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Eremophobia

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Tony opens his eyes to his hand on Peter’s back where it’d been when he soothed him to sleep. It’s sweet. He presses his fingers in before he sweeps them down the length of Peter’s spine.

*

Peter rouses as he’s being touched. Tony squeezes his side and easily draws Peter closer so they’re pressed to one another under the sheets.

*

“Tell me if it’s uncomfortable,” Tony says.

“It’s not.”

Tony sticks a kiss to Peter’s shoulder.

*

“When I was...gone,” Peter says, his soft voice unlike Tony’s, which is rough and deep with remnant sleep, “you would say things to me. In the place.”

“What things?”

“Like...I’m your favorite.”

“Mmm.”

Peter’s eyes shut with the second kiss.

“You’re doing perfectly, go on.”

“That you like my mind. My inventions.”

“I do. Keep being good for me, Pete. What else?”

“...My heart. You said you like my heart. That the world needs it.”

Peter’s head tilts when Tony’s teeth scrape his neck. His hands curl in the sheets beneath the pillows.

“Tell me if it needs to stop,” Tony says.

“It doesn’t.”

*

Tony has to know: “What changed yesterday for you to run off alone like that?”

Peter looks at him now. He’s so fucking pink and his hair is slumber-fussed.

“I dunno. It—like, it sorta came over me, seeing you look...alive. Real. Yeah.”

*

They fall asleep and wake up and fall asleep and piss and sleep and touch.

*

Peter shifts to lie on Tony’s chest. “Is this okay, Mr. Stark?” he asks, a hopeful depth in his eyes. Tony pulls him down, his hand large around Peter’s nape.

*

“Is it still tender?”

He’s asking about the scar left behind from being sliced through by his own armor.

“Yes,” Tony answers gently. He watches heavy-lidded while Peter’s fingers trace it. His lashes tickle each time he blinks.

*

“I like your voice, Mr. Stark.”

“I’ve witnessed.”

Peter folds his arms on Tony’s chest and hides his face; his laugh. Tony’s hand is lower—grazing above Peter’s ass—but he doesn’t ask. He doesn’t touch him there yet.

*

It’s noon when Tony scans Peter’s vitals with his phone as he sleeps a seventh time, unaware.

*

“Do you always do that?” Peter asks while they’re eating. “Scan me?”

Tony is surprised, though he shouldn’t be. He chews the food in his mouth as he recovers from the question, swallows it, says a simple, “Yes.”

“For how long?”

“Since the first night.”

*

This is the longest Peter’s gone without the mask. Tony watches to know when he’s pressed up against his limits, to gauge the perfect time to offer the glasses.

He steps behind Peter, who’s seated at the island with his tablet. “I don’t want you to hurt,” Tony says, palms flat on the surface so that Peter rests safe between his arms.

Peter pauses the video. The image freezes on Happy’s face, twisted with agitation mid-lecture in the driver’s seat of the car.

“I’m...okay,” Peter says. “A bit overwhelmed, I guess, but it’s fine. The lights are dim and—”

Tony lays a kiss on Peter’s nape. “Don’t lie.”

“Okay.” Peter tenses with a breath. “Okay.”

“Do you hurt?

“I—”

“And not just physically, Pete.”

Peter hangs his head. He nods. “Yes, sir.”

*

He faces Tony now on the round little seat, his feet upon the bars below. Tony slides the brown-tinted glasses on his face and gives a satisfied hum at how they fit.

“Mr. Stark….” Peter grabs the temples, adjusting the lightweight hardware as he blinks. “They’re…. Wow.”

Tony preens.

Peter slides his arms around his waist. “Thank you.”

*

While Tony drags a grey beanie over Peter’s hair, Peter draws his nose up Tony’s neck.

“Is this okay?” he asks in a timid little voice before he stamps Tony’s ear with a kiss.

*

At night, they head into the room it all started, to the closet, where Peter’s webs had been.

“How old am I now?” Peter asks. Tony sits on the bed, his forearms on his thighs as he watches Peter take it all in.

“Seventeen.”

“I wasn’t gone long.”

“No. You didn’t miss any birthdays.”

“I missed yours,” Peter says. He takes a seat on the bed next to Tony. “I figured that. That I wasn’t gone long, because you didn’t say you mourned on birthdays—plural. But...it felt like….”

“I know.”

“I’m sorry I did that, Mr. Stark. On your bed.”

“Why?” Tony asks. He looks at him.

“It’s just inappropriate, sir, I shouldn’t have done it, I shouldn’t have hacked the suit again, I just….”

Peter blows out a breath. Tony flicks his gaze down over him.

“Why was it inappropriate?” Tony asks.

“Because, you’re...older. And my mentor and friend and you even said I’m like a...son,” Peter strains to get out.

“You are like a son to me, kid. But life and relationships aren’t so linear. Things change. The world has changed. The world is different.”

Peter nods, rubbing his hands together. He exhales again. Tony grabs his thigh.

“Fifty percent of the population is gone,” Tony says.

“Fifty?” Peter looks pained.

“We have to survive with what we have. With who.”

*

“Good morning, Peter,” Karen says when Peter wakes and grabs his glasses, pushing them onto his face under the hat. He’d slept in it, repeating that it helped him feel safe, which Tony already knew. Still, it pleased him.

“Karen! Whoa—you’re back?”

And Peter’s beaming. And Tony feels his chest squeeze up.

*

“What are we?” Peter asks as he’s taking his morning piss, looking to Tony, who’s brushing away at his teeth.

Tony spits. “Impeccable timing, as always.”

“Sorry.”

Tony knows he’s not.

*

“But what are we?” Peter asks as Tony warms leftover pizza. He’s sitting on the counter, brown eyes big behind the lenses.

Tony steps away. He laughs, coming to settle between Peter’s legs.

“You’re—”

“Young.”

“—healing. Wow, kid, we’ve gotta start getting on the same page, here.”

Peter’s pink. Tony finds that it’s his new favorite color. He brings his face to Peter’s, kisses his cheek.

“So you don’t care?” Peter asks. “My age?”

“Of course I care, kid. But I’m not that fucking noble. It’s the apocalypse.”