I'M ALIVE PEOPLE! Make sure y'all thank Willow4576 for their review, because otherwise this chapter wouldn't be up!
Chapter Thirty-Six: Tony Just Wanted Some Damn Coffee
*TIME SKIP: A COUPLE DAYS*
Brucie Bear: Our coffee machine broke again. I think it was Steve this time. Going to get something at the café. You want?
Man of Iron: Yessss
Man of Iron: Pleasssssssse
Man of Iron: Too late?
Man of Iron: Large, something with caffeine
Man of Iron: COFEEEEEEE
Man of Iron: Yes please
Man of Iron: I DON'T CARE WHAT IT IS AS LONG AS IT'S A LARGE
Man of Iron: Did you receive?
Man of Iron: CONFIRM DAMMIT!
Man of Iron: =..(
Brucie Bear: Sorry, Tony. I went earlier. I've been back for a while now.
Man of Iron: DAMMIT!
Brucie Bear: You have a problem.
Tony pouted down at his phone as the latest message from Bruce popped in, even as he shouldered his way out the door of the café that had taken him a good half hour to find and finally order his heavenly nectar – read: coffee – from. He did not have a problem! Not with his so-called "coffee addiction" and not with the five-pound bags under his hazel eyes. What he did have a problem with was that both his hands were full, and his sunglasses were sliding down his nose in an irksome fashion.
Carefully, Tony lifted the hand that still held his phone and shoved said lenses farther to the bridge of his nose, somehow managing to avoid knocking off the cap he'd thrown over his ruffled and most likely greasy hair. The concept that a simple hat and a pair of glasses could hide someone effectively was ridiculous, but he wasn't going to complain about the positive results, even if they did make a sad statement about humanity's attention to detail. Tony could stroll down a street with his usual cocky swagger without being chased by about one dozen reporters and two dozen cameras, just like he was now.
Past a poor college guy sitting on a bench with an honest-to-Thor typewriter and some crazy in full witch-doctor-voodoo-type getup for some reason unknown. Only in New York. He took a sip of his coffee as he walked down the street, avoiding the people who didn't give him a second glance, slowly making his way to the Tower. The genius cut through an alley he knew would let him skip a couple crossings and was about to turn down another, had he not come practically face-to-face with a scrawny teen in a dumpster. Though all he saw was a flash of brown hair and Caucasian skin tones before the boy let out a hoarse squeak and toppled into the metal container with a clattering crash.
"There's a kid in the dumpster," the man muttered to himself before speaking up. "Hey, kid, you alright?"
"Fine!" the word echoed from somewhere in its depths. A tuft of hair poked above the rim, followed by a pair of wide eyes and another squeak-ish sound. Tony was hit by how familiar he looked just seeing the top part of his face, like a physical hit to the forehead, but something was missing and his train of thought was blown off the tracks before it could continue by the next words. "Tony Stark?!"
"You recognize me?"
The teenager frowned. "You think 'cause I can't see your eyes you aren't still super famous?" Then his dark eyes widened as he realized what he said, and he clapped a hand over his mouth. "Sorry!"
"It's fine, kid," Tony replied with a snort. The lanky form stood up fully, seemingly finding the content to be shaky ground, and clambered in a surprisingly not clumsy way out and over the edge, brushing off a layer of grime from his pants. Not that it did them any good. They seemed to be permanently coated in dirt. Something tickled at the back of his brain as he ran his eyes over the guy, who was currently unbuttoning his olive jacket hyperactively, like he wasn't sure what to do with himself and this was better than just fidgeting. Tony had seen him before, or maybe not, maybe he matched something else. Part of it clicked just then. "Kid Number One!" At the excited exclamation, the brunet looked up in confusion. "The guy Clint brought in, er… what's your name?"
"Peter!" he repeated with a snap, like he'd known it all along. "Wait, where's Kid Number Two?"
"Harry! Where is he? Or is he at home?"
"Uh, he's over here," Peter didn't even blink at the rapid words and gestured over his shoulder jerkily with a half-turn. "Somewhere." He didn't seem to want to take his eyes off Tony, but nonetheless he turned fully around and took a couple steps to the other side of the trash container where the elder couldn't see, though he followed. The two found, slumped up against the wall, a sleeping boy, sunglasses still perched on his nose and wisps of black hair coming out of where it was tied back. If not for the steady rise-and-fall of his chest, one could assume he'd been mugged and left in the backstreet to die, a theory accentuated by the dark bruise peeking out on a protruding collarbone.
The billionaire was startled off that morbid subject suddenly when the boy – Harry, he reminded himself – rolled his head over in his sleep, mumbling something unintelligible under his breath. Peter crouched down next to the other cautiously and was about to nudge him awake with the extended arm when the raven jolted forward. His arms flew up, fingers splayed and palms out in an aborted motion as his eyes found Peter's after flicking around wildly. The thin chest had been heaving in the same uncontrollable, erratic fashion but it calmed as the brunet beside him spread a hesitant hand in the middle of it, unsure if this was allowed but wanting to help.
Harry nodded softly to his friend before he threw up a smile seeing the shape of Tony in the background. "Wotcher, mate. What're you doing here?"
"H-Harry!" Peter stuttered out in a sort of scratchy half-whisper. "That's Tony Stark."
"Ah, your nerd-crush. Well, one of them."
"Wha- where did yo- no!"
"Should I be jealous?"
"Good." The statement from the still-sitting Kid Number Two was accompanied by some crazy arm-waving from Kid Number One and Tony couldn't help but snicker at their interaction.
"Yeah, you're a little young for me kid," the adult put in, smug grin still in place. Cue even more sputtering from Peter and a loud laugh from Harry, though it didn't sound as real as it should. Yet the pale Brit hauled himself to his feet with a groan and a complaint from the sad-looking walking stick that he leaned a little too much of his weight on as he stood. One of the pale-skinned hands reached around his side to stretch his back, a loud crack practically echoing off the alley walls.
"Urgh. Remind me not to sleep in any more alleys," the boy moaned before sticking his tongue out at Peter, who bit his lip mid-smile. The brunet raised his hands and shrugged under the gaze that was presumably focused on him from under the sunglasses, as if saying "what can you do?", sparking a grin on the other's face at some kind of inside joke. "Yeah, I know, I know." Harry waved his friend off, though his aim was a little off and he accidentally slapped the teen on the shoulder, prompting both a flurry of apologies and an impromptu slap-fight. Which devolved into a poke-fight that ended when the two remembered they weren't alone.
Tony, for his part, had found this very entertaining. "Oh, don't stop on my account." He pressed a hand to his chest and smirked. "I wouldn't want to get in the way of whatever… this relationship is." Both the teenagers lit up like Jack-o'-lanterns on Halloween, cheeks flushing matching shades of red. Oh-ho, now this was interesting.
"Friends!" Peter blurted and shuffled about on inch farther away. "Just friends." From barely in front of him, the raven bobbed his head in agreement one too many times as he stretched the bottom of his sweatshirt in between his fingers. The poor hemline looked like it had been subjected to the treatment before.
"Whatever you say, kid," the brunet drawled insincerely, his smirk never falling.
"I'm not a kid!"
"So what were you doing in the dumpster—" he paused, his expression spreading into a smile "—kid?"
The teen – see, not calling him a kid! – took the time to give him a freaking pout before answering, "Just trying to find some stuff. Don't have the money for most of it." Well that was vague. Harry's glasses turned towards the back of Peter's head as he reached out and snatched something from the dirty brown locks, trying not to let his lips twitch up in a grin.
"Well, you found this," he said as he twirled the piece of red wiring between two fingers. Brown eyes blinked widely at the snippet and flicked to Harry briefly, whose nose crinkled in response. "Hey, I know my eyesight is wonky, but I can still tell the difference between red and brown, mate."
"Little more than 'wonky.'"
"We've been over this, it's—"
"Okay, enough of that," Tony broke into the conversation with his usual lack of tact. "It's… infuriatingly obvious." That comment earned him a pair of confused glances, but he soldiered on. Heroically, he might add. "Back to my question. The important one. Just what sort of garbage were you expecting to find in the garbage?" Not to mention they were in the alleyway of a sort of science-lab-supply store that really should've been managing its waste better.
"Um, sometimes they throw out broken parts that aren't too broken… or chemicals that weren't stored properly and something happened to them, but they still work!" Tony considered the adolescent for a long moment while Peter kept rambling about how even though the chemicals weren't perfect or were contaminated – did this kid have any self-preservation instincts left? – they were fine for whatever the hell he was doing with them. There were weird burns and tiny, messily stitched rips that looked like they were from something worse than a scrape with the sidewalk on his black pants; rough bruises on the knuckles not covered by the fingerless gloves.
The billionaire clapped loudly, probably interrupting the ramble, and the two flinched. Filing that for later investigation. "Here's what's going to happen. You, science kid, are going to stop digging around in… second-hand lab junk. That's asking for trouble, which is okay for super-geniuses like me but not for civvy-kids like you." Harry raised an eyebrow at this remark, though the brown-eyed boy at his side seemed bemused. "You are going to get a once-in-a-lifetime look at the one and only Tony Stark's lab," he finished with an expansive flourish. Pepper may have been right about his flair for dramatics. But it was fun to make the little kiddies gape like fish out of water.
"How—you can't—why—" Speaking of which, he might have broken Peter.
"The answer to two of those is 'I'm Tony Stark,'" the man replied with a rakish smile. "The other is 'why not?' Glasses, you coming?"
"Yep." Tony was proud to see that the raven had to take an incredulous second before answering. "Gotta make sure you're not a pedophile," Harry then riposted back smoothly.
In the background, Peter tried once more, in a less-than-valiant attempt. "I can't—"
"Why not?" the celebrity challenged.
"I got… homework an' stuff…" The boy's friend was currently giving him a ridiculous look over his shades. Tony privately agreed.
"I'm going to pretend you didn't say that." He strode out of the alley with a smug countenance that only grew when he heard the two pairs of light steps hurrying urgently to catch up. The occasional tap of the stick accompanied his company and he laughed after a yelp alerted him that Peter had gotten in the way of it. Not bothering with the main entrance, he led the two around to the back door the Avengers used to sneak out without causing a media frenzy and into the equally high-tech elevator that made the brunet youth's fingers twitch in excitement.
"Hi again, J.A.R.V.I.S.!" he chirped – fricking chirped, this boy was too much – as Harry filed in behind him.
"Hello, Mr. Parker. Which floor, sir?"
Peter was frowning at the ceiling and he had to restrain himself from telling him J.A.R.V.I.S. wasn't actually up there. "How'd he know my last name? Did you look me up? Did Mr. Barton look me up? Or—"
"Facial recognition, small fry. It's in his programming for any new arrivals, to make sure they're not a threat. I don't even look through it, usually."
"Hey, you're the one who vetoed 'kid.'" Maybe he would have to look them up. Tony had found them dumpster-diving and the other teenager had been sleeping behind the thing. Maybe this was one solution that his usual shove-money-at-it problem-solving strategy would work to fix. Absently, he sauntered out when the doors opened, leading them up the flight of stairs, and almost ignoring the excited noises that were Peter's reaction to his workspace.
"Holy crud, Harry look at this place! Look at it! It's huge!" Well, it was an entire floor. "Whoa, look at the electron microscope! And an engine, and a holographic tabletop set-up, and that's gotta be the fanciest fume hood in the world! Look at this place!"
Harry replied with a smile. "Yeah, I'm looking. Can't see much, but all the blurs look very expensive."
"They are!" Ah, so that explains why Pete had been walking around with his hands clasped behind his back. "Holy—that's an Iron Man suit!"
And so it was, clean and standing tall in its display, shining gold and hot-rod red. The blank mask stared back at the boys, unimpressed with the ogling.
"You like it?" Tony asked from wherever he was across the lab. "Built it myself."
"Could use a little work."
This time, the American simply elected to ignore his friend. "It's amazing Mr. Stark! The name's misleading though, since it's gold ti—"
"Titanium alloy," he finished distractedly, having found one of his smaller projects. "That's what I told Pepper at the conference."
"The one after Af—" Peter cut himself off thoughtfully. "Is it true you managed to build the first suit just from scraps?" Relieved, the billionaire gave him a camera-worthy smirk and started rambling about the first suit and how it's specs were so inferior to what he has now and how he had to build it out of missile parts, so unfair. Because if he'd mentioned that place then he'd have to remember the blood and the water and the drowning and the come on, you're gonna go see your family.
The youth is the only one who notices Hiro give him an understanding nod and he smiles back.
And then Peter's stomach interrupts the moment Tony didn't know they were having with the loudest gurgling grumble the man had heard since Thor had forgot they were out of Poptarts. "Damn, shorty, when was the last time you ate?"
"Uh…" The adult and kid simultaneously gave him looks. "W-well, we going to find some food somewhere—"
"My plan was to just pickpocket someone again," Harry butted in, his face giving nothing away.
The raven shrugged. "It's not like it's hard."
"That doesn't mean you should do it!" Peter exclaimed before abruptly halting. "You can't just—wait, did you say again?!"
"… this is why I don't tell you things."
In the background, Tony was biting his lip to keep from collapsing with laughter at the scene – though it was a fair question as to whether Kid Number Two was joking or not… it seemed more like not. Which was concerning, even to him. "How about this," he proposed. "Glasses doesn't steal anything—" Peter gave his companion a squinty glare that had absolutely no heat behind it. "—and you two stay."
"Stay?" they chorused. And then refused to peek at each other's pink faces. "What do you mean?" the taller of the two questioned warily.
Tony waved a flippant hand. "For dinner. And the night." That last part was on a whim, but nobody had to know he'd gone all soft and worried on a couple random teens he'd found in a Dumpster. He should probably talk to Clint about that because he's almost certain Legolas didn't know. "Alright, lab time's over, out, out, out!" The engineer chased them back into the stairwell, clapping at them when one of them caught a glimpse of DUM-E at his charging station in the corner and stopped mid-step. One guess as to who that was.
Both allowed themselves to be shooed out and bolted downstairs at a frankly unsafe speed that about resulted in Harry finding an even faster way down, but both wore wide grins. They were headed around the corner to continue their downwards trek when Tony called them back with a quick, "And where do you think you're going?" before opening the door reading "Floor 90" with a grand flourish. Without any sort of hesitation present, the Brit made an abrupt about-face, walking with comically fake superiority past the bowing philanthropist… and straight into someone who was only slightly softer than a brick wall.
I'm really not saying Tony's more observant than Clint. But Tony spent way more time around Spidey in the lab and saw him with his goggles off a lot more than the brief bit during Hiro's back-to-human scene, so it's more likely for him to vaguely recognize him. No one spent too much time with human-Hiro, so it makes sense they've forgotten the teen they spent maybe 30 minutes around over a year ago.
There are two lines from Captain America: Civil War in this chapter. I own zip, they just worked too perfectly =D
Also, writer's block sucks and it took me way too long to get over it and I feel like my Tony has suffered because of it in this chapter. So, apologies. I will also be answering reviews in PM's instead of in A/N's from now on so that I can maybe avoid long notes like this one. (BTW, sorry for the length of it!)
And finally, sorry for taking flarking months. Jaws of all things is what got my muse working again (seriously, WTH, muse?). I actually don't have anything written yet after this and so can't promise when the next bit will be out. The original plan was to put off updating until I wrote the rest of the story, but I got a couple reviews that changed my mind ^-u-^
I'll update when I can, but no promises as to speed! Note, this story is NOT ABANDONED and NOT UP FOR ADOPTION, I'm just really slow XP
Love y'all, thanks for sticking with it!
Remember, this is the last time reviews will be answered in-chapter:
To Tzapporah: Oh my gosh, Double D and Harry? Beautiful. Currently DD isn't a part of this universe unfortunately, but maybe I'll do an extra or something. I haven't seen the show, but I've read plenty of comics! Thanks for the idea and for reading!
To Elementh: Thanks for your honest feedback! I'll keep things like that in mind for future chapters and fics. Yeah, the 31 chapters thing was a little long… really didn't mean for it to be, TBH. Oops…
To Hikari Nova: I know in the books the final battle at Hogwarts happens when he's seventeen, but I screwed with the timeline a lot, so he's fourteen in the beginning. As of this chapter, both the boys are 17. Sorry for the confusion, but thanks for reading!
To TheOtterKnight: Thanks for all the reviews! To the one from Chapter 9… I KNOOOW I'M SO SORRY DX. To the one from Chapter 15, Cap gives him a ten-dollar bill because of a scene from the actual Avengers movie that happened off-screen (page?) in this story. It'll make more sense if you watch it, but the basics are Cap didn't think anything could surprise him anymore… and then Fury shows him a flying aircraft carrier, lol. To Chapter 31, all I can say to that is lol XD
To fraidykat: Aw, thanks! Unfortunately, my muse is still running wild… I think they're somewhere in the anime section, ssshhh…
To Willow4576: Aaahhh do your homework (yes, I'm a huge hypocrite). I am active! Hello! I'm still writing, thanks for checking in ;P and this fic will never be abandoned! I'm sticking with it, it's just unfortunately hit a rough spot that I'm trying to get through before the exciting things come. Thank you so much for your review, I wasn't expecting one so far after my last chapter post! You're the reason this chapter is up, be proud! d^.^b