coming to help you. Just keep an eye out. Jarvis is patching him into the comms now.”

Then, the Iron Man suit was flying out over head, the jets roaring as Stark hovered. He seemed to be observing something, and Steve waited, looking around. Whoever this engineer was, Stark probably thought highly of them. After all, Stark didn’t seem like the type to trust anyone with something he could do.

“To gotta get this super conducting cooling system back online before I can access the rotors and work on dislodging the debris.” Stark turned to him, pointing at a box. “I need you to get to that engine control panel and tell be which relays are in overload position.”

Steve opened his mouth to reply, but someone else replied before him, both behind him and on the comms.

“On it.”

He turned, watching as Peter stepped up behind him, some kind of visor over his face and three metal legs sprouting out of a backpack. Peter barely spared him a glance, simply taking a running start and jumping over the break in the catwalk. Steve thought, for a horrifying moment, that Peter wouldn’t make it, and would fall to his death. But the legs reached over Peter’s shoulders, hooking themselves onto the catwalk and pulled Peter easily to safety.

“What’s it look like in there?” Stark asked.

Peter hummed. “Not to bad. A few relays, but that’s it. I’ll fx them up now.”

“Alright,” Stark said. “Be careful, Pete.”

“Sure thing, Dad.”

And Steve had to stand there and think for a moment because that was a swarm of information that Steve hadn’t expected. Peter, the boy that had helped him find the storage room, was actually Stark’s son. Which meant that the father that Peter sounded so fond of was actually Stark. And that meant that the Pete Stark mentioned was actually Peter. So Stark was actually free.

He wasn’t sure why that information made his stomach flutter. Well, he sort of did. Stark was really attractive and…

Steve shook the thought off, turning to look at the relays over Peter’s shoulder, as the boy finished up.

“The relays are intact,” Peter said. “What’s next?”

There was a moment before Stark spoke. “Even if I clear the rotors, this thing won't re engage without a jump. I’m gonna have to get in there and push.”

“If that thing gets up to speed, you’ll-”

“You’ll get shredded…”

Steve paused, turning to look at Peter. The boy was looking down, and Steve remembered that Peter was still just a kid, that this was his father. That this was Peter’s father, risking his life to keep them all from dying.

“Then stay in the control unit,” Stark said, attempting to sound reassuring. “And reverse polarity long enough to disengage mag-”

“Speak english,” Steve hissed.

“See that red lever?” Peter snapped back, pointing across the catwalk. “It’ll slow the rotors down long enough for Dad to get out. Stand by it, and just wait for his word.”

Steve frowned, looked at the lever, then jumps. Peter was close behind, his legs helping keep his steady as the Helicarrier started to dip. They were losing altitude.

There was creak from the doorway, and Steve turned to see who was there. It was a few men, ones that Steve had never met before. He wondered briefly if they were there to help, but it didn’t seem as such, as one threw a grenade almost as soon as he saw Steve. He leapt, kicking it out of the air and away from the already ruined engine, before pushing off a wall and slamming into the first one before he could fire. The second raised his gun, aiming for Steve, but he easily kicked it away without trouble, tossing the man off the edge. Oops.

Down the hall, another agent had appeared. The man opened fire, Steve turning to jump towards the gun he’d knocked out of the second guy's hand. Only, Peter had a gun of his own, laying on the catwalk with the gun raised and firing a few quick shots that sparked with electricity. He had the guy pinned, the sparking bullets not seeming to dent the walls like normal  bullets would. To avoid being hit, Steve took a step back, only to slip on a piece of debris, and fell. He caught hold of a tick wire, barely holding on.

“Cap,” Stark said in his ear. “Hit the lever.”

“I need a minute here,” he grit out, causing Peter to look back at him as he climbed up.

“Lever. Now!”

Desperately, Steve heaved himself up, managing to get onto the catwalk as he heard a soft ‘uh-oh’ over the comms. Steve reached up, yanking hard on the lever the same time Peter lunged for it. The next thing they know, the Iron Man suit was slamming into the last man, and they all let out breaths of relief.

It was short lived, however, when they heard Fury over the comms.

“Agent Coulson is down.”

“Paramedics are on their way,” someone said.

“They’re here,” Fury said. “They called it.”

XxXXxX

Tony sat quietly with Peter at the meeting table. Neither of them were sure how to cope, at the moment. Tony was sitting, chin in his hand as Rogers stared at the table. Peter was absolutely silent, though Tony could see tears welling in his eyes.

“We’re dead in the air up here,” Fury told them with narrowed eyes. “Our communications, location of the cube, Banner, Thor. I got nothing for you. Lost my one good eye. Maybe I had that coming.”

Tony clenched his fist, seeing Peter flinch at that.

“Yes,” Fury continued, “we were going to build an arsenal with the Tesseract. I never put all my chips on that number though, because I was playing something even riskier. There was an idea, Stark knows this, called the Avengers Initiative. The idea was to bring together a group of remarkable people, see if they could become something more. See if they could work together when we needed them to, to fight the battles that we never could. Phil Coulson died still believing in that idea, in heroes.”

Without a word, Tony stood, and scooped Peter up in his arms before walking off. The kid was heavy, but Tony was strong. He carried Peter way from the conversation, going to where they could be alone. And with that, they sat down, their backs to the wall, as Peter finally began to cry.

Rogers came in not long after they sat down, simply standing by the door. Tony looked up at him, tired, and emotions raw, as he tried to remain calm. Tried not to cry himself.

“Was he married?” Rogers eventually asked.

“No,” Tony said, trying to sooth Peter by smoothing down his hair. “There was a, uh… A cellist, I think.”

“Yeah,” Peter sniffed. “He said… He called her a master with a bow… Made really... really pretty music…”

Tony turned, pressing his forehead to the top of Peter’s head as the boy hiccuped, hands reaching up to rub at his red eyes and puffy face.

“I’m sorry,” Rogers said. “He seemed like a good man.”

“He was an idiot,” Tony snapped, hugging Peter tighter as he gave a shuddering sniff.

Rogers scowled at him. “Why? For believing?”

“For taking on Loki alone.”

“He was doing his job.”

“He was out of his league. He should have waited. He should have…”

“Sometimes there isn’t a way out, Tony.”

He looked up, because god, didn’t he know it. He knew that there sometimes wasn’t a way for everyone to get out. But Coulson… Why did it have to be Phil ?

When Tony didn’t say anything, Rogers continued. “Is this the first time you’ve lost a soldier?”

“We’re not soldiers!” Tony snapped. “We didn’t just lose a friend, we lost family, Rogers! This isn’t just knowing someone who was killed. This is...”

Tony trailed off, his anger and grief mixing as the gears started to turn again in his head. Personal. This was personal . Loki had…!

“Right now we’ve got to put that aside and get this done,” Rogers said. “Now, Loki needs a power source. If we can put together a list-”

“He made it personal.” Peter said, looking up with tear stained face and puffy eyes.

“Peter,” Rogers said slowly. “That… That isn’t the point.”

“That is the point,” Tony agreed, getting up. Peter followed, on hand fisted in the hem of Tony’s shirt as the other rubbed the tears from his face. “That’s Loki’s point. He hit us all right where we live. Why?”

“To tear us apart.”

“He knows he had to tear you guys apart to win,” Peter said, face filled with determination, his own brain working hard to reach the conclusion. “That’s what he wants. He wants to beat you and be seen doing it. He wants and audience.”

“I caught his act in Stuttgart.”

“Yeah,” Tony said, eyes narrowed. “But that’s just a preview. This is opening night. Loki is a full-tilt diva. He wants flowers, he wants parades, he wants a monument built in the skies with his name plastered…” He trailed off, eyes going wide.

“The Tower,” Peter gasped, looking up at him, his own eyes wide.

“Son of a bitch!” Tony cursed, then ran to get on the suit.

XxXXxX

“Stay here,” Tony told Peter as he ran off towards the suit.

“Dad, I can-!”

“Peter,” Steve said, placing a hand on the boys shoulder to stop him as Tony disappeared around the corner. “This will be dangerous. We’d all feel better if you stay here.”

Peter looked up at him with big eyes, and Steve could recognize the look there. It was the look of someone desperate to help, desperate to save someone they loved. Steve knew that look all too well. He'd seen himself with that look, in the mirror, back during his USO days. And he hated seeing that look on this sweet kid’s face.

“Listen,” Steve said, going down on one knee to look Peter in the eye. “You're father loves you very much-”

Peter stiffened, glaring at Steve like he'd said exactly the wrong thing. And maybe he had. Maybe Tony hadn't always been the loving and caring father that he seemed to be. But Steve's stern look, asking for silence, for Peter to listen, kept the boy quiet.

“He loves you very much, and I know that if you got hurt he'd be devastated. In a fight, he'll be so distracted trying to keep you safe he'd get himself hurt. Do you want to see your father get hurt?”

Peter shook his head.

“Then I'll need you to stay here, and keep an eye out using whatever tech your father left here. Be our tactician. Can you do that for me, son?”

Peter swallowed, nodding sharply.

“Good. Do you know where I can find Agent Romanov?”

Without a word, Peter nodded once more, and turned on his heels to lead the way. He led Steve, once more, through the helicarrier, and into the medical bay. Steve trailed after him, reaching a door that was cracked open. He could hear Agent Romanov, and one other, speaking inside.

Before he could open the door, though, a hand fisted itself into his belt, making him pause and turn. Peter was looking down at the floor, looking tense, but calm. When Steve turned to him, Peter glanced up, then away, with a sad smile.

“Uncle Phil,” Peter started, paused, then swallowed. “Uncle Phil once told me that ‘with great power comes great responsibility’. I didn't understand, at first, what he meant, but I think I do now. So, I just wanted you to know…” Peter looked up, with a teary eyed smile. “I believe in heroes!”

And just like that, Peter let go, turning to run back towards the control room.

Steve stared after him, baffled, by the words of that child. But then again, Peter was a Stark, the third generation Stark Steve had met, and they all seemed to say more and more amazing things without realizing.

So Steve turned back to the door, knocking on it, ready to go take down a god.

XxXXxX

Tony touched down on the disassembler of the tower with practiced ease. He walked, eyes tracking Loki as he made his way inside. There was a bar, one Tony had installed mainly as a juice bar, but had stocked it with some alcohol. There was… He had a bottle of scotch to open up.

He'd seen the barrier on the cube. There was next to no doubt in his mind that someone would be dying tonight. There was nothing to show how bad it would really be, but… Tony had a feeling. A feeling he hadn't had since he and Yinsen were heading towards that cave exit. The feeling that, oh, they'd win! But someone wasn't going to make it.

He was sure it was going to be himself.

“Please,” Loki said, smirking. “Please tell me you're going to try and appeal to my ‘humanity’.”

“Actually,” Tony said with a smirk of his own. “I'm here to threaten you.”

“You should have left your suit on for that.”

“Yeah,” he drawls, offhandedly, pulling out the bottle of scotch. “It’s seen a bit of mileage. You’ve got the blue stick of destiny. Want a drink?”

Tony held up a cup, smirking a little. He could see Loki scowl at him as he took a sip, and hoped to god that Peter wasn’t watching him over the security system.

“Stalling me won’t change anything,” Loki said, as if it was obvious and he was speaking to an idiot. Tony only felt slightly offended.

“No, no, no,” he said, laughing. “ Threatening . No drink? You sure? I’m having one.”

“The Chitauri are coming, nothing will change that. What have I to fear.”

“The Avengers.” Tony enjoyed seeing the confused look on Loki’s face and did his best not to laugh. “It’s what we call ourselves, sorta like a team. Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, type of thing.

“Yes,” Loki drawled. “I’ve met them.”

“Yeah, takes us a while to get any traction, I’ll give you that one. But let’s do a head count here. Your brother, the demigod. A super soldier, a living legend who kind of lives up to the legend. A man with breathtaking anger management issues. A couple of master assassins. And you, big fella, you’ve managed to piss off every single one of them.”

“That was the plan.”

“Not a great plan,” Tony said. He set down the drink, reaching under the counter to pull on the honing bracelets. “When they come, and they will, they’ll come for you.”

“I have an army.”

“We have a Hulk.”

“I thought the beast had wandered off.”

“You’re missing the point,” Tony said as he walked up to Asgardian. “There’s no throne, there is no version of this, where you come out on top. Maybe your army comes and maybe it's too much for us, but it's all on you. Because if we can't protect the Earth, you can be damned well sure we'll avenge it.”

Loki, with a sneer, walked up to Tony, raising the scepter. “How will your friends have time for me, when they’re so busy fighting you?”

Tony didn’t flinch, when the tip of the scepter tapped against the arc reactor. He knew it wouldn’t work. To take control of a person, Loki had to touch the person's chest, over their heart, with the tip of the scepter. While the arc reactor was a part of Tony, it was artificial, something that he got rather then be born with. The scepter’s magic couldn’t reach Tony’s heart.

“It should work,” Loki said in confusion, trying to control him again, the tip of the scepter tapping against the reactor.

“Performance issues?” Tony asked cheekily.

Loki practically growled, grabbing Tony by the neck, lifting him up into the air. Oh, this was going to be bad.

XxXXxX

Peter… really couldn’t watch.

He was currently sitting in the infirmary, the only area of the Helicarrier that hadn’t been damaged by the attack. There was also no screen showing the battle in the infirmary, which meant that he wouldn’t have to watch his dad fighting. So he sat in the infirmary, waiting for news on the fight. For news that they won, or that they lost.

For a while, he just sat with his computer, using his massive archive of photos to make a collage. His dad was terrible at art, said that he must have gotten it from his mom, but Peter saw the schematics for his dad's inventions. Those were art. The 3D ones even more so, with the color coded pieces…

After only ten minutes, Peter started to get anxious. He began to fidget, and he felt like crying. He wanted to go home, just spent time with his dad. Friday was trying to calm him, he knew, but he couldn’t hold onto her. Peter wanted someone who could hold him, hug him like his dad did.

And then, Peter was really panicking. He was starting to hyperventilate, and tears were streaming down his face, as he struggled to his feet. There was no one in the room. Where was everyone? Where was his Dad, Aunty Pepper, Uncle Rhodey, Uncle Phil? Were they hurt? Had one of them died?

Yes, Peter thought, shaking so violently that he fell, screaming for someone, anyone to come back. His Uncle Phil was dead, killed by Loki, and his Dad was going to fight Loki! Loki was going to kill his dad, he was going to die for real this time! There was no fix it like there had been with the reactor! There was no thing to be built to save his Dad’s life, and Loki was going to kill his dad and-

“Peter,” a voice said urgently. “Peter, you need to breathe.”

He sucked in a shuttering breath, only to let it out in a scream as he looked up at the face of his Uncle Phil.

“You’re dead!” Peter wailed. “You left and you died and- and-!”

“I’m fine,” Uncle Phil said, pulling him into a hug as a group of medics tried to get him moving again. Peter wouldn’t allow it, holding on tight. “Can you tell me a story, Peter? Tell me one of your stores, the mythology ones.”

“Dad,” Peter whimpered, curled up on his Uncle Phil’s lap. “I want my Daddy.”

“I know.” His uncle smoothed out his hair, soothing him as best he could. “When you finish telling me the myth, we can go to New York and find your father. So, will you please tell me a story?”

Peter sucked in a shuddering breath, starting to calm a little at the familiar presence, at the close contact. “Greek or N-Norse?”

Uncle Phil smiled. “Why not one about Thor?”

With a sniffle, Peter gave a weak smile, even as tears were still streaming down his face. “Do you know about the time Thor dressed up as Freya and almost married a Giant?”

XxXXxX

The battle was chaotic, even though they were doing well, but Tony knew that their luck would run out. He knew, because someone would die, it was an inevitability, and no one had yet. And as much as Tony wanted to live, to make it back home in time to tuck Peter in… The other Avengers, Natasha and Clint and Bruce and Thor and… and Rogers? He didn’t want them to die if he could do something about it.

So Tony was the first to respond when Fury finally called, and wasn’t at all surprised.

“Stark,” the man was saying. “You hearing me? We have a missile headed straight for the city.”

Tony peeled off, knowing he’d be the only one able to stop it. Thor was too busy with Loki to redirect a missile, and the Hulk’s strength would be dangerous to a nuke. And none of the others would have the ability to do it. The flight, the leverage, the strength. It was all on Tony now. He’d have to redirect a missile.

“How long?” Tony asked, just wanting to talk, to hear someone’s voice in his last moments.

“Three minutes at best. Stay low and wipe out the missile.”

He choked back a laugh, shaking his head because, god! That wasn’t a missile he could just wipe out. The missile was a fucking time bomb of a nuke. It either hit something and blew up, or ran out of time and blew up, or Tony tried to pry it open to defuse it and if it didn’t blow up then it would from the fall!

Getting under it, Tony put the thrusters at maximum, a plan already forming. With the right pressure, the right angle, he could get the bomb to go directly into the wormhole. He could send it right into their home and destroy it. They wouldn’t be coming back from that. But his hopes were almost dashed as he drew closer, Natasha calling out over the comms.

“I can close it!” she said, and Tony could faintly see her in the distance. “Can anyone hear me? I can shut the portal down!”

“Do it,” Steve said as Tony’s heart thundered.

“No!” he shouted, chest heaving as he was trying to get the angle right. “Wait!”

“Stark, these things are still coming!”

“I got a nuke coming in,” Tony said through grit teeth. “It's gonna blow in less than a minute. And I know just the place to put it.”

With a good heave, Tony made the final effort to get it through the portal. Now, all he had to worry about was making sure it got to where it was meant to go. He’d have to go through the portal with the missile. He was going to die. He was going to save them all, but he was going to die.

“Stark,” Steve said, sharp and urgent. “That’s a one way trip.”

“Yeah,” Tony said. “That’s what they said when I disappeared in Afghanistan.”

But he knew this was different. There was no coming back from this. It would take a miracle. And while they had a literal god on their side, Tony doubted that Thor could grant him the kind of miracle he’d need.

“Sir,” Jarvis said softly. “Shall I call Young Peter?”

“Yeah,” Tony breathed, and he sucked in a breath as tried to hold back tears. “Might as well.”

The call connected, and Tony tried not to cry as the portal drew closer with Peter’s voice filling his ears.

“Daddy?” The kid was letting out a quiver of a whimper. It broke Tony’s heart.

“Hey Peter,” Tony laughed, voice hoarse. “Sorry, buddy, but I don’t think I’ll be home tonight.”

“Daddy,” Peter hiccuped. “Daddy, it’s okay, you’re gonna come back. And Uncle Coulson and I will be there when you do!”

His son’s words almost made him drop. Coulson was dead. How could Peter be there? How could they meet with him when he died and went to hell? Peter was to good to go to hell like himself, and Coulson wasn’t as innocent as Peter, but he was still a better man then Tony. If the two of them were in hell…

“Peter,” an all too familiar voice said. “Give me the phone.”

“Wow Agent,” Tony said, laughing, once he was sure Coulson was the one he was talking to. “You sound pretty good for a dead man!”

“Stark,” Coulson said, and wow. There was so much emotion in that one word. In that one name. There was a message, a promise, in just that one word. Coulson, the great Agent- the great man that he was, was promising to take care of Peter. Tony was glad, relieved, and so fucking ready knowing that Coulson would be joining the group of people that would look over Peter if he dies today. When he dies today.

“Thank you,” he barely managed, before he was through the portal. The hud glitched, becoming static in short bursts as it struggled to remain connected to the network. But through the glitch, through the ice of space building up on his suit, Tony saw the army of Chitauri that was waiting. It wasn’t even an army. It was more . The Chitauri hadn’t given Loki an army. They’d given what could have been their entire race.

He let got of the nuke, the missile remaining on course to the mothership. And Tony got to watch, as his vision faded, the Chitauri get blown to bits in front of the beautiful background of space.

XxXXxX

Steve knew that he couldn’t wait to long before closing the portal. The Chitauri were still coming, still flooding into New York, but Steve didn’t want to see the portal close before Tony could come back through. He didn’t want to be the one to look Tony’s son in the eye and say ‘I had to call it. He’s not coming back.’ But he knew he had to, because even if Tony came out, there was no guarantee he’d be alive.

The fighting ends, abruptly, as the Chitauri all crumbled to the ground, and the inferno of the explosion in space was getting closer and closer to the portal until they could really see it. So Steve made the call, just as one of the quinjet’s from the helicarrier arrived.

“Close it…”

He could tell Natasha hesitates, but she did it anyway. The portal shrinks, closing as someone shouted behind him. Steve whirled, turning to what he would have thought would be their extraction vehicle, only to find Peter racing down the ramp with… Coulson at his heels?

“Dad!” Peter cried out, and Steve turned to look at where the portal had been. There, in the sky, was the Iron Man. Steve actually smiled, giving a soft ‘son of a gun’ from under his breath. But then Thor was cursing, about to take off for the falling man. The Hulk was already a step ahead, catching Tony and the suit and dropping down to the street.

They all rushed over, the Hulk shifting anxiously and grunting as Coulson tried and failed to hold Peter back, who joined them at Tony’s side. The boy put shaky fingers against the back of the helmets neck, and it opened, being easily pulled off. Steve leaned forward, his chest tight as Peter seemed to start having an asthma attack. But Steve had to focus, he had to check if the man was alive.

There was no breath, Steve found when he leaned to listen for it. There was no pulse, when he pulled off his gloves to check at Stark's neck. And there was no light, when he realized the arc reactor was out. Tony Stark was dead, and Peter was wailing and shaking and the kid looked like he wasn’t breathing, and Hulk gave a roar of rage at the loss of his allie.

And Tony, impossible and strange Tony Stark, jerked up, gasping for air as he looked around.

“What the hell,” Tony gasped. “What just happened? Please tell me nobody- Is that Peter? Petey, kid, my darling baby boy, what happened?”

The boy let out a wail, throwing his arms around Tony’s neck. Tony blinked, confused, and turned to look at Steve. He smiled at Tony, though his heart hurt with the way Peter was wailing. The kid looked like he was going to fall apart. Poor kid.

“We won,” Steve told Tony, who was using a shaky hand to rub Peter’s back.

“Alright,” Tony breathed out, then turned to Peter. “Hey, alright. I’m alright.” The genius turned back to him, and Steve almost laughed. “Good job, guys. Let's just not come in tomorrow. Let's just take a day. Have you ever tried shawarma?” The man turned back to Peter. “There's a shawarma joint about two blocks from here. I don't know what it is, but I wanna try it. Don’t you wanna try? Food makes everything better.”

“We’re not done yet,” Coulson said, stepping up to them, gaining a surprised look from Thor and a snuff from Hulk. “There’s one last thing to do.”

There was a pause. Steve was tempted to ask Coulson just where he’d been, why Fury had said he was dead when he clearly wasn’t. Thor looked like he was about to cry, or maybe scream and shake the agent, but Hulk just huffed and shuffled, looking agitated.

“Then shawarma after?” Tony asked, looking up at him with exhausted hopeful eyes.

“No,” Steve said, when Peter gave him a pleading teary eyed look. “No, Tony, I think you can sit the rest of this out.”

“You sure?” Tony asked, but he was already relaxing back onto the ground. “I could totally help.”

Peter’s hold on him tightened, and Steve shook his head. “No, I think you’ll have your hands full as is with the kid and medical. Maybe you can get the, uh, shwarma place ready for us?”

“I’ll get on it,” Coulson said. “Go get the Asgardian.”

Steve gave the man a look, one that promised a stern talk, and a sharp nod before heading off.

XxXXxX

Tony did end up in medical, though they didn’t really do much. Just gave him a once over, while Peter clung and glared at them. They couldn’t do much with Peter blocking their way of examination, and Peter really wasn’t going to move. He was back to his clinging stage again, like he had been when Tony got back from Afghanistan.

They met the team at the shawarma place. Loki was being pinned the ground by Thor’s hammer, and Coulson was watching him for now, making some calls. The team looked up at they came in, Tony out of the suit and limping a little. His leg had been twisted a bit harshly from the Hulk dropping him. Peter was, for now, helping him walk, but Steve got up to help him as well, leading them to two seats between Thor and Bruce. Tony sat in one, but Peter pretty much just used the second one to climb all over Tony.

God, it was going to be ages before Peter finally calmed down…

“We didn’t know what you’d want,” Steve said as he held out a tray. “But Coulson suggested then one.”

“Right,” Tony said, taking a bite without looking. It was really good, but god he was tired. “So I was thinking. There’s enough room in the Tower for, like, all of you? I mean, some of the floors are a little trashed, but that won't take to long to fix, and you all look super fucking tired.”

There was a pause, as the others turned to look at him. Natasha looked downright grateful, showing more emotion in just that one second then he’d seen in all four years that he’d known her. Clint looked both confused and relieved, and Steve was looking at him curiously. Bruce and Thor, on the other hand, were looking at Peter.

“Friend Tony,” Thor said slowly through a mouthful of food. “I was not aware you had… such a young consort.”

“Consort?” Tony blinked, looking at Peter. “No! He’s not- I’m not- God, Thor, he’s my son!”

“Your son,” Bruce said slowly. “I’m guessing… Peter?”

Peter pursed his lips, frowning at Bruce for a moment, but nodded. Tony gave the boy a little nudge, remembering the science project. After all, Peter had school the next day. They’d missed their fun New York Father Son weekend.

“It’s nice to meet you Dr. Banner,” Peter mumbled, pressed into Tony’s side. Tony nudged him again, but only got a whine in response.

“Sorry about him,” Tony sighed, leaning back in his chair. “Peter’s got an, uh, issue . Our family physician calls it something like ‘separation anxiety’. But why are you so surprised? I mean, Thor, sure, but I told you about him earlier. Oh! By the way, he’s got this science project, and he’s looking at abnormalities with the human body. He’ll probably want a blood sample or cheek swab from all of you.”

“Right,” Bruce said slowly. “But when you told me about him… I thought… I kinda thought you were talking about a boyfriend or something?”

“Oh.” Tony blinked, then laughed. “No, no. Don’t really have time for another civilian. I’m so busy with Stark Industries, teaching Peter about robotics and self defense, and then with Iron Man. I barely have enough time to myself, and probably never will again after what happened today. No, if anything, I’d probably be looking for a partner that’s, you know, like us.”

“I doubt Natasha would date you,” Clint said, ignoring the kick she gave him. “But if it means I can get you to design some arrows for me, I’d be up for it!”

Tony could see Steve sputter, his face going red, but ignored it. “As much as I like taking it up the ass, you’re not really my type, Clint. You’re just to… you.”

“Hey!”

“Anyway,” he  said, redirecting the conversation. “Like I said, there’s more then enough room at the tower for all of you, for as long as you’ll need. Both Jarvis and Friday will be present in the Tower if you need any help, and Peter and I will be around for about a week in case you need real help.”

“Just a week?” Steve asked, frowning.

“Yeah,” Tony said, finishing his shwarma and half handing half force feeding Peter another. “Pete’s got school back in Malibu, and we won't be able to have him transferred out here until after December because of the way his classes are.”

“I’ll be on vacation for the next few months,” Natasha told them, observing her nails. “So will Clint, and Phil will be coming with us. If we happen to be in Malibu, we’ll come see you.”

“If you can, do it around Christmas,” Tony said with a lopsided grin as he got up. “We do a great Christmas party. But, hey, I really need to sleep, so we’re gonna head off to the tower. Oh, Cap! I might already have something for you, if you wanna come with?”

The super soldier nodded, following after him and Peter, and Tony led the way back to the tower. There was quite a bit that he’d need to do before the Tower was suitable for the others. He had an army of Stark Industries Cleaner Bots to test anyway. They wouldn’t be on shelves for another year or so, but they were like a robotic housekeeper. Just a few inches thick with an extendable arm on the top, it would probably wipe roomba’s off the map!.

But Tony shook the thoughts of roombas and cleaner bots out of his mind, as he turned to open the garage of the Tower. He really did have something for Steve, something his father had been keeping for ages. When he’d gotten it, he hadn’t really known what to do with it, but he and Peter had worked on it a few times, over the last year or two. And the look on Steve’s face when he saw it…

“Is that…” Steve blinked, as if to knock away some illusion. “Is that my bike?”

“Yeah,” Tony admitted. “Howard got most of your stuff after you went down since the only two on your list of contacts was James Barnes and my Aunt Peggy. Aunt Peggy didn’t have time to take care of any of it, didn’t, you know, want the reminder? So she gave all your stuff, and Barnes stuff to, to Howard. But yeah, your bike. Pete and I worked on it a few times so it’s up to date and all that. I figured that you’d probably wanna take it out, go see the country of something.”

“Tony I…” With a shake of his head, Steve turned a smile to him. “Thank you.”

XxXXxX

Later that week, once everything had been sorted out to fix up the Tower, Tony stood next to his car, Peter waiting with him, as they said goodbye to the other Avengers. Clint and Natasha would likely be staying at SHIELD with Coulson, though they did have a trip planned for Portland, funded by Tony of course. Bruce was staying at the Tower, to do some research and experiments in the lab that Tony had arranged for him. Thor had already returned to Asgard, with Loki, with a suggestion for fixing the Bifrost bridge.

And finally, Steve. The man was still plotting points down on the US road map Tony had supplied him with. He had a six month long road trip planned already, but he had plans to stop by Malibu to visit some time around Christmas. Tony had insisted, said people should be with friends during holidays. Bruce was supposed to fly out to meet them around that time, as well.

So Tony and Peter said goodbye, and left in their car to get the next plane out to Malibu. After all, the Avengers wouldn’t be needed for a while.

Chapter Text

When Tony and Peter arrived at the Malibu house, the first thing Tony did was convince Peter to go to bed. They’d spent the entire last week in New York sharing a room. Peter had essentially become his shadow in that time, following him around and sitting outside the door when Tony said he couldn’t come in. He almost felt bad, but he needed the space.

While Peter slept, Tony called up his doctor friend. He knew that the guy was probably busy, but they hadn’t been able to see him right after the battle. Just giving him a call wouldn’t hurt…

“Stark,” the doctor said instantly, when he answered, sounding extremely amused. “I’ve been wondering when you’d call.”

“Strange,” Tony chuckled. “How you been?”

“Fine,” Stephen replied, sounding somewhat distracted. “I’ve been rather busy the last few days after the fighting. Care to explain why you’ve up and left?”

“Setting up a clean up crew. Nearly finished, and they’ll be moving in in the next few days. I was thinking, maybe we can meet up. Pete and I could probably use a check up. Then get a drink or two, just you and me, for old times sake?”

“You mean I drink and you sip tea like the old man you are?”

“Oh yeah, totally.”

“I’ll be flying over for the weekend.”

There was a click, signalling the end of the conversation, and Tony let out a sigh as he relaxed back into his chair. He and Stephen Strange went back to their college days. They’d both, by coincidence, taken the same weekend off to go to Vegas. Then something happened during the night after getting drunk and they met when they both woke up naked in the middle of a hotel pool that wasn’t either of theirs, and linked together with handcuffs at their ankles. It was the most awkward three legged race Tony had ever been in, as they had tried to hobble back to Tony’s hotel to find Rhodey to help them and avoid any cops. They kept in touch after that.

With a sigh, Tony eventually tried to settle down to sleep. He’d stay on the couch, to tired to move, as he waited for sleep to take him. He waited, something in his body telling him that something wasn’t right, but he forced himself to sleep anyway.

That was a big mistake.

As soon as he started to doze, images flashed before Tony’s eyes. The Chautari, roaring and raging as the cold blackness of space consumed him whole. He wanted to scream. No, no! They would hurt Peter! He was dying, and Peter was going to get hurt, and Tony was dying ! This wasn’t right. This wasn’t right!

In an instant, Tony was jerking awake, a hand coming up to his chest, sucking in hard and sharp breaths as he rubbed at the arc reactor. He couldn’t sleep, he knew now, not without Peter there to ground him. To remind him that it wasn’t real. His little boy wasn’t going to die at the hands of alien monsters. But Peter needed to sleep in his own bed. It was for his own good. It was good for both of them. They couldn’t be attached at the hip for the rest of their lives.

Running a hand through his hair, Tony went down to the lab, lights flickering on as he entered. He had to distract his mind. He would distract himself with work. So he set to work for hours, toiling away at his blueprints. Improvements to the suit. Oxygen for both upper air travel, and under sea travel, better insulation to keep anything out that wasn’t supposed to be there. Numbers steadily rose, going from the Mark VII to Mark VIII, IV, and X.

Late into the night, he found himself being pulled out, as Friday announced Peter’s arrival. Tony turned, finding his son in tears, face red as he sucked in shallow breaths. Instantly, Tony moved to him, picking up his son to carry him back upstairs, to the master bedroom where the bed was big enough for the both of them. They laid down, Peter sniffling as Tony worked on his tablet, until they both fell to dreamless sleep.

XxXXxX

By the time Stephen actually arrived, it was October. Tony picked him up at the airport, and he waited a while for Strange to check both of them over before they could do anything. Tony wasn’t going to be drinking much, or he didn’t plan on it, and they dropped Peter off at a friends. It was the first part of the plan Tony had for getting rid of the separation problem.

Since it was nearly a month since the Battle of New York, Tony figured that it was time to put the plan into action. First, he had to get Peter to realize that he was fine even if they were apart. He’d managed to convince Peter to stay the night at his friend Johnny's for the night, as long as Stephen came with Tony. And then Tony would drink just enough to keep himself from missing Peter like crazy and have his own anxiety attack.

After dropping Peter off, however, the night become a blur. Tony could barely remember anything, only flashing lights and the burning of alcohol down his throat. He didn't even remember getting home! It was the first time in six years he'd gotten drunk, much less blackout drunk.

Stephen was still asleep that next morning, rolled into a resting position Tony had learned from Pepper when Peter had gotten sick one summer. And Pepper herself stood over him, her eyes filled with disappointment. Tony looked up at her, eyes blurry from his hangover, with nothing to say.

“Peter called me,” she said instead. “You were supposed to pick him up nearly three hours ago. He thought you would pick him up at least an hour before you told his friends parents you would.” She paused. “So did I.”

“Sorry,” Tony choked out. “Sorry…”

“I'm not the one you should apologize to.” Pepper sighed. “He's in his room.”

Tony scrambled up, wanting to see his son, but fell to his knees instead. He threw up, coughing and choking for a second from the sick, but eventually scrambled up. He made his way past Pepper, out the door, and up to Peter's room. His son looked up at him, sniffling, and they sat on the bed as they rocked back and forth, soothing each other.

Tony knew he had a problem. He wanted to get better. He had gotten better. But he needed more then better. He needed solved.

It wouldn't be solved for a long time.

XxXXxX

October started off pretty well. They had Peter's birthday party on the tenth. Tony managed to not drink any more then a shot or two at night before bed, not that he ever slept. Pepper and Rhodey came, and so did Bruce. The surprise, however was Thor.

Just before Peter's Birthday, Thor had something happen with a race called Dark Elves? Tony didn't question it. It was just weird Asgardian shit that he'd figure out later. But the big blond just showed up that night for Peter's party, bearing gifts from a ‘Lady Jane’ in the form of a telescope and from a ‘Lady Darcy’ in the form of a handmade Mjolnir replica. Thor, however, had brought a young Bilgesnipe back from Asgard to give to Peter. The thing was like a dog, about the size of a German Shepherd puppy, but with smooth scales and antlers sprouting from its head.

“A fine companion for a fine lad,” Thor had said.

“I love it,” Peter had said as Tony felt like he was going to have a heart attack. “His name is Bilgy.”

Peter went off to play after that, since Pepper had to leave, and Bruce wanted to get back to the lab. Thor and Rhodey stayed, and they let Peter get acquainted with his new… pet while Tony sat and talked with Rhodey and Thor.

Thor eventually presented them with some Asgardian mead, and before Tony knew it, he was passed out on the lawn with the sunrise burning down on him. Thor looked only mildly hungover, while Rhodey was throwing up. Tony coughed and sputtered with him, feeling much like his liver had exploded.

Peter was crying on his bed with Bilgy the Bilgesnipe when Tony went to find him.

XxXXxX

They went to Peter's school Halloween party. There was apple bobbing and other games. Tony had helped set some of them up, but he didn't like being around all the kids. Or rather, he didn't like losing Peter in the sea of kids.

Peter didn’t seem to like losing him in a sea of parents either.

They left early.

XxXXxX

November was when it got the worst. Tony drank every night once Peter had fallen asleep. He drank and drank, because he couldn't sleep. The nightmares only got worse, even when Peter stayed with him. He wanted to scream and cry, but he didn't, just drank and worked.

By Thanksgiving day, as everyone gathered in the Malibu house, Tony was trying very hard to hide the problem. Pepper would be disappointed, Rhodey furious. Clint and Natasha, who were coming with Coulson, would know almost instantly.  Thor would also be joining, bringing Jane Foster, and one Darcy Lewis. Even Bruce was coming! Sadly, Rogers seemed to be the only one missing from the team.

They all arrived by Thursday morning, helping Tony cook. He worked mainly on the turkey with Bruce and Darcy. The two seemed to get along like a house on fire. Darcy liked knowing all the weird science things Bruce had to say, and Bruce liked talking with her. It actually wasn’t that bad. They got along fairly well.

Halfway through cooking, however, Tony got that urge. That urge that he had never really been able to control. Peter was with Pepper, the others were distracted… And the urge to drink was too strong to ignore. So he went, as quietly as he could, down to his lab, to the liquor cabinet hidden there. His next armor design was laid out on the table, half done, a bottle of whiskey laying next to it.

Grabbing the bottle, Tony took a deep breath, chewing his lip as he pulled the cork out. It gave a sickeningly nice pop, and it made him sick to his stomach. But he poured himself a unhealthy sized glass, one that would undoubtedly destroy his liver if he kept this up. With a shaky hand, he put the glass to his lips, tipped it, and swallowed it all in one gulp. When it was all gone, he set the glass down, and gripped the whiskey bottle by the neck. For a moment, he stared at it, then slowly brought the bottle to his lips.

“You shouldn't be drinking,” a voice said, making him jump.

Turning so fast the the whiskey bottle splashed down his front and slipped from his hold to smash on the floor, Tony came eye to eye with Nat at the bottom of the stairs to the lab. She gave him a sad look, one he hadn't seen on her face before. It hurt to see it, to see it for the first time, because of him.

“It's just a little,” Tony tried to explain, the words sour in his mouth. It was a lie and they both knew it.

“Looked like more then a little,” Nat said, coming forward to stoop and pick up one of the large shards of glass. “Looks like your… ‘problem’ is back.”

“You mean I'm an alcoholic again.”

“We don't use that word. Being addicted to something means that you can't stop.” she looked him straight in the eye, right into his soul. “You stopped. You were doing just fine. You have a problem, and problems can be solved. Once we know what the problem is, it can be fixed.”

Tony didn't speak, and looked away. He didn't want to tell her. He didn't want to tell her that he was scared, that the portal hadn't just terrified Peter. He didn't want to tell her about what he saw. Tony didn't want to talk about it at all.

“Okay,” Nat said, nodding her head almost sagely. “If you don't want to talk, we won't talk. But you can't go back up smelling like alcohol. Go shower while I clean up and get you some new clothes, okay Tony?”

“Peter,” he said suddenly. “I… send Peter down. Please.”

She studied him for a moment, before nodding and bending to pick up more glass. Tony didn't bother saying anything more, and went to the labs shower. He wasn't sure if he would stay in the lab. He could go back up with Peter, have dinner and all that fun Thanksgiving stuff, but did he want to risk the knowing stares of Pepper and Rhodey, along with Natasha’s?

Tony took a deep breath, pressing his forehead to the wall as he tried to take deep breaths. Everything would be fine! Everything was fine! He just had a little problem and…

Who was he kidding? He had a huge ‘problem’. There was no coming back this time, no being the good dad Peter deserved. No being the man that he wanted to be.

“Sir?” Jarvis called. “Miss Romanov has vacated the premises. FRIDAY has alerted Young Sir and he is on his was down with your clothes now.”

“Thanks J,” Tony breathed, turning off the water and wrapping a towel around himself.

When he stepped out, Peter was waiting with his folded clothes and the most depressingly hopeful look that Tony had ever seen. So Tony smiled, took the clothes, and pulled them on as Peter went to sit on the couch.

“We're supposed to tell everyone that you went down to check on some Iron Man stuff and accidentally got grease everywhere,” Peter said, his knees pulled up to his chest. He looked so small, like he had the first time Tony saw him, over a decade ago. “That's what Aunt Nat said…”

“Peter,” Tony started, then paused, running a hand through his hair and moving to sit next to his son. “I know things look bad right now, and I can't make any promises that they'll get better, but I'm gonna try, buddy, okay?”

Peter didn't look up but nodded into his knees. He didn't believe him, and Tony couldn't blame him. He'd done a pretty shitty job of being a dad the first half of Peter's life. Why would Peter forget that?

They sat down there for a while, not talking, not moving, just sitting on the couch. Tony didn't know how much time passed, before he finally stood. He moved to the cabinet he'd turned into a booze cabinet, and threw it open, startling Peter. Without look at Peter, Tony grabbed three bottles, and took them to the sink, uncorked them, and poured all tree down the drain.

“Peter,” Tony said, tossing the now empty bottles into the trash. “Get me the rest.”

The neck of another bottle was in his hands in a seconds. They followed the rest down the drain, making a swirl of clear and amber liquids. Eventually, there was only one bottle left. One little bottle of whiskey, sitting in Tony’s hands. When he went to open it, to dump it out, Peter stopped him, looking uncomfortable.

“Don't,” he said. “You might need it.”

Tony looked down at the bottle, and didn't hesitate to set it aside once again. He'd… try to save it. Like he had before.

So he left the one bottle, and they went back up to join the others at the table. They were playing some sort of game on a console that Darcy had brought with her in the living room, that game displayed on the large holo screen in the center of the room. Natasha looked up from kicking ass at whatever the game was just long enough to give him a little nod, then went back to it.

When they ate, the room was filled with chatter, Thor’s booming laughter, and the snuffling sounds of Bilgy the Bilgesnipe scarfing down cuts of turkey that Peter was none to subtly tossing the beast. It was good, in Tony’s opinion, the way they all came together so well. He would give up everything to just keep it this way. Keep everyone safe and together, happy and smiling.

“We should take a photo!” Peter suddenly said, jumping up from his seat on Tony’s right. “I’ll get my camera!”

“Peter,” Tony called, though Peter and Bilgy were already running up the stairs. “No running in the- Oh, whatever. The kids got to much energy anyway.”

The others laughed, and Peter was soon back, carrying his camera and a tripod. He set it up on one end of the table, where everyone could be in it while still in their seats. After setting a timer, Peter hurried back to his spot, scooping Bilgy into his arms to get him in the picture. Tony saw the Bilgesnipe squirm for a moment, and right before the flash went off, the little beast was jumping out of Peter’s arms. In a literal flash, Bilgy was snatching up half the turkey, kicking up half the dishes as everyone either laughed or gave shouts of surprise, and was off the table to bolt to safety with his prize.

“Bilgy!” Peter gasped, chasing after the pet. “No! Bad Bilgy! Give me the turkey! No, stupid! You’re going to choke on the- Don’t crunch them!”

Tony laughed, standing to wipe some of the mashed potato splatter off his front, and grabbed the camera just as Darcy gave a shout of ‘Food fight!’. He barely had time to duck as a fistfull of stuffying came fying towards him, though it hit Pepper instead. He made his escape pretty quickly after that, though he turned Peter’s camera just in time to take a quick snap of the fight before he escaped.

Peter came back, holding just a pile of half snapped bones, and looked at the pictures. The first was caught at just the right moment, where Bilgy was jumping off the table, and everyone was either raising their arms to block the spray of food or trying to grab him. The second had everyone in a full out frenzy, caught as Bruce was rushing out of the room and everyone throwing food. Sure, it would be a mess to clean up, but Tony was fine with it.

Things were looking pretty good.

XxXXxX

Of course, his nightmares continued through the rest of November and into December. Tony spent more time with Peter during the day, like he had when he came back from Afghanistan. They worked together on projects when Peter wasn’t at school, and Tony slept while his son was gone. At night, when Peter was sleeping, he worked in the lab, making new suits and fixing up a vault. It was kinda fun, really. What with Bilgy taking naps with him during the day, and quickly growing to the size of a full grown Rottweiler.

The weeks went on pretty well, until Tony got just the best of ideas. An Iron Man suit that he could call to him. With his mind . It was going to be so cool, just flying to him and all that cool stuff. The absolute best. Only, it was such an awesome idea, he had to do it then.and their. So he stayed up instead of slept, disturbing many of Bilgy’s naps, and worked while Peter was sleeping and at school.

“Sir,” Jarvis tried as they reached day three of the project. “Please, may I request just a few hours to calibrate?”

“Nope,” Tony replied, almost giddy as he pressed the injector to his arm one last time. “Forty-eight, and micro-repeater implanting sequence complete!”

“As you wish, Sir,” Jarvis sighed. “I’ve also prepared a safety briefing for you to entirely ignore.”

“Which I will.” He stood, dabbing the little specks of blood off his arm before stretching. “Right, let’s do this before Pete gets back from school.”

He went to test the calling mechanisms, only getting a few hiccups. The suit didn’t move at first, but it eventually started up. The pieces of the suit zoomed around, slamming into place on his body. It was pretty cool, really, and he sure he looked awesome. To bad Peter wasn’t there to see it. He’d just have to show Peter the recording.

Just as he had that stray thought, the door opened to the lab, and Tony turned to find Peter stepping inside.

“Peter!” He chirped. “Pete, I just made the coolest thing and-!”

“Dad!” Peter suddenly shouted, pointing at something over Tony’s shoulder.

He barely had time to look over his shoulder at the stray bit of suit, and got slammed by it. With a crash, he was on the floor, wearing nothing but the helmet, and blinking up at Peter.

“You alright Dad?” Peter asked, looking much too concerned for a twelve year old. Tony didn’t like it.

“Fine,” he said, waving off the worry. “Just fine. You’re back early. Something happen?”

“Another Mandarin attack,” Peter sighed. “The school board was worried that the school housing the heir of the Stark fortune might be on the hit list. Not that anyone else knows that I go there, but still…”

Tony winced, getting up to give his son a hug. “It’ll be okay. I mean, your Uncle Rhodey is totally all over this, I’m sure.”

Later that night, when Rhodey came by to visit, Tony found out that there hadn’t just been three bombings, but nine. The Air Force had renamed War Machine to Iron Patriot to ‘raise moral’. It wasn’t pretty, the new paint job… It looked horrifying. But the Mandarin… Something was going on, and Tony was getting a bad feeling.

XxXXxX

Tony called Happy to just check in. He hadn’t seen the guy since before New York, since he’d moved from bodyguard to Head of Security at SI. Peter had been disappointed, but Tony understood. Hard to get respect from people when you tell them that you’re the bodyguard of Tony ‘I am Iron Man’ Stark and Peter ‘I hang upside down in giant donuts’ Stark.

When Happy answered, Tony had to hold back a snicker, seeing only Happy’s eyes and forehead. “Hello?”

“Hey,” Tony said, waving Peter over to look. “Is his Forehead of Security?”

Peter held back a giggle, moving to lean over Tony’s shoulder to see Happy to.

“What?” Happy asked, sounding rather agitated. “You know- Look, I got a real job. What do you want? I’m working. I got something going on here.”

“What?” Peter asked in return. “Harassing interns?”

“Look, kid, I love you. You’re like the little nephew that I never had. But do you know what happened when I told people I was Iron Man’s bodyguard? The would laugh in my face.”

Both Tony and Peter laugh.

“I had to leave while I still had a shred of dignity,” Happy insisted. “Now I got a real job. I’m watching Pepper.”

“So what’s happening?” Tony asked, taking a tablet to edit a bit of code. “Fill me in.”

Happy looked a bit skeptical. “For real?”

“Yeah,” Peter said, moving to sit in the lab chair. He spun around on it, leaning over the back. “I wanna hear about what’s going on with Aunt Pep!”

“Alright,” Happy sighed. “She’s meeting with this scientist. Rich guy. Kinda… handsome.”

“Oooh,” Peter coo’s, a wide grin on his face. “Someone’s jealous!”

“Damn straight,” Tony said, smirking and holding out a hand for Peter to high-five as he spun around again. “Never took Hap as a jealous type, but he so is.”

“I am not,” Happy grumbled.

“Sure, Hap.”

Anyway , I couldn’t place his face at first, right? But you know I’m good with faces.”

“Totes the best,” Peter drawled.

Tony’s brow furrowed, looking up to frown at Peter, who was starting to spin a little too fast to be considered safe. “Did you just say ‘totes’?”

The pre-teen shrugs, though it was a bit of a blur. “Johnny's sister says it. Thought I’d try it out.”

“And how did that work?”

“It left a bad taste in my-” Suddenly, the lab chair tipped, and Peter ended up sprawled on the floor. His head wobbled like a bobble head, and eventually stood, shaky on his feet. “That was… That was fun!” And then, he promptly dropped back onto the couch to sit with Tony.

“Sorry, Happy,” Tony said, turning back to the screen. “Peter was being an adorable kid. Continue.”

Peter made a half hearted grumbling sound, which was mostly ignored because it didn’t sound like actual hurt or distress.

“Right,” Happy said, then continued. “Well, I ran his credentials. The guy’s name is Aldrich Killian. We actually met the guy back in… Where were we in ‘99? The science conference?”

“Uh,” Tony screamed at his chin, frowning as he turned to look at Peter. “Hey, bud, when were you born?”

“Twenty o’ two,” Peter replies.

“Ah, so ‘01 was in California, then 2000 was Germany… ‘99 would have been Switzerland, right?”

“Right,” Happy said, nodding quickly. “Right, exactly.”

“But Killian?” Tony shook his head. “Don’t remember the guy.”

“Of course you don’t. He’s not a blond with a-” Happy cut himself off at Tony’s rather aggressive throat clear, then continued on. “At first it was fine. They were talking business. But now it’s getting weird. He’s showing her a big brain.”

“His what?”

“Is that a euphemism?” Peter asked, and dear god, it better not be, because Tony was not ready to have that talk!

“What?” The man shook his head, frowning deeply. “No, a big brain. And she likes it. Here, let me show you. Hold on.” There was a pause as Happy held up the tablet, but it only ended up with Happy pointing the camera at himself. “See?”

“See what?” Popping up, clearly recovered from his dizziness, Peter frowned at the tablet screen. “Uh, Uncle Happy, you need to flip the screen. All we see is you watching them.”

“I’m not a tech genius like you two. Just… Just trust me. Get down here.”

“Flip the screen,” Tony said, “then I can see what they’re doing.”

“I can't! I don't know how to flip the screen! Don't talk to me like that anymore. You're not my boss.”

Tony rose a speculative brow, letting Peter hack Happy’s tablet and flip the screen for him.

“Alright, I don’t work for you. I don't trust this guy. He's got another guy with him. He's shifty.”

“Relax,” Peter said, then leaned forward, frowning at the screen. “Hm. That is interesting, though… Maybe I should have down brain mapping rather then blood samples of altered genetics. Not that it matters, I got first place in the science fair anyway.”

Happy gaped at them both. “Seriously.”

“I’m not sure what to tell you Happy.” With a shrug, Tony turned back to his work. “I’m not going to tell Pep what to do, and you’re her on and off boyfriend thing, right? You could talk to her. But we miss you, Happy. Not the same without you. You even missed Thanksgiving with us.”

“It was an off day.” The grumble almost wasn’t picked up, but Tony got it. “And, yeah, I miss you too. But the way it used to be. Now you’re off with the super-friends, and I don’t know what’s going on with you anymore. The world’s getting weird.”

“You could come and have Christmas with us,” Tony reminded. “Steve is supposed to be here, and-”

“Mr. Rogers is coming?” Peter gasped, voice almost shrill with excitement. Tony actually cringed.

“When it’s not- He said- But there’s no guarantee- Hey, sorry Hap, I gotta go.” Quickly, Tony closed the connection, and turned his full attention to Peter. “Pete, bud, Peter! Steve said that he was going to try and stop by around Christmas, but the roads might have gotten to slick since he left, and he’s gonna be tired. He might not be here until after New Years.”

“But he’s gonna try right?”

He hesitated, but did not. “Yes. He is going to try.”

“Then that’s all that matters.”

XxXXxX

Peter was sitting on the couch next to the Iron Man Mark 42 when Aunt Pepper arrived. His dad was down in the lab, testing the remote control capabilities of the suit. Meanwhile, Bilgy was sitting by the elevator down the the lab, pawing at the door. In the weeks since Thanksgiving, the Bilgesnipe had gown to a size between a horse and a wolf, and no longer fit in the narrow staircase. The beast was distraught that he could no longer go down to the lab whenever he wished.

“Sorry I’m late, I was... “ Her voice trailed off, and she blinked at the now nearly overgrown Bilgesnipe. “What the… Is that…?”

“Yeah,” Peter grinned, tapping away on his tablet as his father’s laugh came from the suit. “Bilgy’s been growing pretty fast.”

“If he grows much more I’ll have to put in a garage door as a pet door,” his dad said, the suit shaking its head.

Aunt Pepper looked over, frowning at him. “You’re wearing that in the house now? What is that? Like, Mark 15?”

Peter stifled a giggle, because Stark men don’t giggle, and he’s a man now. A man with a giant alien dog that it was whimpering and wanting to get down to the lab to sleep on a couch he probably didn’t fit on anymore. That or Bilgy just left his chew toy down there.

“Something like that,” his dad said with a nervous laugh. “You know everyone needs a hobby.”

“And you have to wear your hobby in the living room?”

“Just breaking it in,” his dad jokes, the suit getting up and walking around. “You know, it’s always a little pinchy in the gooey bag at first.”

Being the utter embarrassment that he is, his dad began to wiggle his butt, almost twerking, as Peter groaned and covered his eyes. It was just the suit, really, but his dad would be doing the exact same thing in the lab. It was wrong. So, so wrong. Even Bilgy was disgusted, and layed on the floor to cover his face with one paw.

“Right,” Aunt Pepper drawls. “Why don’t you take off that tin can and we can all go out for dinner.”

“Huh,” his dad’s voice said. “Yup, dammit. No can do.”

“Well, why don't I run down to the garage and see if I can't find a crowbar to shimmy that thing open?”

“Crowbar?” his dad asks, as Aunt Pepper heads to the lab stairs. “Oh, except there’s been a… Uh…”

“There’s been a radiation leak,” Peter said, though it only made Aunt Pepper more suspicious. “Going down there is pretty risky.”

She frowned at Peter, and continued down the stairs. “I’ll take my chances.”

Peter got up to follow his Aunt and the suit down, leaving his tablet behind. His dad was on the treadmill, a headset on and wincing as he looked up at them.

“Busted,” Peter said, moving to reclaim his spinning lab chair.

“This is a new level of lame,” Aunt Pepper said, then turned to look over to Peter, but taking notice of the trays that they had eaten lunch off of earlier. “And you ate without me? On family night?”

“He and Peter were just-”

Peter winced at the hard look his Aunt gave his dad. “You mean you?”

“Well,” his dad sputtered, looking to Peter for help. “Yeah. I mean we were just… Just hosting you while I finished up a little work.”

Aunt Pep really didn’t buy it. “Uh-huh.”

“We just had a little snack,” Peter tried. “We didn’t think you were going to come or if you were going out with that Killian guy.”

His dad was making a ‘cut it’ motion, but it was too late. The suit turned an accusatory look on his aunt, and his aunt turned a surprised and angry look at him.

“What?”

“What?” Peter said, laughing nervously. “I didn’t say anything. Nothing at all.”

“Are you spying on me?” she asked his father. “And involving Peter?”

“Happy was concerned,” His dad tried, though it only made things worse.

“You’re spying on me for Happy ?” She hissed. “If Happy wanted to know what I was doing with Aldrich Killian- You shouldn’t have-” Suddenly, she stopped, taking a deep breath before turning to the stairs again. “I’m going home.”

Neither of them tried to stop her. She was gone quickly, leaving Peter feeling ashamed and his father running a hand over his face. Things had just started to get better again. His dad had dropped almost all of the drinking, only having the one bottle that Peter had found him staring at sometimes. But Uncle Happy was angry with them, and now so was Aunt Pepper…

Couldn’t things just go back to normal?

But then again, since when had things ever been normal?

XxXXxX

When he finally arrived in Malibu, it was pitch black outside, and inside the house he was standing in front of. Taking a moment to double check the address, he made his way to the door, reaching out to knock. It clicked before he could, however, and a strange voice came from above him.

“I have unlocked the door,” the British man said. “But you will have to let yourself in, Captain. Sir is currently sleeping in his room.”

“Baby Boss is in the kitchen,” a woman’s voice added. “He’ll be down soon to show you to your room.”

“Thank you,” Steve said, though it sounded a bit like a question, as he opened the door and walked in. “May I ask who you both are? And… where you are?”

“I’m the ‘Friendly, Rather Interesting, Daily Advisor of Youngling’,” the woman said. “But everyone just calls me Friday.”

“And I am Jarvis,” the man’s voice continued. “It stands for ‘Just Another Rather Very Intelligent System’.”

“They’re AI,” a familiar voice said, causing Steve to turn. Peter now stood not to far away, rubbing at one eye and holding a glass of orange juice. “They run the house and help with stuff like Dad’s Iron Man suit and my Spider Legs…”

“Oh,” Steve said, blinking and looking up at the ceiling. “I… Hadn’t realized they weren’t real people.”

“They are,” Peter said, yawning and turning to walk towards a set of wide stairs. “As real as you and me. But you can ask Dad about it tomorrow. It’s late it’s been a long day…”

“Of course,” Steve said as he followed. “I hope Tony doesn’t mind, but I left my bike on the driveway.”

“It’s fine.” Peter took a sip of his juice, pointing to the first door on the left of the hallway. “That one is yours. Mine is at the end to the right and dads is the one on the end to the left. Of you need the bathroom, ask Friday or Jarvis and they’ll show you.”

And with that, the boy went to the end of the hall, entering a room that had a large set of double doors. Why it was the only room in this hall with double doors was beyond him, but Steve entered his room with a bit of a yawn. He planned on staying in Malibu a few days, just long enough to spend Christmas with the Starks, and then he’d be on his way.

Placing his bag on the bed, Steve started to pull his clothes out. He’d need to wash them tomorrow and before he left, but it would be fine for now. Most of it had been washed in the last town he’d stopped in. Besides his clothes, there wasn’t much else inside his bag. Just a pair of Christmas presents for Peter and Tony.

As he settled down to sleep however, he paused as something down stairs makes some sort of noise. It almost sounded like there was an intruder…

“Jarvis?” Steve called softly, trying not to give whoever was downstairs any idea that he was up. When he got no response, he tried again. “Friday?”

No response.

Carefully, Steve got back out of bed, grabbing his shield just in case, and tiptoeing into the hallway. He glanced down to the stairs, wondering if he should check on Peter and Tony first, or if he should just go down and see who was there. After a bit of internal debate, Steve decided to check on the Stark’s first.

He peeked into Peter’s room first. The boy had just been up after all. Maybe he had forgotten something downstairs. But Steve could see a clear outline of Peter sleeping away on his bed, thanks to the glow of what looked like an arc reactor turned into a trophy. There was also some sort of large horned creature curled up on a pile of blankets and pillows. It lifted its head when he poked his head in, but it only gave him a snuffling sound, then went back to sleep.

So, Peter wasn’t downstairs.

Steve turned to Tony’s room next, cracking open the door only to rush in. Tony was thrashing around, gasping for air and clutching at his chest. Quickly, Steve reached him, grabbing one of Tony’s shoulders and trying to rouse him.

“Tony,” he said, wide eyed and wondering if maybe it was some kind of seizure. “Tony, Tony wake up.”

And then, all of a sudden, a cold metal hand grabbed him and dragged him away from his teammate. Steve struggled, staring in shock as Iron Man stood before him, a hand clenched around his throat and pinning him to the wall. He was so shocked, he could really only stare.

Thankfully, that’s when Tony wakes up, likely from Peter slamming the door open and running inside.

“Power down!” Tony shouts, making the suit freeze.

Peter came up quickly, grabbing Steve’s shield off the floor, and using the rim to hit the suit. It crumbled and fell to pieces on the ground, letting Steve breath again. He fell to his knees, gasping and sputtering as Tony took his own deep breaths.

“I’m sorry,” Tony said, looking on the verge of tears. “I’m sorry, I must have called it in my sleep. That's not supposed to happen. I'll calibrate the sensors. Can we just...just let me… just let me catch my breath, okay?”

“You catch your breath?” Steve rasped with a nervous smile.

“I’m sorry,” Tony said again, Peter coming to wrap his arms around his father. “I’m sorry, I didn’t…”

“Tony,” he said. “I understand.”

And then their eyes met, and Tony stared at him. Steve knew he understood what he meant. He understood how nightmares felt. How real they felt. He understood, and he was going to help his friend get through his. Peter shouldn’t be the only one here.

They were silent for some time, Tony taking deep breaths and fiddling with something on the suit. Peter sat next to Tony, and Steve across from them, watching as Peter eventually dozed off again, leaning on his father. It was quiet, quieter then Steve ever thought it could be with a Stark in the room. But Tony eventually looked up, and spoke so quietly Steve probably wouldn’t have caught it if not for his super-hearing.

“Thank you…”

XxXXxX

The next morning, Tony sat on the couch, yawning into his hand as he waited for the coffee maker to finish brewing his sweet sweet nectar. Peter was sprawled out on the floor with Bilgy as the massive beast gnawed on a bone that they’d given him to distract him. Steve was in the kitchen, making waffles for god's sake, and being an all around awesome teammate.

“I hope scrambled eggs are good with you,” Steve said, and he gave Tony a plate, setting another on the counter for Peter, and setting Tony’s coffee on the end table. “Thanks for letting me stay here, by the way.”

“Not a problem.” Taking a heavy swig from the coffee cup, Tony glanced at Steve. “You should have been here for Thanksgiving. Coulson and the spy twins showed up, and so did Thor and Bruce. It was great. Peter got some pretty good pictures.”

“Bilgy stole the turkey,” Peter said as he got up to get his plate. “I got a picture of it.”

“Not to mention the food fight the followed the beast splashing food in everyone’s faces.”

“What is he, anyway?” Steve asked. “I’ve never seen anything like him.”

“He’s a bilgesnipe. Thor brought him from Asgard for Peter’s birthday. I just hope he doesn’t get much bigger. We already had to replace Peter’s bedroom door to make room for him to get in there.”

Steve nodded, eating his own breakfast. “Well, that really really beats my present then. Mine seems like nothing compared to an alien pet.”

Instantly, Peter looked up. Tony wasn’t that surprised. Steve was to kind for his own good, so of course he’d get Peter a present. He’d probably even brought a Christmas present for him. That wouldn’t be a surprise either.

“You got me a present?” Peter gasped, bouncing up and down. “What is it? Can I open it now?!”

“Nope!” Quickly, Tony jumps up. “Steve, don’t give it to him! Christmas presents are for Christmas!”

“Daaad,” Peter whined, giving his dad a puppy dog face. Tony instantly let out a screeching sound, covering his eyes. “Dad, please?”

“No!” Tony gasped. “The pout! It’s to powerful!”

“You need to listen to your father,” Steve said, making Peter pout a bit more before he gave up and returned to his breakfast.

“We were just having a bit of fun,” Tony said, but shrugged. “So, Steve, how was the trip? Meet any girls?”

As Tony wiggled his eyebrows, Peter made a gagging sound. The kid still had a lot to learn about love. Or sex. Shit, Tony had to give Peter the sex talk. Maybe he could get Friday or Jarvis to do it?

“The trip was great,” Steve said. “I met a few people, but there was this girl in Washington that I got the number of. She's pretty nice, and she gave me directions after I helped her with her kids.”

“Kids?” Tony made a face. “You don't date anyone with kids. They mess up everything.”

“Hey,” Peter protested.

“Exhibit A,” Tony responded, gesturing to Peter. “I haven't dated since this little monster was born.”

“Because you've been busy with Iron Man.”

Tony couldn't argue with that.

“She's teacher,” Steve said, shaking his head. “I helped her cross a street with her students. Besides, she's not really what I'm looking for. Not really looking at all.”

“Cuz you're into girls with smart and dominant personalities,” Tony teased.

“Like Aunt Peggy,” Peter cooed, grinning.

Steve blushed, slightly glaring at them. “Magnolia is a lesbian that, later that day, introduced me to her wife Julia. I have her number, to.” With a sigh, he sat back, running a hand over his face. “And I'm not looking because I'm trying to get used to everything. Who would want a fella like me, who doesn't even know how to use a phone to find a directions?”

“I could make you an AI like Jarvis and Friday,” Tony said, just as his phone began to ring. He glanced at the caller ID, but it was unknown, so he ignored it. “We could call it… Basic Arithmetic Rudimentary Narcoleptic Electronic Secretary.”

Steve blinked. “You want to make me an AI, named… Barnes?”

Tony shrugged, his phone ringing again. Ignore. “You could use the help. He'd take care of all the stuff you aren't sure how to do, and it would give you a companion for your trip.”

“I don't need my own AI,” Steve said, then frowned as the phone rang again. “Shouldn't you answer that?”

“Nah, it's-”

“Sir,” Jarvis cut in. “It is Miss Potts calling. She is using a payphone.”

“A payphone?” Tony asked, frowning as he got up, hitting accept. “I'll just be a minute.”

Turning, he walked a bit aways, letting Peter and Steve chat ideally with each other. He wondered why Pepper would be using a payphone to call him. She had the newest StarkPhone, not even released to the public yet. Had a 48 hour battery life, was waterproof, and quite literally impossible to destroy.

“Hey Pep,” Tony said into the phone. “What happened to your-”

“Tony,” she said, though just barely audible. He could hear her hiccups, her soft sobs now. “Tony, it's- Oh god, it's horrible.”

“What happened?”

“It's- Happy, he's- I'm- I don't know what to do!”

“Pepper, where are you?”

“He's- I can't- Tony, I-”

“I'm coming to get you,” Tony said. “I'm going to hang up, and have Jarvis track your signal. Okay?”

There was a pause, before a sound that seemed like an affirmative. Tony hung up, and went go grab his coat. “Jarvis, where are Happy and Pepper?”

“The hospital,” Jarvis said, just as he reached Steve and Peter. The two looked up, clearly surprised. “Mr. Hogan was checked in last night, about the time Captain Rogers arrived. He… has not woken since arriving.”

Instantly, Tony and Peter were to their feet and heading for the garage, leaving Steve to follow in confusion.

XxXXxX

Steve wasn't sure what was going on. Like, he just knew that someone was in the hospital. There was no clue as to who this ‘Mr. Hogan’ was. The name sounded familiar, and details slowly came back to him as he thought. Harold Hogan had been Tony’s personal driver and bodyguard before Iron Man. After, he was briefly Peter's bodyguard, but was promoted to head of security for Stark Industries.

There was a woman waiting for Tony and Peter, who Steve did recognize. Pepper Potts, Stark Industries CEO and Peter's… godmother? The file hadn't been to clear. She and Tony were close, thought to be in a relationship for some time before Miss Potts was confirmed to be in a relationship with someone else.

From the reaction of Miss Potts, Steve was going to assume that Harold Hogan was that someone else.

Staying behind seemed to be the right option, though, because Miss Potts led Peter outside and to him after a minute.

“He-” she started, then paused as her voice cracked to take a deep breath. “Could you… take him home? He’s not… He needs to go home.”

Steve nodded, placing a hand of Peter’s shoulder as he led him to the garage. He’d brought his bike, just in case, and he had an extra helmet. Peter didn’t look at him, instead snifflinf and wordlessly pulling on the helmet and getting on behind Steve. The ride was disturbingly silent, and it unsettled Steve when a Stark went silent. It was unnatural. Howard had talked a mile a minute, and Steve knew Tony and Peter could to.

When they arrived back at the mansion, Peter still doesn’t say anything. He simply puts down his helmet, and walked back up stairs to the couch. Bilgy was there for him, sitting on the floor and laying his massive head on Peter’s lap. The Bilgesnipe didn’t lift his head, but Steve could see the beasts eyes turn to him for a moment. Bilgy was as worried as Steve was.

“Hey,” Steve said, turning to grab the remote from the coffee table. He pointed it at the TV, squinting at the buttons as he tried to remember which buttons did what. Why weren’t these buttons labeled anyway. “Why don’t we watch some TV? I loved going to the movies as a kid. Apparently there’s a bunch of channels with tons of different shows on them. Do you have a favorite?”

Peter slumped, not looking at Steve as he mumbled in a voice that Steve almost didn’t hear. “Uncle Happy likes ‘Downtown Abbey’... Calls it elegant…”

Steve winced, finally finding the power button to turn the blasted TV on. It flickered to life, showing a news reporter standing outside of the very hospital that they had just been at. Another wince, and he scrambled to find the channel changing button.

“We're awaiting the arrival of Tony Stark,” the reporter explained. “We're hoping he'll give us the reaction...his reaction to the latest attack.”

Just as Tony appeared in the background, Steve found the button, and the channel was changed to one with a show with a group of teenagers fighting in strange robotic cats. Steve turned back to Peter, hoping that Peter wouldn’t mind. Maybe he knew what the show was, and could explain it to Steve?

“Friday,” Peter said sharply, eyes now trained on the TV. “Go back.”

“Baby Boss,” the female AI started. “I don’t think-”

Go back .”

And before Steve could do anything, the TV was back on the news report. Tony was walking away, ignoring the questions shot at him. Maybe they had missed the ‘good’ part. Maybe Tony was being smart and not doing anything stupid. It looked like he’d be back soon. Thank god.

“Hey, Mr. Stark!” one reporter shouted just as Tony reached his car. “When is somebody gonna kill this guy? Just sayin’.”

Steve’s hope that nothing bad would happen was thrown out the window in that instant, as Tony stopped. When he turned, his eyes were ablaze.

“Is that what you want?” Tony snapped at the reporter, then turned to glare so fiercely into the camera that Steve was surprised that it didn’t explode. “Here's a little Holiday greeting I've been wanting to send to the Mandarin. I just didn't know how to phrase it until now. My name is Tony Stark and I'm not afraid of you. I know you're a coward, so I've decided that you just died , pal. I'm gonna come get the body . There's no politics here; it's just good old-fashioned revenge. There's no Pentagon; it's just you and me . And on the off-chance you're a man, here's my home address: 10880, Malibu Port, 90265. I'll leave the door unlocked.”

Then, on the screen, Tony turned and stomped his way into the car. Steve stared at the TV in horror, and dropped the remote in shock. Tony had given out his home address. On live television. Where a terrorist may or may not be watching.

Turning, Steve rushed to look for anything that they needed. They needed to leave. Now . In case a madman comes looking for the Stark’s.

XxXXxX

Peter wasn’t afraid.

Steve seemed to be, for whatever reason, but Peter wasn’t. He sat with his dad in the lab, helping him look through data on this Mandarin guy. It wasn’t much. Just some stuff from a few agencies. It wasn’t much at all.

His dad sat in a chair, arguing with Jarvis about something, though he asked Peter his opinion every now and then. It didn’t matter, though, since Peter’s mind was a buzz of… Not excitement. No, definitely not excitement. He was furious. Furious and wanting revenge.

“Hey, Pete,” his dad said suddenly, drawing his attention to a map. “Ever been to Tennessee?”

“No,” Peter said, eyes narrowing at the dot on the map. “Are we gonna find stuff on the Mandarin there?”

“I think so,” his dad said, getting up and calling the suit to him. “Grab your legs and that overnight bag Steve packed you.”

Peter nodded, hurrying to grab the pack that Steve had packed for him earlier. It was just a few things that the soldier had tossed together as he had been insisting they needed to go. Peter wasn’t leaving, though. Not without his dad, and not unless i was so he could punch this Mandarin guy in the teeth.

Just as Peter pulled on his spider-leg pack, Steve came running down the stairs at that moment, carrying a large suitcase. His brow was furrowed, a look of confused anger on his face.

“Tony,” he shouted, setting down the suitcase. “You were supposed to be getting ready to go, not messing with the armor!”

“Yeah, not the top priority here,” his dad said, pulling on the helmet. “We’re leaving soon anyway.”

Peter nodded, going to grab his visor from its storage place in his corner of the lab. “We’re going to Tennessee.”

“Tennessee? Steve asked, brow furrowed.

He looked like he was going to say more, but the doorbell rang before he could. Peter saw Steve tense, knew that this was a tense situation, but he couldn’t manage to bring himself to care. He just wanted to go and find a way to punch the Mandarin in the teeth.

“Are we still at ‘ding-dong’?” his dad asked, frowning. “I thought it was supposed to be a sound of Peter singing that one song.”

“We are supposed to be on a total security lockdown,” Steve grit out. “You threatened a terrorist and gave out your address to the press.”

“My apologize, Captain Rogers,” Jarvis sighed. “There is only so much I can do.”

They head up to the living room, Peter bouncing on his feet, agitated. They needed to be going, heading to Tennessee to figure this Mandarin stuff out. There was a woman outside the glass doors, looking almost as agitated as Steve did. It was only almost, because Steve had his shield out now, and was holding it up to shield Peter.

When she entered and saw Steve, though, she looked even more agitated.

“Alright,” Steve said sharply. “That’s far enough.”

“You’re not the Mandarin,” Peter said, rolling his eyes as he tried to peek around Steve and his massive bulk.

“Peter’s right,” his dad agreed, sounding both disappointed and smug. “You’re not the Mandarin.” A pause. “Are you?”

“You don’t remember,” the woman said, and Peter was getting pretty angry that Steve wasn’t moving. “Why am I not surprised?”

He saw his dad’s shoulder come up in a half shrug. “Don’t take it personally, I don’t remember what I had for breakfast.”

“Gluten-free waffles, Sir,” Jarvis added.

“Gluten-free?” his dad asked Steve. “Really, Steve?”

“Now is not the time for that topic,” Steve sighed.

It was then that Peter made a sudden decision, one that he’d think more on once the Mandarin was gone, but a decision nonetheless. Steve and his dad totally belonged together. And he wanted them to be together, because 1) how cool would it be for Captain America to be his second dad? And 2) Steve was really nice, and cared, and he kinda just reminded Peter of what he’d always thought it would be like to have a mom around: someone nagging but thinking of what’s best.

“Okay,” the woman said, shaking that topic off, “look, I need to be alone with you. Someplace not here. It’s urgent.”

“Gross,” Peter said under his breath.

His dad probably heard through the visor’s sensors, and laughed. “Yeah, sorry but I don’t do that anymore. Kinda got enough of that now that I know the consequences.” He shot Peter a joking grin, and Peter stuck out his tongue at him.

A pair of bags were suddenly tossed down the stairs, landing with a thump not far from where Peter and Steve were standing. Peter rolled his eyes, watching as another bag was quick to follow. Aunt Pepper eventually followed, carrying what looked like a box of his photography stuff.

“Tony?” She asked, as she was coming down. “Is somebody there?”

“It’s Maya Hansen,” his dad called. “Old botanist pal that I used to... know.” Peter didn’t like that tone, and liked what his dad asked Miss Hansen next even less. “There isn’t, like, another twelve year old kid waiting in the car that I never met, is there? Because one kid is totally enough.”

“Dad!” Peter cried out.

“He’s thirteen,” Miss Hansen joked, though her face was rather deadpan. “And no. I actually need your help.”

“What for?” Steve asked urgently, and Peter sort of gave up on trying to be a part of the conversation and went to go drag the bags out to the car. Aunt Pepper gave him a smile, though it was still strained, so it was worth it. She didn’t need to know that he and dad wouldn’t be going with her into hiding. She was going into hiding, just to be safe, while he and his dad took care of the terrorist.

When Peter came back, he went up to his room to look for Bilgy, since his pet had to go with Aunt Pepper. They had a trailer setup for him, since he was getting to big to fit in any of the cars. It was pretty nice, Peter had made sure of that while he’d been outside. There were plush blankets and pillows for Bilgy to lay on, and his favorite toys were in there, to. There was even food in there for him.

He found Bilgy in his room, curled up in the corner where the blankets had been. Peter sighed, moving to pet his bilgesnipe, only for Bilgy to whine and scoot away to shy deeper into the corner. It wasn’t very far, considering how big Bilgy was.

“Come on,” Peter said, trying to draw him out. “We’re going, buddy.”

Bilgy did not move.

“Come on,” Peter whined. “Don’t make me get the leash! I hate using the leash.”

A soft growl.

Peter glared, going to his drawer to grab the large leash that went with Bilgy’s collar. It was more of the fact that Bilgy would follow if he put it on, thanks to Peter’s boss training skills, but it was a hassle to get the leash on Bilgy.

Eventually, Peter was pulling as hard as he could, trying to get Bilgy to move as he latched himself to the bottom step.

“Come on!” Peter cried. “We’re leaving!”

Bilgy made a loud rumbling howling sound.

“Bilgy!” Peter howled back.

“Ruururu,” Bilgy howled back.

“Is…” Miss Hansen sounded from behind him. “Is that normal?”

“Sadly, that…” Aunt Pepper sighed. “That is very normal.”

“It’s my son’s alien pet bilgesnipe,” his dad said. “Relax about it!”

“Tony,” Steve groaned. “Calm down!”

Peter went tense, and Bilgy seemed to sense that he didn’t want to be there. He hated hearing his dad and aunt fighting, and he had a feeling that adding Steve into the mix would be even worse. An argument between his dad and aunt was- Well, when it rained, it poured.

Bilgy let him lead him the rest of the way out of the house, but sat when they got to the lawn. Peter didn’t argue, and turned as Aunt Pepper came out, looking absurdly frustrated. He tried not to look to hurt, and left Bilgy outside as he went back in. His dad and Steve were arguing, but for once, Peter wasn’t focused on that.

“Dad!” he called, pointing out the window. There was a bomb heading straight for the house.

Everything after that happened in a flash. One second, he was reaching for his dad, the next the suit was forming around him and Bilgy was dragging him outside. He struggled to get out of the suit, wanting his dad, wanting Steve, wanting someone there to calm him down as his chest began to tighten. He could feel an anxiety attack coming on, and he tried to breath, tried to do the breathing exercises that Uncle Phil taught him in New York.

Peter managed to calm himself just enough to watch as his dad came out in the building to attack some helicopters (when had the armor come off?), while Steve was dragging Miss Hansen out from the rubble. A second helicopter went down, this one crashing into the house. Peter vaguely recognized Steve running back inside, and watched in horror as the house collapsed into the water.

“Dad!” Peter cried out, trying to run to the edge of the cliff, only for Aunt Pepper to grab hold of him. “Dad! Steve!”

He never saw them come out of the water.

XxXXxX

There were two things Tony registered when he came to. One was the heavy weight in his arms, and the other was an annoying blaring alarm blasting into his ear drums. Along with that annoying blaring came Jarvis’ screaming for his attention.

“Sir,” the AI called. “Sir!”

“Alright,” Tony groaned, blinking as he tried to clear his head. “Kill the alarm. I got it.”

“That’s the emergency alert triggered by the power dropping below five percent.”

Tony frowned, squinting through the visor. There was snow everywhere, and it was pitch black outside. He was beginning to fall, the weight in his arms suddenly disappearing as he crashed to the ground in the middle of a forest. Rolling onto his back, he pulled the helmet off, squinting up at the snow falling.

“It’s snowing, right?” Tony asked. “Where are we? Upstate?”

“We’re five miles outside of Rose Hills, Tennessee.”

“Why?!” Tony shrieked, his chest growing tight. “Jarvis! Not my idea! What are we doing here? This is thousands of miles away, I gotta get Peter, I gotta…”

“I prepared a flight plan. This was the location.”

“Who asked you? Open the suit.”

“I…” There was something strange about Jarvis voice, then. “I think I may be malfunctioning, sir.”

That couldn’t be good. “Open eject.”

The suit popped open, and Tony sat up, only to have all the heat sucked from his body. “That’s brisk! Maybe I’ll just cozy back up for a bit.”

“I actually think I need to sleep now, sir.”

“Jarvis.” There was no response. “Jarvis?” Still nothing. “Don’t leave me, buddy…”

It was no use, Tony knew that. The suit was dead. There was no power. There’s no power, and Tony is alone.

Turning, Tony tried to find any landmarks to tell him where Rose Hill was. There were trees. More trees. Even more trees. And… a body. Not far behind him, a body was slumped into the snow, slowly being covered in the slow downfall. Tony’s heart lurched, and he broke out into a sprint.

Was it Peter? Was it Pepper? Maya Hansen? Where they alive? Dead?

But when Tony reached the body, he was surprised to find Steve. Super soldier, Captain America, Steve Rogers. Just limp on the ground, barely moving. Quickly, Tony pressed two fingers to Steve’s neck, checking for a pulse that he hoped, prayed , was there. And, thankfully, it was. Steve’s skin was colder then ice, and his pulse seemed a little slow, but Steve was alive.

Thinking quickly, Tony turned Steve onto his back, rather then his front, and dragged him to the suit. He laid Steve on top of the still barely warm inner layer, and opened the latches at the shoulders that hid some cables. Tony would get to Rose Hill, even if it meant he had to drag Steve and the suit.

He made it pretty far, considering he was dragging the armor and Steve’s dead weight. Then again, the armor was acting a bit like a sled on the snow, so it wasn’t to bad. It was actually pretty easy, once he got the hang of it. But he did stop at a gas station. Tony squinted at the wooden indian wearing a poncho, shivering and cold, then down at Steve who was turning blue.

Damn it…

Tony pulled the poncho off of the indian, and laid it over Steve. Then, he turned to the payphone and dialed.

“Stark Secure Server,” the computer said on the other end. “Now transfering to all known receivers.”

“Pepper,” Tony said quickly, glancing around. “It's me. I've got a lot of apologies to make and not a lot of time. So first off, I'm so sorry I put Peter in harm's way. That was selfish and stupid and it won't happen again. Also, it's Christmas time, and I really should be at home with you guys. And I'm sorry in advance because...I can't come home yet. You’ll have to babysit for a while. I need to find this guy. You gotta keep Peter safe. That's all I know. I just stole a poncho from a wooden Indian and gave it to Steve. Also, he’s kinda unconscious?” The receiver beeped a warning. “But we’re good. I have to go. Tell Peter I’m sorry.”

And with that, the line went dead and Tony was on his way again. He found an old farmhouse, breaking in and moving Steve onto the couch in there. His skin was still cold, but his pulse was returning to normal levels, so he’d be fine.

The armor was set against a side of the couch, propped up so that the lamp he found could shine light on it. Before he really work on the suit, however, he needed to fix the micro repeaters in his arm. It would take a while, but it wouldn’t really matter, since he had to wait for Steve to wake up, to.

“Freeze,” someone called. Tony looked up, raising a brow at the young boy standing there. The kid was a bit younger then Peter, maybe eight, and pointing a potato gun at Tony. “Don’t move.”

“You got me,” Tony announced, humoring the kid. “Nice potato gun. Barrel's a little long. Between that and the wide gauge, it's gonna diminish your FPS.” The boy glared and shot at a glass on a shelf. It his the glass, shattering it, but… “Now you're out of ammo.”

“What’s that thing in your chest?” The kid demanded.

“It’s an electromagnet,” Tony said. “You should know, you’ve got a box of them right here.”

“What does it power?”

Tony couldn’t help but grin, stepping to the side to reveal the suit. The kid looked shocked, even dropped his potato gun.

“That… That’s… Is that Iron Man?”

“Technically, I am,” Tony said.

“Technically,” the boy said, holding a newspaper out to Tony, “you’re-”

A strangled gasped was sucked in from behind him, and Tony turned to look at Steve as he was thrown into a fit of coughing. He turned, patting Steve on the back, trying to sooth his teammate into breathing correctly. Steve didn’t look blue anymore, but he was still a bit pale, even as red was blossoming across his cheeks.

“Hey Cap,” Tony said good naturedly. “You still with us? Or are you going back to being a capsicle?”

“I’m up,” Steve said, his teeth chattering as he tried to warm himself up by rubbing his hands on his arms. “Where… Where are we? What happened?”

“Rose Hill, Tennessee,” Tony said, showing Steve the newspaper. It had their pictures at the top by the headline, ‘Mandarin Attack: Stark and mystery associate presumed dead’. There was another smaller article towards the bottom of the page with a picture of himself and Peter. It was the one that had been taken a few weeks ago, by a reporter that had kind of been stalking them. It was a nice picture, of them at Peter’s science fair. They’d moved Peter up to the high school division, rather then the middle school level, so Tony had been grinning from ear to ear with pride. But next to the sweet picture was the headline ‘Peter Parker Stark: Orphaned Heir’. Tony hated it. “And we’re technically dead.”

Steve blinked, staring at the paper, his body still shivering as he breathed. “Well, shit…”

“You’re Captain America,” the kid behind them said, staring. “Captain America and Iron Man are in my farmhouse.”

Steve turned to frown at the kid. “S-Son, who…?” A shudder rocked violently though him, and Tony almost though he was going to pass out with how his eyes started to droop.

The kid looked rather disturbed, taking a step back as Tony knelt to try and pat some heat onto Steve’s cheeks. The supersoldier blinked, letting out a breath as he shivered again.

“What happened to him?”

“Think all the years in the ice affects how his body handles the cold. Think you can find anything that would fit him, and maybe bring out some blankets and hot food?” The kid nodded quickly, and ran from the barn as Tony turned back to Steve. “Hey, Cap. Cap, can you hear me?”

“Yeah,” Steve slurred. “Yeah… It’s cold…”

“Yeah it is,” Tony said, sitting next to Steve so he could share body heat. God, Steve was freezing! “But you need to do your best to stay awake until we warm you up. If you fall asleep, not sure how long it’ll be until we can get you up again.”

“Peter okay?” Steve asked instead of literally anything else he could have said.

Tony’s chest clenched, and he nearly choked out a laugh of pain. “Yeah. Yeah, I think- He’s fine. He’s fine, Steve.”

Steve nodded, leaning into him as he tried to control his breathing. The kid came back, carrying a massive pile of blankets. There was a container of something at the top, and Tony wondered how he’d gotten it so fast. When the boy dumped the pile on the floor, he took the tub to a broken looking microwave and put it in for five minutes. Tony was actually kinda surprised that it worked.

“It’s just some old stew,” the kid said, watching the timer and his hand hovering particularly close to what looked like a fire extinguisher. “But it’s always helped when my sister or I got really cold.”

“That’s good,” Tony said, grabbing three of the blankets and throwing them around Steve. “So, who’s home? Should I be expecting someone to come out here asking where all the blankets went?”

“My mom already left for the diner and dad went to 7-Eleven to get scratchers. I guess he won, 'cause that was six years ago.”

Tony felt his chest clench again. “It happens. Dads leave sometimes. Trust me, it’s better then him being here and being a shit.”

“Tony,” Steve scolds. He looked like he was starting to come to.

“Fine fine. Here's what I need: a laptop, a digital watch, a cell phone, the pneumatic actuator from your bazooka over there, a map of town, a big spring, and a tuna fish sandwich.”

Tony.

He ignored Steve, and focused on the kid. Tony knew what he was doing. He’d been this kid when he was in school: smarter then the rest and hated for it. And, then, Peter had been that kid. It was why Tony had insisted on sending Peter to a local private school with an absolute zero bullying policy.

“What’s in it for me?” the kid asked.

“Salvation,” Tony said, the corner of his mouth tipping up. “What’s his name.”

“Who?”

“The kid that bullies you at school, what's his name?”

“How’d you know that?”

Tony didn’t answer, instead reaching around the couch to the suit to pull out a mild flash taser. “I got just the thing. This is a pinata for a cricket. I'm kidding, it's a very powerful weapon. Point it away from your face, press the button on top. It discourages bullying. Non-lethal, just to cover one's ass.” When the kid reached for it, Tony pulled it back. “What do you say? Deal?”

The kid nodded. “Deal.”

“Deal,” Tony repeated, giving it to the kid. “What’s your name?”

“Harley. And you’re…”

“The mechanic, Tony.” He looked at Harley for a second, then made a show looking very concerned. “You know what keeps going through my head? Where's my sandwich?”

And like that, Harley was off. Tony went to the microwave, opening it to pull out tub of stew. It was steaming, and Tony grabbed one of the plastic sporks from off the table. He stirred it up, trying a taste to make sure it wasn’t to hot. He’d done it a million times last year when Peter had gotten sick.

“Here you go Steve,” Tony said, setting the tub gently on Steve’s lap. “Eat this.”

“Thank you,” Steve breathed, his shaking hands coming up to grab the tub. “You never did tell me what’s going on… Other then us apparently being dead?”

“Well,” Tony started, sitting down next to Steve. “I’m going after the Mandarin. Gonna figure this shit out. You might have gone into a half coma from cold- Gotta make a note of that. Update your suit for cold weathers. That thing Coulson calls a suit is not nearly thick enough if you have to go anywhere cold.”

Steve squints. “Alright… So once I heat up, what do we do?”

Tony squints back. “Um, I’m going to look into the possible Mandarin attack that happened here, but you’re still shivering, so you’re gonna stay here. When I get back, it’ll hopefully be with a lead, so we’ll follow that to wherever it, you know, leads.”

Taking in a deep breath, Steve nodded, and took a bite of his stew. “Okay.”

XxXXxX

Pepper was in tears.

She had calmed Peter as best she could, asking him to sit in the car as she tried to find anything with the emergency rescue crew. It hadn’t worked, not that it mattered now, since the emergency rescue crew had put out the fires. He was calm, his eyes red, as he moved the smaller bits of rubble, and getting the beast Thor gave him to move bigger ones.

Pepper nearly burst into tears again when he suddenly stopped and bent down to pick up that doll. It had been nearly eight years ago, now, that Tony’s godmother had shown up with it. She’d heard the news, forced her niece to bring her out to see Peter. Of course she had known, Pepper had taken great pains to get the information to the Carter’s without anyone knowing, but for Margaret and Sharon Carter to show up on their own while Tony had been missing… It had been just the thing Peter had needed back then. Not because he got to see his ‘Nanna Peggy’, but because of what Margaret Carter had said to him.

She still didn’t know what it was, but somehow it had ended with Margaret giving Peter that Captain America doll and Peter being determined to stay busy.

Unable to watch Peter hug the doll to his chest like he had when he had been five, Pepper turned and bent to pick up a stray helmet that had fallen with the display case. She glared at it, wishing that Tony hadn’t been a complete idiot like he always was. Right now, she was hurting. Peter was hurting. Happy might be dying, and she needed her best friend and Peter needed his father.

Tears began to well in her eyes as anger bubbled in her heart, and she lifted the helmet to throw it off the cliff in a fit of rage. Only… she stopped. Inside the helmet was a little green light, blinking urgently. Was it…? Could she dare to hope?

Pepper pulled the helmet on.

“Pepper,” Tony said quickly, sounding cold and out of breath. “It's me. I've got a lot of apologies to make and not a lot of time. So first off, I'm so sorry I put Peter in harm's way. That was selfish and stupid and it won't happen again. Also, it's Christmas time, and I really should be at home with you guys. And I'm sorry in advance because...I can't come home yet. You’ll have to babysit for a while. I need to find this guy. You gotta keep Peter safe. That's all I know. I just stole a poncho from a wooden Indian and gave it to Steve. Also, he’s kinda unconscious?” Pepper blinked, and there was an echo of a beeping warning. “But we’re good. I have to go. Tell Peter I’m sorry.”

She pulled the helmet off, finding Peter standing in front of her, waiting patiently with the Captain America doll in his hands. Bilgy snuffled, sitting next to Peter like an overgrown dog as if he was waiting to.

“It’s your father,” Pepper said slowly. “He’s alright, and he has Steve with him. We’re going to head to New York and make sure the Tower is ready for when they get back, alright?”

Peter nodded, turning to walk to the car. Pepper tried not to worry about the look on his face, but she’d seen that look on Tony before. It never ended well.

XxXXxX

“The sandwich was fair,” Tony said as they walked. “The spring was a little rusty. The rest of the materials, I'll make do. By the way, when you said your sister had a watch, I was kinda hoping for something a little more than that.”

He pulled back his sleeve, tapping the little pink watch on his wrist, making Herley laugh.

“She's six! Anyway, it's limited edition. When can we talk about New York?”

“Maybe never, relax about it.”

“What about The Avengers, can you talk about them?”

“Depends on the Avenger.”

“Can we talk about Captain America?”

“I guess.”

“Are you two dating? Is he gay? Are you gay?”

Okay , no more talking about Steve.”

They soon came to a stop, in front of the remains of the explosion site. Tony looked around, observing the site. There was a large crater on the ground, filled with murky water and chunks of ice from the snow. Along the walls of the buildings around it, there were five shadows, in the shapes of people, with crosses and candles underneath.

“What's the official story here?” Tony asked. “What happened?”

“I guess this guy named Chad Davis, used to live roundabouts, won a bunch of medals in the army.” Harley shrugged, stuffing his hands in his coat. “One day, folks said he went crazy and made, you know, a bomb. Then he blew himself up right here.”

“Six people died, right?”

“Yeah.”

Tony raised a sceptical brow as Harley sat down beside the water filled crater. “Including Chad Davis?”

“Yeah.”

“That doesn’t make sense,” he said as he sat next to Harley. “Think about it. Six dead, only five shadows.”

“Yeah, people said these shadows are like the mark of souls gone to Heaven. Except the bomb guy, he went to Hell on account of he didn't get a shadow. That's why there's only five.”

“Do you buy that?”

For a moment, Harley didn’t reply. He stared at the crater, looking thoughtful.

“That's what everyone says,” he eventually said. “You know what this crater reminds me of?”

“No idea,” Tony said.

“That giant wormhole,” Harley said, looking up at Tony. “In um...in New York. Does it remind you?”

Tony narrowed his eyes, wondering if Peter ever tried to manipulate him like this kid was. “That's manipulative. I don't want to talk about it.”

“Are they coming back? The aliens?”

“Maybe.” He hadn’t been able to stop himself from telling the truth, his breath catching in his throat. “Can you stop? Remember when I told you, that I have an anxiety issue?”

“Does this subject make you… make you edgy?”

Tony was having a harder time breathing now, and he was seriously just hotwiring a car and heading home to see Peter. Peter helped. Peter always help.

“Yeah, a little bit.” Tony dropped to the curb, taking heavy, labored breaths. “Can I just catch my breath for a second?”

“Are there bad guys in Rose Hills?” Harley asked, then paused and frowned. “Do you...do you need a plastic bag to breathe into? Do you have medication?”

“Nope.” Only Peter.

“Do you need to be on it?”

“Probably.” Definitely.

“Do you have PTSD?”

“I don't think so.” PTSD or extreme separation anxiety. Or both.

Harley actually looked concerned. “Are you...are you going completely mental? I can stop, do you want me to stop? Do you want me to stop?”

“Remember when I said to stop doing that?” Tony said, using his angry dad voice that he never really had to use with Peter. “I swear to God, you're going to freak me out!” He was suddenly on his feet, body shaking. “Ah man, you did it, didn't you? You happy now?”

“What did I say?” Harley asked, only for Tony to go sprinting. “Hey, wait up! Wait, wait.”

Tony managed to stop, the adrenaline overriding the anxiety as his heart beat went into overdrive.

“What the hell was that?” Harley asked, only to squak as Tony threw a bit of snow at him. “Hey!”

“Your fault,” Tony announced. “You spazzed me out. Okay, back to business. Where were we? The guy who died. Relatives? Mom? Mrs. Davis, where is she?”

Harley frowned. “Where she always is.”

Tony grinned. “See, now you're being helpful.”

They walked down the street, towards a bar. He bumped into a woman on the way in, finder her odd and his ‘Stranger Danger, Protect Child’ dad instinct started to go off. Oh, this was going to end badly.

He shook the thought off for now, and turned to head into the bar, frowning as he looked around. Most of it was pretty ordinary, just a simple bar in a simple town. Then in the far corner of the bar was a less lit portion where a much rougher group then the middle of nowhere town folk. They looked almost like mercenaries, though Tony isn’t sure why. One of them was a teen just barely older then Peter and whispering something to the oddly familiar looking weasley bartender.

Tony redirected his focus as Harley wandered off, and turned to move to Mrs. Davis.

XxXXxX

When he finally warmed up, Steve eagerly pulled on the coat that Tony had left for him and went to find his teammate and their young host.

It was a good thing that Harley was doing, but Steve was worried. Tony wouldn’t let the kid fall into harm, it wasn’t in his nature to ignore a kid in need, but it could happen. Steve had seen Tony that night. Something about New York had rattled him. He wasn’t exactly in a stable state of mind.

So, once he was warm and not shaking when he moved, Steve wrapped himself in coats and left to go looking for Tony and Harvey. It shouldn’t be too hard to find one man and a child. They couldn’t have caused to much damage.

As soon as the thought crossed Steve’s mind, he heard the bang of a gun down the road. It could have been anyone, Steve told himself, even as he started running to the source of the sound. It didn’t have to be Tony, but it was.

When he arrived on the scene, a window was already smashed, and a building was on fire. Several buildings were on fire. How could Tony and one kid set several buildings on fire? Steve had no clue, but he was going to stop it any way he could.

He hurried off, ready to do whatever he could to help. Without a second thought, he dived into the first building, and started pulling people out.

“Oh cool,” someone said behind him, as he carried four people from the flames. Steve turned to find a teen with a aviator jacket and a strange bag on his back setting down a long haired man with glasses. “You’re pretty strong. Like… Super strong.”

“Uh, yeah,” Steve said, laying the men he was carrying down on the ground. “I’m looking for my friend. He was with a kid and they were-”

“Looking for Mrs. Davis,” the teen said, nodding. “Yeah, you’re buddy came in with Harley. Got attacked and then some chick set the entire place on fire. Your ‘friend’ ran off and was in the dinner. Harley stopped some guy from shooting him, so I gotta go find him before he gets killed. Later!”

Before Steve could stop him, the ten had run off. He cursed a little, turning to go running to the dinner the teen had mentioned. The building was also on fire, the window smashed and the front beginning to collapse. Steve rushed around back, ready to dive in just as he saw the back door of the burning dinner open.

“That’s all you got?” A woman’s voice asked from inside over the crackle of the flames. “A cheap trick and a cheesy one-liner?”

“Sweetheart,” Tony said, sounding simultaneously serious and playful. “That could be the name of my autobiography.”

Steve moved to step inside, only for Tony to come rushing out, slamming the door.

“Cap?” he called in surprise, then went wide eyed. “Run!”

With no time to ask questions, Steve rushed after Tony. Behind them, the dinner exploded, and Steve quickly moved behind Tony to shield him from any debris. Just as Steve was about to ask what the fuck was going on , the water tower groaned and fell. Again, on instinct, Steve shielded Tony from the damage, this time grabbing hold of him as water and broken metal rushed at them.

When the water cleared away, they were pinned under a section of the tower, legs stuck as Tony tried to push it off. Steve groaned, shivering as the cold water seeped into his layers of thick coats. He could feel sleep trying to gnaw at his mind, and struggled to stay awake.

“Let me go!” Steve heard Harley say as a bald man with glowing veins walked up. “No!”

“Help me, help me!” the man called mockingly. He sat on a block of twisted metal, holding Harley on his lap. “Hey kid. What would you like for Christmas?”

“Mr. Stark,” Harley whimpered, “Captain Rogers, I am so sorry!”

“Oh no no no,” the glowing man said. “I think he was trying to say ‘I want my goddamn file’.”

“It’s not your fault,”  Steve said, struggling to move even as his limbs went tingly and numb.

“Remember what I told you about bullies?” Tony said and Steve wanted to curse at him. What did Tony think he was doing, telling a kid to fight this guy?!

But Harley seemed to understand, and exchanged an ever so slight not with Tony. Then, lightning fast, Harley threw up his arm, a little device in his hands. With a click, there was a loud bang, the device flashed, the glowing man flailing as he fell back. Steve pushed harder knocking the beams off their legs to at least give Tony a fighting chance.

Only, it seemed that Tony didn’t need that chance. As soon as the glowing man was up on his feet, someone came up behind him. Steve barely caught the sound of swords being unsheathed before there was a glint of silver light in the dim light. The sickening sound of metal cutting through flesh, and the glowing man collapsed as his head rolled away from him. And the cause? The teenager that Steve had talked to outside the burning bar.

“Well then,” the teen said, sheathing his sword. “Looks like glowy guy is dead. Hey Harley, you okay kid?”

“I’m fine,” Harley chirped, coming out from his hiding place. “Thanks, Wade!”

“Huh,” Tony said as Steve helped him up. “No wonder Harley didn’t seem fazed with us being Iron Man and Captain America…”

Steve frowned, about to ask what he meant, but the teen, Wade, gasped. He turned to find the teen with both hands pressed to his cheeks, mouth open. The teen looked so excited, and even bounced a little as he took Steve and Tony’s hands to shake.

“Captain America!” Wade gasped, voice high like a girls. “And Iron Man! Oh, boy! You guys are like, my all time favorite heroes! I can’t believe I get to meet you in person! I’m Wade Wilson, hitman for fire.” He gained a cheeky grin as Steve stared. “Or rather, hit-teen for hire.”

Tony chuckled. “Yeah, I’ve heard of you,” Tony mused, shaking Wade’s hand. “That bartender, I think he tried to ask me for equipment for you once.”

Wade shrugged, grinning wide as he ruffled Harley’s hair. “Probably. Don’t worry, I’ve got Harley. You guys go beat up the bad guys.” He paused, then grinned as he pulled out a file. “B-T-Dub’s, I saw you throw this, and saved it before I got burned up.”

Steve blinked, looking confused as Tony took the file and pointed at Harley. “Guard the suit and connect it to the telephone so if I call, you better pick up. Okay?”

Harley nodded quickly, and Steve shook his confusion off as Tony started to pull him away.

“Be safe,” Steve called to Harley and Wade. “Don’t do anything dangerous!”

The two laughed, and Steve sighed as he got into the car Tony had led him to.

“Let me,” he said, going to the driver’s side and pulling a pin from the little pouch on the inside of his shield. He picked the lock on the door, and pulled it open, moving to pull at wires to give it just the right touch. It purred to life, and Steve grinned. “And, presto! Come on, get in.”

Tony squinted at him as he got in the car. Steve frowned, setting his gear in the back as he turned up the heater. “What?”

“Captain America can pick a lock and hotwire a car?” Tony asked.

Steve shrugged, glancing into a mirror before pulling out of the parking spot. “I was in the army during World War Two. I can do a lot of things.”

Tony hummed, lips pursed. “Well okay then.”

Steve smiled, stepping on the gas and heading out of town as Tony looked through the file.

XxXXxX

Peter sat in the middle of the hotel floor, leaning against Bilgy. They’d hidden away for the night, having to take a car rather then a jet to New York. Bilgy was just to big to fit into a jet without a proper prepping first.

He was reading, just a comic that had been recently made about his dad. It was kinda cool, he guessed. It had some wrong details, and the art for the suit was a little off, but it was still okay. Uncle Happy had bought him the set for his birthday, and it was lucky they’d just happened to be in the car.

Aunt Pepper and Miss Hansen were talking over by the beds. They were quite but Peter could hear them as Miss Hansen explained what had happened with this Killian guy.

“You gave your research to a think tank,” Aunt Pepper said, sound exasperated.

“Yeah, but Aldrich Killian built that think tank on military contract.”

For a second, Pepper didn’t say anything. “That’s exactly what we used to do. So, don't judge yourself.”

“Thank you, Pepper,” Miss Hansen said softly. “I really appreciate that.”

There was a moment of silence, before Aunt Pepper spoke again, even softer this time. “Tony needs to come back soon,” she whispered. “I don’t… I can’t look after Peter like I did before. I can’t do that again. Not after they’ve gotten so close.”

Peter chewed his lip, and got up carefully. The two women paused, watching him as he and Bilgy out to the balcony. “Gonna get some pictures,” he told his aunt, waving his backpack at her before closing the balcony door. She didn’t argue, or try to stop him, and he smiled. His camera was in the bag, but so was his phone, his wallet, and most importantly, his spider legs.

“Let’s go,” Peter told Bilgy, pulling on the pack and the visor. “Friday, you ready for a late night ‘stroll’?”

“I gotta tell you, Baby Boss, that this isn’t a very good idea,” the AI said.

Peter huffed. “Sure it isn’t. I’ll just go wonder around, maybe get a snack that isn’t a five-star pea sized portion.”

He started to scale down the side of the building, Bilgy jumping down after him. When he reached the ground, he stretched and walked off. He’d be back soon. They wouldn’t even notice he was gone.

While he was out, he bought a bag of skittles and some gummy bears.It had been fun, just walking around with Bilgy. When they got back, he let Bilgy back into the moving box.

“Sorry buddy,” he sighed. “You can’t get back up. I’ll see you in the morning, okay?”

Bilgy huffed, but licked at Peter’s face before the door was closed and locked. Then, with a sigh, Peter turned and moved to scale back up the building. He extended the spider legs, stretching, and flipped down the visor. Almost immediately, a warning flashed.

“Friday?” he asked, frowning at the blinking alert. “What’s-”

A sharp pain filled his head, and he crumbled to the ground as the world went black. But before everything faded away- the sounds of Bilgy growling and slamming into the reinforced box, the lights from hotel bedroom, the smell of the grass so close to his face- he saw a somewhat familiar face… Aldrich Killian.

“Well well well,” the man said, the voice like grating static to Peter’s ears. “The Prodigal Son of Stark… How very useful~”

And with that, the world faded from Peter’s senses as he fell into unconsciousness.

XxXXxX

When they finally tracked down the Mandarin signal, it was to a house in fucking Miami. Tony was less then enthused, and made Steve pull over so he could make bombs out of Christmas ornaments.

Their attack on the building, which was a mansion, was far to easy, and by the time that they had interrogated the ‘Mandarin’, Tony was both impressed and unimpressed. Impressed with Killian for the elaborate ruse, and unimpressed with the actor Trevor because the guy was just a mess. Steve seemed equally disappointed and about to give the guy life coaching when they were attacked from behind and knocked out.

When Tony came to, he was zip tied to an upright bed frame, with Steve handcuffed and gagged in a literal cage. Tony wasn’t sure what was supposed to come out of his mouth, but when he turned to Killian, he couldn’t help it. He was just glad there were no children nearby. He looked Killian directly in the eye.

“Kinky,” he said, and he heard Steve give a muffled cry.

“Mphhm!” Steve said around his gag, sounding like it would have been quite the amazing rant about decency. “Hmmphmmm!”

“Oh come on, someone had to say it! I’m immobile and tied to a bed, and you’re gagged and hogtied to a bed. Replace Killian with Natasha and you have the most selling porn movie in existence!”

Killian sighed and shook his head. “I wanted to thank you Stark,” he announced as he set down his briefcase. “You gave me the greatest gift that anybody’s ever given me. Desperation.”

And god, Tony rolled his eyes. Of all the things Killian could have done here, it had to be monologue. He fucking monologues and talks about how he did literally everything leading up to this point. Tony rolled his eyes again, turning to look at Steve, and made a ‘can you believe this guy’ head gesture. Even Steve looked more bored then anything else. Not even politely interested.

But then Killian said something that drew Tony’s attention back to him, and Tony’s heart nearly stopped. It was a holographic image of Pepper and Peter. Pepper had red glowing under her veins, strapped to a table as she screamed in pain. Peter was tied in a chair, trying to talk to reassure her that everything was going to be fine . But he looked absolutely terrified.

“Desperation,” Killian said, smirking a little. “This is live, by the way. We’ve injected Miss Potts with the Extremis virus, and she may or may not explode within the next twelve hours if she doesn’t receive a stabilizing agent. However, we could always inject it into the boy. It’s so rare that children survive the first stage anyway. Your choice.”

“Killian!” Maya snapped. “You never said you were going to hurt the boy!”

Killian looked at her, head tilting for a moment, before pulling out a gun and shooting her. He turned his mad eyes back to Tony, smirking. “Lucky for you, a position just opened up. I’ll give you some time to think.” And with that, Killian was gone, leaving Tony and Steve with a pair of guards.

Tony glared and glared at the guards, his mind rushing to think of a plan. The suit wasn’t ready. They needed more time, more time to get everything ready. To break out…

Thankfully, that’s when the watch on his wrist beeped. Oh goody~

XxXXxX

Steve didn’t have a clue what was going on, but he followed Tony’s lead. He could break out of the cage any time he wanted, really, but Killian had threatened to shoot Tony if he so much as tried anything. He hadn’t wanted to risk it, but now that Tony seemed to have a plan, it was going to be fine.

There was a bit of an awkward conversation between Tony and the guards, and Steve took the time to work the gag out of his mouth. It was just a wadded up cloth, and it didn’t take long for his tongue to work it out. The guards didn’t seem to notice at all.

Eventually, Steve realized just what Tony was doing as the window was smashed. A gauntlet came flying in, bouncing off of one of the guards heads and onto Tony’s hand. Tony sent a blast into the other guards chest and sending his bed frame spinning towards a wall. Steve took the moment to brace his knees and slam into the door of the cage. He tumbled out as it broke, and stood up quickly, yanking his cuffs apart to snap the links.

The first guard, the one that had been hit in the head, stood up, looking a bit dazed, and Steve snapped his fist forward. He heard bones crack in the guards skull, and decided he wasn’t at all sorry. Quickly, Steve picked up the guards gun, and hummed as Tony grumbled, more bits of the suit flying in.

“You alright?” Steve asked, shooting down the incoming guards.

“Yeah,” Tony replied, voice an angry hiss as one boot latched itself to his foot. “Would feel better if the whole suit was here, or if Peter currently wasn’t captured by AIM, but who the fuck cares?! I have some face punching to do.”

And with that, he spun in a circle, trying to shoot and maneuver at the same time. He got one, and he landed to the side. Steve found it oddly… erotic, the way Tony fought, knocking or shooting down man after man, until he had a half full gun and a repulsor aimed at the last man, who instantly held up his hands.

“Honestly, I hate working here,” he said, dropping his gun. “They are so weird.”

Tony gave him a wave with the gauntlet, and the man fled. Steve had to admit. He was slightly turned on.

Well fuck…

“Come on,” Steve said as he turned down a hallway. “We need to find Killian.”

Tony gave a quick nod, looking much to serious, and they hurried outside. They beat up a few more guards, and eventually got to a courtyard, the rest of Tony’s suit finally arriving. They saw a guard get thrown over some railing, an all to familiar sound of vibranium hitting a body reaching Steve’s ears.

“Rhodey!” Tony called as Colonel Rhodes jumped down, holding Steve’s shield. “What are you doing here?”

“Some flaming guy stole the suit,” Rhodes said, frowning at them as he passed Steve the shield. “What are you doing here?”

Worried of what might come out of Tony’s mouth, Steve cut in. “Aldrich Killian, the flaming guy, he’s the Mandarin. He took Peter and Miss Potts, and they’re going after the President.”

Rhodes blinked. “Oh. Okay. So where do we start?”

Tony and Steve shared a look.

“Speedboat?” Tony asked.

“Speedboat,” Steve agreed.

XxXXxX

Hours later, and after a little bit of saving people on a plane, Tony was more then ready to save his son. They were just off the coast, about to reach the Roxxon ship. It was rather easy to sneak aboard, and Tony studied the gun in his hand. It wasn’t exactly cutting edge or new, not even old StarkTech, but it would have to do.

They had a bit of a fire fight with one of the guards, using Steve’s shield as… well, a shield as they shot around it. When the first stage of the fight was over, they had a bit of an argument about what everyone should be doing. Rhodey didn’t have a suit, just a single pistol, and Steve didn’t seem to want to leave Tony’s side.

“I’ll be fine,” Tony said, waving off Steve as the suits finally arrived, one landing nearby. “Besides, I got all my fancy suits!”

He stepped in, turning on the comms as Jarvis came to life.

“Sir,” Jarvis said quickly, a dot lighting up on the corner of Tony’s radar. “I’ve located Miss Potts and Young Sir.”

“Take me to them,” Tony said quickly, swerving to land at the hole in one of the towers.

He walked inside, looking around as he light sparked. Hearing groaning, he leaned forward to find Pepper on the ground, seemingly unconscious. Peter wasn’t with her, and Tony worried that maybe… Maybe he was too late?

No, he told himself as he began to lift the debry off Pepper. No, he couldn’t think like that right now. Not here, not now. Peter had to be fine.

“See what happens when you hang out with my ex-girlfriends?” Tony said, holding out a hand.

She reached out for his hand, ready to get out, only for a glowing hand to burst out from the floor, clawing at the chest piece of the suit. Tony fell back, unable to move, as Killian crawled out of a hole.

Killian climbed atop him, heating up his suit, and taunted him.

“He was in here,” Killian said with a smirk. “You’re boy? He was in here when everything blew up. Probably dead under a pile of rubble. So close your eyes, and join him.”

Tony stared up at him.

“Close your eyes,” Killian said again, sounding irritated.

When Tony didn’t, he raised his hand to slap him, or punch him, but Tony took the chance, and cut off Killian’s arm. It flew off towards Pepper, melting the floor. As Killian stumbled back, Tony was glad that he got to watch the man suffer. If he killed Peter, he deserved it. He deserved far worse.

Killian, however, turned to him in anger as he got out of the suit. For a second, Tony stared, wide eyed, and unarmed, as Killian raised his hand to grab something. Only… he never got to take hold of something.

Peter, like the little spider ninja he was, had somehow gotten ahold of his spider legs pack. He’d been crawling along the walls with them, and jumped onto Killians back. The madman had let out a cry of surprise as Peter’s pre-teen arms wrapped tightly around his neck in a choke hold. The sharp tips of the spider legs whipped around to stab into the front of Killian’s god, and holy shit when had Peter gotten so hard core?!

Then, Killian reached behind him and yanked Peter off, holding him up by the back of his shirt.

“You little brat,” Killian growled.

Peter, because it would be a miracle if any Stark were sane, grinned like a loon. He reached into his pocket, shouted ‘sugar rush!’ then threw a fist full of skittles and gummy bears at Killian’s face. Somehow it worked, and Killian dropped Peter, who instantly grabbed Pepper and ran for the hole in the wall.

Tony barely had time to blink before Peter used the legs to throw Pepper out the hole and then jumped out of it . He ran over, his throat working as he tried to say something, and looked over the edge. He expected to find Peter and Pepper splat on the ground, but only found Pepper and Peter… sitting on top of Steve?

“Thanks Captain Rogers!” Peter called, getting up and grabbing a gun that a guard had dropped. He gave Tony a grin and a salute, running off and taking the gun apart as he went. Tony realized he should probably have Peter take a psych-eval…

“Dude,” Rhodey said over comms. “That kid is fucking insane… Anyway, President is secure.”

“I’ve got Miss Potts,” Steve said, and Tony could see them running, though Killian wasn’t too far behind. “We got a flaming hot on out six, though.”

“On it,” Tony said, jumping out of the hole. A suit caught him, and he dived for Killian. The glowing man roared and returned an attack, the structure shaking as they attacked each other. Over Killian’s should, Tony could see Steve and Pepper reach the end of the structure, and as it shook again, he watched in horror as they stumbled and fell.

“No!” Tony shrieked, forcing the Mark 42 to wrap around Killian and activate self destruct. He turned and ran towards the edge of the structure, wide eyed and terrified. Steve had just barely managed to same them, his shield stuck into the edge of the beams. Pepper held tight to his hand, but she was glowing and Steve’s had was turning red with heat.

“I’m sorry,” Pepper cried, as Steve’s hand started to slip. And with that, she let go, falling into the inferno bellow her.

They both stared, and after getting Steve up, they made their way down. Peter was already there, looking around as bits of the Mark 42 rained down around them. Tony rushed over, wrapping his son in his arms. Peter hugged him back, his clothes tattered and dirty, covered in soot, as he laughed.

“Dad,” he sniffled, laughing a little more. “Dad, I… I’m ready to go home. To New York.”

“Yeah,” Tony said in return, and for once his chest didn’t feel tight thinking about the Tower, his home city. “Yeah, let’s… Let’s go home.”

“Home will have to wait,” Steve said, holding up the Prodigal Son helmet. It was suspiciously empty of anything Killian. “The Bad Guy is still out there.”

And as if summoned from the void, Killian stepped out from the inferno Pepper had fallen into. He ranted, raving about how he was the Mandarin all along. Tony watched, ligitamitly horrified, as the madman came closer and closer. Only to get hit by a beam that was swung like a baseball bat. By Pepper. She stared at him, breathing hard, skin glowing, as he, Steve, and Peter stared back.

“I got nothing,” he eventually said, shaking his head.

She sighed, flexing her arm as choppers flew around them. “Okay boys, back to New York we go.”

Not wanting to argue with the now super powered flaming Pepper, Tony nodded, and steered Peter towards the ramp off the ship. Then he paused, turning to Pepper. “Wait, what about our stuff?”

Pepper narrowed her eyes as a car pulled up, a few SHIELD agents coming up. “They probably have Bilgy and your things. Though they’re a bit late.”

“No kidding,” Steve huffed, crossing his arms. “Can we go? It’s Christmas, and I’d like to finish my vacation.”

Tony laughed, shaking his head as he lead Peter to the car Coulson was driving. “Sorry about the shitty Christmas,” he told his son. “All this fighting, and kidnapping, and sorta dying, and no presents. Anything I can do to make it up to you, just say the word and you got it. A month off school, just you and me doing science in the lab? A special project? A real vacation in-”

“Ask Steve on a date,” Peter said, making Tony sputter.

“W-What?”

Peter looked at Tony, face serious. “Ask Steve on a date. That’s what I want for Christmas.”

And with that, Peter climbed into the car, leaving Tony sputtering and looking at Steve, who was thankfully preoccupied with filing a report. Coulson, however, had heard every word, and smiled at Tony.

“Better do what the kid says, Stark,” Coulson said, and he flipped down his shades and walked off.

“Stupid agents…” Tony grumbled. “Stupid kids asking for stupid impossible things…”

“What was that?” Steve asked, suddenly behind him.

Tony jumped, wide eyed. “Nothing!”

But… maybe Peter had a point, Tony thought as he slipped into the car, Steve joining him. He’d never know what Steve would say until he asked…

Chapter Text

When they got back to the Tower, after their long and terrible Christmas, Peter had been excited. He knew his dad liked to give him things, liked to give him the things he wanted. Peter had complete faith that his father would ask Steve on a date before they got out of the car. The only problem, he didn’t.

They got out, his father rambling on and on about one thing or another, and Steve politely nodding along. Peter would sometimes add to the conversation, explaining the things that Steve didn’t understand. It was nice, and Steve walked with them to the door. SHIELD had a base in New York that Steve had a room at. Seeing a chance for his dad to ask for a date before Steve left, Peter elbowed his father’s side.

“So I guess this is goodbye,” Steve said, smiling softly. “I’ll be leaving first thing in the morning to get my things for a storage unit in Malibu, but I’ll be sure to come by once I finish with my vacation.”

As Steve turned back to the car and Uncle Phil, Peter jabbed his dad a few more times, trying to get him to ask.

“Steve, wait!” His dad called, causing Steve to pause. Peter held his breath, waiting. “I… I wanted to…”

“Yes?” Steve asked, waiting.

Peter knew his dad was strong. He was a hero, a strong man that could do anything once his mind was on it. But in that moment, his father was weak, and Peter was almost disappointed.

“I just wanted to tell you your room is still there,” his dad said quickly. “You know, the one from right after the battle? Well, it was renovated to be your own floor, actually, but Bruce is still here and there are floors for everyone else on the team, to. If you wanted you could stay here for the night instead of a stuffy SHIELD base.”

With a smile, Steve glanced at Uncle Phil, who smiled. “I’m still technically on vacation. I don’t care what you do.”

Steve turned back to them smiling. “That would be great, Tony. Thank you.”

Peter tried not to face palm, and he followed his father into the Tower. The late night secretary, a French woman that smiled a lot, waved at them as they entered. Peter made sure to smile and wave back. After the mess they’d just been in, it would be nice to just be a normal kid again.

When they reached the elevators, and went up, Peter expected his dad to ask Steve on a date before he was let on his floor. He waited, watched as Steve smiled and waved stepping out. Peter frowned, and reached to tug on his dads shirt. His dad shooed his hand away, and caught the door’s before they closed.

“Steve,” he called, just a Steve was heading for the hallway.

“Yes Tony?” Steve asked, pausing to look at Peter’s father once again.

“I just wanted to say…” Peter could see his dad’s brain spark and short circuit, before rebooting. “I can give you a ride to the airport in the morning. Let you borrow the jet.”

Peter turned to the wall of the elevator where Steve couldn’t see him, and banged his head against the wall. Why? Why was his father getting so tongue tied or skittish? Asking someone on a date couldn’t possibly be that hard, could it?!

“It’s fine,” Steve assured. He was giving that smile that Peter knew made his Dad all gooey inside. “I’ll be gone pretty early. SHIELD will be waiting with a flight back to Malibu. But I’ll see if I can catch you before I leave.”

“Right,” his dad said, and Peter started pressing the button for the penthouse frantically. Abort, abort mission! His dad was crashing and burning! “Right well I gotta get Peter to bed. Way past bedtime. And…”

Steve smiled and waved, and Peter groaned as the doors finally closed. He looked up at his dad, who was leaning against the wall and looking pretty lame.

“Are you sure I’m really your son?” Peter asked.

His dad gaped at him. “What? Of course you are! Why would you even-”

Peter cut him off. “Because you have zero ability to flirt, much less pick somebody up for sex.”

“Peter!” his dad gasped, bursting out into laughter. “What do you even know about flirting?”

Peter grinned, laughing as they made it up to the penthouse. It had been a long few days… His dad would get another chance later…

XxXXxX

Tony was disappointed in himself. He spent the entire night in the lab, grumbling as he worked on fixing his armors. They’d flown back to the tower after the fight, and were in the storage area under the lab. Their things were on the way, driven by a SHIELD agent. Bilgy was apparently agitated after being stuck in the trailer for several hours.

Jarvis told him when Steve had gotten up, and Tony knew that he should do what Peter asked. He should have done it the night before, because he genuinely liked Steve. He did want to ask him out, but in truth? When Peter said he had zero ability to flirt? Tony really couldn’t anymore. He hadn’t been with a woman since before he went to Afghanistan. Since Peter was five . That was seven years since he’d even tried to get with someone.

“Sir?” Jarvis prompted him. “Captain Rogers is about to leave. Shall I tell him you are awake?”

“Uh…” Tony searched for a plan. What could he do? Ask Steve out right before he left for another three months? No, he needed a plan, a bit more time. How could be buy time? Then the idea struck him. “Yeah! Yeah, tell him to head to the garage. Tell whatever agent is supposed to drive him that I’ve got it covered.”

“Right away sir.”

Tony didn’t hear anything else from Jarvis as he took the elevator down to the garage. He went to one of his more inconspicuous cars. It was still pretty noticeable in a crowd, but it was fairly early, barely even six, and no one would be out to even see them.

“Tony,” Steve said as the elevator doors opened again. He was still in his clothes from their adventure with AIM, but they looked cleaned, at least. “I wasn’t expecting you to be up already.”

With a shrug, Tony went to open the drivers door. “Never went to bed. Jay told me you were leaving now, so I figured I would drive you to the airport. So get in.”

Thankfully, Steve didn’t argue, but he was frowning as he slid into the passenger's seat. “You haven’t gone to bed? Tony, sleep is important.” He sighed. “Did Peter at least go to sleep?”

Tony thought of his son, who was still asleep in the Tower. He’d followed Tony into the lab, went to his little corner and just knocked out. Jarvis or Friday would tell him when Peter was up, if he wasn’t back by then.

“Baby Boss is still asleep in the lab,” Friday said. “Do you have a message that you would like me to pass along when he wakes up?”

“No,” Steve said, shaking his head. “I’ll just talk to him the next time I see him.”

Friday didn’t say anything, and Tony took the chance to speak up. ‘’You need my personal number right?” As Steve looked at him, Tony didn’t make eye contact, keeping his eyes on the road as he turned into the airport parking lot. “You only have my call phone for Avengers and Iron Man stuff, but I rarely answer that. Jarvis usually takes care of it for me, and if I’m in my workshop or with Peter and it’s not an alarm then I kinda ignore it entirely. So… my personal phone?”

For a moment, all Tony could see was Steve blinking at him from the corner of his eye. He didn’t know what to say now, what Steve would say. But it could be anything. A denial, Steve saying he didn’t want it, or an acceptance, and Steve could call him any time.

“I would, but…” Ah, a denial… Steve shrugged. “I don’t have a phone anymore. It was with my stuff that was still in the house when it blew up.”

“Oh.” Tony grinned, waving a hand as he parked the car. “Well I can take care of that. Just go to any place selling StarkTech, and buy a StarkPhone. You should be able to have them plug it into the computer for setup and tell them specialty code T14-S9947. Jarvis will be notified and verify the setup. It’ll preprogram my number, Phil’s number, and Natasha’s number in it. And you won't have to worry about paying. The code was set up incase Peter ever got kidnapped and escaped before I got to him.”

“Kidnapped?” Steve frowned, and they got out of the car so Tony could walk him to the airport entrance. “Who would kidnap a child?”

“Tons of people,” Tony said, then went on to tell him about all the times he’d been kidnapped as a kid. He’d gotten himself out half the time. The rest, he’d talked so much that they just tossed him out. There had been a few close calls since the reveal seven years earlier, but they’d been neutralized before anything could happen. Steve stared at him in shock, and Tony shrugged. “So, uh, yeah! See you around Cap.”

Steve smiled, and stepped forward before Tony could turn back to the car. He wrapped his arms around Tony, pulling him close, into a tight embrace. Tony stood frozen, unsure of what to say, what to do. Steve was… hugging him. For… no reason. And Tony didn’t have a clue as to why . He tentatively returned the hug, gently patting Steve’s back.

When Steve finally pulled away, Tony wanted to call out, ask Steve to stay in New York an extra day, or even just an hour or two, so they could go out, have a breakfast date, or something. But by the time his mouth had opened to speak, Steve was already inside, disappearing through security.

Sighing, Tony went back to the car, waiting for their things to arrive via jet from where it had been left.

XxXXxX

Steve spent most of the ride to Malibu thinking over the interactions he’d had with Tony since everything that happened. They’d made a good team, when taking down the Mandarin, but Tony had been acting oddly since they’d gotten back.

At first, when Tony had stopped him before he left at the entrance of the Tower, he’d been sure Tony would ask him if he wanted to go out for dinner rather then get to bed. When Tony had stopped him once again in the elevator, Steve had thought that maybe Tony would ask him to go on a date. Maybe not then and there, but whenever they met up again. After Tony didn’t, Steve had spent the night wondering.

Had he been wrong? Did Tony not like him that way? Steve had thought, what with the way Tony acted around him, that he had to return Steve’s feelings.

Clearly Tony didn’t. Steve had figured, after running into Tony before he went to call a cab to the airport, that Tony just didn’t want an audience. With no Peter, maybe Tony would ask during the car ride. But, yet again, Tony didn’t. He didn’t ask Steve to dinner, or to go dancing, and maybe that was just his expectations from growing up in the forties. Maybe things were different now? Well, they were, but in terms of dating.

At least Tony had given him a way to contact him personally… That meant something, right?

Steve couldn’t help but smile. It had to… He’d call Tony as soon as he got the chance.

XxXXxX

They had just sat down for lunch when the call came.

It had been a hectic morning for all of them, what with Steve leaving, there things and Bilgy arriving, and sorting through all their stuff to check for anything missing or any SHIELD bugs. Not to mention that Aunt Pepper had called to keep them update them on the situation with Uncle Happy. He was awake, alive and recovering nicely. Peter was glad, though they wouldn’t be going to see him just yet. His Aunt and Uncle needed some time alone. To talk things out.

So, after the call from Aunt Pepper, they made lunch. Well, his dad made sandwiches, while he sat with Bilgy. The bilgesnipe was such a baby sometimes. But it was while they were eating there sandwiches that Jarvis announced the call.

“Sir,” Jarvis announced. “A call for you on the personal line.”

“Probably Pep about Happy,” Tony said first to Peter, then to Jarvis. “Put ‘em through, J!” There was a pause, then a click. “New York jewelers. You need a ring, we got the bling. May I direct you to the engagement ring department?”

Peter snorted, and for a second the other end was silent. Pepper was probably seething.

“Uh… Tony?”

And then Tony’s heart stopped because that was most definitely not Pepper.

“Steve,” Tony said as Peter howled and began rolling on the floor as he laughed. “I wasn’t… expecting you to call so soon.”

“I… wasn’t expecting you to answer like that.” Steve laughed, sounding almost nervous. “Was there… a reason for that or…?”

Tony racked his brain for an answer. “Well, I was kinda expecting Pepper to call, cuz she was going to update us on Happy, and I like giving her crap cuz she and Happy should, like, get married and shit and… yeah.”

“Dad thinks he’s funny,” Peter said, finally able to breath after his laughing fit. “But he’s not.”

Over dramatically, Tony pressed a hand to his chest and gasped. “Peter! You wound me!”

Over the phone, Steve chuckled. “Well, I just wanted to tell you that I got the phone, so… thanks. I’ll call or text you some time. You know, to keep you updated on when I’ll be back in New York.”

“Right,” Tony said, hoping his voice didn’t sound to excited. He really was, and eager for the next chance he got to actually ask Steve out on a date. “Same to you. Peter and I may or may not be going on vacations.”

“We will?” Peter asked, and Tony sent his son a look. They would, of course, be going on little trips, but it would give Tony an excuse to talk to Steve more often. “Oh! Yeah, we will.”

It seemed like the wrong thing to say, though, as Steve’s voice was clearly filled with worry when he spoke. “Really? But you guys just got back to-” Suddenly, he was cut off, though Tony could hear someone that sounded a lot like Coulson in the background. “Sorry, Coulson says the car to the storage unit is ready. Gotta get my bike and bag, but I’ll… text you?”

For an insane moment, Tony thought Steve sounded… nervous. But that couldn’t be right. Steve wouldn’t feel nervous about asking if he could text Tony. No, Steve must have been unsure if that was the right word. After all, he probably wasn’t yet used to the lingo of the modern times.

“Sounds good,” he said instead, and took a deep breath. “We’ll talk later.”

“Great! Bye, Tony! Peter!”

And with a click, Steve hung up.

Tony sat in his spot with Peter for quite some time after that. He was scowling at his phone, wondering if he should send the first text or wait. It wouldn’t take longe, right?

“This is stupid,” Tony eventually announced as he stood up. “I’m busy! I have work to do!”

Peter snickered and watched him go. “Sure you do, Dad… Sure you do.”

XxXXxX

Steve spent several hours traveling to the next destination on his trip, sort of just… waiting for Tony to text him. He wasn’t sure how long it would be until Tony did, but he decided he’d just wait it out. After all, he was heading for Los Vegas next, and he was interested in seeing the art there, and with his new phone, he was hoping to take some pictures.

And, since he was so focused on driving, he didn’t notice his phone buzzing until he pulled over to look at a map.

December 26th, 3:27 pm

From Tony:
Your next stop is in Vegas, right? Text me when you reach the city and I can set you up in my usual Hotel if you don’t already have a place in mind.

December 26th, 5:46pm

To Tony:
I just got into the city. Do I need to have a place in mind?

From Tony:
Uh, yeah? Most the places actually worth staying will already be booked.

From Tony:
Lucky for you, I still have a suite reserved at ARIA.

To Tony:
Lucky me. So where is this place?

Tony sent him the directions, and he followed the gps directions to the hotel. Steve didn’t really know much about the city as it was now, but he wanted to get a room set up before he went exploring for a few hours. So he road up, got off his bike, and paused as he hesitantly handed the keys to the valet driver out front.

When he went inside, he looked around, feeling out of place in the fancy lobby. After all, he was still dirt speckled and wrinkled from the ride. And when he walked up to the front desk, the man behind it made a face almost like disgust, so that was one thing…

“May I help you?” the man asked, side eyeing him.

“Uh, yeah,” Steve said, glancing at his phone uncertenly. “My coworker, Tony Stark. He said he’d set up a room for me?”

Surprisingly, the man rolled his eyes, and made a slight hand gesture to a security officer nearby. “Yes, of course… And what might your name be?”

“Steve Rogers.”

The man typed almost absently at the keyboard, and the security guard began walking over. “Ah, I’m very sorry sir, but there’s no-” The man cut himself off, blinking at the screen as the security guard seemed to make an attempt to loom over Steve. “Oh! Oh, dear. Yes, you’re right here Mr. Rogers.”

The security guard blinked, and back off as Steve did his best to smile kindly. “Of course I am. Tony said he’d have everything ready by the time I got here. May I have my key now?”

“Of course, sir.” Ant with that, he ha a key in his hand and was off to the room.

It was a nice room, much nicer then Steve probably would have been able to normally afford. But it also felt less like a hotel, and more… like a home away from home. And he realized, as he looked around, that there were pictures of Tony and Peter, along with other people, set up all around the room. There were even a few pictures of the Avengers. Natasha and Clint with Tony, or Coulson with Peter. His favorite was a picture of Tony sitting inside some kind of large donut, with Peter hanging from it upside down with his spider legs, Fury giving them both disapproving looks from the ground in the background

As Steve looked around, his phone buzzed again.

December 26th, 6:02pm

From Tony:
So, what do you think of the room? Not as cozy as the Tower or the mansion, but it should be fine for a night or two.

To Tony:
The rooms great. Thanks.

From Tony:
Cool.

From Tony:
So while you’re in Vegas, you should check out a few things.

XxXXxX

Over the next three months, Tony spent quite a bit of time travelling around with Peter. There was, of course, Peter’s schooling and Tony’s work. But there was still the weekends and what not for trips. They visited Pepper, and Happy, once Happy was out of the hospital. They went and saw Natasha and Coulson, though Clint was off somewhere. Then, towards the end of Steve’s three month trip, they went to DC.

They went mainly for a SHIELD thing Fury wanted, but also because Aunt Peggy. She was getting worse, and Tony wasn’t sure how long she’d still be of right mind. He wanted Peter to be able to say goodbye.

The first day, they walked in and had to leave almost immediately. Aunt Peggy had looked up at them, a smile spitting her face as she called out to them. “Howard! And Tony~ So good to see you! How is Maria?”

Peter spent most of his time in DC with her while Tony worked on Project Insight. He didn’t necessarily like the idea behind Project Insight, but… he wasn’t completely opposed. It could be a great tool for if a real threat came up. Of course, he also had to build a fail safe into it, just in case something went wrong, which would take a little extra time, but whatever.

He kept texting Steve throughout the time that he was away, and they were getting closer. Steve had sent him so many selfies with random things. One with the Grand Canyon in the back, another with Steve at the Hoover Dam. It was funny, really, how many selfies Steve took for an old men.

The best part about texting Steve, though, had to be the questions that Steve would ask. Like, ‘How do I Twitter? What IS Twitter?’ or ‘Why did a girl ask me if I was taking a picture of the Canyon for my ‘insta’?’ Tony’s favorite, though, had to be: ‘What’s a ‘selfy stick’?’ And, the response after explaining what a selfie stick was. ‘Where do I get one?’

Steve loved taking pictures, and did get an instagram to post most of them to the cloud. Tony used his own instagram to spam photos of Peter being cute back at Steve. Peter hated it, but Steve thought it was funny.

XxXXxX

Steve rolled into the parking lot near the Lincoln Memorial at about 9 in the morning. He’d spent the early morning riding up, and he was excited to take some pictures, and maybe get a run in. Armed with his selfie stick and phone, he set off to take his first few pictures.

As he took his first few at the Lincoln Monument, he noticed a guy doing laps, and watched him go by before taking some more. After doing some quick posting on the Instagram, the views and comments already rolling in, Steve set out on the route he planned. He figured he’d go around once taking pictures then do two more.

He jogged down to the Korean War Veteran Memorial, then down towards Martin Luther King JR memorial. After passing the Roosevelt Memorial, Steve saw the jogger again, and decided to run backwards a minute so he could take a picture before passing the guy.

“On your left,” he said, surprising the guy, and kept going towards the Thomas Jefferson Memorial.

He looped his way around, taking more pictures at places like the Washington Monument, the World War Two Memorial, and the Constitution Gardens. Once he had more then enough pictures, he continued on to redo the loop. He even passed the jogger again. He thought it was funny how the guy got upset when he said ‘on your left’ again.

As he was passing the Washington Monument the last time, he passed the man once more. This time he saw Steve coming.

“Don’t say it!” The man called. “Don’t say it!”

Steve grinned, passing him. “On your left.”

“Oh come on!” he called, and went sprinting after him. Steve kept going until he saw the guy move to sit, then doubled back to check on him.

“Need a medic?” Steve asked, smiling.

The man laughed. “I need a new set of lungs.” He shook his head. “Dude, you just ran like thirteen miles in forty minutes.”

“Would have been faster,” Steve said, smiling as he waved his phone and selfie stick. “Was busy taking pictures the first go around.”

“Oh really? I hope you got some good ones.”

“I did.” Steve paused, before asking. “What unit you with?”

“Fifty-eighth, Pararescue. But I’m working at the VA.” He held out a hand, and Steve took it, helping him up and shaking it. “Sam Wilson.”

“Steve Rogers.”

“I kinda put that together.” Sam chuckled a little, then paused. “Must have freaked you out coming home after the whole defrosting thing.”

Steve thought back to everything that had happened in the last… almost a year, really. Three more months and it would be about a year since Steve had come out of the ice. The original shock was long gone, and the fight with the Chautari had been something else entirely. Then the start of his road trip, the Mandarin, and now the trip was almost over…

He shrugged. “It took some getting used to.” in his hand, his phone buzzed. A reminder. “Looks like the Smithsonian is opening soon. I’m gonna take another loop and go.” Steve held out his hand and Sam took it. “Thanks for the run. If that’s what you call running.”

“Oh,” Sam said, raising a brow. “That’s how it is?”

“Oh, that’s how it is.”

They both laughed, and Steve went to do one last lap before heading towards the history museum. Well, it had already been an eventful morning…

XxXXxX

Peter fiddled with his tablet as his dad drove. It was rather late in the morning, especially with all the work his Dad had to do. They were going to the museum, since Peter wanted to check out the Captain America exhibit. Take a picture or two of the old costume to compare to the new one. Maybe he’d start making another…

“Sorry I’ve been gone so much lately,” his dad said as they turned into the parking lot. “This Project Insight thing is just really time consuming. Are you having fun with Aunt Peggy, at least?”

Peter shrugged. His great Aunt Peggy was a lot different from the last time he’d seen her, about seven years ago. He thought of the old doll that she’d given him, the smile that she had as she had. A gentle reminder that it used to be his dads favorite as a kid.

As they pulled into the parking lot, however, Peter could hear his father’s phone ringing. He saw his dad trying to ignore it, even as they walked towards the entrance. But Fury couldn’t be ignored for long.

“What?” his dad groaned into the phone as he answered. “I’m busy- What? No, I’m not coming in, I’m with Pete-” He was cut off, talking in a low hiss. “They did what to the repulsor design?! I can’t- Yeah, fine, I’ll be right there.”

As his dad hung up, Peter turned and picked a map from a nearby stand. He knew what his dad was going to say, and he wasn’t going to stop him. Peter knew his dad’s work was important.

“It’s okay,” Peter said before his dad could speak. “I can look around on my own. I can even get a taxi back to the hotel.”

His father hesitated but eventually agreed, giving Peter the usual hug, and heading off again. Peter watched him go for a second, then turned and went into the museum. He had his camera out, hoping he wouldn’t get in any trouble, and eventually found his way to the Howling Commandos World War Two exhibit.

Peter spent a good few minutes at each display, looking over each one, reading and listening each panel. It was interesting, hearing about the things that his Aunt Peggy had told him. The first mission Steve went on went a little differently then what they had, but it was still cool.

Walking to the next display, Peter paused as he saw a familiar looking man with a baseball cap. Barely able to hold in his excitement, Peter slide up next to Steve, and elbowed him. When Steve looked down at him in surprise, Peter only snickered.

“I can’t say I’m surprised,” Peter said. “Though Dad probably would be. He doesn’t keep up as much with your Instagram as I do.”

“Oh yeah,” Steve said, chuckling. “It’s good to see you, Peter.” A slight pause, then, “You’re father around?”

“No,” Peter said honestly. “He got called into SHIELD. He’s been helping with a Helicarrier project. Super classified.”

“Really? And you’re here all by yourself?”

He shrugged. “Technically, I’m here with you now, right?”

Steve chuckled, looking around for a bit longer. Peter trailed after him, looking around and trying to think of a plan. He hadn’t expected to run into Steve so soon, and didn’t have a plan for setting him up with his dad yet. So he thought, carefully, of how he could suggest that Steve ask his dad out.

After about an hour, Steve seemed to finish up, pausing near the exit of the exhibit as he looked down at Peter. Peter didn’t look up at him, sending a text to his dad real quick.

April 2nd, 11:06am

To: Iron Dad
Hey, just finished up at the exhibit. Gonna get lunch and head back to the Hotel.

“So,” Peter said, finally looking up at Steve. “Think you can take me back to the hotel? I’m sure Dad’s told you about our past… kidnapping issues.”

Steve went ridged for a moment, but quickly nodded. “Sure. Tony’s okay with you riding a motorcycle, right?”

Slowly, Peter raised a brow, pointing at the pack on his back. “Uh, my Dad quite literally made me a backpack with spider legs that help me hang from high places and scale buildings, and gave me an AI to help me do it. He’s fine with me riding a motorcycle.”

Taking this as an acceptable answer, which it was, Steve led him out of the museum. He’d parked in a lot closer to the Lincoln Memorial then the museum, but it was a nice walk, and Steve stopped to take pictures every now and then. Peter made funny faces in most of them, and stretched when they finally arrived.

Steve gave him a spare helmet, and they were soon off. Peter thought that being on a motorcycle was kinda cool, really cool actually. It was almost as cool as riding Bilgy around in the massive training area underneath the Tower. The wind pulling on his clothes as they rushed around corners and sped between cars. A few honked irritatedly at them, but Steve didn’t seem to care as he just kept going.

Peter pointed out the way to the Hotel they’d been staying at. It was fairly close to SHIELD HQ, so his dad didn’t have to be awake to early before going in for work. They spent most of the night doing stuff together, so early mornings were nearly impossible for his Dad. It was a miracle that his Dad even woke up before noon today.

When they pulled up to the hotel, Peter hopped off, tugging off the helmet, and smiled. Steve gazed up at the building, frowning, and Peter had the sudden thought that, oh! Steve might not have a place to stay tonight.

“You know,” Peter said, smiling as he hopped on his feet. “Dad wouldn’t mind you coming up. He’d offer one of the rooms anyway, if you don’t already have a place to stay.” He paused, then added on to his statement. “He’d insist you stay with us, even if you had a place.”

Steve paused, frowning slightly, but he nodded and pulled his bag off the bike and slung it over his shoulder. He gave Peter a smile and they went inside. The staff did seem to give Steve concerned look, but Peter ignored them as he led the way up to the room. When they got inside, Steve seemed to pause, looking around as Peter took off his pack to place it on the couch.

“Looking for something?” Peter asked, then pointed towards the bathroom door. “Bathroom is over there.”

“It’s not that,” Steve said quickly. Then rubbed the back of his neck. “It’s just… After the ARIA in Los Vegas, I just thought that there would be some… pictures?”

Peter blinked, frowned, trying to figure out what Steve could possibly be talking about. Pictures, Vegas, and the ARIA? Well, his Dad had a long standing reserved suite at the ARIA. And they did have pictures hung up there, since they vacationed there at least a few days every time Peter had a week long break from school. But how did… Oh! His Dad must have let Steve stay there…

“Not here,” Peter said, shrugging as he bounced slightly on his feet. “DC is… It’s not that we don’t come to DC very much, we actually come here more often then Vegas, but… We don’t usually stay very long…” He glanced towards his pack, where he’d been keeping the Captain America doll that Aunt Peggy gave him as if it had been some kind of good luck charm.

“My Aunt-” Peter swallowed, stuffing his hands in his pockets. “Dad’s Godmother. She’s… She’s old, has… dementia or something. We usually go in and she thinks Dad is Howard and that I’m Dad and she… Well, it’s kinda hard on Dad, so we don’t stay long. It’s too emotionally taxing, you know?”

Steve seemed to nod in understanding, and gestured towards the TV. “Have any games?”

Peter grinned. “Oh, man, you have no idea!”

XxXXxX

Tony got back to the hotel late. Much later then he should have. He’d been busy correcting the things the idiotic SHIELD scientist had messed up with the repulsor engines. And after he’d finished that, he had to finish the last of the building and programming to keep them from poking and prodding until they somehow broke it again.

Wish a sigh, Tony entered the Hotel and pulled out his phone. He had texted Peter earlier to see if his son wanted him to pick up pizza and ice cream on his way back only to find out that Peter had run into Steve at the museum. The two had gone out to get him food before he got back, some take out from his favorite Chinese take-out place in DC. They’d been back soon, but Tony still sighed as he rode the elevator up.

So, when he heard the TV on in the suite they were in, Tony paused, wondering what the hell was going on in the room. Had the maid decided to take a break in one of the rooms, and risk losing their job? Or… had someone broken in? No, no. Peter and Steve must have just left the TV on. Of course no one broke in.

But when he stepped in, he did in fact find someone who shouldn’t have been in the room.

“Nicky,” Tony said, rolling his eyes as the man cast in shadow. “If you wanted to see me, couldn’t you have, I don’t know, called me up with I was still at your HQ? Or waited until tomorrow? And I’m pretty sure you aren’t supposed to have a key.”

“You really think I’d need one?” Fury asked. He was sitting in the chair by the table they’d moved to make a sort of makeshift work table, where a lamp and window was to give some extra light while they worked. Tony could tell something was up, even though Fury wasn’t acting to strange, that something was different. Something was wrong. “My wife kicked me out.”

“Really?” Tony asked, keeping his eyes on the SHIELD Director as he reached out to flick on the light. And, man , did he look like crap. “No shit.”

Fury scowled at him, reaching out to the lap to turn it back off. He was typed into his phone, holding it up so Tony could squint to see the message. ears everywhere . “I just needed a place to crash for a while.”

Tony narrowed his eye, looking around the room. He’d check for bugs before he and Peter had really settled into the room, just to be sure no secrets got out. And then he’d set up a scanner in case anyone came in to place them. But, considering Fury came in, it was possible whoever placed any new bugs had disabled the scanner… But why would Fury come to him? Why not Hill or Coulson?

“Don’t sleep in your office like normal people?” Tony asked, doing his best to be subtle as he could. He wasn’t very good at… subtle. He was big bangs and loud booms. Flashes and fireworks. “Even I sleep in the office sometimes.”

Even in the darkness, Tony could see Fury’s scowl thanks to the soft light of Fury’s phone as he typed. SHIELD compromised . “Not exactly a normal situation.”

Tony snorted, opening his mouth to speak, and three things happened all at once.

First, as he let out a ‘no shit’, he heard the door open, turning just in time to see Steve entering with Peter. Next, Nick stood at the same time, turning to look at Steve who blinked in surprised recognition. And finally, three loud shot rang out, and Fury cried out in sharp pain.

Even though it was clearly Fury who was the target, Tony lunged for Peter to shield him with his body. Steve seemed to have a similar idea, instead turning to block Nick from Peter’s view with his big bulky body. And then a fourth surprising event happened, and his cousin Sharron came running in.

“Captain Rogers,” she said quickly, then blinked and paused when she saw Tony and Peter. “Tony?”

“Kate?” Steve asked, clearly surprised.

“Sharron?” Tony asked, then turned to frown at Steve. “Kate?”

“Sharron?” Steve frowned in return to Tony.

“Captain,” Sharron grit out. “I’m Agent 13. SHIELD Special Service. I’m assigned to protect you.”

“Since the Grand Canyon?” Steve growled, brow furrowed. “On whose orders?”

“Probably his,” Tony gestured absently Fury as he ignored Peter’s irritated protests as he checked his son over, then squinted momentarily at Steve. “And what’s this about the Grand Canyon?”

“I met her at the Grand Canyon,” Steve explained, “and we rode together to my next stop while she continued to hers. She said she was on her own road trip and she went on ahead to her own next stop. We met again a few times as we were traveling. Last I saw her, we were in Florida.”

“Focus boys,” Sharron grit out, moving quickly to Fury’s prone form. Then, she lifted a hand to her ear. “Foxtrot is down, unresponsive. We need EMT’s.”

In his moment of distraction, Tony was unable to keep Peter down. His son bolted to to the nearest window, and Tony had a mild heart attack. Yes, he would let Peter go out on his own. And yes, he’d let Peter do what he wanted. But in no way was he letting his son out of his arms where there was a possible shooter outside that very fucking window!

“Peter!” Tony snapped, jumping up.

“He’s getting away!” Peter said instead, pointing out the window.

Steve acted instantly. “Tell SHIELD I’m in pursuit,” he said, and then was off.

Tony grabbed Peter around the waist, dragging him quickly away from the window as he began scolding frantically in Italian. "Non lo fai mai più, mi senti?! Se ti vedo correndo verso un criminale che ha appena ucciso la spia delle spie, ti chiuderò nella tua stanza e ti volgerò FRIDAY contro di te in modo che non te ne possa andare prima dei tuoi ottanta!"

(“Don’t you ever do that again, you hear me?! If I see you running towards a criminal that just killed the spy of spies , I will lock you in your room and turn FRIDAY against you so that you can’t leave until your eighty!” )

Peter stared up at him in absolute horror. Tony knew that his son knew what he was saying, since Peter had been raised with both Italian and English like Tony had been. Or, rather, FRIDAY had been teaching him Italian and English before Tony took a more... active role in his life.

But that wasn't important. Even though Tony knew, realistically, that Peter wasn’t hurt, he was frantic to protect Peter. Like… a mother bear. And since their hotel room was now compromised, he grabbed their bags, took Peter by the hand, and hurried out to find a safe place to hideout while he sorted this all out.

SHIELD was compromised, Fury was down, and there was an assassin still out there.

Fuck his fucking life.

XxXXxX

Steve… hadn’t caught the shooter. He’d tried, he really had, but the man had a metal arm and was just… He'd caught Steve's shield. Like it had been nothing, and Steve was more then a little freaked out by that, okay?

And now, as he stood outside a window at a hospital, looking in on Fury’s operation… He was furious at himself. Tony, on the other hand, seemed flippant.

“He's not dead,” Tony said, not even looking at Fury, eyes locked on Peter, who was perfectly fine and simply tapping away at his tablet at a table nearby. “Nothing is gonna kill old eye patch. Not even three bullets to the chest.”

“Tony,” Steve scold, sighing. “Fury is-”

“Don't say it,” a familiar voice hisses at him, and he turns to find Natasha walking up to them. “He's not… Director Fury is a strong man. Tell me about the shooter.”

“He’s fast,” Steve mused, thinking back to how the man had vanished. “And strong. Had a metal arm.”

“Ballistics?”

“Three slugs,” Tony said, turning away from Peter to look instead at them. “No rifling. Completely untraceable.”

“Soviet made,” Nat stated rather then asked. Tony simply nodded, and Steve frowned as he looked between them.

“Does that mean something?” Steve asked, though he didn’t get an answer.

At that moment, Fury began to flat line, and Steve grew tense. Fury was flatlining. Fury was dying . The SHIELD Director, who had always seemed almost invincible, was in that room and dying.

“Steve,” Tony said, placing a hand on his shoulder. Steve looked over, finding Tony looking serious. “He’s not dead.”

Steve stared. Natasha stared. Tony remained serious.

“What,” Natasha hissed, “the actual fuck?”

Tony shrugged. “I’m staying by my opinion.”

Taking a deep breath, Steve brought a hand up to his nose. He pinched the bridge, his other arm coming to cross over his chest. Tony was impossible sometimes, and Steve was seriously beginning to wonder why he even loved this man.

And oh. Oh shit. That was not what Steve was expecting at that moment. Tension was high, Natasha looked like she was going to strangle Tony, and Fury quite literally just died in front of them. But, nope. Apparently Steve was going to have an internal crises as he realizes that he’s actually in love with this fucking idiot instead of just disturbingly attracted to him.

It was then that a SHIELD agent walked up, a man Steve had met briefly before the Chitauri Invasion. Brock Rumlow cleared his throat, gaining all their attention. Well, all of Natasha and Steve’s. Tony was still keeping an eye on Peter.

“Stark, Cap,” Rumlow said, and man did Steve want to call him out. Only the people who really knew Steve got to call him Cap. Tony could, and so could the other Avengers, but he’d only met Rumlow once. “They want you back at SHIELD.”

“Give us a minute,” Steve said, ready to turn back to Tony.

“They want you now,” Rumlow insisted instead.

Tony rolled his eyes. “Yeah, and we got shit to talk about, and I have work to do. And Peter needs to go back to the Tower, so yeah. Give us a minute.”

With a scowl, Rumlow nodded. Steve didn’t like the look, and felt his defences start to go up. Something wasn’t right here. Something was very not right, Steve thought as Rumlow finally turned and walked down the hall. Then, he and Nat turned to Tony, the same question likely on their tongues, but Tony beat them to it.

“Fury told me SHIELD’s been compromised,” Tony said, and it was starting to make sense, the strange way Tony had been hovering around Peter again. The people that Tony had trusted, in at least some capacity, were possibly untrustworthy, and it had put Tony on edge. “So I’d call Legolas and Agent to let them know some shit is probably about to hit the fan.”

“I’ll call them,” Natasha said, reaching for her phone. “Phil left a few months ago to build up a new team. Clint, technically, isn’t with them, but he’s probably been sleeping in Phil’s cabin on the Bus.”

Steve side eyed them, and then glanced at Peter. “What do you think they’re planning, if they have been compromised?”

“They obviously want to ask about why he was there,” Tony said, pulling out his own phone to tap away with one hand. “They’ll probably try to ambush us if they think we aren’t cooperating. I wouldn’t be surprised if they tried to take us out after their attempts to interrogate us fail. So, with that said,” Tony spread his hands. “I’m gonna grab Peter, take him back to New York where he will be more then safe with the improved defenses I added to the Tower. Then I’m going to come back and we’re going to figure out what the hell is going on.”

Steve nodded, though his stomach was churning with nerves. “And what are you gonna tell them? They want you back at HQ for a talk. If they see you leaving, they might push forward their plans for an attack.”

“Which is why they won’t know that I’m leaving.” Steve must have made a face, because Tony chuckled and clapped him on the back. “Don’t worry about it, Steve. I’ll be back before you know it.”

And with that, Tony turned and walked away. Steve watched him go, Peter putting his tablet in his bag as he followed. Though, Steve saw something odd as he did so. Peter slipped something into his pocket, and Steve had the sneaking suspicion that whatever it was, Peter wasn’t supposed to have.

They were gone before Steve could speak up, however, and Natasha put a hand on his shoulder to lead him out.

“Come on Steve,” Nat said. “Let’s get you to HQ.”

XxXXxX

Tony didn’t have much trouble evading the SHIELD agents on the way down. Jarvis and Friday had taken control of the security cameras, telling them what halls were clear and keeping them off any monitors. The garage was the hardest part, since they had to find a way to get in the car that was currently being guarded, and then drive out.

Thankfully, Steve or Natasha must have done something upstairs to get the attention of the agents in the garage, and they were home free.

Well, they were free to go to the airport. The jet was ready, and Happy was going to be waiting in New York for them. SHIELD was probably going to be there, waiting, but Tony knew what he was doing. He knew how to protect his son.

“I could help,” Peter said as they sat on the jet. It would be almost an hour before they landed, and Tony was getting everything ready for if SHIELD did try to forcibly take them while Peter was sitting cross armed in his chair. “You let me help on the Helicarrier. Why can’t I help here?”

“Before we thought we could trust SHIELD,” Tony said plainly, putting in the command for the suit to meet them in the air before they reached New York. He had a plan. Oh, did he have a plan. “I thought I could trust the SHIELD agents to help you if you needed it, but now SHIELD is compromised, and we don’t know how deep. But it it was deep enough to make eyepatch go underground, then I’m gonna say pretty deep.”

Tony was standing by his statement that Fury wasn’t dead. It would take more then a couple bullets to the chest to kill that guy… He was completely insane, after all. Faking his own death was right up Fury’s alley.

Peter, however, didn’t seem all that convinced after Tony’s explanation. He crossed his arms, glaring at the floor. “Dad, I can take care of myself. You gave me training. I can fire almost any kind of gun, and I can make a weapon if I don’t have one on hand. The defense training I got from Happy, Coulson, and the simulators will be enough, and with FRIDAY, I’ll always have someone watching my back. I’d be fine in a fight.”

“And I said no.” With a sigh, Tony ran a hand over his face. “Peter, please. I can’t be in a fight and be worrying about you getting hurt at the same time. I barely kept my head when we were fighting Killian during Christmas. Fighting all of SHIELD? To much.”

There was a moment of silence, as they got closer to New York. Tony had the plan all hammered out. Happy had a case suit ready on the landing strip. The Mark 43 would meet them in the air, and Peter would get in it if Tony thought it was to dangerous. Tony would take the case suit and head back to DC to meet with Steve and Nat somewhere. But just as the Mark 43 arrived, Peter pulled something out of his pocket.

It was a silver stick, just a bit to big for it to be hidden in Peter’s closed fist. Tony knew that he wasn’t the one who bought it, and as far as he knew, they didn’t keep flash drives. Well, they did, but they were all kept in the lab or by Pepper or Rhodey. So why did Peter have one?

Feeling his eyes, Peter looked up, met Tony’s eyes, and then immediately looked down. And that wasn’t good. That was bad. That was guilt.

“Peter,” Tony said slowly. “What do you have there?”

“A drive,” Peter said, holding it out. “I… Fury had put it by the window before he was shot and I… I picked it up.”

“Peter,” Tony gasped, taking the drive from his son. “This might be what SHIELD is looking for! This could tell us why Fury was shot, why he said SHIELD was compromised. Why didn’t you just give this to me?”

“I wanted to try and crack it first,” Peter grumbled. “Just to see if I could. And I tried, Dad. I really did. But it’s encrypted and it’’s changing, and it’s… I don’t even know how they designed such a strong encryption, much less what it could be hiding.”

“Then it must be something dangerous,” Tony said, then pocketed the drive and placed a hand on Peter’s shoulder. “I’m proud of you Peter, I really am. You’re my son, my only son, and for you to think I’m not, or that you need to make me proud, is a mistake on my part. You are a great kid, and fifteen years ago, if anyone told me that I’d have a kid half as smart as you…” Tony paused. “Well, to be honest I never expected to even have kids, much less one half as smart as you because you’re crazy smart, just like me.

“But what makes you even better then me, is that you aren’t just smart and that you aren’t like me. Our looks and our genius is where our similarities end. You understand art, and you’re an amazing photographer, and really, I’m not just saying that because you’re my son. The best thing about you is that you’re a good person like I never could be. You want to help because it’s that right thing to do and you get that thing that Coulson is always saying and, I mean, I get it two, but you knew it before he even said it.”

Peter, who had started to get teary eyed, laughed. “You mean ‘With great power comes great responsibility’?”

With a grin, Tony reached out and ruffled Peter’s hair. “Yeah, kid. That. And you’ll get your chance, to show the world what a hero you are, but let me do it for now, just until you’re older, okay?”

Slowly, Peter nodded, getting up to give Tony a hug. They stayed like that for a moment, until Jarvis gave a time warning. If Tony wanted to go through with his plan, or change it, now was his last chance.

“We’re going through,” Tony said as he straightened. He put the drive he got from Peter into his pocket. “But we know for near certain that SHIELD will be there waiting for us. Happy is gonna bring me the case and then we’re gonna fly out. Me first, draw their fire, then Peter to get to the Tower with Happy. Update Happy, by the way, could you J?”

“Of course, Sir.”

XxXXxX

Steve walked away from his meeting with Alexander Pierce with the hair on the back of his neck standing up straight. There was something very wrong with the situation, and Steve assumed that it had to do with the fact that SHIELD wasn’t really SHIELD anymore. Something was wrong, they had some kind of rat, and the entire organization was probably compromised.

Pierce had asked him about Tony. What he knew about something called Project Insight, but he really didn’t know. Apparently Tony had been working on it. Pierce had also asked if Steve knew where Tony and Peter were. Steve put on his best confused face and told him that ‘Mr. Stark and his son should have been right behind him’. It worked, for the most part. But Steve could tell that Pierce didn’t trust anything he said.

“Operations Control,” Steve told the elevator. Natasha was supposed to be down there, doing a debrief on the mission she recently came back from.

“Confirmed,” the elevator replied. Before the doors could close, however, Brock Rumlow stepped in with two other men.

“Forensics,” Rumlow stated after muttering something to the other two.

“Confirmed,” the elevator replied again, as the doors finally closed.

“Captain,” Rumlow said with a nod. “Evidence Response found some fibres on the roof they want us to see.”

“That’s good,” Steve said cautiously. “Maybe they’ll get some evidence they can use to catch the guy.”

Then, the elevator stopped. It had only been a floor or two, but more agents stepped in. They continued on, and again the elevator stopped. More agents, and the cycle continued. Two floors, stop, more agents. Soon, the elevator was packed, and Steve knew that they were gonna make an attempt to take him.

“Before we get started,” Steve said, rolling his shoulders. “Does anyone want to get out?”

There was a moment of tense silence before the first agent moved. The man in front of him was suddenly holding a shock stick, thrusting it against Steve’s stomach. He let out a grunt of pain, teeth grit as he was pushed back and into the clutches of several agents. One wrapped an arm around Steve’s neck, the other two holding his arms as they turned him around and attempted to drag him back towards the elevator door. At some point, someone had hit the emergency stop button.

Two agent, who were holding a briefcases, snapped the handles off. They pushed the broken off handles to Steve’s wrists, the first snapping into place. He instantly felt the pull on his wrist towards the metal wall of the elevator door, and pulled hard to keep it from connecting. Magnetic cuffs. He punched on guy in the face to keep his wrist away from the wall, and elbowed another in the jaw to get the second cuff knocked away. It hit the wall, sticking there.

Things started going pretty well after that. A punch there, another agent out. A kick here, there goes that agent. A headbutt here, and the man holding him was on the floor. Just Steve, Rumlow, and another agent. This should be easy.

Until Rumlow kicked his wrist with the cuff and he was suddenly stuck to the wall. He fought off Rumlow one handed, getting shocked a few times. Steve managed to redirect a blow to knock another agent out with direct hit to the gut, before kicking Rumlow back. With a moment to work on the cuff, Steve braced his feet on the wall, grabbed his cuffed wrist, and pulled until he backflipped off the wall. He then turned his sights on Rumlow.

“Whoa, big guy,” Rumlow said, both hands up in a ready position. “I just want you to know, Cap, this ain’t personal.”

Without warning, Rumlow charged at him, managing to get a few good shocks in, but Steve was to jacked on adrenaline for that to work. With a grunt and a glare, Steve grabbed Rumlow by the shoulders and tosses him up against the ceiling.

“Kinda feels personal,” Steve tells the men now laying on the floor. Steve reached for his shield, flicking it up into his hand from where it had dropped on the floor, and used it to knock off the magnetic cuff. He then turned to the doors, pulling them open. Only to immediately turn and snap the cable holding the elevator up when he saw a team of heavily armed SHIELD agents rushing at him.

The elevator plummeted several stories, until it screeched to a stop by the safety mechanism. There was another door, and Steve figured it was worth a shot, reaching up and pulling it open. What was behind door number two? More SHIELD agents with guns! Closing door.

Quickly Steve looked around for a way to escape. He glanced out the glass window, looking at the drop below as SHIELD agents shouted at him.

“Give it up Rogers! Get that door open! You have nowhere to go!”

Steve scowled, taking a few steps back, and getting ready when he saw something in the distance. Oh? Had it been over an hour already? Well, didn’t matter much now. He bounced on the balls of his feet, took a few running steps with the shield, and leapt through the glass.

There was a tense second as Steve fell, until he was suddenly slammed in the side by a heavy weight, and was soaring through the air. He gave a whoop, turning to wrap an arm around the neck of the Iron Man suit as Tony flew then away from the Triskelion.

“Jesus Christ, Cap,” Tony hissed at him through the faceplate. “You trying to give me a heart attack?!”

“Nope,” Steve shouted over the wind. “Knew you’d catch me.”

“Fucking adrenaline junky.”

XxXXxX

They met up with Natasha in a dark parking garage that Tony had never been in before. It had been on Natasha’s insistence, so they could talk about their next move. Tony sat on the trunk of a car, the suit collapsed to recharge at his feet.

“Before we get started,” Tony said, reaching into his pocket to pull out the drive. “Peter said Fury put this on the table the window in our hotel room. Any idea what’s on it?”

“It’s from my last mission,” Natasha said, frowning. “And I’m not exactly sure. It has a homing program on it, though. That much I know. Soon as we boot it up, SHIELD will know exactly where we are.”

“It must be important,” Steve said as he stood off to the side. “Could you hack it?”

“No one says hack anymore,” Tony sighed, and he played with the drive in his fingers. “Well, Peter said he tried, might be how they knew we had it, if there was a  Homing Program on it. He said there was an encryption on it that kept changing itself. Sounds a bit to much like an AI, if you ask me. And if there’s an AI, it would be easier and probably faster to just find out where it came from using a tracer program.”

“You could probably run one upstairs,” Natasha hummed, pursing her lips. “They have an Apple Store in the mall-”

“Whoa,” Tony said, holding up a hand and narrowing his eyes. “You want me, Tony Stark, to go upstairs and openly go into a mall Apple Store?”

Natasha smiled, reaching into the backpack she’d brought with her to pull out new sets of clothes, including hoodies, shoes, and hats. “You’ll be disguised.”

Tony squinted. “Is that my hoodie? My favorite hoodie? I haven’t seen that since you were my secretary. Did you steal my favorite hoodie?”

Steve made a soft and confused noise. “Natasha was your secretary?...”

“Not the point,” Nat said instead, holding out the new clothes and hoodies to both of them. “You two need to get up there and get into the store to trace that drive. We’re kinda on a tight schedule.”

Tony huffed, but switched out his shoes and jacket for the ones Nat gave him. He had been wearing jeans already, thank god, but Steve had to go behind a car to change out of uniform. It took all of Tony’s will power not to take a peek…

When Steve came back out, wearing a tight t-shirt, form fitting jeans, and a heavy jacket, Tony could only nod in appreciation. Steve looked good. And damn , Tony needed to ask him out already. But then Natasha took a step forward, pressed a pair of glasses onto Steve’s face, and a hat on Steve’s head. And Tony had to try hard not to laugh. It was a Veteran hat.

“Perfect,” Natasha said, nodding to Steve, then turning to Tony. “You, put up the hood and put on a second jacket.”

Tony, not wanting to argue, pulled up the hood and put on the second jacket. Getting behind a side mirror of a car, Tony scanned himself over and nodded. Yep, he looked pretty average…

“Great,” Tony said. “I look nothing like a multi-billionaire.” He then turned his eyes to Natasha. “What about you, Nat? What are you wearing?”

“I won’t be going with you,” Nat said, waving a hand. “I’ll be going to the security room to keep tabs on the SHIELD guys that show up.”

For a moment, Tony thought that he’d misheard. Natasha wasn’t coming with them, but they were going up. The master assassin and mistress of stealth, Black Widow, was not coming with them on a time sensitive stealth mission where Captain America, the specimen of human beefy perfection, and Iron Man, flashy business man that likes to make things go boom, were going undercover.

Sure, right. Because that was going to work.

“I know that look,” Natasha said as she crossed her arms. “And trust me. It’s going to work. I’ll tell you guys what you need to know. You have extra comms, right Tony?”

“Well yeah,” Tony said, going back to the case to pop open a small section and pull out that little box with the extra comms. “I made these a while ago. I was gonna give them to you all the next time I saw you.”

Steve and Nat both took one of the tiny clear beads. They were entirely invisible, and picked up even sound from around the user. Though, that was turned down so the noise wasn’t overwhelming. The best part, though, was that everything was recorded and put onto a private server for Jarvis to analyze.

Tony watched the two put them in, and put on in himself. They needed to get moving.

“Alright,” Tony said, clapping a hand on Steve’s shoulder. “You ready Cap?”

“Yeah,” Steve said with a sharp nod. “Ready.”

XxXXxX

Steve had not been ready. Like. At all. Steve was so unready that he might as well have been going in blind. Because he pretty much was.

First rule of going on the run, ” Nat said in their ears. “ Don’t run. Walk.

“If I run in these shoes, they’re gonna fall off,” Steve said as a joke, and he felt a small bubble of pride when Tony snorted.

They walked through the mall, passing a few shops, before they made it to the Apple Store. From the corner of his eye, Steve could see Tony make a face, and he lightly elbowed him. Tony then made a different face, and walked up to a computer.

You’ll have about nine minutes once you put in the drive, ” Nat told them as Tony pulled out the drive disc. “ Think you can finish in that time, Tony ?”

“Nat,” Tony said as he plugged the drive in. “I can do it in half of that.”

Steve stood by, looking over Tony’s shoulder, feeling like he was much to close. He could practically see his breath ghosting over the back of Tony’s neck, making the hairs there stand up straight. Steve thought that maybe he should take a step back, take a look around the room, but it felt so nice being so close to Tony…

“Can I help you guys with anything?” a man suddenly said, standing next to them.

Steve quickly straightened, turning to look at the man. He wasn’t a threat, just a store employee. Aaron, if the nametag had any merit. He was kind of round, with long hair and flabby looking muscles. On the off chance that he did attack them, Steve could definitely take him down.

Tell him you’re looking for honeymoon destinations ,” Nat told them, and Steve went still.

They couldn’t tell him that. They weren’t- well, Steve was totally into Tony, but they weren’t actually together and-

“No,” Tony said, offhandedly, not looking up from the computer. “Me and my fiance were just looking for honeymoon destinations.”

“Right,” Steve said quickly, figiting. He could feel his growing red. “We’re, uh… getting married.”

Aaron blinked, then gave them a wide smile. “Oh, well. Congratulations. It’s good to see more of you guys coming out. Where are you guys thinking about going?”

“I was thinking New Jersey,” Tony said, stepping up behind Steve and wrapping an arm around his shoulders. “We it’s within budget and we could visit your grandparents.”

“Yeah,” Steve said, feeling the heat on his cheeks creeping down his neck. “Jersey sounds great.”

Rumlow’s here with a team ,” Nat warned over comms.

Tony took a step away from him, and grabbed the drive from the computer. Steve turned to watch, but kept an eye on Aaron, who was eyeing Tony.

“You know, you look just like Tony Stark,” Aaron said.

For a moment, Steve thought they’d been had. Their cover was blown and they were caught and geez they were going to die because people were going to be taking so many pictures. But, surprisingly, Tony had a handle on it.

“I get that a lot,” Tony laughed,slipping his hand into Steve’s. “If I was Tony Stark, would I be having a honeymoon on a budget?” He then turned to smile at Steve, a little crooked thing that was so real that Steve was almost falling for their own cover story. “We got what we needed. Come one, Honeybuns, let’s go.”

Steve swallowed, nodding almost dumbly as Tony led him out. Tony always seemed to know just the right thing to say, and it was starting to get weird. They walked, hand in hand, as Tony led the way. Steve was still a little behind. How was Tony so good at this?...

They were halfway to the escalator when Steve saw them.

“Standard tac-team,” Steve said to Tony, growing tense. Alright. This is what he was here for. Defense. “Two behind, two across, two coming straight. If they make us, I’ll engage while you make a run for the south escalator to the metro.”

“Shut up,” Tony said, putting on another smile, and lessening his pace so he was walking with Steve rather then a step ahead of him.

Put your arm around him ,” Nat hissed in his ear. “ Laugh at something he said .”

Steve, trusting Natasha’s judgement, wrapped an arm around Tony’s shoulders, pulling Tony just a bit closer to duck his head down and laugh. Tony laughed to, looking like he was beaming at a joke he never made. The agents passed them, and Steve glanced behind them in surprise.

They continued forward, walking until they made it to the escalator. Steve stepped on first, Tony right behind him. Just as they did, Steve saw Rumlow step onto the other side, heading up. Quickly, before Rumlow could see his face, he turned to look at Tony.

“Rumlow,” Steve said quickly. “On the other side.”

Public displays of affection make people very uncomfortable ,” Nat said just as quick. “ Particularly homosextual ones .”

“Yes, they do,” Steve said, very confused.

“Kiss me,” Tony said at the same time.

Steve only had a second to blink before Tony was cupping a hand around the back of Steve’s neck. He barely had a second to breath before Tony’s lips were on his, and Steve melted a little as he pressed his lips back. His arm snaked up and around Tony’s waist, pulling him flush against his body. It felt like his body was on fire, not like there were firework, but like he and Tony were the fireworks.

Over the comms, Steve barely registered Natasha clearing her throat. “ You’re clear boys. Reaching the bottom of the escalator.

“Right,” Tony breathed, pulled barely a hair's width away from Steve’s lips. “We gotta… Gotta head back to Nat.”

“Right,” Steve breathed out in return, taking a step off the escalator. “Right, let’s… Let’s go.”

XxXXxX

When the boys got back to the garage, Natasha was waiting. She’d noticed the tension between the two, and god that sextual and romantic tention was so heavy and thick that Natasha would need a fucking sledgehammer to even make a crack in it.

While the situation wasn’t ideal, Natasha was thrilled that she’d gotten them to finally fucking kiss. She’d been waiting for this moment from the moment Tony had asked if anyone had kissed him after the Battle of New York. She’d seen the look in Steve’s eyes and saw a man who wanted to say ‘I did’, and she’d seen the look in Tony’s that begged ‘please say yes’. They’d had history, history that went beyond just the time they had together. It went beyond just them and into people they knew.

Howard, Peggy Carter, Peter, and so many more. So many people affected them and Natasha was going crazy trying to play cupid. She wasn’t a whore with a bow. That was Clints job.

“Great job boys,” she said as the two appeared in the garage. “Now we need a car.”

“I’ll get it,” Steve said quickly, moving to a truck and kneeling to work at the lock.

Natasha smiled, turning to Tony. He was doing a pretty good job of keeping his composure, but she could see the red at the back of his neck. This was good. This was progress. Maybe now they’ll get their heads out of their asses and get married and just be a normal unbearable couple instead of an oblivious should-be couple.

“You alright Tony?”

Instantly, the red began to creep up Tony’s neck and into sight. “Yep,” he said quickly. “I’m good. Great.”

Natasha would have to text Peter about what happened. But before she could poke and prod more, the truck Steve was at roared to life. She looked over, finding Steve in the front seat and the door open.

“Ready to go,” Steve said. “Get in.”

Natasha pursed her lips, walking to the other side of the car, Tony close behind with the Iron Man case, and when Tony didn’t move to get in, she sighed and slipped into the seat in the middle. Tony slipped into the seat next to her, by the window and placing the case on the floor at his feet.

They drove for a few hours under Tony’s navigation. The signal was apparently coming from an old Army training camp that Steve had been at. It was another tense moment, Natasha pulling out her phone to text Peter.

April 3rd, 3:24pm

To: Spider Baby
Operation Stony mission update- They have kissed under pressure during legit mission. Still tense. But progress :)

From: Spider Baby
:O ! XD

To: Spider Baby
:)

“Who are you texting?” Steve asked from next to her. ”We’re supposed to be on the run.”

“Probably Peter,” Tony responded from her other side. “Don’t worry. The line’s secure.”

The car fell silent again and Natasha held back a groan.

To: Spider Baby
Still tense. Any ideas?

From: Spider Baby
Ask if Steve’s kissed anyone since coming out of the ice.

To: Spider Baby
Will do. Report soon.

“Alright,” Natasha said, sitting up a little straighter in her seat. “I have a question for you, Cap. You don’t have to answer, but I feel like if you don’t you’re kinda answering, you know?”

“What?”

“Was that your first kiss since 1945?”

Tony seemed to choke on air, and Nat smirked. She could see the red bursting to life on Tony’s neck. Steve, on the other hand, seemed to glance over and take it the wrong way, his face becoming downcast.

“That bad, huh?” Steve asked.

“I-” Tony’s voice came out in a sort of crack, and he cleared his throat. “I didn’t say that.”

“Well, that’s was it sounded like you meant. Just say it. It was bad.”

“It wasn’t bad,” Tony insisted. “I just- I’m just curious now. I wasn’t expecting Nat to just ask that.” There was a pause. “So how much practice have you had?”

Steve’s face grew red, his grip getting a little tighter on the steering wheel. “It wasn’t my first since 1945. I’m ninety-five, not dead. Sorry if I haven’t had as much practice as you, Tony.”

Tony didn’t respond to that, and Natasha wondered if they even remembered that she was there. She thought that she might have to intervene, redirect the topic and get them back to a growth zone. But Tony beat her to it, and Nat felt giddy inside.

“I’m kinda out of practice,” Tony said, hesitate but making it sound off handed. “Not since, you know, Afghanistan. Peter’s been my top priority since then so I haven’t been dating. But now that he’s older… I’ve been thinking about getting back in, uh, dating game.”

There was a pause as Natasha stared at Tony, wondering if this was the moment. The moment that Tony finally, finally got his head out of his ass and stopped pulling Steve’s pigtails.

“Actually, Steve, I-” And then Tony turned from looking out the passenger window to look towards Steve. Only, his eyes met Natasha’s, and he jumped, actually startled, and Natasha internally screamed in frustration. “Uh, never… Nevermind.”

Natasha hissed and whipped out her phone.

To: Spider Baby
I’m an idiot and just cock blocked Stony. >:(

From: Spider Baby
You should have jumped out the window.

To: Spider Baby
They probably wouldn’t have noticed if I had.

XxXXxX

Tony was completely calm. Very calm. He was the calm.

No, not really. Tony was screaming inside. Because he kissed Steve. He’d kissed Steve and had been about to ask Steve out until he realized that Natasha was in the car. Sure, the kiss had been great, but he’d forgotten Natasha was in the car . It wasn’t going to get any worse then that.

When they reached the old camp, it was almost night. The sky had turned a dark blue, with the sun setting in the horizon. When he saw the sign, he frowned and thought. Hadn’t Steve been trained here?

“This is a dead end,” Natasha said. “Zero heat signatures, zero waves. Not even radio. Whoever wrote the file must have used a router to throw people off.”

“I don’t think so,” Tony said. “Jarvis would've said something if he thought they had.”

They turn to Steve, who didn’t seem to be listening to them. He was staring up at a building ahead of them, giving it an odd look. Tony squinted at it to, wondering what Steve saw that they didn’t.

“Army regulations forbid storing ammunition within five hundred yards of the barracks,” Steve said, gesturing between two of the buildings. “And the barracks were here before this storage.”

“So the storage is in the wrong place,” Tony said, holding the handle of the suit as he walked towards it. “Should I suit up now or suit up later?”

“Later,” Natasha said as Steve stepped up to the knock it off with his shield. “You’ll need the extra maneuverability right now.”

When they step inside, the lights flickered on and Tony’s eyes instantly found the photos of Howard and Aunt Peggy. Steve seemed to be staring at the same photos. Nat stepped up.

“That’s your father,” she said to Tony, but he only tensed and nodded. “Who’s the girl?”

This made Tony relax. “Aunt Peggy,” he said, smiling a little. “She used to come visit between SSR missions. Told me all kinds of stories. About the war, her missions.” He paused, glancing at Steve, who was staring at him. “Told me about you, to.”

“Peggy’s your aunt?” Steve asked, blinking in surprise. “I… I didn’t realize that you…”

Tony shrugged, turning to look at the bookshelf nearby. It seemed out of place and it peaked his curiosity. He braced himself on the floor, pressing his shoulder into the side of the shelf, and pushed. Slowly, it slid to the side, revealing an elevator. Steve and Nat quickly joined him.

“If you’re already in a secret office,” Tony said, giving them both a look. “Why do you need to hide an elevator?”

They all step inside, pressing the down button. And down, down they went, going below the already secret office, into a room just filled with old computers. Tony could only scrunch up his nose, finding the old servers disgustingly bulky. The data banks all still worked, but geez, who the hell thought this was a good idea? Why keep all this old shit?

“This can’t be the data point,” Tony snorted. “This technology in ancient.”

Natasha hummed, looking around until she stepped up to the main computer screen. There looked to be a small flash drive port on the table next to the keyboard, and she held up a hand. Tony fished the drive from his pocket, and tossed it to her. She caught it easily, and placed the drive in the port.

Tony didn’t listen as she typed away at the computer, and instead inspected the old machines. There was something off about this place. Something that made Tony itch to put the suit on. And he really should, since Natasha just put in the drive, and that homing program was probably going to kick in soon.

“Rogers, Steven,” an accented voice suddenly said, regaining Tony’s attention. “Born 1918. Stark, Anthony. Born 1974. Romanoff, Natalia Alianovna. Born 1984.”

“It’s some kind of recording,” Natasha muttered, face furrowed.

“No,” Tony said. “No, I remember that voice.”

Tony felt a dark sinking feeling in his stomach. He’d heard this voice before. His dad had recordings of a man that sounded like this. Recordings from so long ago and they’d inspired Tony to make AI, because sometimes the recordings had seemed to respond to the things his dad had said.

“He is correct, Fraulein,” the voice said as a grainy image of a man appeared on the screen. “I may not be the man I was when the Captain took me prisoner in 1945, but I am.”

Natasha frowned, glancing over at them. “You guys know this thing?”

“Arnim Zola was a German scientist who worked for Red Skull,” Steve said, shaking his head. “He’s been dead for years.”

Tony turned and blocked out the conversation as he pulled out his phone. He needed to check on Peter, needed Jarvis to try and get into the SHIELD servers to find the files of their allies. If the right hand man of the ultimate Nazi was invited to SHIELD, who knew how far the infection went… They might just have to break SHIELD down…

April 3rd, 7:02pm

To: Spider-Kid
We got a situation here. Tell JARVIS and FRIDAY that I need them to get into SHIELD and find everything they have on anyone we know. We need all the info in there and they need to be ready to scrub it clean if we have to.

From: Spider-Kid
Whoa, this sounds big. What can I do?

To: Spider-Kid
Lock yourself in the workshop and get ready to fight off an attack if defenses go offline.

To: Spider-Kid
And just incase I mess up this time, and really don’t come back, I love you kid.

Tony shoved the phone back into his pocket. He turned back to the conversation just in time to see his parents images flash across the screen. His eyes went wide, and he felt his heart stop as Zola spoke.

“Accidents will happen,” Zola told them, as more photos flashed. “Hydra created a world so chaotic that humanity is finally ready to sacrifice its freedom to gain its security. Once the purification process is complete, Hydra's new world order will arise. We won, Captain. Your deaths amount to the same as your lives; a zero sum.”

Tony stood frozen as he stared in shock. Hydra had his parents killed. After all these years, thinking that Howard had been driving drunk. That it had been Howards fault his mother had died. That it was Howards fault that Peter wasn’t able to meet his grandmother.

There was a crack, and Tony looked up, mouth dry as he stared at the now cracked screen. Natasha grabbed Steve’s arm, pulling him back and away from the screen as Zola appeared on another screen.

“What’s on this drive?” Steve hissed.

“Project Insight,” Zola said, and oh shit. Shit, Tony knew what that was. “Requires insight. So I wrote an algorithm.”

“What kind of algorithm?” Natasha demanded. “What does it do?”

“The answer to your question is fascinating,” Zola chuckled. “Unfortunately, you shall be too dead to hear it.”

Tony barely noticed as Steve and Natasha looked for a way out. He barely noticed as the room began to lock down. Because he had helped on Project Insight. He’d built the helicarriers, fixed their targeting program, organized the workers to make the Project a success.

“Tony,” Steve suddenly shouted, startling Tony. He didn’t have any time to realize what was happening before Steve had wrapped an arm around his waist and dragged him down into a hole in the ground. And then, just before Steve’s shield came up, the ceiling collapsed. Tony barely had time to recognize that the room was being blown up before he was hit in the head with a chunk of rock and the world turned black.

XxXXxX

After the ceiling collapsed, Steve struggled to hold it up and away from his no unconscious friends. In the darkness, he could feel something wet on his leg were Tony had crumbled against him, and Steve began to panic. Tony had a head wound.

With a grunt of pain and a had push, Steve managed to shove the debris away. It feel around them as he pulled out first Natasha, who was slightly conscious, then Tony. He had been right about Tony having a head wound, There was blood smeared along the side of Steve’s pant leg and down the side of Tony’s face. Steve had to hop back down to pull out the suit case, climbing out again as Natasha started to sit up.

“Steve?” she breathed, looking dazed. “Steve, what…”

“We have to go,” Steve said quickly, pressing the suit case into her hands. He knelt to pull Tony up into a fireman’s carry, and wrapped one arm around Natasha’s shoulders to help hold her up. “Come on, quick. Quick.”

They started on their way, disappearing into the forest just as lights appeared over head. He heard choppers, saw lights sweeping across the rubble behind them. They were safe, for now, but they needed to find a place to stay. A place they could hide out at and get Tony and Natasha checked over. Tony in particular.

“Captain Rogers,” the british voice of JARVIS said in his ear. “I took the liberty of calling a vehicle for you. A… trustable pair will be in the front seats.”

“On it,” Steve said, quickening his step as he searched for the car. It actually pulled up next to him instead, a minivan with tinted windows, as he stepped out of the tree line. And when he saw the person in the passenger's seat, he blinked in surprise. “Wade Wilson?”

“Hiya Cap!” Wade said with a grin. “A British voice said you needed a favor. Guessing that means a lift? Come on in!”

Steve shook his head, helping Natasha and Tony into the backseat before sliding in next to Tony. In the driver's seat was a man in his early twenties with long hair, who kept glancing back at them with nervous eyes. Behind him, in the trunk, he found what looked like a boxes of alcohol, guns, and first aid kits. He grabbed one of the kits and started treating Tony’s head wound. Natasha also grabbed one to start working on herself.

“So,” the driver said slowly. “Captain America… And Iron Man… And Black Widow… Where should I drop you guys off?”

“We need to go to DC,” Nat said, cleaning the cuts on her arms. She paused, narrowing her eyes at him and Wade. “Who are you?”

“That’s Weasel,” Wade said off handedly. “He’s like my slave. Drives me everywhere.”

“I’m not his slave,” Weasel said quickly. “I’m not, really. I’m his friend. Kinda. I mean, I’m technically his guardian, but I’m not his parent. I mean-”

“It’s fine,” Steve said to stop the rambling. “Weasel, we just need you to drop us off in DC. At…” He paused, frowning as he thought. They couldn’t go to a hotel, and they couldn’t go to SHIELD HQ. Where could they go? Then it hit him. He knew just where to go.

Four hours later, after getting lost and a short nap, they arrived outside the house he wanted. Wade helped him pull Tony out, while Natasha carried the suit case. To Steve’s surprise, Weasel left without Wade as they knocked on the door. Sam opened the door, staring at them.

“Uh,” Sam blinked. “Hey man…”

“Sorry about this,” Steve said, glancing around. “Can we come in?”

“Everyone we know is trying to kill us,” Natasha said.

“Hey,” Wade gasped. “I take offense to that!”

“Guys,’ Steve groaned. He then shot Sam a pleading look, exhausted and still worried over Tony.

Sam, thank God, stepped to the side to hold the door open. “Come on in, guys.”

Steve smiled, leading the way inside.

XxXXxX

When Tony woke up, he was in a strange room. A dull, white room and on a bed that was as hard as a rock.

He wasn’t sure how he got there, and he didn’t understand why. Why bring him to this room and this… disgustingly stiff mattress? Where were Natasha and Steve? Hadn’t they been in a secret SHIELD/Hydra base? There had been Arnim Zola, something had happened, and then he remembered something hitting his head.

Carefully, Tony reached up and felt at his temple. There was a bandage there, wrapped all the way around his head. His muscles felt sore, and he did a body check. No other visible wounds, but his hands looked scraped and his right shin was throbbing when he turned to sit at the edge of the bed.

“Whoa there Mr. Stark,” a cheerful young voice said, bringing Tony’s attention to the door. “I don’t think Captain Rogers wants you to be moving around yet.”

Tony squinted, wondering if he was hallucinating. There was no way that Wade Wilson, the duel wielding teenage mercenary from Rose Hill Tennessee was standing in front of him. Absolutely no way. No fucking way. Unless…

“Don’t tell me I’m back in Rose Hill,” Tony groaned. Because that would be just his luck…

Wade laughed, waving a hand in the air. “Nah. A british voice thing called up my phone as me and my Merc-Handler-slash-best-bro were leaving. After his bar burned down we started packing up and looking for a better place to set up shop. Get some more business, you know? Anyway, that british voice called us up and said you could use a favor, so we took a detour and picked you and your buddies up.”

“So where are we now?”

“Oh! DC. Captain Rogers told Weasel to drop you guys off here at this guys house. I decided to stay and hang out while Weasel went on ahead.”

Tony frowned and shook his head, running a hand over his face. So they were back in DC. Where Hydra had the helicarriers that he’d built that were almost ready for the launch of Project Insight. If he remembered correctly… The project was going to launch on the 5th… And today was the fourth… Which meant…

“The others are in the kitchen,” Wade said, jabbing a thumb over his shoulder. “Do you need help getting out there?”

“No,” Tony said quickly, pushing himself off the bed. “I can walk just-”

Pain. Lots of pain. Shooting up his throbbing leg. Tony fell forward, a gasp escaping him as he crumbled to the floor. His leg shouldn't be broken, there was no way, really, no way at all. Maybe a sprain, but that didn’t get the same kind of pain as this.

“Whoa there Mr. Stark,” Wade said, coming up next to him to slowly help him to his feet. Or, rather, foot. He kept his injured leg up off the ground, letting Wade help him hobble to the kitchen. “Just take it easy. We don’t want the genius billionaire to be out of commision for good, right?”

Tony snorted, shaking his head as they entered the kitchen. Steve, Natasha, and a guy Tony’s never met before were all sitting around a tiny table in a kitchen. They stopped when he and Wade entered, and Steve was instantly up to help him into a chair, pulling it out and taking his other arm to help lower him into it. Tony smiled, though nervously, and cleared his throat.

“So…” He started, but then decided against actually bringing up Project Insight yet, took the cowards way out. “What’s going on?”

“We just sat down,” Steve said, face contorted in concern. “Tony, are you sure you should be-”

“I’m fine Cap,” Tony waved him off. “I actually have some info you’ll want to hear. It’s… about Zola’s algorithm, and Project Insight.”

While Steve looked taken aback and surprised, Natasha leaned forward. “We’re listening…”

Taking a breath, Tony steeled himself. “The reason I was in DC was to work on Project Insight. It was a favor to Fury. Three brand new, fully functioning, repulsor powered helicarriers with a targeting system so accurate, it could have taken out a man on the moon without even breaking the planets atmosphere.

“Fury said that they were going to get an algorithm that could figure out the next big threat. The next Red Skull, the next Loki, the next… nutcase that thought they could rule the world. This algorithm was going to tell him who was a threat to the good world, and the targeting system was going to aim straight at their head and wait for the moment they stepped out of line.”

Silence fell over the table, and Tony glanced around at them, seeing the looks on their faces before he finished.

“And… If it’s really Hydra we’re dealing with, the algorithm will probably target anyone who’s a threat to their new world order. Meaning all of us, the rest of the Avengers, the people we care about, and anyone that could be even a small hero.”

For a tense moment, everyone was silent. They all stared at Tony, or the table. And Tony really couldn’t blame them, since this was a big thing to just spill out on them. It was a lot to take in. The fact that Fury had pushed the project, and then that Tony had actually helped make it all happen? It could be overwhelming…

But then, much to everyone’s surprise, they guy Tony didn’t know spoke up.

“So how do we fix it?” he asked, glancing around the table. “I mean, you’re Tony Stark. You built it. You would know how to take it down.”

And just like that, the table was alive again. Natasha nodded to herself, eyes calculating as she turned to Tony. Steve nodded in agreement.

“Do you have a way to shut it down?” Steve asked. “A way to knock it out before it launches?”

Tony thought for a moment, because there was. A definite yes on that front. He’d planned for it, really. But the chips had been with Agent Hill. Hill had the chips and there was no telling where Hill went after Fury went underground. Because, you know, Fury isn’t dead.

“There are some alternate targeting chips,” Tony said slowly. “They… Well, they’ll basically make the helicarriers attack each other. But I gave them to Hill and she was going to put them in Fury’s office. I don’t have a clue where they could be now.”

“Well who would?” Wade asked.

“Probably the same person who could order a domestic missile strike,” Natasha mused. “But then we have the question of how do the three most wanted people in DC get close enough to talk to that person?”

“We don’t,” Tony said, and waved his hand at Wade and Mystery Guy. “They do.”

Steve and Natasha stared.

XxXXxX

Steve waited on the roof, and seethed over this plan. He hated with plan. Hated it with a passion. Sam was transporting Jasper Sitwell, while Wade was guarding their exit. He and Natasha were waiting on the roof for some scare tactics as Tony remained at Sam’s to run comms and tech.

It was a risk, leaving Tony unguarded and alone. Sure, he had the suit, but there was only so much he could do with a busted leg and what could be a mild concussion.

But things with Sitwell went fairly well. They found out that Fury’s office had been mysteriously emptied the other day, and a little more on Project Insights targeting system. Most of it they had already known, but they were more interested on the other things. Like the fact that they could use Sitwell to open doors for them.

Steve and Sam sat in the front of the car, Wade and Natasha on either side of Sitwell in the back. They were on the highway when things went to hell. They barely had time to register the Winter Soldier in front of them before they were under attack. Sitwell was quickly taken out, and they were ducking and dodging shots as SHIELD agents attacked them.

If a head on attack wasn’t bad enough, Sam had knocked the Soldiers mask off and revealed him to be Bucky . Bucky, who had fallen off that train seventy years ago, Bucky who should be dead. Then he heard Tony curse and remembered that Bucky had killed Tony’s parents. That Bucky had killed Howard, their friend. And that this guy? Right here, right now? Wasn’t Bucky.

But they got captured anyway, Tony grumbling in their ears.

“See,” Tony was saying. “This is why you need me there to help you guys. I mean, sure, the Falcon pack is good, but I made that ages ago and nothing beats Iron Man. Don’t worry, guys, I’ll be right there and-” There was a pause. “Well shit. Nice of you to finally show up! Anyway, I’ll see you in, eh, maybe an hour?”

And then Tony went radio silent and Steve banged his head on the wall several times. Natasha actually put her head in her hands as Wade snickered. Sam turned to Nat and whispered, none to quietly, “Is he normally like this?”

THen one of the guards used a shock rod to take out the others and pulled off their helmet. “You guys are such children,” she sighed, then turned to Wade and Sam. “Who are these guys?”

She didn’t let them answer, instead staging their escape. Nearly an hour later, they were pulling up into some kind of facility, where Hill led them deep inside. Where Tony was sitting casually in a chair drinking coffee next to a bed where… Well, damn. Fury was alive.

“About damn time,” Fury said, scowling at them. “You’ve been keeping me waiting. And I got a lacerated spinal column, cracked sternum, shattered collarbone, perforated liver, and one hell of a headache.”

“Don’t forget your lung,” Tony tossed in, then tapped his own leg where some kind of sleeve was pulled over his foot and half of his shin. “And my own sprained ankle. While you guys were gone, I kinda tried walking on it, and I swelled to the size of a baseball.”

“Geez, Tony,” Steve sighed, rubbing his forehead. “You’re going to be the death of me.”

“Not today, Cap,” Fury said, eyes narrowed. “We got more things to worry about aside from your sextual tension with Stark.”

Instantly, Steve sputtered, while Tony seemed to choke on his coffee.

“We got Stark’s modified targeting blades right here,” Fury continued as he patted a case on the table next to his bed. “One for each of the helicarriers. Break in, replace their blades with ours, and get out. Then, once they’re down, maybe, just maybe, we can salvage what’s left.”

“We’re not savaging anything,” Steve insisted. “We’re not just taking down the helicarriers, Nick. We’re taking down SHIELD.”

“SHIELD had nothing to do with it.”

“Yeah, no,” Tony said, setting down his cup. “Hydra was right under your nose, and nobody noticed. This ends one of two ways: us destroying SHIELD and Hydra, or Hydra popping back up again after you try to raise the wrong phenix from the ash.”

“Why do you think we’re having this meeting in a cave?” Fury bellowed. “I noticed!”

“No offense Eye-Patch,” Wade cut in. “But seems like a lot of good people died before you did. And that’s coming from a teenage merc who’s been on the scene for a while.”

The room went silent for a minute, then Fury sighed. “Fine, Rogers. You’re making the calls.”

XxXXxX

Tony knew from the way Steve kept glancing at him that he wanted to talk. But Tony really didn’t want to talk. Not about what Steve probably wanted to talk about. Not Barnes and the Winter Soldier. Not about how it wasn’t Barnes fault. Because Tony knew that it wasn’t. He’d seen Clint, after the thing with Loki. Hydra was fucked up enough to do something similar to a normal man, even back then.

In all honesty, Tony just wanted to organize his thought before he made an offer to Steve. Tony actually wanted to help Barnes. What better revenge against Hydra then taking out their prized lamb, and what better revenge on the Winter Soldier then stopping him from killing again?

The new plan was pretty straight forward. Natasha and Fury were going to sneak into the World Security Council meeting to do whatever spy things they needed to do. Meanwhile, Tony was going to go with Wade to commandeer a communications tower. Tony would patch Steve into all comms and announcers, Steve would them give a great big speech, and then Tony would join Sam and Steve in replacing the targeting blades while Wade did his stabby shooty thing on the ground agents.

And it started off easier then Tony had thought it would. The tech in the communications Tower was actually a friend of Wade’s from school. Kid just threw up his hands, shouted ‘I never wanted to be here anyway’, before opening the line for them. Steve gave a beautiful speech, Sam made a joke, and they were off. They cracked a few more jokes, then each of them got into a helicarrier. Steve got Alpha locked, then Tony got Bravo in. They had to go back to save Sam from heat seekers, but Tony got helped Steve get into the last one.

The Winter Soldier was there, of course, and attacked Steve instantly. Tony cut in, scowling, and sent a repulser to Barnse side. There was not way this guy was getting Peter killed.

Steve got the chip in, and they rushed to get off the helicarrier, Tony doing his best to restrain the Soldier, who kept struggling and fighting. Steve didn’t like to see this, Tony could tell, so he took the first chance he could to drop Barnes in a container as the helicarriers fell.

He’d deal with that later.

Chapter Text

Tony spent the next hour after they captured Barnes building a containment unit just to move Barnes back to New York. JARVIS and FRIDAY were building up a reinforced floor, adjusting the defense system to keep the Soldier as well as others out. It was a lot of work, but Natasha was busy with appeasing the masses- Well, working with Pepper to appease the masses- while Steve was trying to talk to the Soldier through the window of the barely holding containment unit Barnes was currently in.

Tony had been hoping that after they'd taken down Hydra SHIELD, he would have the courage to ask Steve out. Instead, he was busy working, distracting Wade, and trying go think of a good time to ask Steve on a date.

Once the containment unit was done? No, because Steve would be busy trying to bring Barnes out of the Soldier. Maybe when Barnes was less volitional? Not a chance, because they'd have no idea when that would be. God, dating was so confusing!

But, as he finished up the unit, and went to find Steve to strong arm the Soldier into the unit, Steve walked into the room.

“Hey,” Steve said with a smile. “Thanks.”

“Thanks?” Tony asked dumbly. “For what?”

“For staying behind to keep helping? Or for building that unit for Bucky. Could be for those chips you built even though you didn't know you'd need to.” He shrugged. “Just… staying around to help me.”

“Sure,” Tony said, stuffing his hands in his pockets. “Anything for-” The guy I'm hopelessly in love with? The man who makes me all hot and bothered? The one I want to make Peter's second dad? “-a teammate.”

Tony thought it was cringe worthy, the way he said that. So fucking cringe worthing. Great cover up, Stark. Steve seemed to think so to, and pursed his lips, looking rather uncomfortable. God, why did Tony always fuck up?!

“I wanted to ask you something before we head back,” Steve said, shifting for foot to foot. “Back at the mall, when we kissed… Did you…?”

Tony felt his neck heat, but he was trained since birth on how to control his expressions. He laughed, a friendly smile on his face. “Did I what, Cap?”

Steve cleared his throat, and Tony watched as his ears turned pink. “Did you… like it? When I kissed you?”

Tony faltered, but quickly schooled himself. “I'm pretty sure I'm the one that kissed you.”

“Then maybe I should kiss you, to make it even.”

Tony blinked, eyes widening. Before he could think about what he was saying, his mouth opened. “Okay.”

And just like that, Steve was stepping forward into Tony's space. A warm hand slid along his jaw, a thumb rubbing across the stubbly part of his face where he hadn't gotten a chance to shave, and gently pulled him up as Steve bent down. After what felt like an eternity, their lips met in a slow and gentle kiss, and Tony felt lightheaded.

A few days ago, when they had kissed on the escalator, it had felt hot and fast and explosive. This time, it was slow but somehow just as heated. Tony felt his entire body heat as his lips glide against Steve's. Even if it was hot, it was still chaste. No tongue, no touching aside from the hand on Tony's jaw.

When they finally parted, Tony was breathing hard, licking at his lips as he tried to clear his head. Steve was smiling, eyes half lidded as he let out a breath, as if he'd been holding it in the entire time. Tony didn't see how, since he felt like the air had been sucked out of his lungs.

He should say something, about how good a kisser Steve was. Maybe a joke?

“Date?” Tony asked instead, his mouth moving on its own.  

“Yes,” Steve said instantly. “Dinner when we get back? Tomorrow? 8 o’clock?”

“Yeah,” he agreed breathily, and watched as Steve nodded, gave him a smile, and then walked off.

Tony stared, unsure that what just happened even happened. He turned to sit back in his chair, hand reaching for his phone to tell Peter, but then stopped. No… He couldn't tell Peter. Not yet. It was… it was a mistake. This date. It had to be… a ‘thank you friend’ date or something. He'd get another date before he said anything. Didn't want to get Peter's hopes up for nothing.

For now, he’d deal with moving the soldier.

XxXXxX

Steve really couldn’t believe what he had done. He’d kissed Tony again and had made a date. A date . With Tony .

“Man,” Steve sighed as he sat next to Bucky’s cell. “A date with Tony… I’ve done it now.”

Bucky didn’t say anything. He had seemed to have tired himself out with his fighting, and had resigned himself to sitting on the opposite end of the cell from the window that Steve was sitting by. Steve sighed again, not sure what else to say.

“I know you,” Bucky said instead.

Startled, Steve looked up and stared. Bucky was scowling at him, glaring and confused. Steve stared more, Bucky glared more.

“You do,” Steve eventually said. “We grew up together. When we were kids, we were always together.”

Bucky continued to scowl at him.

“I’ll tell you about it,” he continued. “On the way to Tony’s tower. We’re going to make you better. Hydra isn’t going to hurt you anymore. My team- me and Tony and Nat and a ton of others- will help you through this, okay?”

Slowly, Bucky nodded, though he didn’t lose his glare. Steve really couldn’t blame him. Everything had to be strange for him right now. And while Steve was going to help, he couldn’t let that control his life. He had learned a lot on his road trip.

While he hadn’t had time to think about it during the whole Hydra thing, he’d met a lot of people and learned a lot about himself and this new world. With the easy to use phone Tony had made sure he had, he’d started using social media, posting his photos and chatting with people from all around. He’d met people on the road, too.

There was of course Kate, or rather, Sharron. He’d met her towards the end, and had learned a bit more about women from her. Women, now, could be as tough and badass as Peggy. Though that could have just been because Tony knew her. The woman Tony knew all seemed to be tough badasses. Steve had also met a few others, who he continued talking with online: Gale Monroe, Ava Stone, Magnolia Ross, Henry Scott, Maria LaRue. They were all good people, but the one man that had left the greatest impression on him was Oliver Quinn.

Oliver was just barely 21, just starting a trip of his own when they’d past each other in Virginia. He was a skateboarder, just out on a tour to check out different skate parks, and had taught Steve how to skateboard. But what struck with Steve the most was that Oliver was gay, told Steve about his fiance back in New York. He’d been the one to convince Steve to stop pussy footing around and just ask Tony out. True, Steve had been planning to do it differently then he just had, but he had done it.

But there was also Sam. He was a good guy, helping them out even though he barely knew them. Steve had been thinking about adding him to the team officially. Rhodes was pretty much part of the team, so why not Sam? They could use another ariel fighter aside from Iron Man.

“Hey Cap,” Sam said, and speak of the devil. “Stark says the thing is ready and that he’s leaving to make sure the tower is secure and to prepare my floor?”

“That’s great Sam,” Steve said with a grin. “Welcome to the Avengers.”

Sam blinked. “What?”

XxXXxX

Peter sat in his little corner of his fathers lab, looking at the scans of the Winter Soldier’s metal arm and trying to get the kinks in the plans for Operation Stony worked out. He’d been working with Aunt Nat to try and make a plan to get Steve and his Dad together for the last few months. The official plan wouldn’t start until after they returned to the tower.

“Baby Boss,” Friday said, drawing his attention away from the holograms. “Boss is arriving via Iron Man. Touch down in the pent house in about two minutes.”

Peter chewed his lip, and nodded as he swiped the holograms out of existence. He could look at it later, but his Dad couldn’t wait. “Thanks, Friday.”

She didn’t reply as he jogged to the stairs, simply opening the door for him. There was, of course, an elevator, but the lab was right under the penthouse, and it was easier to just go up the stairs. And, just as Peter entered the penthouse, the Iron Man suit landed on the dismantalerout on the landing pad.

“Hey Pete,” his dad said, almost giddy as he came inside to be met by his son. “It's only been a week, but it feels like forever.”

“Lots has happened,” Peter snickered. “Like Hydra, and you kissing Steve, and-”

“Now hold on,” his dad interrupted. “Me and Steve aren't, you know, together, so calm down. It was to keep from being discovered.”

“Aunt Nat said that it had ‘sextual tension’.”

“Natasha is a super spy that likes to tell you things that you don't need to hear.”

Peter snickered, bouncing on his toes. There was something… different about his dad. Something his dad wasn't telling him. He should probably be concerned that his dad was keeping secrets again, but he trusted his dad. Everything would be fine.

XxXXxX

When Steve, Sam, and Bucky arrived at the tower, Tony was ready. What he wasn't ready for was Thor showing up with Jane Foster and Darcy Lewis, or Natasha appearing with Clint and Coulson, or, hell! He knew Bruce was actually in the Tower, but Tony still wasn't prepared to see him.

“Uh,” Tony said dumbly, watching as Thor carried boxes for the two women he'd brought, and as Clint walked a golden retriever into the elevator. “You're in my Tower.”

“Yeah,” Lewis said, voice much to sassy. “You invited us.”

“I did,” Tony said, though his confusion made it sound more like a question. “I mean, you're all here. At the same time.”

“I organized with everyone to move in today, now that SHIELD has collapsed.” Coulson, who stood by a group of what looked to be a mix of scientists and field agents, held up a clip board with some papers on it. “Miss Potts approved, I didn't think to much into it.”

“It's still my tower,” Tony grumbled, watching Clint's dog carefully. “Since when does Barton have a pet dog?”

“Service animal,” Clint said, snickering.

“What?”

“Lucky's a service animal,” Clint said, and pressed a button in the elevator.

“Well keep ‘Lucky’ away from Bilgy! I'm not cleaning up if Bilgy turns your service animal into a chew toy!”

Steve, who was walking a heavily sedated Bucky in with the help of Sam, frowned. Welp, that wasn't a happy Steve. But the look was quickly gone, and they walked Bucky into the elevator. Tony went with to help, punching in the code to Barnes floor.

It was a really nice floor, in all honesty. A built in kitchen, a bedroom with everything an ex-brainwashed assassin could ever want, a spare room ready to be used for anything, and the bathroom! Oh boy, the bathroom was fucking awesome. Wide tub, double sprayers, and a steam setting that even Tony was jealous of. It had originally been meant for Tony and Peter, but they reconstruction had gotten the crew a bit mixed up of where the state of the art bathroom was meant to be. The penthouse still had a nice bathroom. Well, two bathrooms. One connected with the master bedroom, and one in the hall.

“Whoa,” Sam whistled. “This place is nice.”

Steve pursed his lips, frowning ever so slightly. “I've… seen better, actually.”

Tony couldn't help but snort, and gestured to the plush couch. “Set him down there. I need to detach the arm to figure out how it works.”

The two soldiers nodded, and laid Barned back on the couch. It was an awkward angle, but Tony could reach over the back of the couch and work on the nerve connectors. Jarvis had been running analysis for him since he'd scanned the thing, and (theoretically) there shouldn't be any pain if Tony took it off. There were a series of clicks, and a hiss as the mechanism started to release, before Barnes let out an ear splitting scream of agony.

“What the hell?!” Sam howled as Barnes flesh arm whipped out, sending him flying.

“Hold him!” Tony shouted, just barely holding on to the metal arm that seemed to spasm. “Something's wrong! This shouldn't hurt him!”

Instantly, Steve lunged, practically laying on top of Barnes as the Soldier screamed and jerked. His hands were pressing hard on Barnes shoulders, shins twisted around to keep the man's legs from kicking up while Tony worked frantically. This thing was supposed to be connected to Barnes body, his mind, and even be removed regularly. Why the fuck was it hurting him?

When the metal arm finally came off with a click, Barnes went limp, voice gone and body unmoving. Steve got off him, looking concerned and worried and about a hundred other things, and glanced at Tony. “You said it wasn't supposed to hurt him.”

Steve didn't sound angry, though, and Tony pursed his lips as he moved to the dining table to open it up. “No, it shouldn't have. A prosthetic is never meant to hurt. Even if it's connected to the brain like his and-” Tony stopped, squinting at the inner workings of the arm. “There aren't any dampeners.”

“Wouldn't pain dampeners be necessary for any kind of thing that connects directly with nerves?” Sam asked as he got up from the floor. “Who would build something that doesn't have dampeners?”

“Hydra,” Tony said. “Because this thing doesn't have any kind of dampener, and I'm guessing that may be partially why he got so aggressive.”

“Can you fix it?” Steve asked, peering over Tony's shoulder just close enough that he could feel Steve's breath dusting his cheek. “So that it doesn't hurt?”

Tony swallowed, clearing his throat to keep his composure. God, Steve was going to be the death of him. “Can I fix it? I can make it leaps and bounds better then it is, make this thing look like two sticks put together. Hell, I'm probably gonna scrap this one and make him a brand new one! I should go to that.”

Quickly, Tony gathered up the bits and prices of the arm, and scurried off to the elevator to get to the lab.

XxXXxX

Wade hopped a bus to get to New York. After all that stuff with Hydra, he had grabbed Bob and had dragged him away before the feds could book them. He was an underage merc, after all. Swords and guns and shit ass humor. And Bob was Hydra. True, a ‘Hydra Youth Intern’ and a complete crap of one, but still Hydra.

So once they were out, they snuck on a bus, got a little lost on the way, and ended up in New York after two days. Not to bad, Wade had figured as he made sure Bob was coming with him to Weasel's new bar. It was in a shadier part of Manhattan, some place called Hell's Kitchen. It was near the water, by Jersey, and kinda down an alleyway. There was their old plaque from Tennessee; Sister Margaret's School for Wayward Children. It was still the same old plaque, scarred and beaten, and now burned, from the years of mercs running in and out, but it was still as inviting to him as it ever had been.

“Oh Weeeaseeeeel~” Wade sing songed as he skipped in, Bob squirming behind him. “I'm back!”

“Oh good,” Weasel's voice groaned from behind the bar before his head of mop hair popped up. “I thought I was going to have to tell the US government you died for Iron Man and Captain America. Who's the other guy?”

“This is Bob,” Wade snickered. “Guy owes me big time for helping him escape the feds, so I figured you could use an extra set of hands. Teach him to mix drinks and stuff.”

“What?” Bob and Weasel say together, and Wade only giggles. Oh, New York was going to be so much fun.

XxXXxX

Steve spends an hour after Tony took the arm kinda just… waiting. Sam stayed, just to make sure Steve didn't get jumped if he let his guard down. Honestly, Steve thought he was overreacting. It didn't seem like Bucky was going to hurt anybody, though it could just be that his arm being removed had drained him.

As they waited, Steve and Sam had done some talking. It was mainly basic logistics of what it would mean for Sam to be officially on the team: room and board at Avengers Tower, a comm linked with the others on the team, Tony doing his gear maintenance, not really needing full time job. The last one was mostly if Falcon merchandise took off. While Steve had years and years of back pay from the army that eventually got transferred to him, most of Steve’s spending money came from the royalties on Captain America merchandise, since Howard had owned the rights and they got passed to Tony who gave them back to Steve. Tony would probably want a press conference to announce Falcon was on the team, anyway, so it wouldn’t be to long.

They also played cards, but Steve had a pretty bad poker face.

When Bucky finally did come to, Steve hadn’t even noticed. Bucky had just been still, not even moving as he lay on the couch, just… staring at the ceiling. It was actually quite unnerving.

“Bucky?” Steve asked, once he finally noticed.

“There’s no pain,” Bucky said, rather slowly, like he wasn’t sure what else to say.

“Stark took off the arm.” Sam was watching Bucky carefully. “Just in case you thought to try anything.”

Bucky only blinked. “There’s no pain…”

Steve felt his stomach churn, and gave Bucky a quick nod. “Yeah, Buck. Tony’s real good with tech. It’s not gonna hurt you anymore.”

Bucky didn’t say anything to that, and after a while of Bucky kinda just… watching them play card games, they decided to let Bucky get used to his new floor. Steve led Sam up to the floor above Bucky’s, just below the penthouse and Tony’s lab, which Steve knew was his floor. He didn’t mind the idea of sharing it with Sam. In fact, it would probably be fun to share a living space with someone again.

“So,” Sam started as he looked around. “You and Stark, huh?”

A little startled, Steve looked up from where he was sifting through his things. Most of it was, by request, still in the boxes they’d been in before being sent to the Tower. He hadn’t really been expecting Sam to pick up on the subtle things he might have done, just being around Tony. Sure, he probably got a little closer then he had needed to at some points, but that didn’t mean they had a sort of… thing. No, Sam couldn’t know.

As if expecting his quick denile, Sam snorted and rolled his eyes, leaning back against a bookcase that was already filled with the tons of history and popular modern texts. “Cool it, Steve. I don’t mind, the whole man on man thing. If that’s your cup of tea, then it’s not my place to say no. Besides, I heard you ask him out before we left. You got it bad, man.”

“Do I?” Steve asked with a slight cringe. “Well… I guess. He’s just… He’s just something else, you know?”

“Not really, but I can guess. So where are you going for your date?”

That caused Steve to pause in his box sifting. “What?”

“Your date,” Sam said again. “The one you asked Stark out on for tomorrow night? You’re going to dinner, aren’t you?”

It was then that Steve realized he hadn’t thought it over that much. He didn’t really know modern day New York like it had been in the 40’s because, well, it wasn’t the 40’s anymore. The buildings had changed, and there were different shops, or shops where apartments used to be, and everything was so different. Hell, the Dodgers weren’t even in New York anymore! How was he supposed to take Tony out on a date when he didn’t even know what was still standing and what was rubble.

“Oh shit…”

XxXXxX

Tony didn’t know how long he’d been working. Probably not that long. Peter had only been in and out to help him a couple times. And Dummy had only made… two? Maybe three smoothies. There was no way it had been all that long when he finished the arm for Barnes.

Once it was finished, Tony held it up, humming as he studied it one last time.

In shape and size, it would be (theoretically) the exact same as the original flesh arm that had been taken from Barnes. And the strong but flexible metal on the outside would flex similar to the skin that would have been on the surface. The star was still on the shoulder, since Tony didn’t know if the man had wanted it gone or not, but there was a watch that was made specifically for the metal arm with a button that activated a sort of cloaking mode. It would made the metal look like regular skin, giving Bucky a chance at blending in with the surrounding population. Plus a few other things Tony kinda didn’t remember putting in.

With the arm complete, and ready to be attached, Tony went straight for Barnes floor. He wanted to get the arm attached now, to see how well it worked. It was going to be so cool, just awesome to see the arm working.

When he arrived, he had kind of expected Steve and Sam to still be there and the Soldier to still be out on the couch. HExcept, Sam and Steve weren't there, and Barnes was up and walking around, searching the kitchen for something.

“Whoa,” Tony blinked, as the Soldier whipped around to scowl at him. “Sleeping Beauty is up. Come on, sit. Wanna reattach the arm.”

At first, Barnes tenesed, and Tony realized that maybe he should have waited for Steve. Maybe Barnes wasn't as safe as they thought… but then Barnes did as he was told, and Tony excitedly moved forward. Time to test this puppy out!

It took him a few minutes to connect the entire thing and connect it to the shoulder. A series of clicks, a soft hum that soof faded away into nothing, and then they were set. The arm was attached and nothing had gone wrong. Tony sat back to admire his work, watching as Barnes slowly streached the fingers, rotated the wrist, and and bent the elbow.

“It doesn't hurt,” Barnes said.

Tony took it as a ‘thank you’. “Of course it doesn't hurt. While the old arm was a marvel for its time and creators, there were a few serious flaws. Just that fact that it was missing some key components, particularly the dampeners, should have been driving you crazy with agony. With nothing to lull the nerves at the shoulder until it was taken as a part of you, the neural receptors in your brain would have been firing rapidly even after attachment to tell your brain that it was painful. On a normal person, that would mean the neuron that was reviving and sending that message would eventually be so used and worn, the message would become a background constant in your mind until something brought your attention directly to it. And-”

“Tony,” a familiar voice called from the door. Tony blinked and turned to find Steve. “I've been looking for you for almost a half hour.”

“Finished Barnes arm,” Tony stated proudly, smirking as he stood to stretch. “Wanted to get it here sooner rather then later. It's a good arm. Really cool features aaand why are you looking at me like that?”

Steve had the single saddest face Tony had ever seen. It was like it someone kicked a puppy into a basket of starving kittens that was held by a tiny crying Peter. Tony hadn't seen a sad face like this since Peter was 6 and thought Tony was going away again. God, it made Tony feel terrible and he didn't even know why!

“You forgot,” Steve said simply, voice sounding just as sad and fuck did it mess with Tony's head.

“No,” Tony said quickly, trying frantically to remember what he forgot. “No, no, I definitely didn't forget the important thing that you think I forgot. I was about to just go and do the thing right after this thing and…” He could feel himself floundering, and he could see that his rambling wasn't helping. “Okay. I forgot.”

Steve put his hands in his pockets, scuffing a shoe on the floor. Barnes seemed to squint, tilting his head ever so slightly. What? What was Barnes privy to that Tony wasn't?!

“He was excited about some kind of date,” Barnes says, turning to look at Tony somewhat quizzically.

Tony, on the other hand, blinked. “Oh. But… That's not until tomorrow. I mean, we just made plans this morning to get dinner together. I mean, it's… it's tomorrow isn't it?”

Steve pursed his lips, nodding. He looked more worried then angry. “Tony, have been working on that arm for nearly 30 hours?”

Tony blinked again. “Uh… what time is it?”

“8:17 in the evening, Sir,” Jarvis supplied from above their heads. Barnes jumped. “You started at approximately 3 in the afternoon yesterday. Young Master Peter visited you in your shop twice whilst you were working. Once before leaving for his private lessons and again a few hours ago when he returned.”

“See,” he said to Steve, trying to joke. “It's only been 29 hours! That's shorter then I'm normally down there, and Peter makes sure I eat- wait, Peter's started lessons again? It's Monday?”

“Tony,” Steve sighed, sounding exasperated. “Do you not know how to take care of yourself? When was the last time you ate? When was the last time you slept ?”

He didn't have an answer to that, so Jarvis apparently took it on himself to answer for him.

“Sir drank a portion of a smoothie three hours ago-”

“See?” Tony started, beaming. “I eat-”

“-but he has not eaten a full meal since Young Master Peter's departure this morning and has not slept since before his return to the Tower.”

Tony !”

“Jarvis, you traitor!”

“We're going to get some real food in you right now,” Steve said, tone holding no room for nonsense. “And then you're going straight to bed. We've had a hell of a week, and you need sleep.”

Tony gaped, looking between Steve and Barnes in total confusion. Barnes didn't look ready to help him, just watching and looking equally confused. Maybe he shouldn't have fixed Barnes arm if the bastard was going to be like this.

“But,” Tony stammered as Steve started to lead him out of the room. “What about our date?”

Stupid! It wasn't a date! Steve wasn't gay. Right? No, no, he couldn't be. And even if he was, there was no way that he'd be interested in Tony, Steve had made it very- fairly? -clear that this was a ‘thank you’ dinner. Not a ‘I like you and maybe want to marry you and have babies together’ date.

But Steve smiled, pressing a button to send them both to the communal kitchen a few floors down. “We'll go on our date some other time. How about Friday?”

Tony shuddered in excited anticipation. “Sounds perfect.”

XxXXxX

Friday ended up being canceled. Steve, as much as he had tried to make sure they had time to, failed to take into account that the Avengers were a legit team that could get called out any moment. Or that Hydra was still at large. And so was most of AIM. And then the run of the mill baddy.

So the Friday date didn't happen thanks to Coulson asking them to go take out a Hydra facility in Missouri. More like misery… Steve just wanted to take Tony to this little Italian place he knew from back in the 40’s. It was still standing and still as good!

They rescheduled for the next weekend. Only, Pepper apparently hadn't known about the date and Tony ended up spending the weekend in Tokyo with Peter doing business things Steve didn't understand.

Then Steve got roped into helping train some of the new recruits for Coulson’s little team. A new girl named Skye, who wanted to move from being team hacker to field agent. Steve couldn't really blame her…

That Wednesday had seemed promising, as they got to less then an hour before Steve was supposed to meet Tony in the garage. But, Tony had gone on a run with Peter and Bilgy and some guy had tried to purse snatch Peter's backpack while they were resting in a park. The two Starks had ended up spending three hours explaining to the police why, no, they can't just take the leather jacket away from Bilgy. I know it's evidence, but do you really wanna try and take it away from a 1000 pound Bilgesnipe that's basically a puppy?

Nearly three months passed of this, Steve venting to Bucky all the while.

“I just want to sit down with him and have a nice dinner!” Steve sighed as he settled onto his now regular spot on Bucky’s couch. It had been a fairly quick transition from ‘deadly assassin’ to ‘awkwardly over informed acquaintance’, and they were now leveled out to make a slow but steady transition to friends again. “It’s like the universe is trying to keep us apart.”

“Doubtful,” came Bucky’s reply. On the communications front, Bucky actually hadn’t come very far. He often replied in one word responses, or even just meaningful looks, and usually had to be prompted for more detailed replies. Which were still short anyway.

Steve shot him a look, half pleading and half annoyed.

“You’re both busy,” Bucky said, fiddling with the remote to his TV, looking at some kind of foreign cartoon. “And your team doesn’t know.”

“I don’t want to pressure Tony into telling them,” he explained as he watched the cursor on the screen flick between shows. “What are you looking for? What have you been watching?”

“Anime,” was the simple reply, and Steve actually didn't want to know.

“Are you still having the dreams?”

This caused Bucky to pause. While Steve had told Bucky about his relationship problems, Bucky had told him about the dreams he had. The memory dreams about killing people, following orders he didn't want to follow. He had told Steve a few things that Steve had already known about, and a few that had shocked him. But it was helping to talk about them.

“Stark,” Bucky said. “Howard Stark. I knew him.”

Steve felt his stomach churn painfully. “Yeah Buck… We both did.”

XxXXxX

Tony was pissed.

It had been nearly 3 months since their original date night, and they still hadn't gone on that date. He was starting think they never would. With villains and meetings and the team gathering for ‘team bonding time’, they never had a moment alone with each other. It was maddening.

That is, until Barton came up to him with the single best idea ever.

“We should throw Cap a surprise party,” Clint said as he walked into Tony's shop without asking, just a few days before the Fourth of July.

Tony frowned, working on the latest version of Natasha's Widow Stingers. “You have my approval to make a large purchase on my card. Might want to hurry, though, or you won't be able to get enough food.”

“Peter’s been helping, so we already have everything,” Clint said, waving Tony off. “Nat's hiding it on her floor. But we need Steve distracted on the Fourth, at least until dusk, so we can set up everything.”

He blinked, the frowned. The team was asking him to distract Steve for several hours. Alone. Doing whatever it was that Tony needed to do to distract their Captain. Tony didn't want to get his hopes up, but this could be their chance… Well, his chance. To find out if Steve wanted a friend date or a date date.

So Tony agreed, and shooed Clint away to get back to the Widow Stings. They were almost done, but he couldn't focus. He needed to go set up his new date.

“Jay, call Steve.”

By the second ring, Steve picked up the phone. “Tony?”

“Hey Steve,” he said cheerily. “Just thought I'd call and tell you that I got the fourth free. Peter's gonna do some stuff with the team that day and I figured I could treat you to lunch. How's that sound?”

“That… That actually sounds great. Meet at eleven?”

Tony beamed at the wall. “Perfect~ See you then, Capsicle.”

He hung up and tried not to get back to work. It didn't work. He was just to excited.

XxXXxX

Steve spent the rest of the evening trying to keep from obsessing over the next day. He played video games with Clint and Thor, spared with Natasha, talked to Bruce, went and saw Bucky. It worked. Mostly.

When tomorrow finally came, Steve was ready for anything. He was ready first thing in the morning to take down any bad that came up, say no to anyone who asked him for help with training. He was ready to do whatever he needed to to make this date happen. It was happening and the world could fight him if they thought otherwise.

But, for whatever reason, nothing did happen. No baddies or training, no meetings or random muggings. Nothing. And it actually put Steve more on edge as he actually met Tony at eleven.

“Nothings happening,” Steve said as Tony drove to wherever they were going. “I mean, the streets are pretty stuffed up, but there's nothing bad happening.”

“It's the Fourth of July,” Tony said, a brow raised. “You know, Independence Day, your birthday, fireworks in the sky?”

Steve blinked.

Tony snorted.

“I forgot my own birthday.”

“You forgot your birthday.”

They went in a comfortable silence the rest of the way. Tony, of course, had some kind of music playing, something about Hell's bells? Steve didn't mind.

What he did mind was that Tony had asked him to lunch on his birthday as a date. That wasn't… It wasn't very romantic. Sure, Steve knew that they weren't going to have one of those heartfelt, lovey-dovey sort of dinners as a date. But lunch? On his birthday? His Mother used to take him out to lunch on his birthday. That wasn't a date date. That was a friend date.

When they finally stopped, Steve was squirming in this seat, wanting to ask, but not wanting to know, if Tony meant this as a date, or as birthday lunch. He didn't really get the courage to, stewing over it as they walked, until they finally came to a stop and Steve took in his surroundings.

They were in a meadow, far far out of the city. Trees surrounded the little field of flowers, and they stood on a gravel path that, when Steve looked behind him, went back quite a ways to what looked like some kind of house. A large house, but a house. In the center of the meadow was a blanket and a basket, and god it was actually so touching and isolated and just them that Tony couldn't think of this as a friend date. There was just no way. This was a date date.

“You don't like it,” Tony said suddenly, making Steve jump. “You didn't mean something like this when you asked me out to dinner. You're- I mean, I didn't mean to assume you were interested in me like that, but I had hoped and-”

Steve reached out, cupping the back of Tony’s neck as he bent down to press their lips together. It was the third time they'd kissed, but it felt like the first. The spark was there, bursting to life anew, though Steve's had never died. It only grew stronger and stronger as he held Tony close, their lips moving together and Steve felt like his heart would burst out of his chest.

When they finally pulled apart, Steve hummed and smiled. “I'm very interested in you, Tony. I have been for a very long time.”

Tony cleared his throat, looking rather rumples and adorable, and waved awkwardly to the basket. “You- uh, eat?”

“Yes, Tony. Let's eat.”

XxXXxX

Tony would later admit that he legitimately forgot about the surprise party. Though he denied it for several weeks afterword, everyone saw the way he jumped when the elevator door had opened for everyone to shout ‘surprise’ only for the majority of Steve's party guests to cover their eyes at the way Steve had Tony pinned to the wall while Tony's legs had been around Steve's waist.

“Tony!” Pepper had cried, covering Peter's eyes.

“Yes!” Peter had cried, jumping up and down and high fiving Natasha.

Bucky, who had his arm removed so the others present could feel comfortable, nodded in approval. “About time.”

“That God!” Clint weeped. “No more unresolved sextual tension at movie night!”

The others all laughed their agreements, and Tony carefully removed himself from his spot between Steve and the elevator wall. He straightened his clothes, running a hand through his hair as he peered at Steve.

“Um… surprise?”

Steve looked between the crowd of their friends and Tony, before beaming. “Best birthday ever.”

“Even that one year when-”

“Yes Bucky! Even better then the year we agreed to never talk about again!”

XxXXxX

Peter loved his Dad. He loved his Aunts, his Uncles. And he loved Bilgy. But as he turned 13, there was one person he wanted to love, but didn't know much about.

He knew that this person was a sort of brownish-blonde, and studied computers and mythology, but not much else. He didn't really know anything about them. About her. About his mother.

Peter wanted to ask, but his Dad had been so excited to do the whole ‘first year as a teen’ birthday party. His Dad had an entire big party planned, one that would be just the Avengers and close friends. Before that, however, they were gonna do a day of father-son, hit the town sort of things. Just them, just fun goofing off. They wore suit jackets over band t-shirts and jeans, shades, did their hair the same.

He had meant to ask when they got back from their fun day, but the other Avengers had spent the day getting everything ready, and he'd been swept up in it.

All of the Avengers had apparently worked together to make fun games, cool things to do. Peter loved the laser tag game that Bruce, Sam, and Steve had set up for him, and the climbing wall and obstacle course race that Natasha, Clint, and Phil had put together was tons of fun with the spider legs. The most exciting had to be what Thor had set up. Darcy and Jane helped, but only because Thor wouldn't change his mind. They'd gotten riding gear for Bilgy, and hooked it up so that Peter could ride Bilgy like a horse.

It was great, lots of fun. There was cake and presents, and lots of pictures taken. Peter wouldn't have changed it for all the world.

But…

“So,” his Dad said as Peter was settling into bed. He knew he was to old for it now, but Peter loved it when his Dad tucked him in and it was only on special occasions now. “Was the day as great as you had dreamed?”

“Yeah,” Peter muttered, looking at his hands as he thought, maybe now was the time to ask.

“You don't sound to happy… Everything okay, Pete? Did we miss something that you wanted?”

“Well…” He started to squirm. “I wanted… to know about my mom.”

Instantly, his Dad froze. Peter wanted to take it back, stuff the words back into his mouth and never let them out. He didn't need to know if asking made his dad upset.

“I didn't know her, Peter,” was the sullen reply. “And I wish that I had just so I could tell you everything you want to know. But I don't and I'm sorry, Peter. I just don't know anything else about her that I haven't already told you.”

“Could you… could you find out?”

For a moment, his dad seemed to think. “It'll be hard, but we can use your birth certificate to track down information.” His fathers calloused hand came up to smooth back his hair, soothing him. “But I promise, Peter. I'll find out who she was.”

Peter swallowed, nodding and giving his father a hug before laying back to sleep.

XxXXxX

Tony closed the door softly behind him as he exited Peter's room.

It wasn't an unreasonable thing to ask for, not by any means. But it was such a difficult thing to do. To go back, and look for all this information that Tony didn't know about the woman that had his child? The woman that Tony didn't even know the name of? It was…

“Sounds like you're going to have a hard night.”

Tony blinked, looking up to find Steve leaning against the wall. “You heard that, huh?”

“Yeah,” Steve said as he pushed himself off the wall into a standing position. “I'm going to head down to Bucky's floor. Sam said that he had a movie he wants us to watch.”

Tony sighed, running a hand over his face. “Alright. I'll see you later then.”

The blonde smiled, pausing to give Tony a peck on the lips before he went.

It was going to be a long night…

XxXXxX

It took Tony a while to find information on Peter's mother. Nearly a year, actually, thanks to all the dates with Steve, teammates birthdays, holidays, and other special occasions. It took nearly a year, to find out everything he could about Peter's mother.

Her name had been Mary. Mary Fitzgerald Parker. She had been in born Queens, lived at an orphanage there almost her entire life, until she turned 18, and got a scholarship for a university in California. She had studied computer science, along with mythology. She was a lot like Jane, personality wise, and had been very dedicated to her work for a small research firm.

In high school, she'd played tennis, ran track, and had been very healthy up until the cancer. She had eyes so much like Peter's that when Tony had found a picture of her, he'd seen only Peter. Everyone said that Peter looked so much like him, but Mary Parker… God, Peter looked so much like her that Tony couldn't see himself in Peter.

When Tony finally added the last bit of data to Peter's now massive file on his mother, he'd had one of Mary about the time that Tony had met her that he had framed for Peter's room. There were just so few pictures of her then, for some strange reason, but the picture that Tony had found was enough.

Peter had taken it all, read it, imagined her, and had asked Tony if he could go to public school for high school. He wanted to experience things with way his mother had, as a normal kid without a parent instead of the Peter Stark. Tony, unable to deny him, had agreed, and had set it up for Peter to go to Midtown High School as Peter Parker the next year.

XxXXxX

Bucky had been doing well. Very well, actually.

He had become quite close with the others, and he was even cleared for training. There would be a while before he was cleared for the field, but it was a step in the right direction. The Winter Soldier wasn't going to be a force for evil anymore.

Aside from Steve, Bucky got along with Darcy and Peter the best. For some reason, Darcy liked hanging around on his floor, which was losing its cage like defensive measures, and just told him she had ‘beaten a god with his own element’ and that she wasn't ‘scared of some pussy with a metal arm’. Bucky… actually like her. Steve had even pointed out that maybe Bucky could ask her on a date.

Peter had to be Bucky's favorite, though. He was happy, and smiling, and liked to call Bucky ‘Uncle Buck’. It made Bucky feel like he was part of a family again, something that he didn't remembering apart of since… Well, he couldn't remember. They played video games together, walked around New York with the boys weird alien dog bull pet thing, or just talked. Peter even told him about how he wanted Steve to be his second dad, and Bucky made a joke about how Peter could call Steve Pops.

Everything was going great for Bucky, and he didn't want to change a thing.

XxXXxX

Steve was exhausted, but happy.

After having been dating for a year and a half, Tony had asked him to officially move into the penthouse with him and Peter. Almost immediately, Steve had said yes. He'd been pretty much living in the penthouse with them anyway, his clothes and other things still on the floor he was sharing with Sam.

He, Sam, and Bucky had all spent the majority of the day listening to Tony order and direct them on where to move Steve's stuff. They would move one thing in, put it where Tony said, and then have to move it because Tony had changed his mind on where it should be.

And that had gone on for six hours.

Once everything was moved, Steve and Bucky had plopped down on the penthouse couch, and had knocked out. Tony and Peter would be gone for a few hours, getting it set up for Peter to join some kind of science camp when school let out in a month. They couldn't have been asleep for more then an hour when suddenly Steve was jerked awake as Bucky was jerking violently in his sleep.

“Buck!” Steve called, shaking his friend. “Buck, wake up, it's just a dream!”

And he did wake up, but his eyes were wide, breathing erratic. His eyes darted back and forth, one hand fisting Steve's shirt at the shoulder. Steve kept him up for a bit, letting him breath.

“Wasn't a dream,” Bucky rasped. “Wasn't a dream.”

“Come on,” Steve said, carefully levering Bucky to his feet. “We'll get you some water, and we'll talk.”

“Not here,” Bucky breathed, shaking his head. “Anywhere but here.”

So Steve got them some water bottles, and walked Bucky around town until Bucky finally spoke up.

“It was a memory. Of one of the people I killed… it was a woman, who looked so much like Stark's kid. She had been working on something that Hydra wanted, and so they had me hunt her down. She'd been pregnant when I started, had the kid sometime while I was tracking her, and then I killed her. I killed a woman who just had a baby…”

Steve listened, thought, and tried to make sense of this. It was… it was to big a coincidence. A woman that looked like Peter? That died not long after giving birth? No, it couldn't be…

“How long ago?” Steve asked. “Do you remember her name?”

“About 14 years ago,” Bucky said, not looking up. “Mary Parker…”

For a moment, there was only silence. Then Steve spoke up. “Bucky?”

The other man looked up. “Yeah?...”

Steve looked him dead in the eyes. “You can't tell anyone,” he said, voice deadly serious. “Tony and Peter can never know.”

Chapter Text

A month later saw Peter finishing his private classes, and leaving to go to a summer camp as Peter Parker.

To say Peter was excited would be an understatement. It would the first time he was learning with kids his own again, and it was the first time he'd be away from home without his dad for more then a day. The summer camp was still in the city, but they were sleeping in tents at the Midtown High gymnasium instead of in nature for three weeks

The first week was mostly going to be team building things. Getting to know the others and making friends was an important part of what this camp was trying to do, aside from bring back people's love for science. The second week was going to mostly be them doing actual sciencey things. Like building tower structures, potato batteries, and other easy sort of introductory stuff that that they would do later in high school.

The third week was tours. They'd go to several different science centers in the city and get a tour of the facilities. These locations included the Baxter Building, Oscorp, and Avengers Tower. The Avengers Tower was going to be fun, since they might get to meet the team and see some of the gear that they used. Of course, Peter had already seen all of the gear, even helped fix some of it, but he just wanted to spend a few years as a normal kid, so he would pretend that he didn't.

Bruce was the one that dropped him off, geared up with a backpack full of things he would need, a sleeping bag, and a camera.

“Have fun,” Bruce said. “I'm sure you'll be the smartest one there.”

“Not here to be the smartest,” Peter said with a grin. “Here to make friends.”

So he walked inside the school lobby, and was absorbed into the mass of twenty other 14 year olds. There was a group of six adults talking at the front of the room, each looking at least vaguely familiar. If these were teachers that were chaperoning, it would make sense since his dad wanted him to go somewhere with a good science plan.

He wondered for a moment, bumping into a few people, getting ugly and annoyed looks. He didn't know anyone here, and a lot of the other teens seemed to know at least one other person. Even though everyone was together in the room, Peter felt so… isolated.

For the first time in his life since his father came back from Afghanistan, Peter felt truly alone.

“Alright everyone,” one of the teachers called, clapping his hands together. “We're going to head for the gymnasium now, and then split into groups. Three groups of three and three groups of four.”

Peter looked around, seeing people already clustered up into groups. He shifted, holding a little tighter onto his things as he followed everyone else to the gym. It seemed like he was the only one that didn't know anyone else, and it was starting to make him uncomfortable. Should he call his dad and go home?

But when they reached the gym, they were assigned groups. Groups of friends were broken apart, mixed with other groups and with people they maybe knew, or maybe didn't. The crowd around Peter slowly shrank, until it was only Peter and three other kids, one of which looked oddly… familiar.

“And finally,” the last teacher said. “I'm Mrs. Warren, the Physics teacher, and my group will be Gwen Stacy, Edward Leeds, Peter Parker, and Harry Osborn.”

Ah, Peter thought as he and the three others joined the teacher at their designated area. Harry Osborn. Peter had met him a few times, when they were much younger. Norman Osborn, Harry's father, had asked Peter's father for some kind of help on several occasions, each time his dad saying no. His father always said no, and would make comments about how Norman Osborn was ‘a creep who cared more about money then his own family’. The meetings between them always ended with Aunt Pepper just barely keeping them from getting into fist fights. Harry, from the little time Peter had spent with him, wasn't a bad kid, but he never seemed to remember Peter.

Mrs. Warren told them they'd set up their beds first, and then they would do an activity to get to know each other. Peter glanced at the other three students, and unrolled his sleeping bag. He set his backpack at the foot of the fluffy bag, and opened it up to pull his ‘toiletry’ box out to put by the head of his bed. He was wearing glasses, not that he really needed them, they were just part of the ‘Peter Parker’ disguise. He'd put them in the box with his phone and the emergency pocket repulser his dad invented just for this when he went to sleep at night.

Somehow, Peter ended up between Harry and Edward, with Gwen just a bit away from them. They all seemed to have similar setups, with their bags at the foot, and their toiletry bags at the head. The only real difference was the quality of their things. Harry had all high end things, with a sleeping bag that seemed to have an air mattress built into it and a shiny new backpackers and toiletry bag with a lock on it but just screamed ‘I have money’. Edward and Gwen seemed to have similar quality things, with old but not tattered sleeping bags, backpacks that were fairly new but not brand new, with the only difference being that Gwen's toiletry bag being almost twice the size as the rest of theirs. Peter's things were probably the most noticeable difference, as he had borrowed the fluffy but somewhat torn sleeping bag from Sam, the backpack from Steve, and his dad having given him the ‘toiletry bag’ that was basically a lock box.

When they were all settled in, Mrs. Warren sat them all down in a circle.

“We're going to introduce ourselves in a very special way, if you three can handle that,” she said, smiling. “Does everyone know the periodic table?”

Peter instantly nodded, but as he glanced at the other three, they all looked somewhat uncertain. Even Harry looked a little confused.

“It's alright if you don't know,” Mrs. Warren reassured. “Just do your best. What we're going to do is spell out first names, as best we can, using elements from the periodic table. If you need help I can help you. Why don't I go first?” She cleared her throat, and started to list. “Magnesium, Oxygen, Nickel, Iodine, Carbon, Argon. Monica. If you have a nickname you prefer, you can use that. So who wants to go first?”

When no one raised their hand, Peter tentivinly raised his hand, and started to list. “Palladium, Erbium, Thorium, Euphonium, Radium. Peter Parker, but my dad calls me Pete or Petey sometimes.”

Mrs Warren smiled, though she looked a little surprised. “Very good, Mr. Parker. Who wants to go next?”

Peter glanced at the others, finding Harry frowning at him. Peter couldn't tell if it was a ‘you look familiar’ frown or a ‘you look smarter then me and I don't like it’ frown.

“Helium, Aluminum, Radium, Radon…” He trailed off, and Mrs. Warren stepped in.

“Yttrium,” she says. “Don't worry Harry, Y is a hard one.”

Harry pursed his lips, scowling. “Yttrium. Harry Osborn.”

Gwen seemed to be next, and Peter studied her. She looked kind of familiar to… “Gold, W, Europium, Nitrogen. Gwen Stacy.”

Oh! Now Peter remembered. She was the daughter of one of the police officers that didn't like his dad… He seemed to like Steve, though, and had thanked Steve personally after the Battle of New York. It might have just been some hero worship, though… Mr. Stacy didn't seem to fond of other heroes…

“And now Edward,” Mrs. Warren said, nodding to the last boy.

He was a little round, but he seemed like the over excited sort, though he looked a bit nervous. “Uh… Nitrogen, Europium, D?”

“Dysprosium,” Mrs. Warren corrected gently. “You like to go by Ned?”

“Yeah,” Ned said quickly. “Ned Leeds. Only my mom calls me Edward, and only when she's really mad.”

Mrs. Warren nodded. “Alright. Well, today will be a bit of a slow day, since not all of our equipment is ready, but there are a few activities for you to do. Mainly board games. I have to go get the equipment prepared so feel free to check in our free time box.”

She got up and walked off, and Peter and the three other teens sat awkwardly in their circle. Peter glance around, then to the large box that had been left by Mrs. Warren. He was the first to move, and tentatively opened the box.

“Anyone want to play Sorry?”

XxXXxX

Tony was kind of… lonely with Peter gone. Sure, he had Steve, who was sharing his room, and Bruce and Jane who he talked science with, but they weren't Peter.

Peter was only a kid, just 14, but he was Tony's kid. A smart kid that understood most of what Tony said. Tony loved him, so much, and he valued Peter's opinion above all else. Though, Steve was a close second, with Rhodey and Pepper tied for third. Which is why when Steve went out to help Coulson with some new recruit training, Tony called Rhodey.

“Tony,” his best friend said once Tony answered. “This had better be important. And not ‘my son is gone and I'm having separation anxiety’ important.”

“I don't get separation anxiety,” Tony gasped. “Honey Bear, I'm hurt you would even think that! I worry about Peter, so much, and he's just so small and I worry about having to protect him!”

“So this is about Peter.”

“No. Well, sorta. I mean, If he was here, then I would talk to him, but he's not and I can't talk to Steve about it, and I'd feel awkward talking to Pepper about this, so-”

“Tones,” Rhodey interrupted. “I get that you need someone to talk to, but unless Pep tells me that we should talk, I have to get back to work. I'll call you later.”

Tony pouted, but let Rhodey hang up. He didn't have much of a choice, now. He'd have to call Pepper to talk, and that was just… awkward. She'd almost been his girlfriend, before everything with Peter happened, and now to talk about this ? God, it was going to be nerve racking.

“Pepper,” Tony said, trying to sound as bright and cheerful as possible when she answered. “Pep, darling, godmother of my child-”

“Tony,” she interrupted. “What did you do?”

“Whaaat?” Tony gasped, drawing out the a. “Psh! Pep, I'm offended you think I did something! What if I'm calling just to say hello, to see how the best Godmother in the world is?”

“You're buttering me up Tony,” Pepper said, voice cross and waiting. “That means you did something or you're about to. Do I need to call PR for clean up again?”

Tony sighed, leaning back in his chair. How did he say this? How did he explain things in a way that she could understand over the phone?

“I bought a ring,” he said simply.

For a moment, there was silence on the other end of the line. He wondered if maybe he could snatch the words back, make it so he never said them, but it was to late. The words were out there, and he couldn't take them back. Not anymore.

“Rhodey and I will be right there,” Pepper said instead of the negative words Tony expected, and then hung up.

Tony blinked, looked at the phone, then set it down to wait. He drank more coffee, pursed his lips, and drank some more. He wanted to know what they would say, without them actually saying it, but he knew that wasn't possible. They'd come and they'd hear what he had to say, then tell him what a bad idea it was.

When they arrived, Tony was so on edge that he was starting to squirm. He never squirmed, but that could be because of the seventeen cups of coffee that he had before they arrived. They took one look at him, shared a look, then sat down on the couch.

“Talk,” Rhodey said. “You didn't say anything about a ring to me.”

Tony pursed his lips, drumming his fingers on the armrest of his chair. “It had been kinda spur of the moment,” he started. “I had been out with Peter, kinda like our last undercover father son time before he left for highschool stuff. And we were walking downtown, and we walked past this jeweler's. And Peter had made a joke, or I think it was a joke, about when Steve was going to become his second dad, and I kinda laughed it off.

“But then when I dropped him off back at the tower, I went back. I figured it wouldn't hurt to look, just see what there was, but then I saw this ring. Jeweler said it was one of a kind. Well, one of two. Designed by this guy who died recently and made only two of them. Sorta a twin set. Simple but beautiful, and I thought ‘Holy shit, I gotta have it’, and I asked if they were for sale, and he said one was. So I kinda threw logic out the window and bought it right then?”

“Tony,” Pepper said slowly. “What kind of ring?”

“Yeah, Tones. Is it a promise ring, a present ring, or-”

“Engagement ring,” Tony said, squeezing his eyes shut. “It's an engagement ring.”

His two friends stared at him, then at each other, then spoke as one.

“Do it.”

He jumped, startled. “ What ?”

“Do it,” Rhodey said. “You and Rogers are doing great together. He moved in months ago, and you've been together for, like, two years, right? You're not gonna break up any time soon.”

“Considering the Avengers business,” Pepper mused, “I'm surprised you two didn't get married ages ago.”

Tony stared. He… he had expected them to tell him what a bad idea it was. But he wasn't expecting this. Never this… never them actually telling him to do it .

“Just do it, Tony,” Rhodey said. “He'll say yes.”

He blinked.

“Fuck it,” Tony said, standing up. “I'm gonna do it!”

“Do what?” A voice said from behind, making Tony jump and whirl around to face a confused looking Steve.

“Nothing!” Tony did not squeak, no matter what Rhodey said.

Steve frowned. “Right…” He shook his head, pointing over his shoulder to the hallway that lead to the bedrooms. “I'm going to get cleaned up. Peter gone?”

“Yep,” Tony said. “I'm gonna go to dinner with Pep and Rhodey! I'll be back later!”

Though he still looked confused, Steve went off to the bathroom, and Tony turned helplessly to Pepper and Rhodey. They looked tired and like they very much wanted to throttle him.

XxXXxX

Peter was having tons of fun at camp. The first week have passed so quickly, Peter had barely noticed he wasn't at home. His group had become sort of fast friends, though Harry and Ned didn't seem to get along to well. They did a lot of team building sort of things, either playing card games or board games, and doing some simple science experiments.

They built a natural disaster model, with a rotation of tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, and earthquakes. Peter had, of course, built something similar before, but it was more fun to do it with friends. Or, at least, he thought they were friends. He hoped they were friends…

He and Ned bonded over their love for Star Wars and Minecraft. Peter had convinced his dad once or twice to help him develop mods that they routinely updated to run on newer models of the game and actually helped the game run a little faster. Turns out that Ned actually downloaded and loved their ‘Avengers Tower’ mod that came with a seed where they had built a replica of the Tower, though the floors were empty, along with added each Avengers gear. They had officially added Falcon and the Winter Soldier just a few weeks ago.

Harry had asked him on several occasions if they'd met before, and Peter always said no. He didn't want Harry to know that he was really Peter Stark, since Harry was sort of an attention hog. If he knew, he'd flaunt being the Bestest Friend of the Peter Benjamin Stark. They both liked science, though, and Harry actually talked about how he felt about his mom being gone, which Peter could sympathize with. Peter wished he could have known his mother in person to…

Gwen was kind of weird to talk to, though. For whatever reason, she didn't talk to him the way she talked to Harry or Ned. She was a bit quieter, almost shy, though she always smiled when Peter asked if he could take a picture. She seemed happy to let him take her picture, but always more enthusiastic then Harry or Ned were. Maybe she was just photogenic?

The second week rolled around and they started doing competitive projects. Each team made tower structures that went up against a device that stimulated an earthquake. They also made rockets that they launched outside on the track. The simplest one, the one that Peter actually had the most fun on because it was so simple, was the egg drop. They won most of the competitions, though they did mess up on the rocket, since Peter was more familiar with repulsor tech and put just a little to much fuel in it and sorta made it… combust. He was used to explosions in his fathers lab, though, and had laughed it off while most of the other kids, and some of the adults, had freaked out about the fact that Peter had accidentally built a bomb and had laughed about it.

The second week eventually came to an end and they set out to see different science centers.

They were spit up into three different groups, with one three person group and one four person group merging together to do a rotation around the different facilities. Peter didn't know any of the people in the three person group that joined them, though he was more interested in what they saw.

His group went to the Tower first, starting the week off pretty great. Peter already knew everything, but it was pretty cool to get the same tour as everyone else. To see the Tower the way his group mates did instead of as someone who lived there.

Halfway through what was supposed to be a simple tour, just the basic floors, Peter was surprised when his Dad showed up.

“Hi!” His dad said with his usual grin, wearing jeans, a Metallica T-shirt, and sunglasses. “Midtown High science group right?”

Their tour guide, who clearly hadn't been expecting this, nodded. “Yes. Mr. Stark, I wasn't told you'd be meeting the group.”

“Spur of the moment thing,” his dad said shrugging with his hands in his pockets. “Thought I'd let the kids see the Avengers gear. Give them something special.”

Their guide nodded, and when Mrs. Warren agreed, his dad led them to the elevator, one that was big enough for even the Hulk and Thor combined, to take them up to the Avengers training decks.

Peter wanted to ask his dad what he was doing, but Peter didn't really care. Everyone else was excited, so he'd pretend to be to.

His dad showed them a few of the things that were special about the room, like the projected moving targets, the drone or LMD targets, and Jarvis. Then he showed some of Iron Man, Falcon's wings, and Black Widow stingers. Steve actually came down to practice while they were all marveling at the tech, and showed them his simple shield, even stopping to shake hands with them and letting them try throwing it. Most of his classmates fumbled it, and a few actually got it to ricochet though Steve still had to catch it. When Peter got to throw it, he purposely fumbled it, so he wouldn't raise suspension.

When they finally left, Peter started to feel a little homesick for the first time since reaching camp…

XxXXxX

Tony was agitated. Sure, he'd seen his son just a few hours before after two and a half weeks away from him, but he was still agitated. Annoyed. Irritated.

“Shit!” He hissed as he was forcefully bounced off the force field of the Hydra base they were going after in Russia. They were mostly sure that Loki's scepter was inside, somewhere, and they needed it back.

“Language,” Steve called over the comms, and wait. Tony had to do a double take on that. “Jarvis, how's the view from upstairs?”

“The central building is protected by some kind of force field. Strucker’s technology is well beyond that of other Hydra bases we’ve taken.”

“Loki’s scepter must be here,” Thor said over the comm, and sure, that was important info, but Steve . Had none of them just… not noticed? “At long last…”

“At long last is lasting a little long boys,” Nat cut in.

Clint hummed in agreement. “Yeah, I think we lost the element of surprise.”

“Do you guys need the Soldier?” Bucky asked, still hidden away in the jet. Sure, the Winter Soldier was pretty stable, but if Strucker knew how to somehow backtrack all the work Tony had done to help him, then it would have been, well, bad. “I can be there in five.”

“Wait,” Tony said, making another loop around the forcefield. “Is no one gonna deal with the fact that Cap just told me ‘language’ like I’m Peter?”

“I know,” Steve sighed. “But it just slipped out. And no, Buck. You don’t need to come out.”

“Well I’m getting bored,” Bucky groaned as Tony does another loop around the barrier.

“Sir,” Jarvis said over comms. “The city is taking fire.”

“Well, we were expecting that. Send in the Iron Legion.” Tony squinted, trying to fire a repulser shot at a thinner point of the barrier. Damn, no good.

“I could go,” Bucky said, very interested.

“The civilians are not reacting well to the Iron Legion, Sir.”

“Expected that to,” Tony sighed. “Go on, Barnes. Go help smooth things out if you can.”

Tony spent a while going some arriel scans and trying to figure out how the hell they could knock the barrier down. It was just to strong on the outside, it seemed. Except for… Hm, that spot seemed much softer. Much weaker… It could totally work.

“Clint!” Nat called over the comms.

“We have enhanced in the field,” Steve called back. “Tony, we really need to get inside. Got anything?”

“I’m closing in,” Tony said, narrowing his eyes at the spot on the barrier he was about to ram. God he hoped this worked!

It did, thank god, and he went inside to start poking around. He took out the rest of the soldiers inside, while Steve went to find Strucker. Once the room was clear, he stepped out of the suir, going to look around while the suit went into sentry mode. Hm…

“I know you're hiding more than files,” Tony mused as he looked around. “Hey, J, give me an IR scan of the room, real quick.”

“The wall to your left,” Jarvis replied, nearly instantly. “I’m reading steel reinforcement and an air current.”

Interests peaked, Tony went over to the door. “Please be a secret door, please be a secret door, please be a secret door…” He pressed on the wall, and beamed as it popped open. “Yay!”

Practically skipping inside, Tony hums and smiles, wondering what things they could have inside. Something cool that he could take apart with Peter, hopefully. He missed his son, and he was much to bored without their daily father-son experiments. Maybe this secret room had just the thing they needed?

But it really didn’t.

“Guys,” Steve called over comms, “I got Strucker, but there’s a second enhanced. Female. Do not engage.”

“Yeah,” Tony said as he stared up at the mass amounts of stolen things from the Battle of New York. “I got… something bigger.”

Scraps of armor, an entire Chitauri Leviathan, even a few sky glider things. Tony couldn’t even begin to guess as to how they moved all the small stuff, much less the giant alien worm. It was insane. He had set up the cleaning group to keep people from getting this stuff, yet here it was…

Then, he saw the scepter.

“Thor. I got eyes on the prize.”

Just as he reached for the scepter, the room seemed to rumble, a loud, monstrous roar coming from behind him. Tony whipped around, eyes wide with horror as the Chitauri Leviathan came to life. He stumbled backwards, chest growing tight as fear gripped him. It flew over his head, away from him, and he turned to watch it leave in shock.

But in front of him was an even more horrifying scene. On a mound, cold and lifeless, was everyone he’d ever cared about. The Hulk lay twitching, looking more red then green with wounds and scrapes, Natasha laying on the ground next to him, eyes open and empty of life. Clint, bow still in hand, was scrunched into place where he’d tried to make his last stand, even as he died covered in blood. Thor lay motionless, Rhodey and Pepper leaned up against him, and Steve crumbled just beneath them.

“Steve,” Tony wheezed, eyes wide as he rushed to check on Steve. He hesitated, slowly reaching out to check for a pulse, but his stomach churned and he wasn’t sure if he could.

Then, Steve’s hand lashed out, grabbing Tony’s wrist. “You,” Steve struggled to say. “You… could have… saved us…”

And then, he fell limp once more. Tony stumbled back, eyes wide with horror. He would have saved them if he could have. He would! He did everything he could to keep Steve safe, to protect the team in the only ways he knew how, and-

“Dad,” Peter’s voice breathed from behind him, and Tony whipped around to watch in absolute horror as his son walked on dragged feet as Chitauri Leviathans flew in swarms over head. “Dad,” Peter said again, as he fell, Tony rushing to his side. “Why didn’t you do more?”

Tony stared, eyes welled up with tears as he struggled to breath, to shake off this offle nightmare. This offle, offle nightmare that he was in. It couldn’t be real, it couldn’t be real!

And with a blink, it was all gone. He was back in the secret room, the Chitauri Leviathan was still dead, and he could hear the light ideal chatter over the comms. But he had an idea now… An idea that he need to try.

Holding out a hand, summoned a gauntlet to him, walking around the scepter until he could swipe the dark artifact off of its pedestal. He had work to do… He had to do more…

XxXXxX

When they got on the jet, Steve was tired. He set down his shield, stretched, and high fived Bucky, and went to find Tony. His boyfriend had been rather quiet since they had retrieved the scepter, and when you have a title like ‘team loudmouth’ or ‘the no filter talker’, silence is rather concerning.

He finds Tony sitting at the main console in the cockpit, and smiled when he moved to lean on the edge of the keyboard. They were heading to their China tower to meet a doctor friend of Tony and Bruce who could help Clint. Tony was messaging her now to make sure everything was there when they arrived.

“Hey,” Steve said softly. “You’ve been pretty quiet.”

No use beating around the bush. Best to just come out and say it. Tony was acting strange, and he wanted to know why.

“What?” Tony said, trying to wave it off. “I’m not quiet. I’m thinking. I think all the time. It’s… It’s nothing.”

Steve crossed his arms. “That’s bull, Tony, and you know it.”

A soft smile tugged at Tony’s lips. “Language, Cap.”

He let out a groan of annoyance, even as a smile tugged at his own lips. “I’m never going to live that down, am I? It was an accident.”

“Where did that even come from?” Tony chuckled.

“I always have to tell Bucky and Sam when Peter’s in the room,” Steve explained, casting a glance over his shoulder at said teammates. “Especially when they’re playing Mario Kart.”

“Should have known.”

Steve let his face soften, watching the way Tony’s face crinkled here and there when he smiled or laughed. Tony may be nearly fifteen years older then Steve, but that was only a technicality. And it didn’t matter to Steve, since to him, Tony was the most stunning man he’d ever laid eyes on, with such rich brown eyes, like the coffee that Tony drank every day, and a sparkle that just barely hinted at how mischievous Tony could be.

He wanted to ask Tony right there, to pull the ring out of his pocket, where he kept it just to be safe, so he could ask whenever it just felt right. Now seemed like a good time… Pull it out, tell Tony just how much he loved him, and then slip the ring onto Tony’s finger. It just felt right, and he wanted to ask so badly, but… There was something else he needed to know before he could ask Tony to marry him.

“You know you can tell me anything,” Steve said, reaching out to cup Tony’s cheek, lifting his face to look at him. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” Tony said again, and he glance around, but eventually looked back at Steve when he realized that he couldn’t get away. “Well, I mean… There is one thing. And I would have liked to talk privately, not on a jet back from a mission with the rest of the team probably eavesdropping behind us, but it’s important. Sure, dinner would have been nice, but you have to do what you can with what you got. And I know that. I built a mini arc reactor in a cave with a box of scraps, and-”

“Tony,” Steve said, a little nervous, but voice coming out as fond. “You’re rambling.”

The genius shut his mouth so quickly that Steve could hear the click. Then, he took a deep breath. “I wanted to talk about us-”

Before Steve could even register what Tony was saying, the console beeped, signalling a call from a Dr. Cho.

“Sorry,” Tony said, smiling just a little. “I have to take this. It’s… It’s about Clint, so…”

“Of course,” Steve said as he stood up straight, stooping for just a second to press a kiss to Tony’s mouth. “We’ll talk later.”

“Right. Later…”

XxXXxX

Peter had been excited to go to Oscorp to see the biochemical tech. His dad didn’t do much in bio-chem tech, even before Iron Man and the company redirect, so he hadn’t seen much of it aside from what he’s looked into on his own time. It was exciting to see something at least a little new.

“Wow Peter,” Harry said as they were walking in. “Haven’t seen you this excited since we saw Avengers Tower. Fan of my Dad, to?”

“Not exactly,” Peter hummed, adjusting his glasses. “But I heard that your dad has a division dedicated to bio-chem tech. Stark Industries doesn’t really do much of that.”

“Yeah,” Harry hummed. “Dr. Connors is head of that area. He’s doing some sort of thing with spiders and lizards. Not exactly sure what.”

“Dr. Conners?” Gwen asks, blinking in surprise. “You mean Curtis Connors? I red one of his papers. It was really, really cool.”

“I haven’t even heard of him,” Ned said, and Peter had to hold back a laugh. Ned was such a chill and laid back guy. It was pretty funny sometimes.

Peter followed the others on the tour, studying everything and wondering what everything did and how it worked. Everything just looked so interesting, he wanted to know everything!

Eventually they got to a large room where they were looking at a drone of some kind that Oscorp had developed. Dr. Connors was actually there to explain what it did, and why they had made it. It was sort of a substitute Iron Man and Captain America mash-up, and only a prototype, but Peter didn’t like it. Nothing good came from trying to remake the Super Soldier serum and nothing good came from trying to remake the Iron Man armor. Dr. Connors and Oscorp were on a dangerous path.

Still, Peter lifted his camera to take a picture of the things in the room. He didn’t feel the bug on his hand at first, but soon felt it crawling around his hand. Slowly, Peter lowed the camera to look at it, and blinked in surprise. He’d never seen a spider like this before…

He shifted his camera to his other hand, slowly so he didn’t disturbed the strange little arthropod, and held it up to take a picture. The angle was awkward, and it was difficult to see the screen, but he managed to press the button. With a click, the picture was taken, but the noise must have startled the spider, because it bit into the back of his hand. With a hiss, he shook his hand, sending it flying off somewhere.

“Ow,” Peter whined, rubbing the back of his hand. “That hurt…”

“Everything alright, Mr. Parker?” Mrs. Warren asked, stepping up beside him.

“Yeah,” he said. “A spider just bit me.”

She nodded, and even smiled a little as she spoke. “Guess they need to do a little more cleaning, hm?”

Peter couldn’t help but laugh, and followed her out of the room and back to the bus with the other kids. He wasn’t laughing though, as he sat on the bus and felt like his entire body was on fire. Sure, it was summer and it was hot anyway, but now he felt almost feverish, even woosie as he stepped off the bus and walked towards his bed area in the gym.

He felt like he was going to be sick, and reached into his backpack to pull out his phone. There was a message from his dad about going on a mission, and being back in time to meet him in the Tower when he got back. Peter sent him a text saying that it was fine, and to not worry about meeting him at the Tower. But if his father was out on mission, that means he couldn’t call to get permission to leave early.

Slowly, he went to Mrs. Warren, tugging on her sleeve like a child to get her attention. She took one look at him at went wide eyed.

“Peter,” she gasped. “You don’t look so good. What happened?”

“I feel like I’m gonna puke,” he said, and it was true. His face scrunched up, and he was starting to taste bile in the back of his throat. “Can I talk to Principal Morita about calling my dad?”

“Of course.” She placed a hand on his shoulder, using the other to wave over Ned. “Ned, can you go pack up Peter’s things? I’m sure he’ll be going home today.”

Ned took one look at Peter, then nodded quickly, hurrying off to complete his task. Mrs. Warren led him to the principal’s office, knocking on the door before opening it. She led Peter inside and the Principal scowled.

“Thank you, Monica,” Principal Morita said smoothly. “I’ll handle it from here. Have his things ready to go. We’ll call his father.”

Peter took a seat, leaning his head back for a moment as it began to throb heavily behind his eyelids. God, he hated feeling like this…

“My dad is out of country,” Peter says before principal Morita can say anything. “You’ll have to call my aunt, or my uncle. Probably my uncle. My aunt is probably in a meeting.”

“I’m sure Mr. Stark would prefer that I call him first,” Principal Morita said, reaching for the phone. “Your father was very adamant about that when I met with him over the summer. I’m certain that he would drop whatever it is he’s doing to come and take you home.”

Peter squinted at his teacher, lifting up his head. “And if my dad’s fighting Hydra, or Loki, or some crazy mutant that could destroy the world?”

Principal Morita frowned. “Your uncle’s phone number?”

Peter couldn’t help but smile. Good. His dad wouldn’t be distracted during his mission. So he gave the principal the number for Happy, and Mrs. Warren came with his things to escort him to the door. Gwen, Harry, and Ned were all there to wave him off, wishing him good luck with getting better. He waved back, getting a little dizzy as he stepped toward the car. Uncle Happy came out of the car to help guide him into the back seat along with his bag.

He didn’t really know what happened next, since he must have fallen asleep in the back seat. One second, he was sitting in the back seat, the next he was being gently shaken awake by Happy, who looked quite shocked. He said something that sounded like white noise to Peter, and led him inside and up to the penthouse. Happy laid him out on the couch, set a bowl of soup beside him and said something else before he left.

His mouth feeling dry, Peter reached for the bowl, only for a sound like rushing water to fill his ears, his eyes narrowing down to near pinpoints of darkness. Opening his mouth in a cry that even his own ears couldn’t hear, he fell off the couch, landing so hard the air was knocked from his lungs and he was knocked into blissful unconsciousness.

XxXXxX

Tony had been working on the Ultron project with Bruce for three days. Three days of nothing but lab time with his science bro, and trying to ignore the fact that he wished it was his science son instead. He missed Peter, sent him a few text that Peter didn’t reply to, and wondering if Peter was okay. He was probably just having so much fun with his new friends that he forgot to answer.

But as they finished up, leaving Jarvis to make the last attempt on running the program, Bruce going on ahead to the party, Tony pulled on his jacket and paused when he felt the weight in the pocket. He reached his hand in, frowning down at the little black box for a minute. He’d been about to pull it out on the plane, his stomach feeling all twisted and knotted as he started to force the words out over his anxiety. But once he had started, it had felt like a burden was being lifted off of him, and he knew that Steve would want to cash in on that ‘later’ Tony had promised now that he wasn’t locked up in the lab.

So he plucked the ring out of the box and put it in his pocket before joining the others in the lounge.

They split up into little groups, doing their own things. Steve went with Sam and Bucky to the pool table, doing their secretive soldier boy talking, while Bruce wandered off to try and subtly find Natasha. Said red head was sitting with Clint and Coulson, her chair closest to the pool table where she kept whispering in Russian to Barnes. Tony hung out with Thor and Agent Hill for a while, listening to Rhodey tell a War Machine story. In terms of hero stories, it wasn’t all that interesting or funny, and they had a bit of a laugh about Thor’s not so clean save.

“So,” Rhodey said, humming. “No Pepper or Peter? She’s not bringing him?”

“No,” Tony said, sipping at his drink. Non-alcoholic, of course. “Peter’s still at camp until tomorrow morning, and Pep has this meeting with this bio-chem guy that’s currently working at Oscorp.”

“What about Jane?” Hill asked, looking around. “And Darcy? Where are the ladies, gentlemen?”

“Yes,” Thor sighed, sounding almost like a kicked puppy. “I'm not even sure what country Jane's in. Her work on the convergence has made her the world's foremost astronomer. There's even talk of Jane getting a... um, uh... Nobel prize.”

Tony hummed. “Well, as much as I love hearing Thor’s lonely kicked puppy voice, I’m going to look for my favorite super soldier.”

Rhodey laughs, but Tony ignores them all to walk around and say goodbye to the guest that had come to party with them. He waited until they were mostly gone before finally heading to look for Steve. This was it. This was going to the moment. The moment he finally popped the question.

An arm wrapped around his waist from behind, pulling his flush against rock hard abs that sent shivers up his spine most nights. “Hey,” Steve said, pressing gentle kisses that made his skin feel like it was on fire to the back of Tony’s neck. “Bruce said you were looking for a Super Soldier.”

“Oh,” Tony said, a grin slowly creeping onto his face. “I am. But I’m looking for a specific one. My favorite, you know.”

Steve hummed, smiling slightly against the nape of Tony’s neck. “Oh, that’s definitely me.”

“You’re right,” Tony told him, turning around only for Steve to pull him into a hot kiss. When they parted, Tony was actually a little winded, breathing a little heavily. He was just glad that they were the only ones up on the balcony, and sure the others could see them, but they weren’t creeps that would gauk at them. “What’s up with you today? Being all sexy. That’s not usually you’re thing.”

“Maybe I just missed you,” Steve replied, his voice seductively low, as he pressed another kiss to Tony’s lip. “Haven’t seen you at all in nearly three days.”

“True, but I thought you would want to talk.”

This got Steve to pause, his face changing into a look that was almost fearful. “About… what you were going to say on the jet?”

“Yeah. I said that we’d talk later, and-”

“Then we can talk later, just not right now. Later, when we get home, alright?”

Tony frowned. “What? No, no. I want to do this now. See, Steve, there’s this thing that I’ve been meaning to say and-”

“There’s something I want to say first,” Steve cut in again, letting go of Tony. “Really, I need to say this.”

“No, really, I should go first,” Tony tries, reaching into his pocket to get the ring. “You’ll want to hear this first and-”

“No,” Steve says, voice sharp and hand fisting into his pocket. “I need to say this, need to show you-”

“Steve, you’re not listening to me,” Tony said as he pulled out the ring. “I’m trying to tell you-”

“Marry me.” Steve’s voice, this time, was desperate, his face covered in that same desperation and in his hand a silver band with a trio of tiny little diamonds at the head. A silver band that was tasteful, elegant, but not tacky, and entirely identical to the one in Tony’s own hand.

“What…?” Tony breathed out, to surprised to move or think.

“I love you so much, Tony. I love you, and I love Peter, and I want to be your husband and Peter’s father. I can’t imagine my life without either of you anymore, so please-” Steve dropped to one knee, holding the ring up between his fingers for Tony to see. “Marry me.”

Tony could only stare, his brain seeming to stop working. Steve was… proposing. Steve was on one knee, with a ring, asking Tony to marry him. The same ring that Tony had in his hand. The one of a two of a kind ring that the jeweler had said there had only one available. Which meant that Steve had bought his ring before Tony had. And that meant Steve had been planning to do this for a while. And holy shit , Steve had just asked him to marry him !

“Tony?” Steve said, voice sounding almost weak. “Say something…”

But he didn’t. He blinked, and held up the ring in his own hand, and watched Steve’s eyes slowly drop to the ring. He blinked, then looked up at Tony, eyes wide and bright and a grin splitting his face. Steve shot to his feet, sweeping Tony up in his arms to kiss him, only to spin him around and kiss him again as he laughed.

Tony laughed with him, grinning as he wrapped his arms around Steve’s shoulders. Everything just felt so right in this moment. Sure, the Ultron experiment failed, but he had Steve and they were going to get married! They were going to get married, and oh boy was Peter going to be upset that he missed this!

“The hell?” a voice called, causing them to freeze. They looked down the balcony, finding everyone looking at them, Barnes scowling. “What just happened?”

“I don’t know,” Sam said, “but if it was what it looked like…”

“It looked like they tried to propose to each other at the same time,” Clint snorted.

Rhodey snorted. “Only you, Tony. Only you.”

“It’s about time, though,” Hill said, Bruce nodding in agreement.

“Oh no,” Nat said. “Only I get to say that. You didn’t see the sextual tension during the whole Hydra thing. That was so intense, it was ridiculous.”

“So are they betrothed?” Thor asked. “I have never seen an earth marriage proposal.”

“Guys,” Tony said, scowling down at them as Steve blushed. “What the hell?”

They all laughed, but Steve turned to him almost shyly. He held up the ring, and Tony rolled his eyes, putting it on. He gave Steve the one he had, and watched as the blond slipped it on. Well, it hadn’t gone as planned, but it still worked out in the end.

“I’m so glad I got that all on camera.”

Tony couldn’t help it, he broke out into laughter. “Wow, Coulson. You are the last person I’d expect something like that from.

“Would you two just get down here so we can celebrate your engagement?”

Tony smiled, and turned to Steve. Steve looked back, smiled, and they went down the stairs together as Nat went to get some champagne.

The night turned out great. Until it didn’t.

XxXXxX

When Peter came to, it was to the sound of his phone ringing. The familiar beat of I Am Iron Man startled him awake, and he nearly fell over when he stood to get the phone. Why had he been on the floor?

He picked up the phone, putting it to his ear.

“Hello?”

“Peter,” his dad’s voice came out sharp, a sigh of relief. “Thank god, you picked up. You know that Ultron thing we were talking about a while back?”

Peter ran a hand over his face, trying to wake up. What was going on? Why was his dad calling about something like that?

“Yeah?” he yawned, turning to blinkind at the coffee table. There was a cold bowl of soup there, a layer of film forming over the top from sitting out so long. How long had he been out? “What about it?”

“Well,” his dad sait in that voice that meant nothing good. “I kind to build it, using Loki’s scepter?”

Peter nearly dropped the bowl after picking it up, and gaped at his phone. “Dad...”

“And I thought that it had failed, but it didn’t, but it kind of did because it ate Jarvis.”

“Dad.”

“And it also wants to kill us and the entire world.”

“Dad!”

“I know,” his dad said quickly. “I know, I made a mistake. And I’m gonna fix it. I swear. Just be careful if you go out. And I might need Friday so she may become unavailable to you sometimes.”

“Yeah,” Peter said, taking the spoiled soup bowl to the sink. “Yeah, no, I understand. Just, keep me updated, okay?”

“Will do!” A slight pause. “I have to go. You’ll tell me about camp when I get back, okay?”

“Okay, Dad. Go kill an evil murder bot.”

He heard his Dad give a gentle laugh before he hung up. Peter shook his head, moving to set the bowl in the sink, only to… not be able to let go. Well, his fingers moved, but the bowl was practically stuck to his hand. He made a soft noise of confusion, blinked to try and figure out if he was just dreaming. Got, he hoped he was just dreaming.

But the same thing was happening to his phone. It was stuck to his hand, not coming off, and Peter started to freak out. What the hell was going on?!

“Friday!” Peter squaked, trying to push the bowl off his hand with the back of his knuckles, only for it to momentarily stick there before it to drop into the sink. “Friday, scan!”

“Scanning, Baby Boss.” There was a pause, Peter feeling his chest tighten. “It appears that you have gained small hairs on your fingers and hands, similar to that of a spiders. While I'm glad you're finally awake and seem to be unharmed, this is worrying.”

“How long was I out?”

“Three days.”

Peter gaped, staring wide eyed at the ceiling, simply in shock. He'd been out for three days? How? Why? Was it… was it the spider bite? But then, why hadn't Friday activated an emergency protocol?

“Why didn't you call someone?” Peter asked, doing his best to gently scrape the bowl off his hand and into the sink without breaking it. It was during this that he noticed the underside of his forearms had gained a red rash of some kind. “And when did I get this rash?”

“You activated a blackout protocol after Happy Hogan left. I couldn't do anything to stop you, as you used an override.” There was a small pause. “I hadn't noticed a rash, as I was in a blackout protocol.”

The rash, now that he had noticed it, was starting to itch horribly. So, so terribly itchy. Once he got his phone unstuck from his hand, he started scratching, going to look for some ointment to put on it. He stretched and bend his wrist, rubbing it with one hand, until he heard a soft pst, and felt something sticky cover his scratching hand. When he looked down, he… well, he didn't know what he'd been expecting, but a mass of white goop that seemed to be coming out of his wrist and struck to his palm hadn't been it.

“Friday,” he said slowly. “Please tell me you got that on camera.”

“If by ‘that’, you mean a strange substance being ejected from your wrist, then yes, Baby Boss. I did get ‘that’.”

Peter stared at it, rash forgotten, and gently played with it in his fingers. “What is it?”

“It would be best analyzed in the Lab. Take it there and I with run a scan of it. Should I contact the Boss?”

“No,” Peter said, heading for the elevator. “He's busy with all that stuff happening… wherever he is. Dad doesn't need to be bothered with this. I'll run the tests. You help Dad with the murder bot, okay? I’ll call if I need you.”

“Will do, Baby Boss.”

And with that, Friday went silent as she refocused on his Dad. He didn’t mind, though, and just went down to work in his mini lab, doing tests on the strange goop. He also took scans of his body, to see if anything else changed. There was, oddly, a small sack of time kind in his arms, just where the goop had come out of his wrists, and of course the small spider like hairs on his arms and feel. For whatever reason, his weight had also gone up. Not into overweight range, but into a more stable weight then his somewhat undersized one. And from what he could see, it was because his muscle mass had been raised quite a bit.

While an analysis of the goop was going, he did some more physical tests of his body. If his muscle mass had risen, could he lift more? Could he aim the goop? Was it possible to shoot strings of it? Could he stick and unstick to things?

Peter decided to go to the obstical course in the training room to test it all out. There was a target in there, as well as some heavy weights he could play with to test everything out. He started with the weights, going to pick up the one he knew was a size to big. In the past, when he’d come down with Steve, he could just barely dead lift his own weight, and he didn’t really work out much, but he’d try one that was 20 lbs more.

Stepping up to the bar, Peter took a deep breath, bent down, and wrapped his fingers around the bar. He closed his eyes, licked his lips, and lifted with all the strength he had. Only for his arms to end up going straight up into the air, feeling like he was lifting nothing at all. Peter blinked his eyes open, expecting that maybe the weights had fallen off the bar, but found them being held easily above his head. Okay. so he could lift more. A lot more.

He set the bar down, and moved to keep doing tests.

An hour later found him extremely confused. He could bench press weights that only Thor, Steve, and Bucky had. Well, in terms of their size to lift ratios. He could also stick to walls. And the ceiling. And swing around the room using the goop. It was actually a lot like spider webbing. Actually, it was spider webbing, according to his analysis.

This deserved some practical testing, though. Some real life, outside the safetynet testing! So he pulled on one of Thor’s hoodies, the man had to many anyway, and put on his old spider legs backpack just in case, started walking around New York, looking for an empty alley that he’d seen some older kids do parkour in. It wasn’t to hard, and he pulled up the hood to take a running jump and grab onto the edge of a fire escape. With ease, he pulled himself up, biting his lip and doing a backflip off the edge to flip back and grab onto the opposite wall. Lifting one hand from the wall, he aimed at the lip of the roof, chewing his lip as he shot the strand of webbing. So far, so good.

It caught, sticking quite nicely, and he took hold, pushing off the wall to swing around. It felt awesome, soaring through the air on nearly nothing. He swing around, for a second, then heard the webbing starting to fray, and quickly shot a second, following it off, and Peter soon found himself swinging through New York city. People on the ground would point up at him, oohing and ahhing as he swung past, using the tall buildings as his swinging points.

It was then that he heard a voice from down below.

“Hey now,” a guy a few years older then Peter was saying. “You don’t want to be aiming that gun at me.”

Instinctively, Peter turned toward the noise, and lept into action. Quite literally, as he leapt off the wall of a building, and tackle the man with the gun. He knocked him down, and webbed the man up as if he had done it thousands of times before, and pinned him to the wall.  

“Who are you?” the guy asked, looking starry eyed as he stared.

“I’m…” Peter blinked. “I’m just your friendly neighborhood Spiderman!”

He continued to stare as Peter shot another web and was off once again. He felt great, knowing he had just helped someone. He had understood why his Dad and the other Avengers did what the do, but now he understood a bit more.

XxXXxX

Steve was… livid. He was angry, he was upset.

He was god damned pissed.

Tony and Bruce had been working together on something that they hadn’t told anyone about. Tony hadn’t even told Steve about it. And they had ended up making a fucking murder bot . A murder bot . Right before Tony had proposed.

So after they’d had their little shout fest, and setting up to go looking for Ultron, Steve didn’t get a chance to talk to Tony in private. He wanted to, needed to, but they hadn’t had the chance yet. Everything was moving to fast, and Steve knew that Tony had just barely managed to take a break to call Peter, much less sleep or talk to him.

But then again, why would he? It’s not like Tony ever felt the need to share important things before. It’s not like they were getting married.

Oh, wait…

They were heading out as a team, as they had tracked Ultron’s possible location to a salvage yard on the African Coast. There was a man named Ulysses Klaue that had some of Wakandan’s trade goods. Tony apparently knew about this guy. And, he apparently knew someone in Wakanda who could come help them. Steve hadn’t known anything about this, and Tony had agreed to stay behind to make some calls while the rest of them went out.

When they arrived, they did find Ultron and Klaue, as well as the Maximoff twins. Rhodes and Sam both went off to attempt to chase down the stolen Iron Legion and Ultron himself. Steve and the others were focused on Klaue’s mercenaries, and the Maximoff twins were there, attacking when they were distracted.

“Guys,” Bruce called over comms. “Is this a Code Green?”

Steve was about to tell him no, that it was to risky. But then he saw the female Maximoff behind Thor. She lifted her hands, and Steve could see the spark of red mist at her fingertips.

“Thor!” he called as Maximoff disappeared. “Status?”

Thor didn’t reply, and seemed to wander off in a daze. Steve went to follow, try to get to his teammate, only for Natasha to be be attacked. His eyes widened, and he tried to figure out what to do. Bucky and Clint were still active, and he could still fight.

It was then that he caught sight of a flash of red from the corner of his eyes. He turned and went wide eyed when he didn’t see Maximoff, but instead saw Peter. He was in a red hood, walking away from Steve and around a corner. Quickly, he turned and ran towards Peter, shocked to find him there. Wasn’t he in New York? Wasn’t he safe at home?

Steve ran after Peter, rounding the corner just seconds behind him. When he turned around the corner, he reached out to grab Peter’s shoulder. The teen turned, and Steve froze when he saw the boys face. The hair was so much like Peter’s, and from the back he had looked like Peter. But he wasn’t.

“I’m sorry,” Steve breathed, wide eyed and confused as he looked around. All around him were strange tall buildings, taller then even the Tower, and all covered in bright lights. “I don’t… I don’t know how I got here.”

“That’s New York,” the boy said, laughing a little, but Steve felt his stomach drop. “You’ll get lost if you don’t know your way around.”

Steve swallowed. He felt sick, like he was going to throw up. Had he gone through time again? Had he missed another seventy years? Where was Tony? Where was Peter?

It was then that the boy turned and ran off. Steve, still with questions, took off to chase after him. He needed to ask when he was, if he could find Tony and Peter. He followed the boy, trying his best to catch up to the kid. When the kid jumped a fence, Steve jumped after him, running through a cemetery. He saw the boy slide to a stop beside an old man in a wheelchair, an oxygen tank on the back. Steve slowed, stopping to stare as the boy grabbed the back of the chair.

“Come on Great-Grandpa Peter,” the boy said. “We need to get you back to the house.”

Steve could only stare, watching as the boy rolled the old man away. Peter… It couldn’t be. It couldn’t be Peter! The man had to be at least in his nineties. It couldn’t be his Peter. It wasn’t possible! He watched them go, and turned to look at the tombstone that sat before him. At the inscription, Steve nearly let out a wail.

Here lies
Anthony Edward Stark,
lost to a broken heart.
1974-2015

He moved to backpedaled, only to feel something bang on the back of his head. Grabbing the back of his head, Steve blinked as he looked up to find Bucky standing before him.

“And there’s Stevie,” he chuckled. “Come on, Stark’s got Bruce and Clint’s setting up the jet to take us to somewhere safe.”

Steve swallowed, his stomach churning as he stood. Had it been a vision? Something that would come to pass if he failed? Failed… what? Failed to protect Tony? No, if he failed and went under again. If he couldn’t protect Tony and Peter and everyone else that he loved, and had to make the sacrifice play again. Would it really happen again?

“Hey,” Bucky said, waving a hand in Steve’s face. “Earth to Steve. We need to go.”

“Right,” Steve breathed, shaking his head to clear it. “Let’s go.”

His old friend gave him an odd look, but followed him back to the jet. He let a calm settle over him, because he knew that he would never let the vision become reality.

XxXXxX

Peter returned to the tower after that. He sat down, more then a little excited, and drew up some possible suit designs. It had be be red, like his Dads, but he would add some blue instead of gold. And a web that knit across the entire surface, with a spider symbol on the front. It was pretty cool, once he had it all finished.

He set it up in fabrication, deciding on a lightweight material, thinner then Steve’s suit. It was more flexible, to, and while it didn’t have any extra pouches, he didn’t feel like he needed any aside from one for his phone and one for his wallet. Just incase.

Once it was complete, he pulled it on and looked at himself in the mirror. He didn't look to bad, and if he was being completely honest with himself, he actually thought the suit looked pretty good. Considering that he was a fourteen year old in a skin tight suit, anyway. He needed to get some pictures. And get out of the house. He hadn't seen Aunt Pep in a while…

“Screw it,” he laughed. “I'm gonna go see Aunt Pep. Get some pictures when I leave.”

He took off the suit and stuffed it into a backpack, going to get his camera. He took a minute to go say goodbye to Bilgy, who had been moved to live in a room Thor hooked up with Asgardian tech. It was bigger on the inside, and Bilgy was just to big to be taken out like he used to. Sure, Peter still went to see the beast every now and then, but Bilgy became more of a team sparring partner or, oddly enough, a mount for Thor or Hulk when they fought in New York.

But soon, Peter was on his way to his Aunt's office. He waved to the guard at the front desk, and walked to the elevator. Going up and up, almost to the top, until Peter finally stepped out. Bouncing on his toes, Peter reached out, knocking soundly on the door before poking his head inside.

“Peter,” Aunt Pepper said with a bright smile. “What a pleasant surprise! I haven't heard from you in a while. Happy said you were sick, but I never got the chance to check on you. Things have just been so busy.”

“I'm fine now,” Peter said, maybe a little to quickly. “But what do you mean your busy? I mean, you normally are, but what makes this week so bad?”

For the first time in years, Peter heard his aunt heave a sigh. She placed her head in her hands, rubbing her temples with her fingers. She looked absolutely exhausted…

“A week ago, the company was going to take on a new scientist from OsCorp, starting new week, once he wrapped up his project there. However, I got a call from Norman Osborn during a meeting with this scientist saying he'd lost an experiment. So I had to tell him we wouldn't be taking him. And he's been harassing the front desk everyday since.”

“Wow,” Peter said, frowning. “That sounds offle. Maybe I could go get you lunch? And we could eat?”

“That sounds-” Her demeanor suddenly changed, as a light blinked above the door. It was bright red, and Peter could recognize a warning when he saw one. “Peter, go hide in the restroom down the hall.”

“I can't leave you here,” Peter said quickly, wide eyed in surprise. Something was going on, something was wrong. Could it be that scientist she was talking about?

“This isn't up for debate,” Pepper snapped. “Now go .”

Deciding it was better not to argue, Peter quickly left the room, ducking behind a corner. He wasn't heading for the restroom, though. He was heading for the roof. Maybe, just maybe, he could get suited up in time to come in for a daring save. He did stop, however, to get a glimpse of whoever it was that was intruding, and was shocked to see Dr. Connors. Except this time, he looked… offle. His skin was covered in strange green scaly rashes.

His stomach tight with dread, Peter rushed to the roof, dropping his pack on it and pulling out the suit. It was embarrassing, stripping down to his briefs on the roof before pulling on the suit, but it had to be done. Once he was changed, he left the pack on the roof and crawled down the side to pear through the window.

Dr. Connors was shouting at his aunt, while Pepper tried to talk him down. She remained tense in her chair, but looked calm to anyone unfamiliar with her. Maybe Peter wouldn't have to intervene?

It was then that Peter felt every hair on his body stand up straight. A tingle ran down his spine, and everything seemed to move in slow motion as he leapt into action. Dr. Connors lunged for his aunt, and Peter smashed through the window to tackle him. They went into a tussle, his sudden attack catching Connors by surprise. Pepper gasped in surprise, watching as Peter got the man down, shooting webs at Connors arms, hoping to keep the man down.

He didn't expect a tail.

The long appendage seems to burst out from under Connors tattered lab coat, and threw Peter off. He landed with a thud, against the glass of the floor to ceiling window behind Pepper’s desk, and groaned as he tried to get up. Connors hissed, getting to him first, and lifting him high above his head before throwing him out the window.

For a split second, he was free falling, the air pushing up against him as he flailed and tried to reposition himself. Then, he finally managed to aim his wrist, shooting a web just in time to fling himself back up. He shot another wet, turning back to the smashed window where his aunt was standing at the edge, Connors hissing as he advanced.

“Dr. Connors,” she said, holding up her hands. “You don't have to do this. We can help you, if you let us.”

“I don't need your companies help,” Connors snapped, stepping closer. “You've ruined me. Ruined my reputation, talking so many about my one mistake! And now, you’ll pay!”

“No!” Peter screamed, as Connors reached out and shoved Pepper from the window.

He swung up, reaching out to catch her. For a moment, he thought he was going to miss, that his fingers would just barely touch hers, and then she would fall, fall so far down, to smash against the sidewalk. But his arm caught around her waist, pulled her close, and he swung up towards the ledge. Connors stood there, looking absolutely shocked, and in a fit of anger, lept from the window towards them.

Quickly, Peter maneuvered out of the way, swinging himself and Pepper up to the window. He pushed Pepper deeper into the room, and twisted around to shoot a web down at Connors. The web shot down, latching onto the back of Connors coat, and Peter tried his best to pull him up. And then, for the first time, his webs began to fray, and snap, and Peter tried to shoot more, only for nothing to come out. He fell back, blinked, then rushed to look over the edge.

Connors was nowhere in sight.

“Oh my god,” Pepper breathed, tentatively moving to pear over the side with him. “He’s… gone…”

Peter grew tense, unsure of what to say, and decided that maybe he should just… run. So he climbed out the window, and crawled around to where Pepper couldn’t see him before going up to the roof. He could still hear her, calling out to him, but he ignored her and got redressed. Once he was sure that he was good, he headed back down, finding Pepper in the hall.

“Peter,” she gasped, moving to hug him. “Where were you?”

“Uh,” he said, glancing at the guards and police officers gathered around. “I hid on the roof?”

Pepper sighed, smoothing out his hair. “Let's get you home…”

XxXXxX

Tony was exhausted. Truly, utterly, exhausted.

After accidentally creating a death bot, Tony had spent much to long not sleeping to track the sucker down. Then, he found out that Ultron was gathering vibranium, and had to make the shittiest call ever to T’Chaka, who he’d met only a few times, when the Wakandans were trying to hunt down Klaue before. And talking to the Wakandan king was an absolute shit storm, and it sucked.

But what sucked more? Oh, just fighting Hulked out Bruce in the Hulkbuster armor. That sucked most. Because it hurt like a bitch, and Bruce is his friend, god damn it!

Now, he was half limping as he followed Clint up a set of stairs to a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere. Tony squirmed in his own skin, practically feeling all the lowtech vibes coming after him. Everything was calling to be upgraded, and his sleep deprived fingers itched to upgrade.

“What is this place?” Steve asked beside him.

Clint chuckled, opening the door. A dog, almost identical to the one Clint had brought with him to the Tower, barked and bounced towards them. “Safehouse,” he said, petting the dog. “Fury helped me set it up when I joined. Off the books, you know?”

“A safehouse for a dog?” Tony couldn’t stop from coming out.

“Nope,” Clint said, popping the p. “Honey, I’m home!”

“Clint?” a man's voice called from another room. “Are you still alive?”

“That’s my idiot brother,” Clint said, grinning.

“I heard that!”

“Don’t eat anything that he cooks.”

“Heard that too!”

Clint chuckles, and Tony feels quite confused. He glances around, taking in the strange familiar air but unfamiliar surroundings. There were pictures of Clint, Natasha, and what looked like a family of two parents and two kids. A few toys had been forgotten in places around the living room, like a dinosaur toy in the window or a lego house by the table.

The man, Clint’s brother, stepped out of a corner, wiping his hands on his pants. He turned to give Clint a loose hug, then turned to look at the team.

“Guy’s,” Clint said. “This is my brother Barney.”

“I already know all your names.” Barney turned to Clint. “As much as I love seeing you, is this a life threatening? World ending?”

“We’re sorry for barging in,” Steve cut in. “We just need a few days to figure out what to do next.”

Barney looked unimpressed. “Well, my wife Laura and the kids are asleep upstairs, so if you guys don’t have anything to do, I’ve got some chores that we need done before winter.”

“Yeah,” Tony said, catching Thor leaving out the corner of his eye. Steve followed after him, and Tony grit his teeth. “What can I do?”

He ended up in the back yard with an axe and a massive stack of wood. It was August, but the Barton family apparently needed it all chopped by November. So he swung, feeling so old as his arms ached. He had a small pile of chopped wood set up, but he thought that it was a pretty good amount.

Steve eventually came out, and Tony looked up to glance at him. Out of all the teammates who got mind magic’d by Maximoff, Steve looked the least shaken. Hell, if anything, he looked calmer then he had in years. Tony wondered if Steve hadn’t seen anything. If Steve hadn’t seen what Tony had…

“So Thor didn’t say where he was going?” Tony asked, deciding that it was a much safer topic.

“Yeah,” Steve said, picking up a log to split it in half with his bare hands. “Sometimes my teammates don’t tell me things.”

Tony could feel the jab, and he swung the axes a little harder as his heart felt like it was being crushed. He decided then, that he wanted to tell Steve about his vision. Steve needed to know, so he could understand. “We don’t know what Maximoff showed him. It could have been important.” He paused, about to continue, but Steve interrupted before he could.

“‘Earth's Mightiest Heroes’,” Steve scoffed. “Maximoff pulled us apart like cotton candy.”

And Tony decided to fuck it. Fuck telling Steve, because this was bullshit. “You seemed to walk away just fine.”

And then Steve’s shoulder’s tensed, and Tony realized that Steve was keeping his own vision a secret. Why wouldn’t Steve tell him? Steve was all about honesty! “Is that a problem?”

“We’re supposed to be a team,” Tony said. “We’re supposed to be the team. Call me old fashioned.”

“Really Tony?” Steve turned to scowl at him. “Really? I thought you were all about tech and style and not telling me things . How are we supposed to be that team, and get married, if you won't even tell me something so important!”

“It was last minute,” Tony tried, a lump forming in his throat. “Bruce and I were doing research-”

“Research that would affect the team.”

And suddenly Tony burst. “That would end the team! That would end the fight! Isn’t that the dream? That we can go home, to our family’s-” he gestured exaggeratedly back at the Barton farm. “-so that we can go home and not worrying about how long we get to be there before we have to go out and maybe get ourselves killed?”

Thankfully, Steve actually looked to startled to speak. Tony took a deep breath, and made a quick decision. He knew he shouldn’t make this decision without thinking it through but he needed to do it. It had to be done.

Reaching up, he pulled the ring off his finger, the cool metal feeling like it burned as he did, and set the ring on the chopping stump. “Why don’t you take that back until you feel like you can trust me to do what I think is right.”

There was a beat of silence, and Tony turned to head back towards the house.

XxXXxX

When Peter finally managed to get Pepper to let go of him, he hurried back to the Tower to work on the webs problem. Turns out, he only had so much in his body. And that wasn’t very much. So, if he used the organic webs as a base, and mixed it with some other chemicals, he could theoretically make stronger, finer, and longer lasting webs then what he now produced naturally.

He planned on going after Connors. He kind of had to. If Connors went after Pepper again… Peter didn’t want to risk it. His aunt meant to much to him. He didn’t remember much of his early childhood, but he knew how his dad used to be. How he had been absent, detached from Peter entirely, until after Afghanistan. But Peter knew that Pepper had been there, always, especially during Afghanistan.

After hours of working, Peter finally made the perfect mix, compressed into small capsules that he could put into the web shooters he designed. They weren’t perfect, but they would have to be fixed later, if he wanted to go after Connors sooner rather then later.

Pulling on the suit, Peter made his way out to search for Connors.

XxXXxX

Steve was furious.

Furious at Ultron, at Natasha, at the world. At himself.

When Tony had given back the ring, he’d wanted to tell Tony to stop. It didn’t have to be like this, if they just sat and talked. But he knew that they wouldn’t really get the chance to when they were still fighting Ultron. There was just no time to go that. So Steve had picked up the ring, and sat on the stump to think before he was called inside to talk to Fury.

Then he took Natasha, Clint, and Bucky- Tony liked to call the three of them the ‘assassin squad’ -and went to find Dr. Cho. They ended up finding her dead, and Ultron running off with her cradle machine. He ended up fighting with the Maximoff’s against Ultron, as in the twins were on his side, and he was just very, very, confused. Then they lost Natasha.

“The Cradle,” Wanda said as her brother was catching his breath. “Did you get it?”

“Tony will take care of it,” Steve said, frowning at them. God, they looked like they were just kids…

“No, he won’t.

“You don’t know Tony like I do.” Steve insisted. “He’d do anything to make things right.”

But as the words came out of his mouth, Steve knew what she meant. Tony would do anything to fix his Ultron mistake. Even if it meant making a bigger, badder Ultron that would kill the first one.

XxXXxX

When Tony decided to start from scratch, he knew that it meant giving Jarvis up for good. But it had to be done. He needed to make this work this time, make it work for sure. There was no turning back. He had to do this.

“This framework is not compatible,” Tony grumbled, doing his best to rework everything.

“”The genetic coding tower’s at ninety-seven percent,” Bruce warned. “You have to upload that schematic in the next three minutes.”

Tony grumbled, working as fast as he could to make it work. He barely even noticed Steve entering from the corner of his eye. He didn’t want to see Steve right now. He didn’t want to deal with him, not now. Not here, in this moment.

“I’m only going to say this once,” Steve warned. “Shut it down.”

“Still don’t trust me, Cap?” Tony said, eyes flying back and forth as his fingers fly. “Cuz I can’t stop it.”

“You don’t know what you’re doing.”

“I’m pretty sure this is some kind of couples squabble,” Bruce started. “And normally I wouldn’t get in the middle of it, but do you know what you’re doing? She’s not in your head?”

Tony shut them out, doing his best to stay focused. He lost himself in the code, in the work he was doing. He typed and taped, fingers flying as he made the needed changes. This needed to be there, and that needed to be taken out completely. Just one last change, and-

Suddenly, Thor crashed through the ceiling, slamming his hammer down on the cradle. Strings of lightning flew all around the room, and Tony had to duck to avoid getting hit. When he stood, and the dust had settled, a man stood before them. Or, rather, a organic robot stood before them. He looked around, seemed to shake his head, then turned to Thor.

“I’m sorry,” he said with Jarvis voice, “That was… odd. Thank you.”

“Thor,” Steve called, and Tony could see the way that he was slowly inching over to shield Tony from the new creation. “You helped make this thing?”

Tony snorted, and he stepped out from where Steve was guarding him, and moved to observe the new machine. He ignored Steve, focusing on what this thing, the Vision, could do. He was absolutely amazed, and he found the way it moved and spoke absolutely fascinating.

In the end, he had to move to get on the suit, ready to head to Sokovia to face Ultron. He sat in the back as he finalized Friday’s full installation into the suit, while Steve gave everyone a speech. It was Steve’s thing, what he did to help work everything out. He was a good leader that way.

As everything wrapped up and they were on their way, Tony looked up to see Steve standing in front of him. He looked nervous, and all Tony could think was a vindictive ‘good’. Steve should be nervous. If he wasn’t going to agree to talk, Tony didn’t want to hear it.

“I should have talked to you sooner,” Steve started, shaking his head. “And this isn’t the best time, but I just wanted you to know that I do trust you. I trust you with my life, and with my heart. And while I wish you would tell me things, I don’t care about that nearly as much as I care about us staying together.”

He pulled out the ring from his pocket, kneeling down in front of Tony to hold it out. Tony wanted to stop him, to not do this right now. Ultron, if he was going to kill anyone today, it was going to be Tony. And if Tony died he didn’t want this to be the last conversation he has with Steve.

“I’m not going to-” Tony started, only for Steve to interrupt.

“I know,” he said, pressing the ring into Tony’s hand. “I know that we’re going to face a near unending army of robots, and I know that you want us to talk about it, but there isn’t time right now. We’ll talk later, when this is all over, for sure, alright? And if we don’t make it, then at least we both know that we’re willing to work it out, okay?”

Tony wants to say something, tell Steve that they’re having this talk here and now, but he hears the beep of Friday’s final installation, and knows that it’s time to go.

“We’ll make it out,” Tony said, closing his hand the ring. He used his other hand to reach forward and cup Steve’s face, gently leaning forward to press a kiss to his lips. “We’ll make it out, and we’ll talk.”

Then, without further delay, Tony pulled on the suit and took off.

XxXXxX

Peter thought he did pretty well tracking down Connors. After all, it only took him a few hours, and he ended up finding the man in the sewers, looking less human and more lizard as he was trying to make his way to Oscorp. Peter fought him on the way there, eventually coming out of the sewer practically riding the guy like a bull.

They fought as they scaled the building, pedestrians taking photos from below as Peter tried to knock Lizard back down. Nothing seemed to work, though, and they were soon at the top. Apparently Connors had some kind of bio-chem bomb up there, and Peter quickly did his best to take out Connors and the bomb. He eventually did, thank god, but he lost Connors. As in, the man fell off the building, lost. The clean up crew had to scrape him off the sidewalk.

When he came down, many people cheered and tried to grab at him, but he just did a backflip onto a light post- Thank you Aunt Nat for those gymnastic lessons -gave a little salute, and was gone. He was tired, smelled like crap, and really hungry. If he hurried, he could probably catch the tail end of the report on the news though.

So he swung home, entered through the window, and pulled off the suit to dump it in the wash. He then went to the kitchen to eat first, after washing his hands, and turned on the TV as he made a sandwich.

“-with the day saved by not the Avengers or the police, but a new hero known only as the Spiderman.” The newscaster finished. “But speaking of the Avengers, where are they? Well, the answer is simple. Sokovia, nearly a thousand miles up, fighting an army of robots!”

Peter choked on his sandwich, coughing as they showed helicopter footage of thousands of robots swarming around all of the Avengers, even part time ones, and four people Peter didn’t even recognize. He watched in shock as they were fighting, destroying bot after bot, before the footage suddenly cut out.

He blinked, reached for the phone, then thought better of it. If everything was going to end, if his dad was that worried, he’d call. Like the last… three times? It was three now, right? Because there was the Mandarin, two years ago, then the Chitauri before that, and Whiplash before that. So three. If his dad was really in trouble, he’d call.

Taking a deep breath, Peter decided that maybe he’d take that shower now.

XxXXxX

The fight had been crazy. Really, Tony was getting tired just thinking about it. They had everyone there, and Wade Wilson had even showed up. They didn’t even lose anybody! Well, except for Bruce, since the Hulk had taken a quinjet and just… ollie-outied. Natasha took it pretty hard. Thor left afterwards, something about finding the rest of the stones, and having to say goodbye to Jane to.

They rode with Coulson on the Helicarrier, and Steve came to see Tony as soon as they were done with debrief in a private conference room. It was quiet, something Tony rarely wanted, but needed right now. Just a quiet, simple, talk. No yelling, no arguing. Just… talking.

“So,” Steve said when he came in. He stood to lean against the table of the conference room, looking at Tony with arms crossed.

“So,” Tony said, the ring sitting in his hands. “I’ve decided… I don’t want to give this back.”

Steve looked up, eyes wide as if he hadn’t been expecting that. “Really?”

Tony could only smile. “Yeah, really. Steve, we’re heroes. More importantly, we’re a team. Not just part of the Avengers team, but you and I. We are a team. And we’ll be a team for a long time, so we won't keep any secrets. Not anymore. So we’ll lay everything out on the table now, before we land. And when we get back to the Tower, we’ll tell Peter that you’re officially going to be his Pops, okay?”

For a second, Steve only stared at him. Then, he sat down and they talked everything out. They agreed no more secrets, and they told each other whatever skeletons they still had in their closets. They told each other everything, from the smallest white lie to the biggest falsehood. Steve really didn’t like what he cooked. Tony didn’t think that Steve had the greatest singing voice. Steve did mind when Tony spent days on end in the lab. Tony hated the way Steve jumped headlong into a fight without thinking. Steve had seen his 70 year sleep repeated in his vision. Tony had seen everyone die when he could have done more.

They spent hours talking, until they got to the very last one. Once everything was finished, they put the ring back on Tony’s finger, and went to tell their respective main friends that everything was just fine.

XxXXxX

Steve walked up to the small group huddled together in one corner of the helicarrier. It had been done quite subtly, but when he and Tony had started fighting, the team had split down the middle. Sam, Bucky, and Clint, had sided with Steve, become a sort of ‘Team Cap’, while Natasha, Rhodes, and Bruce had sided with Tony. Thor, of course, had been an unofficial neutral party, not really understanding what was going on.

As Steve moved to stand before his table, which now included Pietro and Wanda, who were sort of just there to hang out with Clint, they all looked up at him expectantly. Clearly, they’d been filling Wanda and Pietro in on what was happening.

“Tony and I,” Steve said, a smile slowly splitting his face. “We’ve cleared everything up. No more lies with each other. Not even the little things. We’re going to try to be completely honest with each other.”

Sam and Clint cheered, and Bucky stood up to clap Steve on the back. His best friend, however, looked worried, and Steve knew exactly why. He slowly shook his head, just subtly enough that the others didn’t see. Steve hadn’t told Tony about Bucky and Peter’s mother. It was the one thing Steve couldn’t bring himself to tell Tony.

XxXXxX

After telling Rhodey and Natasha that the wedding was back on, Tony asked Wade if we’d like to come. They’d kept in contact after all the help Wade gave, what with the Hydra stuff, and Tony occasionally went down to Weasel’s bar to fix a thing or two, just to check in on the kid. Sure, Wade was eighteen now, but he was still a kid in Tony’s book.

“Wow,” Wade laughed. “Captain America and Iron Man’s wedding! That’s going to be the wedding of the year! Think I can take the pictures? If you’re doing a private wedding, those would be worth a fortune!”

“My son is a bit of a photographer,” Tony explained. “So he’ll be taking all the official wedding photos. Or most of them. But if you talk to him, I’m sure he wouldn’t mind some help. And since Peter is starting public school, I have to have it on a day where you wouldn’t miss class anyway, so you’ll be fine there.”

“Uh, I kinda dropped out?”

Tony blinked. “What? You…? You never graduated?”

“Uh, no? Kind of work full time as a merc?”

“That’s just-” Tony sighed, shaking his head. “Okay, let’s make a deal. You graduate, and I’ll make you gear that only you can use.”

“And be the only mercenary with up to date Stark Tech weapons?” Wade cheered. “Hell yeah!”

Tony sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. What had he gotten himself into?

Chapter Text

Peter was sitting on the couch when his Dad and Steve got back.

It had been hours since the news feed had cut out from their fight against killer robots, and while Peter was worried, he knew better then to doubt his dad. His dad always made sure to come back, so Peter had settled down on the couch to take a nap. Then, when they weren’t back, he checked the news and asked Friday. She assured him that they were fine, and would arrive shortly. Just had to drop someone that had helped them off somewhere.

But when his Dad and Steve walked through the door, Peter was instantly drawn instead to the rings on their fingers.

“No way,” he gasped, jumping up and nearly falling over the back of the couch as he tried to scramble over it. “You guys proposed?! Without me there?! Please tell me someone got it on camera and that it wasn’t in the middle of a battlefield.”

“Don’t worry,” his dad said, rolling his eyes. “Surprisingly, Agent got it all down.”

“It didn’t go quite as expected,” Steve admitted. “And we probably looked a little silly, trying to propose at the same time… But we both said yes and want to get married, so that’s what matters.”

Peter watched as Steve and his Dad shared a loving gaze, and Peter fake gagged. He didn’t actually think it was gross, and he was so glad his Dad was finally going to have someone else around. There was only so much a fourteen year old could do. Besides, Steve was good for his dad.

“Hey, hey,” Peter cut into the gooey eyed stared, reaching levels of over excited that he hadn’t reached since he was four. “Steve, this means you’re gonna be my dad!”

It was an obvious thing, but such an important one all the same. If Steve was marrying his dad, that meant that Steve was going to be his second dad. His Dad, though, seemed to find this hilarious.

“Yeah, Pete,” his Dad snickered. “He’ll be your ninety year old dad. You could call him Pops, and everything.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Steve said, rolling his eyes. “Yack it up. But really, Peter, I would love it if you called me Dad, or Pops.”

Peter let a grin split his face, and wrapped tight arms around them both. He had wished as a kid for two parents that would love him, even after his Dad became, well, involved in his life, but this was the dream. Two parents, friends at school, and just being happy in general. Peter knew that life from now on was going to be perfect.

“We have to start planning,” Peter said, voice quick and sharp. He wanted his parent- God, his parents! -wedding to be perfect. “We need to get tuxedos for everyone, and have one special made for Bruce, just in case he accidentally Hulks, and it can’t be overlapping with any other special events, and their are so many we have to think about, so we have to be extra careful and-”

“Peter,” his Dad cut in. “We’re both very tired. We just spent hours fighting killer robots, and then even more hours on the helicarrier. We’d very much like to get some rest. Before we tell you some… not so good news.”

He blinked, but calmed, and nodded. “Yeah. Yeah, sorry. I just… excited.”

Peter let his Dad and Steve go back into their room to rest, and went to go check on the others. He wanted to hear about the battle, about how they won, and tell them about Spiderman. Well, not that he was Spiderman, but about the new hero in town. He hadn’t been expecting to hear about about Bruce…

XxXXxX

Wade went back to the bar to find Bob mopping the floor and Weasel wiping the counter. Like always, the bar was filled with mercs a plenty, with guns and weapons all strewn across the tables. The bar had really become a popular hang out after the move, and they had so many returning customers now that they had started a dead pool. Wade liked to pit guys against each other, sometimes, to see if he could aggro someone into killing someone else. It usually doesn't work.

“Hey,” Weasel sad as Wade slid into his seat. “Saw you on the news. Didn’t know you were going to help the Avengers.”

“Kids going soft,” he heard an older merc say to another before they both laughed.

“I wasn’t there to help them,” Wade said with a shrug, stretching. “I just ran into them after Sokovia, you know, started flying. Besides, I always wanted to destroy killer murder bots. Anyway, you remember that school you said liked the PSAT scores from when we moved up here? Before I dropped out?”

Weasel gave him an odd look, but nodded. “Yeah? That… Midtown Science place, the one that kept sending me pamphlets on the school, since I was technically your guardian?”

“Yeah, that one. Do you still have the paperwork? I wanna see if they’ll still take me. The campus is, like, right next to my favorite chimichanga place anyway.”

“Wait, you want to go back to school?”

With a shrug, Wade leaned over the counter to get some things from behind it to make an aggro drink. He liked to think of the dead pool as a game, with him as a rogue that could use items to make enemies aggro each other. “Not exactly. Stark said that if I graduate he’d make me some gear. So, I figure, why not?”

He topped off the drink with a heavy pile of whip cream, and turned to a passing waitress to give it and some instructions to her. Wade then turned back to Weasel, and sighed as Weasel held out the papers. Man, the guy had really kept them…

“You know,” Weasel started, leaning on the counter. “You’re pretty smart. If you hadn’t dropped out, you could have done anything you wanted. You could have had a life outside of this. I’m kinda glad you’re heading back, man, and not getting stuck like me.”

“Shut up,” Wade said, though there wasn’t much heat in it. Weasel had been his father figure from when he was eight on. After his mother died of cancer, when he was six, he spent two years with his good for nothing father. Then Weasel, just the neighbor that Wade saw every once in a while, came in and got him out. And because of that, Wade got to meet tons of mercs, many of them nicer then he would have thought, and they taught him how to fight back. “I’m right where I want to be.”

“You say that now, but what about in a few years? When you start having trouble keeping the light on, or when you meet the one you want to spend the rest of your life with, but can’t keep them safe from all the people who want you dead for revenge?” Weasel shook his head. “I’m not saying the merc life is a bad life. Well, technically, it’s an illegal life, but it’s not for everyone. I just want to see you happy and-” He was cut off as one of the fighting mercs picked up a chair. “Hey, no! That’s new, and- PUT BOB DOWN, HE’S NOT A WEAPON!”

Wade watched as Weasel ran off to stop the mercs from destroying everything, or worse, killing their cleaning kid and getting blood all over the floor. He turned to look at the paperwork, wondering if maybe Weasel was right… Should he take this out? Rework his deal with Stark?

Nah.

XxXXxX

Tony worked with Steve on planning for two weeks, trying to get everything together. He wanted it to be perfect, but they wanted to do it sooner rather then later. Before another big bad showed up and they got sucked into another life or death situation. So they decided to get married in September. It was just a month away, but they wanted to do a small ceremony with just friends first. They’d probably come back and have a ‘media wedding’ after they got back from their honeymoon.

The arrangement so far was that on the eleventh of September, they would all go down to Malibu after Peter finished his class. The wedding would be at noon on that Sunday, the thirteenth of September. Then, while he and Steve left to spend some alone time on one of Tony's private estates in Hawaii, the team would take Peter home and make sure he did what he needed to for school.

Pepper, wonderful Pepper, was taking care of most of the planning. Since it was going to be private, there wasn't much that needed to be planned, but Tony wanted it to be perfect for Steve, so he kept butting in on her plans. He kept changing a few things at a time, and then worrying that it wasn't good enough and changing it back. Eventually, Pepper got annoyed and told Steve on him.

“It's our wedding,” Steve told him, as he dragged him away from peeking at wedding plans. “Miss Potts knows us both pretty well. You even more. She'll make it perfect.”

Tony grumbled, but let Steve lead him away from the lab. They went up to the penthouse, where Peter was once again on the couch, watching TV.

“Hey kid,” Tony said as he walked by on his way to the coffee machine, ruffling Peter's already messy hair. “Excited for tomorrow?”

Peter huffed, but he couldn't hide his smile from Tony. It would be Peter's first day in public school, and his first day of highschool. Tony wasn't really… worried, but he had concerns. What if the other kids weren't nice to Peter? What if he couldn't make friends and ended up sitting alone at lunch? So much could go wrong, and Tony was just so worried for his son.

“Yeah,” Peter said, grinning. “I'm really excited, actually. I made friends at the science camp, and they're all really cool.”

Even though they'd been back from their Ultron thing for almost two weeks, Tony actually hadn't heard anything about how Peter's camp had gone. He guessed that he'd been so busy with wedding planning that is had just… slipped his mind.

“How was that, anyway?” Steve asked for him. “I don't remember you ever telling us about it.”

“It was fun,” Peter said, turning around to lean over the back of the couch to talk to them. “We got split into groups, and we did competitions and team building activities. Oh! But you'll never guess who was in my group!”

“Who?” Tony asked, now seated with Steve at the table with his coffee.

Peter grinned as Tony took a sip. “Harry Osborn.”

Instantly, Tony choked, the coffee coming out of his nose as he sharply inhaled before exhaling. Steve pat him on the back, as he tried to not die. God, there was coffee in his nose !

“Who's Harry Osborn?” Steve asked.

“Remember Norman Osborn?” Tony asked, wiping at his face with a cloth. “He's that guy you met two or three times, always wants to talk about his company or Computer Science? Harry Osborn is his son. He's also an arrogant little turd like his father.”

“Dad,” Peter whined. “Harry isn't all bad. I mean, he and I are actually kind of friends, once he stopped being mad that I could answer more science questions then he could.”

“What about your other friends?” Steve asked. “Does Harry know that you're Peter Stark?”

Peter chuckled. “That's the best part! Even though Harry's seen my at gala's and stuff, he didn't recognize me at all! And nobody else did either. It was really cool. Even though they all just think I’m a kid from Queen’s, they actually want to be my friends because I’m me, not cuz Dad is, well, my dad.”

Tony felt his heart clench at that. Had Peter really had friends like that, who were just his friends because he was a Stark? Of course he had. Tony had the same thing happen. So why would Peter be exempt from this stupidity? He was glad that Peter had made some friends though.

“I was actually wondering if I could go over to stay at Ned’s house on Saturday?” Peter smiled, nervous. “You know, to spend the night? I’d be back on Sunday, by noon.”

Tony pursed his lips, thinking. A sleepover? When was the last time Peter had spent a night at a friends? Before the Mandarin, at the very least. That time he got drunk with Stephen. Note to self: remember to add Stephen to the guest list. Tony hadn’t seen him in a while.

“I don’t have a problem with it,” Tony eventually said, then turned. “Steve?”

The blond blinked, looking at Tony. “Huh?”

“Yeah, Pops,” Peter whined, pulling out the puppy dog eyes. “Can I?”

“I…” Steve blinked. “Why are you asking me?”

“Well, you’re going to be his father to,” Tony explained. “We have to agree on things, when it comes to Peter. And Peter has to ask you for permission to do things to.”

“I don’t see why not,” Steve said, a goofy smile starting to grow on his face. “Sure, Peter. You can stay at your friends. Maybe ask a little more in advance next time, though? Saturday is just a few days away.”

Tony smiled, watching as Peter nodded excitedly, and he turned to pull out his tablet. He had Friday, who had taken over things for the entire tower with Jarvis gone, lock him out of the wedding plans. No need to stress Pepper out about why her notes kept changing. So instead, he went to check on the news from the last few weeks, what they missed while fighting Ultron.

Apparently, a guy called Spiderman had rescued Pepper from a lizard man. It was crazy, really, and Tony made a note to look into it more later. Maybe they could recruit this guy. Could be a big help.

XxXXxX

Peter was nervous. Well, sort of. He was more… excited? With a mix of ‘about to puke’. It was Thursday, August twenty-seventh. And it was his first day of public school.

Since he was a kid, he’d only been homeschooled, or been to private institutes. In Malibu, his Dad had paid thousands of dollars, in addition to the tuition, so that he could get an education and not have absolutely everyone know where he was going. Most of the parents of his sort of friend classmates didn’t go running to the media about him going to the school because they wanted to be in his fathers good graces. But his dad never really paid much attention to the other parents.

But now, as Peter Parker, he could be just another student!

Pulling on his shoes, Peter sent another glance to the clock, checking the time. He was going to get a ride from Clint, since the archer was the only Avenger that didn’t have his face splattered all over the media and could drive. Well, besides Nat, but she wasn’t really… in the mood to take him right now. Bruce leaving was… hard on her. Peter knew that they were together, or had been working towards that, but now… It hurt to see his aunt so sad.

Shaking the thoughts away, Peter finished tying his shoes and pulled on his backpack. He had made sure to put all his school supplies inside: two notebooks, binder, scratch paper, pencil pouch, with pencils, pens, highlighters, and colored pencils. He also had his suit one, under his clothes, the mask, gloves, and boots tucked away in a hidden pocket on his backpack. He was ready!

“Peter,” Steve called. “Clint’s waiting in the garage.”

“Coming!” Peter called back, rushing towards the door. He caught sight of himself in the mirror he had on his desk, and reached up to fix his hair, and remembered to snag the glasses from where he’d tossed them when he’d got back from camp. Then he was running down the hall, bag bouncing behind. “Bye Dad! Bye, Pops!”

“Well, bye,” his Dad said his face unreadable as Peter smashed the button in the elevator.

“We’ll see you when you get back,” Steve promised, just before the elevator doors closed, and Peter was on his way.

When he reached the garage, Clint barely had time to greet him before he was jumping into the passenger seat of a nondescript car his Dad bought for the very purpose of blending in.

“Wow, kid,” Clint chuckled, sliding into the driver's seat. “You seem excited.”

Peter just grinned, bouncing a little in his seat as he looked out the window. Clint drove, and Peter got more and more excited with every second. He wondered if Ned would be there when he got there. Or if Gwen and Harry would be waiting for him. Halfway there, he was itching to pull out his phone text them, ask them where they should all meet up.

When they actually arrived, though, Peter felt nauseous. It had been so long since he had been to an actual school, private or otherwise. Midtown High was going to so different from his last schools. Could he really go here?

“What’s wrong, Peter?” Clint asked. “We’re here. I’m dropping you off. You need to get out.”

“What if I mess up?” Peter asked in return, his stomach twisting itself into knots. “What if I accidentally reveal who I am, or make a fool of myself? What if my teachers hate me? Or I forget where my classes are? What if you guys get into a fight and I have a panic attack about Dad and-”

“Calm down. Nothing is gonna go wrong.” Giving Peter a wide grin, Clint reached out and ruffled his hair, messing it up. “You’ll do fine, kid. You’re smart, smarter then I was at your age. Just get in there, and knock their socks off.”

Peter bit his lip, but felt his nerves ebb away. Nothing to worry about. He’d be fine. So, taking a deep breath, Peter stepped out of the car, gave Clint a wave, and watched as the car was soon off back to the Tower. He felt a little easier now, and he was ready to head inside, find his class schedule.

“Who was that?” a voice asked, making Peter jump.

He turned, finding Gwen standing behind him, Harry not to far behind her.

“Oh, hey Gwen, Harry,” Peter said, laughing a bit as he fidgeted nervously. “That, oh, you know, my Uncle, just dropping me off.”

“I thought you lived with your father,” Harry said, raising a brow.

“I do,” Peter quickly replied. “But Dad- He’s busy, got engaged a few weeks ago, and work and planning leave him kinda drained. So my Uncles, cuz they live in the same building, they all said that they’d drive me, and…” He trailed off, feeling like he was rambling. “Uh, yeah.”

“Well, that’s nice,” Gwen smiled. “Your dad getting married. Do you like her? The lady he’s marrying.”

“Uh, him,” he corrected. “And, yeah. Steve’s nice. He and my dad have been together for… almost three years? And he’s been living with us for at least two. But yeah! My dad is getting married in two weeks. It’s all pretty exciting.”

Gwen and Harry both nodded, and Peter followed them inside. Ned was waiting for them in the cafeteria, and they all went to get their class schedules. Their day was split into six hour long periods, with a half hour planning period at the end of every day but Fridays when they got to go home early while teachers had weekly meetings. Peter had done testing when he enrolled and chosen his classes, so he was able to take Computer Science and AP Biology, both generally Sophomore classes, along with Geometry, PE, Machine Shop, and a basic art class. The art class was mostly just so he had a better excuse to bring his camera to school then ‘I want to take pictures of everything’ and because it made Steve happy that he was interested in art.

He shared first period Geometry, and third period Computer Science with Ned, and fifth period AP Bio with Harry. He had sixth period Intro to Art with Gwen, and fourth period PE with all three of them right before lunch. The only class he was alone in was his second period Machine Shop, and while he was a little worried about tackling that alone, he figured he’d be fine. He knew a ton about robotics and machinery from his dad, so he’d be fine.

He and Ned said goodbye to Harry and Gwen, and were soon on their way to Geometry. They got to choose their seats, and they had to stand for first day roll call. Even though it was the first day, they had a short pre-test on the first chapter of their books. Peter felt that it was, maybe, a little to easy for him, but he still did his best to answer all the questions as best he could.

When the bell rang, Peter turned in the paper, and said goodbye to Ned as he went to find the machine shop room.

XxXXxX

Wade was… late. Not by much. Just an hour or so. Really, it wasn’t that big of a deal. Besides, he was late because he had gotten back late from a last minute job he took the night before. But whatever.

He’d missed first period, not that it really mattered to him much, and went straight to his second period. It was just a filler class, one to fill his schedule so he could get enough credits. When Wade entered the room, the bell had already rung, and the teacher had already taken attendance.

“You’re late,” he said, leaning back in his desk chair. “Wilson, I’m guessing? Sit down, we’re starting with a course plan review.”

Wade, already board, went to the nearest empty seat and dropped into it, hooking his bag on the back of the chair. The kid next to him was pretty small, probably a freshman, since it was a mixed grade class, but he wasn’t like other freshmen that Wade had seen. Sure, he hadn't seen many of them, but this kid was different. He was actually… kind of cute, like a baby bird that Wade just wanted to coo and smother.

When the kid shot Wade a glance and a nervous smile-wave combo (Super effective!), Wade felt a jolt roll through him and he gave a quick return grin before turning to actually pay attention to the boring teacher. He didn’t really catch much of what the teacher was saying, but he got the parts where safety came first, and that they would have table partners for team projects and then if they needed help when doing solo projects.

“So,” Wade said, once the lecture was done, and the teacher had dismissed them to get to know their new table buddy. “I’m Wade.”

“Peter Parker,” the kid said, holding out a hand. Wade kind of just… looked at it, and Peter nervously tucked his hand back into his lap. “So, uh, are you a senior? Taken machine shop before?”

“Kinda,” Wade said, resting an elbow on the table, putting his cheek in his hand as he looked Peter over. He hadn’t been wrong when he thought the kid was adorable. With a nest of fluffed up brown hair and such pretty coco brown eyes, Peter Parker was probably the cutest boy Wade had ever met. “I dropped out a while back, but some… stuff happened and I came back to get my diploma. I did take machine shop a long time ago, but that was also in another state.”

“Oh. Well, I’m just a freshman.” A smile, a nervous laugh, and Wade just wanted to hug this kid. “And I was mostly homeschooled so… I don’t really know anything about public school.”

Wade smiled a little, thinking maybe this kid wouldn’t be so bad. Cute, seemed to be socially awkward, and totally open to talking to him. Maybe Wade could make an extra friend. Maybe if Peter wasn’t under the consent age, Wade could ask him out. He didn’t want to get busted just cuz he wanted to date a cutie and turned out to be to old for said cutie.

Before Wade could say anything more, the bell rang, and Peter stood, pulling on his backpack. “I have to get to Computer Science, but I’ll see you around.”

And with that, Wade watched as the brunette went on his way, leaving Wade behind. Oh man, did he like to watch that cutie leave… To bad he couldn’t just follow, and had to go to some random math class he was totally going to ignore.

XxXXxX

Peter sat in the Computer Science room humming as he waited for Ned to show up. He had quite a bit of fun, talking to Wade in his shop class. Wade seemed like a cool guy, even though he was a lot older them him. Not only that, but Peter actually remembered the guy. Wade was the one Peter had saved from the man with the gun when he had gotten bit.

He didn’t know if what made Wade come back to school was being saved, or if it was something else, but it made Peter happy that he was able to help someone move forward with their life. Peter wanted to get to know Wade, maybe learn a thing or two from him. Who knows, maybe Wade knew some cool places to hang out or knew how to skateboard. Peter had always wanted to learn how to skateboard…

When Ned sat down next to him, Peter grinned and they waited for the teacher to start giving instructions. They talked in hushed tones, whispering to each other as they told each other about the class they’d gone to without the other. Peter barely mentioned Wade, and Ned was grinning, lightly punching Peter’s shoulder.

“Dude,” Ned whispered. “You made friends with a senior? If you can get him to sit with us at lunch, we could become the coolest freshmen in the entire school!”

Peter shrugged. He wasn’t really interested in being ‘cool’. In his old schools, before he switched to homeschooling, other kids always said that he was cool, just because his dad was famous. They wanted to be his friend because that meant they would be cool. But really? Peter wanted people to be his friend because they liked him. Not because he was ‘cool’.

So they sat through Computer Science and waited for PE to roll around. They were out pretty fast, and Peter chewed his lip nervously as he entered the gym. If they had to change in locker rooms, he could be in trouble. He had the suit on under his clothes. If anyone saw…

But when they entered, they were handed little baggies, and pointed to the locker rooms. When Peter went in, he was glad to see that there were stalls with locks that he could get changed in.

“I’m gonna…” Peter said, almost embarrassed as he pointed to the stall. “Gonna change in there, you know, more privacy and all.”

Ned thankfully just nodded, pulling the clothes out of the baggie to change. Peter went to the stall, locking it snugly, before pulling off his clothes. The suit was snug underneath, and he would admit that he did feel a little hot with it on all day, but he needed it off now either way. It was designed to come off a bit like Steve’s suit, and it did, though it’s structure was more like his dad’s under armour.

Peter sighed when the suit was finally off, and he stuffed it into the hidden pocket of his backpack, before pulling on the sweats. He was one of the last people in the locker room, but he didn’t really mind. Once he was sure his pack would be safe, he went back out and into the gym, where Coach Wilson was waiting for them. Everyone was packed onto the bleachers, and Peter was quick to find Ned, Harry, and Gwen towards the front of the bleachers. He also saw Wade, who in turn saw him and waved. Peter returned the gesture, giving a small wave and sitting next to Ned in front of Harry and Gwen.

“Who was that?” Gwen asked, grinning.

“Peter made a senior friend,” Ned cut in before Peter could say anything. “His name is Wade.”

“He’s kinda hot,” Gwen grinned. “To old for me, though. My dad would kill me.”

Peter rolled his eyes, and got up with the rest of the class as Coach Wilson instructed them on what to do. They were doing some stretches first, and preparing for some kind of fitness test. All the stretches were simple, but Peter was able to do a bit more then the others expected. He was flexible, mostly from the little bit of Widow level gymnastics that Nat had taught him. It was actually a little embarrassing, explaining that he was so flexible because one of his aunts wanted him to do gymnastics and ballet with her.

Wade came to join them half way through class, and Peter was happy to see him get along with Ned and Gwen. Harry didn’t seem to impressed by him, and while that was to bad, Peter didn’t care. He thought Wade was pretty nice, and he was excited to get to know him more. So far he’d learned that Wade was pretty laid back, lived with his pseudo brother that he nicknamed Weasel, and thought katanas were just the coolest thing.

When gym class ended and they were all in civies again, they went as a group to the cafeteria. Well, all of them but Wade, who was a senior and had a lunch pass to leave campus during the break. Peter was a little jealous, but even if the school allowed freshmen to have lunch passes, his dad would never agree to him having one. To dangerous, and risked paparazzi seeing him around and blowing his cover. If he wanted his friends to know he was Peter Stark, he had to tell them on his own time.

So he sat at a table in the cafeteria with Ned, Harry, and Gwen. At least, for a little while. Harry soon left to join a group of more popular kids for a bit, and Gwen had apparently made some girl friends that she wanted to hang out with, so it was just Peter and Ned. They both had a school lunch, some oddly rubbery and watery spaghetti that actually made Peter want to throw up a little, but they had a table where they could see the TV in the cafeteria, where the school news was playing.

It was edited quite terribly, and the visuals were just awful. And their script, oh man, it was cringey. They talked about back to school things, where they could find some extra supplies if they needed it, and a bit about some kind of assembly tomorrow. There was, however, a little bit on Spiderman. They were asking students to email stories and photos of Spiderman from when he saved them, or just when they saw him. Peter wondered if he could send in some candid shots anonymously…

“You know,” Wade suddenly says, making Peter jump as he slides in next to him. “I think I was the first person Spiderman ever saved. He told me his name was Spiderman and I passed it onto the papers when they asked.”

Peter tried not to blush, because dang it! He knew Wade looked familiar! He was the one that Peter had saved from a mugger when he first went out in a hoodie and a mask.

“Really?” Peter said, though he was a bit nervous. “What- What was he like?”

Wade shrugged. “Well, at that time, he was just in a red hoodie. Not sure what else there is to say. I left town for a while, and then when I come back, I find out that he saved Stark Industries CEO. It was pretty crazy.”

Peter squirmed in his seat, and quickly got up. He made an excuse about dumping his tray and going to the bathroom, and left the cafeteria. Really, Peter wasn’t sure what to think. Could he really live a double life? Hell, a triple life? Could he be Peter Parker by morning, Peter Stark by evening, and Spiderman by night? It felt like… It was like he was biting off more then he could chew…

As he walked, he bumped into a much larger frame, the sudden jolt almost sending him to his rear. “Sorry,” he said quickly, moving to step around the larger boy.

“Hey,” the boy hissed, grabbing Peter by the back of his shirt and shoving him against the lockers. Peter was so shocked he just fell to the floor, staring up at the figure over him. “Watch where you’re going.”

The boy, taller, naturally stronger then Peter if Peter hadn’t been enhanced, probably a bit older, and loomed over Peter. Not wanting to make a scene, accidentally hurt this guy with his strength, Peter looked away, nodding quickly as he got up and hurried away. He could hear the kid laughing behind him as he left. It left the hairs on the back of his neck standing on end, leaving the strangest feeling that he’d see the bully again…

XxXXxX

Tony was sitting on the couch with Steve when Peter got back. They were picking out activities to do on the honeymoon, and working out maybe more places to go then just Hawaii. So far, they’d decided to start with a week in Paris, France, then move to spend a week in Venice, Italy, and ending with the last eleven days in Hawaii. It was a good plan, and they were excited for it.

But Tony was drawn from the plans as Peter walked in. He wanted to know what Peter thought, of his new school. Had it been a good day? Did he make more friends? Where his classes boring? But Peter just walked right on passed them, going to his room. Tony wanted to follow, but Steve put a hand on his shoulder. When Tony looked over, Steve just shook his head.

“He’s probably had a long day,” Steve said, sitting back. “Give him some time to relax.”

“Fine,” Tony sighed, picking up his tablet. “By the way, have you read about this Spiderman guy? He’s pretty impressive.”

“A little,” the blond admitted. “Just that he showed up while we were fighting Ultron, and saved Pepper from some… lizard man.”

“The Lizard.” Opening up a tab on the tablet, Tony shows Steve a series of clips.

The first was of Spiderman swooping in from seemingly nowhere and catching a car thief. The next was of Spiderman swinging in to stop a 3000 lbs car from smashing into a public transport bus at 40 miles/hour. Finally, there was the first fight against the Lizard, a short clip of Spiderman getting flung out a window before shooting a web and swinging back up to the smashed window of Pepper’s office. There were tons more, mostly small things since they had returned, but this guy always seemed to know just where he needed to be to help the little guys.

“That is pretty impressive,” Steve admitted, frowning slightly as he observed the tablet. “I think we should present the idea to the team before we leave. See what they think about asking him to come train with us. They can think it over and if we all can make a decision before the wedding, we can see about tracking him down.”

“I’ve actually been working on figuring out a way to track him,” Tony admitted. “Even if the team doesn’t want him to come join us, I was going to offer to make him a better suit. The material looks a little thin, not very good for facing muggers with guns. One stray shot and he’ll be dead.”

Steve nodded, looking a little concerned.

“Don’t worry,” Tony promised, putting in parameters for his search. “I’m not going to be looking for his civilian name. I’m just going to set up a program to see if there’s a pattern to when he passes the tower. If there is, I’ll make first contact.”

Once the notes were all in, Tony had Friday run the program. It didn’t take long. Actually, it was almost instant. Normally, Friday would take the time to run every second of every street camera in the area, be as precise as possible, and would take at least… five minute? Maybe ten. But no, it was almost instant. So Tony checked.

Spiderman made an appearance outside the Tower at exactly ten in the evening every night since they’d gotten back. The web slinger then returns at two in the morning. Normally, that wouldn’t be concerning. The problem was, Spiderman came out of the Tower at ten, and entered the Tower at two. Via Peter’s bedroom window.

Tony felt his stomach churn, and he felt like he was going to be sick. Why was Spiderman in Peter’s room? Well, the answer was obvious. Peter had to be Spiderman. It explained why Peter was so enthusiastic to ask about Spiderman. And Pepper had mentioned that Peter had been there when the Lizard attacked. Right after Peter had run off to hide, Spiderman had shown up. There was no sign of Spiderman ever arriving or leaving though. And Tony bet, if he checked the fabrication logs, the suit had been made using it.

“Okay,” Steve said as he grabbed his gym bag. “I’m going to go meet up with Buck. I’ll be back for dinner, but we’re going to be going for a while.”

“What?” Tony said, then quickly closed the program. “Oh, right. Thursday sparing hours. Yeah, I’ll… I’ll see you at dinner.”

Steve frowned. “Something wrong?”

“No-” He hesitated, thinking carefully as he chewed his lip. They had sworn no secrets. No secrets between them. They were supposed to be open with each other, tell eachother everything, no matter what. But this was Peter’s secret. A dangerous secret, but still one that Peter felt the need to hide. “Yes- Well, sort of. It’s just, we said we’d be honest with each other, right?”

His fiance paused. “Right…”

“Well, let's say I found out someone else's secret. An important one, that should be revealed by them. Would you want me to tell you? Even when they don’t even know that I know?”

Steve took a moment to think, frowning as he did. “If it’s a danger to people, then I’d like it if you told me. But if you think it would be better for whoever this secret keeper is to tell us themselves, then you don’t have to tell me. So it’ll be fine, Tony.” He leaned in, pressing a kiss to Tony’s lips before heading for the elevator. “I’ll see you at dinner.”

Tony watched him go, then stood once Steve was gone. He needed… He needed to get to the lab. He had to make a better suit for Peter.

XxXXxX

Peter’s first day had started pretty great. He shared each class with at least one friend, and he didn’t have to worry about being alone during lunch or study hall, but the bully? The older kid that Peter had bumped into after lunch? Turned out, his name was Flash Thompson, and he held grudges. His previous punching bag had transferred, apparently, and after Peter bumped into him, Flash had decided Peter was going to be his replacement.

Every time Peter passed Flash in the halls, he got shoved into walls or lockers. Flash had apparently done some digging on him to, and would talk crap about his friends, threaten them, and call him a fairy for having two dads. Peter knew that if Flash knew who his dads were, he wouldn’t be saying those things, and that Wade and Harry could certainly hold themselves against Flash, but Ned couldn’t. Gwen could probably get Flash to back off, but he didn’t want to risk it. He had a healing factor now. He could take it.

It made school less enjoyable, but made him love the parts he did enjoy all that much more.

The assembly was actually kind of boring, but he got to see probably one of the prettiest girls he’d ever seen. Liz Toomes, a girl a year above him that was part of the student planning committee. She was also on the school’s academic decathlon team, and was asking for some more bright minds to join her before their first competition in DC in about a month. Peter decided to sign up, and Ned followed.

He continued his now regular patrol route at night. After checking that his Dad and Steve weren’t going to be coming in to check on him, he left the Tower at ten, and did zig zaggy routes around the city. It was pretty easy, and he usually didn’t find much more then a few late night car thieves, some purse snatchers, and the occasional creeper.

When he went to Ned’s on Saturday, he convinced his dad to let him take the bus. Normally, his dad would have put up more of an argument, worrying about safety, but he agreed pretty easily. So Peter got to walk part of the way to Ned’s, switch into his Spiderman suit, and swing until he was just a few blocks away.

They spent most of the day just hanging out, building a Lego death star. After they had finished their weekend homework, though. At dinner, Peter answered some questions Ned’s parents had about him and his homelife. He told them he lived with his father, who was getting married soon, and when they asked about his mother, he explained that she had died not long after he was born. Cancer.

When ten rolled around, Ned had already crashed, asleep on the bottom bunk of the bed in his room. So Peter set up the top bunk to look like he was in it, pulled on the suit and went off to go on patrol. He felt like he should be worried about how little he was sleeping, but it was like he only had to sleep as much as Steve or Bucky did. Just four or so hours every night. So he should be fine.

Half was through patrol, around midnight, his phone buzzed in a hidden pocket of the suit. Stopping on a roof, not to far from the Tower, Peter pulled out the phone to check it.

August 30th, 12:06 am

From: Dad
Got a mission. We might not be back until Monday. Feel free to stay with your friend another night, but Natasha and Clint should be back before then if you want to go back to the tower.

From: Pops
I can’t tell you much, but don’t worry about us. It’s not big, but it’s badly timed. Most of us are off doing other things. Tony and I were just the only ones free to get to work one it. We’ll see you Monday.

To: Dad, Pops
I’ll check with Neds mom, but I’ll probably just go back to the tower.

From: Dad
Alright kid, see you Monday

From: Pops
Alright. Be good, Peter.

Peter hummed, slipping his phone back into the pocket. A tingle ran down his spine, and his senses were suddenly on high alert as he looked around. Across the street was a bank, where for some reason, people with Avengers masks were inside. That couldn’t be good.

Peter dropped down, swinging over to carefully taken in what was happening. They had some kind of weird gun, and were using it to pull apart an ATM. He slowly entered, not tipping them off yet, and leaned against the door frame. He couldn’t just attack, web them up. He wanted to give them a chance to surrender first.

“Hey guys, forget your pin number?” he said, making them all turn to look at him, then feigning surprise. “Whoa! You’re the Avengers! What are you guys doing here?”

One of them pulled out a gun, cocking it as he lifted it into position. Peter was faster, aiming his webs at it and pulling it from the guys hands, using it to knock another guy out. He kept shooting little quips at them, keeping them on their toes as he knocked them out or pinned them down. For his first bank robbery, he was doing pretty good.

That is, until they started using their weird guns. While they were scientifically fascinating, they were way to advanced for some random people to have. The first one made Peter levitate. Held him in place in the air before he was tossed around like a rag doll. He eventually webbed the guy up, only for another guy with a second gun to point and power it up.

It was some kind of laser, the beam so powerful it knocked the user to the ground, letting the gun fall as it continued to fire. The beam shot all the way through the wall, spinning around and cutting through the windows of a sandwich shop across the street. He knew that shop. Steve loved it there… But what was worse? The lights were still on inside.

Quickly, Peter abandoned the bank, rushing to the shop to leap through the burning hole. The owner, an old Italian man, was on the floor, coughing. Peter carefully picked him up, carrying him out and laying him down away from the wreckage. When he looked over at the bank, the robbers were gone.

“Crap,” he sighed, and decided to call it a night early.

He swung his way back to Ned’s place, carefully easing the window of Ned’s room open. The door was cracked, probably from Ned’s mom checking on them before going to bed, and he crawled along the ceiling to where the open door was. Reaching out, he carefully pushed it closed, before easing back down to the floor, pressing the release of the suit, letting it slip off his body.

“Oh my god.”

Peter turned around, eyes wide, as he found Ned sitting on the bottom bunk.

“You’re the Spiderman,” Ned breathed, standing up. “From YouTube.”

His mouth jumped into high gear. “What, no, Ned, no, I’m not- No, what?”

“You were on the ceiling .”

“Ned,” Peter said, getting his attention. “Ned, you have to keep this a secret.”

“Keep this a secret?” Ned gasped. “I mean, I… I can try? But I’m gonna level with you. I don’t think I can.”

“Dude,” Peter said, looking Ned straight in the eye. “You have to. If my Dad found out… There’s been so much going on, with the wedding and his job, he can’t know. It would stress him out more then he already is. Plus, if he knew that I was out there every day, no back up, getting beat up by bad guys, he’d freak and never allow me to do this again. Please, Ned. You gotta keep this a secret.”

Ned looked at him for a second, but eventually nodded. They eventually settled down, and Peter told Ned about what happened. He didn’t mention his dad being Tony Stark or living in Avenger Tower, but he told Ned everything else. They’d be fine.

“Do you lay eggs?”

“Ned, what?”

XxXXxX

Wade got the invite a three days before the wedding. It was in a little envelope that gave directions on what to do and where to go. He could either go with everyone to Malibu or find his own ride there, which he would probably do. After all, he wanted to do at least one job every weekend, and the wedding wasn’t until Sunday.

He’d grown pretty close with Peter, finding the little nerd a great breath of fresh air from the thugs he was used to. They spent all of second period together, and sometimes he’d bring Peter lunch from the mexican place. Peter’s friends didn’t seem to like him as much, but he didn’t like them much either. Well, Gwen and Ned were okay, but not Osborn. The kid was a snoby douche.

The school news was something he hadn’t paid much attention to before, but after a week of being at school, he started coming back from the mexican stand a little faster to catch the Spiderman stories and photos. Someone was anonymously sending in some really good photos, and Wade just had to see them. They looked almost profesional, done with probably one of the best cameras on the market. How whoever was sending in those photos seemed to always have a picture of Spiderman, Wade wished he knew…

It didn’t matter, though, since on Friday, he waved goodbye to Peter, and went back to the bar to see if Weasel had anything for him. He knew his old friend and guardian was worried, but he didn’t bother trying to reassure him that he knew what he was doing. Because Wade really didn’t know. He was just being a mercenary, like he always had.

The job he did that weekend was a simple one. He didn’t even have to leave town for it. Some punk adult was stalking a teenage girl about Peter’s age. Wade had seen the girl a few times at the skate park, when he went there with his skateboard for some R&R. He’d seen the guy, to. Almost punched him a few times for being such a creep. Now he really could.

He did the task with his usual flair. Breaking into some guys house, ordering pizza to draw in creeper, and waving his gun in the face of the owner of the house when the guy was about to punch him. The guy had to much bedazzling on his jeans, anyway. But the target was the pizza guy, and he wanted to scare the crap out of him so much he stayed away from the girl he’d been stalking. He played some tricks, scared the guy so bad that he left shaking, then went to go tell Megan that she wouldn’t have to worry any more.

When he took the card back to Weasel, he didn’t say much, just heading back up to his room for a while. He had wanted to keep the weekend packed, so he didn’t have to think about his favorite freshman cutie. Peter had started crushing on this Sophomore girl that was on the Academic Decathlon team. Sure, Wade wasn’t heartbroken, but he was a little disappointed he didn’t get to go out with Peter. He actually really liked Peter. He was cute, smart, kind…

Probably to good for Wade, anyway.

On Saturday, Wade got on a flight out to Malibu for the wedding. Stark had been nice enough to invite him, and he didn’t want to stand the guy up. He didn’t bring much, just a bag with a change of clothes and a tux. Stark had said to not bother bringing a gift, they didn’t need or want anything, and Wade couldn’t really afford anything they would if they had.

He got a ride in a cab to the end of the Stark Mansion drive. It had been rebuilt after all that Mandarin stuff, and as far as Wade knew, it was bigger and flashier then ever. Turned out, it was big and fancy. When he knocked on the door, it wasn’t more then a second before it opened. Music drifted out, and Wade stood frozen at the face that was staring back at him. Those familiar brown eyes, and that head of soft messed brown hair, though the dorky glasses were oddly missing.

“Peter?”

XxXXxX

Peter was having a great time when they got to Malibu. Almost all of Saturday was dedicated to celebrating before the actual event, since his dad and Steve would be leaving right after the ceremony instead of after a reception. So they were having the party now, in plain suits, instead of their wedding attire. Sure, the suits they were all wearing were still very fancy and expensive, but his Dad and Steve’s were a bit different.

There were a total of fourteen guests that were supposed to attend, including himself and excluding his dad and Steve. There were only two actual couples in the group of guests, that being Pepper and Happy and Clint and Phil. Rhodey and Natasha were taking turns dancing with Jane and the new guy, Pietro, while Pietro’s sister, Wanda, was dancing with Vision. Darcy and Bucky were the only ones not dancing, aside from Peter who was taking pictures. Even his dad and Steve were on the floor, Steve trying not to step on his dad’s feet. The last guest, though, had yet to arrive, so Peter was keeping his ears open for a knock at the door.

Peter hadn’t spent much time with the three new Avengers, but it was hard to be around Vision when he sounded like Jarvis. And where Vision was, Wanda was. And where Wanda was, Pietro was. It made it difficult for Peter to get to know them, and a little weird to take their pictures.

When the knock did come, Peter set the camera down to hand around his neck, placing the protective cap over the lens. He hummed as he walked to the door, catching a glimpse of his reflection in one of the hall mirrors. His hair, thanks to the ever present hand of his father or one of his uncles to ruffle it. Over the last few months, he’d gotten used to it, and actually kind of liked it. It was almost like his own kind of style. And it made him look even more like his dad when he was in a fancy suit, a black bowtie secured around his neck.

Turning back to the door, Peter carefully pulled it open. He was expecting Stephen Strange or maybe Sharon Carter, but who he wasn’t expecting was Wade Wilson.

“Peter?” Wade asked, staring at him. “What are you…?”

“Wade,” Peter sputtered, getting fidgety and nervous as he tried to think of something to say. “What- What- What are you- You doing here?”

“I’m here for the wedding,” Wade said slowly. “I know Tony Stark. What are you doing here?”

“I’m the photographer,” Peter said, holding up the camera. “Tony Stark is my dad.”

They stare at each other for a minute, eyes wide and confused. Eventually, Peter just stepped to the side, letting Wade in. He didn’t know how Wade knew his Dad, but he wanted to know. It was important to keeping his home life and school life safe. It’s not that he didn’t trust Wade, but he had to know how two parts of his life had somehow crossed.

He led the way to where everyone was, his dad having sat down to rest his feet. Sure, Steve had been practicing his dancing moves for the last year, at least, but he was still pretty terrible at it, and stepped on his dad's feet more often then not. Everyone was standing around, talking and having a good natured laugh. When his dad saw him, he grinned.

“Petey!” He laughed. “Please, save me from Steve’s giant left feet. My toes can’t take much more of it.”

“Sure thing, Dad.” Peter glanced over his shoulder at Wade. “And, uh… Your last guest is here?”

“Wade,” Steve greated. “I’m glad you could make it. Not stirring up trouble, I hope?”

“No trouble,” Wade said quickly. “Not really. Just one thing. A little thing. You know, a question that I think needs to be answered because it’s kind of important. You know, cuz I kinda like it at school for once and I don’t want this to ruin it, but Peter Parker is your son ?!”

Peter winced, rubbing the back of his neck as everyone looked at him. “He’s in my Machine Shop and PE classes. We’re friends.”

“Apparently not,” the older boy grumbled. “Since you didn’t even trust me enough to tell me about your real name.”

Peter cringed, but glanced at his dad and Steve. “Wade, This isn’t about us. It’s about a wedding between two people who love each other and deserve to be together. I promise, we’ll talk later. But right now, I want to take pictures of my parents and family having a good time.”

For a minute, everyone was tense, but Wade eventually nodded, and gestured to the stairs. “I’m just… Gonna go hang out in whatever room I’m staying in.” And with that, he was off to find said room.

Peter sighed, using both hands to massage and rub the back of his neck. When they had that talk, and they would, it was going to a very long one.

XxXXxX

Steve didn’t hate Wade Wilson. Really, he didn’t. He didn’t like the line of work Wilson was in, but that was a side effect of how he grew up. Sure the kid could change, jump tracks and change his ways, but Steve didn’t see that happening any time soon. Besides, as much as Steve hated the fact Wilson was killing people, as a soldier he knew that sometimes there was no way to capture someone who was to far gone into the dark.

What Steve hated, was the fact that Wilson was a friend of Peter’s. True, Steve wanted Peter to have friends. The more the merrier, really. But Wilson? Wilson was not a good person for Peter to be around. Wilson was a bad influence, could take Peter off track and send him down a bad, bad road.

When the party ended, just before midnight, so he and Tony could go hide in separate rooms until the ceremony in twelve hours, thirteen minutes, and forty-five seconds, Steve walked Tony to his room and sighed.

“Uh-oh,” Tony frowned. “That’s not you’re ‘I’m going to miss you until my pouting annoys even Barnes’ sigh. That’s a ‘something’s wrong but I don't know what to do’ sigh.”

Steve couldn’t help but smile. “You named my sighs?”

“And your frowns and smiles. See, that smile is the ‘You’re a dork and I love you’ smile. That one’s my favorite. So, you gonna tell me what’s wrong before I have to talk to you through the door if we want to keep the ‘we don't see each other until the ceremony’ tradition? Which I don’t mind breaking, by the way.”

“It’s Wade,” Steve admitted. “And Peter. I just don’t think that Wilson would be a good influence around him.”

For a moment, Tony frowned at him. “I don’t think it’s our place to say who he hangs out with, unless they’re a danger to him. Like, if he made friends with a psycho that killed his own friends, or someone who goes crack or something, then yeah, stay away. But Wade? He’s not the best kid, but he’s not going to go axe murderer on Peter. If anything, with the way he looked when he found out Peter had been lying to him? Wade would probably protect him. Which, you know, is a good thing? We got a lot of enemies, and Peter has been kidnapped before. All we can really do is tell Peter what we think, since we shouldn’t stop him from making friends.”

Steve hummed, leaning against the wall. He knew Tony would do what’s best for Peter, no matter what, but he was still worried. Wade would definitely be a bad influence on Peter, but Peter would probably be a good influence on Wade… So he guessed it wasn’t to bad.

He gave Tony one final kiss, said good night and went off to his own room before the clock could strike midnight. He’d just talk to Peter when they got back.

XxXXxX

Wade had just gotten out of the shower when there was a knock at the door. He was in his sleep pants, a towel over his shoulders as he used the ends to ruffle his hair dry. With one hand, he opened the door, not to surprised to find Peter there.

“Hey,” Peter said, looking so nervous, now that he wasn’t around the others. “Think we could talk?”

“Yeah,” Wade said, stepping back to let Peter inside. “Yeah, come in.”

Peter sighed, stepping in as he fiddled with his hands. Peter still looked like the adorkable little shit Wade had known for the last three weeks. He wasn’t sure why he had been mad. Surely there was a good reason Peter had hid it. After having a while to think, Wade decided that he didn’t care that that Peter had kept it a secret. He just wanted to know who knew before him.

“Who else knows?” Wade asked before Peter could get a word in. “Besides me.”

“Just Principal Morita,” Peter said, frowning as he did. “I wanted to go through school like a normal kid, so they let me use my mothers last name until the end of senior year. You’re not mad?”

“Not really.” He shrugged. “Actually, I’m kind of glad I get to know. So I won't be mad if you’re not mad.”

Peter’s frown deepened. “Why would I be mad?”

Wade frowned. “Because I'm a mercenary?”

There was silence for a moment as the statement seemed to hang in the air. Wade was starting to feel stupid, like he had just revealed a secret he wasn't meant to. He Peter really not known? Seriously? Hadn't Stark or Rogers told Peter anything?!

“You're… a mercenary,” Peter said, voice filled with skepticism. “As in, you kill people for money.”

“Only sometimes,” Wade said, shrugging as he tried to remain calm. “The killing part, I mean. Sometimes the jobs I take are just to get someone to stop, say, stalking the client, or to protect the client from assassins. I’m a bit of a ‘jack of all trades’ sort of mercenary.”

Peter slowly nodded. “Okay then.”

“You don't seem all that phased.”

“My father is a billionaire that flies around in a metal suit and is about to get married to a man who was born in 1920 and had been frozen in ice. I call a government agent that threatened to taze my father and watch supernanny while he drooled into the floor, a man that gets big and green when angry, an alien norse god, a man with a metal arm, and a man that likes to crawl in vents and has no sense of ‘i probably shouldn't eat that’ uncle. I also call a woman who could kill a man with her thighs alone aunt, and my childhood AI butler recently became a new being that can phase through walls and doesn't have any idea what knocking means. I'm not sure anything else can phase me anymore.”

Wade chuckled, seeing Peter's point. He nodded, and Peter smiled as he headed back towards the door.

“I better go. Get some sleep before tomorrow?” Wade watched as Peter laughed nervously and backed towards the door. He bumped into the door frame, almost falling over and was quickly out the door. Wade frowned popping his head out to check on the younger boy, just barely catching Peter's grumbled words. “What the hell is wrong with me?”

“Absolutely nothing~” Wade sing-songed, making Peter jump. “You're perfect just the way you are!”

And before Peter could reply, Wade had closed the door, grinning to himself. This was good. They were good. Maybe he still had a chance with Peter. Just had to ask the kid out.

XxXXxX

The ceremony, in true Pepper Potts fashion, was elegant, bright, and beautiful.

While everyone had been asleep, the main living area in the mansion had been transformed. The couch and chairs had all been removed, two rows of six cushioned chairs taking their places, a carpet rolled out over the floor to separate the rows into six. An arch of flowers was placed at the front, all vibrant purples that had speckles of red or blue on them. White, cloth banners hung around the room, wreaths of the same purple flowers hanging from them.

Steve, taking the roll of groom, stood on the right side of the arch, dressed neatly in a dark suit Pepper had tailored to order for him. Another of the purple flowers, this one with blue speckles, was attached to the leppel of his suit, a blue handkerchief folded and tucked neatly into his pocket. Bucky stood next to him, also in a suit, with a flower of his own attached to his lapel.

On the left side of the arch, the side Tony would be on, it was empty. Tony would be the one walking down the aisle, with Rhodey walking him down it. Dummy rolled out before them, a basket attached to the front of his body so he could pick and drop white petals on the ground before Tony came out. If anyone asked, Pepper would immediately blame Peter.

Tony took a bit of extra time entering then was strictly needed. In fact, a few of them were starting to think Tony was going to make a run for it, or had some time in the night. Even Steve was starting to get nervous. But Tony hadn't run, he hadn't fled into the night after Steve left his door. In fact, it was all Rhodey's fault. The man was in tears, barely able to believe that Tony was getting married! They'd made the bet in college, when they all were just barely twenty! Well, Rhodey had been twenty-two, Tony had been seventeen. But really, Rhodey had only agreed to it because he saw the way Tony was with girls, and knew that wasn't going to change, so when Tony had offhandedly said one day after having packed up their college dorm “When I get married, I wanna wear a white tux,” Rhodey had offhandedly replied with “yeah, and I'll wear a dress”.

When Tony did come out, it was barely holding in snickers and grinning like an idiot as a red dress clad Rhodey tried to nonchalantly walk Tony just a little bit faster.

For most of the guests, their few friends and family and coworkers that they trusted, their eyes were locked of Rhodey. For some, like Clint or Sam, it was to giggle and try to not burst out into full on laughter. For others like Pepper it was because there are only so many things you need to know about one of your best friends, and the fact that he can pull off a red dress and high heels is not one of them.

But for Tony and Steve, their eyes were only on each other. It was like seeing one another for the first time again. Steve took in the pristine white that was custom tailored just for today, a purple flower with red speckles pinned neatly to the lapel. A crisp, folded red handkerchief has tucked into the breast pocket, with a bouquet of the purple flowers and a few white ones in hand. So when Tony stepped into place, handing the bouquet to Rhodey so he could take Steve's hands.

Clint, who had spent the weeks coming up to the wedding getting ordained, cleared his throat as he stood between them. “We are gathered here today to celebrate the joining of Captain Spangles-McGee and Iron Tin Can.”

Tony looked at Steve, face serious. “I told you he wouldn't take this seriously. “

Steve returned the look. “You made your Best Man wear heels and a dress.”

They both grinned, hearts fluttering as Clint continued.

“But seriously. We're here today to see Tony Stark and Steve Rogers finally get married. Of all the people to have gotten together, they have gone through the most just to met, before going through even more hell to get together. Everything that they’ve done, dating all the way back to the 1940’s, has led up to this moment in their lives. This moment, where their lives will be intertwined, legally, in more then just a coworker sense.” Clint paused. “Which, by the way, is terrible. You’re never supposed to have interoffice romances.”

From the chairs, Phil Coulson cleared his throat, giving Clint a pointed look. A few people laughed, but they continued on.

“Now, I know that we’re on a schedule, not just because these guys have a flight to catch, but because we all know that the flight back to New York is going to be hell, even with one of Stark’s extra private jets, and Peter and Wade have classes tomorrow. Plus, the always present threat of some random baddy coming in out of nowhere and trying to kill us. So we’re going to go right to the vows.

“Because these two are saps, they wrote their own vows. And, just in case they say anything to personal, be sure to get it on camera. So, Steve is going to start it off.”

Steve swallowed, clearing his throat as he took a deep breath. He was ready. Ready to announce his vows, here and now, in front of all his friends.

“The first time I met you,” Steve began, a small smile tugging at his lips, “I couldn’t stand you. Or… understand you. You were so different then other people I had met, and I thought that that was what I hated about you. But it wasn’t. It’s one of the things I love about you. You’re scatterbrained, overprotective, and always looking to do things a different way. Even if it’s not the best way.

“I know that I can be difficult sometimes, too. I can be just as overprotective, and entirely to focused on my way, but I swear to you, even in the worst of times, I will love you, keep you in my heart, and remember this moment. This moment, and all the other perfect, and not so perfect moments, to remind me that I will always love you. That I’ll always come down to drag you out of your lab when you’ve been working to long, keep that extra cup of coffee ready in the morning, and listen to you ramble on about tech even if I don’t understand it.

“From this moment forward, know that my shield will always be ready to defend and protect you, to defend and protect what we, together, stand for. Fight for. Live for. Until the day I die, and onward.”

Steve smiled, a few tears beginning to well in his eyes. He hadn’t ever been the most emotional of the two, but now, he was feeling… everything, all at once. His heart was twisting, and he just wanted to pull Tony in and kiss him already.

Tony was having similar thoughts, his heart racing as he tried to keep calm. This was really happening. He was getting married, and to a man he loved so much, who loved him in return. His life was so different then he had thought it would be when he was younger. Before he had been defined as ‘Genius, Billionaire, Playboy, Philanthropist’. Now? Now he was a father, a leader, a Superhero . And about to be a husband. And he was ready.

“Ten years ago,” Tony started, squeezing Steve’s hands to steady himself. “Ten years ago, I was a different man. I was… I was a version of myself that I never want to be again, because I realized that I was hurting someone that I should have loved unconditionally. So I changed, became a better me. And now, I want to change again. Become even better.

“I know that I will worry you, that I’ll stay up for days on end in the lab or go charging into a fight that I shouldn’t have. But I want to better, and I’m trying, so that you never have to worry again. Even if I know that you’ll always worry. But I’m ready, Steve. I’m ready to be the man you need me to be. For better or for worse. In sickness and in health. Forever and always, not even in death do we part.”

In the chairs, a few of their friends were wiping at their eyes. Pepper was full on crying, a hand covering her mouth as she tried not to full on sob, Jane right alongside here. Phil, Wanda, and Vision were all fairly stone faced, but Pietro was making soft sounds as his lip quivered. Happy was wiping at his eyes, trying to look like he wasn’t tearing up, while Natasha watched on with only a slight smile.

“Thank you,” Clint said, taking a deep breath to steady himself. “Now, the rings?”

Steve and Tony looked at each other, then to Pepper. She sniffled, gave them a nice smile, and then patted over her heart. The two men, confused, reached up to pat over their own hearts, feeling the rings in their pockets. Together, they pulled out their handkerchiefs, revealing the rings hidden inside the neat folds. Tony turned, handing Rhodey the piece of cloth as Steve handed his own handkerchief to Bucky.

“Alright Steve,” Clint said. “Place the ring on Tony’s finger and repeat after me. ‘ With this ring…’

Looking deep into Tony’s rich brown eyes, Steve carefully slid the ring onto Tony’s finger. “With this ring…”

‘I give you a part of myself…’

“I give you a part of myself…”

‘I pledge my love and faithfulness to you…’

“I pledge my love and faithfulness to you…”

‘Today, tomorrow, and always.’

“Today, tomorrow, and always.”

‘This, I swear.’

“This I swear.”

Satisfied, Clint turned to Tony. “Now, Tony, place the ring on Steve’s finger and repeat after me. ‘With this ring…’

Swallowing, Tony carefully slid the ring onto Steve’s finger. “With this ring…”

‘I give you a part of myself…’

“I give you a part of myself…”

‘I pledge my love and faithfulness to you…’

“I pledge my love and faithfulness to you…”

‘Today, tomorrow, and always.’

“Today, tomorrow, and always.”

‘This, I swear.’

“This I swear.”

With a deep breath, Clint spread his arms wide. “By the power vested in me by the state, I now pronounce you wed. You may kiss.”

Before Tony could even lean forward, Steve was sweeping him into his arms, pulling him close as they kissed. Unable to resist, Tony wrapped his arms around Steve’s shoulders and returned it, his heart thumping with glee. They were married. They were married, and oh so happy. They could hear their friends and coworkers cheering and whistling,even see the flash of Peter’s camera taking a picture, but they didn’t care.

Steve, without warning, scooped Tony up, his strong arms holding him up in a bridal carry. Tony yelped, clinging to Steve as he was suddenly off the ground. Rhodey came forward, shoving the bouquet into Tony’s hands, as Steve walked him down the aisle and out towards the front door. Happy rushed ahead of them, opening a door of a car for them. Steve set Tony down, and after glancing behind him, Tony threw the bouquet over his shoulder.

Neither of them waited to see who caught it, sliding into the car, but they could hear the laughter. Peter had been taking a picture, and just lowering his camera when the flowers landed right in his hands. He had blinked, staring, as the car drove away, before a bright blush grew on his face.

XxXXxX

When Monday rolled around, Peter was so tired that he almost fell asleep while Bucky was driving him to school. After his Dad and Pops had driven off to get to Paris, they had all gone back inside to have a nice lunch and help put the Malibu Mansion back in order. By the time they had all gotten back to New York, it was nearly midnight, Peter had to catch up on his homework, check the crime rates from the days Spiderman was gone, and go out on patrol. Thanks to his enhancements, he only needed four or so hours of sleep, about the same as Bucky and Steve, but he ended up sleeping for barely an hour.

He gave a big yawn, Bucky giving his hair a ruffle.

“Have a good day, okay kid?” Bucky said, smiling a bit. “Don’t go falling asleep in any classes.”

“I won’t,” Peter said, though he was yawning as he got out of the car. He was rubbing at his eyes as he walked towards the main gates. He barely got three feet before his shoulder slammed into someone else's. He hadn’t been going fast enough to make it happen on his own, and his backpack fell and sent all his books flying, but he wanted to apologize anyway. “Sorry, I-”

“Watch where you’re going, nerd,” an all to familiar voice snapped, right before a hand shot out and shoved him to the ground. Flash Thompson. “Just for that, I’m gonna-”

“Hey!” a gruff voice snarled, and Peter felt his chest tighten with panic. And now there was Bucky. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?!”

“Uncle Buck,” Peter said, moving to try and block Bucky from pummeling his bully. “Don’t, please!”

But Bucky wasn’t listening. He reached out with a snarl, grabbing Flash by the front of his shirt and lifting him a foot off the ground. Peter groaned, putting his face in his hands as Flash screamed and Bucky shook him. A crowd was beginning to gather around them, students all staring in shock.

“You think you can shove my nephew around?! You think you can just kick him because he’s smaller then you? Well guess what, I’m bigger then you and if I see you lay a hand on him again, I’ll-!”

“What on Earth is going on here?!” Mrs. Warren cried as she came running. “Put him down this instant!”

Bucky scowled, dropping Flash without any gentleness. Flash fell, landing on his rear as Bucky huffed, bending to pick up Peter’s books. A little panicked, glancing around and wanting to get Bucky out as soon as possible, Peter took back the books and shoved them into his bag. He wasn’t expecting Mrs. Warren to want Bucky to go talk to Principal Morita.

So Peter ended up sitting outside the principal's office as Bucky was inside. Other students walked by, whispering and gossiping, and Peter even got a glimpse of Flash, threatening him through the window. God, why did Bucky have to go and threaten him? Now they were going to call his dad, and he would have to tell them about all the times Flash had beat him up.

He was late to first period, and at this rate, he would miss it entirely. His phone was going crazy with texts, buzzing every few minutes as his friends were texting him, trying to figure out where he was. After a bit, he had to turn it off altogether, hanging his head in his hands as he waited for the consequences to hit him. He would either have to tell Bucky about Flash, or explain to his friends why his uncle had a robotic arm and nearly beat up Flash, or just… Flash in general.

“Peter,” Principal Morita said as he opened the door. “We’d like you to come in, now.”

Chewing his lip, Peter stood and entered the principal's office. Bucky was sitting in a chair, his arms crossed, and scowling. Peter, nervous and anxious, took a seat in the other chair, setting his backpack at his feet.

“Now,” Principal Morita started, folding his hands together as he took his seat. “I am willing to let this incident slide. I understand what it means to protect something, or someone, you care about, but I’m not sure Mr. Thompson will see it the same way. I’m sure a deal can be made, that you are not allowed on school grounds, for him to not press charges, but the entire problem could be solved if Peter has something to tell us?”

Bucky turned, took one look at Peter, and his hard look melted away. “Look, Morita, I’m sorry I over reacted. Seeing that Thompson kid shove him just made me remember the days when Steve was that small and getting beat up in alleys. I’ll apologize to the kid, and his old man if I have to. Don’t go making this Pete’s problem, okay?”

Principal Morita frowned, but sighed and nodded. “I’ll connect the two of you through an email. Can I trust you to inform Mr. Stark of what happened today?”

“Of course,” Bucky said, waving a hand as he started to usher Peter out before he could even get a word in. “I’ll call up Tony first thing, right after I make sure this kid gets to his class.”

And just like that, Peter was being led out of the office and into the currently empty hall. He hadn’t even said a word, but he was done? Already? Just like that? There had to be a catch.

“So are you gonna tell me why you’re letting this kid kick you around? If you told someone, maybe your dad of Steve, they could have helped.”

And there’s the drop.

“Right,” Peter said, rolling his eyes. “Because that would go over so well. Tell my dad, Tony ‘the last guy that hurt my kid earned a fiery death’ Stark, or Pops, Steve ‘I let crazy german scientists pump mystery stuff into me cuz I don’t like bullies’ Rogers. They would have come to the school, made a huge scene. Dad would be hysterical, hacking student records and probably ruining Flash’s future, and Pops would probably go all Captain America and use the ‘disappointed Cap’ voice until Flash tried to, I don’t know, do something patriotic as redemption and get himself killed.

“I wanna be a normal kid. I want to be able to walk down the hall and people to see me as me, not Tony Stark’s kid. Hell, maybe I don’t even want them to know who I am!” He took a deep breath. “I get to be normal for once, and I don’t want that to change. If a part of being normal is being bullied, then I’ll deal with it. I’ll handle it on my own, because if he can’t ask superheroes for help, neither can I. It wouldn’t be fair.”

Peter hoped that Bucky would understand. That he would just take the answer and leave, before Peter got stuck answering even more questions from his friends. If any of them recognized Bucky as Bucky Barnes, brainwashed Hydra assassin turned Avenger, Winter Soldier, Peter didn’t know how he’d brush it off. There were only so many lies Peter could tell… Wade could help him, but that was a whole other can of worms.

But Bucky nodded, not looking happy about his own agreement. “I won’t tell anyone then. For now. I’m gonna ask Friday to run health scans on you from now on when you get back from school. You’re a little guy, not as little as Stevie was, but if this guy is really beating on you, he could do some serious damage.”

“Only if I get to go home without being picked up,” Peter said, wondering if he could negotiate this.

“Only if you let Wilson walk you to all your classes.”

“Deal,” Peter grinned. “He does that already.” Overhead, the bell ringed to signal the end of first period. “And you have to get out of here! I have that Decathlon thing after school starting today, so I’ll be back a little late.”

Bucky turned and headed back outside, getting out of view of the students that now flooded the hall. A few where whispering, looking at Peter with wide eyes. He knew that he had to deal with the fallout, but this was… uncomfortable.

Quickly, he walked towards his shop class, keeping his head down and trying not to bump into anyone. When he reached the class, Wade was waiting outside. He had his arms crossed, and looked like he was scanning the hallway. When his eyes landed on Peter, he straightened and walked over, eyes narrowed. Was Wade mad at him?

“You touch him and I force feed you your own spine.”

Peter blinked, glancing over his shoulder to see Flash walking up behind him. The bully actually flinched, and quickly covered it up with a cough as he tugged up his jacket collar, and left. Just like that. No trash cans, not shoves or punches… It felt almost… unnatural.

“You can’t go threatening people,” Peter said, frowning at Wade. “It’s wrong, and you could get suspended.”

“Don’t give a crap,” Wade said, looking down at Peter with a frown. “How long has he been shoving you around?”

Peter really didn’t want to tell him, but he knew he had to. “Since… the first day of school? I bumped into him and he’s been picking on me ever since. But you can’t do anything. He’s not… like us. We’re trained, in ways he never would be, and if we use that training against him, we’d be no better then him.”

Wade pursed his lips, but eventually caved. He ended up leaving all his classes early so he could walk Peter to his next, becoming almost a guard dog. Flash wouldn’t do anything with Wade around. That much was clear. But the longer Peter was untouchable, the more of a chance that Flash would go after Ned or someone else.

Ned, when third period rolled around, tried to ask him questions. Who was the guy with the metal arm? How did Peter know him? Did it have to do with the wed thing? Was Flash bullying him? What the hell was going on? Peter managed to get him to hold off on most of them, until he could answer everything in PE. They were doing laps on the track today, so they could all just jog in a group and Peter could explain.

Honestly? He just needed more time to come up with a good enough lie.

When he got to PE, and they were all out on the track, Peter in the middle of their little group as he explained. The man with the metal arm was his pseudo uncle James, who he called Bucky because of his middle name, who had been in the army with his new step dad. He was testing a new prosthesis for Stark Industries, and he was very protective, so when he saw Flash push him, he sort of snapped.

It wasn’t really a lie, more of a half truth. But they took it and asked a few questions. Mostly ones that Ned had already asked. He explained that, yes, Flash had been pushing him around, but he could fight back if he really wanted to. If it got to more then shoves against lockers or books being smacked out of his hands. Besides, Wade was basically guarding him now, so it would all be fine.

XxXXxX

Flash found other ways to pick on him of course. A few harsh words muttered in passing that only Peter could hear, or telling other people rumors about him that weren’t true. Most of them were ridiculous, like Peter being a fourteen year old prostitute and that he didn’t live with tons of family in one house but that the people who dropped him off were his late night clients. Still, some of them were simple enough that people thought they were true. Like the one about him and Wade dating. They weren’t. Wade was just protective of him.

The real problem came on Friday, during gym, when they were doing stations. Peter, Ned, Wade, and Harry were all in one group, and were at the sit-up station while they talked quietly. Flash, on the rope climb station next to theirs, was not being quiet. He was talking about his big party on Saturday, and how only the coolest people could come. Peter was mostly ignoring him, instead trying to hear what Gwen was saying to Liz Toomes on the benches.

Since joining the Academic Decathlon team, Peter had developed a bit of a crush on Liz. She was so nice, and pretty, and she didn’t believe any of the rumors that Flash spread. She was just an all around great girl. And Peter didn’t really know how to talk to her.

“See, for me,” Gwen was saying, “F’ Thor, marry Iron Man, and kill the Hulk.”

“Gross,” Wade muttered, as Peter cringed. Peter had to agree. Why did girls play such weird games.

“What about Spiderman?” One of Liz’s friends asked.

“It’s just Spiderman,” Gwen said. “He’s just a local. Stops bike thieves.”

“Did you guys not see that security cam video on YouTube?” Liz asked. “He fought of, like, four guys.”

“Oh my god, she’s crushing on Spiderman.”

“Well…” Liz waved a hand. “Kind of.”

Peter went wide eyed, his eyes snapping to meet Ned’s, who was staring back, equally wide eyed.

“Gross,” one of the girls say. “He could be in his thirties.”

“You don’t even know what he looks like,” another adds. “Like, what if he was seriously burned?”

“I wouldn’t care,” Liz said, pointedly. “I would still love him for the person he is on the inside.”

Suddenly, loud and right in front of Peter: “Peter knows Spiderman!”

Everything in the room immediately stopped. All eyes were on Peter and Ned, even Wade stared in shock. Eyes wide, Peter got up, mind really as he tried to think of something to say.

“No,” he said quickly, trying to get the attention off of him. “No, I don’t- I mean…”

“They’re friends,” Ned added, and Peter wanted to throttle him.

“Right,” Flash drawled, sliding down the rope. “Like Principal Morita and Tony Stark are friends.”

Well, not really, but they knew each other. Peter just wanted to run, but he couldn’t. People were laughing, waiting for Peter to mess up.

“Well- I- Uh-” He stammered. “I mean… Yeah… I met him… a couple times? Cuz, well, he goes by my house a lot, at, um, night and lets me take pictures, with my camera.” He turned and grit his teeth, glaring at Ned. “I’m not really supposed to talk about it.”

“Yeah,” Flash said, smirking. “Hey, why don’t you invite him to my party? It’s gonna be dope.”

The bell rang and Flash pushed past Peter to leave the gym. Peter turned, trying to figure out what to say to Ned to make him understand how bad of an idea this was. But he couldn’t actually say anything, since Wade, Harry, and Gwen were all crowding around him to.

Great, even more questions…

XxXXxX

Wade would admit that he felt a little betrayed. Because apparently, Peter knew Spiderman and didn’t tell him. But he told Ned. Which, honestly, stung. It hurt him. Wade was hurt. Didn’t Peter trust him? Apparently not!

But he still chaperoned Peter to the rest of his classes, watching his back as he tried to find the real answer. The whole ‘lets me take pictures’ thing just wasn’t sitting right with him.

“Dad doesn’t know,” Peter muttered, trying to keep his voice low. “But I designed the suit. After the first day, he needed something better then a hoodie, and came to ask my dad for help.”

“But he was in Sokovia,” Wade said, frowning. “With the others. So he met you instead and you… What? Became his guy in the chair?”

“And I made his suit. I take pictures to keep track of how it’s doing. Please, Wade, you have to help me keep this a secret. I can’t have people knowing who my dad is, it would make people treat me differently.”

Wade sighed, trying to think it over. But Peter’s adorable pleading face was to much. He caved, nodding as he opened the AP Bio room door. “Just get to class, Dork.”

Peter grinned, and turned and rushed to take his seat. Wade watched him go, then turned to head to his own class.

XxXXxX

When school let out, Peter went right home and tried to act as normal as possible. His dad and Pops had left Natasha in charge, so he just had to ask her if he could do. She would probably say yes. Probably. And either way, he could just sneak out if she said no. He did already.

But when he asked, she said yes. She even offered to give him and Ned a ride. Peter really wanted to say no, but it was to long of a walk, and the busses would be to late. So he agreed, and told Ned his aunt was going to drive them. He almost had a heart attack when Ned said she looked familiar, but Nat wasn’t a super spy for nothing. She just smiled, and joked that some said she looked like Black Widow. Then she leaned over, kissing Peter’s temple and smoothed out his hair, before telling him to call if he needed her.

They got out the car, walking towards the house. Wade, Harry, and Gwen, were all probably inside already. But Peter needed to make a show of already being at the party before he could fake a swing in and be Spiderman. It would change things, but things were already bad enough without the entire school thinking he was a fake.

Once enough people had seen him, he made his way back outside, and up to the roof. He had a plan. He would swing in, ask where Peter Parker was, then apologize for not being able to stay and make a show of leaving to keep going on patrol. It would work, he though as he pulled on his mask. It would totally work.

But as he looked out over the party, he noticed a strange blue flash in the distance.

“Friday,” he said quickly. “Something is going on. Can you tell me what it is?”

“Searching street camera’s now,” she said. “I will tell you if I find anything, Baby Boss. Search time: about two minutes.”

“Perfect,” Peter said. Then, the mask secured in place and masking his voice, he swung down and landed easily next to Flash. The older boy actually jumped, staring at him with wide eyed, an untouched hotdog in hand. “Anyone seen Peter Parker? Thought I’d drop in. Say hello.”

People stared, and Peter looked around. “Well, I’ll guess I’ll check on him later.” He snagged Flash’s hotdog, and swung off quickly. Friday was finishing up her scans, and there was another blue flash. He needed to see what was going on. He shouldn't have wasted time, but if he wanted to at least try to keep a normal life, the he had to do things a little weird.

When he reached the flashes, he found himself under a bridge. He watched, observing the three guys and the van. One was rooting around in the van as the other two stood ridged. Finally, the one in the van pulled out a strange looking gun, and Peter stared. This was where those guys at the bank had gotten the crazy guns?

Deciding to take action, Peter swung in and tried to fight them. Web ‘em up and have Friday call the police. If he was lucky, he could get them out without anyone getting hurt. He did pretty well, for a little while, until he was knocked back and two guys got in the van and drove off while the third guy ran. Now he was stuck in a high speed chase!

There wasn’t much to swing off of in this area, but he did his best, and eventually landed on the top of the van. Just a little more, and he could probably get it to stop.

Then he was grabbed by a big angry guy in a metal bird suit and carried high into the sky. He struggled, heart racing as the strange bid man screeched at him, then threw him down. He twisted, trying to turn around so he could snag a tree, so something, so he didn’t fall to his death. It didn’t matter, though, since a parachute suddenly ejected from his back, and in his surprise he got tangled in it. He struggled for a bit longer, trying to get free before he suddenly felt cold rush over him.

This is it, he thought, eyes closing as water flooded in his mouth. This is how it ends. Where I die. Without saying goodbye to Dad, or Pops, or… or Wade…

But then, there was light. Blue and bright, almost blinding as it enveloped him. He felt something grab him under the arms, pulling him up and out of the cold water. Glancing over his shoulder, he blinked as he was met with the faceplate of the Iron Man suit.

“Oh,” he coughed. “Hey…”

His dad set him down and he stumbled forward, pulling off the mask as he coughed and shivered. Peter had no idea how his dad found him, or even knew he was Spiderman, but he almost died so he kind of doesn’t care.

“How did you know I was Spiderman?” he asked instead. “How did you find me? Did you mess with my suit?”

“Friday can’t hide things from me, even if you want her to,” his dad said, sounding stern, even through the speakers of the suit. “And I remade your suit. Put everything in it. Including this heater.”

A warm puff of air flooded over Peter, and he sighed in relief as the cold was driven away. “Oh, oh that’s nice. Thanks, Dad.”

Instead of the usual ‘No problem, Pete’, he got something else entirely. “What the hell were you doing?”

Peter blinked. “There were these weird alien like guns, and I tried to stop them, but then this crazy guy with these wings came and took me, like, thousands of feet into the air. Then he dropped me. But he’s obviously got something to do with the guns, so I gotta take him down.”

“Take him down now, huh?” His dad didn’t sound happy. Why was his dad not happy? “Peter, there are people who are supposed to handle this sort of thing. Like the police? Or Coulson's SHIELD squad if they aren’t enough.”

“Dad,” Peter groaned, only to go wide eyed. “Oh, god! You’re supposed to be in Paris. You- Does Pops know? Did you leave Pops in Paris? You didn’t have to come out here. I had that. I was- I was fine.”

“Oh, I’m not-” The face plate popped open, revealing an empty suit. “-here. I was waiting for you to tell me on your own, and thought it would be better for you to tell Steve. So right now, I’m in a men's restroom in a restaurant while Steve is at our table as my eggs get cold.” A heavy sigh. “Look, forget the flying Vulture guy, please.”

“Why?”

“Why?” His dad snapped. “Why?! Because I said so!” Peter flinched, his dad never having raised his voice to him before. “Just… stay close to the ground. Help the little people, like you have been. I heard an old lady bought you a churro last week. And if you run into these weapons again, just… tell Clint. Or Natasha. They’ll get Coulson on it and everything will be fine, okay?”

Peter sighed, brow furrowed together. “Okay… Fine. I’ll help the little people. Have fun on your honeymoon.” He paused. “Dad? I’m really sorry I didn’t tell you.”

“You’re doing good, even if it’s on a small scale. We’ll talk when I get back, okay?”

Peter nodded, and the faceplate snapped shut as the suit flew off. He watched it go, waiting until it was a speck in the distant, before getting up and turning to walk back towards Flash’s party. As he walked, he noticed something on the ground. It was purple, glowing inside some kind of casing. Peter walked over, carefully picking it up.

This… This was one of the weapons.

“Friday?” he asked, getting her attention.

“Yes, Baby Boss?”

“If I asked you to analyse this, could you… not tell Dad?”

There was a pause. “I was created to be there to help you, Peter. If Mr. Stark does not ask, I will not tell him.”

Peter smiled, picking the bit up. “Thank you, Friday.”

XxXXxX

Peter had trouble juggling everything after that. Ned kept asking him if he could seem him do cool Spiderman tricks, the entire school kept asking if he could get Spiderman to talk to them, Bucky was keeping way to close of an eye on him, and Wade kept coming to the tower to hang out. Well, that last one wasn’t so bad, but it was still a lot. And that was just the personal stuff. He still had the Academic Decathlon, Spiderman patrol, and all his classes to deal with.

He got distracted after a while, but he kept working on the Vulture case. The glowy purple thing ended up not getting analyzed. Friday couldn’t do a scan of it until it was out of the case, and he couldn’t get it out without taking it to the lab. Normally, that wouldn’t be a problem, but if this thing was on a restriction list, not even Friday could stop the Tower alarms from going off the moment he set foot in the lobby.

So he took it to Ned. Ned would keep it until they got a chance to take it apart. Which, Peter did during his shop class.

“What’s that?” Wade asked as Peter started hitting it with a hammer. “It looks… Alien.”

“I think it is,” Peter said, frowning as he gave it another hit. “Spiderman, uh, gave it to me, to figure out what it is, but I can’t really take it into my dads lab. He’d know and I can’t let him know? Well, he knows I’m- that I know Spiderman, but he doesn’t know he asked me to help him.”

Wade humed, studying the weapon fragment for a minute. “Yeah, that is totally alien. How’d you get it here, then, if you couldn’t take it home?”

“Ned’s kinda… helping me. He doesn’t know that my dad is, well, my dad, but he knows I can’t take it home for my…” Peter paused, doing some metal math. “Ten aunts and uncles to find.”

Lifting the hammer again, Peter brought it down hard, the device sending out a small shockwave of energy that made the overhead lights sway. Peter froze, as did Wade, and they both glanced over their shoulders to see if anyone had noticed. Not even their teacher was paying attention, instead focused on supervising a kid over by the saws.

Turning back to the now destroyed device, Peter carefully picked the purple glowy thing up. It didn’t seem to be doing anything, but he wouldn’t be sure until he had Friday look into it. It looked familiar, though…

He hid it in his backpack, and passed it off to Ned, who would keep it in his bag until they were ready to have Friday look into it. They would have to wait until after school, then after their Decathlon practice before they could do it, though.

When they finally were done for the day, they headed down the hall and past the chess club to get out of the school. That was when Peter saw the guys that had in the truck. Quickly, he jumped back, pulling Ned with him.

“Dude,” Ned said, stumbling at the sudden move. “What the heck?”

“Shh,” Peter said, leaning around the corner, watching as the men went down the stairs to the shop room. “Those were the guys that had the glowy thing. Right before the Vulture guy dropped me in a lake.”

“You got dropped in a lake?”

Peter ignored him, following them down and into the shop room. They were waving some kind of device over Peter’s workstation, a soft buzzing noise getting louder and quieter at random intervals. He hid on the underside of a table, listening as they spoke, and shooting a tracker bug at one guys shoe.

When he finally got out, he said goodbye to Ned, distracted by the the possible new lead, and when home to wait and see where they were going.

XxXXxX

Maryland. They were in Maryland.

XxXXxX

They decided that Peter was going to sneak away after the decathlon that evening under the guise of being tired. They would be in DC until Sunday afternoon, and all of that day would be dedicated to touring around the city. Peter could leave the group Saturday night and be back by Sunday morning. Sure he’d be pretty tired, but it would be fine.

When they arrived at their hotel, a few marveled at its size. Peter tried not to laugh. He’d seen bigger. Way bigger. They still had their permanent room at the place in Vegas. They’d probably go some time next spring. His pops would probably love to see the updated art exhibits again.

He and Ned nerded out and played games in their shared room for a while. After a bit, a knock came on the door, and Peter opened it to find Liz, dressed in a swimsuit with a towel around her shoulders. Gwen was just behind her, dressed similarly.

“Oh, hey Liz,” Peter said, keeping the door mostly closed, just incase he left anything out he shouldn’t have. “What- What are you doing here?”

“We’re going swimming,” she said, and right. She was in a swimsuit. Dumb question. “I read in a tedTalk- I mean, I heard in a tedTalk, that doing something fun as a group right before a competition helps boost moral. So we’re sneaking down to the pool. Get your trunks on.”

“Sure,” Peter said, probably a little to enthusiastic. “We- Ned and I will be right there.”

She smiled, and Peter closed the door, managing to disconnect Ned from the computers to get his trunks on. They were soon down the stairs and at the pool, in their trunks and hotel towels over their shoulders. Peter set the towel off to the side, his phone on top with the ringer on, just incase anyone called. When he turned back around, almost everyone was staring.

“What?” he asked.

“Peter,” one guy, a junior, sputters. “You’re ripped. But… But you’re tiny?”

Peter blinked, looking down at his stomach. He guessed he did have pretty strong abs… But that was more from doing boxing with Happy since he was big enough for the gloves to not fall off his hands, and probably a little to do with the spider bite. It probably seemed pretty weird that he was so fit, even though he let Flash pick on him.

“My step dad and his best friend were both in the military,” Peter explained. “And two of my uncles and one of my aunts were in law enforcement for a while. And another of my uncles still works in security. They all thought I should know how to defend myself if I got attacked walking home at night, so they taught me how.”

“I need to get on your training routine,” another guy says as he slips into the water. “Do you, like, know any cool moves you could show us?”

Peter wanted to say yes, but Nat always said that he should only use his training if he has to. If he really feels in danger. Never on someone weaker or just for fun. He could hurt someone he didn’t mean to, and then he’d have to live with that guilt. So he said that he did know some cool stuff, but that he couldn’t show them on people. That instantly got most of the guys scrambling to look for something he could use as a dummy.

So Peter was left in the pool with Ned, Liz, and the girls. He sat awkwardly on the side of the pool, right next to Liz, as they kicked their feet in the water. Should he ask her out? No, not here in front of all these people. Strike up a conversation? But what to say…

“You know,” Liz said, making him jump. “I think you and Wade make a really cute couple.”

Instantly, Peter choked on his own spit. Across the pool, Ned seemed to choke and started coughing as he failed to cover up his laughter. Gwen covered her mouth, giggling as she turned away to hide it. Peter turned to look at Liz with wide eyes.

“W-Wade and I aren’t dating!” he squeaked, trying to keep his voice from going shrill. “What made you think that?!”

Liz blushed, blinking. “Oh, well, you know… You two always seem to be together? And I see you guys in that halls sometimes. He’s always carrying something of yours, like your books, or your bag, or a project. And there was last week, when I saw you guys in the cafeteria, he was carrying your lunch for you, and when you sat down, you guys were so close, it was like you were one person. You’re really not dating?”

Peter blinked, blushing as he looked down at his hands in his lap. He was fiddling with his fingers, trying to think of what to say.

“Peter and Wade aren’t dating,” Gwen cuts in. “But they’re so close that they act like they are sometimes. I kind of think they should, because they really would make a cute couple.”

“Gwen!” Peter gasped, his face aflame.

“No offense Peter,” Ned cut in. “But I was pretty sure you were going to ask him out after two days of knowing him.”

Peter crossed his arms, pouting as he glared at the water. Did all his friends think he and Wade were a couple? Or that they should be? It’s not that he didn’t like Wade. He did! Just… not like that? But that felt like a lie, even in his own head.

“You do like him though,” Liz asked, “don’t you?”

“Well,” Peter uncrossed his arms, frowning. “Well, yeah… I just… never really thought about it that way before. I guess… I guess I could ask him out. But, I don’t think he would accept. I mean, he’s so much older then me, and I’m… Well, I’m me.”

“Pretty sure you is who he wants,” Gwen snickered. “How about this. If we win tomorrow, you have to ask him out!”

“What?! No, why?!”

“It’ll be like a good luck charm,” Liz giggled. “A trophy to as a charm to guarantee he says yes.”

Peter wanted to ask why there were all so invested in this, or argue, but he couldn’t find the words. Thankfully, the guys came back with Peter’s makeshift sparring partner. It as a heavy bottom coat rack in a t-shirt with pillows stuffed into it and a bucket on top for a head. He didn’t ask where they got it, and took it to a softer spot so he could show them a few of his moves. Mostly kicks and punches, though the more he showed, the more he wanted to do.

Eventually, he got so into it, he had to show then some of the more intense stuff he could do, though he really did try to keep it to baseline human level. Everyone was watching and cheering, urging Peter on to do more. And then it went a little to far when he did a move that move that Nat showed him that Clint called an ‘aerial t-bag’. He took a running start, used a nearby chair as a booster, and leapt at the makeshift dummy, wrapping his legs around what would be considered the dummy's neck. With a twist, he was yanking it down to the ground, hard, and rolled out of the move right before he hit the ground wrong.

His teammates stared, eyes wide as he stared at the now broken coat rack. “Oops…”

But everyone laughed, and clapped him on the back. A few even asked if he could teach them how to do that. Peter politely declined, and went to go see the front clerk about paying for the broken rack.

XxXXxX

They won the decathlon. The girls all gave Peter wide grins and nudges, as the guys looked on in confusion.

XxXXxX

Peter felt stupid. So stupid.

He had faced off against the Vulture guy, and had ended up knocking himself out and getting stuck in the shipping container. And now he was stuck, no cell service, and no way out until morning, in a Damage Control deep storage vault. He spent a while messing around, talking to Friday, who was isolated to his suit at the moment, and finding out new ways to use his webs. A web hammock was surprisingly comfy.

Peter held out for an hour before he got bored and started rooting through the bag that the Vulture had left behind. There was some kind of disc that he couldn’t use, a robot head, which he also couldn’t use. Then he pulled out another purple glowy thing, just like the one he had forgotten about.

“Hey,” he said. “It’s like the glowy thing.”

“That glowy thing,” Friday says urgently, “Is an explosive Chitauri energy core.”

Peter instantly dropped it. “What?! You mean we’ve been carrying around a bomb?! Oh god, I have to call Ned!”

“It would need radiation to turn it into an explosive. As long as that doesn’t happen, then it should be fine.”

“They’re going on a monument tour before we leave. There will be x-ray machines! We have to override that timelock!”

XxXXxX

He was to late to stop Ned from putting it under an x-ray machine. He was just in time to save everyone, but it was a close call with Liz…

XxXXxX

Tony heard about DC before they got back. Of course he did. He still had Friday giving him updates on Spiderman's activities. The one’s the public knew about anyway. But he also got a call from the school that Sunday to tell him that Peter had gone wandering off some time at night and didn’t return until well after noon.

He had to tell Steve, of course. He still wanted to let Peter tell Steve on his own, about Spiderman, but running off from a school trip? That, Tony had to tell Steve.

“Everything okay?” Steve asked, still at the table with his lunch. “Sounded pretty serious. Stark Industries or Avengers?”

“Neither,” Tony grumbled. “Peter’s school.”

That got Steve’s full attention. “What happened?”

“Peter disappeared from his field trip. No one knew where he was.”

“Did they find him?” Steve asked sharply, worry filling his voice. “Do we need to go back and look for him? I’ll go pack the bags.”

“Steve, no,” Tony said, reaching up and grabbing Steve’s hand. “He just… went out to grab a snack at a convenience store and ended up getting distracted walking around. He ran into his school group outside the Washington Monument. He’s fine. But he’s in trouble.”

Steve settled back into his chair, frowning. “Should we… Should we ground him? I mean, it’s your choice. Your his father.”

“And now you are to. So we need to decide together. I think restricted tech? No TV or computer, unless it’s for homework?”

Steve nodded. “And… a curfew? Buck said that he’s been staying out late to hang out with Wade at the skatepark or going to Ned’s house.”

Tony nodded. “Outside of clubs and teams, he has be be home by five?” Steve nodded, and Tony grinned. “Look at us, working together as co-parents~”

With a chuckle, Steve leaned forward, humming as he pressed a kiss to Tony’s mouth.

XxXXxX

When Monday came, Peter was ready to die. He knew that his dad was going to be furious, and his pops would be- Good God, Pops was going to be disappointed.

But Peter, for now, had other things to worry about. Because they had won the decathlon, and the girls definitely weren’t going to let him forget. Gwen was particularly pushey, even going as far as to be the one that finally pushed Peter to ask.

“Hey Peter,” she said, and Peter shot her a look. “Wasn’t there something you wanted to ask Wade?”

Wade perked up at that, having been to absorbed in his food to notice others around him. “Hm?”

“Yeah,” Gwen continued before he could even get a word in. “It’s very important, Wade.”

Deciding it was like a bandaid, Peter decided that he better just get it over with before Wade started asking to many questions. “Do you wanna… go on a date, sometime?”

Wade blinked. Then blinked again. And just stared. “Wait. What?”

“I said-”

“I know what you said,” Wade cut in. “I just- I can’t believe you’re saying it. I was gonna ask you to Homecoming next Friday.”

Peter perked up. “You were?”

“Yeah, Petey.” He grinned, leaning down to whisper to him. “Plus, I never got a dance at your dad's wedding.”

With a snort, Peter covered his mouth with his hand, half trying to hide his blush and half to cover up his laughter. They made plans for Homecoming, grinning and smiling, Peter blushing. It had turned out better then he had thought it would. Or, at least, until he got his sentencing from his dad and Pops.

XxXXxX

Steve was surprised when Peter took the decision on his punishment so easily. He didn’t fight, he didn’t argue. He just nodded and asked one question.

“Can I still go to the Homecoming dance?”

He had thought that part weird. Here they were, laying down the law on Peter, telling him how it would be for the next… Well, they weren’t sure on that part. They’d decide when Peter had enough. But why that one question? Why about some dance?

“I kinda already have a date,” Peter added, when they didn’t say anything.

“With who?” Tony asked, much to interested, and Steve wanted to scold him. They were supposed to be scolding Peter! “Anyone we know of?”

“It’’s…” Peter squirmed. “It’s Wade, actually.”

And Steve knew that he should have remained calm. He should have asked Tony to talk with him first, and talked out their opinions. Discussed what they thought and go from their. Steve had listened to Tony on a friendship between the two, but a relationship? No. No, he was not going to just sit back.

“No,” Steve said simply, crossing his arms. “If you’re going with Wilson, you’re not going. He’s to old for you, and he’s not stable.”

“What?” Peter gasped. “Pops, that’s not fair! I like Wade! Dad, say something!”

And, much to Steve’s surprise, Tony agreed with him. “Peter, Steve is right. I’m okay with you two being friends, hell, I’d even encourage it. But dating? No way in hell. He’s a mercenary. Makes even more enemies then we do, and getting to close means you become a bigger target for revenge. You already have a pretty big one on your back, being our son, but going out with is just begging for trouble.”

For a minute, Peter just stared at them. Then, face contorting into a scowl, he stomped off to his room and slammed the door shut. Should he… Should he have thought that through a little more?...

XxXXxX

Wade was pissed. Peter had explained to him what his father’s had said, and Wade didn’t understand. Steve and Tony had seemed to like him just fine. But he supposed they had a point. He was older then Peter, toeing the consent restriction line even. If they really didn’t want him around Peter, he was pretty sure that they had the power to have him arrested if he so much as tried to kiss Peter.

But he let Peter grumbled and complained, until one of Peter’s friends, Liz, cut in.

“Well, Peter could go with me.”

Wade blinked, turning to look at her in surprise. She didn’t look like a man stealer, but here she was, trying to steal his man! Boy? Yes. His baby-boy.

“Just hear me out,” Liz said, hands raised in an appeasing motion. “I don’t have a date to Homecoming, and Gwen and the girls were planning on going as I group with me. If Peter takes me, his parents will probably think he’s to kind to ditch me, so they’ll let him go. But when we arrive…”

“I’ll get to go straight to Wade,” Peter finished. “Liz, you’re a genius!”

“Oh, geez, Peter,” Wade mumbled, rubbing the back of his neck. “I… I don’t know… If I’m already on your dad’s shit list, I don’t want to make it worse by lying to him.”

“Wade,” Peter whined. “Come on, they’re being unfair. What they don’t know won’t hurt them.”

He thought it over, just for a minute. As long as Peter at least danced with other people… it wouldn’t hurt to have a couple dances…

“Okay,” he said, smiling. “Okay, let’s do it.”

XxXXxX

Peter ended up not staying at the dance.

His fathers had agreed to let him go to the dance with Liz instead, and had dropped him off at Liz’ house. He was going to eat dinner with them before they went to the dance. None of that was a problem. Steve even drove him and talked to him. He said he was sorry, even, that he couldn’t go with Wade, but said it was for his own good. Peter hated the sound of that, but he accepted it.

No, the reason Peter didn’t go to the dance was Liz’ dad. Because he was the Vulture. And Liz accidentally revealed to her dad that he was Spiderman, even if she didn’t know, and Peter had barely gotten into the gym before he had cracked. The Vulture needed to be stopped. And Peter was the one that had to stop him.

He had told Liz to apologize to Wade for him, then run off, calling up Ned and getting him to be the guy in the chair.

Peter had almost died. Twice. Once under a pile of rubble, and again in a quinjet crash. He and the Vulture fought again, and the Vulture had tossed him around for awhile, then went to fly away, only for his wings to explode. Peter had gotten to him just in time, saved him and webbed him up. Damage Control could take care of him…

Covered in scrapes and bruises, Peter had waited until he was sure everyone was okay before limping his way back to the Tower. His dad was waiting, hands shaking as he pulled Peter into his arms.

“I heard about what happened,” his Dad breathed, holding him so tight it hurt. “Peter… you could have died… What would I have told Steve? What would I have told anyone? You can’t scare me like that.”

“I know,” Peter breathed, wheezing as he returned the hug. “Where… Where is he?...”

“He went to your school,” Tony explained. “You’re fight with that guy outside… It drew a lot of attention. Everyone inside the school had to go into lockdown until parents could come get them. Steve went to look for you, and I stayed here incase you came back.” A pause. “Do you want to tell him?”

Peter wanted to say yes, but even with how protective his dad was, Steve was a million times worse. If he knew about Peter being Spiderman, he’d argue with his dad until one of them caved. Not only that, but if they did let him keep going, Steve would but into every little thing he did. The last thing he needed as Spiderman was Captain America as his shadow.

“No. No, I want to get better at it first.” He smiled. “I guess I should go… get cleaned up before he gets back, huh?”

His dad nodded, taking deep breaths. “I still have to call him and tell him you’re back. You can come up with the story to tell him.”

Peter nodded. He went to his room, took a quick shower and went to use his phone to text Ned. He found a voicemail instead, one from Wade, and knew what he had to do.

XxXXxX

“Hey, Peter. It’s Wade. I just… I was going to text you, but that felt a little to… impersonal I guess? Anyway, I know you wanted us to meet at the dance, and trick your parents, but I really, really like you, and what I’m about to say will probably make it seem like I don’t. I’m not going to meet you at the dance. I know that’s what we agreed, and that we would keep this thing between us from them, but I can’t. Your family is important to you, and I’m not gonna be the thing that ruins the trust you have with them. I’m sorry.”

The voicemail ended, and Peter looked sheepishly up at his father’s. “When I got that right before going inside, I decided that I’d just come back home. I wasn’t paying attention, and I got in the middle of the fight Spiderman was having with some guy. I ran, and came back here.”

For a minute, his pops didn’t say anything. He simply pursed his lips, looking at Peter, then the phone. He glanced at his dad, and the two seemed to be silently communicating for a short time. When their silent talk was done, they turned back to Peter.

“You’re grounded again,” his dad said simply. “You have to be back by four-thirty, and no TV or internet unless it’s for school.”

“And all of your dates with Wilson will be okayed with us first,” his pops added. “And monitored by Friday until you’re sixteen or we know that we can trust you both to be safe.”

Peter blinked. “Wait… Really?”

His parents nodded, and Peter couldn’t help but grin. He had to tell Wade!

Chapter Text

Wade was surprised when Peter called him to say his fathers were okay with them. He was suspicious. It was almost to good to be true. But they let him come over and have dinner with them.

It went about as well as Wade had expected. Steve asked him tense questions, eyeing him like a patriotic eagle, and Tony mostly just talked with Peter. It was still weird to think that Peter was the son of Tony Stark, billionaire and Iron Man, and now the stepson of Steve Rogers, World War Two vet and Captain America. And here he was, mercenary for hire, Wade Wilson.

Eventually dinner ended, and he had to go home, but he got to hug and kiss Peter before he left. Kiss, as in, on the cheek, of course. He didn’t want to incur the wrath of two of the world's most powerful people, after all. Not right after they said he could date their son. That would just be stupid.

When he went home, he felt to good to really go on a job, even if it was the weekend. He stayed with Weasel and Bob in the bar, mixing crappy drinks and trying to get some sitting mercs to fight. But everyone could see his never ending grin.

“Dude,” Weasel eventually said. “You’re starting to creep people out.”

“Not sorry,” Wade laughed. “Just had to good a time to care.”

Weasel rolled his eyes.

XxXXxX

Nothing changed for them at school. They still sat together at lunch, and Wade walked him to all his classes and sometimes carried his books. The only thing that really changed was that on late days, when Peter had a decathlon meet up or was just staying late, Wade would stay back to walk Peter back to the Tower. They’d take their time, Wade bringing his old skateboard to show Peter how to ride it.

They went out to do something together every other week, and Wade would come to the Tower once a month to have dinner with them. That was the plan, anyway. Sometimes, Wade would disappear on a job. Show up a few days later. Peter always worried.

After the Vulture ordeal was taken care off, his dad pulled some strings and got Liz’s mom a job working in the tower. She mostly answered calls, and it wasn’t enough to keep their house, but they found somewhere closer to the school, and much cheaper, so Liz got to stay.

XxXXxX

When Peter’s fifteenth birthday rolled up, he made plans to tell his friends who his family really was.

His dad planned everything, of course. With his Pops help, it wasn’t to flashy or shocky, and was moderated to just a few games, cake, and presents. All of the team would be there, and all Peter had to do was plan the rondevu with his friends, so he decided that, since his birthday was on a Friday, he’d just have them come home with him after school.

“Peter,” Harry drawled as they walked. “I don’t see why my driver couldn’t just take us.”

“That would have been so much easier,” Ned groaned. “I thought you lived in Queens. Why are we going into Manhattan?”

“I can’t tell you until he get there,” Peter snickered, excited and nervous. “It’s supposed to be a secret and my dad was still kinda hesitant to let you guys come over. Harry in particular.”

“Why would your father be against Harry?” Gwen asked, frowning. “He’s never met him. He hasn’t met any of us.”

“He’s met me!” Wade chirped, grinning. “Technically, I met Peter’s dad before I met Peter, so…”

“It’s not really Harry,” Peter said as he came to a stop in front of the private, back door of the Tower. “It’s more of his dad.”

Pushing the door open, Peter held it for everyone to get inside. With the right access, DNA and voice recognition, the door opened to an elevator that goes right up to the penthouse. Peter used it when he was to lazy to wall crawl into his window, or when he got back during the tourist rush in the lobby and wanted to avoid people. Now, his friends piled inside, looking around in confusion as Peter stepped in.

“Friday,” Peter called, as the doors slid shut and they started upward. “News for the day, please?”

“Boss and the Captain had an incident with the cake,” Friday said, making Ned, Gwen, and even Harry jump in surprise. “They left an hour ago to retrieve another, and will return before the actual party starts to meet your friends. Your suit for tomorrow’s event have been pressed and is hanging on the inside of your door.”

“Great,” Peter said as the doors opened again. He stepped out, his friends following as he took off his glasses and set them on the counter. “Tell Dad that we’ve arrived safe and sound.”

“Already done Baby Boss.”

When Peter turned back around, Harry was the first one to get it. He went wide eyed, and then tight lipped, as he looked Peter over. Ned and Gwen were still staring at the room, and Wade was neutral, already dropping onto the couch.

“You’re Peter Stark,” Harry said, slowly, drawing Ned and Gwen’s attention back to Peter. “And I’m an idiot.”

“Both are true,” Wade called, laughing as he put his feet on the coffee table.

“I asked Dad if I could try being normal at school,” Peter explained, heading for the fridge. “So he organized with Principal Morita for me to be registered under my mothers last name, so only he knows who my dad is.”

“You’re dad is Tony Stark,” Ned suddenly gasps. “You’re family is the the Avengers! You’re-!”

“Well, that explains the moves at the Decathlon,” Liz muttered. “I’m guessing you learned that stuff from the Black Widow?” She paused, laughing a little. “That’s probably the weirdest thing I’ve ever said.”

“You’ll meet them later,” Peter supplies. “During the party. But I could probably show you around the tower, if you want. I can't take you to anywhere anything classified is, like any of the Labs, but I could show you the common level and the training room. If anybody is training, you could see them in action.”

“Baby Boss,” Friday cuts in. “Barnes is requesting entry. Shall I allow him?”

“Oh, Uncle Bucky! Yeah, let him in, Friday.” Peter turned to look at his friends, only to find three of them shifting almost uncomfortably. He realized, belatedly, that this was probably a big shock for everyone. That, even if they were his friends, this was a lot to take in. Especially for Ned. He already knew Peter was Spiderman, but this on top of that? “Wait, no. I’ll meet him in the hall, okay?” he turned to his friends, trying to give his best smile. “You guys get comfortable. Wade can show you how to work the TV, and where the fridge is.”

Peter went out into the hall finding Bucky there. He was frowning. “Hey. Steve said I’m supposed to supervise while you have you’re little pow-wow. Everything okay?”

“I don’t know if I should have told my friends,” Peter admitted. “They're… Well, Harry, Gwen, and Liz all seem really uncomfortable. I don’t know, maybe we should have done the usual family only party and then the public gala like we have every other year…”

It was clear that Bucky was uncomfortable being the one Peter was having this talk with. He looked about ready to just back up into the elevator and leave. But Peter needed advice, and with his dad and pops gone, Bucky was the only one to give it.

“I don’t really know what to tell you,” Bucky said, shifting uncomfortably. “But of they can’t get over this, then maybe they don’t deserve you as a friend.”

Peter smiled, moving to hug Bucky, and squeezed a little when the man returned it. They went back into the living room, and Peter watched as his friends started asking Bucky questions. Well, Ned, Liz, and Gwen asked questions. Harry had met Bucky a few times at various gala’s and charities, after all, so he guessed that things with Harry wouldn’t be to different.

Things settled fairly quickly, and Peter hoped that everything would be fine. They all settled in to play games on the StarkCube, a console he helped his dad create that could read any game disc. It hadn't been announced yet, since they were still waiting for a green light and final contract deal from Nintendo. It could connect several controllers, so all six of them got to play guitar hero with four guitarists and two drummers. It was good, really fun.

When his dad and pop came back, it was a bit different again. Harry went hard, formal, as he greeted his fathers curtly.

“Mr. Stark,” Harry said. “Captain Rogers.”

“Osborn Jr,” his dad said, eyes narrowed. He then turned and grinned brightly at the other three. “And Peter's other friends! I've met two of you before. Sorta. For, like, two minutes. And Miss Toomes. I've met your mother. How is she? Not doing to bad in the cubicles right?” In usual fashion, his dad didn't give anyone a chance to respond, turned to the fridge as he snapped his fingers. “Friday, do the… the thing. Call everybody up. We're gonna get this party going. Turn on the music, blow the poppers. Start taking some pictures.”

“Tony,” his pops chided, sighing.

“Right.” His dad pulled a large bottle of orange juice out, opening it to drink straight from the bottle before he spoke. “Tony Stark, genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist, superhero.”

“Tony, don't drink out of the bottle,” his pops chided, though he seemed to give up as he turned to his friends, taking a moment to shake each of their hands. “Steve Rogers. I'm Peter's step father. Harry, nice to see you again, and you must be Ned.” Pops smiled, clapping Ned on the shoulder. “You've been a good friend to Peter, I hear. Thank you for that.” And then Pops grinned at Bucky, still talking to Ned. “You know, I had a friend like you when I was your age. A good fella who stuck around and helped me even when I didn't want it. Always picking up dames as I tried to keep him focused.”

“Hey Peter,” Bucky said, eyes narrowed. “Did I ever tell you about this tiny ass punk that never quit, and how he thought fondue meant-”

“Okay!” Pops said as he clapped his hands. “Friday, where are the others? It's Peter's fifteenth birthday! We need the whole team around. Is Coulson on site yet? He's supposed to be here by now.”

Peter sighed, running a hand over his face. God, his parents were so embarrassing… But they were his family, and he wouldn't change that for anything.

Eventually the rest of the team showed up, and the party was underway. There were more games, and they sang Happy Birthday and had cake. After cake was presents, which resulted in a mixed back of gifts. From Ned, he'd gotten the new Lego Death Star set, which they would eventually build together, while Liz and Gwen had apparently pooled together money to buy him a brand new camera. His old one was fine, but it was still old, and he'd accidentally scratched the lense a while back. Wade had apparently bought him a helmet and pads, which didn't make sense, until his dad said that Wade had permission to take him to the skatepark to learn to ride Wade's skateboard every Monday and Thursday.

From the team, he got the usual. He didn't really need or want anything, so most of the time they just got him cards or promised to do something special with him. Wanda and Pietro still tried, though, and gave him a necklace charm that they had apparently come up with together. Vision had apparently helped.

His pops seemed to give him the same thing every year, which was a carefully detailed painting of the team. It had everyone, there or not. It had all the actual members, like Captain America and Iron Man, Thor and Hulk… But it also had the honorary team, like Jane and Darcy, with Peter in the center. It was a painting that grew every year, with more and more people added to the family. Because that’s what it was. A painting of Peter’s family.

Once Peter was finished thanking everyone, and after a few more rounds of games, his friends made there way home while he helped clean up. When his pops asked if he had a good birthday, Peter just grinned.

XxXXxX

Wade scowled down at his clothes. He hated wearing suits. Really, he did. They made him feel like one of those cheap criminals that think they’re so badass in spy movies. But this was for Peter, so he would fucking deal with it.

When Peter had asked him to join him at the gala, Wade hadn’t wanted to say yes. It wasn’t because Wade didn’t want to go, but more that he was worried about what people would say. They weren’t telling anyone that he was Peter’s boyfriend. It would make it way to obvious that Peter ‘Parker’ and Peter Stark were the same. Or make everyone at school think he was a cheater. Either way, not go. So he was supposed to wear a security detail suit and shades, and pretend to be Peter’s bodyguard for the night.

With a sigh, Wade finally went down the stairs that would take him back to the bar, ready for the howls of laughter that would come when everyone saw him. He took it in stride, ignoring most of it, and was quick to be on his way. No need to keep hearing the laughter if he didn’t have to.

When Wade finally made it to the event, the place was already crawling with reporters and Happy had to bring him inside. He found Peter quickly, taking notes on the differences between every day Peter and event Peter. Because they were different. Normally, Peter would be quiet, talk only when he felt like it, while Event Peter was casually talking with everyone, almost ever stopping. Event Peter also had his hair styled, which was shockingly different from the usual ruffled mess, and he was wearing sunglasses like his dad.

Wade stayed out of the way most of the night, not to interested in getting caught up in what the reporters were saying. But, eventually, someone seemed to get to close. Wade saw them before Peter did, and was on his way to intercept when the reporter asked the wrong thing.

“Is it true that your father, the world's largest playboy, has coerced American Hero Captain America into marriage?”

“What?” Peter squaked, and shook off Wades hand when he grabbed him, fixing the reporter with a hard gaze. “My father is a good man , and he may have been a playboy in the past, but he isn’t anymore. He never ‘coerced’ Steve into anything. And if you’re here just to spread false rumors, then you can get out!”

The party ended not long after that, and Wade escorted Peter back to the Tower.

XxXXxX

As the days went on, time seemed to fly by. Peter kept doing in Spiderman thing at night, sometimes joining his family in Avengers stuff when his dad said it was okay. Ned kept being his guy in the chair, when he was in town, and before they knew it, it was the end of freshman year and they were watching Wade graduate.

They had a party for Wade, who was laughing and smiling, and Peter took tons of pictures. It was held at the Tower, and Weasel, Wade’s sorta-kinda father figure, and Bob, Wade’s… roomate? Either way, the team was there, and the people who cared about Wade were there. That’s what was important.

At the end of the night, Peter took a selfie with Wade, grinning as they stood side by side on the balcony, the evening New York skyline behind them.

XxXXxX

When the night was over and done, and Peter had fallen asleep, Wade walked with Tony down to the lab. It had been such an eventful day already, and Wade felt like his head was swimming.

“I know it’s been a busy day,” Tony said, chuckling as he led Wade down. “But I figured that I would give you your merc gear now. I was thinking about making you a body suit, to help keep bullets off you and stuff, but I didn’t have your measurements so I just made a pair of pistols and had a pair of swords specially made. Katana’s, even. You’re favorite, right?”

Just as they reached the end of the stairs, Wade felt his legs sway under him. His vision blurred and he had to hold onto the railing at the bottom to try and steady himself. Something was wrong. Something was… seriously wrong…

“Tony,” Wade managed to say, his voice sounding far off and muffled to his own ears. “Don’t tell Peter.”

“Don’t tell Peter wh- Holy shit!”

That was the last thing Wade heard before he passed out.

XxXXxX

Tony was annoyed. Really, he was very, very annoyed. He was currently standing outside Wade’s hospital room, grumbling as the doctor refused to tell him anything. It had been nearly three hours since Wade had suddenly fainted at the bottom of the stairs to the lab, and while he hadn’t gotten any texts from Steve, wondering what happened, he was sure they wouldn’t be much longer.

“I just need to know if he’s okay,” Tony said, eyes narrowed in a glare. “He’s dating my son, and he’ll want to know if Wade is alright.”

“I already told you Mr. Stark,” the doctor said, scowling at him. “I can’t tell you. You aren’t on Mr. Wilson’s list of people I can tell. In fact, he doesn’t have a list. I can’t share the details of his case with anyone but those working on it.”

“Then I want to call in a friend of mine,” Tony snapped. “Personal doctor. Stephen Strange. He’ll take care of Wade and-”

“Doctor Strange?” the doctor asked. “I used to work with Strange. He went off the grid almost a year ago. Where have you been?”

Tony took a deep breath to retort, the sharp words on the tip of his tongue, only to be silenced as Wade started to rouse from his sleep. The kid groaned and started to sit up, only for the doctor to ease him back down.

“What happened?” Wade asked, his voice slurred as he blinked himself to wakefulness.

“You fainted,” Doctor ‘I obey confidentiality’ replied, checking on Wade’s vitals. “But the important thing is why. But maybe that should wait-”

“No,” Wade said, voice a sharp contrast to what it was before. “I want to hear it. No big words. Just tell me.”

For a second, the doctor shot Tony a glance, but sighed and finally start talking. “Well, it’s… your liver, lungs, prostate, and brain. Tumors. You have cancer, son.”

And just like that, Tony felt his brain kick into gear. Cancer. Wade had fucking cancer . What was he going to tell Peter? God, what were they going to do? Well, obviously he was going to help pay for Wade’s bills, but what could be done? Chemo? Some kind of experimental drug? He wasn’t the bio-chem guy with the degrees in squishy sciences. That was Bruce. But Bruce was gone, so what now?

He didn’t hear anything that doctor said, instead focused on coming up with a plan. Plans A, B, C, and all the way to Z. But he didn’t know anything about cancer. He knew computer viruses and how machine’s work. So what could he do? He couldn’t even think of one plan, much less back up ones.

“Tony?” Wade called.

Snapping back to reality, Tony blinked and looked up at the teen, who was now up on only slightly shaky legs. “Wade. You… You shouldn’t be up, kid.”

“I want to go home,” Wade said, leaving no room for discussion as he headed for the door. “You can drive me.”

Tony frowned, but he helped Wade out of the hospital, leading him to his car. He could only guess why Wade wanted to go home so quick. He couldn’t blame the kid, but he figured that it would be better to just go along with it.  

Then the other shoe dropped.

“I don’t want you to tell Peter.”

In his surprise, Tony nearly slammed on the break. He turned and stared at Wade with wide eyed horror. “You want me to what ?”

“I want you to not tell Peter,” he said again. “I want to tell him on my own. Just… not yet. Want to have a few days to think of a plan. So… just don’t tell him, okay?”

For a minute, Tony wanted to argue. He did. But he knew that Wade was right. He had to be the one to tell Peter. It had to be from Wade. Otherwise, it would only hurt Peter. So he pulled up to Weasel’s shop and let Wade, before heading home to start preparing for the worst.

XxXXxX

Wade spent the next week doing all kinds of research. Not really to save himself. No, this was a fuck ton of cancer. He was young, and as Cap would say, ‘spry’, but he wouldn’t make it through all that hard and painful treatments. No, Wade was looking in to things that he needed to do before he died.

He did tell Weasel what happened, but he threatened him with violence if he told Peter anything. Bob, on the other hand, would crack under the slightest bit of pressure, even from the cinnamon roll that wouldn’t hurt a fly that was Peter. Tony of course knew, but he wouldn’t say anything either.

It was was a hard week, really. He wrote a few different letters, trying to find a way to tell Peter, but always ended up throwing them away. He ended up giving up, and eventually sat at the bar, taking a few shots. But then Bob came over, looking more nervous then normal, and held out a little card.

“The guy in the booth,” Bob said, looking over his shoulder. “He wants to talk to you, Wade.”

A little drunk, and with nothing else to do, Wade wandered over to the guy in the booth. He was a real Grim Reaper looking guy. All he was missing was a scythe. Wade figured if this kind of guy was coming to him, it would either cure him or kill him faster. And, well, he didn’t have much to lose, now.

“Mr. Wilson,” he said, a creepy smile on his face. “Have a seat. I understand you’ve recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer.”

“Wow,” Wade drawled, sitting down. “Stalker, much?”

“It’s my job. Recruitment. And you have quite a reputation. I’m sorry you’ve had a tough go. But you’re a fighter. A mercenary by fifteen, you already have forty-eight confirmed kills just over the course of three years.”

“Aside from the no names that no one cared about, that’s one every three weeks, just so you know,” Wade explained, shrugging. “Haven’t really doing much killing in the last year.”

“Yes… You’ve spent the last year doing smaller jobs, and the occasional work with the Avengers.”

“People change.” His voice was a heavy deadpan, and he wanted this guy to just get to the point already. What did he want? Why was he here? Did he have something to help him or not?

The man gave a glance around, and then leaned forward. “Mr. Wilson, I represent an organization that may be able to help. What if I told you we can cure your cancer? And what’s more, give you abilities most men only dream of? You've met the Avengers. The world needs extraordinary men like them. We won’t just make you better. We’ll make you better than better. A superhero.”

Wade actually took a second to think about it. While helping Tony and the other Avengers was fun, sometimes, and it would make Peter happy to see him really turn around… But he really did only take a second. Sure, he had tried being a part of the Avengers team, and he was basically family there, he wasn’t really… a team guy. Wade honestly liked going out and kicking ass to get the little bads off the streets and away from the good people who couldn’t defend themselves.

“I put up with the Avengers ‘cuz they’re like family,” Wade said, standing up with a scowl. “The hero thing just isn’t my game. But if I ever reach ‘fuck it’, I’ll give you a call.”

He turned, ready to leave. If he was smart, he’d tell Tony about this guy, and get him taken down. But he’d probably forget about it later. The guy was creepy, sure, but not that memorable. He’d just poof out of Wade’s mind in a few hours.

But as the day went on, and Wade’s phone was dinging with messages from Peter, he really felt his chest ache.

June 24th, 8:42 pm

From: Baby-Boy<3
Hey Wade, haven’t heard from you in a while. Wanted to know if you wanted to come hang out.

Wade felt his chest tighten at the thought of seeing Peter. If he did… Well, he’d probably break down into tears. There would be gross sobbing, and that’s the last thing he needed. Fucked over by cancer and gross sobbing.

To: Baby-Boy<3
Not tonight, Petey. Getting ready to go out on a job. Maybe when I get back next week.

From: Baby-Boy<3
Oh, okay. Be careful, okay?

To: Baby-Boy<3
I’ll be as careful as I can.

Wade hated lying to Peter, but he just couldn’t see him right now. Honestly, he was actually at the ‘fuck it’ stage. There was nothing that he could do. Almost all the treatments he could use for one of his different kinds of cancers would have side effects that would only make the others worse. There really was nothing he could do.

Ready to try calling Agent Smith, he just needed to get everything in order. He’d mostly told him no so he could buy himself some time, to try and get his goodbye’s in order. Wade would call him up in the morning, once he had everything ready. He just had to write Peter a letter, and figure out what would happen to his stuff if he didn’t come back.

Once everything was ready, he went to bed. In the morning, he gave Weasel his instructions, and went to meet with Smith. And fuck, that was definitely in his top ten list of Worst Decisions Ever.

XxXXxX

Peter was getting antsy. He was sitting at home, with Ned, playing games. It had been two weeks since he’d heard from Wade, and he was starting to think the worst had happened. Ned kept trying to keep his mind off it, but he was worried, and he was almost to the point of calling his dad.

“I’m sure he’s fine,” Ned said, nudging Peter with his elbow. “Come on. You said it yourself. Wade’s a badass that likes to do badass things.”

“But he said he’d would be back last week,” Peter grumbled, definitely not pouting as he slouched in his seat, only half heartedly playing the game. “I haven’t seen him since his graduation party three weeks ago…”

“Peter,” his best friend groaned. “Wade’s probably just busy. I mean, it’s not like he’s avoiding you or planning on breaking up with you.”

Instantly, Peter was sitting up, actually thinking that over. What if Wade was avoiding him? What if Wade was going to break up with him? It wasn’t like Peter was entirely dependent on Wade. It was just… Wade was Peter’s first boyfriend, and Peter was definitely in love. Or, as in love as a teenager could be. He would be pretty heartbroken if Wade did break up with him but he’d prefer Wade just doing it.

There were tons of reasons Wade could do better then him in terms of compatibility. Maybe he’d find a more mature girl. No, a woman. Really, Wade was an adult now, and Wade wouldn’t be dating ‘girls’, he’d be dating women and men. Not boys like Peter…

Before he got to into his thoughts, Ned was nudging him with his elbow. Peter frowned, nudging him back, only to be distracted as Ned pointed to the door. He turned, blinking as he found Weasel standing by the elevator. The bartender was shifting uncomfortably, holding a box in his hands that had Wade’s skateboard sticking out of the top.

“Peter,” he said, shifting the box around. “Is your dad here? I need to talk to you.”

He felt his mouth go dry, and his throat felt tight. Swallowing dryly, Peter nodded, and barely noticed Ned stand up.

“I’m gonna head home,” Ned said, eyeing Weasel from the side. “Just… text me when you’re done, okay? So you can tell me… whatever happened.”

And with that, Ned was on his way to out the door. Peter stood by the couch, the controller forgotten in his hand. He could hear a ringing in his ears as he stared at Weasel, his dad and pops appearing from the hallway. He knew what was coming. He knew what this was, and he was entirely unprepared for it.

Before Peter could really fall apart, he was sitting on the couch again, his dad and pops on either side as Weasel set the box down on the coffee table.

“A lot of mercenaries have someone that they leave instructions for if they don’t come back from a job,” Weasel was saying, his hands stuffed into his pockets as he stood awkwardly. “I was… Well, I’m that guy for a lot of the mercs that come into the bar, but I’m supposed to do it for Wade, to. He had this box set up for months, just told me that if he was two weeks late to come back, that I bring it here. Don’t really know what’s in it, didn’t really look, but I’m pretty sure it’s for Peter, so…”

Peter could hear his dad, knew that he was talking, but he didn’t register any of the words. With shaking hands, he reached into the box, moving things around as he looked at them. To most, it would look like just random junk. But to Peter? It was a box full of his best memories of Wade. A clip full of stubs from all the movies they’d gone to over the last year, along with a little case filled with old polaroids that Wade would take in the middle of anything they did. There was a little Voltron ring at the bottom, and Peter choked out a laugh, because Netflix just announced the new series, and Wade would have loved to watch it. There were other small things, but the two biggest were the skateboard, which Wade had always joked about giving to him once he mastered it, and the hoodie Peter always stole when they went on late night dates and Wade would walk him home after dinner at a dinner or a tiny restaurant.

Pulling out the hoodie, Peter felt tears stinging his eye. Feeling the worn fabric of the shoulders, he pulled the old and tattered hoodie to his chest, only to hear something crinkle in the front pocket. Reaching in, Peter found an envelope with his name on it, new and still white as he pulled it out, and carefully pulled it open. ‘

Peter,
I know it’s probably going to be hard, and you’re probably going to be upset if this is all for nothing, but I had to put this together just in case. It’s a box of all the things that remind me of you, and I wanted you to have them so you can remember me if I really am gone. But if you are reading this, I probably really won't be coming back.
I know that this is sudden, and if I were telling you this in person, you’d yell and tell me I’m being stupid, but I have to ask something of you. I played down how dangerous my jobs were so that you wouldn’t worry, or ask me not to go. It’s just a part of being a merc. And this is something else I have to do, as a merc, to maybe make it a little easier on you.
Don’t get hung up on me. Don’t spend the rest of your highschool years being stuck on me, and ignoring all the possibilities in front of you. Mourn, but don’t get stuck. Move on, and be the bright, handsome Peter that I know you’re going to be.
Yours, with love,
Wade

Unable to hold them back anymore, the tears spilled from Peter’s eyes, and he hurried to his room. He ignored the calls on his fathers, their voices muffled once he was on the other side of the door. Crawling into bed, Peter pulled the hoodie on, wrapping it around himself like a cacoon in an attempt to keep is trembling body warm as he cried. But now? It only felt cold…

XxXXxX

Wade wasn’t sure how long he was in Francis’s workshop, be he really didn’t care. Once he had escaped, and gotten a new pair of clothes after the fire, all he cared about was finding Peter. Weasel would have taken him the box by now, and Peter would have seen the letter. He had to show Peter that he was still okay. That he was alive.

His first task was finding out what day it was. Peter liked routines, did the same things every week, with a few special things thrown in. When he found a paper, after making his way back into the more populated part of New York, Wade was shocked to find that almost three months had gone by. It was late September already. Peter would be back in school. Which meant, after a glance at a store clock, Wade knew exactly where Peter was, and where he would be, for the next hour.

Without a second thought, Wade started making his way back to Midtown High, pushing past the daily crowd, thin as it may be. His heart was racing, ears ringing, as he made his way to the front entrance of the school. As he grew closer, the racing and ringing slowed, but not because of a calm that washed over him, but because he started to hear the whispers around him. Men and women alike were turning away from him, whispers of shock and horror filling the air.

“Sweetie, don’t stare.”

“Oh god, that is so gnarly.”

“Ugh, I think I’m gonna lose my lunch.”

It was in that second, just as he was about to reach the gate, that he realized he wasn’t the same as he was. He didn’t look the same anymore. His face was scarred, hideous, and he was bald, to. Peter wasn’t vein, but… There was no way even Peter, as loving as he was, could love Wade’s fork-stabbed butter face.

To his right, the final bell rang, and Wade saw students starting to leave the school. Looking around, finding people still staring, Wade did what he had to, and pulled up his hood and left. At the corner, though, he paused. Looking over his shoulder, he caught just a bare glimpse of Peter, walking with Ned and Gwen. He was wearing Wade’s old hoodie, and he had his old skateboard under his arm.

It was a small twinge of hope, but it was hope. Peter must still be thinking of him. That meant there was still a chance. If he could find Francis, get him to fix his face… He could make it back to Peter before it was to late.

XxXXxX

After getting the news, Peter spent the rest of the summer trying to come to terms with what had happened. Two and a half months, and he found himself back in school. He had told Ned, since he really didn’t want to talk about it, so Ned told the others for him. The girls gave him hugs, and Harry tried to offer up a plan, but Peter had to walk away to get him to drop it.

The bullying started up again. Flash had been scared by Bucky, all those months ago, and then continued to be scared by Wade, but it was a new year, and Peter was coming to school alone. There was no big bad boyfriend to ‘protect’ him anymore, and Flash was more then eager to start the bullying again.

Peter took it lying down, most of the time. Not bothering to put up much of a fight most days. Two weeks into school, and Peter eventually broke. Flash had shoved him against the lockers, spat something about no one to protect him, and Peter had just collapsed to the floor. Tears were streaming down his face as he buried his face in his hands.

A teacher noticed them at that point, and they’d both been taken to the main office. Flash had to see Morita, but Peter had to go see the school psychologist.

He ended up in there for most of the day. Peter kind of hated it.

When he left Peter tugged on Wade’s old hoodie and dug out the board from his bag to board home. Just as he left the gates, he paused, a shiver running down his spine. At first, he thought it was his Spidey-sense. But this was different… This was… safe? With a glance around, Peter shook his head, and turned to head home

His fathers greeted him, but he didn’t say much. He knew they were worried, he just didn’t want to talk. Instead, he put on the suit and went out early as Spiderman, coming back just before dinner so that Steve wouldn’t find him gone.

He was… dealing. But he’d eventually be okay. Right?

XxXXxX

“We’re closed,” Weasel called as Wade entered the bar. “Unless you’re the police, come back in an hour.”

“Not the cops,” Wade said, smiling a bit. “I’m back.”

In an instant, Weasel froze. Wade watched as he blinked, turning with wide eyed. He set down his drink mixer, coming out from behind the bar as he looked to where Wade was hiding in the shadows.

“Wade?”

“Yeah,” Wade chuckled darkly. “I’m alive…”

“Dude, what happened? Why are you hiding your face?”

“Well, Weasel… You might want to sit down.”

Once Weasel was seated, Wade went on to explain what happened. He’d called up Smith, and gotten taken to a place called the Workshop, when Francis injected him with some liquid and then tortured him for apparently months. Then, when that didn’t work and Wade got a little to cheeky, Francis put him in a shit box until he mutated. Good news was, he wasn’t dying of… well, anything, now. Bad news, his face was fucked up to hell.

Eventually, he found a way out of the box. Well, it was more accurate to say that he found a way to blow it up. With him inside. But he survived. Sort of. He had fought Francis, but couldn’t beat the bastard. He had gotten stabbed through the chest to die in the burning building, but his mutation brought him back, and he’d gone to find Peter. Well, the readers already saw how that had gone.

Wait… Readers? Wade shook off the chain of thought, and focused on the now.

“Why wouldn’t you just talk to him?” Weasel asked, frowning as he squinted at Wade.

“No way,” Wade snapped. “I’m not making his life as ugly as mine.”

“It can’t be that bad! It’s probably like that blemish no one notices but you.”

“Wrong. I’m a monster, inside and out. I belong in a circus, where no one can see me without meaning to. Preferably on the other side of the world, maybe in Eastern Europe, where Peter can never find me by accident.”

“I can’t see any scenario where Peter wouldn’t take you ba-” Wade stepped out of the shadows, pulling his hood down only for Weasel to make a gagging sound. “Oh shit. You are… haunting. You look like an avocado had a baby with an older, wrinklier avocado… We might have to move our relationship to text and phone only.”

Wade ignored him, groaning as he got up to grab a bottle of Jack Daniels. “The only way to fix this is to find Francis. He fucked up my face so I’ll make him fix this butterface.”

“I take back what I said about Peter. The kid’s not self absorbed or obsessed with looks, but even that guy probably wouldn’t be able to stand your face. Seriously, you look like Freddy Krueger face fucked a topographical map of Utah.”

“I’m gonna work through his crew, crushing skulls until one of them tell me where Francis is. Then I’ll force him to cure my face. And once he has, I’ll crush him up into a fine vintage and win Peter back.”

“Okay,” Weasel said, frowning as he got up. “Not exactly the plot of Beauty and the Beast, but cool. You get the advantage since the douche thinks you’re dead. That’s the good news. Bad news is, with a face like that, you’ll still be spotted.”

“Well, what do you suggest? A mask?”

Weasel gave him a once over, and shuddered. “Not a bad idea. You are horrifying . Your face is the stuff of nightmares.”

“Like a testicle with teeth.”

“How about a suit? And an alias! Bitter Boy. Super Fist. Captain Never-Die.” Weasel blinks. “Oh right. I guess I should put you back on the board. Since, you know, you’re not dead? None of the guys you were betting on died, though.”

Wade blinked, then grinned wide as he turned to look at the board. It was the perfect name for him. Super cool and badass. It was the perfect name! “ Deadpool .”

With a snort and a grin, Weasel grabbed a glass and filled it, holding it up to clink it against the bottle Wade was drinking from. “Deadpool… To you, Mr. Pool.”

XxXXxX

Tony was happy to say that by December, Peter was starting to act a little like himself again. His son was a little brighter, even smiling and going to the mall with his friends and helping him in the lab. He wasn’t getting as many calls from Peter’s school, saying he was with the psychologist again, and Peter started staying in the house more.

Honestly, is was like a Christmas miracle, as cheesy as that sounded to Tony. Peter was starting to move on, and that was really all that Tony could ask for. When the break hit, Peter asked to go to Ned’s for a while, and Tony was just so happy, he just told Peter to go. The kid had been spending more and more time in the mask. Honestly, it wasn’t healthy.

So there he was, relaxing on the couch with Steve, a tablet in hand as Steve watched some Christmas movie. The one about the reindeer. Tony wasn’t as interested, and simply leaned on Steve as he was tapping away at plans and paperwork.

“Boss,” Friday said, catching both men's attention. “There is someone here to see you.”

“Friday, can it wait?” Steve asked. “We’re kind of watching something.”

“Is it important, Friday?” Tony asked instead. “Like, needs my immediate attention? Or can they wait until later?”

For a moment, Friday didn’t respond. Then, voice very stern, she spoke. “It is a matter of grave importance. I believe it would be best to see him now. I will send him to the lab.”

The lab? Friday knew to only let a chosen few in there. People he put on a very specific list. But… why all the secrecy? Why not just tell him who it was? Setting aside his tablet, Tony gave a pouting Steve a quick kiss before hurrying to see who it was. Rhodey? No, he would have gone to the lounge. Bruce? Wishful thinking, having been missing for over a year.

When he got to the lab, though, he didn’t find anyone he immediately recognized. It was… a man? Tony couldn’t really tell. They were wearing a thick, baggy coat, with the hood pulled up to hide most of their scared and distorted face.

“Hey, Tony,” they said, and Holy shit that was…

Wade ?” Tony asked, eyes almost bugging out of his head. “What the hell happened to you?”

“Got the cure for cancer.” He shrugged. “Sorta. The doc at the lab said that the serum they put in me kinda just… made my cells regenerate super fast. Including my cancer ones. Not entirely sure. Kinda why I came here.”

Tony blinked, and was instantly going to get blood samples to run some tests. He asked Wade about where he’d been, and listened carefully. It was a shock to know that Wade had been used as a lab rat for three months, before starting a hunt for this Francis guy. He had apparently been looking for the guy for three months, but was coming up short.

“So you’ve been around for three months, and never said anything to Peter?”

“Well,” Wade chuckled. “I… I didn’t think he’d want to see me like this.”

Anger boiled in his gut. “Do you know how much he’s missed you? He’s been miserable for six months, barely even himself, and you don’t think he wants to-”

“I know!” the teen snapped back. “I know he would love to know that I’m okay, but I doubt he’d be able to stomach looking at me. I’m hideous, Tony. I look like someone tried to make mashed potatoes, but only the outside got soft enough to smash. Even Weasel, who has seen some serious shit in his days, looked like he was going to throw up.

“I’m not a good guy, Tony. Seriously, I’m a really bad dude. In the span of three years as a mercenary, I killed at least one person every three weeks. And that's just the confirmed kills that I can take credit for without debate. I do things that Peter would volunteer to do, like protecting someone who doesn’t deserve to die or getting stalkers to back off, for money. You guys, the Avengers, are the family that Peter has, and you have no idea how hard it is feel… good enough for someone as perfect as your son.”

But Tony did. He understood what Wade felt. He’d felt it for so long, so very long, after he got together with Steve. And again after Ultron. It had taken forever to feel even a smidge good enough to be with Steve, and sometimes, he still felt like he wasn’t. So he knew what Wade was going through, and as much as he wanted his son to know, he wasn’t going to tell him.

With a sigh, Tony agree to help when he could. He told Wade that he’d fabricate a suit for him, if he brought him a design and notes on what he needed. He also gave Wade the gear he’d already made. The kid would be needing them.

Once Wade was gone, Tony went back upstairs to Steve. His husband smiled, kissed him, and they sat down to finish the movie. Tony went back to his tablet, trying hard to not think of all the secrets he was already keeping again.

XxXXxX

Peter sat on a roof, stretching as he looked around at the quiet streets bellow. It had been almost a year since… the incident, and Peter was finally feeling back to normal. Well, as normal as he could. He was still hurt, and he still loved Wade, even though he was gone, but maybe in a few years he could move on.

He had been out as Spiderman, listening to Friday for any criminal activity, when the entire city had basically gone silent. Not literally, of course, but figuratively. There weren’t any muggers, thieves, or any other kind of baddy out right now, so he got to chill out on a roof. He’d been thinking about getting a late snack, to eat while he watched the stars, but he didn’t have any cash on him unless he wanted to go home first.

It was around midnight, though, that he spotted someone strange down below. It was someone in a mask and a suit. Not a business suit, but a suit like his pops. He had swords on his back, and what looked like guns at his hips. Finding his suspicious enough to investigate, Peter swung down to drop just a bit behind him.

“Excuse me,” he said, though he made sure to sound pretty chipper. “But I don’t think you’re weapons are very concealed.”

The suited man stopped, a loud gasp escaping him as he turned to Spiderman. For a minute, Peter thought he was going to run. Instead, he put his hands to his cheeks, gave inhaled sharply in shock, and started bouncing excitedly on his toes.

“Oh my god!” The man squealed. “Spiderman, boy! I’m a huge fan!”

“Uh…” Peter blinked, watching as the man came over and started furiously shaking his hand. “Thanks? But… who are you?”

“Oh, I’m Deadpool,” the guy, Deadpool, said with a grin. “But a lot of people call me the Merc with the Mouth.”

Deadpool… Peter had heard of him. He was a crazy mercenary that had popped up a few months back. His dad knew him, somehow, and vouched that, while he was totally bat shit crazy, he was trustworthy. He seemed a little… strange to Peter, but he was willing to let it slide if his dad said he was okay.

“Well, it’s nice to meet you, Deadpool,” Peter said, shaking the mercenaries hand. “Sorry to interrupt whatever you were doing, but you are a pretty weird guy. More then a little suspicious, walking around with a pair of swords on your back.”

“They’re katanas,” he corrected, a smile showing through his mask, though he turned to look at an odd angle, off to the side, as he continued. “Really, they are katana’s. Wolfy thinks they’re impractical, since they’re both long swords, and honestly, she’s right, but I have a bit of a power boost so it’s not that hard.”

“Uh...who are you talking to?”

Deadpool snickered, and Peter found it more then a little creepy and weird. What was with this guy? He seemed so… overly cheery and more then a little unhinged. Did his dad really think it was okay to work with this guy? Or, at the very least, not report him to a mental hospital?

“Just the readers,” Deadpool chittered, grinning as he turned back the way he’d been heading. “Anyway, I better go~ But I’ll be seeing you around again, Spidey. Maybe not in the next POV change, since it’s so close, but definitely soon!”

And with that, Deadpool was on his way, leaving Peter to blink at him in utter confusion. The guy was definitely… different. He didn't know why his dad was so insistent that Deadpool wasn’t going to suddenly snap, but Peter guessed that he’d give the guy the benefit of the doubt. But the guy was seriously weird.

XxXXxX

Wade was more then a little pleased after his first official meeting with Spiderman. He was glad that he got the chance to meet his hero, even if it was two years after the first time he saved him. Man, time sure was flying for them. If he was a different man, Wade would probably be upset with how little screen time if felt like he was getting, but he’d let it slide because he loved his treat of meeting Spiderman.

He’d been working his ass off in the six months since he talked to Tony, doing everything he could to track Francis down. He wasn’t making as good of progress as he wished he was, but he was still making progress. Maybe another year, maybe less, he could finally catch this guy. Tony had, of course, offered to help. And he did, but not with finding Francis. That was something that Wade had to do on his own. He was, you know, breaking the law, and the Avengers had been taking heat for a while from all kinds of media.

Tony was mostly helping him with gear. His katana specially made, the suit that was like a World War Two Captain America uniform with a red and black Spiderman color scheme. Seriously, Wade loved it. But he was worried about the tension that helping him would cause back home. After all, Tony hadn’t told Steve about who Deadpool is, and definitely didn’t tell Peter. Though, to be honest, when this was all over, Wade wanted no one to know he was Deadpool. He was probably already going to be on Steve’s shitlist again, and Peter would probably hate him a million times more if he ever found out. He didn’t need it getting any worse.  

With a deep breath, Wade stepped inside his house. Well, it wasn’t his, really, but he was living there. A month ago, he had nearly been caught when Peter had gone to Weasel’s bar to ask about something, and decided it would be a good idea to not be living there until this was all over. So, yeah, he had a roommate named Al, who was blind, and Wade was waiting patiently for the day his roomba came in the name so he could torment her.

Wedging his feet into his at home crocs, Wade went to his room to ditch his equipment and lay down. He had had a rough day, getting annoyed by crooks and confused hentchmen during his search for Francis. Sure, his run in with Spiderman, his literal hero, had been a pretty cool thing, but even if there was icing on a turd, it was still a turd. And to make it worse, it was the one year marker since he’d seen Peter in person. He’d seen him in the security cameras in Tony’s lab, and he stalked the kid way more then he should, but he hadn’t… He was never close enough that Peter could see him, or that he could just wrap the boy up and hold him and never let go.

He supposed that was a good thing, though. If he ever did get close enough to touch Peter, Wade would probably grab him and just… stay there. Never letting go, and never moving.

“Still want to,” Wade grumbled as he went to his room, dropping onto the bed. “Miss him so much. Didn’t even have him for a year before we were torn apart. Author will barely let anyone be happy for more then two seconds before she just… rips them apart.”

With a sigh, Wade closed his eyes as he layed back on the bed. He was ready for a time jump. Really, at this point, he didn’t care about what he did while off the page. Wade just needed things to move a little faster. Maybe if they did, he could finally rejoin with Peter…

“Just do it Wolf.”

XxXXxX

Peter saw Deadpool again fairly frequently after that first meeting. It was always late at night, and at first just a few hello’s before they parted ways, but it soon became a bit of a tradition for Peter to sit on top of a roof near the alley they first met for Deadpool and then talk for a while. Hell, Deadpool even started joining him on patrol as they just talked about their days or whatever.

“You never did tell me why you’re so okay with mercenaries,” Deadpool said one night, as Spiderman was webbing up a convenience store thief. “We kill people for money, you know? I would have thought that ‘Friendly, Neighborhood Spiderman’ would hate that sort of thing.”

“I don’t hate it,” Peter confirmed as he led the way back to the roofs. “But I don’t really agree with it either. It’s just necessary, sometimes. Some people can’t get the help that they need because of where they live or what they did in the past, and that’s really to bad. But some mercenaries can help those people when police and superheros can’t.”

“You sound like you’re talking from experience,” Deadpool said, chuckling as he followed him. “Got another merc you’re hanging out with?”

Peter stopped at that, his mind jumping to Wade before he could stop it. His heart clenched, still broken, and a shudder ripped through his body as he held back the sudden tears that were welling up. God… He missed him… He went to Weasel’s every few months, just hoping that they had at least found a body, so they could give him a proper burial, but they never did. They probably weren’t even looking.

“Spidey?”

Peter sucked in a breath, blinking as he saw Deadpool in front of him, mask morphing to match his look of concern.

“I’m fine,” Peter said, glad that the voice modulator kept his voice even and from cracking. “I just… I knew a mercenary, a few years ago. You know, out of the mask? He took a job overseas and never came back.”

“Oh…” Deadpool blinked, clearly unsure of what to say. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”

Peter shrugged. “It was quite a while ago. Nothing to do about it now…”

For a moment, Deadpool was oddly quiet. Peter frowned, turning to look at him, only to find him sitting down on the edge of the roof already. He followed, sitting beside the merc and wondering what was going through his masked friends head.

They didn’t say much else for the rest of the night, before eventually splitting up to go to their own homes. Once Peter crawled through his bedroom window, he let the suit slide off him, hiding it in the hidden paneling his dad built for it. It was late. Or… early? Is was two in the morning, but Peter could hear someone in the kitchen. Deciding that it would be good to check, Peter tugged on some pajamas and ruffled up his hair to walk out into the hall.

“I just don’t get it,” Pops was saying as Peter peered around the hallway corner to find him sitting at the table with Bucky. “Every time Deadpool shows up, Tony just says to trust him, even right after the man has killed someone. Do you think… Do you think Tony’s hiding something from me?”

“Everyone has secrets,” Bucky said, sipping from a mug. “It’s just how we work.”

“But Tony and I made the pact to not keep secrets from each other is possible.” There was a pause as Bucky gave Pops a pointed look, making him sigh. “You’re right… I’m just… worried. Like, how did they meet? Why does Tony trust him? Why ignore the things he’s done?”

“Tony’s got to have his reasons. Besides, outing someone’s secret identity without permission is kinda a dick move, you know, Stevie?”

“Right…” Pops sighed, leaning back in his chair as he picked up his own mug. “What about you. Why are you still up?”

Bucky shrugged, looking down at his mug. “I was… thinking about leaving.”

Peter jumped, eyes wide as he covered his mouth with one hand to keep from making any noise. Bucky wanted to… leave? Leave what? The team? The Tower? The country? Why?

“What?” Pops said, sitting up. “What about the team?”

“I’d still come to the big stuff,” Bucky said hurriedly. “Just… It’s been four years since I was freed from Hydra. And it’s not that I’m not thankful to Stark for the help, but I haven’t really seen much other then the New York and places we go to on missions. I just want to explore. See what all is out there.”

“What about Darcy?” Steve asked. “You and her have gotten pretty close. Yeah, I noticed. So what about her? You’re just gonna leave her?”

“Not… exactly.” Bucky sighed. “I haven’t asked her yet, because I’m pretty sure she’d rather stay and help Foster with her annoyance that Thor disappeared on her again, but I’d kinda like her to come with me. She told me once that she used to want to travel the world, see all the touristy sites and other shit. Just don’t know if she’d want to see them with me.”

“Well… Maybe you should go for it?” Steve suggested. “I know that the, uh, you-know-what has been kinda driven you a little crazy. I know it’s hard, but you know the saying. And it’s been two years, Buck. Even more for them. It’s better that no one knows and that we don’t go digging the knife in old wounds.”

“Yeah, maybe you’re right. I’ll talk to Darc and start planning in the morning… Thanks Stevie.”

Peter watched as Bucky got up, heading for the elevator. So… His uncle had something on his mind… Wanted to get out and explore the world… Peter honestly couldn’t fault him for that, but he was really, really going to miss him. He was probably Peter’s favorite uncle. Who was he kidding, he was Peter’s favorite uncle. Sure, Clint used to take him to do dangerous things, and Phil had been around for, like, ever, and Thor and Bruce left, so Peter guessed he had a little bit of a grudge, but Bucky was totally his favorite. Sorry, Sam!

Noticing his pops getting up, Peter quickly tiptoed his way back to his room. It was summer, sure, and he didn’t really have a bedtime or a special time he needed to be up, but he did want to sleep tonight. Also, being caught eavesdropping by Pops was the last thing Peter wanted.

Once he was safely tucked away in his room, Peter layed down in his bed, staring up the ceiling for a minute before turning on his side and reaching over to his bedside table. Opening the drawer, he pulled out the framed picture that he had taken on the balcony the last time he saw Wade. He used to keep it on the table, but Gwen saw it once and said it wasn’t healthy for him to be clinging to the past… Peter had told her that he would put it in the box on the top shelf of his closet, with the rest of Wade’s things that he couldn’t find an excuse to keep, but he just couldn’t bring himself to…

After a moment of smiling at the picture, taking in Wade smiling back at him, Peter set the picture on his bedside table, and finally drifted off to sleep.

XxXXxX

Tony scowled at the letter in his hands, even as Pepper was leaning against his desk.

“Pep,” he said, voice low and dark. “You know how much I hate reading the government stuff. Especially from senators.”

“This one is important,” she told him. “I really think you should take a look at it.

“I have to much on my plate already,” Tony groaned, moving from brooding to childish. “There’s dealing with SI inventions, Avengers upgrades, along with Branes leaving with Lewis and having to deal with a pouty Peter. No to mention dealing with Spiderman and Deadpool.”

“This would apply to Spiderman and Deadpool,” Pepper insisted. He knew she hated that he was associated with the ‘Merc with a Mouth’ Deadpool, even under the radar, but Tony had always pushed the concern away. But as she said that, Tony found a new interest in the letter in his hands.

“Why send this to me?” he asked, frowning as he looked it over. It was less a letter and more a packet in a large envelope. “Have you see it?”

“I skimmed,” Pepper admitted. “But the thing is, it’s not addressed to just Anthony Stark of Stark Industries. They want your opinion as Iron Man of the Avengers, to.”

“Really?” His interest now peeked, Tony moved to open it, only catching a glimpse at the title before he heard the door to the lab open.

“Dad!” Peter called. “Bucky and Darcy are about to leave! Come on, we’re supposed to say goodbye!”

“Coming Peter,” Tony called back, sliding the papers back into the envelope and tossing them on his desk. Pepper looked at him disapprovingly. “What? I have to say goodbye to Barnes. I’ll look at it later.”

With a sigh, Pepper put a hand to her forehead. “Fine… Just, don’t take to long to get back to them… It looked really important.”

“Don’t worry, Pep,” Tony assured, heading to follow Peter into the elevator. “I’ll get right on it when we get back from dinner.”

XxXXxX

Wade hummed as he sat on top of the free way. A radio was set beside him, a lovely song about big butts playing beside him. He was drawing a doodle of Francis, adding Deadpool cutting off his head. With a snicker, Wade set the drawing aside, looking off to one side.

“Now we’re finally getting somewhere!” He cheered, beaming as he turned to look down at the underpass bellow. “Target approaching~ The plot is gonna progress, and on my POV after another six months! Gosh, the event timeline sure is confusing. Oh well!”

Jumping up to his feet, Wade grinned down at the vans moving bellow. Show time~!

XxXXxX

Steve hummed as he sat at the table for breakfast. It was a nice spring morning, and even though Bucky had been gone for three months, he was feeling pretty good. A little lonely, but good. And, honestly, could he be blamed for being just a little lonely? While he and Tony loved each other, he did like going outside and getting exercise. Tony couldn’t keep up with him, getting on in years, already in his forties, and Peter, as energetic as he was, was only human and had school to worry about. Without Thor gone, and now Bucky, there weren’t any Avengers that got up early enough for him to exercise with.

So, with nothing else to do, Steve spent morning’s sitting on the couch and watching TV until Tony either woke up for them to do their daily training session before going to volunteer at one of his various sites. Currently, he was eating wheaties and watching the news. Just as he finished up, and heard Tony coming out of the bathroom, the news went to live feed.

“Breaking news,” the reporter said as Steve took his bowl to the sink. “A multi car collision turns shots fired out on the freeway. The assailant appears to be wearing what looks like a red suit, and wielding both guns and swords.”

Instantly, Steve looked up from the sink, turning to see a helicopter view of Deadpool on the freeway. We could see several unmoving bodies, and what looked like blood, strewn around the man. Why did Tony say they could trust this guy again?

“I know what you’re going to say,” Tony started from the hallway. “And I completely agree that-”

“Go get your suit,” Steve grumbled, turning to get his own. “We’re taking him in.”

Tony sighed. “Friday, suit please…”

“On it, Boss.”

Steve huffed as he got his suit, pulling it on as Tony got his own. He already had a lecture prepared in his head. For who, Tony or Deadpool, Steve wasn’t sure. Maybe it was both. When he rejoined with Tony, he barely had a second before his husband was was lifting him up and away from the tower.

“You said he was stable,” Steve was saying as they flew over. “You said that we could trust him to not be evil.”

“I know,” Tony groaned.

“But I told you,” he continued. “I told you, he couldn’t be trusted! He’s insane. He talks to himself. He giggled when he killed those hydra agents in western Kentucky last month!”

“I know,” Tony groaned again as the got closer, finding Deadpool leaning over a guy who was pinned to the bridge with one of the swords. “I’ll fix it. I will.”

Steve scowled as they landed a few yards away, and watched with his arms crossed as Tony walked over to Wade. And then face palmed as Deadpool pulled his hand back to punch the pinned man only to have his hand land square on the crotch of the Iron Man armor. Deadpool, crazy son of a bitch he was, tilted his head in what seemed to be confusion.

“Dad?” the insane mercenary asked.

Steve could hear Tony snickering in the suit, and he cleared his throat to remind his husband what they came here for in the first place.

“Not quite,” Tony said, though a bit more friendly and relaxed then Steve would have liked. “But that doesn’t mean you’re not still grounded for the mess you made.”

“Mr. Stark!” Deadpool cheered, jumping up and turning to look at them. “Oooh, and Captain Frowny-Face to!”

“You’ve gone to far this time,” Steve says, voice stern. “You’re going to have to come with us.”

“What?” the mercenary gasps, turning to Tony in a gasp that can only be defined as betrayal. “No, seriously? None of these guys were good, and this guy-” Deadpool gesture wildly to the pinned man behind him. “-is the one i’ve been looking for! Trust me, that wheezing bag of dick tips had it coming!”

“We can talk about this at the Tower,” Tony presses. “Seriously, this is gonna be a shit storm. The paperwork involved… Just come quickly and quietly and we can get this all sorted out.”

“Nuh-uh,” Deadpool insisted, making Steve close his eyes in frustration. “There is no way in hell I’m setting foot in that tower again. Not like this. The only way you can get me to go back before this whole thing is fixed is if I’m dead, and we all know that isn’t happening!”

“Deadpool. Come one. We have to take you in.”

“No! No fucking way are you ruining this for me, Stark! It’s been two fucking years and I am fucking done with-”

There was the sound of a revving bike, and Steve opened his eyes to find that Deadpool’s prisoner had escaped. Damn, that guy had some pain tolerance… Steve definitely couldn’t ride a bike right after pulling a sword out of his own shoulder. The guy definitely wasn’t human. They should probably go after him.

Deadpool, on the other hand, seemed to have other ideas. He sucked in a breath of horror, and looked between the spot the guy had escaped from and Tony. His head whipped back and forth, and Steve wondered if his neck would snap. But, it wasn’t the neck that did.

In a fit of rage, Deadpool let out a cry and slammed his fist against the cheek of the armor. Steve straightened, but Tony’s head only turned, where as the bones in Deadpool's hand shattered.

“Mother fucker!” Deadpool wailed, moving his wrist so the hand flopped back and forth. Steve straightened, Tony taking a step forward. “Cockshot!” And then, Deadpool turned and slammed his non broken fist into the crotch of the armor. It actually made a ringing noise, echoing around them as Deadpool wailed.

“Extra plating in the nethers,” Tony explained. “And stop being such a baby. You’ll heal. We’re going back to the Tower, and you can tell us exactly why you want that guy dead. Once we know, we can do this the less illegal way and take the guy in.”

“How about no,” Deadpool said, and Steve could see the muscles in the man’s legs tense in preparation for a jump.

“That’s enough,” Steve said, stepping in to grab Deadpool’s leg before he could shatter it trying to kick Tony’s head in. He dropped it once Deadpool had fallen to the ground, and crossed his arms. “Now, you can either walk with us to the Tower, or we can drag you.”

“That’s only if you can catch me!” Then, the man turned and tried to run. Steve snagged his arm by the elbow, turning to lead the way back to the tower. He heard Tony sigh, only for his husband to make a disgusted noise.

“Oh geez, Deadpool, gross!”

Steve frowned, turning to look at the mercenary. Much to is his horror, Deadpool was sawing off his own arm, using a serrated knife. Steve’s face screwed up in disgust and when he pulled up to try and get the maniac to stop, a spurt of blood caught him in the face. He turned, feeling the bile rising in his throat before a pair of feet were pressing into his side, knocking him off balance as Deadpool back flipped off the side of the bridge. Steve took a deep breath, dropped the arm, and turned to Tony.

“Not. A. Word.”

Even through the faceplate, Steve could tell that Tony was staring. “Steve-”

Not. A. Word.

There was a beat, and Tony held out a hand. “Okay… Let's get back to the Tower.”

Taking another deep breath to calm himself, Steve took the hand. He was going to take a long, long shower, and maybe got for a run. Or maybe he could just go to the gym and let his anger out on a bag. That sounded nice…

XxXXxX

Peter could feel the tension in the room the moment he got home. His parents were having some kind of fight, which happened often enough, but this seemed… different. They normally hid it from him, not wanting him to be exposed to a broken home or think that they were a broken home. This time, they were actually arguing in front of him.

“I said I would talk to him,” his dad said, aggressively tapping at the tablet. “I just- I need to figure out why he was after that specific guy!”

“He’s insane, Tony! He needs to be brought in before-” His pops cut off, noticing him in the door. “Oh, hey Pete. You’re home early… Why aren’t you at the skatepark with your friends?”

“I came to drop off my bag first,” Peter said, frowning as his fathers were still tense. “Is… Is everything okay?”

“They will be,” his dad said, only for Pops to shoot him a look.

“It was just… a rough morning,” Pops explained. “Go hang out with your friends, okay?”

Peter chewed his lip, but eventually went to his room to drop off his school bag. He wasn’t surprised when they starting arguing again in hushed tones, though he could hear bits and pieces with his enhanced hearing. It was something that had happened with Deadpool. Something about that morning and the freeway? He didn’t get to hear all of it, but Peter had heard enough to look it up.

Grabbing his board, the one Wade had left him, Peter made his way back down stairs, to where his group of friends were waiting. It hadn’t changed much over the years, but they were a little different. Harry had eventually warmed up to Ned, and stopped being a jerk to him. Liz, busy with prep of the end of her senior year and eventual switch to collage, had stopping coming out with them so much. Gwen, on the other hand, had met a girl named Mary Jane who went to a another school in the district. She was pretty cool, part of her school’s theater program, and almost instantly hit it off with Harry.

They chatted idly on the way. MJ talked about the new play she was going to be in, and Harry was talking about his dads new intern program with Gwen. Peter was in the back with Ned, Wade’s old board tucked under his arm.

“Did you hear anything about Deadpool in the news?” Peter asked Ned in a quiet voice. “My dads were arguing about him when I got upstairs.”

“Really?” Ned asked, frowning as he pulled out his tablet. “Well, there wasn’t about your patrol pal directly… There was something about a guy who shot up the freeway this morning. Captain America and Iron Man went to get him, though neither have given police statements yet and SHIELD is taking over the case, but the guy got away by…” Ned cringed. “Oh geez, by cutting off his own arm…”

“That’s Deadpool,” Peter mused, rolling his eyes. “He does things without thinking them through because of his healing-factor.”

“Healing-factor?” Ned said skeptically.

“Healing-factor,” Peter said, nodding without much care.

They reached the skatepark, and headed inside the gate. It was built for all kinds of skaters, so there was an area meant for the more novice people, where Gwen, Ned, and MJ spent most of their time, just relaxing and having fun while Peter and Harry tried the harder stuff. But first, they got a picnic table to put all their extra stuff, and went to the incorporated food stand. Peter got his usual nachos, and sat down at the bench to eat some while the others were getting their pads and helmets on.

Suddenly, a familiar tingle went down his spine. He’d felt it so many times over the last two years. It was a tingle he always felt back when Wade would sneak up to surprise him before he vanished. And he felt it every now and then since Wade disappeared… It was silly, but every time he felt it, he always got the strangest feeling of hope that Wade was still alive.

Turning around, Peter looked around to see if he could spot him. The skate park was pretty open, with only the food stands and the tables being covered. If Wade was here, Peter would be able to spot him.

“You really should wear protective gear, Peter,” MJ said, snapping him out of his thoughts as she pulled her strawberry red hair into a ponytail. She kind of reminded him of Aunt Pepper when she was like that… “You could get really hurt with those stunts you and Harry do.”

“I’m not doing anything to dangerous,” Peter reassured, trying to shake the feeling off. “Just… relaxing tonight. Dad and Pops are arguing again.”

“Really?” Gwen asked. “Wow, I’m sorry Peter. That’s been happening a lot lately, hasn’t it?”

“Yeah,” Peter shrugged, picking up his board to follow them to the skating area. “Ever since Uncle Buck left, Pops has been pretty stressed. They were best friends, after all, and spent a lot of time together. Almost as much as Dad and Pops do. I think he’s getting bored and it’s making him tense. Though, it probably doesn’t help that Dad has been working on some kind of secret project that takes up most of his time.”

“That sucks,” Harry said. “Do you think they’ll get divorced?”

“No. I honestly think they’ll work it out. It might take a little bit of work, but I think it might help if Pops had something that took up more of his time.”

“A baby would do that,” MJ mused, making everyone stop to stare. “What? Babies need a lot of attention! Besides, I’m sure Captain America is great with kids.”

“Yeah, but they don’t really live lives where it’s easy to raise a kid,” Ned countered.

“Peter turned out pretty good,” Harry added.

“Hey,” Peter said, pointing at them. “Don’t bring me into this.”

“But it is you’re parents we’re talking about,” Gwen hummed. “But MJ, did you think about how Peter would feel? Maybe he doesn’t want a baby sibling.”

“Hey! I never said that!”

“True, but I think Peter would make an awesome big brother,” MJ said, ignoring him as she grinned. “He’s such a big softy and remember when those little kids got hurt last week? Peter was so good with them, and they just seemed to like him instantly.”

Peter rolled his eyes, though a blush was starting to dust his cheeks. With a huff, he dropped his board and pushed off, rolling around the skate park for a while. It wasn’t that he didn’t want a little brother or sister, or that he didn’t think his fathers could do it. He just didn’t think right now was the right time for them. But thoughts kept rolling around in his head, snowballing now that he was really thinking about it. If his dad and pops did adopt, would they adopt a baby or a kid? Where would the kid sleep? The tower was big, but the penthouse was really only meant to have two bedrooms, with the third room being a sort of hobby room with the floor to ceiling windows.

“Peter,” MJ called as she rolled up with Gwen, interrupting his thoughts. “Some guy just stopped us by the fence, asking about you.”

“Yeah?” Peter asked. “You know I’m not really interested in dating.”

“He said there was an old boyfriend waiting for you out back,” Gwen said, pursing her lips as his eyes went wide. “He didn’t say any specific names, but… I think you should check it out.”

Peter chewed his lip, thinking for a moment, before he picked up his board and ran to grab his bag. He slung it over his shoulder, saying something to Ned before hurrying to the back gate, turning into the alley to look around for Wade. It was a slim chance, it actually being Wade, but he had to at least try.

“Wade?” Peter called, just as his Spidey sense started sending pin pricks all along his skin. He turned, his guard instantly up as he saw a man standing in the gloom of the alley. “You’re not Wade.”

“True,” the man said with a smirk, his eyes moving to look over Peter’s shoulder. “But you have him to thank for this.”

Before he could even open his mouth to speak or turn around, something connected with the back of his head, and Peter was falling to the ground as the world faded to black.

XxXXxX

When Wade got back home, his arm was already starting to grow back. He had landed in a garbage truck, and the driver was thankfully heading in the direction of Wade’s place anyway. Letting out a breath, Wade made his way inside, grabbing a heat pack to put on his wrist as the stump grew a new hand. Al was sitting in her chair, grumbling as the roomba zipped by, the pieces of a cabinet left forgotten on the floor.

“You smell like shit,” she said as Wade entered. “What the hell happened to you?”

“What happened to building the IKEA thing?” Wade countered. “Give up? I thought you were better then letting life’s imperfections get the better of you.”

“Wow, kid, why such a douche today?”

“Well,” Wade drawled as he dropped onto the couch next to Al. “The cock-sucker that turned me into this butter faced creep, who I spent the last two years waiting to murder, slipped through my hands today.” He paused, then scowled at his slowly growing stump. “ Hand . And all thanks to Captain ‘I was a soldier in World War Two, but I don't kill’ Hypocrite. And the guy is my only hope of getting my face back so I can rejoin with my dream boy who is just to perfect. Oh, and stop the same from happening to anyone else, but mostly so I can get my boy back.”

She sighs, and Wade reached out to gently stroke her cheek with the back of his tiny hand. Her face screwed up in confusion.

“Am I crazy,” she said slowly, “or is your hand really small.”

“The size of a spork,” Wade confirmed with a sigh of his own.

“Yeesh, no wonder you’re pissy. But it’s never gonna brighten up if you don’t go see this boy you’ve been pinning for. You gotta tell him how you feel.”

“He wouldn’t take me back, not with this face. And you would agree if you saw.”

“Love is blind, kid.”

“No, you’re blind.” Wade sighed, looking up at the ceiling. “I would go jerk off, but this is a friendly fic. Want to play Connect Four?”

“You’re crazy,” Al replied. “But why not.”

Wade went to go get the box, setting up the grid to play. It was the most boring game he had ever played, since Al kinda sucked at it. He was mostly just waiting for his hand to power through puberty so he could get back to work. It took until the afternoon, and as Wade studied his new hand, just as scared as before, his phone rang. Looking at the ID, Wade frowned to find that it was Weasel.

“Hey,” he said as he answered, starting to look for the gloves of his suit. Where had he tossed them when he got home? “What’s up?”

“A guy just came in looking for you,” Weasel said quickly. “I think it was that Francis guy.”

Instantly, Wade felt his blood begin to boil. “Is he still there? Do you know where he’s going to be?”

“Yeah,” he said, though it was more grim then smug like Wade would have thought. “The lady he had with him found the picture that I keep of you on the back mirror. She recognized Peter in it. They want to get to you by finding him.”

Wade sucked in a breath. His heart stopped. Peter. They were going to go after Peter, and they were gonna hurt his boy. Oh God, he’d been keeping his distance from him, and now he was going to be the reason Peter died!

“We have to get to him first,” Wade said quickly. “Meet me outside my old school in ten, okay?”

Before Weasel could reply, Wade hung up, searching for at least slightly clean clothes before pulling them on. Jamming his feet into his civilian shoes, Wade took off, running all the way to Midtown high. Weasel was already there waiting, and he slowed to a fast walk as he sucked in heavy breaths to try and calm himself.

“I can’t believe I’m doing this,” Wade says as he hurried down the block. “Is there a word for half afraid, half angry? I mean, my Petey boy can hold his own, he’s the son of fucking Captain America and Iron Man, but against Francis? Who might use me somehow to draw him out? Oh god, I don’t know what to do!”

“Have you decided what you’re gonna say to him?” Weasel asked as they round the corner to the skatepark.

“Fuck me,” Wade hisses.

“Uh, maybe not start with that.”

When they reached the gate, Wade pulled it open. They stepped inside the park, walking into the table area to look as teens and young adults all bustle around. Wades eyes went to the skate area, scanning each area for Peter. They needed to find him fast, before Francis did.

“How do you even know he’s going to be here?” Weasel asked, scanning with him.

“Because I’m constantly stalking the little shit,” Wade grumbled. “He comes here every thursday with his friends after his Academic Decathlon meeting…”

Wade turned to look around, his hood up around his face. He looked at the people sitting down, and the people in the food lines. Just as he raked his eyes over the food area, he saw him. Peter, sitting with his friends and eating nachos as they pulled on protective gear. Wade stared, feeling a wave of relief wash over him. He was just as beautiful as the last time Wade had seen him, with those big brown eyes, messy but perfect head of fluffy brown locks, and looking so small in Wade’s old hoodie.

Suddenly, Peter looked up and it was like a spell had been broken. He turned slightly, as if to look at Wade, and he felt a sudden wave of dread. Wade hurried away towards the bathroom as Peter’s new girl friend said something.

He went quickly to the sink. Cupping his hands to splash his face, he glared at himself in the mirror. “You weak motherfucker,” he snapped. “Come on. Come on, get it together. This isn’t about me, this is about Peter.” He nodded at his reflection a few times. “Here we go. Maximum effort.”

But when he finally went back outside, Peter was gone from the table, only the girls sitting there. Weasel was trying to talk to them, but they both looked pretty uncomfortable as he approached.

“Where is he?” Wade asked, both girls snapping up to look at him. The new girl reeled back, face screwed up in surprise and disgust, and Gwen went wide eyed. “Where’s Peter?”

“He went out back looking for you,” Gwen said as she blinked. “Some guy told me and MJ that you were waiting for him there and-”

“Shit.” Wade breaths, eyes wide. “Shit shit shit!”

Weasel quickly got up, following Wade as he ran from the food court, and into the back alley. No one was there, but Wade found Peter’s backpack, his old skateboard sticking out the top.

“Mother-

XxXXxX

-fucker!” Wade screamed as he threw Peter’s backpack at the wall of his room.

“Wait a second,” Weasel says as Wade shouts profanity as he paces his room at Al’s. “We can talk about what we’re gonna- Okay,” He says, taking a step back as Wade starts beating on a dummy. “Or you can hit stuff. Yeah yeah. Hey, hey. Relax, relax, okay? I think that’s a good start.”

“Oh,” Wade says as he clenches his fists. “I’m gonna rip his mother fucking…” A phone began to ring, and Wade pointed at the messy table. “Find it.”

“What?”

“Find it! I’m gonna get angry!”

Weasel quickly picked up the phone, opening it up to show a text from a contact labeled Petey Boy. “Here, it’s Peter. No, wait. It’s Francis.”

April 29th, 7:56 pm

From: Baby-Boy</3
You want him? Come and get him. The Scrap Yard 10 pm. Love, Ajax.

Wade breathed deeply for a moment, rubbing his face. “I need guns.”

“Okay,” Weasel said as he set down the phone. “Which ones?”

“I need all the guns!”

As Weasel went looking for all the guns, Wade hurried to pull on his suit, mind reeling. He would need backup, and Weasel was no match for this guy. It had to be someone he could trust, who wouldn’t questions about why he was asking for help for to long. Someone he could find fairly quickly.

Spiderman. He was supposed to meet with Spiderman in an hour anyway. Wade could ask him for help and Spiderman wouldn’t even ask why. He was just that kind of guy.

Once his suit was on, Wade spent the next hour getting every single gun he could from around the house. The duffle was soon full, and Wade slung it over his back as he went running to his meeting spot. He was early, so he dropped the duffle as he did his best to take deep breaths and keep as calm as he could.

Nine o’clock came, and no Spidey.

Okay. Okay, maybe he was just late? That happened sometimes. Spidey would run into trouble on the way and have to web up a guy that was trying to hack an ATM, or run into a mugger and have to save a woman. Everyone was later now and then!

But then five minutes past, and then ten more, and soon it was nine-twenty, and Wade was full on panicking. Was Spidey not coming? Why? Why wasn’t Spiderman here? Wade needed his help! Peter needed his help! Was it because of what had happened that morning? Had Spiderman seen the news and decided he shouldn’t help Wade?

Wait… That morning… On the bridge…

With tears welling in his eyes under the mask, Wade found his feet already moving. He ran, faster then he had in a long time, through the dimly lit night streets, towards the beacon of light that was Avengers Tower. He threw open the doors to the lobby, scarring the desks night secretary, and was running to the elevator to the private floors.

“Friday!” he cried. “Friday, I need to see them! Stark and Rogers! I need- I need to-!”

He fell to his knees, chest heaving as he felt a wave of hopelessness wash over him. Where they already gone? Had they gone looking for Peter when he didn’t come home? Was he to late?

“Deadpool?” a voice said above him as the elevator dinged, and Wade looked up to find Steve standing in his uniform. “What the hell are you doing here?”

“I need your help,” Wade pleaded, looking up at the man as he was literally on his knees. “Francis- The man that got away this morning… He has Peter and-”

“Peter?” Steve asked, going tense as he reached down and grabbed Wade by the front of his suit. “What do you know about Peter?”

“I’m the reason he was taken, Captain Rogers,” Wade said, swallowing as he looked up at Steve. “It’s- It’s me, Wade Wilson, and I’ll explain later, but we only have until ten. Please, you need to call the Avengers and-”

“They’re not here,” Steve said, dropping Wade as he stepped out of the elevator. “There was a call to assemble an hour ago to be in eastern Asia. Coulson said that Tony and I are on probation until we got what happened this morning sorted out, so Tony’s in a meeting in DC to explain.”

“So it’s… only you?”

“Only me,” Steve said, stern. “Hurry up. You can tell me everything on the way.”

XxXXxX

Peter glared at the ground as he sat on the cold metal of the scrapped Helicarrier. It had been nearly three hours since he had been taken, hands zip tied to a pipe above his head and mouth closed with a stip of duck tape. He was cold, and tired, and he didn’t even know why he was being held yet.

Seeing the guy that had taken him start to walk over, Peter let out a relieved breath as the tape was removed.

“Oh thank god,” Peter breathed, looking the guy right in the eye. “You have something in your teeth. It’s really distracting.”

“Wow,” the guy says with a small grin. “You’re a talker too. You and Wade.”

“That’s why you guys took me?” Peter asks, shaking his head. “You’re a couple years to late. Wade, he’s dead.”

“See, I thought that too, but he keeps coming back. Like a cockroach, but uglier. Now, I may not feel, but he does. Let’s see how he fights with your head on the block. It’s almost time.”

Peter blinked, and let out a noise of surprise as the man yanked him up, pulling him over to some kind of machine off to the side. He tried to pull away, but the man was stronger then he looked, and Peter could feel his wrists actually bruising. The guy tossed him into the machine, the woman he had with him coming to strap him in before he could do anything.

The two then went to the edge of the helicarrier, and Peter turned his attention to the ristrainsts. They had only strapped down his wrists and upper torso. It was more then amatur kidnappers did, but less then some others had tried. If he had his backpack, he could activate the legs to get out, but he didn’t. Giving the restraints an experimental tug, Peter realized that they were a lot stronger then most.

Just then, he heard gunfire from down below. The Avengers? No, he didn’t see Iron Man anywhere, nor did he see Falcon or Vision. If he strained his ears, he could faintly hear Captain America, though, along with the sound of the shield bouncing off of stuff.

Then, after a few minutes, he saw none other then Deadpool claw his way over the edge of the helicarrier. His night patrol partner huffed, flopping onto his back for a moment as Peter felt the pieces click into place, and he felt so stupid. There were to many similarities between the two, from their backgrounds and professions, to their favorite foods and colors. And the way his dad defended Deadpool… God, his dad had known! But if Deadpool was Wade then… God, that meant that the reason Wade left was to look for a cure for his cancer, which led to him being Deadpool.

“Don’t worry Baby-Boy,” Deadpool- Wade said as he pointed his Katana at him. “I’m gonna get you out of that shit box.”

“What better way to crawl back inside that head of yours,” the guy that took him said, and holy shit, that meant this guy was Francis!

“Oh, you never left!” Wade countered.

“Wade,” Peter breathed, his chest tightening with rolling emotions. What could he say? What could he possibly say to the man that had been gone for two years, but had unwittingly been at his side for a year anyway?

“Would you look at that,” Francis chuckled. “Breathless already.”

Then there was a hiss, and it wasn’t emotions tightening Peter’s chest. He tried to breathe, the air being sucked out of his lungs as he tried to think. He could hear the two men talking, but he couldn’t hear what was being said as his ears started ringing. Then, with a strange cracking sound, Peter could breathe again. He looked down, finding one of Wade’s katanas embedded in the glass by his wrist.

Taking as deep of a breath as he could, Peter strained against the now fraid strap, and beamed as it snapped. Quickly, he undid the other two, and moved the long sleeves of Wade’s hoodie to cover his hands, help shield them if only a little, from the blade, and carefully pushed it up and out of the glass just enough to open the top.

Once he was free, Peter took a deep breath, still feeling a little light headed, and picked up the katana. He saw Francis stab a knife into the side of Wade’s head, and he saw red. Hand flying up, Peter shot a gooey, unrefined web at Francis’s back, pulling him back towards Peter as he put the katana first, and thrust it forward into the man's back. They both fell, Peter landing on his front as the wind was knocked out of him.

He blinked the daze away, seeing Wade looking at him strangely, and he remembered what Deadpool had said a while back about brain damage. He couldn’t die, not really, and when he got something jabbed into his skull, he started to see things. Quickly, Peter reached out.

“Wade,” he said, as Wade made a heart with his hands. “The knife-!”

Suddenly, Francis was over him, grabbing him by the back of the shirt before tossing him aside. Peter did his best to roll into the landing, but as much as he had tried, his hands were still a little cut up. He landed with a thud, and only for the helicarrier to suddenly start to tilt. His spider powers let him stick to the floor, but he had to let go to jump out of the way before a rolling container could hit him.

“Don’t worry, Petey!” Wade called as he came rushing to him. “I got you!”

“Wade-” Peter started, only to pulled up as the container Peter had been held in came rolling by.

“I got a plan!” Wade said, pulling Wade up to the container. “You’re not going to like it!”

Before Peter could stop him, Wade had closed the top, and they were dangling over the edge of the listing platform.

“Shoot!” Peter gasped, trying to push open the case. “Wade! Dang it!”

“Don’t worry,” Wade said, voice strained as he dangled from the bar he was holding on to. “I am totally on top of this!” And then he saw something behind Peter, the eyes of the suit going comically wide. “Oh, fuck!” And then, with a hard pull, sent the container flying, Peter screaming inside.

XxXXxX

Wade landed towards the top of the wreckage. For a moment, he was panicking, clawing his way to a vantage point to look for Peter. He had survived, right? He wasn’t dead? Surely Steve would have caught him!

He let out a sigh of relief when he saw Steve helping Peter out of the shit box. With a wide grin, he raised his hand, waving wildly to get their attention.

“Yoo-hoo!” Wade whistles, beaming when they looked up in his direction. “Oh my god! That was so awes-”

He was cut off when a weight slammed into his side. He went tumbling, falling down and down, until he was slamming into the ground. Good thing was, so did Francis, just a second after Wade. With a snarl, Wade lunged, pinning Francis down. They fought, Francis trying to push him off while Wade tried to kill him, breaking arms and throwing punches.

“There are no words!” Wade panted, Francis laughing beneath him. “Now! Me and you are gonna go fix this butterface!”

“What?” Francis gasped, actually looking confused. “You fucking idiot. Did you really think there was a cure… for that?”

“No…” Wade snarled. “No! So… So you mean that you can’t fix me? You can’t do the one thing I’m keeping you alive for?” With a deep breath, Wade pulled the tiny hand pistol he’d taken from Al out of its hollister, putting it to Francis head. “Any last words?”

Francis grins, lifting his head to meet the pistol. “What’s my name?”

Wade narrowed his eyes, cocked the gun, and put it back. “Who gives a shit.”

“Wade!” Steve called, and Wade couldn’t help but groan. “Four or five moments!”

“What?” Wade asked, turning to look at Steve in utter confusion.

“Four or five moments,” Steve says, slowly walking towards him. “That’s all you need to be a hero. People think it’s a full time job. Wake up a hero, eat like a hero, go to sleep a hero. But it’s not. It’s four or five moments where you make a decision to be better then you were, or be better then your enemy. Moments where you make a choice. To make a sacrifice, fix a wrong, save a friend.” He gestured to Francis. “Spare an enemy.

“You and I have never seen eye to eye, but I know that you can be better then this. You can be better then the crazy mercenary. You can be a hero. Start training to join the team. You just need to make the right decision-!”

Wade took the shot, blowing Francis’s brains across the ground. Steve jumped, face screwing up.

“You were droning on,” Wade defended, tossing the empty gun to one side. “I may look like swiss cheese, but at least numbnuts isn’t gonna heal from that. Besides, if being a hero means sparing the psychopath that put Peter in a death box, then maybe I don’t want to be one!” He paused, and took a deep breath. “But I’ll be on the lookout for the next four moments. Now, if you’ll grant it, I’m just a boy, about to stand in front of another boy, and tell him… what the fuck am I gonna tell him?!

“I’ll grant it,” Steve said, though he said it a little begrudgingly. He turned, Wade turning to watch as he walked past Peter, pulling out a phone. “I’m going to call Tony and Coulson. Get SHIELD in here to do clean up.”

Wade sucked in a breath, standing up straight to meet Peter head on. He didn’t know what to say. Should he apologize? Yes, yes definitely that? But when he opened his mouth, Peter spoke.

“I get why you didn’t tell me,” Peter said, voice soft, and god, everything about Peter seemed soft now… “You didn’t want me to worry.”

“I didn’t mean for this to happen,” Wade said quickly. “I didn’t- That night, the last time I saw you, your dad was gonna give me some gear as a graduation gift, but I passed out. When I woke up in the hospital… They told me…”

“That you had cancer,” Peter said, his face smoothed in a sort of understanding that made Wade feel like he didn’t deserve it. “I’m guessing that week you wouldn’t see me was you trying to figure things out. And then when you went missing, that was when you got taken into Weapon-X? By the time you escaped, Weasel would have already brought the box to me, and everyone would think you were dead.”

“Yeah… But how did…?”

“You came to my dad for tech,” he reminded Wade. “And, you know, he kind of stuck his neck out for you. Plus, I… Well, Spiderman…”

“Oh shit,” Wade said, sucking in a breath. “I forgot you did Spidey’s gear! And I’ve been hanging out with the guy for the last year! I thought we were friends, but he totally bailed on me tonight. I went to ask him for help first, but he never shoved, and-”

“Wade,” Peter tried.

“-I can’t believe that he would do that! Maybe he already knew you were missing? But then why didn’t he ask me for help? It’s totally uncool, and-”

Peter brought up his hand, pinky, index, and thumb out straight as he bent his wrist back. A glob of white flew out, and Wade felt something over the mouth of his suit. Reaching up, he was surprised to find that find a familiar white webbing stuck to the finger pads of his glove. Wade looked at Peter with wide eyes.

“Oh…”

“Yeah,” Peter said, stepping forward into Wade’s space, their chests almost touching. “Now… let’s get that mask off.”

Wade felt his heart jump to his throat, and he leaned back. “Wait, Peter, I’m not… I’m not the same man under this mask that I was…”

“I know,” Peter said, placing a hand on Wade’s shoulder as he reached back to slowly pull the mask off with the other. “You told me… Spiderman about the scars… And I don’t care. As long as it’s you.”

Wade felt his chest tighten, and let out a soft laugh as the suits mask was pulled off. Peter snorted, reaching up to pop the staples holding the cutout of Ryan Reynolds face off of Wade. Once it was gone, Wade waited with baited breath as he watched Peter rake his eyes over his face. And then, Wade felt his heart flutter as Peter actually smiled- smiled! -and wrapped one hand around the back of his neck to pull him down.

Unable to stop him, Wade felt breathless as Peter pressed their lips together. It was their first kiss, and Wade felt his skin prickle as he did his best to overcome his shock and return it. It was messy, sloppy, but it felt perfect all the same. And Wade almost never wanted it to end.

But Peter eventually pulled back, looking a little breathless and with a blush that made Wade give a shit eating grin.

“Come on,” Peter said. “Let's get back to home before Pops comes looking for up.”

“Yeah,” Wade sighed, happy and breathless. “Yeah, let’s go home…”

Chapter Text

Tony had been in the middle of a meeting with Coulson and the FBI when he got the call from Steve. Honestly, Tony was kind of annoyed that he was interrupted before he could even speak. And Coulson and the FBI head were just as annoyed.

“Can that wait, Stark?” Coulson asked. “Or is it urgent?”

“Uh,” Tony blinked, looking between the phone and Coulson, before tapping ignore and tucking the phone back into his pocket. “It can wait. So, this morning, on the freeway-”

But then Coulson’s phone started ringing. The FBI guy scowled, raising a brow at Coulson. The SHIELD director pursed his lips, pulling out what Tony knew was his emergency line. He flicked it open, turning to the side as he put it to his ear.

“Director Coulson speaking. Ah, Captain.” Coulson shot Tony a side eye, and honestly, Tony didn't know anything about what was going on. “Your husband? Yes he's here, but we're in the middle of a meeting. So unless it's urgent- Give the phone to him? Captain, as I said we're in a meeting and-” Then his brows knit together. “Protocol? Rogers, I remember you being put on probation. What protocol are you following?” A pause, then Coulson turned and held out the phone. “It's for you.”

Tony took the phone, even as the  appalled FBI agent looked even more appalled, and put the phone to his ear. “Steve?”

“Tony,” Steve sighed, though it was an odd sound of relief. “Hey, I need you back in New York as soon as possible.”

“Oookay,” Tony said slowly, frowning as he glanced at the two men waiting. “I know Coulson already said this, but we're in a meeting, and I really think I should actually be at this one? Does this have to do with some protocol?”

“Protocol says that if a situation is handled with Avengers civilian family involved, the related Avenger is informed before SHIELD.”

“Did something happen to Peter?”

“Kidnapped. By the guy that got away this morning. He was trying to use Peter to get to Wade. It’s all sorted but we’ll need Coulson to send a clean up crew. You can probably speed up that meeting if you explain that the guy is super mutant.”

With a sigh, Tony pinched the bridge of his nose. He ended the call, handing the phone back to Coulson.

“Yes,” Tony admitted. “I know Deadpool personally. Yes, he’s a powered mercenary, and has worked with the Avengers in the past. It should be noted, however, that the attack was not planned in collaboration with Avengers, myself, Captain America, or any other party. Deadpool was acting on his own, but, he was taking out a known criminal group known as Weapon-X. They have been responsible for the sudden rise in mutant numbers, and the man that got away was a leader of this group. And, apparently, kidnapped my son.” Tony turned to Coulson. “So, since this involved a fight between supers, it falls into SHIELD hands. If we’re done here, Director Coulson and I have to be back in New York within the next hour before scavengers start picking at the site and we end up with another Toomes.”

Coulson pursed his lips, but got up even as the FBI guy scowled.

“This isn’t over, Stark,” the stuge said. “When the Accords are voted on, your team will have to answer to someone.”

Ah, the Accords… He’d gotten a copy and several letters from several world leaders he knew. They wanted him to help with the proposed Sokovia Accords. He hadn’t actually looked at it yet, even after having it for several months, but he guessed he would have to look it over… Pepper had said that it was pretty important.

Tony didn't look back as he and Coulson left. He did spare the man a glance, and was surprised to find that Coulson actually looked worried. Was it for Peter? Or was it about the Accords? Either way, it helped Tony to see how serious this really was. The Accords were big. He couldn't talk or bribe his way out of this.

XxXXxX

Peter was waiting for two hours for his dad and Uncle Phil to get back to New York. He sat by Wade, quietly explaining everything that had happened over the last two years and the Spiderman situation as his pops was checking the area for any survivors.

The entire time, Peter held Wade's hand, the glove off so he could trace each line and scar. He wanted to remember how they felt, re familiarize himself with every part of Wade. They had both changed, but they would make it all work…

When his dad finally arrive with Coulson, it was past midnight, and a SHIELD crew, along with a Damage Control crew, had arrived to clean up. His dad first joined with his pops, and they had a quick talk with Coulson before they came over to Peter and Wade.

“Hey Mr. Stark,” Wade said, smiling. “Am I good to go?”

“For now,” his dad said. “Come on. Happy is waiting with the car.”

Without to much thought, Peter followed his parents, pulling Wade with him. The car was a little tight, but not to bad. Pops didn’t seem to happy, and his dad seemed pretty distracted. He was tapping away at a tablet, even frowning at it. If it made his dad frown, though, it was probably big.

When they finally reached the tower, his Pops went to set up the couch for Wade while his dad took them down to the lab to have a quick chat.

“You’re going to be staying here until everything is sorted out,” his dad said, eyeing them both. “But that’s not what I wanted to talk about. There’s this… thing coming, that will affect both of you quite a bit. And I’ve only looked over a bit of it, but I think you need to know about it sooner rather then later.”

Peter frowned, sharing a look with Wade before turning to his dad. “What is it?...”

“This,” he said, reaching onto his desk to pull out a large packet with the words ‘Sokovia Accords’ on the top. “Over the next four months, the United Nations is going to debate these Accords, and vote on making them official. The way things are right now, I don’t think they’re going to vote no on it, and I don’t think they should.

“The basics of it is that all heroes and enhanced people have to register their powers and their identities with the united nations, and the government will decide whether a team will be sent out. If it’s voted yes, then there will be a skill and power ranking system to decide on what sort of mission you would go on. If you don’t sign, then any involvement in any conflict, even at a vigilante level, will be seen as breaking the law.”

“What?” Peter gasped, eyes wide in shock. “Dad, this is… This is crazy! What if people need us right then? How are we supposed to protect them if we have to wait for permission?”

“These laws, under the Accords, are meant to protect people from our mistakes. By limiting our group missions to only when it’s absolutely necessary, and having there be serious consequences for going out when we shouldn’t, we lower the risk of casualties and collateral damage.”

“You can’t be-”

“I think he’s right,” Wade said, making Peter turn to gape at him. “This last year… When I wasn’t out with Spiderman, Deadpool was a terror. I mean, think about what happened yesterday morning. All that mess on the bridge. It would have been different if we were following rules and working with people instead of me just doing our own thing. Plus… Well, if we go along with it, we can help make amendments to make it easier to do the right thing.”

Peter stared at them for a minute, wondering what exactly was going on. Wade, the law breaking vigilante-mercenary, and his dad, Tony ‘I am Iron Man, and I will kick ass because fuck you’ Stark, both agreeing that they needed to have rules? This was serious, and Peter really needed to think this through before he said anything.

“Can I look it over?” Peter asked. “Before I make a choice?”

His dad nodded, tapping something on his computer. “I’ll have a digital copy sent to you. Just… Think it over, okay kid?”

Peter nodded and turned to head to bed. When he and Wade moved to the elevator, everything he'd see and heard rolling through Peter's mind. Just as he was about to step onto the elevator, he paused and turned to look back at his father.

“Oh, yeah,” Peter chuckled, getting his dads attention. “Before I got, you know, kidnapped again? Well, when I was talking to Ned and the others, they were joking about how you and Pop should adopt. Just thought I'd tell you the good stuff about today before I forgot. Night, Dad.”

With a nervous laugh, Peter entered the elevator and pressed the button up to the floor. Giving Wade a parting kiss in the living room, Peter went to his room to think over what his dad had told him. These Accords… Were they really the right thing?...

XxXXxX

Tony spent a lot of time reading and re-reading the Accords. It was… intense. Very intense. But enough people thought they needed it, and it would be better to work the kinks out of this one then try and propose something else so late in the game. There was just nothing that could be done.

When he was to frustrated and exhausted to keep looking at the damn thing, Tony got up from his chair and dragged himself upstairs. It was early in the morning, about the time he would normally get up. Steve was taking his bowl to the sink, like he normally did, and was cleaning it as Tony dragged himself to his husband and leaned on his back.

“Tony?” Steve asked, voice soft and quiet.

“Where's Peter?” The words were muffled and mumbled against Steve's back, but Tony didn't worry about that. Steve would hear him.

“He and Wade went out to talk. I already called the school to excuse Peter for the day. Is everything okay? Should I call him?”

“No,” Tony sighed. “I'm sorry. For the last couple months. I know it's been hard since Barnes left with Lewis.”

Steve sighed in return, turning around to wrap his arms around him. Tony settled into the warmth of Steve's hold, letting out a breath as his muscles relaxed. It had been so long since they'd had a moment like this…

“It's not your fault,” Steve reminded him. “It was Bucky's choice. He wasn't comfortable here anymore, and he hadn't been for a while. He wanted to get out so he did.”

“Yeah.” For a moment, Tony thought about telling Steve about the Accords. It would be all over the news soon anyway… But when he spoke, it wasn't about the Accords. “I've been thinking about freeing up some time…”

“Freeing up…” Pulling away, Steve frowned down at Tony. “You aren't talking about quitting your job for Stark Industries, are you? Tony, you love working with Pepper. You worked so hard to build it back up after the mess it became.”

“I wasn't talking about Stark Industries,” Tony said, looking down at his chest where the arc reactor still shined brightly. “I was thinking… maybe… the suit?”

“The… The suit? You want to quit the team?”

“I wouldn't be quitting the team. I'd just be taking a step back. I've been doing this for over a decade. Since Peter was five . And I hate to admit it, but I am getting old. Maybe it's time to get that surgery and have the reactor removed, and put the suit away. I could stay in the tower, be more like… a tactician. I'd tell you what's coming and work with Friday on how to stop it.”

Steve frowned, reaching out to cup Tony's cheek. “I'd feel safer with you having my back.”

“I'd still have your back,” Tony pressed. “I just think it would be nice to free up some time so we can put energy into… something else.”

“Like what?...”

Now realizing exactly what he wanted, Tony felt his eyes widen a little. What Peter had said, so offhandedly, last night was coming back to him. He took a deep breath and looked Steve straight in the eye.

“I think we should adopt a baby.”

For a moment, Tony wondered if he had said something wrong. Did Steve not want to adopt with him? Did Steve not want to have kids with him? They had Peter, and Steve had been so much help since they got together. But was a baby… to much?

Tony wanted to take it back almost as soon as he had said it. Maybe Steve just wasn't ready for that kind of commitment with him. They didn't lead the kind of lives that let them just have kids. They had Peter, but Peter was already five when Tony started all this. Peter had known since before that that Tony might just disappear one day, the reason just changed with the suit.

“I think I'd like that,” Steve's voice cut in soft and gentle as he leaned down to press a kiss to Tony's lips. “How about… a boy?”

For a moment, Tony just stared, his chest feeling tight, before he chuckled. “A boy? Really? We already have Peter. Why not a little girl that we can spoil as the cool gay dads?”

Steve laughed, and Tony smiled as he thought about all the good things to come.

XxXXxX

Wade grumbled as he stood in a suit, tugging at his collar and waited at the back of the stage. He didn’t like suits. Everyone knew that from the one time Wade had played the role of Peter’s bodyguard, he hated wearing the stuffy things. But Tony had arranged this for him, so he could solve the problem he had caused.

Currently, Steve was at the front of the stage, talking calmly to get the crowd ready for him. He was just meant to go up and tell the press that he was the cause of the incident on the bridge two days before, and give a vague explanation that he had been searching for a leader of a human experimentation ring. The suit was to hide his identity from everyone working for that ring, and his insulation during the two year search had caused him great mental stress and that he would be returning to civilian life to get his head on straight under the Avengers.

When Steve finally stepped aside, Wade moved to the podium, not paying attention to the gasps and sudden stillness of the crowd at the sight of his scarred face.

“The incident on the bridge,” Wade began, looking down at the note cards Pepper had prepared for him instead of at the crowd, “was done during my isolated investigation of an underground human experimentation ring. Originally, it was meant to be an ambush on a leader of the ring, where I would have captured and detained the criminal. The leader, and several of the people who died during the incident, were powered individuals.

“I was conducting this investigation separate from the Avengers and from SHIELD. Due to the nature of the ring, and the people within it, I had to conduct my investigation entirely alone. It is now that I will admit that my isolation has caused a great deal of mental strain, and started to lose myself some point during the two years of the investigation, which is how the incident got out of hand. Now that my investigation is complete, I am leaving the rest in the capable hands of Director Coulson of SHIELD, and returning to civilian life with the help of a trusted private therapist.”

He had stayed as close to the script as he could, only stumbling over the words every once in a while, since he hadn’t had more then a few minutes to look it over. Peter had tried to help, in what little way he could, but it hadn’t done much.

When he finished his explanation, the reporters had seemed to come out of their shock caused by his face, and were shouting questions at him. He eagerly ignored them, though he knew that it would be more trouble then it’s worth later. Still, he didn’t feel like pandering to them, and instead went inside the tower to rejoin Peter.

“That went well,” Peter said, a little grin playing at his lips. “A lot better then I thought it would. You did great, Wade.”

“Thanks Baby-Boy,” Wade replied, grinning as he gave Peter a quick kiss.

They went back up to the penthouse, Peter eager to show Wade all the things he had missed in the two years they were apart.

XxXXxX

Tony spent the next six months more busy then he had ever been in his life.

After talking about the Accords with Peter, Tony had taken a more active role in their creation. Every few weeks, he would go on a trip with Pepper to talk with world leaders, getting their support on his amendments. He met with T’Challa and T’Chaka several times, in hopes to get them more involved, but T’Chaka didn’t seem to trust even him with the knowledge of the power Wakanda really had. And Tony didn’t even know all of it!

When he wasn’t working on the Accords, he put as much of his time as he could into Steve and filing adoption papers. They had to wait, a lot of the time, for paperwork to go through or for someone from social services to come to the tower for this inspection or that interview. They hadn’t told Peter yet. By the time everything was finished, it was already into Peter’s Senior year, and they didn’t want to distract him while he was working his way through his mountain of AP classes.

But things changed in early October.

Tony had been sitting on the couch, his legs stretched out on Steve’s lap as the blond absently rubbed his feet and flipped through TV channels. Peter was gone at school, and Wade was at his ‘therapists’. They all knew Wade was really either hanging out at Weasel’s bar, or doing SHIELD approved mercenary work for Coulson. The team was also gone, doing their own things, with the Tower becoming a soothing quiet that it rarely had.

“Boss,” FRIDAY cut into their quiet, making them both pause. “You’ve been requested to see your social worker down stairs. She says that she has something important to ask you both.”

In an instant, Tony and Steve were up, heading to the elevator. Their social worker, a nice woman named Maria, rarely came to the tower unless it was something important. If she was showing up unannounced, it could be amazing news, or it could be devastating. Half way down, Steve had reached out, and taken Tony’s hand in his own, to squeeze in an attempt to calm his nerves.

When they stepped out of the elevator and into the conference room, Maria was waiting for them.

“Tony, Steve,” she said with a wide smile. “Good to see you again.”

“Maria,” Steve said, his voice a little shaky as he spoke. “Do you have news?”

“I do,” she said, her smile seeming to get even wider. “But I have to ask you a few questions before he put anything in the books. You both said that you don’t mind adopting a boy or a girl, correct?”

Tony nodded when Steve didn’t say anything, and moved to sit down at one of the chairs, across from Maria. “When he first talked about it, Steve had said he would like to have a boy, but we agreed that either would be fine, as long as we got to adopt a kid.”

Maria nodded, seeming to get more excited. “In that case, would you be interested in adopting both?”

Steve seemed to start shaking, gripping the back of Tony’s chair so tightly, Tony could hear the metal crunch and creak behind his head. “What… are you saying?”

Tony had the strangest feeling he knew, and his heart started to pound in his chest. No, Maria couldn’t mean… It had to be something else, not..

“There are a pair of twins,” Maria said anyway. “A boy and a girl. Jonathan and Susan. They’re a year and a half, and while they haven’t been in the system for long, there is a possibility of them being separated, which we would like to avoid. However, none of the couples who are looking to adopt in the area are willing or capable of taking in two children instead of one.”

“Except for us,” Tony said quickly. “We have the time and the money to adopt two children, these twins, without putting strain on our home or wallets.”

“That’s right. I can schedule a pre-adoption visit for next week if you’re interested in-”

“We are,” Steve cut in, voice heavy with an emotion that Tony couldn’t place. “We’re interested.”

With a smile, Maria stood. “I’ll give you a call with possible days once I’m back at the office.”

She left, after that, and Tony barely had a second to process everything that had just happened before Steve was sweeping him up into his arms and kissing him fiercely.

“We’re having a baby,” Steve gasped, his eyes wide with wonder and pure happiness.

“We’re having twins,” Tony couldn’t help but correct, and the grin on Steve’s face was so wide, it looked like it hurt.

“Twins,” Steve said in wonder. “Oh god, I gotta tell Buck! And Sam! And… And…”

Unable to hold it in, Steve pressed one last hard kiss to Tony’s lips, and then ran for the elevator. Tony watched him go, his own mind reeling as he started making a list of all the things they would need to do before actually adopting the twins. Peter had to be informed, the spare room had been cleared but still needed to be filled, and so many other things that Tony just couldn’t keep track of. But there was one last thing, that Tony had to do himself, before he could adopt the kids.

“Friday,” he said instead, heart pounding. “When’s the next opportunity for the surgery?”

“October 23rd,” Friday said. “Should I set it up?”

“Yeah,” Tony said, reaching up to place a hand on the arc reactor. “Time to start a new chapter.”

XxXXxX

Steve was absolutely giddy with excitement as he and Tony followed Maria down the hallway to the room where he and Tony would have their first meeting with their new babies. Maria let them in, letting the exhausted looking staff member leave as Steve stood stock still in the doorway for a moment.

The two little toddlers were the cutest little things Steve had ever seen. They were so small, with chubby cheeks and big bright blue eyes. Both of them had a head of bright blond locks, and Steve was taken aback by how much they looked like him. They hadn’t seen a picture, they hadn’t needed to, but now… Now Steve wished they had, just so he would be prepared for the swell of… something that was in his chest.

“Go on,” Maria said, gesturing them forward. She moved to a chair in the corner, sitting with her clipboard.

Steve was instantly moving forward, one of the little blond children actually running up to him in excitement. The toddler, the boy, tripped, starting to fall forward, but caught himself on Steve’s pant leg. The boy bubbled and giggled, and Steve dropped down to sit with his legs crossed as Jonathan toddled off, bending down to eagerly pick up a tiny red stuffed dino and run back to Steve.

With a grin, Steve took the dino, making soft cooing noises as he had the dino nuzzle Jonathan's face. The boy squealed, more laughter bubbling out of him, and Steve turned wide and excited eyes to Tony.

Tony had settled so set with his back against the wall, legs out in front of him, and Susan was scooting over toward him, looking curious as she held a book in her hand.

“Is that your book?” Tony asked the little girl. “Do you like books?”

“Book,” Susan said, getting excited as she shoved the book out to Tony.

“For me? Why, thank you Susan. Let’s see what we have here.” Tony took it, turning to look at the cover. “Little Red Riding Hood? Is this your favorite, Susan? Should I read it to you?”

Susan gave an excited squeal of her own, and hurriedly crawled into Tony’s lap, clapping her hands in glee as Tony opened the book.

Steve turned his attention back the Jonathan, watching at the boy ran or toddled around the room, picking up random things and bring them to Steve. Eventually, the little boy seemed to be to tired to run, and dropped down onto his butt. He didn’t, however, seemed to think that Steve had enough toys, and grabbed the closest one to him, and threw it in Steve’s general direction. The ball bounced once, then rolled to Steve’s left.

Seeing an opportunity, Steve picked up the ball, and rolled it back towards Jonathan. The boy bubbled with excitement, and eagerly threw the ball gain, this time sending it towards Steve’s right. They continued their little game of catch for a while, until Maria got his and Tony’s attention.

“The hour is up,” Maria said, surprising Steve. It had been an hour already. “And visiting hour is over. We can schedule another visit soon, for at the Tower, if you think you’re ready?”

“Yes,” Steve said quickly, eyes sparkling with excitement as Jonathan crawled over, trying to get Steve to roll the ball again. “Yes, I think… I think we’re ready.”

“Then I’ll see if it can be arranged,” Maria said, smiling as the staff member came back to take Jonathan and Susan so Tony and Steve could leave. Jonathan huffed and squirmed, wanting to still play, but Susan waved, eyes wide. “They’re already so attached to you.”

When they got back to the Tower, Steve was still grinning so wide, his face hurt.

XxXXxX

Peter was confused when his dad asked him to stay home from school the Tuesday before his birthday. His pops was out, and so were the rest of the team, and his fathers had been acting quite strange over the last two weeks.

“So, what are we doing exactly?” Peter asked, frowning as they sat in the back of the car as Happy drove.

“We’re going to the hospital,” his dad said. “I’m getting surgery done, and it will take a few hours, but you’ll need to be with me so you can call Happy when it’s over.”

“Surgery?!” Peter gasped. “Are you okay? Did something happen?!”

“I’m fine,” his dad reassured, reaching out to ruffle his hair. “It’s just to get the arc reactor removed. Nothing to bad.”

“The arc reactor? But… what about Iron Man?”

Peter’s head was reeling, so many questions thundering in his mind that his head started to hurt. His dad chuckled, leaning back in the seat as the hospital came into view.

“I’ll still be Iron Man, there are arc reactors in the suits themselves. But I can’t tell you everything just yet, so wait until we’re back at the house, okay? Also, don’t tell Steve. He doesn’t know yet.”

Peter grimace, knowing that he definitely wasn’t going to be telling his pops. He wasn’t going to deal with the man’s worried fury over the phone. He’d let his dad deal with that when they got back.

He waited in the hall with his phone as his dad went into surgery. He was trying to figure out why his dad would want it out now, so close to his eighteenth birthday and when he had been working on new suits. Was his father planning on hanging up the suit? Putting it away for good?

Peter agonized over this for hours, until his father came out. The doctor gave him a quick explanation on what exactly the procedure had done, and Peter was left with his drugged dad and waiting for Happy. His uncle grumbled, but helped Peter get his dad into the back seat, and out again when they got to the Tower.

“Hey, Pop,” Peter said as the elevator opened.

“Steve,” his dad giggled. “Steve, I feel so light! I can breath!”

His pop stared in shock. He then turned his eyes on Peter. “What happened?”

“He got the arc reactor removed,” Peter said quickly, holding his hands up in surrender. “He told me not to tell you until we got back! I don't whoa what's going on!”

“‘s for the babies,” his dad said, the seriousness of his tone not quite effective due to the slight slur of his words.

Even more confused then before, Peter raised a brow to his pops.

“We were going to tell you on your birthday,” his pops said quickly. “Together. But it seems it's my job now. Your father and I are… well, we're adopting a pair of twins. You're going to be a big brother.”

Not able to help it, Peter felt his mouth drop open. Kids. His father's were going to adopt kids! A pair of twin kids. Hadn't he told his father about what Mary Jane and Gwen had said? Jesus, had he somehow started all of this?

The big brother part, though, was what really got him. A big brother… was he ready for that? He was three days away from being eighteen. Was that a good or bad thing? He would be an old man by the time his own siblings graduate from high school… But, since he was older, he could help take care of them. Even though Pops was a super soldier with the stamina to match, and Dad already knew what he was doing, they would need all the help they could get with a pair of twins.

“When are they coming home?” Peter asked excitedly. “When will I get to meet them? Does the team know?”  

“Slow down,” Pops said, smiling as he started to wheel Peter's dad down the hall. “They're coming home on the third. We were going to tell you on your birthday, and then present then to the team on Thanksgiving when everyone is here again, but since you already know… We could announce it on your birthday?”

Peter nodded quickly, grinning excitedly. This would be the best birthday ever.

XxXXxX

Wade was not nervous. He was anything but nervous. Nope! Not a single nerve in distress! It was just Peter's birthday, after all!

Peter's eighteenth birthday…

Taking a deep breath, Wade stepped out of the elevator and into the penthouse. He had been busy for most of the day. Running basic errands for Weasel. Since he was twenty-one, he could pick up the booze and take the occasional death box to someone. There weren't many in October, but late November and early December they really ramped up with people getting careless, trying to get as many jobs done as they could to have money for the holidays. The last few years, Wade hadn't understood why people were so desperate, but now… He really understood this year.

“Wade,” Peter said with a grin. “You made it!”

He looked up, and grinned back at Peter. Everyone else was already there, mostly just hanging out, but quite a few were looking curiously at the presents laying on the coffee table. Wade moved to stand next to the presents, frowning.

“Since when does your family get you presents on your birthday?” Wade asked, trying to ignore the weight of the present in his own pocket. “Don't you already have everything you want that they can afford or something?”

“Yeah, but sometimes they try to get me something cool that they think I would like or could use.” With a shrug, Peter walked with him and sat on the couch. “Clint and Sam have been trying to beat Nat at Mario Kart.”

“Nintendo finally okay the StarkCube?”

“Last year,” Peter chuckled. “They held out so long that Dad had to rearrange the contracts with Microsoft and Sony. Currently, the arrangement is that any game that already goes across several platforms with also be released for the StarkCube at the same time. For games that would normally be console exclusives, they're supposed to be released six months to a year later for the StarkCube.”

“That's pretty cool. Where's your dad?”

“Dad is trying to get Bucky and Darcy set up with video call. They're somewhere in Romania. Darcy is pretty good with tech, and Bucky got the hang of it a lot faster then Pops did, but he still has trouble with some things and Darcy would rather watch him struggle then help.”

“Got it!” An almost forgotten voice called from the TV, as Barton let out a frustrated noise. “See, Darcy, I got it.”

“Buck!” Rogers called from the kitchen.

“Really Barnes?!” Barton whined. “We were just about to finally beat Natasha!”

Barnes snorted, while Lewis straight up laughed. Romanov smirked. “You can't prove that.”

“Just in time for cake,” Rogers said, carrying out a large rectangular vanilla cake. He set it down on the coffee table, lighting the candles. “Alright! Make a wish, Peter!”

Wade smiled as he watched Peter suck in a deep breath before blowing out the candles. The others cheered and clapped, and Wade grinned as he leaned over to press a kiss to Peters lips. They grinned at each other for a minute, and Peter turned back to the cake to help cut and hand it out.

Wade started to get anxious as he tried to figure out the right moment to pull out his present. In the meantime, he stuffed his face with sugary cake. Or, if Rogers had baked it instead of bought it, it probably was more healthy then a normal cake. It tasted good either way.

Once Peter finished his piece, he turned to start opening cards and presents. Wade got up to get more cake, watching Peter. He got cards from most of the Avengers, and from his friends, but there were a few actual gifts. Barnes and Lewis had sent souvenirs from each of the cities they'd been to, one postcard and a tacky knickknack with Peter's name on it from each. Coulson had pulled some strings to get Peter a personal taser and open up a test for a concealed weapon permit. It was mostly because of the kidnapping from when Wade came back, but Wade though it was kind of funny, what with Peter being Spiderman.

As the stack on the coffee table was steadily opened, Wade ate nearly half the cake, trying to drown his nerves in sugar. Or, really, just make himself sick. Maybe if he did throw up, the knots in his stomach would go away.

“We both got something for you to, Pete,” Stark said when Peter had opened everything. “But we have to go get it. It'll just take a few minutes.”

The other Avengers and guests milled about, waiting as Stark-Rogers walked back towards the rooms. Peter got up then, moving towards Wade, and honestly making him have a heart attack. Not a big one. Just a small one that made Wade jump and hurry out to the balcony. Unsurprisingly, Peter followed.

“Wade?” Peter tried as he closed the door behind him. “Is everything alright?”

It was then, looking at Peter as the moonlight lit up his face, that Wade finally felt calm. He couldn't help but smile, even just a little, and nodded as he turned to look out over the city. Peter came over to joined him.

“You know,” Peter continued. “The last time we were up here like this, you found out you had cancer… Any surprise news for me?”

“It's nothing bad,” Wade reassured. He laughed when Peter gave him a skeptical look. “Really Peter, I don't have any bad news. I've just been thinking. You're eighteen now, and you're going to graduate this year. I'm not really doing Merc work anymore, and Coulson offered me a job at SHIELD.”

“Uncle Phil offered you a job?”

Wade pressed on. “And even though I was gone for a few years, we've been through a lot together, and I was thinking about what comes… next.”

“Next…?”

Wade took a moment to study Peter's face. The gorgeous boy was looking at him in confusion, giving Wade a chance to see such a rare look. It was a look reserved for science, not people, and even then it was rare. But it made Wade pause, even as he was reaching into his pocket.

“Peter,” he said, glad that the glass doors were covered by curtains as he got down on one knee. “I love you. I really, really do. And I know that I'm a pain in the ass, but I want to be your pain in the ass. With connected taxes and all that good butt stuff. If you'll have me as your bride?”

For a minute, Wade wasn't sure was Peter was going to say. The now eighteen year old was just… staring at him. It could have just been the moon, but Wade swore he saw a shine in Peter's eyes. Peter would say yes… wouldn't he?

“Wade,” Peter breathed, but Wade hurriedly cut him off.

“It doesn't have to be a yes right now,” he tried desperately. “It could just… be a promise that you'll think about it? And give me a yes or no in a year. Or two years! Or however many years you-”

“Wade,” Peter cut in. “I'll always say yes to you. But we can't tell anyone tonight. There's something else that's going to be announced, and my father's are so excited about it.”

“Oh my Author, did Tony get a woman pregnant?” An over dramatic gasp. “Did Steve?!”

Peter laughed, snatching the ring from Wade's hand. “Not exactly. Come on, let's get back inside and you'll see.”

Wade frowned, and got up to follow Peter back inside. Stark-Rogers was back, holding up a present bag. Everyone was looking at it curiously, but Peter was beaming as he went overboard to sit once more on the couch.

“What is that?” Barnes asked. “You guys don't usually get him stuff.”

Neither of the two cool gay dad's said anything, just gesturing for Peter to open it. Wade took back his seat, peering into the bag as Peter tugging out tissue paper until he was pulling out a red t-shirt. He could barely make out the words on the shirt, but Wade could just make them out. 'Big Brother in Training’. Huh… that's a weird shirt for Peter to have…

Peter, on the other hand, beamed brightly at the shirt, even tugged it on over the one he was wearing. He got up, turning to let everyone see the shirt. On the screen, Barnes blinked, seemingly just as confused as Wade as the others either gasped or started to clap the Stark-Rogers pair on the back.

“I don't get it,” Barnes says, frowning. “Peter doesn't have any siblings…”

“But he's going to,” Lewis said, grinning as she elbowed Barnes. “They're gonna have another kid!”

“Oh,” Wade blinks, looking over at Peter. “Oh!”

Peter grinned wide, practically buzzing with excitement. “Yeah! Dad and Pops are adopting a pair of twins! They're so cute, and the boy looks so much like Pop!”

“When are they coming home?!” Barnes asked, voice sharp. “I need to meet my new niece and nephew!”

“Next week,” Stark said with a grin. “On the third. Steve and I are gonna be taking some time off to get them both completely settled into the Tower, so unless it's absolutely necessary, we won't be joining in any of the Avengers calls.”

Wade watched them talk, smiling as everyone made plans for the new baby's that would be in the tower. But Wade was more interested in Peter. Never in his time knowing the boy had Wade seen him smile so brightly. Peter would make a great big brother.

XxXXxX

The day that they brought the twins home was the happiest day of Steve's life. Well, aside from his wedding day. And maybe the day they found Bucky? Either way, this day was a day to remember.

When they brought the twins inside, they spent a while just getting them used to their new room. They had remodeled their spare room, put in a pair of cribs, along with a rocking chair and a toy chest that was stuffed to the brim. There was also a wardrobe, which had eagerly been filled with outfits for the new members of the family.

It was a blissful three days. Three days of smiles and giggles, and Steve had wanted it to never end. But all things seemed to.

There was a mission. A big one. Almost everyone was going, and they wanted Steve to go with them. He had tried to get out of it, but Natasha had insisted. Once he knew out why they wanted him to go, he understood. It was a sample of his blood, after all.

And the mission itself had been pretty easy most of the way through. Honestly, that should have been a red flag. When had any mission of theirs been easy? And then the universe seemed to right itself by having their captured criminal try to blow himself up in Steve’s hands. Wanda had saved him, and everyone around him, but a mistake was made, and a chunk of a building was blown out instead.

They came back to find Thaddeus Ross waiting for them, along with Tony.

“Five years ago, I had a heart attack,” Secretary Ross said as they sat like children in detention. “I dropped right in the middle of my back swing. Turned out it was the best round of my life, because after 13 hours of surgery and a triple bypass, I found something 40 years in the Army had never taught me: Perspective . The world owes the Avengers an unpayable debt. You have fought for us, protected us, risked your lives… but while a great many people see you as heroes, there are some… who would prefer the word ‘vigilantes’.”

“We work alongside SHIELD,” Steve countered, doing his best to keep his face neutral. “We’re funded through sponsors and donations. We do the jobs that normal people can’t. We aren’t ‘vigilantes’.”

“Steve,” Tony sighed, running a hand over his face. “The term vigilante is defined as someone who takes a role of law enforcement and is a not working under government law. That fits the Avengers a little to well, since we aren’t actually a part of SHIELD.”

At this, Steve actually balked. Tony was siding with Ross? But why? Tony was an Avenger to. Shouldn’t he be siding with them?

“Let’s not jump there yet,” Ross said, as if there was something else to be said. “Let’s go with ‘dangerous’. What else would you call a group of US-based, enhanced individuals who routinely ignore sovereign borders and inflict their will wherever they choose and who, frankly, seem unconcerned about what they leave behind?”

And then Ross was pointing to a screen. He cycled through each of their missions, from the very start when they first came together in New York, all the way to their last mission in Lagos. There were images with each, with photos of the aftermath. A few showed Tony, dressed in the suit, lifting heavy things, but not often and not with any other Avengers. Steve realized, then, that they had always left the clean up to the Department of Damage Control. Tony was always the one to call them in, since he was helping fund the endeavor, but Steve hadn't known that Tony was actually helping in clean up.

Ross dropped a thick binder in front of them. There were colored tabs sticking out of it, but Steve didn’t catch a glimpse of the title before it was slid across to Wanda. She scowled at it, and then slid it to Rhodes, who sat across from her.

“The Sakovia Accords,” Ross said sharply. “Already, one hundred seventeen states have openly announced they will be signing this as the next United Nations meeting. It states that the Avengers shall no longer be a private organization. Instead, they'll operate under the supervision of a United Nations panel, only when and if that panel deems it necessary.”

“The Avengers were formed to make the world a better place,” Steve argued. “I feel like we’ve done that.”

“Tell me, Rogers,” Ross said, with just a bit to much bite for Steve’s liking. “Where are Thor and Banner right now?” When Steve pointedly didn’t answer, he continued. “If I misplaced a couple of thirty megaton nukes, you can bet there'd be consequences. Compromise. Reassurance. That's how the world works. Believe me, this is the middle ground.”

“So there are contingencies?” Rhodes asked, and Steve grit his teeth. Rhodes couldn’t actually be thinking about agreeing to this!

“Experts have been working on this for the last year,” Ross said, shooting a look at Tony. Wait… “Some of them you actually know. Read it over. The UN will vote in three days. You have until then to decide whether you’ll agree and sign with them, or if you’re going to give up your suits.”

“Is there a third option?” Clint grumbled under his breath, though Ross clearly heard him.

“Read it over and find out,” was all Ross said before he left.

XxXXxX

“What the fuck, Stark?!” Clint yelled at Tony once Ross was gone.

Tony pursed his lips, crossing his arms. He hadn’t wanted to tell the team about his involvement this way, and while he had expected them to be upset, he hadn’t thought they would be this angry. The team all knew about the Accords, but they hadn’t talked about it. Hell, Tony hadn’t even talked to Steve about it.

“I’m not the only one they asked for an opinion,” Tony said. “They asked for Jane’s help to. The only reason they asked me was because I’ve been in the public eye the longest.”

“But why would you help them?” Steve asked, and the betrayal in that voice made Tony’s heart ache. “They’re going to make it so we can’t do our jobs. The next time a supervillain shows up, they won’t let us take him down. What then? What about the people who die then?”

“There are contingencies,” Tony grossed. “A scale for how bad a problem is, a measure for when it gets to be something that one of us should handle.”

The majority of the team stormed off in a huff, leaving Tony to face off against Steve. His husband stood, arms crossed, tense and almost stony. Tony wasn’t sure what he should say, what he should do, but he knew that he had to say something. Only, Steve beat him to the punch.

“Why didn’t you tell me you were working on this?”

“I didn’t think it was that important,” Tony tried. “At the moment, at least. We were busy with other things. Deadpool, Peter, Wade being Deadpool. And now, with the twins-”

“Is that why you wanted to adopt? To distract me from this?”

The room fell still, and Tony stared, wide eyed, at Steve for a moment. Steve looked as shocked as Tony felt. That’s what Steve thought? That he wanted to adopt so Steve would be to distracted to notice the Accords? That was… That was… Bullshit is what it was!

In the short time that they had Johnny and Susan, Tony had fallen in love with them. He didn’t even care about being Iron Man anymore. He was getting to old for it, and the strain of battle could be dangerous for his heart. After missing these precious young years with Peter, Tony was ready to take the next step, and be a stay at home dad.

“Tony,” Steve said, reaching out for him.

“Don’t,” he snapped back, turning around to walk back out. “Sleep on Sam’s floor tonight.”

XxXXxX

Peter frowned as he got back to the penthouse. Pops was gone, nowhere in sight, and investigating showed his dad asleep in the rocking chair in the twins room. Johnny was asleep on his chest, drooling into the fabric of the silken dress shirt, while Susie was asleep in her crib.

With a little smile, Peter carefully wedged a pillow under his dad’s head and drape a blanket over him and Johnny. His blond little brother yawned, big and cute, before sucking his thumb into his mouth. Peter wished that he had his camera to snap a picture. It was such a pure moment, and Peter was glad to see it.

“Friday,” he asked softly, slipping out of the room. “Have you taken some pictures of them?”

“I have, Baby Boss,” she replied, the volume turned down low, even in the hallway, so as not to disturb the sleeping pair behind the door. “Saved to the family's private server.”

Peter hummed, heading to his room. It was late enough that he would normally be out as Spiderman, but he knew his pops would check on him if he came back. It was just habit, to make sure Peter wasn't gaining his dad's bad habit of working late and not sleeping.

“Pops out on a mission?” Peter asked as he searched his drawer for the box to his ring. He hadn't told his father's about Wade's proposal yet, but had taken to wearing it on a chain around his neck.

“Captain Rogers is currently not allowed in the penthouse,” Friday said, sounding fair to much like Jarvis in just one angry sentence, and it made Peter pause. “He is currently sleeping on the couch of Sergeant Barnes floor.”

“What?” He squeaked, looking up at the ceiling to stare, because Friday didn't have a physical face for Peter to gape at her. “Why isn't he allowed in the penthouse? What happened while I was gone?”

“Boss and Captain Rogers had a disagreement over the Accords this afternoon when Captain Rogers discovered the Boss’ involvement in their making. Captain Rogers made an accusation that Boss was using the two Tiny Bosses as a distraction so he wouldn't have time to notice Boss’ work with the Accords.”

Peter stared up at the ceiling, his hand gripping the wood of the drawer harder and harder with each word. At the end, it splintered under Peter's hand, cracking apart and falling to the floor. His Pops had done that? Said that? It was crazy! Idiotic, even! His dad loved Johnny and Susan. That morning, when his dad had been called away, Peter had seen how hesitant his dad was to leave them with Pepper. Pepper !

And the Accords… Peter had read all of it. Ever since his dad gave him a copy, he had kept up to date on all of it. Compared to the version Peter had started with, the one being signed was a massive improvement. It wasn't just trying to make superheroes illegal anymore. It was working to actively help them from making mistakes that got people killed or made their actions seem questionable. And, thanks to his dad, supers didn't have to reveal their identities to the public anymore. Only a select few, mostly doctors and those doing power analysis, would even get to know that information.

Honestly, Peter had thought everyone knew his dad was working on it. He always said no comment when people asked him about it, instead of just out right saying what he thought like usual. People were posting rumors all over the internet, and while a few were way off, some of them were pretty close to the mark.

With a sigh, Peter ran a hand over his face, and pulled on his suit. He and Wade had talked it over, very carefully, and they had agreed to both sign the Accords. Peter thought that it would be the best option, considering what the other choices were. They would sign, and if Peter was lucky, he would be able to sign an agreement to be a consultant and assistant with the police.

“Friday,” he said as he crawled out the window. “If Dad wakes up, tell me and start making some hot coco. I'll come back early and we can head down to the lab.”

XxXXxX

Their fight lasted three days. And as much as Tony hated those three days of being away from Steve, he hated how it ended even more.

He had been ready to talk to Steve, holding the twins as he sat on the couch. Johnny was squirming, seemingly never able to stay still, especially when Susan was. Tony was trying to read to them, as he had taken to doing just before lunch, but Johnny was squirmier then normal. So, with a sigh, Tony set them down in their living room playpen and turned on the TV so he could make lunch.

He had Friday help him make mac-n-cheese. Johnny loved it, for whatever reason, and since Susan at least was using a spoon instead of her hands, it wouldn’t be as much of a mess. He was setting the bowls on the table, plastic and filled with cheap cheesy noodles, when Friday got his attention.

“Boss,” she said as Tony was putting Johnny in his booster seat. “There’s something you have to see.”

Since Friday never interrupted his time with the kids, unless it was absolutely important, Tony didn’t hesitate as he helped Susan into her seat. “Put it up on the big screen for me?”

The TV flashed, switching channels to a news feed. Tony recognized the building that the cameras were pointing at, but he couldn’t tell from where. There was a hole in the side of it, still smoking, as fire crews were hosing it down. A medical helicopter was flying over head.

“A bomb hidden in a news van ripped through the UN building in Vienna,” the reporter said. “More then seventy people have been injured. At least twelve are dead, including Wakanda’s King T’Chaka. Officials have released a video of a suspect who they have identified as James Buchanan Barnes, the Winter Soldier. While the man is said to be rehabilitated and with the Avengers, he seems to have returned to his infamous Hydra ways, as he is linked to numerous acts of terrorism and political assassinations.”

“Get the new suit ready,” Tony said, starting to hurry around, trying to think of everything he would need. “And call Happy. I need him to watch the twins for a while so I can go to work.”

XxXXxX

Steve was exhausted. He hadn’t slept well at all in the last three days, and instead threw himself into work. He had talked with Bucky a few times over the phone for advice, but hadn’t really gotten much help. Bucky had just told him to think about everything very carefully, and that it would be better soon. So Steve had spent way to much time reading the Accords.

But now, with the bombing and the reporters saying it was Bucky, Steve pulled some strings and got a head start from Sharon. Calls had been flying in, most of them fake, but one sounded promising. He had been seen in a hotel in Bucharest, and Steve was willing to take the risk. Sam was willing to help.

“Heads up, Cap,” Sam warned. “German Special Forces approaching. Better get in fast.”

Taking a breath, Steve knocked, quick and hard on the door. It was suspiciously silent, which meant that at least someone was inside. Probably Darcy.

“Darcy,” he called. “Open the door. It’s Steve. I need to know-”

The door swung open, and Steve held back a yelp as Bucky pulled him into the room by the front of his costume. The door was quickly closed and locked behind him, chain, bolt, and knob. Darcy poked her head out of what seemed to be a bathroom, a taser in her hands.

“Steve,” Bucky said. “What the hell is going on? I went out to get plums this morning and all of a sudden, people were saying I blew up a building in Vienna. I wasn’t even there.”

“They’ve set the perimeter,” Sam said in his ear.

“I know,” Steve told Bucky. “But the people who think you did are coming here now. And they… Buck, they don’t plan on taking you alive.”

“That’s smart,” Darcy said. “Cuz James can kick their asses and I can taser them.”

Bucky glanced at Darcy, clearly worried, as Sam spoke in Steve’s ear again. “They’ve entered the building.”

“This doesn’t have to end in a fight,” Steve said, seeing Bucky waning.

“It always ends in a fight,” Bucky told him, just as Sam started shouting.

“Breach!”

Just then, a grenade crashed through the window, landing right in front of Bucky and Darcy. Reacting faster then Steve had ever seen him, Bucky had kicked the grenade to Steve, and whirled around to shield Darcy with his body. Steve, in turn, swung the shield off his back and slammed it down over the explosive. It was successfully smothered, but as soon as it had gone off, the police were charging into the room.

They had a bit of a fight with the squad. Steve was focused on defense, guarding Darcy and Bucky’s back, as Bucky was on offensive, clearing a way to the window. Darcy helped, managing to swing her taser into the vulnerable side of the neck of the squads suits. She was hard to defend, since she kept randomly popping out to taser people, and even scooped up a cattle prod that was attached to one officers hip.

When they make it to the window, Bucky used his metal arm to smash any remaining glass and grabbed Darcy. Instead of jumping down to the next floor, Bucky threw the small woman like a javelin out into open air with a shout. Steve had been so shocked, he hadn’t realized that Bucky had shouted at Sam, and watched as Falcon swooped down with a curse, catching Darcy.

With that, the two of them were free to launch from the window onto the roof of the next building. They made it a few yards across, before someone slammed into Bucky from behind. Steve was actually shocked. It was a man, muscular, clad head to toe in black. The man attacked Bucky with sweeping kicks and slashes of clawed fingers.

“Who the fuck is that guy?” Steve overhears Darcy through Sam’s comm.

Things didn’t get better from there. Honestly, Steve hadn’t known what he had been hoping for. They struggled with the black cat guy, then that dissolved into them jumping off the roof and running down an underpass. Things got even worse from their. Police cars chased after them, Bucky stole a motorbike, and then there was a high speed chase.

It got even worse when War Machine showed up. The three of them, Steve, Bucky, and the black cat guy, all stopped at that. If War Machine had been called in, Tony might be called in… And Steve really, really didn’t want that. The black cat guy took off his helmet, and apparently the guy was some kind of royalty, and then all three of them- Correction. All five of them, including Darcy and Sam, were arrested.

XxXXxX

“Thanks, Sharon,” Tony said as he walked into the room, completely ignoring the others as he looked right at his cousin. “Thankfully, Romania isn’t Accords Sanctioned, so I was able to make a plan to get Secretary Ross off my back for a while I get this mess cleaned up.”

And to Tony’s horror, Steve actually tries to make a joke. “I’m not getting that shield back for a while, am I?”

“No,” Tony ground out. “I don’t think you will. Because it’s technically government property. And the wings belong to me.”

“That’s cold,” Sam says.

“Warmer then jail,” Tony says offhandedly, and turns to Steve. “Now you and I? We need to have a bit of a talk.”

Steve nodded, and got up to follow Tony into a glass office in the center of the control room. When Tony closed the door, Steve stood awkwardly to the side, as though he wasn’t sure if he was allowed to sit.

“I’m sorry,” Steve said, when Tony turned around. “For what I said. I didn’t mean it.”

“No,” Tony sighed, leaning to sit half way on the table. “I mean, my track record with small children isn’t the best. Look at the first five years of Peter’s life. The next twelve haven’t really been a walk in the park, either, since I was using the suit. I don’t know what I’m doing now.” He tapped at his chest, where just a few weeks ago, the reactor had sat. “That’s why I took out the reactor. I had thought everything over. I wanted to be fully committed to being the best father I can be for the twins. But if I wasn’t going to be the Iron Man that I had been, I had hoped the Accords could make up the difference.”

“I want to come back to the penthouse,” Steve confessed. “I do, but… If I see a situation go south, I can’t ignore it. Sometimes I wish I could.”

Tony closed his eyes, huffing a humorless laugh. “No, you don’t.”

“No… I don’t…”

And that hurt. It hurt that Steve was more worried about work then he was his own family. Steve couldn’t turn his back on someone in need, and while that wasn’t a bad thing on its own, it was when it meant Steve was turning his back on his family. The family that they had built together, in the Tower, with the twins, and Peter, and all the other Avengers. Steve would leave it behind just because the government was doing something that he didn’t think was right.

“Sometimes I wanna punch you in your perfect teeth,” Tony admitted. “But I still love you. I need you, Steve. We need you. So far, nothing that happened is set in stone. It can be undone if you just sign. We can make the last 24 hours legit, and we can get the ball rolling on an investigation into what really happened in Vienna. T’Challa isn’t unreasonable. See if we can put him under house arrest in the Tower instead of locked up in a Wakandan prison.”

For a moment, Steve looked pained. He stood, pacing the room for a moment. Tony watched his husband look out at the control room, at the multiple screens on the walls, before looking back at Tony.

“I’m not saying it’s impossible, but there would have to be safeguards.”

“That’s what I was working on,” Tony told him. “Once we put out the PR fires, the Accords can be amended. I can file a motion to have you and Wanda reinstated-”

“Wanda?” Steve asked, turning to face Tony fully. “What about Wanda?”

Shit. Tony hadn’t meant to let that little bit slip. He had told Friday to lock Wanda in after the Lagos incident. It was for her own safety. People were afraid of her right now. They were angry. And some people do stupid things when they’re angry. Especially in a big place like New York.

“She’s fine,” Tony said quickly. “She’s confined to the Tower right now. Vision and Pietro are keeping her company.”

“Oh god… Tony!”

“What? There are thirty private floors she can go to, with a pool and gym and everything. There are worse ways to protect people.”

“Protection?! Is that how you see this? This is protection? It’s internment, Tony.”

“People are scared, Steve.”

“Oh, come on, Tony. She’s just a kid.”

“Give me a break!” Tony barked, glowering at Steve. “I’m doing what has to be done.”

And Steve, in turn, glowered right back. “You keep telling yourself that.” Without another word, he walked out of the office.

Tony dropped into one of the chairs, taking a deep breath as he hung his head in his hands.

XxXXxX

Steve stood with his arms crossed as he watched the silent screen that showed Bucky’s evaluation.

‘’Bird costume’?” Sam said as Sharon brought the receipts for their gear. “Come on…”

“I don’t write it,” she said, then glanced at Steve, before pressing the button to turn on the sound.

“I’m not here to judge you,” the psychologist was saying. “I want to ask you a few questions. Do you know where you are, James? I can’t help you if you don’t talk to me, James.”

“Only my girlfriend calls me James,” Bucky said, clearly grumpy, but making Darcy snort from where she was standing by Sam. “You can call me Barnes.”

Something was bothering Steve, though. Nothing about what happened made sense. Clearly, someone framed Bucky and blew up the UN. That was clear. When didn’t make sense was everything that happened after that. The news report, the released footage…

“Why would the Task Force release the photo to begin with?” Steve asked Sharon, frowning at her.

“Ger the word out is my guess,” Sharron shrugged. “Involve as many eyes as we can?”

“But you could have just called called Tony,” Darcy replied. “We might have been off the grid, but Tony still keeps track of us. Jane to.”

“Exactly,” Steve pressed. “It’s a good way to flush someone out if you don’t have that information, though. Set off a bomb, get your picture taken. Get seven billion people looking for the Winter Soldier.”

“You’re saying someone framed him to find him,” Sharron mused, frowning in thought.

“But that doesn’t mean that whoever did it would find him,” Sam said, shaking his head. “It means that the Task Force would.”

Steve nodded, turning back to the screen, eyes narrowed. The evaluator looked oddly suspicious now. And Steve had a feeling he knew why.

“Tell me, Mr. Barnes,” the man was saying. “You’ve seen a great deal, haven’t you?”

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Bucky said, eyes narrowing.

“You fear that, if you open your mouth, the horrors might never stop. Don’t worry.” Then, the man looked down at his phone, and smiled. “We only have to talk about one.”

And just like that, the lights went out and Steve knew shit was about to hit the fan.

XxXXxX

“Please tell me you brought a suit,” Sharon pleaded as she started directing people out.

“Sure did,” Tony said, mostly sarcastic. “It’s a lovely Tom Ford, three-piece, two button. I’m an active-duty non-combatant.”

“Since when do you follow the rules?” she asked, leading him down the stair well. “Don’t tell me you actually plan to retire and be some kind of stay at home dad.”

“I did. But I can’t really retire until I know things won't immediately fall apart.”

When they got to the lobby, Barnes was already there. Tony watched as he knocked two guards out with a metal pole, and decided he should probably stop fucking around and pull out his new suit. He formed the gauntlet and went out to face Barnes, toe to toe. He didn’t last long, not without the full suit, but he gave Sharon an opening.

Sharon, in turn, made an opening for T’Challa, and wow. Okay. Tony was pretty sure he was concussed and maybe hallucinating, because it looked like T’Challa was doing cat flips, and god his head hurt. And his ribs. Just, everything. Everything hurt. Maybe a nap could make the hurt go away.

Yes, a nap would be great.

XxXXxX

With Sam’s help, Steve had managed to pull Bucky out of the pond after their fall from the roof. They had made it to an old warehouse a few blocks away, put Bucky’s metal arm in a trap, and sat out the search. There were still helicopters flying around, but they would be safe. For now.

“Hey Cap!” Sam called as Steve moved away from the window. “He’s up.”

Steve swallowed, and followed after Sam’s voice to where Bucky was lifting his head. His old friend looked up at him, bleary eyed and blinking.

“Steve?” Bucky said, soft and confused. He moved to lift his hand to his head, making the vice the metal one was in jerk with the attempt at movement. Then, Bucky turned back to him. “What did I do?”

Sam and Steve shared a look, and that seemed to be all the answer Bucky needed.

“Oh, God… I didn’t hurt Darcy, right? I had hoped that whatever Stark had done had worked, and that would be the end of it, but it’s still there. Everything Hydra put inside me is still there. All he had to do was say those damn words…”

“Who was he?” Steve asked.

“I don’t know.”

“People are dead. The bombing, the setup. Whoever he was, he did all of that, just to get ten minutes with you, Buck. I need you to do better than ‘I don’t know’.”

Bucky grit his teeth, eyes clenched as he groaned and gripped his head. “He wanted… He wanted to know about Siberia. Where I was kept. He wanted to know exactly where.”

“Why would he need that?” Sam asked, clearly confused. Bucky answered anyway.

“Because I’m not the only Winter Soldier.”

Steve felt like he was going to be sick. Bucky, as the Soldier, had been hard to fight. And he had been Hydra’s first attempt. Who knows how dangerous their second attempt would be. They needed to get to Siberia, fast, before this guy could.

“The doctor,” Steve prompted, releasing Bucky’s arm. “Could he control these soldiers?”

“He could control them enough to do what he wants.”

“He said he wanted to see an empire fall.”

“With these guys, he could. They’re the most elite death squad. More kills then anyone in Hydra history, even before the serum. They speak thirty languages, can hide in plain sight. Infiltrate, assassinate, destabilize. They could take down a whole country in one night. You’d never see it coming.”

“This would have been a lot easier a week ago,” Sam said, arms crossed.

Steve frowned, thinking about it. “If we call Tony…” He paused, not sure how to end that sentence.

“No,” Sam said. “After what we pulled, and how he’s been lately, I doubt he would believe us. And even if he did, who knows if the Accords would even let him help.”

“So we’re alone,” Steve sighed.

“Maybe not,” a voice said from their right, and they looked over to find Natasha slipping in with Darcy from a crack in one of the sliding metal doors. “I know a few people who didn’t sign the Accords who might just help.”

XxXXxX

Tony was seething. He was pissed, and angry, and he really just wanted to go home and pass a ball around with his toddlers, or read them a story, or even make it home in time to tuck them into bed. But nooo. Barnes had to go Soldier! Now, Tony was stuck looking for them and trying to bring them in to have them arrested .

“I don’t suppose you have any idea where they are?” Secretary ‘I’m An Ass’ Ross asked, scowling at Tony.

“No,” Tony admitted. It wasn’t a lie. He had been trying to connect to the tracker he had put in Barnes’ arm for emergencies, but Friday hadn’t been able to pin it down yet. “But we will. GSG-9’s got the borders covered and recon’s flying twenty four seven. They’ll get a hit, and we’ll handle it.”

“You don’t get it, Stark,” Ross snapped. “It’s not yours to handle. It’s clear you can’t be objective. I don’t even know why I tried to think you could. So I’m putting Special Ops on this. If it wasn’t for Rogers, Barnes would’ve been eliminated in Romania. There are dead people who would be alive now. Feel free to check my math.”

“Oh, trust me,” Tony said, snapping right back. “I checked your math. Those men would still be alive if you hadn’t blindly thought that it was Barnes that blew up that meeting. If you would have let people do their jobs, and investigate like they’re supposed to, you would know that Barnes was nowhere near Vienna at the time. He was in Bucharest, over six hundred miles away.

“Now I can either go tell the press, play the part of the worried husband and talk about how Captain America is getting pulled away from his family, his two new kids, and how one look at bank statements will show that Barnes was nowhere near Vienna and was falsely accused, or… You can let my team bring them in. Your guys aren’t going to be able to solve this with bullets anyway.”

It was clear that Ross didn’t like what Tony was saying. Tony didn’t like it either. It tasted like vomit in his mouth, but really, he had no choice. Steve might at least listen to him.

“How do you know this time will end any different?” Ross asked.

“Because this time, I won’t be wearing loafers and a silk shirt. Seventy two hours, guaranteed.”

“Thirty six hours,” Ross snapped. “Barnes. Rogers. Wilson.”

And with that, Ross walked away. Tony let out a breath, and slumped back into the nearest chair as the door opened. He looked up, finding T’Challa walking in. His business friend rose a brow at him.

“Are you alright?” T’Challa asked, with his stupid accent.

“Always,” Tony joked. “My left arm is numb. Is that normal?”

“You may be having a heart attack. It is normal for men your age.”

“Men my age?” he gasped. “T’Challa, I’m hurt! Wounded!”

The prince simply shook his head. “You are going after Barnes? I wish to go with you, to catch my father’s killer.”

“It’s not Barnes,” Tony sighed. “But finding him will probably help us find whoever did blow that bomb. I just need to get a team together first… They probably won’t go without a fight. Even Steve won’t listen to me, not when he’s like this.”

“But you have a team in mind.” It wasn’t a question.

“Yeah. I just have to make a quick trip back to New York.”

XxXXxX

Peter wasn’t quite sure what he walked in on, when he opened the door to the penthouse.

Happy was there, looking as annoyed as ever, as well as his dad. There were two men that Peter didn’t recognize sitting on the couch, as well as his uncle Rhodey, Wade, and Vision. Only, Vision was looking very confused, a hand to his head, as one of the guys that Peter didn’t know was talking way to fast and basically fanboying over everyone.

“Peter,” his dad, breathing out a sigh. “Finally. Everybody, go down to the Quinjet. I’ll be there in a minute.”

Peter blinked, watching as everyone started to file out. They were all in costume, even Wade, and Peter was more then mildly concerned. Once everyone was gone, even Happy with the twins, Peter walked to his dad.

He looked tired, was what Peter noticed first. His dad looked exhausted, with a black eye and a cut on his other brow. For a second, Peter wondered if he had missed an alarm to assemble. He had turned off his phone, so he could stay focused at the decathlon meet and not how the Accords were doing. It had just barely worked, and they had brought home a trophy for the fourth year in a row.

“Everything okay?” Peter tried, nervous for the answer. The last time Peter ever remembered his dad looking like this, he had been dealing with palladium poisoning. “What happened?”

His father closed his eyes, dropping back into a chair and running a hand over his face. Peter was tempted to pour him a drink. He looked like he needed it. “Steve’s… Steve doesn’t agree with the Accords. Then some guy dressed as Barnes blew up the UN meeting, and the world went crazy. Then Steve went AWOL to find Barnes, then some guy re-brainwashed Barnes, and now Steve, Sam, and Barnes are all missing!

“I come back to the Tower to get Vision, check on Wanda, only to find out that Natasha and Darcy apparently fucked off to God knows were to join the soldier train of stupid. Not only that, but Clint joined Natasha, and got the Maximoff’s to follow. Because this day could not get any worse. All eight of them are fugitives from the law.

“So I called in everyone I could think of who would help me, and Wade apparently brought along some guy named Scott that he met last year while doing a job? I don’t even know what he does. I just need to get flying already, because I finally locked onto Barnes arm, and I only have seventeen hours left to bring them all in or Secretary Asshat will be lighting a fire under my ass. And that is the last thing I need right now.”

Peter took a moment to process all of that. His pops had gone rouge… And so had over half their team. His dad was dealing with War Machine and Vision, who he could work well with, but also Deadpool and two unknowns. The playing field was so clearly uneven that it was making Peter sick just thinking about it.

“I’m going with you,” Peter said. “Or, rather, Spiderman is.”

“Peter-”

“You need me, Dad,” he pressed. “No one knows their fighting styles like I do. I’ve been watching them train for years. I know that Natasha tends to leave whatever side Clint is on open if he’s within five feet, and I know that Sam always dodges to the left first when in open air. The only one who could possibly know their moves better then me is… was…”

“Jarvis,” his dad breathed, running a hand over his face again. “And while Vision is great with algorithms, he can’t compensate for human emotion very well. But, really, Peter, it’s going to be dangerous. They won’t go easy on you like they do during sparring.”

“I’m eighteen,” Peter said, smirking a little and heading for his room to get the suit. “You can’t stop me.”

Behind him, Peter could hear his father groan, exasperated.

XxXXxX

Steve would readily be the first one to admit that the fight at the airport was an absolute shit show. It was bad. Real bad. Tony had brought in some new guy that could change size, and Prince T’Challa kept going for Bucky’s throat. Wade was going absolutely ballistic on Natasha and Clint, and Steve himself had to fight Spiderman.

The fight had been rough. And while he and Bucky had gotten away, it had been at a price. Steve had seen the Spiderman guy get thrown pretty hard, and it almost looked like the guy had died for a minute before Wade was helping him back up. Rhodes had taken a pretty back fall. From that height, in the armor, Steve wasn’t sure if Rhodes would survive. And, along with all that, anyone that had been left behind on Steve’s side was arrested.

He didn’t think about that, though, as he flew the way to Siberia. He definitely didn’t think about Peter, Johnny, and Susan back at the Tower. Steve needed to be focused. He had a mission, and damn it, he was going to finish it.

XxXXxX

When he got the info he needed, while Peter was distracting Ross with signing the Accords, Tony was eager to get a move on.

He had been right. Barnes had been framed. By the fake evaluater, no less. But, that was who Barnes and Steve were after, so maybe, if Tony just caught him, helped them, everything could go back to normal? He could show Ross that the people Steve pulled to his team weren’t in the wrong.

When Peter came back, they hopped on a Quinjet, then bailed using the Iron Man suit, Tony carrying Peter. It wouldn’t want Ross to know about this little family trip, now would they?

They made it to Siberia in record time. Peter was a little cold, but this was a family thing. He insisted on being there. So they went inside the building, Tony pulling open a set of double doors. Steve and Barnes are on the other side, looking surprised as Tony stepped through.

“You seem a little defensive,” Tony says, retracting the helmet.

“It’s been a long day,” Steve tells him, and he looks it, to. Tired… “Spiderman.”

“Captain America,” Peter said, the suits subtle modulator hiding his real voice.

Steve seems suspicious, but the four of them came to a steady truce for now. They walked through the facility, Tony having Friday keep an eye out for heat signatures. There was only one, and they followed it to a vast chamber,

When they entered, they found the tanks with the Winter Soldier capsules. When they got closer, the tanks slit open, letting hazy yellow mist leak out. Tony expected a fight. Instead, they found only dead corpses.

“If it’s any comfort,” a voice called over the speaker, “they died in their sleep.” To the side, a window lights up, Zemo tucked behind it. “Did you really think I wanted more of you? No… But I am grateful to them. They brought you here.”

“You killed innocent people, just to get a few guys into a room together?” Peter said. “Wow, dude. Priorities.”

“I thought of nothing else for years,” Zemo snarled, and Tony almost moved to shield Peter from the creep. “I studied you. I followed you. I searched for your weakness to exploit.”

“You’re Sokovian,” Steve seemed to realize. “Is that what this is about? You lose someone?”

Zemo clicked his tongue, and a screen to their right flicks on, a static picture of a canyon road filling it. “I lost everyone. And so will you. An empire toppled by its enemies can rise again. But one which crumples from within? That’s dead. Forever.”

“I know that road,” Tony said, as the recording starts to play. “We used to drive down it to go running in the canyon… What...?”

XxXXxX

It was nearly dusk, the last bits of light blue leaving the skies as there’s a soft scuffing sound from the right. A pair of feet come into view, and the mystery person picks up the camera. It travel’s up and over a pair of jean clad legs, woman’s torso wearing an old jacket pulled tight. And then, a tired and exhausted woman’s face willed the view.

She was young. Young enough to not even be in her twenties, barely an adult. At first, she smiled, but it seemed to take to much energy from her, and she puffed out a breath. Dark circles were under her warm brown eyes, and her hair stuck out at strange angles when she ran a hand through the choppy blond mess.

“Video log,” she said, voice soft and tired. “Entry… last. It’s November eighth, year 2000, and I am about to destroy all of my research.”

The camera swiveled around, showing rocky surroundings and a cliff. A beat up looking car was sat near the ledge, the trunk open to show stacks of boxes inside, and a can of gasoline sitting at the bottom. There was a snap, then a sizzle as a match came into view, before it was tossed at the boxes. They quickly went up in flames, and the surroundings blurred as the owner back peddled away from the inferno she had caused.

“So,” she said, as she set the camera down and sat in front of it. “I don’t have much time. He’s been getting closer and closer ever since the hospital two weeks ago. So I’ll be quick.

“My name is Mary Fitzpatrick Parker. I’m nineteen now, and I’ve spent the last two years in a college science program, working in computer programming. But that’s not why I’m being hunted right now. I’m being hunted for my mythology research. Specifically, my research on things like the Rainbow Bridge. Hydra wants it, and I can’t let them have it. They’ll use it to get into Asgard, or Olympus, or… Anywhere. And they’ll find weapons there to use to destroy the world.

“But the research is gone-” There was an explosion in the background, the side of Mary’s face going bright for a second before dimming again as the sun went down. “-now. And Hydra won't be happy about that. Because I’m dying of cancer, and I only have a few more days left anyway. But I’m leaving this here, in hopes that someone will find it. Warn the world…”

She looked off to the side, seemingly panicked, and picked up the camera again. It was shoved, rather carelessly, under a dry shrub. Stems striped the cameras picture, but it didn’t stop recording. Mary’s shoes scuffled backwards as someone else arrived. The image was to blocked to see who the newcomer was, only their thick black boots.

With a gasp, Mary’s shoes were lifted up and out of frame. A sickening crack, and they were in view once more. They sagged, though, dragging across the ground as the newcomer hauled her away. Off screen, there were sounds of creaking metal, and the nose of a crispy car could just barely be seen pushed into view, before tipping forward and over the cliff.

The boots came back into view. For a moment, they paced, before pausing. They drew closer, closer, until a hand reached down and picked up that camera. The face of the person was clear. It was the Winter Soldier, James Buchanan Barnes.

XxXXxX

Steve had looked away from the screen long before Bucky’s face appeared. He knew, as soon as she said her name, what that tape was. And he couldn’t watch. It was to much. Instead, he watched Tony, waiting for his reaction.

“Oh god,” Spiderman said instead. “That was… No… That was…”

And things only got worse, as Spiderman pulled off his mask to reveal none other then Peter. Peter turned to look at Bucky, his eyes big and round, filled with horror and tears. He was breathing hard, choppy breaths escaping him as he tried to breath.

“You killed her,” Peter breathed, staring right at Bucky. “You… You killed my mom…”

“Peter,” Steve tried, reaching out, only for an icy voice to cut in.

“Did you know?”

He turned to Tony, gut churning. “I didn’t know it was him.”

“Don’t bullshit me, Rogers!” Tony snapped. “Did you know?”

Steve looked between Tony and Peter. Tony was furious, anger boiling over into pure rage with each second. Peter had a look of pure shock, like the men Steve had seen back during the war who had shell-shock. He was shaking, and Steve closed his eyes as he spoke.

“Yes…”

There was a moment of silence for a moment, before Steve felt a fist connect with his jaw. He stumbled back, opening his eyes to stare at Peter. His son straightened from the punch, tears streaming down his face. Tony turned to Bucky, and they were thrown into another fight.

Steve felt betrayed, as he fought them. Clearly, Tony had known who Spiderman was. He had known the Peter was Spiderman. But he had never told Steve. If Steve had known, he probably wouldn’t have been as rough as he had been in Germany. He was just shocked that Tony was even letting Peter fight.

“It wasn’t him!” Steve tried, as the fighting got ever rougher. “This isn’t going to change what happened.”

“I don’t care,” Peter practically snarled. “He killed my mom!”

It was clear, now, that Steve hadn’t been the only one going soft in Germany. Peter was throwing punches harder then Steve ever knew he could. He went on a defensive, hoping he could talk Peter down.

“It’s Bucky, Peter!” he shouted, voice desperate. “Uncle Buck, remember? He wasn’t himself! He’s my friend, and your-”

“And I was your son!” Peter scream, throwing a hard punch that landed square on Steve’s jaw.

Stumbling back, Steve felt blood running down his face. Bucky slid across the floor, Tony having thrown him aside. They were going to lose, and if they lost, who knew what would happen to Bucky. He couldn’t let that happen, so he stood, desperate, and swung as hard as he could at Peter.

The room seemed to go absolutely silent as Peter hit the floor. The teen was shaking, blood dripping down his face from where Steve had hit him. Then, Tony screamed, charging at him, and Steve used the man’s own momentum against him to throw him to the floor.

The reactor, Steve thought. Tony won’t be able to do anything if the suit stops working. And the suit will stop if the reactor breaks. Straddling the waist of the suit to keep it down, Steve lefts the shield. The faceplate had come off at some point is the chaos of the fight, so Steve could see the fear in Tony’s face as the shield struck the suits core.

Getting up, Steve pulled the shield free, and walked almost in a daze to Bucky. He pulled his friend up, bloody and barely cautious, and started towards the exit.

“You don’t deserve that shield,” Peter calls from behind him. Steve stops, not looking back, but able to hear the tears in Peter’s voice and the wheezing of Tony in the background. “My grandfather made that shield, and it belongs with a hero!”

And Steve couldn’t help but agree. So he dropped the shield, and kept walking.

Chapter Text

Clint had settled into house arrest rather quickly. It was less house arrest and more… ‘the government is watching you so keep your nose clean’ kind of thing. He could do whatever he wanted, as long as it didn’t conflict with his agreed probation with the government. So, no archery, except in the backyard where government cameras were watching, no contacting any of the ‘fugitive’ Avengers, and he had a curfew of nine-thirty.

While that took away a lot of what he wanted to do, Clint filled his time with other, more normal things. He bought a gym and started teaching self defense. It was actually pretty fun. And, he started golfing. Not really fun, but he got a hole in one every time, so he held the record at the country club. He started going to Addicted Anonymous, since he’d kind of accidentally gotten addicted to sleeping medication, trying to be quote ‘normal’ unquote, and sleep like a regular person at night. He still had Lucky, so that was cool.

Oh! And he got to keep Phil.

Well, more that Phil was his ‘probation officer’ but without the jurisdiction to let him off the hook. Phil retired, told the big bads in the government that he’d step down as underground SHIELD director to make sure that Clint didn’t go AWOL like Natasha, so if Hawkeye was really needed, they could send him out again. No one really liked the idea, but everyone went along with it.

So it was less that Clint was forced to not be Hawkeye, and more that he had the chance to live a domestic life with the guy he was in love with. Which led to them deciding that, since neither of them are in any danger of dying, that maybe they should get married.

“Wait,” Clint said, holding up a hand as Phil had gone for a bottle of champagne. “If we’re going to get married, and, I mean, especially since I know you’ll want a May wedding, there’s something you should know.”

“What is it?” Phil asked, suspicious.

“It’s nothing bad. But… See, when I was a kid, I had these four friends. My best friends. And we do this thing every May…”

XxXXxX

When Clint got the call, he was prepared.

The call came, and it was so late in May, that Clint almost didn’t think that it was coming. He had nearly the entire month to plan, and that included the wedding. For the game, he’d talked to Lou, hired a weird guy named Dave at the gym, befriended all security and law personal, and he was loving it. His wedding plans got mixed in to, like when he was getting his tux from the tailor at the mall, and all that. So when the call came, a voice that was so obviously Anna, Clint just told Phil to play along.

“Hello, Mr. Coulson?” Anna said, her accents always amazing. “This is Margaret from the Deer Creek Country Club. I’m just calling to let you know we won’t be able to refund your deposit since you canceled the rehearsal on such short notice.”

“What?” Phil said, looking at Clint sceptically.

Clint held back a snicker, and just waved a hand at him to play along. “There must be a mistake.”

Phil narrowed his eyes at him, still sceptical, and promising pain if this was real. “We didn’t cancel the reception.”

“I’m afraid we have unfortunately booked something else in that time slot now.”

“A quinceañera,” Sable’s voice said, muffled, and was the last thing Phil needed to really believe Clint.

“This is bullshit,” Clint said, over dramatic as Phil seemed to relax and have a little fun with it.

“We’re coming to the club right now,” Phil said, and Clint just barely heard the giggles as they hung up. “God, you were telling the truth.”

“I know,” Clint snickered. “Come on. You get to see how I got all my skills from before even the circus.”

They were in the car in seconds. It wasn’t past his curfew yet, but it was close, they went fast. They had gotten a bit of leniency for him, what with the wedding, so if he was out a little late, it wouldn’t be to bad, but they still wanted to be careful. Phil stayed in the car, though, as Clint went inside.

“Hello?” he called, walking towards the table in the center of the dark room. Finally, he stopped, a grin spreading across his face.”Hello, boys. Who’s it?”

Slowly, one form steps out from the shadows. “I am.”

Clint felt the grin grow even wider. Callahan approached from the left. With his quick reflexes, Clint was down, slipping off the table cloth with magicians ease, as he engaged no-contact protocol. With a side step, he was Callahan wrapped up in the cloth, and was swinging him around. He took mental note that Callahan slapped Hoagie across the face, making Hoagie it.

Off to the side, Sable was moving around, not at all with any stealth, to get into a new position, while Chilli let out a war cry and came charging. As Chilli jumped at him, he easily dodged, and ran for the door. Sable blocked the way. Sliding in an electric slide, Clint pants Sable, and took note of Hoagie tagging Sable. Sable was it, Hoagie was fair game. He speedbagged Hoagie’s ass before taking off.

Sable came chasing after him, but he ran and crashed through a window. He rolled, jumping off the roof, and laughing in a way he didn’t done in a long time. The others came running, calling to him in worry.

“Oh,” Clint breathed, wiping at his eyes. “I’ve never been better. Welcome home, boys!”

“I can’t believe you’d rather not invite your closest friends to your wedding then risk getting tagged,” Callahan said.

“Hey, Bob, look. You’re here, ain’t you? Right? I knew you’d come.”

“Clint,” Phil called, gaining Clint’s attention as he came over. “Did you get everything sorted? We really need to get going.”

“Phil, hey, come here. Come here.” Clint grinned, and ignored the worried look on Phil’s face as he turned to the guys. “ We didn’t invite you. Guy’s, this is Phil! My soon to be husband. He’ll explain why.”

Phil pursed his lips. “We really can’t have it being crazy, but we’ve been planning a May wedding, and I had to get cleared from… work, and couldn’t get any other time off. We just can’t have it being a giant mess.”

For a minute, it didn’t look like the boys would bite, but they eventually did, and they went to the Sandpiper under truce. They made an amendment that the guys couldn’t do anything during the wedding. True, while Clint was a little disappointed, he didn’t mind. After all, it was going to be their special day. And it was already going to be hectic enough, if he could finally get in contact with Tony. The others definitely wouldn’t be able to come, but he could at least try to get Tony and Peter to be there.

When he got home, it was just in time. Nine-twenty-eight. Still within curfew. Scribbling out a little bait note, he and Phil went down into the basement to what Clint called his ‘Hawk Burrow’. Clint was sure that if Tony, Vision, or Peter were around, they’d tell him that hawks don’t live in burrows. Hell, even Phil told him that.

But he put their house security monitors on the big screen down there, and watched the guys wander around, just looking for clues. They wouldn’t find him, but they would see what Clint had left for them. Chilli found and started eating the Deviled Eggs in the fridge, while Sable stumbled upon the maps, blueprints, and equipment that Clint had in the garage. Callahan and Hoagie were in the bedroom.

“Who is that scampering around my house?” Clint snarked as he set up the camera to point at the remake of Hoagie’s room. Hello, boys. Did you really think that I’d go home? You idiots. It’s to obvious.”

They all made little comments, though it was Hoagie that actually asked were he was.

“You know, seeing you guys tonight made me wanna take a walk down memory lane.” He took a step back, letting them see. “Ta-da! It’s a little smaller then I remember.”

He played some mind games with Hoagie, since it was always Hoagie that was the one who got everyone together to play. He got them all worked up. It was hilarious, and when he closed the call, he went to sit with Phil on the couch.

“That was…” Phil’s face scrunched. “Disturbing. This is really something you did when you were twelve?”

“Not twelve,” Clint said, waving a hand. “But I started the mind games with the carnies help when I was nineteen. Barney helped, sometimes.”

Phil let out a sigh, shaking his head. “What you did tonight. That was dangerous. Your curfew is still in full place until after the wedding. Sure, half of the team watching you is being relaxed, but the other half still think that it’s just a trap to help you escape. You have to be carefully. They’re watching you like a hawk, waiting for a ‘slip up’.”

“I’ll be fine,” he reassured. “Just… relax, okay? It’s going to be fine.”

XxXXxX

“Yeah,” Clint said, a little annoyed. His wardens were being a little anal about what happened the night before. The head of the team watching him had called to tell him that if he didn’t keep to his schedule until the wedding, he’d be in serious trouble. “Yeah, I just picked up my tux. Yes, I’ll tell Coulson when I get back. Thanks. Bye.”

He put his phone away, and continued through the mall. On the way, he saw an old lady with a walker drop her purse. Being the good man that he is, Clint went to pick it up for her. It was then, though that he saw the shoes. Men’s athletic crossover-style boot, size nine and a half. Suggests a man that is neither fashionable nor athletic.

“Hoagie.”

His friend turned to him, and Clint smirked as he tossed his tux off to the side. With a crack of his neck, and used the bag as a weapon as Hoagie lunged at him. Sadly, Hoagie didn’t know that Clint had had SHIELD training, knew how to turn everyday things into weapons, and had been teaching a woman's self defense class for the last four months.

They fought for a minute. Well, Clint defended, Hoagie tried and failed to attack. Clint was just to good with a purse. He might as well have been using nunchucks. But, eventually, Hoagie came charging at him, and Clint used the walker to pin him. He spared a glance at his watch. He had a few minutes before the government stooges came after him.

“You’re done, Hoagie,” Clint said, perched on top of the walker, and feeling free like he hadn’t since the Cap-Iron war.

“Never!” Hoagie cried, his pinned arms trying and failing to reach up and touch Clint. He tried for a little bit, and they battered a little. “Okay, fine, I’m done.”

Clint chuckled. “Dude, you look amazing, by the way. You’ve really upped your game! How’d you know I was gonna be here?”

“Aha!” Hoagie grinned. “Surprised you, right? I saw the pick up ticket for your tailor when we broke into your house the other night.”

Clint nodded, humming. “Well, I’m on a tight schedule, and I have to get back to Phil. We got things to do.”

And with that, he back flipped off the walker and was heading to the door.

XxXXxX

Clint felt a little guilty, what with what he did to his old friends in the woods. He knew that inviting Cheryl was a low blow to. But he didn't have much time to waste. As soon as he could, he had to be back at the house and getting ready for the next day.

He was a little upset the Tony nor Peter were returning any of his calls, but it would have to be addressed later. They’d send pictures, maybe try to work out a time Clint could actually go to the Tower and try to talk to them. Peter was a forgiving type, but Tony could hold a grudge.

Phil, however, was forgiving, but a serious worrier. Clint had held off on telling him about the call as long as he could. If Phil knew, he’d want to call the guys over and tell them that the game was over. That the game wasn’t worth Clint’s freedom. But the game… The game had kept him connected with his friends. Friends that he’d grown up with and respected. Sure, they weren’t Captain America, Iron Man, or Thor, but they here his friends. And it would suck to lose them over that.

But when Phil did find out, Clint explained, and he said that he would allow it. As long as nothing risked his safety.

XxXXxX

And then Clint got locked in a church kitchen.

He tried to find a way out on his own. He didn’t want to worry Phil. If he got out on his own, it would be fine . No worrying Phil, and no pissing off a government agency. But mostly not worrying Phil. He was getting up in years, and even if he was fit, stress could kill any man.

But then he had to do it.

“Where is he?” he heard Phil shouting, a door slamming. “Where is he?”

Clint bit his lip, and he could hear Phil pacing. He could hear the others saying he could come out, but Clint could hear only Phil going into overdrive. He could practically feel the second it went from scolding and worry to pain and panic.

Hurrying out, Clint got Phil a chair, having him sit down as he tried to remember any, even a little, of his field medic training for when he became a specialist. Mild heart attack. What was he supposed to do for that? Hospital. He needed to get Phil to a hospital.

“Hey,” Callahan said as he tried to follow them. “If there's anything I can do-”

“No,” Clint said. “No. Back. Off.”

He helped Phil up, and took him to the hospital.

XxXXxX

The wedding was still on, but Clint didn’t think his friends would try to tag him while he was on the altar. Especially not Hoagie. But then it happened. And then Hoagie ended up in the hospital. Clint hated what had happened, and blamed himself, but he went in and let Hoagie tag him.

It was fun, for a while, running around the hospital lobby, just laughing and tagging, but it came to a hard end, just before midnight.

Clint was it, and he went to tag Hoagie, a grin on his face, before it was wiped away as half the people in the room were suddenly crumbling to dust. He watched, in absolute horror, as Hoagie evaporated and crumbled. He could hear Anna scream, as Callahan, Chilli, and Sable all gathered around. Phil was just as wide eyed, and was pulling out his phone.

“Clint,” Phil said, voice sharp. “I’m not getting an answer from the unit. You need to suit up. We’re leaving immediately to the Captain’s last known location in Wakanda.”

“Suit up?” Clint asks. “You mean…?”

“Hawkeye,” Phil snapped. “Suit. Up! That’s an order!”

Clint jumped, wide eyed. Phil was normally so calm. This, though… This was insane. What was going on?

“What the fuck is going on?” Chilli asked instead.

“I’ll explain on the way,” Clint said, glancing at Phil. “If it’s okay with you, Director.”

“Yes,” Phil said. “I’m making calls to SHIELD, Fury, Stark, Cap, anyone who could know. Your bow should be in the trunk. Just… go.”

With a nod, Clint turned and led his friends down the hall. “There’s something I haven’t told you. I’m an Avenger.”

Chapter Text

They don’t talk about it, when they get back to the Tower.

They don’t talk about how Bucky had thrown Peter without a second thought, or how Sam and Clint had taken shots at them. They didn’t talk about how the Maximoff twins had run from them, or how Rhodey got hurt. They didn’t talk about Natasha’s betrayal. They didn’t talk about the burner phone on the table in Tony’s lab, or the shield locked away in Steve’s art room. They didn’t dare even think about Steve.

Tony and Peter sat in their labs, in companionable silence, and they tried to comfort each other without talking. Because what was there to say? What could they say, without talking about the others? About the ones that left…

Eventually, they came to an agreement, a mutual understanding, and went on with their lives. They adapted, did their best to move on… Tony threw himself back into his work and into raising Johnny and Susan alone. Peter and Wade continued doing their thing. The remains of the team did their best to lick their wounds and heal their broken hearts.

They tried their best to forget.

XxXXxX

Steve stared down at the ring on his finger as he waited for Bucky to finish being prepped. He fiddled with the wedding band, twisting it around his finger, doing his best to remain calm. They should have told Tony and Peter about Mary Parker the moment they found out. They should have talked it out with Tony, listened to him about the Accords, and listened when Tony said they needed something that regulated them.

If he had listened, maybe he wouldn’t be sitting here, wondering if Tony was still wearing his ring, if Peter was okay. Maybe he would be back home, in the Tower with his family, instead of in Wakanda, an international fugitive.

It was to late, now. There was no changing the past. Only working to a better future… If he was lucky, maybe Tony would pick up that burner phone and give him a call… But everyone knew, now, the mistake that he had made, and there would be no fixing it.

XxXXxX

“Dad?” Peter said as he poked his head into the lab.

His father looked up from whatever project he was working on, hunched over and holding a torch. The twins were in their own version of a kiddie corner in the lab, recently installed so his father could use the lab and keep an eye on the two toddlers.

“What is it, Pete?”

Peter smiled, and moved to take a seat. His father frowned, setting down the torch and turning to face him. They didn’t usually have conversations in the lab. Not big ones. But Peter didn’t want to pull his father back upstairs to the penthouse, where they would see the things that belonged to… neither of them. But hadn’t been able to throw out or box up any of it yet.

“It’s about me and Wade,” Peter said.

Instantly, his dad was leaning forward in his chair, eyes narrowed in suspicion. “What did he do?”

“Nothing,” Peter said. “Well, sort of. He kind of… Well, he proposed to me. On my birthday. And I said yes.”

Hid father stared at him for a few seconds, blinking, and then grinned widely. “Seriously? Peter, you little shit! My son is gonna get married! Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”

At that, the room went quiet. They both knew the reason why Peter hadn’t said anything yet. And neither of them were comfortable with saying it out loud yet.

“Well,” his dad said instead. “Anything you need, just tell me and I’ll pay for it. Are you planning it yourself?”

“We are. But we haven’t gotten very far into that yet. We were thinking next August. Give ourselves just a little less then a year to plan. And I know it doesn’t sound like a lot of time, but Wade and I have been bouncing ideas of each other, and I think it’s already doing pretty well. Like, we already have a guest list and we know we want to have the ceremony outside. Maybe in the yard at the Malibu house?”

“Consider it done. Just tell me the exact date and give Friday all the details, and I’ll make sure that it’s all done just right.”

Peter couldn’t help but smile, and leaned forward to give his father a tight hug.

XxXXxX

Tony held out for a month in the Penthouse. Really, he had tried to keep living life as normal. But he couldn’t. He kept stumbling upon one of Steve’s sketch books, or on his favorite mug. His bed had a captain sized hole in it, where another body should have been, but wasn’t. And it was so quiet, even with the twins. It was to quiet.

So Tony checked what properties he still owned. The Malibu house, of course, but thinking of living there made him reach for his pocket where he had put his wedding ring. There were a few SI warehouses, mostly in the middle of nowhere. A few vacation homes in different countries. And, of course, the Stark Mansion. The mansion he grew up in.

It took Tony a while, but he managed to convince everyone that was left in the Tower that would be best to move. They needed a less public building for their activities, and while he could change the access codes to the floors, it would take a while. Plus, they needed to update the gym, and it would be much easier to gut and upgrade the mansion then it would be to do the same to the Tower.

So, just before Christmas, they moved. It was Tony and the twins, of course, but also Rhodey, Vision, Peter, and Wade. Jane moved in to, rather then go back to the apartment she had been staying at since Darcy left. And it wasn’t as quiet anymore. There were people, noise, and no reminder of the ones that had left them behind.

XxXXxX

Steve threw himself into hero work.

It was illegal now, to help others in need. He and Natasha traveled a lot, with Sam, and never stayed in one place long enough to be found. Darcy had elected to stay in Wakanda, to wait for Bucky to wake up. Wanda and Pietro did their own thing, most of the time, since it wasn’t safe to travel in big groups.

Out of all of them, Clint was the only one to take a plea deal. He had subjected himself to house arrest, rather then deal with being separated from Coulson. Steve had heard that they were retiring, finally getting married. He was a little sad he wouldn’t be able to go to the wedding.

At night, when they were hidden away and had time to rest, Steve would pull out his wedding ring, and wonder. Was Tony alright? How were Johnny and Susan? Peter? Would they ever forgive him?

Only silence met his unvoiced questions.

XxXXxX

“We definitely have to invite Weasel,” Wade said as he stole back their handwritten list of guests to write down the name. “And Bob. They can totally man the bar.”

“We are not making your old guardian man the bar at our wedding,” Peter said, voice stern and filled with the kind of authority that made Wade’s spine tingle.

“Okay, okay, fine. So we have your dad, your Aunts Pepper and Jane, your uncles Happy and Rhodey, Vision, and Ned, Liz, Gwen, and Harry. Plus Weasel and Bob from my side. Anyone else?”

For a second, Peter looked like he wanted to say more, even opened his mouth to do just that, but he quickly shut it. He shook his head, looking away. But Wade could see the pain on Peter’s face. It was clear that there was someone else Peter wanted to come. And Wade knew exactly who it was.

“You want him to be there,” Wade said, and it wasn’t a question.

Peter took a deep breath, closing his eyes as he put his head in his hands. “I want all of them there… I want Pops, and Uncle Bucky, and Uncle Clint, and Aunt Nat, and… And I just want them to come back home, where we can be happy, but we can’t.”

“Peter-”

“No,” the teen snapped. “Just drop it, Wade. That’s our guest list, and we’re leaving it like that.”

Wade watched as Peter tapped furiously at the tablet. He knew that this was important to Peter. Rogers, with everything he had done, was still important to Peter. And Wade could understand why. He’d been Peter’s second father for a good four years. It was a big change.

“Hey, Peter,” Wade said, doing his best to sound nonchalant. “Coulson asked me to do a job for him for SHIELD. It’s overseas, so it could take a few weeks. That okay?”

“Yeah,” Peter said, not looking up. “Just don’t get in any trouble with the Accords. The last thing we need is you getting thrown in jail.”

Wade smiled, and kissed Peter’s cheek before heading to pack his bag. There was no job from Coulson. The man had other things to do, put in charge of Barton’s house arrest. They hadn’t heard from either of them since the Accords. But Peter didn’t know that.

He was going to find Rogers, he decided. He was going to find him, maybe punch him in the face, and then tell him what was going on.

XxXXxX

“Slow down,” Tony laughed as he jogged next to Pepper. “Slow down! I’m not kidding!”

“I don’t even know what you’re talking about,” Pepper laughed, though Tony could hear the sad tone in her voice. God, she really was to good to him.

“No, it was one of those dreams,” Tony pressed, even as they rounded a corner into the park. “You know, one of those dreams where you have to pee? And you’re all like ‘Oh no, where’s the bathroom?’ and ‘I’m gonna pee my pants!’”

She smiled, even though she was completely lost. “Right, and it turns out you have to use the bathroom in real life? Everyone has those.”

“Right! That's the point I'm trying to make. So I had one of those and, last night, I dreamt, you and Happy had a kid. So real. You made me godfather and named him after your eccentric uncle. Uh, what was his name?”

Instantly, Pepper’s face morphed into understanding, and she  slowly started to nod. “Right…”

“Morgan!” Tony finally said, grinning wide. “So naturally, I thought that you and Happy…”

“Were expecting?”

“Yes!”

“No.”

“I had a dream about it,” Tony insisted. “It was so real!”

“You’re projecting, Tony,” Pepper sighed. “You’re getting lonely. Peter’s all grown up, and in just a few more months, he’ll be graduating high school, going to college, and getting married to Wade. Even with the twins, Steve being gone-”

“Ah, ah, ah!” Tony said, holding up a hand as he effectively silenced her for a moment. “We don’t say that name!”

She sighed again, rolling her eyes. “Look… It’s been four months. I know that what… he did was hard, but you have to move on. Things like this happen. Sure, not on this level of extreme, but they happen. But you have a baby. Hell, you have two! You need to get out of this funk.”

“Funk?” he gasped. “Pepper! I am not… There’s no funk!”

“Oh really?” Reaching forward, she untied to sleeves of the hoodie around his neck, letting his new mini-nanoparticle-reactor shine through. “If you weren’t in a funk, you wouldn’t have done that after getting the old one removed.”

Tony felt his stomach drop. Pepper was right. She was always right. It had been a hard four months without… without the rest of the team in the tower. He never noticed how much time he really spent with them until they were gone. No more breakfast with Natasha, or lunch with Clint. No random tech talk with Sam or working on upgrades for Bucky’s arm. No… No Steve.

Peter was gone so much more then he ever had in the past, working on finishing out the last few months of high school with a strong edge. Not to mention that Peter was planning his own wedding, instead of letting Pepper do it like Tony had. Hell, even Wade was gone more then then he was at the house. They’d left the Tower because it wasn’t the hub of Avengers activity anymore, and moved into his old childhood mansion so it wouldn’t feel as empty. Now, with Peter and Wade gone so much, and Vision, who Tony liked to talk to just to hear an old friendly voice, gone more often then not to visit Wanda in secret… The mansion felt as empty as the tower, even with the twins…

“You don’t need that,” Pepper said voice so sad and pitiful that Tony actually had to look away. But then she reached down, taking his hand to lift it until they were both looking at the ring that still felt like it burned around his finger. “And you don’t need to be carrying this around either.”

“You’re right,” Tony let himself say, and they both knew he was lying, but he should at least try, right? “You’re absolutely right. No more hiding behind suits. And… no more baggage rings.”

Taking a deep breath, Tony pulled off his wedding ring, the metal burning cold in his hand. He held it in his palm, biting his lip as he just looked it over for a second. Finally, setting his resolve, he turned towards the lake and raised his hand, pulling it back in preparation for the throw.

“Tony,” a much to familiar voice said as a strange sizzling sound filled the air. Tony blinked, turning to look behind him to find none other then Stephen Strange. “I need you to come with me.” His old friend and drinking buddy paused. “Oh, and, uh, sorry about not being at your wedding?”

“I’m sorry,” Tony said, turning to face Stephen fully. “But where the hell have you been?”

“I can explain later, but we need your help.” He shook his head. “Look, it’s not overselling it to say the fate of the universe is at stake.”

Tony scowled. “And who’s ‘we’?”

And then, Tony felt like his heart was going to stop as Stephen stepped to the side, and revealed a second long lost friend. Bruce stepped out of the fizzing and sparking portal circle, his face somber as he spoke.

“Hey, Tony.”

“Bruce,” Tony said, slow and shocked as the missing Avenger slowly walked up. He looked terrible, hell, even terrified, and Tony didn’t know what to say. “Are… Are you okay?”

Bruce only threw his arms around Tony’s shoulders, hugging tight. Looks like Happy would have to babysit sit for a while longer...

XxXXxX

Tony ran a hand over his face as he listened to Wong and Stephen explain the Infinity Stones. He was thinking, mind reeling as he took in all this new information. He tried to play it cool, and did some stretches as he listened to Bruce talk about Thanos. A plan… He needed a plan. But what could he do?

“He can destroy life on a scale hither to undreamt of,” Stephen said, making Tony pause as he stretched.

“Did you seriously just say ‘hither to undreamt of’?” Tony shot back. God, what had even happened to Strange? One day he was a famous surgeon, then he’s disappeared to be some kind of magician?

“Are you seriously leaning on the Cauldron of the Cosmos?” Strange shot back.

God, when did he become such a hard ass? “Is that what this thing-?” Suddenly, Strange’s cloak whipped up, smacking Tony’s arm off the cauldron with a clang. Blinking in surprise, Tony looked it up and down. “I’m… going to allow that.” Turning to the others, he gestured to the one around Stephen’s neck. “If Thanos needs all six, why not just stick this one down the garbage disposal?”

“No can do,” Strange drawled.

“We swore an oath to protect the Time Stone with our lives,” Wong agreed.

“And I swore off Dairy,” Tony countered, “but then Ben & Jerry’s named a flavor after me.”

Stark Raving Hazelnuts ,” Strange says.

“It’s not bad.”

“A bit chalky.”

Tony turned shocked and betrayed eyes to Stephen. Hazelnut was his favorite!

A Hunka-Hulka Burning Fudge is our favorite,” Wong added, Bruce turning to look at him in surprise.

“That’s a thing?” Bruce asked.

“It’s Peter’s favorite to,” Tony grumbles, but shakes his head. “Whatever. The point is, things change.”

“Our oath,” Strange pressed, “can not change. And the Time Stone may be the best chance we have against Thanos.”

“Counter argument: It may also be his best chance against us . I’m not risking our planet and my kids just for some stupid rock.”

“Well, if we do our jobs-”

“What is your job again?” Tony asked. “Last I remember, you were a surgeon? But now what do you do exactly, besides making balloon animals?”

Strange narrowed his eyes. “Protecting your reality, douchebag.”

“Okay, guys,” Bruce cut in, sounding more concerned and tired then he ever had before. “Can we quick table this discussion right now? The fact is that we have the Stone. We know where it is. Vision is out there somewhere with the Mind Stone, and we have to find him now .”

“Yeah,” Tony said slowly. “That’s… the thing…”

For a moment, Bruce just stared at him. “What do you mean?”

“Two weeks ago, Vision turned off his transponder. He's offline.”

“What?! Tony, you lost another super-bot?!”

“I didn’t lose him,” Tony sighed, shaking his head. “And he’s more then just a bot. He’s evolving.”

“Who could find Vision then?” Strange asked.

Tony paused, thinking for a moment. The only reason Vision turned off his transponder was to visit Wanda. He had never done it for this long before, but that was the only reason Tony could think of. Now, if they found Wanda, they would find vision. But, how to find Wanda? Well, Steve would-

“Shit,” Tony breathed. He ran a hand over his face, pulling the ring out of his pocket where he had tucked it away. “Probably Steve Rogers.”

“Oh great,” he heard Stephen say behind him.

“Maybe,” Tony added, shaking his head. “But…”

He trailed off, the pain in his chest coming back. It was different this time. Different then when he talked about it just moments ago with Pepper. This was… This was actually calling Steve. Actually talking to him after what had happened, just four months ago. He could feel the pain in his chest, from where the shield had bruised him so terribly…

“Tony,” Bruce said, sounding hesitant. “Call him.”

“It’s not that easy,” Tony said, voice heavy and thick as he turned to look at Bruce. “God, we haven’t caught up in a spell, have we? See, the Avengers broke up. We’re toast.”

“Broke up?” Bruce sputtered. “Like… Like a band? Like the Beatles?”

Tony shook his head. “Cap and I fell out hard. We’re... not even on speaking terms.”

“Tony… You have to listen to me. Thor’s gone. Thanos is coming. Whatever happened between you two, it has to be put away.”

For a moment, Tony just looks at him. He takes a deep breath, looking around at the others before cursing the stupid phone. Pulling the old flip phone out of his pocket, Tony flipped it open. He had promised Peter he could be there if he made a call, but he guessed he would have to break that promise… But, for a minute, all he could do was stare at the only contact in the phone. God, why did it have to be this way?

But just before he could hit send, he heard the rumbling. He looked around, blinking in surprise as he noticed Strange’s hair moving ever so slightly. Though, he had to admit. It did look rather bouncy.

“Say, Doc, you wouldn't happen to be moving your hair, would you?”

XxXXxX

Peter leaned back in his seat on the bus, arms crossed as he glared a little at his tablet. There was just… so much to do! He had to tell the school who he really was by the end of the month, and then the wedding. Not to mention trying to help his dad get over the whole… thing with his p- with Steve.

Taking a deep breath, Peter shoved his tablet back in his bag, having enough of wedding plans for the day. It was a bit harder to do without Wade around, but he understood that Wade had his work to do. With the Accords in full effect, and still being amended, Wade had just a bit more freedom at the moment as he finished up his mercenary work. Sure, he had been in Europe for the last two weeks, but Wade had promised to be back in a few days the last time they had talked on the phone.

Just as Peter laid his head back on the window, he felt tingles run up his spine and the hairs on his arm stand up straight. Confused, he glanced out the window, mouth instantly dropping open. His hand reached out blindly, patting Ned on the face.

“Ned,” he breathed. “Ned, I need a distraction…”

It only took Ned one look out the window to instantly freak out. Peter couldn’t blame him. It was a giant fucking space disc coming down from the sky. Who wouldn’t be freaking out? The entire bus was in chaos within seconds, Peter quickly slipping out the window of the bus to web himself back to the city.

“Friday,” Peter said as he skidded across the water under the bridge, flying high into the city. “Where’s Dad? Johnny and Susan?”

“Hogan has the Tiny Bosses at the Mansion. Boss is already on site,” Friday helpfully supplies. “Looks like he’ll need some assista