this was a few days late. Sorry! It grew super long so I needed more time.


iv.

The moment Peter stepped into the workshop, Dum – E whirled to face him. Just so the robot would have something to do instead of hovering nearby Mr. Stark, who at some point would have found its proximity aggravating, Peter slung his jacket over the robot. Almost immediately, it rolled over to the other side of the room to dump Peter's jacket on the floor while picking up a bottle of green juice for him. Wrinkling his nose at the smell of beetroot and some other greens, Peter put it aside. Mr. Stark really had an odd taste when it came to beverages.

"Next project – you fix that thing," Mr. Stark muttered.

"See, Dum – E, Mr. Stark wants you fixed. He won't get rid of you." Peter came around the bench. "Oh, by the way, May says 'hi'."

Behind the new mask for his armour that Mr. Stark was working on, he gave a noncommittal grunt, not that Peter was expecting something more.

"This is for you, Mr. Stark."

He lifted the paper bag filled with an assortment of candies and chocolates, courtesy of the confectionary shop.

"Just something from the field trip… You got us the bus so this is a little present that the team put together for you."

The man lifted the face plate to take a look at what Peter had brought in before he tapped the piece on his chest twice and the entire mask retreated from his face.

"Got a card to go with it," Mr. Stark pointed to the small card pasted on the front of the paper bag. He leaned forward, flipping it open with a finger to read the Thank you, Mr. Stark – Decathlon Team (Midtown High). "You put them up to this?"

"Nah, it was something that Ned suggested we should do," Peter answered. "You're supposed to take the bag from me, Mr. Stark. I'm not putting it on the workbench for you to take. Remember what we talk about? You got to -"

"Yeah, yeah," he rolled his eyes but allowed Peter to hand him the souvenir. "Don't be smart with me."

Ignoring that jibe, Peter let his feet carried him towards the skeleton of the car. He had missed last weekend because of the field trip but the last thing they had done after spray painting the car a dark shade of red was to fit the engine, suspension and brake.

"Did you work on Hot Wheels without me?"

Mr. Stark gave him a cursory glance before shifting his attention back to choosing the right chocolate flavor. Peter wasn't surprise when he saw Mr. Stark popping the dark chocolate bar with coffee filling into his mouth.

"Nothing new was added while you were away. You can rest easy," Mr. Stark chuckled. "I just ran some diagnostics on the oxygen sensor and the entire exhaust system. What you should be excited about, at this point, is that," he pointed his screwdriver to Peter's right. "Your new spidey suit is good to go."

"Oh my god, really?"

"No need to sound so surprised," Mr. Stark rolled his eyes.

Filled with unbridled excitement, Peter bounded over to where rows upon rows of Iron Man suits were housed. At the bottom row, filling the individual cavities were the five suits Mr. Stark had built for him. The Spider Armour MK IV was missing from the display case since it was currently stashed at bottom of Peter's backpack.

He pressed the button to release the MK V from its display case, running his fingers down the front of the suit.

"This is awesome, Mr. Stark! Thanks a lot!"

"The upgraded web shooters you were working on is in-built. You can now make shots from your wrists and forearms," Mr. Stark explained and Peter's eyes widened at that information. He was already giddy with the prospect of putting the suit on and testing it out. "I made it bulletproof now like we talked about. May and I could do without the heart attack of you being shot at."

"I was grazed by a bullet," Peter countered. "I can't wait to put it – "

"No, it's staying there for now," Mr. Stark cut him off. "We're working on the car this afternoon."

Peter bit his bottom lip, struggling not to voice his disappointment out loud. He didn't want to be seen as ungrateful. On one hand, he really enjoyed working on Hot Wheels with Mr. Stark and he really did want to see the assignment through but on the other, a new spider-man suit was just there.

Their project occupied several more weeks of Peter's life, slowed down by the slew of school tests, homework and decathlon practices. There were times when Peter felt ill at ease because he was sure if Mr. Stark had been working on the car alone, he would have finished it by now. Instead, he had to work around Peter's schedule. He was sure Mr. Stark had better, more important business to attend to other than to spend it with a kid from Queens who was slowly taking up space in his workshop. Except, when Peter hesitantly broached the topic, he was told never to mention it again. His mentor appeared miffed that Peter even questioned him in the first place but in retrospect, Mr. Stark did seem more relaxed and contented when they were working on Hot Wheels together.

A week after Peter graduated from high school, they finished the project. The pair of them stood in the middle of the workshop, admiring their work.

"I can't believe it's done," Peter said breathlessly, crossing his arms in front of his chest.

"Yeah. Yeah, you did it, kid."

"We did it, Mr. Stark," Peter gave him a smile. "So… Now what?"

"I'm thinking we'd do something special with it. How about that, huh?"

Of course Mr. Stark would want to do something big and exceptional to commemorate the event. It was just in his nature.

"O – Okay," Peter shrugged. "I'm coming up with nothing though. Like… What can we do other than drive the car…? You must have thought of something right?"

At that, Mr. Stark grinned.

"Not me. May thought of something… I thought we should take up her suggestion. Seems like a good one in any case," Mr. Stark said, watching Peter carefully for his reaction as he casually propped his hip against the workbench. "You and I should take Hot Wheels out for a road trip."

Peter blinked. A road trip could take days… That was days away from being Spider-Man in Queens and he didn't know how long more he would be in his neighbourhood before he would have to eventually leave for college. Yet, the last trip he went to with his classmates had been fun. His gaze flickered to Mr. Stark. How many people would kill to have this opportunity he had - to get to spend time with Tony Stark?

"That sounds… It sounds great, Mr. Stark. I – I mean, I'm sure May's just joking, too. You don't have to cause like I – I know you're busy and – "

"No, I'm serious. Let's do it. You won't stop talking about that field trip to Philadelphia so let's take her to the road, further than Philly."

"I mean…" he rubbed his palms together. "That'll be so great, Mr. Stark, but you're like an important person with important business."

"Business is being taken care of, Pete."

"What about…" His gaze dropped to his shoes, his voice coming out softer than he intended. "What about Spider-Man? How long will we be gone? What if something happen in Queens?"

He felt Mr. Stark's hand on his shoulder.

"Look at me."

He raised his head.

"Did something happen when you went for that school trip? I was keeping an eye on your neighbourhood while you were away," he waved above his head, indicating that F.R.I.D.A.Y had been monitoring. "There was a robbery, sure, but the cops got it. Queens needs you but you need to take care of yourself too, kid, and kids your age, they go on vacation and road trips and they have fun. It's okay to have fun – you have a responsibility to yourself first."

"I – I know but…"

"F.R.I.D.A.Y's here and if something happens I will program her to alert the authorities and if it is something huge, she call on Steve. The old man's pretty free lately. That works?"

It took a while before Peter eventually nodded.

"Good. So is that a yes to the road trip? Cause I've got it all planned out – route and everything. It's going to be over five days. A two days drive to Lincoln and two days drive back with pit stops cause you might be able to drive the entire day but I need rests."

"Lincoln… New Hampshire?"

"Yeah, White Mountains, ever been? I've never been, could be fun, yeah?"

"N – No, I don't travel much. Only been to Germany, Washington and Philadelphia," he reminded.

"Which is exactly why you need this trip, kid," Mr. Stark exclaimed.

He seemed far more enthusiastic about it that it made Peter smile.

XxX

"I think we're lost," Peter made that observation calmly. Next to him, in the passenger seat, he could literally feel Mr. Stark's impatience radiating off him. "Karen, what's the next best route?"

As they were working on the car, Peter had asked Mr. Stark if he could install Karen into the system. Peter would have let the request drop if it would cause too much trouble but Mr. Stark had lighted up, as if Peter actually asking him for anything was something to be celebrated.

"We're not lost," Tony snapped. "I told you to take a right at that exit."

"The GPS wasn't showing that exit, Mr. Stark."

"Kid, I know what I'm talking about. Take a right here. Right now."

The older man actually had the audacity to tap Peter's wrist persistently until he eventually took that right turn.

"Rerouting…"

Karen's response to his right turn caused Peter to shoot Mr. Stark a pointed look.

"According to the itinerary which Ms. Potts drew up and it's Ms. Potts so I know for sure that it's accurate," Peter started speaking, "we should have reached Connecticut ten minutes ago at 12.00 pm."

"So we're fifteen minutes late, who's here to care?" Mr. Stark challenged and then he pointed triumphantly. "There it is. There we go. What were you saying, kid? We're lost?"

"I – "

"Hey, we should get this in your little video diaries. About how I'm always right…"

From New York, the plan was to drive for an hour until they reached Stamford, Connecticut. Here, they were to stop for another hour which was the perfect opportunity for some lunch and a little sightseeing.

As Mr. Stark stretched his legs and walked around to ease the pressure on his back, Peter started taking photos and videos on his phone. He was going to make a travel diary like he had done for Germany and then Philly. It was something he enjoyed doing. As he took in the downtown skyline, his enhanced hearing picked up on people's whispers – that's Tony Stark! It's Iron Man. Is he alone? Is he with the Avengers? – and he turned to see that Mr. Stark was aware of the attention on him. Peter recorded him taking a selfie with a young boy.

At New Haven, they made another stop. Peter took the opportunity to visit Yale University much to the confusion of Mr. Stark.

"You did apply to MIT, right?" he queried as he went after Peter. "Did you apply to Yale, too? I wasn't aware. You never mentioned. Neither did May."

He sounded mildly offended that Peter wanted to laugh. He knew just how much Mr. Stark wanted Peter to follow in his footsteps to MIT and maybe there, be better than him. But May and Ms. Potts had reiterated time and time again that Peter should be given the choice. He had applied to Empire State University as well as MIT.

"I just want to take a look…."

For the last leg of their journey that first day, Peter let Mr. Stark have the wheels. They made it to Harford twenty minutes earlier than Ms. Potts' schedule because Mr. Stark drove as if he was on a race track.

Their room at Marriott Hotel was already confirmed in advance. Because of who he is, Mr. Stark was welcomed into the hotel almost with a kind of celebrity frenzy that made Peter uncomfortable. He tried to shrink into the background, to go on unnoticed but Mr. Stark kept Peter close to him. He tended to do that when they were faced with a possible crowd. Mr. Stark had lost him once in Titan so as he had told Peter before, he didn't need a repeat of that again and kept a tight grip on Peter's arm as they navigated across the lobby to the front desk.

Peter could hear phone cameras clicking and he was sure tonight, if he were to check his social media he would find easily find photos of them. It wouldn't be the first time.

"Do you snore?"

"W – What?" Peter frowned. "I don't…"

"Trick question. You wouldn't know, you'd be sleeping. Don't snore or I'm throwing you out," Mr. Stark said.

"Maybe we should have - " Peter said, suddenly worried. He sat at the edge of his double bed. Mr. Stark was across form him in his own double bed. "Maybe it would be better with separate rooms?"

"Maybe, but Peps handled the reservation and this is what she got us. Quote for my boys to bond unquote."

If Peter thought they wouldn't be woken up by F.R.I.D.A.Y, he was wrong. The familiar female voice rang throughout the room the next morning, the source of it coming from Mr. Stark's phone.

"Good morning, boss. Good morning, Mister Parker," the AI greeted. "It is currently 7.06 am in Hartford, Connecticut. According to the programmed itinerary input into my system, there is enough time for a half day of sightseeing before you are required to continue with your journey."

Groggily, Peter rolled out of bed. They spent the next few hours at the Connecticut Science Center. There was an entire exhibit dedicated to exploring space which by some unspoken, mutual agreement they both avoided like a plague. They strolled through the science exhibition as well as engineering and Peter had never felt this happy. Not unless he was perched high on a rooftop with Queens below his feet, but this came quite close. Walking through the various galleries with Mr. Stark was something he had never imagined. This wasn't Stark Expo and half of the thing on display here were knowledge that Peter and Mr. Stark already knew but there was something innocent that brought about some child-like freedom in them both.

"You better eat up. We're driving for two straights hours till we get to Nashua."

Peter didn't need to be told twice. He ate his lunch, cleaning his plates, right down to dessert.

Mr. Stark drove. Peter napped.

That was until he was jostled awake.

"You're alright," Mr. Stark spoke gently. "You're okay."

"Yeah," he nodded, a little breathless. He pressed the heel of his palm to his eye, trying to rid the image of Thanos in Titan sneering down at Mr. Stark from his mind. "Yeah, I'm okay. Sorry, I – I didn't mean to – "

"It's fine," the man said, sparing him a glance as he continued driving. "Check out the view."

He welcomed that distraction. Mr. Stark had learnt not to prod too deep because sometimes, Peter just didn't want to talk about his nightmares.

"It's nothing like New York," he remarked, pressing his forehead against the window. "It's something – take a left. Mr. Stark, take a left there."

"What?" he slowed down, surprised.

"There," Peter pointed out. "It says Mine Falls. I – I want to check it out. Is that okay?"

"Why not?" he shrugged and let Karen plot their route.

There, they tried fishing. Peter learned that Mr. Stark had little patience for it, grumbling and complaining until Peter gave up. On an empty bench, they sat and shared frozen blueberries as they watched a kid younger than Peter reeled in a huge carp.

"I always thought…."

He stopped, not sure if he should finish his thoughts. Too late, because Mr. Stark heard and his curiousity was now piqued

"You were saying something…?"

"Nothing," Peter gave a one shoulder shrug. "It's this road trip… It's…"

"It's been good, right? I'm having a good time."

"Yeah, yeah," Peter nodded. "Me too but let's be real, Mr. Stark, you didn't enjoy fishing. I always thought that this is something I'd – I'd do with my dad or Uncle Ben, you know? Take a road trip with them… It's just – It's funny how life turns out," he said. "I'm – I'm glad you convinced me to go, Mr. Stark. I – I know you're not my dad or my – my uncle even but you're close," he averted his gaze, "and I'm super glad I took this road trip with you."

He couldn't bring himself to look at Mr. Stark. He didn't want the man to see the open vulnerability that he was sure was on his face but he became aware of Mr. Stark's arm around his shoulder and the gentle squeezed that followed.

"Yeah, me too, kid. It's something I wished my own dad had done with me," he admitted. Peter whipped his head, surprised. By now, he knew that Mr. Stark didn't really have a good relationship with his father but to openly admit this… "It's all about breaking the cycle now."

He nodded.

He remembered having heard something along those lines while he was lying through his teeth to Mr. Stark at the Staten Island Ferry but back then, he had not understood the magnitude of what it truly meant for Mr. Stark to take the step forward.

Having spent too long in Nashua, they decided to skip Concord which meant they still made it in good time to Lincoln, their goal destination. This time because Peter insisted, they checked into a bed and breakfast instead of a fancy hotel.

"Alright, Mr. Stark, get over here," Peter waved him over. "We need a selfie right in front of this B&B. I've got to send it to everyone in the group which by the way you're ghosting us on. You're in that chat so – so you can't just not reply."

"It's on mute. The likes of you, May, Pepper and Happy chattering on that like a bunch of old ladies gives me aneurism."

Shocked, Peter muttered, "why are you like this?"

"Is that a meme? What did I say about memes?"

"To stop it but the point is, you know memes," Peter snickered. He pushed the door and was immediately hit by a gust of wind. "You're better than the others."

"Web shooters - check," Mr. Stark said instead, putting on his sunglasses.

"Right here," Peter said, pulling on the sleeve of his hoodie to show it. "I'm pretty sure the helicopter ride is safe, Mr. Stark. No one's ever… No one's ever fallen off it during their White Mountains tour."

"Just in case," Mr. Stark replied. He walked ahead and Peter followed. "Trouble seems to follow you for some reason."

Peter took multiple photos of the helicopter, one of himself in front of it and of him and Mr. Stark. He recorded himself boarding the helicopter with a running commentary in the background.

The forty five minutes ride was amazing. The sight from up in the air was beautiful. At some point, Peter was completely mesmerized and enthralled that he had forgotten to record the view.

He had been on heights before, it was part of being Spider-Man, but it had always just been him looking at skyscrapers or looking down on humans and cars as small as the size of ants. To look at something that stretched for miles, covered in green, yellow and orange foliage was beyond anything Peter had imagined.

This mountain, it was larger than him. It stilled his mind and he felt a sudden rush of peace.

He must not have been the only one to feel it because Mr. Stark rested a warm hand on Peter's back as he leaned forward ever so slightly to get a better view over Peter's shoulder.

"This makes me think of the Lonely Mountain..."

"Why does that sound familiar?"

"It's from The Hobbit. We had a marathon …" he said to jog Mr. Stark's memories. "It's where Smaug sleeps…"

That night, on their very last night in New Hampshire, Peter didn't feel like being cooped up inside. He was enjoying the nature and the outdoors and wanted to stretch it out for as long as possible. He sat on the hood of the car, a box of donuts was opened next to him.

"Couldn't find you inside," Mr. Stark said, walking out of their room towards Peter on the car. His hair was damp from the shower.

Peter handed the box of donut to him and smiled when Mr. Stark accepted it without a thought.

Progress.

"I've never seen so many stars," Peter remarked, pointing above him. He folded his legs underneath him, making himself comfortable.

Mr. Stark leaned against the hood, taking large bites from his donut.

If May or even Pepper were here, they would have insisted that they get proper dinner. But they were two boys on their own and this was fine for them.

"This – This is the best thing to happen to me, Mr. Stark."

"I thought meeting me was the best thing," came the smug response

"Yeah, that too but this is one of the best things. I mean, like, I went on a road trip with Tony freaking Stark, me a nobody from Queens."

"Wrong. You're not a nobody and I don't want to hear you refer to yourself that way again."

"Right, sorry," Peter replied sheepishly. "I – I really appreciate the things you've got me – the Spider-Man suits, the watch, the Tom Ford suit for my graduation – but the best things have always been … It's always just been you being there, you know?"

The silence spoke volumes to Mr. Stark's confusion.

"You came for my science fair and that meant a lot to me, and then you – you came for my graduation. You cleared your entire schedule to be there. You made time to build this car with me," Peter tapped the car, "and then go on this – this road trip with me. It's just you – you gave me your time."

"That's it?" Mr. Stark turned to look at him. "Time is what you really value…"

"Yeah, I – I guess. I've never had any time with my dad or my mum before they – they died. Sometimes, I don't even remember how they look like, only from photos. I didn't have a lot of time with Uncle Ben either. I wish I had, Mr. Stark. It's just… It's just important, you know, to spend time with the people you care the most. I had to learn that the hard way."

He thought he must have said something wrong, put a foot in his mouth because Mr. Stark stared at him, frozen.

"Um, are you – are you okay?"

"You, kid… You're really something," he punched Peter lightly on his arm. "I understand what you're saying, Pete, I really do. I mean, hey, look at me. Howard hardly ever spent his time with me so I get why this is important to you."

Peter nodded.

"If it's not too much to ask… Can we – um – can we do it again, Mr. Stark? I – I really enjoyed it and I wouldn't mind taking a road trip again… with you."

Mr. Stark pushed himself off the hood to face Peter, a genuine smile on lips.

"Sure, kid. It could be… our thing."

Peter cocked his head at the slight hesitation in Mr. Stark's voice and this, he realised, was unchartered territory for them. He had always been Mr. Stark's protégé and the man had always been someone Peter looked up to but ever since Mr. Stark dragged him from the void of the soul world back to the world of the living, something had changed. Something had shifted. Peter couldn't quite put his finger on it but whatever it was, it mattered to him and to Mr. Stark.

"Something yearly… How about that?"

"Yeah," Peter agreed. "Yeah, that's cool, Mr. Stark."

"Good. We'll arrange something. Now, go get some sleep," the man said, tossing the empty donut box into the trash. "You're up for first driving shift."

"That's not fair. You'll get to sleep in the car."

"Like you didn't this morning when I was driving?" he retorted smirked. "Turnabout's fair play."

"Hey, Mr. Stark…" Peter paused half way back towards their room. "I know you and May worry about me going off to college and that I – I won't be nearby much but… I – I just want to say that – that, you shouldn't worry. I'm gonna be okay. I'm – I'm that kid who has May Parker and Tony Stark looking after his back so I'll be okay."

Mr. Stark leveled his gaze with Peter before he gave a curt nod.

He didn't think Iron Man was really expecting him to close the gap and pull him into a hug because he stiffened in Peter's arms. To his credit, he relaxed and patted Peter's back.

"I'm not going anywhere, kid," Mr. Stark said, his voice was a soft rumble against Peter's ear. "We'll have a lot of time."

Peter closed his eyes and tightened his grip. Time wasn't something that anyone could promise but they would make do.


A/N: I live in Asia so I had to do research for the field trip. I based the places on a road trip itinerary I saw online and then added in the things Tony & Peter would do.

So, that's it. The end of Glitter & Gold. Thanks so much for reading this story, leaving reviews/comments and giving this story some love. I really appreciate it! You can follow my WIP - Always Done What You Say or otherwise, see you in the next 3 + 1 or 5 + 1 that I might write :)