1. Wait, Another one?
Rhodey noticed a lot more than Tony gave him credit for, even from a hospital bed.
He noticed how Tony couldn’t even look at him for more than a minute without getting angry all over again but that time-span was getting longer every day. He noticed how Tony still talked to Dum-E and his other robots instead of Pepper sometimes. And he noticed that he left on a whole lot of “business trips” to Queens.
He didn’t lie about it, he didn’t try to hide it, but he wasn’t exactly open about it either. He said he was visiting the Spider-kid, the one who had shown up at the airport in Germany but Rhodey was somewhat suspicious. Come on, Tony was smiling a whole hell of a lot more when he came back from those trips, smiles that were normally reserved for Pepper. Which got Rhodey thinking. Perhaps it was because he couldn’t do much more than think at the moment but it still struck him as odd. So, he thought about everything he knew about the kid, which wasn’t much.
He thought Star Wars was really old, meaning he was young. Well, his voice and complete lack of knowledge of an actual fight could have told him that but still. He was definitely American despite being in Germany, meaning Tony probably brought him there. How did Tony get a kid into Germany without his parents or his guardians? Sure, he had private jets and boats and pretty much everything but even he had to have a passport whenever Tony’s excursions took them places. And didn’t parents have to consent to children crossing the border?
And now his mind was spiraling because no, he couldn’t be Tony’s.
Rhodey had seen how fast Tony had ran to him when the size-changing person had knocked him into those boxes. He’d only seen the kids face once in passing but it was enough to see messy brown hair and a smile. Which wasn’t much but he certainly looked like Tony, at least a little bit. And he was young, he couldn’t have been more than 16. Honestly, that was probably around the age he would be if he really were……
Tony seriously needed to stop hiding kids from them. Almost as if his thoughts conjured him, the man himself stepped into the room, smiling at Rhodey the best he could.
“Hey Rhodes, you feel like trying today?”
“Were you with the kid again?” It escaped his mouth before he could think and Tony tensed.
“Why?” His friend asked cautiously. “Did someone come asking for him? I told Ross, he’s not getting involved anymore than he already is.” Rhodey jumped a little as Tony slammed his fist down onto his desk, several screens popping up. Damn, maybe he was right. Tony was acting really protective over this kid
“No, no one came.” Rhodey struggled to sit up a little more before the bed rose for him, obviously Friday’s doing. “I was just…. Curious. Never seen him before Germany.”
“Ya well, he was keeping a low profile.” Tony shrugged, focused on his screens once again. “I hadn’t even really talked to him before that.”
“Do his…… guardians know about all of this? Or, anything?” Rhodey asked, gesturing lazily to the room and the compound in general.
“No, they think he’s my intern. Easier that way.”
“No, she would not be happy. Would probably chew my ear off for dragging him to Germany but it’s done now. Besides, we needed help. What else could I have done?” Rhodey hummed non-commentially.
They fell into a somewhat strange silence until Rhodey gained the courage to speak once again, not looking at Tony.
“So, is it just the two or do we need to worry about more secret kids.” There was a loud bang before Tony appeared in his field of vision, looked thoroughly red-faced.
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“The kid!” Rhodey rolled his eyes. “Please at least tell me he was before Pepper?"
“The- he’s not mine!” Tony looked like he was about to have an aneurysm and Rhodey blinked in confusion.
“But, I thought-”
“Jeez Rhodes! He’s just some random kid from Queens who got powers. I keep an eye on any anomaly so when we needed help, he was pretty much our only option who wasn’t already on the team.”
“Oh.” It was Rhodey’s turn to grow hot as Tony rubbed his forehead slowly.
“And here I thought you didn’t have any brain damage.” Rhodey huffed and Tony shot him a good natured smirk. He turned away from his friend before turning back slowly.
“Wait, did you say two?” Rhodey chuckled a little, rubbing the back of his neck nervously.
“That uh, that Harley kid.”
Tony groaned and dropped his head into his hands. “I am far too sober for this.”
2. Should I be worried?
(You mean, more worried than usual?)
Pepper Potts prided herself on being observant, even when those observations had her pacing the room hours after it occured. Who knew one sentence could keep her awake for hours. Even after all the danger she and Tony had been in since… well since pretty much everything, it was one sentence that kept her awake. It was a throw away line, something so casual she almost missed it.
“I’ve gotta go pick up Tony’s kid, I’ll talk to you later.” That was all Happy said before hanging up.
It took her several moments staring at the phone screen to register what he said and several hours after that to truly accept it. Tony’s kid. Did Tony have a kid he didn’t tell her about? And if he did, how long had he known? It wasn’t the first time Pepper had dealt with the idea of Tony having a child with someone else. Hell, she’d hired a whole lot of lawyers and diverted media attention quite a lot in recent years when old flames of Tony’s tried to say they had his children but Tony never paid it much mind. A quick DNA test had shown that they were all lying but even when they were unsure, Tony never so much as looked at the kid.
And yet now Happy was picking whoever it was up, most likely taking them to see Tony and he hadn’t breathed a word to her. So who the hell was the kid? She made up her mind without realizing it as she diverted from the path she’d been practically wearing in the floor and towards one of the many holographic tables scattered around the place. She entered her password, suddenly more thankful than ever that Tony had given her access to all of his files and Friday’s voice greeted her.
“Good evening Miss Potts. You seem rather distressed.”
“I’m alright Friday.” She breathed. “Just.. Can you pull up the files on Tony’s kid? The one Happy was going to pick up earlier?”
The AI complied silently, and suddenly there was a large school picture staring back at her. A kid, no more than 15 or 16 with wild brown hair and…….. Damn it. She didn’t know what she felt when she looked into those happy brown eyes. It was like looking at an old yearbook photo of Tony, except she’d never seen him smile like that in those pictures. Pepper would be lying if she said she wasn’t hoping the kid wasn’t Tony’s.
The strange thing was, looking at the kid, even in a picture, a small part of her hoped he was. She looked closer at his information, tilting her head a little. Peter Parker. He was 15, so that was around the right age that he would’ve been, and he lived in Queens. There was a father listed, Richard Parker, but if he’d never had a DNA test, no one would be the wiser. Plus, those damn eyes….
Father listed or not, she couldn’t stop thinking about it. There were two more pages of the file but she’d seen enough. Besides, if he was Tony’s kid, she would rather hear it straight from the horse's mouth. So, she closed the file and as if sensing her intentions, Friday chimed in from above her wherever the speaker was hidden.
“Boss is currently in his private lab. Would you like me to inform him that you are on your way?”
“Yes, thank you Friday.” She walked to Tony’s lab a little shakily but she managed. The door was open when she arrived so she slipped in silently, waiting for Tony to finish whatever test he was currently running and turn towards her. When he did, he smiled playfully, wiping his hands on a towel.
“To what do I owe the pleasure?” He chuckled, though he had obviously realized there was something serious in her expression because he sat down at his bench, watching her curiously. It took Pepper a few seconds to breathe and gather her thoughts before she managed to speak.
“I talked to Happy earlier, when he was on his way to go pick up the kid-” Instantly, Tony winced and cut her off.
“Look, there’s a reason I didn’t tell you. I knew you were going to be mad and I just thought it would be better to leave it alone for now.”
“Well, I’m mad now!” She snapped. “Why wouldn’t you tell me? Especially if you’ve been spending time with him lately.”
“Because I don’t even know if I’m making the right decision!” Tony shot back angrily, then took a deep breath and continued. “Look, I know he’s just a kid but we needed him in Germany and I-”
“Germany?” Pepper asked in confusion and Tony looked at her cautiously.
“I get the feeling we’re talking about very different things. What are you mad about?”
“You didn’t tell me you had a child Tony! I mean, what were you planning on doing if anyone were to find out? Do you realize the amount of lawyers I would have to talk to?”
“What the hell are you talking about? I don’t have a kid.” Tony gaped at her and Pepper stared back in shock.
“Then who’s the Peter kid that’s in your files and that Happy was picking up?” Tony stared at her for a second before he burst out laughing. “What’s so funny?”
“He’s not mine. He’s not. You looked at the files, right?” When she nodded he snorted. “If you had gone past the first page you would’ve realized it. He’s Spider-man.” Tony’s laughter quieted as the woman turned this information over in her head.
“Spider-man. As in, the one you took to Germany to fight? He’s a 15 year old kid?” Tony winced.
“This is why I didn’t tell you.” Pepper let out a sigh before sitting down next to Tony.
“Tell me about him.”
“The kid. Tell me about him.” She urged. “You wouldn’t take him into a fight if he was just some normal kid.”
“He’s not.” Tony assured her. “He’s kind of like Bruce, radiation but through a Spider and so he got those powers but he doesn’t have a giant green guy in him. He’s just kinda, spidery.” Now it was Pepper’s turn to laugh. “It’s true! He even has these webs that he made, I don’t know how long it took him to get the formula right but he manages pretty well. Stubborn as hell though, never listens, he’s too smart for his own good. Sometimes I just want to tie him to the ground.”
Pepper couldn’t help but smile at Tony as he kept talking. It wasn’t until Friday came over the speaker to remind Tony to actually get some sleep that she realized she’d been listening to him talk about the kid for over an hour. As she dragged Tony to bed with her, she rolled her eyes. He might not be Tony’s son, but if he got Tony smiling and laughing like she hadn’t seen very much lately when he wasn’t even in the room, she may have to adopt him anyway.
3. Wait, That’s him?
(Yes, I'm not just pulling your arm.)
Bucky didn’t really mind visiting Shuri’s lab, not as much as he said he did anyway. What he did mind when he found a prototype arm that he liked and she took it away to make more improvements on it, even when he didn’t think it needed it. So now, he was pretty much stuck sitting here while she did something or other to it. He grew bored after a few minutes and let his eyes wander across the many screens the princess had pulled up around her lab.
He wasn’t really paying attention to them until his eyes landed on a screen a little bit to her right and a familiar face was looking back. It took him several seconds to realize that it was in fact a picture and not one of those weird hologram chat things that came from Shuri’s bracelet. A picture of Tony Stark in the princess’ lab would not have been all that strange, especially since Shuri was often trying to study bits and pieces of his work, but it wasn’t Tony that made Bucky push himself to his feet and go closer, it was who he was with.
Because there was a kid standing beside him, grinning wildly as he held some sort of certificate that was upside down in one hand and gave Tony bunny ears with the other. (You guys know the picture I’m talking about.) Below it, the words “Best. Day. EVER” were hovering on the screen with several little faces that Bucky didn’t even pretend to understand.
“It’s rude to snoop.” Bucky flinched at Shuri’s voice, (when the heck did she turn around?) before regaining his composure and turning towards her.
“It’s not snooping if it’s already open on a screen for everyone to see.” He retorted quietly and she huffed.
He shrugged, returning his eyes to the picture for a moment before asking, “Who’s the kid?”
She blinked and glanced at the picture, smiling. “That’s Peter, he’s pretty cool. We talk sometimes, online and once when T’Challa took me to the United States we stopped by New York and we hung out for a few days. He’s rather smart for a boy too. You fought him in Germany, remember?”
“No. There wasn’t a kid….” He paused for a moment before his mind was pulled back to that fight at the airport, though thankfully it wasn’t as overwhelming as other memories.
The figure in red and blue who had burst through the window and knocked Sam down. As little as he cared for the man, he had helped him and he knew Steve would kill him if he didn’t do something so he’d turned and swung, expecting to send whoever it was that had attacked them flying right after Sam. Instead, the person had caught his fist. Actually caught it. He was shocked, to say the least, and then they spoke.
“You have a metal arm? That’s awesome, dude!”
And Bucky had let his fist relax in the child’s grip, because that’s what he was, a child. He went to step back when Sam slammed into the kid, dragging him away. When the kid had escaped Sam, he threw a piece of metal at him, mostly hoping to dislodge him before Sam shot him but it didn’t work. If he had any doubts about the newcomer being a kid, they were dispelled when he apologized after tying? Webbing? Sticking them to the floor.
God, it was like listening to Steve made over. He managed to pull himself out of that particular memory before it went too far and he shook his head.
“There was a kid. Never caught what he was called.”
“Spider-man.” Shuri said, shaking her head. “He isn’t very original.”
“How old is he?”
Shuri shrugged. “15? I don’t know his birthday but I don’t think he’s 16 yet.”
Bucky nodded slowly, his mind whirling. Part of him hadn’t really wanted to believe that the newcomer, (Spiderman, he corrected himself), was really a kid, maybe he was just a younger superhero with a high voice but the knowledge of his true age hit the former assassin like a punch in the gut. 15. What were he and Steve doing when they were 15? Joking around in the streets, being kids, hearing about war but never seeing it.
And yet Stark had pulled a 15 year old kid into a war. A war of mutants and super soldiers and powers.
Who in their right mind would put their child into that? Because he was his child, wasn’t he?
He hadn’t known Stark but he had seen his face many times. And the kid looked just like him. Plus, Shuri had said he was a genius so it would make sense that he was a Stark, right? Apparently not because when he voiced this to Shuri, she had to hide her laughter.
“No, he’s not related to Tony. If he was, I’m pretty sure he’d be a lot more egotistical.” She laughed and he smiled, but his mind kept dragging him back.
So Stark wouldn’t bring his own child into a war. But someone else's child, was that any better?
4. I thought you were supposed to be the smart one?
(No one's perfect, so shut up)
Michelle knew a lot of things. She knew Pi to the 115th digit, she knew just about every name in every time period of history, and she could remember almost every date you told her. So was it any surprise she knew one little secret about Peter Parker?
Well, little was far from the word for it but she didn’t see how it was that hard of a thing to figure out.
Even before this, Peter was pretty bad at keeping secrets. It was like they forgot she sat at their lunch table, what with the amount of things Peter talked to Ned about at an audible volume.
MJ didn’t think Peter even realized she knew yet. It wasn’t like she had gone out of her way to tell him or hide it but she had started making excuses to the teachers whenever he would disappear and she was rather lax on his absences from the Academic Decathlon. That didn’t mean she let them slide completely though. She made him revise with her at lunch or on weekends or whenever he wasn’t bailing on her completely. Like today.
“Look, MJ, I just can't today!” He was practically spilling his lunch tray as he tried to keep up with her brisk pace towards the library. “I have internship stuff to do.”
“You told me yesterday that you got the day off so you COULD revise.” She was mostly giving him a hard time but a part of her was truly annoyed. “State is only in two weeks and I don’t want you keeping us from winning and going to Nationals.”
“I know, I know, but I’m studying!” He insisted, nearly getting smacked by the library door as he said this. “I’m in here every day at lunch with you and the practices I can make it to and I’m studying after school with Ned when I can, so I don’t see the big deal.”
“It’s more of the principal.” She said, sliding into a table near the back of the library and Peter sat down across from her. “How do I know you’re not gonna bail of Nationals again if you keep bailing on study sessions?”
“I won’t, I promise. Look, Mr. Stark just wants me to meet Harley while he’s in town and I-”
“Hold up.” She was surprised when he actually listened but continued on. “Who’s Harley? Is he….. Another intern or something?”
“Uh, or something.” Peter said nervously, his face growing red. “Look, it’s not important. After I get home, I’ll call you and we can quiz each other over the phone.”
“Don’t bother. You’re gonna be all, well, YOU after being around Tony Stark and you won’t be able to focus. We’ll just study now and tomorrow at lunch and figure it out from there.” He smiled sheepishly before focusing on the sheet she’d handed him in the line.
They spent the entire lunch hour quizzing each other on various topics that Michelle wasn’t really paying attention to until the bell rang and they went separate ways. If she was being honest, Michelle didn’t pay attention in any of her other classes after lunch, her mind too full of questions. The second the bell rang she practically ran the whole way home and jumped on her computer, typing quickly. She tried several different ways before actually getting a match for anyone with the name Harley associated with Tony Stark. She read through the article slowly, trying to capture everything she could in her head.
It wasn’t a very long article, just about how a boy named Harley Keener from Tennessee was given a grant a couple years ago to attend some prestigious science school. Stark had only commented that the boy had met him at some point or another and impressed him. The end of the article had the author questioning whether or not Tony would be handing out more grants such as the one he had given the boy or if it was simply a one time thing. And if it was a one time thing, why was this kid so special?
A quick scroll through the comments showed a few people theorizing as to why Tony Stark had given a random kid a grant and honestly, Michelle was a little intrigued. She vaguely remembered a few years ago when there were many articles clogging her twitter feed about the most recent fraud who claimed to be Tony’s child and how every one of them had been debunked.
Every one, it seemed, except for Harley.
It made sense, it wasn’t that big of a story at the time and by the time the fake kids started popping up, no one even remembered the boy from Tennessee. But still, it was weird that he hadn’t debunked it and now Peter was suddenly meeting him. She managed to find a picture of him and was only a little surprised to see a less grey headed version of Tony Stark smiling back at her. Aside from his blue eyes, they were pretty similar, so it was hardly a stretch that he would be his son.
Okay, so that was one mystery solved. Harley was Tony’s son and that was why Peter was meeting him, not because Harley was some kind of other kid superhero. At least, she hoped that was not the case. She couldn’t survive two Peter’s. She was about to close the image when she looked at it again and practically fell out of her chair. It was understandable if you were in her situation.
After all, it was pretty shocking to see a version of Peter Parker staring back at her.
It was odd because if she were to just glance at him, as she had only moments before, they didn’t look that much alike. Harley had blue eyes, not brown, and while his hair was styled similarly, it was a few shades lighter than Peter’s and was much more tame. But when she really looked at the picture of Harley, there was no denying that he looked like Peter. Something about the way he stood, almost scared to be confident even in posture, and the way he was smiling reminded her all too much of how Peter smiled whenever he returned from his “internship”, like he didn’t even know he was smiling anymore.
(Why did she know so much about Peter again?)
Why did it matter?
So what, Peter looked like some kid who might be Tony Stark's son, big deal. Plenty of people look similar to others. Looking like someone you’ve never met and held no relation to was a rather low possibility but it was still possible, wasn’t it? And curse her curious mind because she couldn’t help but think. What if it wasn’t impossible? What if…… no, Tony Stark didn’t have any children other than maybe this Harley kid and even if he did, there was no way Peter Parker…… there was just no way!
He was the kid who had gotten in trouble in third grade for mapping out blueprints instead of doing art assignments, the kid who annoyed her to death but somehow simultaneously made her like him, the kid who now worked with Tony Stark as a superhero.
There was no way..... Stark wasn’t his……. Was he?
Michelle got very little sleep that night. Her mind was following every different path it could find as to why or why not Peter was…… well, you know……
She’d be lying if she said it wasn’t driving her a little crazy. So when the bell rang for lunch, she didn’t even stop to grab something to eat, she just rushed to the library. Thankfully, she met a slightly out of breath Peter who smiled shakily at her as they sat down. She started quizzing him on current events, all of which he answered pretty easily before she finally worked up the courage to say it. She stared down at the cards she had written and took a deep breath.
“Alright, next question. You’re Tony Stark’s son, true or false? You have 10 seconds.” She didn’t look up until she had counted to ten in her head and he still hadn’t answered. When they met eyes, he started laughing. She looked at him in confusion, which only made him laugh more.
“Good one MJ.” He said once he’d finally composed himself. “Now, read the real question.”
She narrowed her eyes and dropped the cards down onto the table. “Alright, would you prefer, ‘Are you Spiderman?’” The boy paled and glanced around the library worriedly.
“You know?” He hissed and she rolled her eyes.
“Yes I know, now are you going to answer my first question?”
“You were being serious?” He asked in confusion. “And why didn’t you tell me you know!”
“It’s obvious.” The girl rolled her eyes and he looked a little offended at that. “And yes, I was being serious.”
“What the hell? Why would I be his kid?” Mj shrugged, a little embarrassed now.
“I mean, he cares about you, he made you a suit and you were meeting Harley, who now that I think about it might not be his kid either.”
Peter snorted. “Nope. Not his kid either, just a friend.”
Michelle shrugged, grateful that she didn’t blush easily as she picked up the cards. “Well, alright. Who was the last czar of Russia?” He narrowed his eyes at her sudden subject change but allowed it, thankfully.
"Nicholas the Second." He said with a smile. After a few more questions, Peter’s smile turned to a smirk.
“What are you smiling at?” She asked, which only made him smile more.
“You were wrong!” He sang playfully. “Twice! That’s the first time that’s ever happened!”
“I will shove your web shooters up your ass if you do not shut up.” Peter raised his hands in surrender but still smiled.
“Alright, alright.” He fell silent before whispering, “You were still wrong though.” Michelle chucked the cards at his head but he caught them easily, laughing as he did.
And there it was, that smile that he didn’t even realize he was smiling. And she kinda liked it.
(Not that she would ever admit it, but she was beginning to see why Pepper Potts could fall in love with a genius superhero)
(Is it better or worse now?)
As much as everyone, including himself, missed Tony, Steve didn’t know what to feel when the man stepped out of a spaceship.
Relief? No, because the raccoon said he had friends that should’ve been on the ship and Pepper said Tony didn’t go up there alone and yet there was only the blue girl.
Worry? He was so skinny that Steve had to worry.
He couldn’t even bring himself to consider that he was happy. Not with everything that had happened. So instead, Steve simply ran to him, helping him down because he obviously needed it.
“I…” The man was struggling to breathe and Steve feared he was going to collapse. “I lost the kid.”
Steve’s blood ran cold as he stopped and looked at his old friend. He wanted to say something, say anything, but his mouth refused to move. Because Tony had lost his kid. The kid Steve had only met once in Germany and had dropped a truck on, only realizing afterwards just how truly young he was. The kid who he could tell had Tony’s brain and energy, even from just that battle.
The kid who was dust now.
What do you say to that? What can you say? He didn’t know. So instead he sighed. “Tony, We lost.” he said softly and Tony shook his head.
He opened his mouth but Pepper appeared before he could say anything, pulling him into a hug as Steve let go carefully. Once they had finished, Steve helped Tony back towards the compound, brushing past the raccoon, who seemed to be crying even before he reached the blue skinned woman. As much as he wanted to comfort him, he was more focused on keeping Tony on his feet.
They managed to get Tony to accept the IV full of fluids on the condition that he didn’t have to stay in a hospital bed. At least that was familiar, the stubbornness from him. Even after Tony’s outburst and the doctors having to sedate him, Steve was somewhat glad to see that stubbornness, even if it meant Tony yelled at him. At least he knew he was still himself. Pepper was watching Tony from the other side of the glass sadly and Steve found himself gravitating to her side.
“He’ll be okay when he wakes up.” He reassured her and she sighed.
“I hope so.” She said softly. “Losing to Thanos would’ve hurt him but he would’ve kept going. Losing the kid…….”
“It didn’t destroy him.” Steve said stubbornly before softening his tone. “I’m sorry Pepper. I know you must be hurting too after losing the kid.”
She blinked in surprise. “I didn’t…. I didn’t know him all that well but he was a sweet kid. Too sweet to have deserved that.” She shook her head slowly. “Tony’s gonna blame himself, he always does. Especially if his aunt comes looking for him.”
“His aunt?” Steve asked in confusion.
“Ya, he lives with her. I don’t-” She swallowed thickly. “I don’t know if she made it though.”
“Lives with her? Why not with you guys?” Pepper stared at him for a few seconds before a sad smile crept onto her face, obviously having tracked where his mind had gone.
“He’s not Tony’s.” She chuckled, although it sounded more like a sob. “Don’t worry, I thought that too, but he’s not.” Steve looked back at Tony’s sleeping form in confusion.
“Oh.” He breathed.
Losing a kid was never easy but perhaps it was somewhat of a blessing that he was not Tony’s kid. Not that it felt like that. It felt like a punch in the gut and maybe it would always feel like that, but he had to hope.
That same feeling was back.
Even after 5 years it still hurt like hell. Except now, it was for a different reason.
Steve felt like all the air in his lungs disappeared when they pulled into the driveway to see Tony holding a little girl. The man looked like he was trying to hide her from their sight and Steve couldn’t blame him. What they were suggesting was insane and it might just end up robbing Tony of his family that he had built.
Except Tony found a way to make it work so that they could keep the 5 years of their lives that had passed. They were going to make this work. They were going to bring everyone back and everyone who had stayed would keep the lives they had built.
Everything was working, they had the stones, Bruce had re-snapped and brought everyone back, but of course nothing worked out simply in their lives.
There was a battle, everyone was back, but they couldn’t keep this up forever. Steve heard a cry for help and clenched his fist as he saw Peter, because he knew his name now and he knew it haunted Tony's every step, being overwhelmed by about 10 aliens at once.
“Hey, Queens! Heads up.” He threw Mjolnir with all his strength and was grateful when he saw him get away.
He lost track of the kid after that, too busy trying desperately to stop the battle. Even if they won, they couldn’t keep fighting forever. Eventually, they might lose the allies they had just resurrected.
A blast of power made Steve stumble and he stared in shock as Thanos’ army began disappearing into dust. But who? He saw a group of people huddled around something and he rushed over in time to see a sobbing Peter being pulled away from Tony who-
Tony who was burned and barely breathing.
Steve could do nothing but stare, even as the glow of the arch reactor disappeared. He lowered his head, glaring at the ground.
“Fuck.” He breathed and distantly he was expecting Tony to scold him for his language because there was no way he was dead.
He didn’t survive this long just to die now. He didn’t gain a family just to …. lose it. And Steve couldn’t help the tears falling as he thought of the little girl at the cabin who’d now lost her father and saw Peter clinging to Pepper.
He almost wished the kid hadn't been brought back. Tony got the kid back, the kid who wasn’t his (not like that really mattered), but only for a few minutes. A few minutes that just lead to more grief. A few minutes that just meant there was another person who had lost Tony.
And Steve wouldn't wish that on anyone, but it had happened. The battle was won but they lost.
Because Tony was gone.
Because Earth lost its greatest defender.
+1 What is a Legacy?
(It's planting seeds in a garden you never get to see)
It took all of Peter’s strength not to let the tears collecting in his eyes fall. Even still, he couldn’t tear his eyes away as Pepper gently pushed the reactor out into the lake, the flowers dipping under the water but not breaking off. It was beautiful, in a sad kind of way, not that any of them were in any type of mind to see the beauty in it. And watching it float away, everything seemed so distant.
Despite May’s hand on his back, anchoring him to the world, he felt as though he might float away too. And despite the many people around him, he had never felt more alone. He couldn’t even bring himself to care that literally every hero he’d ever looked up to for so long was standing within 30 feet of him because one was missing.
Perhaps the only thing stopping the tears from falling from his eyes, was that he knew just how much Tony would’ve hated people crying over him. They all knew that. So, there were no tears when they finally separated into groups and stepped away from the lake. A good portion of people followed Pepper inside, including his Aunt, so he found himself truly alone, still staring at the softly moving water.
A boy appeared beside him and Peter blinked in surprise. He had cut his hair since Peter had seen him but it was undeniably Harley standing beside him. Harley who didn’t look a day older.
“You’re not…” He started to tell him so before his brain caught up and he slapped his hand over his mouth and trailed off awkwardly.
“Still the same.” Harley forced a weak smile before he continued. “Still a year older than you though, so you still have to listen to what I say.”
Peter smiled shakily back before turning his head back to the lake. They stood in silence for a few moments, just staring, before Harley bumped Peter’s shoulder gently.
“C’mon, we’re not doing any good just standing. We’ll grow roots before too long. Let’s go walk.” Peter knew he was being distracted, but from the haunted look in the other boy’s eyes, they both needed it.
So, he let Harley lead him away and around the side of the house slowly. They were silent, because that’s all that you could be. What else could you do?
If you were to speak, then you would run into more problems than it was worth. You couldn’t mention school because you didn’t know how many of their friends in their classes had outgrown them. You couldn’t mention family because there were people who had remarried or had children that the newly resurrected had never met. It was like a minefield to try and speak these things, or to speak of something else so trivial that it was akin to nothing, so they remained silent and left them known but unspoken.
Everything and Nothing, all packed into a silence heavier than just about anything else.
Although it weighed so heavily, it was better than staring and grieving. There would be plenty of time for grieving, even if they didn’t want to face it.
So, they chose to continue their course several times, thankfully avoiding the other attendees and the awkward conversation that would come with it. They had made their fifth loop around the house when the hair on the back of Peter’s neck stood up and his head felt tingly. A half second later, a tiny hand grabbed his, tugging on him gently. From the way Harley jumped, his hand was grabbed too and they looked down to see a familiar smile greeting them.
Morgan Stark smiled up at them, her brown hair falling in her face as she tugged on their arms.
“Are you Peter and Harley?” She asked, taking an extra moment to pronounce both of their names, like she had been practicing saying them. “Mommy said you were here but didn’t know where you were.”
“Uh, Ya. That’s us.” Peter said quietly and Harley nodded.
“Why were you looking for us?” He asked gently and Morgan shrugged, swinging their hands and her own back and forth carefully, keeping a rhythm.
“Mommy was busy and I wanted to have a tea party with someone. I don’t like it inside, everyone’s so sad.”
Both boys could understand that feeling.
“We’ll have a tea party with you.” Harley promised and Peter nodded.
“Lead the way.” He said, letting the little girl pull them around the side of the house and towards the trees where a little tent sat, a clear path leading up to it.
They had both seen it during their circles but hadn’t thought much about it. Morgan held the flap open and grinned as they ducked inside, settling themselves on the pillows that were covering the ground. They took a few seconds to arrange their almost identically gangly legs as Morgan followed them in and gathered up several small china tea cups off of a table. She produced a juice pouch from seemingly nowhere and poured two cups full before handing them to the boys, carefully so that she didn’t spill them.
As they drank the juice and she rummaged through a pile of toys for something, Peter noticed the papers scattered across the child’s table they were sitting at. They were blueprints, done almost entirely in crayon, from the drawings to the measurements.
“Did you do these?” He asked, drawing her attention back to them.
“Yep!” She said proudly, bouncing over to his side. “Daddy helped a little but I did everything else myself.”
“They’re very good.” Harley said, picking up one that was designing some kind of castle. He could see Tony’s hand writing in pencil along the outside, adjusting a few measurements that Morgan had made. “I couldn’t do anything near as good as this.” He laughed.
The girl smiled widely. “Daddy always said I was smart. Too smart for my own good, just like my brothers.” The tears they had been holding back were suddenly back in both of their eyes with full force.
Thankfully, the little girl didn’t seem to notice, and she kept talking. “He also said you were little shits.” This sent her into peals of laughter and Peter found himself laughing tearfully along. Harley was laughing too, quietly, as if afraid that if he were too loud, it would break whatever dream he had entered.
“He was only kidding though.” Morgan promised.
“We know.” Harley told her and she smiled widely.
And so, they draw little blueprints of whatever Morgan asks them to. They drank their “tea” and listen to her stories that Tony used to tell her, about Spiderman and Harley the Brave, who, with the help of the smart Princess Morgan would save the world. She even convinced them to watch a movie, some Disney film they didn’t know the name of, and they were laying in a line in front of the screen happily.
Harley had gotten popcorn from the house and Morgan had divided it into personal bowls and was snuggling down between them when she sighed happily.
“I’m glad you’re my brothers.” She said simply, balancing her popcorn in front of her. “You’re so much fun.”
When their eyes met over her head, neither boy had to speak to know that they were thinking the same thing. The same promise had passed through their heads.
Instead, Peter poked Morgan’s side gently. “We’re glad you’re our sister.”
“Even if you’re a handful.” Harley chuckled and Morgan pouted at him playfully.
No, the promise didn’t need to be said out loud, never had to be mentioned, but they both knew what it was.
They were going to be the best brothers they could be. They would never leave Morgan without her brothers, never again.
But, hey, like I said, it didn’t need to be mentioned. A lot didn’t need to be mentioned.
Peter never mentioned the fact that as the sky grew dark, Harley hugged that Dora the Explorer watch to his chest like it would keep him alive. He just nods sadly and puts it back on his arm when it falls.
Harley never mentioned that when he woke up several hours later, he saw Peter’s hand tighten on one of his web shooters (Which he had been entertaining Morgan with), even in his sleep, and pull Morgan closer at every noise. He just takes the other web shooter and lays down next to Morgan again.
Pepper never mentioned finding them outside still, well into the night, sleeping protectively with Morgan in between them, or the many papers scattered around the tent that have been disturbed by the wind. She just picks them up, puts them back, throws a blanket over the three, and goes back inside to tell May that they’re all right and call Harley’s parents.
And Morgan, for her part, never mentioned the fact that Harley kicked in his sleep or that Peter talked really loudly in his.
She didn’t mention how her mom cried seeing her dad’s handwriting on those papers.
She didn’t mention the tears that made her hair damp, even after both the boys who had cried them had fallen asleep again.
No, she didn’t mention any of that, because she didn’t need to.
She just snuggled closer to her brothers, and made her own little promise.
She didn’t want anything to ever change. She loved her family, even if she missed her dad. It was still a good family. After all, she had Mom, Harley, and Peter. She still had her dad too, even if he was up in the stars like her mom said he was.
They were her family.
And she was never, ever, going to let anything happen to her family.