It's not easy to contact an Asgardian god, especially when that god doesn't have a phone but nevertheless, Thor arrived half an hour later, towing his brother behind him. "Where are Stark and Peter?"
His booming voice caught the attention of the youngest Avenger, his tiny shout coming from the lounge. "Thor! Dadda, Unca Thor is here!"
The god followed the voice, ignoring his brother as he complained, doing all he could to twist his way out of Thor's grasp.
He found Peter bouncing eagerly on Tony's lap, the engineer laughing as the boy made grabby hands at his favourite otherworldly hero.
"Thor! Thor, pick me up!"
Thor finally let go of his brother to scoop up the wriggling spider and throw him into the air, smiling as Peter squealed and giggled.
Tony hoped, just a little flicker of it deep in his chest, that when Peter came down back into Thor's arms he would be himself. But he was still the same two-year-old shrieking with joy.
Thor laughed and snuggled the boy to his chest, rocking them both before he turned back to Tony. "How are you, my friend? Heart still beating?"
Tony smiled and tapped his chest, nodding. "It's still ticking."
Peter wriggled his way out of Thor's hands, dropping to the floor to run back to his dad. He crawled on his lap and curled up, resting his head on Tony's shoulder as he popped his thumb into his mouth.
"Dadda had a bad day."
Tony ran a hand through Peters' hair as he squeezed him in a hug. "It's okay, bug."
Thor frowned. "He's still not turning back?"
Tony sighed, turning Peter in his arms so that he was laying back on his hands. He bounced him lightly as Peter looked up at him with those sad wide eyes.
"It doesn't matter what I do, he won't...watch this. Hey, Petey, you wanna sing your favourite song?"
He bounced him, smiling stupidly as he sang. "Baby Stark do do do do do do!"
The boy pulled his thumb out and kicked his feet, squealing. It was almost unbearably cute but still, nothing happened.
Tony pulled him back to his chest and shook his head. "I don't think there's anything that could make him happier and yet...he's still a kid. I don't know how to help him."
Thor reached behind himself, gaze never leaving Tony's, and grabbed Loki's cape, yanking him towards them before he could get his hands on anything dangerous.
"And that's why you asked for my brothers help?"
Tony nodded, not wanting to hope but having nothing else to do. "Bruce had an idea."
"No, I wanna stay with Dadda!"
Bruce tried to pull the toddler from his mentor's side but his tiny hands were stuck fast and all he managed to do was jostle Tony and upset the kid.
"Peter, Loki is going to try and help you so, you need to let go."
Every Avenger in the room flinched at the telltale whine in Peters' voice and Bruce backed off, knowing that if he continued Peter would throw a tantrum. And Bruce may have had the big green guy on his side but a tantrum from the super baby could give the Hulk a run for his money and they all knew it.
He raised his hands and stepped back. "Okay, Peter. Loki, can you work around Tony?"
Loki looked bored, waving a hand as he sighed. "It's insulting that you would even question it. Move."
He lifted a hand, towards the two and raised an unimpressed eyebrow at Tony where he held the toddler on his hip. "You know this won't change anything. I can't undo the magic."
Tony set his gaze in a glare and jerked his head up in a nod. "Do it."
Loki sighed and shook his head. "Mortals." He flicked a hand, sweeping his spell over the boy and turning the toddler into a teenager. Tony blinked in surprise at the now grown boy hanging from his hip and planted his feet wider to accommodate the extra weight.
He wasn't sure what he was expecting. Maybe for Peter to jump down and blush, embarrassed about being held, but Peter just watched everyone watching him, eyes still wide and curious.
He looked to Tony at the sound of his name, his gaze flickering between Tony's eyes before he blinked and let out a happy sigh. "Hi."
Tony put him down, setting him on his own two feet and looking the teenager up and down. Maybe they should have changed him out of his overalls, dinosaur t-shirt and light up shoes, but it was too late now, the clothes having grown with him and still looking cute.
"Are you…? You?"
Hope flared up in his chest, despite having wanted to be careful with that delicate flame and Tony stepped forward, reaching for Peter. The kid smiled, scrunching his nose in confusion, his bright expression so familiar, so like himself that Tony thought that maybe-
"I'm always me."
Tony laughed, a short burst of it that shook his breath and sped his heart to Bruce worrying levels. He pointed to the man, eager and excited. "Whos that?"
Peter looked towards him and beamed. "Uncle Bruce!"
The room seemed to chill at that, everyone's expressions dropping into disappointment when Peter stuck out one blue trainer. "Can you tie my shoe? I dunno how to do it yet."
Tony's heart plummeted to his toes as Bruce gave the boy a shaky smile. "Sure, bud. I'll tie it for you."
Peter swung his arms happily as he fidgeted. "Thanks! Then can I have a juice box? Dad said it was lunch soon."
Tony flinched at being called Dad when Peter looked like himself but at least it wasn't as weird if Peter had called him Dada as he usually did.
Loki spoke up from where he lounged at the table, eyes just a little brighter at the sight of everyone's disappointment. "I've adjusted his speech for you. I don't want to hear him call you that either."
Tony ignored the god and brushed the soft curls at the back of Peters' neck, offering a small, sad, smile when Peter looked at him. "We'll get you something to eat, kiddo. Don't you worry about that."
"Yay! I want pop tarts!"
Peter ran off to the kitchen, leaving Tony devastated all over again. Bruce planted a heavy hand on his shoulder and gave it a gentle squeeze. "Give it time. Maybe after a little while, he'll-"
Bruce was being kind but Tony shook his head. "I shouldn't have expected anything. Magic man's spell can't be undone, we already knew that."
And yet he'd tried. Because he would try anything if it would just get him his kid back.
Bruce looked morose, tone low and softened to match. "I'm sorry I couldn't fix it."
Tony paused, realising what he'd said and how sharp it had been. He offered an apologetic smile, hand finding Bruce's on his shoulder and patting it. "Not your fault Brucie."
The nickname eased the crease between the man's eyebrows, right up until a cry came from the kitchen.
Tony's dad senses spiked and he ran before he'd made the conscious decision to move, calling out frantically as he went. "Peter! I'm coming bud! Dad's coming!"
The kid was crying, sobbing in anguish and Tony's pulse yet again skyrocketed. If the kid was hurt if anything had happened he'd- he skidded into the kitchen and dropped down on his knees beside the boy. "What is it, Pete? What's wrong? Talk to me!"
Peter has planted on his butt on the tiles, head tilted back as he cried but Tony couldn't see anything wrong with him. Except for the empty box in his hand.
"We're out of pop tarts!"
Tony froze, brain short-circuiting for a moment before he sighed, exhausted.
"It's not fair!" Tony rubbed a hand over his eyes, trying to be patient. After all, Peter only looked like his teenager self, inside he was still two years old. "It's okay, we can eat something else and then later we'll go get more."
Peter flopped down on his back, crying dramatically before rolling onto his stomach on the floor and just laid there sobbing, nose and cheeks red.
Tony slipped his hands under Peters' arms and pulled him up into his lap, finding it much harder to manoeuvre a teenager. Peter immediately curled to his chest and sobbed into his shoulder, miserable and pathetic over his favourite snack being gone.
"Peter, please calm down. Dammit, this isn't working." Peter wasn't coming back to himself, the plan didn't work it was just harder to hold the kid.
Peter sniffled, rubbing a hand over his eyes and Tony gently covered his ears as he called out to the other room. "Loki, turn him back please!"
Tony heard a finger snap from the lounge and suddenly Peter was a two year old again, sniffling into his collar. "Dadda."
"Hey, Petey. You're okay. I'm here."
Tony spun, he knew that voice. Magic man. He was laying on his side on the counter, bright pink sparkly suit throwing bright spots spinning on the walls around him as he casually twirled his hair with his finger.
His 'paint me like one of your french girls' pose would have been funny if he wasn't actively trying to murder Tony's kid.
Tony flicked out a hand, watch unravelling and shifting until it was wrapped around his palm, blaster aimed and ready to fire. Until Magic douche flicked a finger, barely looking up as his magic turned Tony's blaster into a hello kitty glove.
The alarms in the tower were going off but Magic Man flicked another hand and everything froze. As in, Steve was halfway through the door, mouth open in a yell, in a running position but unmoving.
Everything but Tony and Peter were frozen in time. Tony lowered his now useless glove and held Peter tighter. "Nice trick."
Magic man smiled, pleased and nodded. "Isn't it? I picked this one up last night. She was absolutely delicious although a little spicy for my taste but that's what happens where they're terrified."
Tony wrinkled his nose, looking away as he pressed a hand to the back of Peters' head, keeping his face to his neck as Magic Man continued.
"You two are supposed to be prime meat right now but you've run into this little heart problem of yours. It's a shame really, he's never going to completely trust that you're safe ever again. I mean, he was worried about monsters or aliens taking you away but now you could leave him between one beat of the heart and the next and there's nothing that he can do to stop that. No one to fight off, no evil doer to stop just a damaged heart and another father he's going to lose."
That hurt. It was every fear that Tony held inside, that he could lose Peter, no matter what he did to protect the two of them, he could die from a bad heart and there wasn't a weapon in the world that could stop it. No matter how much he loved Peter, and he loved him more than anything, he could hurt him the same way he'd been hurt before, another father leaving their kid alone.
Peter flinched in his arms at his yell but he couldn't help it. He hugged Peter tight as the boy's small hands fisted tightly in his dad's shirt.
Magic Man laughed and waved a hand again, disappearing like a mirage in the desert. "I'll be seeing you, Stark."
Everything snapped back, time unfroze and Steve ran in, the alarms blaring once more.
"Tony, where is Magic Man?"
"Gone." Tony couldn't bring it in himself to care when Peter was so tightly clinging to him, face tucked to his shoulder, hiding.
He pressed his face close to Peters' ear, words whispered and soft. "We're okay, Petey. You can come out now."
"Is he gone?" His tiny voice was muffled but there was nothing else that Tony cared about just then.
"Yeah Buddy, it's just us."
And it was. After checking to make sure they were okay, Steve had run off with the others t try and track the man that had invaded their lives yet again.
But Peter didn't come out of his hiding spot until Tony spoke up to the ceiling. "Friday, turn the alarms off."
It had been too loud for the little arachnid and now that it was quiet he relaxed, muscles easing where they'd been tightly coiled. He sagged in Tony's hold and pressed his ear back to Tony's heart, little hands holding his shirt in a tired grasp.
"Are you okay? Peter, answer me."
The boy nodded but stayed silent, worrying Tony further and he wasn't sure if he was ready for the oncoming conversation but it was happening either way.
"Peter, what Magic Man said…? Do you really feel that way? Like you might lose me at any moment? Is that why you won't turn back?"
The room was quiet and still and Tony held his breath until he got an answer. Another small nod came and Tony sighed, eyes pricking with guilty tears. "Fuck, Peter...I'm so sorry. I never wanted you to feel that way. I didn't mean for this to happen, I mean I didn't even think I'd want kids with Pepper. I never thought I'd be any good at it but then I met you and I just...You changed me, Pete. You made me better."
He laughed a little, Peter rocking against his chest as it rose and fell in panting bursts.
"I never thought I'd be this guy. The stay at home dad, sitting on the floor of his kitchen willing to do anything just to make his little one smile. But I would, Pete, I'd do anything."
Peter was quiet still and Tony pulled him higher up on his shoulder so that he could snuggle him, arms tight around his small, warm body. He closed his eyes and took a breath, trying to find the right words to say. "You know I'm never going to leave you, buddy. Not if I can help it."
Peter finally spoke and Tony almost wished he hadn't, his tiny, sniffly voice thick with tears. "Your hearts sick."
And that's what hurt the most. There was no promise Tony could make that would make it hurt any less. Peter had lost his parents and his uncle and the reality was that Tony had no say over when he left Peter. He had a bad heart, every beat could be his last and as a hero, every mission he went out on could be the thing that ended him. And it wasn't fair.
Tony rubbed the kids back and kept his eyes closed in an attempt to keep his tears at bay but it did nothing to stop the wobble in his voice.
"Yeah, but I'm doing everything I can to make it better and Bruce is too. I'm taking my medicine and eating my veggies and doing exercise so that it can get stronger. I'll be okay kiddo. And listen…"
It wasn't a concept he wanted to explain to a child but he thought it may have been harder to explain if Peter was his teenage self, looking at him with his big sad eyes.
"Petey sometimes people...sometimes they have to go and it's sad and scary but it's not on you to make them stay. I know you miss your mum and dad and uncle Ben but none of it was your fault. And when I go, way, way off in the future when you're all grown up and old too, that won't be your fault either. I'm going to do everything I can to stay with you, Pete. You don't have to be scared of losing me."
Finally, after all that worry, a cloud of smoke enveloped the both of them, small Peter disappearing as he returned to his teenager self at last. He didn't move from his spot, arms just wrapping tighter around Tony as he pressed his face to his mentor's neck.
"But I am. I'm so scared." He sniffled, voice shaky and Tony felt his shirt wet with tears.
The spell was broken and Peter was no longer paralyzed by fear but that doesn't mean he doesn't feel it.
Tony hugged him back, adjusting his hold for his now bigger kid, settling him to sit on his lap so he could hug him closer. It did occur to him that they never would have been caught dead in such a vulnerable position before, but now all he could think was that he didn't want to let go.
"Aw Pete. Now you know how I feel whenever you go out as Spider-Man."
Peter was back, finally, he had his kid back and Tony wanted to make a big deal of it. He wanted to scream and dance and let everyone know but he knew if he did, the moment would be lost and he'd never get Peter to talk about his fear of losing him again. So, he stayed quiet, the cry of joy that his Peter was back kept inside.
Peter let out a wet, slightly erratic laugh through his tears. "You promise you'll take care of yourself?"
Tony closed his eyes and rubbed a hand over the kids back, voice weighty with importance.
Peter's voice was whiny and nasal, nose stuffy from his tears but it only made Tony smile.
"Good. Cause I'm gonna need you for a long long time."
Tony laughed, rocking the two of them to try and get Peter to feel better.
"Me too. I love you so much, Bug."
Tony could feel Peter freeze at the words, and for a moment Tony was worried he'd done something wrong. Until he felt Peter shift against him and his voice came with a smile. "I love you too, Mr Stark."
Tony let himself feel the joy then, he squeezed tighter than he could a normal person and smooshed a kiss on the teenager's cheek. "God, I missed you, Petey! You have no idea how happy I am to have you back to yourself."
Peter laughed again, resting heavy on Tony's chest, safe and secure in his arms and he lifted a hand to pull irritably at his overalls and dinosaur t-shirt. "Believe me, I'm happy too."
Tony sat back, looking the boy over and making a face. "Oh, no you're keeping this outfit. It's adorable."
"I don't care what Flash says, I think they're awesome."
Peter looked down at his light-up shoes flashing as he adjusted his backpack. "Thanks! I'm thinking of putting some in the suit but Mr Stark says it would be hard to get lights and wheels in the boots without making them too chunky."
Ned nodded along, the two of them discussing designs and alteration until a horn honked. They looked up towards the curb where Tony was parked in a red and gold sports car, one that he'd designed himself and that Peter had helped work on. He was hanging out of the side smiling and waving his arm as if he could be any more conspicuous.
"Petey! Hurry up, we're gonna be late for tonight!"
A while ago Peter would have been embarrassed but now he just smiled as his classmates gawked. They'd get used to it and Flash could eat his shit. He slapped a palm on Ned's arm in goodbye and ran over, throwing his backpack in the back before slipping into the front.
"Hey, Dad. How was work?"
That was something else that had changed. It slipped out so easily from Peters' mouth and Tony smiled every time. He didn't use it all the time, it was more like a nickname or an inside joke but it held the weight of a truth they both felt. It was so natural and Tony reached an arm out to ruffle Peters' hair.
"It was good, kid. Quill called, he and the others are coming to visit and he said he'd show you his spaceship like you asked."
Peter practically bounced in his seat, hands fumbling for his phone as Tony pulled the car away from the curb.
"That's awesome! Oh my god, can Ned come?"
Tony hummed, mulling it over. "Hmmm fine. But no photos, no snapchat, no nothing, okay?"
Peter let out a yell as he texted as fast as his fingers could manage. "YES! Thank you, Mr Stark! You're the best!"
Tony laughed, eyebrows bouncing. "I know."
It wasn't as if they had forgotten about the looming threat of Magic Man, he could come for them at any moment but they were too happy to let the little threat of a cannibal spoil their mood.
By the time they got back to the compound, Peter was so excited he could hardly wait for Tony to park the car. "Wait, Pete! Jesus, don't jump out of a moving vehicle. Do I need to put a child lock on this thing?"
Peter tapped his shoes on the floor of the car, making the lights blink as he waited impatiently for the car to stop moving. "Sorry, sorry I just want to see the space ship!"
He didn't have to wait long, as soon as he stepped out onto the concrete his curls were swept back by the wind being churned around by the ship landing on the lawn.
Tony pressed an arm across Peters' chest to keep him from running up to it before it had landed properly and the kid was practically shaking with excitement. He thought Quill and the others would have been excited too but when they all walked out they just seemed distressed. Quill ran around to the front, urging Groot to get something off the windshield.
Tony let Peter go and they made their way over, catching the end of the conversation as Groot placed whatever he'd gotten, into Quill's hands.
"Hey, what's going on?"
Quill looked up as Rocket began lecturing Groot about eating bugs. The poor Star-Lord looked so guilty Tony grew worried. "Look, it was an accident. I promise I didn't mean to he just flew into my windshield! I didn't even see him!"
More Avengers were gathering around at the commotion and Tony felt Rhodey close to his side as he shook his head, confused. "What are you talking about?"
Quill offered his hands, showing everyone the half bug half man that lay on his palm. The sparkly bug man. "Was he a friend of yours? He was headed straight for the compound when he….well, you know."
Tony and Peter let out the same breath as they stared in awe. "Magic-Man."
Bucky, standing behind Peter, raised his eyebrows thoughtfully. "He must have gotten another power."
Quill was about to apologize when the bug-man twitched, legs jerking erratically and everyone jumped back in fright, Peter letting out a disgusted cry.
"Uegh! He's still alive!"
Of all the renowned assassins they had gathered in one place, not one of them moved. When the newspaper came swinging down to splatter the bug against Quill's palm, it was Rhodey holding the end.
Poor Quill, still unsure about the history of the now dead thing in his hand, stared in horror, mouth hanging open as Rhodey took his newspaper back, curling a disgusted lip at the smear left on the guardian's palm.
"Well. At least now we don't have to worry about him eating you."
(AN: The 'baby stark do do do do' thing was from tumblr user 'steveplustony' i saw the post and couldn't resist. Its comedic genuis.
and also thank you so much to everyone that supported this fic, that read it and liked it and reviewed and thank you for being so patient! I'm sorry there were some little plot lines I was growing and didn't end up using so I'm sorry about that but I hope you liked it this was such a fun one to write thank you so much to everyone! and thank you Allyyyy for helping meeee)