For the drabble request!!! Soul guide AU!!! Cuddles both Peter and Tony with their soul guides and/or Peter Tony platonic cuddles and Buddy and Tiger copying them!!!
Of course my lovely internet sibling! Here's the first half of hurt and I'll deliver you some comfort next week to join it! ;D
Hope you enjoy!
(Ao3) (Soul Guide AU masterlist)
You Know What It Meant To Love Him
The room was dark and quiet, and the sky seen through the window was painted with a sea of shimmering stars. Besides the gentle hum of the crickets outside, the sway of tree branches as a lazy breeze passed by was the only sound to be heard within the cosy little cabin. By all accounts it was a beautiful night. A gentle, soothing, peaceful night…
But deep within where no one else could see, a war was raging the planes of Tony’s mind.
Memories rose up like a tidal wave, knocking him down- pulling him under. Just when he thought he could claw his way back to the surface, that familiar voice would drag him right back down again, calling him into a time he both dreaded and mourned so greatly. Tony was no stranger to these spirals. He’d experience them all before, for far too many reasons. A flash of a smile, an echo of laugh, a dog with golden fur… That’s all it took. Just one shard of a memory and suddenly they all came rushing back in, drowning him under the weight of all he had lost. All he had failed to protect.
“Are you alright honey?”
Tony tensed at the voice and the soft hand that came to rest over his shoulder, trying desperately to still the quivers that raced throughout his nerves. As selfish as it was, he was glad he was facing the window. Glad his wife didn’t have to see the broken mess he so often was this time of the year.
“Do you want to talk about it?” Pepper’s sweet voice prompted again.
Tony’s fingers curled up with an old instinct, and he tried to ignore the deep ache within his heart when all he felt was the blanket and not the heavenly soft fur that he longed to feel instead.
Four years- God, had it already been four years…?
Noticing the tension coiled up in his shoulders like a snake, Pepper’s hand began to trace calming circles into his hair, letting the silence fall over them when it became obvious that Tony was in no place to speak just yet. And for a moment, it almost worked. For a moment Tony eased back into her embrace and slid eyes shut in content. In peace, he dared to dream.
But just as quickly as Pepper’s touch had grounded him, the memory of gloved hands clawing onto his jacket for purchase rushed in to knock him down again. Suddenly he wasn’t in his bedroom anymore- No, suddenly he was on an ashen red planet that reeked of nothing but death. A planet that echoed with the memory of Peter’s trembling voice and Buddy’s pained whimper. Even now they were crying for help- his help!
“I don’t feel so good…”
No, no, not again-
“I don’t wanna go Tony, please- please, I don’t wanna go, I don’t wanna go-“
Jumping out of bed with a gasp, Tony swayed on unstable legs and tried to blink that haunting dust out of his vision once more. He could feel his fingers twitching even as he pressed them against his stuttering chest, aching for a comfort he knew he could never find again. May had talked about the sensation before in one of their many late-night chats, recalling the way her shoulders would tense without warning or her arm would raise without realising. Once they had just been a force of habit- instinctual even. But now they were nothing more than an unanswered call for a soul guide that didn’t exist…
Drawing in another strained breath, Tony’s thoughts finally cleared up enough that he noticed the concerned blue eyes blinking up at him from the bed, rushing to reassure his wife “I-I’m fine, I… I’m okay now…”
“Honey…” Pepper started with that awfully worried expression. Tony hated when she worried like that, especially when it was his fault for making her so.
“Sorry Pep, I… I’m fine, really,” he said, forcing a smile that looked as broken as he felt. “I just… need some fresh air I think. Clear my head…”
“Are you sure?” she asked kindly- an invitation to talk.
But walking around the bed and pretending he didn’t feel like his legs would give out at any moment, Tony leant down to press a kiss to Pepper’s hairline and said, “Promise, I’m alright.”
The slight furrow in her brow told Tony that she didn’t fully believe him, but knowing her husband well enough not to fight it either, she gave his hand a quick, encouraging squeeze and said, “I’m here if you need me, okay?”
Smiling weakly, Tony thanked the stars that he was lucky enough to still have Pepper by his side. Losing his soulmate had almost destroyed him all those years back, and he had spent his days lost in space terrified that he would return home to find the rest of his family gone too. He didn’t think he could cope with any more loss…
But refusing to let himself spiral again, Tony gave Pepper’s hand a final gentle squeeze before stepping out of the room and into the quiet hallway. He considered going to check on Morgan, but he knew seeing her now would only make the memories of the child he had lost that much stronger. Some days the memories were welcomed. Some days he could tell Morgan story upon story of Peter’s old misadventures, and smile with May as they reminisced about all of the boy’s little quirks.
But some days were much harder to bear. Some days Tony would shatter like broken glass just at the mention of his soulmate, or tear up when he saw a golden retriever that he knew couldn’t be- would never be his own. Today was one of those days, so making his way down the stairs, Tony made a beeline for the back door in the hopes of avoiding the many photos that were framed throughout the cabin. He loved those images. Each of them held a special place in his heart, and he wanted Morgan to grow up with Peter’s memory close by, even if she never got to meet him herself.
But as much as he loved them, he couldn’t bear to see them right now. Not like this…
The breeze was warm when Tony stepped out onto the porch, drawing in a breath of that soothing forest air as he moved to lean his arms against the railing. For a moment he just stared out into the shadowed forest with his mind feeling as empty as the space by his side had for four long years now. Another twitch raced through his fingers at the reminder, but Tony quickly distracted himself by listening to the gentle lap of water from the lakeside instead.
It was nice out here. Not a day went by where Tony wasn’t glad that they decided to move away from the city. The serenity of the forest seemed like heaven compared to the busy world of New York, and despite his love of tech, he had to admit that nature had its own charm to it as well. Either that, or he really was becoming old.
The only thing he regretted about his life out by the lakeside though was that Peter never got to see it. The boy would have loved swimming around in the lake or climbing the arching trees with the help of his spider powers. He would have come over for dinner with the rest of the family, and had a room that he could call his own upstairs, and god- he would have loved Morgan. His little sister. They would’ve been inseparable, Tony could tell.
But he never got to meet her. In fact, there were a lot of things that Peter never got to do. He never got to swing around New York again, never got to see his family, never got to graduate, to grow up, to grow old like he should’ve-
He never got to live the life that he deserved…
A quiet whine to the left startled Tony out of his thoughts, blinking over in shock only to meet a set of familiar, tired blue eyes. Eyes that -a few years back- he feared he’d never get to see again, but were now just a part of his new normal. A normal that they had learnt to forge in the midst of their shared loss.
“Hey Tiger,” Tony murmured to the cat perched on the rail a few feet away. His counterpart didn’t usually interact with him much, but some small part of him felt like he would be disappointing Peter if he didn’t at least try to connect with him.
The cat observed him carefully for a moment, and Tony tried not to notice how suspiciously glassy Tiger’s eyes were when he turned his stare back out towards the forest. The dull moonlight turned Tiger’s usually silver fur into a shimmering coat of metal, shifting and warping with even the slightest turn of the breeze. Tony had to admit that it was hypnotising to watch. Soothing, even. Like a beacon of light amidst the sea of darkness.
Tony never used to understand what Peter saw in the cat all those years ago, but the boy had loved him nonetheless. He’d loved Tony, even when he didn’t feel he deserved it. And now -with no soulmate or soul guide to tie them together- the question wasn’t what they had meant to Peter, but who they meant to each other.
For the longest time Tony had only ever seen his mistakes reflected in Tiger. The scars in his chest, the sharpness of his claws, the coldness of his eyes- his every flaw. His weakness. But it was only in the absence of the boy and dog that had forged them together that Tony realised all the things that Peter had seen in him instead.
Strength. Stability. Loyalty. Tiger was the one that never left, the one Peter could always rely on to be there for him when the universe stole another loved one away. He had been Peter’s longest friend, his most comforting companion. He had been everything Tony wanted him to be for Peter, and for that, he was grateful. So incredibly grateful.
And now, as they watched the stars shift across the skyline in a heavy silence, Tony saw something new in the lost soul guide. He saw understanding. The same weariness in his bones, the same grief in his eyes. The same memories burning deep within their souls. And while many had loved Peter, none of them had loved Peter in the same way they had. No one else had cradled his soul in the curve of his hands, or soothed him to sleep through every horrid nightmare, or held him through the darkest moments so that he never knew the cold embrace of loneliness.
No-one else knew Peter like they had, and in that knowledge, there was comfort. A sense of relief to know that they were not alone in this world either, and that Peter nor Buddy would ever be forgotten so long as they were alive to share the memories they treasured so dearly.
“He would have been twenty this year…”
Tony didn’t know exactly why he said it, but when Tiger glanced over at him, there was nothing but solemn understanding in his eyes.
“He would have been in college by now… Can you believe that? Our Peter, our little Buddy- all grown up,” Tony added on with a stilted smile, only to hang his head when a new wave of tears began to burn through his vision. “Shit… he still had so much left to do…”
It hurt to say. Hurt to voice the thoughts that had haunted him for so long, but if anybody was going to understand, he knew it would be the part of his soul that had experienced it all alongside him.
“Everything feels so wrong without them here,” Tony admitted weakly. “Before Peter… before Buddy showed up, it was easier to try and ignore the emptiness. Now... it’s all I feel.”
A tired mewl returned in agreement.
“I miss them- god, I miss them so much…”
If the cat reacted, Tony couldn’t see it through the blaze of tears in his eyes, pressing a hand over his face as he struggled to reign his emotions back in. But he’d started himself down a path he knew he couldn’t return from now, memory upon memory flooding his every thought until his breath began to stutter from the weight of it all.
Days spent in the lab together working on everything from homework to nanotech.
Evenings in the penthouse watching movie marathons as they curled up on the couch side by side.
Holding Buddy in his arms for the first time.
Holding Peter in his arms for the first time.
Holding them both for the last time…
Slowly, as Tony’s flow of tears morphed into muted sobs at the memories, Tiger began to inch his way along the rail with equally as silent movements. He was so stealthy in fact that the man didn’t even realise he was there until a soft paw prodded against his arm, startling him enough that he physically flinched at the contact before turning to stare at the feline in shock. Tiger -though not as confused as his counterpart- gazed back at him in caution, tail twitching as he watched Tony’s every move with laser precision.
The tears shimmering in those icy blue depths were quick to draw Tony back to his senses though, and as his shoulders lowered in sympathy, so too did Tiger’s wariness morph back into sorrow. Seeing the grief carved so painfully into the cat’s features made Tony’s heart ache in a way that only Peter or Buddy had ever been able to do before. It reignited an instinct that lived deep within his soul, urging him to reach forward even though past experience warned him that it would only end in disaster.
But despite his hesitance, despite all those years they had spent in indifference -sometimes even hatred- towards each other, Tony reached out.
And to his surprise and utter relief, Tiger actually accepted it, leaning into his hand with a contented sweep of his tail. It should have been a victory. A source of pride to see the progress they had made, even just in the year since Tiger had come back into his life.
But instead of breaking into a smile, Tony only broke into tears when he remembered that Peter would never be able to see this moment. The boy had tried for years to get them to connect, attempting everything from soul guide help books to just outright throwing the cat into his arms once. It would have brought him so much joy to see them right now, talking to each other, comforting each other…
Just another one of those things Peter never got to see.
Tiger was the first to move this time, eyes spilling over with tears as he pressed further into Tony’s calloused hand. While logic told him he shouldn’t push his luck, Tony’s heart knew exactly what the cat was asking for- what his own soul had been missing for four long years.
So with gentle hands he scooped the cat into his arms and went to sit down in the nearby chair, bones aching with more than just age as he noticed how different Tiger was from the soul guide he had once embraced on the daily. His fur was longer than Buddy’s but coarser in texture, and his lithe figure made it difficult to keep a secure hold of him. But whereas Buddy had grown into a lanky teenage retriever that became increasingly awkward to hold, Tiger seemed to melt right into his arms and fit his head perfectly into the curve of Tony’s collarbone. Soft and warm. Steady and soothing.
It was no wonder Peter always loved to hold him so much, though for Tony, it was still no match to Buddy’s pelt of golden curls or Peter’s strong, stable heartbeat against his own.
But those times were long gone- mere memories of an old man and a lost cat now. No, all they had left was each other. And though it didn’t fill the void in their hearts or make the emptiness any less painful, it reminded them of all that they shared. All that they remembered. All that they had loved.
Together, they waited out the storm, suffering through every wave of grief and reliving every fragment of joy. And when the tears finally ran dry and the thoughts drew to a halt, sleep was quick to find them, finding solace in the one place they’d never thought to look before.
@joyful-soul-collector @lost-lunar-wolf @lbigreyhound13 @aixabi @zanderljones @milstrim @anarinette @sfabsha @appleschloss @sdottkrames @katthebookiestnerd
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