Boss, incoming call from Peter.
Tony almost dropped the repulsor he was currently fiddling with before regaining his composure and frowning at the ceiling.
Incoming call from Peter Parker.
That was odd.
Peter had rambled something about a new science exhibit he wanted to check out with Ted and not-his-girlfriend-MJ when he spoke to him last night, and God only knew how invested this kid got when he was excited about something.
"Yeah, put him through, FRIDAY."
This time, Tony did drop the repulsor.
"What the- are those gunshots?!"
"Uh - No?"
"Peter! Peter, what the hell is going on?!"
"I could kinda use some backup, so I thought I'd try out the new watch you gave me?"
Tony felt his blood pressure spike - Peter never used the watch.
He had complained about it for months, even going as far as trying to disassemble and rewire the entire thing - unsuccessfully, of course, because they had all learned the hard way to what lengths the Spiderling was prepared to go to when it came to defying Tony.
There was a shriek on the other end of the line, followed by a string of curses and more gunshots.
"FRIDAY, track him and activate Watch the Baby protocol! Pete - "
"You put a suit into my watch?! Are you crazy?!"
"I believe the words you're looking for are 'thank you'. FRIDAY?"
It appears that Peter is currently engaged in an armed fight with security personnel at OSCORP.
"No, I'm pretty sure - oh hey, taser webs! Awesome!"
Tony had already launched himself off the balcony before the suit was fully formed.
"Kid, what's going on? Why do you need saving?"
"You want the good news - OI! I'm trying to have a conversation here! - or the bad?"
"The good - and stop talking to the bad guys while you’re fighting them!"
"I don't think that I will ever do it again."
"Jesus Christ kid, if that's the good I'm not sure I wanna hear the bad. And what the hell are you even doing at OSCORP?!"
"Remember that expo we joked about?"
Tony barely refrained from facepalming mid-flight. Of course.
"The one you told me you had no interest in going to because you don't have the best track record with expos? Why yes, I remember that conversation vividly - especially the part where you fessed up to being that little kid who almost got himself killed by trying to blast a hammer drone with his toy repulsor!"
"In my defense, I was like eight years old and – seriously?! A flash grenade?! Not cool, man!”
Boss, ETA one minute.
“You know what, Pete? I should’ve known this was gonna happen, because out of all the superkids on the planet, of course I was gonna get the one who lies about his extracurriculars! What was the last one again? Oh right, band practice!”
A couple of hours, multiple NDA's and a very warm greeting - both courtesy of Pepper - later-
"Iron Man blows up Oscorp labs-"
"Pep, light of my life-"
"-the press is having a field day! Do you have any idea-"
"-my love, you are a goddess-"
"-not to mention the lawsuits headed our way! And what about Peter's secret identity? Of all the irresponsible-"
"- I grovel for forgiveness at your feet - look, I am literally on my knees here -"
- Tony retreated into the lab again. He'd left Peter to be chewed out by May on the phone, not keen on getting an earful from her as well when his own ears were still ringing from his fiancée's lecture.
He resumed his tinkering on the repulsor he dropped earlier, but didn't manage to stick with it for more than half an hour before the next interruption tore him away.
Boss, Peter requires immediate assistance.
"Oh for the love of - what's he done now?"
Establishing video and audio feed.
Tony didn't know whether to laugh or be angry at the scene that presented itself in front of him.
Peter was suspended in mid-air, held in place by tendrils of gooey, slimy white foam that seemed to be sticking to every available surface of the lab. It covered most of the ceiling and walls, and the lab tables and equipment were already submerged in it.
The substance was almost up to Peter's waist and steadily engulfing the arm with which Tony presumed he had tried pulling himself to the ceiling in order to get away from the chemical reaction.
"Pete, tell me you did not steal a chemical compound and experiment on it in my lab."
"I did not steal a chemical compound and experiment on it in your lab."
"You do realize I can see you, right?"
"What is it with you and rhetorical questions?"
"Peter, so help me God-"
"...I stole a chemical compound and experimented on it in Dr. Banner's lab?"
He had to blast the doors off.
He had to blast the doors off to a lab that had been reinforced to take and withstand the full force of the Hulk, because his resident teenage genius had managed to create a concoction so strong the doors couldn't even be pried open anymore.
"You and I are going to have a long conversation about this."
Tony had managed to stop the mixture from spreading fairly quickly, but it still took him almost two hours to carefully apply a dissolvent he'd had to mix up on the spot, get the kid out of there and re-seal the room to contain the mess.
And by re-seal, he meant weld shut with assistance of the suit.
"I didn't think-"
"That much is clear, yes."
"It's an experiment gone wrong; I don't see what the big deal is! You blasted yourself into the walls of your lab multiple times when you first became Iron Man!"
Tony prided himself on being a lot more attentive around Peter than he used to be when they first met - by now, he was a Spiderbaby-whisperer, thank you very much, and his powers usually worked without fail.
The key word being usually, given that they had been failing him for a couple of weeks now.
"Oh no no no no, you are not getting out of this by bringing up my past transgressions in lab safety! There are chemical burns on your skin; you are going to the Medbay!"
"I'm fine! I have super healing, there's no need-"
"No, this is where you stop! There is no need to try and get out of this, because that’s not gonna happen! I can see you’re in pain, so for once in your life, stop mouthing off and please, do as I say!”
"Oh that’s rich coming from you.”
Tony could see the exact moment that the kid registered what he said, because his eyes went wide and he automatically shuffled backwards.
"Mr. Stark! I'm - oh God, I'm so sorry, I didn't mean -"
The rambling was just another sign of how not fine the teenager was.
When Peter had first told him ‘if aunt May starts freaking out, I start freaking out’, Tony had found it funny. At least until he realized Peter's moods had the exact same effect on him.
They were now at the point where Rhodey would try to have a normal conversation with him – “Alright Tones, I yield. Out with it, what did the kid do now?” – and then switch to dad jokes while Tony himself would proceed to rant, fret and form a plan of action.
It had become an almost daily occurrence over the last two weeks.
"Look, kid. I know, this whole thing is new for both of us, but I thought we were making progress? Open lines of communication and all that."
He gently pushed Peter onto the bed, grabbing the burn salve and some bandages.
"That's not - I do communicate. I called you, didn't I?"
The teen just sullenly stared down at the arm Tony was currently treating.
"Peter. Come on, tell me what's eating you. You've been acting weird for some time now, don't think I haven't noticed. What's going on?"
He sighed and just continued to patch the kid up, knowing that all he could do now was wait.
"The vulture dropped a warehouse on me, he- he trapped me under the rubble."
Whatever Tony had been expecting, this was worse.
"But it's fine, you know? I got out, I got to the plane, I saved Toomes. You had Happy drive me up to the Compound, I don't have to hide from May anymore, and I get to - I get to spend time with you."
When Peter looked up at him, his eyes were glassy and he was clenching his fists.
"You're - you made me this incredible suit and put all these features and protocols in it to keep me safe, and you text me every day and ask how my day at school was. You're my - you're Tony , you're - here, for a lack of a better word, for me, you do so much, and I can't-"
Tony was pretty sure he was going to implode from all the information his brain was currently processing.
Toomes had dropped a building on Peter.
Peter, who didn't have his suit at the time, because - oh God. It was sickening, and he quickly reached out to steady the kids’ shaking hands with his own.
"And everything was gonna work out, I was so happy and then just - Parker luck had to strike again, I guess, and I swear I didn't mean to snoop -"
"Peter - what - "
"- you showed me how to do maintenance on the suits, remember, but then some weeks later you were stuck in a meeting, and I thought I'd start 'cause I'd already finished my homework and there was one suit that just - it was just there, and I didn't realize - "
Peter's voice broke on the last word, his hands gripping his mentor's almost painfully.
Alarm bells went off in Tony's head.
"I saw it. I saw what happened, and now - I can't sleep. I feel myself being crushed under that building, and I see Captain Rogers just ramming his shield into your heart over and over again and I just - I can't get to you. I can't stop him, and I have to watch you -"
Static. There was static in his ears, and something in his chest tightened painfully at the heartbroken expression on Peter's face.
"Well, at least you're not calling me Mr. Stark anymore."
Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist - good at dealing with emotions was definitely not on that list, and the instant indignation on the kid's face just confirmed it.
"No, don't - I know, ruined the moment, horrible thing to focus on right now - but just listen, just - I need a few minutes to recover from all of - that. That's – there’s a lot to talk about here, uh - okay, first things first; you're all fixed up, so - I'd suggest we move this to the living room."
Peter spent the elevator ride tucked into Tony's side, while the billionaire tried and failed to suppress any and all parental feelings - dear God, his reputation was gonna take a serious hit if this ever got out - he may or may not have been harboring for a couple of months now.
They settled down next to each other on the couch, and then proceeded to silently stare at everything else until Tony finally couldn't take it anymore.
"I’m – I don’t really know what to say, Peter. I mean, I can’t believe he dropped a fucking warehouse on you and you still saved his life. A lesser man would’ve left him for dead, I would’ve left him for dead. I’m so sorry, Pete. It’ll never happen again, I promise, I –“
"What? No! That wasn’t your fault, why would you blame yourself?"
“No! No, I don’t accept that! I didn’t tell you all that stuff to make you feel bad, I told you because – well, because I trust you. Because you’re you, because you fix things.”
And wasn’t that a metaphorical lance straight to Tony’s heart. Here he was, the catalyst of all of the kid’s nightmares, and Peter was trying to tell him it wasn’t his fault.
“I took your suit. I wasn’t there when you needed me, Happy wasn’t there because I didn’t tell him to prioritize your calls, I didn’t put that Mark and all the – all the files, under lock and key so you would never have to see that, and now you can’t sleep because you have nightmares. And it’s my fault. I should’ve never taken you to Germany in the first place, it was reckless, and dangerous –“
“-and my choice. You always say I’m too stubborn for my own good, do you really think I would’ve come to Germany with you if I didn’t want to? If I didn’t think the Accords were the right choice?”
Peter had scooted closer and hesitantly laid his head on Tony’s shoulder, as if he was trying not to spook him.
“You’re not a lesser man. I refuse to let you call yourself that.”
“Who are you, Pepper?"
When he looked up, he was met with what he liked to call the patented Peter Parker puppy eyes, which he pretended to hate because he had a reputation to uphold, god dammit.
“Oh so now I’m Tony, huh?”
“It’s your name.”
Damn those puppy eyes indeed.
“You’re a brat.”
“If you say so, Mr. Stark.”
Maybe Rhodey was right.
Maybe the kid had spent too much time around him and picked up a few things, because the sharp grin that was slowly spreading over his protégés face screamed Stark.
He was gonna burst with pride.
“Fine. Let's negotiate.”
Tony squared his shoulders and got up, sitting opposite Peter on the coffee table, so that they were eye to eye.
“There are no takebacks. You’re not allowed to call me Mr. Stark anymore –“
The kid grinned even more at that, clearly pleased with himself.
“- no more tampering with your suit, no more ignoring my direct orders, and you’re gonna tell me what on earth possessed you to go charging into Oscorp today.”
Peter considerably paled, puppy look giving way to an almost intimidating glare.
“What, you thought I was just gonna let you change the subject? Again, look who –“
“Counteroffer. I accept your conditions, with the exception of the third one, and I will stop rewriting Dum-e’s code to hide your coffee.”
Tony stared at him.
That little -
“Betrayed my own mentee, wow. In that case, I guess I have no other choice than telling Rhodey it was your fault I hacked into his braces and made him tapdance on the Senate floor.”
“What?! How is it my fault if you hacked-“
“You hid my coffee. I thought it was Rhodey, I was cranky due to the lack of aforementioned coffee, so I did something petty. Now stop stalling and spill your guts kid, this ends today.”
The teenager just groaned, leaning back into the couch and covering his face with his hands.
Jesus. He knew the kid was stubborn, but he’d genuinely thought the “I didn’t tell you because I didn’t want to be a bother”- phase was behind them.
“Not budging, huh?”
If possible, Peter just squished himself deeper into the couch.
“Alright, my turn then. Pete, what you saw – what you had to watch, I never wanted you to see that. It was a massive fuck-up on everyone’s part, and I never should’ve dragged you into it. You didn’t deserve to be put in the middle of all that, and before you lecture me on how you’re stubborn and it was your choice, I am still the one who asked you to go up against trained assassins and supersoldiers – “
“You can’t – “
“- yes, I can. I am the one who asked you to do all that, without really thinking of the consequences. That’s on me, and so is you almost getting buried under a building because I – I took your suit.”
Now it was his turn to bury his face in his hands.
He had been terrified when he saw Peter stretched to the breaking point, suspended between the two ferry halves. It was a Stark tech suit, and therefore his fault that a teenager – a child – was playing superhero and risking his life.
Tony figured it would be better to cut all ties to the kid before he got seriously hurt, but of course, said kid had a moral compass that rivaled Steve Rogers'.
The 24h after receiving Happy’s phone call about the plane crash were spent creating the Iron Spider suit.
“No. I’m not done, just – okay.”
He straightened himself back up. Deep breath. Alright. Be the adult, Stark.
"Look. What I don't understand is why you would pull the stunt you pulled today. I thought that spider that bit you was dead? You never talk about Oscorp, or about wanting to go back there, and now suddenly you decide to break into their labs and steal some compound? You know you can just ask for whatever you need, and while I’m definitely not a fan of Oscorp, I strongly discourage you stealing from them.”
Peter had seemingly un-squished himself from the couch and was leaning forward, but still refused to meet Tony's eyes.
“And I understand that you didn’t want to talk to me about your nightmares – heck, I don’t wanna talk about them and the people responsible for mine aren’t even on the same continent, or alive or - well, human. But if you don’t wanna talk to me, at least maybe try to talk to May. Or we can set you up with someone, if you prefer that. I don’t want you to end up like me; Lord knows the world doesn’t need another Tony Stark."
Peter's head snapped up and he just stared at him, mouth hanging slightly open.
“You think – ‘The world doesn’t need another Tony Stark’?! Seriously?! Why would you say that?!”
“And now you’re mad at me. Okay, wasn’t expecting that, but we can – “
“Stark Industries is market leader in everything from tech distribution to clean energy, not to mention the charity donations and all the work that you do through your foundations and grants. You footed the bill for the Avengers’ clean-up, you housed the entire team, designed their weapons, gear and transportation, not to mention flying a government dispatched nuke through a wormhole –“
“I don’t – “
“ – and all you have to say is ‘The world doesn’t need another Tony Stark’?! You’re sitting here, apologizing to me about you being almost killed by a man who was supposed to have your back, do you realize how messed up that is? This is why I didn’t want to tell you about my nightmares, ‘cause for some unfathomable reason, you already feel guilty enough – “
“ – without me adding to that pile! Tony, you’re – the world would be lucky to have another you!“
“Alright – we’ll- we’ll get to – all of that, but first you’re gonna answer my question about Oscorp.”
“Oh my – I broke into their lab because I figured maybe they had something more on the spider who bit me that would help my research on indestructible web fluid –“
“Wait wait wait, back up. Indestructible webs? What, the normal ones not strong enough to get kittens off trees anymore?”
His brain worked it out a second too late.
The kid had fought the Rogues at the airport. Specifically, he’d fought Steve at the airport, and Tony suddenly recalled hearing a comment about how ‘that shield does not obey the laws of physics’.
The same shield that almost killed him.
Peter had seen the footage, had just confessed to having nightmares about it, and Tony mentally kicked himself for not realizing what was going on sooner.
“You wanted to create something that could resist vibranium.”
“You keep adding protocols to keep me safe, I thought – maybe I could do the same for you.”
Tony was at a loss for words. The kid had broken into Oscorp to find something that would protect him.
Peter knew about the renegotiation of the Accords. He was in the unique position to be involved without having to actually sign them, as well as seeing firsthand how Tony and Rhodey bent over backwards to get the team reinstated.
“Christ, kid. This was already the emotionally loaded conversation of the year, there was no need to take that as a challenge and turn it into the emotionally loaded conversation of the decade.”
The kid had the nerve to snort.
“Don’t worry Mr. Stark. At your age, dementia is bound to set in soon, you won’t even remember we had it in the first place.”
He really wanted to snark back, but seeing the Spiderling finally smiling and relaxed eased the aching that had taken hold of his chest ever since Peter had called earlier.
In the spur of the moment, Tony yanked the teen off the couch, laughing at the yelp he gave when he stumbled to his feet.
“So much for Spidey sense, huh?”
“I didn’t think being hugged by you would qualify as dangerous.”
“You do know it’s only a hug if you actually hug me back, right?”
“…you said we weren’t there yet.”
“This is the first and last time I’m ever hug- oof!“
The next thing he knew, Peter had all but melted into the hug, his arms coming up to tightly wrap around Tony.
“Easy on the super strength, kiddo – there you go, see, you’re a natural.”
“You’re the worst.”
"No, I'm your Tony. You said it yourself."
He had meant it as a joke, but of course, the kid didn't let him get away with it.
"Yeah, is - is that okay?"
Tony heard it for what it was, and held Peter impossibly tighter.
"That's more than okay, kid."
Ah well. Screw his reputation.
Boss, Col. Rhodes is on his way up. He's asking to speak with you about his braces. He seems very agitated.
Tony scrambled off the couch mid-bite, grabbed Peter by the arm and just managed to get the both of them into the pantry before the elevator opened and an enraged James Rhodes stepped out.
They were pressed up against the shelves, hoping with bated breath that they wouldn't be found.
"Did you really make him tapdance in front of the Senate?!"
"Shh, keep your voice down! And it was more of a cancan on an army base."
Unfortunately for Tony, that answer made Peter dissolve into uncontrollable laughter, and barely 10 seconds later, Rhodey stepped through the door.
"Do you have ANY IDEA-"
Now, unfortunately for Rhodey, Tony had shoved Peter in front of him the moment their hideout had been compromised, and Peter - being the very agile and very intelligent Spiderling that he was - backflipped onto the ceiling to avoid crashing into Rhodey, knocking some flour off a shelf in the process.
The yelling came to an abrupt stop.
The ensuing food fight, however, lasted until Pepper came home to find her pantry, kitchen and living room turned into a war zone, at which point she had FRIDAY turn on the sprinklers while she checked herself into one of the guest floors of the tower.
She also signed all three of them up for a seminar on food waste, and locked them out of the kitchen for a month.