"Did something happen between you and the wizard?" Rhodey asked, leaning against the table where his friend was (frantically) working. He was, unsurprisingly, ignored. "I'll take that as a yes." Not that it hadn't been obvious already. "Care to share with the class?"
"Pepper suggested that we talked and we did."
That was the 5th version of the Iron Spider Rhodey had seen that week. He could assume there were more.
"And apart from obviously badly, how did it go?"
"I would if you would talk." Tony scoffed. Fine. Bad choice of words. "I'm your friend, Tones, I've seen you at your worst."
"Yeah, that's why I keep you around. Can't handle me at my worst, don't deserve me at my best."
"How did it end?"
"Coward fled through his shiny voodoo portal." Rhodey refrained from pointing out that the only time the Avengers had seen the Sorcerer Supreme angry, an entire alien fleet got eradicated. Yeah. Strange had a pretty bad temper so if he was going to throw a fit, everyone would rather he didn't do it at the compound. But Rhodey waited, because once Tony started talking, he continued. "He called my tech toys and said that I just make robots because humans won't stick around me." The soldier's eyes widened. "That I'm wasting his time anyway cause I rarely make it to our dates." Another scoff. "Like he doesn't do the same."
"And what did you say?" If Rhodey knew his friend, he gave as good as he got.
"My robots are better than his carpet, and at least I have someone to talk to." Of course he did.
Still, that wasn't all.
"That wouldn't send you on a binge in the workshop." Tony winced. "What did?"
"I said his magic is stupid and whoever taught him was useless at their job and probably disappointed with him. When he opened the portal, I asked if he was gonna go tell on me to daddy." Tony shrugged. "He said he was a she and she's dead."
Rhodey facepalmed. Another thing those two had in common. Perfect.
"How did you two start arguing again?"
"I wanted him to drop by more often."
"Are you going to..."
"No. He insulted my babies." Well, that cleared things. It wasn't Tony's first bad breakup. Hell, Pepper was his only good one.
"Ok. But at least sleep."
"Nope. Still got things to do."
"I'll get Pepper." No reaction. "And Peter." The Legendary Puppy Eyes were the strongest weapon around the compound.
"Would too. Come on, Tony. Suits will still be here tomorrow."
"Thanks, Wong, you're a great friend. I don't know where I would be without you," Stephen replied sarcastically.
"Starving." The man set a tray of food on a small free corner of the table. Stephen did forget to eat more often than not. "When are you going to run back to Stark?"
"When one of us dies. Give or take a few minutes." With the way their lives were going, it was a genuine possibility.
Wong sighed and sat down next to him, starting to eat. Nevermind that there hadn't been a chair there before. Stephen waved his hand to arrange the stack of books neatly into a pile while he ate.
"He's an asshole."
"Yeah, which is why we argued."
"I think you're angrier about the why you argued."
Stephen rolled his eyes. He knew that much. It hurt, but he knew.
"He doesn't love me. I'm simply an accessory to the great Tony Stark."
"What makes you say that?" Apparently, that hadn't been Wong's point.
"He doesn't trust my powers, doesn't care about what I do, thinks relics are a joke and insults my pursuits." He pretended to think about it. "Yeah, I've been so blind. These are all signs of love."
"Two peas in a pod."
"No. No!" the Sorcerer Supreme snapped. "I never insult his interests until he insults mine! I don't goad him into getting angry!"
"Stark doesn't get angry for nothing."
"No, he's like a kid who gets angry whenever he doesn't get what he wants."
"It takes two to ruin a relationship, Stephen." That shut him up. "I'm not asking you to confess your sins, but at least admit that to yourself."
The rest of their dinner went in silence.
"So there's this museum and it's about science discoveries and it has an entire section dedicated to medicine and one dedicated to you, Mr Stark, so I thought we could go with Dr Strange?" Peter asked hopefully.
Something inside Tony died. Was that how divorced parents felt?
"Look, kid..." The hopeful smile faltered. The boy was perceptive. "We broke up." Now it vanished. Tony felt like kicking himself.
"Oh..." And that disappointment made Tony consider calling the other man. Just consider it, mind you. "Then I guess we can go without him. He probably knows all about those things, anyway." The urge to make up grew as Peter seemed to wilt, modifying plans in his head. It wasn't about the museum, Tony knew. The kid liked both of them, for some reason, so he was overjoyed that they got along. Now they'd just pulled the rug from under his feet. "Any chance you might make up?" he asked hopefully. Tony shook his head. "Why?"
"We said some really mean things to each other," Tony explained, hoping the kid would just drop it.
"Nothing to concern yourself with. And don't blindside us with a sudden meeting," Tony said, suddenly more serious. Peter's eyes widened. Guilty. "That won't go well."
"But maybe if you just talked!"
"No, Peter!" he snapped. After a deep breath, he continued, calmer. "I wouldn't forgive you for that."
That shut the teen up. He just nodded.
"Sounds cool. When do you wanna go?"
"Do you hate Mr Stark?" Peter asked the next time he was at the sanctum. Stephen rolled his eyes. Of course.
"Hate is a strong word." The teen seemed thoughtful and disappointed. "What is it?"
"I read somewhere that if you're angry with each other, there's still a chance. If you're calm and indifferent, it's really over."
"Don't listen to him," Wong advised as he crossed the room at just the right moment. Stephen glared. "This one hides his feelings like they're a disease."
The teen perked up. Stephen groaned.
Wong nodded, moving on.
Peter still looked happy. Stephen wondered if that was how divorced parents felt.
"Listen, Peter, I have other problems right now, like how we're going to keep having each other's back."
"Which is why talking would help."
"The last time we talked, we insulted each other."
Peter paused. Right. Stephen didn't baby him as much as Tony.
"What did you say?"
Stephen looked around, shifted uncomfortably and briefly considered not answering. But, in the grander scheme of things, answering could work in his favour. Peter would stop thinking of ways to make them make up.
"If I tell you, you stop asking me about this." The boy nodded.
"Only if you answer all my questions today." Stephen nodded. Sounded fair.
"I called his robots toys, he called my magic sparkly voodoo." Peter waited for him to continue, so Stephen did. His memory allowed for an accurate account of the arguments. When he finished, he was surprised to feel regret. No, he should feel angry. Wronged. Bitter. And he felt these things, yes, but he was also sorry it ended like that. They had a good thing going for a while. Yeah, when they both put in some effort. Then they stopped pushing themselves and took the other for granted. Stephen stopped asking Wong to watch over the sanctum for a while and simply said he was unavailable. Tony stopped pausing his lab work to drop by. Stephen didn't bother call. Tony gave up after a while. Stephen took Peter to fight a low-level demon and Tony flipped out.
Wong was right. It takes two to fuck up a relationship.
Peter stood silent, looking shocked.
"So yeah, that's what a breakup looks like." He'd just ruined two of his favourite people for the kid. Tony would probably try to disembowel him the next time they saw each other. "We're just better without each other."
"I'm sure you didn't mean those things and Mr Stark didn't, either," the boy finally said. Too pure for this world. That was why Tony wanted to protect him.
"Yeah, but I meant some of them and now they're out, anyway. You can learn from this, not to let your mouth run before your brain."
"But you and Mr Stark..." Stephen shut him up with a dark look. Peter sighed. Right. Think before you speak. "You both still care." The sorcerer scoffed.
"Another lesson. That's not enough. And three is a magical number: don't take the people in your life for granted. Now, you said you got a biology test coming up?"
"Oh shit, yes, I do!" Peter quickly took his book from his backpack. He paused before he opened it. "Can I tell Mr Stark that I talked to you about this?"
Stephen briefly hesitated, then nodded. Whatever. He would just have to be ready to have his sanctum blasted.
It took exactly 2 days.
"This has to be the most petty, immature, ridiculous thing you ever did, beer witch!" Tony roared, stomping into the sanctum.
Stephen appeared in front of him, in his robes, cloak and everything. Tony now hated him. The engineer had sleepless nights and felt and looked like shit, while the other man looked like it was just another normal day for him.
"If you're talking about Peter..."
"Of course I'm talking about Peter! Why else would I come to your haunted museum?"
Stephen rolled his eyes. He'd expected this to happen.
"He's 17, Anthony. Perhaps you should grow up and see that."
"He's just a kid and you dragged him into our breakup like some sort of emotional revenge!"
The sorcerer scoffed, crossing his arms over his chest.
"He asked." His eyes narrowed. "He precisely asked me because he knew you treat him like he learned to walk yesterday."
"He asked me first and like a good divorcee, I didn't trash talk the other parent," Tony retorted.
"I didn't insult you. I simply told him exactly what happened. If he came to the conclusion that you're to blame, sorry, but it's not my fault."
Tony lifted a gauntlet, aimed straight at him. Stephen was surprised to see he already had his shields ready. The Cloak was not into this, though, simply flopping on his shoulders like a normal cloth.
"Please, fire away," the sorcerer taunted. Tony didn't fall for it.
"You leave the kid out of this."
"Not that you need to know that, but I told him everything on condition that he never asked me about this again."
Tony paused. That was actually a smart move. Like hell he'd let Stephen know that.
"I'm not sorry I did it, though. He wouldn't quit pestering us both, otherwise."
Tony lowered his gauntlet with a frown, nanites retreating. The sorcerer followed his lead.
"Now he's just pestering me."
"Whatever for? He got his answers, drew his conclusions." Stephen shrugged. "You wanna sit down?"
Tony hesitated, then nodded. He found himself in an armchair. Stephen knew he hated the whole teleportation thing. It threw him off balance. Petty.
"He wants us to make up. Just because he promised you he'd stop, doesn't mean I'm unavailable."
"I'll talk to him. Anything else?"
"Not really. How are the divorce papers coming?" Tony joked. He had no idea what room he was in, so he tried to be subtle as he looked around, but it wasn't happening.
"Tell me if you want to leave."
"Nope, I'm good here. About time we talked and all that. Kid was right about talking. We're still saving the world together, right?" Stephen shrugged. "How's that gonna go? Should I watch my back for magic sparkles while you avoid blasters? Or can you convince yourself that my ass is worth saving?"
"I do not wish death upon anyone. So you can rest safe." Stephen tried to keep the snarl out of his voice, because Tony still disrespected his abilities and beliefs.
"Good, good. Same here. We started as unwilling allies, so we can go back to that." Stephen nodded, letting an awkward silence envelop them. That was alright. The sorcerer lived most of his days in silence. "You know, for a while, I thought you would be the one to make me trust magic."
Stephen ripped his eyes from the wall to stare at Tony. The engineer had a sad, but wistful smile.
"I would've, if you didn't insult it at every turn."
"Please, I insult everything." Tony scoffed. "Even myself, sometimes."
"That's a horrible habit I insisted you ceased. In fact, even though I'm half-debating on teleporting you outside, I still insist: stop insulting yourself at every turn, it only ruins whatever is left of your self-esteem and pushes people away." Tony rolled his eyes.
"I think I did a fine job with you without insulting myself."
"No, you insulted me."
"Fine, I'm sorry you can't take a joke." Stephen took a deep breath.
"You got angry when I responded in kind."
"Because you meant it," Tony retorted.
"No, I didn't. I was just reciprocating," he sorcerer pointed out.
"But you called my babies toys. You know how much I work for them?"
"You called the Cloak a rug."
"Fine. I'm sorry. I didn't mean it. I thought it was too awesome to care." Tony looked at the relic on Stephen's shoulders and it gave him an acknowledging nod. At least someone forgave him.
"I'm sorry I insulted your bots. They are wonders of science."
"I'm sorry I insult magic. Peter yelled at me that it's like 80% of your life. I never thought of it like that."
"Peter yelled at you?"
"In his squeaky teenager voice. Surprisingly, it can get terrifying." They both chuckled at that.
"You should see him fight a demon." Tony stared. Stephen sighed. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you I was taking him with me. You do need to loosen up with him, though."
Tony frowned, but nodded.
"I'm sorry about your master." Tony genuinely felt bad for the sad look in the other's eyes.
"You couldn't have known. For all you knew, Wong could've been my teacher."
"Give me a little credit, you'd be more formal with your sensei." Stephen rolled his eyes. "Say, doc, what happened to us?"
"We stopped trying." He had answered easily enough. Tony figured he'd been pondering the question.
"We stopped trying," he whispered, trying to digest the answer. Stephen was right. They'd just taken each other for granted. "So if we were to try again?"
The sorcerer was scrutinizing him with those blue, intelligent eyes. Wow, as soon as Tony was no longer angry with him, it was like a veil was lifted from his eyes. He suddenly saw everything he'd fallen in love with, right in front of him.
"Do you want to?"
"Only if you do." An eye roll. "Okay, so I still stupidly care. Want to make a pro-con list? I mean, obvious pro is..." A familiar pair of lips crashed onto his. Tony moaned. He'd missed this. The sorcerer had a unique way of kissing and while Tony wouldn't call it magic, it was quite passionate. Like every kiss mattered. He was pressed into the armchair, then the sorcerer pulled back, a little breathless. Tony smiled, just barely. "This." He kissed the sorcerer, pulling him close to straddle his lap. The Cloak fled. "And our kid. Gotta be responsible parents and... ground him for using my tech to spy on me."
Stephen narrowed his eyes at the small floating red spider as it quickly fled. Then they both laughed. Stephen braced his elbows on the back of the chair, face close to Tony's.
"He's a good kid. Tried so hard to get us together," the sorcerer began. Tony nodded. "Still grounded for meddling."
"I'm so grounded," Peter complained as the spiderbro returned. Ned laughed.
"They won't ground you, bro."
"10 bucks they will."
They shook hands. Barely a few minutes passed before Peter's phone beeped.
'Suit back for a week.'
'I support Tony's punishment.'