Being surrounded by the team again was…Awful.
The Avengers being back together came with a lot of downfalls; Healing involved blood, sweat, and tears. Considering the Avengers Compound felt like neutral territory for all of them, Tony thought that such a place would be perfect for healing.
Instead, Tony could practically feel the daggers that dug into his skin on the rare occasions that he allowed a former Avenger to see him. This feeling only increased his guilt, leaving him to his self-destructive thoughts.
Most days, he stayed in his lab, running ideas upon ideas on where the Soul Stone took…
With that train of thought, Tony ran a shaky hand down his face, trying in vain to physically wipe away the look of acceptance that a sixteen-year-old managed to convey on a dead, alien planet.
Tony was a mess; an alcoholic, grief consumer idiot, and a useless failure. So far, none of the experiments Bruce and Tony ran came back conclusive. Tony’s ideas were running out.
The Avengers felt just as helpless. However, they thought that Tony got off easy.
He staggered to the kitchen, eager to get some coffee.
“Did he even lose anyone?” Tony heard Clint ask, his voice like steel, “What gives him the right-”
Tony paused in the hallway, heart beating in his chest. Of course it was early in the morning. How could Tony forget that most of the team wound up in this very kitchen.
“You better shut your mouth, Barton,” Rhodey responded, just as steely, “You have no idea what Tony’s-”
Steve. His voice sent shivers down Tony’s spine. Tony had avoided him for weeks now, refusing to even look at the man. He couldn’t handle two of his biggest mistakes in front of him.
Tony tried to back away, grateful that the new floor beneath his feet didn’t creek. Just when he thought he avoided everyone, Scott Lang (an unknown really. Tony didn’t ever manage to read his file) was behind him.
“Hey!” Scott said, obviously shocked by his presence, “Holy cow. You’re…Jeez, this is cool. And I’m in my sweatpants! Ironman, awesome. Great to actually meet you!”
Tony said nothing; couldn’t say anything. The man’s awkwardness had somehow reminded him of a very familiar teen.
“Are you getting breakfast with the rest of us?” Scott continued to ask, somehow managing to make Tony walk into the kitchen, where nearly every face was an enemy.
“Look who I found!”
Everyone turned to look at him. Tony realized that it was everyone in the kitchen; everyone that remained of the Avengers, minus one demi-god.
“Look who decided to show his face!” Clint went on, sneering at him, “Man of the hour!”
Tony could feel on the tip of his tongue the arsenal of insults that he reserved just for Barton. He remembered how they used to exchange barbs nearly constantly, only ever as a harmless joke. Tony couldn’t bring himself to respond to Barton’s biting comment.
“I’m leaving.” He said instead, easily strolling to grab a mug from his cabinet and pouring the hot liquid into it. “continue your pow-wow without me.”
“Tony,” Steve’s voice always had a way of grinding on Tony’s every last nerve. At this point, Tony had no nerves to spare. “Why don’t you stay? Catch up?”
“Company’s a little cold,” Tony responded, paparazzi smile firmly in place, “Have fun, Rogers.”
“Yeah, hide in your lab, Stark. Just like you always do.” Clint said. Tony could hear Natasha physically smack him on the arm for the comment and saw Rhodey’s nearly uncontained anger. Even Bruce looked pissed.
Tony froze. Without realizing it, his entire body went tense. How dare Barton; where was he when the world was going to shit? Where was he when Thanos was attacking Wakanda? Where was he when two hostile aliens were declaring war in the streets of New York City?
“You’re not the only one who lost people, Barton,” Tony told him, voice deadly, “Get off you high horse or whatever else you call the pathetic state you’re in and shut up.”
“Who have you lost?” Clint roared, “I’ve lost my entire family! My kids! My wife! Everyone in this room lost people close to them! Yet here you are – Tony Stark – happy behind your little toys with no one you love dead!”
“I lost Peter!” Tony whispered, seeing red. Something cold and nasty replacing his hurting heart. He wanted to destroy something; wanted to punch something so hard the he could feel the pain.
Tony took a shaky breath, feeling weak. He could feel the ash between his fingers.
“He was my kid,” He said, his voice cracking. “He was-”
Tony took a breath, knowing that he was close to a panic attack. He couldn’t do that in front of them; refused to show weakness.
“Can’t even get coffee in my own place,” Tony muttered. He couldn’t help but let out a laugh. The circumstances around his life were insane.
Steve’s voice only made him tense. With a sloppy toast using his coffee, he turned and began his march out of the kitchen, ready to immerse himself in his work.
“Protocol 57 engage.”
Tony stopped in his tracks. He never made a protocol 57 – or at least didn’t remember making one. There was no way FRIDAY would engage anything without his permission.
He went into immediate overdrive; situations and their fixes passing through his mind. Were they under attack? Did someone hack his system? What was the fastest way to shut down FRIDAY? How fast could he do it?
“FRIDAY, diagnostic?” Tony changed directions immediately, heading for the island in the kitchen. Without realizing it, he slammed the coffee down, cracking the glass. With a wave of his hand, FRIDAY’s code was in front of him.
But, FRIDAY didn’t respond to his commands.
“FRIDAY!” He barked, throwing up another screen that showed all the security cameras around the Compound. Tony couldn't see anything out of the ordinary.
“What’s going on?” Steve asked him, but Tony barely heard him.
“I’m going to shut her down,” Tony said aloud, his mind immersed in the code in front of him, “That’ll lock up every outside door and shut the windows. If I can-”
The code in front of him flashed red.
He had never seen that string of numbers in his entire life.
He enlarged the section of code, reading and translating as he went along.
“Wait…” He said, reading one specific section over again. He had seen something just like it. The particular way the code was written somehow had earmarks of the way Peter’s friend had hacked into his suit.
Tony nearly jumped out of his skin – Peter’s voice was playing over FRIDAY’s personal speakers.
Peter’s laughter filled the room. “I’m so sorry. But….Hiya, Mr. Stark!”
His hand was still hovering in midair. He couldn’t move.
The whole team didn’t move.
“I had Ned hack in! Well, some of it was me. He needed my access codes to get started! And I helped! But he did most of the work and…I’m rambling again. Sorry! Oh! So I don’t freak you out – FRIDAY, can you say hi again?”
“Hello, boss,” And, of course, Peter was right. At hearing her voice, it calmed him down immediately, “As my primary function is to not harm my creator, I apologize for the scare.”
“But it was for a good cause!” Peter complained. The line of code was suddenly replaced with Peter’s smiling face, looking beyond pleased with himself.
“Peter.” Tony whispered, grabbing the end of the table.
“You told me like a month ago that I had to start designing something for my college applications. I know you said you would help, but I just really wanted it to come from me… Which got me thinking of something that could help the both of us.”
Peter moved behind the video and help up a small black box. “I want you to meet ALLY!”
“ALLY, can you say hi to Mr. Stark?”
The little box in Peter’s hand came to life with a pop. Small Duel screens came to life, showing off little eyes. Four wheels appeared on the bottom of it. In all, Peter had managed to make a black box with wheels the cutest thing Tony had ever seen.
ALLY made a chirping noise.
“It’s um…” Peter blushed, “Well, she’s an anxiety robot! She’s meant to alert the user of an incoming panic attack and help the user calm down.
Something moved on Tony’s counter. With a similar pop from the video, ALLY appeared. Tony moved over to her and picked her up. She was surprisingly heavy; maybe five pounds.
“How have we never noticed that?” Natasha asked, but no one dared to comment.
“So, the weight!” Tony placed ALLY on the island table. As if she was testing her surrounds, she roomed around on it, making honest to god adorable chirping noises as she did. “That’s kind of my best idea, I think. I did a lot of reading and, apparently, having weight placed on your chest calms someone down.”
Peter put down his own ALLY, letting her explore the ground. “However, I didn’t think it would be useful to have ALLY if she couldn’t get to you. So…”
“ALLY, can you come here?”
And, to Tony’s amazement, ALLY’s cute eyes scrunched up in concentration. There was a smaller popping noise and then, as the wheels flipped sideways, the familiar glow of his repulsor technology filled the lab. In another second, ALLY flew from the lab table and landed in Peter’s hand.
Tony smiled wide, amazed the Peter had managed to pull that off without him noticing.
“Who’s a good robot!” Peter cheered, rubbing his hand across the robot’s head, while it made, once again, chirping noises. “You are!”
“So she has a heart monitor built into her. She first locks onto a heat signature and then she can detect the average heartbeat after about a minute. When she detects an irregular heartbeat, she’ll fly over to the person and land on the sturdiest part of the person.”
Peter moved to the ground and went into a ball. Immediately, ALLY made a warning chirp and floated to the ground, pushing into Peter.
“If she can’t find one, she’ll go to the flattest, most noticeable spot. She has a bunch of other self-help codes built into her, but I’ll tell you about it later!”
“ALLY,” Tony said softly, watching fondly as she nearly fell off the table once again, “could you come here?”
ALLY chirped at him and, without further ado, lifted into the air and landed neatly onto his hand. Tony then repeated Peter’s actions, surprised to find out that ALLY wasn’t just chirping, she was vibrating.
“So my plan was to show you in person…” Peter looked down, obviously embarrassed once again, “But I’m not quite sure when we’ll see each other. And I wanted you to have her on your birthday. So just in case…Video!”
Peter smiled and looked directly into the camera, “Happy Birthday, Dad.”
ALLY must have read his heart beat. The little robot jumped of his hand and flew up, pushing into his chest lightly. When it couldn’t find a place to land, she decided on his head.
Tony burst into laughter, tears in his eyes. He took ALLY off his head and placed her back on the island. She chirped at him.
Rhodey picked ALLY up and placed her wheels on his hand. “Kid’s a genius.”
“Damn, right.” Tony managed to get out, failing to hide his affection for the kid. Tony never realized how much he missed Peter – it wasn’t just the guilt that Tony felt, it was the feeling he had when he was around Peter that he missed.
Natasha picked up ALLY next, smiling slightly when she began to vibrate in her hands, “Adorable.”
Bruce picked her up next, “Wait, there’s a little slot here…”
ALLY made a slightly angry chirp at him, vibrating harder than her normal rate. A small message popped up on her screen.
“No medications required…” Bruce read. “Did he plan to have this thing inject someone? How would it know what the dosage is?”
Tony flipped the screens, revealing a whole manual book that Peter created.
“She does glucose testing too,” Tony said, damn-near proud of his son. “Peter’s main study is chemistry.”
ALLY chirped at Bruce as if she was proud of her abilities.
“Was he yours?” Scott asked, breaking the tension. He went to pick up ALLY and smiled when she started moving on his hand. “I didn’t think you had any kids.”
“No,” Tony said, surprised at the question, “Not biologically at least. You all met him already.”
“What?” Steve asked, looking surprised. Tony wasn’t surprised that ALLY had made it over to the Super Soldier. “I’m pretty sure I would have remembered a kid here.”
Without a word, Tony pulled up the Airport fight in Germany. Spider-Man swung into view, stealing Cap’s shield.
“I can’t believe I didn’t see it,” Natasha complained, “that voice is obviously young.”
“Queens!” Steve said, looking surprised, “That kid is the same guy that tied up Sam and Bucky?”
“Wait, Spider-Man took down The Winter Soldier?” Natasha asked, “What, with quick quips?”
“No,” Steve said, looking shocked, “Bucky told me that he was stronger and faster than he expected. Apparently, the kid took a direct punch from his arm and managed to catch it.”
“What can I say?” Tony said, glad to hear that Barnes got his ass kicked by his kid, “Kid’s a natural.”
Steve’s shock became a quick realization, “You brought a kid to that fight?”
“Hey,” Tony pointed a finger at him, “Don’t get all high and mighty on me, Rogers. You brought your own secrets. Plus, the kid held his own.”
Tony let out of puff of hair, “But yeah, I regret it. Didn’t think it was going to get that intense. Thought I could use him as backup.”
There was silence once again. Without prompting, ALLY flew over to Clint, pushing into his chest.
For a horrible moment, Tony found himself ready to snatch her away from him. He didn’t trust Barton near anything of Peter’s.
However, when ALLY landed on Clint’s shoulder and vibrated – okay, purred – against his neck, Tony didn’t have the heart to take her away.
There was a heavy silence. Tony wasn’t going to apologize for what he said for Barton, but he felt damn sure that Barton should apologize to him.
“I was an ass.” Barton said, grabbing ALLY and moving her to the island. Immediately, ALLY flew over to Tony, once again landing on his head.
“You were an ass.” Tony repeated, grabbing ALLY from his head. She continued to purr in his hands.
Silence again. Barton didn’t seem to be willing to say anything else.
Bruce coughed, looking pointedly at Clint.
“I’m sorry,” Clint finally said, voice near a whisper. However, even Tony could tell he was sincere.
The tension in the room finally went down a couple of notches.
“Sorry?” Tony said, cupping on hand around his ear, “I couldn’t hear that.”
Everyone groaned, Rhodey immediately lightly smacked him against his head.
All of a sudden, ALLY was out of Tony’s hands and hovering over Rhodey, making louder, angrier chirping. At one point, she landed on Rhodey’s arm, repulsors still on. Tony knew the heat wouldn’t be painful, but mostly uncomfortable.
“Jeez, alright!” Rhodey complained, grabbing her from the air and rubbing her on the head. She continue to angrily chirp, “I’m sorry for hitting Tony!”
ALLY stopped her chirping and relaxed, vibrating in Rhodey’s hands, eyes scrunched happily.
“This kid created a Tony Stark guard robot…” Natasha commented, “that looks so cute I would hesitate to destroy it. Can’t wait to actually meet him.”
Tony’s mood immediately fell. Just for a moment, Tony had a world where Peter was still with him. He had a brief glimpse of what life was like before he was gone and he missed it. Peter was one of the best things to happen to him. He needed to get him back.
ALLY floated from Rhodey to him once again, picking (not to his surprise) his head once again.
“We’ll get him back,” Steve said, causing Tony took look him in the eye. There was something there that he wasn’t expecting, “We’ll get them all back.”
Tony nodded jerkily, much to the shock of ALLY. She wobbled above him. Deciding it was not sturdy enough, ALLY landed back on his hands, vibrating happily.
“I made food!” Bruce said suddenly. His tact was never the best. “Who wants…?”
“Grab the plates, I would never pass up on a- ” Tony said, picking up his coffee cup. Only, as he picked it up, the handle fell off. Too fast, the coffee went all over his pants, burning him, “Son of a bitch!”
Tony got up from his spot, unconsciously holding ALLY away from the mess as he jumped up and down, trying like hell to not burn his thighs. The rest of the team’s laughter was so loud that it nearly drowned out his curse words.
Avengers, Tony thought, escaping the room to change his pants, bunch of assholes.
But they were his assholes, Tony realized. If there was anything that Tony took away, it was that he had people around him that he could rely on.
The other obvious thing he took away from this, smiling down at the still chirping robot in his hands…
He would get his son back, no matter what it takes.