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All Aboard To Camp Kill Me Now

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“Howard—dad—please just let me stay home!”

Enough. You’re going. Now get in the car.”

 

•|•

 

Tony pulls at the strings of his ripped jeans, head rocking against the window as the car drove over bumps. Highway to Hell drifted from his earbuds almost ironically. The next three months of his life was going to be his own living hell, no matter how much Aunt Peggy promised he’d have fun and ‘make real friendships’. As if Tony needed anyone other than Rhodey and Pepper. Their friendships kept him from kicking the bucket and he was sure no pathetic snot-nosed Boy Scout could hold a candle to them.

 

Howard doesn’t bother in trying to avoid the ragged parts of the road, probably because from what Tony could see, the whole road was barely even paved over. The tall buildings and bustling Boston streets were replaced by trees and, well, trees.

 

“Watch it!” Tony hisses after his father (purposely, he knew it) hits a particularly deep pothole and his head whacks against the reinforced glass.

 

Grounding his teeth, Howard sends him a vicious smile from the rear view mirror. Jarvis gives the teen a concerned look from the same mirror, a stark (hah) contrast from his boss and friend.

 

Tony, with a sigh, slumps back in his seat and closed his eyes. Hopefully everyone would just leave him alone and let him be.

 

“Why couldn’t Mama come?” Tony asks Jarvis after a few more minutes of silence other than tires over gravel.

 

Jarvis twists back in his seat to face Tony. “Maria—“ he frowns. “Your father didn’t want her making a scene. She doesn’t want you away from home almost as much as you.”

 

Well at least his Mama cares. Not that Howard doesn’t care, but the man is definitely not going to get a Father Of The Year Award anytime soon. Children are harder than they seem and Tony doesn’t blame his father for not knowing how to take care of him. They argue (admittedly way more than normal people) but they have their nice moments. Like when Howard brought Tony out on a boat last year and they actually fished and swam for the whole day. Sure, the boat was relatively fancy and they went to a private island, but Jarvis packed them subs and soda and Howard taught him how to fish and it was...nice. One of his best memories.

 

Tony loves Howard but he doesn’t LIKE him most of the time.

 

“Yeah, well,” Tony sighs again. “It would’ve been nice if she could have come.”

 

Howard’s grip tightens around the wheel with a slight creak of the leather. “It would’ve also been nice if you shut up and just got in the car instead of throwing a tantrum.” He remarks.

 

The teen rolls his eyes. “Are we playing this game? Because it would’ve been nice if I didn’t have to go to the tick-infested middle of nowhere in the first place, but we all don’t get what we want.” He snaps.

 

Jarvis is quick to intervene before it escalates. “We’re here.” He says with a smile.

 

The trees parted to reveal a clearing in the woods and a large cabin that read the number one above the door. Tony scowls, ripping out his earbuds and stuffing them into his hoodie pocket as Howard and Jarvis got out. He doesn’t get out, instead waiting for either Howard or Jarvis to open the door. Mainly to be difficult. And soon enough, Howard swings open the Audi door and roughly-but-not-painfully pulls Tony out by the collar of his MIT sweatshirt.

 

His stuff was already thrown in the dirt and Jarvis closes the trunk. His pillow and blanket lay in a black trash bag next to his black trunk. Tony isn’t upset about only having one trunk, honestly. It’s just the fact that he didn’t have the choice to have more than one bag that really upset him. Apparently every camper (ugh) was allowed to bring one duffel bag/trunk, a trash bag, and a shower bag.

 

Howard brings Tony close. “Behave while we check you in.” He says sternly. “Stay. Here.” Then he walks towards the cabin.

 

“We will be right back, young Anthony.” Jarvis smiles kindly.

 

“Yeah, okay.” Tony mutters once the butler is gone in an attempt to catch up to Howard.

 

Kids around Tony’s age hurry past, barely acknowledging the Audi he was leaning against. Well, all but one kid. A tall blond who looked like the Perfect Poster Boy was sitting on the wooden railings connected to the large cabin had his brows furrowed and was staring over at Tony in confusion.

 

Tony waves with a mocking smile and faux excitement and the teenager looks away with a frown. Smirking slightly, the genius (what? He was a genius) taps away on his phone. There were only two WiFi signals. Luckily internet was one of the easier things to hack into. That doesn’t stop the smirk from turning into a scowl at the loss of easy communication with his friends.

 

“Woah, woah, woah there! Turn that frown, upside down!” Someone says in an obnoxious fake-happy tone, probably trying to imitate an announcer.

 

Once he pocketed his phone with a plan in mind, Tony glances up. A different blond teen is standing there, grinning. A long almost-healed scratch is on his cheek which looked like it must hurt, but that doesn’t deter him from splitting his face in a painfully large smile. He’s a couple inches taller than Tony and has dark cargo pants with a light grey SHIELD shirt on. SHIELD is this summer camp in the middle of Maine which Tony is being forced to attend, even though he is already in college and most of the campers (ugh) are in high school.

 

“Fuck off.” Tony smiles right back.

 

The taller teen just laughs, throwing his head back and holding his chest. “I like you! I’m Clint. Welcome to SHIELD summer camp, where children become spies!” He sticks out his hand.

 

Spies? Was this kid joking? Tony eyes the hand like it was disease ridden. Which it probably is. Tony isn’t smiling anymore.

 

“Well.” Clint drops his hand. “Okay.” He seems a little more reserved now. Calmer.

 

“Sorry about the wait.” Jarvis suddenly appears at Tony’s side. “Your father is still talking to the owner of SHIELD, Nick Fury.” He glances at Clint. “Who’s your friend?” He asks.

 

Tony is about to reply about how this kid is not his friend, but suddenly the other teen was filled with energy again. “I’m Clint Barton!” Clint sticks out his hand again.

 

Jarvis shakes it. “I’m Edwin Jarvis. Did Anthony introduce himself?” He gives Tony a knowing look.

 

“Anthony? That’s a cool name. My full one is Clinton.” Tony feels like rolling his eyes.

 

With years of practice, Jarvis recognizes the signs of Tony not being interested in being there or having a conversation with Clint, and gently says. “He prefers Tony. And it was wonderful talking to you Clint, but we must get Anthony situated into his cabin.” The man says politely. “Hopefully you two will meet again.”

 

Yeah. Hopefully.

 

Clint nods in understanding, calm again. The changes from calm to frantic make Tony dizzy. “Yeah! I’ll see you soon, Tony.” He calls before sprinting, literally sprinting, away and down a trail that led behind the cabin.

 

Tony groans, rubbing his face. “Is everyone here like that?” He asks aloud. “He’s a weirdo!” He says that like people don’t call him a freak and weirdo and fag and everything in between.

 

Jarvis hands him a brochure and a packet, chuckling. “He was quite the character, but that’s no way to speak about people you haven’t sat down and gotten to know better.” The greying man dusts his hands off and tucks them behind his back, looking at Tony expectantly. “Go on, read it.”

 

“I’d rather drown myself than deal with anymore people like Clint.” He opens the brochure. “Oh look! There’s a lake! Perfect for killing myself.” He gives Jarvis a deadpan look, but the butler keeps smiling.

 

Below the picture of the lake (lake Morgan) there is a short list of activities.

1. Kayaking

2. Water skiing

3. Tubing

4. Boating

5. Swimming

And more!

 

The next page is a picture of a cabin and read ‘Cabins are separated into groups of twelve’. Tony scowls and looks up at Jarvis. “Eleven other people, Jarvis? I’d rather sleep outside!” He doesn’t bother reading the other lists of daytime and nighttime activities.

 

“The most you’ll be doing in that cabin is sleeping.” Howard says as he walks over. “Plenty of room to sleep and put your bags. Speaking of, let’s go.”

 

Tony reluctantly gathers his stuff, not in the mood to pick a fight. Jarvis gives him a tight hug, and Tony can’t help but bury his head in one of his favorite people’s shoulder, taking one last deep breath of cedar and lavender. After a long moment Howard puts a heavy hand on the teens shoulder, gently pulling him away. Tony misses the warmth almost immediately.

 

“I’ll call!” Tony says to Jarvis, giving the man a sad smile.

 

“I know.” Jarvis nods, reciprocating his smile.

 

Howard nods back and they start walking down the trail. Tony shrugs off his father’s hand in a act of defiance, not noticing the hurt look in Howard’s eyes as he takes his hand away.

 

It smells like dirt and trees and Tony isn’t sure if he likes it.Yes, he likes outside. One of his favorite childhood places is the garden at Stark Manor and the woods just through the gate. He used to spend hours outside, sketching flowers and plants to the best of his ability, and then later looking them up in the library so he could identify the plants correctly for later. He drew them everywhere he went, even on vacation. Soon he needed another book, and another, and Jarvis did the honor of picking them out. Tony’s Mama even promised to make it an actual book once Tony fills the third sketch book. Hopefully he can finish it by the time he graduates, considering this one he just got a couple months ago.

 

But—back to the point—this outside smells different. It has the distinct smell of food mixed with teenagers. Tony would rather the smell of his garden.

 

“So are there like visitation days?” Tony asks, breaking the silence as they walk down another trail labeled ‘Cabins 1-20’

 

“Yes, Tony.” Howard sighs good-naturally, though it might sound annoyed to outsiders. He isn’t completely and utterly pissed yet.

 

That makes Tony grin and continue. “‘cause even prisons have visitation days. Though, they have running water. Does this place have running water?”

 

“Yes, It has running water, Tony,” Howard pinches the bridge of his nose. “Would you shut up and quit comparing this place to prison? You’ll have fun, whether you want to or not. If Peggy says it’s fun, it’s fun.”

 

Doubt.

 

Tony rolls his eyes. “Whatever. Aunt Pegs also said having a kid would be fun too, how’s that working out for you? I know you wanted Mama got an abortion instead of an annoying brat like me running around.” The last part slips out involuntarily.

 

Howard’s head snaps to look at Tony. “What? I never sa—“ He sounds shocked and offended and hurt and Tony knows he pushed a little too far.

 

“Hey! You must be Mr. Stark and Tony!” A cheery voice interrupts Howard. It belongs to a brown haired young woman with a gentle but wide smile. “I’m Jane Foster. I wanted to introduce myself before your cabin counselor—ridiculous name, I know—Carol gather’s the boys back to your cabin.”

 

Howard’s face turns from hurt to a business smile in less than a second. “Hello, Ms Foster.” He shakes her hand firmly.

 

“Yeah,” Tony huffs, “hello Ms Foster.” his mood has sunk from crappy to shitty. On a scale to playing piano in Italy to Jarvis is too sick to get out of bed, of course.

 

Jane Foster laughs a little at Tony’s attitude. “Hello! I actually don’t have time to talk, sadly, but I’m supposed to tell you that you’re allowed to stay in your cabin until dinner, considering you came a little late.” She says to Tony.

 

Tony checks his watch, 5:41. “Is dinner at six?” He asks, and Jane nods.

 

“Yup! Okay I gotta go! I hope you settle in well.” Then she waves and runs off.

 

They enter cabin number 6 and Tony sighs a little. He likes the number eight better than six. Or three. Three is good, too.

 

Only one bed is open. It’s the farthest from the door on the left, on the bottom. All six bunk beds are across from each other, three on each side. There is a door directly diagonal from where they came in, most likely leading to a bathroom.

 

He sits down and Howard begins opening the bag with his pillow and blanket and sheets without the teen even asking. Silently, they dress his bed with baby blue sheets and cover it in a dark grey comforter and put his pillows into place. The other beds seem to have the same things as he does, variations of colors and items. Tony unpacks his shoes and sets them into the short shelf at the end of the bed, glad his bunk mate only used three of the six shelves. He pushes his black trunk under the bed, across from a deep purple one.

 

After he deems everything alright, he plops down on the bed, laying next to Howard, who sat there somewhat awkwardly.

 

“The cabin is nicer than I thought.” Howard remarks, looking over the clean wooden bed frames connected to the walls and the absence of bugs.

 

Tony hums. “Yeah. I still don’t like the amount of kids, though.”

 

The older man shrugs a little, but doesn’t say anything else about that topic. Instead, he says “I’m...sorry, Tony.” In a quiet tone, after a long moment.

 

“Me too.” Tony replies, closing his eyes and taking a breath. “...me too.”

 

“Your mother always told me that you have just as sharp tongue as me. That when we fight, one, or both, of us is bound to end up hurt.” Howard laughs a little. “God, she was right. She always is. I should listen to her more often.”

 

“Yeah, I should too.” Tony agrees, watching Howard get up slowly. He adjusts his position to see his father better.

 

“I have to get going, Ed is still in the car.” Howard pats Tony’s leg. “Uh, i’ll call you. Once you get access to the internet.” His father gives him a knowing look. “See you soon.”

 

“Bye, Dad.”

 

“Bye, Tony.”

 

After Howard leaves, Tony sighs deeply and covers his face with both of his hands. Heat pricks behind his eyes but now is not the time to cry. Eleven other teenaged boys would be storming in here any moment.

Chapter Text

Tony hums to himself as he reads The Art of War by Sun Tzu on his stomach. Honestly, he prefers crime and murder mysteries. Like Sherlock or Murder on the Orient Express for example, but Obadiah told him to read Sun Tzu’s book while he was at SHIELD. It’s not that the book is boring, it’s just slow. Fast pace books catch his attention more. Partially slow books, ones that start off slow, he doesn’t mind. Most slow books do that for a reason. To gather evidence or opinions on characters and places. The Art of War is basically just a book packed with information that Tony already knows for the most part. And he wasn’t even planning on keeping the business in weapons anyways, like Stane intended him to by giving him the book. (Did the guy even read it?) Tony was thinking something like clean energy or technology. Maybe mechanics. Make his own car company.

 

Once Tony gets Stane to stop breathing down both of the Stark’s necks, Howard would (might) let Tony become a co-CEO. Otherwise Tony would just make his own business, and Howard wasn’t ignorant enough to loose Tony’s genius.

 

“Touch me again and I’ll cut off your dick!” A teen shouts and the stairs leading up into the cabin creak.

 

The door swings open and a semi-tall boy with wet long brown hair stomps in, followed by ten other boys and a blonde older-looking-teen girl. For a second, he thinks he sees one of his old friends Justin Hammer, from boarding school. Well, friends until the older boy deemed himself better than Tony and began tormenting him. But he doesn’t see his face again so he doesn’t push it. Just a weird angle. A lookalike. The once silent cabin is now suddenly full of chatter and laughter and Tony sighs, brown eyes dragging back to his book.

 

“Tony!” Clint shouts, running over and squatting by the boy’s bed. A pink towel is wrapped around his shoulders like a scarf. “What’s up! I didn’t know you were staying here!” He sounds excited and Tony can’t get himself to be mad at the reading interruption, especially considering he isn’t that interested in the book anyways.

 

He can, however, get mad at the dripping arm leaning on his clean blanket. The boys around them gather around the young woman, Carol, if Tony remembers correctly, listening to whatever she’s saying.

 

“You’re soaked.” Tony points out, pushing Clint’s arm off his bed. “And indecent. Put on a shirt or something.”

 

Clint laughs, cheerful and carefree, as he gets up and walks around the bed to the purple trunk. He makes eye contact with Tony while he puts on a black T-shirt with a white cat in the middle of it. He can’t help but notice the broad chest and defined abs.

 

“You wish you could have my muscles.” Clint jokes happily, noticing Tony’s not even trying to hide his drifting eyes. “And hey, we’re bunkmates, that’s cool.” He points out, hanging his towel on a hook next to the beds.

 

Tony doesn’t respond other than rolling his eyes before shifting his attention back to his book. After a long moment the bed sinks with someone else’s weight and Clint peers over his shoulder.

 

Tony doesn’t like people in his space. Being an only child, there isn’t really anyone but the occasional visits from relatives and Jarvis that do get in his personal space, but he knows them. His friends get in his personal space, he gets in theirs. He gets in other peoples spaces (like a hipocrite) but goes away quickly if they say the word or are visibly uncomfortable. He doesn’t like people looking over his shoulders, especially when he’s reading. Then all he can focus on is the person, not the book.

 

So when Clint asks “Why are you reading that book? It seems boring.” Tony bites his lip.

 

He knows the other teen doesn’t mean any harm, that he just wants to be friends with Tony, but Tony doesn’t do friends. He likes what he has and doesn’t want more, but that’s not the point. The point is Clint is not one of those few people who are allowed to be in Tony’s space.

 

“None of your f—“ Tony starts in a very harsh tone, but a tall boy with black hair and ice colored eyes walks over.

 

And interrupts him.

 

“Clint, fuck off.” Tall dark and handsome snaps. “You’re polluting the air.”

 

Clint scowls a little. “You’re such a dick, Stephen.” The words aren’t as harsh as Stephen’s were. And he stands and walks off anyways.

 

The teen, Stephen, sits down with an unbothered look in his eyes. He’s on the bottom bunk bed next to Tony’s and begins riffling through the trunk under it. Tony huffs to himself when the other boy doesn’t say anything, not planning on saying thank you. Stephen obviously banished Clint for himself, not for Tony. So he doesn’t need/deserve a thank you.

 

Absentmindedly, the boy turns on his back and holds the book up with both hands, right foot shaking side to side rapidly.

 

His movements don’t disturb the bed. Luckily. His roommate at boarding school four years back always used to yell at Tony for moving around a lot at night, and really hated when he hummed or tapped or shook his leg or bounced his leg, basically everything he couldn’t help. His thoughts drift to his medication. Will they deliver it to him? Because Howard was the one who took it, not Tony, and he didn’t give it to the teen. And his father isn’t stupid enough to forget it at home. The camp nurse probably has it.

 

“The Art of War...”

 

Tony blinks, looking around for where the mumble came from. Something blocks the light and Tony blinks again, time has passed,  and he’s looking at who he thinks name is Carol, who is leaning against Stephens bunk bed. She’s wearing a dark blue hat and is holding a pale red shirt.

 

She gives him a slightly cold smile. “Carol Danvers. You’re Tony, right?” He nods. “Dinner is starting now if you’d like to follow me to the mess hall.” She shifts so he can see the door as she gestured to it.

 

Everyone who was in the cabin is now gone. Tony is half surprised he didn’t notice when noise became silence, but that happens when he gets focused. Once he spent ten hours playing Minecraft, but mostly he loses track of time in the garage or the lab. And he actually spent two hours at the track without even noticing the passage of time because he liked running (and he needed to be fit so he couldn’t be kidnapped again).

 

“Uh, no thanks. I’m not hungry.” Tony furrows his eyebrows. “Why are you holding a shirt?” He questions, nodding to the item.

 

Carol frowns for a fraction of a second. “Dinner is mandatory. After dinner there’s a fire, but you don’t have to go to that. And the shirt’s yours. Every camper gets one. The only size we had left was medium.” She throws it. It lands on his stomach. “You have to wear it during dinner.”

 

Medium is too big, Tony wants to complain, but he just furrows his eyebrows. “Do...Do I really have to go to dinner? There’s just...I’m not hungry.” He tightens his grip on his book. “I ate on the way up, a lot, in fact. I had a meatball sub, chips, a root beer, some gummy bears—“

 

Carol sighs, interrupting him before he can list more items he didn’t actually eat. “Yes, come on. You don’t have to eat, but you have to attend, so get up, put on the shirt, and let’s go.”

 

A little stunned, Tony nods but manages to school his expression into indifference within a second and sets down his book. Carol turns her head to look away, giving Tony at least some privacy while he changed his shirt and hid his book so no one would touch it.

 

It was...weird, having someone other than his family and Rhodey and Pepper (sometimes Stane but that made Tony very uncomfortable) bossing him around, using a no-nonsense tone. Other people, strangers like Carol, never really had the balls to boss Tony around.

 

Everyone he cares for or listens to is blunt or honest and tells him things how they are (Mama, Howard, Jarvis, Ana, Pepper, Rhodey, the old lady next door, but sometimes even they weren’t always blunt/honest but that was okay because they were just human) and he likes that. With all the liars and fake people Tony has dealt with, honesty was a breath of fresh air.

 

Tony responds well to people like his loved ones. And Carol...sort of fits into the description. At least the honesty and confidence. That does not mean she’s the next Rhodey or Pepper, but it means he’ll let her boss him around a little when no one else is around to. It’s familiar in a weird way.

 

Carol waits for him to stand up, giving him a once-over with an amused sound. She’s looking at the shirt, how it goes a little more than a third down his thighs and how the sleeves reach his elbows. “You’re adorable.” She says simply, smirking, eyes drifting back up to his bed-fluffed up curls. She must notice the height difference too.

 

Tony gives her a scowl and a glare. “Fuck off,” He presses down his hair. “You sound like my friends back home. And I’ll have you know—plenty people think I’m irresistible.”

 

The older teen simply snorts. “Yeah, sure. I bet.” Her tone is dry and entertained. They start walking to the door and Tony cuffs his sleeves so they don’t uncomfortably touch the inside of his elbows.

 

He gives her a bewildered smile when he walks through the open door. “Really? You don’t read news articles? People drool over me. Everyone, really, not to brag.”

 

It’s true. Articles like ‘Stark prodigy next America’s bachelor?’ and ‘Young Stark bringing out the naughty side of today’s youth’ we’re around once Tony began to hit puberty. It’s only appearing to get worse as he ages, but Howard does his best with reminding the public that his son was, in fact, underage and he wouldn’t hesitate in filing for sexual harassment if someone touches Tony without consent. Howard may be a dick but when it comes to sexual appeal towards his son, he takes care of it.

 

Humans are horny creatures and some will do anything to fuck what they want and when they want it. That’s one of the reasons Tony has to train in self defense and martial arts, and also have a body guard (his name is Pierce and he’s apparently watching from a distance while Tony was here was what Jarvis mentioned in the car. The guys nice, if a little quiet). He isn’t terrified of being near people, because most of the time he consents to their advancements, but he is careful. He even made an AI called PLATO when he first arrived at MIT, who runs criminal record and background checks to make sure everyone he interacts with was safe and non-dangerous.

 

He...is not interested in being drugged and raped. No thank you.

 

“Does that not disgust you?” Carol furrows her eyebrows, looking over to the younger in concern. “That even middle aged guys and gals might want to get in your pants?” She questions.

 

Tony digs his hands in his jean pockets. He should’ve changed into sweatpants or something. Yes, of course, but what is he supposed to do about it? “Eh,” he shrugs with one shoulder. “It’s...not preferable, but better me, knowing, than someone else oblivious and innocent to that type of stuff. I’m used to it. Humans are vile creatures.” He ends with an almost-snarl. For a human, he really has bad opinions on most people. Maybe he isn't Human. That would be pretty cool.

 

Carol nods, noticing his tension and swiftly changing the topic. “So who are your friends that I sounded like?” He notes the change with a shrug.

 

“Ah. I met them...last year? I think. Around then, at least. One is my roommate and the other I met drugged up on cough syrup during a super bad cold in the winter. They treat me like I’m their little brother.” He runs his tongue across his lips in thought. “Er—do you know anything about the nurses or medics here?”

 

“Yeah, why?” Carol watches Tony kick a nickel-sized rock.

 

He licks his lips again and shrugs. “Are they good? Responsible? Anyone gotten killed in their care?”

 

She laughs, genuine and pleased. It makes Tony smirk a little. “Not that I know of. But if things go my way, I know a couple kids who I wouldn’t mind visiting the nurse if that’s so.”

 

That draws a soft laugh out of the boy. “Ugh tell me about it! You burn one persons eyebrows off and they’re out to get you for all of eternity! What does it take to get rid of them?” Carol looks over at him curiously.

 

“You burnt some poor souls eyebrows? How?” She questions, amusement written all over her face.

 

“Acetone, some sulfuric acid, potassium permanganate and boom! Chemical fire, baby.”

 

They talk for a little while more as they walk. About pointless things, weather, campers, Carols duty as a counselor, and a little about the plants around Maine, etc. Essentially small talk. He learned what is listed below.

 

  • Campers are the ages 13-19. It was mostly boys.

The camp only recently opened up to girls in 2016 after an uproar about how SHIELD summer camp was number one summer camp for teens in America a few times. Parents became upset that they couldn’t get rid of all their kids, only the boys, and decided to take it up with the current head of the camp at the time, who was fired not long after the change was made.

  • There are a handful of intelligent kids that Tony would either ‘loathe or be bros’ as Carol put it.

Tony doesn’t like ‘intelligent’ or ‘gifted’ kids. Not that he was jealous or anything (god he wants to find someone his age matching or beating his intelligence for once so much) but he doesn’t like them. Usually they think they are superior over ‘stupid’ people. It’s true in a way, but that doesn’t mean the kid should be treated like they were special. Plus they feel the need to one-up or prove themselves to Tony. He doesn’t want that, he just wants a casual yet intelligent conversation. Is that so hard to ask? Yes. Rhodey fulfills those needs though, so it’s alright for the moment.

  • Carol is only a counselor so she gets the perks, but still has fun as a camper would

Her words.

  • Carol mentioned there weren’t many plant species just Native in Maine, but she liked Witchhazel.

And Tony has yet to document the actually quite common flower (he’s seen them before, but he hasn’t done it yet). So, yay, new.

 

And basically that’s all Tony paid attention to. When they got to dinner, Carol invited him to sit with her and a couple friends, but Tony declined in favor to people-watch. He sits at a table which was almost filled with people who aren’t talking to each other. They don’t notice when he sits down.

 

He doesn’t eat.

Chapter Text

Tony didn’t know campers were required to take classes at summer camp. And, apparently he also has a schedule which changes weekly. He doesn’t mind classes and schedules, as long as they aren’t boring. Jarvis and his Mama must have chosen the first week activities for him because some of them were...a little out of his comfort zone. Strange. They enjoy pushing him to try new things (that’s why he has a lot of weird but also a lot of common skills), but most of the classes didn’t seem boring when he read about them, so that’s good.

 

This is the schedule below.

 

7:30-8:00 Wake up, activities for morning risers start at 7

8:15-9:00 Breakfast

9:00-10:00 Clean up

10:00-10:50 1st period

10:50-11:40 2nd period

11:40-12:30 Workshop (choice of 16 things)

12:30-1:00 Shower and Change (if needed)

1:00-1:45 Lunch

1:45-2:45 Rest Hour

2:45-3:45 Multiple outdoor options or 4th Period

3:45-4:25 5th Period

4:25-5:15 6th Period

5:15-5:45 Shower and Change (if needed)

5:45-6:00 Free Time

6:00-6:45 Dinner

6:45-7:25 Workshop (choice of 16)

7:25-7:50 Regroup with cabin members

7:50-9:00 Evening Activity

9:30 Lights out.

 

Yep. Jesus, even remembering it makes him want to groan. That’s what he was given in the morning once the noise inside the cabin woke him up. Last night they allowed him to skip every night activity but dinner, but Carol mentioned he has to go to everything now.

 

Tony blinks tiredly as he shovels a handful of blueberries in his mouth. Carol gave them to him when ‘clean up’ started, but she didn’t mention the part where she didn’t see him eating either dinner or breakfast. The nurse did in fact find him, too. Right around the same time Carol did. It was pretty awkward for Tony when the nurse approached him while Carol slid him the blueberries.

 

The nurses name is Helen Cho, by the way.

 

“You should eat those.” Helen said and nodded to the blueberries. “You’ll get sick.” And she was right. Tony always ends up throwing up if he doesn’t eat before or directly after his medicine.

 

So, blueberries. He usually eats a granola bar or chugs some milk (sometimes snatches a cookie from the pantry when he is home and Ana sneaks him some other pastries), but whatever is fine.

 

Tony nods to whatever Clint is saying about the workshop they have together at 11:40. Archery with someone named Maria Hill. Apparently Clint is amazing at Archery because he has above average vision. Usually Tony would want to test that, how good it actually is, etc, but he slept for literally an hour the previous night. He doesn’t sleep very well in foreign places the first few nights unless he has melatonin. Which he doesn’t have.

 

They’re both sitting at a picnic table near the cabins until their first period starts. Clint explained that because they did their share in cleaning up, they were allowed to leave fifteen minutes early.

 

“You know that movie Brave? I split an arrow like that!” Clint exclaims excitedly. “I will admit they were pretty cheap, but I still did it!”

 

Tony raises his eyebrows sarcastically. “Woah, really? That’s so cool.” He gushes.

 

Clint’s smile drops a little but he nods. The excitement is pretty much gone from his voice. “Yeah. It was cool...”

 

In the back of his mind Tony can hear his Mama and both of the Jarvis’ scolding him for his rudeness. He doesn’t feel guilty, not yet at least, but he knows what it’s like for people to completely disregard his interests. No one should make you feel bad about what you’re passionate about, Jarvis once said when Tony’s classmates teased him about studying plants at recess. Clint doesnt deserve Tony shitting on his hobbies right now. Also, he needs another camper to like him, or at least not have a horrible opinion on him. Otherwise...well otherwise things will end up like last time that happened.

 

“I’m kidding,” Tony rolls his eyes. “That is actually cool. Split perfectly even?” He recalls. There. Good reputation recovered.

 

Suddenly, Clint’s smile grows even larger. “Yup! No ridges or anything!” He brought his hands together and separated them. “I’ll show you if I can when we go to Archery.”

 

Tony conjures up a smile and nods. “And you can also show me how to hit the target, if you don’t mind?”

 

“Of course I will!” Clint grins. “Oh, and what class do you have now? I have environmental preservation or maybe it’s called just environmental...I’m not sure I’ve never taken it before...but I know it has to do with pollution and energy and plants and stuff! There’s also botany? I’m pretty sure that has to do with plants. Don’t you have that class?”

 

Tony furrows his eyebrows. “Yeah...I think I have it second period. Environmental wasn’t on my list.” He seals the empty bag and stuffs it in his pocket. “Do you know if you can take classes for more than only one week?”

 

“Yup!” He says, popping the p. “I’ve been taking Archery every week I’ve been here for two years now. Wait. You have art, right?” Tony gives a nod of affirmation. “Do you know where it is?” Tony shakes his head. “Oh. Then I’ll walk you because my class is the next building over.”

 

Tony yawns and slide off the table. “Thanks, tour guide.”

 

Clint laughs. “No probs. We should probably start walking.”

 

They follow the dirt trail through a large patch of trees that leads to another opening filled with three giant brick and wood buildings.

 

“So it’s right through there and the last room on the left.” Clint instructs before running off to environmental.

 

Last room on the left. Simple enough, Tony thinks. The building is nicely decorated but definitely sticking to the nature theme with the antique fishing gear and the paintings of lakes and trees hung up on the walls. There is also a second floor, but the stairs are blocked off so he doesn’t even bother looking up.

 

He gets to the Art room within a minute and glances around. It looks like an art room. Paintings and sculptures were scattered around the room and it smelt like clay.

 

There are nine evenly cut split wood tables arranged into rows 3x3 to face the front of the room, where a larger desk us. All but one table was taken up, once again in the back corner. Not that he was complaining, he could see everyone from that angle. The man at the front paid him no mind as he sat, but the various ages teenagers watched him with unblinking eyes.

 

As he walks, he makes notes. Twelve boys including Tony, five girls, seventeen overall. Two girls watch him with interest, but two with disgust, one with a blank look. Five boys aren’t interested in Tony, but the other seven are. Three look like he flashed them, one looks curious, and the last three look confused. He notices that American Boy from yesterday sitting in the back next to a red haired girl. American Boy is one of the two boys giving him a disgusted look.

 

“That’s Tony Stark...” someone mutters.

 

“The slut?” Another says, a little surprised.

 

“He even looks like a slut.” a cold voice pipes in.

 

He sits at the empty table. Most of the eyes turn away when the man ‘Mr. Brown’ begins talking about their lesson today. Angry at the injustice, the unfairness of it all, Tony glares at the table and digs his fingers into his thigh to stop himself from storming out or snarking the other teenagers. He needs to lay low and not make anyone mad for at least a week.

 

A white piece of paper slides into his vision along with a number two pencil. “Because the clay hasn’t arrived yet, draw something you love, class.” Mr. Brown instructs the room. When Tony looks up, the man gives him a sympathetic frown before walking back to his desk.

 

He would give some long explanation or paragraph to complain about love or whatever, but there’s no need. Blah blah, love is stupid, it makes people stupid, whatever, so he draws a dick. A very detailed one, too. It isnt a self-portrait (much too small) but it’s a decent dick.

 

Mr. Brown wasn’t specific on what type of love, and it’s what people expect of him anyways.

 

The sketch takes him about twenty minutes. At the end he sits back and genuinely smiles at his realistic dick drawing. A sense of childish amusement and pride settles in his chest. Most likely on his face, too. His arm covers the drawing and he glances around.

 

He sees what looks like a family, a dog, parents, someone drew a baseball, common things like that.

 

To his defense, he was thinking of drawing a picture of that one time Rhodey and Pepper came over for New Years and they took a picture with Tony and Jarvis, Ana, Mama, and Howard. His father was standing off in the distance, biting into a piece of cake, surprised by the flash, while everyone laughed at him. It’s a wonderful memory. He also could’ve drawn how he imagined PLATO (similar in appearance to Tony, like an older brother or something) too, or PLATO’s code, or even DUM-E and the other unnamed robot he is still building.

 

But nope. A dick. And Tony isn’t even mad at himself about it.

 

The redhead from American Boy’s table leans over curiously. “Tony, right?” She inquires with a raised eyebrow. She sounds genuinely interested, but Tony gives her a dubious look.

 

There’s so many things he’s itching to say but he settles on the cliché “Depends on who’s asking” instead of something accusing.

 

The blond next to her looks offended in no way he has the right to, especially because Tony isn’t being his usual dickish self towards strangers his age to the redhead. She settles him with a swift glare and the buff (seriously, what the hell) teen submits like an abused puppy.

 

“Natasha Romanoff. Seventeen, Russian, redhead, what else do you need to know?” The redhead, Natasha replies with smart-ass type of smirk.

 

Beep beep wrong answer. He was looking for a name and reason.

 

Plus it was all useless information. Why does he want to know her age or ethnicity? He’s not an online predator on Omegle looking for some nudes. So Tony raises his eyebrows, unamused. “I want to know why you’re talking to me.” He looks her up and down. Usual dickish self, baby, suck on that Blond Boy.

 

Natasha pauses. Her friend predictably bristles at Tony’s words. “Oh.” She shrugs. “Would you believe me if I said pure curiosity?”

 

She’s definitely testing him, Tony narrows his eyes a little. His limits, what he reacts to, how much he trusts. Maybe Clint is right with the ‘kids become spies’ shit he spouted yesterday.

 

“Nope. Redheads have no souls.” Tony quips with a mocking smile. “Also—tell your dog to calm down. I think I see steam coming out of his ears with all that anger. Well, he actually might just be processing what I’m saying. Small brains work harder for simpler things, I assume. I wouldn’t know.” He tilts his head. “Can you understand me?” He says slowly, as if talking to a baby. “I’m Tony. And you are?”

 

Natasha grins as her friend makes a noise that can only be described as pissed off. The blond grinds his teeth. “What is wrong with you?” He hisses to Tony. “How can you be so rude to people you don’t even know?”

 

Huh. At least Natasha is amused.

 

Tony hums, leaning forwards. “Technically, I knew who Natasha was before I started being ‘rude’. She introduced herself. And I know you as a boy who’s had a stick up his ass for so long that it’s fused to his asshole. So. I do know you two.” He gives the blond a sharp smile. “Now, if you don’t mind, before you two so rudely interrupted me, I was drawing what I love.” He let’s them see his drawing. “I’m done with this conversation.”

 

The blond was left sputtering and Natasha let out a soft laugh. Neither of them bothered him again.

 

 

Botany class was in the next building over, Tony figured out after wandering around the building looking for the labeled room. When he walked in, it was the same set up as the art room, and Jane Foster stood at the desk in the front.

 

“Tony! Did you get lost?” Ms. Foster jokes, smiling.

 

He shrugs with one shoulder. “You could say that. I didn’t know that counselors teach classes.”

 

She starts writing her name on the board and seems a little bashful. “They don’t. But Nick—Mr Fury offered the job to me after the last guy quit. He quit soon after the other director of the camp. The job is actually really fun, even though botany isn’t something I’m pursuing full time. It’s a good thing to study on the side.”

 

Doesn’t he know it.

 

“Cool. So why isn’t anyone sitting down?” He asks, nodding to the group of teenagers lined up against the wall in the back.

 

Ms. Foster startles. “Oh! I completely forgot. Thanks for reminding me. Go stand in the back with them.” She gives him a gesture and picks up a clipboard. “Bruce Banner!” She calls, and a nerdy looking boy steps forward. “Sit in the front there.”

 

Tony doesn’t move to the back as she rattles off names and seats in alphabetical order, but she doesn’t seem to mind.

 

“Tony!” Ms. Foster snaps her fingers. “Over there.”

 

Unlike Art, none of the teenagers paid him any mind. He notices a two page packet filled with questions back to back when he sits. A lot of the questions are simple (What is an element, chemical symbol for potassium, etc) and Tony already has the answers at the front of his mind. If only he had something to write with.

 

Tony thinks he hears the name Stephen Strange and someone scoffs from beside him. Tony snaps his head up to meet the blue-grey eyes of Stephen. Oh, Stephen Strange. That’s an odd last name. The tall boy sits down without breaking eye contact and there’s something unreadable in his cold expression.

 

“What? Do you have a problem with me?” Tony bites out, scowling.

 

Stephen rolls his eyes, directing his attention to the his test on the table. “I’d rather sit alone.” He mutters while flipping through the papers.

 

Tony scoffs. “Go sit your ass in the corner, then. I’d rather be alone too, so it’ll be beneficial for the both of us.” He points with his thumb to the back of the room.

 

“I’m not moving.” Stephen scrunches up his nose and looks up.

 

He looks down to the paper to avoid the sharp blue eyes that seemed to see directly into his soul. “Neither am I, fuckface.” Tony snaps.

 

“Fuckface. How mature.” Stephen drawls.

 

“I know I am, fuckface.”

 

They stop talking when Ms Foster begins to explain the directions and how the test is just to see what everyone knows. Then she has someone hand out pencils.

 

Once he has the writing utensil, Tony fills in every question quickly and with barely any thought. Next to him, Stephen seems to know a handful of the questions, answering them with a second to think. Tony finishes within ten minutes and yawns tiredly before burying his face in his arms. Making sure he can still see everything, of course, but his eyes slowly close anyways so it really doesn’t matter.

 

“Who knew Tony Stark might be good at something other than engineering.” Stephen mumbles in a condescending tone, waking Tony from the possible nap.

 

Without hesitation, Tony replies “Who knew Stephen Strange has an obsession with Tony Stark.” softly before closing his eyes again and taking a deep breath.

 

Stephens next words hit a nerve. “Like I would be obsessed with you. You’ve had so many fuck-buddies you’re practically a sex doll. Why would I be obsessed with something as disposable as you?” The taller boy hisses, words dripping with venom. Unlike earlier, with that blond kid, Tony’s figurative hackles raise.

 

“Sounds a little obsessive, buddy. Bringing up my sex life? Ouch. Pretty personal if you ask me.” Tony mocks, giving Stephen a smile that matches his tone. “And give me that ‘everybody knows about it’ bullshit. Give me the real reason you brought it up. To hurt me? To judge me? Or are you testing the waters to see if you can fuck me too?”

 

Stephen shakes his head. “You’re pathetic, Stark.”

 

Tony leans closer, into the other boys personal space. “Give me the reason, Strange. What’s the fucking reason?”

 

And all the answer Stephen gives is shoving Tony back in his seat with a loud “Shut up!”

 

There’s a second where Tony thinks to himself, fuck he was right to not make people mad, as the chair tips backwards. With quick thinking he sticks out his hand to push himself away from the edge of the table, and he sees Stephen reaching out for him with a scared look, but he slams against the ground and pain erupts up his side before he can think about it.

Chapter Text

“Ah—stop touching me.”

 

“I’m checking your ribs, you little weasel.”

 

“I’m fine.” Tony huffs, lip stuck out in a pout as Ms. Cho prodded his side with a gloved hand.

 

She raises an unamused eyebrow with a half-smile. “I’m legally required to do this, kid. But lucky for you, you are actually fine. You might get a bruise so to reduce the size of a possible bruise, here’s an ice pack.” She pulls the icepack out of the mini freezer next to examination table and places it on the table.

 

She already knows about his weird pet peeve of being handed things. Tony knows that it’ll probably get worse if he doesn’t stop it now, but whatever.

 

“So...Ms. Cho....do I have to go back to class?” Tony picks it up and presses the icepack underneath his shirt and shivers. “I finished the test and there’s only, what, twenty more minutes?”

 

“Call me Helen, and no I suppose you don’t have to.”

 

Tony grins, smile splitting across his face. “Thank you Ms. Cho! And sorry, Helen is an old lady name which I can’t find myself calling you anytime soon. You’re too young.”

 

Ms. Cho smiles and shakes her head. “Okay, Tony. I’ll be in the other room.” she says before disappearing through the door.

 

Once she leaves, he spreads out on the table with as much grace as his sore body would allow, and his thoughts drift back to Stephen.

 

What. A. Dick. A handsome dick, but a dick nonetheless. The dick-ness and seriousness that Stephen carries himself with makes him even more handsome, but Tony won’t poke that bear with a stick again any time soon. He’ll stick to who likes him, thank you very much.

 

After he pushed Tony, Stephen left the room and two boys helped Tony up. One of the kids who helped him up, his name might be Harold (seriously what’s with these plain ass names, this kid needs a nickname), walked Tony to Ms. Cho’s office. While Tony was getting treated, the boy awkwardly stood around until he deemed Tony okay enough and left with a goodbye. He was nice but really seemed hesitant with Tony.

 

Tony presses his cheek against the wax-paper covered cushion and sighs, closing his eyes. He isn’t homesick, but he wishes at least Rhodey and Pepper were here. They would smack some sense into Stephen. Probably Tony, too. Call him stupid but hug him anyways and let him talk about whatever for however long he wanted.

 

Fuck Tony and his hatred of fighting people or Stephen would be nursing a fist sized bruise on one of his high cheekbones.

 

 

This is the summary of the day because nothing really happened. Archery was boring, but Clint showed him the split arrow trick. During Lunch he sat alone, as usual, and he saw that Harold kid looking over at him. After that he went on a hike for the fourth period alternative, and met a weird man-teen named Thor who didn’t really talk to him during that hike but seemed pretty rowdy. For fifth period he had the waterfront and was forced to take a swim test. After the test Tony laid on the beach near the lake and sunbathed. Sixth period he had sports and recreation or whatever it was called, and he ran four miles before the teacher told him he wasn’t required to run that much, and Tony had to explain that he wanted to.

 

Now he’s showering. The showers are in one large room but are separated by stalls like gym showers. No one else is there because Tony deliberately waited for everyone to leave before starting to shower. Not that he’s ashamed or anything, but plenty of ‘accidents’ happen in showers and he doesn’t want to be gangbanged and having them claim he’s a slut and he liked it. That hasn’t happened to him, but he knows it’s possible. Being alone either made it worse or better. Shit, showering alone actually makes him even more of a target.

 

Well. He thought he was alone until he heard two pairs of flip flops slapping against the tile.

 

“I heard Tony Stark is at this camp, isn’t that hilarious?”

 

“Huh? He is?”

 

“Yeah.” The first person laughs. “Boss’ll be happy.”

 

Boss? How cliché. But who is ‘boss’? They’re at a summer camp for fucks sake. Tony scrubs the conditioner out of his hair and listens for any information on who ‘boss’ is. Howard always says know your enemies.

 

“Happy? He’ll be thrilled!” The second voice laughs even louder than the first. With a creak, two showers turn on one after the other.

 

Tony finishes up and the boys don’t say anything more so he leaves back to the cabin. And to his fantastic luck, Stephen is in the cabin, sitting on his bed and reading.

 

Tony stands next to where Stephen is sitting and yanks out his camp-given black trunk loudly. He notices with a smirk that Stephen is furrowing his eyebrows in an attempt to not snap at Tony.

 

Tony only changes his shirt (he brought underwear and shorts to the shower but he forgot a shirt) to a simple white one that his Mama said brings out his weird coffee-honey eyes. She didn’t say weird, but they really are. Honey surrounding the pupil and then a light brown, and then a dark brown around the rim, all blended together with an odd swirl.

 

“You’re fine.” Stephen’s baritone voice makes Tony glance over only to pause. It isn’t a question, more like an observation. The older (he assumes) boy has—is that—wait a minute—is that concern in those frosty eyes?

 

Tony snorts with a shrug. “No thanks to you.”

 

Stephen frowns a little. “You shouldn’t have provoked me.” He mutters.

 

“You shouldn’t have resorted to physical violence, Slush Puppie.” Tony rolls his eyes, watching Stephen mouth the nickname in confusion. To his amusement, Stephen doesn’t question the name aloud.

 

“I know, but you’re fine.” He says stiffly, and all the seriousness from before the conversation was back.

 

Tony rolls his eyes again. “We’ve already gone over this.”

 

“I suppose we have.” Stephen looks back to his book and his shoulders hunch a little.

 

“Yeah, okay, weirdo.” Tony mumbles before climbing into his own bed for a quick nap until dinner.

 

Of course he doesn’t fall asleep, but that’s okay.

 

 

Tony sits at the table he’s claimed since last night, carrying a tray filled with steak, salad, and mashed potatoes. He takes a large forkful of salad and munches happily.

 

After his run, hunger decided to strike, which is normal after he exercises but still feels weird to him due to his small appetite. Not that he doesn’t like eating, he actually loves food but his ADHD medicine makes him loose his appetite (when he takes it, at least).

 

With a hesitant bite down on his fork, he notices everyone who was just at his table is now gone. He narrows his eyes and looks around to find anything suspicious.

 

And then, someone sits at his table.

 

It’s Justin freaking Hammer.

 

“Tony,” The older boy greets tensely. “How have you been? We haven’t talked in years.” There’s obviously something bothering Justin enough to actually attempt small talk with Tony.

 

So Tony decides to play along, ignoring his anger in favor of curiosity.

 

“Yeah, long time no see. And I’m alright, how are you?” Tony is using one of his more polite tones.

 

Justin shrugs, picking at his own food. “Father put me in charge of the interns at Hammer Tech.”

 

The news isn’t anything surprising or new in the business world. Justin Hammer Senior was known as a wild card who makes reckless or not very thought through decisions, yet there are those who still have business interactions with the man. That’s actually one of the reasons Howard hates him so much, his untrustworthiness.

 

Justin and Tony have been put against each other from birth.

 

Fishing for more information, Tony asks, “At seventeen? Surely he knows you still have to finish college.” The question makes the other boy somehow even more tense.

 

“Yes,” Justin pokes angrily at his fries. “He claims I can handle college later on. I am suspecting he just wants to draw out my college years so he has the company for longer.”

 

“That’s probable.” The younger agrees, taking a bite of his salad.

 

It’s also known to the business world that Hammer Tech is to be passed on to Justin Hammer Jr. once he finishes college due to the demand and the popularity of younger CEO’s. The younger CEO’s tend to attract younger customers and patrons, and even if the older ones tend to not enjoy the youth, they begrudgingly get along with their younger counterparts.

 

Tony swallows before speaking again. “It’s pretty odd my father is allowing me to come here if you attend this shit-fest, too.”

 

Justin makes a sound of agreement. “He possibly believed we would not interact.”

 

And they wouldn’t have, if Justin hadn’t come over here. They hadn’t talked in years.

 

“Yeah,” Tony hums a little. “Speaking of, why are you over here?”

 

Justin, who was finally semi-relaxed, tenses up again. “Tiberius is here, too.” He says quietly for only the other to hear.

 

Now Tony understood why Justin was so on edge. He could feel himself tense, too.

 

Tiberius Stone was the third in their friendship for many years, until Tony hit age eight and the other boys ten and eleven, and Ty left once he decided Tony wasn’t good enough for his friendship, but was good enough to bully, and forcibly took Justin with him.

 

At first, Justin would occasionally talk to Tony and comfort him when he and Ty went too far. Later on, once Tony began to hit puberty, Justin informed him that Ty seemed to be oddly obsessed with him. He would constantly seek Tony out, talk about him, and even told Justin how one day Tony would ‘feel the same’ as Ty did. It was creepy and Justin started to shield Tony by helping avoid Ty once he started saying how Tony was ‘unfairly attractive for a thirteen year old’. He began to forgive Justin once he provided him with safety.

 

“He is?” Tony asks, suspicious. “Why are you warning me? I would’ve thought you’d like to push me around, too.” Okay, he’s still a little salty.

 

The older boy scrunches up his face and frowns. “I-“ He starts. “I know I fucked up. I’m not looking for you to forgive me or anything but I can’t help you other than this, Tony, you know I can’t. So just take my warning, please?”

 

“Fine,” Tony sighs. “I understand.” Justin stands up.

 

“His....interest in you has multiplied, Tony. You...He...I’m not quite sure what the reason for him coming for you is. It might be for entertainment...and it might be for something else. I do not know when he is going to show his face, so heed my warning and be careful.” The teen hesitates in leaving. “I’m...I’m sorry for everything, Tony.” He mutters before rushing away.

 

Tony leaves not long after, dumping his food. He feels gross, almost dirty, thinking about Ty. Strangely enough, he’s shaking uncontrollably like he was a vibrator on high.

 

So he sits on the bench and closes his eyes to think, to relax. PLATO’s code comes to mind, almost like a physical strip of numbers that he can touch, and he sorts through it to calm himself. He licks his lips and bites down on them to ground himself and to stop mumbling. Slowly, he quits shaking and sits as still as a statue.

 

Maybe he should keep PLATO minor things like organization and not broaden his abilities like Tony was originally planning on. He should have another AI, one that takes care of all the household electronics and stuff like that. PLATO wasn’t made to do that and it would take too much tweaking that could possibly mess up the young AI’s developed personality. Yeah. PLATO could be made into a learning AI but be a secretory of some sorts. Tony feels bad about even just thinking about making a smarter and more efficient AI, but PLATO most likely wouldn’t care.

 

“Tony? Whatcha doing? Are you okay?”

 

Tony stops biting his lips to look up at Clint and gives him a press-smile. Luckily the other boy hasn’t been around enough to know what Tony’s real smiles looked like or Tony would have to try harder to make it look real. “Nothing really, just thinking, what about you?”

 

Clint smiles back and shrugs, not noticing Tony’s avoidance of one of the questions. “It’s time for workshop number dos.” He points out.

 

“Oh, right. I have physics. Why does this camp have normal school-like classes anyways?”

 

Clint sighs dramatically. “Not sure... I think it’s to ‘better our abilities’ or some shit. But aren’t you fuckin’ bomb at math and shit?”

 

Tony shrugs. “Yeah. My parents probably put me in it to just give me something easy to do.”

 

“Lame, lets go.”

 

 

And physics was easy, as expected. After the class, Clint dragged Tony to the play a group of campers was preforming. It was bad, and Tony was tired, so Clint reluctantly let Tony go back to the cabin.

 

Stephen, of course, is sitting on his bed and reading, but Tony doesn’t feel like being annoyed in favor to sleep. He buries himself under the covers and shivers once his mind rewinds the day.

 

“How are you cold?” Stephen asks, tone bewildered and slightly judging. Tony peers up to notice the older boys full attention is directed at him, book down and all.

 

Tony shrugs, looking away again. “Maybe it’s because your heart is so cold and dead it freezes everything in a ten foot radius.”

 

“Haha.” Stephen deadpans. “Maybe. Are you sick?” He asks. “Chills?”

 

“No,” Tony sighs. He closes his eyes. “ ‘s more like dread.” He mutters.

 

“What are you dreading?” The black haired teen pushes.

 

When Tony doesn’t answer save turning to face the wall, he hears a sigh and after a moment a page turning.

 

“Fine, be that way, Stark.”

 

“We aren’t friends, and quite frankly we’ll never be, Strange, so back the fuck off.” Tony snaps, covering his face. Maybe he’ll suffocate and Tony won’t have to endure Ty’s inevitable torture.

 

Tony can practically hear Stephen’s scowl even when the teen doesn’t say anything else.

 

~~~~~

 

The next morning, Tony skipped art in favor to lay on the beach by the lake. It was relaxing. Until a hand touches his chest.

 

The boy startles, grabbing the hand in a death grip and looking up. He’s been on edge the last three days, understandably so, but he really just lost track of time.

 

As Ty’s handsome while creepy smile looks down at Tony, he realizes how stupid he was to let down his guard.

 

The teen looks terribly amused. “My my, Tony, what a grip you have.” He laughs.

 

“My my, Tiberius, what a perverted face you have.” Tony scowls, digging his nails into the others wrist for a few more seconds before letting go. The older boy cradles his wrist with a strange look for a second but it turns back into that sly smile.

 

Ty has gained a few more inches and definitely grew into those chiseled features that looked odd on a prepubescent kid. His hair has grown longer, too, to his jaw, and now it’s part down the middle instead of that slicked-back style he used to wear. Also, he seemed to have bulked up. Not as much as that American Suck Up (Tony still doesn’t know his name) but enough to be visible and a silent threat.

 

Tony shakes his head and pulls himself to his feet. “I don’t want to talk to you.” He spits, venom lacing his tone.

 

Ty’s licks his lips and laughs. “Feisty, too. I missed that about you. We should skip next period and catch up. Maybe get to know each other in a better way than school. I know the perfect, private place across the lake I can take you to.” His eyes trail down Tony’s tan chest and abs and Ty licks his lips again.

 

“Sorry I’d rather not be alone with you. You’re kinda giving me sexual assailant vibes here.”

 

He grabs his shirt and pulls it on to hide himself. Then he crosses his arms for a sense of extra protection, even as part of his mind screams to keep his hands and arms free.

 

Tony’s dealt with a lot of creepy people before, and Ty is pretty high on that list right now if it were to be put into scale.

 

Smile faltering, Ty gives Tony a once over. “Huh. I can’t believe you think that of me.” Something dark is in Ty’s eyes. “I just wanted to spend some time with you, and you call me a sexual predator? And you're one to talk, you fucking slut. Everyone always says how you sleep with anything that walks and you turn me down? I wasn’t even asking for sex!” His voice raises and he takes a step towards Tony.

 

Fear creeps down his spine and Tony swallows at Ty’s burst of anger. Woah that was fast.

 

“I don’t...I don’t like you like that Ty.”

 

Ty clenched his fists and gets closer. “You don’t like me like that?” He questions. “Even after—“

 

Don’t bring that up.” Tony interrupts with a sense of panic “That was one time and I was drunk. You...you saw how many drinks they were giving me.”

 

Six beers, not yet fourteen.

 

“But you fucking took them! You took them and you drank them and you came home with me. I was your first, and you don’t even feel any connection?”

 

Tony is suddenly aware of how close they are, within arms length, Ty even leaning down slightly with his fists still clenched painfully tight. Stepping back, Tony shakes his head to clear his mind. He feels dizzy and nauseous at remembering that night and how many beers he drank in a span of two hours.

 

It was his first high school party and someone kept replacing his drinks once they ran out. It was too much and he...doesn’t remember who kept supplying him. He remembers drinking, Ty bringing him home, then uncomfortable and almost unbearable pain. When he woke up in Ty’s bed with a massive headache and a sore asshole, he put two and two together. Tony claimed sickness to get home and threw up in the bushes once he escaped Ty’s room.

 

Tony...didn’t tell Justin about what happened. Or anyone, honestly. And he isn’t planning on it.

 

“I don’t like you, Ty. I never will.” Tony repeats. “Forget about what happened because that was a one time thing—a mistake.”

 

Ty takes a deep breath and regains his composure. “Fine. I’ll make you remember how special what we have is, then. I can do that.” He vows to himself before turning silently and walking off.

 

Tony is frozen for an undetermined amount of time, until his body steers him back to his cabin on autopilot.

 

Ty is....much more of a problem than he anticipated.

Chapter Text

 

Stephen looks Tony up and down with obvious judgement when Tony finally hikes his ass to botany after a long discussion with himself about whether or not he should go after what happened earlier.

 

In the end, he won. And lost. 50/50.

 

He was reluctant to leave his stuff unattended, especially considering he has some pretty valuable stuff in there. Not anything like inventions or unreleased Stark Tech, more sentimental objects like the plant book and technology (Tony’s most recent computer he built). Ty probably wouldn’t go as far to steal Tony’s things now that he was eighteen. He could seriously be prosecuted if word got out to any of Howard’s numerous lawyers.

 

It’s happened before, too, with a couple aspiring engineers that targeted Tony last year when he was wandering MIT’s campus and stole his book filled with inventions by beating him up and leaving him in an empty alley. Turns out they were following him and figured right that the book had some original ideas in it. Howard’s lawyers accused and charged the three nineteen year olds with grand theft, robbery, and aggravated assault.

 

Ty is a scumbag, but Tony doubts he is scummy and stupid enough to steal anything of importance from Tony. If it happens, Tony will fight back.

 

“I saw you talking to Tiberius Stone.”

 

Tony laughs and runs a hand across his face. Of course. It’s always back to Ty. “How astute of you, Stranger. You should be a detective!” He taunts tensely while reading the lesson plan for today scrawled out on the board.

 

Photosynthesis and plant cell structure. Huh, he can take tests on that in his sleep.

 

Stephen shakes his head with a frown. “You don’t have to be such a dick. I just want to know why you were talking to him.” After a second he adds, “And Justin Hammer.”

 

There is something else in Stephens words, anger, obviously, but something deeper. Ty definitely not in Stephens good book for whatever reason. Still, that doesn’t help cool Tony’s sudden annoyance.

 

“I’m a dick? You fucking shoved me out of my chair because I asked for clarification so you have no right to assume I’d answer your questions when you reacted like that to mine.” He squeezes his nails into his palms and he feels insane enough to force himself to take a few deep breaths using the Combat Breathing Technique (in four, hold four, breath out four) that Howard taught him to focus and relax.

 

Apparently, both of the Stark men have trouble with calming down.

 

Tony would argue Howard is way more quick to anger and harder to bring back than Tony, but no one really listens to him over his father anyways so it doesn’t matter.

 

Stephen simply raises his eyebrow instead of acknowledging Tony’s near freakout. “That doesn’t mean you aren’t a dick, Stark. I just want a simple answer and you are just avoiding giving it to me by bringing up my mistakes. You’re deflecting.”

 

Jesus Christ this kid doesn’t let things get past him.

 

Tony doesn’t tense, but he does narrow his eyes. Clearly Stephen isn’t as stupid as Tony was wishing for. The other can read body language and making any obvious or even slight movements can reveal how stressed Tony is. ‘Stark men are made of iron—don’t show weaknesses’

 

“Go ride someone else’s ass.” He hisses and unclenches his hands. “I know mines irresistible but unlatch, you fucking larvae.” He turns his head to the window.

 

“You’re avoiding my question, again.” Stephen points out with a hint of mockery.

 

“Oh look, we’re starting.”

 

Ms. Foster beings class with a few words and Stephen let’s it go in favor to listen. Blah blah blah she repeats information Tony already knows and after twenty minutes gives them a lab worksheet with a likely empty promise that tomorrow they would do something more interesting and engaging.

 

Tony sucks on his bottom lip as he speeds through the worksheet. Sure, waiting to answer the questions would keep him from having a large span of free time, but today he brought his tech notebook where he jots down code and ideas. Just in case someone takes it and tries to steal his ideas, everything is twice translated by Hex code and then binary—or something similar to that. Every page is different.

 

Yeah maybe Tony’s a little paranoid, but he won’t have a repeat of before with actual ideas in it this time.

 

“Do you owe him something?” A deep voice inquired in a whisper.

 

“Do you ever let things go?” Tony growls softly. “Leave it, Stranger.” He tightens his grip on his pencil.

 

He doesn’t want to explain how Ty is out to get him because he can’t get himself to reciprocate feelings. Explain how him and Ty have history. How can you even get someone like Stephen Strange to understand stuff like that?

 

“Usually no, not when those things interest me to all hell. So. Spill it, Stark.” Stephen murmurs with a small smirk while he jots down an answer.

 

Tony is the same way. Curiosity has gotten better of him way too many times he’d be willing to admit, and placed him into some not-preferable situations. Sometimes those situations could’ve easily lead to his demise. Though, he always got an answer or explanation to whatever he pursued. Curiosity killed the cat, and all, but satisfaction brought it back. No one really listens to the whole saying.

 

“Why do you care so much?” Tony taps his mechanical pencil against the table rhythmically.

 

The taller boy gives him a blank stare. “Stone is the filth amongst us. So is Hammer.”

 

“Justin isn’t all that bad, but Ty you got right.”

 

“Ty?” Stephen gives him an incredulous scowl.

 

Oops.

 

Tony scrunches his nose. “That’s his name. What, would you like me to call him by his last name like a fucking freak? Like you do?”

 

One of his fists tightens and Tony subconsciously leans away from the now-angry teenager. As almost a reminder, his side stings where the red splotches on his side turned to a light purple color.

 

Warm eyes meet cold and Stephen must notice something because he looks back to his lab worksheet and his hands relax.

 

Tony stares at Stephen for a few more seconds before softly muttering “chloroplasts contain thylakoids, and they’re located in the stroma.”

 

A slight squeak of an eraser against paper is the only sign Stephen heard him.

 

 

•|•

 

 

Nothing happens for the rest of the week. Tony spends those days getting used to his schedule, avoiding Ty, swimming, fighting with Stephen, turning down Natasha’s (?) unwanted offers of friendship, and begging silently for some free time.

 

Tony is naturally skilled at adapting to different situations, much to his advantage and dismay. The good part of this ability is that it allows him to easily fall into schedules and even boosts his abnormally fast learning skills. Tony adjusts to anything and everything thrown at him. But...that’s also the problem. Whether it’s because people notice he isn’t effected or just pure bad luck, change and difficulties and psychos seem to be drawn to Tony like he’s a giant magnet. Pros; no problem adjusting. Cons; psychos and unnecessary obstacles.

 

Avoiding Ty is not so easy as adjusting. Everywhere he goes, Tony finds himself seeing or almost running into Ty. If he doesn’t know better, he would think his old friend/tormenter inserted a tracker under his skin next to the one already there from Howard from a few months back (after he was targeted by those engineers). But seriously, Tony could barely go around the camp without spotting Ty. Luckily Ty hasn’t done anything except been around. That is probably his scare tactic for now, to make Tony paranoid and scared and it’s kind of working, much to Tony’s appall.

 

Surprise, surprise, Stephen and Tony didn’t just make up after that fight. And the other one, if that counts as a fight. It doesn’t bother him much, to be honest, so many hate Tony that he’s kinda numb to it now. At first it hurt and only recently had he just stopped giving a fuck about other people and what they think. Stephen is no different from any of those faceless, anti-Tony people.

 

Like he’s said before, he isn’t interested in making friends here at SHIELD. Clint isn’t his friend, Stephen isn’t his friend, Carol isn’t his friend, and Natasha sure as hell isnt his friend. But she wants to be, Tony would be blind to not notice her attempts. The small talk, smiles, when she shows Tony her art, side comments, etc etc. There is a possibility she wants in his pants, but he gets strong friendship (albeit a bit flirty) vibes from her. But it’s just so annoying that she’s so persistent— and ugh. He would normally praise that kind of stubbornness but it’s fucking annoying. What is with people trying to insert themselves into Tony’s life? At least she understands when he’s about to go psycho on her ass and say something that could seriously (might) make her cry.

 

Tony’s an asshole when he wants to be.

 

That’s where free time ties in, honestly. Some days he can’t stand being near people or outside or even just talking in general, he needs to give his senses a reboot, but this camp is practically forcing him to socialize and get out of his comfort zone. There is no space between classes long enough to let Tony do what he needs to, but they do give him two days off. Today—Saturday—and Sunday, before his schedule changes again. Sunday is a visitation days for family, and Saturday is just free.

 

So he snatches his computer, notebook, and phone in a backpack to find somewhere quiet. Soon he finds himself in an empty lab in the back of science building.

 

A light layer of dust comes off the teachers desk when Tony runs his index finger across it. The room looks exactly like the botany room, save for the lack of people, and it smells clean and unused.

 

“Fucking finally.” Tony sighs loudly but his tone his soft and relieved as he collapses into the soft padded spinny chair. It hurts a little but not enough for anything but a wince.

 

With a grin, Tony turns on his laptop and calls out “PLATO?” quietly while he opens a locked file.

 

You have been gone for five days, twelve hours, three minutes, and forty seconds’ Comes up on the screen. He hasn’t had the time to give his first learning AI a voice yet.

 

“Ah, yeah, sorry.” Tony winces. He rubs his neck with one hand. “I’m at summer camp, remember how I said I’d be gone for a little while?”

 

He gets started on hacking the internet. It shouldn’t be long and he could do it from his phone, but he missed PLATO.

 

According to my files, a little while for you is between three hours up to four days. It has been five days, twelve hours, four minutes, and one second.’

 

“I’m sorry Play, I haven’t had the time to talk. They’ve been keeping me on a tight schedule and I’m in a room with eleven other boys that could hurt you. I can’t let them know you exist, bud.”

 

That is okay’

 

“I’m...I’m sorry, I actually am. Please just understand that.”

 

I do, don’t worry, Tony

 

Tony nods with a deep breath. “Okay.”

 

He smiles triumphantly and kicks off the desk to spin when his computer connects to the internet with a small beep. Finally! Tony grabs his phone, still smiling wider than he has in days, and synchronizes his two pieces of tech. After a short minute of loading all of the code, three bars show up in the corner of his screen and Tony actually feels so happy he might just whoop in excitement, but instead he simply smiles and goes to check the recent news.

 

Some links come up mentioning him like ‘Stark heir gone for the summer’ or ‘Where is Tony Stark?’. Stuff similar to that, not very important or worrying. He looks at SI stocks to make sure they haven’t changed severely, and they luckily stayed the same, Howard must be playing defense against Obadiah’s demands for more business transactions. Tony keeps count of how many times he runs across the Stark name, how many shootings had happened, celebrity announcements, etc.

 

It must be an hour before his phone dings with a text message. Tony bites his cheek and goes to his home screen, chest feeling heavy when he sees a red angry ten above the message icon, and a seven above the phone icon. He presses the most recent text, which is Howard.

 

Today 10:54 am

Howard/Dad: ‘Tony, do you have service? We need to talk.’

 

Tony types out a response ‘Ya just got it. What about?’ and hits send. He waits a few seconds before going to Rhodey.

 

Tuesday 6:03 am

Rhodeybear <3: Tony!!!!!!

Rhodeybear <3: I’m so sunburnt from yesterday can you sue the sun for me?

Rhodeybear <3: I’d appreciate it bc you’re the one who got the idea of a family summer vacation to Florida into my moms head

 

Tuesday 7:30 am

Rhodeybear <3: tonyyyyyy it hurtsss

 

Tuesday 10:42 am

Rhodeybear <3: stop ignoring me bitch

 

Tuesday 2:12 pm

Rhodeybear <3: ohhhh You’re at that camp, right? Nvm nvm text me when you can LMAO

 

Smiling, Tony texts his friend back promising to sue the sun and minor details about the camp. He doesn’t want Rhodey to worry about Ty or Justin or even Stephen. As much as Tony wants his sugarplum to protect him, Rhodey does enough of that at MIT and honestly whenever they go out. He moves to Pepper.

 

Monday 4:36 pm

Peppermint: I hope you have fun at summer camp! HAHA

 

Tuesday 11:11 am

Peppermint: Wow. I would expect better of you to ignore one of your top five favorite persons text.

 

Tuesday 2:13

Peppermint: Damn Rhodey just told me you have no service. That sucks. Anyways once you get service text me back because I miss you, stupid.

 

‘I miss u too! U and Rhodey are kinda slow for smart ppl but I just got internet so it’s all good lol. I only have Saturday and Sundays free >:( so we should talk soon’

 

Usually he would have more grace or flair to his texting, like Pepper, but sometimes his mind just needs to get it out and using full words and grammar takes to long. He doubts Pep or Rhodey will respond to his text any time soon anyways. Both of their families are on vacation for two more weeks give or take, and phones and vacation don’t really mix with their families.

 

With a ding, another message pops up. Tony clicks it, even though he was just about to read his Mama’s messages.

 

Howard/Dad: Tomorrow is visitation day. Your mother and I will not be able to visit due to an unexpected emergency within SI. Jarvis has fallen ill again and Ana is staying home to take care of him. We are all thoroughly sorry, Tony.

 

‘Ok’ he sends.

 

Tony takes a shuttering breath and clenches his eyes closed. He shouldn’t be surprised that something came up. It always does. The chair squeaks when he leans back far enough that his head whacks the chalk board.

 

Okay, he thinks. He’ll just come here tomorrow and work on his new AI or something.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Rhodey and Pepper never got back to him before Tony had to shut down his phone completely so it wouldn’t buzz in the middle of the night. If he were to get notifications, it would be a dead giveaway that he has access to the WiFi. People might think he gets special privileges or something and force him to hand over the password.

 

Howard didn’t have the call with Tony he promised, either, so he supposes his friends not responding doesn’t really matter.

 

Tony shows his face at dinner. Carol gives him a tilt of the head but doesn’t question his absence verbally, and other than that no one noticed or cares enough to say anything. Dinner is spaghetti and meatballs, but Tony wrinkles his nose and takes the partially untouched salad and some chocolate milk instead.

 

“I’m so looking forward to seeing my baby brother again! My mom said he has something for me.” An excited girl at Tony’s table says to her friend.

 

“Really? That’s so cute! My dads just bringing me new socks.” Her friend laughs.

 

Tony rolls his eyes and eats his dinner. Others at the table start joining in on the conversation so he looks around for some sort of distraction at the annoyances. He sees Carol chatting with a large group of people including Clint and she must make a joke because they all laugh and jeer jokingly at her. Natasha, Steve, Stephen, and that man-teen Thor is in the group, too. Natasha is practically leaning against Clint, which is odd. Tony wouldn’t expect them to be a thing even if he knew they were friends before now. Steve has his arm around a brunette boy who’s hair is almost down to his shoulders. Stephen and a long black haired boy talk at the end of the table, seemingly unbothered by the rowdy teens beside them. They look distanced, honestly, like they would rather be somewhere else. Three boys with long hair in one group is kinda strange, though. The whole group looks strange.

 

Tony sighs around his fork and looks away from them. Its about a few minutes of watching with growing boredom until he spots Justin with a few boys. One of them says something, making Justin shake his head with a frown. Still nothing interesting.

 

The salad grows tasteless, so Tony downs his milk and gets up to chuck it all in the trash and go outside. Is it weird that he wishes it was Monday? At least then he would have something to do. Anything would be better than this extreme boredom.

 

It’s pleasantly warm outside compared to the air conditioned cafe, but it’s not too humid or hot to be uncomfortable. Tony follows the unlit trail back to the cabin he had to memorize, feet dragging lightly on the dirt flattened by thousands of feet and (probably) a ton of trucks. And it’s not quite dark yet but it’s getting there so Tony has to really pay attention to where he’s stepping.

 

He finds himself wondering around until he gets back to the picnic table outside the cafe. Damn. He wanted to end up down at the lake or something. It’s only been fifteen minutes and dinner ends in ten or so minutes, so he sits down and itches a mosquito bite on his leg. Maybe he should wear bug spray.

 

The door opens and a somewhat tall, lanky brown haired boy comes out with a distraught expression. Definitely not as tall as Stephen or that Thor dude, though. Probably Peppers height.

 

Tony watches with suspicion as the boy walks over and sits across the wooden table with a sigh.

 

“Hi.” The boy says in a solemn tone. The greeting is definitely just to be polite.

 

Tony’s parents always told him to introduce himself to new people so he wouldn’t come off as rude. For the most part, he does whatever his parents say, but telling strangers his last name usually ends with them asking him for something. So he prefers to ignore people who come up to him unless he feels tolerant enough or it was necessary.

 

“I’m Peter Parker.” The boy, Peter, speaks up after a minute of them just silently sitting there. It must’ve been too awkward for the stranger to handle.

 

Peter Parker sticks out his hand with a smile, but Tony can still see whatever is bothering the boy clearly in the slightly strained smile and line between his brows.

 

Tony shakes Peters hand firmly. “My name’s Tony. Nice to meet you.” He notes the strong grip before he lets go. “Shouldn’t you be eating? Dinner isn’t over yet.”

 

Peter shrugs and the stressed expression is back. “I finished...what about you? I saw you leave a while ago...”

 

Tony really wants to know what’s on Peters mind. One of his worst (or best) qualities is how extraordinarily curious he is. It is a little obsessive if Tony were to be honest. He likes to know everything about everything around him, but he can stop and he’s been trying to do that lately. He just likes details that help him put things together.

 

The presumably shorter boy shrugs too and starts scratching his bug bites again. “It doesn’t take me thirty or forty five minutes to eat, like some people, and I decided to take a walk. Obviously.”

 

He feels his skin break and wipes the blood down his leg in a short red smear. It still itches but he tucks his hands in his lap.

 

Peter doesn’t rise to the slight bait. “You shouldn’t—uh scratch mosquito bites. If they break you can get an infection.”

 

“I don’t care,” Tony deadpans. “and I know that, I’m not stupid. The more you scratch them, the more itches.”

 

When a mosquito bites you, it releases histamine, which causes the itching. Like he said, the more you scratch the more histamine is released. Normally he would put anti-itch cream and such on the bites, but he isn’t in his cabin so he’ll do that before bed.

 

Peter turns red as he ducks his head. “Sorry...” he mumbles.

 

“It’s fine, at least you care a little.”

 

“Yeah.”

 

Tony nods and runs a hand through his hair. His fingers get caught on a tangle, so he pulls his fingers harshly through the curls to separate them. He needs a shower. And his brush that went missing on day four. Oh well, at least he still has his comb. Ty probably took the brush for DNA to make a Tony clone. Not that the clone would stand in a fight against the OG Tony, especially because he wasn’t born with all of his learned fighting skills. Unless it’s a sci-fi movie.

 

“What are you thinking about?” Peter laughs, leaning forward on his arms. “You look pretty invested in whatever it is.”

 

Tony blinks out of his thoughts and looks at Peter. “Clones. You know, the usual.”

 

Peter laughs, eyes lighting up and everything. The laughter sounds more like giggling than anything, but it’s filled with so much joy and Tony doesn’t really understand. All he did was answer the question.

 

“You’re weird.” Peter says after he’s done giggling. “Like, I mean in the least offensive way possible.”

 

“Thanks.” Tony stares at the table blankly. “So why are you actually out here?”

 

Peter sighs heavily and slumps on the table. “Two of my—well I’m not sure if they’re really my friends but I’ll say it for the story—two of my friends got in a huge argument and one of them said some pretty mean things that resulting in the rest of the table getting mad. The one that said the mean stuff stormed off and the group separated across the cafe...and it was super uncomfy with who was left so I came out here.”

 

“What do you mean they’re not your friends?”

 

Really, he understands that you can hang around someone but not consider them your friend, but he wants to know what Peter means. A lot of relationships don’t really get better or worse because you never hang out or talk enough. Tony has that type of relationship with a bunch of college students  in his classes.

 

“Oh...I guess I sit at their table, but like we don’t talk a lot. I wish I could become good friends with everyone but I don’t think they really like me. And that’s why it was super awkward, because everyone was mad at what was said and I really don’t know them all that well so I wasn’t really sure what to do.”

 

Tony scoffs. “So fucking what if they don’t like you. There’s always other people that would want to be friends with you.”

 

Peter mumbles a thank you, and Tony continues. “What did they say anyways?”

 

“Well, stuff like—” Peter laughs nervously. “It’s kinda bad to say.”

 

“It’s alright, I don’t mind bad things.”

 

“Okay. Uh, the first person said things like ‘I’m surprised you have friends with how beep dense you are’ and ‘are you sure you weren’t diagnosed with Alzheimer’s? Because you keep repeating yourself. Get a better argument, you dense mother-beep.’” Peter scratches his cheek sheepishly once he finishes, helpfully bleeping out the obvious f bombs.

 

The insults sounded strangely familiar to Tony for some reason.

 

“Oh?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Thats decently funny, not gonna lie.”

 

“I guess.” Peter shrugs. “I wasn’t really laughing at the time.”

 

“Of course.” Tony agrees.

 

They talk for a little while longer, until it’s time for the nighttime activity, which happens to be a movie. Peter insists on sitting with Tony after taking one look at his silent friend group. They talk about future genetic recreation as they watch Jurassic park and Tony finds himself cursing internally. He isn’t supposed to find someone he somewhat enjoys talking to, dammit.

 

But he goes to bed and Stephen’s biting comments don’t bother him.