“Tones, who even are you anymore? A year ago, you wouldn’t be caught dead outside a high school.”
“I’m just here to pick up the kid, it’s not like I come here on the regular.”
“Sure seems like it these days.”
The two armored heroes are at Midtown, a few rows back in the parking lot but can still see the entrance, searching through the sea of teenagers for their spider-boy. Peter is typically one of the last to leave anyway due to Academic Decathlon that’s on the other side of the school but even then, he ought to be out here by now.
“What’s that s’posed to mean?” Tony asks.
“Do I really need to spell it out for you?” Rhodey responds, a cheeky smile shown on his face, “Picking the kid up from school, helping him with his homework, even started teaching him how to drive -”
“So, when didya pick up your ‘Dad Membership’?”
“What the fuck are you talking about -”
“Oh, you know exactly what I’m talking about, don’t deny it.”
“I’m helping out the kid, so what? Picking him up just saves time instead of taking the subway. May’s been too busy to teach him to drive and she can’t exactly help him with physics homework -”
Rhodey cuts him off with a laugh, “You’re actually trying to talk yourself outta this -”
“I’m just stating the facts,” Tony quips in annoyance, “Anyone else can help him with his homework -”
“But he always comes to you. If you guys aren’t actually that close, why doesn’t he just go to a tutor?”
“‘Cuz -” the billionaire cuts himself off, not wanting to prove his friend right.
Tony hesitates for a few seconds, crossing his arms on top of the steering wheel before mumbling, “He gets anxious when it comes to asking for help.”
“D’aww,” the soldier mocks, “Ain’t that adorable -”
“I’ll blast you out of this fucking car -”
“So he feels comfortable enough to ask you for help.” The armored sidekick shrugs, “Sounds like a 'dad' to me.”
“I will actually kill you and hide your body.”
“Who says I’m not gonna come back and haunt your ‘dad’ ass -”
“Fuck you,” Tony snorts, a burst of laughter escaping him, “Where’s that damn kid?”
The two men put their focus back on the school’s entrance, scanning over the diminishing crowd of students with still no sign of Iron Man’s intern.
“How do you know he didn’t ditch or something?” Rhodey asks.
“You kidding? He cares too much about school to even consider that, he has one of the best work ethics I’ve ever seen.”
“Compared to you, everyone has the best work ethic you’ve ever seen.”
“I still got my degree, didn’t I?”
“Only ‘cuz you have an IQ of five hundred.”
“And I knew how to beat the system,” Tony says with a snicker, “If I knew you were gonna be such a sourpuss today, I wouldn’t’ve let you tag along.”
“Forgive me,” Rhodey starts, voice dripping with sass, “But I’m still bitter about getting worse grades than you despite doing triple the work you did.”
“Twenty years and you’re still on that, sounds to me like you need counseling -”
“I do, to deal with your stupid ass.”
Tony smiles, “Yet you always come check on me.”
“Someone’s gotta help Pepper out, I don’t know how she does it.” The soldier laughs in spite of himself, “Or the damn kid for that matter.”
The mechanic releases his own bout of sarcasm, “Have I told you lately how much I love that you care -”
“Shut up,” Rhodey says, lightly slapping his friend’s upper arm, “Peter’s coming out anyway.”
Sure enough, the adults turn to see the sixteen-year-old finally walking out of the school, hand-in-hand with his best friend.
“When’d they start doing that?” Tony mutters.
“Don’t tell me you got a problem with that -”
Said man cuts him off with a scoff, “‘Course not, I just wasn’t expecting it. He hasn’t said anything.”
“Maybe they’re just really close friends and we’re jumping to conclusions.”
Before Tony can respond, he sees his kid giving his best friend a hug.
Along with a kiss on the lips.
“Yeah,” the billionaire says with a smirk, “Really close friends -”
“Oh, fuck you,” the colonel chuckles, “Why hasn’t he said anything, you think?”
His comrade shrugs, “Beats me, maybe he’s waiting for the right time.”
The two men straighten as they see the spiderling walk to the car, with Tony waving at him as he unlocks doors.
Peter gets in and closes the door, sloppily flinging his backpack against the opposite end of the backseat, “Hey guys!”
“Hey, kiddo, how was school -?”
“Great!” the young hero replies, so enthusiastic that it takes effort for the adults to keep a straight face, “Happy it’s Friday and stuff.”
“Really, we can’t tell,” Tony lightly quips. He looks at his intern in the rearview mirror, noting the beam he’s sporting, how he can’t sit still, the blush in his cheeks that makes the man almost coo.
Damn, he’s head over heels about this guy.
The whole drive to the tower, Peter is blabbering up a storm, catching them up on what's happened in the past week.
Explicitly leaving out that he’s apparently dating his best friend.
Why doesn’t he wanna tell me?
It’s no different when they get to their destination. Even after Rhodey leaves, Peter doesn’t say anything about him and Ned, ruining his mentor’s theory about him wanting to wait until it’s just the two of them.
The two heroes continue doing their thing in the lab, with Tony welding metal to one of his suits and his protege doing homework at a nearby worktable.
When the tyke starts concentrating fully, they don’t say much.
Tony can’t help but think about how natural this is, not feeling the need to constantly say something to fill the void.
Not that he doesn’t like it when his kid gets talkative. Sure, it can get annoying depending on his mood but he loves his little chatterbox. The fact that Peter is comfortable enough to express his opinions or tell his hero some story, it’s…well, Tony can’t describe it.
And it’s just as nice when it’s quiet between them. No one is tense or upset, no awkwardness is in the air.
They simply enjoy being each other’s company.
Tony flinches, startled at the break in silence, “Yeah?”
The mechanic turns to his kid, eyebrow raised, “Well, don’t keep in suspense, Pete, what is it -?”
“Don’t rush me,” Peter playfully retorts, voice lowering, “I just, I wanna tell you something but I don’t know how.”
It takes everything in Tony to keep the smirk off his face, expecting what the “bombshell” will be.
“Just say what’s on your mind, kiddo, I won’t judge.” He then decides to throw him a bone, “It’s not an ace thing, is it?”
“No,” the boy says, “Not really anyway, he doesn’t care about that.”
“Who doesn’t?” his father figure asks, turning his back to him to hide his uncontrollable smile.
“Ned,” Peter says quietly, “He, um, he’s never cared about that, even before…” he trails off, causing his hero to turn back around while trying his damndest to look confused.
Tony responds, “Before what?” He’s both treading carefully and keeping it casual, fiddling with some part while watching the tyke out of the corner of his eye.
“Before we, um,” his protege starts, keeping his gaze on his calculus textbook, “Before we, uh…” he finally spits it out, his voice rushed as if he’s ripping off a hypothetical bandaid, “Before we started dating.”
And there it is.
The mechanic looks up at his kid, giving him a proud smile, “Aww, my little spider-baby is growing up -”
“Shut up,” Peter says between giggles, “I knew I shouldn’t’ve told you.”
“I’m glad you did. I had, uh, I had no idea, definitely wasn’t expecting that.”
The teenager narrows his eyes at him, “How’d you know?”
“You always call me a bad liar, but you’re not that good either,” Peter smirks, “We’ve only been dating for like a month, how’d you know?”
Tony snorts, giving in, “If you wanna keep your relationship a secret, maybe next time don’t kiss in front of the damn school.”
He laughs at seeing his intern’s cheeks darken to the color of his suit, “You saw that?” Peter says.
“Me and Rhodey both. You guys looked so adorable it’s disgusting, I was wondering when you were gonna tell me.”
“So,” the spiderling says, “You’re okay with it?”
“Why wouldn’t I be okay with it?”
“Well, you know,” Peter shrugs, “Most boomers don’t exactly like that stuff -”
“Okay, first of all: never call me a ‘boomer’ ever again. Us Gen Xers, we just don’t give a shit about anything.”
Tony then says, smiling at his giggling protege, “And hey, if you do come across a ‘boomer’, all the more reason to piss them off.”
“Oh my God, we’d get killed -”
“Karens may look intimidating but they don’t have shit going for them except a novel-length Facebook status that no one’s even gonna read.”
Tony’s voice then turns unexpectedly serious, “So, Ned, he’s really okay with the ace thing?”
The tyke nods his head, “Yeah, he’s known for a while, I’m not worried about that.”
But I am.
The billionaire sits in a chair across from the boy, forgetting about messing with his suit, “Just, uh, just be careful, okay?” His hand drifts to his kid’s, lightly grabbing it, “If he tries anything -”
“He’s not going to.” Peter tightens their grip, causing an unexplained fuzziness to bloom in his father figure’s chest.
The teen continues, “Mr. Stark, I trust him, and if anything does happen - which it won’t - I’ll end it right then and there.”
“You better.” Tony rubs his thumb over the tops of the other’s fingers, "And then you’ll come to me, sound good?"
Peter nods his head, "Yeah, I will." He then says, smiling cheekily, "When'd you get so protective?"
That fucking "Dad Membership."
Tony clears his throat as light embarrassment seeps in, "Well, as you may know, it is my duty as Iron Man to keep everyone safe and that includes you with your horny boyfriend."
That elicits a giggle out of the boy, “Uh-huh,” he says, smirking in a way that shows he doesn’t believe him.
“No really, I gotta leave in a few minutes to get a cat out of a tree.”
“So you’re dumping me for a cat -”
“Oh, like you wouldn’t dump me for a cat -”
“What’s wrong with having both?”
Both of them chuckle at that. Tony then says, “The more the merrier.” He starts to pull away but he feels his hand tightened by his spider-boy.
“Thank you,” Peter says, shyly looking up at his father figure, “You have nothing to worry about but um, I love that you did worry if that makes sense.”
It makes perfect sense.
God, this is such a “dad" thing to do.
“Hey, someone’s gotta look out for my underoos, might as well be me.”
The boy fondly rolls his eyes, “If anyone else said it, I’d hate that nickname.”
“And who could resist me, huh?”
“Oh my God,” the spiderling says, laughing at the sass, “Can you help me with this math problem? It’ll be quick, I promise you’ll get to that cat in time.”
Tony looks at his watch, the gesture heavily exaggerated to show he’s not serious, “I think I can squeeze in one. Just one though, no dillydallying.”
“Yeah, ‘cuz you definitely don’t do that -”
Again, the two of them are back in their natural state. After Tony shows his kid where he slipped up, it’s quiet, just like earlier. Neither one feels the need to fill any awkward silence.
Because there isn’t any.
And Tony can't be happier.