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peter parker vs valentine's day

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Peter didn’t go to school on the Monday after Kurt Connors died.

Instead, he stayed, wrapped up in bed and staring at the small baby blanket Pepper had given him. He’d loved it once. He’d carried it everywhere with him and slept with it every night. Peter strained for the memories that stayed just out of reach. No matter how much he was told about his childhood, no matter how many photos he stared at and videos he replayed a hundred times, he could only remember a few things: the hazy, golden tinge, Pepper’s sun-like hair, and gentle hands holding his own.

Peter huffed and flipped onto his back.

He was ignoring his phone. It had been going off all day. Thirty-one texts from Ned, two from Michelle. He hadn’t told them that he wasn’t coming to class, and the only message he’d sent to Ned over the weekend was a quick one to tell him he was alive.

Not okay. Alive.

Peter hadn’t felt okay in days.

Blowing out a breath, Peter tried to zone in on all the sounds in the house. He did this sometimes to pass the time; did it to ground himself and remind himself where he was. Peter could hear the faint buzzing of electrics; the television in the living room, the lights in the bathroom, the fan of a laptop sitting in the kitchen somewhere. There was the ticking of three clocks, the sound of Pepper’s nails tapping against the counter, Tony’s steady breathing.

“We could cancel, you know,” Pepper said. Her voice was distant but he caught it.

Tony sighed. “I know but he’d feel bad if he knew why we cancelled.”

“Then we don’t tell him.”

“Pep.”

“I know. But I’d feel bad about leaving him here with someone, especially after everything he told us.”

Peter swallowed and sat up. There was a pause in their conversation and Peter took his chance to move to the door and lightly click it open. He could hear them more clearly without it in the way.

“I can make another reservation if you want to stay. We’ll do it another night.”

“No… We can’t do that. We should keep the reservation. It’s Valentine’s Day, after all, and we barely got time to ourselves before he came back, let alone after.”

“Alright, then what do we tell him? That we have to give him another babysitter? He’s seventeen, he’s not going to want that.”

Peter crept out into the hallway and slowly descended the stairs, keeping his feet as close to the wall as he could to avoid the squeaks.

“I’m not sure,” Pepper replied. “He feels like he’s being watched all the time, what if we just gave him a night off?”

“Fury would blow a gasket.”

“Fury doesn’t have to know.”

They both stopped talking so Peter froze on the staircase, listening to Pepper’s nails, tapping, Tony’s breathing, steady, and the news he could now hear, playing in the background.

“FRIDAY,” Tony said, suddenly. “Is Peter still in his room?”

Peter winced.

“No, Peter is on the staircase. I believe he is listening to your conversation.”

Wince intact, Peter called out, “Sorry!” and heard Pepper’s snort in response.

“Kid, get in here.”

Peter descended the stairs and rounded into the kitchen. Pepper was leaning against the kitchen island, and Tony was sitting on the back of the living room sofa, the TV playing to itself. It was almost noon – Peter expected at least one of them to be at work by now.

“In my defence,” Peter started as he walked in, “you two should stop talking about me in my hearing range.”

Tony rolled his eyes. “We’re going to do a full set of tests on your hearing. Can you hear everything in this house?”

Peter locked eyes with him. “Everything. Too much. Way, way too much.”

For a few seconds, no one moved, then Peter smiled and went in search of orange juice in the fridge. Pepper watched him with a raised eyebrow, the tense look melting from her face.

“You seem chipper today,” she commented. “Maybe you should’ve gone to school after all.”

Peter shook his head, pulling out the carton. “I wasn’t feeling great until just now,” he admitted. “I think I can turn it on and off.” Or, maybe, it was being in the same room as them that made him feel better. (He decided not to mention that.)

His parents frowned at each other until Peter drank the juice straight from the carton. Then Pepper knocked on the box lightly.

“Stop that,” she complained. “You’ll get your germs in the OJ. No one needs that.”

Peter rolled his eyes and pulled a glass from the cabinet, pouring the juice in.

“So, Pete,” Tony said, moving over to the island. “What did you think about the conversation you eavesdropped on?”

He shrugged, putting away the juice. “I don’t have all the context,” he replied, “but it sounds like you want to go out.” He didn’t want to address the elephant-sized babysitter in the room.

“Well, it is Valentine’s Day tomorrow,” Pepper replied.

Peter frowned. “What’s that?”

His parents shared a glance and Tony asked, “You don’t know what Valentine’s Day is?”

“…No. It sounds like I should though.”

“Well, you knew about it when you were little,” Pepper said. “You made a card for everyone in your class. There was glitter everywhere for weeks.”

Peter smiled but he didn’t mean it. The memories didn’t resurface, even with the prompting. “So what is it?” he asked, sipping at his juice.

“It’s like, the day everyone celebrates love,” Tony replied, waving his hands around. “It’s an excuse to go on dates and spend lots of money on chocolate, flowers and expensive restaurants. It’s like a capitalist holiday.”

“Like Christmas,” Peter supplied.

“Well – yeah, kind of. But Christmas has some sort of religious background or something. Valentine’s Day has this Saint, but no one knows what he did to deserve a day.”

Pepper shrugged when Peter looked to her.

“So you’ve got a reservation for Valentine’s Day at a fancy restaurant,” Peter summarised. “You should go.”

 

-

 

They decided to take a risk.

“If Fury finds out about this, we’re in deep shit,” Tony said for what must’ve been the third time that day. Monday was drawing to a close and the decision they’d made that morning was still sitting awkwardly on their shoulders – but Peter was excited.

This was what trust felt like. They were going to leave him alone as they went off on their date night, and Peter, for the first time ever, wouldn’t have someone immediately watching him. Except FRIDAY, but she didn’t count, because she was always watching everyone.

“Fury’s not going to find out,” Pepper replied. “Also, language.”

“I’ve killed a man,” Peter said, mild, “I know about the word ‘shit’.”

Peter.

“Also, ‘fuck’. That’s a good one.”

Peter, I will change my mind about this and call Natasha.”

He snorted. “She’ll be busy with Clint, she won’t want to babysit me.”

Tony frowned from where he lounged in the armchair. “Nat and Clint aren’t dating.”

“What?”

“Yeah,” Tony said with a nod. “Did you think they were?”

“Well, yeah,” Peter replied. “You’ve seen them together. They’re inseparable. I thought they were, like, married or something.”

“Clint’s married,” Pepper said.

“And he has three kids.”

What?

“They have a farm,” Tony added. “It’s all very domestic.”

“And I think Nat’s got an interest in Bruce.”

Banner?

“The one and only.”

Peter flopped back onto the sofa and blew out a breath. “I feel lied to.”

“No one lied to you, buddy,” Tony said. “No one said they were together.”

“Yeah but they’re like that, you know? It was the logical assumption. And Bruce? Where did he come from? I’ve never seen them interact once! That’s a leftfield relationship, that is.”

His parents laughed and Peter pouted until they were done.

“Now, school,” Tony said. “Are you gonna go tomorrow?”

Peter pursed his lips in thought, then sunk further into the sofa. He felt good at home, because it was home. Because Pepper and Tony were there to keep him company, because they knew him – all of him – and didn’t turn their backs. School wasn’t like that. School was filled to the brim with people who didn’t know him but knew the rumours, who whispered and yelled and didn’t bully him exactly, but they weren’t friendly. They weren’t friends. They didn’t know him. They just stared, pointed and gawked like he was on display.

Sure, some part of him wanted to see Ned and Michelle again, but that same part of him didn’t want to go back just yet; wanted to spend time in hiding somewhere he felt comfortable, knowing that he had the option to leave, even if he wasn’t taking it.

His mother seemed to understand the message. “I’ll be at work all day,” Pepper told him, brushing his hair from his forehead. “I’ll get back around four. Think you can hold down the fort without me?”

“I once abducted Saudi Arabian royalty and smuggled him out of the country,” Peter replied, bland. “I think I can hold down the fort.”

Pepper blinked twice. “For the love of God, Peter, stop telling me things like that.”

 

-

 

The next day, he continued to ignore his phone. Eventually, he turned it off, changed into his most comfortable clothes (pink, Hello Kitty pyjama pants that Rhodey had bought him for Christmas, because Rhodey had no idea what he liked – turned out he liked pink, Hello Kitty pyjama pants) and a thick Iron Man hoodie that clashed with the pyjamas, that Tony had given him. It smelt vaguely of laundry detergent and that was good enough for Peter.

During the day, he bundled up on the sofa and watched mind-numbing television. He didn’t bother to step foot in the lab – he hadn’t been feeling up for that in a little while, and he knew he’d only be reminded of his epic failure as Spiderman; the vigilante that couldn’t.

He hadn’t even wrapped his mind around how he would be Spiderman again – if it was even the best thing. Not only would SHIELD pick up on him, but his parents would know immediately, so he’d have to get them on board.

Peter couldn’t see a reality where that was possible.

So, Tony worked downstairs in the lab, the most sound-proofed room in the house (after yesterday, they whispered in every room to find out how far Peter’s hearing extended around the house), and Peter watched a movie series called Mega Shark which wasn’t good, but it wasn’t necessarily bad either, and lived awkwardly in the space between.

His silent phone sat at the end of the sofa and occasionally Peter would glare at it so it knew his feelings. Eventually, sometime after noon, Peter reached over and turned it on. Immediately, his phone flooded with messages.

 

guy in the chair: are you not coming in today?

guy in the chair: peter where are you

guy in the chair: I know you’ve been homeschooled your whole life but its common courtesy to text your friends when you’re not coming in

guy in the chair: flash has answered the last four questions in chemistry wrong

guy in the chair: but bless him he’s still trying

 

The messages went on and on, detailing the events of the day but interspersed with questions as to Peter’s location, and why he wasn’t responding. There were less texts from Michelle.

 

Michelle: your boyfriend is lonely without you

Michelle: and by boyfriend I mean Ned

Michelle: in a non-offensive, non-insulting way, I mean bc if you two are dating that’s cool

Michelle: I support that

 

Peter blew out a breath and responded to none of them. Instead he watched Mega Shark vs Mecha Shark and let the hours pass him by. Valentine’s Day felt no different to any other day, he noticed, as the sharks fought it out. The only difference was that Tony had made Pepper breakfast in bed, there was a fresh vase of flowers on the kitchen isle and Pepper had threatened Tony with death to make sure there was no large stuffed animal that they couldn’t fit through the door again (again?).

So time passed, Peter slumped further into the sofa, and Pepper returned home to press a kiss to Peter’s messy hair and wander upstairs to get changed.

When Peter’s parents had a date night, Peter realised they were having a date night. Not a small thing, but an event. When Pepper and Tony emerged from their room later on, they were dressed like they were attending a wedding, or a funeral, or a meeting with the President. Peter didn’t know what was happening, other than his father wearing an impeccable three-piece suit (which, Peter guessed, was worth in the range of $10,000, because it was Tony Stark), and his mother was wearing a floor-length evening gown with a low back, and jewellery that sparkled something incredible.

“Holy shit,” Peter said, mild, when they appeared in the living room.

“Language,” Tony said, just as casually.

“You know, I don’t even own a suit, and here you two are like you’re, I don’t know, going to the opera.”

“Oh,” Pepper said with a smile, turning to Tony, “we should go to the opera again.”

“Didn’t I sleep through it last time?”

“Yeah, but it was wonderful. We haven’t been in ages.”

Peter raised an eyebrow at the looks they gave each other (it’s their day, Peter reminded himself) and leaned over the back of the sofa to say goodbye.

“There’s leftovers in the fridge,” Pepper said, carding her fingers gently through Peter’s hair, trying to make the mess look more even. “Please don’t feel the need to cook something from scratch.”

“We’ll be back late, okay? If you’re still awake when we come in, FRIDAY will let you know.”

“Alright,” Peter said, climbing off the sofa to follow them to the door.

“Don’t let strangers in,” Pepper said, “or answer the door at all. If anything happens, phone us immediately, okay? And you know the emergency protocols and who you get FRIDAY to call if there’s an injury – you’re not an ambulance kind of kid, okay? You’re a SHIELD emergency unit kid, and you need to remember that-”

Pepper was cut off by Tony’s laughter. “He knows, Pep.”

“Okay,” she said with a nod, though she looked worried. “Are you sure you’re okay, Peter? Being left alone? We can cancel – we can do this another time-”

“Mom,” Peter said, rolling his eyes. “I’m gonna be fine. I’m just gonna watch bad movies.” Pepper still looked hesitant, though she was clearly struggling against a smile. “How about, you leave right now and I’ll go to school tomorrow.”

She quirked an eyebrow. “You’ll go?” Upon Peter’s nod, she smiled and pressed a kiss against his forehead. “Alright. Have a good night. We won’t be out any later than midnight, okay?”

A moment later, they were gone and a McLaren tore away up the street, lit gold under the street lamps. Peter wandered back into the living room, collapsing onto the sofa and heaving out a breath. School. Tomorrow. He swallowed.

Some part of him wanted to go, sure. He wanted to see Ned and Michelle and be with people; try to forget the mess he made, the mistakes he’d thrown around like gasoline; the matches he’d dropped when he wasn’t looking. Through the inferno that was Spiderman, Peter could see something of normality. Why be a vigilante when he could have something he’d never had the chance to have? (Because he liked it too much, Peter knew. Normality was fine if you weren’t Peter Parker and you couldn’t do what he could.)

It was only half an hour after his parents left that the doorbell rang.

Peter frowned. “We have a doorbell?”

Everyone who visited the secret Stark residence was allowed in by FRIDAY automatically; they had the correct fingerprint and were registered to enter. Even Fury was announced by the AI, rather than ringing the doorbell.

“There appears to be two people at the door. Mrs Boss requested that you do not open the door for anyone.”

Peter rolled his eyes. “Who are they?”

The movie paused on screen and flickered over to the security camera hidden in the corner of the door frame. There, stood Ned Leeds and Michelle Jones, glancing up and down the street as they pressed the doorbell again. It sounded and Peter frowned.

“Gimme audio,” he said, and suddenly he could hear a car driving down the street and his friends’ voices.

“Are you sure this is the right place?” Michelle asked, looking at Ned.

“Yes, I’m sure. I tracked his phone. This is where it brought me. His phone is in there somewhere.”

Michelle huffed, leant forward and pressed the bell again. “Maybe he’s not in.”

Ned didn’t look too sure.

Peter stood, gestured for the screen to vanish and the paused movie reappeared. Peter made his way to the door.

“Peter,” FRIDAY said, ever-calm. “Boss and Mrs Boss do not want you opening the door.”

“I know them,” Peter replied. “They’re my friends.” And I’m a little bit lonely. “Just mute yourself until I say otherwise. I want this to look like a vaguely normal house.”

Peter, officially, had never had a friend over. Surely, when he was little, he’d experienced playdates. Tony and Pepper must’ve had other friends with children; they must’ve had friends for Peter up until he was six years old – but Peter didn’t remember that, and he didn’t know what he was supposed to do.

So, he took a deep breath, adjusted his Iron Man hoodie and opened the door.

Ned and Michelle looked surprised to see him, despite them tracking his phone to that location.

“Hey,” Peter said, short. The door was open just enough for his body to be all they could see. His knuckles went white as he held the door against his hip.

“Peter!” Ned cried. “Where have you been?”

Peter paused. “Here.”

“You didn’t come to school and you didn’t answer our texts! What happened?”

The thing was, Ned knew exactly what happened. It was all over the news. Spiderman had failed to save Kurt Connors. The scientist-turned-giant-lizard was dead.

“I’ve been sick,” Peter lied.

Michelle narrowed her eyes. “Is it contagious?”

“No?”

“Well, can we come in then?”

“Yeah! I’ve never seen your place!” Ned said with a smile.

They weren’t a threat. They were friends. Peter blew out a breath between his lips. Fury was going to kill his parents if he knew they’d left Peter alone and Peter’s parents were going to kill him if they knew he’d let anyone in. Still, he could probably handle it.

Peter opened the door wider. “I guess,” he said, stepping out the way. Michelle and Ned moved to where he stood before, into the house and under FRIDAY’s silent but watchful eye. “My parents are out,” Peter said as he shut the door behind them. He prodded Ned’s shoe with his foot. “No shoes.” Pepper was the only one allowed to wear shoes in the main house, and that was because she was the only one who wasn’t likely to step in mud. Otherwise, shoes were only allowed to be worn in the lab, downstairs.

“Where are they?” Michelle asked, her voice not showing any interest.

“It’s Valentine’s Day,” Peter replied. “They’re out on a date. You know, like parents do.”

“My parents don’t go on dates,” Ned said absently as he neatly lined his shoes up against the wall. “They say every day is like a date.

Michelle made retching noises and followed Peter through to the living room, the movie still paused. “What are you watching?”

Mega Shark vs Kolossus,” Peter replied. “It’s the last one in the series. It’s shit. Have you guys eaten? All I have is leftovers.”

“We should order pizza,” Ned said.

“We should,” Michelle agreed.

Peter imagined opening the door to the pizza delivery guy. Then he imagined the day the world found out about his existence, and the pizza delivery guy realising he’d seen him before and alerting the press to the house. It was paranoid, but-

“Only if I don’t answer the door,” Peter said. “I don’t like doing that.”

“Whatever,” Michelle replied with a shrug, settling into the sofa. “Works for me.”

 

-

 

They watched the movie and ate pizza and told jokes too loudly. Their laughs echoed around the empty house; the walls reflecting their happiness and FRIDAY remaining silent, watching on. The house had very few photos in the communal areas, something Peter had never really considered before but was happy about, because it meant he didn’t have to answer questions. Rather, they ignored the lack of parents and made the most of it; the night seeping in as they changed movies and talked more, Michelle filming them for her Snapchat; Peter walking on his hands through the living room; Michelle throwing popcorn towards Ned and him catching it in his mouth; the three of them yelling at the television when characters did things they didn’t agree with.

Time slipped by without their realising it, and soon the movie was finishing and Ned was looking over to Peter, sprawled out over his end of the sofa.

“Are you coming to school tomorrow?” he asked as Peter reached for the remote to mute the television.

“Yeah, I think so,” Peter replied. They couldn’t talk about Kurt Connors with Michelle present, but Peter was thankful for that. “I’ll be back tomorrow.”

“Too bad you missed Valentine’s Day,” Michelle said, rolling her eyes. “Betty Brant was dressed up as the love fairy and delivered everyone’s secret admirer letters.”

Peter blinked. “Their what?”

“Their letters. Don’t you pay attention? It was being announced for the past two weeks. You leave letters in the mail box by the office and they’re delivered throughout the day. Love letters.”

“I collected yours,” Ned said, reaching for his backpack. “You’re popular.”

“I’m what?

Michelle snorted. “Popular, dummy. After the stunt at Stark Tower, everyone’s obsessed with you.”

Ned produced a stack of pink and red envelopes and passed them over. They fell into Peter’s lap and he stared at them; each had Peter Parker written on the front, with curling letters and love hearts drawn on either side. Peter’s wide eyes darted between the letters as his friends, their laughter filling up the room.

“Open them,” Michelle said. “You never know who wrote you one.”

Peter did, if only because they asked. The letters ranged from short and sweet – thank you for saving our lives at the Tower, you’re really cute – long and poetic – since first you arrived at Midtown I have been overcome by affection – to downright erotic – and then I’d like to lick-

“This is horrifying,” Peter said, pushing that one into Michelle’s hands. She read it out as a dramatic monologue and the three of them succumbed to a fit of laughter when she was done, Peter’s face red and hot. He’d never found a reason to blush before, but by God, that would do it.

“Did you guys get any?” Peter asked.

Ned shook his head, but Michelle held up a single finger.

“It was long, convoluted and I think written by a guy who wants to murder me as much as date me, so, I’m going to say no to them.”

“That sucks,” Peter said, “because I want to murder you more than I want to date you, and he’s kind of taking my territory, don’t you think, Michelle?”

She laughed, rolling her eyes, grabbing another unopened letter.

“MJ,” she said.

“What?”

“MJ, not Michelle. We’re there.”

We’re there.

 

-

 

They should’ve kept track of the time. Silently, Peter cursed FRIDAY for not turning herself off mute and warning him. He remembered, vaguely, of a fairy tale where the carriage turned back into a pumpkin when the clock struck midnight. Peter was feeling rather pumpkin-like when their laughter was cut off by a voice.

“Peter Benjamin Parker.”

Peter shot around, eyes wide as Tony and Pepper stood in the doorway, staring at them.

“Shit.”

“Don’t you shit me,” Tony replied. Peter shot a glance over to his friends, who were staring in shock at the Starks in the room. “What did Pepper say when we left?”

“Don’t let anyone in?” Peter guessed.

“Ding ding ding, we have a winner.”

Pepper wasn’t speaking, just glaring, and Peter figured that was worse.

“In my defence-”

“Oh no,” Tony said, rolling his eyes. “We’re not doing this. You have zero defence. FRIDAY, why didn’t you stop this?”

“He put me on mute,” FRIDAY replied, from above.

“Whoa,” Ned breathed, searching for the AI.

“You put her on mute.” It wasn’t a question, but a statement, yet Peter nodded anyway. Tony blew out a breath. He eyed Peter’s friends and seemed to decide against punishing Peter while they were still present. “FRIDAY, get a driver here. I need someone to take these two home.”

“We can walk, sir,” Ned said, suddenly.

“No, it’s past midnight. You’re not walking anywhere. Do your parents know where you are?”

Ned and MJ glanced at each other, but both nodded. Peter didn’t know if they were lying or not.

“A driver will be here in ten minutes,” FRIDAY said. “Peter, as a delayed notice, Boss and Mrs Boss have arrived home.”

“Thanks FRI.”

“You’re welcome, Peter.”

He swore he could hear a smug satisfaction in her voice.

The room fell into silence for a moment, and Pepper moved across the room, slipping her clutch onto the kitchen island and eyeing the three teenagers on the sofa.

“Peter,” she said at last. “Introduce us, then.”

“Uh, this is Ned and Michelle. They’re in my class. This is – uh, Pepper and Tony.”

“Pepper and Tony Stark,” MJ whispered, and despite herself there seemed to be a slither of awe in her voice.

Pepper nodded, her expression calculating. “You’re the boy Peter works at the robotics club with,” she said. Ned nodded enthusiastically. “Michelle… Jones, correct?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Peter mentioned you were top of the class in History, English and Spanish.” At MJ’s nod, Pepper’s face relaxed an inch. “I see.”

Peter rolled his eyes. Between Tony’s frustrated glaring and Pepper’s neutral expression, they were making Ned and MJ uncomfortable and everyone knew it. “Come on,” he said. “Let’s not be mean to my only friends.”

“No one’s being mean,” Tony replied, light. “We’re just trying to figure out why you would let people into the house against direct instructions. You two must be incredibly intelligent to be at Midtown.”

There was a stretch of silence. “We are,” MJ said after a beat. “Smart enough, at least, to figure out that Peter is the missing Peter Stark from a decade ago.”

The temperature seemed to drop by ten degrees. Peter’s breath caught in his throat, but across the room, Pepper and Tony were both impassive, studying. Tony seemed to make up his mind first and shrugged.

“Not that hard to figure out,” he replied, easy. “You’re clearly in our home, Peter has the same name as our son. It’s two plus two.”

“Oh my god,” Ned whispered. “Peter Stark.

Peter looked over to him. “You know if you breathe a word about this, Iron Man’s going to kill you, right?”

Ned’s wide eyes darted over to Tony. “I’d be honoured to die at Iron Man’s hand.”

MJ snorted, looking over to Peter. “Before I have to sign an NDA that prohibits me from talking about this ever again on the threat of Iron Man-related death,” she said, “was Buzzfeed Unsolved right?” Peter couldn’t supress the smile. MJ hissed, “I knew it.”

 

-

 

They signed the papers before they left. Peter walked them to the door, Ned giddy with excitement and MJ taking a long last look at everything, as if there were clues she’d missed before Peter’s parents returned home.

Peter leaned against the door frame, the car pulling up out front.

“Be quick,” Tony said. “The neighbours are killing to get a look at you.”

“Sure thing, Dad,” Peter replied, absent, watching his friends leave.

Dad,” Ned breathed, making Peter laugh.

Tony vanished further into the house and MJ turned back to Peter. “I know you didn’t mean for us to find out,” she said with a shrug, “or maybe you did – you knew when they were coming home – but it’s cool of you to trust us with this. We won’t tell anyone. Really.”

Peter nodded and smiled. “I know you won’t.” He leaned forward and lowered his voice. “Because if you did, it wouldn’t be Iron Man who killed you. It would be me – and trust me, where I’ve been for the past eleven years makes me a hell of a lot more deadly.”

MJ grinned, Ned’s eyes widened, and Peter couldn’t help but laugh.

“One day, you’re telling us everything,” MJ said.

Peter figured that one day, he would.

 

-

 

“You’re so grounded,” Pepper said when he returned. “Like, until you’re thirty. Letting your friends into the house, answering the door, muting FRIDAY, your untrackable phone being tracked by a seventeen year old – you know what? Thirty-five. You’re grounded until you’re thirty-five. Stop smiling, Peter. I’ll make it thirty-six.”

Peter hugged his mother, because what else was he supposed to do?

“Okay, then,” Pepper whispered. “Thirty-four. Take it or leave it.”

“Hey, Peter?” Tony asked from across the room. He held up a pink envelope and opened it to read the contents. “What are all these?”

“Love letters,” Peter replied. “Apparently I’m more popular than I thought.”

Tony raised an eyebrow at the letter. “Well, this is just soft-core porn.”

Pepper replied, “It’s gone back up to thirty-five.”