Of all the things Tony had expected from today, sitting around a table with the recently pardoned Avengers as they eat pizza and try to pretend nothing even happened in Germany was not it.
Ross had “retired” after what the rest of the government officials called a “severe mental break”, and without him in the way Tony took control of the reigns regarding the Sokovia Accords and - after nearly two months of nothing but writing and rewriting documents - the Government finally accepted the terms he proposed and the rogue Avengers were all pardoned and allowed to return to the States.
Now he just had to try and get past what had happened in Siberia.
Tony spent the entire day personally cleaning up the Compound. He had some staff dust everyone’s rooms and change the sheets because he hadn’t been able to go in them himself since the fight a year earlier, but the billionaire himself had decided to take it upon himself to tidy the lounge area and get the kitchen stocked up. Peter had left all of his physics study notes on the coffee table in front of the TV last night since he was staying the week, so Tony had carefully scooped them up and placed them in the kid’s bedroom down by his own. The LEGO sets went on the bookshelf next to the TV where all the DVDs were neatly housed, and he folded the Spider-Man blanket he’d bought the kid for Christmas and laid it over the back of the sofa. In the kitchen, Tony disposed of the Chinese take out boxes he and Peter had the night beforehand and straightened the printed out copy of Peter’s midterm grades he’d clipped onto the fridge with a proud smile. Straight As, except for his B+ in English Literature.
FRIDAY piped up and announced the arrival of the Quinjet outside, and with a sigh Tony stood up straighter, adjusted his blazer jacket and strode to the door, only stopping to pick up his sunglasses and smile at the picture he’d framed on the wall of himself and Peter at the Midtown Science Fair. Peter had won first place, and Tony had remarked “MIT will be happy to have you, Kid”. May had taken the photo just as Peter looked up at Tony with a look of awe and Tony wrapped an arm around the kid’s shoulder in and smiled in pride.
Tony continued on his way to the landing platform, coming to a stop next to Rhodey who just smiled and nodded at the billionaire. The ramp of the black jet lowered with a hiss, smoke from the hydraulics shot up around the landing gear and, once it finally disappeared, Tony took in the sight before him.
The first person to exit the jet was Natasha, who had by this point dyed her hair blonde. Behind her was Sam, who was in an animated argument with a guy about the same height. Tony had read his file; he was Ant Man, the guy who had destroyed his Iron Man suit from the inside. Yeah, Tony was still a bit bitter about that. Next was Vision, who had volunteered to go and collect the rogue Avengers personally, and he walked next to Wanda. The young woman had grown up a bit in the year since he’d seen her, and had she cut her hair or just changed the style? All of them came to a stop at the bottom of the ramp, Natasha off to one side and Vision crossing over to stand on the other side of Tony to Rhodey, just as Steve Rogers himself appeared at the top. He had a beard now. Looked strange with it. But he was alone as he walked to join the others. No Barnes.
Steve came to a stop at the front of the group, no one said anything for a while, though everyone turned to look at the car that pulled up next to the jet. Happy jumped out, and so did Clint, who hurried to join the group on Steve’s side. He’d come out from his retirement just for this, and Happy had offered to drive to his family farm to pick him up.
“How was the trip?” Tony asked, sunglasses hiding his eyes which he knew would betray him. A part of him was still pissed at his old teammates, whereas the other part of him was just relieved that they were all okay. Yes, Tony Stark has a heart - didn’t you read the tags to this fanfic?
“It was good,” Steve answered, “thanks for picking us up.” Tony just nodded and silence enveloped them all again. It took a moment, but Steve held out his hand to Tony. Tony shook it, and Steve smiled. It was small, but appeared genuine.
Everyone headed inside, and that was how Tony found himself stood by the coffee machine nursing a mug of the caffeinated beverage whilst everyone laughed and joked about like it was Movie Night four years ago. He allowed himself to smile, though hid it by taking a sip of his drink. He’d never admit that he missed this. He’d never admit that he missed his friends and had spent the past year with his head in his hands as he tried to figure out just where everything went wrong.
Ross. It all came back to Ross and the Accords. Thank every God in Asgard that asshole was gone.
As the noise died down and everyone settled into a comfortable, quiet talk. The pizza was finished with and the boxes in the bin, and soon everyone had turned to Tony. The genius sighed. He’d been waiting for this moment.
“So, I hate to bring a downside to this happy reunion,” he began, taking a seat next to Natasha and Rhodey. Steve sat opposite him, “but we need to talk about Germany and the Accords.” A murmur of agreement rang through the room, but before Tony could continue Clint piped up.
“Shouldn’t we wait for that Spider-Guy to get here? We’ve already eaten all the pizza without him and Cap said he wanted to apologise for hitting him in the face with his shield.” He said, and Tony nearly choked on his coffee. He nearly forgot about Peter. Checking the time, he found that it was nearly three in the afternoon and so the kid would be leaving school any second. Happy was taking him home to grab some more clothes before bringing him back to the Compound. He wasn’t about to be introduced as Spider-Man, though. No, Peter was adamant about keeping his identity a secret, and Tony agreed.
“Spider-Man is currently engaged elsewhere,” Tony replied, keeping his voice steady whilst his mind took note of the ‘ hitting him in the face with his shield ’ comment. He and Steve would have a private word about that later, “he said to go ahead without him.” Everyone seemed satisfied with this, but Natasha gave Tony one of her “I don’t believe you but I’m going to let this drop until later” looks that once terrified the billionaire.
“Look,” Tony continued, “personally, I think that we shouldn’t forget anything that happened, but instead we should learn from the choices and the mistakes we all made and move on. We’re the Avengers; we need to be able to work together and trust each other in the field or else what’s the point in us even getting the band back together?” Everyone was in agreement, nodding and voicing their approval of the statement. Behind Sam, by the fridge, Rhodey nodded and put two thumbs up. “ Perfect ” he mouthed to Tony before grabbing a can of cola out of the fridge door. Tony mentally patted himself on the back; Pepper had written that. If only he could do that in press conferences.
“Things aren’t gonna go back to how they were and we need to accept that, but we can make things work. You wanna shout and scream at anyone here? Do it now.” No one spoke up, but Tony was happy he had everyone leave their weapons in their rooms. After five minutes of silence, Tony spoke up. “I’ve got something to say,” he turned to face Steve, who locked eyes with him. The room got suddenly tense.
“Barnes didn’t have a choice. You did.” Tony stated, and those seven words held more emotion and information than Tony thought he could possibly say in a full on rant. Steve opened his mouth to say something, but he audibly snapped it shut and slumped in his chair, simply nodding instead.
“Anything else?” Silence again, but then Wanda spoke.
“Who’s the boy in all the photographs?” She asked, staring at the wall which had once been bare. Now, that wall was littered with framed photographs and nearly all of them were of Peter and Tony.
Yeah, Tony was a proud
mentor, so what?
“Wait, do you have a kid?” Scott asked.
“Nah, guy’s like thirteen or something. Didn’t you see the LEGO sets? Besides, we’d have met him by now if he was Tony’s,” Clint answered, suddenly appearing next to the photo of Tony and Peter at the aquarium. How Peter had convinced him to go still escapes Tony.
“This coming from the guy who hid the fact that he had a family from us until he retired ,” Tony retorted, but answered their questions. “No, Peter is not my son, he’s just my intern.”
“An intern you have clearly taken a shine to,” Steve commented as he turned to look at the photographs as well. Okay, well that was true. Tony hated interns because they just got under his feet trying to impress him. Peter was different. Sure, the Internship started off as a cover, but Tony made it a real thing after six months of the kid constantly impressing him with his genius level intellect, incredible engineering skills and just generally his willingness to help people. The kid was just a better version of Tony himself.
“Yeah, well… the kid’s something special,” Tony admitted, “he’s coming to the Compound after school; I’ll introduce you guys.”
“School? I thought you hated kids?” Natasha asked, but Tony just mumbled a “ look who’s talking ” and went back to his coffee. Clint finally sat down, but not before grabbing the a donut from the box Tony had left on the counter. Natasha took a bite before Clint could and he grumbled. Yeah, just like old times. Tony nearly smiled.
“What about Bucky?” Steve asked, and suddenly everyone stopped. The elephant in the room was finally being addressed. “He’s in Wakanda at the moment; Princess Shuri’s working to remove the HYDRA programming. He’s still gonna be on ice for a while but…”
Tony didn’t blame Bucky Barnes. Okay, there he said it (even if it wasn’t aloud). Bucky Barnes was being controlled by years of brainwashing and had no control over his actions, even if those actions caused the death of Howard and Maria Stark. Maria didn’t deserve it; his mother had been nothing but kind to Tony all his life. Howard, on the other hand, was an asshole who - in Tony’s mind - deserved everything he got.
As long as the HYDRA programming could be removed, Tony was willing to give the guy a chance. Especially if it meant he could get to tinker with that metal arm.
Not that he’d ever say any of this out loud. Nah, he was too proud to do that.
“Boss, Peter Parker is calling,” FRIDAY announced and shook Tony from his thoughts. Why was Peter calling? Was everything ok? Tony turned to everyone, all of whom had their eyes trained on him.
“We will cross this bridge when we get to it, okay?” He told them all, and didn’t wait for a response before telling FRIDAY to answer the call. Peter’s voice was incredibly loud when it came through the speakers.
“ Hi Aba ! ” Peter practically shouted, and when he did Natasha choked on her water.
“Hey Underoos,” Tony replied with a smile, “is ‘Aba’ teenage slang or something?”
“ Oh, crap, sorry! Spending too much time with Daisy; she’s Jewish and often slips into Hebrew without realising and I sorta catch on to some of the words she says and now I use them too and - ” Peter rambled on and Tony chuckled. By this time, Vision was handing Natasha a tissue to wipe her mouth as she stifled her coughing.
“Anyways I was calling to tell you that we’re on our way and that I have some really really super exciting news and- oh my God this is the greatest day of my life!” Peter continued, now practically shrieking down the phone. These was a rustling sound; paper, maybe? Tony raised an eyebrow even though he knew Peter couldn’t see him.
“We’re all waiting for you, Kiddo, everyone can’t wait to meet you,” when Tony glanced at the others, everyone was nodding or in Scott and Clint’s cases, diving into the donut box.
“Uh… everyone?” Peter asked.
“Yeah. The Avengers.”
“... T-That’s today?” Tony’s face fell.
“Yeah, that’s today, but don’t worry. Everything’s good here. You’ll be fine, I promise.” The genius reassured his
intern, and it seemed to work.
“ Ok, I’ll see you soon, Mr. Stark. Save me a donut! ” and with that, Peter hung up. Tony just chuckled and rolled his eyes, and when he felt the eyes of everyone else on him, he simply said “Kid’s got anxiety, go easy on him,” and everyone just nodded. Tony looked at the donut box; there was only one left. He snatched it away and hid it away in the fridge on a plate whilst Clint protested.
God, how Tony missed this.
An hour later and Tony found himself sat watching Scott and Sam play on the Nintendo with everyone cheering them on. In just a single day and it was as if the entire year hadn’t happened. Everyone was laughing and settling back into things: Wanda and Vision were curled up on the sofa talking softly whilst intently watching the game, Clint was on the phone with his kids, Natasha was reading a book in what Tony thought was Hebrew, and Steve and Rhodey semed engaged in betting who would fall off next on Rainbow Road. It was Scott. Honestly, Tony knew that everything they were all hiding inside would come pouring out, but that could all wait for another day. Now, Tony just wanted to savour the moment.
Suddenly, FRIDAY spoke up. “Boss, Peter has-” the AI began, but before she could finish the elevator doors swooshed open and Peter practically sprinted out and into the lounge.
“Mr. Stark! Mr. Stark!” He called out with a bright smile plastered on his face. His hair was a curly mess and he nearly fell flat on his face when he skidded to a halt. It was almost comic when the kid’s eyes widened at the sight of the Avengers all sat around the TV. Tony could practically see the gears turning in the kid’s head, and fearing another anxiety attack like the day he met Vision and Rhodey, he hurried to Peter’s side.
“Hey there, Underoos,” he said, voice softer than usual as he gently placed his hand on the kid’s shoulder and gently steered him over to the sofa. Peter reached a hand up to grab his sleeve in a way that reminded Tony of a little kid, but for them it meant “ I’m okay, I’ll be fine ”.
Yeah, Tony knew otherwise. That’s why he pulled Peter close to his side when everyone looked up.
“Gang, this is Peter Parker, my intern,” Tony announced, “Peter, I’m sure you know-”
“-the Avengers, y-yeah I know,” Peter stuttered and gave everyone a small wave and a nervous smile. Tony hadn’t seen the kid like this since he asked that Michelle girl out to the movies.
“It’s nice to meet you Peter,” Steve spoke up, standing up from the chair. He held out a hand for Peter to shake, and the secret superhero shyly shook it. Everyone else just smiled. It seemed they too could tell he was nervous.
“Nice to meet the kid that’s proven Tony Stark has a heart,” Natasha quipped, and whilst everyone else laughed Tony glared. Even Peter gave a small laugh behind his hand.
Speaking of his hand...
When everyone turned back to the game, Tony took a note of the piece of paper Peter had clutched tightly yet carefully. He steered Peter into the kitchen, away from the cheering/groaning of the competitors, and watched as Peter physically relaxed when he was away from the others. Bless the kid, anxiety was a bitch. Tony knew this first hand. The billionaire waited a few minutes to let Peter gather himself, knowing that sometimes he just needed a bit of time, before he focused all his attention to the paper. “What’s this?” He asked and took what looked like a letter, Peter letting him. The smile returned to the young man’s face, but Tony didn’t see because he was too engrossed as he took in the words typed on the page.
“Dear Mr, Parker,
On behalf of the Admissions Committee, it is my pleasure to offer you admissions to the MIT class of 2018…”
... admissions to the MIT class of 2018…
...admissions to the MIT class of 2018…
...admissions to the MIT class of 2018...!
“I-is this real?” Tony asked, not actually believing his eyes as he reread the letter over and over and over again. Peter nodded, smile blinding as he bounced on his toes. Now Tony was the one stuttering, absolutely speechless. Peter was sixteen for Thor’s sake and-
“I applied for MIT back in November and got in!” Peter exclaimed so loudly Tony nearly flinched. “I’ve got a place!”
Tony didn’t know what else to do except hug the kid. He laughed as he grabbed Peter into a hug, feeling nothing but pride. Peter wrapped his arms around Tony as he too laughed. And cried, but they were happy tears. They stayed like that for a little while before Tony pulled away to look Peter in the eye.
“Why didn’t you tell me you were applying?”
“Because I knew you’d try and call the college and use your influence to have them accept me. I wanted to do it by myself,” Peter admitted, drying his eyes with the sleeve of his oversized hoodie, “and besides now I can shove it in Flash’s face when I go to school tomorrow!” Peter wouldn’t actually do that; Tony knew he wasn’t that kind of kid, but still.
Every part of Tony was bursting with happiness, both as a mentor
and as a father
he was proud of Peter for such an achievement. Tony himself had done the same, getting early admission to the school, but Howard has used the Stark name to get him in indefinitely even if it was just to send Tony away. Peter hadn’t wanted to do that. Another reason to be proud.
“Have you told May?”
“She was at home when I opened the letter,” Peter replied, “had to go to work so she couldn’t come with.”
Tony just smiled. He didn’t have the words to explain the emotions he was feeling, but then again he had always been shit at emotions so it was probably best he said nothing. No, instead he just turned, pinned the letter to the fridge next to his midterm grades, and pulled Peter back in for a hug, holding him tightly in a way he wished his father had done for him all those years ago.
“I’m so proud of you, Pete,” he said, voice thick with everything he wished he could say. Peter buried his head in Tony’s shoulder and smiled himself.
“Thanks, Aba ,” Peter muttered.
They stayed like that for a while, but only until Rhodey called out from the other room saying “Peter! Scott thinks he can kick your ass at Mario Kart!” The
father and son
mentor and protegee pulled apart and eventually wandered back into the lounge, where Peter all but snatched up the controller from Sam and plonked himself in front of the TV saying “you’re on!” before selecting Rainbow Road. That was the whole reason Tony bought the Wii in the first place, because Peter said he could beat Tony on the most difficult track. Peter had been right. Tony sucked at video games.
Tony himself took a seat next to Natasha on the sofa, in the seat closest to Steve. The assassin looked up from her book and simply said.
“Did you know that “ Aba” means “ father ” in Hebrew?” She said, winked, and then turned back to her book as if she had not said a word.
Tony froze, smiled, then cheered his