Chapter 1: Twee Thor
So. Baby Thor. Yes good.
Well, not really baby because he’s five years old when Steve and Tony adopt him. He spots them getting a breath of fresh air near the adoption centre playground and he runs right up to them because Thor has not, does not, and will not ever have a sense of stranger danger (much to the dismay of whoever’s taking care of him, like the playground supervisor who sees him run over and is too tired to give him the lecture one more time, obviously they’re okay people if they’ve met the background checks to even be here-Hey, is that Tony Stark?). (Sidenote: I know that adoption procedures in real life are much lengthier and complicated and rarely smooth. So this easiness comes from rule of fiction and Tony Stark being Tony Stark (even in real life celebrities have a much easier time adopting than your average Joe).
So he runs up and is just like “HI! I’M THOR AND I’M FIVE, WHO ARE YOU?” Steve is surprised by his boldness, and Tony’s surprised by the fact he’s five, because Thor’s quite large for his age and could pass for an eight-year-old. And Thor just keeps talking IN HIS OUTDOOR VOICE about various kid things so Tony and Steve just sit down and listen.
Thor’s, well, you know those kittens at the shelter that are labelled “hard to adopt”? He’s like that. Big loud voice with an odd, dramatic little lilt to it, talking really excitedly about things that make sense only to him. Tony knows he shouldn’t, but he asks hesitantly about Thor’s old family and Thor just steamrolls right over it like “THEY’RE NOT AROUND ANYMORE, BUT THAT’S OKAY. I’LL HAVE A NEW FAMILY SOON,” and carries on. By the end of the conversation, Steve and Tony are totally enthralled by the weird little kid and they don’t even know why. He’s just really fun to be around, and the thought of leaving him behind on the playground is really kind of heartbreaking for some reason.
Cue Tony whipping out his Tony Stark card and making things go a lot quicker. But Steve’s like “We just met this kid, and he’s a bit older, we really need to talk to him first. Maybe he doesn’t want us to be his family.” And Tony’s all over that, because he would have loved for someone to have asked his opinion when he was that age.
So they go find the kid and Steve carefully explains the situation, but he fumbles quite bit because well, how do you have that conversation anyways? At the end, Thor just tilts his head and asks “You’d be my new family?” And Steve says “Well, only if you want us to-” But he doesn’t get to finish that sentence because Thor shrieks with delight, jumps up to hug him and nearly squeezes the life out of Steve. Tony manages to pry Thor off Steve only to have the same thing happen to him.
So a little time goes by, a lot of paperwork is signed, and Steve and Tony are finally driving their two newly adopted sons home. Steve’s twisted around in the front seat talking to Thor, who quickly loses interest in the conversation and gains interest in the small, fidgety infant in the carrier beside him. “That’s the baby brother we told you about, what do you think?” Steve asks as he tries to hide his laughter, because Thor’s staring at Clint like he’s never seen a baby before in his entire life.
“My baby brother?” Steve nods, and Thor lights up like a giant Christmas tree. “BROTHER!” And Steve has to basically divebomb into the backseat to prevent Clint from being hugged to death. Tony pulls over so he can soothe a very startled baby and Steve can kindly but firmly explain that Clint is a little breakable and can’t roughhouse like that till he’s older. Thor understands and apologizes to his new brother by letting Clint chew on his fingers for the rest of the ride home.
Pepper drops by later that day to see the new addition to the family, and is a bit confused to see Steve on the couch giving Clint a bottle and Tony on the floor drawing crayon pictures with Thor. “I thought you were only-” But she just shakes her head and asks how they like family life so far. Thor perks up, screams “PEPPER!” and tackles the poor woman because Tony talked about her during the week or so when they kept visiting Thor before the papers were signed.
So that about sums up how Thor joins the family. There’s a few other things about child! and eventually teenage!Thor.
1. Thor is never the kind of brother who wants his little brother to go away. He’s just the opposite. Because they are BROTHERS and BROTHERS SHOULD DO EVERYTHING TOGETHER. Clint usually doesn’t mind, because he and Thor do get along very well (although they are brothers and they pick on each other and tease and so on), but sometimes he’s like “I am just going to get chips from the kitchen, sit down.” Thor also tries to be the advice-giving big brother, but he usually just ends up telling really long stories.
2. Thor is kind of…a hippie? Not an exact stereotype, because he’s a total carnivore and doesn’t drop acid or join drum circles anything like that. But he refuses haircuts for most of his life, is very into peace and love, and has a number of interesting viewpoints that can range from enlightening to interesting to well okay then. He also goes to liberal arts college when he’s old enough to major in underwater basket weaving, or something. An odd duck he begins, and an odd duck he stays.
3. Thor is the kind of kid who does a backflip off the back of the couch, hits his head, and just gets up and keeps running. Same for if he gets scolded or gets upset, he’s sad momentarily and then back to being best friends with everything in seconds.
4. Thor is a jack of all trades and a master of none. He’ll try anything once but rarely sticks with it. He unsettles his teachers a bit, but he’s a surprisingly good student. I have a tangent where he’s in high school and gets the lead in the school play and slowly drives the by-the-book drama teacher into early retirement, not sure where to go with that.
5. Thor doesn’t remember a whole lot about his early life, even less so as he gets older. The adoption agency doesn’t know much either, as he was dropped off very suddenly. He does seem to have the hint of an accent when he’s quite young, but he has an American birth certificate with the names scratched out except for his given name. When Thor’s about 10, Loki shows up out of nowhere and well, that’s another story for another time…
Chapter 2: The Lone She-Wolf
So Clint gets to be about five and Tony and Steve realize they need a babysitter.
Now that they’ve past the babyhood stage and they’ve stopped freaking out and are somewhat confident they can leave the younger kid alone temporarily without anything truly awful happening. And they need some Tony and Steve time, without the kids, but also without bugging one of their busy friends to watch Clint while they go to dinner or something.
And Thor’s old enough, but A) he’s not actually available very often because he joins ALL the extracurriculars and sometimes is only home long enough to do homework and sleep, B) They don’t want to make him feel any more responsible for Clint than he already does (Thor has some, shall we say, overbearing and overprotective tendencies?), and C) Thor fails cooking forever. He tries, and he is capable of making decent pancakes from a mix, but he’s forever mixing up baking powder and baking soda, and so on and so forth.
So Tony asks Pepper if she knows anyone, and Pepper comes over the next day with Natasha (who happened to be Pepper’s friend’s cousin’s dentist’s parakeet’s former owner’s neighbour, it’s Pepper, she can meet any demand), a redhead of very few words who is less than a year younger than Thor. Steve and Tony are a bit apprehensive because of her age and her relative silence, but decide to give her a trial run for a few hours on a Friday night (because Pepper).
They come home to a spotless house, Clint in bed at his actual bedtime, and a more than decent dinner made, cleaned up, and with leftovers wrapped up in the fridge.
Natasha is hired immediately.
Clint grows to like her pretty quick. When she means business, he listens, but the rest of the time they just play lego and talk and eat the weird Russian snacks she always brings over. She never says much, but she never needs to. Natasha also babysits Bruce when he starts coming over to see Clint. He’s legitimately kind of terrified of her at first, but grows to respect and like her when he’s older and she no longer appears in his mind as a tall stern-faced girl who seems to appear out of nowhere.
Natasha’s also a skilled novice martial artist. She teaches Clint quite a bit when she’s over. His parents start to notice him doing like, crazy ninja rolls down the hallway and are like “What has gotten into that kid” but Natasha just smiles and doesn’t mention anything.
And Clint totally has an adorable little kid crush on her. He sits in the kitchen and stares at her when she’s making dinner and tries to do stuff to make her laugh and gets all embarrassed when she compliments him on anything, even just a nice lego castle. He grows out of it by about age ten, but he still thinks she’s the coolest person ever.
When Clint’s eleven and starting to get to the age where he can look after himself, a fifteen-year-old Natasha shows up emancipated and holding a suitcase, thanking Steve and Tony and recommending a friend as a new sitter for Clint. Steve and Tony are totally shocked. Natasha had never talked about her family, but they just thought it was just her general lack of chattiness. They almost don’t believe her, because what judge would just let a teenage girl go solo like that? But she has official papers and well then. Okay. She’s about to leave, vaguely hinting at leaving the city but Steve and Tony are like “OH NO YOU DON’T” And they herd her into the kitchen, have a looooooooooooong conversation over tea, and somehow manage to convince her to live with them.
Thor comes home from whatever practice/meeting/thing he was at, and Clint comes into the kitchen like he totally wasn’t listening in the whole time (Natasha noticed, but Steve and Tony didn’t), and the parentals give an abbreviated explanation of the situation.
And Thor is immediately all “LITTLE SISTER!” and Clint has to say “No, no, we’re not actually adopting her, she’s independent and stuff. Also, you’re practically the same age. Calm down.” And Thor kind of has one of his private, rare serious moments. So after they all call it a night and go to bed, Thor finds some tracing paper and gets his adoption certificate out of a filing cabinet or wherever it is and traces EVERY SINGLE THING on the certificate except he puts Natasha’s name in place of his and changes the dates and hangs it on the fridge.
So everyone comes down for breakfast the next morning and sees it. Clint is mildly exasperated in an eleven-year-old “you’re embarrassing me” kind of way. Steve and Tony aren’t sure how to feel about it. Natasha thinks it’s really hilarious for some reasoning and is laughing into her bowl of Cheerios. Thor at last appears and grabs Natasha into a crushing bear hug and says “IF SHE IS GOING TO LIVE HERE SHE IS PART OF THIS FAMILY, I DON’T CARE IF IT’S OFFICIAL OR NOT. FAMILY IS FAMILY. RIGHT, NATASHA?” Natasha gurgles something affirmative because she’s slightly being crushed to death and Thor’s happy so he lets her go. And everyone else nods, because they don’t want to scare her because she literally just moved in last night, but they understand why Thor’s taking this so seriously after all the recent trouble with Loki.
And luckily, Natasha totally does become another member of the family. Steve is especially happy because he always secretly wanted a third kid and a girl. Thor dotes on her kind of excessively but she learns to live with it. Clint and her are bros for life. And once she adjusts and gets a bit more talkative, she joins Clint in mercilessly mocking Tony, who just goes “Damn kids” and half-jokingly tells on them to Steve. Steve shakes his head and makes sarcastic comments about being a father of four.
Chapter 3: The American Househusband in His Natural Habitat
This one’s about Steve! Because Steve.
Whereas Tony’s backstory is somewhat similar to his canon backstory, Steve’s is quite different for obvious reasons.
Nevertheless, Steve still grew up poor in Brooklyn, with his dad dying before he was born, and being best friends with Bucky from when they were practically in diapers. Steve’s mom dies just as he finishes high school, and he decides to join the army alongside Bucky. And he actually does really well! He works really hard and enjoys most of what he does and gets more than few promotions in a fairly short amount of time. The pay’s good, he gets to work with Bucky, life is great.
Then on one deployment everything goes wrong. Bucky dies and he should have saved him. He can’t keep doing this anymore. He feels so lost without his best friend. He refuses the therapy they offer him and quits. Back home, he dates a couple of times, but it just doesn’t pan out. And to maintain the rather nice apartment he’d been sharing with Bucky, he has to work three jobs. He’ll move out and get a smaller place eventually, he tells himself.
It’s at his job at an art supply store where he meets Tony. All Steve wanted to do was have his lunch break outside, but no, some idiot trying to break a land speed record on roller blades bumps into him, knocks his lunch all over the sidewalk, and doesn’t even say sorry. Steve’s standing there cursing his luck, because he doesn’t get paid till Friday and he really wanted that sandwich, when Tony comes walking by.
Tony’s dressed down so nobody recognizes him, and he saw that roller blader knock into that oh so very attractive blonde man in a store apron, so he decides to give him the sub he just bought. At first Steve refuses politely, but Tony insists, and then walks off humming to himself because the way that guy thanked him was like he just handed him a premium steak dinner or something.
After that, Tony makes a point to walk by that store every day at the same time, acting like he’d been doing that all along of course. More often than not, he bumps into Steve and they shoot the breeze about whatever. And they both realize “Hey, you’re pretty cool” so they start hanging out on the rare occasions they both have free time. Steve doesn’t realize who Tony is (three jobs + attempts at social life = no time to watch TV or mindlessly surf the internet) until he spots him on a tabloid at the supermarket. This leads to a small Why didn’t you tell me/you never asked/well what about argument, but Steve decides to let Tony’s rather infamous reputation go, because Bucky was kind of a smartass and got around a lot but they still managed to be friends.
And they grow really close in a short amount of time. They talk about everything. Tony brings him over to his place and Steve is impressed by the workshop and startled by JARVIS. Steve brings Tony to his apartment and they order pizza. And they definitely don’t agree on everything, but they’ll argue until it’s worked out.
And Steve soon realizes, oops, he wants to be more than friends. But what would Tony Stark, the man who could have basically anyone he wants, want with him? Except he can’t just ignore it, because Tony never stops flirting with him, and he does that with everyone but ARGH. So Steve finally can’t take it anymore, and confesses for better or for worse after Tony makes a comment that’s a borderline pass at him. Tony pauses momentarily, then does a small victory dance, mutters something about Lady Luck being on his side, and jumps a very confused Steve.
And they’re laying on the floor after a very thorough make-out session, and Steve says “I didn’t think you’d ever be the slightest bit interested in me.” Tony scoffs, “Are you kidding? If I didn’t know better I’d say you were genetically engineered to be perfect. Plus you’re so cute it’s hard to believe you’re 37.” “I should hope so, because I’m 23.” A pause. “…Shit. Oh well, too late now.” “Why did you think I was 37?” “I figured you had to be at least my age because you talk like an old man.” Cue brief wrestling match.
So they work out a relationship. When they fight, they fight pretty hard, but they never stop caring about each other. Steve is merely intrigued and concerned when he sees the machine in Tony’s chest, not disgusted or disturbed like some of Tony’s previous partners. Tony can be a total child sometimes, but Steve loves him anyways, and Steve has his own issues. They even hold up through the PR nightmare that is their relationship going public. Much to Tony’s frothing anger, and Steve’s passive distaste, Steve is forever referred to as Tony’s “boy toy” by less than desirable parts of the public.
Steve moves in with Tony after a year, because Tony’s like “I am a billionaire and my boyfriend is working three jobs, HAHA NO.” Steve keeps his job at the art supply store, because he likes it and he doesn’t want to be a total leech. And slowly they get closer and closer and they can’t imagine life without each other. So Steve buys a ring and goes to see Tony in his workshop and makes this REALLY QUITE EPIC SPEECH about love and commitment and how much he cares for Tony. And there’s a few seconds afterwards where Tony looks shocked and Steve’s terrified he’ll say no.
Instead, Tony fishes a ring out of his pocket and says “I was gonna say ‘Let’s stick it to all the haters,’ but I like yours much better.”
So they get MARRIED. And eventually, after some planning and whatnot, they adopt CLINT and THOR. And Steve quits his job to be a stay-at-home dad and totally rocks at it. He reads all the books, but he also has a lot of common sense from when he was a kid and constantly surrounded by Bucky’s large extended family. He buys organic groceries. He watches cartoons with them He is the uberdad, and he loves the kids to pieces. His confidence makes up for and helps Tony’s nervous “HOW DO I CHILDREN” disposition.
And since he has “a unique opportunity afforded by Tony’s wealth and all this free time I have because of that,” he volunteers. A lot. It basically becomes his full-time job once both Clint and Thor are in school. He plants trees, he helps out with the United Way, he helps out at veteran’s hospitals (insert jokes about Steve being a candy striper here), he’s the head of the Parent-Teacher’s Association at the kids’ school, he nurses baby wildlife back to health, HE DOES EVERYTHING OKAY.
Notably, during the summer he runs an arts day camp for kids (Clint and Thor attend so he can watch them when they’re younger, and they do actually enjoy it). He does really well at it because he has some seriously good artistic skills, which Tony has noticed on more than one occasion. As Steve’s doing a sketch of Clint and Thor playing a board game, Tony says to him for the 1000th time “How come you never went to art school?” And Steve smiles and responds for the 1000th time “If I went to art school we never would have met,” and kisses Tony on the cheek (Clint sees this and pulls a 7-year-old EW GROSS face, Thor is too caught up in dramatically rolling the dice to notice anything).
Afterwards, Tony says “You could still go, if you want to. You aren’t out of commission just because you have a spouse and kids.” Steve just grins down at his sketch, “I don’t need to go. I have everything I want right here.”
Chapter 4: Fledgling of the Family
This one’s about Clint, because I imagined him first but have barely written about him yet.
Continuation of this and the previous ones linked therein.
When Steve and Tony adopt the two kids, it’s Tony that names Clint.
Thor already has his name, obviously (Tony briefly considers changing it because Thor? Really? But he knows that wouldn’t be fair to the kid since he’s already five), and Steve gives both kids embarrassing, lengthy middle names after important people in his life, so Tony gets to name the baby (Clint’s under two months old when they adopt him, and didn’t have a birthname for some reason).
“Why Clint?” Steve asks when Tony tells him. “Isn’t that a bit dated?”
“He looks like a Clint, don’t you think so?” Tony holds the infant up to Steve’s face, all enormous blue eyes and paintbrush-bristle hair and Steve’s just like well, if you say so.
Clint’s a fairly average baby/toddler, except in one respect: He never quits moving. On more than one occasion, while trying to hold Clint in his lap, Tony just picks him up and holds the kid facing him and says “Listen buddy, I hate to break it to you. But you are five months old, you cannot go anywhere under your own power. I respect your efforts, but sit still for two minutes while I eat, okay?” Steve finds these one-sided conversations extremely funny.
Random side bit here: When Steve feeds baby Clint, he fusses and fidgets and generally turns it into an ordeal, but behaves perfectly when Tony feeds him. “Maybe he’s afraid of your giant hands?” Tony suggests, making Steve come as close to pouting as he ever will.
And when Clint finally can move under his own power, oh boy. He runs and jumps and hides and chases animals and gets into everything. Usually encouraged by Thor, who is absolutely delighted that his baby brother can play now! He’s really quite sneaky too, he never gets discovered unless he breaks/stains/otherwise damages something, and he always wins at hide and seek. Steve does try to watch out and go looking for him if the house gets too quiet, and JARVIS does send out an alert if Clint gets into something dangerous, but he still gets away with quite a lot. He’s not a bad kid, he’s just very curious and those lessons from Natasha help with that.
Clint’s a late talker, because he spends his preschool years with Thor doing all the talking for both of them. But when he does start, he never stops. His smart mouth gets him in trouble on many occasions. Again, not a bad kid, just a bit clever and some snarkiness absorbed from Tony. He’s always good for a laugh. Even when he’s a teenager and going through an awkward stage, he walks into the kitchen with a deadly serious face on, and says “Dad, other Dad, we need to talk” (He starts calling Tony “other dad” as a joke when he’s 11, and it sticks for some weird reason). He sits down at the table and drags it out until Steve and Tony are beyond concerned, then he finally sighs heavily and says “I’m pregnant.” Steve and Tony nearly knock him out of his chair in their simultaneous attempts at retaliation.
Speaking of Thor, Clint gets along with him most all of the time. They do have the occasional spats because hey, siblings, but nothing serious. Clint has a very quiet, respectful love for his older brother. He never says much (Thor certainly says a lot, but that goes for everything), but he looks up to him in a way. Thor’s always available to have fun. He always cheers Clint up, sometimes even when Clint doesn’t want to be cheered up. And he gets to experience everything a few years before Clint does, so he’s always there to (try and) offer advice and what have you. Clint tries to reciprocate by cheering Thor up on the rare times he needs to be, and sending him lots of stuff when he goes away to university and eventually moves out of the house entirely.
When it comes to interests, he has a few really big ones and that’s it. He’s a bit on the quiet side, especially as he gets older. He likes learning stuff from Natasha. He’s a good cook and does a lot of it when he’s a pre-teen/teenager. He likes music, any kind, and has a good singing voice. Him and Tony sometimes bond via karaoke. Clint sounds lovely and loud and Tony sounds like a screeching cat, but neither of them say anything either way. He gets interested in archery quite early, and joins a team as soon as he can. When he’s not doing anything else (which is often), he’s practising with his bow.
In school, he’s kind of a middling student. If he’s interested in something, he does well. If he’s not, he can’t be bothered. He gets by though, because his best friend tutors him. He meets his best friend when he’s seven, eating lunch at school and he knocks his sandwich onto the floor. He’s about to get hardcore first-grader indignant when the curly-haired kid beside him taps him on the shoulder and offers some of his lunch.
And despite being so different in so many areas, Clint and Bruce are best friends from that point on. They’re always hanging out, they always understand each other, and they always have the other’s back. Bruce spends more time at Clint’s house than he does at his own. And Clint doesn’t like to admit it, but he really couldn’t get along without the painfully shy nerd. They even end up going to the same university (Clint owes his admission to Bruce’s help, and tries to repay him by introducing him to girls). Clint goes for art, because unfortunately archery isn’t an available major (and because I can see him as an art student, and subsequently, a snarky, solitary designer of some kind).
Of course it’s not always sunshine and rainbows. Bad things happen and hearts get stepped on and times get hard, and as the proverbial baby of the family, Clint feels angry and useless because he’s too young to really help any bad situations that might happen. But even when he’s at his angstiest and most useless-feeling, Steve will still knock on his door after dinner and invite him to come watch a movie and forget about the girl who broke his heart or the thing that happened or what Loki did this week. Tony hauls himself up from his workshop, Thor leaves his homework for later, Natasha appears, and Bruce is there as always, and Clint feels a bit better and more himself.
Chapter 5: Ying and Yang
Trigger warning: VERY brief mentions of neglectful/abusive parents, violence, and suicide
About Bruce, the world’s smartest latchkey kid and Clint’s best friend.
They really shouldn’t be best friends, they have almost nothing in common. When they first become friends, they’re just first-graders. Bruce is the near-silent good student/teacher’s pet, and Clint gets “distracts others” put on his report card every term. But Clint doesn’t mind that Bruce is quiet, that’s just Bruce, and it makes him a good listener. They talk (at first it’s just Clint talking and Bruce nodding, but he comes out of his shell soon enough) about all sorts of things. Little kid imaginary stuff, random stories about their day, and comic books. They both really, really like comic books. No matter how much their interests diverge, they can always find common ground with the latest issue of Superman.
(Side note: Although Tony can definitely afford to send Thor and Clint to private school, Steve has strong opinions about public education and frankly, Tony doesn’t have particularly fond memories of his time at private school, so he defers to Steve and they go to regular school)
So Clint starts bringing Bruce over to play. The first time, Steve finishes drying a dish to kneel down and say hi to the adorable curly-haired kid, who stammers a hello and practically hides behind Clint’s shoulder. Then Thor barges in the door after walking his friends home and greets Clint in his usual way: By tackling him where he stands and then play-wrestling with him for a bit. This startles Bruce enough that he runs and hides behind the living room couch. After coaxing his younger son’s new friend back out, Steve suggests that maybe they should play something a little more quiet.
At first, Bruce is nervous about everything. He scampers away from Tony and Steve. When Clint hands him a toy, he stares at it like he thinks he isn’t allowed to have it. He’s terrified of Natasha despite Clint’s insistence that she’s “really super cool.” In time, he gets more comfortable and relaxed, but is still pretty shy. He starts staying for dinner and the like. One night, everyone gets caught up watching a movie and Steve notices afterwards that it’s past eight and dark outside. Bruce thanks Steve politely for having him and heads towards the door. Steve asks if his parents are picking him up, and Bruce says “No, I can walk. I only live-” and he gives an address that’s at least 14 blocks away.
Of course Steve is like “NO, YOU ARE EIGHT AND IT IS DARK AND THIS IS NEW YORK. I AM CALLING YOUR PARENTS.” So he calls and no one answers, but while the phone’s ringing he finally gets a good look at the kid who usually runs away from him; Scruffy hair. Clothes too small
and in need of a wash. Fidgeting at the mere mention of his parents.
Steve sighs, he knows exactly what he’s looking at. “Would you like to stay the night? It wouldn’t be any trouble.” And Bruce, usually not one to impose, nods excitedly.
And that’s the first of many sleepovers. Bruce is at their place every day, hanging out with Clint. Only going home to sleep, and that becomes less frequent the older he gets. He’s even allowed over on school nights because he helps Clint with his homework. One night, Tony is making coffee while Bruce and Clint are at the table doing some worksheets. Clint ask Bruce to explain something about atoms and Bruce spews out what sounds like eighth grade science curriculum. Tony freezes momentarily, then goes back down to the workshop, digs up some science quizzes and IQ tests, sets them up on the interfaces, and brings Bruce down at the next available opportunity.
Turns out, Bruce is a genius in the making. Tony scratches his head at why no one’s encouraging or stimulating this kid the way they should be. But then he remembers what Steve mentioned to him that first night and the things he’s noticed on his own and oh, dear. But Tony loves a project, so he makes mentoring Bruce one of his top priorities. He gives him advanced books to and somehow manages to talk to the teacher at school into giving him higher-level science and math assignments and even gives Bruce his own little table in the lab to work with. Bruce is at La Casa de Stark-Rogers even when Clint is at archery practice.
And Clint, while occasionally feeling the mild sting of his friend being smarter than him, is not bothered. Because A) Tony still spends just as much time with him and doesn’t neglect him AT ALL, Tony is Not That Kind of Parent, he just makes a little more time in his day to check up on Bruce, and B) Yeah, maybe it would be odd for other kids to have their best friend come over when they’re not there and basically act like part of the family, but not for Clint. Clint’s unspoken philosophy is if it works for you and it’s not hurting anyone, go ahead. He hears it at school about his “weird” older brother and his two dads and lots of other stuff, he is not going to judge anybody. Especially not Bruce.
Steve and Tony never learn really anything (other than what they observe on their own) about Bruce’s family situation, except that it’s Not Good and Bruce is Not Interested in talking about it. Clint learns a bit more,but not the entire story. He just knows that on the increasingly rare occasion that Bruce goes him, he’ll need to just sit and talk about nothing for an hour or two the next day, or else he gets really withdrawn. That’s all Clint needs to know and he doesn’t press the matter. It eventually becomes less of an issue because when they’re starting tenth grade Steve and Tony just kind of give Bruce a spare room and he just stays (Most of his stuff has migrated there already, so it’s an easy transition).
Although it becomes clear much earlier that Tony accepts Bruce as son number 3 (It’s clear from the beginning with Steve because he’s the “I’ll be Dad to ALL the babies!” sort of parent). First, when Tony hands eight-year-old Bruce his tablet to read an article about the Large Hadron Collider, notices him squinting and holding it really close to his face, and his first reaction is to have an optometrist come to the house and fit the kid for reading glasses. Bruce is speechless, Steve thinks it’s sweet, and Tony’s like “Hey, I just didn’t want the kid getting migraines before he’s old enough to shave.”
The second time is when Tony goads a painfully shy ten-year-old Bruce into making something for the school science fair, then the city science fair, and finally the state science fair. Clint tags along to these because he helped with the display boards and YAY FIELD TRIP WITH OTHER DAD AND BEST BUDDY. Of course, Bruce cleans up like Adele at the 2012 Grammy’s and totally wows the judges. Clint runs up and hugs him afterwards, Tony puts a hand on his shoulder and says “Good job! I knew you could do it!” Then babbles on in typical Tony fashion about how proud he is of Bruce, until he notices the kid is ABOUT TO CRY because no one’s ever said anything like that to him, and Tony remembers being that age and not hearing that either. So Tony, to cover up the way-too-emotional moment, is like “WHO WANTS ICE CREAM,” because ice cream is the ultimate distraction and it works.
After that, Bruce always goes out for the science fairs. And once he’s in high school, everyone goes with him to the International Science and Engineering Fair as an Of Course Bruce Is a Part of the Family family trip every year. And he eventually goes to university on a gazillion scholarships. Clint goes to the same university (Bruce helped him hit the books during his senior year) for art. Some years they’re roomies, some they’re not, but they stick together.
Backtracking a bit, a couple important things happened while they were in high school. One is that they diverged quite a bit socially. Clint’s a class clown, still on the archery team, and is popular with the la-Actually, he’s popular with everyone, he’s kind of open to anything. Bruce’s shyness is amplified by the snake pit that is high school, pays way more attention to his books than to other people, and is in the chess club. There’s a time where Clint keeps going to parties Bruce has no interest in attending, so they don’t hang out as much until Clint is like “Screw this, it’s no fun without you” and drags him along and introduces him to girls (Bruce gets used to it because Clint is there).
The second important thing is three incidents with the same outcome. One involves Clint getting mouthy with some jerks at school and them jumping him on the way home. One is when Clint encourages Bruce to have a few drinks at a party and there’s a bit of an altercation with some other drunken partygoers. One is when they get mugged in Central Park. All three times, Bruce is provoked and then hits and hits and hits and doesn’t know when to stop. Clint covers for him all three times, gets him out of there, and finally asks what’s up by the third time.
Bruce can’t explain it. He’s always been like this. When he was really little, there was an incident, recommendations of counselling. His parents ignored it and had him switch schools. “I thought I had it under control,” Bruce mumbles down at his split knuckles as he pats them with scrunched toilet paper.
Clint doesn’t hate him, doesn’t become afraid of him, just looks out for him. Bruce judges himself enough and sinks into three damn-near suicidal periods after each incident. Clint just stays by him because he will never, ever leave Bruce behind.
Clint finishes university and gets a design job. Bruce goes to grad school in NYC and Clint visits/bugs him whenever he can. One day, Bruce is in the lab working and Clint is visiting, they get talking about relationships. Bruce has had a few, Clint has had more than a few, but none of them ever worked out. Jeez, it sure is a shame we can’t find anybody who means that much to us. I mean, nobody understands me like you do. I feel closer to you than anyone else and-Oh my god.
“What?” Clint asks as Bruce rubs his eyes and makes exasperated noises.
“Clint,” Bruce uses his super-serious “for SCIENCE” voice. “Answer these three questions with complete honesty. One, have you ever thought of me as a brother the way you think of Natasha as a sister? Two, you once told me you loved me, while I was depressed, is that still true? And three, have you ever considered having sex with me but chose not to because you were afraid of wrecking our friendship?”
“No, actually, I haven’t. Yes I do, you’re my best friend. And-uh,” Clint scratches the back of his neck and turns the tiniest bit red. “Yes, actually, don’t take that the wrong way, it’s just, y’know, you’re attractive-Why are you asking me this?”
“Clint, don’t you see!” Bruce grabs his shoulders. “We’re not just best friends, we’re in love. I can’t believe it’s taken us this long to figure it out.” This exchange is followed by a very long conversation about what if this ruins our friendship and is it worth the risk and how can we be sure and etc. Eventually, they work it out.
“Wow, I mean, I always cared about you, I just didn’t know it was in that way,” Clint crosses his arms and frowns at the inaccessibility of one’s own emotions. “Are you sure you feel the same way about me? You’re not under obligation just because of my feelings.”
Instead of answering, Bruce kisses him and oh, that definitely cinches the deal. They agree to start dating outright, with Clint’s insistence on proper dates rather than just hanging out, because “If we’re doing this, we’re doing this right.” On the following Saturday, they drop by La Casa de Stark-Rogers to tell Steve and Tony about this new development. And they wait, and wait, and wait, and how long does it take to buy groceries? Seriously. So they start cuddling a bit standing at the kitchen counter. And of course, Steve walks in just as they’re mid-smooch.
Steve’s immediate reaction is to say “Oh, FINALLY” a bit loudly. He claps a hand to his mouth and turns red right afterwards because whoops, he did not mean to say that out loud. He drops the grocery bag he’s holding and runs back down the hall yelling “TONY, I THINK YOUR SON WANTS TO TALK TO YOU.” “YEAH, WHICH ONE?” “THE YOUNGER ONE.” “OKAY, SO NOT THOR. AGAIN, WHICH ONE?”
Bruce is immediately upgraded from unofficial third son to future son-in-law, much to Clint’s embarrassment.
Chapter 6: Three in One
These are just three individual scenes that don’t fit into any of the character chapters, but I have deemed necessary to the story (or something).
What’s In a Name
When Tony and Steve first bring Clint and Thor home, they’re faced with the dilemma of most all same-sex parents: What are the kids going to call us?
Tony insists that Steve be called Dad. Steve doesn’t care either way, but Tony refuses to budge on the subject because “There’s nothing remotely Dad-like about me-No, listen. Look at you, you are giving that kid a bottle with one hand and getting the bigger kid a snack with the other. You are Dad. It is your destiny. Lo, when the Fates decided-Steve? Steve, why are you ignoring me? You’re so rude, Steve.”
But there’s still the issue of what to call Tony. Father? “Oh my god, no. That is so Leave It to Beaver, just no.” Just his name? “Makes me sound like I’m not their parent, which I totally am. Look at me, I am diapering the hell out of this baby. Don’t glare at me like that, it’s not like he can understand swear words yet.” Any of the other alternatives? “Those all sound totally ridiculous and you know it.” So they just decide to let the kids come up with something on their own, no rush, right?
The next day, Steve is shuffling down to breakfast holding a fussing Clint in one arm and dragging a fussing Tony with the other (To their credit, both had been up half the night feeding, diapering, and soothing a two-month-old who is not yet old enough to appreciate schedules). Thor is already wide awake and in the kitchen. He charges at Steve, hugs his leg, and yells “DAD!” because Tony had made sure to impress upon him that Steve is Dad, so he wouldn’t have to A) awkwardly correct the kid later, or B) actually deal with his issues and why being called Dad bothers him.
Steve manages to mumble a good morning and ruffle Thor’s hair. Satisfied, Thor turns to Tony, pauses for a moment, and then latches onto his leg yelling “FAR!”
That sets off a tiny red flag in Tony’s so-not-awake-yet brain that doesn’t register until after he’s patted the kid’s head, ate breakfast, and cleaned up. He asks JARVIS if the word has any meaning or if it’s just random child-speak. “Based on the pronunciation and the accent, it appears to be the Norwegian word for ‘father,’ sir.”
“Why would he know Norwegian?” Tony wonders aloud, remembering the vandalized American birth certificate tucked in with the other paperwork in the safe. Steve supposes he had family who spoke the language and taught him as well. Tony still wonders, because there’s a certain something in the way Thor speaks-but no matter, it’s not like they’re going to badger the poor kid when they’ve just brought him home. Tony tries out the word, with the little trill on the ‘r’ like Thor had done, and decides he likes it.
And so, from that point on Steve and Tony are Dad and Far, respectively. Clint starts calling Tony “Other Dad” when he’s about 11, and the joke sticks, but still calls him Far when he wants to be serious.
Steve is beloved by all the moms at all the playgrounds.
Sure, some of the cattier ones like to talk badly about his and Tony’s relationship at first, but even warm to him eventually. He’s gorgeous, he’s extremely polite, and did we mention gorgeous? Steve’s okay with the attention he gets, but he never was able to get over the slightly-awkwardness he still has around women. Not that it matters much, because he’s not particularly interested in socializing, he’s interested in playing with his kids. He will stop mid-sentence to yell “YEAH, I’M WATCHING. GOOD JOB.”
He also stays focused on them because he still feels guilty about the one time he got caught up chatting and this happened.
Steve happened across a soccer mom who liked baseball, and was talking to her about the Dodgers when Clint got a bit out of sight. It’s a fenced-in playground, no worries right? Until Thor comes tearing towards him yelling “CLINT’S HURT.” Steve goes running right over because well, doesn’t this remind him of something. He finds four-year-old Clint laying face down underneath the monkey bars he fell off of, whimpering a bit. Steve rolls him over and thank god, he just banged up his knee a bit. He hands Thor the car key with instructions to go get the first aid kit.
Thor’s back at the speed of light. But when Steve goes to pick off what appears to be a tiny rock stuck on the skin above his knee, Clint shrieks at the top of his lungs. Steve gulps, it’s not such a little rock and it’s definitely not on top of the skin. He carefully gathers him up and gets Thor to open the car for him. Steve drives them to the emergency room and Clint holds it together astoundingly well, just continuously whimpering through clenched teeth.
A doctor, some disinfectant, and a few stitches later, and luckily there’s no permanent damage other than a little scar that fades with time. Steve’s just arrived home and is tucking Clint into bed when Tony comes bursting in. He’d just gotten Steve’s voicemail and had broken several traffic laws to get there. “How are you feeling, kiddo?” Tony asks as he tries to smooth himself a bit and give the appearance of calm.
“Sleepy…” Clint mumbles, heavy-lidded eyes still revealing wide pupils.
“They gave you the good stuff, huh?” Tony tucks the blanket in around him and tells him to get some rest. Once out in the hallway, he starts rambling about how he was in a meeting and he forgot his phone and he’ll be more careful next time and what if it had been a serious emergency? Steve kisses him and assures him that it’s fine, he’s not a superhero and he can’t be everywhere at once.
They find a nervous-looking Thor in the kitchen, and Steve barely has a chance to thank him for being a help today before Thor asks, in his indoor voice for once, “Is he going to wake up?” Steve is confused and says that of course he will, it’s just the medicine making him sleepy and he’ll just need to be careful with his knee for a little while. Thor immediately brightens, says “OH GOOD, I WAS WORRIED,” and runs out of the kitchen to do who knows what in the rec room. Steve watches him go and sighs, “I worry about him sometimes.” Tony quirks an eyebrow, “Just sometimes?” “Okay, a lot of the time.”
For a while at least, their worry is forgotten because they wake up the next day to find Thor carrying a tray of breakfast and comic books (to be read aloud, Clint can’t quite read them alone yet) to his little brother’s bedroom.
Yes, Steve is a Believer in Time-Out
Bruce is initially terrified of Thor. Thor is BIG and LOUD and Bruce is small and startles really easily. It takes a while for them to truly bond, but the first step Bruce takes towards that is letting Clint and Thor do their greeting thing. Clint is home first, Thor is home a few minutes to a couple hours later, and then they tackle and chase each other around the house for about ten minutes. Bruce learns this, and knows to go up to Clint’s bedroom and wait it out.
One particular day, Thor and Clint race into Clint’s room, drag Bruce off the bed, and stuff themselves into the closet and close the doors. A frightened Bruce manages to ask what is going on in between being dragged across the room and nearly thrown into a laundry hamper.
Clint shushes him and whispers, “We bumped into a table and broke a vase. If we hide up here long enough, Dad won’t figure out it’s us and he’ll blame it on one of the robots." Bruce, being smarter than the average bear/eight-year-old, tries to mention that the house is covered in cameras and Steve could just ask JARVIS who did it, but Clint claps a hand over his mouth and Bruce decides not to press the matter.
Not ten minutes go by, Steve comes upstairs, sees the mess, and flips on the house intercom (a necessity of living in a giant tower and having to call two or more rambunctious kids for dinner every night). Clint and Thor wince in unison when a stern “THOR JAMES ANTHONY STARK-ROGERS, COME HERE RIGHT NOW!” comes over the speakers. Thor exits the closet with a promise to try and cover for them.
After Thor leaves, Bruce can’t help but whisper “Sheesh, got enough names there?” Clint rolls his eyes and whispers back “I know, right? How dorky does that sound? Far let Dad pick our middle names.” Bruce giggles, “He sounds like a knight that should be saving princesses and stuff!” Just as they get laughing back and forth, the intercom comes on again and “CLINT VIRGIL MARTIN STARK-ROGERS, GET DOWN HERE!” echoes through the house.
Clint facepalms, and Bruce’s face twists into a sadistic second-grader grin, “Oh my god, you have the WORST name EVER.” Clint tells him to shut up and tromps out of the closet and out the door.
Significance of the kids’ middle names, if anyone’s curious:
James = Both Bucky and Rhodey’s actual first name. Anthony = Tony’s full name, Steve did it as a little tribute to him, you’ll find out why later.
Virgil = Approximately the closest thing to a modern male version of Virginia, Pepper’s actual first name. Martin = One of the closest things to a male version of Margaret, Peggy’s full name.)
Chapter 7: A Storm Brews
One day, Loki appears.
He doesn’t materialize in the living room or anything, but it sure feels that way. Thor is twelve and Loki is eleven when Loki’s adoptive father contacts Tony and Steve all business-like to arrange a meeting between the two brothers. Steve and Tony are wary at first, “What kind of name is von Doom, anyways?” They ask an overly-excited-at-the-prospect Thor why he never mentioned that he had a brother. Thor replies, “I THOUGHT I’D NEVER BE ABLE TO SEE HIM AGAIN. CAN I GO MEET HIM PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE?” So they let the meeting take place at a park, because how can they deny the kid that?
At first Thor is SO THRILLED to see his brother once, and Loki’s really quite happy too! He’s happy to have found him! But it starts going downhill when Loki immediately starts jabbering at Thor in a foreign tongue, and Thor just stands there looking so confused. Loki switches to English, but seems rather displeased.
The parents let the kids go off and have their time together. But Steve and Tony are having Bad Feelings in the backs of their minds, not helped by the fact that Loki’s adoptive father seems totally disinterested in both his kid and everything else. Preferring to constantly fiddle with his phone rather than engage in conversation.
So Thor and Loki goof around and talk and Thor tells Loki about everything, and eventually asks about their birth parents. Loki stares blankly and says “They died a year ago, in an accident,” like it should have been obvious. Thor whimpers an “Oh” and isn’t sure if he should cry or not, because he really doesn’t remember hardly anything about his birth parents. And to be honest, not much more about Loki other than that he liked him and they had fun together.
So eventually they have to go home and Thor, although a bit saddened by the news, tells Loki that “THEY SHOULD VISIT EACH OTHER ALL THE TIME.” Loki smiles a bit and says that he spends a lot of time in Europe, but he’ll try to when he can. Thor goes home overjoyed at having A LITTLE BROTHER AGAIN, HURRAY, but Steve and Tony can’t quite shake their Bad Feeling.
Rightfully so, because a few days later von Doom tells them of his intention to adopt Thor himself.
Steve and Tony try not to flip out too much, because von Doom did this without preamble and the kids are RIGHT THERE. They make it very clear that Thor is THEIR child and has been for seven years and that’s not going to change. Von Doom tries to make the “siblings should be together” argument, but Steve and Tony are so not having it. Thor is understandably a bit scared, but suggests that “MY LITTLE BROTHER SHOULD COME LIVE WITH US AND WE CAN ALL BE FAMILY TOGETHER,” grinning like it’s the best idea in the whole world.
Loki looks Steve and Tony up and down, wrinkles his nose in disgust, and says “I don’t think so. This was my idea anyways, you’re coming to live with us and that’s final.” And the conversation definitely degenerates from there.
And then the Stark-Rogers family gets dragged into family court technically by von Doom, but really by Loki who is obviously and disturbingly leading the whole thing despite being you know, in elementary school. Tony and Steve only have so much time to be baffled by that before they get ANGRY. It drags out for MONTHS and there’s delays and red tape and ARGH. It shouldn’t be this hard, Thor is THEIR SON and that’s not going to change because of a whiny little blast from the past.
Tony, calling in a favour from his old friend Coulson, hires the best lawyer in the world, but that only improves the situation so much. It’s so stressful and it disrupts their daily lives and it’s ugly and dirty thanks to Loki’s near-constant mischief and harassment of them. Thor tries to remain positive and keeps saying that if he could just convince his little brother to come live with them, it would all be fine. When they’re in the thick of the case, a frazzled Steve snaps that there is no way in hell that Loki is ever setting foot in their house after all the trouble he’s caused. Thor swallows hard and slinks off to his room.
Not long after that, they’re sitting in the courtroom on the verge of losing it because the judge seems sympathetic to the “biological siblings should be together” argument, and Loki had performed a convincing, but fake, act about how much he misses his brother and why living with von Doom would be better than living with them (The first part does have truth to it, but it’s hammed up like you wouldn’t believe). In the midst of this, Tony’s brain switches to Science Mode, he looks closely at Thor and closely at Loki, and whispers to their lawyer. A short while later, after Loki’s also-vandalized birth certificate is produced, a DNA test is ordered because why should they take a middle school brat at his word? The test is done, quite willingly and smugly on Loki’s part, and the results come in a couple long weeks later.
Thor and Loki aren’t related. They’re not even half-brothers. They could have been born on two different planets for all anyone knows.
The case ends, von Doom and Loki clearly aware they don’t have a leg to stand on anymore.
Outside, a now-thirteen-year-old (the case dragged out that long) Thor runs up to Loki, hugs him, and tells him that being biologically related doesn’t mean anything, and he’s still his little brother-
Loki shoves him away, hard. “Don’t. call. me. that,” he says through clenched teeth. “If you really were my big brother you wouldn’t have LEFT me! Do you have ANY idea what I went through after you were gone? While you were living in your big house with your stupid, smiling parents and your great life that you kept bragging about?”
“Loki, I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to- I don’t remember-“
“Of course you don’t,” a sneer that has no place on a boy that young creeps over Loki’s face. “Lucky you, you always were Father’s favourite. No matter what you did. Now I know why. Have a great life, and wipe that idiot look off your face. Don’t act like I meant so much to you.” Loki stomps into a waiting car and is gone.
On the drive home, Steve sits in the back to wrap his arm around Thor’s shoulders. The boy who’s tall and large enough to be constantly mistaken for a high school student is a crumpled mess in his seat. Once home, Tony quietly sends Natasha and Clint (Bruce is at his house, for once) downstairs for a while. The three of them head to the kitchen to talk.
Thor pushes away the sandwich Steve makes him, and Steve’s heart breaks that much more. “Listen, buddy,” Tony says while flipping a pen around in his hands. “I’m really sorry about what happened. I didn’t mean for it to go quite that badly, but do you get why we had to do it?” Thor nods stiffly.
“What Loki said was really hurtful,” Steve rests his hand on Thor’s shoulder, he wriggles away from the touch. “But you have to understand that whatever happened to him isn’t your fault. You didn’t leave him on purpose. You were four, you couldn’t have done anything like that on your own. Okay?”
“But,” Thor’s voice is strained, trying to stay strong. “But what happened to him? And why did they give me up but not Loki?”
“I don’t know, Thor. Only Loki has those answers. And maybe when he’s older, if he works through some things, you might be able to talk with him and get those answers. I don’t know what’s made him like this, but it’s nothing you could have prevented. Even if you hadn’t been put up for adoption, you would have been just a kid too.” Tony nods and adds, “Listen, are you sure you don’t remember anything?”
“Very little, I used to know more when I was little. I remember us playing together, and I think I remember what my parents look like,-” Thor shakes his head violently. “He’s still my little brother. He’s still family.”
“We’re your family too,” Tony stops playing with the pen and places a hand on the table in front of Thor. “We love you very, very much and you’ll always have us, even if Loki never comes around. You belong here, not anywhere else. Alright?”
Thor gets up and pulls Tony into a too-tight hug, all the while Steve is giving Tony a Very Impressed look. Afterwards, Thor excuses himself to his room and is discreetly followed by Clint, who was eavesdropping and has been secretly listening in on the proceedings over the past year. Creeping into Thor’s room, he finds his older brother laying down and curled up on his side, facing into the pillow.
Pulling himself up onto Thor’s giant bed, the eight-year-old Clint pokes Thor’s arm and says sincerely, “Whatever Loki said, he’s wrong. You’re the best big brother ever.” Poke poke. “Thor?”
Thor’s arm comes up and around Clint to yank him over and under in a crushing hug. “AGH NO, GET OFF ME, YOU’RE LIKE A MILLION POUNDS. GET OFF.”
“AND YOU,” Thor booms as he rolls them over and flips into a sitting position. “ARE A MOST EXCELLENT LITTLE BROTHER IF I DO SAY SO MYSELF. DO YOU WANT TO GO TO THE COMIC BOOK SHOP?” Clint doesn’t even answer properly, just squeals and runs to get his shoes.
After that, Loki does make appearances now and again, trying to make Thor’s life difficult. But by then, Thor is old enough to handle him by himself. And it helps that he’s confident he’ll always have a family to come home to.
No more sad chapters besides this, I promise!
Chapter 8: So This is Love
Tony's early life is much the same as we've always known it to be. Genius, more problems with his dad than there are stars in the sky, graduated MIT at 18, parents die, runs Stark Industries, and becomes a war profiteer as well as kind of a huge, but well-intentioned, jerk.
And then there's Afghanistan. Tony doesn't remember much, and what he does remember, he doesn't talk about. He remembers pain and fear and machinery. He somehow remembers everything he and Yinsen talked about, up until he said "Don't waste it." Then it's a blank until Rhodey clapped a hand on him shoulder in the desert while the machine he'll never be rid of hummed away in his chest.
He tried to follow what Yinsen said. He changed Stark Industries completely as soon as he got back home. So much so that Obie tried to have him declared "unfit" on the basis of PTSD, or death by stolen arc reactor. And he might have succeeded, if a certain man named Coulson hadn't appeared out of nowhere and gave Tony a hand right when he needed it. He doesn't trust the mysterious secret agent man, but he owes him and hey, he's fun to verbally spar with occasionally, so he gets to stick around. And then there's Pepper.
Pepper who saved him from alcohol poisoning after his dad saved him from palladium poisoning. Pepper who'd know if he had forgotten to eat or sleep and would yell at him appropriately. Pepper who's always, always on top of everything and always, always there.
And he loved her, still does, just not in the same way. It seemed such a natural and final transition, from long-term friendship to long-term relationship. He didn't have to worry about her going off with some guy who didn't deserve the dirt from her heels, he could have her right there beside him, safe. Honest and warm and there. It soothed an ache inside of him when they kissed or talked or did anything, really. Sleeping only felt comfortable when she was tucked under his arm.
But he honestly wasn't surprised when it ended.
For all they had, they were still missing something. The something that was needed to keep them together forever, or something romantic like that. He loved her, but he knew this. It felt too selfish to Tony to want more from a seemingly perfect woman. So Pepper ended up stepping up to the plate and saying what he never would. It still felt like a knife to the gut, but it wasn't so bad in the end. Because Pepper didn't run away, she just shuffled them back into their old roles as friends and oddly, Tony felt much better for it.
But one day, Tony was feeling the pain just a bit too much. So he decided to go get his own lunch and go for a walk while he was at it. Next thing he knows, he's in Brooklyn eating pizza and having great conversation with a man named Steve. Huh, how did that happen?
Steve's a great friend. I mean, Pepper is Pepper, but Steve's a whole new batch of cookies. Interesting and funny and completely willing to argue with him when necessary. They're different in just about every way possible, but they're always equals. They always match each other. Even when Steve finally figures out who Tony is, none of it matters, it's just the two of them and nothing else. Until it becomes the two of them and Tony's wandering eyes and thoughts, and that's when he goes to Pepper.
"If you're too afraid of scaring him off," Pepper huffs after listening to an hour of Tony being unwilling to interact with a person in any sort of normal way. "Let him come to you." That makes Steve sound like a startled deer. "Sure, let's go with that. Just hold your hand out, and if and when he wants to, he'll come closer." That actually kind of works. Except deer don't usually hang around Tony's workshop, and he certainly doesn't make out with them. D for metaphor, but A++ for results. Thank you, Ms. Potts.
Tony knew he liked Steve from the beginning, but he didn't know exactly how much. Not until their first date when they're in one of Tony's preferred five-star restaurants and Steve's in a nice suit and turning on the charm without even realizing it and oh wow, Tony can't even sit still. He's just, there's no other word to describe him but lovely. And now Tony can appreciate that without mental error messages about friendship and crossing lines.
Steve is soft yellow hair and expressive blue eyes and muscle that ripples when he moves even a little. He's discipline and common sense and honesty. He tells heartfelt stories about old friends, cheerily shoots the breeze, and opens his ears to whatever Tony has to say. And when he laughs, he laughs softly like he doesn't want to bother anyone. Tony dumbly wants to take him home and take care of him forever.
Steve does not want to be taken care of. He firmly refuses most of Tony's extravagances. He merely wrinkles his nose at the tabloid smears about their relationship that send Tony into a rage. Whenever Tony worries about him working too hard or not taking care of himself, Steve simply gives him A Look and says "Pot, meet kettle." If it was always like this, Tony might question Steve's love. But it's not.
Steve agrees to move in after barely a year of dating not because he's exhausted from three jobs or it's unfair because he's with a billionaire, but because he wants to spend more time with Tony. He unabashedly makes bedroom eyes at Tony outside of the bedroom, makes him dinner, and makes him happy. The best times are in the mornings and evenings and after-lovemakings (a new word, for Tony), when they just lay and run fingers through hair and across skin and show tenderness that doesn't belong to the daylight hours.
"You're in loooooove," Pepper says, not even really half-teasing. "Tony Stark, head over heels for a nice guy. How cuuuuuute." Tony tosses a pen cap at her, but she's right.
Time goes on and Steve becomes very relationship-focused. He's a goal-oriented kind of guy. Issues they have are obstacles to overcome. And if they have to fight hard enough to make Tony worry about them lasting together to do so, then that's what they'll do. Tony's not mad once they're resolved, because it just makes him understand Steve that much more. And Steve doesn't push boundaries unnecessarily. If Tony just needs time alone with his daddy issues and his metal heart and his emotional checkpoints, he's certainly allowed that. Tony allows the same for Steve. He'll always listen, but Steve's ghosts really are ghosts and they can't be touched.
Even when they slip into the comfortable, quiet ease of the long-term, Tony's urges to take care of Steve don't go away. It's quite like when he wanted Pepper protected at his side, but stronger. He can only see two logical conclusions to those feelings. One involves burying his head in the sand and pretending the status quo is perfect. He picks the other one.
"I think he'll like that one," Pepper says, pointing to a simple silver engagement ring. And okay, maybe the actual giving of the ring doesn't go as planned, but the results are the same. His own engagement ring has to be worn on a chain around his neck so he doesn't destroy it while working. When it clinks against the arc reactor, he remembers Steve's hand on it the first time, and his little-kid amazement rather than the usual disgust. It makes him smile.
They get married on a warm day in April. The ceremony is very small and the reception is very large. After all of it, they're laying in bed facing each other and doing the googly eyes thing. Tony feels satisfied. Here in his- no, their place, Steve doesn't lack for anything financially, materially, or emotionally. Even physically, the fourteen years between them is undetectable, thanks to some mutual enthusiasm. Steve looks content, and everything feels right.
But just to be sure, Tony reaches across the sheets to squeeze Steve's hand and ask if there's anything else he could possibly want. Steve squeezes back, an uncertain look passing over his face, and says, "I want kids."
At that, Tony inhales sharply and noisily. He knows what he ought to say. He knows he doesn't feel like he could ever be a good father. He knows he should ask why Steve never mentioned this earlier. Instead, he remembers Yinsen's stories about his family, and he answers to a mix of instinct and want that he never knew he had, "Okay."
Steve stares in disbelief. "Really?" Well, they're going to have to talk about it, a lot. It's going to take a while. And it won't be easy, but yes, really.
Tony's bewildered to find that he really, really, REALLY likes being a father. He worries, of course. He stares at the ceiling at night wondering what horrible trauma he's enacted today. He feels a pit of fear grow in his stomach when the kids look at him with those big, absolutely trusting eyes, like failing them would be the crime of the millennium. But most of the time, he has air guitar jam sessions in his workshop with Thor, and falls asleep with Clint on his chest. He loves and gets along with Bruce immediately. He banters and watches old movies with Natasha.
"Happy Father's Day," Pepper sets a small wrapped present down beside him. She gives Tony a one-armed hug as he tries to feed Clint and himself at the same time and keeps nearly mixing the utensils up. "I knew you could do this."
Tony has to leave most of the discipline to Steve. Putting one of the kids in time-out ruins him for the rest of the day. But Steve keeps them in line really quite well, so it doesn't come up often anyways. Tony is, however, a total pro at diapering and swing-pushing, and he doesn't mind doing either. Physics and engineering knowledge: Not just for the worktable anymore.
Years later, Tony joins Steve in the doorway as they watch the four kids trying to teach their Aunt Pepper how to play the new fighting game Tony made them for Christmas. It's pretty entertaining to watch- "STOP SPAMMING, LITTLE SISTER! THAT'S NOT HOW IT WORKS! -and to listen to. Tony hums, "This was a good idea."
"What?" Steve turns to him with a smile playing on his lips. "Letting them terrify poor Pepper out of her wits?"
"No, having kids," Tony keeps his eyes on the scene in front of them. "That was a good idea. I should listen to you more often."
"Yes, you should," Steve smiles, and wraps a strong arm around Tony's shoulders.
Chapter 9: Two of a Kind
As mentioned before, because Tony owes a lot to him and because he's fun to bicker with, Coulson stays in Tony's life long after he's no longer needed. They're not super close, because Tony is wary of how vague Coulson is about his job. So Coulson just comes by to chat sometimes, shows up at some of Tony's parties, and gets nicknamed "Agent" because Tony suspects he's with the FBI (he's not, but he does collaborate with them occasionally).
One day, Coulson passes Tony on the street and almost forgets to wave. Tony is boldly clinging to the arm of a tall, friendly-looking blonde man who looks familiar to Coulson, but he doesn't know why. Hmm, interesting.
Not a moment later, Pepper Potts comes running just past him, arms full of paperwork. She's making a beeline for Tony, but misses him as he gets into his car and pulls away. She grumbles to herself that he's lucky these can be signed tomorrow, or she'd have his head on a plate. In her frustration, she drops some of the paperwork. Biting her lip a little too hard, she kneels down to pick them up.
"Let me help you with those, Ms. Potts," Coulson walks back a few steps to help her. She's a little confused at first, but quickly recognizes him from the parties at Stark Tower. After a few back-and-forth cracks about Tony's lack of reliability, they decide to go get some dinner together. Why not?
And thus, the two workaholics fall in love.
It's relaxed, quiet, and comfortable. They share daily frustrations and triumphs over take-out. They like the same type of pens. Both find the other more than a little attractive. And when they curl into each other at the end of a long day, they can't remember what life was like before this. When Tony and Steve get married, they're inspired to follow suit.
"What?" Tony sputters when Pepper drops by to announce the good news. "Where did this come from?" "Well, we've been dating about the same amount of time as you two-" "You were DATING? Why didn't you tell me?" "We did! Multiple times! Oh my god, we've KISSED in front of you! How could you not know?" "I don't know! I must have been distracted!" Steve steps into the conversation, congratulating Pepper and saying that Tony's going a little senile in his old age and not to mind him. Tony fixes Steve with his most petulant "Oh no you didn't" glare, which continues until Pepper leaves fifteen minutes later.
The next day, Tony invites Coulson over for lunch. Tony brings him down to the workshop, locks the door behind them, and unequivocally threatens his life, limb, and manhood if he so much as thinks about hurting Pepper. Coulson listens dutifully, then assures Tony that if he ever did hurt Pepper, he'd do all that and more before Tony even got to him. Tony nods, satisfied, and sends him out with an egg salad sandwich (made by Steve).
The wedding is small and understated, despite the man of honour's insistence that a wedding's not a wedding unless there's at least a hundred people there. Despite his sarcastic commentary for most of the day, and mildly horrifying toast to the bride and groom, Tony does pull Pepper aside and tell her how happy he is for her. He'd be lost without his Pepper Potts, and for that and a million other reasons, she deserves someone who will make her happy. To demonstrate that sentiment further, he pays for their honeymoon.
"Canada," Tony huffs after seeing the happy couple off. "I tell them they can go anywhere in the world, anywhere at all, and they barely tiptoe over the border." Steve comments that the west coast is nice, before deflating Tony's pompousness by reminding him that their honeymoon was just blocking out the outside world and staying at Tony's Malibu home.
Shortly thereafter, some new little people appear in their life. Thor and Clint LOVE Aunt Pepper and Uncle Coulson (they learn to call him that from Tony, attempts at switching to Uncle Phil are ignored), and Pepper and Coulson thoroughly enjoy being the "fun" aunt and "cool" uncle. After about six years of having fun being around the kids, they finally turn to each other and say "You know..."
When Pepper is twelve weeks pregnant, she visits Steve and Tony in the afternoon to announce the good news. Everyone's thrilled. Tony haltingly says "That's great!" before sneaking down to the workshop, Pepper following shortly behind him. Tony's already busied himself by pretending to be very busy fixing the engine of one of his cars when she gets down there.
Pepper finds her way into his eyeline. "Tony, are you happy for me?" A definite nod, he has a wrench in his mouth. "Are you worried that having a baby will be too much for me and I'll hurt myself?" Nod. "Are you worried about seeming too happy, in case it looks like overcompensation for jealously?" Pause, nod. "Do you believe me when I say everyone knows that that's in the past and you don't have to worry?" Nod. "Good, now come over here and express yourself like a normal person for once."
Tony hugs her tightly for a long time. Then he stands back, looks thoughtful for a moment, and places a polite hand on her stomach. "Tony, the baby is about two inches long right now. You're not going to feel anything." Tony takes his hand away. "I knew that." Pepper smiles, and tells him about Coulson's reaction and how excited they are and maybe a little nervous, but they'll get through it just fine.
"It's going to be a girl," Tony declares during a pause. "Yeah, and if it's a boy, we're hoping-" "No, it's going to be a girl. For sure." "Oh what, you're psychic now?" "I do have a sixth sense about these things, yes." "Since when?" "Since always." At that, Pepper shakes her head and heads upstairs for dinner.
Things go fairly well for the first few months. Pepper spends a lot of time at Steve and Tony's, first because she has to teach Tony how to run his company while she's on leave, and second because Steve is endlessly fascinated by the tiny person growing inside her. Feeling the baby kick is the highlight of his life. And when she goes home, Coulson is endlessly supportive and silently enthralled.
Then the six month mark hits and everything is awful. Everything hurts. Everything is too big. Nothing is normal anymore.
"Tony, could you sign these contracts please?" "Sure, just a minute." "JUST SIGN THEM ALREADY. GOD, WHY ARE YOU SO DIFFICULT?" "I WAS JUST PUTTING MY PEN AWAY, JEEZ." "I'm sorry, okay? I just don't know what's gotten into me..." "No, wait, don't cry-Oh. Uh, there there, it'll be alright? Pepper?" Pepper falls asleep hiccuping into Tony's shoulder. Coulson arrives like a silent alarm was triggered. He scoops Pepper up in his arms, thanks Tony, and states the obvious, "She's not handling some of the symptoms so well."
So Pepper spends the last trimester THOROUGHLY DISPLEASED. And it only gets worse as the due date gets closer. "Cavewomen fought off sabre tooth tigers while they were pregnant, I can't even concentrate on this damn spreadsheet! ARGH." It's not that she doesn't want the baby, certainly not. This is just how she reacts to anything that interferes with her competence.
At about seven and a half months along, Coulson drops by to visit Tony. They shoot the breeze for a while, longer than usual, and when Coulson offers to make dinner, Tony's eyebrows go up. "Are you scared to go home to Pepper or something?" Coulson looks around like he's afraid someone might be watching, then nods quickly. "Oh, wow. How come?" "Last night, she got kicked out of her pre-natal class. The instructor described pregnancy in some sort of poetic fashion and well, let's just say it got ugly." "...So, can you make spaghetti?"
Three days past Pepper's due date, it's a Saturday, Tony's showing her some new ideas in the workshop. And the contractions start, because of course they do. They wait it out until they're sure that it's for real. Tony drives her to the hospital, all the while getting her to call Coulson over and over and why is he not answering his phone? Why is he on a mission today? Why why why?
But Tony stays with her, because she needs someone. She's scared and in pain and going to have another human being come out of her, the least he can do is get her some ice chips and hold her hand. At first it's not so bad, walking around a little bit, practising keeping his mouth in check lest he aggravate her further. But she starts holding his hand tighter and tighter and can't walk anymore and Coulson is STILL not picking up.
Hours go by. Pepper is breaking his hand. She yells at him when he talks, she yells at him when he doesn't talk. She curses God. She cries and says she isn't ready for this, and SO does not appreciate his wisecracks about it being a bit too late for that now. Also, the birth process? Way less tidy than TV makes you believe. If Tony respected women before, he worships them now.
Finally, Coulson answers his phone and says he's just coming up the stairs. Tony meets him in the hallway, a bit pale after that last contraction. Coulson's lack of tie is the only thing exposing his stress. "I should warn you, Pepper isn't...she isn't herself." Coulson nods stiffly, thanks him quickly, and heads in. Tony hears "YOU. YOU DID THIS TO ME. I HATE YOU-" before the door shuts.
Tony heads home, reminds the boys that whatever they do, they should always respect women, and gets a text a few hours later that the baby girl (ha!) and mother are healthy, happy, and can be visited in a couple of days.
Tony and Steve, with four kids in tow, make their way over to Potts Tower two days later. They hug Pepper, hand gifts to Coulson, and demand to hold the baby. Steve gets her first.
"Aw, what a little sweetheart," Steve coos down at the squishy infant. "What's her name?"
"Alice Stephanie Coulson," Coulson says proudly. He'd finally figured out where he'd recognized Steve; the story about him finding and saving the Howling Commandos, only to lose his girlfriend and best friend in a subsequent mission gone wrong, had run the gamut of newspapers and magazines back when it first happened. Coulson was a WWII buff from way back, and has a bit of a worshipping thing when it comes to real war heroes. Steve is too good to be true. He's proud of himself for keeping his blatant mancrush on Steve secret (everyone knows, except Steve), and for using Alice's middle name as a tribute to him without anyone noticing (everyone notices, except Steve).
"Told you it'd be a girl," Tony smirks at Pepper. "Hey, pass Wonderland over here."
"Wonderland?" Pepper rubs her forehead. "I should have known. You're not letting that go, are you?" Tony grins widely at her, Steve passes him the baby and notes that he understood that reference.
She's small, so small. Clint was small when they got him, but she's downright tiny. All scrunched up and adorable. She looks like Coulson, but with a large serving of her mother. Tony lifts the little creature up to kiss the red curls on her head, careful not to scratch her brand-new skin with his beard.
"We made you the godparents," Pepper says later, when there's a lull in the chatter. "I hope you don't mind."
Steve's about to thank them sincerely when Tony cuts in with "Don't mind at all. You're the godparents of our kids, it only makes sense."
There's silence for a moment, except for the kids who have migrated and are playing on the other side of the room. "When did you do that, exactly?" Pepper asks.
"When we adopted the kids. What?" Tony looks around at the three adults giving him exasperated glares. "Was I supposed to throw a party or something?"
"Oh Tony, you never change," Pepper can't help but roll her eyes. She gestures to the group across the room. "Which kids are yours, again? I've forgotten."
Tony looks at the kids and looks at Pepper like he doesn't understand the question, then shrugs. "Doesn't matter. If something did happen to us, you'd have enough money to take care of a hundred kids." Tony goes back to entertaining himself with the baby and Pepper just smiles.
So Alice- Well, let's just call her Wonderland, only her parents call her Alice. Wonderland grows up as an only child treated like a youngest child. Clint and Bruce don't usually mind playing with her, (though for her early years, "playing with" means "building lego/pillow/leaf forts around her"). Natasha scoops her under one arm and tends to her just like she did Clint and Bruce. Thor is like "HURRAY, ANOTHER LITTLE ONE TO PLAY WITH!" because Thor will never be too old to play. Steve happily babysits and dotes on her almost as much as her dad does. Her parents, though still busy, find ways to see her all the time and aren't absent from her life at all.
But her favourite babysitter is Uncle Tony. He tosses her in the air, gives her holograms to play with, and tells her stories about her mom. And maybe Steve's right about Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit" not being an appropriate lullaby, but hey, she grows up alright.
Chapter 10: I Just Can't Stop Loving You
How the kids get their happily-ever-afters.
Thor and Jane
Thor finishes high school and goes on to a a university in New Mexico to study theology. He joins ALL the extracurriculars, as per usual, enjoys his classes, and generally has a great time. Despite being popular with the ladies for his good looks and athletic ability, he only ever dates a few times. He doesn't bounce back from heartbreak very easily (He does "experiment" with no strings attached a fair bit, but he's not one to kiss and tell). In his third year, his dorm happens to be next door to a coffee shop. He goes in one day to try it out, and astrophysics student Jane Foster happens to get in line behind him.
"Please go ahead of me, Miss," Thor says with a bright smile. "I'm still trying to decide what to buy." Jane raises an eyebrow at being called "Miss" by someone who's her age, but just casually mentions that the bearclaws are pretty good. Thor thanks her politely, proceeds to order several, and then cheerfully eats them alone. They run into each other a few more times there, until eventually Jane invites Thor to sit with her and yeah, you can see exactly where this is going.
Thor isn't like anyone else Jane's dated before. He's a great listener, genuinely fascinated when she talks about her classes and various new theories she's read about. In turn, he tells about about all the stuff he learns in his classes, occasionally acting things out for her benefit. When he says he wants to come over to watch movies and cuddle, he actually wants to do that and doesn't have any ulterior motives (though that part of their life is certainly healthy and enjoyable, but again, no kissing and telling). Even though he can be loud and overbearing and will do anything in public if someone tells him to (naked marathons, anyone?), she doesn't mind too much because she loves him. He loves her back, and tells her so fervidly and frequently.
A few years later, they've both finished their master's. Jane is going for her PhD., and Thor has a job doing...something. Though he gives his over-complicated job title quite often, no one's exactly sure what he does except that he works from home and makes decent money while doing it. Anyways, Thor had tagged along to an astrophysics conference with her, and after giving one of her best talks ever amongst other things, she declares it to be a "perfect day." Thor takes this as some kind of sign and proposes to her right in the middle of the conference hall.
Though initially stunned, because they hadn't discussed this previously AT ALL, she says yes. At that, Thor stands up, picks her up, and carries her off as the watching crowd applauds.
They get married in July, by the ocean. The Stark-Rogers family helps out a lot. Tony makes reservations, Steve organizes everything, and Clint makes the cake as well as plays the part of Thor's best man (along with Bruce and Natasha as "groomspeople"). For the ceremony, Thor writes these REALLY elaborate and flowery vows to Jane, which are honestly a bit hard to follow and reference a lot of things only the two of them understand, but everyone gets that he's saying he can't imagine life without her and will always treat her well and et cetera.
During the ceremony, Steve and Tony sit right up front, smiling away. So proud that their son who was once so young and emotionally fragile and hurt by his past, has grown tall and strong and warm-hearted. During the vows, Steve glances at his husband and whispers "Tony, are you crying?" "Nope, it's just raining on my face. What about you? "Same. And not a cloud in the sky, how odd." "Indeed."
The reception goes quite splendidly, everyone dancing and having a good time long into the night. Clint and Natasha don't try to drink each other under the table, for Thor's sake. After everyone else has gone home, the family and the happy couple stay behind to clean up. Steve tries to shoo Jane away, saying she'll get her dress dirty. Jane just waves a hand, "Oh I don't care, it's just a dress. I was actually thinking of cutting it up and making it into something." Clint perks up at that, makes some kind of hand signal to Natasha, and they rush forward, grab Jane, and drag her until she's sitting waist-deep in ocean water.
Tony yells "HEY YOU TWO" and they stop on a dime, recognizing the "You're in trouble" voice from not so many years ago. "If you're going to do that," Tony wades out to where they are, helps Jane up, and then knocks her playfully backwards so that she's soaked to her neck. "Do it PROPERLY."
And the hazing commences. Everyone, even Steve and Bruce, splash water at, tease, and even mash handfuls of wet sand into the hair of a half-terrified, half-delighted Jane. Thor watches, howling with laughter, until it finally slows down a bit and he wades out to "rescue" her. He carries Jane back to shore, sets her on unsteady feet, and leads her towards the oceanside hotel where they'll be spending their honeymoon.
Clint mutters something to the family members still in the water, waits for Thor and Jane to be almost around the corner and disappeared, and everyone yells "WELCOME TO THE FAMILY" at the tops of their voices. Thor and Jane laugh, kiss, and leave sight.
A couple years later, they decide to start a family of their own. They have a kid on their own first. A boy named Nathaniel Jane Anthony Steven Stark-Rogers ("NATE. Just Nate is fine!"). Note the three middle names thing, because all five of their other kids are named as such, after Thor's family (Loki included), Jane's parents, the coffee shop where they met, the list goes on. The remaining five kids- Eli, Cassandra, Jonas, and twins Billy and Tommy -are adopted, because Thor has a lot of Feelings about adoption and unwanted kids and such. Jane agrees, and lets him carry on being superdad to the six kids dangling off him at any given time.
Well actually, more like seven. Because Billy's friend Teddy spends way more time at their place than he does at home, and he basically turns into the Bruce of this generation. But that's another story.
Bruce and Clint
It's December, about five years since Thor and Jane got married. Bruce and Clint are sitting on the couch in their flat, organizing their Christmas shopping list. When they're mostly finished, Bruce asks Clint what he wants for Christmas. Clint smiles and says "You."
"Of course, but you always get that," Bruce surreptitiously reaches over to pinch Clint's rear. "Come on, what do you really want?"
"You," Clint says more strongly. "I want us to get married."
"Clint," Bruce says in a warning voice. They've talked about this before. No matter which way they slice it, Bruce can't handle professing his deepest emotions in front of a huge group of people (and it has to be huge, Tony won't allow it otherwise). Just the thought of being the focus of a big pomp and circumstance ceremony thing like a wedding makes his anxiety rise and his palms sweat.
"No wait, hear me out." And in typical Clint fashion, he melodramatically outlines his plan. They'll drop off their presents at Stark Tower on Christmas Eve, tell the parentals they're having a special Christmas morning thing just for the two of them, but that they'll be back in the afternoon. On Christmas morning, they'll have the ceremony at the nearest courthouse ("Will it even be open? It's a holiday." "Just trust me, okay? I know a guy.") and then go home and surprise everyone. It'll be beautiful.
"We'll each rent our own suits," Clint goes on. "And I'll pay for the marriage license if you pay for the paperwork to change my name."
"You want my name?" Bruce asks, now completely dumbfounded by the proceedings.
"Of course. Who wouldn't want to be Missus Doctor Bruce Banner?" Clint bats his eyelashes and Bruce mashes a pillow in his face. "But seriously, we're going to be together all official-like, and I want that part of you."
"...Really? You'd do all that for me?" Bruce doesn't know what to say. Even with Clint always by his side, he never thought he'd be able to have anything like this. If his own parents didn't want him, why would anyone else? He pinches himself, in case it's all a dream.
"Really." Clint slides an arm around his shoulders, snuggling in close. "Now come on, be a good boy and make an honest man out of me."
They somehow manage to get their little ceremony together in time and without anyone finding out. Bruce tends to be a bit secretive, but he feels like bursting when it's Christmas Eve and they have to more or less lie to poor Steve and Tony's faces. It's all for a good cause, but Bruce still feels a bit bad for leaving them out.
So they go home and get dressed, Clint in black and Bruce in white. They arrive at the mostly-empty courthouse to find a justice of the peace waiting for them, along with...Coulson? "We need a witness," Clint explains. "Don't worry, I explained everything and he's been sworn to secrecy."
They get married. The ceremony isn't very long or over-dramatic, but it feels special. Bruce means every word of the cookie-cutter vows he makes to Clint and judging by the look in Clint's eyes, he means his just as much. They exchange the rings, thick, matching gold bands Clint had picked out just a few days before. At last, they kiss firmly as Coulson grins.
Outside, they tell Coulson to go on ahead, they'll catch up later. They walk around the city for an hour, looking at all the decorations and store windows. It's snowing in big, heavy flakes. Clint keeps his arm locked tight with Bruce's, and Bruce tells him he loves him over and over, like he'll forget. When they reach Stark Tower, Bruce unsteadily carries Clint over the elevator threshold and Clint barks with laughter.
Once upstairs, they're not in the door five minutes before they're found out by Steve. "Hi guys! Merry Christmas! What are you all dressed up for? Hey, what's that on your hand-TONY! GET IN HERE! THEY ELOPED ON US!"
So of course everyone rushes in and harangues Bruce and Clint (and subsequently, Coulson) for getting married without inviting any of them. Clint, while being manhandled by a FEELING VERY LEFT OUT Thor, says "Hey, HEY, come on! Isn't this a good Christmas present? Another member of the family? I dare you to beat that."
"Bruce was ALREADY part of the family," Steve huffs. Bruce looks at his shoes and fidgets a bit at that because...yeah. Steve notices and looks at him with understanding eyes. "But since you took the trouble to wrap and deliver him, I guess we can accept it. Just don't try to stuff him under the tree." Clint and Steve share a smirk. Bad jokes: A type of humour that spans across generations.
"Don't think we're letting you off easy though," Tony pulls Bruce into a choking hug and ruffles his hair. "You're having a reception whether you like it or not. I will NOT be screwed out of cake and dancing. Deal with it. And congratulations, damn kids."
So they have a wedding reception, except nobody but close family and friends know that, because it's disguised as a New Year's Eve party. Clint and Thor get a bit intoxicated, strip down to their underwear, and drag Bruce outside. They strip him down as well and toss him into a snowbank. He's let back in once Natasha gets to pelt him with a couple snowballs. Tony and Steve were enjoying Clint's cake in the kitchen, (Yes, he makes the cake for his own wedding too, after Thor's wedding he was designated official wedding-cake-maker of the family) and didn't realize what was happening until afterwards.
Some time later, after a lot of talking and encouraging, Clint persuades Bruce and they adopt little Kate. Bruce is nervous, but thankfully, Tony drops by frequently to give him crash courses in "Getting Over Your Issues and Being a Decent Father 101."
Natasha and Maria
Before we get into Natasha's story here, we have to go back in time quite a bit.
Steve had always wanted a daughter. He'd always wanted to do those particular father-daughter things when he finally became a dad. But he didn't put down such a specific when they went to the adoption agency (Apologies again for process butchering, etc.) because he didn't want to mess with anything, he wanted to let fate decide what they would get, so to speak. And Steve wasn't in the slightest bit disappointed when they brought home two boys. He thought of course, about perhaps adopting a third child in the future, but that got lost in the shuffle of busy, crazy family life.
That hope got re-lit a tiny bit, when Natasha moved in with them at fifteen. Not that Steve expected her to see him or Tony in any kind of parental role. Natasha wasn't a typical teenage girl in any sense of the word. But aided by rather than in spite of her grown-up-too-soon personality, they grew quite close over the years. Steve wouldn't be so presumptious as to call himself her father figure or anything like that, but he woke her up for school in the morning, brought her soup when she was sick, and along with Tony, went to her high school and university graduations.
And like the dad-to-all-babies that he is, Steve worried about her. She was very close to Clint, Bruce, and even Thor, and was quite fond of the rest of the family. Outside of that, she didn't necessarily have friends, more like allies who could help her when she needed it. As for dating, nothing worked out in the long run, and she didn't seem terribly bothered by it. Even career-wise, good grades and a job were a means to an end, nothing more. Natasha derived satisfaction from tea, old movies, the family, and people-watching, nothing more that anyone could see. Steve frequently made the mistake of looking up psychology articles late at night, and spent far too much time fretting that something was wrong and he wouldn't be able to help fix it.
There were quite a few more layers to Natasha, ones that took years to discover because she so closely guarded her thoughts. But even when he came to understand her more, he still worried about her. Steve had an old-fashioned streak courtesy of his mother and his upbringing, and rather doggedly believed that no person was meant to be single forever. And that was his biggest concern when it came to her.
Right as she was finishing university, Natasha met Maria Hill and they decided to become roommates. They remained platonic for several years but after some time, it turned into something else. Something quiet, slow, and meaningful. Something that was just for them to understand. They complimented each other. They were both so seemingly aimless, so untouchable, but the apartment door could close and they could just be themselves and be with each other. It all made sense.
When Steve and Tony met Maria, Tony scrapped with her quite a bit. That was just because their personalities weren't made to mesh, Tony didn't seem to have the concern that Steve had. He couldn't see any spark between the two women, and he worried that Natasha was "settling" because it hadn't worked out with anyone else. Until one day, he was walking by the kitchen when they were visiting, and he caught a look shared between them that made his face go hot.
Walking away, he felt like he'd intruded on something and it clicked. Oh, that's what people meant when they'd smile and talk about the way he and Tony looked at each other.
Now back to the "present," as it were, (there really is no "present" in this story, we're just skipping around and telling different tales, but enough about that, let's get on with it). At age 33, Natasha announces that she's getting married to Maria and asks Steve to help. Steve, having known her for so many years now, is surprised that she wants a rather traditional wedding. She shrugs, and says that "Weddings are fun, I like them." And far be it from Steve to ask any more questions, because she's the last kid of theirs to get married. He certainly doesn't want to miss out.
Helping plan Natasha's wedding is an experience that Steve holds dearly for the rest of his days. They complain about the price of food and how complicated it is to feed a large group of people. They discuss flower preferences. They scope out venues and stop for lunch together. Natasha even gets Steve to help pick out her dress ("I thought a tux would be more your style." "Maria's wearing one, and I like dresses. They're comfortable."). Steve's out of his league there, but they have fun anyways. He tries to offer advice when asked, laughs at the ridiculous ones she tries on just for kicks, and tells her she looks absolutely perfect when she picks a simple gown that she really likes.
On the big day, Steve, Natasha, Clint, Thor, and Bruce are getting ready at Stark Tower while the other half of the wedding party gets ready at Natasha and Maria's apartment. Natasha had kept to the "not seeing each other before the ceremony" superstition because "you could always use a bit of good luck." In amidst Steve trying to get ready and making sure the boys are ready and how old are you, why do none of you know how tie a tie properly? Natasha asks Steve if he could do something with her hair for her.
Steve can do a pretty good up-do, it turns out. He learned a few little tricks from Peggy, who showed them to him and then that became their way of relaxing, privately, at the end of the day. Natasha's hair is easy to do, her having grown it out recently. When it's done, Natasha smiles into the bathroom mirror, thanks Steve, and gives him a hug. Steve hugs back and holds on a few seconds longer, before releasing her so both of them can finish getting ready.
At the church (another surprise for Steve, Natasha's more traditional than she lets on), Natasha says "So you're walking me down the aisle, right?" and Steve's like "What." but does it anyways, not in a position to refuse her anything. He leads her with all the dignity of the military man he once was, hugs her again, and then sits down in the front pew beside Tony. It feels nice, being in church again. He still goes back sometimes, when he feels nostalgia for his younger years. The light coming through stained glass windows and the smell of incense always feel comfortable to him.
At the reception, Steve and Tony sit beside each other and watch Natasha as she spins around the dance floor with her new wife, both young and vibrant and agile. Steve steals a look at Tony, who looks like he's just brushing up against sixty, but is actually seventy-two. More lines set in his skin, more grey hair, and as spectacularly handsome as ever. Tony had been a bit envious of Steve's holding onto his youth longer than he thought he should. But he seemed pleased now that Steve's hair was lightening and he was finally getting proper wrinkles.
Thirty years they've been married, Steve thinks as he glances from the glinting ring on Natasha's finger to the two on his own, thirty five years together in total. Just the two of them, at first. Now four kids- it felt alright to say it that way, all things considered -two daughters-in-law, an aunt and uncle/godparents for the kids, an adorable niece/godchild, and six grandchildren with promise of a seventh. Natasha had decided against having kids, but that was just fine.
Tony reaches over and encloses Steve's hand in his. There would be more weddings to attend. More babies to hold. Still more time to spend together. For now, he just leans into Tony and watches Natasha. She looks happier than she's ever been, and that's what's most important for Steve.
The last of the main story of the Superhusbands Family AU! Thank you, everyone, for reading this little AU adventure. It was an idea I just had to let out. As well as a love letter to all the love and marriage and family tropes I've always enjoyed, I hope you liked it.
I have a couple drabbles in mind, that I'll post as I write them and I'll be taking suggestions if you have any. Cheers!