Rather than bore you with inane excuses, let's get to the chapter. I know you guys have been waiting for this.
Chapter 12: His Life Was His Problem
Peter crouched on a rooftop of some office building in downtown New York. He looked down at the cars going to and fro underneath him, a genial smile on his face. It was midday rush hour, and the road was quite congested.
It was always enjoyable to just sit up somewhere up high, not thinking about anything; just mindlessly staring at the cars as they attempted to move forwards.
But, Peter hadn't become a superhero in order to crouch on rooftops and stare at cars. Stepping back from the edge of the rooftop, he sighed, the problems that had been niggling at the back of his head returning with a vengeance.
Peter turned around languorously, recognizing the voice.
"Clint," Peter greeted, giving him a brief nod. Clint was simply in his casual clothes, not his superhero uniform. "What are you doing here? How'd you get up here?"
"I took the elevator," Clint shot, a condescending smirk on his face. "And as for why? Why, Petey, I thought you were supposed to be smart. Can't you figure it out for yourself?"
"No, I really can't," Peter replied, his voice calm and steady.
"So, I talked with Coulson," Clint started. Peter held back a wince. This wasn't going to be good.
"Anyways, he didn't tell me what he had done to get both you and Stark so worked up," Clint confined, visibly annoyed. "So, since Stark refused to elaborate as well, I'm left with you."
"Me? Worked up?" Peter forced a laugh out of his mouth. He felt a little proud at how real it sounded.
(He should've felt ashamed.)
"Yeah. You're not worked up at all," Clint said, a healthy dose of sarcasm in his voice. "After all, I'm sure you have a perfectly good reason for not going to that internship interview on Monday."
"How'd you find me here, anyways? Did you stalk the nearby buildings until you spotted me or something?" Peter asked, ignoring Clint's question for the moment.
Clint winced. "Peter, that was such a bad attempt to change the subject, it practically gave me hives."
Peter rolled his eyes. He stared at the blue-tinted windows of the adjacent building, inwardly sighing. He gave a cursory glance at his surroundings. A simple concrete-covered rooftop. Nobody in sight but Clint.
Oh, screw it all.
"He's my father," Peter said, his voice deceptively bored.
(What did he have to lose? He doubted that dear old Mr. Agent would keep quiet for too long.)
There was a moment of silence before Clint answered.
"I'm sorry, was that a clever Star Wars joke?" Clint demanded. "Because I'm afraid I didn't get the joke."
"Tony," Peter said, turning around to face Clint. Not that it really mattered, considering the fact that he was still wearing his Spider-Man mask. "He's my father."
This time, Clint spoke up much more quickly.
"Heh. Yeah, well, unfortunately for you I get what you're trying to do," Clint said insistently. "Distracting me with a completely ridiculous statement won't work. How many years d'ya think I've been a SHIELD agent?"
Peter didn't say anything. He just continued to look at Clint silently, waiting to see what he would do.
Clint barked out a laugh, a nervous twinge to it.
"Okay, you had your little joke, so can you just tell me what's really up with you and Stark?" Clint demanded.
"It's not a joke."
"That's." Clint took a deep breath, highly visible. "Well. Um. Please tell me you're having me on here."
"I would, but I'm not," Peter said, a smidge bitterly. He headed towards the edge of the rooftop, preparing to jump off. "Anyways, I'm a little late on my schedule. Petty crime calls. Gotta go."
His words were hurried and rushed by the end of the sentence, really not wanting to deal with the aftermath of the revelation.
(Goddammit, why was he such a coward?)
"Wait! Wait, fu- dammit, just-" Clint cut himself off, letting out a sigh. Peter reluctantly waited for him to finish. "If you really aren't having a joke at my expense- if you're telling the truth- just, c'mon, talk to Stark. Look, I'm not gonna sugarcoat it, he's probably one of the last guys you want as a father- but he's kinda a nice guy, at least. On the inside. Really deep down. And hell, I'm the last guy to talk to about what to do with your father- I practically have as many daddy issues as Stark- but just, I don't know, give it a try."
"Give what a try?"
"I don't know," Clint muttered. "But I do know this. I don't wanna have to deal with you avoiding Stark and by proxy Stark Tower for the rest of your life. So deal with it now, and deal with it quickly, and it'll all be good."
"Like ripping off a bandage?" Peter said, a snarky tone to his voice.
"Exactly." Clint flashed a brief grin to Peter. "And hey, this little injury is only bandage-worthy at best right now. As long as you don't need stitches, it'll be perfectly fine if you just rip it out. Trust me, you don't want to rip of stitches."
"I'll think about it," Peter said neutrally. He gave a brief nod to Clint, before jumping off the building.
Clint's words circled around his head as he swung through his buildings. And so, unconsciously, before he even realized it, he started to swing his way towards Stark Tower.
"You say your name is Molten Man. But your real name.." Coulson looked down at the clipboard in his hand. It was all for show. He had already memorized the contents. "Mark Raxton."
Coulson looked up at the man restrained in the water tank in front of him, weighing his reaction. It had unfortunately taken a few days to restrain the so-called Molten Man in a water tank string enough and big enough to be able to interrogate him properly.
A few of the junior agents would have some permanent scarring from their burns.
"You had- have- a horrible gambling problem. You lived with your stepsister for years before getting your superpowers." Coulson commented. "Eventually finished university and managed to get a job as a scientist, but after a lab accident, you gained the power to turn into molten lava. Unfortunately, you couldn't control it, and accidentally burned down your workplace. You were blamed, rightfully, and so you started to run from the law. You continued on gambling however; this time with money gained from petty theft. An unimaginative way to use your skills."
"Shut up! You couldn't understand," Molten Man growled, struggling against the thick metal cuffs surrounding his wrists and ankles.
"Quite frankly, I don't need to understand whatever it is you think I don't," Coulson said bluntly. "I just need to know what you know and how you know it. First question. Were you working alone or did someone hire you?"
"Why should I tell you?" Molten Man snapped. "What do I get?"
"You can't control your powers well, can you?" Coulson said rhetorically. "You're prone to burning up, through your clothing and everything around you, at random intervals."
"What about it?" Molten Man growled. He laughed, a bit manically. "You're saying that you can fix me? Get rid of my powers, or let me control them?"
"Yes," Coulson said simply.
"Thanks, but no thanks," Molten Man snapped. "Last time something altered my body, I ended up becoming living lava."
"I'm sure that you're aware that you're at our mercy," Coulson said mildly.
"Are you threatening me?" Molten Man said incredulously. A thread of nervousness snuck into his voice. "You're government. You can't torture me."
"You must have very thick rose-tinted glasses to think that," Coulson commented. "You're a superpowered supervillain. Quite frankly, we can do what we want. It's a matter of whether or not you cooperate or not; nothing more, nothing less."
Molten Man gritted his teeth. He flexed his arms again, testing the strength of the metal cuffs. They didn't budge an inch. An attempt at using his powers was fruitless. He was almost completely encased in water, his fatal weakness. The water wouldn't even sizzle.
"Fine," Molten Man growled. "Fine! But I don't know much, okay? I was hired to do the job through a mutual acquaintance. The Master Planner, he calls himself."
"The Master Planner?" Coulson echoed. "Tell me about him."
"Then you'll let me go?" Molten Man demanded.
"Then we'll consider it," Coulson responded back flatly.
Molten Man gritted his teeth, and reluctantly continued.
A teenager sat on a plush chair in a lavishly decorated office, fidgeting. He was alone, though there was an empty seat and desk in front of him, presumably meant for whoever he was waiting for. He ran his hand through his orange hair and glanced towards the door for the umpteenth time in the last few minutes.
As he turned his face back towards the desk, the sound of the door finally opening hit his ears.
"Mr. Stromm," Harry greeted, putting a natural smile on his face. Mendel Stromm was far from his favourite of his father's business associates, but he knew better than to show his distaste.
"I assume you've heard about what happened to your father," Stromm said, walking to the desk. "Horrible business. You must be very torn up about it."
"Yes. Well." Harry paused for a split second, contemplating his next words. "It wasn't completely unexpected."
Unfortunately, he just really wasn't 'torn up' about his father's critical state. It wasn't as if Norman Osborn had been much of a father to him.
"Yes, yes, that's definitely true. Your father was already sick for quite a while." Stromm nodded. He sat himself down across from Harry. "Now, what should we do with you? You're still a minor, I'm afraid, so you need a guardian, however temporarily."
"The doctors are optimistic. They expect that he'll recover within a few weeks," Harry pointed out. "I don't believe this is necessary."
Harry noted the brief expression of distaste that flew over Stromm's face at the mention of his father's probable recovery. He was surprised that Stromm and his father hadn't tried to kill each other yet, considering how power-hungry they were.
Then again, perhaps Stromm had tried to kill his father.
"Nevertheless, we must be prepared for the worst case scenario," Stronm said smoothly. "I'm sure you're aware that you don't have any close relatives apart from your father. On event of his death, you'd be put into foster care. I'm sure we both don't want that."
Harry's blood froze at Stromm's words. He had known that his father considered him a disappointment, a waste of his time, but had he really decided to throw Harry to social services if he ever died?
"I'm sure that it would be better for both of us if I were to become your guardian when your father dies," Stromn said, his voice sickeningly sweet.
Did he think that he was twelve?
"Look, I don't want to talk about unless my father actually dies," Harry said firmly. His foot nervously tapped the floor, the sounds muffled by the carpet. "Is that all you wanted to talk about, Mr. Stromm?"
"As I'm sure you're aware, Harry, I'm temporarily in charge of the company since your father is... out of commission," Stromm said, undeterred. "Your high school is very high class, private, very expensive- and not much else. There are many, much cheaper schools that would serve you much better. In fact, your father even talked to me about moving you to a more science oriented school; maybe wake up some undiscovered talent in you. I firmly agree."
"I'm not Tony Stark, Mr. Stromm. Putting me in a 'science oriented school' won't change that," Harry muttered, a scowl on his face. In a critical state in the hospital, and his father still managed to (indirectly) insult him. "And I really don't see how this conversation matters right now. Can I go?"
"I'm talking about for next yea-"
"- No matter how much you may want it, Mr. Stromm, I doubt my father is going to die," Harry snapped, his irritation finally spewing out. He took some pleasure in seeing Stromm's shocked, faux offended face. Harry got up from the chair, ready to leave the room. "If you excuse me."
"Harry, I would never wish your father any harm!"
"I'm simply worried about your future and the company's finances."
An utterly false statement.
"You understand, right?"
Oh, yes. He understood completely.
"Of course, Mr. Stromm. It's just been hard, with my father... you know." Harry said quietly. "Could we perhaps talk... later?"
"Of course! Of course. I was utterly insensitive. I must apologize," Stromm said, a sycophantic smile on his face.
It made Harry feel sick.
"Thanks." Harry quickly said before fleeing out the door.
Peter had already done this already, with Gwen. He wasn't going to spend ten hours milling around in front of the door to Stark Tower, debating whether or not to go in. He had already made his decision, and he was going to see it through.
Mind made up, Peter walked up to the automatic doors of the Tower with a confidence he didn't feel. He cleared his throat once, briefly wondering what he was going to say to convince JARVIS to let him in.
The doors opened.
Peter blinked once, staring at the entrance. Either JARVIS was still supposed to let him in, or he had decided that it would be better if Peter went in.
If it were the latter, Peter probably should've thanked JARVIS. But he already had one awkward conversation ahead of him; he was in no mood for another. Especially one with an artificial intelligence.
Peter slinked into the lobby, glancing around nervously. Nope, nothing had changed since the last time he had been here. No surprise there.
Arriving at the elevators, Peter realized that he would probably have to talk to JARVIS, or he would have no idea where Tony was. Letting out an inaudible sigh, he spoke up reluctantly.
"Sir is currently in the kitchen of the fifty-first floor." JARVIS' computerized voice was emotionless, but Peter could swear that he heard amusement in it. "Though, I believe that he may return to his workshop soon."
"Right, okay then." Peter took a deep breath. "Thanks, JARVIS."
"It was my pleasure."
Peter entered the elevator and pressed the appropriate buttons. The elevator started moving up swiftly. He fidgeted, rubbing his web-shooters self-consciously. The music that trickled out of the speakers was far from soothing.
With a ding, the doors of the elevator opened to the fifty-first floor. Peter stepped into the threshold, gulping audibly. He had come to this floor before, as it contained the kitchen primarily used by the Avengers. If he remembered correctly- as he was certain that he did- the kitchen would be at the second door of the hallway to his right.
Peter forced himself to calm down and strode into the hallway nonchalantly. His palms still felt sweaty.
After only a few seconds, Peter arrived at the door to the kitchen. Gulping for one last time, he threw the door open.
(He just needed to imagine he was wearing the mask.)
(This would work out.)
Peter's eyes landed on Tony immediately. He was alone in the room, sitting at a small table in the middle of the room doing something with his tablet. Moments after Peter located Tony, Tony looked up.
Their eyes met.
Peter wished that he was better versed in reading people's expressions. Tony's expression, some mixture of a variety of emotions, escaped him. Was Tony mad? Shocked? Horrified? Scared?
"Hey, Tony." Peter gave Tony a sickly smile. "Long time no see."
Tony remained silent for what seemed like the longest time. An astonishing achievement. Finally, he opened his mouth, words spilling out.
"Not really, no. Did you want something, Peter?"
Peter stopped himself from wincing at Tony's detached tone. He was 'wearing his mask.' It was fine. Everything was fine.
"Look." Peter sighed, then scratched his head. His eyes veered towards the floor automatically, avoiding Tony's gaze. "I just, um. I'm not a huge fan of the whole emotional confession stuff, and I'm sure you aren't either. So, uh, can we just, I don't know, forget it happened?"
Peter looked up hopefully at Tony. "I mean, like, it's just…"
"I get it." Tony waved him away. He snorted self-deprecatingly, putting his tablet on the table in front of him. "I get it, okay? You don't have to explain."
Peter pushed away his first instinct, to accept Tony's statement and not inquire further. He knew that wasn't the right reaction. Something was going on here, and he needed to make sure that they were both on the same page.
"I've known you for, um, a little more than a month, okay?" Peter blurted out. "And y'know, before that, I thought that Tony Stark was cool, and awesome, but a total douche. But I mean, sure, I only kinda know you, but I don't think that anymore. You're not a douche. You're a good guy. But still… it's just blood. Just DNA. I never put much stock in the whole touching reunions between long lost relatives that happen all the time in TV shows and books. 'Cause, they barely know each other and stuff."
Peter looked up the ceiling, biting his lip. Taking another breath, he began part two of his tirade.
"So, I'm sure that the last thing you want is for me to start calling you 'Dad', or some crap like that, and it's the same here," Peter continued. "You didn't raise me, and hell, just 'cause the guy I thought was my biological father was a total ass, doesn't mean I'm gonna go looking for a replacement. I really never needed a father anyways. I grew up an orphan, and my unc- my aunt was always enough. So that's why I just didn't care about the whole father thing, just didn't tell you. I didn't want to tell you, because I liked how things were. You're pretty awesome, and I liked actually learning science stuff, instead of just teaching myself. I liked being friends. Kinda friends. Whatever. My point is, can't we… can't we just, like, go back to what it was like before?"
Peter forced himself to meet Tony's eyes. Tony blinked once, twice. Peter couldn't read his expression, though he thought that he saw surprise in there. He waited with baited breath for Tony's response.
Tony let out a snort again, but this time it was one of amusement. He smirked, a flash of white teeth showing.
"Why, Petey, I thought you didn't like the whole emotional confession thing!" Tony exclaimed, getting up from his chair. The chair scraped the floor as it was pushed back. Tony walked up to Peter and shook his head. "You're a bald-faced liar. I'm offended."
Peter scowled. "Shut up."
Tony laughed cheerfully. "Well, young grasshopper, you can have the honor of being my apprentice."
"Uh, no. I'm fine. Plenty smart already," Peter insisted. His eyes narrowed. "You just want a minion, don't you?"
"Why, Peter, I can't believe you would think so low of me." Tony let out a loud, gusty sigh. "It's not like you didn't admit that I was smarter than you in your little tirade."
"I'm not egocentric enough to think that I'm smarter than the Tony Stark," Peter said simply, rolling his eyes. "Still doesn't mean I wanna be your minion."
"So, I know that you use polyamides for your webbing, but don't you think that adding pyrrolidine might help keep it dissolving for a bit longer?" Tony said suddenly.
"Pyrolidine? I hadn't considered it before, but I guess… if the polyamides could corre-" Peter cut himself off, glaring at Tony. "I know what you're doing."
Tony had an innocent expression on his face. "I haven't a clue what you're talking about. But I do happen to have some pyrrolidine."
"I know what you're doing," Peter repeated. "But, it's working. Where's this mysterious pyrrolidine?"
Tony laughed. "Follow me."
Sure, things would still be awkward. Peter knew that. But hey, better awkward now than awkward later. He was sure that things would smooth themselves out sometime.
Sometimes, when he took a step back and examined his life, he just shook his head in amazement. Him, Peter Parker, that geek loner, a superhero. Talking with Tony Stark on a regular basis.
It was true that while his life was awesome sometimes, his life sucked just as much at the same time. But for moments like these; talking science with Tony Stark; he was willing to deal with the sucky parts of life.
He knew that Aunt May might not be happy with his superhero lifestyle. He knew that his mother might raise an eyebrow at him interacting with Tony Stark.
He didn't care.
His life was his problem.
And that was an undeniable fact.
This is the last chapter of this story, but I plan to write a sequel.
I want to have the vague outline of the story and a few chapters written out before I post the story, so I'll post it in, let's say a month.
I'd like to have the whole story done before posting it, but knowing me, you guys would be waiting for two years for me to stop procrastinating. So. A month it is.
I'd like to take a moment to thank each and every one of my readers, even those who didn't review. Don't worry, I'm still gonna respond to all your reviews, so don't panic. :p
But even if you didn't leave a comment, just knowing that you passed your eyes over my story, liked it, left a hit, makes me happy.
So. Thank you all. And see you soon.
EDIT: Yes, I'll post a notification chapter when I post the sequel, so just keep on following this story and you'll be fine.