When I first started this story, it was supposed to be a two-shot, maybe. I had no plans to make it a full-fledged story, but ideas kept coming and people were reviewing and reading, and so it became an actual retelling of Homecoming, which was fun! :) So a huge thank you to everyone who has been reading and reviewing. I appreciate all of you so much. I hope you enjoy the final chapter.
An Invitation to Join
Peter wasn't in his room. There were a couple of things that gave it away. He wasn't in his bed, for starters. This one was...different. Soft, but narrow. And he could feel his shoulder pressing up against something that wasn't the wall. It was...something else. The biggest difference from his own room...the smell. He smelled disenfectant and alcohol. His own room smelled like laundry that may or may not be dirty. It smelled like his body spray and the food he might have forgotten to throw away. It smelled like the air freshener that May sprayed in there every week when she made him clean up...not Febreeze but the off brand that cost half as much.
There was another smell in the room...cologne. A cologne that he recognized. And aftershave. He wrinkled his nose and groaned, trying to take it in. Trying to remember. He knew that he was safe. That cologne meant that he was safe. His head ached...heck, so did the rest of his body. He twitched his fingers, trying to move, and they responded, but slowly. Slowly like he'd been drugged...drugs. Something clicked. He was in the Medbay. When he shifted his arm, he could feel something tug at his wrist…a needle in his arm. They were giving him pain meds. The good ones. Because...he searched his memory, but nothing much came up. He remembered...nothing.
Even trying to remember made him too tired to move...too tired to try any more. So he gave up, relaxing into the soft bed and letting himself sleep once more. He didn't dream, and it seemed like he was only asleep for a few minutes before someone took his hand, a thumb rubbing carefully over his knuckles. There was something in his arm, and a blanket was pulled up to his chest. This time, he was more aware. More awake. And with a rush, he remembered. How could he have forgotten?
Homecoming. The Vulture...Liz's dad. The warehouse. And...the plane. Fighting the Vulture with Mr. Stark. The beach...the fire. Peter twitched his fingers, trying to signal to the other person that he was awake, and the hand resting on his squeezed a little. "Hey, bud. You with me?" Peter groaned, trying to nod. Trying to rouse himself. But it was like something in his system was working against him. "We've got you on the good stuff, Pete. You're okay." The hand on his patted his knuckles gently. "I'm going to be right here when you wake up, kid. Well...until you take too long. I have a famously short attention span." Peter barely managed to make his lips twitch into a smile before he went under once more.
The third time was, apparently, the charm. The first thing Peter was aware of was cologne. The familiar one...Mr. Stark's cologne, his mind helpfully provided. Mr. Stark was in the room...so he was safe. Peter took a deep breath, nose twitching when he felt something on his face. He brought up a slow hand to dislodge whatever it was, but a hand caught his, holding it down. "Ah ah...don't touch that, Underoos. It's supplying oxygen which, you may remember from science class, is, in fact, necessary for your continued survival." Peter was sure that, given enough time, he could puzzle out the meaning of that sentence. At the moment, though, his brain seemed to be stuck in neutral, and he forced his eyes open, blinking slowly at Mr. Stark who was sitting at his bedside.
The man chuckled, eyes soft. "Those drugs should be out of your system soon. We've got you on something a little lighter. Hopefully, that will be more conducive to critical thinking."
He brought a hand up and brushed some hair out of Peter's face, smiling. "How are you feeling, kiddo?"
"Okay…" Peter blinked a few times, scrunching his eyes tight then opening his eyes wide, doing his best to focus. "Doesn't...it doesn't really hurt."
"Good." Mr. Stark patted his hand. "Do you remember what happened?" He nodded.
"Uh...yeah. The Vulture...you got him." The man's eyes widened, and he shook his head with a chuckle.
"Oh, I'm sorry, are you not caught up." Mr. Stark clapped his hands. "Okay, previously on 'Peter Parker Saves the Day and My Ass' you figured out who the Vulture was, left your Homecoming dance so that you could track him down, lifted an entire warehouse off of the both of us, saving not only yourself but Iron Man as well, stopped the Vulture from stealing all of the Avengers tech by crashing a plane without any casualties or property damage, and then walked through fire and saved the Vulture's life because you're a much better person than I am. Any of that ringing any bells?" Peter nodded, smiling tiredly.
"Chatty when you're high on pain meds, aren't you?" The question was obviously rhetorical, and Mr. Stark placed a hand on Peter's hair. "Here." Reaching back, he grabbed a pitcher of water, pouring some into a glass and holding it out, supporting it as Peter took a drink. It felt like heaven on his throat, and he practically inhaled it. "Easy, Pete. Don't choke." Mr. Stark told him with a chuckle. "Better?" Peter nodded. "Do you want to eat something?" Peter shook his head, wiping the hand without a needle over his face. "I'm going to have Helen come in and take a look...make sure you're healing okay."
Dr. Cho did come and take a look at him, during which Mr. Stark stayed right by his side, not quite in the way of her exam, but close. She checked his head, letting him know that the concussion had mostly healed and that he should let someone know if he started having blurry vision or had any kind of severe headaches. He promised, and then, to his surprise, she removed the needle, then disconnected him from the machines surrounding him.
"You'll probably feel tired for a few more hours. Don't try to read for the rest of the day, and try to avoid looking at your phone for too long." She turned to Mr. Stark then, probably giving him a list of instructions, but Peter didn't really listen. Couldn't get himself to focus. Instead, he closed his eyes, resting until Mr. Stark put a hand on his arm, helping him sit up a little, then got an arm around him.
"How about we move this party to the sofa, huh?"
"Mkay." Peter nodded, putting an arm around Mr. Stark and letting the man help him to his feet. Thankfully, he was dressed in pajamas. Really, really soft pajamas. Frowning, he lowered his eyes only to find that he was wearing the Hello Kitty pajama pants and an Iron Man pajama shirt.
"I thought it was a fun mashup." The man told him, gesturing at his outfit with a smirk. Peter snorted, rolling his eyes, but didn't complain when he was lowered into a wheelchair. Well, he started to complain, but it felt so good to be sitting down again, so he didn't bother, just slumped in the chair and let Mr. Stark push him down the hallway and into an elevator which took them to Mr. Stark's floor. The man wheeled him into the room and right up to the sofa, then slipped an arm around him once more, easing him onto the couch. "How you doing, Pete?"
"M'fine." He assured his mentor, blinking and trying to wake himself up. He was feeling a little less groggy...hopefully, it would pass soon. Then he remembered that Mr. Stark had been with him last night. That the two of them had fought together. "You okay?"
"I'm fine, Pete." Mr. Stark sat down beside him, ruffling his hair. "You took the brunt of it. I just flew around and looked pretty."
The man was surprisingly relaxed, leaning against the arm of the sofa, regarding him with fondness and something else...relief. His mentor seemed relieved. "How long was I asleep?"
"We brought you in Friday night...well...close to Saturday morning. It's Sunday, about 10 in the morning."
"May." Mr. Stark finished for him, the two of them speaking the word in tandem, Peter worried, Mr. Stark somewhat amused. "I told her that you were helping with an internship project, kept it vague...and...okay, I might have had Friday send her a couple of text messages...from you." Peter blinked at him in surprise. "Just a couple to assure her that you were okay and that you'd call as soon as you could. I think I said there was a problem with the labs or something...just keep it vague. You've been texting her to let her know that you're fine and that you love her and all that jazz." Mr. Stark waved a hand.
"Sure thing, Pete. Keeps her from yelling at me, so I'm happy." Peter snorted a little, and Mr. Stark patted him on the knee. "Sorry about the whole semi invasion of privacy thing."
"It's fine. As long as May doesn't worry…" He waved a hand and the man smiled. "Can I call her?" Mr. Stark nodded, holding out Peter's cellphone.
"Of course. You should be good to go home tonight. That is unless you want to try and convince Aunt Hottie to let you miss school tomorrow so that you can get some more rest and maybe let me introduce you to your new internship."
"New…" Peter started. Mr. Stark grinned, gesturing toward Peter's phone.
"Call your aunt. Let her know that you really are okay. And then we can talk." Mr. Stark patted him on the back, then pulled himself to his feet, heading out of the room and leaving Peter to his phone call. Pushing thoughts of internships out of his mind, Peter dialed his aunt and smiled when she answered on the second ring.
"Hey, May. Sorry…"
"Peter, are you okay?" She cut in, and he cursed himself for worrying her.
"I've been waiting for you to call all morning. You said you'd call as soon as you woke up."
"I know. Um...I think I've got a cold or something." He lied, hoping he sounded at least somewhat convincing. He coughed once for effect, then waited, wondering if that had been too much.
"Yeah, um...Mr. Stark said it was fine if I, uh...if I stayed here tonight since it's such a long drive and he has doctors here and everything. I know I'd have to miss school but I'm really not feeling great."
Immediately her voice went soft, and he felt guilt curl in his stomach, but not enough to make him take it back. "Okay, baby. Do you need me to come up there?"
"Oh, no...no, I'll be fine. Just a cold."
She hesitated. "Okay. How is the internship...emergency?" She asked, stumbling a little over the words. "Mr. Stark wasn't exactly clear on what you were doing." She sounded more apologetic than curious, but he gave it a shot anyway.
"Right. We were fixing the...AI. Mr. Stark's AI. It needed...programming and we had to restructure the...infrastructure."
May hummed...thankfully she never had been all that interested in science, so he figured he wouldn't need to worry about her listening too closely. "Okay. Well, it sounds like you're working hard. Just call me tomorrow? Let me know if you need me to pick you up."
"Okay. Love you, May."
"Love you, baby."
And that was that. Honestly, Peter wondered if he should worry that it no longer phased him to lie to May. "How does one restructure the infrastructure?" Mr. Stark wondered, approaching with a tray of sandwiches, and Peter grinned.
"Usually if I start using random science words she loses interest." The man smirked and put the tray on the coffee table, a bottle of Gatorade in his other hand that he handed Peter. While Mr. Stark grabbed a sandwich of his own, Peter practically drained it, then started eating one of the sandwiches, finishing it in a couple of bites before moving on to a second one.
"Don't forget to chew." Mr. Stark reminded him mildly, and Peter gave a sheepish smile.
"Healing makes me hungry." Every moment that passed made him feel more awake, and although he doubted he could go on patrols or spar with Captain America at the moment, he thought he might be able to stand up. Mr. Stark nodded, looking almost sad for a moment before giving him a tight smile.
"I know. Have as much as you want."
Once the food was devoured, Peter realized he didn't actually know what had happened to the Vulture. "Was Mr. Toomes okay? Did Liz find out what happened?"
"Toomes is fine. He's behind bars, where he'll be staying until his trial which will be in a few weeks. I'll be doing all the talking so you won't have to be there. No one will find out who Spiderman is. His daughter is fine...both she and his wife know what happened." Peter sighed, lowering his eyes. "It wasn't your fault, bud."
"I know." He shrugged. "It's just...sucks."
"Yeah. It does. And I'm sorry you had to miss your dance."
"Liz is never going to forgive me." He sighed, leaning back against the sofa. Mr. Stark wrapped an arm around his shoulders, squeezing a little and pulling him close.
"I'm sorry, Pete." There wasn't much more he could say, Peter knew. For just a moment, he leaned his head against Mr. Stark's shoulder. "You want me to show up at your school and tell her that there was some kind of situation at Stark Industries and that you were my only hope?" Peter had to chuckle at that, and he felt Mr. Stark laugh when he did.
"Sure. I'll plan a whole speech. It'll be great. Now, you think you're up for a visit to the lab?"
"Yeah, Pete. Come on." Mr. Stark stood, holding out a hand that Peter took, and this time, he was able to stay on his feet. Still, the man kept an arm around him as he led him to the elevator. "You feeling alright?"
"Yeah, I'm good," Peter assured him, pocketing his phone and following the man until they reached the, by now, mostly familiar lab. Mr. Stark led him to the station where he usually worked, letting him drop into what he'd begun to think of as his chair. "What are we doing in here?"
"I needed to show you something." He told him, voice casual as he pulled a folder off of his own desk, then dropped it onto the table in front of Peter. It was black with the Stark Industries Logo on the front in white.
"You needed to show me a folder that you couldn't just bring upstairs because…". Peter trailed off, grinning when Mr. Stark smacked him so gently on the back of his head.
"Because of the ambiance, Spider brat. Now open it." Peter watched the man drop into a chair and roll it over, coming to a stop as he bumped his knees against Peter's. "Come on, kiddo. Don't just stare at it."
Moving hesitantly, Peter opened the folder, then froze. On one side was an ID badge, a picture of him on the front that Mr. Stark has gotten from...somewhere or another, and underneath the picture, the words 'Peter Parker. SI Intern. Clearance Level: 10.' On the other side of the folder was a packet of papers, including something that looked like a tax form. "What...what is…"
"Don't worry. I'll show you how to fill it out. All of your banking information has already been filled out so that's where your paychecks will go."
"Yeah. Trust me, I pay better than any other internship around, plus, if you finish the internship, you'll be guaranteed a spot at SI...of course you're already pretty much guaranteed a spot."
"Mr. Stark...are you giving me…"
"A paid internship? No." Peter felt his stomach drop, cheeks heating up a little, but Mr. Stark continued on as if he didn't notice. "I'm not giving it to you. You earned it. Every week, hours flexible, it looks great on a college resume...what do you say?"
Peter stammered for a second, looking up at his mentor with huge eyes. "I...I don't...yes! I mean, yeah, of course! Thank you!" The man's eyes softened and he cupped Peter on the back of the neck, squeezing gently.
"Like I said, you earned it, Pete." For a moment, the man just stared at him, smiling softly, hand on his neck. But before Peter could break the silence, Mr. Stark went on. "I'm so proud of you kid. I hope you know that."
Peter felt his face flush once more and he dropped his eyes, lips turning up in a shy smile. "Thanks." He murmured.
"And...there's one more thing." He lifted his eyes, meeting Mr. Stark's. "The Avengers...they were supposed to be a team. A family. People who would fight the battles normal people couldn't fight and all that jazz. And...hell, Pete, I don't know that they ever were. A family. Now, it's all a mess and I wouldn't blame you for saying no. But…if the Avengers are ever going to be a team again, we're going to need the right people...good people. Good, loyal, smart-ass people like you."
This time, Peter felt his jaw drop. No way. No way Mr. Stark was saying what he thought he was saying.
"What do you think, Pete? Wanna join a dysfunctional team of superheroes?"
"You'd still be in training for a while. A long while. And you'd have to take orders from Captain Pain-in-my-ass if he ever gets his shit together and comes back." He hesitated. "No pressure, but I kind of already called a press conference for next weekend just in case you said…"
"Yes." Peter broke in, nodding almost frantically. Did he want to work with Mr. Stark in and out of the lab? Get to learn from the greatest superheroes and be on their team and fulfill all of his childhood dreams? "Of course...yes! I...will I seriously be an Avenger?"
"Yeah, Pete. You will." Mr. Stark told him with that soft smile.
Then he had a thought. "Can I still patrol Queens? You know, look out for the little guy?"
"You are a little guy, but yeah."
"Mr. Stark…". Never in his wildest dreams had he ever thought this moment would come. Not as a kid, not even after he'd actually met Iron Man...not after being pulled out of the Hudson or waking up in a hospital bed with Tony Stark at his side. But...it was happening. Mr. Stark wanted him on his team. "I...I don't know what to say…"
For a moment, it looked like the man was going to make a joke. He smirked just a little, eyes crinkling at the edges. But he must have seen something hopeful and insecure in Peter's eyes...something that Peter felt but couldn't name. And his smirk disappeared, replaced by something kind but serious. "I want you on my team, Peter. The Avengers were like my family, and you...you're like my family. I want it to be official. And it doesn't have to be now, but if you're up for it, so am I."
Peter swallowed hard, then nodded, biting down on his lip and fighting the heat in his eyes. For a moment, there was silence. Then Mr. Stark leaned in, pulling Peter close until his head was tucked under his mentor's. "I wanna be on your team too, Mr. Stark." He whispered. Mr. Stark sniffed softly, patting him on the back, and for a few minutes, they just sat together. Silent. Comfortable. Then, after what felt like an eternity but not nearly a long enough one to Peter, the man pulled away, gently disentangling himself.
"Alright, enough sappy stuff. How about we head back upstairs? You're supposed to be resting for the rest of the day, Helen's orders. We can watch a movie if you want. What are you thinking for dinner? Chinese or Pizza? Or, Chinese and Pizza? Or shawarma. You ever had shawarma, kid?"
Peter let his mentor pull him to his feet, leaning on Mr. Stark out of affection, not necessity, and he ruffled Peter's hair, squeezing him to his side in a hug. It felt right to be here. Perfectly right. Like this was exactly where he was meant to be. "Nope, never."
"Alright, Pete. Shawarma it is."
Thank you so much for reading.