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Apartment 43B

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Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit.

Peter’s running, or trying to run, down an alley, fingers pressing into the bleeding gash in his leg. He winces with every step, the searing pain robbing him of any coherent thoughts. Behind him, he can hear the gang chasing him get closer. He pants harder, choking as he pushes himself further. He has to get out of here.

Now. Now. Now.

He’s out of web fluid.

He can barely walk.

There are spots dancing around the edges of his vision.

Shit.

Peter turns the corner. Stops for just a second, takes stock of his surroundings. He looks up, sees a familiar café and suddenly knows exactly where he is. Harry’s place is here. Just a block down. He can make that. He can make that block.

He knows it’s a bad idea as soon as he starts limping his way over. Harry’s only known he’s Spiderman for a month or so and he probably, totally, definitely isn’t ready for any of this. But Peter’s desperate and tired and hurt and Harry’s place is the only one without parents considering…well.

Peter grits his teeth. He can do this. He has to do this. Just until he regroups. He just needs a place to stitch himself up and just lie down for a bit. Just a bit.

Finally, The Juliana comes into view and Peter can almost cry with relief. He can’t be seen walking inside as Spiderman, especially not a bleeding mess of a Spiderman, so he sticks to the side, climbing his way up slowly. He tries to remember the inside of Harry’s apartment to pick out the view. He’s pretty sure it was south-facing and had a view of the Mill Crest towers from a slightly higher angle.

Peter groans, the wind wailing behind him. He crawls to what he thinks is the appropriate floor number, yeah, number forty-three, and just stares at the row of balconies before perking up. Yes! That one! Yes! With nothing in it.

He flips over the bannister, trying to land on his good leg. The blood pounds in his ears and he stumbles his way over to the glass door. God his head hurts. It pounds like soldiers marching over war-torn earth and he feels something sick bubble at the top of his throat. He presses his forehead against the glass, tries to take deep breaths. He just has to get inside. He just has to get in.

The door is locked but that’s pretty irrelevant considering he could pry it open with just his pinky. With one sharp tug, the door pulls free from its lock, sliding smoothly out of his way. The apartment looks as unsentimental and unlived in as it always does, though there’s something different about it. It’s like the orientation of everything’s been flipped. The kitchen’s at the wrong side, the couches facing the opposite way. But that makes no sense. That makes no sense at all.

Swaying now, the exhaustion creeps up on him and he falls, catching himself at the last second so he can land on the couch. His blood seeps into the fabric. It’s such a nice grey. But Peter feels bad for only a second before the pain steals all his thoughts away. He breathes hard. He can’t breathe. God he can’t breathe. He tugs off the mask, throwing it to the side. His eyelids flutter. He shouldn’t have done what he did tonight. That was dumb. So dumb.

He wishes he was with May.

But she can’t ever know.

Peter’s eyes shut. He can’t even say he fell asleep. He just lost all conscious thought.

 

When he wakes up, there’s a blanket thrown atop of him and the smell of coffee permeating the apartment. Peter’s nose scrunches, his eyes determined to stay shut but his mind urging him to wake. There’s a dull pain in his leg and his ribs are sore and there’s definitely a bruise on his face, but he feels better than he did before he knocked out. Feels alive. Not on the brink of dying a stupid, unnecessary death.

He groans, rubbing at his eye and moving the blanket to see that his thigh wound has been washed and dressed. Peter blinks. There’s no way Harry did this. Harry was a lot of things, but a healthcare connoisseur wasn’t one of them. Did he call Ned? MJ? Oh God he hopes he didn’t. But then who-

“Morning Spiderman.” an unfamiliar voice greets and Peter squeaks, gripping the blanket around him like he was in a PG-13 sex scene.

There’s a man leaning against the wall where the bedroom is, holding a hot cup of coffee and snorting in amusement. He’s older. Middle aged. Hair spiked up, goatee perfectly groomed, something casual in his stance. But Peter can see the confidence, the unshakeable quiet strength of a man who knows how to handle himself in the world. He looks vaguely familiar. Like a childhood friend all grown up.

But still. A stranger.

“Who the heck are you?” Peter’s eyes dart around, “Where’s Harry??”

The man takes a sip from his cup like he is supremely unbothered by Peter’s rising panic. “I don’t know who Harry is, but I’m Tony.” he gives him a look, somewhere between amused and wary, “But the real question is who you are. Considering you just broke into my apartment in the middle of the night and then passed out on my couch- you left an impressive blood stain by the way. It was pretty gross.”

“Oh my god.” Peter’s face burns.

Of course he snuck into the wrong apartment. Of course. Oh God this was embarrassing. And mortifying. And awful. He had bled on this guy’s couch. A stranger.

Peter’s hands fly to his face. Oh my god he had bled on a stranger’s couch who saw his face.

The panic chokes him and the man- Tony- must have noticed because he walks over, hand up. “Hey, hey it’s okay. Don’t worry about it. Crazier shit’s happened to me, trust me.”

But Peter looks at him with wide eyes because that’s not what this is about. He’s blown his cover. His entire identity- “And don’t worry about your ‘secret identity,’ I can keep a secret.” Tony grins, miming zipping his lips and tossing away the key.

Peter shirks back, lip still pressed in a tense line. But Tony just looks at him with soulful eyes and Peter sees galaxies inside of them. They’re heavy with shadows that play at their surfaces, but they’re genuine. Kind. And Peter’s fingers just lightly touch his leg and he grips the blanket tighter and looks back at Tony’s face, calm and understanding and slowly, begins to relax.

Tony smiles, a slow quirk of the lip and steps into the kitchen to bring out another mug, holding it out for Peter to take. “Thanks.” he says, savoring the warmth of the cup in his palms.

“I can’t survive a day without at least three cups so I can’t imagine what it’s like for a superkid.”

“You’d be surprised how much energy I’ve got.” Peter jokes, “My aunt considered buying me a hamster wheel when I was young just so I could run it all off. Now I’m more of a hot chocolate kinda guy.”

Tony chuckles, something glittering in his eye. “Well if you’re going to be stopping bad guys, all that pep must come in handy. A full stomach probably helps, you hungry?”

Suddenly, Peter’s hyper aware of how much he’s intruding, throwing his legs over the couch and trying to stand. He hisses, the pressure exploding inside his thigh and Tony furrows his brows in concern. “Hey, hey, you gotta go easy on that leg of yours. It’s very delicately put back together.”

Tony sets down his cup, gently pushing Peter’s shoulders down so he sits again, examining the bandage, now staining red in the middle. “Yeah, that probably needs to be changed.” Tony remarks, mostly to himself.

He pulls out the first aid kit that he must have left under the couch from last night and unwraps the bandage quickly. Peter can see the splotchy redness of his skin and the tight, neat little stitches sewing him back together. “Wow.” he says, marveling at his leg, “Mine never look like that. Are you a doctor?”

Tony shakes his head, looking entertained. “Oh God no. All that schooling? No thanks. I’ve just picked up a few things.” he shrugs, “Some of it comes in handy. Though I admit, I never thought I’d be doing this.”

“I’m sorry again.” Peter blurts out but then Tony stops, looking horrified.

“Wait- did you just say you do this yourself?” and his voice is edging into that stern adult panic voice Peter loves oh so much.

“Only sometimes!” Peter defends, “And it’s fine because I heal really fast so it never really matters. I’m fine!”

Tony stares at him, deadpan, before turning back to his leg. “I’m exhausted just hearing that.” he says dramatically, “And you’re lucky I got to this when I did. I don’t even want to think about you going at something as messy as this.”

Peter drops his head, “Yeah…I’m sorry you had to deal with me yesterday. Last night was…it was really stupid. And I couldn’t get away without coming here. My friend Harry lives here and I thought I got the right apartment but obviously I’m really bad at counting or something. It’s just, this place looks so much like his that I never even noticed.” he blabbers, fully aware he’s talking too much.

“But really Mr. uhh, Mr. Tony, it was totally an accident and I’ll cover the washing costs for your couch if that isn’t too gross. I could buy you a new one too! If you want! But that might take a while ‘cause it looks expensive and the paper pays me the absolute lowest they possibly can, but I’ll try my best.”

“Woah kid, take a breath. It’s fine. You’re fine. Who hasn’t broken into a stranger’s house and passed out on their couch? It’s a coming of age experience.” Tony teases, giving Peter’s bandage one final tug.

“And don’t worry about the couch. All the furniture is a rental from the complex, that’s why your friend’s stuff and mine look the same. Guess we’re both too lazy to decorate ourselves.”

“Well he just moved out of his dad’s place, so that was probably the last thing on his mind to be honest.” Peter confesses, twisting his leg to examine it more.

There’s a sad look in Tony’s eye but he shakes past it quickly. “I bet he isn’t as good at making omelettes as I am. You like peppers?” he pauses, tilts his head to look at him, “And it’s Stark by the way. Tony Stark. But you can just call me Tony.”

He appreciates suddenly, that Tony hasn’t asked for his name yet. Not even hinted at asking. “No really Mr. Stark, it’s okay. I don’t want to bother you more. I already wanna die.”

“I did not just patch you up for you to die in my living room.” Tony glances at the clock, “Besides, don’t you have school or something? You can’t be more than what, fourteen?”

Sixteen.” he replies automatically before wanting to slap himself.

Wow he sucks. So worried about his identity and here he goes spouting off his age to any adult who would listen. Tony gives him a look. “Ahh yes, the big difference between a child and a slightly bigger child.”

Peter sulks, sinking deeper into the cushions.

The entire apartment is an open concept space and Peter can see Tony slice up the green and red peppers clearly. “So, what’s a kid like you doing going around fighting crime anyway?” Tony asks and it’s a genuine question, no judgement or condescension.

Peter’s surprised. A bit.

Well a lot.

Tony isn’t asking to be mean or to lecture him, he sounds like a guy who already knows what he’s gonna hear. For some reason, that makes Peter trust him. “My uhh, my uncle died, a year ago.” It still hurts to mention it, it aches when he reopens the wound, but his uncle’s memory doesn’t drown him anymore, it gives him strength now. A heroism he never thought possible.

Tony stops slicing. Empathy in his eyes. “I’m sorry kid. That’s hard.”

Peter shrugs, “Yeah…it uhh, it really sucked. Especially because I had already gotten my powers and I could’ve…I could’ve saved him. But I hadn’t known how…at the time. And I just knew, in that moment, that I had to make sure something like that never happened again. I can’t live knowing I had the power to stop something bad from happening and I chose to do nothing.”

Tony nods, a sad smile that Peter isn’t even sure he noticed on his face. “Yeah.” he says softly, “I get that.”

Tony cracks the eggs, mixing them in a bowl as the peppers and onions sizzle in the pan. “Well,” Tony says, tone forcefully light hearted, “I hear you make quite the impression. So I’d say you’re doing a bang up job Underoos.”

Peter ducks his head, the compliment burning on his cheeks. “I hope so.”

But then the jab hits home and he juts out his lip. “Underoos??”

“You’re basically wearing PJs kid.”

“They’re not- they’re not PJs!!”

Tony shrugs, “If you say so.” in a tone that definitely implies otherwise.

Tony comes out with some eggs and sliced veggies on a tray, a cup of orange juice resting next to them and all of Peter’s prior indignation melts away. “Mr. Stark you’re amazing. Thank you. I’m sorry.”

Tony rolls his eyes, setting the tray on Peter’s lap, careful to avoid his wound before settling in the armchair across from him, nursing another cup of coffee. “So while you were comatose on my couch, I noticed your cartridges were empty. You make that webbing stuff yourself?”

Peter nods through a mouthful of eggs. Tony whistles, impressed. “The tensile strength of that stuff is off the charts. How’d you come up with it.”

Peter takes a swig of juice. “Trial and error and error and error.” he grins, “I’m good at chemistry and I get to hang around the school lab a lot so it’s easy for me to just,” he mimes mixing and pouring things around and Tony can’t help but laugh from the sheer ridiculousness of it all.

“Wait, wait, wait. You’re telling me the amazing Spiderman makes his web-fluid in a high school lab?” and Peter’s expression just sends Tony howling.

“It’s not funny!! Where else am I supposed to make it!” Peter tries to defend himself, but even he can see the humor behind it all.

“Well what about you?” Peter looks at Tony pointedly, “It’s fully work hours and yet here you are.”

“Yeah. Here I am. In my own home that I pay for.” Tony says, dry.

But he softens up soon enough, shrugging. “Don’t have anywhere to be today.”

“Well what do you usually do?”

An odd smile plays on Tony’s lips. “Let’s just say I’m an over-glorified mechanic. Or I was anyway. Now I just do my own thing. I fix people’s stuff.”

“Oh cool like their cars and stuff?” Peter munches the cucumbers with gusto, “My friend Ernest, well, he’s not really my friend, but he’s this guy I know ‘cuz one time these guys were holding his shop up and I went in like hey! This is automatically a crime except they didn’t get it, so I wrapped up faster than usual.” he pouts, poking at his eggs with a mournful expression.

“Yeah. They didn’t get it because that’s probably the worst pun I’ve ever heard.” Tony retorts, shaking his head.

“Hey! You try coming up with good one-liners while fighting off three guys.”

Tony has that weird look again but he pushes right past it. “I guarantee I’d still come up with better.”

Peter sticks out his tongue, finishing up his food and setting the tray on the coffee table. “Thank you Mr. Stark. I uh-” he tilts his head, shy, “I really appreciate what you did for me. You didn’t have to, but I won’t forget it.”

“Don’t sweat it kid. And I know you won’t listen to a word of this,” he shakes his head, but it’s fond, like he knows exactly what it’s like, “but be careful out there. It’s all fun and games until you get stabbed.” Tony gets up, walks into his bedroom, then back out with a small box.

“I made you a kit, there’s some instructions in there because sometimes you just really don’t have the spare minutes to go through pages of Google searches before you bleed out or something.” Tony clicks it open, pointing at some wipes, “Use these to disinfect your leg every so often and make sure to change the bandage or it’s really gonna suck.”

Tony keeps talking and Peter can’t even say anything at all because he’s feeling something heavy and shaky trembling in his throat. This is really nice. And thoughtful. And considerate. And Peter knows he’s a good hero. He’s smart and he cares and he’s effective but he can’t do it all and his friends are great- the best- but they don’t know about any of this stuff either and so Tony going out of his way to watch out for him makes him warm right down to his toes.

“Thanks Mr. Stark.” he’s finally able to say.

He takes the box and sets it on his lap, staring at it before looking up with warm eyes. “This is so cool. Thank you. But this is too much, I literally broke into your house and you’re being honestly way too cool about it, it’s freaking me out.” he jokes.

Tony snorts, ruffling Peter’s hair in a quick, decisive pat. “I can’t in good conscience let you walk outta here without at least that. It’s bad for my heart condition.”

His tone drops, the light-heartedness hardening into something serious. “But if you’re ever in trouble or you need a place to hide or you’re too stubborn to go to a hospital like a normal person,” he looks right at Peter and he can see the sincerity in his eyes, “you can always come back here.”

Peter throws his hands up, waving them around. “I can’t do that, no really. It’s okay. Thank you though Mr. Stark. But I’m okay. Really. This was just a fluke. A complete one-off, once in a lifetime event. Promise.”

“You’ve already violated the sanctity of my door, what’s one more time.” Tony teases and Peter buries his hands into his face to hide his shame.

“Mr. Starrrkkk.” he groans and Tony just throws his head back and laughs.

 

Peter really isn’t intending on ever going back. Well… he went back once after. But not to stay or anything. But he had felt bad about not being able to thank Tony in any meaningful way for what he did and when May had baked a few extra cookies, he wrapped them in a nice plate with some plastic wrap and swung by Tony’s place, leaving it on the balcony in plain view. Later that night, he stopped by just to see if Tony had found them to see his plate washed and dried with a note on the top.

You better be disinfecting that leg kid.

Peter grinned behind his mask, taking the plate and the little roll of bandages next to it. He peered through the blinds of the balcony but it looked completely dark inside. Hesitating a bit longer, Peter dived off the rail, shooting a web at a streetlight and going on his route home.

So yeah, cookies weren’t the most extravagant thank you in the world, but Peter felt like Tony had appreciated them. Or at least eaten them. He hopes he ate them. But yeah, that was supposed to be that. Except…well…he couldn’t go home looking like this. He can’t even climb up to Tony’s apartment properly in this state.

Which is why he’s here. In an alley-way. Stuffing his make-shift suit into a plastic bag he found lying around and hobbling into the apartment lobby. Someone’s walking in just as he is and he slips past the security, waiting impatiently for the elevator to open up. He steps out on the 43rd floor, finds the door and knocks. He can hear some shuffling from inside, a pause, and then footsteps coming nearer and nearer.

The door opens.

Peter waves meekly. “So I uhh, I broke my arm.” he says, pointing to his limp left hand.

Tony looks like he kinda wants to die.

Peter relates.

“Yeah. I can see that.” Tony’s voice is dry, but he opens the door, holding out his arm in a grand gesture, “Come in Spiderkid. Let’s see what I can do.”

Peter shuffles inside and only when he collapses onto the couch does the adrenaline drain out his body and the pain comes roaring in. His face pales, his breathing staggering as Tony gives him a sympathetic frown. “You’re gonna be okay bud. We just need to snap it in place. It looks like a clean break to me.” he scrutinizes Peter’s arm and he’s taken aback by Tony’s intensity.

It feels like Tony’s brain is on fire, his stare so focused and sharp. There’s a mechanical edge to his motions, like he’s running through a series of steps in his brain and just carrying them out one by one. Peter sees it, the mechanic in him. The fixer of broken things. Peter’s lip pulls a little. Maybe he’s broken in more ways than one huh.

Tony catches his eye, “Ready?”

“No?”

Tony quirks a grin, “That’s the spirit.” And then snaps his arm back into place.

Peter howls, biting down hard, jaw clenched so tight he swears he’s going to shatter every single tooth, but then the pain dulls into a constant thrum and the white flashes fade away. He breathes hard, ducking his head, trying to stop his thoughts from swimming out of reach. “I’m going to get you some water, just take it easy kid.”

Peter can hear the water gushing from the tap and he can smell the leather of the armchair and he can feel the softness of the cushion and the pain his arm and he becomes everything. His senses burst into a cacophony he can’t fade out and his breaths come in pants but Tony’s suddenly in front of him, hand at his chin. He jerks Peter’s face towards his own, eyes burning. “Hey. Look at me. Breathe, one, two, three. There you go. You’re right here. Don’t go off anywhere else. You’re right here.”

Peter stares into his eyes like he’s searching for the exit in a cavern and he stares, desperate and needy. His lungs finally inflate and deflate in a rhythm, his thoughts evening out. He lets out a long breath, lashes fluttering shut. “Sorry.” he whispers, voice raspy.

Tony looks sad. “You can kick everyone’s ass except your own brain’s sometimes.”

“You get them too?” it’s out of his mouth before he really thinks about it and Peter kinda almost definitely regrets it.

But Tony doesn’t look offended, just existentially tired. “Yeah.”

“Did they…did they get better though?” Peter asks, voice small.

Tony stops, almost frowning. “Not yet.” Peter’s expression falls and Tony’s quick to recover, “But that doesn’t mean anything for you kid. You just keep working on it. And drink your water.”

Peter finally notices the glass on the coffee table and takes it with shaky hands. The water is cool as it runs down his throat and it makes him feel more present. Solid. He gulps the whole thing down and just sighs, leaning into the couch. He feels better now. Calmer.

“You okay?” Tony asks.

“Yeah. I’m good. Promise.” he says earnestly.

Tony smiles, “Well are you ready for a surprise then?”

“Surprise?”

“I made something for you. If you’re interested.” Tony says casually, pulling out a metal briefcase.

“Really??” Peter sits up straighter, peering into the case as though he could see through it. “Wait. You can’t give me something! That’s- that’s too much!”

“Hush child. Children should be seen, not heard.”

“Excuse you.”

Tony gives him a rakish grin, tossing the briefcase next to him. “Go on, open it.”

Giving him a look to express his displeasure, Peter still can’t help but open the case with excited fingers. A red suit pops up, schematics dancing around it. Peter gapes, staring at the suit before turning to stare at Tony. “Is this- is this what I-”

“A brand new, superhero worthy Spiderman suit equipped with all sorts of anti-bad guy goodies? Probably.” Tony responds, crossing his arms, leaning against the door frame.

Peter literally can’t feel his face. “Holy shit. This is so cool. This is literally the coolest thing I’ve ever seen in my entire life oh my God. Ned is gonna flip.” Peter gushes, tracing over the suit and pulling it out to see it in its entirety.

Tony shakes his head. “I just thought about you running around in your glorified sweats and I couldn’t sleep. So enjoy the suit kid. It has its own AI an everything.”

“There’s an AI?? Holy shit.” Peter breathes, still poring over all the specs outlined in the blue holograms floating around.

“An AI who’ll hopefully help you be careful out there. She can help you navigate the city and deal with whatever shenanigans you get yourself into. The material of the suit itself should keep you more or less resistant to the kind of attacks you’ll be dealing with. It’s also fireproof, but I’d really prefer you didn’t go testing that out.”

“Are you kidding?? I’d never risk burning this. This is literally the best thing ever I’m gonna look so cool.”

Tony smirks. “Hell yeah you are.”

Peter sets down the suit, carefully tucking it back into its case. “This is really awesome Mr. Stark and I really appreciate it but…are you sure? This must have taken a lot of time and I don’t even know how much it cost-”

“It’s a multimillion dollar suit,” Tony interrupts- Peter pales instantly- “But I want you to have it.”

“Did you say multimillion??? As in more than one million?? As in millions??” Peter feels like he’s gonna die. “Mr. Stark- the most expensive thing I own is a forty dollar sweater from this Star Wars merch site. And I technically got it on sale. ”

Tony throws his head back, his laughter uncontrollable. “Trust me kid, I wouldn’t have made this for you if I didn’t think you deserved it.”

Peter stops, wide eyed. He feels like he’s walking on a cloud. Light and elevated. “I think you do good work Underoos. And more importantly, I think your heart’s in the right place. With some more experience and some better tech, you’ll be able to do some amazing things.”

Peter ducks his head, his emotions getting the better of him. “Thanks Mr. Stark that’s…that’s really nice of you to say.”

“You’ll be one of the greats one day kid. No doubt about it.” And Tony sounds so utterly confident Peter almost believes him.

And because he doesn’t really know how to confront all the raging emotions inside him, he just cracks a smile, “Like Iron Man?”

Tony freezes instantly. He looks like he’s seen a ghost or a nightmare he thought he let go of. Peter shirks back unconsciously, guilt pooling in his stomach but he’s not sure for what. “Mr. Stark?” he asks, voice small.

Tony’s face flashes with a series of emotions Peter can’t place before he shakes his head slightly as though dispelling them. “Nothing kid. I’d just…shoot higher than the tin can.”

Peter makes a face, clutching his ankles as he leans forward, rocking in his spot. “Are you crazy?? You can’t shoot higher than Iron Man- Iron Man is Iron Man! He’s the best!”

But Tony still looks unconvinced and Peter launches into a well-rehearsed tirade. “Hello! The battle of New York?? He flew a nuke into a wormhole and then the Avengers closed the portal on him- which was totally uncool by the way and he still came back anyway. And he defeated the Mandarin after all those bombings happened and then there was that whole thing with the terrorists in Afghanistan and stopping that guy from Stark Industries and rescuing-” Peter stops, jaw dropping.

Tony sighs, rubbing his temples as though predicting Peter pointing an accusatory finger at him, eyes unhealthily wide. “You’re Tony Stark. Oh my God. I’m in Tony Stark’s apartment.” he gasps, “I bled on Tony Stark’s couch. Oh my God. How did I miss that?? Holy-”

Tony drops his hand from his face, glaring. “Are you done?”

Peter looks aghast, “No. No I am not done. I can’t believe I didn’t recognize you before. Oh my God. You’re the CEO of Stark Industries.”

“Ex-CEO.”

“What?”

“I gave it to my old assistant, Pepper. She’s better at it anyway. I told you, I’m just an over-glorified mechanic now.”

Peter sputters, “B-but why? You were the most famous inventor of all time until you just…disappeared.”

Tony shrugs, “If you think fame and notoriety are still the most important things in the world, you’ve got some growing up to do kid.” And he sounds bone deep tired. He almost looks frail.

Peter retracts what he said instantly. “No, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it that way I just…I go to a super nerdy school and I’ve been into tech my whole life. So I uhh, I totally followed your whole career when I was younger. It’s why I like Iron Man too. He made himself into a hero you know? He saw that things needed to change and so he changed them himself.”

Tony looks at him for a long time before turning to walk away. “I’m not the kinda guy you want to look up to kid. Neither is shellhead. Trust me.” he tilts his head to the box, “Enjoy the suit.”

Alone in the living room, Peter rubs the suit fabric between his fingers and wonders what the hell just happened. Standing there, Peter wants to go reach out, but feels something like gravity pulling him to the ground. Instead, he picks up a little pad of paper and a pen and writes a note, hesitating for only a second before leaving it on the coffee table and going out the way he came.

I think you’re selling yourself short ex-CEO or not – Peter Parker
(Now you know my secret identity too, I only thought it was only fair)

 

The suit is fantastic. It’s beyond fantastic. It’s literally the best thing ever created on the planet ever at any time. He feels like a real hero, swinging through the streets with his signature insignia on his back and chest and all the extra features that really boost his productivity.

Like right now.

“Peter, an armed robbery is taking place at a bodega three blocks from here. Would you like me to find the fastest route?”

“Yes! For sure. You’re the best Karen!”

Even fighting’s easier with the suit. It’s insanely intuitive and when he needs a new web-shooter type it offers the top three suited to the moment, not to mention the particularly helpful health feature. It’s nice to know exactly how he messed up his body is with tips on how to fix it, but the suit is so incredible his injury rate’s fallen at least by half. Maybe even more.

So yeah, Peter’s living his best superhero life. But…his thoughts still flit back to Tony.

He hasn’t gone to visit in a while. It’s been a couple weeks. He doesn’t feel unwelcome necessarily, but he just…maybe it’s guilt. Or shame. Or something a little more benign but that still has him feeling like his tail’s between his legs. He feels like he upset him the last time Peter was there, and he really doesn’t want to do that again, but he also really wants to gush his thanks about how great the suit is.

Peter feels like Tony needs to hear it.

The look in Tony’s eye when Peter told him he looked up to him is haunting. It was almost afraid, almost regretful, almost disappointed. A lot of it was just looking like he’d been hit one too many times and Peter was the sucker punch.

He doesn’t understand why Tony would be so rocked by his words. He revolutionized clean technology, made an AI robot when he was fifteen, invented defensive technologies that saved lives and inspired generations of young inventors and scientists. On that note, he doesn’t understand why he would vanish at the height of his career either without a single word.

None of it makes any sense.

When Peter gets home, he heads straight for the shower and then his laptop, burrowing under the covers and opening Google. He types in Tony’s name and the millions of hits spring up instantly.

Boy Genius Takes Over Stark Industries At 21

Tony Stark Invents the Jericho Missile- Revolutionizing Warfare

Tony Stark Further Clean Energy With Model Arc Reactor

Tony Stark Missing in Afghanistan

Stark Industries to End Weapons Production

Tony Stark Sells Stark Tower to the Avengers Initiative

Pepper Potts Takes Over SI- Women in Business

Tony Stark, Where Did He Go?

The articles end there. So did the Wikipedia page. It’s things Peter already knows. Three years ago, Tony Stark vanished from the public eye. There was speculation of course. That Tony had died but SI was trying to cover it up, that he was being charged with fraud and extortion and had fled the country. All sorts of wild accusations flew across the internet but none of them struck close to the truth that Tony was still right in New York City in a moderately luxury condo near Queens.

Weirdly, that sounded more unbelievable than the rumors online.

Peter bites his lip, flicking through article after article, all outlining the same questionable things. Three years ago…

He types in world news in the search bar with the date 2015. He’s flooded with hits but clicks on a New York Times link called “Fifty-Two Most Important Moments of 2015.” Black Lives Matter protests in Baltimore, Nepal earthquake, Ireland passes gay marriage, Sokovia disaster. His brows furrow. Peter pauses, skimming over the one paragraph description of the tragedy. He vaguely remembers this. The Avengers were stopping some threat that managed to float a whole section of a city. A lot of people died but the Avengers saved more but after that…

After that, Iron Man disappeared. The Accords cropped up. And the Avengers disbanded, most becoming fugitives from the law less than a year later. The world had been without heroes for more than three years after that. Well, big time heroes anyway.

Peter shuts his laptop, turning on his side.

He had the strangest feeling of having all the pieces yet still not being able to see the whole.

All he really knows though, is that he wants to make it up to Tony and that weirdly, he misses his company.

Two days later, he musters up the courage to go back to the apartment. He has cheeseburgers with him and a plastic bag filled with soda, brownies, and a pack of M&M’s. He goes up the normal way because he figures it’s more polite and if Tony’s surprised that he came, he doesn’t show it. “There better not be mushrooms in that thing.” Is all he says.

Peter scoffs. “Excuse you. This is an all-American cheeseburger. There’s lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, meat, and cheese and that’s that.”

“I’ve never respected you more honestly.” Tony replies as he opens the door wide.

Peter grins, hopping onto the couch, sliding half the food towards Tony and keeping the other for himself. He walks to kitchen, grabbing two glasses to fill with water when he notices a new box of hot chocolate packs. He smiles to himself, looking back at Tony, before filling up the glasses, not saying anything at all.

He sets the cups on the coffee table before grabbing his burger, digging right in, “So good. A-plus. Really made the robbery worth it.” Peter moans, taking another bite.

“You got these at a robbery??” Tony half-yells, torn between looking angry or incredulous.

“When you see a Shake Shack being held up, you gotta intervene!” Peter defends, taking a loud slurp from his Sprite, “And if the owner gives you free food as a thank you then,” he shrugs, “the friendly neighborhood Spiderman would never be impolite enough to say no.”

Tony lets out a breath but cracks a smile. “And we can’t have that can we?”

“No sir.”

They catch each other’s eyes and burst into snickers. “So fix anything today?” Peter asks nonchalantly.

“Neighbor downstairs had her car malfunction, took a look at that for her today. Nothing fancy. How’s the suit?”

Peter beams. “It’s incredible. Like, seriously, Mr. Stark. It’s the coolest thing ever and it works so well and I’ve been getting so many compliments. Did you see me trending on Twitter?? That was so cool.” he gushes, careful to keep the contents of his burger from flying everywhere.

Tony smiles, “Yeah, I saw that. Might have contributed to a few of the conspiracy theories.”

Peter groans, “Are you serious?? Mr. Stark!!”

“My personal favourite was ‘Spiderman steals Daredevil’s suit and cuts off horns.’”

Peter makes a whining noise in the back of his throat, “That’s so unfair. Like I’d ever fit into that. Have you seen Daredevil?? He’s huge.”

“Hey, you’ll grow. Probably.” Tony teases.

“I retract my compliments effective immediately.”

“Sorry no takebacks. Can’t erase this memory.” Tony taps his temple with an annoying smirk and Peter makes a face at him when he can’t think of a single good come back.

“Hey Mr. Stark?” Tony glances up, “Why’d you sell your tower to the Avengers?”

Tony looks surprised. “They asked and I agreed. I was planning on moving SI operations anyway.”

“So it isn’t true that you did some work for them?”

Tony’s expression turns guarded as he raises his burger to his lips. “Why do you say that?”

Peter takes another bite from his burger, “Twitter.”

Tony’s expression flattens. “You know, it’s constantly surprising to me that more national secrets aren’t revealed on the internet every day.”

Peter gapes. “So you did???

Tony sighs. “I consulted on some of their tech. That’s all. No biggie.”

“No biggie?? It’s a huge biggie! Did you work on their suits??” he gasps, “Is that how you were so good at mine?” and Tony didn’t think it was possible, but Peter gets even more excited, “Did you work on the Iron Man armors??”

“Can’t a man keep any secrets anymore?”

“Not if they involve the Avengers.” Peter’s quick to say.

Tony fixes him with a scrutinizing stare. “Why do you even care about the Avengers so much? Because I’m telling you, they’re nothing to be fanboying about.”

Something hardens in his eyes, “They were dysfunctional, aggressive, and uncooperative. They preached about team-work but were the first to turn on each other when the going got rough. And when things got bad, when people started dying because of their actions, they decided their own self-righteousness was more important than the will of the entire world.”

Peter’s expression falls.

But Tony’s too caught up to notice.

“They were called Earth’s Greatest Defenders but in the end, what did it all matter when everything that mattered to them disappeared. When even their so called family didn’t matter more to them than their pride.”

Peter’s hands curl over his jeans, eyes hurt before he furrows his brows, determined. “Just because they weren’t perfect doesn’t mean they weren’t still great. Everyone has their bad side, but they still tried their best.”

Tony nods. “Okay, but what if what’s right and wrong stop being so simple? A guy starts a fight in the middle of the street. That’s wrong. So you break it up. Easy right?”

There’s a shadow of a smile on his face. “Aliens invade the earth. That’s wrong right? So you defeat them.”

Peter nods.

“But what if, before they were defeated, you saw that you only got rid of one percent of the threat. That beyond them, was something infinitely more terrifying just waiting for the perfect moment to attack. What if you knew that threat was imminent. What do you do?”

“You build your defenses. You prepare.” Peter says, certain.

“But here’s the thing, what lines do you cross to prepare? What boundaries do you have to set?” Tony’s voice picks up, “The Avengers were a group of superpowered people thrown together without any foundation so when questions like those popped up, they didn’t have enough faith in one another to resolve them without breaking apart. So tell me then, what were they really thinking about? Their hearts? Or their pride?”

“The Avengers split up because of the Accords didn’t they?”

“The Accords were just the catalyst. In the end, it was betrayals on the inside that made them irreconcilable and what made half of them go into hiding and the others turn into fugitives still playing vigilante on the down-low.”

Tony crumples his take out bag in his hands. “I’ve been around too many superheroes to be blind to the costs of it. And no one lost more than Iron Man.”

Peter can’t breathe. “You know what happened to him?”

Tony’s smile is sardonic as he nods, “He lost the love of his life, he lost his team, he was betrayed by his best friend, he lost everything until all he had left was a suit. But what purpose did that serve? When everything he fought for had slipped right through his fingers.”

“That’s terrible.” Peter whispers, shrinking into the couch.

Tony doesn’t say anything more after that and Peter doesn’t even know where to start. It’s ironic almost, that Iron Man’s battery heart powered his suit and when the person inside it’s heart broke, Iron Man died with it. Peter isn’t sure why Tony told him all of this. He isn’t even sure if Tony regrets it or not. But the words are out there and they’re heavy in the air.

“If you…if you hate superheroes so much, then why…why did you make me a suit?” he finally asks, voice quiet.

And for the first time since he brought up heroes, Tony doesn’t look tense or guarded or brimming with a repressed resentment. He looks calm. Like he was looking at a sunrise, hesitant, but waiting for something good. “I’ve met a lot of heroes since my time with the Avengers. I’ve met magicians and aliens and enhanced, but I’ve never met anyone like you. If the Avengers had half the heart you did, I think the world would be a different place right now.”

Peter stares, feels the blood rush to his face, the unfamiliar sense of feeling overwhelmed gushing through him. “I’d given up on superheroes.” Tony smiles, and it’s softer than the rain, “I guess the jury’s still out now Peter.”

He jolts from hearing his name out loud, in this room, but it feels right. Feels close. But even the warmth of his name can’t jolt the ever-lasting feeling of not being able to measure up from his heart, “I don’t know if I deserve that.” Peter says, shaking his head.

But Tony looks certain. “You want to be as good as Iron Man and I’m telling you you’re better.”

 

Peter visits Tony more often after that. He pops in weekly, just to check in honestly. And he likes his company. A lot actually. He learns a bit more about him, little by little. Tony used to date Pepper Potts until she ended it with him three years ago for unknown reasons, but she seemed against some of his more risky life choices. His best friend from his MIT days, Colonel James Rhodes became disabled after an accident involving Tony though Peter still doesn’t know what happened. And Tony ran a little mechanic shop on the same street where he fixed up people’s stuff at an ultra discounted rate- but only if they weren’t in a suit.

“Anyone wearing a suit to work doesn’t need a discount on their twenty-nineteen BMW.”

Peter agreed.

Mostly, Tony’s life is quiet but Peter still isn’t sure if he likes it like that. Tony says it’s nice- different than before. But Peter sees the wistfulness in his eyes when he talks about his old life and thinks maybe he’s the littlest bit lonely. But it’s okay, because he has Peter now.

Tony’s expecting him when Peter slides open his balcony door and slips in. There’s heavy metal playing from the inside of the apartment where Peter knows his workshop is in. There’s a folded note on the coffee table, WORKING ON SOMETHING DELICATE, TELL JARVIS YOU’RE HERE TO WARN ME.

Peter’s brows knit closer. “Jarvis?”

“Hello Spiderman.” an automated voice that sounds like it’s coming from everywhere all at once fills the room.

Peter jumps, whirling around. “What the hell??”

“I am sorry if I frightened you. I am Jarvis, the AI that runs this household.”

Peter’s mouth drops. “No way. That’s so cool! What can you do?”

If it’s possible, Jarvis almost sounds amused, “I control any and all automated features in the apartment and work as sir’s personal assistant.”

“Coooool.” he whistles, “Um, would you mind telling Mr. Stark that I’m here Mr. Jarvis?”

“I’d be delighted to. He’s waiting for you inside. I will let you in.”

Peter enters Tony’s workshop for the first time and is awed by the sheer high tech-ness of it all. Holograms float on work tables and tools are lined up magnetically along the back wall where a robot with a DUM-E hat titters in the corner. “Don’t you dare.” Tony warns, pointing at the robot, “Step away from the smoothie DUM-E.”

The robot chirps, head bobbing insistently. “Nope, you already perfected it without the motor oil. That’s overkill. You trying to kill your dad?”

DUM-E’s head drops. “Aww Mr. Stark, he’s just trying his best, aren’t you?” Peter coos and the robot cheers right back up.

Tony flicks his wrist at him, “Hey, you, knock it off or you’ll positively reinforce this nonsense.” but he looks fond.

Peter peers over Tony’s shoulder to see what he’s working on. He has to look through three different magnifying glasses to see the molecular compounds he’s working with and he juts out his lip. “You into chem now?”

“Actually,” Tony announces, “I’m trying to make exploding webbing for you, but the process isn’t going as smoothly as I thought.”

Peter grabs his arm, practically bouncing, “Are you for real right now??”

“Realer than real kid.” he replies with mock gravity.

“This is so crazy. I’m science-ing with Tony Stark. Ned’s gonna lose it.”

Tony grins, handing him a pair of safety goggles. “How is he anyway? Has he gotten over dying from the suit?”

Peter snorts, “No way. He went on about that for weeks, but he’s valid.”

“And school? No trouble in minor paradise?”

Peter shrugs, looking away. “No different than normal.”

Tony gives him a look then turns back to the screen. “I take it normal isn’t usually slap your knee fantastic?”

“It’s nothing.” Peter shrugs, fiddling with a screwdriver, “Just high school.”

Tony glances at him, then picks up a wrench and starts twisting. “You know, I used to get bullied too, when I was younger.”

Peter makes a face, “No you didn’t.”

“Genius kid with a smart mouth and at least four years younger than everyone else in his classes?” Tony snorts, “I’d be more surprised if I wasn’t pushed around.”

Peter’s grip loosens around the screwdriver, all the energy zapped right out of him, “That sounds way worse, my thing really isn’t a big deal.”

“If it bothers you, then it’s a big deal. Spill kid.” Tony prods him with a wrench, trying to grab his attention.

“Honestly Mr. Stark, it’s nothing it’s just this kid…Flash.” Peter traces circles into the tabletop, “He’s just mad that I ‘stole’ his spot on the Decathlon team and he thinks that making fun of me will make me leave or something but it won’t.” Peter says, voice hard.

“But it doesn’t make it any less sucky and I thought that all the stupid stuff he said didn’t bother me but sometimes I…”

“You hear the stuff he says when you’re already feeling kicked around?” Tony supplies, empathy in his eyes.

Peter looks up, “Yeah.” he finally says, “Exactly.”

Tony nods, “Yeah, that’s the way that kinda stuff goes. No one’s immune to things like that Pete no matter how much we say we don’t care.”

Peter bites his lip, looking down.

“With that said though, everything that Flash kid told you? Automatically tossed in a trash can based purely on the fact that nothing a kid name Flash says can be accurate in any way.” Peter’s lip curls up, “Sorry, not sorry, that’s just a fact. It’s all purely bullshit.”

“But what if it’s not.” Peter says before realizing he’s said it.

He drops his face into his hands like he regrets saying anything at all. And as expected, Tony doesn’t let it go. “I guarantee none of the things he says about you are true. You said it yourself, he’s jealous that you got something he didn’t and with a name like that, he’s probably used to getting everything he ever wanted his whole life so that the second it doesn’t go his way, he throws a tantrum. It’s not even about you. Not really. It’s all about him and his own insecurities.” he says calmly, as though that makes everything better and okay.

“Yeah but it still sucks! It sucks and I hate it and I wish he’d just leave me alone!” Peter yells and then suddenly feels ashamed for his outburst, ducking his head, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to yell,” he apologizes, voice hoarse, “I just- I’m so frustrated. And I’m so over it and I’ve never even done anything to him. And he just doesn’t leave me alone.”

“Hey, it’s okay.” Tony reaches forward, squeezing his shoulder, “That guy’s a jerk. Be upset. We can build a dummy right now and you can have at it after we tape his face on it.”

Peter snorts, “I don’t think that’ll help to be honest.”

“Peter, you fight crime as a hobby and still play with Legos with your friends. You have a big heart and you’re ridiculously smart. You’re literally every parent’s dream child and you’re the only teenager in the world that’s actually likeable. You’re killing it on all fronts. And if you want me to go down to that asshole’s house and scare him with some Avengers tech, I’m game. But if you want to do cool science stuff he’ll never be able to do in a million years, I’m game for that too.”

“I’m the only teenager you know.” Peter responds, voice only a little watery.

“Excuse you, I’m a well-connected man.” Tony boasts, “I know teenagers. And they’re all terrible.”

Peter cracks a grin, “Except me.”

Tony nods, poking Peter in the forehead, “Except you. You’re a cool kid Peter Parker.”

Peter groans, pushing his hand away, “Do you know how uncool it is to be called cool by a senior citizen?”

Tony points to the door, “Banned. Blocked. Unfollowed.”

Peter has to steady himself against the table to keep from falling from how hard he laughs.

 

It’s one-fifty-three in the morning and Peter’s just numb. There are scorch marks all along his suit, smudges of failure that taunt him as he swings back and forth, webbing through the streets.

He wishes the suit wasn’t fireproof.

Then he hates himself for wishing that and just wishes he were faster instead. Smarter too. Better. In every way.

There’s a restlessness in his blood, an energy thrumming through his veins and he can’t sit still. He can’t stop. He has to move he has to fly he was to swing. He has to go go go go. He can’t go home. He doesn’t know how to be home. The idea of sitting in his bed alone while the street lights cast shadows over posters of heroes far better than he could ever be makes him want to disintegrate into a thousand little shards.

Another part of him doesn’t want to be in the streets anymore either. If he sees something wrong, he’ll feel obligated to stop it. But he’s in no mind to fight. In no position to be saving anyone. He’d just make things worse.

And worst of all, he’s tired.

Bone deep exhausted.

Right down to his atoms.

He wants to go to the edge of the world, somewhere far off, at the brink of existence. He wants to breathe and not have any time pass. He wants to be able to sit and sit and have the world frozen behind him. Why can’t he catch a breath? Why can’t the world just be still, just for a second, just for a moment. Just so he can find a ledge wider than a needle point to stand on.

He’s been kicked so many times and now he’s lying on his hands and knees and his heart is begging for him to look up, defiant, but his body just aches for him to rest.

But there is no edge of existence, no small corner outside the laws of time and space. There is only New York City and the constant thrum of living. And so with nowhere to hide, Peter goes to the one place he knows that is separate from almost everything.

He flips onto Tony’s balcony, and his knuckles barely brush the glass before the door slides open. Tony’s staring at him with an expression Peter doesn’t know how to decipher yet, “Hey kid.”

“Mr. Stark,” Peter croaks and he feels like collapsing and crying for hours, “I can’t.”

Tony’s lip pulls up, but it’s empathetic, kind, understanding. “Yeah you can. But let’s sit down first.”

His hand touches Peter’s arm and he leads him gently to the couch. Tony slides the door shut behind them, pulling the curtains across and in the privacy of his apartment, Peter rips the mask off and gasps like he’s just breathing for the first time. His hand smashes into the spider on his chest and the suit falls away. He’s jittery, ripping the suit off as quick as he can but his motions are jerky and the suit clings to his skin. Peter makes a whimpering noise in the back of his throat and with one motion, rips the suit clean in half in his desperation to be free of it.

“Oh my God.” he can’t even breathe, can’t even think, “Oh my God Mr. Stark I- I- the suit- your suit I-” his breaths come in more panicked, they’re short, quick, there isn’t enough oxygen in his lungs oh God.

“Kid, hey, kid, listen to me.” Tony’s in front of him, grabbing Peter’s face in both his hands.

They’re rough, Peter notices. There are callouses on his palms from all the heavy lifting he does in the lab. But they’re strong, his fingers grip Peter’s cheeks and chin. Tony’s hands fix things and Peter wishes in that moment that he could fix him just by touching him.

“It’s okay.” Tony says firmly, “You’re okay. The suit’s okay. Everything is okay.”

Peter shakes his head, wriggling in Tony’s grasp, as tears pool at the edge of his eyes. “No it isn’t. No it isn’t.” his voice cracks and his head drops into his hands as his elbows dig ridges into his thighs. “I messed up Mr. Stark. I messed up really bad.”

“Every single problem in the universe has a solution Peter.” Tony says, voice even and sure, “We’ll find it.”

Peter’s tears dribble down his wrists.

Tony returns a few moments later with a pair of sweatpants and a band t-shirt that Peter is suddenly grateful for. It strikes him how ridiculous he must look, bare-chested, legs still in the suit, fabric scattered around him. He changes quickly and Tony takes the suit back to put it in his lab, “It’s a quick fix. Trust me, the machine will sew it right back up.” he assures him.

They’re in their familiar places, Tony on the armchair across from the couch where Peter’s still sitting crouched over. There’s a pot of coffee brewing in the kitchen and a kettle of hot water boiling in the pot. At any moment, Tony will get up and pour the coffee for himself and mix in a pack of instant hot chocolate for Peter.

Just like always.

Except Peter wasn’t always a fucking waste of space.

“It’s not the suit that’s bothering you is it?” Tony asks, when he holds out a steaming mug to Peter.

There are extra marshmallows in it Peter notices. Some whipped cream too. For some reason, the extra care into the drink makes him want to cry all over again and he isn’t sure if it’s because he feels undeserving of it or because he suddenly feels like a child and wishes he really was one.

Tony doesn’t push him, he’s kind of perfect like that. He just looks at him like he’s willing to sit there for hours just to listen. He takes a sip of his coffee. And then another and another. The cup is hot in Peter’s palms, too hot. But he doesn’t let go. Minutes pass and he brings it to his lips, blowing gently across the top. He takes a sip, swallows, “There was a fire today.” he whispers.

Tony just looks at him.

“Karen told me about it and I went there as fast as I could but when I- when I got there-” his fingers squeeze around the cup, “the fire was- it was so big Mr. Stark. It was- I’d never seen anything like that before and I just…”

“You froze.”

Shame ducks Peter’s head, “Yeah. I froze. But then people were yelling and someone was screaming about their sister and I just- I just ran in there. And it was so smoky and everything was on fire and it was so hot I thought I was going to die.”

He still won’t look at Tony, instead watching the melting pattern of the marshmallows dissolving in the cocoa, “And then I heard her screaming.” he whispers, “And I tried to get up as fast as I could using the elevator shaft but when I got to the third floor, I didn’t- my senses were going haywire and I couldn’t- it took me so long,” he chokes, “when I found her-” he gasps, hand flying to his mouth like he was trying to press the memory down.

“When I found her, she was on fire too.” the tears burst unprompted again and he puts the cup down to palm at his face, “She had passed out from the smoke and I just panicked. I was so scared- I didn’t know what to do but Karen just started listing off protocols and I rolled her in the carpet to put the fire out and then I grabbed onto her and I broke through the window and I got her down but her face-” Peter shakes his head, voice cracking, “she was my age Mr. Stark. And now she has to go to school with burns all over her body because I couldn’t get to her in time.”

Tony stares at him again and Peter thinks he’s really done it this time, finally told the story that’d break the camel’s back, but Tony just sets down his coffee mug- it’s half full- and stands. Slowly, he makes his way towards Peter as though waiting for him to flinch back but Peter watches him with wet eyes as Tony sits down next to him and draws him in for a hug.

Peter’s eyes widen, red-rimmed and shining. Tony’s grip around him is firm, unshakeable, and Peter’s arms are suddenly wrapped around him tightly, burying his face into his neck and finally, finally, breaking into pieces hoping Tony could put him back together.

Peter cries and he cries until his whole body tremors from his grief. Tony keeps his back straight, head up like he’s facing the heavens, hands clasped securely around Peter’s shoulders. And Peter feels like a child again. Like it isn’t just him anymore, that there could be someone on his team, picking him back up when he fell. He’s exhausted he realizes, of doing it on his own. He’s so so tired. He can’t do it anymore.

It’s unbearable.

“You saved that girl’s life.” Tony finally says, as Peter’s sobs have quieted to only breaths, “If you hadn’t been there, it would have been too late. You gave her a chance Peter. Nothing in the world’s more important than that.”

Peter just holds on tighter. He wants to believe him. Wants desperately to.

So he tries.

Because in Tony’s voice is such a conviction it’s impossible for him not to.

“You did your best kid. That’s all you can ask from yourself.”

Peter’s heart aches. “But what if your best isn’t good enough?”

A breath, and then, “Then we keep on trying anyway.”

Tony’s embrace is warm. Peter closes his eyes. What gives our failures meaning? The desire never to repeat them or the desire to learn from them? Whichever way, the hands around Peter’s shoulders are strong and insurmountable. Within Tony’s arms, Peter feels like he doesn’t need to be at the edge of the world, that he’s perfectly safe right here. That he’s strong enough for anything.

The next morning when he wakes up at home, May makes a face at his shirt, “Ok, I know you’re not into heavy metal, whose shirt is that?”

Peter looks down at the wrinkled tee and doesn’t really know what to say. “A friend.” he finally says, though the words ring untrue.

Mr. Stark isn’t really his friend, he’s…something else.

Something better.

 

With the Avengers gone, there’s no one left to go head to head with some of the bigger threats. People who didn’t just want diamonds from jewelry stores or petty cash from bodegas. There are psychos with plans for world domination and angry men with rage that could raze the earth for centuries. The threats get bigger and so his suits become better. Tony’s paranoid now and his fear finds an outlet in his workshop.

His suit becomes unrippable, unbreakable, able to plunged hundreds of feet in the ocean, able to withstand temperatures higher than Peter ever wished to go. It becomes better at precognition, Karen hints at blows Peter barely sees coming, it becomes better at navigation, at everything and anything.

Peter feels invincible within it.

But also terrifyingly alone.

Tony puts every safety feature his genius brain can think of because when Peter’s out there, in the real world, there’s no back-up, no cavalry a running, there’s no one.

Just Peter.

And sometimes he worries that isn’t enough. That when the bad guys come and this time they’re better prepared, Peter will get trampled and all of New York will pay the price.

He’s in the workshop with Tony, developing some new web formulas when the question bursts from his mouth, “Where did the Avengers go?”

Tony tenses, everything freezing for a moment before he gets back to work but Peter can see his focus scattering. “No one knows. That’s why it’s called being in hiding kid.” he deflects.

“You worked with them though, you know them, you don’t have any idea?” Peter pushes, setting his equations to the side.

“If I had to put money on it, I’d say they were in Wakanda, but the hell if I know. Thor’s in Asgard though. That I can tell you for sure. And Bruce…” Tony takes his goggles off, sliding them across his forehead.

He looks sad.

Tired too.

Like he was tired of being sad, tired of feeling the same old things, tired of remembering.

“Were you two friends?”

Tony glances up at him, almost like he’s assessing him before he huffs a little, a tiny smile growing, “Yeah we were. We worked on some projects together, it was fun.”

“That’s so cool!!!” Peter exclaims, “Dr. Banner is like, the biggest expert on gamma radiation ever that must’ve been crazy.”

“He was really good at the tech stuff too.” Tony says, the smile growing, “And he was funny. He didn’t mean to be half the time, but there was just something about him.” Tony laughs, shakes his head.

“Do you think that…do you think that any of them will ever come back?” Peter asks meekly and he’s surprised when Tony actually pauses to think.

“I don’t know. A part of me hopes they do, a part of me hopes they don’t.” Tony stops, turns to him, “Do you?”

Peter doesn’t even hesitate, “The world needs the Avengers Mr. Stark. It always has.”

Tony’s eyes quiver for a second and he looks almost overwhelmed, like the slightest breeze might tip him over.

“I think they’ll come back.” Peter says confidently, “They’re heroes. They’re the heroes. If something happens, there’s no way they can just sit back. That’s not what heroes do.”

“Not everyone who wears a suit is a hero Pete.” Tony says, something almost heart-breaking in his voice. “Pretty sure Captain America said that.”

“Well then he doesn’t know what he’s talking about because the Avengers are heroes even without the suits. I know it.” Peter says firmly.

He’s quiet for a minute before he shrugs, not really looking Tony in the eye, “And I don’t know if I can do it alone. What if something big comes again and it’s just…me?”

Tony looks at him and Peter can see the words “you’re enough” at the edge of his lips but he looks into his eyes and sees a real fear and knows Tony can’t lie. Not to him.

“Then we’ll figure it out.” Tony says finally.

“We? No offense Mr. Stark, but you being on the scene would just stress me out more.”

Tony makes a face like he knows a joke Peter isn’t privy to, “You’d be surprised Pete.”

 

And Peter is surprised. Deathly surprised. When three months later a giant space ship appears across the sky while he’s trying to go on something as innocuous as a field trip to the MoMa. The fear in his stomach is uncontainable. He doesn’t even feel like a person. All that he is, is the desire to protect his home. He can’t think of anything else. Can’t afford to.

He’s hyper focused. Hyper afraid. Every single one of his senses is dialed to the max, it’s almost painful.

There are people screaming when he arrives at the scene. Sobbing and crying and running as fast as they can. Debris is flying everywhere from where the whirring of the ship blasts air. He looks up, sees the towering threat and feels miniscule. Like he can’t ever measure up.

But he knows he has to try.

And that’s when he hears the commotion. Next to the ship, in the park, is a giant alien with a terrifying face and he’s lifting his hands behind his head like he’s trying to hurt someone. Peter lurches towards him, knowing in his heart that this at least, is something he can do. He launches his webs, they wrap around the alien’s fists and he pulls back as hard as he can, throwing him in the air. He looks down to see who he’s rescued and his heart almost plummets right down to his stomach.

“Iron Man?” he whispers, barely able to believe it.

He knew it. He knew it. He knew that if the world truly needed him, he’d come back. Iron Man had been missing for three years but when push came to shove, of course he came back. How could he not?

He was a hero.

Peter’s hero.

The man in the suit stares at him before flying at him, pushing him out of the way from a blast. “No time for intros kid.”

Peter can barely get over the fact that his hero is back, that Iron Man is back, but he nods furiously, snapping to attention. “Y-yeah! Of course!” he webs up the alien, holding him back while Iron Man blasts him with his repulsors.

“What’s this guy’s problem??” Peter yells.

“There’s a wizard with a very important necklace and these guys wanna steal it.” Iron Man replies without a hint of sarcasm.

“Oh. Oka-” Peter’s sent flying by a well timed punch.

He grunts, sitting up just to see an unconscious man wrapped in a cape and coils zooming past them, “Kid, that’s the wizard.” Iron Man says, “I’m gonna need you to grab him, can you do that?”

Peter stands up, shaky, but determined. “Yeah! On it! I won’t let you down!”

Peter chases after the wizard and a strange squid looking kinda alien when the flying cape thing slides right off the wizard. Peter quickly webs the man into his grasp when a blue beam plummets into the earth, capturing the wizard in its grasp. Peter’s eyes widen as he feels himself being pulled up alongside him. He tries to web himself to a light pole, but no matter how strong he is, the force pulling them up is stronger.

“Mr. Iron Man sir?” he yells, “I’m being beamed up!!”

“Hang on kid! I’m coming.” Peter can hear the panic in his voice and wonders why it sounds so familiar.

Except, Iron Man’s too late. Peter’s zooming up to the ship, getting farther and farther away from the ground. Fear pulses in his stomach, his breaths come in pants, his muscles feel so tight he can barely move. He flies into the side of the ship, right in the middle, the only thing keeping him from falling, his sticky fingers.

He’s always wanted to test his abilities, but not like this.

Not like this.

“Mr. Iron Man? I don’t- I can’t breathe.” Peter barely manages to gasp.

“It’s the air, it’s thinning out.” Peter wants to nod, but his lashes are fluttering shut, his thoughts stop making sense.

When Iron Man calls to him again, he sounds afraid. It’s why he makes a mistake Peter guesses. “You gotta let go Pete, I’ll catch you.”

And though Peter can feel his grip slipping, though his lungs are empty, though his very heart beat seems to slow, Peter knows that voice now.

He thought he’d know Tony anywhere.

He can’t believe he didn’t see it sooner.

“Mr…Stark?” he whispers before his eyes roll back and he falls into the open air.

The next thing he knows, a new suit made of nanites is enveloped all over his body and he’s being caught in Tony’s arms, “I got you.” Tony says, pulling him in close.

They land back on the ship, Tony setting him down, surveying him before his own face plate disappears and Peter can see the relief inside those familiar eyes. “Kid, you almost gave me a heart attack.”

“Me??” he exclaims, incredulous, “What about you!? You’re- you’re Iron Man you’ve been Iron Man this whole time and you never told me!!” and he doesn’t even know if he’s mad- he isn’t honestly, he isn’t mad, he’s just- he’s just-

Tony’s been Iron Man the whole time, keeping his identity secret right from the beginning. Which means everything he told him about the Avengers were about him and…oh God Peter’s heart clenches. How could he not have noticed?

“I know.” there’s regret in his voice, “And we can talk about it later. But right now, I have to go grab Strange and you need to go home.” Tony’s voice tightens and Peter knows he’s made up his mind.

But he doesn’t care.

“No way! I can’t leave you here I-”

But Tony just sets his hand atop his head as though he were ruffling his hair, “You’ve done enough kid. And I can’t let anything happen to you. JARVIS?”

And before Peter can say anything at all, a parachute is bursting from his back and he’s blown off the ship.

And yeah, Tony wants to protect him and yeah, Peter’s afraid and this is too big and too real and so out of his depth. But…he won’t leave Tony behind. And he won’t let him face everything alone.

So he shoots out web after web, latching himself onto the ship until he finds a way to sneak through. He crawls atop the ceiling, looking down to see the wizard being suspended in the air with shards of glass poised around him. He looks more, sees the cloak he was wearing standing next to a stressed Tony.

Slowly, Peter inches down, dropping in front of him to see Tony’s face go through all five stages of grief in the span of three seconds. “Peter??” Tony hisses, “What the hell are you doing here?”

“I couldn’t just leave you!!” Peter insists, “How could I do that?” he asks, looking up Tony like he was begging him to understand.

But Tony shakes his head, “Peter, this isn’t a trip to Coney Island. This is a one way ticket. And now you’re-”

“This is a fight for the world. That’s why you’re here aren’t you?” Peter says, taking a step forward when Tony’s neck snaps up.

“I’m here for you.” he says, “I’m here because I’ve known this day was coming for years and it’s been taunting me in the back of my mind for ages and when Bruce and Strange found me I knew I had to do something, but I also knew that it couldn’t be you.” Tony runs a hand through his hair and Peter can see the tension in his shoulders, “You’ve been talking so much about being worried about doing things on your own, and I knew if you saw this ship, you’d come running. And I couldn’t let that happen. But now you’re here anyway and this is just another prime example of me being a class A screw up.”

Peter stares at him, unable to register anything at all.

“I thought I’d given up this whole hero shtick you know.” Tony says, shaking his head, “After everything that happened with Steve and the others, I couldn’t do it anymore. And now, I finally feel like I have a reason to put this suit on and believe in something and now you’re here risking your life and do you see how this is a problem?”

Peter’s expression wobbles and he bows his head for just a second, “Mr. Stark,” he’s finally able to say, “that’s how I feel about your life too you know. And I know you want to protect me, but who’s going to protect you?”

And something about what he says seeps through Tony’s fear because he relents, after a few more words, and together they make a plan. They open a hole through the ship, the alien gets sucked out, they save the wizard- Stephen Strange- he and Tony fight, and finally, they’re on their way to Titan.

The trip is long though. Really long. And eventually, Peter finds himself next to Tony, nudging him in the shoulder. “Why didn’t you tell me you were Iron Man?” he asks, not really demanding, not upset, just a question.

He understands why he’d have a secret identity. He has one doesn’t he? But…he thought they were close. He thought they were…well…it doesn’t matter does it.

Tony sighs, “I was done with it. I tried to save the world and it cost everything. So I tried to run.”

Peter bites his lip, “But if you hated superheroes so much, why did you help me?” he asks in a quiet voice.

Tony looks at him, lips curved in the gentlest of smiles, “Because you’re someone who deserves the title.”

He’s quiet for a few moments, “I’d been looking into you, before you crashed through my window.” Peter gapes, “I keep tabs on all the new heroes that crop up, just to make sure they’re colouring between the lines so to speak. I guess maybe I was just trying to make myself feel better, like the world wasn’t going to die without us punching our way through all our problems.”

“I felt like the city was in good hands, and then I met you, and I knew it was.”

Peter kind of wants to cry.

“The Avengers disappeared because of all sorts of reasons. Thor left to find the infinity stones, Bruce ran away because he was afraid of the ‘monster’ inside of him, Natasha needed a family and I wasn’t enough, Clint broke the law, and Steve and I lost all trust and so he left and took everyone with him. And when they left, I couldn’t look at the suit anymore.”

Tony catches Peter’s eye, “I lost sight of what made me put it on in the first place until you came in. The world is in danger and I can stop it. So I have to do something about it.” Something twinkles in his eyes, “Sound familiar?”

Peter gives him a watery smile, “A little.”

“I’ve always been better when I have someone to fight for. I want to protect the world, but I also want to protect you from all this,” Tony waves his hand around, “you don’t deserve to be here Peter. You should be out living your little teen life, worrying about Spanish tests and girls, and I’m going to make sure you go home to it.”

“We’ll both go home.” Peter says firmly, “Because we both deserve it. And I’m sorry about everything that happened with the Avengers. But I’m not going to go anywhere. It’s my turn to be there for you now Mr. Stark.”

And though Tony’s heart aches, he reaches out to ruffle Peter’s hair anyway.

 

Titan is the colour of dried blood and Peter feels chilled to his very bones when Thanos arrives. He’s terrifying in his determination, in his blind faith in his doctrine he can’t hear the madness that echoes within it. He raves about his lost home planet as though the deaths of half the universe is somehow less tragic until Stephen rises, magic swirling around his hands.

And then Tony comes from above, throwing an entire metal column right atop of Thanos’ head and Peter remembers who inspired him to be a hero. Unbeatable, unshakeable, the invincible Iron Man. And he leaps into action.

Thanos attacks Tony with thousands of black projectiles and Peter’s fury roars as he launches webs into his eyes and flies in for an attack. Anything to keep him away from Tony. The rest of the team follows suit and it’s just a barrage of hits and defense until Thanos has Peter by his throat, crushing him into the ground. Panic sets into Peter’s very heart until he’s tossed into the air and explosions ring in front of him.

Tony’s come, leaving Thanos in a flurry of fire that he redirects at Tony. Peter opens his mouth to scream but runs at the Titan instead, webbing up his gauntlet to limit its power before he’s thrown to the side yet again when Tony throws a giant ship part right at Thanos. He tumbles to the ground roaring.

The hit is the moment they need and suddenly, as though they’ve all known each other for years, they fall in perfect synchronization. Stephen wraps the gauntlet covered fist in broiling metal, Quill throws a device that pulls in Thanos’ other hand into a gravitational pull with the ground. Peter grunts, throwing himself back up to wrap webbing around Thanos’ chest heaving with all his strength. Tony flies to them, grabbing the gauntlet while Mantis falls atop of Thanos’ head. “Sleep.” she commands and his eyes go milky.

When Thanos stop resisting, Tony calls him over, “Peter, get over here. We gotta be quick, she can’t hold him much longer.”

Peter runs to him, grasping onto the gauntlet and pulling with all his strength. He feels it let up by an inch and he tugs harder when Quill arrives on the scene, gloating and lofty. “Not so strong now are you?”

Peter can practically see Tony rolling his eyes when he says, “Alright, toot your own horn later space-boy, come help us pull this thing off.”

Quill looks at him, then back at Thanos, “He has my girlfriend, I want to know where she is.”

“He won’t be answering anything right now, the second we have this thing though, you’ll be able to ask him whatever you want. Come on, already!” Tony yells again.

“Quill.” Mantis gasps, “I can’t hold on much longer.”

Gritting his teeth, Quill finally steps to where they are, heaving alongside them. The gauntlet moves further. “Hey! Blue!” Tony yells, catching Nebula’s eye, “Wanna help out?”

Thanos roars again and Nebula joins them. Together, they give one final pull before they all go flying to the ground, the gauntlet wrapped firmly within Tony’s arms. For a second, they all just gape. “We did it.” he whispers, disbelief rife in his voice, “Holy shit.”

“Stark!” Stephen calls, “We can’t let him get hold of it again.”

Tony looks at him and an understanding seems to pass through them. He lurches forward, throwing the gauntlet in the air before grabbing onto Thanos’ arm again. Stephen flies forward, grabbing the stones and in a flash of yellow and orange, he’s gone.

And for a second, it feels like peace.

Until Quill asks Thanos where Gamora is and Nebula figures out she’s dead. All hell breaks loose then. When Thanos realizes the gauntlet is gone his rage is horrific and merciless. He grabs Mantis by the arm, swinging her into the ground so hard it splinters beneath her.

She doesn’t move.

Quill roars, running at him with Drax beside him, they shoot their guns and use their fists but Thanos’ fury gives him focused strength and he tosses them aside like gnats. Nebula glowers from behind her swords and she cuts and slices and he deflects with ease.

“Stay back Peter.” Tony warns in a low voice, the faceplate manifesting itself over his face once more. “I mean it.”

And then he launches. An ovular knife appears around his wrist and he flies at Thanos, slashing at his throat. His back armor opens up to shoot a dozen missiles. Explosions burst around Thanos’ body giving Tony the opportunity to throw a device on his wrist that sends an electric current that has Thanos tumbling to his knees.

Peter watches from afar with awe in his eyes. An admiration that wouldn’t ever die. The last time he’d seen Iron Man in a fight was three years ago from blurry clips on YouTube atop of a flying city. But here, in the moment, in the flesh, he’s glorious.

Peter knows there’s no signal all the way in space, knows that every manifestation of the armor comes from the rapid-fire invention of Tony’s own brain. Knows that his strategies come quick and he throws himself at Thanos relentlessly, determined, assured of a win from how singularly focused he is.

He’s incredible. And Peter remembers feeling younger and watching the Iron Man armor arc through the sky for the first time and feeling so awed stars sparkled in his eyes.

Tony has thrusters behind his elbows and his punch has Thanos shattering through rocks. Thanos yells again, charging at him, punching Tony straight in the chest. He beats at his head, at his torso. Landing a blow that has Tony spinning. But Tony’s never let a failure keep him down, after loss was an opportunity for invention. The man heaves, but uses the momentum to twist around, landing a flying kick to Thanos’ skull. He flips over him, landing behind the Titan and slashing at his knees so he stumbles forward where Nebula lies in wait.

Standing over her father with hate in her eyes, her swords glint in the dying light and in one swift motion, stabs Thanos clean through his heart. He gasps, his fingers clasping at the blades, blood gushing through his fingers. He looks at Nebula as though to say something but she digs the blades in deeper and slowly, his eyes shut and the Titan is no longer mighty, sprawled on the ground.

Tony looms over the body, breathing hard, a bruise forming over his eye and blood dried over his mouth. The armor is battered, crumbling around him, and yet, Peter doesn’t think he’s ever seen anyone look more heroic.

Tony tries to take a step but as though all the adrenaline had vanished, he stumbles, and Peter runs to him. He holds Tony up, looking up into his face, filled with relief and love, “You did it Mr. Stark. We did it.”

And Tony shakily reaches up an arm to wrap around him and squeezes as he laughs, short and disbelieving, “Yeah. We did.” he shakes his head, the euphoria bringing back the colour to his cheeks, “We did it.”

“Now let’s go home.”

 

It’s been three days since the battle for the universe and Peter’s gone to visit Tony every day. He meets Rhodey, Tony’s long time friend and big time worrier. He lectured Tony for hours about going into space alone and about how worried he was until Tony just gave him a hug and his berating melted all away.

He meets Happy, Stark Industries’ security guy and also another big worrier, although gruffer and less vocal about it than Rhodey. But still, Peter can see the care in his eyes, the tenderness in the way he fusses over Tony’s care and recovery.

He meets Pepper, who walked right into the room, took one look at Tony, all bandaged up and just said, “You wonderful idiot.” Before taking his hand and squeezing it. Peter left after that. To give them some privacy. But with his super-hearing, he still heard the gist. About Tony finally becoming the man Pepper knew he always was, that he finally followed his heart again and now was truly happy. Truly himself.

Peter smiles, when he hears that.

And finally, it’s just him again and Peter goes in to change the bandages and he brings an omelet and some coffee, black, just how he likes it, trying to balance his own hot chocolate alongside it. And then he fusses. As he does.

It’s funny how the tables turn.

“Kid,” Tony raises up a hand looking exasperated, “I’m fine. I promise. Any more of this overbearing nonsense and I’ll have to go find another bad guy’s ass to kick.”

Peter frowns, “Don’t even joke.” But he let’s up anyway.

Peter looks at him, looks away, then looks back, fiddling with the hem of his shirt. Tony sighs, “What?”

“Nothing!” his hands fly around, “It’s nothing!”

Tony gives him an unimpressed look.

“Okay, it’s not nothing, but it’s not a big deal, I was just wondering if…” Tony raises a brow, Peter hunches a little inward, “if you know…if this means Iron Man’s back.”

Tony doesn’t even hesitate, “Yeah I’m back.”

He looks thoughtful as he pushes himself up to sit straighter, looking wise and worn and finally at peace, “I used to think it was about the suit, that that was the special thing. The heroic thing.” Tony’s gaze is steady, “But it isn’t. I’m Iron Man. And I always will be.”

Peter looks at him and he feels like he’s smiling so hard his face will snap right in two. Tony on the other hand, just smirks, “Plus, someone has to keep an eye out on you. I have a heart condition, you should know that by now.”

“Oh my God you just want to baby-sit me.” Peter complains, but his eyes are shining with laughter.

“What can I say? You’re a handful Parker.”

Tony grins and Peter knows everything’s going to be okay now.

He has Iron Man on his side now. And more importantly, he has Mr. Stark. More than a friend, a mentor. A guide. A teacher. Someone to protect him and watch him grow. Something he’d always needed and never known until he got it.

“Sorry to cramp your style.” Tony says, not looking sorry at all.

Peter snorts, taking a big sip of his drink before smiling, “Nah, you fit just right Mr. Stark.”

 

Two Months Later

“Your vitals are entering dangerous levels, calling Tony Stark now.”

“No! Karen! Don’t do it- HEY MR. STARK!” Peter chuckles awkwardly as he sees Tony’s unimpressed face in the corner of his screen.

“You can quit with the charm, I see your oxygen levels decreasing by the second.” Tony deadpans.

“Ha. Hahaha. HAHA, it’s fine. Everything’s fine- I’m just- you know, on the back of a helicopter. But it’s chill! Haha get it.”

Peter winces when there’s no response.

Finally, Tony sighs, “Bring ‘em down Spiderling, and then come over so I can check on you.”

“Yes! Okay! Gotcha!” Peter nods furiously, the wind rushing past him at ridiculous rates as he presses himself closer to the metal.

“Be careful kid.”

“Always Mr. Stark!”

After he’s webbed up the bad guys and left a polite note for the police, Peter finishes walking his beat, arriving at Tony’s place in time to see him paying for take out at the front door while Peter comes in from the balcony. “Is that Thai?? Yes!”

“Ah, ah, ah,” Tony chides, “first, injury report.”

Peter groans, “I’m fine! Promise. Even ask Karen.”

Tony gives him a look, “Fine, I’ll believe you. But I will be checking later. Now go grab some plates, I’m starving.”

“Where’s Miss. Pepper? She’s usually home by now.”

“She has her hands full with the whole Iron Man is revealed to be yours truly thing.” Tony scowls, “I swear Stephen did it on purpose, dropping us in the middle of the city like that.”

Peter snorts, “I reallllly don’t think that was what he was thinking about. I feel like it was more the infinity stones he had?? The ones he had to scatter to keep the entire universe safe? Remember that?”

Tony waves a hand in the air, “Details.”

They pile food on their plates, digging in heartily when Tony laughs all of the sudden, shaking his head slightly. Peter has the weirdest feeling it’s directed at him. “What?” he asks, only slightly defensive.

Tony laughs more. “Nothing. It’s nothing. I’m just remembering that you broke into my place and then tried to offer to buy me a new couch.”

“Hey!” Peter defends, “I was stabbed and I was tired and in my defense, you have the exact same apartments!” a beat and then, “And I totally would’ve bought you a new couch.” he mumbles.

“Still. Ridiculous. Utterly ridiculous.” Tony teases, “But! Can’t say I minded.”

Tony’s expression changes into something more serious, something more meaningful, “I was dying when you met me. I know I didn’t look it, but deep down where everything counted, I was a mess.” Peter stares, breath caught in his throat, “But you inspired something in me kid. And I think it’s important that you know that. I wasn’t alright. And now I’m-” he smiles, “well, I think I’m doing pretty okay.”

Peter’s eyes widen, emotion rising up his throat before he launches forward, wrapping Tony up in a tight hug. “You changed my life Mr. Stark. Even from way before I met you. And I never say it but thanks for always being in my corner. You’ve never let me down. Ever. And you’re the only…you’re the only one who gets it. Really gets it, I mean.”

Tony’s hand rises to rest in his hair. “Jesus, when did this get so mushy.”

“Well you started it.” Peter laughs, pulling away.

“Hush you. And hurry up and finish, I have a cool project in the workshop waiting.”

Peter perks up, “Do we get to make things explode??”

Tony makes a face, “Of course we are, what do I look like to you, a heathen?”

Peter laughs, “Okay! Okay! I’m almost done.”

Tony claps his hands together, “God, finally. Then I’ll get the hot chocolate started and-”

“I’ll make the coffee.” Peter finishes.

Tony smiles.

When they’ve made enough things burst into flames and also managed to write a couple hundred lines of useful code, Peter grabs his backpack from the ground, sliding the strap around his shoulders. He’s about to wave goodbye when Tony stops him, handing him a little envelope.

Peter looks at him curiously, head tilted, but when he feels the indent in the paper, he just knows.

He opens it quickly, pulling out a key, eyes wide.

Tony shrugs, “I figured it’s time to stop breaking in whenever you want to come over. Consider this an official open door invitation.”

“Mr. Stark that’s-”

Tony raises a finger in warning, “If you say it’s too much I might have to throw out all your hot chocolate.”

Peter laughs, shaking his head, “You wouldn’t.” he looks up, “What I was going to say before you just assumed you knew everything was finally. Scaling the entire building every time was getting really lame.”

Tony snorts, “You know what, I take it back. Give it here Parker.” Tony holds out a hand but Peter cackles, jumping away already halfway out the door.

“No take backs!!” he yells, “And I’m coming over early on Tuesday to help you with your dinner party thing don’t forget!”

“Well it doesn’t matter does it, just let yourself in.” Tony says and Peter’s heart swells with the words.

On the elevator ride down, Peter slides the key down on his Iron Man key-chain, clinking his two house keys together.