“You’re out of my mind!”
Tony doesn’t even grace that with a snort. “I’ve heard that one before. And you have probably, too.”
“I should’ve listened to them. You have to be out of your mind to ask this of me.”
“Relax, it’s no big deal.”
“You’re asking a nineteen-year-old to be in charge of one of the biggest companies in the world!”
The man shrugs, as if it’s not a big deal. “You’re the only both Pepper and I trust enough to do this.”
Tony and Pepper, the very newlyweds, are supposed to go on a secret honeymoon. Only for a couple of days, because if they vanish from the eye of the public for too long, people might get suspicious. They’re flying to some very small island (Tony said he bought it and Peter isn’t quite sure if the man is joking or not), completely cut-off from society and technology. Well, except for one phone for absolute emergencies like another alien invasion.
To Peter’s enormous surprise, he not only got that emergency phone number, but they also asked him to sit in Tony’s lab at SI (they first suggested Pepper’s office, but the idea freaked him out so much, they quickly decided to come up with a different plan) and the leader of one of the biggest companies in the world (!!!) by proxy.
“You don’t have to make any decisions,” Tony says, trying her best to calm Peter down. “We’ve talked everything through with Pepper’s assistant Ian and there are no major projects going on right now. Your only job is to sit there and decide if the emergency everyone claims to have is actually an emergency or just Sarah from PR just being overly dramatic.”
“Is Sarah from PR often overly dramatic?”
“You have no idea. Next to her, I’m the most down to earth guy you’ll ever meet.”
That’s hard to believe, but there are more pressing matters than Sarah’s dramatic streak. “But what if I make a mistake?”
“Buddy,” Tony says softly, walking over to the couch where Peter is currently having his crisis. Sitting down next to him, he throws his arm around his shoulders, giving him a squeeze. “If you’re worrying about ruining the company-”
“Please don’t say it out loud.”
“-don’t worry about it. I did so much shit in my days as CEO, the company should’ve gone bankrupt at least eleven times. I mean, please don’t see it as a challenge to actually do something that would ruin us, but I don’t have any doubts that everything will be fine.”
“I just… don’t think I’m good enough.”
“You are, Peter. I already told you, there’s no one better for this than you. So? What do you say?”
Peter glances at the man who went from idol to mentor and to something like a father-figure over the last few years. If he says no, Tony and Pepper would most likely cancel their honeymoon, and Peter knows how excited they are for that trip. He can’t be the reason they aren’t going.
“Well… if you’re sure you want me to do it, then… okay, I guess. I’ll do it.”
“Thank you, Peter,” Tony beams, pressing him against his side. “I knew I could count on Spider-Man.” Peter only gives him a shaky smile, already feeling like he’s ready for retirement.
Peter has to hide in Tony’s lab for five days in total. When he first got there, Pepper’s assistance Ian greeted him. They’ve seen each other a couple of times, and in Peter’s eyes, he’s a very competent man – you have to be, if you’re Pepper Stark’s assistance and are keeping up with her demanding schedule.
The first day, Peter doesn’t get interrupted, and he has enough time to work on all of the MIT work he took with him, knowing that there’s no better place to work on his project than Tony Stark’s lab. The second day, he gets interrupted by Ian a couple of times to nod of some documents (Pepper reassured him that he doesn’t have to make decisions, but as their official substitute, he has to give his final okay).
It happens on the third day. He’s elbow-deep in a hologram, working on an engine he has been designing, when Ian stops by once more. “Hey, can you approve this one real quick?”
“Yeah, uh,” Peter says, looking from the hologram to the man. “Can it wait, like, five seconds? It’s just-”
Ian smiles and shakes his head dismissively. “Yeah, no problem. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
Out of the corner of his eye, Peter sees him leave, and a minute later (once he got his hands out of that hologram), he walks over to the table to take a look at the document. Like all the other times, his eyes fly over the page, not really reading it, but he would feel bad to approve them without at least taking a glance at them.
However, when his eyes fly over the calculations, he notices an error. Going back to that line, he takes another look, making sure that he actually read it the right way – he did. The math is still wrong and if he would approve this the way it is right now, it would cost SI a small fortune.
Immediately, a knot forms in Peter’s stomach. Until now, he never told Ian no, but he can’t approve this. What is he supposed to do? Pepper and Tony didn’t prep him for a situation like this. Is this one time sensitive? Is he allowed to find out more about this project? The need to call Tony and ask is almost overwhelming, but he promised to only call in the case of an alien invasion or something similar.
When Ian returns a couple of minutes later to collect the document, Peter still doesn’t know what to do. “Good to go?” the man asks, smile still in place, already reaching for the papers.
Peter gulps. “Actually,” he answers, pulling the stack to himself, “I can’t approve that.”
For a second, Ian stares at him. “What do you mean?”
“There’s a mistake in here and-”
“There’s no mistake, I wrote it myself,” he interrupts Peter, the smile dropping from his face to be replaced by a scowl. “It’s perfectly fine.”
“No, it’s not. I think you might have a simple calculation mistake. If I could just look at the rest of the data-”
“No, you can’t, it’s classified,” he says in an icy voice. “You could sell out trade secrets.”
Peter kind of wants to point out that it would be very dump of Pepper and Tony to appoint him their substitute if they would think there’s even the tiniest chance of him selling out some classified information – and they aren’t dumb people.
However, he bites his tongue. “I’m sorry,” he says, voice firm and pulling the stack all the way to him, “but I can’t approve it. Not like this.”
Ian is very much not happy about it. According to Happy (who stops by to keep him company during his lunch break) he tells everyone who’s listening – and isn’t listening – that Peter obviously has no idea what he’s doing and that he’d only been appointed to this position because Tony has been blinded by his parental love for the boy.
It makes it even worse that Peter actually kinda agrees with him, but it still stings. He might have no clue about how to run a business, but he knows math. And there simply had to be a mistake somewhere in that calculation, and if he could just take a look at the original data, he could figure it out.
But he’s not allowed to. FRIDAY told him that either Pepper or Tony have to give him access (which they didn’t) – or he has to go through Ian. Which is a big no. So, all he does is hide in Tony’s lab, the document in question always at the edge of his field of vision, paranoid that someone (read: Ian) might sneak in to steal it.
Day four gets worse. Ian tries to make Peter approve the paper a couple of times, reminding him that he’s nothing but a place holder until the Starks return and that Ian himself has worked for Pepper for years and never made a mistake. Peter, unable to hold it in, only shrugged and said that there’s always a first time for everything.
After that, Ian actually synched other people on him, like the head of the R&D lab (who wasn’t that interested in getting the paper and spent an hour talking about Peter’s project), someone from HR, and the infamous Sarah who is at the very least just as dramatic as Tony.
But Peter stays strong. Even when Sarah swears this will be the downfall of the US (Peter didn’t quite follow how she came to that conclusion, but she didn’t left any room for questioning her logic) if he doesn’t hand over those papers.
On day five, he decides to channel his inner Tony – lock the door of the lab, turn up the volume of his music, and tells FRIDAY to open the door only in case of emergencies. He’s pretty sure this isn’t really what Tony or Pepper had in mind, but what is that saying? If you’re bad enough at a job, you will never have to do it again? And Peter never wants to be the substitute CEO again.
“What’s going on here?” a voice cuts off his music, and Peter whirls around. He has to blink a couple of times to make sure that Pepper and Tony are actually standing in the lab (both of them wearing hideous Hawaii shirts, which had probably been Tony’s idea). A quick glance to the clock tells him that he’s been in the lab way longer than he noticed. “Is this some kind of parent trick? Are you trying to show me how annoying it is when I’ll do this?”
“If only it would be this easy,” Pepper mumbles, but Peter sees the smile hiding in the corner of her mouth.
“Uh, no,” Peter says, knowing he has to say what’s been going on. “I hid from Ian. And basically everyone else.”
Both Starks pull their eyebrows together. “Ian?” Pepper asks. “Why?”
“Because I didn’t approve this paper. There’s a calculation error, but he didn’t believe me and didn’t let me look at the original numbers to fix it.” He holds out the document to them, and Pepper grabs them, flipping over a few pages until they find part in questions.
Tony cocks his head to the side. “Well, you’re right. Those numbers don’t add up. It would’ve costed SI quite a bit.” Suddenly, a smile breaks out on his face and he stares at Pepper with a look Peter can only describe as love-sick. “Aw, honey, this reminds me of how we met! You threatened to pepper spray Happy! So romantic.”
Peter’s question gets ignored.
Pepper gives her husband a smirk and a kiss against his cheek (Peter can’t wait for this weird honeymoon-phase to wear off and for them to go back to their normal flirty banter, it makes him a lot less nauseous), before flipping the pages back. “I’ll talk to Ian in the morning,” she declares. “That behavior isn’t acceptable.”
“Please don’t fire him or anything,” Peter throws in, suddenly feeling guilty. Yeah, he didn’t really like how the man treated him these past couple of days, but that doesn’t mean he deserves to lose his job.
Before Pepper can answer, Tony only shrugs. “We’ll see. People who act like this when someone points out their mistakes aren’t really that fit for a position like his – or any position, to be honest. Now, how about pizza?”