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Hold me up and don't let go

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It had been a long couple of months since Siberia. The rogue Avengers, as Tony had started to dub them, had been all over the globe, island hopping until they’d completely disappeared off his radar. That had been two weeks ago and Tony hadn’t been able to track them since.

“Damnit.”

The useless burner phone felt like a brick in his pocket. He’d been keeping it with his other phone just in case he needed to make that certain call. Thankfully it hadn’t come to that but god, did he anticipate it.

Ross was breathing down his neck, each breath getting heavier as time went by. After Steve had broken the rest of the team out of the Raft, they’d up and left Tony with dear old Ross and friends!

Tony scoffed and tightened another bolt in the armour chest panel. The less screws loose now, the better.

“Friday, how’s the Spiderling doing? Gimme an update.”

“Sure thing boss. Peter is currently in school. He reported that he stopped a mugging yesterday before helping lost tourists. I’d say he’s doing swell boss.”

Tony lowered his screwdriver and frowned. “Swell?”

“Yes boss. I heard the Captain use the word so I decided to try it out.”

Steve. Of course.

Something ached in Tony’s chest at the thought. They’d been better-or at least he thought they’d been. After Ultron, they’d kept in touch and every so often Steve had come to visit him and vice versa. It had felt like they were even dating at one point but then it had all just fallen apart with the Accords.

Stupid Ross.

Long story short, they were here now. By that, he meant just him, Rhodey, Vision and Peter. Clearly a super huge team ready to protect New York.

Great. Real swell team here.

“Fri, call him over. Tell him I have an upgrade. And he can bring his friend over. The one in the chair?”

“Yes boss. Calling Peter Parker now.”

“Great! Tell him I’m in my lab.”


 

Not long after five o’clock did a brown haired, bright eyed fifteen year old appear at Tony’s door. Honestly it was a wonder that he even let Peter fight crime. He was just a kid.

A kid he absolutely adored. It would’ve been the best thing for Steve to have met him properly.

Guess that’s never gonna happen, Tony realized with a downcast eyes. That was on him. He should’ve dealt with the Accords better. Instead, he’d let the team crumble from within.

“Mr. Stark? Are you okay?”

Instantly, his eyes fell on Peter, catching the wary look on his face. He nodded and waved him in.

“Yeah I’m fine. Come in! I thought we’d take a look at your suit. Where's your friend?” Tony smiled proudly and tried to look as eager as he could. Peter kept staring at him and Tony wondered if Peter knew just how guilty he still felt about the whole Vulture incident. He could feel a bit of friction from the incident and it kept spilling over. Peter hadn't been visiting very much.

You’re a complete failure. Everything you do is wrong.

"He couldn't make it, but he's coming tomorrow." Peter looked away. It only added to Tony's concern about their growing distance.

“No worries. Here look.” Tony beckoned, eyes dimming with each second. He knew he was a failure but it still hurt.

Unusually quiet, Peter dumped his bag on the couch and cautiously made his way over. When he stood beside Tony, he gaped.

“Are those spider legs!?”

“Kind of. They’re not for your current suit but I was thinking of adding them to the next one? What do you think?” He couldn’t help the rush of warmth he felt when he turned and saw the broad smile on Peter’s face. It made the last month of sleepless nights worth it.

“They’re awesome! But...” To his dismay, Peter’s smile began to fade and he gave him a sharp look. “These look like they took a lot of time and effort. You didn’t have to do that for me.”

Peter sounded upset but he didn’t need to be. No, Tony would explain this, he needed to make him understand.

He leaned forward and placed a hand on Peter’s shoulder comfortably. He hoped the gesture was welcome after everything they’d-he’d done. “Peter. I wanted to make it. It’ll help. Besides, you may not want to be an Avenger yet but I think you’ll be there sooner than you think. I make the gear for all the Avengers.”

It was like everything he was saying was wrong because Peter’s face was pinched like he was in pain.

“You make gear for the rogues? After what they did?”

With a sigh, Tony picked up the blowtorch, checking it’s safety was on. “They were my friends. It was a bad mistake all around.”

“So you don’t blame yourself for any of it?”

Tony flinched, he couldn’t help it. The way Peter had said that, had stung. “I-I’m not blameless, I know that-“

A huff interrupted him. Peter was giving him concerned, puppy eyes. But he didn’t deserve that.

“I don’t mean you should take the blame. I just think you blame yourself way too much! Look how much you’ve done for them! That general guy-Ross, is putting pressure on you because of all the work you put into the Accords! When they come back, it’ll be thanks to you!” Seeming to realize he was getting louder, Peter took a deep breath. “You work so hard. And you’ve had to practically defend the city by yourself. You should see yourself Mr. Stark, you have bruises all over from last week’s fight and yesterday! You’re not even able to heal properly-!”

“Peter...”

“If you just let me come with you for the missions, I can make sure-“

“No. Not an option.”

“You offered me membership for the team! You’re saying I can’t protect you if I’m not an Avenger!?”

Tony rubbed at his eyes tiredly. Things were blurry and he really wanted to sleep. Or cry. “Peter, I’m not...look I just want you safe. Is that so much to ask?”

“Let me come with you on the next mission. Please, Mr.Stark-“

“No.”

“You can’t keep fighting on your own! Sooner or later something’s gonna give!”

Something in Tony just snapped. He blamed it on the high stress levels. “Then let it! I’d rather I take the hits as long as you stayed safe and doing your little neighborhood rounds! You know I can’t ask you to join these fights so why are you pushing me!?”

Peter went quiet. His eyes were burning bright and his nose flared with each breath, fists held tight against his sides. If it wasn’t for the fact that Peter cared about him so much, Tony would almost feel a bit intimidated. He was talking to a fifteen year old but it really didn’t feel like it.

When Peter finally spoke, it was chilling.

“I can’t let what happened to Uncle Ben happen to you. I can’t Tony, I can’t.”

He called me Tony.

Tony looked away, ignoring the was his lips were trying to sneak upwards. He had to be straight with the kid. Peter wasn’t joking and Tony needed to respect that. “I know. But I’m not your uncle kid. And besides-“ Tony’s gaze softened. “It’s only temporary. When the others come back, I’ll have that support again. For now, Rhodey and Vision are enough. They really are.”

The tough superhero act disappeared and Peter looked back to being his normal teenage self. “And me?” He asked shyly, like he had no idea what effect he had on Tony’s life.

Tony wanted to hug him.

“And you. Definitely kid, you have no idea.”


 

They work away in amicable silence then, like gears working perfectly to fit the bigger picture. Times like this always made Tony wonder if maybe this was what it felt like to have a son. It often felt like something he would’ve asked Steve.

Would Steve have taken to Peter like he had, too? Would Peter have been their Avenger protégée?

Steve’s not here, he sharply reminded himself and focused on making the mechanical spider legs more flexible. Peter patiently handed him every tool he needed and worked away on his own web cartridges in the process.

“Hey Mr. Stark?”

“Yhmm?” He needed to get this tighter.

“Do you miss Captain America?”

Tony slowly turned and stared at him with wide eyes. What on earth made the kid ask that?

Sensing his distress, Peter hurriedly waved the words away. “Forget it. I just wondered if maybe that was why you’ve tried so hard to bring them back. And why you’ve been trying to track him.”

Tilting his head, Tony folded his arms, completely unimpressed. “Okay spill. Who told you?”

“No one did. But I heard Mr. Rhodes mention to Vision-“

Tony groaned and buried his head in his hands. “Of course you did. Son of a bitch.”

Peter frowned. “It’s-its not that big of a deal. It just makes a lot more sense.”

Tony peaked between his fingers. Peter kept going. “You’re clearly exhausted and Vision wanted to know what he could do to help. Mr. Rhodes mentioned that making Cap appear would help. The others would be a bonus.”

Okay. So Peter didn’t actually know about his feelings for Steve. He could work with that.

“Yeah I miss him. He was actually a really good friend believe it or not. We used to talk a lot before Siberia.”

Peter eyed him carefully. “Do you think he’d be happy seeing you getting hurt so much on the news? Or the conferences?”

“Peter let’s not start this again. I told you-“

An alarm blared in the workshop, causing both genius’ to jolt. Rhodey’s voice quickly filtered through.

“We’ve got another one Tones. More with Chitauri weapons. Ross has given us the clear to take them down. They’re by the harbour.”

Great. Since the Vulture, more civilians had been getting their hands on these alien guns and it sent shivers down Tony’s spine, every time he saw a blast from one. He’d had enough terrible life experiences with Chitauri, thank you very much.

“I’ll be right there. Meet me as soon as you can with Vision. We’ll head up together and-“

“Visions’ not coming Tony. He got intel from Wanda so he’s gone to find her. Apparently she’s nearby-“

“Seriously!? I can’t-I can’t-!” Intel? Wanda is talking to Vision? And Steve hasn't even-

“Mr. Stark...breathe.” Peter murmured and shifted uncomfortably, eyes round with worry. That was when Tony realized he’d started hyperventilating in front of the teen. And here he was trying to show a solid front.

He gripped the table and just breathed. “I’m okay. I just...”

More pain. More bruises. I could barely stand after last weeks fight. Now Vision's gone and it's just gonna be me and Rhodey. I don’t know if I can-

“I’ll be there. I’ll see you up top honey bear.”

The call went dead and silence permeated the room. Peter reached out, hand hovering.

“Mr. Stark? Do you need-?”

“I’ll be fine. Just stay here until I get back. Or head home if I’m not back before eight.” If I’m in the hospital again.

He swallowed and fled the room, knowing Peter was watching him. It didn’t matter, he had a job to do.

Even if he had to do it alone.


 

War Machine landed beside him. In that moment, Tony couldn’t be happier. He faced Rhodey and nodded, tired eyes hidden behind the mask.

“Hey, you okay? You sounded off on the phone.”

“I’m fine platypus. Just wasn’t expecting Vis to up and leave like that. I could’ve done with more warning.”

A mechanical hiss escaped the armour. Rhodey seemed exhausted too, even from the outside. “Yeah. I wasn’t really expecting it either.”

Tony shook his head as they flew to the warehouse by the harbour. “Why didn’t he say anything? I trusted him and-“

Look where that got him. He needed to stop repeating the same stupid mistakes.

And it really didn’t help that Vision was able to find Wanda when he couldn’t even remember where he’d last seen Ste-

“It’s okay. This won’t be as big of a group as last week. We got this.”

Tony sighed tiredly. His body ached from all the past bruises. They had yet to heal. “Sure. How’re your legs holding up?”

Last week Rhodey had taken a bad hit to the calves. Tony had spent three sleepless nights improving the proprioceptive sensors in the leg braces. They had to be better now.

“Fine.” Tony got the distinct feeling he was being watched. “How’re your sides?”

Did he mention he’d crashed into a brick wall last week? After he’d skidded along a building and had half his thigh plates and torso shredded by the laser weapons. It had been a fantastic fucking fight.

“Great. Never better.”

They arrived with few other words than their rehashed plan. Tony would go in and draw them out for Rhodey to blast them with his missiles. It wasn’t the best plan but it was the best they could come up with between the two of them.

“I don’t like this Tones.” Rhodey said bitterly as they landed on the roof of the warehouse.

“It’ll be fine, you’ll see.”

“You’re bait. How’s that a good plan?”

“It’ll be fine. I’ll head in now and draw them to the water. Just make sure you get them all okay?”

“Gotcha. Be careful.”

With that said, Tony powered up and fly around. When he reached the old front door, he took a deep breath and held his palms out.

Here we go.

He blasted the door with two quick shots and waited for the onslaught to arrive.

Nothing happened.

“Hey! I’m here assholes! You coming or what!?”

Silence. Tony felt something ugly settle in his gut.

Without hesitation, he took a few steps and looked around. It was just a huge empty warehouse with a few vans scattered here and there. Nothing to really be concerned about.

“Rhodey, was the intel accurate?” He whispered into the coms.

“Yeah definitely. I got photos twenty minutes ago. There were too many to leave that fast. They had a black market thing going on.”

“So where are they now?”

Tony spent the next five minutes flying around the empty area, checking each van for some clues but nothing came up. Then-

“Tones, they’re outside! I can see them, they’re-!”

“What? Rhodey?”

“They’re setting up outside the front door! With Chitauri weapons, all of them!”

It’s a set up, he realized and swore, before turning to face the door. He could just fly out from the top and-

“Get out of there Tony they’re rigging the place to-!”

A huge bang went off and everything turned into a nightmare. The ground shook. The ceiling rumbled. A deafening explosion pierced his ears from behind and the blast sent him flying into a wall. His body screamed with pain and his eyes fell shut as a ringing sound filled his ears. He smacked against the wall and fell on his back, head swimming with pain.

He was idiot. How could he expect that they’d fall for the same thing on the third attack? What was he thinking?

Bits of the ceiling were falling and he was sure he could smell smoke. His body felt so sick and his fingers felt numb. Things went hazy.

Then everything went dark.


 

When he opened his eyes, he wasn’t sure how long it had been. It could’ve been hours for all he knew but he was still in the same place.

Shakily, Tony lifted a hand to his helmet and pushed himself up with the other. And then he promptly fell back down when a wave of dizziness forced him back.

His ears were ringing too much and everything had a waver. He couldn’t hear a thing.

Rhodey could’ve been talking to him but it didn’t make a difference. His balance and hearing was shot.

“R-Rhode-“ he tried anyway, coughing when he choked on-blood!

With trembling fingers, he traced his body carefully and found the culprit. There was a massive gaping hole on the left side of his armour and it left a long deep cut down his abdomen.

Then the pain hit. Tears leaked down his cheeks involuntarily with each shift.

“F-fuck. Shit-“

He couldn’t even hear his own voice properly. It sounded warped behind the ringing, like he was deep underwater or someone had cut the audio after a loud song. But much much worse.

Clutching, his side, he bit back a scream and sat up again, this time punching away the dizziness to a level he could cope with. He had to get out of here.

Grip firm on his wound, he used his other hand to tear the helmet off and breathe. The room was smoky and dusty and left a sharp sting on his tongue. Staggering forward, he tried to keep upright as best he could.

It must have been a good ten minutes before he reached the entrance which was nothing more than a great big hole at this point. With a grunt he fell to his knees and crawled over the rubble blocking the door. He slid out of the entrance and tried to best not to scream.

He felt like he’d been hit by a car at full speed. The shock wasn’t leaving him.

“R-Rhodey s-send help.” He coughed out and felt everything spin around him, the ground closing in again. He fell to the floor, unable to protect himself from the glare of the sun.

Tony lay there and closed his eyes. He didn’t care, he didn’t care, everything just hurt so much and where was Rhodey and-

Something started to filter through the ringing. Someone was above him. Someone was saying something but he couldn’t hear it. Was it Rhodey?

His eyes flickered open and his heart raced. That wasn’t Rhodey.

It was a broad man with a gun. Chitauri gun.

Tony closed his eyes. He didn’t know what to do and his body could barely move an inch.

The man kept saying something. Then multiple strong arms picked him up and began to drag him forward. His head hung and he felt the vibration of concrete scraping against his boots. They were taking him somewhere.

He twitched uselessly in their hands. His side felt wet. Was that blood on the floor?

Someone pulled his head up by his hair which urged him to open his eyes. What he saw made no sense. Why was everything blue?

Then it clicked. He was facing water. And they were about to drop him into it.

The fear made him move. He kicked and screamed and pulled but nothing helped. The man in front of him was laughing but he still couldn’t hear and then-

And then...

He was shoved forward. He was flying with no power. Things grayed out and he’d never been more afraid in his life-

He hit the water, felt it in his hair first. Then his eyes, nose, lips-everything, he was under. His feet were just a bit higher than the rest of his body but the water pulled him down.

Everything went silent. The world turned cold. His eyes burned as he faced the surface.

Oh god!

Frantic, he brought his hands to the catches in his suit but kept slipping. He kept sinking and each second drew him closer.

Death by drowning. Of all the ways he could’ve gone, this was the worst.

No, he refused to give up. He absolutely refused.

His numb fingers traced for the manual disengages. Luck helped him find the one for his torso and somehow he managed to jam his finger into the port, feeling the whole upper portion of the armour fall away. His chest expanded and he instantly felt lighter.

His boots. He needed to get the boots next.

The surface was further away now and his cheeks were starting to ache with the need to breathe. A couple of manoeuvres got his right boot off and he watched the bubbles escape as it released. He didn’t have long but he just needed to reach for the-

His head sank. It was like everything just shut down.

The left boot had caved into his shin. He could no longer fit his finger into the port.

His eyes watched his right boot sink into the bottomless pit. It looked so dark.

He was drowning. He wasn't going to make it.

I never got to say goodbye to the kid. Steve, I never replied to him. Fuck, I didn’t even process the final changes to the Accords-they won’t come back-

I won’t come back.

The world dimmed and his vision went grey. The pressure became too much and it was starting to burn his lungs. He released his final breath, watching the bubbles float away. If he opened his mouth, that would be it.

I'm so sorry.

Suddenly, a ripple hit him and something changed. Then he felt strings tie around his splayed out wrists and ankles. More strings clung to him and tightened around his waist and tugged sharply.

Something was suspending him, keeping him there. How-

Then, above him, he saw a splash. A figure diving towards him. It was-

Who-what’s happening?

The figure came closer, all powerful limbs pushing towards him. A man, bigger than him, wearing an all black suit. He head was uncovered though.

Tony absently noted he had beard. It seemed to strike him as odd for some reason but he couldn’t work out why.

The man was-oh, he was right beside him now. He might’ve been saying something too but then it was too late and Tony had to open his mouth and-

Hands gripped his head hard and lips sealed over his. The press of the man’s lips jolted Tony into action and his eyes went wide.

The man was forcing air into him. A hand snaked around his waist and squeezed him hard, forcing him to gasp into his mouth and suck in a breath unwillingly. His lips pressed harder and Tony had to open for him.

Stubbornly, Tony tried to shake his head (how would the man breathe?) but the man was determined and didn’t even let him budge. Clearly this man wanted Tony breathing, even if he had to force him with the worlds strongest kiss. He was incredibly strong and it made no sense that he could hold Tony like this. When he pulled away, he looked at Tony carefully and glared.

Tony’s heart slammed the breaks. It was Steve.

Tony’s eyes were burning with how wide they were and as Steve tightened his grip even further and yanked him up, he kept staring. His eyes locked onto Steve's and didn't move. Neither did Steve. He was focused solely on Tony.

Steve had come for him. He was here-

Steve kicked them both up swiftly and then suddenly, Tony’s head broke out of the water. With a gasp, the world seemed to right itself momentarily before everything went sideways and he started to fall back under. Steve’s iron grip caught him and kicked upwards, not letting them fall below.

Tony’s head pounded and everything burned. Weak and shaky, he coughed and tentatively rested his head on Steve’s shoulder. He could really do with some warmth right now and he hoped Steve wouldn’t mind.

Steve’s bright blue eyes were still following him and he seemed to be saying something but Tony still couldn’t hear. His body hiccuped and he grimaced with each bolt of pain coming from his side. He felt lightheaded and wanted to just sleep.

A frown formed on Steve's features as he quickly realized something was wrong. He said something again and scanned him and Tony guessed it was his name. He didn't respond. Steve grit his teeth and pulled him closer, looking furious.

Something caught Steve’s attention and he hitched Tony against him firmly with one hand and waved with the other. The strings on Tony’s body tugged gently.

Webs. It was Peter.

A shadow was cast over the water and from the corner of his eye, Tony could see the quinjet hovering above them with Vision and Wanda holding Peter at the back door. The Spiderling seemed to be holding something with both hands, feet spread to stop him from falling.

Me. He’s holding me.

Steve made rapid gestures and pressed firm fingers against Tony’s neck. Then he nodded and pulled Tony back, holding him up as much as he could. Through tired eyes, Tony watched as Rhodey appeared behind Steve and wrapped an arm around him, nodding and flying up to the quinjet.

Rhodey landed on the open panel and released his hold just slightly, making Tony’s heart pound because he felt his head and body tip back and his eyes turn to the sky.

If Peter hadn’t caught him he would’ve fallen right back into the water. Tony could tell he was screaming at him.

He blinked and stared at the kid, not hearing a thing. It slowly started to filter through the group that he was currently deaf and their anger turned to worry. He was slowly guided into the interior of the quinjet and felt a shake from the ground as he was pushed to a seat by Peter. Steve then marched up to him and knelt in front of him, saying something and cupping his cheek gently.

That tenderness broke him. After everything that he’d been through, Siberia, the fights, the constant battles, the loneliness, Peter, that was the final straw.

His face crumbled and tears started to stream down his face. He squeezed his eyes shut and sobbed.

There was a flurry of movements and everyone looked suitably terrified. Then Steve yelled something and sat beside him, pulling him into his lap and hugging him fiercely.

Tony pushed his face into Steve’s chest and tried to calm down. It wasn’t working at all.

Peter touched him shoulder gently, looking pale and frightened when Tony turned to face him. Tony distantly registered he was in his Spider-Man suit and he sucked in another sob.

Out of nowhere, Clint appeared and stood before him, saying something to the others before kneeling down and catching his gaze.

Then he deliberately raised his hands.

We’re here Tony, you’re safe.

Tony’s red eyes widened and he instinctively shifted to face Clint. Sign language, of course!

Where are you most hurt? Can you tell us?

With a shaky nod, Tony pointed at his bleeding cut and looked up hopefully. Clint said something and Vision appeared with a wad of bandages. Soon enough, the android was swathing him in bandages. His head swam as the pain spiked and his eyes fell closed.

A hand touched his shoulder when he realized Steve was shaking him. Above him, Clint looked anxious and moved his fingers again. He was lying flat now, head in Steve’s lap and wrist held tight between Steve’s fingers.

Stay with us Tony. Don’t sleep, we’re getting you to a hospital. Do you understand?

He nodded and shivered. Peter brought a blanket and they kept talking above him but Tony didn’t mind. He was happy to let it all go if he could just stay here. Safe and warm and with his family.

He drifted off to the push of the engine. They were going home.


 

Tony opened his eyes carefully and froze at the sight of white walls. There was a bed under him and parts of his body ached in a distant throbbing kind of way. Where was he?

“It’s okay Tony. You’re in the med bay in the Compound. You’re safe.”

Taking in the beeping of the monitor and the familiar sight of the compound, Tony turned and blinked.

Steve was sat right there, a guardian statue not moving an inch and glaring at him.

Yet Tony still felt something warm in his heart. He felt safe.

“You scared me to death Tony. My god, if Vision hadn’t told me to come-“

“Vision?” He croaked and damn, he sounded like he’d swallowed nails. Steve handed him some water with a straw but batted Tony’s hand away so that he could feed him. So Tony drank and listened.

“Yeah. He told me you’ve been having a bad time. That you’ve been taking too many hits and needed help. So I came.” Steve leveled him with tried look and pulled the cup away. “You should’ve called me Tony. I was waiting for it.”

“Didn’t-didn’t want to.”

“Why? It’s not your fault, you know that. I should’ve told you about Bucky. For what it’s worth, I’m sorry.”

Tony watched him and sighed. He’d forgiven Steve recently and decided there was no point in getting angry now. Not when he so blatantly owed his life to Steve.

He was immensely grateful for that.

“Thankyou for saving me.” Tony said quietly and shivered when Steve carded fingers through his hair gently.

Steve smiled at him softly. “No need to thank me. Just don’t put yourself in that position again okay? I’m here, even if it may not seem like it.”

Steve kept brushing through his hair and Tony just melted. It was nice to see him even if the circumstances weren’t great.

“I won’t. I was just trying to fix everything.”

“On your own though. And that’s why I’m not disappearing now. I know you’re close to finishing with the Accords. I’ll stay here while you finish.” Steve then shifted and glanced at the door uneasily. “I’m hoping we can maybe not mention it to Ross.”

Tony couldn’t help it. He actually laughed. “I won’t. Believe me, I won’t.”

Sinking into his chair, Steve smiled. “I’m glad.” His gaze lingered on Tony and then his eyes began to glisten. He bit his lip and swallowed.

“You really scared me. I thought you were going to drown. And I wouldn’t have been able to save you.”

Tony shook his head when he saw the tears fall on Steve’s cheeks. It tugged at his heart to see Steve like that. “Don’t cry...”

“You can’t do that again. Okay? Promise me Tony.”

He nodded. “Okay.”

“Okay. Good.” Steve swallowed and scrubbed at his face angrily. Somehow he managed to look composed within seconds which just wasn’t fair.

“I’m still mad at you. By the way.” Tony added because he was. At the end of the day they still had to discuss Siberia.

“I know. And you have every right to be.”

“But if you’re staying then...maybe we could talk about it?” Tony said under his breath and looked at the cannula in his hand. Steve seemed to suck in a breath like the words were air and he was suffocating.

“Yeah? You think so?”

Tony’s lips twitched. “Yeah. I missed you, you know.”

They faced each other and smiled. No more words were needed. It didn’t matter right now anyway.

Steve leaned forward and kissed him on the lips, completely different to how it had been underwater. There was no desperation this time, only a light brush and it left Tony feeling warmer than ever. It was perfect.

“Umm okay, well I guess that explains everything.”

Almost subconsciously, Steve leaned over Tony as if to protect him. But it was only Peter and Tony had to laugh.

“Hey kid. How’re you?”

Peter raised an eyebrow, unimpressed and stepped closer. Even though he was playing along, Tony could easily spot the ruffled greasy hair, the quick change into old clothes, the deep circles under his eyes. Tony’s smile faded and he looked at Steve too, spotting the same thing.

They had both been scared for him.

“I’m fine. So would you be if I hadn’t-“

“Don’t say I told you so. It really doesn’t mean anything right-“

“Oh I won’t. I won’t as long as you promise me that you’ll let me come to these stupid missions where you're bait. At least when you’re low on numbers.”

Steve nipped that one right in the bud. “You may. But there won’t be another mission like that because Tony won’t ever be using himself as bait again.” He pinned Tony was a stare. “Will you Tony?”

He shook his head, trying to ignore the super-soldier’s breath on his cheek. There was no way he was gonna deny the man.

Peter’s shoulders sagged and he sat on the bed opposite Steve. A thought hit him and Tony’s heart positively swelled.

Peter and Steve had finally met.

"Steve, I'd like to introduce you to-"

"Spiderman. I know."

Tony's eyes brightened. "You've talked?"

The two had a silent conversation with each other before Peter finally scoffed and Steve bit back a smile. "You bet. And guess what we talked about." 

"Uhh Captain America's sex-ed talks?"

"No but oh my god, can we please talk about that?" Peter said eagerly at Steve who deadpanned. 

"Tony, Peter no. And back to the question, we talked about you."

The genius blinked. Huh. "Me?"

"Of course. You're an interesting topic all by yourself Mr.Stark." 

"What did you say?" He asked, looking between them nervously. The two just laughed and smiled knowingly.

"Nothing you need to worry about genius. We just compared notes and Peter gave me an update." 

Well then. Maybe it was best not to go into that too much. Tony wasn't sure what he'd get back. He decided it was time for a subject change.

“So Steve, what do you think of my intern?”

Steve pretended to ponder before settling on a decision. He smiled and ruffled the kid’s hair. “He’s a great kid. Takes after you.”

Peter huffed and endured the ruffling but Tony just beamed. “I think he takes after both of us. You know, stubborn to a tee.”

Steve dropped his hand and stared. “Is he your son?”

Peter gaped while Tony coughed and looked away. “N-no. Why would you think that?”

“Well everyone’s been wondering. He’s just like you, stubborn and reckless.”

Tony rolled his eyes and Peter started to snicker, not stopping even when Tony’s glared.

“No one has ever said that. He isn’t my son.”

“Well you’re kind of like a dad. In which case-“ Peter squinted at Steve. “That makes you my step-dad.”

The soldier rapidly went pale. “What?”

“Yeah. Makes sense.” Peter seemed far too proud and Tony couldn’t even be bothered to deny it. His eyes were starting to feel heavy anyway.

“You heard the kid Steve. He’s ours.” Tony yawned and blinked when Steve brushed his hair back again. Tony’s eyes fluttered closed under the touch.

“Yeah. Guess so. He’s a good kid and you’ve always been a good role model Tony.”

“Hmmm.” Tony hummed and smiled when he felt Peter pull his blanket up further.

“Hey, you know what’s really weird? Captain America having a beard.”

“Oh come on Parker! I’ve had bigger things to worry about than shaving!”

“It looks weird. It’s funny though.”

“Show some respect to your elders kid before I ground you-“

Tony smiled and drifted off to their bantering. Sure they still had plenty to discus but right there, in this moment, Tony could imagine a future with a family. And not just any family but this one.

He dreamt of feeling like this forever.