Hi. My name is Peter Parker. You might know me from such hits as “local idiot accidentally poisons himself” or “resident disaster human being gets his girlfriend lettuce, thinking it were flowers”. (Luckily, both these happenstances went over without too much of a hitch. But you probably already guessed that, otherwise I wouldn't be able to tell you all this, now would I?)
This is the story of another time I – albeit with the best intentions – really messed up.
It all started about ten days ago. I was at home, just minding my own business, when the doorbell rang, followed by my Aunt calling out: “Peter, you have visitors!”
After putting down my comic book, I walked out to the living room, to find Mr Captain America, Mr The Winter Soldier White Wolf and Mr Falcon standing there.
“Heya, Queens”, Mr America smiled. “You doing alright?”
“Yeah, Brooklyn”, I grinned back. “What brings you by?”
“We could do with your help on a mission.”
“What kind of mission are we talking about here?” Aunt May eyed the Avengers quite sternly, and it was almost funny to see the superheroes, that had fought in World War II shy back in fear. Totally understandable, though, I don't think there's anyone that warrants more respect than Aunt May. Ok, maybe Pepper Potts. And most definitely MJ. MJ, that's short for Michelle Jones, she's my girlfriend the absolute best, most wonderful person, ever. Like, she's so smart, she's really badass and doesn't take anybody's shit. And she's so pretty, like really beautiful, inside even more so than out, although that's not even possible. And when she laughs... The whole room lights up and my brain's entire bio-chemistry just blows up. MJ is the absolute best, perfection incarnate and I realize that I maybe may have trailed off a bit there... Sorry 'bout that, let me get back to the story.
Where was I?
Right, Mr America, Bucky, Sam, a mission and a stern Aunt May.
“It's nothing military”, Steve explained. “It's Tony's birthday coming up and we'd like to get him something special.”
“That's why we need your help”, Sam continued. “You do know him better than we do, after all.”
“And you probably have the best idea what to get the guy that already has everything”, Bucky finished their pitch.
“That is a really wonderful idea”, May smiled.
“Yeah, it's totally awesome”, I agreed. “And I might just have an idea what to get him...”
For purposes of dramatic story telling, I won't share the surprise we got for Mr Stark just yet. Rest assured though, it is a good one.
Spending the afternoon together was a lot of fun. After having gotten the surprise, we all went for doughnuts. The Avengers couldn't stay too long though, they had appointments back at the compound, some sort of meeting, that I am happy to miss out on. Seriously, those Avenger meetings are boring as hell!
So I did what I love doing in my free time: I went out on patrol.
Oh right, that's something else you need to know about me first. Do you see that red figure, swinging through the streets, doing a flip and landing right over there on that rooftop? Yeah, that's me. For I am a superhero! But not just any old superhero, I am the one and only Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Man, vigilante par excellence and part time Avenger. As little as I enjoy showing off, I have to admit that this is pretty awesome. I'm super strong, can climb up walls, walk on ceilings and my newest suit update even made me bulletproof! (Well, not me directly, but to quote the one and only Ironman: “The suit and me are one”, so you get where I'm going with this.)
That particular day there wasn't going on too much, though. Few pick-pockets, a car thief, but other than that it was slow, crime-wise. The problem with days like these is that it gives my mind plenty of chances to roam, especially around that one thought: I still hadn't found the perfect birthday gift for Mr Stark myself. Which yes, sounds ironic, given that I had found the perfect thing for the other Avengers to gift him, but not the right thing for me to give him. You see, our relationship started out as this sort of mentorship, where he helped me with the suit, showed me the way around an engineer's lab and is always ready to help out during patrol. By now he's more like my family. And yes, I found this pretty funny shirt, with that graph having a bunny and a duck as the x- and y-axes. No, let me rephrase that, it's not pretty funny, it's freaking hilarious. But it doesn't really say how important Mr Stark and our relationship is to me.
But what do you give the guy who is kind of like a Dad to you?
Unfortunately, even though I'm pretty smart, this thought process took a lot longer than I'd have liked. Even with the help of Ned and MJ, the smartest and best people I know, I got jack with a side of squat. The best thing they came up with was for me to cook a nice dinner for Mr Stark and Pepper. Which would be a wonderful idea, if I could cook something other than toaster-waffles or microwave-popcorn. And, as delicious as either of those are, neither really make for a fancy dinner fit for my father-figure's fiftieth birthday.
“Come on, you can make him a cake at least”, Ned mumbled, clearly caring more about my issue than the Spanish Test we were supposed to be taking right now. And that is the exact reason why he's my best friend and why I love him so.
“Fine. You know how to make a cake?”
“That's what the internet's for”, MJ hissed over.
So that's where I ended up (after getting detention for talking during a test), in front of my computer, googling how to make a cake. But just a cake wasn't enough. It was like a nice entrée, but the main course had to be so mind-blowingly amazing, showing Tony how much he means to me.
At this point of the story I'd like you all to burn into your mind how pure my intentions were and you have to agree that all I'm doing is the most amazing shit. Right, now that we're in agreement that I'm a wonderful, charming person and a delight to have around, let me continue to where everything started to go downhill.
Regrettably, all my fantastic ideas didn't really hit until the night before, which brings me to my first mistake: me thinking I could plan the most wonderful and amazing gift for Tony in about one night. Needless to say, I didn't really think all of it completely through (Mistake 2). And, for added motivation, I ingested an interesting and possibly quite dangerous mix of coffee and redbull (Mistake 3).
At first everything started out perfectly fine. The recipe was simple enough, I barely burned the damn thing and the parts that were a little dark were easily enough covered in chocolate. Some blueberries on top and I even managed to fit 50 candles on top.
Oh, you should have seen Tony's face when I carried it into the compound, he was so happy!
“Peter, that looks so delicious! I'm not sure I'm that old, though.”
“Sorry”, I shrugged and barely bit down my grin, but it's just so much fun to rile up Tony, especially when it came to his age.
“Yeah, yeah”, he grumbled and, with his arm around my shoulder pushed me to the living room, “let's jump ahead before you say something that might make me throw you out of my house.”
“Sounds good to me.”
“How was school?”
Oh fuck. After spending all morning in the kitchen, there might have been something I might have forgotten... (Mistake 4). Shit, May was so going to ground me.
“Nothing unusual”, I lied. (Mistake 5 – never, ever lie to Tony Stark, no matter how big or small the fib). “MJ and Ned wish you a very happy birthday.”
“Thank them from me. Now, the official party that is supposed to be a surprise starts in an hour.”
“Which of course you know about”, I grinned. It was virtually impossible to keep anything from Tony in this building.
“Naturally”, he grinned back. “Wanna sample a taste first, though?”
“I would love to try this perfection of palpable divinities.” (Misplaced confidence and hubris – mistake 6).
“Right.” It was with a roll of his eyes that Tony got a knife out. “So, the trick is to cut out a small slice from the middle, push the sides back together and...”
“Yeah, yeah, what do you take me for?”, I shot back, “I'm not too dumb myself.” That statement will soon be disproved, but let's revel in the beauty that is this moment where everything is still alright.
And for a few glorious moments, everything was perfect. The cake was delicious and Tony seemed to think so, too. Until he started clearing his throat. And again.
“What's in that cake?”, he coughed, loosening his tie. “Not walnuts, is it?” (And that would be mistake 7).
“Uhm yeah?” Well shit. “Please don't tell me...” Of fucking course Tony would be fucking allergic to my birthday cake. “FRI, tell Bruce we're on our way to the medbay.”
“It's ok”, Tony choked, “I'll be...”
“Yes, you'll be fine.” I tried my all to sound not too panicked, I'm honestly not so sure if I succeeded, what, with my focus being on trying to get Mr Stark some help. Admittedly I all but carried him to the medbay, which he probably didn't appreciate as much as I hoped he would, but well. Safety first. (And maybe, next time, figure out what allergies the people around me have).
A shot from Bruce later, it was ok again. I would love to say it was great, but well. The admittedly disgusting looking swelling around his neck went down, and he even managed to sort of breathe again, but it still didn't look all that healthy. In short: it fucking sucked.
“Hey kid, it's alright, lived through worse.”
That might have been true, but then it hadn't been my fault. And it had been on the battlefield, not within the safety of his home and the comfort that was supposed to be his birthday party.
“And you didn't ruin my birthday”, Tony continued; apparently now able to hear every single one of my thoughts. “It doesn't matter if I look a little puffy on the pictures. It's still gonna be a fantastic party.”
“Of course he knows about the party”, Bruce scoffed. “Who blabbed?”
“Nobody did”, Tony made clear, “I'm a genius, remember?”
“Yeah, so are the other people present.”
Not that I felt much like a genius at that very moment. And Mr Stark was definitely in worse shape than “just a little puffy”. The rash had gone down a bit, but under normal circumstances Tony wasn't that red unless when wearing his iron suit and he tried not to let anything on, but I was pretty sure that whatever Tony would try to eat would be immediately thrown up again.
The other Avengers thought the whole thing to be hilarious. Which it really wasn't. Trust me. I know I wasn't the one who who almost died, but almost killing my father-figure? Being the person responsible for taking down Ironman?
Given the – hopefully understandable – embarrassment, I'm going to skip telling you about the teasing, the comments, the jabs, the laughter and everything the Avengers dished out. Well, as luck would have it, my actual present was still to come and that just had to blow everybody's mind enough that they'd forget my poisoning of Tony.
So not too long into that horrible party, I happily excused myself and headed straight for mistake number 8: letting my frustration motivate all my next moves. It would probably be best to tell you what I envisioned for my proper gift: personalized fireworks. Before you say anything, I now know that it was a horrible idea. There is probably no need for me to tell you what happened next, is there? To put a painful story short there was a loud bang and then things around me go dark.
If I'm being perfectly honest, I couldn't tell you much more details about that very situation if I wanted to, it's all a little hazy and Mr Dr Bruce say it's to blame on me hitting my head when that explosion threw me across the workshop. That we know thanks to FRIDAY, the Stark AI, having recorded it all and it would have been quite nice to remember that because the footage looks rad.
Anyways, I survived. Yay! Aunt May threatened some workshop-restrictions and a bit of grounding, not so yay, and MJ called me a dumbass, which is MJ-language for 'I'm glad you're not dead and I love you'. So, yay on that as well.
At the end of the day it was just Pepper and Tony cuddled on one couch, Happy and Rhodey decidedly not cuddling on another and me with my head on Aunt May's lap while she put her fingers through my hair, which is just the most soothing feeling in the world.
“I don't want to kill the mood, but mind telling us why you first tried to kill me and then yourself?”
“I didn't try to kill anyone. I just wanted to give you the perfect birthday gift.”
“That is the absolute sweetest thing”, he smiled. Well, I think he smiled, his face was at that point still weirdly swollen. “But you do know that every gift from you is the perfect gift, right? Even those ridiculous shirts are worth more than any Gucci suit.”
“Well, if you're bringing it up...” With that bruise on my face my smile looked probably similarly skew and messed up as Tony's. “If the cake was the entrée and the fireworks the main course, this is dessert.” From underneath the couch, where I had hidden it, I got out the last present. It took me probably an hour to wrap that damn t-shirt, suffered countless paper-cuts, invented half a dozen new swearwords and it still looked like it got caught under a steamroller. Maybe giving gifts just isn't my strong suit...
“This doesn't blow up if I open it, does it?”, Tony grinned.
“I didn't expect the other two to go that disastrous, so who knows?”
It didn't blow up, in case you were wondering. And Tony loved it, in case you were wondering about that.
So there we are. I am an idiot, yes, I know that, Mr Stark knows that and you know that, but I believe I'm an adorable idiot. It's been a few days since Mr Stark's birthday, I'm all healed, as is Tony. Of course I have not yet lived it down; the Avengers unfortunately aren't forgetful when it comes to idiocy and therefore I have repeatedly been gifted walnuts over the last few days and will continue to receive them for a long time to come.
But that's alright. The best gift, as it turned out in the end, wasn't for Tony, but for me: at his latest press thing, Mr Stark actually wore the shirt I got him. An official SI press conference, with the most prestigious papers and news outlets from all over the world and he showed up not in a fancy expensive suit, but in the damn science-pun shirt about rabbits and ducks. And all the explosions and near-death experiences can go to hell, because the very picture of Tony wearing MY shirt adorned all the newspapers this morning. And that's the best present anybody could ever get.
Oh shit, wait, I totally forgot to tell you what the Avengers got Tony! You're going to love this. A little hint: Pepper wasn't all that happy about it. Yeah, you got it: a giant plush-bunny! Exactly, it's amazing.
Huh, maybe I'm not that bad at having gift ideas after all...