“You had one job.”
Peter lifted his shoulders into what he hoped was an apologetic shrug, but it was hard, especially with the smile that kept trying to creep back on his face—but Tony didn’t look altogether amused.
“One. Job,” Tony said, pressing his forehead against his palm. “Do you want to tell me what you didn’t do?”
Peter looked around the kitchen. Or, more specifically, what could have and should have been a kitchen but now looked more like a restrained explosion of flour, egg yolks, egg shells, squished berries, and butter. And the best part of it all was Morgan, swinging her legs off the kitchen counter and calmly snacking on blueberries from a paper cup. She extended the cup to Tony and Peter. “Want one?” she asked.
“Not right now, sweetheart,” Tony replied automatically as Peter took a blueberry. “Pete. Answer please.”
“I dunno, Mr. Stark,” Peter replied, lifting his shoulders again. “I mean, Morgan and I were trying to make muffins for the bake sale, but things didn’t work out.” At Tony’s unimpressed look, Peter tried to repress his smile, but his cheeks were twinging too hard for him to do so successfully. “To be fair, Morgan was pretty curious about how to make an egg-throwing machine.”
“Cracking eggs is hard,” Morgan piped up, popping another blueberry in her mouth.
“So we tinkered around with some stuff,” Peter said, pointing at the (slightly) smoking heap of metal and wire bits sitting not five feet away from Morgan’s right. The best way to describe it was like a little carousel with rotating arms rather than rotating plastic horses. “And it was working…for a while.”
“And then it broke.” Morgan added.
“And then it broke,” Peter nodded. “And…this kinda happened.” He gestured to the mess. “But we learned something, Mr. Stark, and isn’t that what science experiments are all about?” There—Peter had Tony now, and he knew it because Tony opened his mouth, closed it, then lifted a finger. Peter looked over at Morgan and flashed a quick thumbs-up. Morgan, smiling gleefully, only flashed a small thumbs-up back before Peter turned back to Tony.
“Okay,” Tony said at last, rubbing his hands over his eyes. “Kid. Normally, I’d agree with you on this.” As Peter started to grin, Tony added, “Normally. But this wasn’t supposed to be a science experiment; this was supposed to be a simple task for a bake sale…” As Peter’s smile grew wider, Tony dropped his hands from his face. “And did the egg-throwing machine at least work for a few minutes before it went haywire?”
“It worked for ten minutes,” Peter replied gleefully. He walked back to the still slightly-smoking machine and picked it up. “We think we can make it work longer next time.” He lifted his eyebrows at Tony. “Would you know how to make it last longer?”
Tony opened his mouth again, closed it, and sighed. “C’mon. Give it here.”
Peter and Morgan exchanged excited looks as Tony took the pile of scraps. And as Tony picked his way through the heap, Peter could distinctly hear his mentor muttering things like “can’t trust these two” and “Pepper’s gonna lose it” and, of course, “how the hell did they do this anyways”. By the time Tony had somehow managed to re-assemble the machine, Morgan had hopped down from the counter and instead chosen to stand on top of a flour-dusted stool next to Peter.
“Alright, kids,” Tony said, scooting the machine over to Peter and Morgan. “Give that a whirl.”
Peter grinned. “Don’t you wanna watch?”
Only a second of silence passed before Tony said, “At least tell me you two wore goggles.”
Morgan dutifully passed over a pair of swimming goggles which were only slightly stained with blueberry juice.
“Great,” Tony said, fastening the swimming goggles over his eyes. “Hey—you two, I meant you two had to wear goggles, too. What, you two seriously calling yourselves scientists without some eye protection?”
“Absolutely right, Mr. Stark,” Peter said, trying to keep a straight face as he slid on his own pair of swimming goggles. He nodded over at Morgan, whose dark eyes seemed much larger under the protection of the thick pale swimming goggles. The little girl flashed Peter another a thumbs-up before jumping down from the stool. She returned only a moment later, hands laden with a few eggs.
“One for each,” she said, dropping an egg into both Tony and Peter’s awaiting palms before rolling the rest on the counter. Morgan readjusted her goggles and clinging onto her own egg as if it was a precious stone, she bent over and flicked on the machine.
The little arms of the metalwork started rotating, its clawed hands reaching out for something to hold. Morgan dropped her egg into one of the hands and said, “Watch.”
A moment later, the machine tossed the egg and, much to Peter’s own satisfaction, the egg landed in a bowl with a perfect crack.
“Your turn!” Morgan said, tugging on Peter’s sleeve.
“Got it,” Peter replied and dropped his egg into another awaiting claw.
Peter turned to Tony. “See?” he beamed.
“Your turn!” Morgan cheered, bouncing on the balls of her feet.
Tony looked over at Peter the beginnings of a smirk on his face. “Tell me,” he said, rolling the egg in between his fingers, “was this Morgan’s idea or yours?”
“Both of ours,” Peter replied instantly. “We both decided baking muffins today would be kinda boring.”
“Figured.” With that, Tony dropped the egg into the awaiting machine’s hands.
This time, all three cheered at the egg making its satisfying landing into the bowl.
At least, they kept cheering until a very surprised, very somewhat unamused voice cried, “What are you three doing?”
This time, Peter, Morgan, and Tony all exchanged stricken looks before turning around.
Pepper Potts, hands laden with groceries, wore an expression that reminded Peter distinctly of the expression Aunt May wore when she discovered her nephew was Spider-Man. Only at least when Aunt May wore the expression, Peter had instantly mirrored her expression and quickly stammered out some explanation. Here, at least, Peter didn’t get the job of giving the explanation—not right away, at least, because Pepper’s first words were, “Tony?”
“Hey, Pepper,” Tony said, and Peter almost cringed at the way his mentor drew out the ‘hey’ for a second too long. “Did you get the celery?”
“Did I—why is the kitchen a mess?”
At that very moment, Morgan chose now would be a good time to hand the still-rotating machine another egg.
“Morgan and Peter decided to make a science experiment,” Tony said. “And…look!” He gestured at the machine. “It works, isn’t that great?” He grinned a little too widely at Peter, and the look in his eyes was very clear: help me out, kid.
“Yeah, Ms. Potts,” Peter quickly said, jerking a thumb back at the machine. He became all too aware of the fact that Morgan was still calmly passing the machine more eggs. “We figured today would be the perfect day to figure out what Morgan should bring to…her science fair!”
“Exactly,” Tony nodded.
“You’re preparing her for a science fair she won’t be participating in for another four years?” Pepper deadpanned, setting the groceries down on the one clean spot of kitchen floor. She stalked towards Tony and Peter, and with each nearing step, Peter slid further and further behind Tony’s back. “That’s funny, because I distinctly remember us discussing that Peter was going to help Morgan make muffins for the bake sale.”
“I also distinctly remember you, Tony, saying that you would keep an eye on Peter and Morgan in case things got messy,” Pepper said, pointing a long, manicured finger in Tony’s direction. From behind Tony’s back, Peter could sense his mentor stiffening up just the slightest.
Pepper gestured at the kitchen. “And does anyone want to tell me what this place looks like?”
“A science experiment?” Tony offered.
“A mess, Tony.” Pepper said. “An absolute mess.”
“I wouldn’t say…” Tony’s voice drifted at Pepper’s glare. “Well, we’ve seen worse, haven’t we?”
“Besides, Ms. Potts,” Peter said from around Tony, “Morgan and I tried to make the muffins—we really did, but both of us weren’t sure about working the oven, so—”
“Peter.” Pepper took a deep breath. “You’ve survived explosions. I figured you would be fine with working an oven. That excuse isn’t going to work with me.”
“Okay,” Peter squeaked and returned to hiding behind Tony.
“And Morgan, can you please stop using that thing to throw eggs?” Pepper asked, exasperated.
“It’s kinda fun,” Morgan said, holding up an egg for Pepper to see. “Do you wanna try, Mommy?”
“No thank you, sweetie. Let’s get this place cleaned up instead.”
Morgan jutted out her lower lip. “Just one more egg?”
“Come on, Pepper,” Tony interrupted, placing a hand on Pepper’s shoulder. “Morgan and Peter have been working on this all day.” He gestured at the mess of the kitchen. “And besides, is one more cracked egg going to make all that much a difference to this place?”
Pepper glowered at both Tony and Peter, who had only just poked his head out from behind again. “Don’t think this lets you guys off the hook. I’m going to have words with both of you, I promise.”
“And there will be words,” Tony said, nodding to both Pepper and Peter. “Right?”
“Definitely,” Peter said, bobbing his head. “No doubt.”
Pepper sighed and rolling up her sleeves, said, “Alright, Morgan, do you hear that? After this, we’re going to clean this place up, understand?”
To her credit, Morgan nodded her head with the same solemnity Tony and Peter displayed just a moment ago. “Got it, Mommy,” she said. “But egg first.”
Pepper cast Peter and Tony another wary look, but with another sigh, she—with obviously deliberate energy—set the egg in the claws.
And the machine spun, spun, spun…until—
Maybe the machine had slowed down, or maybe the egg Pepper placed in the claw was heavier than the other eggs, or maybe the bowl had somehow magically shifted in the last thirty seconds, but whatever the reason, Pepper’s egg didn’t crack into the awaiting bowl.
The egg cracked onto the floor.
For a terrible, horrifying second, no one said a single word. Peter, at least, only heard the whirring of the still-rotating machine, the distant chirp of a bird outside, the gentle force of egg yolk slowly seeping through the cracks and crevices of the floor, and everyone else’s labored, shallow breaths at what the next few minutes might bring.
And then Morgan giggled.
A small, bright, cheery sound in the otherwise quiet of the kitchen broke the atmosphere almost instantaneously. Peter started laughing, and then Tony, and last but not least, Pepper, who pushed her hands up to her face—this time, not in exasperation (although there probably was a hint of that, too), but in total, unadulterated bafflement.
“I swear—” Pepper gasped in between giggles, “You three—” She shook her head and ruffling Morgan’s curls, she said, “I guess you three weren’t really built for bringing things to bake sales, huh?”
“To be fair, you can’t stand the bake sale moms, either,” Tony pointed out.
“True,” Pepper admitted. She took a closer look at the rotating machine. Her face softened. “Wow,” she only said. She ruffled Morgan’s curls again. “Wow, wow, wow.” Morgan beamed back up at her mother, clearly pleased with the sudden praise.
Then, turning to Peter and Tony, Pepper added, “Next time, though, please don’t mess up the house, okay?”
Both Tony and Peter nodded, even though the little nudge Tony gave Peter told the boy that they both knew that technically, Peter had kind of accidentally started the whole thing. But Pepper didn’t really have to know that, and judging by Tony’s silence, Tony wasn’t going to give anything away, either.
“Alright,” Pepper said, dropping her hand from Morgan’s head. “Peter, you know where the cleaning supplies are, right?”
“Right,” Peter nodded.
“Taking one egg-throwing machine safely out of the kitchen,” Tony said, quickly picking up the machine.
“Helping Mommy with the groceries,” Morgan said, hoping down from the stool.
“Good.” Pepper placed her hands on her hips. “Get to work, you three.”