I made it, just made it! It's perfectly two weeks since my last update!
And do you guys know I love you? 82 reviews last chapter. I think that's more than chapters 1-5 combined. You're awesome.
(Excuse me while I go write replies for eighty-two reviews. XD)
Chapter 11: Why Was He Even Thinking About This Again?
"Parker left that application form here," Natasha noted, nodding at the white slip of paper lying on the sofa.
Tony spared a glance at the sofa. He had been going to get back to his workshop to work on one of SI's new tech- Pepper had been on his case about it for long enough that he figured he might as well do it- but he would happily take a detour.
Tony strode over the sofa and swiped the paper in one sweeping motion. "Well, I suppose I'll have to catch him then."
Clint rolled his eyes. "Yeah, you do that. Don't think I'll help you in your evil plan to take over the world by recruiting all the smart people for Stark Industries."
"If I did that, I'm pretty sure our workload would be halved. Quartered, even," Tony said dryly. He frowned, walking absent-mindedly towards the elevator in the next room.
The workload would probably more than quartered, considering the ratio of magical threats: science experience gone wrong threats that they faced on a regular basis. The Avengers ended up dealing with the mad scientist of the week a lot more often than a crazy magician.
Tony pressed the down button, and waited for the elevator to come up.
Then again, didn't Thor say something about magic being really advanced science? So, would all threats count as crazy science threats? Then again, he had attempted to dissect a weak magical artifact that a villain had before, but he hadn't been able to tell heads from tails. It would probably be best not to categorize magic under science then, since-
The elevator doors opened and Tony stepped in. He stared at the array of buttons blankly for a few moments before pressing on the one labeled with a one. The elevator started swiftly moving down.
Tony went back to his previous problem. If magic and science were considered as two separate entities, then the removal of the threat science-wise would about cut the Avengers' workload by an eighth. But would putting all the 'smart people' in Stark Industries stop supervillains from appearing? It wasn't as if Stark Industries kept that much of a tighter rein on their employees compared to other companies...
Why was he even thinking about this again?
The elevator doors opened, and Tony stepped through. When he spotted Peter through the glass of the automatic doors, he immediately recalled the other problem that he had been pondering over in the back of his head.
Peter hadn't struck him as the forgetful type. Far from it, in fact. So the fact that he had 'forgotten ' the application form- well, it didn't bode well.
Peter hadn't been that thrilled about the application at first, as well… But then again, if he really didn't want to have the internship, wouldn't he take it with him and get rid of it later? That way, no one would notice.
It wasn't as if Peter was dumb, though he was nowhere near his level. Though, to be fair, Peter was only fifteen.
Tony stopped behind a whitewashed pillar, staring despite himself. What was dear old Agent Coulson talking to Peter about? Oh, sure, it could be something completely innocent. Or, something kinda private. But it wasn't as if Peter would've told Coulson about anything that private, and he only respected people's privacy to a certain extent.
Considering his non-existent ninja skills, he was rather proud of himself when he successfully snuck close enough to Coulson and Peter to overhear their conversation.
"…we won't hesitate to use leverage. I'm sure you understand what all your secrets are."
"Correct. If you don't care whether or not he finds out, then SHIELD will end up telling him eventually. So I repeat. It's only a matter of time before he finds out."
"Look. It's not just a matter of telling him, no matter how much you seem to want me to tell him."
"I don't want you to do anything one way or another, Mr. Parker."
"Sure you don't. What do you expect me to say? Oh, hi, Tony. How're you doing? I'm doing good. Have I mentioned that you kinda slept with my mom sixteen years ago? And that apparently there was a little accident called Peter? No? Well, there you go."
Tony was walking through those glass doors before he even realized what he was doing.
"What," Tony repeated, this time out loud.
Coulson looked at him, unsurprised. Too unsurprised.
Tony made a mental note in the back of his mind that Coulson was a manipulative little ba-
"Oh, uh, hi, Tony," Peter said, his voice too high-pitched to be called cheerful. Tony blankly noticed Peter scanning his face, probably trying to figure out how much he had heard. "What're you doing here? Scratch, scratch that, this is your tower, of course you're here, right? Heh. Uh, yeah. Um. I meant here as in, uh, the lobby. Outside the lobby, technically, I guess. Uh, right. That's it."
Tony's mind was blank.
Not completely blank, of course. He was a genius godammit, he wouldn't completely shut down because of something like this. In the crevasses of his mind, he was still thinking about that new StarkTech Pepper wanted.
But at the forefront of his mind, all he could feel was a blank white mass of shock and disbelief. It wasn't possible, he wanted to say. It couldn't be true, he wanted to shout.
But he didn't.
His mouth remained shut.
Even through the white mass of shock, Tony knew that it was certainly possible that Peter was his kid. It wasn't as if he hasn't slept with a fair share of women sixteen years ago, and it wasn't as if it weren't possible that there had been an... accident. The probability that Peter's mother had been one of the crowd... wasn't that outrageous.
And even if the probabilities had been slimmer, even if he hadn't spent so much time with so many women, the fact that Coulson wasn't objecting gave credence to the theory.
Tony opened his mouth, before closing it again. It felt unbelievably dry all of a sudden. Forcing it open again, he croaked out a few words.
"I think, I think I'll go now."
"Right!" Peter said, his voice full of obvious relief. "Right. Good- goodbye."
Peter sped out of the vicinity faster than Tony would've thought possible. Maybe the spiderbite had given him superspeed as well as his fast reflexes.
Coulson looked at Tony with a blank look. "I'll be taking my leave now as well. I'd suggest talking to your son sometime soon, as I doubt Mr. Parker will approach you himself."
Peter. His son.
"The mission was executed flawlessly."
"I have no doubt it was." Nick Fury stood behind his desk, his back facing two of them stood alone in Fury's office.
"I have the mission report here," Coulson said calmly. He slid a thin folder of papers onto Fury's desk, skilfully avoiding the other objects on the desk.
"I'll be sure to pass my eyes over it," Fury turned around, glancing at the beige folder. "Now for your debriefing."
Coulson nodded once, curtly. "I approached Mr. Parker about the identity of his father. Surprisingly, Mr. Parker was already aware of his identity."
Fury snorted. "Probably hacked into his mother's computer."
"Upon questioning, he revealed that his mother had left a letter for him, to be opened on his fifteenth birthday," Coulson corrected. "He appeared to have forgotten of JARVIS' surveillance, but after some deliberation, I concluded that there would be a stronger effect on both if Mr. Stark did not find out in an indirect fashion. And so, I reminded Mr. Parker of the surveillance, then proceeded to discuss his position in the Avengers with the rest of the team."
Fury nodded, satisfied with the explanation thus far. "How did Stark find out? Did Parker tell him himself?"
"Indirectly," Coulson said calmly. "I was previously aware of Mr. Stark's plans to give Mr. Parker an internship application form. He had contacted me, wanting to know if there had been anything in the SHIELD contract that Peter had signed that prevented him from interning at another company."
"Considering the hissy fit Stark would've thrown, it was probably best that we didn't put that sort of clause in the contract," Fury commented. "Go on."
"Mr. Parker accepted the application form, as expected. However, I had obtained another copy of said form," Coulson continued calmly. "I placed it on Mr. Parker's seat before leaving with him. Once gone, Agent Romanoff pointed out the application form to Mr. Stark. As expected, he tried to catch Mr. Parker before he left the building and give him the application form."
Coulson paused, taking a small breath.
"I stalled Mr. Parker just outside of Stark Tower. As I eventually spotted Mr. Stark attempting to listen in to our conversation, I tried to get Mr. Parker mention by name who his father was," Coulson explained. "He revealed the secret, in earshot of Mr. Stark, without much prompting on my part. The two of them then quickly parted ways, without discussing the matter."
"They can't ignore it forever," Fury said dismissively. He slid down into his large black chair, a satisfied look on his face. "Good job, Agent Coulson. Stark's more of a loose cannon than Parker; this'll be much better leverage than before."
Coulson didn't answer for the briefest moment. His eyes flicked to the ground for a split second, before returning to look at Fury straight in the eye.
"Thank you, Commander," Coulson said, his voice hard.
"You're dismissed." Fury waved him away, picking up a different folder on his desk with his other hand.
Coulson left the room, the doors sliding open at his approach.
His face may have been calm, but a twinge of guilt tore at his insides.
Peter raised his hand to knock on the door, before lowering it again. He sighed.
This would've been a lot easier if he had gone to Gwen's apartment along with her after school, but unfortunately, it was Saturday.
He had been standing at the door to Gwen's apartment for five minutes now, trying to work up the courage to ring the doorbell, or at the very least knock on the door.
It was pathetic that he could face down supervillains but quaver in the face of an emotional exchange.
To make things worse, Gwen wasn't the only person he needed to talk to-
Peter firmly shut that thought up in a corner of his mind the moment he thought of it. He had already panicked more than enough last night, and had lost a lot of previous sleep because of it. He didn't need to start worrying himself to death with hypothetical situations again. Maybe if he ignored it, Tony would miraculously forget what happened yesterday.
Peter sighed. For all his grandstanding about how he didn't care whether or not Tony found out, he really did.
(He really did.)
All he wanted was for things to be like before. Where Tony thought that he was an interesting kid, but not his kid. Where they might not be super close, given their age difference and how long they've known each other, but they could still talk.
Sure, if he went back, maybe Tony would pretend it never happened; and Peter would be glad of it. But things wouldn't, couldn't be exactly the way it used to be.
"Great, I went and started thinking about it," Peter muttered, sighing again.
Maybe he should just leave. It didn't seem as if he could work up the courage to press that damn button anytime soon, and him and Gwen wasn't exactly his biggest problem right now.
But, no, he couldn't just do that. That would just make things worse.
Peter looked at the doorbell mournfully, before finally pressing it in one fluid movement. His ears took in the sound of it ringing from inside. Footsteps sounded, before the door opened.
Gwen stood in the doorway, her blond hair not as neat and tidy as usual. She had a tentative smile on her face.
"Peter," Gwen greeted, no hostility in her voice.
"Gwen," Peter said back nervously. He glanced to the ground, not meeting her eyes.
"Well, come in!" Gwen said cheerfully, stepping back from the doorway, letting Peter in. "My mother's, well, working, and my brothers are out wreaking havoc at one of their friends' houses. So it's just you and me."
"Okay. Uh, cool," Peter said lamely. Still nervous, his eyes flicked around the hallway they stood in. Gwen started walking towards a different room, and Peter followed. He wasn't sure where they were going, as he had only been here once.
Once they passed through the doorway, they emerged in the kitchen.
"Want anything?" Gwen asked, gesturing towards the fridge. "We've got juice, tea, milk, and of course water..."
"I'm, I'm fine," Peter replied. From Gwen's exasperated expression, Peter figured that she had caught on to his nervousness.
Gwen sighed, but it just sounded amused more than anything else.
"Guess we should get down to business then?" Gwen said, briskly walking towards another door. "Let's take this to my room."
Once in the room, Gwen pulled out one of the chairs from her desk and plopped herself onto it. Peter awkwardly sat himself down onto the bed.
Gwen laughed suddenly, an act that took Peter by surprise.
"I'd forgotten how awkward you are." Gwen smiled. "I can't believe that I could forget something like that."
Peter laughed self-deprecatingly, his eyes still downcast.
"The spiderbite could only do so much. Social ineptness was one thing it couldn't cure," Peter said. His eyes landed on the white bandages wrapped around Gwen's left hand. "How's your hand?"
"Fine, fine, it'll heal in a couple weeks. That's not why we're here, though." Gwen leaned in, her eyes soft. "I'll get to the point then. I want to be friends again. I like you, Peter. You're kind and nice and you don't deserve the stuff you go through. I'm tired of ignoring you, tired of trying to hate you, tired of finding a scapegoat for my father's death. I just want to talk again."
Peter looked up, meeting Gwen's gaze. It would be rude not to.
"What do you say?" Gwen asked. Her face still was smiling, but her eyes revealed her nervousness.
(Well, that made two of them then.)
Peter took a deep breath before smiling widely back.
(Friends. Better than nothing.)
"I say yes."
Okay, fine, so he was a little bit annoyed.
Tony's hands flicked a blueprint of a new StarkPhone to the corner of the screen in front of him. He opened up a new file, his eyes scanning the diagram in front of him.
He stuffed his hand straight into the diagram, the holograph shifting and sparking around his hand. There was no resistance, and no point to the act.
Tony sighed, taking his hand out. He leaned back against the comfy chair he was sitting in, his eyes rolling up to take in the ceiling.
Okay, fine, so maybe he was a little more than annoyed.
But on the bright side, he had finished the blueprints for the new StarkPhone, so at least Pepper would be happy.
He got up from his chair, paced for a second or two, then headed towards a different corner of his workshop.
Tony did have a couple improvements he wanted to add to the Iron Man suit before the next supervillain popped up, after all.
Tony flopped down into a different chair in front of a table scattered with tools.
"Dummy, goggles," Tony ordered, putting his hand to the side. A few moments later, the goggles landed in his hand, Dummy rolling up to give them to him. He shoved them onto his eyes, before picking up one of his tools.
But unfortunately, before he could start trying to improve the aerodynamics of the suit, JARVIS spoke up.
"Mr. Rogers has entered the workshop," JARVIS said, his computerized voice echoing throughout the entire workshop. Tony mentally noted that he needed to put the speakers in a better place. The acoustics were horrible. He didn't want echoing.
"Hey, Tony," Steve said, his footsteps steadily growing louder as he approached. He looked at the materials on the table. "Working on upgrades for the suit?"
"Yeah," Tony replied shortly, turning around to look at Steve. "Was there something you wanted, Cap?"
Steve hesitated, his eyes flicking to the side for a brief second.
"Did something happen on Friday?" Steve finally asked.
And here he was thinking that he had hid it pretty well. It wasn't as if he had shut himself into the workshop without sleep or food for two days straight or anything. Tony wasn't suicidal.
(Well. At least not anymore.)
"It's your imagination." Tony rolled his eyes. He turned back around, picking up one of his tools again. "If that's it, Capsicle, I do want to get back to this."
"Is it about Peter?" Steve asked. "This started after you chased after him on Friday."
"Of course not," Tony said naturally. He really wished that Steve would leave already. "Don't know why you would think that."
Tony grimaced when Steve's hand landed on his shoulder.
"I'm fine, Steve." Sighing, Tony placed his tool back down again. "What d'ya want me to say? I may always be messed up, but I'm telling you, there's nothing in particular that's eating at me right now."
"You're not-" Steve cut himself off, probably realizing that yes, Tony was very messed up.
(Probably why Peter didn't want to tell him about his little secret, why he didn't want to admit it.)
"Tony, it's just that... I'm getting that same feeling, the one right after Pepper and you..." Steve hesitated, and with good reason.
He didn't want to think about that.
(It was still too raw.)
"So, what, you're saying that I had another girlfriend and she broke up with me as well?" Tony snarked. He tried to keep the bitterness out of his voice. "News flash, Captain, if I did have a new girlfriend, you would've known."
"I didn't mean-"
"-Just accept that sometimes America's Golden Boy can make a mistake and back off." Tony briskly waved him away. "Shoo. I can take care of myself."
Steve let out a sigh, a great big gusty one. Tony could hear him back away, though Tony didn't turn around to watch.
"Just, you know, if you want to talk, I'm here. We all are," Steve said quietly.
Tony didn't answer. He waited until Steve's footsteps faded away before getting back to work.
(He ignored the lump in his throat.)
I think I'll be wrapping this particular story up in one or two more chapters. I am, however, planning on a sequel to wrap up the larger plot devices.
I'll try to get the next chapter up soon, but no promises. I've got tests and stuff.
(and that I really want to get 100% synchronization on that new video game I got- /shot)