“Okay madre! Let's get to present time!” Pepper's cousin Holly ushered Steve over to the couch, plopping him down on it. The blonde bore a striking resemblance to Tony's assistant but their personalities were complete, polar opposites. Steve couldn't help the amused smile. He never thought a baby shower could be so much fun. But with all the mothers or potential mothers gathered around, swapping stories, giving advice and offering to cook or babysit for them once the little one arrived Steve found he couldn't not enjoy himself. It was great to feel so supported.
“I heard the p-word.”
Steve turned at Tony's voice and the warm touch of a hand on his shoulder. He smiled up at the expectant father, happy to see his alpha had made an appearance after all. He was late of course but at least he was here. Tony smiled back down at him but the grin seemed a little too wide. Tony seemed a little too happy.
“Oh and hey! Holly's here! I should find a job for you in the tower. You are so much more...more fun. Pepper isn't fun. She yells at me.”
Steve's face fell. “Tony,” he asks quietly so only the two of them can hear. “Tony, are you drunk?”
“What,” Tony demands loud enough for the dead to hear. “I can't have a cocktail with lunch...or six?”
Steve is mortified. The first baby thing he's bothered to come to since the ultrasound and he shows up thoroughly pissed. Before it can go any further however, Pepper and Holly exchange a look. Next second Pepper has Tony by the arm and is pulling him into the next room. Holly claps her hands to get everyone's attention and lifts up one of the biggest boxes. It's wrapped in pink paper with teddy bears and rattles on it.
“Oh, I wonder what this is,” she muses loudly, turning the festivities back on with that simple statement. Steve gives her a smile of gratitude as she hands the parcel over to him.
“What is the matter with you,” Pepper yells as soon as the door is safely closed behind them. “How could you ruin this for poor Steve?”
“What? I didn't ruin it. You ruined it 'cause Steve invited me.”
“No, he did-”
“Hey! Hey, Stevie! Steeeeeevie.”
Pepper is glaring daggers at him. Finally, Tony really looks at her. He sees the disapproval on her face and suddenly, he's not so happy anymore. He frowns at her. Frowns like frowning were a death ray instead of just his face doing things.
“Oh, whatever,” he says, waving his hands at her. “I don't need this. I'm outta here.”
“Good,” Pepper calls after him. “You do that. You just walk away, Howard.”
Tony freezes in the door way, holding the door frame for support. Because that hurt. It was an instant sober kind of hurt. He turned angry, glassy eyes to her.
“Don't...ever...call me that,” he said, pointing in her general direction. It's effect was greatly diminished by the fact he was pointing at a lamp instead of her.
Steve thanked Thor as the god dropped off the last of the presents in he and Tony's room. The blonde man seemed very enthusiastic about the whole thing. Steve had asked about it once. Thor had told him he “had not been an uncle since Fenrir was birthed” and he “anticipated the child would bring to their shared home much joy”. Steve wasn't quite as happy with Loki's gift. He had waved a pennant over his belly and recited an incantation. The item had glowed bright green and the baby shifted. Both brothers told him they had no way of knowing what form the gift would take until it revealed itself in the child.
He lay on the bed now, propped up against the headboard and prodding gently at the swell of his stomach. She still seemed to be moving normally and seemed none to happy with her mama's pestering.
“I swear, if you come out with antlers his butt is mine.”
“That sounds painful.”
Steve spared a glance for Tony as he entered their bedroom, popping an aspirin. Good. His head better hurt. No, Steve berated himself. Something was wrong. It wasn't entirely out of character for him to turn up to events drunk, but not events for people he cared about. He knew this was something Steve had been looking forward too, thus there must be an underlying reason for his stunt. He looked up at his alpha, meeting his eyes. There was this subdued quality to them. Something dark was going on behind the scenes. Steve gently patted the spot beside him for Tony to take.
The other man managed a half smile, having the decency to seem a bit ashamed of himself. Taking the offered spot, he gave Steve his back and looked down at his folded hands instead. No one talked. Steve just reached out, taking one of Tony's hands in his own. It was amazing how easily they'd set up this unspoken language. Like right now Steve is telling Tony to take his time and that he'll be right here waiting when he's ready to talk about it. The little squeeze Tony gives him in return is saying he's trying, but this is something that's difficult for him to talk about. He's working up to it though.
The minutes seem like hours as Steve watches Tony and Tony tries to arrange his thoughts.
“When I was eight,” Tony started. “I was entered in my first science fair. That's when I built Dummy.”
He waited for something from Steve but he was patiently waiting for Tony to continue.
“I was so proud of myself building robots just like my old man. It's every boy's dream right? Be just like dad. I thought, he'll be so proud of me he'll beg me to come home. I won't have to stay at this stupid school anymore. I sent him three invitations. I even called a few times to make sure he got them. When they were handing out the ribbons, I looked all through the crowd, searching for one face. It wasn't there. It was never there. No matter what I tried to do, what I succeeded in, it was never enough to impress him. He didn't even come to my graduation.”
Steve was still silent, holding him and waiting for him to continue.
“The only one who ever came to anything was Obie, and he was always proud of me. He always told me I had such a bright future and I was destined for something great. ...then he tried to kill me.” He touched the arc reactor reflexively, assuring himself it was still there. “He ripped it right out of my chest, on my own couch, in my own home, and left me to die.
“So, you see, the only two people I have to base this whole father thing off of are a neglectful bastard and a homicidal megalomaniac. Not the best parenting rolemodels.”
Steve was still quiet, waiting for more. When Tony was still silent Steve took that as his cue.
“You're worried you're gonna mess up.”
“Aren't you,” Tony asked. “After everything I just told you could you still want me around her?”
Steve took a pillow in his free hand and smacked Tony over the head with it. Tony protested loudly, snatching it from Steve before he could swing again.
“For a genius, you're pretty stupid sometimes.” He readjusted himself against the headboard. “How can you think you'll screw up that bad?”
“Maybe because I don't have anything else?”
“Process of elimination, Tony. You've had quite a bit checked off the list for you by your dad and Obediah. And you've got something they didn't.”
“Oh yeah,” Tony asked, turning towards his mate. “And what's that?”
“You're secret weapon,” Steve said. “You've got me. And you know that, alpha or not, I will not hesitate to slap you up if you act like that.”
Tony had to laugh at that. It was true. Steve was more than capable of keeping him in line. Still,
“Really though, Steve. I have no idea how to be a good father.”
“Well,” Steve said, leaning in to kiss Tony. “Why don't you try talking to her. It's somewhere to start, isn't it?”
“Talk to her? You mean, in there?”
“Yes,” he said. “I do it all the time. It's good for her to learn your voice.”
Tony looked from Steve's face to his belly and back. What do you say to a baby? Steve just waved for him to go on. Feeling slightly awkward, he moved closer, placing his hand over the expanded skin.
He felt ridiculous but Steve kept waving at him, encouraging him to keep going.
“Well, I'm your...your father.”
Then a tiny little miracle happened. The baby kicked. She kicked straight into Tony's palm. He looked down, astonished. Steve laughed at his wide eyed expression.
“That means she likes your voice.”
Tony didn't need any further prodding then. He started talking to the little one like she was right here already.
“Hey. You know, I may not have had the best childhood,” he told her. “But I'm gonna make sure you have a great one. This is kinda new to me. You may have to nudge me in the right direction a few times but I promise...I promise that you will never, ever doubt how much I love you.”