Tony Stark got his first and last hug from his kid, Peter Parker, while the kid was dying.
He had returned to Earth and found Pepper was still there, but his kid hadn’t returned. The first thing he did was hug Pepper because she was still there and then he’d taken a shower. It still felt like the dust of his kid was clinging to his skin and he hadn’t been able to save him .
He left the bathroom and collapsed on his bed, letting the familiarity soak into his veins. Nothing would be the same, though. There were so many that were lost to the Snap, his kid included. He had expected to be crying or screaming or clinging to the people he hadn’t lost because he needed and loved them. He expected to be mourning, to be in emotional pain that he’d never felt before. He wasn’t. He was just numb.
It felt like he would see the kid this weekend for the internship and they would bicker. Like Tony would try in vain to get the kid to call him ‘Tony’ instead of ‘Mr. Stark’. Like he’d be able to give his son another hug and he would be able to tell him how much he loved him.
He didn’t know how long he was laying there before his phone started ringing and he almost ignored it except half of the population had just been wiped out and the person calling him was certainly important to him.
He sat up and grabbed the phone. The caller ID read ‘Aunt Hottie’, something Pepper had arched a brow and given him a look for. He choked back a sob that was suddenly there because he would have to tell her that her nephew would not be coming back home to her.
He answered and turned on speaker, placing the phone on his lap. Her voice came through in as close to perfect clarity as one can sound without speaking face to face with someone, “Tony? Are you there? Peter isn’t answering my calls.”
It’s like something broke inside him at hearing his kid’s name. He wished he couldn’t hear May so well because if he didn’t, he could pretend she was breaking up on him and he could postpone this for a later date but he couldn’t and he told her, “I know.”
There was a moment’s hesitation and then May’s voice, bordering on hysterical and in perfect clarity begging him, “Could you ask him to call me back, please? Tell him he has to be home by 8. I’ll make his fa-”
Tony cut her off, “May, Peter’s not coming home. I’m so sorry, I couldn’t save him. I really tried, he was begging me and I couldn’t do anything, May, I’m sorry.”
Tony could hear May’s broken sob coming through the phone. She didn’t say anything for a minute and then her voice came through surprisingly steady, “Okay, thanks for telling me. I, um, I’ll call you back. Bye.” She didn’t give time for a response and hung up.
Tony stared at the phone on his lap as the reality of the situation set in. His kid was gone and he wasn’t coming back.
Tony broke down and cried.
It was a few days after May had called him when he was eating with Pepper, still hopelessly grieving when his phone rang again. He reached for it before Pepper could grab it and found May was calling him again. He immediately answered and pressed the phone up to his ear.
“Hey, Stark, it’s, uh, it’s May. I found something in… in Pe-Peter’s room,” She said the name with difficulty but pressed on, “and it’s addressed to you. I was wondering if you’d, um, wanna come over and see what it is. I haven’t opened it because I just, I feel like it wouldn’t be right, you know? Anyway, yeah, just drop by whenever.”
Tony looked at Pepper and mouthed ‘I have to go’, receiving a look of concern and a brief nod. “Okay, May, I’m coming over right now.”
“Alright, I’ll be waiting for you.”
Tony wasn’t sure he’d ever rushed somewhere so fast. It wasn’t like it mattered, the streets were mostly clear anyway. He got to the apartment and lifted his hand to bang on the door when it opened to reveal a May with bags under her eyes, looking rumpled and tired.
“Tony. Come in, please. I, uh, the box is on the coffee table.”
He gave a nod and walked over to the coffee table, finding a shoebox with a worn piece of paper with terrible handwriting taped on proclaiming ‘To Tony Stark’. He grabbed the lid and lifted it off, his breath held.
May had come over and when she saw what was in it, she choked back a sob, “Oh, Tony… My Peter… That’s definitely from him. I didn’t know why, but envelopes kept disappearing and he was the only culprit.” She left the room to give Tony privacy with his findings.
Inside the box were envelopes upon envelopes, all addressed to Tony, Mr. Stark or Tony Stark. He sifted through them until he found one without an envelope. It was just a sheet of notebook paper, but the lines were along the far side instead of the short side and it was the type of paper only a kindergartner or kindergarten teacher can acquire.
He opened it with such care, such precision. The handwriting was obviously that of a young child’s and it was terrible. The signature wasn’t even legible, but the rest of it was, thankfully. It read,
“Dear Tony Stark,
“You are my hero because you are smart and brave. I adimer” - the teacher had gone back and written admire over it - “you bicus” - because - “your inventions” - and of course the kid had spelled that one right - “help people defind” - defend - “themselfs.” - themselves, jeez, the kid didn’t know how to spell - “Thank you. You are my hero.” Then it was the signature and Tony couldn’t make that out but it didn’t matter that much because it was certainly Peter’s name.
He felt touched that the kid had considered him his hero even when he was a little kid and he yearned to hug him again. He reached for another letter and then stopped. There would be time for this later and Tony wanted to savor these words the kid, his kid, had written him. He carefully folded the letter back up and put it into the box.
He smiled for the first time in days because this was his kid in these words. His kid might’ve died, but he could still cling to Peter through these letters and he would.