Almost two weeks later found Spencer standing in the penthouse of what he was told had once been the Avengers Tower. Everything Avengers oriented had been moved out of there and out to the Compound a while ago, but Tony still owned the building. It was still a Stark Industries building as well as somewhere that Tony could go and stay if he needed to be closer to the city, and where Peter could swing in if he had an emergency and couldn't get home or to the Compound. Something about the way Tony spoke about the place made it clear to Spencer that there were memories that still haunted him here; ghosts he wanted nothing more than to avoid.
It made it feel all the more special that Tony was willing to be here now, for him.
With some quite frankly astounding work done by Tony's legal team – as well as even more astounding work done between FRIDAY, Tony, and Charles – the identity of Spencer Reid had been created, and the paperwork for the official adoption had been filed just this morning. Everything was official now. Spencer Reid had become Spencer Stark, fifteen-year-old child prodigy of the infamous Tony Stark.
There'd already been some talk these past weeks about the new person seen fighting with the Avengers in the battle where Spencer had gotten hurt. Surprisingly, no one from the hospital had said a word. Though Tony didn't explain it, Spencer had no doubt that the man had paid quite a bit to keep the people there quiet. But just because the public didn't know what was going on didn't mean that they hadn't had to deal with the government.
Spencer hadn't been allowed anywhere near that. Or, most of it. Tony had left Spencer at the Compound with Jim for company and went to speak with the Accords Council. What happened there, Spencer had no idea and no doubt that Tony wasn't ever planning on telling him. However, it ended with him coming home with a contract for Spencer to look over. As of right now, he was an unofficial Avenger who wouldn't be officially on the roster until he was eighteen years old. Until that moment, he was under Tony's protection – meaning that anything Spencer screwed up, it was Tony they were going to go after. It was the same deal that Peter had, Spencer found out.
Everything needed to get Spencer settled into his new life here had been taken care of. Tony had done all of it with an efficiency that was just a bit terrifying if Spencer let himself think about it. But it was done. Now, they were on to the last step. Now it was time to take Spencer Stark and introduce him to the world.
This wasn't the first time that Spencer had ever been in a press conference. Working at the BAU meant that he'd been on stage and in front of cameras plenty of times. Those times had always been to talk about work, though. The Unsub, the victims, things like that. This was quite different than that. This was him going up on stage for him. He and Tony were going to go up there to officially introduce Spencer as Tony's son. From the minute Spencer walked on that stage, his life wasn't going to be private anymore. Everything he said and did was going to be watched and tracked by the public.
Tony was worried about it, Spencer knew. He was worried about how Spencer was going to handle it and whether or not he was going to regret it. But his worry didn't stop him from being as supportive as possible.
They made quite a pair today, Spencer couldn't help but think as he looked at his new father.
That term bounced around in his head in a surprisingly easy way. Father. For a long time now that word hadn't held any real good associations. Hopefully, this time around would be different.
Tony was dressed impeccably in a dark suit with a red tie that all flattered his figure, tailored perfectly, and gave him a professional and yet sort of sex look, which seemed to be his go-to style. To match, Spencer was in a suit as well, though his wasn't as sharp as Tony's was. He wore black slacks and a deep blue shirt over which he'd put a black vest and an even darker blue tie. The outfit was comfortable for him. It was something he would've worn before albeit a little better fitted and of higher quality. He might've worn a bit brighter color, too, but these dark colors worked for a teenaged kid in mourning. That was the reason Tony's suit was so dark, too.
As Spencer looked them both over, Tony looked up from the phone he held. He smiled a little when he caught Spencer looking him over. "You ready for this, kid?" He held his cell phone up, shaking it a little, and Spencer imagined that Pepper had told him they were ready, now. There were likely plenty of reporters around the tower base now waiting for them to come out and speak.
Spencer drew in another steadying breath and took a moment to fortify his shields. They were a bit shaky – judging by what he'd studied, that was kind of to be expected while he was still feeling so emotionally off-kilter – but they were hopefully strong enough to stay. All right, no more putting it off. "I'm ready."
The older man gave a low hum when Spencer got close to him. He reached out and made a small adjustment to Spencer's tie, then his collar, before smoothing his hands down his shoulders and arms. It reminded Spencer of scenes he'd seen in movies where young men were getting ready for prom, or for their wedding, and their fathers…
He pushed that thought away. It was one thing to know they were going to be playing a role now. It was another thing entirely to start assigning such sentimental things to Tony. The man was being nice enough as it was to help Spencer out like this and accept him into his life. Sure, they had to use the title of father to do it, and Spencer knew he was going to have to get used to using the word 'Dad' when talking about Tony to others, or when speaking to him in front of others, but that didn't mean he should push it.
There was a smile on Tony's face when he looked up at Spencer now that he was sure he was all put together. "All right, Spencer Stark. Let's go wow the media."
Spencer let his lips curve just a little. He took a step back and gestured over towards the elevator. "After you, Dad."
The sound of Tony's laughter helped chase away a few more of Spencer's worries.
Stepping out in front of the large crowd here was quite a bit different than what Spencer remembered. The air seemed more… charged. There were tons of reporters, photographers, and other various press, all of them focused on the small stage that had been set up at the front of Stark Tower. Their attention felt so much more than what Spencer had expected. The whole thing felt different.
Then again, he'd never done a press conference with powers before, had he? That was bound to make it different. Because Spencer could feel the energy in all the cameras and recording devices out there in that sea of people. He could also feel the energy that was coming from them all. The emotions. There were so many things it was hard to pick out any particular one of them; however, he could feel the general hum of excitement like it was prickling over his skin.
As he and Tony stepped away from Pepper, who'd been giving them one last look over, Spencer let his arm brush up against Tony's and drew strength from his presence. It helped him keep his shields together while they walked onto the stage.
When Spencer had been on a stage in the past, it was to speak about killers, to talk about their victims. There'd been excitement, sure, but it was more morbid curiosity and fear that could be found there. Here? Here, the group went insane the minute Tony came into view, cheering and calling things out to him while flashes went off in their faces. Spencer abruptly understood why Tony usually wore sunglasses everywhere he went and promptly swore to get himself a pair next time.
Tony played it up for the crowd. He was beaming and waving at them all while making his way up to the podium. When he got to the microphone, he gave another jaunty wave before holding out both hands in a gesture for quiet. "All right, all right, everyone simmer down. I know my PR guy explained it all. I'm here to make a speech, that's it, and give out some information, but we're not doing questions today. I've got an interview set up for this weekend and you'll get your questions answered there."
It was hard to keep track of what was going on around them. Thankfully, all Spencer really had to do was stand there at Tony's side while the other man took care of talking. "This is just going to be me giving a speech," Tony had told him beforehand while he'd been combing Spencer's hair back for him. "We're just making the announcement. All you've got to do is stand by me and try not to look too terrified. They'll expect you to look nervous. You look like a teenager to them and you're one they've never met before, which means they'll get that you're not used to public speaking. Just stick close by me and remember the plan, kid. You'll do fine."
Easier said than done. Still, he was resolved to do his best. Over and over Spencer repeated the advice that JJ had once given him about being in front of cameras as a way to try and distract himself. No crossing his arms over his chest, he didn't want to be defensive or closed off. No frowning. Control his facial expression as much as possible. Tony had told him they wanted to show him as a typical fifteen-year-old, one who isn't used to being in the public light like this, and one who was still grieving, so he let just a bit of his nerves show and he made sure to stay somewhat close to Tony. If he was a bit closer than he'd planned on being, well, it'd only lead credence to their story, right? No one had to know that Tony's presence was the only thing keeping Spencer steady as the sea of emotions grew stronger with each passing word.
Okay, yeah, distracting himself wasn't working.
A headache was growing by leaps and bounds for him. Keeping up his shields was one thing. Keeping them up in this group? Yeah, it was a lot more than he'd anticipated. He'd been so sure – had reassured Tony countless times – that he could handle this. He handled New York all the time during patrols, didn't he?
This was nothing like that.
The shock of the group grew exponentially stronger suddenly. A logical part of Spencer's brain knew this meant that Tony had finally dropped his bomb. The rest of him was barely aware of the flashing lights or the voices that were nearby anymore. All he was really aware of was Tony's voice, Tony's steady emotions. His shield against the rest of them.
When an arm slipped around his shoulders, Spencer looked up in surprise. Tony drew him close in against his side and started to lead him away from the crowd. Furrowing his brow, Spencer looked around and then slanted a look up at the man's face. "We're… done?"
A little furrow appeared between Tony's brows as he looked down at Spencer. It vanished quickly, though, and his voice was easy as he said, "Yep. I told you, this wasn't a Q&A out there, Pikachu. Just me making a speech. Those never take that long."
Oh, right. Right. Spencer nodded a little and turned his focus back towards moving. The further away from the group they got, the more control he found. But the headache wasn't fading with it. Spencer could feel it building with each passing step. As if the release of tension from holding tightly to his shields meant that there was more room for the pain to slip in.
Spencer tried his best to keep it out of his expression. He tilted his head just enough to rest it against Tony's shoulder as they went inside. It wasn't until they were in the elevator, with Pepper and Jim – when had he gotten here? – with them, that he finally gave up on trying to put on a show. The headache was revving up towards migraine territory and he slumped just a little as he let more of his weight rest against Tony's shoulder.
Tony adjusted his grip to accommodate Spencer's move and stopped whatever he was saying to Pepper to turn and look down at Spencer. "Kid?"
Another pound of his skull said that, yeah, he needed to get this under control. Spencer brought up shaky hands to press against his eyes in the hopes that it might soothe the throbbing somewhat.
His response only had the worry around him growing. He felt it coming off of the others in the elevator like a heavy breeze. Tony shifted around so that he was more holding Spencer up than just holding on to him.
"Spencer?" Pepper's words were thick with concern. She moved towards them, her worry heavier, a bit of rain and fog to the breeze of it, and Spencer couldn't quite keep in the whimper that he let out, nor the way he pressed tighter against his eyes.
He was surprised when Tony used the arm around him to turn Spencer in. He was also grateful, though. It let him bury his face against the man's shirt and get even closer in a position that had become embarrassingly familiar these past few days. As had become normal, Tony's emotions acted like a soothing balm against his, the worry and protectiveness a comfort instead of the pain it could be from others.
Spencer didn't realize how much his control really was slipping until he heard a few gasps and a sucked-in breath. "Damn." Tony breathed out. His hand slid up, fingers hesitant as they brushed through Spencer's hair to cup his head. "That's a hell of a headache you've got going there, Tiny."
A hell of a – oh, no. Instantly Spencer started to try and draw backward. "Sorry." He croaked out, pushing against Tony's jacket as he tried to step away. "I'm s-sorry."
"Woah, hey, no. You're fine!"
The elevator doors opened and Spencer found himself being tugged in against Tony's side once more as they made their way out. Jim and Pepper followed closely behind them, though not too close. Tony steered them towards the couch. "That feels like it's moving towards migraine territory. You need me to call Bruce? We can see about getting you something for it, maybe help you get some sleep or whatever. That's what people do for migraines, right? Medicate and sleep or whatever."
Spencer quickly shook his head. No, no, he didn't want to take anything for this. The only meds that had ever really touched his migraines before – albeit in the other universe – had been the type that he wasn't willing to take. This, it would go down on its own. Even if he was starting to feel like his skin was a bit too tight and the world too loud. "S' fine." He slurred out against Tony's shirt. When had he gotten pressed that close again? "Jus'…jus' wasn't ready, I think. S' more than I was expecting."
"I shouldn't have had you out there." Tony sounded a bit miserable and his emotions were dulling down with guilt. Carefully, he lowered Spencer down and got him seated on an awesomely soft couch. Unfortunately, he also started to tug away, not so awesomely moving away from Spencer. His guilt was growing stronger, too. "You've barely had a week to recover from everything else. I'm sorry, Pikachu. I should've…"
Spencer made a low grunting sound and lifted one hand away from his face to wave it at Tony. It took a second for him to make his throat work normally enough to speak. "It's fine." Pausing, he grimaced as another thud bashed against his temples. Okay, yeah, that had escalated quickly, but it also seemed to be teetering right between 'really bad headache' and 'migraine', and Spencer was grateful it hadn't gone over the edge yet. Hopefully, it'd stay that way. "It's not… it wasn't weak shields."
"What was it, then?" Jim asked him.
Rubbing at his face, Spencer tried to organize his thoughts together to form a coherent sentence. "I think I, I underestimated the effect of a group focused in one area. I've dealt with a lot of people before, but this was the first time I've dealt with a group who were all focused on one thing." Him. They'd been focused on Spencer and that might've made it worse, too.
A press of emotions was accompanied by another spike of pain and Spencer fought off the urge to let out another ridiculous whimper. He'd made enough of a fool of himself. He didn't need to keep it up.
The room went still. Spencer forced himself to open his eyes just a little; the light hurt and he had to squint against it, but he got a clear view of the room around him. Tony was sitting on the coffee table just a foot or so away from Spencer. Jim stood behind the nearby loveseat, and it looked like Pepper had been with him until she'd tried to step toward Spencer. It'd been her emotions that had set Spencer off.
Embarrassment twisted in his stomach. He let his eyes close again so he wouldn't have to look at the surprise on her face. Slumping down in his seat, Spencer licked dry lips and let the comfort of the soft pillows ease some of that feeling of wrong on his skin. It relaxed him enough that he could trust himself to continue to speak without making his head feel like it was going to break apart. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to startle you guys. I just… I should be fine shortly."
There was a brief pause and Spencer swore he actually felt it when Tony's attention sharpened. "Wait a second – that sounds like you're speaking from experience. Does this happen a lot?"
"No." Not 'a lot'. Just… sometimes. Usually when he'd pushed himself a little hard when practicing.
Dual snorts told him that Jim and Tony weren't exactly impressed with his answer. Sure enough – "We're gonna talk about this later, kiddo," Tony warned him. He didn't sound all that impressed, either. It was enough to make Spencer want to duck his head down a little. The way he said that – he was scarily good at it. Tony's tone had been like a cross between Diana's warning tone and the tone that Aaron – a good friend as well as Spencer's team leader – used when he was going to let Spencer get away with something for the moment but had every intention of pinning him down for it later and getting every last detail. Those two sounds combined into one voice? Yeah, Spencer couldn't be blamed for how his shoulders hunched just a little.
Tony let out a gusty sigh. There was a rustle of material as he pushed himself up to his feet and then footsteps, multiple sets, as the group made their way off towards the other side of the room. Spencer didn't bother paying attention to anything beyond the fact that they were still on the same floor. He didn't really care about what they were doing, or the low murmur of their voices.
It took a little bit to really slide himself back on the couch. Little by little Spencer adjusted his position until he could finally tip his head back onto the armrest of the couch while the rest of him was stretched out. He kept one arm up so that it could rest over his eyes and block out almost all of the light. Once he was comfortable enough, and after a quick check to make sure that Tony was still close by, Spencer drew in a breath and turned his focus inwards.
His shields were still strong, though the crowd out there had given them a beating. In his mind's eye, Spencer had started to picture his mental shields as a sort of electric force field around his mind. Something that reminded him a little bit of a cross between an electric fence and the firewalls that FRIDAY had shown him one time when they'd been connected. That was what he imagined around his mind anymore. It was stronger than the shields he'd tried to build before. These, they held out better, took more of a beating without breaking, and they could easily be changed or 'thinned' enough to let in the things he wanted to let in.
The effects of the press conference were pretty easy to see. There were some weak spots that he hadn't done his best at fixing and they were pulsing a little now like they'd taken some damage.
Secure in the knowledge that Tony was here to watch his back, Spencer gave himself over to his internal repairs and trusted the safety of his body to someone who had so far proved he was worthy of that trust.
By the time Spencer finally had his repairs done and had pulled back out of the light meditation he'd put himself in, he wasn't entirely sure how much time had passed. His headache had lessened while he was in there – thank god – and a quick scan of the room showed that it was only Tony left in here with him. The older genius was seated on the chair right near the arm of the couch where Spencer lay. In fact, he'd scooted it close enough that he could reach over and rest his hand in Spencer's hair.
The gentle scritch-scratch of his fingers had Spencer wanting to sigh happily. He kept his eyes closed and just let himself lay there for a bit. Tony's fingers were working to soothe away what was left of Spencer's headache. "You know," Spencer said slowly, his voice just a low murmur. "For someone who claims they're 'not good at this whole parenting thing', you're doing rather well."
Tony's fingers only paused briefly before they started back up again. It was the only outward sign of his surprise that Spencer caught. "Give it time. I'm sure I'll screw up at some point."
The way he said it, like it was just a foregone conclusion, like it was a truth he believed in wholeheartedly, made Spencer want to scowl. He had to settle for using his words instead. "Of course you will. And I will, too. We're only human. It's not the screwing up that makes or breaks people – it's how you handle the fallout. What choices we make in those times are what define us." Then, hoping to ease just a little of tension brought on by his seriousness, he tilted his head and pushed it up against Tony's hand, encouraging his scratching, and smiled a little as he teasingly added on, "I have every faith in our stubbornness to help us survive that."
He was rewarded with an only slightly reluctant chuckle. Tony didn't push it, for which Spencer was grateful. Instead, he just asked, "Headache doing better?"
"Mm." Spencer drew in a breath and let it out slowly. There was only a slight pulse in his head now; that was something he could easily deal with He'd dealt with worse and still managed to work a case before. "Mostly. I just needed to soothe down my shields." Because this was Tony and he was likely going to experience this again with Spencer at some point, the young genius actually tried to explain himself instead of just brushing it off. "I made my shields as strong as I could before we went out there because I knew my own emotions had made them shaky, and there were going to be a lot of people out there. What I hadn't counted on was what it would be like with the attention of all those people focused on one goal."
"And that one goal being you."
Spencer gave a small nod, making sure not to dislodge Tony's hand. It felt good. "Yeah. It didn't make them too much or anything like that – my shields withstood it. But it was more… concentrated. I don't know how to explain it. Sometimes, when an emotion directly relates to me, when someone's focus is right on me as they're feeling it, I seem to get a stronger sense, if that makes any sense. It's not a proven theory yet, but there's some evidence to support it."
"So, your shields didn't crash or anything like that. You just… got overloaded with data?"
"Yes." That was an amazingly accurate description. Spencer quite liked it. "That's exactly it. There was an influx of data that my shields prevented me from feeling directly, only it took more effort than expected to keep those shields up, resulting in a headache. Once we were far enough away from people, the headache kicked in because I didn't have to keep feeding my shields as much energy, and it faded away once I could do a little repair and process through some of the data that was left behind."
He heard Tony make a low humming sound of acknowledgment. Then, to Spencer's complete surprise, the man said "Huh. All right then," and just like that, he let it go and moved on. "I've been keeping an eye on things while we've been hanging out here. It's only been about, oh, an hour or so, but you're on pretty much all the media platforms right now. Unless people are living under a rock, the whole world's going to know who you are by the end of the night."
That prospect didn't scare Spencer the way that Tony seemed to think it would. Maybe five years ago it would've bothered him more. When Spencer was younger, less sure of himself, more nervous around people. If he'd been that age when he'd come through here, yeah, there was a good chance that he would've handled this all with a lot less calm. However, his time at the BAU, working with people who loved and understood him, or at least respected him, had taught Spencer some sense of confidence even if it didn't always show.
The only part that worried Spencer about this was how much he kept falling apart in other ways, because of other things, and how long was it going to take before Tony got tired of dealing with it? No one wanted to deal with someone who repeatedly fell apart at the slightest provocation.
"We should get you set up on social media," Tony suggested.
It wasn't the first time he'd made the suggestion. Spencer had avoided it so far because, well, he'd never done any of that before. He'd never even had an email before.
Remembering the horror on Tony's face when Spencer had first told him that made the teen chuckle a little.
Tony must've somehow followed where his thoughts were going because he gave a light tug to Spencer's hair. "I made you an email, you heathen. Now we just need to use it to get you on the basics. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter. I'm not setting you up on Tumblr, not while you're such a newbie."
"Tumblr…Tumblr is an amazingly entertaining black hole that you can find yourself lost in for hours, after which you come out with a strange understanding of some things and absolutely no idea about the rest of it. You'll be entertained and traumatized all in one go. Especially since I guarantee there'll be pages up about you within the next few days. Once they make the connection between you and Volt, it'll get worse."
Their current plan for Spencer's 'superhero alter ego' wasn't an announcement, like Tony had done – "I am Iron Man" – no, it was more subtle… let them figure it out on their own. They weren't going to confirm or deny it right now just for safety's sake.
That was their plan for the next two and a half years. Unless absolutely necessary, there would be no confirmation that Spencer was the superhero Volt – although Spencer had been clear that he wasn't going to hide the fact that he was a mutant, not even by denial. He'd already seen quite a few things that showed him how mutants were treated in this world. He'd watched as Tony fought hard for the Accords, and what was now being known as the Mutant Accords, a slightly altered version of the regular Accords. They'd work together, only the rules governing each side would be slightly different since situations were different. Mutants were born, mutating often around puberty, while superheroes were made, be it by personal choice, by mistake, or by science.
Spencer wasn't going to hide that he was a mutant. He was in a prime place to help Tony along with what he was trying to do with the Mutant Accords. Being a mutant himself, and one who was about to spend most of his life in the spotlight, there was a lot of good he could do for mutant rights, and he was smart enough to see that right from the start.
He was also smart enough to see that social media was probably going to be a good way to help that along. Little as he may want to deal with it, using those platforms would help.
With that in mind, Spencer tried not to groan, and he stretched himself out. Then he simply rolled himself over so that he was resting on his stomach, his arms folded onto the arm of the couch and his chin resting on them. It let him look at Tony for the first time since they'd started talking. The man was relaxing in a chair, just as Spencer had expected, his feet kicked up on the coffee table and his jacket off, slung over the back of the couch. There was a phone in his hand and amusement on his face.
The hand that had been in Spencer's hair had drawn away as he rolled. It gave one last brush now, pushing some hair back from his face and behind his ear, and then settled on Spencer's arm. "So – you ready for this?"
"Thrilled," Spencer said dryly.
Tony's laugh did absolutely nothing to reassure him.