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Oh, take me back to the start

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Come up to meet you

Tell you I'm sorry

You don't know how lovely you are

I had to find you

Tell you I need you

Tell you I set you apart

 

Tell me your secrets

And ask me your questions

Oh, let's go back to the start

Running in circles, coming up tails

Heads on a science apart

 

Nobody said it was easy

It's such a shame for us to part

Nobody said it was easy

No one ever said it would be this hard

Oh, take me back to the start

 

- The Scientist, Coldplay

 

At this point in his life, Peter should probably always prepare for the worst whenever he goes out. Today was supposed to be him, Aunt May, and Uncle Ben spending time together in Manhattan, but next thing he knew, a huge wormhole opened the sky, and thousands of aliens started attacking. All Peter would see then were explosions, dirt and people running for their lives.

He and his remaining family follow the panicking rest while aliens fly from above, blowing up buildings and cars and everything else in their way. Peter only runs, hand holding tightly onto May’s. The ten-year-old boy hasn’t seen this much chaos since the Stark Expo – and obviously this one wins in terms of disaster. He never thought he’d see an alien invasion so soon in his life.

Peter doesn’t know for how long he’s been running or where they’re running to. He, his aunt, and his uncle flee to the safest place they might find; they do change the route when they’re almost caught a couple times, but they never stop running, for anything at all.

The brown-haired boy finally looks back, blurring dirt taking over the city. There are way less people running along with them, and he can only hope that others found safe hiding spots. Yet suddenly, there are multiple explosions from the smog and Peter feels his hand releasing May’s – he distantly hears her yell his name, but there are countless laser shootings and Peter miraculously escapes and hides behind an alley.

His legs have given out, and he coughs as he’s breathed so much of the destruction. The invasion is far from ending, though it seems to grow distant from there. Panting, he waits for everything to quiet down so he can find May and Ben. He clutches his Iron Man t-shirt and shuts his teary eyes; he hopes, prays that they’re okay wherever they are. He can’t lose his family again.

After what feels like hours, Peter peeks outside the alley. He finds only a few people rushing away now, and not many aliens surround the area… until he sees a flying object that isn’t one of the invaders – and instead, his brown eyes are filled with hope upon finding the hero that is in his current t-shirt.

Iron Man faces the aliens and shoots them with powerful, blinding blasts. He takes maybe a dozen of them in seconds, Peter watching in complete awe. He almost loudly cheers on his hero, when he gasps at the sudden, painful blow Iron Man takes.

Two of the aliens have knocked him down with the thing they’re flying on, and before he can stand, another one on the ground starts shooting lasers at him. Three enemies surround him, and while Iron Man kills one of them, he takes another blow and remains on the ground.

No, no, no, get up! Peter wants to scream, as he sees the hero in danger. He- He needs help but there’s no one else to aid him. Iron Man is alone.

… but not if he can stop them!

He should maybe consider that that’s the opposite of what May and Ben have taught him; yet in the span of maybe five seconds, Peter has left the alley, grabbed the nearest rock he could find and quickly throws it at one of the aliens.

“Hey! Over here!!” The boy yells, waving his arms frenetically to draw their attention.

It’s at this moment that he realizes his mistake, because the aliens growl at him and run towards him with an outstanding speed.

“… Oh jeez.”

Peter wastes no time to turn around and dash the fastest he can, somehow dodging the lasers from behind him. He knows they’re getting closer and he’s definitely dead when a stronger shooting wave shakes the ground. Peter yelps as he trips, only able to brace himself for the incoming.

It then comes to him that he hears nothing from the aliens again. No, he takes notice of metallic footsteps rushing to him, and when Peter realizes, he’s helped to his feet by careful hands.

“Kid, you alright?” Iron Man asks, the boy almost squeaking at how close he is.

Peter blinks for a good couple of seconds before he lets out a dumbfounded, “Y-Yeah…”

Oh man, oh man… It’s Iron Man, and he’s so cool. His suit is as breathtaking as he’s always known. Except… it looks different from his last one? It doesn’t look like the same saturated heavy red and yellow gold metal, and the suit itself is more adjusted to the hero’s body – thus more efficient in battle and flight. It’s worth remembering that his weapons did seem flashier and more laser-like when he fought the aliens earlier… but hey, it’s Tony Stark, he could make flying cars a thing in the 2010s and Peter would believe it.

He’s never been this close to Iron Man; the time at the Stark Expo couldn’t possibly compete. It’s only Peter and his hero right now (… and the alien corpses on the ground, but they’re dead anyway).

Iron Man checks over him again and sighs in what sounds to be relief.

“Please, don’t ever buy fights with aliens after school,” The man scolds him. “Leave that to the pros, you got it?”

“O-Okay,” He replies. Though, he considers before defying, “B-But you were in trouble… I had to do something.”

As he can’t see the face behind the suit of armor, Peter does find it strange that Iron Man… doesn’t reply for the next minutes. Before anything is done, though, the hero scoffs lightheartedly.

“You’re crazy, kiddo.” He ruffles his hair. “But I'll give it, that was a nice shot.”

Peter beams. Nice work, kid.

Iron Man looks around. Thankfully, no other aliens on sight.

“Were you with someone?” The man inquires.

Peter’s red-and-gold-colored fantasy ends with a punch in the gut. How could he forget about his only family?

“Oh no! I-I’ve gotta find my—”

He shuts up when voices are heard somewhere.

“…eter?”

The boy turns around immediately, searching for it. He sees someone coming… he adjusts his glasses and realizes, it’s two people coming this way. Peter’s eyes widen as soon as he recognizes his aunt’s worried expression and his uncle’s running steps.

“Peter!” May’s and Ben’s faces light up. Despite the dirt and the tear stains, they’re not hurt.

“Aunt May! Uncle Ben!” Peter runs towards them.

“Oh, Peter, baby, are you hurt?” May checks over him, and once she finds no wounds, she crushes him in a hug and plants multiple kisses on his cheek and his hair. “Oh, thank goodness,” She whispers, crying tears of relief.

“We’re so glad you’re alright, Petey.” Ben hugs them both tightly.

“Of course I’m okay, Iron Man saved me!”

Peter snuggles against them, safe and relieved in their arms… but for some reason, they’ve grown very quiet. Once Peter looks up, they’re both startled by something; and when the boy follows their gaze, he’s also shocked by what he sees.

Iron Man’s faceplate is gone, and they see the man behind the suit. He looks… well, Peter doesn’t want to say old, because that wouldn’t be nice – and he knows that the media can be awfully deceiving most of the time, but… the hero still looks like he’s seen years of tragedy, and he stares at the Parker family as if they were all ghosts in front of him.

Given the loose hug, Peter leaves May’s and Ben’s arms and takes a few steps towards the hero. He can’t help feeling a little ache at the growing glassy light in his eyes.

“Mr. Stark?” Peter calls him. “Why are you crying?”

Almost as if turning a switch, Mr. Stark blinks and brings a hand to his face, only then realizing he’s actually crying.

“I—” He swallows. “I-I’m not crying, I just- caught something in my eye,” He tries- struggles to joke, yet more tears well up in his eyes and Mr. Stark’s voice breaks, and then he’s practically unable to hold them back.

Peter looks up at him, confused as to what brought this. He briefly glances at May and Ben, who are as lost as he is, and haven’t moved from where they stand. Looking back at the hero, he knows Mr. Stark is avoiding them.

Now that they’re closer, it’s clear how exhausted the man is. His dark eyes are mournful, guilty and really, really sad. Peter knows that look all too well, so he never expected to find it in Mr. Stark’s face.

Peter is young and he knows it. He’s nothing more than an almost eleven-year-old boy, yet he’s witnessed things many haven’t at his age. He’s learned so much and lost so much. He’s not quite sure what Mr. Stark could have lost – or maybe who he’s lost, but what he knows is that this pain is an old friend of his. Peter gets it.

Mr. Stark has covered his mouth to muffle his pained sounds, and he can’t bring himself to look at Peter. The boy has taken a few more brave steps, and he plans what he’ll do next; maybe already having something in mind. A part of him is telling him that he’s crazy, that he shouldn’t do this because it’s Tony Stark and sure, maybe he’s saved the boy’s life twice by now, but Peter is still a stranger, a weird kid from Queens. On the other hand, seeing Mr. Stark in such a state, so hopeless and hurt… it then comes to him that maybe he’s not that much of a mystery. Tony Stark isn’t a cold and indifferent entity. He’s a man inside a suit of armor. A human man that has done so much and has probably seen so much as a result. It’s… kind of crazy how often people forget that.

Still rather hesitantly (obviously), Peter wraps his arms around Mr. Stark’s waist and presses himself against the suit. It’s cold and polished on the outside, and the fanboy part of him is going wild. Thankfully, Peter puts it to rest for a bit because it’s no priority.

Mr. Stark has gone deadly silent and stiff, though he doesn’t reject the approach, so Peter hugs him a little tighter. It’s… surprisingly comfortable.

“It’s okay,” Peter whispers to him. “It’s gonna be okay, Mr. Stark.”

For once, the hero’s arms slowly rise, and they touch Peter like he’s made of glass at first. They’re shaking and they grow tighter within time. The boy feels the tears falling on his hair, as well as quiet sobs. Peter doesn’t look up at all and focuses on offering his presence.

Eventually, everything around them is quiet. So quiet, that Peter almost forgets that they’re in the middle of an alien invasion. When he lets go, Mr. Stark is already looking at him with an unreadable expression. Peter isn’t sure what to make of it, but he finds himself smiling sympathetically, nonetheless.

The hero opens his mouth to say something, but nothing comes out. He looks away again, regretful. Hesitant.

“Hey, you don’t have to worry, Mr. Stark,” Peter reassures him. “You’ll know what to do, ‘cause you’re Iron Man, and you can do anything.”

The tables seem to have turned – Mr. Stark is the one whose eyes sparkle with hope. He makes a noise that sounds like a laugh, and the tears that roll down his face are now of joy.

“Thanks… Peter,” He says, quiet and grateful.

Peter’s grin widens. May and Ben walk up to them, and they’re smiling also.

“Thank you for saving our Peter,” Uncle Ben tells Mr. Stark, placing both hands on Peter’s shoulders. “We know you’re going to save us all.”

The kid realizes the look of surprise that Mr. Stark gives his uncle, though it’s quickly replaced by a kind smile and a nod.

“I will.”

Finally, his faceplate returns. Iron Man turns around and steps away so he will fly away from there. At the same time Peter doesn’t want him to leave, he knows what he must do.

“W-Well, uh, see you around, Mr. Stark!” Peter exclaims before he’s gone.

There’s a beat and then the hero is looking at him again. Peter doesn’t see his face, but he knows he’s smiling.

“See ya, kid,” Iron Man replies, and Peter might as well cry.

The man flies away, clearing up the dirt and revealing the sky. They watch him go and save the world.

“You really are amazing, Pete,” Uncle Ben says, patting his back. “You inspired your own hero to stand back up.”

Peter blinks in realization. Again, his fanboy side is going crazy (oh my god I really just hugged Iron Man and he listened to me and he smiled at me oh my god I have to tell Ned ), yet the boy can only grin at the sky with admiration, Iron Man gone to the battle.

“Yeah… I guess I did.”