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Baby Bump

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Baby Bump

At 3 a.m. Tony Stark-Rogers gave up and got out of bed. He stood there for a few minutes glowering at the mattress that had failed to lull him into slumber and the wide span of empty space to the right of where he always at least tried to sleep. How he had gone from someone who could hardly stand to share a bed for an hour or two to someone who couldn't sleep without his husband beside him, he hadn't a clue, but somehow he had. Although it wasn't the absence of his husband keeping him awake this particular night.

He flinched as yet another sharp kick collided with some nerve cluster or other. "Damnit, Peanut," he muttered, rubbing at his belly trying to soothe the restless child inside, "what have you been doing? Taking kickboxing lessons from Nat?"

Sarah Virginia kicked again and he decided somehow, someway this just had to be Natasha Romanoff's fault. He'd accuse her of it except it would please the redheaded assassin way too much and the woman was absolutely terrifying when she wore a pleased grin. The mere thought of it made him shudder. "Come on, baby girl," he said, heading for the door. "Daddy needs a drink."

A drink. That was a laugh. Been 7 months since he'd had anything a Stark would deign to call a drink and, yeah, it had been the first clue. Contrary to public opinion, Tony was not an alcoholic. Sure, he'd abused the stuff on more than one occasion and his old man had made certain he'd started his relationship with booze at far too young an age – make a man out of him, his ass – but he'd never quite crossed the line into flat-out addiction. Still, he'd enjoyed having a scotch in the evening for longer than he could remember, then he'd suddenly lost his taste for it or anything else with a 'proof' label on it.

He'd wondered if he'd like the hard stuff again after Sarah was born although he didn't really miss it. A nice glass of ginger ale over ice made the same sort of sound and soothed his stomach, too. So, no, he didn't miss the booze. Now coffee? That he missed. Big time. Since he'd practically mainlined the stuff pre-Sarah he'd done his research on the effects of caffeine on babies in utero. He'd found some concerns about connections between consumption and low-birth weights, but nothing conclusive. Except … Damnit all, the stuff revved up the baby even more than the … knocked-up parent – because he was not and never would be a mother, fuck you very much, Clint. Given Tony's own propensity for manic energy, he'd seen the writing on the wall and with much whining, lamenting and sulking he'd weaned himself off of his beloved coffee as quickly as he could without suffering withdrawal because saving him from caffeine headaches had not been part of the spell.

He padded – Tony snorted. Who was he kidding? He was at the waddling stage of things, no sense in denying it. – into the kitchen. "JARVIS, Daddy needs a hot vanilla."

"Right away, Sir," the AI answered and, in a horrible misuse of an appliance, his coffee machine went to work. Within a minute Tony had a mug full of hot organic soymilk jazzed up with vanilla, honey and a few spices. It was an old Rogers family recipe and Steve normally made it with a pot on the stove, but Tony didn't do stoves or pots so he'd come up with a way to get his favorite middle-of-the-night fix without resorting to primitive means. Even if Steve's was always better.

Well aware Sarah could decide to Zumba on his kidneys while he had hot liquid in his hand, Tony moved carefully into the parlor and settled on the sofa. "Let's have the news, J," he said after a few satisfying sips.

When nothing happened after a few moments, Tony sighed. "Fuck, what is it this time?"

"Sir-"

"Just put it on the screen," he snapped. "Now."

Immediately the large LED screen mounted on the wall lit up with three talking heads around a table and he groaned at the sight of one of them. Senator Stern. Not one of his biggest fans. Feeling was totally mutual, but add Stern to the other guest – some bitch who loved writing tell-alls about Tony and he'd be damned if he'd learn her name – with JARVIS' reluctance to queue up the news highlights and it wasn't hard to guess this was another round of Why Tony Stark Sucked. Even if the guest-list hadn't given it away, the first utterance of 'Stark' did. It was practically a media-standard. When they were going on an anti-Tony rant, they always called him Stark instead of Stark-Rogers as if they couldn't bear to insult Steve even by the proxy of his hyphenated last name.

Tony patted his belly. "Good thing your pops isn't here or we'd be replacing another television." Steve did not like it when his husband was attacked by the press and had a tendency to put a super-soldier fist through the screen when they did. Hence JARVIS screening the news before airing it. But Cap wasn't here and Tony was in a mood so it might as well get worse. What was it this time? Or what had it been? Given the hour, this was obviously a rebroadcast of something aired during prime time.

"Honestly, I wouldn't put it passed him, Senator," Bitch was saying. "Media scrutiny being what it is these days he can't count on his money to hide any attempts to get around the law. Especially laws put in place to protect innocent children from men like him."

She said it with all the distaste of someone accusing him of pedophilia and really that was over-the-top. Yes, he'd made a lot of mistakes – almost all of them in public – but anything worth tabloid headlines had vanished after he'd escaped Afghanistan. Hell, he'd even managed to keep from admitting he was Iron Man -- mostly to avoid lawsuits, but, hey, it was still a sign of a late-onset of emotional maturity – and then he'd met Steve. Damn, he'd fallen hard and fast for Spangles. Not a big surprise given he'd had a crush on Captain America since before he was old enough to know what a crush was, then add Steve Rogers into the mix and Tony had been a goner as soon as the animosity caused by Loki's glowstick of destiny had vanished. To his utter amazement, Steve had fallen for him, too, and Tony was determined not to make the man regret it. So, no splashy nonsense for this guy. Except. …

"Well, we can't expect much from a man who refused to help his country," Stern sniffed.

Yeah, that. The assclown of a senator and his committee had had Tony hauled in front of them demanding to know why he wasn't doing something to engineer a government-controlled version of Iron Man. No, the world – outside of a handful of people – didn't know he was in the suit, but it was obvious to anyone with more than one brain cell that Stark-tech was behind the armor. The Stark Industries line was that it had been stolen, but given the good Iron Man did they weren't seeking restitution. It kept legal happy and Tony free to use any innovations he developed for the armor for additional projects. It also left him open to screams of not doing his patriotic duty. He'd countered with SI being out of the weapons business so go cry to Justin Hammer. Eventually Tony had realized he wasn't going to ever get Congress off his back if something didn't give so his best friend, Lt. Col. James Rhodes, had received an anonymous early Christmas present and War Machine was born (Tony still refused to acknowledge the name change to Iron Patriot.) So, yeah, there had been that one flashy dustup, but still pre-Cap by a couple of years which meant no one could say he hadn't been a good boy since he'd met, then married the man. Except for the whole 'corrupting Captain America and making him go gay' thing. Tony snorted. As if.

Christine Everhart was apparently the moderator for this little lynching party. Not a fan, but not an enemy either. Or an idiot. She gave her two guests a look Tony could only label incredulous and braced himself for the recap of what he'd missed. "So you're both saying you think Tony Stark-Rogers is faking the pregnancy so he can hide illegally-adopting a child?" Okay, so Tony had not seen that one coming, but, maybe he should have.

Bitch sniffed. "It fits in well with the obvious mid-life-crisis/breakdown he's having. First he marries a man twelve-years younger than him, then he goes wild with all that plastic surgery."

Tony sighed. It was the logical assumption of him going from looking a dashing 42 to a late-20s something and a huge chunk of the hostility toward him prior to the pregnancy announcement had been his refusal to name his plastic surgeon. But how could he? There wasn't one! It had all been part of the same magic/spell/curse/gift whatthefuck ever and he didn't have anyone to blame but himself.

Almost as if his thoughts skittering along the edges of it had called it up, the clip filled the screen. It was of him and Steve at the press conference where they had announced their marriage. They'd been holding hands, the lights glinting off their wedding rings and he might have been a bit cocky about managing to pull off the wedding of the year in secret, so naturally one of the reporters had tried to blindside him.

"Mr. Stark-"

"Stark-Rogers."

"Right, Stark-Rogers, any plans on starting a family?"

Tony blinked, slow on the uptake for once because he'd just sealed the deal on his family – Steve and the Avengers. Couldn't begin to think what more he needed.

"Children?" The reporter clarified almost as if he sensed Tony's confusion.

Oh, well, yeah, no. "Sorry," he answered, "I'm too old and don't have the hips for child-bearing. Next question?"

Everyone had gotten a good laugh about it, but somehow the idea had caught in Tony's mind and that had led to him getting curious about what their mythological children would look like. He'd had JARVIS do a rendering of a boy and a girl.

Cute, but not quite right. "Make their hair blond, J. Dark blond like Steve's."

"Sir, you requested the most likely result of a combination of your DNA with Captain Rogers'. Given your coloring would dominate-"

"JARVIS, the kids are hypothetical. I think we can give them the coloring I want without worrying about dominate and recessive traits."

"Very well, Sir," he answered, his voice having that haughty tone he used to convey disapproval, but he did what Tony asked.

The hair color changed and yeah, perfect. His eyes, Steve's hair – both were beautiful, but he sort of fell in instant love with the little girl and he couldn't bring himself to delete the images. "Save them to my private server."

He'd looked at the images at least once a day over the following week. He'd even come up with names. Sarah Virginia after Steve's mother and Pepper had come to mind almost instantly, but the boy had been harder. He hadn't quite captured Tony's imagination the way the girl had and that was probably part of it, but his name was an argument waiting to happen. Tony would want to name their son after Steve – Steven Grant Rogers, Jr. Steve would counter with at least wanting Anthony as the middle name since Tony had taken his last name which was ridiculous. Steve had been the child of loving parents and had a name worth upholding while Tony … hadn't. Only reason he'd kept Stark as part of it was Stark Industries and habit. And it had gone on like that for at least two days as he'd imagined their first fight as a married couple being over an imaginary baby's name until finally the answer came to him. James – in honor of their best friends who shared an underutilized first name – and Grant as a nod to Steve and, no, just no, on Edward. It was James Grant Rogers and that was that.

Satisfied he'd filed the 'project' under done and had started to turn his mind to other things. That's when the Norse shit had hit the fan and the Avengers had all ended up fighting for Asgard against a frost giant invasion. Through sheer chance Tony had defended the room where most of the Asgardian children had taken shelter and he seriously still did his best to not imagine what would have happened if he hadn't been there. But, hey, fair trade, he'd pretty much been fatally wounded trying to save the day and Odin had allowed his healers to tend to the 'valiant mortal.' So he'd considered everything square when they'd returned to Earth. Showed what he knew.

It had taken the better part of two days for Steve to get over almost losing him long enough to let Tony out of his clutches and let him head down to the workshop. Not that Tony had been complaining. A rattled-Steve tended to be a sexually aggressive one and well, wow.

Tony remembered he'd been humming happily, enjoying the sweet aches visited on a well-loved body, and he meant really well-loved. Next thing he'd known a golden-green hued light had suddenly engulfed him, he'd picked up the distinct smell of apples, then his abdomen had twisted into a burning pain that had made him scream himself into oblivion.

He shook his head. Nothing had ever hurt that much and he found himself looking down at the huge swell of his stomach and hoped it never would again, but he had a bad feeling about his transformation remaining number one on the pain hit parade.

In any case he'd come around in the Avengers infirmary wing with Steve clutching his hand and Bruce fussing over him. And, oh, hey, he'd apparently lost about 15 years of mileage to the apple-glow. So he'd gone from the older man of the relationship – for the record, he only counted the Capsicle years when he wanted to be annoying – to the slightly younger one. Weird hadn't -- didn't -- begin to cover it, although his signature facial hair helped keep things from spilling over into total freak-out every time he looked in the mirror. Apparently he'd pleased Thor's father enough that Odin had let someone do a spell involving the immortality apples and everything old had been new again. Even better, Bruce had figured out he was aging at the same rate Steve was so they had a shot at a long-life together.

They'd taken full advantage of Tony's restored youthful stamina and made out like rabbits on steroids for days. Tony smiled at the memory. Really good days. And if he hadn't wanted his usual scotch at the end of each of them, well, it had hardly seemed like something to worry about. He'd been down with the not worrying plan for a good 3.5 months – and in his defense, he'd never had morning sickness beyond an occasional queasiness and flutter he could pass off as bad sushi or something.

In any case, reality had pulled them both up by the shorthairs in the form of a shared shower. Steve had hoisted him up against the stall and had fucked him into the middle of next week, but as the afterglow had faded his sexy husband had frowned his blue eyes lasered in on Tony's stomach.

He squirmed all too aware that his pants had been fitting a little too snuggly. "Guess I need to lay off the 2 a.m. pizzas."

Steve's frown deepened. "Have you been eating pizza at 2 in the morning?"

Well, no. "Figure of speech."

"Have you been eating anything I haven't seen?"

Well, no, again, and he whined, "I've been working!"

"In other words you haven't eaten anything I haven't brought you."

"No, but you bring me healthy stuff!" Tony loved junk food as much as the next guy, but he'd been trying to treat his body better this time around, and Steve's natural mother-hen tendencies had been an ally not a temptation to stray. "I'm not going hungry!"

"But you haven't been over-eating either." It wasn't a question and Steve set him down on his feet with an alarming gentleness given the enthusiasm with which he'd taken Tony. He kissed Tony on the forehead. "We need to talk to Bruce."

A massive tumor – some sort of side effect of his de-aging – had been in all their minds as Bruce had examined him with Thor nearby to provide any insight he could into what might have happened. A funny look not in all in keeping with someone about to announce a looming doom had crossed Bruce's face. That had vanished quickly into careful neutrality as he'd hooked Tony up to a vaguely familiar piece of equipment. He'd carefully kept a built-in screen turned away from Tony and Steve, but he'd beckoned Thor over.

Thor's eyebrows rose and a rueful smile slowly settled on his face. "Mother's doing, then," he said. "It is her domain."

"What?" Steve demanded, his hand clutching Tony's with careful strength.

"Childbirth."

"Childbirth?" Tony echoed, not getting it.

Bruce turned the screen so they could see an image, then he helped their eyes focus by pointing out the area to look at. "Tony, you're pregnant."

Three words to set their world on end. It seemed the apple-glow had also given him a couple of new internal organs and done something to his pelvis to keep it the same shape yet with the sort of … give it would need for child bearing.

Tony had all but passed out from the shock and Steve hadn't looked much steadier. Had taken a good 15 minutes before Tony had found his voice, and he'd said, "Sarah Virginia" because he'd known right down to his toes it was a girl and exactly what she'd look like when he finally got to hold her in his arms.

JARVIS' scans and Bruce's sonogram had eventually confirmed the baby was indeed a girl, but Tony had never doubted it. He'd been less certain of what came next. Iron Man wasn't a problem. He'd been able to control the suit remotely for more than a year, but he was Tony fucking Stark-Rogers not some actress in a show who could hide behind improbable plots and stacked boxes to mask his pregnancy. Nor could the creative genius behind Stark Industries simply disappear for 4-5 months.

"You can't just pretend you're getting fat, Tony," Pepper Potts said in her long-suffering voice. She used that a lot around him. "There's going to be a baby and a very sudden weight-loss at the end of all this."

He rested his hand on his stomach. "We … we can say she's adopted." It didn't sound right to his own ears and he knew Frigga's magic had followed his dreams. Sarah would look far too much like the perfect combination of both their features for anyone not to immediately know she was Tony and Steve's child.

She gave him a sad look. "Tony, no legitimate adoption agency would ever allow the Avengers to take in a child."

He doubted that, but he knew she was trying to be kind by not focusing on his involvement. He got it though. "If she's not ours, they'll try to take her away from us."

"Never," Steve said, his arm going around Tony's shoulders. "I won't allow it."

Translation – he'd die first. "We have to tell the truth, then. Hold a press conference and tell the world I'm pregnant." The very thought made him dizzy, but he couldn't see any other choice. Except –

"That might not work either," Pepper said softly. "You'll be …"

"A scientific curiosity. They still might try to take her." Take them both and for all the Avengers' power, they might not be able to save him or Sarah.

Tears glistened in Pepper's eyes and she nodded.

Steve's arm tightened around him and Tony looked at him knowing his eyes were pleading with Steve to fix this, to save their family. It wasn't fair, but for once in Tony's life, he couldn't think, and bless him, like the perfect partner he was, Steve picked up the slack and a calculating smile crossed his face. "We need Thor."

Two days later they'd held the press conference and announced Tony's pregnancy. Or rather Thor had. Every inch the Prince of Asgard he'd informed the people of Midgard that his mother had granted Tony a wondrous gift, and upon the child's birth there would be much rejoicing in his realm. He had smiled broadly, congratulated Steve and even fussed over Tony and through it all, without ever uttering a single threat, he'd managed to imply that the wrath of Asgard would rain down on the heads of any who sought to harm his mother's chosen. That was why Thor was and always would be Tony's favorite. Well, with one obvious exception.

"JARVIS, ETA on the Avengers?"

"They should arrive in New York in 57 minutes, Sir."

Meaning SHIELD Headquarters. After that it could be anywhere from an hour to eight before they made it back to the Tower. More likely the latter than the former. Tony sighed. "Guess we can't count on Pops anytime soon, Peanut."

As if to signal her displeasure she gave him the hardest kick yet and he almost dropped the mug. He bit back a curse, trying to train himself to watch his mouth around the kid, and rubbed at the spot she'd abused. Tony had never been any good at getting her to settle down. That was Steve's domain, but they were on their own tonight.

The Avengers had been called out to handle a crisis in Germany. Iron Man had been with them, of course, but when the battle had finished Tony had disassembled the armor into its usual corner of the quinjet, then had tried to get some sleep while he'd waited for his family to return. As usual Sarah had had a mind of her own. He shook his head ruefully having no doubts she'd be a handful when she finally emerged into the world. The hard way.

"No cesarean?" Tony sort of squeaked. He'd kind of been counting on it. That and some really heavy-duty pain killers.

"My mother might see such meddling as an insult," Thor answered, clasping his shoulder. "Have no fear, my friend. You are under Frigga's protection and there is none better."

"But … where is she going to come out?" The only obvious out was the way Steve had put her in him and he didn't like the esthetics of that. At all. His daughter was not last night's dinner!

"Think I can answer that," Bruce said looking up from the latest scans. He wasn't a medical doctor, but he'd taken it upon himself to keep an eye on Tony day-to-day. "There seems to be an opening forming behind the scrotum. My guess is a birth channel is beginning to form."

"Oh. That's good." He guessed. Sort of.

Deciding he needed to clear his head, he set aside the mug and grabbed the comforter off the back of the sofa. His body had seemed to run at a higher temperature since Sarah's conception so he really didn't need it, but it would cushion the stone. He walked out onto his terrace and stared out at the city. The damage from the Chitauri attack had long since been repaired but the reminders of that day lingered. One of the biggest was below him. While the building was still Stark Tower, only the A from his name remained on the side of it. The rest had been destroyed during the brief war. He'd stabilized it, prettied it up, but had left the letter to stand alone both as a nod to the Avengers and a quiet memorial to those who had died that day.

Since then he'd done everything he could to fortify the Tower, to make it so impregnable not even Victor Von Doom would try to attack it, but he still worried. He could have relocated them all, of course. He had the money to set them up in style anywhere in the world. But no matter where they ended up, their home would be a target and he liked it here. He'd become friends with the other Avengers here, had fallen in love with Steve inside these walls, had married him on this terrace.

Using one of the decorative walls to help him ease himself to the floor, Tony created a nest of sorts with the comforter and settled in to wait. He wanted to call Steve, to hear his voice even though it had only been a couple of hours. But his super-soldier husband would scold him for not sleeping and any time spent distracting Steve would only prolong the debriefing and his arrival home.

His hand came to its usual resting place on the swell of his stomach. "I love you, Peanut. You know that." But. …

Vanity Fair had called a few weeks ago. They'd wanted to replicate their famous pregnant Demi Moore cover shot with him. He'd declined saying it didn't fit with his husband's 40's sensibilities. And maybe it did, but Tony hadn't asked. He remembered the photo. Wasn't an easy one to forget. Shocking at the time, but all the same beautiful. He … wasn't.

No, he hadn't suffered any of the less attractive side effects that could occur during pregnancy and he'd kept his weight down, but … well, he didn't glow and he sure as hell wasn't beautiful. Men didn't get pregnant. They just got fat. Anyone looking at him saw a beer belly not a child growing inside him. That's why he didn't go out often. His tailor tried, but in the end he looked like he wore a fat man's clothes which were designed to hide a perceived weakness, not to celebrate a new life. It only enhanced his discomfort.

It was even getting difficult to pilot Iron Man. He needed to move to do it right – a kid with a Wii was the best analogy – and he felt clumsy, weighed down. He seriously hated stereotypes, but he might as well admit it, he was the proverbial beached whale. Tony knew he was more than his looks, but he also was all too aware they compensated for a long list of character defects. He knew Steve loved him, but Tony couldn't help trying to be on his best behavior all the time. Frankly, it was exhausting. He would have laughed if he didn't feel like crying half the time. He couldn't relax and be himself when Steve was around and he couldn't sleep without him. "Daddy's a mess," he muttered. "A total mess." Nothing new about that.

He knew if he wanted it, the magic would allow a second pregnancy, would one day let him hold James Grant in his arms as well as Sarah, but he was barely holding it together through this one. He ached with the idea he was too weak to give them their son as well as their daughter, but try as he might, he couldn't shake the fear Steve would look at him one day and realize he'd made a mistake. And no two ways about it a pregnant Tony was a needy one. Even if he did have the brains to hide it.

He shifted, the crisp night air making him drowsy in ways his expensive mattress had failed. Tugging at the comforter, he settled it around him like a loose cocoon, bunching some of it up to support his baby. She hadn't kicked for a little while apparently as ready as he was for some sleep. "Night, Peanut," he whispered, then closed his eyes.

Tony slipped into a dream about his family in the park. All of them – Steve, Sarah, Natasha, Clint, Thor, Bruce, Pepper, Rhodey, Bucky and in Tony's arms an infant James – laughing and playing in the sunshine. Steve ran over to where he sat watching, their daughter riding piggyback on her pops' broad shoulders. "Hey, gorgeous," he said, dropping down on the blanket beside Tony, then giving him a kiss.

"Hey, yourself," he answered, shifting James so he could nestle against his husband. "Having fun?"

"Shhh, sweetheart, you need to sleep."

Sleep? With the sun so warm and Steve so near? "Am sleeping," he answered even as he opened eyes he hadn't realized he'd closed and found himself being carried off the sun-warmed terrace and into the parlor. "Steve. Home."

"Yep, Steve home," his husband smiled at him. "And he's putting his beautiful husband and daughter to bed before he goes and makes them both some breakfast."

"Chocolate chip pancakes?"

"If that's what you want, that's what you get."

"Mmm, yes, but Sarah shouldn't get any."

Steve shifted his gaze to Tony's abdomen. "Have you been kicking Daddy again?"

"All night long," Tony pouted. It earned him a kiss, and oh, that was nice. Made him whine when Steve broke it to put him down on the bed.

Steve grinned and pulled at the comforter. Tony clutched at it. He hadn't gone to bed in anything beyond a pair of sleep pants slung beneath his belly and the room was all lit up with sunlight. "No," he protested straining against Steve's muscles. "I'm-"

"What?" Steve asked, releasing his hold, then watching Tony curl the comforter back around himself despite the warmth of the room. "Fat? Ugly? A whale?"

His eyes dropped and he picked at a loose thread. Apparently he hadn't been as good at hiding his doubts as he'd thought.

Steve's hand cupped his chin and gently lifted his head up to meet his gaze. "Sweetheart, you've always been beautiful, but right now?" He kissed him. "Right now, you take my breath away every single time I look at you."

"I do?" He was just charmed enough, he didn't stop Steve from easing the comforter down and baring his belly.

"Our daughter is growing in here." He pressed a kiss to the rounded flesh. "I'll never get tired of looking at either of you." He settled down next to Tony and started petting the rounded swell. It made Tony want to purr. "That you would give me this incredible gift is beyond anything I could have ever hoped for."

"She came from both of us, Spangles."

"And your heart. Not too many men who'd be brave enough to see this through. Not sure I'm one of them, but, you are and I thank God for you every day." He kissed Tony's lips, while his hand continued to caress the flesh shielding their child. "Have since almost the day I met you."

Tony flushed, but couldn't resist a grin. "Not from the first day?"

Steve grinned, then kissed him again. "Almost, but I was pretty grateful Iron Man was around. Even if he was an ass."

"Takes one to know one, Cap."

"That it does. Fortunately, we both got better."

"And then we made this," he said, his hand moving down to cover Steve's.

"And then we made this," Steve agreed. "She's going to be so incredible."

"Mmm, my eyes, your hair."

He'd never shown Steve the images of their kids – just in case he was wrong about how detailed Frigga's magic had been – so it didn't surprise him when Steve said, "Or vice versa, but she's part you so she'll be gorgeous."

"You really think I'm beautiful like this?"

"Yes."

"But … I waddle."

"That's kind of cute."

"I hate you."

"I know you do." Steve kissed him on the tip of his nose making him go cross-eyed for a second. He tapped the spot he'd just kissed. "I also know you've been hiding how you feel from me and I need you to stop doing that."

"But-"

"But nothing. Tony, you're having our baby. Let me feel useful. Let me take care of you!" He kissed him again. "Please."

"But I'm. …"

"Beautiful? Wonderful? The love of my life?"

"Needy."

"Great! I like being needed. Especially by my gorgeous husband."

"You say that now."

"I'll always say it, because I need you, too. We're a team, sweetheart. Let me do my part."

Tony looked into those blue eyes and thought they looked painfully earnest. Hard to hold onto his doubts in the face of that. "Okay." He knew he'd have more bad nights, but maybe, just maybe, he could let Steve help ease them.

His husband's face lit up like a kid on Christmas morning, then it struck Tony that soon he'd have personal experience with that look and it made him smile. Steve's finger traced the curve of his lip. "Smile looks good on you."

Maybe it did. And maybe … he thought about the program he'd seen and all the crackpot theories there were about what was really going on and well, anything could be Photoshopped these days, but it couldn't hurt. Could it? "Vanity Fair wants to do a cover of me not wearing anything else. Dangling bits would be hidden," he assured him, "but everything else. …"

"Like the Demi Moore shot?"

Tony blinked. "You've seen that?"

"Pretty smart guy I know showed me how to use Google. I've seen a lot of things." Steve answered, then thought a moment. "Don't know how I feel about everyone seeing that much of you, but I sure as heck would love to see it."

Heck. That was so cute. "Love it when you cuss," he teased though he'd heard Steve cut loose more than once – mostly when it involved baseball or threats to Tony's life and limbs.

"Well, gosh darn it, Mr. Stark-Rogers, that's just swell."

Tony laughed. "You'll think about it? The photo?"

"Don't think I'll think about much else, but whether you do it or not is really up to you."

"Nope. Like you said. We're a team. We decide as a team." Together. Just like they'd decide about James when the time came.

"Sounds good. But first, pancakes?"

"Chocolate chip pancakes," Tony corrected.

"My mistake." He gave Tony a final kiss, then hopped off the bed. "I'll call you when I'm ready for you to waddle your cute backside to the table."

Tony threw a pillow at him, then Steve disappeared down the hall with a laugh.

He flopped back on the bed and lay staring up at the ceiling with a grin on his face. "I think it's going to work out, Peanut," he said. Steve would help him through the ups and downs of mood swings Tony only wished he could blame on the pregnancy, and Tony's body would do the rest. Like Steve had said. They were a team. Even better a family.

end