Tony jerks awake at the sound of the alarm.
"Notifying as per your request, boss," FRIDAY chimes from his phone. He puts it on mute before the sound wakes Pepper up. Or worse, Morgan. He literally just got her down to sleep.
"FRI," he whispers softly, slipping into his sweatpants and making his way out of the bedroom before Pepper jerks awake. "What time's it?"
"Four fifteen am," she replies, sweet and calm as ever.
"Are you kidding me," he groans, getting to the couch in their cosy living room and stretching out until all the kinks in his back pop with a satisfactory click. "He went to sleep two hours ago! It's the fourth time this week."
"I am monitoring his sleep patterns, and he is significantly below the average REM requirement for an adolescent of his age."
Tony sighs, rubbing a hand on his face. "I am getting too old for this, FRI."
He knows what this is about. He's been putting off confronting Peter about it, because what's he even supposed to say to the kid? He knows how close they came to losing everything.
The front door opens gently. The kid thinks he is being quiet, but he isn't, not when Tony is sitting in the living room, waiting for him. For the last four weeks, every time this happened, the kid had gently padded into his and Pepper's bedroom, stood in the doorway in his socks, listened to Tony breathe and swung his way back to Queens.
Well, not anymore.
"Come in here, Pete," Tony calls, his voice startlingly loud in the quiet of the house.
The kid shuffles in, looking sheepish.
"I am sorry to bother you, Mr. Stark," he stammers. "I was just in the area, getting off patrol -"
"You're patrolling upstate now?"
"Mr. Stark -"
"Sit down, kiddo," he gestures at the empty cushion beside him. "Take your shoes off. Get comfortable." This is your home, he doesn't say.
Peter settles onto the other end of the couch, and sits cross legged, the arm of the couch at his back, facing Tony.
"You okay, Peter?"
"Yes, sir," he says, and his eyes are huge and round, almost desperate with some unsaid emotion.
"Can't sleep?" he asks, because Tony can guess. Tony's been at this exact same place before. He knows. He understands viscerally what's going on in Peter's head.
Peter shakes his head. "No."
"Talk to me," he pushes because really, time's up. Tony should have done this four fucking weeks ago when Peter started showing up in the middle of the night.
Peter just looks at him, really really looks at him like he can't get enough.
Tony breaks the silence.
"It's the nearly dying thing, right? You actually did die. You were dead for five years, Pete. I can't tell you - gosh, those five years. I can't tell you what that was like. I am so sorry I left you there. Vision says it was a limbo state that you were in. I want you to know that it's okay for you to have nightmares -"
"They're not about me," Pete says, quiet, voice sharp as a whip.
"The nightmares," he says, voice so cutting as to pierce the silence around them. "Mr. Stark, the nightmares are not about me. God, you think that's what this is? It was fine. I was gone for a second. I barely felt it, it was fine. No, that's not - you put the gauntlet on and snapped your fingers!"
"You nearly died," he says, and now he isn't looking at Tony. He is looking anywhere but at Tony. "I get it, alright? I am not a kid. I understand. It was four billion lives versus one life. You are Iron Man. That's who you are. If I was in your place, I would have done the same thing -"
"Don't you dare -"
"But you almost died," he says again. "I was five feet away from you and you almost died, and I thought I was done having the people I love die on me, Mr. Stark, so, no, the nightmares are not about being turned into ash at all."
"Pete," Tony says gently. "I am right here."
"I am not going anywhere," he says. "My arm was in a sling, and you made sure that I recovered. You did that. You and Morgan and Pep and Harley and Steve, you all did that and I am right here."
"You wanna maybe just stay here for a few weeks?" he offers, because what else is he supposed to do? There isn't a parenting manual for nearly dying on your sort-of-kid in the course of protecting the universe. "So that you can make sure that I am really here until you believe it on your own?"
Peter looks at him, considering, eyes dangerously watery.
"Thank you," he says finally, quiet in that way of his. "I would like that."
"You can babysit Morgan on date nights," he says, making the kid laugh.
"You still gotta pay me."
"We can negotiate. Wanna head to bed?"
"I just wanna maybe -"
"Watch a movie?"
"Yes please," he nods.
"FRI, dim the lights and play Princess Bride."
"As you wish, boss," FRI replies, because she is the fucking best.
The man in black has barely reached the Cliffs of Insanity before Peter is snoring into Tony's chest, clinging to him like his life depends on it. Tony settles back against the cushions, with Peter plastered to his front, running his hands through the kid's hair, praying to Gods he doesn't believe in, hoping that he doesn't screw this up.
He is woken up gently by May Parker leaning over him in the beautiful morning sunshine.
"Seven," she says. "I figured he came here. I drove up to make sure everything was okay."
"Sorry," he says, fighting a yawn, gently lowering Peter into the couch cushions. The kid is still dead to the world, so he throws the blanket from the armchair on the kid and lets him sleep it off. "I should have called last night." He follows her into the kitchen where, bless her, she puts the coffee on.
"It's alright," she says. "I have been meaning to talk to you about it, but looks like he beat me to the punch."
"I should have noticed," he grimaces. "Sorry, May."
"He's gonna be clingy for a few weeks."
He raises a questioning eyebrow, and she answers his unspoken query. "After Ben passed," she says, pulling down mugs from the cupboard, "It was a tough few weeks."
"I would like him to stay here with us. Temporarily," he blurts out. "With your permission. You're welcome to join us."
"It's a hell of a work commute," she smiles. "But by all means, keep him here. School's out on summer break anyway. Being around Morgan does him good."
"She is a little ray of sunshine," he agrees.
"Little ray of sunshine is up and wants daddy," Pepper says from the doorway, her early morning bad mood magnified several times. "Hey May," she smiles at the other woman.
He groans. "Seven am. Why did we get early risers as kids?"
"One of them is snoring loud enough to scare the birds," Pepper points toward the couch with a mug. "You know what I say about the universe."
"Only one problem child at a time," he answers, making his way to his daughter, wondering what fresh hell of parenting this day would bring.
He can't wait to find out.