Peter Parker's maternal grandmother had been the youngest granddaughter of some sort of oil baron and business tycoon. She'd been cut out of most of the will when she went against her grandfather's wishes and decided to marry an O.S.S. agent, then went on to have Mary Fitzpatrick scandalously soon after the wedding. Mary had been raised with many of the same expectations of only the best, though this mainly applied to her schooling, not her marriage prospects. When some of their estranged relatives had started nosing around with offers to fix this, Mary had taken a leaf out of her mother's book and eloped.
Peter had some distant cousins who were either filthy rich or big names in business, but it didn't change the fact he and Aunt May were comfortably middle class. It was one of those mildly interesting genealogical facts Peter had been completely uninterested in when his mother was telling him, but which were later cherished for the memories, if not the knowledge itself. It had absolutely no bearing on his actual life.
At least, that was what Peter had always thought until he turned seventeen and returned home to discover a phalanx of the family's lawyers and an ancient great-aunt he'd never met crowded into the living room.
"It's out of the question," May said furiously as Peter slipped into the apartment, trying not to make too much noise or draw attention to himself. He wanted to figure out what was going on first.
His great-aunt was eagle-eyed and waved her off, staring straight at Peter as he put the keys in the chipped grey bowl that usually held them. "Here's the boy now. He can answer for himself."
"Hello?" Peter said uncertainly. He'd never seen any of these people in his life.
"I'm your Great-Aunt Mary," she introduced herself, holding her hand out expectantly, "though your mother was not named for me. Father strictly forbade it." Her wrinkled smile was mischievous. "And of course your grandmother always followed the rules. There was a reason she was my favorite niece."
Peter shook her hand. She had a surprisingly strong grip, though for some reason she pursed her lips even before he introduced himself with, "Peter, um, Peter Parker. Though you probably knew that. You knew my mom?"
"Only briefly." Mary pointedly relaxed her hand, and Peter released her. "We waited to have this conversation far too late, though it probably didn't help that they decided to let Joseph take point on explaining matters. I'd have run screaming for the convent, personally, though I admire her resolve in finding a more appealing marriage bed. My eldest brother could make a five course gourmet meal sound like the meanest gruel."
"I'm sorry?" Peter snuck a glance at May, but it didn't clarify anything except that she was simmering with quiet rage. "I'm not sure what kind of conversation this is. Explaining what matters? What am I answering?"
"Curious. That'll serve you well. And straight to the point. I like to see that in the younger generation." Mary nodded firmly. "We're discussing the Stark boy. What do you think of him?"
Stark … boy? Peter could only think of one Stark. "Do you mean Tony Stark?"
"Oh, good. You know him." Knew of him, anyway. "Thoughts? Impressions? General objections?"
"He's my favorite Avenger?" Peter tried, not really sure what she wanted from him.
"That's a place to start." Mary tapped her chin with a long fingernail painted a pale blue. "No problems with the promiscuity or the blood on his hands? I understand that his twenties and thirties were rather, let's say, rambunctious. Your mother wasn't exactly taken with him. And your file says you have some radical pacifist influences in your life."
His file? "Okay, first of all, that was all years ago, and I don't think it's right to judge someone by stuff they do in the privacy of their own homes or, um, hotel rooms that isn't hurting anyone. Second of all, what do you mean by radical pacifists? What file?"
Mary waved a hand dismissively. "Of course we've kept an eye on your life. If it doesn't bother you, then I'm happy to hear it. Little Vanessa tried to put herself forward, but the original contract said it would go to someone of your grandmother's line, and Stark wouldn't hear of getting it switched sight unseen. Said he'd rather cancel it if we were going to change the terms." She smiled. "Of course, you can say no, in which case it can be changed without incurring penalties, but you'll have to meet with him first."
"You don't have to do anything," May said.
"Meet with Tony Stark?" Peter squeaked. "Why?"
"Why? For your marriage contract, of course."
Peter pinched himself. He looked for hidden cameras. Somehow, it turned out this was real. "Marriage contract. To Tony Stark?"
"Exactly. You'll get on swimmingly, I'm sure. I can just tell." Mary beamed at him. May looked like she was contemplating murder. The lawyers milled around quietly. Mary snapped her fingers at one of them. "Of course, we'll have to discuss the details before we get that far."
Details included a lot of legal stuff that went in one ear and out the other. They also included Mary arranging for Peter to get a fitting for proper clothing, because apparently what he had on didn't count, and Mary had zero confidence in what he had in his closet.
"You'll need a haircut. And those nails look terrible. Honestly, you may be a man, but you need to take care of your hands." Mary turned his head either way, fingers digging into his chin. "I'm not sure if the baby-faced look will help or hinder here. I'd like you both to be happy. We'll get you a nice cologne, too."
When she left, taking the lawyers with her, May picked up one of the pillows from the couch and threw it at the door. She said, "I meant it. You don't have to do anything you don't want to do. If they try to take you away after seventeen years of being completely uninvolved in your life, I don't care how much money they throw at the problem, the family courts will side with me. And they can't touch your education trust. Your mother made sure of that."
Peter hadn't known that was a concern. "It's, um, it's okay, Aunt May. I don't mind." Peter was trying not to examine how he felt about all of this, but it definitely wasn't something negative. "And it's just one meeting."
First, though, was a mani-pedi followed by a full spa day when Mary still wasn't satisfied when she examined him at the suit fitting. Peter was primped within an inch of his life in preparation for meeting Tony Stark, like Mary thought a little extra moisturizer was going to be the difference between a yes and a no.
"Why do you care so much?" Peter asked, a little uncomfortable in just the robe he'd been given. "Wouldn't it be better for you if he paid the broken contract penalties?"
Mary looked contemplative. She tapped a nail against her lips.
"Your grandmother was my favorite niece. Your mother was my favorite grand-niece, though I didn't have the opportunity to see either as much as I wanted." She sighed. "But I did always like the Stark boy, too. He was wild, but I always thought there was potential there, that he could have made them, either of them, happy. I think he deserves to be happy, too." She tapped the nail against the hollow where Peter's collarbones met. "I think you could make him happy. And if that poster in your bedroom is any indication, he'll make you very happy in return."
Peter wasn't so sure, but he wasn't going to turn down a chance to meet his teen idol.
(He did think the waxing was a high price to pay for it, though.)
They met in a conference room in Avengers Tower. Peter had a bunch of lawyers who had his estranged family's interests at heart who made it all the way to the lobby with him, and Tony had several of his own who were actually in the room. Mary had seen him off at the car, fixing his tie one last time as she'd said, "Feel free to tell the lawyers to fuck off, dear. They're my brother's creatures. Do try to enjoy yourself."
Tony's eyes did a quick flick up and down when Peter came in the room, and Peter had the sense that Tony could tell not only where Peter had gotten the suit made, but also that this was his first time wearing something tailored. All he said, though, was, "Hello, Mr. Parker. Glad you could make it. Make yourself at home." He waved a hand at the empty side of the table opposite him and his lawyers. "Where's your guardian?"
"She, um, she said she was going to find a bar?" Peter wasn't sure whether Mary had been kidding. He kind of thought probably not. "She gave me money for a cab home." Peter took the seat opposite Tony. "Hi, um. I'm Peter. Parker. Nice to meet you."
"Where's the rest of your posse?" Tony looked at the door, which Peter had shut behind himself. "You were supposed to have a full on retinue."
Peter wiped his clammy palms on his pants legs, trying to disguise it as smoothing out the wrinkles. "Mary, um, she said I could tell them to go home? So I did."
"Do you have anyone here looking out for your best interests?" Tony asked.
"Mary said that this would be just a get to know you meeting."
"And that's a no." Tony had a very odd expression on his face. He pointed at someone without looking. "You, minion. Switch sides. You're on Parker's team now." She got up, went around the table, and sat down on Peter's right. "Look out for his best interests. Make sure he doesn't sign anything without reading the fine print."
"He's only seventeen, sir. It wouldn't be legally binding anyway."
"His team," Tony emphasized. He clapped his hands together once. "Great, now that that's taken care of, we're gathered here today for some preliminaries. Yes, that includes some getting to know each other. Please tell me you did the homework."
"I read the contract, if that's what you mean." Peter really hoped that's what Tony meant and that there wasn't actual homework.
"Okay, good. We're on the same page. So some additional background for you. When I was ten, your grandmother was on your side of the table—metaphorically speaking, because this tower wasn't even built yet—and said, very firmly, 'No, thank you.' I want you to know that you can do the same." Tony paused. When the silence grew awkward, because Peter wasn't about to turn down marrying Tony Stark without a chance to get to know him first, Tony looked at the lawyer beside Peter and said, "This is where his family's lawyers would have interrupted about how of course he can't do that, because contracts, blah blah blah, penalties, so boring, lots of legalese boiling down to they like money, and it doesn't matter how stupid his great-grandfather was or how drunk my dad was, these things are important and can't be thrown over on a whim, never mind that it's been done twice now."
"You said I was to look out for Mr. Parker's best interests, sir. It's best that he considers his own desires, not some distant relative's." She smiled at Peter. "So yes, Mr. Stark is right. You can say, 'No, thank you.' But you can also hear him out. You're the only one who can decide what's best for you."
Peter's own smile was shaky. "I'd kind of like to stay?"
"Right." Tony's eyes were considering. He said, "Overview or minutia?"
"Which one includes why you aren't saying, 'No, thank you'?" Because Peter was really, really curious, and Mary had already told him that was one of his selling points.
"For one thing, the penalties on my side are pretty brutal. Dear old Dad was over a barrel when he got his loan, which was why he let it include terms like giving away his literal firstborn. And yeah, I could fight it. I have a whole team of lawyers," Tony gestured at said lawyers, "champing at the bit to do so. But it would take time and money, and, honestly, your mom was hot and she and your grandma were both incredibly accommodating of my desire to put off getting married for a while longer." Tony grinned. "Too accommodating, your family might say." He looked serious again. "But right now, I don't have the time and I'd rather use the money for other things. Planet saving things."
"Planet saving things?" Peter asked, eyes widening.
Tony's lawyers got increasingly stony-faced. One of them muttered, "Now he's got an excuse to go on again," but it was so low Peter didn't think anyone else would've been able to hear him.
"I'm so glad you asked," Tony said in a tone that said that no, actually, he wasn't glad for the excuse to go on again and he really wished Peter hadn't asked. "Remember the Chitauri?"
Peter was a New Yorker. Of course he remembered the Chitauri.
"Yeah, well, we didn't stop them. We delayed them." Tony spread his hands as if to say, What can you do? "So yes. Planet saving things."
"Did you need me to break the contract?" Peter asked.
"At this point, kid, they're going to just start throwing your cousins at me. Some of them are already throwing themselves." Tony picked up a pen and rolled it across the table. It came to a stop by a yellow legal pad to Peter's left. "I'd rather see if we can't make this work first."
"But why me?" Peter asked.
Tony sighed. He looked at his retinue. "I need a little privacy here. Give us a moment." Tony met his lawyers' subsequent scandalized expressions with a flat stare. "It's a conference room. It's not like I'm locking myself in the kid's bedroom. Go on, shoo. We'll be fine, and this has become a private conversation."
"Mr. Stark, I really can't advise—" said one of them.
"Did I stutter? Do I need to sign a waiver? Get out." They went, leaving behind Tony, Peter, and the lawyer Tony had assigned to him. Tony made a shooing gesture at her. "You're not exempt. Get out of here."
She smiled faintly. "I'm afraid that's not up to you." Her attention was on Peter as she said, "It's your decision, but he probably won't answer any questions with me in here."
"I'll be fine," Peter said. She patted his arm and followed her colleagues out, shutting the door behind her.
"Friday, make a note to give Ms. Burns a raise," Tony said.
Tony shook his head and made a gesture that brought up some sort of holographic display. "Now that we've got a little privacy, it's very simple." He jabbed pointedly and a very familiar YouTube video cued up. Another tap on the air saw it hit play. "You're Spider-Boy. Spider-Thing? The amazing Spiderling."
Peter slouched in his chair as he ruthlessly quashed the urge to correct Tony that it was Spider-Man. Maybe if he said nothing, Tony would think he was wrong.
"Don't give me that look. This isn't the start of a blackmail attempt, it's an explanation. When I die, everything of mine—my money, my company, my designs and proprietary tech, including my suits and a number of other things I can't let fall into the wrong hands—will go to my spouse." Tony pointed at the tiny figure of Peter stopping the SUV from crashing into the bus. "I figure someone who put on a mask at the age of fifteen to go help people, all risk, no reward? That's someone safe to leave my legacy." He smiled, slight, uncertain. "Tell me I'm wrong."
Peter couldn't do that. He couldn't say anything at all, the weight of Tony's expectations settling heavy on his shoulders. Peter thought he could learn to carry it; he thought he'd have to.
Tony's smile went sad. "Yeah, that's about what I thought." With a swipe of his finger, the video disappeared. "Got any other questions for me?"
Peter had so many questions. Tony was surprisingly willing to answer them. He even had a few of his own.
After a while, he looked at his watch. "Okay, lawyer things and contract negotiation will have to wait for next week. There's a little wiggle room on things, and I'd prefer we get them hammered out asap, instead of the night before our wedding. Bring your lawyers next time. Get some new ones if you don't like the ones you have. Your family can certainly afford them, and if they're being difficult, you can have them charge me. Just—no more coming in alone like a lamb to the slaughter. You need someone looking after your interests."
Peter smiled cheekily. "Seems like right now that's you."
"And until we're married, it really shouldn't be. Opposite sides of the table, remember?" Tony said that, but partway through, he'd actually walked around to take the seat Ms. Burns had abandoned. Hesitantly, he reached out and patted Peter on the shoulder. "Nice meeting you, kid. See you next week."
Peter discovered Mary had come back and waited for him when he made it down to the lobby. Despite a security guard side-eyeing her, she was sipping from a metal hip flask engraved with roses. She looked Peter up and down, then raised her perfectly shaped eyebrows. "Am I looking at a young man who's still engaged?"
"You are," Peter cheerfully informed her.
"Excellent." She capped the flask and tucked it away in her purse. "Come along. We'll retrieve your aunt, and you can tell the both of us all about it over supper."
May was a lot less happy to hear Peter intended to go through with it than Mary was.
"We'll get you new lawyers," Mary said. She patted May's arm. "Don't pout. Even if Stark's determined to get everything settled as soon as possible, Peter will have months yet to change his mind."
But Peter didn't change his mind. With every subsequent meeting, he fell a little further, until he'd gone from a minor celebrity crush to head over heels.
Their fourth meeting, a month into knowing each other, Tony ordered all the lawyers out again. "He can't sign anything and he's legal. If I wanted to have sex with him, it wouldn't be on a conference room table and it would still be none of your business."
Peter's lawyers didn't like Tony very much, but that was okay. Peter liked Tony enough for everyone.
Tony grabbed a metal briefcase and dropped it on the conference table. "I got you something. Little engagement gift." He rocked back on his heels. "Open it up."
"I didn't get you anything," Peter said, but he was already reaching for the clasps.
Tony waved a hand. "I'm a man who has everything. No gifts necessary."
Peter lifted the lid to reveal a Spider-Man suit. "Is this—are you for real?"
"Very real," Tony said. He looked pleased, smug, the crow's feet at the corners of his eyes deepening. "Probably shouldn't try it on right here, but let me know how it fits."
"Through your lawyers?" Peter asked, because it wasn't like he had any other way to contact the man.
"I think you'll find that won't be necessary." Tony winked. "Call me if you get lonely tracking lost dogs or run into any problems you need a little extra superhero help to solve."
"It has a built-in phone?" Peter's fingers itched to pull it out and pull the mask on then and there.
"Oh, kid, you have no idea." Tony tapped the case. "I've loaded it up with a bunch of goodies which you can try out at home. Do you like it?"
Peter petted the bright red front of it. "I love it."
He loved it even more when he actually got to try it on.
"Recognized user Peter Parker," the suit's AI said. "Initiating tutorial."
"This is the coolest thing I've ever seen," Peter said reverently.
"Thank you," the AI said.
Peter named her Karen.
Their fifth meeting wasn't at the Tower.
"Connecting to Tony Stark," Karen announced.
"Hey, kid. How's the suit?" Tony asked after a short pause. There was a little screen with his face on it.
"It's amazing," Peter said.
"Glad to hear it." And Tony did sound glad, sounded like Peter's honest appreciation had made his day.
"Were, um. Were you serious about calling if I was bored?"
"Call me whenever you like," Tony offered.
Peter—well. Peter was only human. He took Tony up on it.
Sometimes Tony didn't answer. Sometimes he had to go, said, "Kid, I've gotta call you back."
But he never told Peter to stop calling and he called back every single time.
Peter was on a bus with the rest of his class on a school trip to the Museum of Natural History when he felt every hair on his body stand on end.
There was a huge space ship in the sky. It was kind of … shaped like a donut. It looked ridiculous and like it shouldn't be able to stay up. Peter had a really, really bad feeling about it.
"Hey, Ned," Peter said. "I need you to cause a distraction."
Tony appreciated the assist when he was about to be pasted by some huge alien. He appreciated Peter catching a ride on the donut ship much, much less. He was actually pretty angry.
"What part of I'm trusting you with my legacy did you not understand?" Tony demanded. "You can't inherit anything if you're dead or halfway across the universe."
"We're not married yet, so it's not like I can inherit anything at all," Peter said in what he thought was a reasonable tone.
"Wrong. You think I was going to leave it to chance when I found the perfect—" Tony stopped abruptly, turning away. "I left some things to Rhodey and Pep, set up a bunch of trusts, but it was mostly all set to go to you. Except now we're both on a one way trip, and none of it matters anymore."
"It wouldn't matter if we all died because this Thanos guy won."
Tony turned back, but he still looked really, really mad. Quietly, he said, "You shouldn't be here."
They worked out a plan. They rescued a wizard and spaced an alien like in that old movie. When Strange was free, he said, "What exactly is the relationship here?"
"We're engaged," Peter said awkwardly.
"Not even married yet, but I'm considering divorce," Tony said. Peter winced, and Tony sighed, put a hand in his hair. "Maybe more, 'It's complicated.'"
Strange looked like he was sorry he'd asked. Peter was, too.
They worked out another plan, the three of them, but that one didn't go so well.
"No," Tony said. "No, no, no, you don't go first. That wasn't the deal."
Peter fell forward, and Tony caught him. Peter could barely feel Tony's hand against his face. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry, Mr. Stark."
"You're okay." Tony looked like he was going to cry. It wasn't right. Peter felt strongly that Tony deserved to smile more. "You're going to be okay."
"It hurts," Peter admitted. Then, "I really wanted to marry you."
Whatever Tony said in reply, Peter didn't hear.
Peter wasn't around for what happened next. He only knew that Tony had fixed it.
It didn't change the fact that Peter had died.
Peter was back, but Tony wasn't around so much anymore. The engagement wasn't off, and Tony sent his lawyers to meet with Peter's lawyers to finalize the last few details of their contract, but Tony wasn't with them. When Peter called, Tony answered maybe half the time. He called back most of the time if he didn't pick up, but not as fast as before. When he did, it felt awkward, distant, like he wasn't really there.
"If you're busy—" Peter offered the out, and Tony took it, said, "Yeah, actually. Catch you later?"
"Sure," Peter said around the lump in his throat.
Tony hung up. He didn't call back.
Peter had died, but it wasn't like he'd have lived if he'd stayed on Earth. He'd have been so much dust either way. The only difference would have been that Tony wouldn't have known, wouldn't have been able to see it happen.
Then again—maybe Peter dying wasn't the problem. Maybe it was what he'd said before he went.
Funnily enough, it wasn't Titan that Peter's mind kept going back to. It was the ship on the way over.
Tony had already set everything up to go to Peter, taking care of all his inheritance concerns. More importantly, he'd proven that he didn't need to be related to someone to be able to trust them with the future.
He'd said, "Not even married yet, but I'm considering divorce." It wasn't like he'd particularly wanted to marry Peter, and it wasn't like he needed to. He still had all those lawyers who would be perfectly happy to tear apart a decades old marriage contract originally set up for Peter's grandmother.
Thanos wasn't coming; he'd already arrived. He'd won and then he'd been defeated.
Tony wasn't short on time and resources anymore. Marrying Peter wasn't the easiest route that also took care of some side goals along the way.
Tony didn't need to marry Peter.
Peter tapped END as his call rang through to voicemail.
Peter had said, "I really wanted to marry you," as he'd come apart in Tony's arms. Peter had meant it, every word.
The worst part was, he still did.
"Hey, Great-Aunt Mary," Peter said.
"Oh, no," Mary said. "Don't you dare. Do not do this to me. Don't say it."
Peter said it: "What do I need to do if I want out of the contract after all?"
Mary sighed. "I can take care of it."
The suits—Peter especially regretted the suits. But they were engagement gifts, like the world's most expensive full body engagement rings. Peter packed them up, pulled out his old suit and the web slingers he'd designed and built himself, and played delivery boy—or maybe just an ex dropping off boxes on the balcony instead of throwing them over it. Peter stroked the mask one last time.
"Bye, Karen. Thanks for everything."
Mary took care of the rest of it.
"You're sure?" she asked.
"I'm sure," Peter said.
Peter wanted to marry Tony, yeah. But he wanted Tony to be happy even more.
Peter got back into his routine from before he found out about the marriage contract. He added in some time every night for waking up gasping from nightmares about Titan, but otherwise things went back to normal. No meetings with lawyers, no running through tutorials and test programs, no hour-long phone calls with handsome billionaire geniuses.
Ned had gotten a Lego Millennium Falcon, and they built it, putting it next to the Death Star from sophomore year.
"I'm really going to miss this," Ned said.
"But you're really going to love Caltech," Peter said.
Ned smiled. "I can't believe you got in all those places and still decided on NYU."
"Yeah." Peter ran his fingers over the Death Star's surface, noting it needed dusting. "I thought it would be better to stay local."
"Did you want to talk about—"
"No." Peter was firm. He definitely didn't want to talk about it.
Not with Ned, and not with Aunt May, who said, "If you ever need to talk—"
"There's nothing to talk about except what you want to order." Peter waved the menu. "I was thinking we could share an appetizer."
Especially not with Mary, who patted him on the shoulder and said, "Don't be a stranger. You may have destroyed my dreams, but you're not the first. Even if my brother never lets me live this down, at least I'm likely to outlive him. Either way, you're free to marry or not as pleases you now."
Peter graduated. He started college.
On the Friday he was originally supposed to marry Tony Stark, he went to class in the morning and spent the entire afternoon at the main campus library, then the evening patrolling. He kept going as evening stretched out into night, wondering if he could tire himself out enough that he wouldn't dream. It was pouring, driving everyone indoors, but at least he could put in an appearance, make a show of dedication.
He was taking a breather, legs dangling over a ledge, when he caught a glimpse of red and gold darting out from the cloud cover. Tony wasn't going that fast, so Peter had plenty of warning before he alighted on Peter's roof. He was there first, so he was definitely claiming it.
"Lovely night for a stroll," Tony said.
Peter's mask wasn't as expressive as the one Tony had made him, but he couldn't help raising both eyebrows. "Yeah. The rain really adds that certain something."
"Is that something pneumonia?"
Peter's chest hurt. "Well, you know. All the cool kids are doing it."
"And that's definitely a concern for you." Tony ambled closer and crouched down awkwardly in the armor next to Peter. "Would it be too big a blow to your reputation to have this conversation elsewhere?"
Peter stood. "I guess. Where did you have in mind?"
"You're in armor. You're not exactly getting soaked in there."
"Humor me," Tony said. Peter closed his eyes for a moment, and Tony used that time to step right into Peter's space, closing his arms around Peter's torso. "Hang tight."
It wasn't a long flight, but it was cold. Peter hadn't thought it was possible to get any wetter, but when they touched down on the same balcony Peter had left the suits on, Peter felt like he was more puddle than person. Tony let them in, his armor retreating into the casing and leaving behind jeans, a t-shirt, and a blazer.
Peter pulled back the hood of his hoodie and pulled off his mask. At least he could finally breathe again. "Here we are. Somewhere dry."
Tony frowned. He touched Peter's face, only to flinch away. "You're freezing."
"That happens when you go flying in the rain without an impermeable suit to protect you." Peter was dripping all over Tony's nice hardwood floors, but he couldn't muster the energy to care. "What did you want to talk about?"
"That can wait. First, let's get you out of those clothes."
"Excuse me?" Peter said.
"I have towels around here somewhere, and I'm turning into an ice cube looking at you." Tony retreated further into the room, headed for the hallway. "I'm sure I've got something that'll fit you."
Peter followed, leaving a trail of water. Tony grabbed a pile of large, fluffy towels from the linen closet, then led Peter into his bedroom. He dumped the towels on his bed, then opened another closet.
"Grab whatever you like. I'll be just outside." Tony shut the door behind him.
Peter sighed. He stripped quickly and grabbed one of the towels to dry off. He folded over another and put his wet clothes on top of it to contain the puddle. He stuck his head in Tony's ridiculously huge walk-in closet only to be confronted with a bunch of suits. He ended up wrapping a third towel around his waist before he opened the bedroom door.
"That was f—" Tony stopped. He stared. His eyes traced a drop of water's path from Peter's neck down his chest, before he abruptly turned his gaze to just over Peter's shoulder. He cleared his throat. "Nothing fit?"
"I was wondering if you had anything a little less formal."
"I think the only way you could get less formal at this point would be to lose the towel."
"Than the suits," Peter said. "Which were nice, but not something I imagine you'd want me to wear when I don't have dry underwear."
"I'm not going to stop you if you really want to wear one, but I do have other clothes." Tony came in the bedroom, doing an awkward shuffle past Peter when he didn't step back fast enough. He went back into the closet, which apparently had drawers Peter had thought were part of the wall's fancy paneling. "Jeans, exercise gear, t-shirts, socks, underwear, et cetera. Knock yourself out."
Peter grabbed a pair of sweatpants and, feeling a perverse need to know what would happen, dropped the towel. Tony turned in the other direction—but not before looking. Peter smiled to himself as he pulled up the pants.
"Okay. I'm decent. Can we talk now?"
Tony picked up a black tee and shoved it at Peter's bare chest. "I'm not sure you can say you're decent when you're freeballing it, but close enough. Put that on, and we'll talk."
Peter put on the t-shirt. Then, because he was cold and it was there, he stole one of Tony's MIT sweatshirts, too. Somehow, Tony looked even more off-kilter when faced with Peter in an old college sweater.
Tony swallowed. "Yeah, let's talk. In the other room. I need a drink. Did you want anything?"
Peter wanted a lot of things. He said, "I'm good."
Tony took them back to the room they'd started in, heading straight for the bar in the back of the room. He poured himself three fingers of something amber and swallowed half of it in one go. Peter sat on the couch, which was more comfortable than it looked.
Tony took the other end.
"So the thing is—" Tony looked down at his glass. "I told myself I wouldn't ask. You had every right to change your mind, and after … everything, it makes sense that your priorities might change, that you'd decide you wanted something else. The thing I don't get, though, is if you were going to give back the suits, if you wanted to retire the Spider-Man shtick, for college or for good, whatever, then why keep patrolling? Especially in weather that's resulted in 'Can spiders drown?' trending on Twitter."
"When did I say anything about retiring? I'm definitely not retiring. I may take a break when midterms come up, but I haven't made any changes."
"But you gave back the suits."
"Well, yeah. They were engagement gifts."
"And what, you didn't want anything from me, not even the potentially life-saving equipment customized for you?"
"Not wanting anything wasn't the problem." Peter fiddled with the cuffs of the sweater. The sleeves were long on him, the cuffs coming down to his fingers. The left one was fraying at the seam. "We both know I wanted too much from you."
Tony had gone still. Slowly, he said, "Do we? Because I had gotten the impression that you wanted nothing at all."
Peter frowned. "I died telling you how much I wanted from you."
"And then you came back and called off the wedding." Tony's expression was weird, almost upset. "Don't get me wrong, I didn't mind finally paying back that loan at what was actually a reasonable rate of interest, but there was another option there before throwing my lawyers at it, and you didn't take it."
"Because you didn't have to marry me anymore." Peter took a deep breath, exhaled it. "No more Chitauri, no more Thanos, just—no more need to focus on world-saving things. You should get to focus on you, Tony, and what you want. And I know that's not me."
Tony put his tumbler down on the glass coffee table with a sharp click. "Kid, that is the stupidest thing I have heard all year, and I had to endure Thanos's evil villain seeking sympathy monologue."
Peter blinked hard, stung and trying not to show it. In the fraction of a second his eyes were closed, Tony had slid closer on the couch. His hands reached up to touch Peter's face, fingertips light against his cheeks.
"Peter. Contract or no, I would have happily married you." Tony smiled, tentative, but real. "Say the word, and I still will."
"But you were avoiding me," Peter said blankly even as he brought his hand up to cover Tony's.
"Yeah. Turns out having someone you care about die in your arms is pretty traumatizing and requires some time to process, even if you brought them back. Who knew?" Tony ran his thumb along Peter's jawline. "Maybe I was kind of a dick about it, but I was trying really hard not to have a panic attack where you could see me."
"You—" Peter couldn't quite say the words, ask the question, You wanted to marry me? Instead, he pressed forward, sudden, mashing their lips together.
Tony tasted terrible, like paint thinner mixed with pine needles and oak. It didn't stop Peter from slipping his tongue in his mouth. Peter climbed into Tony's lap, and Tony's hands drifted down to land on Peter's hips. He got his hands under the shirt and sweater and hooked his thumbs in the waistband of Peter's sweatpants, but didn't pull down, just left them there, warm and heavy against Peter's skin. Peter shivered, though he wasn't cold anymore.
Peter pulled back from the kiss, lips tingling, and rested his forehead against Tony's. He tried again. "You wanted to marry me?"
"Want," Tony said. He stroked Peter's hips, tiny little circles that Peter felt like they went down to bone. "Present tense."
Peter kissed him again. After a minute, he pushed at Tony's blazer, and Tony shrugged it off. When he pulled at Tony's tee, Tony took that off, too, giving Peter access to all the skin beneath. Peter kissed Tony's neck, his shoulder, trailing down to the scar tissue over his sternum. When he looked up, Tony had a somewhat rueful expression. Peter deliberately laid a gentle kiss on the center. Tony ruffled his hair.
"You're cute, you know that?" Tony said.
Peter wasn't sure how he felt about being called cute, but he wasn't going to argue when it put that smile on Tony's face. He shifted in Tony's lap, and Tony groaned as Peter brushed against his half-hard dick. Peter did it again.
Tony dropped his head against Peter's shoulder. "I take it back. That's not cute at all."
"You know," Peter said, smiling as he shifted a third time, seating himself fully over Tony's dick and rocking into it, "this could've been our wedding night."
"Kind of late for cake and dancing," Tony said. His hands went back to Peter's hips, steadying him as he got a rhythm going.
"Guess we'll have to settle for the end of the night."
"Guess so." Tony kissed Peter's chin and put his hands down the back of Peter's pants, palming both ass cheeks, then squeezing. "You are wearing way too many clothes."
"You're going to have to let me go if you want me to fix that."
"Tried that; it was terrible. I am not letting you go again," Tony said, followed by another kiss. "But I'll let you get undressed, sure."
Peter stood and stripped right there in front of the couch while Tony watched, eyes dark. He let the shirt and sweatshirt fall to the floor, then shucked the sweatpants, stepping out of them to climb back into Tony's lap. The denim was—really uncomfortable, actually, rough against Peter's thighs. Peter got back up.
"Okay, no, you need to get naked, too."
Tony obliged him, but he stepped back when Peter reached for him. "Let's move this to the bedroom. I'd be happy to bend you over literally any surface you'd like, but I think you'd be more comfortable in a bed."
Remembering one of their first meetings, Peter said, "Even that conference table?"
"We'd have to get dressed again," Tony said, but that wasn't a no.
"Thought for later."
Peter led the way to Tony's bedroom this time, finding it increasingly difficult to keep his hands to himself. Tony was lagging a step behind, and Peter wanted to drag him forward, get a move on. When Peter looked back, he caught Tony staring at his ass. Tony winked.
Tony hung back in the bedroom doorway as Peter pulled the covers down and pushed the remainder of the pile of towels to the floor. When Peter looked over, Tony was leaned against the jamb.
Tony cleared his throat. "We don't have to do this now. We can take it slow."
Peter flopped on the bed. "Tony, please. Get over here and give me the wedding night I deserve."
Tony did, though he made a detour for condoms and lube first. He was excruciatingly slow opening Peter up, then what felt like it was slower yet getting inside him. Tony kept stopping to kiss Peter, inching in only to pause and brush his lips over Peter's lips, his cheeks, the tip of his nose. Peter felt like he couldn't breathe, filled up, but wanting more. When Tony was fully seated, he kissed Peter long and deep.
"Please," Peter said when Tony released his mouth. "I need—"
"I've got you." Tony ran his thumb along Peter's cheekbone and then finally started to move. He repeated, "I've got you."
Peter agreed. Tony had him. He was maybe even going to keep him this time.
Tony was a gentleman. He made sure Peter came before he did, though he almost immediately followed after, then got up to retrieve one of the towels from the floor to wipe them down.
"Stay the night," Tony said. He thumbed at Peter's mouth. Peter nipped at the pad of Tony's thumb, then kissed it. "Hell, stay forever. Even if you don't marry me. There's a place for you here whenever you want. You don't need to live in the dorms. I could—I could give you one of the guest rooms if you don't want to share a bed."
"Tony." Peter's heart felt too full. He pulled Tony's hand away from his face, but only so he could hold it against his chest. "I would love to share a bed with you."
"Is this finally a yes?" Tony said.
"It's always been a yes." Peter hooked his leg around Tony's hip, reeling him in. "From the very first day, I wanted to stay."
Tony was too tired for a round two, but he was perfectly willing to let Peter reposition him so they were cuddling, Peter sprawled out on his chest. Tony soothed a hand over Peter's back.
"This means you'll take the suits back, right?" Tony asked.
"I am definitely taking the suits back," Peter confirmed.
"If—" Tony cleared his throat. "If you ever change your mind, I want you to keep them. Nothing I give you is contingent on this." He waved his other hand between them. "Okay?"
"I'm not changing my mind." Peter dropped a kiss against Tony's chest, just over his heart. "But okay."
It took most of another year for them to get married. Tony wanted a wedding of the century. Peter preferred something smaller. They compromised. Everything about the wedding was extravagant and ridiculous except the guest list.
Great-Aunt Mary swanned up to them at the receiving line. "I'm so glad you were able to work it out." She bussed Peter's cheek, then Tony's. "I'm also glad you invited me." There was a glint in her eyes that said she was going to lord being Peter's only blood relative there over everyone she knew until the day she died. "Now. Which way is the bar?"
May hugged Peter for a full minute, rumpling his tux. Tony straightened it out after with rather more touching than was strictly necessary.
Ned looked like he was going to cry on Peter's shoulder, but instead he did the full, complicated best friend handshake from their senior year. "I'm really happy for you, dude."
"I still say we could have filled your side of the aisle with all your favorite celebrities," Tony said.
Peter hooked his arm through Tony's. "My favorite celebrity is right here."
Peter wasn't his mother or his grandmother. He wasn't pregnant and he hadn't eloped.
That didn't stop him from following the family tradition of marrying the man he loved.