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Tony leaves a couple of feelers stuck in SHIELD’s computer system. Half as a tangible reminder to everyone – including himself – that Tony Stark does whatever he wants. And half because SHIELD lies like lying liars and he wants a glimpse at their stuff without Fury’s, ahem, sunny interpretation of their agenda.

That’s how he finds out.

And it’s not SHIELD. They’re creepy, but they’re not this.

Tony stays up all night digging deeper. If he gets this wrong, someone’s going to knock his teeth out and maybe quit the boy-plus-one-girl -band.

And he’ll admit that he a tendency towards paranoia on account of everyone and their drunk relative of choice having a history of taking shots at him, but this isn’t something he’d invent. It wouldn’t even occur to him. And Tony could have had an alternate and opposite career for all of the things that do occur to him.  

All the same, he instructs JARVIS to alert him when Dr. Banner arrives in his lab. Bruce is generally suspicious, too, which is part of why Tony likes having him around. But Bruce is also typically less reactionary and more precautious, while Tony always wants to set fire to whatever is pissing him off. That’s why they get along well, though Bruce’s Other Guy has a temperament more in line with Tony’s. So he has reason to clarify the situation.

Tony wakes up with his face stuck to a tablet and JARVIS making annoying noises at him. The alarms don’t actually rouse him but do draw Bruce into his work space to find out how to make them stop.

“JARVIS said you wanted to see me,” Bruce says, as Tony lifts his head. “Did you sleep down here?”

“Apparently.”  Tony doesn’t remember falling asleep.

“Pepper kick you out?” Bruce cracks, smiling at him.

And of course, Tony didn’t even tell Pepper. Great.  At least this is something that doesn’t involve Gods or aliens, but is still evil enough to deserve his full attention.

“Remind me to call her,” he says. “I was researching.”

“Something cool?” Bruce asks. He assesses Tony’s face. “Not cool. Something bad.”

Tony decides to let Bruce decide for himself. He brings up a screen and spreads out the relevant texts.

“You tell me,” he says . “I’m gonna call Pepper.”

He doesn’t have very much to say to her, but she does like to know his absence isn’t because of a new planetary invasion, or arc reactor failure, or other things which have actually happened. He doesn’t tell her exactly what’s going on, but he promises it’s not another drinking contest gone wrong and she doesn’t need to gather bail money.

Normally that would make Pepper laugh, but she doesn’t. “Is everything okay?” she asks, preternaturally attuned to his mood. “You sound pissed.”

“We might have to suit up and go teach some assholes that certain behavior is not acceptable,” he says. “I’ll explain later.”

Tony says goodbye and heads back to Bruce, who is still engrossed in the data he hacked from SHIELD. Rereading it, since there’s not much there.

Bruce is frowning, but he’s not green or anything.

“You reach a different conclusion?” he asks.

After a second, Bruce looks up. “I don’t know,” he says. “There’s not much here.”

“I got it from SHIELD. Looks like they hacked it from someone else, or they have a plant who’s not very good at their job.”

“Yeah,” Bruce says, then falls silent.

“You’re not saying no,” Tony says, pointedly.

“It sounds plausible,” Bruce admits. “They had all kinds of samples. I know they did.”

“Poorly secured,” Tony states more than asks.  Bruce just shrugs.

“What I don’t get,” Bruce begins, then trails off. “This is not the first thing I’d do. Or the second. Or…”

“Yeah,” Tony agrees.  “Why are the villains always so stupid?”

“I’m not sure stupid is the right word,” Bruce says. “You tell anyone about this?”

“I was waiting for a second,” Tony says. “You want to make a motion?”

“There are a lot of steps between the idea and the execution.”      

“It says they ‘successfully produced viable offspring,’ on the last report,” Tony quotes. “That’s what sent the flare up to SHIELD.”

Bruce nods, shrugs again.

“You just don’t want it to be true,” Tony says.

“Well, yeah,” Bruce says. “Do you?”

~

Bruce accompanies Tony to tell someone else. Bruce is still straddling the line that this could be both too sick and too scientifically unsound to actually exist. That’s rich coming from a guy about which the same thing has been said, but Tony doesn’t say that because it’s mean and so is the Other Guy.

 “Hey,” Tony says, as he enters the section of the gym that’s mostly reserved for stretching and yoga. The floor is soft, but not as padded as the spaces designated for ridiculously violent people throwing each other at the walls. Tony avoids both places, generally, being neither crunchy nor flexible enough for yoga or masochistic enough to train against his teammates without the Iron Man armor.

“Hello,” Natasha replies, in a pose Tony spontaneously names Lethal Lady Loop, since her body appears to be in some kind of human knot.

Bruce nods at her and then settles against the wall, alerting Tony that the explaining is all on him.

“Limber,” Tony tells her, appreciatively. Immediately, Natasha begins to unwind. Presumably, so her limbs are free to hit him.

“What do you want?” she asks, not friendly but also not scary. He figures she’s already picked up on the fact that he’s not being nearly as lewd as he could be.

“Um,” Tony says, not sure where to begin.

Natasha’s legs come down and she folds them underneath her, sitting cross-legged.

“Yes?” she prompts.

“Don’t freak out,” he tells her.

“That depends on what you did?”

“This actually wasn’t me,” he says, and takes a deep breath. “I want to remind you about the wisdom of the ‘not-shooting-the-messenger’ philosophy.”

Natasha glares at him.

“So, you know how I routinely monitor SHIELD’s databases for interesting tidbits, blackmail material, sextapes…”

“I’m not supposed to know about that,” Natasha says, “because I would tell Fury.”

“I don’t think you will,” Tony says.

“What did you find?” Natasha asks. She looks at Bruce. “Is it about him?”

Bruce actually laughs. “No,” he says, then looks down.

“Kind of wish it was,” Tony says.

That makes Natasha frown, like bad news about the Hulk is the worst thing she can imagine. She gets really tight-assed about the Other Guy.

“SHIELD had biological samples from Captain America,” Tony begins, since there’s no other way to put it. Natasha continues to look at Bruce, since yeah, that’s kind of related. “Trying to redo the serum that made him a real boy.”

“Okay,” Natasha says. “That’s really not my area.”                 

“Someone stole it,” Tony says. “I’m not sure when, maybe now, maybe fifty years ago, maybe sometime in between.”

Natasha just blinks at him.  “No one’s ever successfully reproduced the results,” she says. Although she doesn’t bother to look at Bruce, her point is obvious.

“Funny you should use that word,” Bruce says from the wall.

She isn’t following, or finding this funny. “What’s going on?”

“Among the samples,” Tony tells her. “Were his swimmers.” Natasha’s eyes shoot wide. “Remind me not to jerk off on SHIELD-”

“What the hell are you talking about?” Natasha interrupts.

“Someone, who probably does a job in your general area, just reported to SHIELD that whatever was stolen produced “viable offspring,” and we’re hoping that doesn’t mean what we think it does,” Bruce says, evidently deciding to take over for Tony after only one masturbation joke.

Natasha turns her hard, blinking gaze to Bruce. He shrugs.

“Show me,” she says.

~

Natasha takes the news alarmingly seriously. She doesn’t even lecture Tony about keeping his hands to himself.

“Legitimate?” Bruce asks her, when she pushes the screen away. The scowl on her face suggests she doesn’t think it’s a joke.

“Maybe,” she says. “I know the source, I flipped him years ago.”                       

“I want to hear about that,” Tony says. “Later.”

Natasha gives him a humorless look.

“I need to talk to Hawkeye,” she says. “He’ll know more.”

What they learn from Clint is that despite all the names Tony calls SHIELD, they’re easily the nicest clandestine governmental-esque organization on the playing field.

The one in the memo is largely comprised of sick asshats repeatedly using science for evil.

“I’ve dealt with them,” Clint says. “A couple of times.”

Tony knows exactly what he means by ‘dealt,’ and doesn’t ask.

“Didn’t learn the first time?” Bruce asks, scratching his neck.

“New white coat,” Clint says, easily. “Same bad plan.”

But eventually this group – which doesn’t even have a snazzy name, so Tony dubs them American Baby Makers, because he’s clever like that -  got tired of having its employees assassinated and dropped out of sight to some bunker in Siberia.

Tony is all for suiting up right now, flying off, and kidnapping them back Steve’s kid. But Natasha says she’s already called Fury despite the fact that she hasn’t left his and Bruce’s sight.

“We should do this right,” Bruce says. “Stop pouting.”

“It was my idea,” Tony says.

~

They end up doing it right.                                                                      

Fury doesn’t even bother reprimanding Tony for snooping in SHIELD data.

Tony thinks he has a lot of his more unpopular opinions about SHIELD and their aptitude for dishonesty validated when everyone agrees to spend the entire mission lying to Captain Rogers.

Now, he agrees with the motivation, given that pretty boy is going to freak out, and it’s nice to schedule those things for after the battle.  But still.

They also don’t tell Thor, because among his other lovely qualities, Thor has a thunderous mouth.

The plan is pretty simple, as it happens. Natasha will infiltrate the facility with her sneakiness and her Russianness. She’ll download any security information (and their entire medical database) and transmit it to Tony. Then, she’ll nap the kid and make an exit, with Hawkeye laying down cover.

After the baby’s clear, the goal is to raze the facility to the ground. Lesser SHIELD agents will do the arresting; Tony, Hulk, and Thor and Mjolinar doing the fun part. Captain America will stand around and look pretty, or something.

It doesn’t actually go as planned, as usual.

Natasha gets in and immediately sends security specs to Tony. That’s when they found out how heavily armed the place is. She goes looking for the kid and meets people with automatic weapons. There’s also anti-aircraft tech on the outside, they discover right after that.

A typical Avengers mission breaks out. Tony flies around playing distraction and blasting from the sky. Clint pulls out his arrows and Captain America starts playing with his Frisbee. Bruce is trying to hang back, since they still need the building intact. But eventually someone tries to shoot him, which is always hilarious to watch. After that, half the defense forces on the outside are trying to get back inside, because holy shit, there’s a Hulk!

 Natasha abruptly goes quiet on the inside, after a lot of angry Russian yelling.  Thor goes in after her, the time for silent and stealthy over.

Between his entrance with Mjolinar and Hulk stomping around the outside, the American Baby Makers begin surrendering. The SHIELD agents promptly run out of hiding and start taking credit for everything.

Tony lands next to Clint and Steve, pops his faceplate up.

Steve is trying to get an answer on the comm. from either Thor or Natasha, but neither one of them will pick up. Tony can see the building is still shaking, and he assumes Thor is fine.

Three minutes later, Natasha pokes her head out of a third story window. She’s well on her way to jumping out and making some kind of rolling, painful landing when Tony swoops in and grabs her under the arms.

“Answer Cap,” Tony tells her, as they gently descend to the ground. “He’s having a snit about being ignored.”

“My radio got ripped off,” Natasha says. “Snit?”

“Polite snit,” Tony amends. “You find the kid?” He can’t see if she’s holding anything.    

“I took the only baby I found,” she says, slightly lifting her arms as an indication. “I hope it’s the right one.”

“Send Hulk in,” Tony radios back to the others. “But tell him not to squash Thor.”

~

Hulk doesn’t squash Thor, but he does kick him, a little. The Other Guy likes to send Thor flying; Tony has a theory it’s the cape. Bruce never remembers and Thor gallantly doesn’t take it personally.

In the aftermath – building gone, evildoers captured, Russian military on their way and pissed – Fury doesn’t try to debrief.

“Where’s the baby?” he demands, as the Avengers are loading back into their jet.  Except for Tony, of course, who has his own ride.

“What baby?” Tony asks, shrugging.

Fury glares at him, and looks around. Natasha’s arms are empty and she can hide a lot of lethal things in that cat suit, but not a baby.  Tony actually doesn’t know what she did with it, and he’s considering buying her flowers for disobeying Fury, even this once. Fury doesn’t have time to argue, and the jet engines are muting his threats. Before he takes off, Tony sees something wiggling under Thor’s cape.

~

Back at the tower, Steve is reliably concerned about defying SHIELD.

“We should give the baby to their doctors,” he says.

“Bruce is a doctor,” Tony says.

“Not a pediatrician,” Steve says.

“I really hope SHIELD doesn’t have pediatricians,” Clint says, thoughtfully.

“What if they were trying to make a Hulk?” Steve argues.

“Baby Hulk,” Tony says, and can’t stop howling. Natasha glares at him.

“I think Dr. Banner is the best person to handle that possibility,” she says, trying to distract Steve.

“I’ll check the kid out,” Bruce says. “DNA test,” he adds, which goes right over Steve’s head.

“I shall accompany you,” Thor says, because the baby-shaped lump is still under his cape. Tony has the impression Thor got super attached on the ride over.

“Okay,” Bruce says. “But you should know that one more Asgardian lullaby, the Other Guy is coming out and it’s a conscious choice.”

Thor looks confused, then hurt, but he follows Bruce anyway.

“Who would experiment on a baby?” Steve says, watching them go.

“Assholes,” Tony tells him, and of course Steve looks offended.  “Baby Hulk,” he whispers at Natasha, to see if she’ll flinch.

Clint forcibly steps between them, like he’s had enough fighting for one day.

~

The baby isn’t a Hulk. It’s a normal, healthy human and it’s a girl. The records Natasha nabbed record her birth two weeks ago to a surrogate.

And yeah, she’s Steve Rogers’ daughter.

On some level, Tony doesn’t believe it until Bruce gives him a tiny nod in the lab after running the analysis on the swab he took of the baby’s gums.

Baby Rogers is screaming her head off, at the moment. She’s a tiny and bald, and bright red. She sure doesn’t look like a super serum baby.

“The stick of science frightened her,” Thor says, like he wants to snap the swab in half.

He swaddles her back up in his cape, which Tony appreciates because it muffles the sound.

“Or she’s hungry,” Bruce says.

“We need a nursemaid!” Thor declares. He looks intently at Tony. “This is your city. You must summon one.”

“Oh dear,” Tony says, softly.  He hadn’t really thought this far ahead.

“Or formula,” Bruce says. “That might be easier to get.”

“You seem knowledgeable,” Tony decides. “You’re in charge.”

“Why don’t I make a list,” Bruce says. “And you use some of your billions to go buy it and bring it back.”

“Is this a ploy to get me out of the tower so I can’t be there when you tell Steve?” Tony accuses.

“Maybe,” Bruce says, guileless.

“Captain Rogers can summon nursemaids?” Thor asks.

“Not nearly as well as I can,” Tony retorts.

“No,” Bruce says. “The stick of science was a paternity test, Thor. She’s his daughter.”

Thor’s eyes shoot wide. He looks down, beneath his cape, then back up. “I did not believe he had ever lain with a maiden,” he says, earnestly.

“Tony, take Thor with you,” Bruce orders. His legendary control might be slipping, because he’s only smiling a little, but Tony is laughing so hard he’s going to choke on his own spit.

“Give the baby to the nice man that turns green and smashes things,” Tony says, trying to recover.  Thor frowns as Bruce holds out his arms. “You’re carrying the heavy shit.”

~

Bruce’s list is short but extensively detailed. That’s helpful, because Tony’s never been in this aisle before, and it’s a blur of primary colored plastic and photos of Gerber babies of every ethnicity. He loads Thor up like a packhorse and then walks three aisles over to add a box of Depends to prove he’s still an inconsiderate jerk.

It’s a lot more expensive than Tony thinks baby formula, bottles, and poop catchers should be. The drive back to the tower is occupied by trying to explain “nursemaid in a can” and keeping Thor from sampling it. Tony almost forgets that upstairs, the nicer Avengers are breaking life-changing news to Captain America.

“Hey pops,” Tony says, when he walks into Steve’s room, because he’s not one of the nicer Avengers.

Steve is sitting in his armchair which points at nothing because he doesn’t watch TV. He has one hand on his forehead and looks utterly and completely lost. The baby’s not in sight.

“We have brought provisions for the infant child,” Thor announces, because he’s carrying everything. “Where is she?”

“Uh, thanks,” Steve says. He lifts his head and his eyes are glossy. “They took her back to Bruce’s lab.” He frowns. “I was gonna follow…” he trails off.

Thor immediately turns around and heads back out.

“I think your kid might have a guardian…Asgardian,” Tony says, and cracks a grin.

Steve blinks at him, but doesn’t even look annoyed like he usually does when Tony says something funny.

“You knew,” Steve says. “About her.”

“I knew about the super secret memo about her,” Tony corrects. “I was actually hoping it was one of those ‘we have WMDs…not so much’ situations.”

Steve stands up and put a hand on Tony’s shoulder. Tony looks at it suspiciously.

“Thanks for getting her out of there,” Steve says, seriously.

~

It turns out that babies need a lot of stuff. Even two week old ones. 

Bruce is at a loss. He understands basic baby nutrition and hygiene needs and that’s it.

“Millions of babies sleep in caves,” he says. “She just needs some place to sleep where she won’t get squashed,” Bruce continues. He’s looking at Thor, who has stashed the baby under his cape again. The cape looks weird with the jeans he wore to the store with Tony.  But everyone else is looking at Bruce as the prime source of dangerous baby-squashing.

Tony might not know babies, but he knows ostentatious displays of wealth. And he knows who to call to make that happen.

“Dial Pepper,” he tells JARVIS, who engages the phone system.

“Hey,” he says, when she answers. “I need baby stuff.”

There is an immediate pause, during which Tony realizes he really should have started with an explanation. But he doesn’t do that with Pepper, and she should be used to it.

“What did you do, Tony?” she demands, making it more of a very judgmental statement.

“Hey!” he objects. “Nothing. I did nothing.”

“Whose baby is it?” Pepper asks.

“Steve’s,” Tony says.

“Right,” Pepper says sarcastically. “That’s a thing that happened.”

Steve tilts his head, unsure what exactly is going on. But, he’s not being given another surprise baby, so maybe he doesn’t actually care.

“It’s true.” Natasha speaks up so the microphone can hear her.

“Okay,” Pepper says, after a pause.

“Oh, you believe the woman who lies for a living over me?” Tony asks, offended.                

“It’s a girl,” Bruce says, leaning over so he can be heard. “Two weeks old. Almost eight pounds.”

“Got it,” Pepper says. “I’ll get overnight delivery on everything that I can.”

“Summon a nursemaid!” Thor yells, hurting everyone’s ears.

“That’s not a bad idea,” Clint says. “Someone who knows how to hold a baby.”

“Or change a diaper,” Tony says, thoughtfully, while Bruce rolls his eyes.

“I’m flying in tomorrow,” Pepper says. “You can explain then how this happened, I can’t believe Steve –”

“He really didn’t do anything,” Clint interjects, and smiles innocently at Steve.

~

It takes four Avengers to feed and change a baby. Tony extracts himself from the situation because he doesn’t want any part of that. And he extracts Bruce, because it really doesn’t take five Avengers.

Even if one of them is curiously eating the formula straight out of the can, then spitting it out on to the floor and making a giant mess.

“We cannot feed her this,” Thor says, making a terrible face. “It is poison.”

“Are you going to start lactating?” Natasha asks him, while Steve clutches the baby and Clint tries to measure out the ingredients.

“Kid might have been better off being raised by the evil scientists,” Tony says, hauling Bruce to a corner of the lab by his sleeve.

“Probably not,” Bruce says, with a little smile.

“Captain America looks like his head is going to explode,” Tony observes. “Stars and stripes, everywhere.”

“How’d you be feeling?” Bruce asks, swatting him. “Give him a break.”

“You sound like Pepper,” Tony accuses. “And I keep a much closer eye on my sperm than he does.”

“It was from 70 years ago, or so,” Bruce says. “The sample that the bad guys stole. That much he admitted, but I couldn’t get out of him the reason they gave him back then that got him to donate it.”

“Turn bright red?” Tony asks.

Bruce nods. “The whole time I was explaining artificial reproduction technologies. I thought he might need to lie down.”

 Tony laughs, meanly.  “Well, guess he won’t give it up so easy next time a white lab coat asks.” He thinks about it for a second. “I wonder if SHIELD has asked.”

“I wondered, too,” Bruce says. “On the plus side, Thor has learned a lot.” Bruce smiles. “And he shared a lot. They have some freaky sex on Asgard.”

“Do I want to know?” Tony asks. “Who am I kidding, of course I want to know.”

“Thor will tell you in great, great detail.”

Tony isn’t sure he wants to hear about the sex life of a man who has decided the powdered formula actually tastes good, now, or maybe he’s just eating it all so they can’t give it to the baby.

“I think Steve just wanted the white picket fence before there was a baby,” Bruce says, sympathetically.

“And the sex,” Tony says. “That’s the fun part, that’s the whole point.”  Bruce shrugs, nods a little. “Speaking of the sex,” Tony adds, eyes squinting up. “Who’d they put the Captain’s sperm in?”

“A Petri dish,” Bruce says. “And then in a surrogate. She was one of the employees. I think SHIELD arrested her.”

That’s an answer for someone dumber than Tony.

“Who contributed the other half of the baby batter?” he asks.  Bruce shifts uncomfortably against the lab counter and avoids Tony’s eyes.  “Oh my God,” Tony says, “You know.”

“Shh,” Bruce says, sharply. “Not so loud.”

But the three stooges, the deity, and the baby at the other end of the lab aren’t paying them any attention. Tony puts one hand over his mouth.

“You have to tell,” he says. “Or I will hack into your computer and find out.”

“I’m just trying to find the right moment,” Bruce says.

“The right moment is now,” Tony says. “Here.”

Bruce keeps his lips shut.

“Who do you breed with Captain America?” Tony muses out loud. “Barbie? A Beauty Queen?”

“Be quiet,” Bruce begs.

“You’re an evil organization,” Tony reasons. “So you get your best soldier lady or female assassin…”

Bruce puts his head in his hands. It hides his face, but not the tell.

~

Natasha worked for some professional-grade evil assholes before joining SHIELD. Tony knew this already. Clint’s made mention of it. Natasha also likes to allude to how many people she’s murdered, usually after he catches her doing something comparably less evil, like eating the entire carton of ice cream and then putting it back in the freezer empty (which she did a dozen times before he realized it wasn’t Thor), or maliciously wounding robots for no good reason. But she acts like he’s not allowed to yell at her, because she’s good now, or because she might forget that and snap. Pepper thinks it’s funny; it is not.  It’s also not scary.

For some reason, the thought of Natasha’s babymaker parts getting stolen is less funny and creepier than the same thing with Steve’s.

“I don’t think she wants to hear it from me,” Bruce murmurs. He looks at Tony. “Or you.”

“Captain America and Black Widow made a baby,” Tony whispers, the reality setting in.

“Definitely not you,” Bruce says, shaking his head.

“She has to cut off his head and eat it now, right?”

“I think that’s Praying Mantis,” Bruce says. “But, get it out of your system on me.”

At the other end of the lab, Thor is demonstrating how to burp a baby. Or he’s just decided to pick up Clint and smack him repeatedly on the back. Clint’s demanding to be put down. Steve hands Natasha the baby, to her obvious surprise.

“No combat with the baby,” Steve orders, trying to untangle Clint from Thor.

“He’s not holding the baby,” Tony hears Clint snarl.

Natasha takes a few steps away from the brewing fight, awkwardly patting the baby on the back.

“I think it’s nice that it was her mom that rescued her from that place,” Bruce offers.

“Mom was going to jump out the window while holding the baby,” Tony says, warningly. “Iron Man had to catch them both.”

~

In the end, they elect Clint to tell her. She likes Clint. Bruce just shows him the DNA results and warns him that Tony already knows.

Tony doesn’t actually witness much after that. It’s Natasha, of course, so things get secretive.  He sees Natasha walking from her apartment towards Steve’s, looking absolutely poleaxed. He’s never seen that expression on her face before, and it’s unsettling. He assures himself that it will be replaced with her typical “I-am-ignoring-you” look or the “going-to-hurt-you-now” one soon.

What happens when Natasha tells Steve is between them. Tony is busy coordinating the sudden arrival of an explosion of pepto bismal-colored baby supplies and furniture. Stuff he never would have allowed in the tower, and he has serious second thoughts, including ones about booting Natasha and Steve out, and making them take their jacked up family to live with SHIELD.

But then he remembers that they’re kind of his friends, and that SHIELD is kind of a collection of assholes, and that Fury would rub that reaction in his face for all eternity. And that mommy might punch him and daddy would act like he was the world’s greatest monster.

There are also eight baby nurses and eight non-disclosure forms for them to sign. Very, very long non-disclosure forms.

Tony notes with disappointment that six of them are post-menopausal, the seventh is a mean German lady with a crew cut, and the eighth is a gay dude.  Pepper never lets him have any fun.

Bruce takes them on a tour of the tower, even though Tony yells after him that they’re not allowed anywhere except a five foot radius of the baby. He wonders how many of them are going to quit when they make the connection between their tour guide and the Other Guy. Or when they meet Thor.

“No touching the robots,” he adds, yelling it down the corridor. Bruce just waves his hand.

Tony is sulking over the pink redecoration and the lack of hot babe nannies when Natasha comes out of Steve’s apartment. She looks…better. There’s no baby with her. Tony doesn’t actually know where the kid is right now. Good thing that’s not his job.

“Hey,” Tony says, as she walks toward him. “Congrats?” he offers.

The corner of Natasha’s mouth tugs up and she raises an eyebrow. “That’s it?” she asks.

“No,” he admits. “Do you want to hear them all now, or…”

“Later’s good,” she says, easily.

“Cap ask you to marry him?” Tony says, before she’s done speaking . “Okay, sorry, that’s it. No more. Right now.”

Natasha sighs, then nods. “Yeah,” she says.

“I was joking,” he says. “Really?”

Natasha nods again, and sighs again, one that sounds an awful lot like a laugh.

“Please say yes.”

“I said no.” Tony makes a face. “But I did tell him he could tell people we had sex and got the baby the old-fashioned way.”

“He won’t impugn your honor.”

“I know.” She shrugs. “But I actually prefer that story.”

“It’s funnier,” Tony agrees. “The real one’s fucked up.”

“You’re telling me.”

There’s a second of awkward silence that borders on emotional, so Tony interrupts it.

“A bunch of pink shit came for you. And baby nannies. All decrepit women and/or homosexuals. I reserve the right to fire them and hire Playboy bunnies.”

“Thank Pepper for me,” Natasha says, and she smiles at him.

“She gets no thanks for this.”

“I’m gonna go spend time with my baby,” she says, like that feels weird coming out of her mouth. “If I can get her away from Thor.”

“Food usually works as a distraction.” She nods and starts to walk away.

“See ya later, Mom,” Tony says to her back.

Natasha stops and raises one finger in the air. She doesn’t turn around. “You get to do that, once.”

~

Pepper flies in to see what happened shortly after the battalion of nannies arrives. Tony prepares to have words with her regarding her hiring practices. Unkind words.

Unfortunately, she has keys to the building and gets in without his knowledge, because JARVIS likes her. So, she meets the baby first.

“Oh my God,” Tony hears her voice, several octaves higher than usual. “Look at her! Look at those eyelashes!”

Sighing, Tony prepares to intervene. He comes across the scene, which is as he feared.  Pepper is cradling the baby while the rest of the Avengers just stand around and let her.

“Don’t let it get on you,” Tony complains. “Someone take it away from her.”

“No.” Pepper holds the baby tighter.

“Thank you for all the stuff you bought us,” Steve says. “We really appreciate it.”

“Especially the nannies,” Natasha adds.

“You got the wrong kind,” Tony mutters. Everyone ignores him, except Thor.

“Nursemaids here are not as they are on Asgard,” Thor says.

“Thor is a walking sexual harassment suit,” Bruce warns her. “Sorry.”

“I have a policy for one, I can add another,” Pepper says.

“Here on Midgard we take a more possessive approach about our bodily fluids,” Tony tells Thor. Everyone else glares at him. “Well, most of us. Some of us will just give ‘em away to anyone who asks.”

Pepper is smart enough to figure out what he just said, even though she gives him a look that suggests it was unnecessarily mean.

“Is that where she came from?” she asks, gently, looking at Natasha while Steve looks at the ground.

“No,” Natasha says, smiling brightly. “Steve and I had sex.”

Pepper only has time to blink at her before Steve denies it. “We did not,” he says, blushing. “Stop telling people that.”

Clint chuckles into his hand, shaking his head.

“Some evil people stole their baby batter,” Tony tells her. “Trying to make a Captain America Baby.”

Pepper looks down at the kid. “Did that work?”

“No,” Steve says. “She’s normal.”

“Bad guys never read past Lamarck,” Bruce says. “They didn’t really understand genetics.”

“What?” Pepper asks.

“Six thousand years of Jews, they’re still getting circumcisions,” Tony explains.

Pepper stares at him, while Clint looks confused.

“What is circumcision?” Thor asks.

“Nothing we need to talk about,” Natasha says. “Ask Tony later, he’ll show you. You can compare.”

“Or not,” Tony says, glaring at her. “Keep your pants on, big boy.”

“Just because something happens to a parent, like losing an arm or, uh, taking a super serum, doesn’t mean the offspring has that trait,” Bruce says, and Pepper nods.

“Thanks for explaining that without resorting to penises,” Clint says.

“Okay,” Pepper says, loudly. “Moving on.  What’s her name?”

“Baby,” Tony says.

“Princess America,” Thor says.

Bruce coughs. “I might have told him that,” he admits, when Natasha tilts her head.

“No,” she says.

“Pippa Romanova Rogers,” Steve says. “We’re gonna call her Pip.”

Tony has a couple of insulting things on the tip of his tongue to say about that, which he doesn’t partially because her parents aren’t holding her and could hit him, and partially because Pepper has teared up and put one hand over her mouth.

“Oh,” Pepper says. “That’s so sweet. Phil would love that.”

~

Fury gives Steve and Natasha three months paternity and maternity leave. Tony thinks that’s dumb, since it’s not like Captain America has a goddamn understudy. And he likes to imply that Natasha’s replaceable because it makes her mad, but she’s not. Every single SHIELD agent who substitutes for her ends up taking a shot at Iron Man for no good reason. Also, Hulk really, really doesn’t deal well with change.

And none of their various foes are going to respect that parental duties take precedence over fighting evildoers.

“Let’s just not tell anyone that Captain America and Black Widow have a newborn and would appreciate no attempts at world domination for the moment,” Tony says, rolling his eyes.

“I agree we should just not tell anyone Pip exists,” Clint says, pointedly.

Tony has already upgraded Avenger Tower security. He has JARVIS doing weekly background checks on the nannies and installed some surveillance technology designed to detect anything baby-shaped or sized being taken outside. It works, since it’s caught Thor several times.

Tony, for his part, stays away from the baby. He had to increase the sound insulation between its floor and the rest of the building, but that was about it. Unlike Bruce and Thor, he doesn’t have any need to hold her, or really even touch her.  And unlike Clint, he’s not Natasha’s personal manservant who follows her around carrying Pip for her at all times.

Pip has made his team shorthanded. She’s made Natasha grouchier and Steve more obnoxiously parental than should be possible. Tony will be more interested when the kid sleeps through the night and becomes less disgusting. He’ll be an excellent influence when she learns to talk.

For the most part, Steve and Natasha are doing okay. They aren’t utilizing the nannies as much as they should, requiring Tony to bitch about how much’s he’s paying them.  If Steve has antiquated views on parenting – and he has antiquated views on everything – he’s suppressing them around Natasha. She hasn’t knocked his teeth out yet, so he probably hasn’t asked her to be a stay at home mom.

Tony’s also seen the weekly chart breaking down who’s caring for Pip when. The responsibility is pretty equally divided between mom, dad, and nannies (and also Thor, Bruce, Clint, and occasionally Pepper, the first three being gluttons for punishment and the fourth one not being allowed anymore after Tony finds out). However, Steve’s name is filled in for every column in the row labeled “Explosive Diaper”.

~

Despite the eight nannies, two parents, and three other baby-liking Avengers in the picture, no one else is around the night Pip projectile vomits all over her father. No one except Tony, who is thinking up the potential chemical makeup of baby puke-proofed furniture, and also totally charging Steve for steam-cleaning that couch. Seriously, that’s what he’s thinking when Steve drops Pip on him.

“Hey,” Tony objects. “Not mine!”

“Just hold her,” Steve says. “I’m covered in formula.”

“Yes, I can smell that. Why do I want to hold the child who did that to you?”

“Let me change.” Steve holds his hands up in the air, and he’s beginning to drip. “Look, she’s completely empty, there’s nothing left in her. I’ll be right back.” He’s already running out of the room. “Support her head!”

“I’m selling her to the highest bidder!” Tony yells after him.

Tony doesn’t really know how to hold a baby, but his arm came up naturally in self-defense, and the kid is just nestled in it.

“Hey,” he says. “Nice aim with the puke.” He means it; she doesn’t have a drop on her.

Pip raises a tiny pink hand and waves it around. She grabs at the front of Tony’s t-shirt, where the arc-reactor glows. Curiously, she taps on it.

Natasha’s assassin instincts clearly carried over. Pip goes to do it again and Tony intercepts her this time. She wraps a fat fist around his finger, but goes for the arc-reactor again.

That’s when Natasha runs into the room. She’s wearing a towel and still has shampoo suds dripping out of her hair. Tony looks up at her.

“Steve said he left her with you,” Natasha explains, when he just stares.

“Yeah,” he says. “She’s tried to kill me twice. And could you try to drip the soap on top of the puke your babydaddy got on the rug?”

“You’re alright?” Natasha queries, clearly deeply suspicious.

“I’ll trade you her for the towel,” Tony offers.

Natasha takes that as the dismissal it is, but she backs out kind of slowly. “Support her neck,” she says.

“Just so you know,” he tells the baby, “the first thing your mom did when she met you was jump out of a three story window with you in her arms. Uncle Iron Man caught you, so remember that when they start lying to you about me.”

 

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