There were many things that Peter knew. He knew that the world wasn’t always fair. He knew that Ned liked eating his chicken nuggets with honey instead of a normal sauce. He knew MJ’s favorite flower was the Black Dahlia and that she hated people who used the word ‘moist’. He knew his Aunt May couldn’t cook to save her life but she always tried because she enjoyed it. He knew Tony hated things being handed to him. He knew he was tired. He knew he was lonely.
Peter had a lot of people around him constantly, from Academic Decathlon, to his friends, to the people that slid past him in the hallways, to the people he saved and gave directions to as Spider-Man. There were people around him all the time. Most of the time, this was enough. He could make it through the day knowing there were other people around him. People who acknowledged his existence. It was usually enough.
Now as he walked through the hallways alone, he was reminded that it wasn’t always enough. Sometimes, he wanted more. Needed more from those around him. It didn’t help that Ned was on vacation with his family and MJ was sick. The past week saw him traversing Midtown alone and dealing with Flash without his friends as backup. When he got home he was alone because May had been working double shifts for the past two weeks. Their rent went up and she was having a hard time getting enough money to make ends meet. Peter suggested getting a job but May shot him down, telling him that she wanted him to be a kid for a while longer and to let her worry about it. She also reminded him that it would cut into his Spider-Man duties.
It was tense after she found out about his vigilante activities, but she had come around to it eventually. There were various new rules and protocols in place to make sure he got enough sleep and his homework was done before he went out to help people. He was even going over to Tony’s for suit repairs and some training once a week. This was set up after Peter lied about an injury he got when he didn’t dodge a knife in time. It only made a small cut in the suit and his wound closed up before he got home, but Karen sent the alert anyway and he was met with a very not happy Tony Stark the next day.
So, as the final bell rang, he headed out to meet Happy. The man picked him up from school and drove him home every week grumbling the entire time about how it wasn’t his job, even though Peter suspected he didn’t mind. It was easy to spot the car amongst the chaos that was parent pick-up and since Peter didn’t have anyone to say goodbye to, he immediately headed over to the car and slid inside.
“Hey, Happy. You won’t believe the day I’ve had,” Peter started, as he closed the door.
He turned, only to stop when he was met with tinted sunglasses and a smirk. “Mr. Stark. Sir, what … what are you doing here?” he asked.
“Hi, kid. Nice to see you too. I’m fine, thanks for asking,” the man said as he pulled out into traffic. “Seatbelt. I don’t need your aunt to put my head on a platter because you got thrown through the window.”
“Oh, yeah,” Peter said reaching around to pull the belt over himself. “So, uh, not that I’m not happy to see you already, but where’s Happy?”
“Happy needed a break. Also, your aunt called Pepper and told her that she was working a double. Apparently, she’s been doing this for a couple of weeks and you’ve been alone most nights. Why didn't you tell me? I would have let you stay at the tower.”
“I...um it’s okay, Mr. Stark. This isn’t the first time May has had to work a few doubles. I’m kind of used to staying alone.”
Tony looked over at Peter with appraising eyes. “Hmm. In any case, I’m kidnapping you for the weekend.”
“What? No, that’s … I can’t. You have so much work you probably need to do and I’ll just be in the way,” Peter sputtered.
“And who says you can’t help me if I desperately need to do work? I’m my own boss. I give myself permission. See? Done,” Tony said easily.
“Are you sure?” Peter asked. “I just don’t wanna get in the way.”
Tony looked over at Peter again and this time, he let his gaze linger. Peter started to wonder if there was something on his face when Tony’s eyes narrowed.
“What’s up, kid? You don’t normally refuse to come over this much,” the man pointed out.
Peter shrugged a bit and said, “nothing. I’m okay.” He hoped it would work and Tony would leave him to it and thankfully it seemed to, because Tony nodded and flew into a story about how Dum-E kept putting motor oil over his shoulder when it popped and how he was planning on disassembling the robot.
Thankfully, the rest of the car ride was filled with easy conversation that stretched into the lab. Tony seemingly forgot about Peter’s odd behavior, which was completely fine with him.
“So, how’s your friend Ted?” Tony asked as he was elbows deep in one of his cars.
“ Ned is doing okay. He’s off on a cruise for the week. He should be back next week though.”
“Nice. What about MJ? Is she being nice to you?”
“She’s actually been sick this week. Something’s been going around and she must’ve gotten it,” Peter said with a shrug.
Tony looked up at him and said, “so you’ve pretty much been alone all week? That sucks, kiddo.”
Peter shrugged. “Nothing I can’t handle. I’m used to being alone.”
“Coming from experience, that’s not a good thing. Seriously, kid. Call me next time. I’ll come hang out with you,” Tony said. He hesitated for a second before straightening out and wiping his hands on a rag. “Come on, let’s go upstairs. If I keep working on this I might actually lose my mind. What do you say? Movie night?”
Peter couldn’t help the excitement that flowed out of him as he nodded his head. He loved movie nights with Tony. He always had the best snacks and Peter always got to choose the movie. They always ended up huddled on opposite sides of the couch with blankets because Peter was always cold and Tony always made fun of him even though Peter suspected he loved it as much, if not more, than Peter.
On the way up to the living room, Tony placed his hand on Peter’s shoulder and Peter leaned into the touch. He didn’t know why, but it felt like some of the tension in his shoulders ebbed out at Tony’s touch.
“So, what are we watching tonight?” Tony asked.
“Well, I heard about this really old movie called ‘Cast Away’ and I heard it was pretty good.”
“Alright, kid. Whatever you want. I’ll go get the goods and you can queue up the movie,” Tony said, patting Peter on the back.
Cast Away was not what Peter expected. He knew it was about a guy that got into a plane crash and stranded on an island, but he didn’t expect that to be 90 percent of the movie. He also didn’t expect to get attached to a volleyball named Wilson. At first, Peter thought it was strange but then he realized that he could kind of understand it.
“You know, they say when someone is touch starved or alone for a long time, they start to go crazy. Their mind makes up things to make them feel not so alone,” Peter said softly. “I mean...I kind of understand it. Sometimes all you want is a hug and if there’s no one around it sucks.”
The room was quiet for a minute, save for the movie running softly in the background. Then Tony spoke quietly, “hey, you know you’ve always got me, right?”
Peter nodded but he didn’t answer. Then, Tony paused the movie where Tom Hanks was putting the final touches on his raft to get off the island. Peter looked over to see Tony’s eyes fully on him and his body turned towards him, a concerned look on his face.
“Talk to me, kid. Something’s up with you,” he said carefully.
“If you say ‘nothing’ I’m literally going to throw a remote at you. Spit it out.”
Peter sighed and tried to choose his words carefully. “I’ve just...it’s been a hard week. I’m used to May being gone and all but usually I have Ned and MJ at school. They haven’t been there all week and Flash has been kind of a jerk. I just...it’s stupid, Mr. Stark.”
Tony seemed to consider Peter’s words before nodding his head a bit and pulling his blanket aside. “Alright, come here.”
“What?” Peter asked, confused.
“You need snuggle time. Get over here.”
“Did you just say ‘snuggle time’ Mr. Stark? Really?” Peter asked, incredulous.
“Shush. I said what I mean, now scoot. You need a really good hug and I’m cold.”
Peter was still for a second before realizing that Tony was completely serious. He fidgeted with his fingers for a second, considering. He really did want a hug and he had fallen asleep on Mr. Stark plenty of times. It wasn’t like he had never, very smoothly he might add, scooted down the couch and ended up leaning on Tony’s shoulder during movie nights. It was nice and familiar, but he had never gotten an outright invitation before.
Tony’s reassuring gaze faltered for a second before he cleared his throat. “I mean, if you want to. No pressure or anything. You know, if you think it’s weird or…”
“No, I...thanks,” Peter said scooting down the length of the couch. He leaned into Tony’s side and the man wrapped him in the blanket, throwing his arm around the boy’s shoulders.
It didn’t take long for Peter to melt into his mentor-father-figure’s side when Tony ran his fingers through his hair in a comforting manner.
“You know you can always come to me, right? For anything,” Tony told him.
“Yeah, I know, Mr. Stark.”
“And you know I don’t do the feelings thing, but kid, you’re important to me. I don’t want you to ever feel like you’re alone, because you’re not. I’ll always have your back,” Tony said softly, scratching lightly at Peter’s scalp.
“Thanks, Mr. Stark,” Peter said burrowing into Tony’s side a little more, bringing his knees up to his chest and laying his head on Tony’s shoulder.
There were many things that Peter knew. He knew that the world wasn’t always fair, but there were people who always tried to balance the scales. He knew that Spider-Man was one of the most important things in his life, along with his family and friends. He knew that his aunt was trying to do everything she could to give him a better life. And laying in Tony’s arms, he knew he was loved and never alone.