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Peter has never seen the stars.

 

Okay, no, that's not entirely true. He's seen stars, it's not like the night sky is completely devoid of them where he lives, especially out in Queens. He has seen Polaris, and the Big Dipper, and Orion…the bright ones everybody sees. 

 

But he's never really seen the stars, you know? Not in the big way he's seen on the TV when he and May curl up together on the couch to watch reruns of Planet Earth or whatever is on the Science channel. He hasn't seen them the same way he's seen them in slides at school or in the displays at museums.

 

It's another item on a long list of items he's convinced he has to experience before he dies. Along with just leaving the city in general, or country. Berlin had been a step in the right direction on that front, though it had been short-lived and he'd been confined to his hotel room most of the trip.

 

Not to mention getting his ass handed to him by Captain America and a freaking giant.

 

Since then, a lot has happened in a short amount of time, and maybe it's a stretch, but Peter would even be inclined to say that he has become a whole new person. If not completely, then he's at least on his way…

 

He's been through epic battles and been excited, been rebellious, been crushed (literally), and has genuinely been terrified. He's screwed up (a lot), hit rock bottom, and managed to crawl his way back towards something that is a semblance of normalcy.

 

Most importantly, he's started to get a sense of who he is, and who he wants to be.

 

He's started to see that normalcy is more precious than stardom in many cases, that people are more important than things, and that there is an in-between when it comes to what's here on the ground, and what's up there in the sky.

 

Peter has found his place in that middle ground, an umbrella between the little guy and the detritus that rains down from those above them. And he made that decision, first because he felt it was the one those above wanted him to make, a test, but then, as he moved forward, he realized, it was the right one all along.

 

But it didn't mean that Peter didn't still yearn for the stars once in a while.

 

Which is why, three months after his decision not to join the Avengers, when his phone rings and Mr. Stark's name flashes across the screen, he immediately picks it up, butterflies in his stomach.

 

"Hey, kid- listen, got a bit of an…issue here, rest of the team's tied up. I know you're all about the solo act now, but- could use a hand, if you're interested. Outside city limits sort of gig."

 

"YEAH-I mean…" Peter clears his throat, ducking his head as the rest of the Science Olympiad team raises their eyebrows at him. He grimaces apologetically and puts his finger up to ask for a minute. Turning his back on the group, he cups his hand between the phone and his mouth. "Yes. I think I can swing it. When would we leave?"

 

"When's the science club end?"

 

"Uh-" Peter has no idea how Tony knew that, and the thought that the billionaire is still keeping tabs on him is both…annoying and also…comforting. "…Half an hour. How did you-"

 

"I'll meet you in the parking lot then."

 

The line clicks dead before Peter can get out his question.

 

~~~

 

Tony has seen the stars one too many times, and to this day, whenever he finds himself under the night sky, he tries not to look up.

 

It used to fascinate him.

 

There is one time, he remembers (has been clinging to it for years, especially now…that he knows the truth), when his father was being uncharacteristically involved, where the two of them had driven out to the mountains in the beige town car that would later serve as Howard's grave. He had to have been ten years old. His dad had pulled over on a turnout on the windy road, where the trees had spread, but the city wasn't visible. Together they'd grabbed an old telescope out of the trunk that Tony had been eyeing in the attic. The fascinated look on his younger self's face must have sparked something in the old man, perhaps a fragment of regret, because they took the whole night and looked at the stars. Charted them. Howard went on and named off the constellations, and Tony, though he already knew them all, kept his mouth shut, because if he said he already knew, maybe he'd burst this bubble. Maybe the spell would be broken, and Howard would decide it wasn't worth the time, and pack them up and take them back where things would continue on as they had…

 

Now when he looks up at the stars, all he gets is a constricting feeling that threatens to take the breath from his lungs and buckle his knees.

 

Tony will never have kids of his own. He's a little old for that anyways, but his life is dangerous and unpredictable. He doesn't have time, and he's convinced he'd be a terrible father. Convinced he'd turn out like his old man. Buried in work, unable to spare a few fucks except every once in a while. Plus…there's just too much baggage…

 

Pepper doesn't agree with his self-diagnosis, though she's inclined to agree kids just wouldn't suit their style, the two of them.

 

Tony snaps his head to the side as the door to his Audi opens.

 

Peter's head pokes into view a little hesitantly, glancing around the car. "Uh…Hey, Mr. Stark-…" He says awkwardly.

 

Tony waves his hand for the teenager to get in. "Come on, kid, don't got all day, and the license plate isn't exactly inconspicuous."

 

Peter's face drops and he immediately looks behind him, watching the other members of his science team filtering out of the halls. "Oh-oh, right, crap."

 

He slides into the car, and Tony's pressing on the gas before the teenager even has the door closed.

 

Peter sits awkwardly in the front seat, his backpack between his knees, fingers fiddling with the hook strap, and his eyebrows raised while he keeps his lips pressed into a thin line. Tony can understand why. It's been three months of radio silence between the two of them, ever since Peter turned down his offer. As proud as he is of the kid…he has been prodded by Pepper and Happy to admit that perhaps he is also a little hurt, a whole load of crap he doesn't feel like facing or dealing with, on top of everything else.

 

And he is proud. Make no mistake. He's been keeping track, telling FRIDAY to filter out newspaper clippings, online articles, and videos involving Spider-Man. You know, as a professional, sort of…keeping an eye on his assets sort of thing. Not because he's worried (Pepper teases him every time she catches him scrolling through his Starkpad), and not because he has retained a personal interest (As Happy points out when he hands the man Peter's schedule for the spring semester). And yes, he's aware that he's kidding himself, because as he sits there trying to objectively keep track of a costumed vigilante (that he personally retrofitted), and realizes he's proud, it becomes a little hard to argue with yourself at that point.

 

So maybe he's a little hurt. And radio silence wasn't the most…mature way to go about addressing that.

 

"…So…" Peter's voice brings him back, and Tony glances over as the teenager pushes his mouth to the side, clicking his tongue awkwardly. "…Where are we going?"

 

Tony chuckles. It's a little akin to their first meeting, he thinks.

 

"Ever been to the midwest?"

 

Peter shakes his head, furrowing his brows a little. "What's out there?"

 

Tony waves his hand vaguely. "A company that got in way over their heads with some illegal experimentation. It's some x-files junk. Get ready see some weird crap."

 

The edges of Peter's mouth tilt up slightly. "Cool-. Well…not cool. But-" He stares down at his backpack, and Tony can barely hear the 'Pretty awesome' that he mumbles under his breath.

 

It's a start in the right direction.

 

~~~

 

It is definitely not pretty awesome.

 

First off- the midwest is boring. Like…terminally boring.

 

He starts to get an idea about that when the only thing he can see through the quinjet window is , well…flat land. Just a whoooooole lot of it, as well as random geometrical patches of Earth that indicate different farms. Those were cool to see, admittedly, but after half an hour his city brain wants to rip his eyes out and he starts wandering around the quinjet inspecting every inch of it, until Mr. Stark has to tell him to sit the Hell down, kid.

 

The quinjet is decidedly not boring. It is terminally awesome.

 

 Whatever this place is, they don't allow air travel into the company property when in lockdown, so he and Tony have to land at a nearby airfield. It's the smallest landing strip Peter has ever seen, cracked and crumbling from years of neglect. There are only small biplanes here, their wings rigged for crop dusting, and Peter is ducking under a plane, inspecting the setup in his Spider-Man uniform as Tony's suit builds itself around him.

 

Tony flies to the compound, keeping low, Peter right on his heels (literally), a web line attached to his foot as they fly past miles and miles of flat flat flat land.

 

What do people even do here?

 

Tony assures him there are bigger cities and this location isn't indicative of the entire midwest. Peter doesn't believe him. They are literally in the middle of nowhere, and the teenager remembers some old cartoon he watched as a very small child about a dog who lived with some old couple in a place like this. A bunch of weird crap always happened in that show. He doesn't even remember the name, and thinks idly, this is not what he had in mind when he wanted to get out of the city.

 

The outside of the compound where this company resides is also boring. It's grey, and frankly, looks like a cannery. Peter is not impressed.

 

The inside is not boring.

 

The inside is also not the inside for very long.

 

Peter turns on his side, groaning slightly before he hears a roar and rolls out of the way. A giant, tentacle-like thing slams into the ground next to him, sending an inky black substance splattering off it and everywhere it hits. The ground, as well as metal shrapnel unfortunate enough to be in the vicinity, starts to sizzle where the substance lands, slowly being eaten away. Peter glances down to his suit, checking the few black splotches that he's managed to get on him. It sizzles, but Karen assures him the fabric is holding strong.

 

He's got to ask Mr. Stark what this thing is made of.

 

The west wall of the building is gone, and Peter can see Iron Man propelling himself backwards, firing through the chest arc at another one of the creatures. Peter looks up, staring at the 12-foot inky blob that stands in front of him, opening its mouth to reveal sharp teeth and reeling back for another hit. Peter jumps to his feet and leaps as far to the right as he can, avoiding the hit and the resulting acidic spray altogether.

 

"--keep these things contained," Tony is saying through the link in their suits, his voice clipped in concentration. "How's the suit holding up? You been hit?"

 

"It's working, what's this thing made of anyw-" Peter's is cut off by a painful strike against his back. His breath escapes his lungs as he is hurled forward, crossing his arms in front of his face as he smashes through one of the concrete walls. Stars black out his vision for a moment, and he rolls to his side, groaning. Distantly, he hears sizzling across his back, followed by an electronic whine as the parachute pouch is breached.

 

"Ow-…"

 

"Peter! You hurt? Talk to me, kid-"

 

"-Fine, just, y'know, fiddling with the landscaping-" Peter mumbles, pushing himself up into a sitting position. His eye lens is cracked, layering a spider-web design (aaaayyyyye) across his suit's display, mucking up the night vision. "The feng shui is totally off on this place. No wonder they've got problems-"

 

A nervous chuckle sounds over the comm, as Peter sees the arc beam soar across the space ahead of him. "This is worse than I thought. Maybe you should pull back-"

 

"No! I got it-" Peter argues, standing and dusting himself off. No way is he getting sidelined again. He'd earned his right to be here. He webs up the giant blob who had knocked him through the wall, but looks on in dismay as his webbing sizzles and evaporates right off the beast. "But…I think we should approach this from a different angle."

 

"Agreed. My repulsors aren't doing shit," came a grumbled reply. "Every time I cut off a piece, it just grows back. And my suit's acid resistant, but it's not airtight. I'm starting to get some malfunctions. Few more minutes and my flight capabilities are toast." 

 

Peter ducks, rolling and sliding out of the way of another tentacle-arm, taking him back towards the West end of the building. He jumps quickly, avoiding some sort of spill that seems to have occurred in the battle. The stench of chemicals fills his nose.

 

"…We're at a chemical plant," he realizes suddenly.

 

"Well, at least I know you pay attention," Comes the sarcastic reply.

 

Peter rolls his eyes. "No, no-! Look, we're just trying to hit them, but they aren't really…hittable. Right? But they're a semi-liquid, so they aren't that stable. They'd be easy to break apart if we could just touch them. But they're acidic, something's making them that way-"

 

"…I've been a super hero too long." Peter sees Iron Man slam into the ground, skidding across the pebbled surface of the Earth, slowing to a stop. "I should have thought of that at least 7 minutes ago. Go, I'll hold 'em off. You know what you're looking for?"

 

"Yeah!" Peter shouts, ducking into the building once again.

 

He pointedly ignores the sounds of roaring, smashing, and repulsor blasts as he swings through the compound, landing on the wall and searching the various tanks of chemicals, looking for a large amount of anything-…

 

There.

 

Iron Man is on the ground, his thrusters sputtering and being dragged across the earth when Peter steps out of the building with the largest hose he's ever laid eyes on wrapped in his arms. All three of the blobs have converged on Mr. Stark, they're about to rip him apart. His heart nearly skips a beat.

 

"HEY!" Peter shouts, and for some reason that works. All three stop, including Iron Man, who freezes mid-blast to look at the webslinger. Peter digs his feet into a patch of concrete, making sure he's stuck. "Soooo…I think we can all agree that this situation escalated pretty quickly. Let's just take it back to the basics, okay?"

 

He hears Tony groan dramatically over the comm as Peter pulls the lever, and yelps slightly as the force of the escaping liquid pushes him back. Thank God for sticky feet. The smell of ammonia assaults his nose and he scrunches his face as the liquid coats everything in its path, drenching the blobs in its wake. Gas begins to waft off of the creatures, white salt particles appearing on the ground around them.

 

He has no idea what the overall pH of these suckers are, but hopefully it should be enough…

 

Mr. Stark seems to think so, because he chooses that moment to dive his hand into the center of one of the blobs. There doesn't seem to be an instant sizzling or corrosive reaction. Peter sees a black light emit from inside the blob, and then suddenly, a ripple effect starts to overtake the creature. It lets out a high-pitched screech, as the rippling increases, then suddenly---It loses stability. The entire creature just…loses its form, spilling onto the concrete as if it were nothing more than black ink.

 

Spider-Man keeps the hose trained on the remaining two as Iron Man ducks tentacles to get to each of their centers. In another minute and a half, they're alone on the compound, and Peter shuts off the stream of ammonia.

 

"…I smell like a thousand litter boxes." Tony's voice comes in, a little distorted, over the radio. "My worst case scenario on any given day."

 

"Sorry," Peter scrunches up his nose, trying not to gag against the taste on his tongue, enhanced by his heightened senses.

 

Iron Man is on his feet, the suit moving with a few glitches, but otherwise alright. The face mask lifts up and Tony is pulling faces, spitting onto the pebbles below as he and Peter meet in the middle of the remains of the battle. Peter reaches up and pulls off his mask, blinking against the transition from the green display to unassisted vision. It's dark and the only light is coming from the exposed innards of the compound, as well as the glow of the arc reactor in Tony's chest.

 

"Don't worry about it, in fact-" Tony gives him an odd look, before reaching forward and grabbing Peter's shoulder with a small mechanical whir. "Nice work, Kid. Good thinking."

 

He doesn't need Tony's approval, Peter had decided months ago, when he walked away from the Avengers compound with a smile on his face. He'd gone forward with that notion in his head, saving old ladies, rounding up hybrid Chitauri weaponry, and even, occasionally, taking down other costumed foes. He'd become rather self-sufficient in a short amount of time. He'd ignored the radio silence, focusing on other things. He had pushed away the thought that Tony's final offer actually referred to more than just the Avengers. Even if it was disappointing. Even if it stung a little.

 

Peter smiles wide, the familiar feeling of validation he'd convinced himself he didn't need budding in his chest. "Really?"

 

"Mmhmm," Tony nods. "Using your brain instead of your fists: pretty valuable. I forget sometimes: usually fists work."

 

Peter smirks at that. "Usually."

 

Tony nods, silent for a moment, before turning away. "Well, there! Team up accomplished. Bad guy neutralized. Life lesson learned. Now we can go home and get on with our lives." He shakes his metal hands, letting the spray of ammonia, which has settled into collections of droplets, fly off his fingertips.

 

Peter deflates a little. "Right."

 

"Give it five or ten minutes, my thrusters are a pile of corroded bricks. Called the jet."

 

"Okay." Peter follows Tony as he walks away from the compound, heading for what Peter assumes will be the place where the quinjet will touch down: the open space beyond the chain link fence. He doesn't really know…what he was expecting. A heart-to-heart? Some memorable experience? Something beyond the battle? He'd gotten validation, right? Tony thought he was doing a good job, and it's not like Peter should expect anything more than that. So why was he feeling so…lousy?

 

Great trip. Ten out of ten. Would recommend. Unforgettable memories, Peter thinks sarcastically.

 

As they stop on the edge of the compound, Tony folding his arms over his chest and Peter biting his lip, he kicks himself, dragging his hands over his face and looking up to the sky.

 

His mouth drops open in silent awe.

 

~~~

 

Peter has never seen the stars.

 

The thought hits Tony like a ton of bricks as he turns his head and sees this teenager gaping up at the sky like a chicken ready to drown itself in the rain. For a second, his brain goes on red alert, thinking perhaps the kid has spotted some sort of threat, and they need to get ready for battle right now.

 

But when he looks up there's nothing there. Just stars. Millions and millions of stars, and Tony turns back to Peter before he can hyperventilate and wonders what the hell is he looking at before he realizes really, truly, that Peter hasn't been to Germany. Hasn't been to the Midwest, nervously tells Happy he's never been on a plane…

 

And never seen the stars. Never been in a place where the light pollution doesn't suck every little blip of light out of the sky and reduce it to a dull, orange constant. Never experienced true, comforting darkness, and real silence. The kind of silence that turns you inside-out a little when you stop talking and really listen and hear nothing.

 

He's just experienced a big, chaotic city that never sleeps. That even in the calmer areas like Queens sticks out on the horizon like a huge, orange dome, eating up half the night sky.

 

Tony feels something, he's not even sure what it is, when Peter's awed expression slowly curls up into a bright smile, barely visible from the dull illumination the arc reactor provides, but still there. It's a smile he hasn't seen in years, on anybody he's had the pleasure or displeasure of  interacting with.

 

Before he even consciously makes the decision, he's whispering to FRIDAY to call off the quinjet.

 

"…Like what you see?" He asks.

 

Peter's expression immediately become shy, as he snaps out of his daze and looks up at Tony, eyes wide. He nods slightly, glancing back up.

 

"There's so many…I mean-, I knew that, that there were a lot, and I've seen it on TV and in pictures, but-" Peter trails off, before looking back up.

 

"Know a lot about the stars?" Tony keeps his eyes on Peter.

 

"Mmhmm, My uncle had all these books, and a telescope." Peter finally says, biting his lip. His expression falls slightly. "He used to show me all these star charts, but we didn't have a car that could really handle going outside the city, and he and May worked a lot, so we never got to go. He'd take me on the roof of our apartment building though, whenever there was a New Moon, or a power outage. We'd drink hot chocolate and stuff-…" The frown was deep now. Peter huffs. "Sorry, that's-…you don't want to hear about that."

 

The sting that accompanies that assumption is like a slap to the face, and in an instant, Tony is reminded of Howard. Cold, always-working, unable-to-face-the-facts (ironic) Howard. How had Tony already gotten to that point with this kid, and when had he started to think of his relationship with Peter as comparable to that of he and his father, and thus, comparable to any father-son relationship in general?

 

Why did it upset him so much that Peter didn't consider Tony as somebody he could talk to, when Tony hated talking to people about feelings in the first place?

 

Perhaps Happy and Pepper weren't too far off. Perhaps he ought to stop fooling himself.

 

Tony isn't an idiot. He'd found out the kid was Spider-Man, but he hadn't stopped there. He knows Peter's biological parents are dead. He knows the boy had lost his uncle almost a year ago now, and had, very close to that time, acquired his powers. He is going through the toughest part of his life right now: changing into the person he will become forever, and that is just addressing his age. That isn't even touching on the subject of being Spider-Man. He had done all of that alone, not even telling the one parent he had left about what had happened to him. Of course…now she knows (as Tony had found out through one very intense phone call one afternoon), but essentially, he's still doing this alone. It's like he's learning to drive stick without prior knowledge, and everybody in his life only knows how to drive an automatic.

 

And if you've ever learned to drive stick, you know…it's way easier when the person in the passenger seat has done it before. Even if they're not that good at it themselves.

 

Tony wants to make one thing clear.

 

He doesn't want to replace anybody.

 

He doesn't want to be the kid's father. God, heaven and everybody on Earth knows he'd be absolute shit at that.

 

But he does worry.

 

And he does have a personal interest.

 

And damnit, he cares about Peter Parker in a weird, new way that he's never cared about someone before. It's strange and paternal and he's not even sure he likes it.

 

But he's gonna go with it. No more radio silence.

 

He steps out of the suit, to Peter's apparent surprise, because the kid is staring at him blankly. Tony stuffs his hands in his pockets, staring at the ground, gnawing on his bottom lip. The teenager next to him is still, eyes locked on the billionaire.

 

It's a two-way street, Tony. He thinks to himself. You gotta give to receive. Dad never gave. That was his problem.

 

"…I hate the sky." Tony finally said.

 

Peter's eyebrows rise, and he immediately glances up at the sky as if he would somehow be able to find something wrong with it if he tried hard enough. "…Why?"

 

Tony shakes his head, stepping forward and into a small, circular pacing pattern. He still doesn't look up. "I've got issues with it. Hopefully issues you'll never have." That isn't good enough, and he knows it, looking at Peter's confused expression. He tries again.

 

"Eight and a half years ago, you remember that, right?"

 

Peter takes a second to respond, then nods slowly. "The Battle of New York."

 

"Yeah, the government decided they were going to nuke the city. You know, sacrifice millions for the greater good, all that-" Tony shook his head in disgust. "So I do what any insane person does: I make a decision. Grab the nuke, fly it through the portal, and nobody's gotta die, right? Just me."

 

Peter's eyes widen slightly. "…I watched you."

 

Tony stops at that. "What?"

 

Peter nods. "I was at school. We were under our desks, but I could see through the window. I saw you disappear through the portal. I didn't know it was a bomb…"

 

"Nobody did," Tony replies softly. "Thankfully."

 

"…What happened?"

 

"I was lucky," Tony says hollowly. "…I got pulled back out at the last moment, right before the portal closed, but not before I -" He sighs.

 

Peter is watching him intently, his expression serious, accentuated by the cold, white light of the arc reactor. He doesn't say anything. He waits.

 

"-The last thing I saw, was the stars." Tony says. "Now every time I look at them, I just-" He waves his hand around vaguely.

 

"-You feel like you did when you thought you were gonna die," Peter whispers.

 

Tony eyes him. "…Yes." He furrows his brow at the teenager. "How-"

 

"When I fought the Vulture, he dropped a building on me, and I guess-after, for a while, I couldn't deal with small spaces." Peter has to have seen the way Tony's heart jumps into his throat, because he immediately backpedals.  "I-I'm fine now! But for a while, it was bad. It was like, I'd walk into a building and I'd look at the supports and-…I'd feel like I couldn't breathe."

 

Dropped a building on him. Dropped a building on him. He pushes down that nugget of panic. "You neglected to mention that."

 

"I'm fine now. I figured it out."

 

Tony actually scoffs. "What's your secret?" He asks sarcastically. "Youth and a naïve sense of invincibility?"

 

Peter has shown that when snarked at, he'll give it right back. This time is different. "…I made myself realize that it wasn't the same building. It sounds dumb, I guess. Of course it's not the same building. But I made myself really, really think about that. I'd stand in a building, especially an old one. You know, one that looks like it's about to come down? And I would force myself to pick out all the differences. Until my…like, I dunno…my brain was sure it was different?"

 

"Huh," The billionaire looks at Peter, tilting his head. Once again, that odd, new, and weird feeling comes over him. "…You're a tough kid."

 

Peter smiles slightly.

 

Tony sighs, stuffing his hands into his pockets. "I think you'll be alright." He says, turning away from Peter slightly. They're standing side by side, and Tony clicks his tongue inside his mouth, staring at the ground. Ah, Hell. He tilts his head from side to side, stalling a moment, before looking up.

 

Above is this giant expanse of sky, brighter and more vibrant than anything he's seen in a good, long while. About eight and a half years, if he's being precise. Millions of stars illuminate the sky, small variations of color stippling the black backdrop. And across it all, arcs a brilliant belt of light made up of clusters of dusty starlight. The sight sends feelings of vertigo through his gut. He feels the cold slowly grip him, pulling him away from his body-

 

He feels Peter's eyes on him.

 

"…That's the Perseus arm, and the Orion Spur…"

 

Tony is ripped out of his trance momentarily, looking back at Peter, who is pointing at the sky, Tony chances a glance back. "Right there, between Cassiopeia and Orion…" His finger points at one constellation in the sky, then drags it down the length of the belt of starlight, landing on Orion's belt. "They're arms of the Milky Way galaxy." Peter seems to hesitate for a second, before asking, "…Did you see the Milky Way? That day?"

 

Tony knows the stars like the back of his hand. "…No."

 

"So it's a different sky," Peter whispers, before looking back up. He points at another constellation. "Look, there's…Andromeda, I think. And above that is Lacerta." He sweeps his hand across the sky. "The Big Dipper."

 

"Not a constellation," Tony murmurs, breathing slowly. He tries to remember the sky that day, it was much more colorful. It was…bright, populated, he could see more…it looked like a painting, not the sky he knew. It was…unrecognizeable. A flash.

 

This was a map, if you could think of it that way. Like a road map. If you read it right, you could tell where you were.

 

And he wasn't there…wasn't there.

 

It was a different sky.

 

"It's a part of Ursa Major," He finally corrected, scooting closer to Peter, and pointing. Peter nodded, opening his mouth to agree, Tony was sure, by how rapidly he reacted. But then he shut his mouth instead.

 

"…Leo," Tony said, his hand swiping across the sky. "Oh, okay, here's one you don't see in every beginner's textbook, Monoceros. Right there." He put his hand around Peter's shoulder, pulling the kid in so they were looking at the same thing. Peter nodded, his expression turning into a grin.

 

"Oh, yeah, I see it. I didn't know that one." He points up and traces a shape with his hand. "…is that one?"

 

"Uhhhhh, I think…yeah, that's part of Taurus," Tony confirms. Peter squints, trying to find the rest of it, and Tony ends up drawing it for him with his index finger.

 

They don't stop until they've named every one they know by heart. And after that, Tony's downloading an app on his phone and they memorize the ones they don't. Peter starts looking for planets, taking in every drop of information he can find with wide, greedy eyes,  and Tony thinks it's cause the teen knows he won't get to see something like this again so soon. He tells himself he's gotta take the kid out here again, maybe during summer break, when the Milky Way is brighter. Maybe even further North. Imagine the kid's face when he sees the Aurora Borealis. He imagines neither he, nor his Aunt has seen it, and makes a mental note to invite May along as well. Now that she knows…nothing's off the table really. They both deserve a break.

 

Slowly the terror of the past is replaced by his plans for the future.

 

It didn't stop the feeling of tightness. It didn't completely get rid of the feeling of reverse vertigo. But he didn't feel quite as much like he was going to lose his footing. Like he might float up and out there and never return, swallowed up into the abyss.

 

It was a different sky

 

With different stars.

 

Ones he felt he was seeing for the first time.