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Families old and new

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"I've half a mind to delete it," Tony says when he hears Steve enter the workshop.

"What?" Steve asks.

"This little program." Tony waves in the direction of his screens, not turning back to see Steve. "It'll compare my DNA to those saved in our database, on the off chance finding my parents will be that easy."

Steve inhales sharply, but he doesn’t say anything. Tony feels Steve stand behind him, and then Steve puts his hands on Tony's shoulders and rubs them gently.

"I'm adopted," Tony lets out. Steve's hands slow for a moment, but he doesn't react more than that. "It's—kind of a long story." It hasn't been long since he came back from space. He didn't tell Steve—anything, really. He doesn't want to, not yet; maybe not ever. But this—this is important.

"Okay," Steve says. "But you're sure."

Tony nods.

"And if this program finds a match—will you be okay with it?"

Tony squeezes his eyes shut. "I won't be okay with not knowing," he admits. He needs to have all the variables. He needs to know who he is.

"You're Iron Man," Steve whispers into his ear. Tony didn't realise he'd spoken the words out loud, for Steve to hear. "An Avenger. My friend. The man I love. You're a futurist and a hero. Nothing will change that."

"What if it finds a match with Doom?" Tony asks quietly.

Steve huffs a laugh. "Then we'll know why you both like your armours so much," he says.

Tony opens his eyes. "Okay," he says. "Okay."

"Do you want me to go?" Steve asks.

Tony shakes his head and presses enter.

Then he just stares.

"So Doom wasn't that far off," he mutters.

***

"You should tell him," Steve says at night, when they lie next to each other.

"He doesn't deserve this." Tony stares at the ceiling. "He has family."

"You said you had to know," Steve says gently. "And—well, you are alike."

"Very funny, Rogers."

"Hey," Steve says, runs his hand over Tony's arm. "You're friends. He deserves to know. And anyone not wanting you in their family is just stupid. I've heard he's a genius."

Tony burrows his face into Steve's neck and doesn't answer.

***

Tony sends Reed a message in the morning. He's too selfish to hide it, and there's something—almost tempting, in the way his school friends talked about siblings. "I can tell her everything, and I can fight with her, but at the end of the day she's still my sister. She won't leave me."

He's long past his childhood and it was a stupid sentiment anyway. And still . . .

Get a hold of yourself, Stark, he tells himself. Or should it be Richards? Isn't that the problem?

***

Reed visits two days later. There is no question of why he's there or what they'll talk about. Tony guesses it was inevitable, even if he was enough of a coward to send an email instead of actually talking to Reed.

They go to his lab in silence. Tony puts it in lockdown, just in case. He doesn't want anyone to disturb them.

(He kinda wants Galactus to attack.)

Then he looks at Reed. He's trying to find some obvious similarities, but there are none. They would've noticed it years ago otherwise. Or they wouldn't have, too sure of what they knew to be true.

Shame, a traitorous thought whispers, and Tony realises it's stupid. He's happy with his life now, and growing up in a different family—Tony pushes away the what ifs.

Reed doesn't quite meet Tony's eyes—but then, he never does, just one of his quirks. It doesn't mean anything now.

Tony wonders what's coming. Reed telling him he's delusional? To leave his family alone? He knows it’s not very probable, but he still can’t keep his fears down.

"So," Reed starts, and he seems almost shy. "It seems we're brothers."

Tony nods, wordlessly, and then it's his turn to look away. He has no idea what he wants to say. What he could say.

"I hope you don't mind—I told Sue, of course, but I'm going to tell the rest of my family too. The kids will be overjoyed at having another uncle."

"I was always their . . ." Tony stops himself.

"Yes," Reed smiles. "You were."

He wants to ask just how Reed is okay with it, but there's no point. It's not—it doesn't change anything.

Steve was right: him and Reed are similar. They are good friends. Adding shared genetics to the equation . . . It doesn't matter. Not really.

Or it shouldn't, Tony thinks, as he stares at his hands and wonders why he still feels like his life has been shaken at the ground.

"Sue is better at it than me," Reed says, "but she said—her and Johnny—"

"They grew up together," Tony cuts in. "That's different."

Reed nods slowly. "I know."

"Do you—" Tony stops himself. He's not sure what he wants to ask. There's—there are things they need to talk about, he's almost certain of that.

Or maybe not. Maybe they should just—move forward. "Chess?" he finally offers.

"Always, Tony," Reed smiles.

***

"Okay, Steve, this is the new password for my armour—what?" Tony pauses when he notices how surprised Steve looks.

"You're giving it to me?" Steve asks.

"Who else?" Tony rolls his eyes. "And it's not the first time, so . . . "

"Why not Reed?" Steve cuts in.

Tony stares at him. "Are you serious."

"You're—"

"He's my friend," Tony says very calmly. "Okay—he's my brother. I'm not sure if it escaped your attention, but I'm not suddenly moving to the Baxter Building, we don't hug, and I don't suddenly trust him with all my secrets." He considers for a moment. "I do trust him with a lot. But that's because we've been friends for years."

"I thought—"

"What? That it's a magic spark of oh, I love you so much, let's go on family holidays?" Tony feels bad for snapping, but . . . He's still a bit confused about it all and right now, Steve's not helping.

Steve looks sheepish. "Sorry."

Tony shakes his head. "No. It's—it's new and weird," he says. "But it's not . . ." He trails off and shrugs. "It's hard to explain."

Steve walks to him, pulls him close in a loose embrace. "That's fine," he says. "I just want you to be okay."

"It's new," Tony repeats, leaning his head on Steve's arm.

***

It does change things though. Small things, things that don't matter, except they do. It's not obvious, but . . .

"You're babysitting tonight, Tony Stark, you're my brother-in-law, take care of your nephews," Sue says, and Tony had plans, he had good plans, with Steve, but there's something warm in his chest and he nods and ducks his head to hide a grin.

"Careful, Tony, I wouldn't want to lose my brother," Reed says, leaning over Tony, and Tony's vision swims but he vaguely remembers being knocked out of the sky, and everything hurts, but he thinks he's laughing too.

Franklin and Valeria build him jet-powered roller skates for his birthday, and he's not sure what to say, so he kneels down and hugs them instead, and soon he feels Sue's hand on his shoulder and Reed's longer-than-usual arm circling his back.

(Later he learns that the only reason Johnny didn't join in was because he was too busy snapping pictures. Tony might have one of them in his workshop, the kids grinning at him and Reed and Sue smiling, all their limbs tangled together in a long hug.

"You look happy," Steve says when he sees it, and Tony feels happy, too.)

He's found real family ages ago, with the Avengers, with Steve—but he might've just gained another one.

It's good.