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Collateral Damage

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Tony had told Peter not to come. Explicitly. Heck, he had activated a parachute on the teen's back, launching him into space and yet Peter was still here. The kid just never stopped. And he didn't stop now. 

"Peter, listen to me," Tony said firmly.

"No!" Peter exclaimed, "Thanos is out there. You made me an Avenger for a reason! I have to help!" Tony didn't answer and Peter stepped closer, his voice cracking, "I'm not gonna just sit and hide Tony. You know I can't do that."

"What if something happens? What if somebody dies? Are you ready to watch that?" Tony asked him, becoming extremely blunt in hopes to sway the eager, wide eyed teen. "What if someone dies on your watch? Or because you didn't do your job? That's on you now. And if you die..."

Tony shook his head, faking a smile to cover up his fear and pain. "That's- that's on me Parker."

"I'm ready for this," Peter said firmly.

"You're 15," Tony said angrily.

"I'm 16!" Peter shot back, "and I have been helping the little guy my entire life. Tony, I've been watching you since I was 6, heck, I've been wanting to be you since I was 6! When I got superpowers, before Vulture, I helped people cross the street, I stopped bicycle thieves, and every once in a while I got a lady's purse back. And now...now i finally have the chance to help save the world, and I'm so close, I'm staring it in it's ugly face, and you tell me no?"

"Then maybe I was premature on making you an Avenger," Tony snapped. 

Peter glared at him, his hands curling into fists.

"You're not ready for this Peter. This isn't Captain America, this isn't the Vulture-" Tony said.

"I know that-" Peter protested.

"No! No you don't!" Tony raised his voice. "Because if you did you would not be so eager to go in and put your life on the line in the battlefield. You watch movies, and brush off fight scenes but out here? It's life and death. People get hurt. People die. It's scary. I wake up in cold sweats because of this job, and I don't want that to happen to you." 

Tony ran a hand through his hair, "The answer is no, ok? Stay off the side. Don't engage."

"You know I can't-" Peter said through gritted teeth.

"Well you have to, ok Parker? That's not a request, it's an order."

"Oh, so you're giving me orders now?" Peter laughed with no humor. 

"Darn right," Tony said, glaring at the teenager who took a step back, "When you're stupid enough to want to get right in there and punch a guy that has like 4 infinity stones in the face?"

"Then why did you bring me?" Peter yelled.

"I didn't!" Tony screamed back. He immediately regretted it. Peter's face slackened and he looked down. Tony was breathing hard, his mind spinning. When Peter looked up Tony's heart shattered. The kid's eyes were filled with tears.

"Pete I-" Tony said softly. "I didn't mean it like..." Of course he was grateful Peter was here. There was no way he would have figured out how to beat Ebony Maw so quickly like Peter had, and to be honest, having the kid around made him calmer and happier. He should have never said that. Tony struggled on what to say to fix this, but before he could there was a shout. Peter discretely rubbed his eyes with his fists and the nano particle mask closed over his head. 

"Tony!" Quill came running forward, pressing a button on the side of his ear, his helmet closing over his face. "He's coming."

Tony turned to Peter who wouldn't look at him. Tony didn't know what to do or say. Should he not say anything? Should he hug him? 

Tony remembered the first time he hugged Peter in the car on their way back from Germany. The kid had gleefully hugged him back and Tony instantly thought, he’s gonna get hurt because of me. They always get hurt when they get close to me. 

So, hating himself for doing it he reached out and grabbed the door handle, feigning a groan to cover up his voice that was cracking with emotion, “It’s not a hug, I’m just grabbing the door for ya.” 

Peter had recoiled, all embarrassed and disappointed and Tony couldn’t look at him after that. 

Tony hadn’t hugged him since, but undeniably the kid had gotten close with him and Tony couldn’t help but get close with him too. He was practically a son to him, which is why Tony would not budge on the call to let him into the field. 

Tony looked up at Peter, walking forward to give him a brief embrace, scared he might never get the chance again but Peter was still looking down and he backed up. Tony bit his lip, wishing Peter had seen his attempt because he couldn’t bring himself to willingly show his attachment to the kid more than once. Selfish, he knew that. But he would take a million years of name calling and karma for everything he’s done if it meant that kid would have no part in it. 

“Be safe,” Peter said in a low voice.

“Yeah kid,” Tony said weakly. 

Peter glanced up at him once before he turned and swung around the corner of the crashed ship. 

Tony took a deep breath and took his position, wishing he had had a better last talk with his kid. It was weird, after New York, and Ultron, Tony had thought so little of himself he didn’t care if he came back during one of the fights. If he died in battle, so be it. But now, with Peter, it made him think about the reasons why he needed to come home.

Tony needed to come home because Peter needed him to.

Because Pepper needed him to.

Because Rhodes needed him to.

Because the team needed him to. 

He had reasons to fight for, and he had had them his whole life.

 

Everyone crouched, waiting as the air shimmered in the center of the planet. Thanos stepped out of a glowing blue portal that zapped open, ripping space and time, and Peter watched as Dr. Strange started talking to him, casually perched on some broken steps. 

Peter's spider senses tingled and after a 3 minute discussion he looked up in unison with the titan. Tony had crashed a massive section of the ship down right on top of Thanos and Peter grinned. 

“Piece of cake, Quill,” Tony shouts through the comms.

“Yeah if your goal was to piss him off!” Quill shouts back, firing up his boots and getting him out of the way.

Just then the whole piece of building cracks and glows purple before it explodes. The mad titan is unscathed, yelling in anger. The purple stone had been glowing but then the titan clenches his fist and the red stone comes to life. He swipes his arm and the remains of the shattered building fly at Tony in a swarm.

Peter hears him cry out as he gets overwhelmed and shoved backward. Tony’s repulsors fire up as he tries to get away from the swarm.

Peter’s voice gets caught in his throat as he yells, “Tony!”

He's gotta help. Tony wouldn't see him, right? Too bad. He jumps up but he’s too far away and Peter swings himself off the ledge, diving toward the titan. He shoots a web right at his eye and it makes a direct hit. The titan stumbles back and Peter swoops by, punching him in the face and then he lands back on the ledge.

He hears a voice in his mind and recognizes it as Dr. Strange.

"Kid, I'm gonna use malecular energy to open a portal right above Thanos and then reloop you back to the same spot."

"Woah, woah, what?" Peter yelled, putting his hand to his ear, his brain spinning. 

"Punch him!" Strange shouted simply, moving his hands in a circular motion, orange sparks coming from his fingers. 

"Punch him, got it," Peter said as his feet dropped out from under him. 

Peter comes out of the portal falling down right above Thanos. He curves his body and punches the titan in the face, shouting, “Magic!”

Then he fell into nothingness and suddenly eh was ontop of the titan again. Peter whooped gleefully, “More magic!” He grabbed the Titan’s armor on his back and flipped around, his feet sinking into Thanos’ stomach before he launches himself off into another portal, this time opening on the other side.

“Magic with a kick!” Peter kicks Thanos in the back and lets himself fall into the ground that opens up for him. He was getting the hang of this.

“Magic with a-” Peter yells, prepared to slam his fist right into the back of the titan’s head. But Thanos turns and he and Peter lock eyes. Oh crap. The titan reaches up, predicting where he’s going to be and grabs his throat, cutting off Peter’s cry. The hand tightens and Peter chokes, kicking his legs. The titan snarls before he slams Peter to the floor, his back cracking the ground, making dust fly up. Peter screams in pain, still struggling to get out of the iron grip around his neck.

“Insect,” the titan spits, looming over him before he picks him up and hurls Peter at the wizard. Peter cries out again, one from being thrown, and two as he collides with Dr. Strange and goes flying, tumbling to a stop in a pile of rubble. Peter grasps the ground, breathing hard, his head swimming. It hurt so much- it wasn’t supposed to hurt that much.

"You ok?" Strange asks. 

"Yeah, fine," Peter brushes him off. Not fine. Very not fine. 

"You did well," Strange says before he gets to his feet and creeps around behind Thanos. Peter is about to go join him before he hears the high pitch sound of missiles. He looks to his right and Iron Man swoops in above Peter, and the bombs explode against the titan, creating a massive fireball in front of Peter who slowly gets to his feet, grasping his side and backing up. Tony still hadn't seen him. 

Then to his horror, an angry yell comes from the center of the fireball and the titan is visible now, his hand clenched into a fist, and he roars as all the fire is sucked somehow into a ball and he lets it loose in a fury torrent, a beam right for Tony. Peter watches it shoot forward and hits him right in the chest as he makes his loop back around. Tony goes flying, blasted backward. 

“No!” Peter yells and he jumps up, shooting a web to try and catch him but in doing so, exposes himself, and the titan launches a blast that hits him in the hip, spinning him off into a pile of rocks. Peter groans, trying to get up on his side. 

Thanos' gauntlet is glowing and Peter scrambles to his feet, ducking behind the massive pile of rubble and covering his head, his spider legs coming out and wrapping around him. There's a sonic boom, quiet at first, the power of the blast sucking everything forward and then exploding outward with a massive eruption of fiery colors. 

Peter's tossed around, curled in a ball with his hands over his head as the spider legs manage to keep him from getting hit by anything too massive. But as the blast dies down and Peter risks a glance up a rock catches him in the head and everything goes black. Peter lies limp, as the dust settles, the spider legs standing strong and keeping him off the ground.

Peter's head hurts. He opens his eyes, crying out in pain and lets out a gasp. He's covered in dust and he coughs as he looks up weakly, the half broken legs setting him gently to the ground. 

Everyone is unconscious. Everyone except- Tony. Peter's vision is blurry but he can still hear Tony's cries of pain with every hit to the head. The titan has him pinned, a foot on his chest, punching him across the face again and again. Peter curls his fists and staggers to his feet. Tony blasts the titan in the chest and rolls away, clutching his chest with a broken repulsor, firing another blast with the other. Thanos gains on him, walking through Tony's beam and he grabs his arm and twists. Tony screams in pain and a knife forms in his other hand and he stabs it forward. Thanos twists it out of his grasp and plunges it forward-

THWAP. 

Peter yanks his web as hard as he can and it flies out of the titan's hand. He throws Tony down on the ground and turns but Peter had sprinted and slid under his legs, turning and kicking him in the back. The titan falls and Peter stands protectively in front of Tony who coughs up blood. 

"No- Peter- get out of here-" Tony pleads. 

"I'm not going to watch you die," Peter says firmly, with tears in his eyes. He crouches and jumps up, slamming his fist into the titans face and shooting a web at his foot. He twists Thanos' ankle and kicks him in the side, flipping over him and webbing his head, slamming it into his knee. Peter swipes again, prepared to-

Thanos grabs his wrist. 

Peter freezes, struggling to free himself and Thanos punches him in the face so hard his mask shatters, revealing his bloody nose. Peter gasps, wincing in pain but still glaring at the titan. 

"Peter," Tony choked.

Thanos laughs, "So young. So reckless. I admire you."

"Let him go!" Tony yells, trying to get to his feet and failing.

"What's your name little one?" Thanos asked, his voice somehow gentle.

Peter grit his teeth, "Screw you."

Thanos laughed, "Strong. He reminds me of you Stark," Thanos said, twisting Peter's arm behind him and pulling him closer. Peter cried out his pain, dazed and confused. The titan took his opportunity to shift his grip on him, moving his hand to grab the back of Peter's neck, pressing on the double pressure point. Peter whimpers in pain, his mouth opening but no sound came out. He flinched, his knees threatening to buckle out from under him. Peter let out a strangled cry of anger, struggling until it hurt too much. 

"I said let him go!" Tony screamed, before he grabbed his chest, coughing up blood. Peter had never seen fear in his eyes, but now that was all he saw. 

"You've corrupted him," Thanos says, using his other hand to gently ruffle Peter's hair. Peter winces, closing his eyes and jerking away from the touch as much as he can. 

"Stop it," Tony seethed, glaring daggers at the titan. "Don't touch my kid."

"I'll show him the truth," Thanos assured him. 

Peter had eyes for only Tony, filled with terror, begging him to save him. "Tony," he whispered softly, trembling in the titan's gasp. 

"No," Tony begged, locking gazes with his kid, breathing hard, shaking as well. "Pete-" He looked at the titan and his voice raised, "Wait- please-" 

Thanos raised his gauntlet and the blue stone glowed. 

Pure fear shone in Tony's gaze and he yelled, "NO!" 

"I love you," Peter sobbed to Tony as they looked gazes. If he was going to die he wanted Tony to know that. Thanos' hand tightened and Peter squeezed his eyes shut as he was pulled backward and the portal closed. The last thing he saw was Tony's hand reaching out to grab him, his eyes filled with tears and fear. 

Tony's hand grasped open air.

Chapter Text

Tony fell forward, grasping open air in disbelief.

"No! No, no, no, no- Peter!"

He scrambled to his feet, ignoring unbelievable pain as he whirled to find the kid. Nothing. He was gone.

Tony gasped for air, breathing hard, his throat and chest tightening up on him. He turned around with pure terror in his eyes, his gaze finding Dr. Strange who was leaning against the rock.

"Where-" Tony cried out, his voice trailing off into dismay, horror floating over them like a dark cloud as the 'guardians of the galaxy' gathered to look at the spot where Peter had dissapeared, well aware they were one person short.

Mantis had tears in her eyes. Quill was staring at the spot where the portal had closed and Drax was staring at the ground. 

"Tony, I'm sorry," Strange said quietly.

"No," Tony shook his head, "no, he's gotta be here. Strange he's got to-" Tony whirled, turning around and around in circles, scanning every speck of dust, every rock until his knees gave out and he collapsed to the ground. 

"No..." Tony pleaded, his hands shaking as he brought them to his head. "Oh God...Peter."

 

Peter hit the ground rolling. He cried out in pain, groaning as he came to a stop.

"Take me back!" Peter yelled, forgetting who he was dealing with. He had landed on his stomach and Peter turned onto his back with a glare plastered to his face. "Take me back right-"

He instantly blanched at the sight of the titan towering over him. Peter choked on his next breath in, sitting up on his elbows and scrambling backward. 

Thanos watched him curiously, slowly backing Peter into the wall.

"Stay away from me," Peter hissed, crawling backward until he ran out of room and was forced into a corner. He had no where else to go. 

Peter lifted up his arm desperately to fire a web and Thanos simply raised his gauntlet. Peter's web never fired and the shooters started getting tighter around his wrists.  Peter winced, trying to yank his arms from the invisible grasp. He grit his teeth, the contraptions buckling in on his wrists, digging deeper. They finally snapped before they could break his wrists, fizzing out with a spark. 

Peter looked up in fear, pressing his back against the wall as his arms were released. He took a deep breath. 

"So are you gonna kill me?" he said breathlessly, his chest rising and falling abnormally fast. 

"You're scared," Thanos observed.

"I wouldn't say scared," Peter said sarcastically. "More like very, very concerned about the glowey rocks on that golden hand thingie? And when I get concerned, my- my heart tends to beat faster? That's how...being a human works." Peter gulped.

He always rambled when he got scared. Talking was one of his strengths. Tony had told him that. Mr. Stark had once said that he could talk a criminal to death if he really tried to. Peter figured that wouldn't work with the titan. 

"Stark called you Peter. That's your name isn't it?" 

"How do you know Tony?" Peter snarled. Tony...Tony was looking for him. Tony wouldn't stop until he found him. 

"Answer the question," Thanos snarled, snapping Peter away from his soothing thoughts and back into his harsh and terrifying reality.

Peter bit his lip, about to mouth off but something in the titan's tone made him rethink his decision. He hissed quietly, "Yeah, no crap Sherlock, my name's Peter." His slight jab didn't have the intent he wanted thanks to his trembling voice. 

Then Peter repeated his question boldly, "Now how do you know Tony?"

Thanos smiled and it was downright unsettling. "I like you," he said. 

"I'm flattered," Peter said, still not daring to move.

"I'm not going to kill you Peter," Thanos said, straightening. Peter realized how tense he had been and forced himself to relax despite the circumstances.

"Why am I not thrilled?" Peter scoffed quietly, anything but reassured. When the titan didn't say anything, Peter forced his voice to work, tired of Thanos just staring creepily at him, as if he was observing him. 

"I'm not a lab rat," Peter snapped, taking advantage of his sudden boldness, or his sudden idiosyncrasy, whichever one it was. "Where am I?"

Thanos laughed. "Very curious. Tell me, do you usually conceal your fear with humor?"

"Are you saying I'm funny?" Peter questioned. He forced a laugh, "Look maybe this therapy session approach works with other people, but not with me. You're a psycho. You took me from my family," he snarled, holding back tears. "Send me back. Right. Now."  

"I want to show you something," Thanos decided, completely ignoring Peter's request. He got up from where he had been crouched, stepping back and motioning for Peter to follow him.

"Ohhh no," Peter laughed weakly, shaking his head. "Nice try. I'm not going anywhere with you," Peter snarled, pushing himself into the corner. 

A certain darkness came over the titan's face and Peter instantly regretted his words. Thanos frowned, and the gauntlet glowed.

Peter waited for pain, for something- but nothing came. He took a deep breath- he couldn't. He couldn't take a deep breath. Peter suddenly couldn't breathe. His chest locked up and Peter looked up in a mix of shock and agony, clutching his chest that felt like it was on fire. It was burning inside of him and Peter couldn't even scream.

He choked and gasped, writhing on the ground, awful sounds of pain coming from his mouth. It felt like someone was squeezing his rib cage together, putting so much pressure on his heart like they were wringing it in their hands. Peter clawed at the ground, his body shaking, still unable to breathe.

"Stop-" he gasped out, his eyesight growing fuzzy, his head exploding with pain like someone had mistaken it as a punching bag. Peter could barely hold himself upright. His hands were shaking and his head dipped, his mouth still opening and closing, trying to take in air.

Then suddenly the purple stone's light died down and Peter could breathe again. The massive pressure released and Peter gasped on the ground, coughing, curling on his side. His body was still shaking as his lungs tried to make up for the air he had lost. Peter was still clutching his chest and taking breaths to make sure he still could. The titan was standing in front of him and Peter looked up slowly, his eyes wide with fear.

"I wasn't asking," Thanos said simply. 

Peter slowly got to his feet, leaning against the wall for support, a hand still grasped over his heart. 

"Good," Thanos smiled. Peter had no choice but to follow Thanos through the ship and they disappeared into a dark hallway. 

 

Tony held his head in his hands on the ship. Quill had a nice ship, he would give him that, but Tony was too much in shock to ask what all the new technology was and how they could jump to different galaxies etc. 

Strange was next to him and Tony looked over at the necklace that was still around his neck. "He didn't take it," Tony said. 

Strange looked down sadly, "No... he didn't."

"Why?" Tony asked. "Why'd he take Peter. There was an infinity stone right there! Don't get me wrong, I'm happy he's not one step closer to destroying the universe, but...why did he take..."

"I-I don't know Tony," Strange said.

"Because he killed my sister."

Strange and Tony turned and see Nebula, the one who had come in and done the most damage to Thanos- who she called 'father'?

"What?" Tony asked.

"My sister, Gamora, she was in love with the idiot in the front seat. One of the Gaurdians. She was captured and he went to Vormir to get the soul stone. He got the stone and Gamora never came back."

"Did he kill her?" Strange asked softly.

"I imagine so."

"Does Quill know?" Tony asked.

"I- I don't know if he's figured it out yet," Nebula said slowly. She shifted her weight, leaning against the side of the ship. She sighed, "She was his favorite until she betrayed him. With me gone, no one else is by his side. I suspect he wants Peter to fill her place. He's always eager to convince people that his plan is humane and unavoidable."

"Peter won't listen to him," Tony said firmly. "He'll probably be a brat, the idiot he is."

Nebula's expression grows dark. "That won't end well for him."

"So we have to find him," Tony said. "Is there any way we can track the portal?"

"No. But we can track an energy pulse made by the stones," Nebula said. 

Tony looked up, "You can do that?"

"How do you think Thanos has tracked down all the stones?" Nebula raised an eyebrow. 

Tony made a face before he asked, "Do you have any idea where he might have taken him? Anywhere?"

"Thanos has a mothership," Nebula said slowly. "He might have taken the kid there. With the right equipment I may be able to locate it."

"I've got to have it back in my lab. Between this ship and my tech, I'm sure we can get a strong enough signal," Tony said. 

"Tony," Strange said, putting a hand on his arm. "You have to call Cap."

 

The flip phone had been in his pocket for almost 2 years. When he went to bed it went on his dresser, and then he put it in his pocket again. He kept it charged and kept its ringer on and the volume all the way up. 

He had been on the run with Natasha, Sam, and Wanda for a very, very, long time. Too long.

Bouncing between one star hotels in the middle of no where, staying off of the governments radar, and trying to make enough money through small town jobs to stay afloat...wasn't the best 2 years of his life.

Wanda had gone off to Scotland, Cap suspected with Vision, and she checked in once in a while. Then, receiving a distress call from her at the last second, they had shown up at just the right time to save Vision who was being attacked by God knows who. They brought him back onto the jet and took off again, nursing the androids wounds.

Vision and Wanda revealed that Tony was missing. Steve hadn't heard that name in a long time. Nat did some internet searching and found footage showing him and that Spider kid fighting with the same people that had shown up and attacked Vision. It seemed like they both had gone up in that space ship and never came back down. Now that Earth had lost it's best defender, it was time for them to come out of the shadows whether the government liked it or not. 

Nat was flying for right now, Sam next to her in the cockpit. Steve was sitting in the back of the jet, in the seat against the wall. He took a deep breath and ran a hand through his beard that had been getting thicker by every month.

 Suddenly he felt a buzzing beneath his hand and Steve looked down dismissively. Then his gaze snapped back and he grabbed the phone that was lying beneath his hand. He picked it up and read the name that was blinking on the front screen. 

Tony

Steve flipped it open and slowly put it to his ear. 

"Rogers?"

"Tony..." he said slowly. 

"Thank God," Tony said, sounding genuinely relived. "Meet me at the compound." 

"What- Tony, what about Ross-" Steve asked. That man would try and through them back in jail the minute he set eyes on them.

"Ross can go to hell. Meet me at the compound," Tony repeated, seemingly through gritted teeth.

"Okay,"  Steve said. Tony hung up.

"Nat?" Steve called. She twisted in her seat and Steve gave her a smile, "We're going home."

 

"Tarmac looks empty. I'm landing," Nat called.

Steve grabbed the piece of leather from the top of the ship and steadied himself, the ship landing softly. The ramp lowered and Cap stepped off the ship. Then he froze.

"Hands up!"

"On your knees Captain!"

At least 30 men had popped out of cars and from behind storage containers and landing gear. They had all the guns pointed at him and Steve's heart dropped. His chest tightened, his hand itching to go to his shield, knowing it wouldn't do any good. 

"By orders of General Ross you are under arrest for treason!" 

Steve slowly put his hands behind his head when suddenly there was a roar from behind him. 

He barely had time to look up before he was forced to stumble back as Tony landed on one knee with so much force he cracked the tarmac. His old friend stood, gleaming in his suit, and the helmet melted away. He stood between Steve and the agents, who were unsure if they should still be pointing a gun at Iron Man.

"In case you haven't noticed," Tony shouted, "Earth is under attack. You want to shoot Iron Man, go for it. You want to shoot Captain America? Go through me. If any of you fire, I will blast you into next week do you understand me?"

"We're under orders sir," one of the men mumbled, his gun still raised. 

Tony shot a blast, knocking his gun out of his hands, "And I'm giving you new ones. We're at war. Bigger than any of you will ever know and right now, I need all the help I can get. The Avengers are not finished," Tony said through gritted teeth, making Cap straighten in pride.

"And I, would like to try and save the world. So if you want to be the one to screw that up, be my guest. No one? Thought so," Tony snarled.

The agents shifted uncomfortably, some guns lowering immediately.

Tony looked back at Cap, making eye contact with him for the first time in 2 years. "No one touches him or anyone on that ship. Do I make myself clear?"

No one answered. 

Tony lifted his hand, his palm glowing and the suit's back opened, pointing at least 20 missiles right at the men who grew pale.

"Do I make myself clear?" he said firmly. Cap knew that tone. Tony was so close to snapping. It's when he got quiet is when things were bad. 

"Yes sir," echoed throughout the ranks. 

"Tell Ross I'm in charge and if he doesn't like it, go cry to the president. Exact words," Tony reminded them. The agents got into their cars and drove away. 

The minute they were out of sight, the missiles sank back into Tony's suit as he turned around to Steve. 

"Tony," Steve smiled. 

"Good to see you Steve," Tony said breathlessly. He wasn't looking too good. He was shaking, gasping for breath, and the look in his eyes was empty and in pain. He had just covered it up with anger. Suddenly his suit shattered and Tony fell forward. 

Steve caught him as the suit scattered along the floor. Tony took a ragged breath, clutching his side, his fingers coming back bloody. 

"Oh God- Tony! Tony!" Steve supported his friend, moving Tony's hands to reveal a stab wound. 

"Good thing they didn't actually fire," Tony murmured. "I was already so hurt by that landing. I ripped the crappy stitches."

Steve shook his head, laughing as he lowered Tony to the ground, taking off his jacket to tie around the wound. "You bluffed."

"Yeah, I wouldn't have been able to protect you." Tony cracked a smile, groaning, "Those missiles were fake. It took all my effort to keep a literal tissue layer covering with the suit. My nanoparticles are running out."

"Thank you Tony," Steve said, clapping him in the shoulder.

Nat came down the ramp, stopping by Tony's side. 

"Hey Romanov. Miss me?"

"A bit, yeah," she cracked a smile. Her gaze fell on his wound and she batted Steve in the shoulder. "Tony! Steve, get him inside-"

Steve looped an arm around Tony and helped him to his feet, gently pressing a hand to his wound on top of Tony's since he was shaking. Tony gave him a thankful glance as Cap helped him limp towards the entrance.

"Wanda and Vision and Sam..." Tony said weakly. 

"They're right behind us," Nat assured, walking quickly alongside Tony and Steve. 

"I've got some friends as well," Tony winced, gesturing to the weird looking ship off the right. "We can all have a play date. They're from space."

Steve stopped at the door, putting his hand on the scanner, before he realized it probably wasn't going to open. To his surprise the door clicked and glowed green and Nat pushed it open. 

His expression must have shown his shock because Tony let out a low laugh, "I didn't change the locks."

"Why?" Steve asked.

Tony smirked, "Too much work." Steve knew he was joking and he pushed past the second door with a shake of his head. 

"TONY!" 

Tony's head whipped around to see Pepper sprinting forward. She stopped a foot from him, her hands extending to hover around his face before he pulled her forward and kissed her. She hugged him and he kissed her again on the cheek. 

"I'm ok- Pepp, I'm ok," Tony assured her with tears in his eyes. 

"Where's-" Pepper stopped, and it seemed like she stopped breathing. 

Steve watched as Tony broke. 

"I- he has him. Thanos- I couldn't stop him-" Tony shook his head and Pepper pulled him into a hug, squeezing her eyes shut and gripping Tony's shoulders hard as she tried to calm him down even though she was not calm herself.

Her voice was shaking as she said, "He's gonna be ok Tony- it- it wasn't your fault-"

Steve didn't know who they were talking about, but he had meant a lot to Tony. Seeing his friend like this- if they were still friends, hurt. As Pepper ran her hands through Tony's graying buzzcut, Steve realized how much Tony had changed.

Burdened, worn down, and exhausted.

All because of Steve. Because he had left. He had left his friend to deal with the entire world, by himself.

Steve knew Tony was in a lot of pain, and just relieved to have Steve here as someone to fight with him. But later, when Tony came to his senses and ripped him a new one, told him off, blaming him for everything, Steve would take it. Because Tony was right.

Because he deserved it. 

 

A couple hours later, Tony had gotten stitched up and limped slowly into the conference room where Nat, Steve, Sam, Wanda, and Vision were sitting. 

Strange, Quill, Mantis, Drax, and Nebula were flanking him and he enjoyed watching the confusion on both sides. 

Tony sat at his normal seat, across from Cap. He took one look at the seat to his right who used to be Peter's and shook his head, running a hand over his face. 

"Tony," Cap said firmly. "What happened?"

Tony looked up with no doubt red eyes, and took a deep breath. "Peter Parker. 16 years old. You know him as Spiderman."

"Queens?" Cap's eyes widened. "He was 14? Airport in Germany? That...kid?"

"Yep," Tony said weakly. 

"You brought a 14 year old to a fight?" Steve exclaimed. "What were thinking?" 

"I don't want to hear it Rogers," Tony said quietly. 

Steve's face contorted into disbelief and rage, spluttering, "he could have been killed-"

"He's like a son to me Rogers!" Tony yelled, "I knew what I was doing!" 

Steve backed down and composed himself, the rest of the room shifting restlessly. The whole room was stuffy with tension; it was practically dripping off the walls. 

"He snuck aboard the ship that attacked New York- I tried to stop but that kid... there's no stopping him," Tony shook his head with a slight choked laugh.

"He was on titan, saved my life, and it all happened so fast. Thanos opened a portal, had him in his grasp, and was gone. He took him. And we need to find him, now, before that bastard hurts him or-" Tony trailed off, not able to finish that sentence. 

"We'll find him Tony," Cap said quietly after a respectful moment of silence. "I promise."

Tony looked up angrily. "I hate how two faced you are."

Steve looked up in shock.

Tony wasn't done, "And no offense, but your 'word' means jack squat to me."

It was like Steve knew this was coming and he sat up straighter. Somehow that made Tony angry; he almost wanted him to fight back. It was harder to yell at him when Cap was ready for it- or wanted it. 

"I told you. Years ago, I told you that up there," Tony raised his finger and shook his head. "I said that's the endgame. I asked you how we were expected to beat that. You said 'together'. But that didn't happen, did it? And I said what if we lost? You said we'll do that together too," Tony quoted him angrily, his voice shaking. 

"Well guess what Rogers? We lost." Tony slammed a shaking hand down on the table. Then he stabbed his finger into the center of his chest, "I lost. We all lost."

Quill looked down at his face, no doubt thinking about Gamora.

Tony grit his teeth, "I lost the closest thing I've ever had to a son. And you weren't there. You left me, left the team- no, you took half the team with you. And trust me Rogers, I get that you had your own opinions and you didn't like the rules. Frankly, I still don't give a crap about the government, and you know I've never been a rule follower but I did what you couldn't."

Tony stood, his hands gripping the table so hard his knuckles turned white, swaying from exhaustion, "I sucked up my pride and my reckless nature that you always hated and I made the choice for the team. So that when one day, when this happened, we weren't split up, running from the law. So that even if we were confined to a certain curfew, we could do what we were made to do. What the world was counting on us to do."

Steve looked down and Tony snarled, "But no. You were selfish and refused to even listen me, or help me out. Compromise even-" Tony pointed loosely at Steve, laughing with not a speck of humor.

"I don't think that's in your vocabulary Rogers, it's all black and white with you." He put up his hands as if he was announcing something in mock alertness, "We're not in the 60's anymore, we're in the real world now."

"Tony I- I know what I did was wrong. I can't take that back. But I can fix it. I promise, I can," Steve insisted. 

"Fix what? There's nothing to fix. See, you've shattered something beyond repair. I have nothing for you," he shrugged, holding out his hands, stumbling in place when his right knee gave out.

"I have nothing for you. I have no respect, I have no compassion, no forgiveness for what you did to me, for what you did to this team, for what you did to all of us. And better yet, I have no leads, no clues, no trails, no way to track down the most powerful entity in the universe that wrenched my kid right out of grasp. I have nothing for you Rogers. I hope you're happy."

Steve sat like a statue, his hand shaking on the table. "Tony I- I'm sorry."

"You're sorry," Tony scoffed, knocking his knuckle against the table, "I'm sorry too."

 

Chapter Text

Peter walked slowly behind the titan that was at least a foot taller than him, if not more. His shadow engulfed Peter, if that was even possible; there was hardly any light in this dark hallway. 

"Where are you taking me?" Peter asked, not eager to catch up with the titan whose strides were much larger than his.

"They've corrupted you Peter," Thanos said sadly, stopping in his tracks and turning. He motioned for Peter pass in front of him. "They've blinded you with hope."

"No, they haven't. 20/20 vision man- even better actually because of my abilities-" Peter explained.

Thanos pushed him harshly in the back and Peter stumbled into a circular room, looking around at the empty walls. 

Thanos moved his gauntlet and red energy flew out of it, developing the room. Peter tensed, before he realized the power wasn't meant to hurt him. He watched in awe as his surroundings changed. Thanos walked to his side and placed a hand on his shoulder. Peter flinched, trying to duck away but the titan's grip was like iron and Peter was afraid he would dislocate his shoulder. 

"This is a planet, much like Earth. Prosperous. Plentiful. Beautiful," Thanos said sadly.

"Is that...Titan?" Peter asked, his brow furrowing from how different it looked.

"Yes," Thanos said. "This was my planet, before it turned into ruin, dust, and forgotten souls."

"Can we save the sob story?" Peter snarled, daring to try and pull away but the hand on his shoulder tightened and Peter yelped in pain, staggering backward, his collarbone feeling like it was about to crack. He stood perfectly still, his mouth a tight line, mad at himself for letting out a cry of pain 

"I warned them that one day, we would become corrupt, overpopulated, crowded. Food would be scarce, savagery would rise, and evil would take over. I warned them all, I offered them a solution. A small price to pay for salvation."

"What you call salvation? We call it the murder of trillions," Peter said, daring to look the titan in the eyes. "You're insane."

"I'm driven," Thanos corrected. 

"Call it what you want, you'd ruin people's lives," Peter said, before he asked, "What do you expect them to do? Get over it?"

"It will save them all," Thanos said quietly.

”We don’t need saving,” Peter hissed.

Thanos shook his head, looking at Peter with such disappointment. "Do you want to see what will happen to your world eventually? What will happen to every world?"

The image changed and screams of pain echoed around the room that promptly became a warzone of fire and ash. Peter jumped in fear with every shake of the ground, watching hundreds of men, women, children of all race and species die screaming. 

Peter's chest tightened, his ears ringing and he flinched, freezing in shock as a small boy fell dead, bleeding from multiple wounds, right at his feet.

"Stop," Peter said weakly, turning away. "Stop it. I don't want to see anymore-" He squeezed his eyes shut.

When he opened them, he was somehow relieved to see the blank room. He had felt Thanos' arm release from his shoulder but Peter still couldn't move, his body frozen by his own doing. 

"That is what happened to my planet," Thanos said. Peter looked up was surprised to see pain on the titan's face. Peter hadn’t thought he was capable of feeling with all the bad things he had done. "Thats what happened to my family, because they didn't listen."

"Murdering half of humanity isn't the answer," Peter said quietly. "There has to be another way."

"This is the only way," Thanos insisted. "Do you care about your home?"

"Very much so, yes, but that doesn't mean I'm ready to kill-" Peter spluttered.

"If you cared about the people on Earth, and the whole universe, you would see what I'm trying to do. I'm trying to save the world," Thanos urged. 

Peter stared at him, shaking his head, "Stop trying to act like you're some saint, or some philanthropist. If I was given a choice to die with my family, in pain, or live in peace without them, I would die in pain. You don't get that, and do you want to know why? Because you don't love. You probably had a crappy childhood and bad parenting and you're all screwed up! So leave humanity alone and go see a therapist."

Thanos watched him carefully, almost amused with Peter's outburst. Peter was testing his boundries, he knew that, and the flicker of anger he saw in the titan's eyes showed that there would come a point in time where he didn't let Peter's jabs slide. 

Thanos finally spoke very softly, his voice low and broken, "I did love someone. My daughter, Gamora."

Peter frowned. Gamora...that name sounded familiar. That was Quill's girlfriend! He thought she had been kidnapped by...Thanos. Hold on, did he say 'what he saw in Gamora', as in past tense?

Peter gulped, "Did you- did you kill her?"

Thanos lowered his head, "It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do. But it was a decision that could not be avoided. The soul stone required a sacrifice," Thanos said weakly, looking down at the orange stone in the gauntlet.

"I loved her. And that was why I had to kill her. That same love binds her to this stone, keeps her soul safe and under my protection."

Peter widened his eyes, "What is wrong with you?”

Thanos looked up at him in shock. Peter was too angry to watch his mouth. Screw it. Peter walked up to Thanks and hissed, “You killed your own daughter for this plan. How many people have to die for you to get that we aren't pawns, or pieces in this game you think you're playing? They're innocent lives!"

For a second the titan seemed speechless but Peter figures that was because of his act of defiance, going toe to toe with the man holding 4 infinity stones, not his actual words. 

"It's not a game," Thanos snapped, towering over Peter to regain the upper hand, who tries not to look as intimidated as he feels.

"It's the harsh reality that no one seems to see. The dystopian future that everyone turns a blind eye to because they're afraid to accept it. It seems I'm the only one with the strongest will to see it coming and act upon it."

"Or you're the one person crazy enough to think of a genocidal solution to a problem that can be handled some other way," Peter argued, taking a cautious step backward.

"You want to know why you're here?" Thanos asked suddenly. Peter didn’t answer, just looked at him curiously.

"Because I see that same will and determination inside of you Peter. You're strong. If you could just understand-"

"Ohhhhh no," Peter backed away. "I'm not joining your stupid mafia boy band. You've hurt my friends, my family. You're trying to destroy the world. I'm nothing like you."

Thanos frowned and held out the gauntlet. Peter suddenly was dragged forward, his feet slipping on the ground and Peter tried and failed to avoid Thanos' hand that closed around Peter's neck. Peter winced in pain; the hand wasn't choking him, just keeping him still with pressure on his throat. The titan looked down at Peter who was struggling to pull his massive fingers away, gulping in every last breath he could just in case the hand decided to close.

"What do you want from me?" Peter gasped out, pulling away weakly from the grasp around his throat.

"I want to see what's preventing you from seeing the light. What's your deepest nightmare Peter?" Thanos asked. 

“Howler monkeys,” Peter choked.

Thanos cracked a smile and Peter fury his teeth, growing anxious and scared. He couldn’t hide that emotion anymore.

“No-“ Peter kicked and punched, trying to get away from the gauntlet that lowered to his head, desperately trying to pry his fingers around from where they were looped around his neck.

"No- no!” Peter said through gritted teeth, thrashing in Thanos' grip.

"Please-" Peter half sobbed. It was no use. He felt the metal rest on his head and curling around his temples. Peter whimpered and went tense, red light consuming his vision. 

Thanos concentrated, feeling Peter squirm and writhe in pain beneath his grip, kicking and punching, his eyes squeezed shut. Thanos' eyes rolled into the back of his head just like Peter's and for a couple seconds they both went frigid. Thanos' brow furrowed as he looked into the boy's head, examining every section of his mind, his fears, his joys, his darkest nightmares, his thoughts. 

Once he was satisfied, he suddenly opened his eyes, not letting Peter up yet. 

Peter was still flinching, self consciously kicking and punching weakly at the titan's hand who was still clasped around his throat, now practically holding him up; the boy's legs had buckled a second into the vision. There were tears falling down Peter's cheeks and Thanos watched them in awe and shock from what he had seen. He hadn't thought such a young mind would be tortured with so much.

Thanos let him go and Peter dropped to the ground, his eyes shooting open. He gasped for air, coughing and choking on sobs, his eyes red with tears. He looked up at Thanos in pure hatred, scrambling a few feet away before he collapsed again, trembling. 

"I understand why," Thanos told him. "You've lost your father. You've lost your uncle-"

"Shut up," Peter seethed weakly.

"You can't bear to lose him to-"  

"I said shut up!" Peter shouted, his voice echoing around the room, swallowed by the sheer size. He hated how weak he sounded, his voice cracking with emotion.

Thanos almost smiled, nodding slowly. "I saw the way he tried to protect you on titan."  

"Get out of my head," Peter snarled angrily, still weak on the floor, his forehead beaded with sweat, his entire body shaking. 

"You could do amazing things Peter. You could help me," Thanos urged.

"Give it up," Peter said weakly, mustering a laugh as he furiously wiped his eyes and glared defiantly at the titan. "Just give it up."

"Many people have told me that," Thanos said simply, nodding. He walked toward Peter with the gauntlet held out, the purple stone glowing. "I have learned to ignore that phrase all my life. In fact, it fuels me to do the opposite."

"Bite me," Peter snarled. 

 

Steve walked into the lab later that day, after Tony had gone to the med bay to check on his stitches. He had planned to just grab his jacket but a certain picture caught his eye, leaning up against the wall at what looked like Tony's favorite and most used workspace. 

He picked it up and saw a picture of Tony and a boy, in his teens, with bright brown eyes and curly hair. That must be Peter. Tony's arm was slung around the kid's shoulder protectively, and they both were grinning happily up at the camera.

"Hey FRIDAY?" Steve asked. "I know it's not my place, but who's the kid?"

"Peter was recruited by Tony a couple weeks before your fight in Germany. Peter Parker is also Spiderman. He lives in-"

"Queens," Steve nodded, smiling a bit. 

"Yes. He and Tony grew quiet close."

A video popped up of the kid and Tony working in a lab. Peter was in a new suit, a more flashy, more Iron Man resembling one, that was made of what looked like Tony's nano particles, not his fabric that Steve fought him in. Suddenly 8 legs popped out of the kid's suit and he jumped, looking behind him. 

Tony ducked, laughing, narrowly avoiding getting smacked in the face with a metal leg. 

"Is he- he's not Tony's son," Steve's brow furrowed, recognizing the relationship between the two as somewhat father and son. 

"Not biologically." That was all FRIDAY said on that note.

"What- what happened to him?" Steve asked.

"Peter came from a field trip, just in time to save Tony's life. He stowed away without Tony knowing on the ship that attacked New York. They got to titan and encountered Thanos and...well, I have footage."

Steve nodded as the screen changed. The view was from what looked like Tony's front camera. He heard his friend's ragged breathing, his gasps from air. This must have been right after Tony got hurt. Stark groaned and shifted his view towards the commotion and Steve saw the kid standing protectively in front of him as Tony turns on his side to cough up blood. 

"No- Peter- get out of here-" Tony pleads weakly, the camera shaking. 

The kid turns around with a firm look. "I'm not going to watch you die," he says. Steve sees the glint of tears in his eyes.

"Queens..." he mutters, watching as Peter jumps to attack the titan, getting a few hits in before 'Thanos' grabs his wrist, stopping his attack. Cap got a good look at the enemy for the first time, intimidated by his stature, his demeanor, and pure size. Peter had put up a good fight, as good as, if not better than what Cap would have offered. That showed how powerful this being was, and how ruthless-

Cap winced as Thanos punched the kid in the face so hard his mask shattered. Peter gasps, wincing in pain but still managing to maintain a glare. 

The view shakes again and Cap hears Tony choke out, "Peter." 

Thanos laughs lowly, still holding the thrashing boy by his wrist, "So young. So reckless. I admire you."

"Let him go!" Tony yells, the camera tilting as if Tony tried to get to his feet and failed. Cap had never heard that much anger in Stark's voice, nor that much fear and desperation. 

"What's your name little one?" Thanos asked, ignoring Tony, his voice creepily gentle.

Peter grit his teeth, "Screw you."

Cap had to crack a smile despite the circumstances, remembering that same wit when he had encountered the web slinger at the airport. 

Thanos spoke again, "Strong. He reminds me of you Stark." Peter's arm was cruely twisted behind him as Thanos pulled him closer. The boy cried outin pain, dazed and confused. It looked like he pushed on the double pressure point in Peter's neck, and somehow the kid remained standing, his mouth open wide, but no sounds of pain were coming out, his eyes wide and fearful whenever they weren't squeezed shut. He flinched, his knees shaking and then a small whimper came from his mouth.

Steve hated Thanos. Anyone who could do that to a child without even breaking a cold stare was a monster, and he deserved to die. 

"I said let him go!" Tony screamed, and Cap again winced at his broken voice. 

"You've corrupted him," Thanos says, using his other hand to gently ruffle Peter's hair. The boy winces, closing his eyes and jerking away from the touch as much as he can. 

"Stop it," Tony seethed, rising to his feet. "Don't touch my kid."

Steve noted the use of 'my kid'. 

"I'll show him the truth," Thanos assured him. 

Peter stared straight into the camera, obviously at Tony, his gaze filled with terror, as if he was begging him to save him.

"Tony," he whispered softly, trembling in the titan's gasp. 

"No," Tony begged. "Pete- wait- please-" 

Thanos raised his gauntlet and the blue stone glowed. 

"Oh God," Steve said quietly.

"NO!" Tony yelled.

"I love you," Peter sobbed. Tony lunged forward as Thanos' hand tightened. Peter squeezed his eyes shut as he was pulled backward and the portal closed. Tony tumbled into open air and the recording shut off. The screen went blank and Steve looked down, rubbing his nose.

When he looked up he jumped, the screen peeling away to reveal Tony was standing in the doorway, staring where the footage had been playing.

Steve stuttered for an explanation, "I came in to get my jacket, and then I saw the picture and then I asked FRIDAY-" Steve trailed off. Tony was clearly in pain, both physically and emotionally and Steve took a deep breath, well aware of the tears in the eyes that never cried. 

"I'm so sorry Tony," he said sincerely.

"Yeah," Tony nodded. He could have had a comeback, or a jab, but he was clearly to weak and sad to fight at this exact moment. Tony rubbed his goatee, walking toward him. He shook his head, "It was my fault."

"No," Steve said immediately, pointing at where the screen was. "You did everything you could."

Tony gave him a quick smile, but he saw the disbelief and the guilt underneath it. He knew Tony would never relieve himself from the blame. Just like always.

Steve then looked up, "Tony, I am sorry. You were right, I wasn't there. If I had been, maybe this wouldn't have happened. I said I can't change what I did, because I can't. We can't just turn back time. But I can help you. We will find him. I promise. And we'll stop Thanos. Together. I can promise you that."

Tony looked up and nodded. "Thank you Steve."

"Now let's go get this bastard," Steve said angrily. 

Tony grinned.

 

"Ok, so how do we find him?" Nat asked.

"The stones are the most powerful energy sources in the universe," Tony says, hitting a screwdriver against his palm. "They set off a pulse whenever they are used. It's an advanced type of radiation."

He pointed at the screen which had a small revolving circle flashing in the middle, "Lucky for us, Thanos likes to play with his toys. With our combined tech, we could be able to pick up on the signal."

"Unless-" Nebula cut in. 

"Stop, it's gonna work," Tony announced, shaking his head and covering his ears. 

"Unless what?" Cap asked slowly. 

"My father's ship, the Sanctuary 2, is heavily shielded," Nebula said. "It can jumble and dilute any force of energy, no matter how powerful. Even the infinity stones."

"Well crap," Sam muttered.

"So, unless Thanos uses the stones off of the ship, there's no way we can track that signal," Nebula says.

Tony sighs, hanging his head, "He could go right under our radar and we wouldn't even know." 

"So if this doesn't work, what's our other option?" Vision asked.

"We don't have one. We have no way to track him. At all," Tony said, looking sadly at Vision. Then his gaze lifted and his brow furrowed, gazing at Vision's forehead, his eyes flicking back and forth like what they did when he was in deep thought. The gears spun in his head and suddenly they all clicked into place.

Tony laughed. He laughed out loud. Then he spread his hands, walking to the center of the room. "We're idiots," Tony said gleefully. 

Everyone looked up at the insult to their intelligence. 

"Excuse me?" Rhodey raised an eyebrow. 

"We want to find the guy who wants to collect all the infinity stones. We have what Thanos wants. 2 of them," Tony said, pointing at Vision's stone and then at Strange's necklace. He shrugged, spreading his hands. "You want metal, bring a magnet." 

"We can't just hand over the stones Tony," Cap said slowly. 

"I know we can't," Tony rolled his eyes, turning to the doctor. "Strange, I said before that we needed to take the fight to his turf. That didn't work out so well. Thanos thinks he's saving the world, thinks he's doing the right thing. That means he does give a crap about Earth, that's why he's not destroying all of it, just half, so the other half can prosper."

"What's your point?" Bruce asked, frowning. "That he's some saint?"

"Far from it. But I know if he comes here and we lose, he's not going to just attack everyone the first chance he gets. That would disrupt the balance that he's trying to achieve with his plan."

"So you're saying the collateral damage that we're fearing would be minimal? That we have some sort of insurance plan?" Rhodey asked, nodding. 

"Thanos is coming to get the stones. We either go to him, or he comes to us. We went to him, and failed. He's coming for the stones either way, why don't we be prepared when he does? We give him a date, a time, and a location and we try and stop this once and for all." Tony took a deep breath, turning around, "Now, I'm not going to do this without Vision's permission, since you kind of have a stone, in your head?"

"I think it's a logical approach. The only play we really have. I agree, it does look like the best option," he said slowly, exchanging glances with Wanda. 

"That's if," Tony pointed at him, "we can't figure out a way to take the stone out without killing you. Still working on that," Tony assured him.

Vision nodded. 

"Your stone should be a decoy," Tony said, pointing to the wizard. "I agree, we can't risk having both of the stones ready for his taking, but Thanos won't know that."

"My ship is fueled. We could put it on there and in case something goes south I can take it and run," Quill suggested.

"If this goes South, that will be the last stone. You'll be running for your entire life," Cap pointed out.

"Not my first time being chased," Quill smiled.

"Is there any way that you can take it out of that weird fashion accessory Strange?" Tony asked. 

Strange sighed and nodded slowly. 

"Ok then, this could work," Tony said, nodding, clasping his hands. 

"It will work," Cap nodded. 

No one said the words that they were all thinking: it has to.

Chapter Text

Peter had passed out. When he woke up, he was in a small room, crumbled on the floor. The minute he opened his eyes the same searing pain coursed through him, the cause of his loss of conciousness in the first place. Peter cried out, stifling a scream with the gritting of his teeth. Ow. His mouth was sore from doing that.

It wasn't even like he could scream anymore; his throat was raw, his voice gone from the past hours of pain. 

It wasn't just physical pain he went through, but mental torture too. Hallucinations, fears, bad dreams- it all came to life. There came a point where Peter wasn't sure what came from the gauntlet and what was reality. It all seemed so real and life like.

His mind was plagued with images of his his friends and family dying in front of him because he couldn't save them, the home he loved so much being blown to pieces and turned to fire and ash, Tony turning to dust right in front of him in his arms...Peter finally getting the hug he had always wanted, just not in the way he wanted it.

Tears streamed down his face and even now he wiped at his stained cheeks in embarrassment.  

Peter steadied his breathing and took a shaky inhale that shifted to a sharp intake through his nose to stop a cry of pain. Ow. He used the wall to get shakily to his feet, limping on his bad leg. He had no clue when he had hurt it, but he knew he couldn't put all his weight on it. Peter slowly made his way over to the door and tugged on the handle. It wouldn't budge. Of course it didn't. Why would it be unlocked?

Peter turned and started walking back to the corner when he suddenly heard the bolt open and the door creak. 

He turned around just as Thanos stepped in. Holding back a fearful whimper, Peter promptly crumpled, his leg giving out in his haste to scramble back. Peter crawled backward and pressed himself against the wall, hissing, "Get away from me."

Thanos didn't approach him, he simple stared, standing in the doorway. 

"Why are you doing this?" Peter asked. It was a simple question. Why him? "Do you still think I'll help you? Because I won't. So why don't you just kill me?"

Thanos looked down on him, "For that exact reason Peter."

"W-what?"

"You're not afraid to die," Thanos said. "You're stubborn, determined and brave. No one has ever lasted as long as you under the reality stones torture," Thanos told him.  

"Great, do I get a medal?" Peter scoffed. 

Thanos smirked. "I admire your grit, your resilience... I can learn a lot from you."

"Oh, well that's just great. I'm glad we could work on your character development. I'd like to go home now, so either take me back, or kill me," Peter said firmly. 

Thanos smiled at him and Peter squirmed under the unsettling grin. "I am many things Peter, a murderer is not one of them."

"I find that hard to believe," Peter dismissed the lie. 

"A solider, who fights in battle, kills the enemy, is he a murderer?" Thanos asks simply.

"This is ridiculous," Peter laughs. "Don't turn this into a socratic seminar."

"Answer the question," Thanos says coldly, raising the gauntlet. 

Peter flinches, and then curses himself for it afterward. He takes a breath. "I- I don't know."

"How about your mentor, Stark?" Thanos suggested. Peter curled his fists, suddenly shaking for some other reason then fear. This time it was pure rage, and it was building. "He's killed hundreds of people-"

"Don't you dare talk about Tony like that!" Peter roared, getting to his feet in anger. Thanos pulses on the gauntlet and Peter flies backward into the wall, crumpling to the floor with a groan but he still glares, leaning against the wall and gasping out. "Don't you dare."

"Is he a murderer Peter?" Thanos raises his voice. 

"No!" Peter shouts, shaking his head violently. “Everything Tony has done is for the greater good, to save the world. Aliens from your army came to attack Earth and he stopped them from killing thousands of innocent people! He kills the bad guys. Unlike you,” Peter spits.

“Bad is a relative term. It’s established in perception,” Thanos says calmly.

Peter scoffs shaking his head, “Don’t give me that crap. It's really not.”

"Let's say Stark kills someone very close to me in order to accomplish his mission. Then I kill him out of revenge."

"You're not getting anywhere near Tony," Peter snarled, trying to get to his feet only for the power stone to push him back down again.

"Don't worry, it's just a scenario," Thanos says, smirking at Peter's threat.

"Right," Peter nods. "Who would want to date you with that nutsack of a chin?"

Thanos expression darkens and Peter sucks in a breath, but it seems the titan wants to get his point across and continues, "See how you reacted? Am I the villain?"

"You will always be the villain," Peter said.

"If you remember Quill is going through the same thing; I was forced to kill Gamora in order to complete my mission and now he wants revenge and is trying to kill me. According to your logic that would make him the villain," Thanos said. 

"I get what you're doing," Peter shook his head. "It's not going to work. Quill's a good guy, he's fighting on the right side and you killed the one person he loved. You deserve to die."

Thanos nodded slowly, before he cocked his head, "Would you kill me Peter, if you had the chance?"

"Yes," Peter said instantly, not breaking his stare.

"Why?"

Peter can't believe he's actually asking. Tears come to his eyes and he pushes them down in anger, remembering Tony's voice, face, just everything about him in utter agony, bleeding on the ground of that horrible planet, pleading Peter to stand down. Oh God...Peter hadn't had time to think about what this was doing to Tony. He was probably blaming himself, not sleeping, not eating, burying himself in guilt.

Peter's voice breaks, "Because you've hurt my friends, my family-"

"Because I've hurt Tony," Thanos corrects. 

Peter scowls, frowning at him. 

"He's the closest thing you have to a father," Thanos says. "You'd chose him over everything, that's why you're so protective of him."

"Sure, whatever," Peter fakes a laugh.

"You know I'm right," Thanos says almost immediately and Peter's cockiness that is currently covering up the fact that he's scared Thanos knows him so well...it withers immediately. "I know I'm right. I've been inside your head Peter," Thanos reminds him.

"Oh, that's right. And how was that?" Peter asked angrily, "I hope I entertained you. What, was it like reality TV for you or something? How about you get a life."

Thanos purses his lips, "It was...sad. And painful. There was so much stress, worry, fear... Anxiety and panic. You use humor and clumsiness to cover up-"

"That's every teenager. Welcome to 2019 jerk," Peter quips. 

Thanos laughs lightly. "But you're not like every teenager now are you Peter? You've seen things, fought things...you are hardly normal, no matter how hard you try to be. Going to school, making friends, liking girls...you will always be looking over your shoulder, waking up in the middle of the night with the weight of a building pressing down on your shoulders-"

"Shut up," Peter said weakly. That had hit home. All his life he had wanted to be normal. Go to school, go to college, get a job, start a family... and then when he got his powers he would try and convince himself, tell himself that it was still possible, but Thanos was just confirming the lurking fear that it never was and never would be. He was in. There was no way out, no way where Peter could live his life. 

"Why do you do it Peter?" Thanos asks, snapping him away from his thoughts. 

Peter's brow furrows and he stumbles on his words, "Why do I- what?"  

"Put them all in danger. Every day," Thanos nodded. "Your Aunt, your friends...even Tony. You're a burden to anyone you get close to. They are all targets now. You basically have sealed everyone one of your friends' deaths, and family."

"That- that's not true," Peter shakes his head.

"There's a reason you keep your identity a secret Peter. You're still desperately convinced you can move on, stay in the shadows... but you're also scared that if your friends knew who you really were...they'd be afraid of you, to talk to you, to be around you. You're afraid you'll lose them all. Just like you lost everyone else."

Peter wanted to put his hands over his ears but found he was frozen in fear. He barely makes out a small, "Just stop."

"I'm just expressing your thoughts out loud Peter. It's about time you've come face to face with them instead of hiding them in the corners of your darkest realities. You know I'm right. First it was your parents, then you let your Uncle die, and now Tony, despite him being the invincible Iron Man, you'll manage to get him killed as well. You probably have more blood on your hands then I do," Thanos says.

Peter knew that wasn't true. He knew it wasn't...then why was he believing it? What was happening to him?

"No," he said weakly, but it was more of a question than a firm statement. It was like he didn't believe himself. "Not Tony..."

"Peter, you're just like me. You and I...we're dangerous because people don't understand us. We both want what's best for the world, to make sure history doesn't repeat itself, to make sure that people aren't in danger, so that our loved ones can thrive. My planet..." Thanos trailed off and shook his head, "I can't stand to watch that happen to anyone else."

The titan stepped forward, "I want to help Peter," he urged, "that's all I want to do. I know I don't have the best methods, but the ends always justify the means. Always."

"They- they do?" Peter asked innocently, his brow knitting in confusion.

Thanos smiled and nodded, "They do. Tell me, what would you do for Tony?"

Peter had been listening too intently. He blinked, snapping out of some sort of trance, breathing hard. He swayed slightly, his vision blurry, his head killing him. He was dizzy and conflicted, on the brink of having a panic attack. He barely managed to lift his head and stutter, "What?"

"Well let's just see," Thanos said and he raised the gauntlet. 

 

"No," Tony begged, locking gazes with his kid, breathing hard, shaking as well. "Pete-" He looked at the titan and his voice raised, "Wait- please-" 

Thanos raised his gauntlet and the blue stone glowed. 

"NO!" 

"I love you," Peter sobbed. 

Tony's hand grasped open air-

"Tony!" Steve shook him and Tony jolted up, flinching as his gaze focused. 

"You good?" Cap asked, stopping him from tipping backward in his chair and clapping a hand on his shoulder. 

"Yeah," Tony said breathlessly, "Yeah."

"Any luck?" Steve motioned to the screen which was transmitting a call from the Benatar, Quill's ship, to try and reach Thanos. The team had written down what they were going to say, and Tony had written down what he was going to say, but he knew if it connected, he would go off script. The minute he saw Peter...if he- no. Peter was alive. He was going to get the kid back. He was.

"Nope," Tony answered. "Not yet. FRIDAY will send out an announcement once something big enough comes into scanning range." He yawned, covering his mouth and leaning back in his chair, rubbing sleep out of his left eye. 

"Tony, how much sleep have you gotten since you came back?" Steve asked slowly. 

None. He hadn't slept except for 20 minute time periods here and there.

"Tons," Tony lied, spinning around in his chair. 

"Fine, how many hours last night then?" Steve questioned. 

"17," Tony joked. Steve sighed. "I'm fine," he assured him. "As soon as we get the kid back."

"Yeah Tony," Cap nodded sadly, clapping him on the back. "I'll be in the training room, ok?"

"Yeah," Tony called over his shoulder. "And go kick Barton's butt, I think he's boxing in there."

Steve laughed and walked out and the minute he did, Tony's face smile and cheerfulness faded and he went limp in the chair, inhaling sharply and shakily. He ran a hand through his hair and curled his hand into a fist, trying to steady his breathing.

"You hide it well."

Tony jumped, spinning. He put a hand to his heart, laughing, "Jeez-"

Nebula was standing in the doorway, an unimpressed look on her face. 

"You scared the crap out of me," Tony said.

Nebula walked over. "You hide it well. Why?"

"Why? What do you mean? Hide what?" Tony lies, crossing his arms and raising an eyebrow, instantly straightening and putting on his usual smirk. 

"I see it in your eyes. You cover up your fear and worry and anxiety when you're in front of your friends. They don't even recognize it," Nebula says in her low raspy voice that somehow has emotion in it.

Tony realizes the gig is up and sighs, putting a hand up in his famous shrugging gesture, faking a smile that quickly fades. He rubs his goatee and looks down, "Yeah well...when I'm happy, the team's happy. When I'm confident, they're confident. If I break in front of them..." Tony shakes his head. "I can't."

"Because you're their leader," Nebula infers. 

Tony ponders that and finally nods. "Yeah...I guess I am."

"I understand. But...doesn't that get tiring?" Nebula asks. 

Tony smiles weakly, "Not if you do it for the right reasons. Peter...the kid that got taken- my kid-"

"Your son?" Nebula nods, and her tone makes it a question. 

Tony suppresses a smile and laughs lightly before continuing, Nebula noticing he never said yes or no, "I would always make sure I was strong for him because I never wanted him to worry. I wanted to protect him from the evil in this messed up world, shelter him from what this job really does to you..."

He shakes his head and looks up firmly, "I will never break in front of him because I don't want him to see that side of me...to see me weak. And I will never get tired of that, or put my guard down for even a second because it's my job to keep him safe and protect him and teach him. For a kid like that, it doesn't get old."

Nebula nods in understanding and they both sit in silence, 20 feet apart. 

Tony suddenly breaks the silence with a shaky breath, clenching his fists so Nebula doesn't see their shaking, "Can I ask you a question? And I need you to be honest with me."

"Yes," Nebula nods. 

"You know Thanos. What's- what's he doing to Peter? Is he going to..." Tony trails off, looking up with so much hope. 

"He won't kill him," Nebula said firmly. Tony is about to breath a sigh of relief but the look Nebula has on her face makes him worried. "Thanos will try and get Peter to join him," she said slowly.

"You've mentioned he won't. So Thanos will then try and...persuade him- torture him, with the gauntlet or sheer force, making him see his fears, his darkest realities come to life, losing those he loves, seeing them in pain," Nebula's voice became lower. "Any fear he has will become real. He will degrade him in any way he can and say his deepest secrets out loud for Peter to hear."

"How do you know this?" Tony asked, his heart in so much pain just thinking about what that bastard was doing to his kid. Tears came to his eyes adn he froced them away, taking a deep breath.

"I've watched men break from these methods," Nebula said softly. "And he's done some of the same to me."

Tony straightened, his face contorting into that of compassion and sadness.

“It’s just easier now that he has the stones. But this isn't the first time Thanos has done something like this,” Nebula said. She took a breath and looked at him. Tony found it hard to read her emotion through her black eyes.

“If Peter does agree to help him, it won't be by his own doing."

"You're saying Thanos could convince him?" Tony says quietly, still processing the brutality of what she had just described. 

"Not convince. Forcibly manipulate. He has the reality stone. That's how he can get into Peter's head. He will create realities to trap him in his own nightmares and fears, or make him see whatever he wants. He just creates the worlds, but Peter's mind- the human mind automatically reveals the evils before it reveals the good memories," she tells him. 

Tony cursed under his breath, putting his head in his hands. 

"Peter is strong," Nebula then says, realizing she had been a little to brunt. "He will resist it. I'm sure we'll find him before Thanos does any...damage."

"He's 16. Does Thanos even care? He's just a kid," Tony said quietly. 

"I was 14 when my father replaced my hand with machinery," Nebula says. "No, he does not."

"I'm sorry," Tony looked at her sadly. "I'm sorry for what he did to you."

"I do not like apologizes," she said quickly. "They make me feel weak."

Tony nodded, wincing, embarrassed, biting his tongue before he can sorry again.

"But..." she says quickly, blinking, "thank you." She stands, giving him a nod. He gave her a weak smile back as she left the room and Tony watched her leave before he finally turned around to the desk and ran a hand through his hair.

He looked at the screen with pleading eyes, entwining his fingers and placing them under his chin.

Signal: Strong

Activated: 14:09 pm

Connected to RSS: Benatar

- Captain: Quill Rocket

- Ravager M- ship

Searching.....                     Searching....                    Searching....

Tony spoke softly, “Come on kid, where are you?" 

 

Peter gasped, getting to his feet. 

"What the-" he looked around. He was in his suit, the one Tony had made him and for a second Peter’s heart skipped.

Had that all been a bad dream?

”Kid we got 10 people trapped on the west side,” came a voice from the comms. Peter our a hand to his ear in confusion. 

“Wanna hitch a ride?” 

Peter looked up and Iron man was shooting through the sky towards him as Peter got his bearings. He shot a web and hooked on to Tony’s suit, flinging into the air. 

They were by a collapsing apartment building, the top floors on fire. Fire trucks littered the streets around them and sirens were going off. People were behind Peter- probably people that they had already saved; they were heading to ambulances and screaming ‘thank you’ to the flying superhero’s. Peter spred his thin flaps and let go, Tony doing a loop before he spiraled to catch up to him. 

Peter dropped on a stable level, Tony at his side.

”I picked up the heat signatures, let’s go.”

Tony led them forward, blasting through unstable walls and ducking under fallen boards and rungs, everything on fire.

”Tony it’s getting hot!” Peter yelped. 

“Yeah kid, I know. You’re not gonna be able to fit through there. Stay here! I’ll get them and you help me get em out, understand?” Tony said firmly. 

Peter grabbed his arm, “No! I’m not letting you go alone!” 

“Peter, I have to, these people are going to die,” Tony said firmly, shoving him off gently. 

Peter stares at him hopelessly and then slowly lowers his head. Tony cups his cheek lightly and looks at him fondly.

“Be right back,” he promises and then takes off.

Peter watches him disappear into the smoke and tries to stop the fire from spreading, kicking some of the burning pieces towards the edges where the hoses were reaching and webbing the main structure together. 

Suddenly he hears a shout and sees Tony emerge from one side and a bunch of people on the other.

”Kid! Get them!”

Peter starts towards the 10 people; Karen scans them all in when there’s a massive break in the top structure. 

“Oh God,” Peter cries, running to try and push up one of the main frame boards that is holding the floor intact. 

The ceiling in front of him cracks in half and suddenly he hears a cry and Tony is pinned beneath half of the ceiling, the other half threatening to fall right on his head. 

”TONY!” Peter screams.

His voice is lost in the screams of the group of people stuck between fallen boards and the cracking ceiling. 

Peter looks at him in fear, still holding the board keeping half of the ceiling in tact. If he drops it he can get the 10 people out, but Tony...

He’s struggling but can’t move where he’s pinned, the arc reactor shattered from the hit. He’s human now.

“No...” Peter murmurs, his head spinning, his mind splitting in two.

Usually he sees things in slow motion due to his enhanced senses, but right now he has to make a split second choice.

He looks at the people who are in danger.

He wants to die himself rather than make this choice. 

Its 10 versus 1.

No.

It’s 10 versus Tony.

Tony, Iron Man, the one person he can’t lose, he can’t live without, the closest thing he has to a father. 

Peter drops the plank and it falls through his calloused, trembling fingers. 

He hates himself and can barely see through the tears, but lunges anyway. 

Peter lunges for Tony. 

Chapter Text

Peter grabbed Tony's arm with one hand and threw off the massive rubble with his other, not looking back as he shot a web grenade to hold the rest of the collapsing ceiling.

There were screams from behind them, and Peter's eyes filled with tears as he pulled Tony out and shot a web, swinging them both towards the wall.

He crashed through it with his feet and they both fell into open air. Tony and Peter spiraled out of the building that promptly caved in on itself and fell to the ground, exploding with a massive fire ball.

Peter wrapped his arms tighter around Tony, who's suit was still down, and he slowed their fall, twisting so he would be the one to hit the ground. Tony and he got separated during the impact and they tumbled off, Peter smacking into a big section of rubble, the hit to his head almost knocking him out.

He gasped for breath, trying to pull himself up but not having the strength to. Pain coursed through his body and his eyesight grew fuzzy.

"KID! KID! Where-" Tony came limping from the other side of the pile of rocks. His eyes fell on Peter, his blue and red suit limp against the rubble. Peter groaned as Tony ran over as fast as he could, holding his side. 

"Karen, call an extra suit," Tony said breathlessly as he dove to his knees. He looked at Peter in shock, not saying anything, instead processing what happened, what Peter had done. His hands were out, hovering next to Peter's sides, unsure of what to do.

"I've alerted FRIDAY," Peter's A.I. responded. 

Tony stared at Peter who pulled off his mask, knowing no one was watching. Tears were streaming down his face and he sobbed, "I couldn't- I couldn't let you die-"

"Hey," Tony said shakily.

"It's all my fault- I-" Peter cried.

"No," Tony said, wrapping his arms around him tightly. 

Peter shuddered and sobs, curling into the embrace, so small, so scared. 

"I couldn't help it-" Peter sobbed, his whole body trembling. 

"Hey, no, shhh, I know Pete-" Tony whispered, just holding him in shock. He ran a hand through his hair, leaning back to sit fully down and bring Peter closer, firm arms encircling him protectively. 

"I killed them-" Peter's heartbroken voice was muffled. "I- I hate myself-"

"No Peter, no. I- you can't pin this on yourself. We helped a lot of people," Tony assured him quietly. 

"You wanted me to let it fall. You wanted me to get them out," Peter sobbed quietly, squeezing his eyes shut and digging his nails through the suit's fabric and into his palms until Tony slapped his wrist. 

"Yeah Pete, I did. But- I would have done the same for you," Tony said firmly.

"It's all my fault- I killed them-" Peter said in shock, realizing what he had just done. 10 people. Dead because of him.

"It wasn't...don't think like that, ok? Breathe kid. Just breathe," Tony said, rubbing his back and holding him tighter, putting a hand atop his head. 

But Peter couldn't breathe. All he heard were the screams of the people he had abandoned.

It was 10 versus Tony.

He had chosen Tony.

He knew he would do it again. But the pain was worse than anything he had ever felt. 

Peter gasped for breath, looking up from Tony's embrace before he scrambled backward on the floor. 

"Interesting," Thanos said. 

Peter snapped out of his trance, still feeling tears falling down his cheeks and he whipped his head around, looking as the setting he had been immersed in peeled away into red dust. Thanos was in front of him in the dark room and suddenly all of Peter's pain came back, slamming into him and he buckled, falling onto the floor. 

Peter lifts his head, shaking, tears still freely streaming down his face. "Stop it," he seethed, choking on a sob as he tried to steady his breathing and focus on reality, his mind spinning. 

"Your bond is strong," Thanos said, as the stone in the gauntlet died down. "You would kill for him."

"I didn't-" Peter started weakly. 

"But you would. You would always chose to save him."

Peter glared at the titan, still breathing hard, adjusting to the familiar dark room and the pain level. 

"I'll keep that in mind," Thanos said. 

"Why are you keeping me here?" Peter said, leaning on his side, his elbow pressed against the cold rough floor. "Do you really think I'm gonna play along with your stupid plan?"

"Peter, I don't need you. You're more of a...bonus. Expendable, worthless, but useful," Thanos admitted. Peter curled his fists and flinched as the titan took a step closer. "Stark is the only thing stopping me from getting the stones," Thanos said darkly.

The titan bent down and grabbed Peter's chin, holding up his head forcefully and looking coldly into his eyes. "And I have one of the few things he cares about." Thanos' voice was cold and confident. Peter blanched, breathing in short bursts due to the grip pulling his chin up. 

Thanos grinned, "You know what that is? It's you Peter." 

 

"This is risky," Bruce warned, hunched over the computer, his fingers flying across the keyboard. 

"I don't care," Tony snapped. "He has my kid."

"Ok guys, let's recap the plan-" Steve said, giving Tony a reassuring look as he walked over to where the group was gathered. 

"No time," Clint called over his shoulder. "We just got a strong signal.."

"Ok team, show time," Tony said, shoving his shaking hand in his pocket. "Positions," he said firmly, taking a step forward as everyone took a step back behind the invisible wire they had set up. 

"FRIDAY?" Tony asked nervously. 

"All systems ready boss," she relayed. 

"Connecting in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1-" Bruce clicked the ENTER key. Everyone held their breaths. 

For a second nothing happened. The 3D screen Tony had positioned went to static and Tony's heart fell. All that work for nothing. That had been their only chance-

Suddenly Tony blinked, but it wasn't his imagination. There was a shimmer in the air in front of the screen and Thanos melted into view, red dust curling off of him and disappearing once it hit the ground. The red stone in the gauntlet was glowing and Tony sucked in a breath. The reality stone. 

Everyone tensed and readied their weapon but Thanos spoke before any of them could attack. 

"I'm not...here. Before you waste any of your bullets."

The Avengers were restless, unsure of what to do.

"I give you my word," Thanos smiled. 

"Your word means jack to me," Tony snarled and clicked a button on his arm. His robot DUM-E moved his arm through the hologram. Thanos' form shimmered, as the arm passed through. The titan narrowed his eyes at the Avengers.

"I was telling the truth," the titan said simply. 

"Yeah, well that's a first for you isn't it?" Tony snapped. 

"If I was actually here I could have killed all of you," Thanos pointed out. 

"Try us," Cap said firmly, tightening his strap on his sheild. 

"Where's. My. Kid?" Tony said through gritted teeth, out of no where. He needed to see Peter. He needed to see his kid. 

"Oh, Peter?" Thanos smiled. 

Tony's lip curled into a snarl and he balled his fists, glaring daggers at the titan. 

The titan closed his gauntlet and the purple stone pulsed. Thanos put out his other hand and out of no where Peter came into frame, caught by Thanos around the neck, his limp form hanging a foot off the ground, his head slumped to his chest. The boy seemed to be unconscious but his body was flinching, his hands curling and uncurling.

There were gasps around the room as they saw what the titan had done. There were clearly tearstains on the boy's cheeks, along with countless bruises and cuts that tore through his suit, covering his body. The only person unphased was Nebula, but she too was tense, anger in her eyes as if she was furious that the torture was done on someone other than herself.

"Peter-" Tony choked, looking at the boy he was supposed to protect. "What did you do to him?"

Thanos smiled and it was then all the Avengers noticed the red dust swirling around Peter's form. Thanos touched the boy's head with the gauntlet and suddenly the teenager's eyes shot open. They flashed bright red before they faded back to their normal brown and Peter gasped for breath- or tried to. 

He choked, grabbing the hand that was wrapped around his throat, kicking his legs, his eyes wide with panic. 

"Let him go!" Tony yelled. 

Thanos dropped Peter who promptly crumpled to the floor gasping and coughing, his hand clutching his throat as he trembled on the ground. 

All the Avengers flinched, some even looked away. 

"Peter," Tony said quietly, not knowing what else to say. 

The boy looked up from the floor and looked at Tony in disbelief. His face broke into a small smile, which faded as quickly as it had surfaced but it had still shown.

"Tony?" He murmured. 

"Hey underoos," Tony said proudly, tears coming to his eyes. He almost breaks at the sound of Peter's voice...the look in his eyes, it's- it's full of pain, fear. There's a verge of hope and then the disregard of it like it's too late, or not worth believing in. 

"We can save the reunion for later," Thanos said, grabbing the back of Peter's neck, pulling him roughly to his feet. The teenager lets out a cry of pain, gritting his teeth as he struggles underneath the titan's grip, letting out strangled sounds of agony through his pursed lips. 

"Stop!" Tony roars, his voice shattering, "Stop."

Peter locks eyes with him, on the verge of crying, his face screwed up in pain and he lets out a choked gasp, turning it into a snarl clearly directed at the titan holding him. 

Tony feels like he's going to throw up. He's shaking with anger, not knowing what to do but to stare at Peter. Wanda bites her lip and moves closer to Vision. Even Cap is tense, trying to steady his breathing. Hearing the kid's cry of pain had rattled all the Avengers, Tony the most.

"We're here to ask why you took the kid," Cap says simply. 

"You want the stones, why bring a 16 year old into this?" Natasha follows up, trying not to show emotion but Tony sees the pain in even her eyes, trying not to look at Peter. 

"Peter's been asking me the same thing," Thanos says, looking down at Peter who flinches and then steels himself. Tony knows there's a snappy retort coming. 

"Yeah, and you won't give me a straight answer Grimace. I just think you like my jokes," Peter snarls. 

Tony feels a surge of pride at Peter's smart alec quip. 

Thanos frowns and then tightens his grip, making Peter wince with pain but then laugh it off, turning his head as much as he can. "Hey, usually you don't mind my commentary. What's up man? Wanna show off for your guests?"

Everyone readies their weapons, knowing the kid pushed too far, but knowing they can't stop whatever's going to happen next. 

Peter, for the love of God, Tony thinks, wincing. 

Thanos's gauntlet glows with purple light and he brings it against Peter's head despite the boy's desperate struggles to get away from it. He presses it against Peter's temple and the boy's knees buckle as his whole body contorts into pain. Peter lets out a scream and then Thanos moves the gauntlet away, satisfied. 

"I'm gonna kill you, you son of a-" Tony swears, his voice trembling with anger. 

"You're sick," Wanda says quietly. 

"Oh he's more than-" Peter starts, still wincing in pain. 

"Peter," Tony says sharply and the kid glances at him guiltily. "Shut up," Tony says lightly, giving him a small smile.

"Yea," Peter says, giving a small smile in return and keeping his mouth shut. 

"You still haven't answered our question," Vision says, moving forward slightly. "This stone in my head is a beautiful thing. Complex, but beautiful. I am on the side of life. Yet you wish to use it's power for darkness and destruction. Why?"

"Because he's a muderer," Quill hissed. "You killed Gamora!" His eyes filled with tears and his hand went to his blaster. 

"It was the hardest choice I've ever had to make. But it had to be done," Thanos said quietly.

"You come down here and I'll make an easy choice and kill you myself," Quill snarled.

Thanos simply smiled at his threat, disregarding it without a second thought.

"Why?" Nebula said lowly from the back of the room where he was leaning against the wall. 

"Hello daughter," Thanos smiled. 

"Why did you do it?" Nebula demanded, straightening and taking a step forward, murder in her stare. "Answer me!"

"Because in the long run, everything will pay off," Thanos promised. "I will save the universe from a fate that is inevitable. Unavoidable."

"Thank you, walking thesaurus. It can be avoided. Everything can be avoided," Tony snapped.

"That's the problem. Humanity, life across this universe, you are all convinced that the end of the world, the destruction ahead...you think of it as just a myth. Maybe in your time, but tell me Tony, when you die, who will be there to save the world from caving in on itself?" Thanos asked.

The Avengers shifted. That was a problem that they had all thought about. When they passed on, who would carry on their legacy? Who could be there to protect Earth when they couldn't?

"In every instance, civilizations, no matter how advanced, will plunge into a world of chaos and death all the same," Thanos said. "There will come a time when there is nothing to rebound from. Where the universe tears itself apart and is nothing but dust and blood."

"Well aren't you a glass half full," Tony snarled. 

"That's your play?" Rhodey asked, crossing his arms, "Going off of something that could or could not happen?"

"You call yourself the Avengers. It's in your blood. It's in your name. This act must happen," Thanos urged. 

"He wants to kill innocent people just so he can prove to a bunch of dead people that he was right," Peter pipes up. "This happened to his planet."

Tony shot Peter a warning look but luckily someone else stepped in to fill the gap before Thanos could hurt the kid again.

"Titan," Doctor Strange nods. "I remember you told me."

"Yes doctor, I did," Thanos smiles. He turns, forcing Peter to turn with him with a wince. "You of all people should understand that all the paths lead to either me or to the end. Unless I put a stop to it."

"To you? Yes. To the end? No. There are versions of the future where in executing your plan, you provoke the end of the world anyway," Strange says calmly. 

Thanos nods sadly, "That I cannot control. Life will have every opportunity to evolve, to move on. I they don't, this plan will fail. They must learn to accept the truth."

"Truth is a relative term," Cap said harshly. 

"It is to those who are blind of it's true meaning," Thanos retaliates. 

"You're saying if people can't move on?" Wanda questions. "Do you expect us to just accept the fact that our friends and family have died around us and we just have to start over? It does not work that way."

"It has to work that way," Thanos hisses. 

"Why?" Cap said firmly.

"Because it's the only way," Thanos said simply. There was silence for a second, some of the Avengers exchanging looks. 

"We won't stand by and let you murder innocent people," Cap finally said. 

Thanos looked dissapointed and Peter grinned, "Tough luck buddy-" The titan punched Peter in the side and there was an unmistakable sound of at least one rib cracking. 

There were shouts echoed across the room as everyone gasped and Tony let out a strangled yell that was far from words and more desperation. Shock rippled among the Avengers because Peter was somehow not in screaming pain, almost as if he was...used to it.

"Let the kid go," Tony snarls and Peter shoots him a nervous look, Tony shooting him one of heartbreak and guilt.

"And why should I do that?" Thanos asks, tightening his grip and lifting Peter so that he could barely touch the ground with his scrambling feet. Peter pressed his lips together to stop from screaming, his body trembling in effort.  

Tony spreads his hands and forces himself to remain calm while his kid is in pain right in front of him, "Like Cap said, we're not agreeing to your genocidal plan. You want to fight?" he asks, "We will fight you fair and square. You can try to get the stones, and we'll kill you. Simple as that."

Thanos smiles. "And this is where the tables turn. I took Peter for a reason, Stark. The minute he stepped in to protect you on Titan, I knew." Tony balled his fists, he and Peter tense as the titan looked between them, ignoring the watching Avengers in the room.

Thanos smiled at Tony, "You know he told me he thinks of you as a father. Well, he didn't tell me. I've been in his head."

"Shut up," Peter seethed, breathing harshly through his nose and gritting his teeth, suddenly struggling in the titan's grip. 

Tony exchanged glances with Nebula. She had been right. Everything she had said, all the horrors...Peter had gone through them all. And he still hadn't been persuaded. Tony felt a guilty pride in his kid, despite knowing what that meant he went through. 

"I've seen his worst fear. Do you want to know what it is?" Thanos asked.

"Shut UP," Peter seethed, only for Thanos to tighten his grip and Peter to tense, squeezing his eyes shut.

"Stop," Tony whispered, looking at Peter, who now had hot tears sliding down his cheeks as he tried to jerk away despite the pain, and then to Thanos who was watching them both carefully.

"It was watching you die," Thanos said, looking up at Tony. "I let him experience it a couple times."

"Peter, it's ok. I'm here, it's ok," Tony said as calmly as he could. He was shaking in rage and Peter let out a strangled sob, looking at Tony almost...guiltily. 

"That is why I took Peter, Stark. I tried to convince him to join me, yes. I even tried to force him. But you and Peter have a special bond. And I'm not going to waste my time breaking it, when I can just use it," Thanos said slowly. Tony eyes widened and he balled his fists. 

"No," Tony said softly, shaking his head. 

"You have 2 infinity stones. I need both of them, and a location of where you are." Thanos shrugs, "You have something I want, I have something you want." Thanos walked Peter forward just to prove his point. 

"No," Cap said firmly before Tony even had a chance to speak. "We're not going to give up the stones."

"You would at least get a chance to fight me for them. I will get the stones either way Captain Rogers," Thanos said darkly. "It's a matter of if you want Peter Parker back alive." He looked down at the teenager.

Peter's eyes shot wide and he tried to swallow his fear. 

"No!" Tony said quickly. "We'll-"

"That doesn't change anything," Cap said firmly. "We can't let you get the stones."

Peter's face crumpled and his eyes flicked back and forth nervously. 

"Rogers-" Tony snapped. 

"Tony!" Cap yelled, forcing Tony to turn around. "We can't risk the lives of billions of people for one kid. I'm sorry."

"If you won't accept the terms then I have no use for him," Thanos shrugged. He let go of Peter and the teenager immediately tried to sprint but fell, his leg giving out. Peter screamed in pain, grabbing his knee before he was suddenly sliding back across the floor to Thanos and forced onto his knees. The power stone glowed and Peter cried out, an invisible grip keeping his arms at his sides and his back straight. 

"Tony-" Peter gasped quietly, his eyes wide with fear. 

"Tony," Steve said harshly, putting a hand on his shoulder firmly. "There's no contest here. One life versus trillions if he gets these stones."

Peter looked at Cap in pain, but then he swallowed and spoke, trying not to have his voice shake, "It's- it's ok. You heard him Tony. He's right."

"No Pete," Tony snapped, shoving Steve's arm off him in distaste.

"What's wrong with you?" he asked Cap angrily. "That's my kid!"

"If he gets those stones Tony?" Cap warned. "Snap out of it!" He turns to the screen, "The answer is still no. You aren't getting the stones without a fight. Even- even if you kill the kid. And we aren't giving you any locations."

Thanos watches the Avengers carefully, Tony spinning around, begging someone to take his side. Slowly everyone backs up toward Cap and Tony can't believe it. 

"No," he says weakly, looking at the stone faces of his friends who suddenly have eyes for the ground.

"I thought wrong," Thanos says simply. 

"Guys-" Tony gasps, turning. "We can't let-"

He's cut off suddenly by Peter's weak, pleading voice, "Wait- no, no, no-" His scream pierces the room and Tony whirls. Peter's face is scrunched up in pain as the power stone is pressed against his temple harshly, Thanos grinding the stone in. 

"Stop! PETER!" Tony yells. "STOP IT!"

Peter's awful screams continue and Tony yells, "NO! STOP!"

"Tony-" Steve starts forward and Tony whirls with his repulsor, blasting him straight in the chest. He flies backward and Tony slams his hand on a button on his arm. A lab wall used for shielding experiments comes down from the ceiling, separating him from the rest of the team who start banging on the bulletproof wall. 

"I said STOP!" Tony roars fiercely. 

Thanos, amused by the current circumstance, obliges and removes the stone. Peter lets out one final scream and starts gasping, tears streaming down his face before Thanos let's him drop. Peter's seemingly unconscious, his body flinching from the last bit of the energy. 

Tony breaths a sigh of relief that he wasn't dead.

"I'll give you what you want," Tony says breathlessly, one tear dropping down his cheek as he looks at what Thanos had done to Peter, the kid curled on his side in pain. 

Thanos waits for him to continue. 

"I'm only gonna say this once. They may not care about the kid," Tony motions to the Avengers behind him trying to get past the barrier. Cap hits it with his retrieved shield and it bounces off but Tony knows it won't hold forever. He turns back angrily, "but I do. And I have a big enough ego and enough stupidity to guarantee that we will end you the minute you step on Earth. You bring the kid. We have the stones. I'll lock down all transportation around the compound. They'll all stay in one place because they know they're stronger in numbers."

Cap's shield made a dent in the wall and the barrier shuddered. Tony sped up his talking, typing and swiping on his arm. "I'm sending you coordinates now of where our base is located. You come here tomorrow at 5 sharp, the base will be cleared out except us. I will fight you to protect Earth, but I will not lay my life down to protect those stones as long as you can guarantee me by kid is safe."

Thanos watched him carefully, rather impressed, "And how do I know you're bluffing?"

"I gave you my word," Tony quotes his cockily. "And that's my kid. I'd do anything for him. This is my fault anyway," Tony says. He isn't lying.

"Tony no-" Peter says weakly, but Thanos slams the gauntlet into the side of Peter's head as he tries to stand up, and Peter crumples to the floor unconscious. 

Tony snarls, "For that I'm going to kill you. Slowly." He then bites his tongue, worried he had just ruined the deal he had made but Thanos just smiles, obviously not threatened in the slightest.

"You can try. I see I've underestimated you Stark. You betrayed your friends, your family, for one boy," Thanos said, amused.

"He's my family," Tony snarled, the barrier giving way behind him. He narrows his eyes at the titan. "I'll see you tomorrow."

Cap broke down the barrier and both Rhodey and Natasha lunged forward. Tony took one more longing look at Peter who was stirring on the ground before his 2 friends grabbed him and wrestled him away from the screen.

Peter woke up for a brief second, locking eyes with Tony as he was forced to the ground.

"No-" he said weakly. "Tony- no!"

Cap threw his shield into the power box and the connection was lost, the teenager and the titan disappearing. Everyone was breathing hard and they turned to Tony who was on the floor.

He looked up weakly, "They gone?"

Cap grabbed his shield from where it was wedged in the power box, "Yeah."

Rhodey and Nat helped Tony up and he took a deep breath. 

"I think he bought it." 

 

Peter threw himself at Thanos, punching and kicking him as hard as he could. The titan backhanded him across the room and Peter sank to the floor, coughing up blood against the wall. 

"I hate you," he seethed. "Do you know what they'll do to him?"

"You wanted me to kill you," Thanos infers. 

"Rather me than the universe," Peter hisses. 

"You are brave Peter, I will admit. Never have I seen resilience like I see in you."

"Yeah well, when I have to deal with you big ugly grape everyday, it tends to build up," Peter coughed out. 

Thanos smiled away the insult, looking down at the gauntlet. Peter couldn't help but flinch. 

Thanos had turned his back, undoubtedly putting in Earth's coordinates and Peter couldn't hold back a groan as he sat himself up against the wall.

"Did you call them?" he asked, attempting some small talk with the mad titan, since he didn't have anything else better to do.

Thanos shakes his head, still turned to the screen, "No. I knew they would contact me eventually. Worried if I had killed you."

"Yeah well turns out you didn't have the balls to," Peter mutters. Thank God he had said that quietly. Tony had been right, he needed to shut up. He had been only causing himself more pain with every quip that flew out of his mouth before his mind even processed what it was. It's what had gotten him into and out of so many fights in high school. It was his signature trait as Spiderman. His mouth. 

Whether it was to distract, intimidate, or bore, Peter could do it. Tony would always say it was a blessing and a curse, but until now, he didn't have a reason to believe it could ever be the latter.

He remembered Tony's expression when he had first seen him. Peter didn't exactly have a mirror to fix his hair in, so he figured he looked pretty bad. The pain was almost numb now, which probably wasn't good. Even with his high pain tolerance from his abilities his nerves had been overloaded more than a day ago. 

It hurt to see Tony. To see him, but know he wasn't actually there. To see the pain in the man's eyes whenever he looked at him, and to hear his voice crack when he had said his name. 

For the first day he had been in this awful place he hoped Tony would find him and save him. But lately that was the last thing he wanted. All this place was was fear and pain and torture. He didn't want Tony anywhere near that. And now, because of him, Tony had snapped and agreed to welcome Thanos onto Earth, and fight the Avengers, which had the last 2 infinity stones in their posession. All this was was one step closer to the snap, as Thanos called it. 

"Can you even snap?" Peter asked. "I mean it's gonna be really stupid if you get all this way and then are one of those people that physically can't snap their fingers?"

"The innocent mind is a wonderful thing," Thanos said, looking down on him like he was a five year old. 

Peter screwed up his face and asked a more pressing question. 

"What- what happens to the people that get snapped?"

"I don't know," Thanos says simply. "I have always wondered."

"Always?" Peter scoffs, “What, when you were little did you say to your mom, 'hey when I grow up, I'm going to murder half the universe'!"

"I did not know my mother. I don't even know if I had one," Thanos ponders that.

Peter makes a face, "That's disturbing."

"But yes, it has been my plan for as long as I remember," the titan says, almost happily, which Peter finds really messed up.

"Great. You know most kids want to be a vet or something," Peter mumbles, still leaning against the wall. He didn't feel like moving. He wasn't being tortured but at the same time, having small talk with the titan that wants to end the world isn't exactly soothing. It wasn't like he could just ask, 'hey Thanos, what’s your favorite color?'

Probably purple. 

Peter blinked, shaking out his dizziness. He had hit his head to hard. Correction- Thanos had hit him in the head to hard. 

Peter flinched, seeing Tony so desperately agreeing to anything just to save his life, locking eyes with him seconds before he was tackled to the ground by Rhodey and Nat, people he had thought were his friends. Peter had a stab of sudden hate for the Avengers. He knew, in that moment, he agreed with them, that his life was nothing compared to the trillions, but looking back and making it simple: they were going to let him die. 

Human nature forbade him to have any kind of love for someone who would do that. Peter frowned and tried to think of something else. 

He suddenly had a question and of course his curiousness took over and Peter just blurted out. "The snap is by chance, right? 50%, no specifics. It's at random?"

"That is correct," Thanos nodded, still typing and adjusting things at the screen. Peter couldn't see the details; his eyesight was blurry, which he was not used to. Usually it was 20/20. He had even thrown away his glasses the minute he got his powers. But now it was just like old times, since his healing ability was failing. That couldn’t be good. Peter hopes that isn’t permanent. 

He shook his head to clear his thoughts and asked his question. "Doesn't that mean that you could die?"

Thanos paused, then turned around to look at Peter, then stared at the wall in contemplation. He finally came to the conclusion and nodded slowly, "Yes. Yes it does."

"Then why risk it? Why go on a possible suicide mission?" Peter spluttered. "It just doesn't make sense."

"Because it's the right thing to do," Thanos said simply. “This universe must be fixed. And I will do whatever it takes to correct it.”

”Even if you kill innocent people?” Peter asked. 

Thanks turned around for a second and smiled, “No one is innocent.”

Peter pressed himself against the wall, not daring to speak or move. He just stared at the back of the titan who was out of his mind. Peter held back all the nasty retorts he could have hurled at the titan, knowing Thanks could make him scream in pain with a flick of his finger. Peter, for once in his life, was truly scared. 

 

"And the Grammy goes to," Tony joked, Cap walking in to grab coffee. 

Steve smirked and reached into the cabinet, grabbing a mug and filling it up from the steaming pot Tony offered him.

"How's the team?" Tony asked. "I went back to the lab to fix the part- well the whole machine you decided to throw your shield at," Tony waved off Cap's attempted apology with a small smile. "It’s fine, I fixed it. But I know you stuck around. They ok?"

"A little shaken," Cap admitted.

"Shaken how?" Tony asked. 

"Thanos' plan...he's- he's off his rocker Tony, you know that. We've both seen crazy...some people haven't. And seeing what he did to-" Cap looked down. "Seeing what he did to Peter...He's a strong kid."

"Darn right," Tony said quickly. 

"You convinced Thanos pretty well. I have to say, for how many plans we've thought up in the past? That one worked out pretty well," Cap said happily.

Tony's gaze dropped to the ground, "Yeah? Well, it's not that hard to fake it when your kid's being tortured in front of you, you know?"

He still heard Peter's screams, still saw him staring at him in fear, the titan holding him from behind so hardly that the kid couldn't move with out pain... the way he said his name- the way his voice sounded- the way Thanos slammed his gauntlet into the side of his head without a care that this was just a kid, a 16 year old kid who had done nothing wrong but meet Tony-

"I'm sorry Tony," Cap said sadly, snapping Tony out of his spiraling and jumbled thoughts. "I know he's like a son to you-"

"He is my son," Tony said firmly, sipping from his mug. Then quieter, as if telling himself again, realizing he had said his thoughts out loud, "He is my son."

Steve nodded, not knowing exactly what to say. 

They sat there in silence. 

"This better work or I'm blowing that purple grape off the side of the milky way," Tony swore. 

Cap grinned, and they clinked their cups. "Agreed."

Chapter Text

3:30

Tony's hands shook nervously. Pepper and Happy had left about 2 hours ago, and the base was completely empty except for the Avengers. A 4 mile radius was cleared out around the compound. 

Steve came up behind him in his suit, tightening his shield, and he put his hand on Tony's shoulder. 

Cap's voice was low and rather comforting, "You ok?"

"Always," Tony flashed a cocky smile and Steve smirked. 

Tony was glad Steve had come back, and over the past couple days he was slowly feeling his resentment and anger fade. He still hadn't forgiven him completely, but because of the current circumstances, Tony was relived to have his old friend back, joking around and talking to each other like the old days so many years ago. Even their jabbing banter was balancing out, less hate, more friendly teasing.

Steve and Tony just stared out the window for a while, the 2 leaders giving themselves a well earned moment of silence to just calm their thoughts and focus. 

Tony couldn't help but think about Peter. He hated the plan they had executed because he knew if it had convinced Thanos, which it had, it would have no doubt convinced the kid too, who was probably beating himself up over the fact that Tony had "gone rogue" and agreed to put the universe at risk just to save his life. Tony just hoped the kid wouldn't do anything stupid before he got to him. 

"It's gonna work Tony. We can stop him," Steve assured him, reading his thoughts. Tony realized he was very tense, his fists clenched, his mouth a straight line, his gaze dead ahead. Guilt must have been radiating off of him. 

Tony nodded slowly. "Thanos hurts one more hair on that kid's head and I swear to God..." He grit his teeth and took a shaking breath. Then he turned, shoving his hands into his pockets to fake a more casual saunter. He raised an eyebrow, "You sure you guys can handle him while I go get Peter?"

"We'll be fine Tony. Just get Peter out of there," Cap shook his head, "That kid has gone through enough already."

"I'm worried," Tony admitted, shrugging. "What if he uses him against me? That kid Rogers...he's my weakness. Thanos knows that. I just hope he's too egotistical...too set on his prize to drag the kid into this."

"If he does then we'll stop him before anything happens. Together," Steve said firmly and Tony shoots him a small smile at the familiar phrase. Steve straightens, still staring out the window, "We have to. Look, I know I don't know the kid that well, but Peter's strong. And he's clearly family. I'm the outsider here but even I would still lay my life down for anyone on this team. That includes you. And that includes Peter."

Steve laughs lightly, "Man that kid's got a pair. Willing to die to save the world? That's one brave teenager. He'll find a way out of this, I'm sure of it."

Tony gave him a small smile and then trilled his lips; he'd had enough of the sappy talk and he punched Rogers in the chest. Then he shook out his hand mockingly, "I better get my suit on so it doesn't hurt when I punch. Don't tell the team."

"What, that I'm stronger?" Steve grinned. 

Tony turned around and walked backwards down the hallway. He spread his hands, "Everything special about you came out of a bottle."

Steve laughed and waved him off, "Put on the suit."

"Yep," Tony spun around and double tapped his arc reactor.

When he turned the corner he rubbed his hands together, trying to calm his nerves and swallow down a panic attack with a confident smile, "Showtime FRIDAY. Show me something!"

"All systems go boss. I've set all weapons to target mode and I have drones on the perimeter. Special forces are on stand by and Mrs. Potts is on speed dial, her request."

Tony rolled his eyes, "Of course. Time?"

"3:36."

Tony took a deep breath, "An hour and 30 left. Is the team ready?"

"Most of them yes. Would you like me to announce the meeting time of 4:30 on the landing pad?"

"Yeah go for it," Tony said, "And check barn door protocol, just do a test run."

"Doors clear, testing in progress."

Black panels slid, covering all the doors and windows, coming together with a rumble that shook the entire building. Then they raised, golden sunlight flooding it and brightening up the compound again. 

"Looks good. Everything else is in order? Backup generators, the extra suits?"

"Yes sir," FRIDAY responded. 

Tony swiped his screen with his hand, selecting suit models. "Do me a favor, move these 4 to the far wing, just for insurance reasons. 2 safe houses."

"Suits relocated."

"Thanks," Tony said walking briskly down the hallway. He fired up his boosters and flew the rest of the way, flying off the balcony and dropping to the lower level. 

He walked into the kitchen and saw Nebula sitting at the table, turning an apple in her hands.

Tony's suit melted into his arc reactor and he grinned, reaching and flipping it right side up in her grasp. "It's an apple."

"Is it ripe?" Nebula asked in her raspy voice. 

Tony raised an eyebrow, "Yes? Why would we get an apple if it wasn't- never mind. Yes. It's- you can eat it."

Nebula looked at it carefully one last time and then took a bite.

"Not disgusting?" Tony asked.

"Not disgusting," she agreed. 

Tony sat down across from her. "You ok? I mean, about seeing your father again. I know it's...weird? Hard? I don't really know the right adjective to use."

Nebula looked down at the apple, narrowing her eyes. "I have another chance to stab him in the heart and twist until he is no longer breathing."

Tony sat backward in his chair, remembering her character traits. Only a tad bit sadistic. Hey, what's wrong with a change around here, anyway? Stabbing Thanos was good after all. He shrugs and gives her a thumbs up, "Whatever gets you up in the morning, I'm game."

"How about you?" she asked after a second of silence. "Seeing the boy? How will you react?"

Tony rubbed the back of his neck. "Worried I'll break. There's nothing I wouldn't do for that kid ya know? If Thanos told me to stab myself in order to save the kid, I'd do it.  I'd do the same for Pepper, Rhodey, Nat, all the Avengers. Except maybe Steve. We hate each other," Tony joked lightly. "But Peter...he's...different. I feel more responsible for what happens to him." He backtracked, rubbing a hand through his greying buzz cut and bringing it down over his tired face.

"What happened to him and what's happening. I doubt Thanos is going to go easy on him just 'cause we had a deal."

Nebula's face shows he's probably correct.

Tony sighs, "Thanos said he'd bring the kid, but he didn't say in what condition. Whatever he does to him," Tony growls, "I'm doing 50 times worse."

"You love Peter," Nebula said suddenly. 

Tony was taken back by this statement- question...thing. He pondered it and finally nodded, "He's family. He's practically my son. You know, on titan, right before Thanos took him he said he loved me. That was the last thing he said before he was pulled away. I guess the kid was desperate he would never see me again, I don't know... but I heard it and I was in shock, it all happened so fast... I never got a chance to say it back. I kick myself every second for that."

"My sister, Gamora," Nebula said sadly. "I loved her. We tried to kill each other. Multiple times. But I loved her." Her eyes were narrowed, but it seemed as if she was reliving some pressing moments with her sister. Then she said simply, "We never said 'I love you'. Not once."

Nebula then looked down, her raspy voice getting softer and her body language showed her closing up due to sadness and grief. "And now I won't get a chance to, but I am somewhat comforted because even though we never got a chance to tell each other...we both knew."

Nebula stood up and put a hand on Tony's shoulder, offering him a small, rare smile as she walked by, taking the apple with her.

Tony pondered her words, and realized she was right. He stood up and cleared a plate someone had left on the table. Setting it down gently in the sink and running the water over it, something caught his eye. On the counter behind the cups was a picture of him and Peter and he slowly pulled it out, running his thumb along the frame. He smiled a bit at the kid's wide grin, Tony's arm around his shoulder protectively. 

A long time ago Tony had trusted no one. Rhodey, Pepper, and Happy had slowly slipped in. The rest of the Avengers had been on an outer ring and Tony was fine with the 3 in his inner one, vowing not to let anyone else get close to him so he wouldn't put any more loved ones in danger. Then along came Peter, zipping right past Tony's barriers and embedding himself in the center of Tony's circle, becoming one of the members of his true family. 

The reckless kid had stepped in to protect him, and in doing so had gotten himself kidnapped. No matter what the kid said when they finally talked about it, it was Tony's fault. It was his fault Peter was in this mess, so it was Tony's responsibility to get him out. 

"I love you," Peter had said.

Tony shook his head, still wincing he hadn't given the kid anything to hold on to, no promises, no nothing. He had just been sucked away before Tony could even say one sentence to him, let alone respond to the thing he had hoped Peter would say for the longest time. Of course he loved the kid, who didn't? But their relationship was different than that with the Avengers, or even his Aunt.

He hoped Peter knew he would have said it back. Tony took a deep breath, closing his eyes and promising himself that he would not allow what had happened to Nebula and Gamora happen to him and the kid. He would get Peter back safe, and tell him himself, face to face, with no Titan making the kid scream in pain, not some quick chat while they were caught in the middle of the war zone. He would get the chance to tell him that he loved him too, that he was a son to him, and he would finally give him the long overdue hug that he had attempted and failed many times.

"I'm coming kid. Hang in there Pete. I'm coming," he said firmly. 

 

4:16

Peter took a deep breath, simply standing at the helm next to Thanos, his hands cuffed together in front of him with massive chunks of metal Thanos had crafted with the power stone. Peter's left wrist was definitely broken from the impact of the two metal pieces crushing his hands together, and the right one felt sprained. 

They had detached from his main ship and it was then, when they had floated into space, that Peter limped around to the back of the circular room and saw how massive, dark, and terrifying it was. That's where he had been held captive for the past couple days? Dang. He had more balls than he thought.

Thanos was simply waiting now as the still pretty huge ship flew through space. They would arrive at Earth at 4:59, because apparently Thanos didn't want to be late.

Right now the titan was sitting in his chair, and Peter had no where else to go, so he watched the sky, trying to enjoy the stars and the galaxies that he had always wanted to see. In his perfect reality there wasn't a titan who had a habit of torturing him sitting a couple feet away. But Peter took what he could get. It really was a pretty sky. A beautiful universe, which made it so twisted that anyone would want to screw it up- or correct the supposed 'cosmic unbalance' as Thanos had said. 

Peter was in a surprisingly good mood despite the circumstances. Peter felt lighter, sprouting jabs and taunts at the titan whenever he could, barely feeling the pain that Thanos caused him when he went over the top. Peter thinks it's either because he's closer to Tony than he's been in the past couple days or because he had finally cracked. He was more worried about Tony than his own safety, kicking himself for everything he's ever done wrong, feeling it had some sort of impact on what happened.

It was his fault that Thanos now knew where the Avengers were and was heading to Earth, to complete his plan and murder half the universe. If he went through with it, it would be all Peter's fault. Peter desperately tried to keep those thoughts down, the shock factor helping a bit as he tried to flick off the literal weight of the universe on his shoulders.

Peter shifted his weight, limping forward to catch a glimpse of a shooting sky. He hadn't spoken to Thanos since he was screaming from the pain caused by the gaunet. Peter had lay, trying to contain the pain and not cry, letting out small groans and whimpers on his side on the cold floor for a very, very long time. Then he had sat up and when Thanos didn't notice, Peter stood. Thanos noticed that, and made eye contact with him and Peter flinched, afraid he was going to be dropped to the floor. Instead Thanos pointed to the open window and started watching the stars. 

Peter swallowed back a comment that he needed to go fly over the cookoo's nest because the titan was certifiably insane. But what else could he do but look out the window? It wasn't like there was a bathroom in here. Peter had asked Thanos if he went to the bathroom, which resulted in Peter getting thrown into a wall. He guessed that was a no. 

Peter's ankle was broken...that too. That had happened when Thanos had decided to go into his mind again, tearing into every memory he had with Tony. Peter tried so hard to block him out, and he actually succeeded, which only angered the titan more. Peter had done a flip, stupidly, trying to kick Thanos across the face. Unfortunately his foot made contact and the titan threw him across the room and then slammed hard down on Peter's ankle in retaliation. That had been about 4 hours after the Avengers had ended the call. 

Peter hoped they were ready...he really did. Thanos was a whole new villain, more dangerous than anything he had ever faced. He had personally experienced how brutal, ruthless, and downright scary Thanos was. It was almost like he enjoyed making Peter scream and squirm, which made him want to throw up.

Peter flinched, feeling the energy of the power stone coursing through him again, and he panicked for a second, hitching in a breath before realizing it was all in his head. Peter's shoulder slumped and he tried to calm himself down. The reality stone had messed with his head to much, making him see things that weren't really happening. Hallucinations, side affect. He had had visions of Tony coming into save him at least 8 times, and either disappearing, leading him in a circle, or Thanos killing him, despite the titan never moving from his chair.

Peter tried to ignore them now, squeezing his eyes shut and trying to steady his breathing. The visions would fade until they stopped all together and Peter suddenly felt a surge of pain, almost making him drop to his knees. He grit his teeth, swallowing a gasp, determined to not let the titan hear his small noise of agony. He wouldn't give him that satisfaction. Between the overload of pain, nervousness, dehydration, starvation, sleep deprivation- man he was screwed up- and his spider ADHD? All clumped together? Not good. Really not good.

Not to mention that electricity or whatever it was that had been coming out of that stone and causing him the most pain out of everything Thanos did to him...Peter knew that it could not be good for a human. He figured 5 shocks at least for someone normal. He wasn't normal but then again, Thanos tortured him with it at least 5 times every couple of hours, his whole body turning to fire, pain flooding his walls Peter had tried so hard to build up, ripping pain filled scream after scream from his throat and leaving him crumpled on the floor for at least 30 minutes, unable to move. That had been repeated for the past 3 days. God...had it been 3 days? Time had blended together, just a mess of pain, guilt, and fear. 

Peter looked down for once and saw the cuts and prodded the bruises with his bound hands, he realized he was in worse shape than he had dared to set his guess at. Karen had been down from the beginning, and Peter had no idea where his mask had gone. He could be dying from internal bleeding by now, he had no idea, and the titan definitely wouldn't care. 

There was a sudden pressing question and Peter suddenly turned around, blurting out, "They gave you the coordinates. Why don't you just kill me?"

God, he was an idiot. If Tony was here he would have smacked him. Peter still remembered the gentle fury in Mr. Stark's eyes when he hissed calmly, "Peter? Shut up." 

Peter gulped, cursing himself internally,waiting for Thanos to realize he was right, flick his finger and that would be it. 

Instead the titan's eyes crinkled in amusement and a small smirk crept onto his face. "Because I am a man of my word."

"Right," Peter scoffed. "You're a saint."

"Tony betrayed his friends for me. I respect him for that. I hope they remember him when I am forced to kill him," Thanos said, his sadness almost sincere.

Peter's vision went red and he shook his head violently, taking a step on his broken ankle, adrenaline pumping so hard that he was able to storm forward and stay standing. He narrowed his eyes, his nostrils flaring with fury. "You're not hurting Tony," Peter said harshly, losing all control over the anger in his voice. 

"You're either brave or idiotic," Thanos told him. 

"I'd like to say a bit of both," Peter hissed. 

"We could have done great things together Peter," Thanos said, looking down at him in pity.

Peter scoffed, "I've told you before. Save the Darth talk."

Thanos spread his hands, pointing to his side, "You could be up here as a prince of the universe, not as a bargaining chip."

"I'm not a bargaining chip," Peter spat. 

"You're collateral Peter. Collateral damage. Caught in the crossfire. Weak and scared. Useless," Thanos said lowly, narrowing his eyes at Peter who glared right back. 

Peter raised an eyebrow, "Yeah but Mr. Useless over here fought you, made you bleed, and beat your stupid mind games. I'm still alive aren't I?"

"Only because I am allowing it," Thanos hissed. 

That set off a lightbulb in Peter's mind. Thanos had been bragging this whole time about how he could kill Peter with a flick of his finger. Peter had pissed him off to the breaking point and he had done nothing except torture him. He could have killed him if he wanted to, but he never did. Suddenly his past question didn't seem so idiotic, but more like a challenge. Thanos had had every opportunity to kill him, and ever took any of them. Why?

Peter spread his hands, "Then un allow it. Kill me. You won't."

"Never have I met someone who's asked for pain," Thanos said smugly, raising the gauntlet. 

Peter spoke quickly, "See, I didn't ask for pain. I asked for you to kill me."

The purple light died and Thanos lowered the gauntlet in confusion. 

Peter smirked, "You won't do it. You can't do it."

"I can make you scream," Thanos snarled. 

"Oh I know you can, but you won't do the one thing you've been holding over me for the past 3 days. You won't kill me. Why not? And it's not because of your word because that is a whole bunch of jack to me. You won't do it. You can't kill me. Why?" Peter demanded. 

Thanos didn't answer. He just pulsed with the gauntlet and Peter was tossed backwards into the wall. He cried out in pain as his head smacked against the rough stone, sliding to a stop. But then grit his teeth and rolled onto his hands and knees, wincing as he got to his feet. Peter took a deep breath, staggering a bit, limping forward. If this bastard could get inside his head, he could get inside Thanos'.

"I know why," Peter said breathlessly, wiping his mouth of blood from smacking his jaw against the ground. "Because you are convinced you're doing the right thing and you know i'm innocent. You know I'm just collateral, that I'm just a kid and you are so desperate to prove to the world that you aren't the bad guy, you're terrified of becoming a monster you want to destroy. News flash buddy, you're a monster no matter what. You've already killed innocent people-"

"You don't know me," Thanos snarled, standing up and towering over Peter who suddenly had to lock his legs or he would fall over. 

"I don't," Peter admitted. But then he seethed, "But I know guilt and I know what it's like to try and do the right thing but then life gets in the way and you have to make choices- choices that haunt you for the rest of your life. They keep you up at night. You are reminded of your failures and the weight of everyone telling you that you can't do something or degrading your efforts. I know that feeling. But you- you're a different story."

Peter's voice was shaking in anger not fear and he took a daring step forward, limping on his bad leg, but it was somehow enough for Thanos to take a surprised step back as Peter continued viciously, "You killed your daughter. You've killed innocent men, women, and children. You are so deep in your own lies, trying to convince yourself that what you're doing is right that you've dug a hole you can't get out of. So what do you do? You go with it. You continue to lie, convince, manipulate even your own thoughts into proving to yourself, the only person left who believes in you, the only person you're still able to convince that you are not a monster, that you are not a villain, that you are doing this for the right reasons." Peter was breathing hard and he cocked his head, "but are you really?"

"Would Gamora want this?" he asked, "Would your planet? Your family?"

Thanos raised his gauntlet with a roar and Peter yelled over him, his voice cracking, reaching a louder sound than he ever had, "You blast me and you're proving me right!"

Thanos made furious eye contact with him and let the purple burst fly. It went right past Peter's neck and into the far wall and he released a breath, trying not to shake from how close that had come. 

Peter forced himself to keep going even though every single piece of common sense he had left was screaming 'IDIOT!'

"They would be disgusted with you," Peter spat. "Deep down, you're disgusted with yourself. You've turned his tall tale into your life style, your own little world. You're jealous because part of you knows that by killing half of the universe, people won't be happy, they'll be sad for they're loved ones, they'll cry, they'll miss them because they loved them. And that's why you're doing it. Because no one has ever loved you, or cried for you, or cared about you. Because you're sick. Insane. A psychopath."

Peter couldn't breathe he had wasted all of his breath creating emotion and hate into those couple sentences. He gasped quietly to regain his oxygen, feeling blood in his palms from how tight he had gripped his hands. Thanos was looking down, for once silent, the ship silent, nothing but Peter's heavy breathing and the small groan of the engine. The gauntlet hanging limp at the titan's side.  

"That's why I'm not dead," Peter said, his whole body trembling. His voice shook as well, cracking with emotion and strain. He lowered his voice but not the power behind the words and stepped even closer to Thanos. "You want to prove that you are good, that your word means something. But it doesn't. You've ruined yourself, and there's no going back."

He stopped talking and silence overtook the ship for a solid minute. Peter's hands were cramped within the medal but he didn't care. He had shaken the titan. He had done what Thanos had done to him- gotten inside his head. He had done it-

Then suddenly there was a massive pulse of purple light that slammed into him and Peter went flying backward, slamming into the wall and crashing to the floor. He groaned in pain and suddenly he was in mid air again, tossed into the ceiling and then slammed into the floor. His head smacked against the ground and Peter cried out in pain, trying to get to his feet, his vision blurry. 

Thanos was standing over him and as Peter tried to scramble away the titan put a foot on his chest. Peter kicked and struggled, trying to push up on it, looking at Thanos in fear and hate. 

"You remind me of Gamora," Thanos said slowly, looking at Peter with some kind of twisted fondness. He pressed harder and Peter felt a rib snap. He groaned in pain, gritting his teeth.

Thanos bent down to speak to him, putting more pressure on the foot on his chest and Peter wheezed, trying to breathe, squirming beneath the grip.

"She brought out my good. I loved her. And she loved me."

"She didn't love you," Peter gasped and a dark expression came over the titan's face. He let up his foot and grabbed Peter by the shoulder, probably dislocating it from how fast he yanked him up. Peter saw the fist coming, and knew blocking it would do no good. It hit him in the face and Peter's head whipped to the side. He coughed up blood, letting out a cry of pain. Thanos let him drop and Peter crumpled to the ground.

"You killed Gamora," Peter choked out angrily, pain coursing through his body to the point where Peter could barely stay conscious. There was blood in his mouth, like iron to his taste buds. 

"And not a day goes by that I don't regret that," Thanos snapped, before his voice became gentler, "but I can't change what I did. She was a fighter, like you. My daughter. My little warrior. She defied me, hated me even, despised me," Thanos chuckled, "just like you."

Peter snapped his head up and scrambled backward, his bad shoulder buckling beneath him. "I'm not your son," Peter spit in disgust. 

"You don't have a father," Thanos said and Peter's face contorted into hurt and pain. But for some reason, the jab didn't seem like it was meant to have an intention of hurt. It wasn't meant to cause him any suffering. It was a fact, a plead almost, like a reasoning.

"You're messed up," Peter said weakly. 

"The universe could correct itself with you by my side Peter," Thanos said

Peter shook his head, still backing up as the titan loomed over him. There came a time where he couldn't crawl backward anymore. Peter hit a wall and he forced himself to his feet, standing off against Thanos who's brow knitted. He straightened with difficulty due to his busted ribs and raised his head, glaring at the confused titan, speaking through gritted teeth.

"I do have a father," he hissed. "His name is Tony Stark."

Thanos smiled to himself, shaking his head. "Tony Stark," he said thoughtfully. "The man who betrayed the universe for one boy, but will lose all the same."

Peter scoffed, "You don't know him then."

 

Thanos smiles, "Maybe not. I guess we'll see."

"I guess we will," Peter snarled. 

Thanos stood and walked over, Peter tensing until he realized the titan was walking past him. He started to relax, turning his head to watch him go past, when suddenly his spider senses tingled and he reacted too late. Thanos' arm lashed out and grabbed his bad shoulder, dragging him backward. Peter cursed his sluggish, pain ridden spider sense and cried out, struggling and kicking as Thanos pulled him across the floor. Peter tried to stand but every time his ankle buckled beneath his weight from the weird angle Thanos was holding him at. 

Peter's feet skidded across the stone and he thrashed, his bound hands useless in front of him. Thanos tightened his grip and Peter whimpered. "You're not holding up your end of the deal," he groaned, squeezing his eyes shut from the pain as he arched his back, his shoulder feeling like it was going to pop out of his socket at any point. 

"Oh I am. I'm just taking Tony out of the fight," Thanos said lowly. 

Peter looked up at him, trying to bend his right knee and push himself up with effort so he could stagger with the titan, still unable to compete with his strength. "You're cheating. You know Tony is the strongest-" Peter cried out but kept talking despite the pain, "you know he can hurt you- you're worried- that's not- fair-"

Thanos opened the door at the end of the hall and tossed Peter into a cell, walking in after him. Peter slammed into the ground, crying out in pain, coughing up more blood, choking on another scream as he tried to get to his feet. He wobbled when he did, immediately collapsing back onto his hands and knees, too weak to stand. He settled to leaning on his forearms, trying to steady his breathing, his knees trembling to give out and let him fall flat on the ground again.

Everything was spinning. Peter only felt pain, blood, and tears. Dust littered the ground, and littered him since he had been thrown across it. The darkness threatened to swallow him up, the ringing in his ears overwhelming him. Thanos' voice broke through the barrier of unconsciousness, unfortunately keeping him awake. Peter just wanted this to be over.

"Life isn't fair. Fate isn't fair. But I won't let anything stand in my way. You're right. I'm afraid of becoming a monster, but if I have to jeopardize my morals to achieve my goals, then I must."

"Jeopardize your- buddy, those were jeopardized a long time ago-" Peter laughed, earning a kick in the stomach that flipped him into a wall. 

Peter didn't get up from that one. He was breathing in short gasps, bloodied and bruised, barely able to see from a swelling eye. He coughed weakly and crumpled onto his side, the metal binding his hands scraping along the floor. Blood painted the stones around him and Peter found it hard to breathe and in panic he looked at the gauntlet but the stones remained dim. What normal breathing was now, was the same torture Thanos had first done to him, seconds before he had gotten here. 

Peter blinked, trying to gain his bearings and not tip over. He let out a weak groan, his head drooping to the floor, sweat covered bangs falling in front of his bloodshot eyes that struggled to remain open.

Thanos loomed over him, "I enjoyed getting to know you Peter. I hope- that when this is all over, you are one of the ones left standing to see the paradise."

"You know," Peter whispered, spitting out blood and trying to make his voice sound a little less of the whimper it was, pain overriding every single sense he had. "If my hands weren't encased in metal, I'd totally- give you the middle finger," he gasped out weakly. "But since they are, I think I'll settle with screw you."

Thanos smiled. 

Chapter Text

"Sir they've entered the atmosphere," FRIDAY relayed.

Tony landed on the lower level on one knee, with so much force he cracked his own floor. Steve came in, walking at his side in big strides, his shield clenched in his hand. 

"Always with the entrance," Steve teased with little humor showing in his voice. 

"You know it," Tony responded thinly. Bucky, Sam, Wanda, Clint, and Natasha flanked Steve. Rhodey, Dr. Strange, and Vision were at Tony's side. Nebula, Drax, Mantis, and Quill brought up the rear, in the windows of the ranks. Bruce joined them in his Veronica suit, still unable to call on the Hulk.

They all walked out the doors and stood, waiting on the tarmac, weapons raised. Steve tightened his shield around his arm, pulling his helmet over his head. 

"Steve, when this is over, you're losing that stupid headpiece," Tony grumbled. Steve grinned slightly, shaking his head at Tony's attempt to ease the tension. 

"Tony, as much as we love hearing your fashion statements, but now is not the time," Natasha teased, smirking dryly. 

"You guys should seriously take my advice. I've seen what you wear around the compound," he said. "Bruce," Tony coughed quickly. 

"Sweatpants are for casual wear," Bruce defended himself. 

"Watch out, Banner's getting angry," Sam joked. 

Bruce rolled his eyes, used to any joke involving the words 'angry', 'anger', 'hulk out', or 'green'. He sighed, "Shut up, I'm not-I can't, remember-"

"They will be arriving in 40 seconds," Vision advised, the android's calming voice rippling through the ranks as everyone readied themselves, staring at the currently blank sky. Not a cloud in sight, the sun slowly setting, the moon barely visible, like it was covered with thin layers of blue.

Tony's breath hitched in his throat and he grew restless. He turned and looked at his team. They could win this...right?

Dr. Strange nodded at him. Quill nodded again. Tony gave them all a subtle head raise of understanding and shut the helmet, his screen blinking to life and illuminating the world around him. 

"FRIDAY, everything ready?" Tony asked nervously. 

"Yes sir," FRIDAY said. 

"Good. Let's kick his-" Tony snarled. 

"Language," Steve interjected weakly. 

There was a sudden low grumble and Mantis pointed up, her antanae twitching, "Look!"

The ship emerged from the clouds, descending slowly, the wind strengthening around them. Although still a massive ship, it was smaller than what Tony had expected.

Nebula provided reason to his doubt, "He's detached a pod from the Sanctuary."

If that was a pod...holy crap. How big is the real ship? Tony took a deep breath, curling his fists. 

Rhodey checked his watch, "Hey at least he's got common courtesy. He didn't keep us waiting."

I don't give a crap about his manners, thought Tony, he's got my kid. If Peter wasn't in one piece he swore he would rip that titan to shreds. 

The ship landed on the spot marked by Quill. 'LAND UGLY A** SHIP HERE DOUCHEBAG' It touched down, crushing the concrete from it's weight, all black with smoke curling off of the sides. It was about 10 times bigger than Quill's ship and roughly 100 times more intimidating. 

"Drop your socks and grab your crocks, it's about to get wet on this ride," Tony warned, a massive gun materializing in his hand, repulsor at the center. 

"We stop him, at all costs," Steve said firmly. "Do not let him get the stones. Quill, Strange, you know what to do. This is it. The fight of our lives. Stay sharp, watch each other's 6."

Everyone nodded, uneasy.

Steve took a deep breath. "Either we win, or we go down fighting."

The ramp lowered and Tony narrowed his eyes, wanting to immediately blow up the titan that walked down the ramp. 

 

Thanos looked around, his gaze falling on the Avengers, immediately locking with Tony who receded his helmet to stare the titan right in the eyes. 

"Tony Stark. You've held up your end of the bargain," Thanos noticed, his eyes flicking to Vision and the necklace around the wizard's neck.

"Yeah, I did," Tony snapped.

"You betrayed your friends, to save one boy," Thanos cocked his head. 

"He's next in line," Steve lied, keeping up the trick. "We have to deal with you first."

"I don't like your tone," Thanos said, shooting a blast of purple at Cap before anyone could even blink.

"Steve-" Tony warned too late.

Cap raised his shield but even then it blew him backward, Tony reaching and missing to try and catch him. Natasha slid to his side, helping him to his feet. 

"You're gonna pay for that," Bucky snarled, shooting Cap a look who nodded, letting him know he was ok as he limped back to the ranks, hand over his ribs. 

Thanos glared at him for his audacity and Tony quickly stepped forward. "Hey, purple people eater, yea. Don't single out. Be inclusive." Tony just wanted teh attention away from any one person. Thanos could probably kill every single one of them 1 v 1, but together...together they stood a chance, and he would do anything to get that.

"Yet still protective over them," Thanos notices, his gaze sweeping across the Avengers and Gaurdians. "It seems like you protect everyone Tony, even some new faces. But who protects you?"

"You have him in the ship," Tony swore before he looked over his shoulder. "And they do too. They try," he joked. "I'm reckless, I know that. I'm a mess. But we're all a mess. And we get the job done. We're stronger than you think."

"You're arrogant," Thanos corrected, smiling. 

Tony had had enough of Thanos' talk. "Where's my kid?" he snarled. 

Thanos smiled, looking down. "Peter is here, yes. I left him inside though."

Thanos wanted to take him out of the fight. Smart. It could be a trap. Tony didn't care. Peter was inside that ship and he was going to get him out, even if that was exactly what Thanos wanted. 

"You all are fighting for the wrong side," Thanos stated, shaking his head. 

"You killed Gamora," Quill yelled, stepping forward, Mantis, and Drax stepping with him angrily, tears in all of their eyes. "You are a monster," Quill hissed. 

"Your own daughter," Nebula said quietly. Her expression changed and she pulled out her knife, swearing, "She will be avenged. I will take pride in watching you bleed out."

"Nice," Rhodey scoffed at the brutality of Nebula's statement.

"Daughter," Thanos smiled knowingly, "You of all people know I can never be killed."

"Everything can be killed," Rhodey snapped. "You just have to hit it hard enough."

"Human kind is naive. And weak," Thanos spat. 

"Yeah, why don't you see how weak we are," Tony challenged. "Bring it grape."

He fired the first shot and the rest of the Avengers followed suit, spreading out and sprinting forward, or flying, immediately attacking the titan. Cap went for Thanos' legs while Dr. Strange lashed Thanos' waist with weird red vines. Rhodey, Sam, Vision and Quill all shot forward, pelting Thanos with a massive amount of bullets. 

"Tony!" Steve yelled, holding out his shield. Tony shot a beam at it's center, deflecting it off the metal and into Thanos' chest. Drax lept onto Thanos' back and Mantis grabbed onto Thanos' leg and closed her eyes, trying to will the titan to sleep.

Vision combined beams with Tony, hitting Thanos straight in the chest. Clint shot arrow after arrow on the side with Bucky, Nat sprinting in a circle, trapping Thanos' foot with an electric clasp. Wanda was hovering just above them, making sure none of the Avengers got shot by their own fire.

Cap threw his shield, hitting Thanos in the face before Tony blasted forward, punching him with the force of 1000 fists straight in the jaw. 

He went tumbling because of the rough impact, the armor around his wrist shattering from the force. It quickly rebuilt itself and Tony looked up as Thanos let out a yell, exploding his arms upward and flicking his fingers. A pulse of purple threw half the Avengers at least 30 feet away, tumbling onto the pavement, leaving the others to fend for themselves. 

Tony shot forward, tackling Vision out of the air as Thanos made a swipe and teh titan growled, soon distracted by the early rising Avengers while Tony hissed at Vision, "Come on Viz! We talked about this. Don't let him get close to you- he'll rip that darn thing right out of your head."

Vision nodded, before he and Tony returned to the fight, causing damage where they could, but really working on catching people that Thanos hurtled away. 

Wanda went for Thanos, shooting red beams at him and he fired back with a purple bolt which she stopped with her magic, sliding a few feet back. Sam swooped in, kicking Thanos in the face and Drax slid by, slashing at his waist and catching an arrow from Clint. Drax let out a war crazed yell, stabbing it right between the titan's legs and then Quill spiraled down, shooting the titan once in the face and then grabbing his arm, pulling him away from the explosion. 

Thanos made an enraged punch at Natasha who had stabbed him in the back with a spear. The spear snapped and she ducked but Bruce landed between them, catching Thanos' punch and smacking it away. He and Thanos engaged in a fist fight, the Avengers helping where he could but one blast from the reality stone had the machine he and Tony built crumple into a ball, Bruce inside. 

"BRUCE!" Nat screamed.

"It'll wear off-" Nebula yelled into the comms.

"Nat move!" Clint urged, shooting an arrow at Thanos' arm that tried to whack her to the side. Natasha rolled backwards and Bucky took her place, firing his machine gun at the titan's face before he and Cap took on Thanos together, fighting hand to hand, speed and agility competing with the titan's strength. 

He pulsed with the space stone and suddenly Cap and Bucky were gone. Tony whrilled and they suddenly reappeared, crashing into Mantis and Quill. 

"20 seconds and we're ready!" Clint relayed, taking cover behind the nearest jet. 

FRIDAY began counting as Tony's brain whirled. 20 seconds. They had 20 seconds. 20-

"19 seconds..." FRIDAY said. 

Tony saw his friends go at Thanos and fail, almost in slow motion, tossed aside as if they weighed nothing and crushed into the ground. 

17...16...

He spiraled forward, Cap jumping at his side and together they kicked Thanos down.

15...14...

Cap shoved the end of his shield into Thanos' stomach and Tony lifted his arm and blasted the end, trying to make the edge of the metal sink into the titan's chest. 

13...12...

Thanos clenched his fist and suddenly Tony and Steve were dragged forward. The titan sat up and grabbed both of them with each hand.

11...10...

Tony got launched, literally thrown to the side and Steve was gripped around the throat.

Tony crashed to the ground, hitting a rock to stop his fall, small pebbles falling down as he moved to get on his hands and knees, groaning. 

"Multiple cocussions detected," FRIDAY reported. 

"Yeah, I detected those too," Tony said back.

"Someone get Cap outta there, now!" someone yelled from the comms.

 

Tony looked up and saw Thanos still gripping Steve, the Avengers fire slowing, knowing they could hit their friend. Tony readied his thrusters, crouching for the right opportunity.

'Come on fight Steve,' Tony thought. 

Cap struggled, elbowing Thanos' stranglehold, trying to break it, but this was a titan. It still distracted Thanos as much as he needed and Tony thought, 'That's my man.'

He shot himself forward, slamming his whole body through Thanos' right arm while he turned and was off balance, the one that was holding Cap by the throat.

"4 seconds sir!"

Steve dropped as Thanos stumbled backwards and Tony didn't waste any time trying to go in for another hit. He immediately kicked off Thanos' chest and grabbed Cap's arm, firing up his boosters and getting him in the heck out of there. Cap hung on as Tony pulled him into the sky and he dove for the far right, out of the target zone. They crashed to the ground, rolling to a stop and Tony looked up at Thanos. 

"FRIDAY, Give him hell," Tony demanded. 

"With pleasure."

The guns on the compound all turned towards Thanos who looked at the deserted circle around him.

"Clear!" Clint yelled.

The guns fired and everything errupted into a cloud of bullets and smoke, flashes making Tony feel like he was going to have a stroke. He flew shakily over to Cap's side and clapped him on the shoulder.

"You good?" Tony asked.

Cap nodded that he was ok, coughing and Tony couldn't spend time and babysit. He shot over to the tall concrete structure they had removed from the renovating building. Anything underneath it would be crushed...hopefully.

Rhodey and Vision clenched the sides with him and together they lifted it into the air, hearing the guns fire ahead of them, all hitting their mark of the titan. The ground was trembling with each blast but above all the fire they could hear the titan yelling, but it didn't sound like he was in pain, more like anger.

"Tip now," Vision directed, and Tony's visuals agreed with his judgement. The top of the massive chunk of concrete tipped, heading straight for the titan. The impact blew them all backward and Tony stablized himself in mid air. 

There was silence. 

"Did we do it?" someone asked, he thinks Clint. 

"No, he's not dead," Nebula responded. "But he should be wounded."

"What is with this guy?" Rhodey swore as the ground started to shake.

"Brace!" Steve yelled from the comms, Tony looking over at his friend who was back on his feet. 

Everything exploded in front of their eyes with a blast of purple, tossing people 15 feet back or more. Thanos stood in the middle section of the rubble, seemingly uninjured, just winded and he snarled, the power stone on the gauntlet glowing bright. 

"Tony, get Peter," Steve said. "He's angry, we can keep him occupied."

"No I can't just-" Tony protested. 

"He's too pissed off to notice you're gone. You'll get him before he even realizes it! Go!" Steve demanded, waving his hand at Tony toward the ship.

"We might not get another shot at this, Steve's right!" Natasha yelled, somersaulting away from a blast and getting tackled by Nebula, narrowing avoiding another one. "Get the kid!" she yelled, nodding in thanks to their new friend. 

Drax yanked a piece of rock off of Sam in the background and Quill grabbed Clint, repositioning him once Thanos had found out where he was located.

They were all taking care of one another. They could do this.

 

"We'll hold him," Rhodey assured him. "We've got this man. Go."

Tony hesitated, then burst into the sky, flying until he knew Thanos couldn't see him. He looped and dove towards the ship, slowing and shooting up the ramp and immediately sliding against the wall and freezing, turning off his suit so no light would be emitted. He held his breath, hoping that his position wouldn't be given away.

"You're clear, go," came the call from what sounded like Wanda, who was closest and Tony raised his repulsor, his palm lighting up the hallway. He looked around and kept walking, all the hallways looking the same. 

"FRIDAY, give me a scan of this place," Tony requested. 

"Scanning. One moment," she said. Blue light flooded the hallways, disappearing around corners. A screen came up on his display, showing the blueprint of the ship. 

"Scan for heat signatures," Tony said hurriedly. 

He walked deeper into the hallways, and once he turned and saw he was far enough away he yelled, "PETER! PETE! KID?"

"I have one heat signature 50 yards away," FRIDAY said. "Continue straight then take a left."

"PETER! Talk to me kid!" Tony yelled, shining his light down the hallway. "PETER!"

There came a muffled sound and Tony froze. "Peter?"

There was a muffled sound again and Tony walked faster, taking the left that FRIDAY had told him and walking even faster down the hallway. "PETER!"

He turned right and there was a small door, bolted with a large latch. He banged on it, "Kid!"

The sound was still muffled, but it was joined with a clanging noise and Tony stepped backward and blasted the door off it's hinges. 

The boy in the back corner winced, ducking his head and Tony barged in, looking around desperately. His eyes fell on the teen and his heart stopped. It wasn't a cell, it was a small engine room, with machines covering the back wall. He couldn't help but see the side walls were torn up, rubble on the floor from some sort of impact. But his prime focus was on Peter, bound by what looked like metal to the pole on the farthest generator in, wedged in between the wall and the main machine.

 

There was a gag in his mouth and he was struggling, crying out what sounded like Tony's name. Even in the dark and with his body curled up in an uncomfortable position due to how the titan had left him Tony could see the damage done to him. He started forward with a soft, "Oh God...Pete-"

Then Peter's tear filled eyes widened and he screamed through the gag. 

FRIDAY's call rang out to late as something materialized behind him. Tony barely had time to turn, seeing a massive figure in his peripherals, distracted by Peter's awful, blood chilling scream. 

A knife plunged right through his side. Through armor, through skin, through everything. Tony felt it enter one side and come out the other and he looked down in shock, blood rushing from the wound the minute it emerged through his stomach. He choked, gasping, his eyes focusing on the glint of the knife's tip, covered in blood poking out of his chest. With every tiny movement the knife had it made Tony's stomach flip and he almost threw up. His muscles spazzed and Tony went tense, his knees locking as he stared in shock.

The knife moved, twisting in his side and tony let out his first, choked scream, joined by Peter's, as the blase was suddenly yanked out with just as much force as it had been shoved in. The pain was almost greater that time as a large hand pressed down on his shoulder. Tony let out another strangled gasp that turned into a cry of pain, his breathing failing him as he collapsed to his knees, choking on air that he so desperately needed. 

Peter hadn't stopped screaming, the kid in desperate hysterics, screaming through the gag and yanking on his bound hands that trapped him. He was sobbing through the gag, screaming Tony's name and Tony looked up at him, his shaking hands hovering over the stab wound that FRIDAY was already trying to stop by nano particles. 

The pain was immense, so much that Tony barely felt it for the first couple seconds, he just stared at the wound, replaying the sound of the knife going through his side over and over, the crunch of rib- Oh God...

His stomach churned and he felt like he was gonna throw up. He couldn't see for a second, his vision swallowed up by blinding white spots. He opened his mouth and sucked in a breath, clutching his hands against the wound shakily. Oh God...

There was a massive footstep, the figure coming to Tony's side. He didn't have effort to raise his head. He met Peter's eyes which were flicking back between him and whoever was next to him, filled with pure anger, thrashing on his bonds to the point where he was hurting himself in an attempt to get out. He screamed again and that one turned into a cry, Peter shaking as he jerked angrily. 

Tony's breathing was raspy and short, still weak on his knees, his head spinning, his vision blurry. Blood poured through his hands despite the suit trying to patch up the wound on it's own.

"Tony Stark."

He knew that voice.  

 

Tony tried to crawl away, or at least raise a hand to blast the person he knew had stabbed him, in the face. A foot came down, crushing his hand and shattering his repulsor, breaking a finger in the process. Tony let out a choked gasp, unable to move expect to flinch in pain, still gasping, dizzy from the blood loss.

A hand reached down into his field of vision and grabbed his chin, forcefully raising him to look into the cold eyes staring into his soul. 

Thanos smiled. 

Tony winced in pain, trying to stay conscious. "Not possible," he made out. 

"Reality can be such a shame," Thanos said, the red stone gleaming. "I'm not even here. But I can still hurt you."

"So you stab me with a toothpick?" Tony asks, his voice garbled from Thanos' hand gripping his mouth, his body threatening to give up on him if it wasn't for Peter's desperate noises from the corner. He made eye contact with Peter who was straining against his bonds, still whimpering and breathing hard. 

Thanos turns, looking over to Peter who clearly cusses at him. Tony smirks in the titan's grasp. "You said it kiddo."

Thanos slams Tony to the ground and Tony cries out, coughing and groaning in pain. Peter yelled again, yanking on his bonds, glaring daggers at Thanos.

"What a nice reunion," Thanos looked back and forth between the two. Peter gave Tony a painful glance. 

"Let him go," Tony snarled, getting to his hands and knees.

Thanos kicked Tony in the chest, keeping him down. Peter let out a cry of protest, breathing harshly through the gag.

"Peter, you don't like it when he's hurt, do you?" Thanos asked softly. 

Tony looked up at Peter who's gaze was full of pain, staring at Tony with tears in his eyes while he twisted his wrists, pulling against his bonds. He shook his head, his brown hair limp with sweat, plastered to his forehead, covered in blood. 

"Would you rather me hurt you?" Thanos asks. 

"No!" Tony yelled with as much volume as he could. "You've done enough to him. Me, we're just getting started, aren't we?"

Peter cried out in protest and Thanos looked at him, "Just say it Peter. You or him."

It was cruel. Peter couldn't talk because of the gag. The kid realized it, his face scrunching up with hate and anger. 

"Don't do that to him," Tony hissed weakly. 

"Fine," Thanos said simply, before he grabbed Tony's arm, hauling him to his level and pressed the reality stone against his head. 

 

Tony's eyes went into the back of his head and all he felt was pain. He felt Thanos' presence burning through his memories, like fire in his head and he tried to scream in pain but found he couldn't. It was an endless visions cycle that felt like it lasted a year, but was only a couple seconds.

Old memories of him and Pepper, meeting, kissing, discussing a family. 

Peter and him taking that picture he had on his mantle, smiling like fools, Tony's arm protectivly around the kid. 

The fear of watching him get sucked away, not knowing if he'd see him again. 

Peter's scream on the recording, pain filled and raspy, as if worn out. 

Rhodey and him sharing a drink on a late night. 

Happy yelling at him about security things and Tony just smiling to make him mad. 

"I am Iron Man." The moment that changed his life forever. 

He and Cap fighting about the Accords. "GIVE ME A BREAK."

His life flashed before his eyes, jumbled and disorienting.

"Cheeseburger."

"You're done."

"Than we'll do that together too."

"That's not a hug, I'm just grabbing the door for ya."

"Sometimes you gotta run before you walk."

"That man is playing Galaga."

"The one thing I can't live without...and that's you."

"Underoos!"

"I dreamt, we had a kid. We named him after your eccentric uncle."

"Genius billionaire playboy philanthropist."

"Tell me his name again."

"Everyone told me I was crazy to recuit a 14 year old kid- if you're nothing without this suit, you shouldn't have it."

"There's a shwarma joint a couple blocks from here."

"My only curse is you."

"Sometimes I want to punch you in your perfect teeth."

"Well guess what Cap, we lost, and you weren't there."

"PETER!"

 

Then one line that echoed through his mind snapped Tony awake, in pure fear and horror. 

"I think he bought it."

 

The memories immediately came to a jarring halt and suddenly the pain then switched over once Thanos had been in his mind, the light around him switching from red to purple and it was then Tony felt pain incomparable to anything he had ever felt. 

His body crumpled on him and he screamed, his voice breaking. His mind spun and everything came back to him at once, snapping himself out of whatever trance he had been in. Tony gasped on the ground, curling his fists and flinching, coughing and groaning, trying to blink himself back. 

Peter was crying and he whispered a muffled, "Tony?"

Tony couldn't look at him. He hated the kid seeing him like this. He couldn't believe Peter had taken that much pain. Thanos had barely done it to him 5 seconds. On the video call alone it had been 3 times longer and Peter didn't even scream.

Tony coughed again, holding his stab wound that was bleeding out onto the floor. His fingers turned bloody immediately and Tony coughed, sending waves of pain through his side. 

"Smart play," Thanos admitted and Tony looked up weakly, realizing he knew about their plan. "I did buy it. I was convinced. Maybe you don't love the kid as much as he loves you. Since you were faking everything."

Peter looked at him in confusion. 

Tony shook his head, "Shut up. Save the monologue."

"Peter, he never did it to save you," Thanos said. 

"Don't listen to him Pete-" Tony said before he suddenly couldn't breathe. He clutched his throat and Peter flinched, yanking on his bonds and taking a shuddery breath as he looked at Tony in pain. 

Tony choked, writhing on the ground as Thanos manipulated Peter. 

"It was all a set up. The whole call. They planned the whole thing. Everything Stark said was an attempt to trick me into coming here on their own terms, an attempt to catch me off guard. It was scripted. He wrote everything he said. He didn't mean it."

Peter looked back and forth between Thanos and Tony. 

Tony gasped, still unable to breath and he heard Peter mumble something, staring at Tony. To his surprise the titan looked backward and flicked. Suddenly the pressure on Tony's chest was released and he gasped for air, clutching his throat and coughing on his side. 

"Peter he's lying-" Tony said weakly, trying to refill his lungs with air, his vision getting worse. He clenched his hand to his side again, trying to stop the bleeding, wet warm liquid spilling through his fingers. 

"I was in your head Tony," Thanos points out. "Your realities...your perfect realities...they weren't at all like Peter's." He turned to the kid, "Do you want to see them?"

"Peter-" Tony gasped, "Whatever he shows you- it's not real- it wasn't like that-don't listen to him kid!"

The titan walked over and Peter didn't even flinch as Thanos pressed the reality stone against his head. Peter opened his eyes and they were bright red as memories flooded his brain. 

Chapter Text

Peter felt the pain, but he was used to it. The gag was no longer in his mouth and he was healed of all of his previous injuries but he knew that was just because Thanos was creating this perfect reality. Thanos was there, in front of him and Peter glared at him with nothing but hate. Even with the cloth, that had been tied to tightly, gone, Peter didn't have words to say.

Thanos put a hand on his shoulder and Peter shook him off, demanding, "What is this?" He finally found his voice. He looked around, everything becoming a swirling spiral of red and black. No up no down, just endless changing nothingness.

"The truth," Thanos said. Before Peter knew what was happening, the titan reached out and touched Peter's head with his finger.

Everything went black for a second, despite Peter's eyes being wide open. Peter had never been afraid of the dark, but this...this wasn't dark this was...empty. Nothing. We wasn't standing, but he wasn't floating. It was disorienting and Peter hated it. Suddenly a voice rang out and Peter took comfort in it, until he was thrust forward and when he opened his eyes he was back on Titan, Tony standing in front of him with an angry expression on his face. 

"What if someone dies on your watch? Or because you didn't do your job? That's on you now. And if you die... That's- that's on me Parker."

The memory froze and Peter flinched as Thanos appeared next to him. 

"Did it ever occur to you what he was really saying?" Thanos asked simply.

Peter looked up, weakly, "W-what?"

"That's all you are to him Peter. A job. A responsibility. You don't mean anything else to him."

"Shut up," Peter scoffed. "You don't know anything about Tony, or me."

"I've been inside both of your heads, I think I know more about both of you than you know about each other," the titan pointed out. 

That hit home for Peter. He had always known Tony better than anyone. It had been some sort of prideful thing, that he had gotten close to Tony in record time. But now, he was starting to have doubts- no. The titan was manipulating him. That's exactly what he wanted Peter to think. 

Before he could convince himself any further he was thrust into another memory. 

It was on top of a building, Peter in his old suit, yelling at Tony who had walked out onto the roof and was glaring at him.

"Everyone told me I was crazy to recruit a 14 year old kid-"  Tony snapped.

"I'm 15," Peter defended himself weakly.

Anger washed over Tony's face and he stepped forward, making Peter step back. He raised his hand, glaring at him and shaking his head, "No, this is where you zip it! The adult is talking."

They froze and Peter's heart felt clenched. He remembered that day...when Tony had taken the suit. Peter looked down in shame.

"He's degrading you, for wanting to help, for doing your job when he wouldn't listen, and he's yelling at you for it. Peter, does that seem right?" Thanos asked. 

"I see what you're doing. You're taking my side. Stop it," Peter said quietly. "It makes me feel uncomfortable when you agree with me," he said sarcastically. 

"What, we both can't be right? Stark admitted that recruiting you was crazy, a mistake, and that he thought of you as a child. And you let it slip by, why? Because he's Iron Man?"

"He was trying to protect me. Wh-when did he say that?" Peter's brow furrowed. 

"I was crazy to recruit a 14 year old kid-"

Peter straightened. He hadn't remembered that. No, it was simply because Tony was angry, he didn't know what he had said. People say stuff they don't mean when they're angry...right?

"Maybe another example then?" Thanos asked and Peter, red with embarrassment and anger, knew Thanos knew exactly what he was thinking.

"Get out of my head," Peter hissed before the world flipped again and they were back on Titan. 

"Then maybe I was premature on making you an Avenger."

Peter steeled himself. That one had hurt, but Tony hadn't meant that either. He made him an Avenger for a reason, knowing they would come up here, and have to fight. It had just slipped out. Peter pushed away the doubts gnawing at the back of his brain and he shook his head, trying to clear the haze from his eyes.

"He obviously doesn't believe in you. He thinks you're incapable to do the one thing you've wanted your entire life," Thanos says. "But you are capable Peter. You're an Avenger. One of the strongest. You've proved yourself on more than one occasion, yet he refuses to let you do the one thing you've been training to do this whole time."

The memory sped up and Tony sprouted another line. "Well you have to, ok Parker? That's not a request, it's an order."

"Since when does he get to order you like you're some employee of his?" Thanos asks. "He doesn't control you Peter. You're stronger than him."

"St-" Peter shook his head violently, "Just- no."

Peter knew what was coming next. It had hurt him. He just tried to focus on the hurt on Tony's face after he said it, showing that he didn't mean to say that, how bad he felt that he did. It stung either way though, and Peter had been truly hurt by it.

"Then why did you bring me?" Peter yelled. 

Tony spluttered, "I didn't!" 

The image died away, leaving Peter to feel the impact of the words, never getting to see the reassuring pain on Tony's face after he had said those 2 words. It wasn't like it wasn't true. He had told Peter to go home, even tried to force him to by exploding his parachute, but still, Peter had found a way. 

"He didn't even want to bring you Peter," Thanos shook his head sadly. "He never wanted you here. Because you just get in the way with him, you make his job harder because he always has to watch every move, not because he's afraid you'll get hurt, but because he's afraid you will jeopardize his mission."

"That's not true," Peter said weakly, but even his own tone betrayed him. 

The darkness engulfed him and then spat him out seconds before he was pulled away by Thanos so many days before.

"I love you," he said. He wanted him to know.

Silence. Tony's hand missed him completely. But more importantly, the silence. 

"He never said I love you too Peter," Thanos said. Peter hung his head and looked away, his breathing speeding up.

"You told him you loved him and he never said it back."

 

They were losing. Slowly. 

Doctor Strange lashes magical cords around the titan's waist, but that was his mistake. Thanos grabs the cord and yanks, sending Strange reeling. Thanos catches him by the throat and he grabs futilely at Thanos' hand. 

"You're full of tricks wizard. You never once used your greatest weapon," Thanos snarled. 

"No!" Strange yelled as Thanos' hand closed around the Eye of Agamotto. 

Thanos crushed it with his bare hands, muttering, "A fake."

He throws Doctor Strange, hurtling him into a pile of rocks where the doctor lays unconscious. 

Thanos' mind splits and he closes his eyes to enter the other reality, remembering Tony's memories about their plan. 

"Your stone should be a decoy," Tony said, pointing to the wizard. "I agree, we can't risk having both of the stones ready for his taking, but Thanos won't know that."

"My ship is fueled. We could put it on there and in case something goes south I can take it and run," Quill suggested.

Thanos turns and sure enough he sees the Benetar peeking out behind the building. Thanos roars and sends a blast hurtling towards the ship. It explodes on impact and he sees Quill, with a necklace clenched in his hand, turn around with horror on his face. 

Drax roars with anger and he starts forward with Nebula and Bruce but Thanos sends a straight line of energy from the power stones, knocking them all off their feet and onto the ground where they lie unconscious. Then he blasts off Veronica's right arm, making Bruce flinch unconsciously as his suit is ripped from his body. 

Sam dives for him and Thanos grabs one of his wings, wrenching it free and Sam spirals out of control, crashing to the ground. He's stuck under rubble because of his broken wing and Bucky is at his side, wedging a rod beneath the metal crushing him and pushing down, trying to free him. 

Thanos pulses with the space stone and suddenly Quill is standing in front of him, shocked. The man brings up his blaster and gets about two shots off, hitting Thanos' arm but doing nothing before the titan makes his move. He swipes Quill's feet out from under him and slams his foot down on his chest. The man screams in pain, coughing up blood and Thanos leans down, snatching the necklace from his clenched hand, picking him up, and hurtling him away. 

He's caught by Rhodey who sets him down behind a pile of rubble as Quill groans in pain. 

Thanos crushes the real necklace in his hand and the stone floats into the air. 

Cap screams, "No!" He throws his shield as hard as he can, swirling towards Thanos. 

The titan catches the end of it before it can hit and tosses it aside, locking the stone in place. He clenches his fist and roars in pain, power flowing through him. 

Cap looks up in fear, Rhodey retrieving his shield since he's the only one flying now. Cap locks it in place and stands in shock. One stone left. Vision.

"Cap, what do we do?" Clint says, an arrow ready to fly at Thanos, but even he knows it will act as nothing but a distraction. They've tired themselves out fighting this titan and he's not even bleeding. 

"Wanda, stay with Vision. We can't let him get this last stone. This ends now," Cap says firmly. 

Nat looks at the sunrise behind the titan who is regaining his bearings. She gives Cap a tense smile. "There are worse ways to go. Where else am I gonna get a view like this?"

She had said that on Sokovia, but Cap thinks this might be it. This might be how they go down. He doesn't know what to say back. 

Cap tightens his shield and starts the run forward. 

 

Peter watches something that must be one of Tony's memories, because he's not present and after a couple seconds he realizes this is the plan they had made. The plan to call Thanos, bargain with him, and when Thanos threatened to kill Peter, have Tony 'betray' everyone and plead to spare his life, giving in to the titan's request. Peter was a little nervous, knowing that everything that had happened was part of a plan, but that didn't mean that Tony was just reading lines...did it? 

"I'll make it convincing. Heck, I'll even cry, shed some tears for that bastard," Tony scoffed.

The memory sped up and Tony was speaking again. 

"This is the only option we have. We need to get to Thanos. We need him here, we need him now, on our own terms, our own times. What better way to fake this than for him to think I've cracked?"

"Cracked?" Thanos asked. "He played you. He played me. He never cared about what he did to you. It was about getting me where the team wanted me. Don't you see Peter? He's tricked both of us. How does it feel to know all that was just acting, it was fake, it was scripted, every line, everything... None of it meant anything to him. Just rehearsed words."

Peter pressed his lips together, gulping, but said nothing. Maybe if he didn't say anything, Thanos wouldn't know he was getting to him. The smile Thanos had on meant that Peter's silence was answer enough. 

The scene changed and Nebula and Tony were sitting in the kitchen at the table.

"There's nothing I wouldn't do for my team that kid ya know? If Thanos told me to stab myself in order to save one of them the kid, I'd do it."

"But Peter...he's...different."

Peter was shocked by that one. Did Tony really say that? He couldn't have...

Thanos shook his head sadly, "He wouldn't die for you. He doesn't need you. Not like you need him."

"If  You're nothing without this suit. then You shouldn't have it."

Part of Peter's mind knew that wasn't right. That wasn't what Tony had said. Or maybe he had just heard him wrong. Maybe it was Peter desperately trying to believe he meant something to Tony, switching around his memories for his own good.

Peter stayed quiet. 

Thanos put a hand on his shoulder, "He told you so Peter, he confirmed your worst fears. You're nothing to him, or to yourself. But not to me."

Peter looked up at him, for once, with a calm expression. 

"Help me Peter. You're strong, and I'm the only one-" Thanos roared in pain as a metal rod went through his shoulder. The world around him changed, glitching and Peter stumbled back in shock. 

Thanos howled, seething with gritted teeth, as the rod was pulled out and Thanos dropped to his knees. The minute he hit the floor Peter opened his eyes, breathing hard, trying to scramble away. He found he couldn't go anywhere; his hands were bound to the machine. He groaned in pain, muffled from the gag over his mouth. 

Peter looked up and saw Tony there, still holding his bleeding side with one hand, but the other hand was holding the rod he had shoved into Thanos' shoulder. 

Tony grabbed Thanos by his bad shoulder and blasted him into the far wall, stepping in front of Peter and snarling, "Get away from my kid."

Thanos was limp against the wall and he chuckled, pain lacing his tone. Tony was breathing hard, his repulsor out and heated to fire. Thanos gave one last look at Peter, then turned to Tony. He cocked his head. "I hope they remember you."

He dissapeared into a cloud of swirling red matter and Tony sank to his knees, coughing. 

Peter strained against his bonds, shouting his name, muffled from the cloth. Tony couldn't make out anything else he said.

Tony groaned, wincing in pain and he pulled himself over to where Peter was trapped. 

"Hey kid," Tony said weakly, cupping Peter's cheek lightly before he reached and blasted through the pole that Peter's arms were locked around. Peter was mumbling through the gag, still breathing hard as Tony took the metal casing in his hands. FRIDAY planned out a flickering path to cut which he followed, freeing Peter's hands from the metal cuffs. Then Tony reached up, wincing at the sharp pain in his side from the movement and he pulled the gag off of Peter's head, tossing it aside. 

The kid gasped, coughing up blood and Tony grasped his shoulders, holding him steady, "Easy bud, easy. You with me? Hey, look at me, talk to me kid," Tony said urgently, lifting Peter's head gently so that he locked eyes with him. 

Peter grinned, licking his split lip and leaning into Tony's arms that supported him, "About time you showed up."

Tony held back a laugh, ruffling his hair. "God..." he choked out. 

"Hey...Tony," Peter said weakly, just to say his name, looking up at him and grasping his forearms in return. Tony flinched, realizing his voice was even more raspy than it had been on the recording, and he looked twice as bad. But relief visibly flooded through the kid and Peter took a deep breath, sounding like it was the first one in a long while.

Then his gaze flicked down to his side that Tony was clasping with his bloodied hand and he reached for it, "No- Tony- your side-"

"I'm fine kid, promise," Tony assured him, gently pulling his hand way from where Peter's fingers trembled, hovering above the cut. 

Tony couldn't tell him how happy he was to have him back. He sighed, looking at Peter with pride and he grasped Peter's shoulder firmly. Their gazes said everything and Tony lowered his head before Peter could see the tears in his eyes.

He bit his lip, looking up again at Peter with guilt, "Peter everything he did to you. I'm sorry- it's my fault and I- I should have said it back. There was time to. I was just in shock and I realized I could lose you- and then I did lose you-" Tony spluttered. 

I love you too.

"I know," Peter said, wincing in pain but still managing to smile.

"Did you seriously just quote Stark Wars on me?" Tony laughed weakly. "I do not want a single pop culture reference out of you for the next month, understand?"

Peter gave a week laugh and Tony cupped the back of his head with his hand, Peter's curls damp and tangled under his fingers. He brought his hand back, lightly punching Peter's chest, a gesture they always did in the lab, making the boy laugh and smack his hand back, grinning.

"Don't you ever- don't you ever step in front of me again, you hear me?" he said firmly.

"No promises," Peter grinned, not joking at all.

Tony sighed and rubbed a hand over his face, reminding himself that getting attached to the kid was the reason he had gotten into this mess in the first place.

Then he and Peter exchanged glances and Tony nodded. Again, so much was said in a simple second of eye contact. 

"Peter," Tony said nervously. "What he showed you, whatever he did..."

"I know," Peter coughed, nodding firmly. "I never should have believed anything he said. I'm sorry."

"No Pete, don't say sorry. You didn't do anything wrong. I'm just sorry I couldn't get to you sooner," he said weakly, smiling slightly at his kid.

Peter brushed it off, shaking his head, "This isn't your fault. None of it was."

Agree to disagree and both of them knew it. Tony clasped the kid's shoulder one more time, realizing he had to wait until he could talk to the kid, give him a proper hug, tell him that he was like a son to him- all that had to wait because their friends were outside and they needed help.

"Come on Underoos, let's get out of here," Tony said weakly, helping Peter up and slinging the kid's arm around him. 

After a few steps however, Tony faltered and would have fallen if it had not been for Peter who slipped an arm under him, and shifted his weight so that Tony was leaning on Peter. 

"That's not how it's supposed to work," Tony grumbled, trying to shift his weight back.

"Shut up old man," Peter said.

"That's it, you're grounded," Tony decided, shoving his pain down so Peter wouldn't know how bad the stab wound really was. 

It worked; Peter laughed as they limped down the hallway. 

 

Wanda ran backward with Vision until they were against the compound's wall. 

"Wanda, stay back. Do not engage!" Rhodey yells. She nods firmly, helping Vision, who had been caught full in the chest by one of Thanos' blast lean against the stone. 

He looks at her and she begs him not to say it but he does. "Wanda," he brushes her hair behind her ear, breathing hard, "it's- it's time."

"No," Wanda shakes her head firmly. "No."

"They can't stop him Wanda, they're getting hurt. Please, you can stop him-" Vision pleads. 

Wanda looks over her shoulder and knows he's right. Thanos is even more powerful. She watching one by one as her friends fall, Bruce getting to the titan first and swinging but with one clench of his hand Bruce is somehow immaterial and he sinks into the ground, rocks closing around him. 

Cap is launched off his feet before he can even throw his shield or a single punch. Sam, dipping in the sky from the loss of his wings, fires his pistols but Thanos simply bats him aside, snapping off his other wing during the fall.

"Look at me," Vision directs and Wanda turns around with tears in her eyes. He grabs her hand, "You have the power to destroy the stone."

"Don't," she says through gritted teeth. Some people might have thought she was angry. Which she was. It wasn't fair. She didn't know what else to say. 

"You must do it, Wanda, please. We. Are. Out of time," he says breathlessly, giving her a brave smile. 

She puts up a forcefield of red without even looking, disintegrating a piece of rebounding degree that had headed straight for them. Dust settled around them and Wanda shook her head again. 

"I can't," she said weakly. 

Vision pulled her closer, nodding encouragingly, his eyes filled with pain, "Yes. Yes, you can. If he gets the stone, half the universe dies- Wanda, please."

"It's not fair," she whispers. 

Vision nods, "It shouldn't be you, but it is. It's all right. You could never hurt me. I just- feel you." He guides her hand until it's level with the stone as he gets down on his knees. Her fingers instinctively move to their familiar position, her fingertips sparking with red energy. 

He gives her a nod and she bites her lip, letting a stream of energy hit the direct center of the stones, Vision's mouth opening in awe. 

She looks behind her again with tearful eyes, seeing Rhodey dive at the titan who crushes his suit with the reality stone, sending Rhodey tumbling away, immobile. Bucky fires round after round, all direct hits, because the Winter Solider never misses but he's punched in the gut and blown backward, his head hitting a rock, immediately knocking him unconscious. Natasha slides under a swing from the titan and attempts a strike but her hand freezes in mid air and Thanos, turning, the space stone gleaming bright blue, flips her away and as she sinks into the ground, rocks cover her, pinning her to the destroyed ground.

Running out of time she adds her left hand in another stream, her hair whipping across her face as she whirls her head at the sound of a yell. Cap ducks a punch and throws his sheild. Thanos bats it away but Cap keeps going and as Thanos brings his gauntlet down Cap catches it, looking up at Thanos and screaming, keeping the gauntlet from clenching, gripping Thanos' fingers with all of his might and pushing back. 

The titan hits him in the side of his head and Cap goes down, immediately unconcious, possibly dead from that hit to the head. Wanda bites her lip, swallowing a sob. She makes eye contact with Vision before turning and shooting a beam at Thanos who unexpectedly pushes back, originally sliding back a few steps. She fights to fend him off and he shoves backward with his energy shield, slowly gaining on them. 

Wanda knows she has to do it, and she turns, holding back Thanos with one hand and locking eyes with Vision, tears falling freely. 

"It's all right. I love you," Vision says softly. 

Wanda pulses, the mind stone cracking and a wave of relief comes over Vision's face as the yellow crystal explodes, the whole ground shaking, fragments of the Mind stone littering the ground that Wanda sinks to. 

If Thanos kills her right then and there, she might almost thank him. The titan walks forward to where Wanda is limp on the ground, crying. He puts a gentle hand on her head, as if to somehow comfort her. 

"I understand, my child. Better than anyone," Thanos says. 

She looks up with hate and snarls, "You could never."

"Today, I lost more than you can know. But now is no time to mourn. Now... is no time at all." He clenches the gauntlet and makes a circle around his wrist. The dust that had settles picked back up and Wanda realizes what he's doing too late. 

"NO!"

 

Cap stirred, blinking, searing pain splitting in his skull. He let out a groan, gritting his teeth and finally got the energy to raise himself, his forearms shaking as he got to his hands and knees. Cap stood swaying, and regained his bearings, the world spinning on him. 

It was eerily quiet, the wind blowing softly, dust floating around the exploded tarmac. 

"Steve?"

Cap turned around at the sound of his friend's voice, relieved he was still alive, but his smile soon fell. He and Bucky locked eyes and he froze, watching as Bucky's arm withered away into dust. Bucky looked at it in confusion, as if examining his hand before looking back at Steve. His gun dropped out of his hand that was no longer there, hitting the ground with a hollow clatter.

As he fell the rest of his body turned to dust before he even hit the ground. Cap started forward, the scream dying in his throat, his heart stopping, his hands shaking. Steve fell to his knees, brushing the pile of dust with his hand that had just been his best friend. His gun lay vacant on the pile of grey ash. 

"Guys-" he choked out, his voice tackled by pure shock. He looked up in horror, trying to figure out what happened.

He saw Rhodey at Sam's side, holding his arm as the Falcon tried to sit up. Sam made eye contact with Cap, and then he fades into dust without a word, floating away into the wind. Rhodey grabbed at him, but all he grabbed was ash, and slowly War Machine's hand unclenched and he sank to his knees by his friend's side. Steve made eye contact with Rhodey who bore the same expression. 

"What-" Steve gasped. 

They both turned and saw Wanda, limp by a fallen Vision's side- the android different shades of grey, a hole in his head where the stone used to be, turn to dust, a tear falling into the pile of ash she turned into. Cap's throat closed, his heartbeat speeding up now as he whirled, pleading this to be a dream, pleading this to be hell if he somehow died, if that's what happened. He would rather die and have this be eternal hell for him then to live in this reality. 

Thanos had snapped, hadn't he? He had gotten all the stones. Half the universe was going to die. They didn't stop him. Screams echoed from afar, the ground shaking, small rattling explosions sounding from all around. The titan was no where to be found. 

"There was no other way," Doctor Strange murmured, and Steve spun. The doctor nodded gravely at Cap who gasped and started forward, breathing hard. He stopped in his tracks as Doctor Strange dissolved peacefully. 

"No- this-" Steve stumbled on his words. 

"Something's happening," Mantis said fearfully and Cap turned toward where the gaurdians and Nebula were standing, all helping each other to their feet. 

She disintegrated before their eyes and Drax whispered, "No-", trying to reach for her, but then his hand was turning to dust as well. 

"Quill?" Drax said fearfully, Quill staring in horror as Drax fades into dust as well, looking up into the sky. 

Quill gets an awful look over his face and Cap starts forward. "Quill? Steady-"

"Oh man," Quill says quietly, disappearing, his body crumbling and being blown away in the wind. 

Cap turned around, panic setting in as he looked at the dust being blown into the air. He made eye contact with his remaining friends, tears filling his eyes and he took gasping breaths, falling to his knees. 

"Oh God."

 

Tony his limping towards the ramp of the ship when suddenly Peter stumbles. 

"Kid, kid, hey, I gotcha, come on, just a little further," he says firmly, clutching a hand against his side. 

"T- Tony?" Peter asks weakly. Tony freezes. He's heard that tone only once before, during a mission where Peter had gotten stabbed and almost bled out on him. 

"I don't feel so good," Peter says weakly, clutching his stomach and staggering. 

There's a low rumble and suddenly the ship rocks, jerking to the side. Tony looses his grip on the kid and he shoves Peter backward in a last effort to keep him from falling off the edge and getting even more hurt. Tony goes tumbling down the ramp, Peter stumbling weakly into the wall. 

Tony lands on his bad side, biting his lip so hard he tastes blood in an attempt not to scream. He gasps, blood dripping from his blood and his hands are shaking as he slowly rises onto his knees.

"You're- you're alright," Tony coughs weakly, trying to get to his feet and find Peter, blood pouring out of his wound. He can't make it up the ramp and Peter knows that, the kid coming into view, using the wall as support. 

The kid comes walking down the ramp, swaying and holding his stomach, breathing unevenly, his face pale, his eyes wide with fear, "I don't know what's- I don't know what's happening- I don't-"

He stumbles on the last lip, tripping. Tony catches him, Peter slamming into his arms. Peter grasps him tightly and Tony's heart stops. The teen's arms pull him closer, desperately clutching at him like he's afraid he's going to disappear. Tony does the same, not knowing what's happening, in total shock, but something bad is happening, Tony knows that. Something very very bad.

He wouldn't let Peter get hurt anymore, he wouldn't. Not again. Not when he had just got him back. Tony wraps his arms firmly around his kid, cupping the back of his head, clutching Peter's brown hair to his shoulder as the kid starts to sob.

"I don't want to go, I don't want to go, Mr. Stark please, I don't want to go, I don't want to go-" Peter cries weakly, falling backward. 

Tony tries to keep him upright, he tries so hard, but his ribs are busted and the sharp pain running through his side, blood covering his pants- Tony lowers Peter as softly as he can, but it's hardly soft. They both collapse onto the ground, dust rising up from the impact. 

Peter looks at Tony with tears in his eyes. 

"No," Tony says weakly, or maybe he doesn't say it out loud. He can't think. He can't speak. He just got hit kid back, he can't lose him again. No, God, please no-

"I'm sorry," Peter says, his voice shattering.

Tony clutches his kid's shoulder, his other hand supporting his head. Peter's hand is tightly gripping his forearm and Tony shakes his head, trying to give Peter a brave smile but failing, his face screwed up with fear and pain and pure terror of losing the one person he had just gotten back. The one person he had sworn to protect, to love...the one person he had finally gotten to hug, but it was in the most awful circumstance.

Tony shook his head again, pleading with fate, with destiny, with anyone who was listening, his breathing speeding up as he holds Peter harder. 

He feels the kid's grip loosen and suddenly there's dust on his suit, cracking and flaking. Peter's hand turns to dust, unclenching from Tony's arm. The kid's brown eyes are filled with fear as he looks away. 

The kid turns to dust in Tony's arms, despite how hard he was gripping him, ash falling into his open palm that had once been clutching the back of Peter's head, entwined in his curls.

Tony can't breathe.

He can't think.

Take me too he thinks. If fate wanted to take Peter, take him too. He looks down at his hand and then closes his eyes, gripping the dust into a trembling fist, waiting for his body to fade away as well. But he never does.

Tony stays on the ground, shaking in disbelief, gasping and choking on the air, his jaw clenched, his eyes wide. He lets the dust fall from his hand and slowly gets into a sitting position, looking up at the ash filled sky, taking choked sobbing gasps that just make him hyperventilate more. 

Tony takes a shaky breath, shock kicking in as he puts a hand over his clenched fist and brings it down under his chin, his arm to his sides. 

A tear falls down his cheek and Tony closes his eyes. 

 

 

Author's Note:

FOR THOSE WHO DON'T LIKE THIS ENDING- so I guess everyone because it was harsh. I'm sorry, I had to XD

I wrote a version of endgame before the movie came out, so because of that i will not be writing a sequel  :(   but hopefullyyyyy that can patch this sad ending up :)

https://archiveofourown.org/works/17841668/chapters/42100697

Chapter Text

ok i have no idea who will actually see this but if you do:
someone on fanfic.net website took this work as their own and it seems like no one is running that website anymore meaning that abuse emails do a whole bunch of jack and a little bit of squat. I've contacted the author and they won't take it down so if y'all have an account for there or would like to report it to help me out, please add a comment saying like:
'wth bro this ain't urs' (obv not that idk XD) that would be greatly appreciated <3
Thank you guys!!!

This is the link: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/13375642/1/Collateral-Damage

UPDATE: I THINK THEY TOOK IT OFF! I cannot find the story anymore- it says it’s unavailable. Hopefully that is true, thank you all so much for your help!!! Expect a marvel fic soon!!!