A Beautiful Lie


Full Summary:

Head Down. Mouth shut. Quiet. Survive.

Peter knows the drill. Richard Parker has been carving it into him for years now.

Follow. Repeat. Do as you're told.

But things get complicated after Germany, after Tony Stark. And suddenly the line starts getting blurry.

Meanwhile, with the Avengers scattered and the Accords in pieces, Tony's a mess who's ready to crash and burn. Enter Spider-Kid, complete with bruises, excuses, and a deep, dark secret that stretches far further than Tony first thought.

Disjointed, dysfunctional, disastrous.

Nothing can seem to describe the sheer catastrophe in waiting that lurks closer every second they spend together. Tony's depressed. Peter's afraid. They're both wrecks apart. Imagine the chaos that would come by putting them together.

Still, who better to help a hero than another hero?


Part I

The Spider on Springshore Drive


(Everyone lies.)

(It's not a sad fact, I don't think. Barely even a fact at all. Just...a reality. Something that was always true and will always continue to be true. It's something we all accept, whether we want to admit it or not.)

(We all lie. Every one of us. And it's not just a one-time thing either. It's constant. We do it over and over again. And why wouldn't we?)

(Parents lie to their kids, teach them how to lie right back to them, breeding a new generation of people born into distortion, born into a world of deceit and falsehood disguised as reality. And what can you expect from them? Can you really expect them to turn out pure and innocent when they're constantly being fed their parents' inventions, their teachers' stories? They pick up on those things. I did, at least.)

(Maybe it was just me, though.)

(It's not something you grow out of. As you get older, you keep on lying. You lie about everything, to everyone, at one point or another.)

(You lie about your career when your parents ask how happy you are staying in your dead-end office cubicle counting down the seconds until you can go home and start the cycle of monotony over again.)

(You lie to your spouse promising you'll love them till the end of time, not realizing that sooner or later, that love will run out. And not just for them, for anyone and anything. It never lasts. Nothing does.)

(You lie to strangers when they ask you what you believe, what you pray to, what you curse when things don't work out, spouting some scripted verse you learned as a child and stapled into your head, reciting lines you don't really understand to people you don't really care about, if only to convince yourself that you really do have a clue, that you aren't just flying blind in a sea of the unknown.)

(And then there are the lies that stand out over all the others. The lies we tell ourselves.)

(There's something different about them, something...bitter.)

(Lies you tell to other people, they breeze in, announce themselves and then float right back out. They never linger in your head for longer than it took to talk to the person, discarding themselves as unimportant the second that person leaves your line of sight, never to be seen or thought of again.)

(But the lies we tell ourselves, they don't leave. They don't breeze right back out. They linger, hover before your eyes, tracing over each and every detail until it's burned in your head, until you can recreate it over and over again with perfect precision, not a single word out of place, until that lie has completely overtaken you, washing away anything and everything until it is all that remains. Until it is nothing but the truth.)

(Those lies are the most powerful...the most dangerous.)

(Because unlike the lies we throw at others, the lies we tell ourselves are so much louder, so much brighter, so much more painful. When you can't live with what's in front of you, so you have to create something else, a new reality for you to live in and accept as truth.)

(Because it is the truth. It's the truth you want. And at the end of the day...what else matters?)

(Certainly not the little fib you woke up telling yourself.)

. . .

. . .

. . .

(After all, what harm can come from one little lie?)


Chapter 1: Rule 1


Friday - February 26, 2016

Queens, NY - 2764 Springshore Dr. - Parker Residence

03:14 p.m.

One...

The soft jolt tensing through his stomach signaled the elevator's ascent, familiar and uneasy. He nervously patted the side of his leg, the thick black wire of the cable cord thumping up against his thigh as he firmly held onto the dented DVD player, rescued from the dumpsters outside the apartments lining 32nd street.

Two...

Apart from the whirling of the elevator motors, the only other sound in the cold compartment was the quick, sharp thumps of his foot tapping against the floor.

As usual, the ride up to his and his father's floor was calm and uneventful and much too short.

Three...

Peter's tongue felt dry and puffy as beads of sweat rolled down his temple, seeming to ignore the sharp, cold blasts of AC that swirled through their building. His fingers frantically tapped up and down against the side of his pants as his eyes shifted from one place to another, never resting on a single detail for too long before leaping to the next.

Four...

With his eyes closed, Peter could name you every single dent, scratch, and imperfection in the elevator's surroundings, not that there were many.

His father prided himself on perfection.

Five...

He tried to ignore it, tried to pay no mind to the involuntary twitches and nervous shufflings of his feet back and forth against the floor below. They meant nothing, related to nothing, no more than his usual annoying jitters and nerves making a repeat appearance.

Six...

. . .

Well, perhaps there was one reason.

One reason why he found himself counting the seconds it took to reach the top of their townhouse floor, counting and praying the elevator would slow, that each second would carefully wind to a crawl, grind to a halt, never reaching those final ticks.

It was Friday.

His father came home early on Fridays.

Seven...

Any hopes of a work emergency or traffic on the roads were always expelled the second he caught sight of his father's expensive car parked outside their building, seated comfortably in the same spot as usual. And no matter how many times he blinked, it never disappeared. (Though it did make spotting the other expensive-looking car parked near it that much harder to do.)

Eight...

He tapped his fingers in time to the whirring of the elevator motors, matching each click with his movements. It wasn't fair of him to wish his father away. He knew the man worked hard, put effort into giving his son everything he could. And Peter did appreciate it, that was for sure.

Nine...

But sometimes...he really wished he could appreciate it from a distance.

A great distance.

Ten.

The elevator stopped.

Peter took a breath and the doors slid open.

Long, expensive couches stretched out into the huge penthouse sweet on the left, a fully stocked bar to the right. The walls were round-about windows that stretched from floor to ceiling, letting in the light of the midday sun.

Peter, always one for silver linings, had to admit having an entire building to yourself was pretty cool. And the view wasn't too bad either. The teen couldn't help the small smile that formed on his face as he took in the sight of New York City.

Their building resided on the upper west side of Queens, allowing a stellar view of the East River and the bright lights of Manhattan just beyond it. Even from a considerable distance, the life of the central borough could be felt from here.

Quickly blinking back to reality, Peter reflexively lowered his gaze and began to make his way over to the bar. Judging from the silence in the large suite, Peter could only assume that his father was down in the basement working in the lab. If that was the case, then he probably wouldn't see him or the others until dinner.

Setting his backpack and DVD player down on the polished surface of the bar, Peter pulled his phone out of his back pocket and quickly opened it up, noting that Ned had sent him five new messages. If the emojis were any indicators, Peter could only guess that his friend had just bought a new Lego set and was raving to him about it.

Feeling a small smirk settle onto his face, Peter leaned back against the bar and folded his arms, quickly typing a message back to the boy when the sound of someone clearing their throat caught his attention.

Snapping his head up, he nearly dropped his phone in shock as he caught sight of his father sitting on the couch in the center of the room, staring straight at him.

The man was tall, well over six feet, with broad shoulders highlighted by the suit he was currently wearing. He must have just gotten home. His dark brown hair was slicked back, framing his squared jaw and the discoloration on his cheeks. A chemical accident (or at least that's what he told people it came from) had left the man with a set of pale white spots that splashed over his cheeks in an almost unnoticeable look and set a faint, off-color film over one eye.

A set frown was drawn onto his face, the usual stoic emotion he exhibited, if one could even call it that.

"D-dad!" Peter stuttered out instinctively.

An uncomfortable prickling sensation washed over his body as an ache settled into his muscles, a familiar feeling when he was in the presence of his father. Speaking of, Peter quickly swallowed the lump in his throat like a daily pill to swallow and choke down. "I...I didn't know you were...uhh..." he said quietly, the words trailing off as he caught sight of something strange.

Peter's father, Richard Parker, was the owner of Parkstem Labs, one of the most successful enterprises in the city - despite its small size - specializing in engineering high-tech machinery to be sold to other multi-billion dollar corporations. His work often involved consultation and evaluation, so Peter was quite used to seeing strangers in their building. Heck, the first two floors of their townhouse were used to house some of his father's associates. But never in his life had Peter expected to see in his house the man he was currently staring at.

There, with one arm resting on the lip of the couch and another brandishing a glass of scotch, with two feet propped up on the coffee table, was none other than Tony Stark: famous (or infamous, depending on your perspective) genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist, sitting on his couch.

Talking to his father.

Shit.

Peter's quickly felt the air leave his lungs, like he's just been punched in the stomach. Despite the jarring chill that ran up his spine at making eye contact with the billionaire, Peter found he couldn't look away.

A moment or two of awkward silence passed between the three of them, but Mr. Stark seemed to just brush it off with a flick of his hand as he cleared his throat. "Well, look who finally decided to show up." He rose up from the seat, straightening out the buttoning on his suit. "Mr. Parker," he greeted with a cool smile and a slight nod of his head.

Peter watched as his father rose up to his feet as well, the movement making his eyes quickly snap over to him to survey his body language. Hands folded behind his back, shoulders relaxed, feet still. Nothing too obvious...

"Umm...h-hey," Peter murmured lamely, unsure if he should be speaking or not. Probably not. "W-what...what are you, uh...doing here?" he asked, voice quiet and unsure. He folded his arms over his chest, trying to resist the urge to fiddle his hands together.

"Well, I believed it was about time we met." The man said casually, swirling the golden-colored liquid around his glass. "You've been getting my emails haven't you?"

The flurry of winks the man sent his way afterwards were anything but subtle. But Peter knew a signal when he saw one.

Why would Tony Stark be sending him signals though? What was happening here? Did his father know? Probably not? Then, what didn't he want his father to know?

Speaking of, Peter quickly stole a glance over to his father again. Now that he wasn't facing Mr. Stark, his posture had changed somewhat. His shoulders were tighter, back straight. Richard's face was pulled back into a cool smile, but Peter knew his father well enough to see when he was hiding his annoyance, if the man's twitching fingers told him anything.

Whatever Stark was playing at, he obviously didn't approve.

Peter knew he should ignore Stark's hints, refute whatever it was he was saying, if only to appease his father's wishes. But he felt his head moving in a nod before he could think twice. "Y-yeah, yeah...the...the emails r-regarding the, uh..."

"The September Foundation."

"The September Foundation. R-right, right..." At least, he hoped he was doing this right.

Tony took a small sip from his glass before setting it back down on the coffee table. "Yeah, remember when you applied?" He asked, not bothering to wait for a reply. "Well, I approved. You're in, kid. So...now we're in business."

Peter opened his mouth to reply, only to jump at his father's sudden movements, the man having stooped down to grab both his and Tony's glasses. "So, Peter..." He said evenly, voice calm and collected "Any particular reason for why you decided to hide this from me?" He asked, walking over to the bar and depositing the glasses in the small sink. "I mean, this is pretty big and instead of hearing it from my own son, I have to hear it from our city's resident billionaire."

Instantly feeling the familiar cold claw of dread squeezing around his lungs, Peter quickly tried to squash it down as he fought to come up with a suitable lie that would fool the man. Luckily, Tony seemed to notice the boy's nervousness as he walked over. "Ah, don't pluck the kid too harshly. This particular grant is a lot more private than our other ones considering it's so hands-on and personal, so when kids apply, they usually keep it on the down low, at least until something's guaranteed."

Peter quickly shut his mouth and nodded his head vigorously.

Richard glanced between the two of them for a moment before nodding his head as well. "I see." He stated simply, lowering his head as he turned on the faucet, a steady stream of water falling into the glasses in his hands. A smile broke into his face as he turned back to them. "Well Peter, I must say I'm pleasantly surprised. Though, I suppose I shouldn't be. After all, I know you're always working hard."

"Yes, well I'm sure that's to be expected from the son of one of the most prominent scientists in the manufacturing field. I must say, your work was pretty impressive, and it takes a lot to impress me." Tony quipped.

Richard lips pulled into a tight smile. "Yes, I'm sure it does."

A thick tension hung heavy in the air, so much so that Peter was finding it difficult to breathe as he stared back and forth between the two men. Mr. Stark didn't seem fazed by it, however as he placed his hands into his pockets as he turned to glance at Peter. "I guess that's a lot to live up to, huh kid." He asked, Peter's shoulders tensing as he gave a stiff nod.

Richard gave a small chuckle. "Yes well, while I'll admit my work does take up a considerable amount of my time, I'm still very proud of you, Peter. I'm sure you've earned this." He turned to continue cleaning the glasses. Peter didn't get to see his face as he said the words. He was almost positive the man wasn't smiling.

"Speaking of which," Tony continued, raising up his hands as he gestured to the boy next to him. "You think I can speak to Peter alone for a second?"

Richard nodded his head. "Of course. Peter, show Mr. Stark to your room. You can talk about whatever you need in there."

Peter mutely nodded his head as he hesitantly grabbed his backpack and hastily slung it over his shoulder before picking up the DVD player and shuffling down the hall, Mr. Stark following close behind.

As the footfall of their steps slowly tricked down into silence, Richard turned away from the hall and back down to the glasses, the rushing of the water now the only sound in the room.

His fingers curled around the last remaining cup tightly until the glass suddenly gave way, shattering into dozens of pieces. Richard didn't even flinch as the glass sliced his finger open. He merely watched as the water ran across the wound, washing the blood off of the skin and down into the drain below.

. . . . .

Tony's eyes scanned the hall as they walked swiftly and silently, the billionaire thankful the kid wasn't yapping his ear off as he'd been expecting. The house was as he'd expected: lavish and dripping with expenses and riches from the fine art lining the walls to the expensive liquors stashed in the bottles by the bar all the way down to the sheer size of the building itself. Seemed about right for a billionaire and his son. Speaking of...

The man glanced back over towards the kid, who was fiddling with his hands as they approached the final door at the end of the hallway. The teen opened it and moved aside to let Tony through before following him in.

Stepping through, Tony turned to watch the kid enter, stuffing his hands into his pockets as he let a smirk quirk onto his lips. "Well...your father seems like quite an...interesting man." He watched the kid's face to gauge a reaction.

Peter shrugged and folded his arms over his chest. "I-I guess..." he mumbled softly as he glanced down at the floor.

Tony gave a small nod of his head before turning back to gaze around the room, despite his attention being elsewhere. He stared down at the boy's desk, taking note of the various VCRs, DVD players and other old, probably abandoned sets of machinery. Each and every one had been cracked open, various chips and wires strewn about the desk. "So...you've been busy." He plucked6trg a small wired chip up off from the messy table, Peter tensing slightly at the action. "Where'd you get this crap anyway?" Tony asked, glancing back at the kid. "Something tells me most kids aren't lining up at the nearest game station to buy this junk."

Peter merely shrugged his shoulders. "You'd be surprised by the kind of stuff you find in the trash."

"You're a dumpster diver?"

"Well, I-I don't...I mean I-" The kid's face quickly went flush from either nervousness or just plain embarrassment before he was glancing away with a little huff. "Okay, umm...listen, I know I didn't sign up for...for a-any grant or-"

"Ah, ah, ah!" Tony snapped sharply, waving his hand for added effect. "Me first."

"O-okay..."

The man reached into his pocket and pulled out a phone. "Quick question of the rhetorical variety..." Tapping his fingers across the device, a small holographic screen materialized above the surface, facing out towards Peter.

"That's you, isn't it?"

The video showed a suspicious man walking up to the side windows of a car, only for a masked man dressed in red and blue to swing out from the corner of the screen. A strange line shot out towards the man, wrapping around his ankles and dragging him to the ground as the masked figure swung back out of frame. But not before the video paused right as his face flashed next to the camera, revealing a red hoodie with large black goggles.

The teen's eyes trailed from the hologram up to meet Tony's, if only for a second before he was glancing away again, rubbing the back of his neck as his shoulders stood stiff, voice strained. "Uh, no. No, what do you...what do you mean?"

"Yeah..." Tony corrected before switching to another video, this one showing the same masked figure zooming in front of a speeding car. "...yeah, look at you go." Quickly landing on the ground, the figure caught the vehicle before it could slam into the side of a fully-loaded bus.

"Whoa, nice catch," he mused. "Three thousand pounds, forty miles an hour?" He flipped the phone and quickly retracted the hologram, pointing the end of the device at Peter. "That's not easy. Guess you have a bit of skill, huh kid?"

He could see the kid beginning to flounder, shuffling his feet back and forth as he struggled with where to put his hands. "Well, I mean, y-you found that all on YouTube though, r-right?" He asked, glancing over at the man before staring down back at the desk. "I mean, that's where you found it? Cause you know that's all fake," he rambled, never noticing the way Tony rolled his eyes and began to mill around the room.

As he scanned the bedroom, his eyes fell upon the thin, barely noticeable lines etched into the side of the bed headboard, creating a long vertical rectangle.

"Like, that's all done on the computer. It's like that video-"

"Uh-huh, you mean like those UFOs over Phoenix?" Tony called out as the kid continued to mumble, tracing his fingers over the lines before he pressed his thumb into the center of the rectangle.

The entire piece pushed in slightly before extending outwards from the headboard, revealing a secret compartment containing what the billionaire could honestly say to be the most ghastly costume he'd ever seen.

"Well, what do we have here?" He asked as Peter rushed forward, thrusting his arm into the compartment before ripping the pile of clothes out, tossing them into the open closet in the span of a few seconds.

"That's uh...ummm..." the kid's voice trailed off into nothing, his back rigid and posture tense as his eyes continued to flicker up and down, like he was debating whether or not to maintain eye contact before deciding to simply keep staring at the floor.

"So..." Tony sighed, turning to face the boy. "You're the Spider...ling. Crime-fighting Spider. Spider-Boy?"

Peter's fingers twitched against his arm. His eyes flittered around the room, landing anywhere but on the man before him.

"S-Spider-Man..."

Tony couldn't help but scoff. "Not in that onesie, you're not."

He noticed the kid's nose scrunch slightly in annoyance, the only real tell of emotion he'd seen on the teen's face. "It's not a onesie," he muttered as he walked back the man and back over towards the desk. Noticing how some of the circuit chips were out of line, he reached down and quietly adjusted them, straightening them out once more.

"Can't believe this." He muttered softly. "You know...I was having a...a really good day today, Mr. Stark. Didn't miss my train. This...perfectly good DVD player was just sitting there, and algebra test..." He tapped the end of a screwdriver down onto the desk. "...nailed it."

Tony regarded the boy in front of him for a moment before opening his mouth once more. "Who else knows? Anybody?" He asked, watching as Peter glanced over at him before lowering his head once more, giving a small, barely noticeable shake of his head. "Nobody important." He whispered.

"Not even your...exceptionally wonderful father?" Tony scoffed, only to blink in shock as Peter rounded on him, eyes blazing. "No! He can't know about this! He can never know about this!" he practically screamed, eyes glazing over in a wash of panic. "About the crime-fighting, about the suit. He can't know any of it! They can't know any of it!"

Tony stared at him, trying to process the words that had been spat at him. He narrowed his eyes slightly in thought. "'They?'" He parroted.

Peter's head snapped up to him as they made hard eye contact for a brief moment. Whatever fire had entered the kid's system quickly died down as he lowered his head pressed his palms into the surface of his desk, hair falling down to cover his face as he let out a tired sigh.

Tony knew that sigh. Tony owned that sigh.

The billionaire couldn't help the bubble of confusion that grew larger with each passing second he spent in the house. He knew Richard Parker, not personally, but he knew of him. The city practically drooled at his feet, what with his constant donations and repeat appearances at this or that charity ball.

Everyone else seemed to lap up the "White Knight" appeal, but Tony could see right through it, could see the tricks of a con man that only another liar could find. He knew Richard Parker was a douchebag in disguise, and he'd fully expected his son, superpowered or otherwise, to be exactly the same.

Which was why he was so confused right now.

Peter Parker, from what the man had seen so far, was nothing like his father. Richard was cool and calm, a master of wordplay and conversation, exuding confidence and style and money. But his son? His son was obviously shy and soft-spoken. Just his body language, the way he constantly fidgeted with his fingers or averted his gaze or wrapped his arms around himself in a blatantly defensive manner, told Tony the kid was nervous...a lot. In fact, they hadn't managed to maintain steady eye contact the entire conversation. The kid always looked away in...in...fear?

The whole thing left a bad taste in Tony's mouth. However, knowing he'd come here with a single goal, he quickly tried to refocus back on the mission. He didn't have time for distractions.

He cleared his throat and glanced back over at the boy, who was staring down at the ground looking as if he'd much rather be anywhere else.

"You know what I think it really cool?" He called, Peter not even bothering to look at him. "This webbing." He lifted his arm and flicked the small metallic casing over to the boy, who caught it without even lifting his eyes. "Tensile strength is off the charts. Who manufactured that?"

Peter let out a small sigh and reluctantly lifted up his head, fingering the cold casing in his palm. "I did," he mumbled before tossing the case into his closet, where it effortlessly flopped into his hamper. "What do you think all this stuff's for?" He pointed down to the scrapped parts and loose wires of the machines strewn about his desk.

Mr. Stark sat down on the computer chair resting next to the boy's dresser, reaching back into the closet to pull out the kid's suit. "Climbing the walls? How are you doing that? Adhesive gloves?" He asked as he ran his fingers over the sewn material of the boy's costume.

Peter bit the bottom of his lip and turned away. "It's...uh..i-it's a long...long story," he mumbled.

"Lordy!" Peter jumped at Tony's cry. "Can you even see in these things?!" He asked as he stared at the goggles attached to the suit, Peter quickly yanking the costume out of his hands as the man mocked him, cheeks burning red as he opened up the compartment in his headboard and thrust the suit back inside.

"If you're all done mocking me," Peter snapped, glaring over at the man before he seemed to remember who he was snapping at and took a small step back, face glazing over in regret as he bit his lip and stared nervously at the man, like he was waiting for some sort of retaliation. Tony quirked a brow and Peter glanced away with a new hint of red on his cheeks.

The teen swallowed thickly and spoke again, but his voice was much quieter this time. "When...w-when whatever happened happened...it's like my senses have been dialed up to eleven. T-there's just...there's way too much input for me. So, these...they just help...help me focus...is all." He continued to shuffle away before tentatively plopping down onto the corner of his bed.

Tony stared at the kid currently fiddling with his fingers, small curls falling into his eyes. The man let out a sigh as he shook his head. "You're in dire need of an upgrade, kid." He muttered. "Systemic, top to bottom. 100-point restoration. That's why I'm here."

He watched the boy continue to fiddle with his hands, refusing to even meet his gaze. If he didn't know any better, Tony would never guess that the kid in front of him had anything to do with the new vigilante running around the streets of New York. There had to be something he wasn't seeing, something he was missing.

"Why are you doing this?"

Peter's head lifted at that, brows furrowing in confusion.

"I got to know. What gets you out of this room in the morning. No, actually...better question: why the hell is your room so clean? You're what - fourteen? Shouldn't you have...I don't know, piles of clothes mixed with half-eaten apples and finger painting sets strewn about all over," he asked. After all, the only "mess" he could detect in the room was the pile of tech on the boy's desk.

"Finger pain...? What kind of kids have you been hanging around?"

"I don't know. It's not like I have much practice with this kind of stuff. You really think I look like the kind of guy that lurks around daycare centers all day long?" Tony muttered before his eyes widened slightly. "...that came out wrong."

The kid snorted softly and let out a little laugh, Tony leaning back slightly in his seat. "Oh, so you do smile. And here I thought your face muscles couldn't do such a thing. What are they, out of practice or something?"

The kid smiled softly before glancing back up at the man, noticing the way he was staring at him. Quickly realizing he was still expecting an answer, Peter let out a small sigh and stared back down at his fingers. For a moment, Tony wondered whether the boy would simply refuse to answer, but after a moment, Peter let out a small chuckle.

"You know, everyone around here has heard of the Avengers. I mean, after the aliens, you'd have to try really, really hard to stay oblivious you know?" He asked, not bothering to wait for a response. "People nowadays know about superheroes, about those amazing people with amazing powers and amazing lives. And...and you'd think that having people like that out there...people to protect you out there...you'd feel safe. You think...'nothing bad is going to happen. We have people watching out for us. Strong people. Good people."

He paused, the smile quickly slipping off of his face. "But...every day, there's a bank being robbed, there's a guy being mugged. There's...someone who needs help, who's calling for help, for...for someone to just scoop them up and...and take them away from it all..." He paused, his face taking on an almost bitter look. "...but it never comes."

Tony watched him silently, leaning forward slightly in the chair as he listened.

"You start to wonder...how...how people with such powers and such amazing skills can just...sit by and do...nothing while you're suffering right under their noses. If...if they can do such great things...if they can save the world over and over and over again...then why couldn't they save you?" He paused, Tony making out the way Peter's chest seemed to heave slightly before his breathing evened out.

"The people around here have realized something. In the grand scheme of things, when it comes to people who have made it their job to save the world from harm...they don't matter. They're not...important enough to be saved."

Peter stared down at his hands, paused for a moment to run his fingers over his palms. Tony noticed they looked rough and scarred. In the back of his head, he couldn't help but wonder how long the kid had been flying under his radar without him even knowing about it.

"That's why I do this," the kid finally said. "So those people who think they're alone know there's someone out there who's with them. So those people who...who are scared know there's someone there to protect them. So those people who think..." He swallowed thickly before continuing. "...who think they'll never be saved know there's someone there to look out for them...there's someone that cares about them."

Tony narrowed his eyes as he took in the boy before him, letting his words sink in as Peter glanced up at him.

"Cause...cause those people down there..." He gestured over to the window. "Those people who work from sunrise to sunset...those people who wake up every morning, have breakfast with there family and kiss their loved ones goodbye as they go to work or...or to school...those people like me...they don't need someone to save the entire world...they just need someone to save theirs."

Tony said nothing as the kid turned away, simply pressed his tongue against the inside of his cheek as he let out a little breath. He leaned back in the chair once again, tapping his fingers against his knee. "So...you wanna look out for the little guy, you wanna...do your part...make the world a better place, all that right?"

The kid spared a hesitant glance up before giving a little nod.

Tony let out a sigh as he slowly lifted himself up out of the chair and made his way over to Peter. Walking across the large room, he stopped beside the kid's bed before slowly lowering himself down on it, noticing the way Peter's muscles instantly tensed, though his eyes stayed glued to his fingers.

Tony lifted his arm hesitantly, thinking of patting the kid on the shoulder before deciding against it. The kid was already shifting from his seat on the bed as if he were trying to get as far away from the man as possible. Tony filed it away as odd, just another strange thing about Peter Parker.

Oh, well. He could use a little strange right about now.

"Got a passport?"

"Uhh...umm, no. N-no...I don't...I don't even have a driver's license"

"You ever been to Germany?"

"Uhh...no?"

"Oh you'll love it!"

Whaa-! Peter reared back,

"I can't go to Germany!" He exclaimed loudly.

"Why not?

"I...I-I..." Peter stuttered out, now much more unsure of himself. "I got...homework."

Tony paused for a minute before shaking his head. "Alright, I'm gonna pretend you didn't say that." He muttered as he rose up from the bed, ignoring Peter's sputtering protests, knowing full well the kid actually wanted to go. He was merely trying to keep up with the fa├žade. Still, Tony just needed one more thing to confirm that Peter was really who they needed...

"It'll probably be a little dangerous. Better tell World's Greatest Dad that-"

The words were cut from his throat as he watched Peter spring up to his feet faster than humanly possible, thrusting his arm forward as a line of webbing flew outward, wrapping around Tony's hand and effectively trapping him to the door handle.

The billionaire stared down at the sight before lifting his gaze back over to Peter, who for the first time since he'd met him was now staring Tony straight in the eyes, a determined look adorning his face. He slowly lifted up his finger, pointing it threateningly at the man before him. "Don't tell my father." He growled out.

Tony leveled a stare at the kid, his confirmation now staring him dead in the eyes. This was the kid he was looking for. "Alright, Spider-Man." He said calmly. In the back of his mind, he knew bringing a fourteen-year-old kid along on what could only be assumed to be an incredibly dangerous mission probably wasn't the best of plans, but he'd run out of options. Besides, the kid needed something to help him out in his endeavors, who was to say Tony couldn't be that something, if only for a little while.

"Get me out of this."

"So-sorry...sorry!"

In the end, he knew he probably wouldn't worry about it too much. The kid would get a new suit and he'd get a new recruit. Win-win. Perfect. After this was all over, he'd drop the kid back home, give him the suit permanently and be on his merry way, undoubtedly forgetting the kid after a few weeks. After all, this would simply be a one-time thing. Get in. Get out.

Meet the kid. Help the kid. Forget the kid.

It'd be simple...

...right?

. . .

. . .

. . .

(In hindsight, we both should have known it could never be that simple.)


Rule 1: Everyone lies. Trust no one.