Peter Parker believed in love.
His parents never did get married and he wasn't one to question it. All he knew was that a year after being officially together, they decided to adopt Peter into their family. He wasn't sure how it worked legally, but then again, his mother was Natasha Stark. He was sure she worked something out. At the age of fifteen, he became the responsibility of Steve Rogers and Natasha Stark and he'd be damned if he said it was a pretty big deal for him.
Bruce sat across from Peter, staring at him trying to figure out what could possibly be going on. Peter's sudden question startled him briefly. "Bruce, where is Betty right now? And Jane Foster?" Bruce paused, thinking last of where Betty mentioned she was. "She's somewhere on the west coast, I believe. Finishing one of her projects. Jane is probably in New Mexico still." Bruce gave him a look, one that would only stem from a curious mind. "Peter, what are you think of doing?"
Peter proceeded to tell Bruce the entirety of his plan. One that would be sure to bring his parents together once more. All he needed were the appropriate tools and the right people to help him. "Natasha's told me everything about their relationship. I can probably help you with that part. The other part, you'll have to give me the night to think over." He smiled softly. The two sat together a while longer as Bruce began to tell him the tale of how Natasha Stark and Steve Rogers came to fall in love with each other and everything thereafter. Peter studiously took notes on as much as he could.
Peter Parker believed in love and was nearly positive that his parents could fall in love again. He didn't think they were out of love, but he believed that their love had been blurred by their responsibilities.
During the duration of their argument, Natasha Stark sat in her lab as usual. It had become a common occurrence in the last two weeks. Through Jarvis, she made sure she wouldn't have any run-ins with Steve. It had become apparent to Peter that whenever she worked on her vintage cars, she was trying to distract herself. It had gotten as bad as her going to the Malibu home at one point. The one and only reason she stayed even in the tower was because Peter was there to take care of. To be there for. If anything were for certain, she'd never abandon her child. Her father did it but she'd never stoop that low. So when Peter had received the opportunity to go to study across the country for two weeks with world renowned physicists, Natasha took that as an opportunity to relocate herself at the Malibu home until Peter's return.
Peter returned home a week early because they had nothing to teach him compared to the scientists he lived with. The night he got back, he had had his talk with Bruce. That night he would begin to set his plan in motion.
The first step would be to talk to his mother.
He entered his room and closed the door softly. "Jarvis, make sure no one enters without warning me first." Peter said as he flicked on the lights. Jarvis didn't respond but the lock system could be heard from Peter's bed. He sat comfortably as he slid his laptop onto his lap. A few of his files were open, but none that he needed to work on at the moment. Before she left, she made sure to tell Peter that she was only a phone call or video call away and Peter had never been more glad to hear that. As he clicked the video call button, it only took a few moments for Natasha to pick up. With anyone else, she might let it ring to the last second or ignore it all together.
But Peter was the exception.
"Hey Pete, aren't supposed to be busy doing whatever it is young geniuses do?" Natasha smiled softly as she looked through a few of her own papers in the workshop of her Malibu home. Peter chuckled lightly. "You were one once."
"Yeah I know." She gave him a cheeky grin in response.
They sat silently for a moment or two before Natasha sighed, realizing what this was probably about. "You father didn't tell me you were home." Her voice was neutral but Peter caught the slight sadness that it held. He ran a hand through his hair, not knowing how to start off. "You two should talk then." Peter replied frankly. Natasha paused and looked up from her papers to see Peter giving her the look that she could rarely say no to. This time she had reason to though. "He doesn't want to talk to me."
Before she could say anything further, Peter replied quickly with hope. "Well, what would you say if you could talk to him? Mom, I know you two are fighting, but you still love each other. Otherwise you wouldn't be fighting. I promise that if you write this letter, things will get better. Please, Mom?" Peter gave her a hopeful set of eyes that could only look away from and sigh. She grabbed a sheet of paper and a pen before looking back up. "He doesn't even want to talk to me Pete." She pressed her lips together before swallowing to relieve her dry throat. "You shouldn't make promises you can't keep..." Peter gave her a grin that mirrored her own at times.
"But those are the best kind."
The next day, Peter sat across from Bruce once more. Bruce sat silently contemplating the part of his plan that would involve him. He told Bruce the night before but Bruce then had to give him an answer, and quick. Peter planned on keeping Natasha off on the other side of the country under the premise that she was pursuing scientific exploration with other well-known scientists in their respective fields:
Betty Ross, cellular biologist.
Jane Foster, astrophysicist.
Henry "Hank" Pym, biochemistry and other various fields
Reed Richards, physicist and knowledgeable in most, if not, all fields of science.
And if Peter could convince him, Bruce Banner, gamma radiation specialist. Peter Parker calculated that a meeting of the minds would be a perfect disguise for his plan. Meanwhile, he'd send his father on an adventure of his own. "Peter, can I have a minute alone with Bruce?" Peter looked up a bit startled as Steve entered the room. He hadn't expected Steve anywhere near the area. Usually when Peter and Bruce were together, Natasha wasn't too far away. "Yeah, sure. I'll be in my room…" Steve patted his shoulder gently in gratitude as he slowly made his way out. Peter looked back briefly at Bruce who met glances with him.
They shared a look of understanding.
"How are you Steve?" He said softly as he slid his glasses off and placed them on the counter. Steve had the eyes of a worried man. He scratched the back of his neck nervously before speaking. "Natasha… I'm not apologizing because I don't think I'm in the wrong but we haven't spoken in two weeks. I went to find her but she's nowhere to be found." Steve looked Bruce in the eye and held a steady gaze. Bruce felt bad in one way but he was going to go through with Peter's plan. "She's not here, Steve. She went to work on something…"
Steve's eyes flickered with confusion and trickled with slight anger. "She left again? Without telling anyone?" Bruce remained silent as he pulled out a stack of neatly made red envelopes. Peter had given them to him earlier in the day. "For you. They have to do with where Natasha is. I'm not sure where she is, but these are supposed to help you…" Bruce bit his lip nervously, easily a habit caught from Natasha. Steve was about to question the letter but stopped himself midway. He decided maybe the first letter would answer any preliminary questions he had. Bruce slipped out of his seat and made his way towards the corridor. Peter was nearby, making sure everything went according to his plan. "I'll go…" Bruce whispered. "But are you sure this will work?"
Before Peter answered, he continued to watch Steve. Steve opened the first envelope with ease.
Some things in this world are common and others are so rare that you see them only once in a life time. And then there are those beautiful things that some keep to themselves and share with one special person. Two years ago, Natasha showed you something once that she never showed anyone. "A tune that reminded [you] of the freedom to fly away." Go to the place that she freely shared with you…
Do you remember?
It took Steve a moment before he slowly stood up, the paper still steady in his hand. As vague as it seemed he knew exactly of the place the letter meant. He didn't know how, he didn't know who would have the audacity to write such a letter, but he knew. He'd never forget the place the letter spoke of. It was a place that many knew of but Natasha had never allowed them to go in.
The letter wanted him to go to old Stark Mansion.
Bruce and Peter stood in the shadows watching as Steve hurried out the door; jacket and keys in tow. "Do you think he understood?" Bruce said softly as if not wanting to break the silence that Steve had created in his absence. "I can only hope he did."
Steve reached the streets at a speed not normal for the average human being as he reached his motorcycle and began his 30 minute journey towards a place he had seen numerous times in pictures and only once had he actually stepped foot into it. After Natasha had become the last Stark to live in the house, she left but made sure to keep it intact as much as she could. She had kept her mother's artwork exactly how she had left it. There wasn't a table left undusted or cracked. All the room remained closed with the exception of a cleaning when needed. Her father's workshop had been the only thing touched.
To ensure the utmost precaution, she had cleaned out his workshop and office and stored all of his belongings in unknown facilities. Natasha had also made sure to install security systems. Other than those two actions, the house remained frozen in time. Just as he had once been. He remembered the day he entered the house. He had expected a cold chill, an abundance of cob webs and the smell of must but found the exact opposite. He found it warm, clean and it smelled of an apple orchard…
It had been a little less than a year since the two had begun their relationship. Only a few fights and differences had occurred, but other than that, they were steadier than most would have expected. It was a summer morning when Steve entered the kitchen area. Bruce Banner sat at the counter drinking his tea and enjoying the morning paper. "Hey, Steve, how are you?" He smiled lightly as he sipped his drink. "I'm pretty good. Have you seen Nat anywhere? I went to find her but she's nowhere to be found. We've only talked maybe a few times this week…" Steve looked slightly worried as Bruce Banner looked up from his paper. A glint of amusement could be found. He smiled as he replied.
"She's not here, Steve. She went to work on something."
"Is she mad at me, did I do something that she's avoiding me, I-"He paused when he notced Bruce still smiling at him. He sighed, taking a seat next to him and letting out a weary chuckle himself. "She's off working but I wouldn't expect to see her until around dinner or so." Steve nodded slowly, a bit downtrodden that he wouldn't see her for most of the day, but left Bruce to his reading and decided to go back to his room. He changed his plain white shirt and causal pants to a red flannel shirt and jeans. A light knock on the door startled him but rose his hopes that it could be Natasha.
It was only Clint Barton.
"Hey, heard you're not doing much today and thought me and Tasha could take you out on the town tonight." He grinned widely as he strode confidently. It wasn't what Steve wanted to do that day, but he didn't have much of a choice. His first option was off working without saying so. "Sure, I don't see why not. Where to?" Clint didn't respond; he instead chose to merely wave his hand for Steve to come along. If anything they had gone sightseeing, gone to a local carnival, and had lunch at a random restaurant. Steve was a bit shocked at how the area seemed to be more crowded than usual, but he had to remind himself it was a holiday.
But throughout the day, he couldn't stop thinking about Natasha Stark.
He sat in the back of Clint's car staring out the window. The sun had just about set and in the distance fireworks could be heard all around. "They usually start earlier…" Romanoff said as she looked into the night sky. The sky had been highlighted with a variety of colors as each firework came from its respective location. The car began to slow down as it pulled up in-front of a somewhat familiar location. "You won't need a key, Steve. Just go right in." Clint said as he turned around to a confused Steve Rogers. He furrowed his eyebrows as he slowly began to make his way out of the car. "Have fun, Steve!" Tasha called out of the car as it drove away, leaving Steve to stand in the large drive way.
He turned around, taking in the grandeur of the house itself. It occurred to him that it was the Stark mansion. The grounds that Howard and his wife had once walked. The home that Natasha grew up in. He approached the door earnestly and opened it with ease. The expected cobwebs and musty smell wasn't to be found. Instead he was greeted with a large room that smelled of apples. On the far left, a fireplace had been lit despite the fact that it was July. Steve presumed it was for lighting. Nearby there sat a large black grand piano. Natasha sat at the bench. He couldn't see her face but he knew.
He strode up to her and stood at the side of the piano. She looked up at him with her large brown eyes, the light of the fire reflected ever slightly to make them hazel in appearance. "What's going on Nat?" He smiled softly as he sat in the chair located beside her. On the other side of her was a closed laptop and a box the size of three text books stacked on top of one another.
Without responding, she began to play.
Steve recognized it as an instrumental from a movie the two had seen recently. It was an animation. Up. Or so he thought it was called that. The theme wouldn't normally be played on a piano but somehow, Natasha had made it work. He didn't know how but he had made it work. "A tune that reminds you of the freedom to fly away.' That's what you said when we watched it. You said it was a 'tune you could dance to, a tune to fly to." She said softly as she looked up at him once more, the sincerity in her eyes causing his breath to catch similar to the first time she had given him that look out in the rain. "You remembered all that?" He asked softly. Fireworks could be heard in the distance still as she continued to play. "I remember most things, Steve." The final notes drifted throughout the room as she slowly began to stop. She stood up and placed the laptop and the medium sized box on top of the closed lid of the piano. Steve stood up as well.
The box had been wrapped in patriotic red, white and blue colors. Steve looked back from her and the box as she motioned her eyes for him to open it. He lifted the box lid to find a handmade cake inside. He stared silently in awe, forgetting he ought to probably say something. There were candles already in place and he would only assume she had possessed the lighter or matches. "If you don't like it I can always go and buy one. I'm not the best baker or best anything when it comes to kitchens and-"
She stopped herself at the sound of his voice. Steve grinned widely at the nervous habit she had developed of rambling when she had no need to worry. She looked at him and found herself immediately at ease. Steve took the cake and placed it on a nearby table that was relatively low to the ground, similar to a coffee table. She pressed her lips together as she grabbed the lighter in her back pocket. She slowly began to light each of the candles, the light better illuminating their faces. Steve looked at the candles before looking at her once more. "Aren't you going to make a wish? That's how this works, right?"
"I have something I want to do first."
He leaned forward across the coffee table where she stood opposite him, pressing his lips softly against hers. His hand found its way to the side of her face, pressing them closer together. They separated momentarily, their foreheads lingering against one another. That's an entirely different movie all together that we'll have to watch." She grinned widely as Steve gave her a perplexed look. "What you just did there. They did it in this iconic move back in the eighties and-" She paused again, stopping herself from the rambling. "Anyway, Happy Birthday, Steve." She whispered softly, sending shivers down his spine. The two parted reluctantly as Steve knelt down and blew out the candles.
He stared at the cake briefly before standing back up to look at Natasha. "Do you have that song you played, the piano version on your laptop?" She nodded in response as she caught on to his implication. "Only for you." She smirked as she made her way back to the laptop. He followed close behind. She clicked for the song to start as she felt Steve intertwine his fingers through her free hand. He tugged at her slowly to the open area of the room. "I'd think it'd be a fast waltz…" She muttered as Steve began to lead. "Since when did you get so good at dancing?" She questioned. The chuckle Steve let out resonated from his chest to hers as she felt butterflies at sound of his laugh. "I've had plenty of time to practice." The two waltzed around the room at their own pace, which luckily matched the music for the most part. "Where did you learn how to play?" Steve asked the burning question that couldn't leave his mind. "My mother taught me when I was little. I can play by hearing but I don't know how to read music. I'm sure I could learn but it doesn't seem important." She explained briefly to Steve as she mentioned for the first time something about her mother. "Has anyone ever heard you play?"
"No, just you. And my mother if you count that."
The exception. (Taking Peter briefly out of the equation,) Steve would always be the exception and she would always be his. Steve drowned out all the sound around him, including that of the song and the fireworks that contoured the night sky…
Steve Rogers stood presently in the Stark mansion where he had once stood two years prior. He found the silence eerie and the apple like smell a faint reminder that he wasn't on the best of terms with Natasha Stark. It was dark with the exception of a few outside lights shining through the curtained windows.
He remembered everything about that night. He had fallen in love with her all over again. He swallowed hard as he looked down at the next red letter, wondering what on earth its contents would hold and to what memory it would lead him to.