Steve stared down at the two brunettes asleep on the couch; Tony had sunk backwards into the cushions and Peter had a pillow propped up against Tony that he was hugging in his sleep. Tony’s feet were propped up on the coffee table with several pillows. He stared at Tony looking him over for any possible signs that something had happened to him on Asgard, but saw nothing obvious. “We’ll find out what happened later. Let’s just go to our floors, shower and sleep this whole thing off.” He gave a pointed look and watched as one by one his teammates grumbled as they headed towards the elevator. Coulson gave him a slightly narrow-eyed look before he followed after Clint.
Turning back to the couch Steve began to pick up the popcorn bowl, various wrappers and cups. Once the mess had been cleared he went over to the closet in the hallway and gathered up two blankets before heading back towards the couch. Carefully he draped a cover over Peter and then the other over Tony. The fond smile that crossed his face would only be noted by JARVIS who remained silent as he continued to run the house while the Avengers moved about their quarters following their Captain’s orders.
If someone had told Steve shortly after meeting Tony Stark that the man before him would adopt a teenager or that someone would even think of letting that man adopt a teen he would have scoffed. Now the image of Tony obviously having fallen asleep watching a movie with Peter filled him with warmth and a feeling of vindication. It was obvious the two had bonded and he was more than sure it was something they both needed.
He’d defended Tony many times since the Battle of New York and had found himself marveling at everything the other had accomplished as well as all the little things Tony did on a daily basis for others. Often he found himself wondering if Tony even noticed that so many things he did were so obviously for someone else’s benefit. That he was constantly throwing himself in the line of fire to shield someone else. It had been the source of many heated arguments between the two of them. Shaking his head Steve looked around the room at what was essentially a ‘family room’ that Tony had designed for the Avengers to have a place to relax. Since redesigning the tower all the bare surfaces, the cold floors and museum type decorations had been replaced to make it more of a home. Somewhere people could live. Could create memories. It was mostly due to the different Avengers bringing in various items.
Tony had given them a home and hadn’t even given it a second thought. Had given them a piece of his heart without any expectation of something in return.
“Lights.” Steve called softly as JARVIS dimmed them and the sound on the TV was almost immediately lowered. “Thank you.” He turned and headed towards the elevator to have his own shower and pass out in his bed.
Morning light filtered into Steve’s room as he burrowed further into the warm plush covers. It was far too early and he knew the others would be waking up; that there were going to be questions, arguments and hopefully some answers. Steve pushed the covers back reluctantly, blond hair completely mussed from sleep and covers, before slowly climbing out of bed. He didn’t bother pulling on a shirt before stumbling into the bathroom; a little while later he headed towards the elevator with minty fresh breath.
Tony and Peter were still both fast asleep on the couch when Steve walked by towards the kitchen only to find Bruce cooking breakfast. He headed towards the coffee pot and turned it on before taking a seat at the island.
“Morning.” Bruce called as he flipped a pancake and checked the bacon.
“Mmmg.” Steve mumbled from where his face was pressed into his arms. Bruce tried not to smile at the night pants Steve was wearing, but the little arc reactors were rather amusing. It was so obvious and yet people were still oblivious. He always felt amusement when one of the others wore something from their time as children and often found himself doing the same. They were fond memories to have gained.
The coffee machine beeped right when Tony Stark stumbled into the kitchen, grabbing a cup and pouring himself some coffee. He carefully made his way over towards the island, found a chair and dropped into it. Half of the cup was empty by the time he finally set it on the counter before mimicking Steve’s position by putting his head on his arms. A snicker actually escaped as Bruce continued cooking and a fourth person entered the kitchen tripping over toward the coffee machine to collect a cup of coffee and finding a spot next to Tony. Peter sighed as he took a drink. He leaned sideways until he was using Tony as a pillow with one hand still clutching his cup.
“It’s such a fan-fucking-tastic day; can I go back to bed?” Clint asked the room as he moved towards Bruce who was in possession of food. And how could one go wrong with food? “Mine.” He shoved a piece of bacon into his mouth, moaning with appreciation before grabbing two more and munching on them as he took a seat.
It wasn’t long before the whole kitchen was full and there were several amused glances at the three people who were somewhat sleeping at the island. Bruce placed the plates full of food in the center along with several plates and utensils. The sounds of plates moving and the closer smell of food slowly roused everyone to full consciousness as Tony drained his cup, polished off a second and then brought the coffee pot over to the table to fill everyone else’s up as he started on his third up in the middle of filling the others’.
“So…why’d you bail out on us and head to Asgard?” Clint’s voice cut through the sounds of eating as Tony paused before finishing off his slice of bacon.
“The Tesseract.” It was simple and to the point. Though it left so much room for more questions and Tony was completely aware of that fact. His mind, that was becoming more alert after each moment that passed, did not seem to care in the least.
“Really? That fucking thing?” Clint sounded disgusted as his forehead wrinkled just thinking about that horrible glowing thing.
“Clint!” Steve glared at the archer, “Language.”
“Gee…sorry Pops; didn’t realize this was—” Natasha clamped her hand down over Clint’s mouth as he continued to mouth off into her palm.
Peter looked up from woofing down his food to glance over at Steve, “Its ok. I’m sure I’ve heard worse.”
“Clint should still watch his language. It isn’t appropriate and is uncivilized.” Steve raised his chin defensively as he continued to stare Clint down who was cuffed in the back of the head by Coulson.
“At least not at the table, Barton.” Natasha removed her hand and returned towards her drink before looking up at Tony, “You seriously went all the way to Asgard for the Tesseract? After all the trouble it caused?”
“I went there for reasons. Excellent reasons.” Tony glared over at the two SHIELD agents.
“Tony.” Steve managed to infuse so much in his voice with one word that Tony hunched his shoulders defensively.
“I created two lightsabers…” he trailed off as Clint jerked out of his seat and rounded the island to seize the front of Tony’s rumpled shirt. His face was alive with interest and was now devoid of the derision from earlier.
“You created a lightsaber? Two of them?!”
Tony carefully pried Clint’s hands off of his person and leaned back. “Yes. Of course I created lightsabers. How could you possibly doubt my genius?” he sounded vaguely insulted.
“You didn’t waste an entire trip on that, did you?” Coulson did not sound impressed. Tony stuck his tongue out at him.
“I also needed to study it for my clean energy projects.” At this Peter perked up further and turned fully to look at Tony. He’d already known about the lightsabers from the day before, but then Tony had decided he wanted popcorn and Peter had explained that popcorn didn’t taste half as good if there wasn’t a good movie to watch. Needless to say it had ended up as they’d been found and without Tony explaining the applications for the clean energy projects.
Steve nodded thoughtfully and reached for a glass of orange juice. Tony paused for a moment before, “So…how was everyone’s’ two and a half weeks?” he smirked slightly, “Besides the whole L.A. thingy?”
“First week boring and then lots of debriefings. Not enough action.” Clint offered as he regained his seat.
“Paperwork. Most of it focusing on you, Stark.” Coulson glared over his mug at Tony, “There also appears to be a masked vigilante in New York going by the name of Spider-Man. Furthermore while we were in California and you were on Asgard with Thor a Dr. Connors decided to not only turn himself into a giant lizard, but that he was going to attempt to turn as many New Yorkers into giant lizards as he could after he caused tons of property damage.” A slightly bored look on Coulson’s face belied the fact that the news he was relaying was actually important. “Reports state that Spider-Man eliminated the threat and prevented the good doctor from releasing the biological weapon. Director Fury wants to find whoever this Spider-Man is…”
Peter was staring down at his plate and decidedly not engaging in that conversation. “What?” Tony leaned forward towards Coulson. “How did I not hear about that yesterday? JARVIS?”
“You were focused on the news about young Peter.”
“Hey! Why do I have to be young Peter?” the teen piped up.
“I’m sorry, Peter.” JARVIS corrected and Tony bit back a smirk at the slightly overburdened tone JARVIS was utilizing. “As I was saying, once I gave you the news about Peter’s situation you were immediately inquiring about his status and then asking for information about adopting him. The situation escalated from there and here we are today with you having adopted Mr. Peter Parker.”
“Good point. Send all information about Spider-Man and the attack to my tablet.” Tony requested before he reached for his fourth cup of coffee which Steve silently moved out of his reach before pushing a glass of orange juice in his direction. “Did you see or hear anything about Spider-Man while we were gone?” he took the glass anyway before he turned towards Peter who stared at him silently with a deer in the headlights look before he recovered.
“Just what everyone else saw. I’m sure JARVIS will have everything for you.” Peter poked at the food on his plate.
Tony nodded absentmindedly before jumping to another topic. “Do you want to look through your stuff today or start helping design your floor?”
Steve stared at the calendar. It was getting close to six months since Tony had asked the Avengers to move in and Steve wasn’t sure if he’d ever be more grateful for that fact. He headed towards the smell of food cooking and could hear bantering back and forth.
Everyone had rapidly gotten used to the newest member of the Tower and he had noted the frequency that one of them might run into the teenager had noticeably increased. Adjustments had been made for this fact and Clint was refraining from cursing at the table. Especially after Steve had implemented a ‘swear jar’; the costs for various words were quite high. Tony joked that even Steve Rogers had gotten behind inflation which had earned him a light punch to the shoulder.
“Now? Do I add it now?” Peter’s voice drifted out into the hallway. Steve glanced into the kitchen and tried not to laugh. Someone had exploded flour all over the kitchen; there were smudges of it on both Tony’s face as well as Peter’s. They both had aprons with a cook book out in front of them on the counter. Ingredients were everywhere and Steve could see cookies on several cooling racks. Tony turned and gave Steve a view of his black apron which read ‘Coffee: Born to be Wired”. He idly wondered if there was a more perfect choice.
Peter’s, which was a deep red, proclaimed that “Baking is Science for Hungry People”. The teenager was watching Tony who was staring at the clock. “Now.” Something was added to the bowl and Steve wondered what universe he’d stumbled into. It was very possible this was a different universe. Thor had explained that there were infinite universes out there with many different versions of each person. The things he’d learned since waking up in the future continued to blow his mind. There were apparently an infinite number of Steve Rogers out there…he wondered if any of them had never been frozen and felt an ache at the thought of not meeting the others. Of not meeting Tony Stark.
The two males in the kitchen turned back towards the bowl as Tony began to stir. It was then that Steve realized there were several different types of foods scattered around the kitchen. A couple cakes, some pies, fresh bread and so many different types of cookies. Currently the two chefs seemed to be focusing on preparing something other than a desert. A pot boiled happily on the stove.
“That looks right…right?” Tony questioned as he stared into the bowl and then looked over at the cookbook with a critical eye; it had been awhile since he’d last cooked. Peter leaned close and stared at the book as well.
“Yep.” Peter grinned, “Excellent job, Dad.” It came out without a thought and Steve was sure he was the only one who noticed the shock that stole over Tony’s features before a look of contentment took over. It was gone almost as quickly.
“Thanks.” Tony grinned before he moved towards the stove and stirred the contents of the boiling pot. Steve backed away slowly not wanting to disturb the obvious bonding. Peter had been there for over a month; it had taken some time for him to adjust and grieve. For his uncle’s killer to be found and arrested. Tony had been a constant for the teenager; helping Peter get settled into his own rooms, working together on clean energy projects and recently Steve had gone down to the workshop to see Tony showing Peter how to build an engine. Both had been covered in various oils. Steve was unsure of where it had all come from.
He’d also seen Peter wander down to the workshop half asleep and prod Tony back upstairs towards the elevator. It was quite obvious the teenager was working to make sure Tony actually slept and not down in the workshop, but in an actual bed. There were still times when Tony would stumble into the kitchen with circles under his eyes and clearly needing coffee. Half the time Steve wondered if Tony remembered there were others living in the same building as him. Some days he looked surprised when he realized there was someone else in the kitchen or that someone was talking to him. These times were mostly due to a decided lack of sleep. Steve was eternally grateful for Peter coming into Tony’s life as those moments were less than they had been. It was also nice to have someone else helping him to keep Tony from depriving himself of the basic necessities that humans required.
Tony’s head snapped up when the stove went off. Peter opened the oven door and pulled out the pans with oven mitts. “Done.” The teen placed them up on the stove and the two of them stood back staring at their successful creations.
“See. Cooking isn’t that hard.” Tony smirked triumphantly at the lasagna and bread cooling. “You can’t just turn the oven or stove up to high so the food will cook faster. Or leave it alone and wander off.” He gave Peter a pointed look. The teenager looked sheepish.
“How was I to know it was possible to turn a grilled cheese into a piece of charcoal?” it was said in a mildly defensive tone. “It was taking too long! And I was starving…”
“Well it’s a good thing you’ve got excellent reflexes or there might have been a huge problem.” Tony noted that Natasha was grinning at him from the doorway and Bruce appeared to be looking around her.
“I smell something delicious, Stark.” Natasha strolled into the kitchen dragging Bruce with her. “Italian. Yum.”
“Who cooked this?” Bruce inquired as he looked over all of the different types of food around the kitchen. “Was it you two?” it was said in a somewhat incredulous manner. “I didn’t know you knew how to cook.”
“I didn’t…I tend to burn water.” Peter absently rubbed his hand through his hair leaving flour in its wake. “Da—um” he looked over at Tony uncertainly, but didn’t see any negative reaction so he just went for it a second time, “Dad was showing me how to bake and then we realized that lasagna sounded good….so here we are.” Peter grinned slightly when Tony wrapped an arm around his shoulder with an obvious look of pride in his eyes.
“And Peter is an excellent student!”
“So…how do you know how to cook? I figured you for a take-out or personal chef type of person.” Clint spoke up as he took a seat with a cookie in hand and watched Tony. Steve walked into the kitchen at this point.
“Actually that is Pepper’s fault. I’d turned twenty-one, taken charge of Stark Industries and was getting my personal assistant, Pepper, used to working closely with the company as I was now CEO. One of the reasons I hired her was because she didn’t walk on eggshells around me and it was refreshing. She was apparently getting tired of letting in various delivery people or finding me food herself. I’d been down in the workshop for several days running on nothing but coffee and smoothies that Dummy was kind enough to make for me. She proceeded to inform me that it was pathetic that someone with my genius and ability to create such advanced systems like my AIs was incapable of taking care of myself. That I was unable to make toast.” A rueful smile took over Tony’s face as he looked off over Natasha’s shoulder clearly flashing back to that moment in his life.
“Let me guess. You told her that you could cook…you just chose not to?” Natasha smirked as she imagined Pepper’s reaction to that. Tony’s attention snapped back to the present.
“Yeah.” He grinned slightly, “So she proceeded to tell me that I needed to prove it. No more take-out or delivery drivers were going to be allowed around for a month. She placed an order for a bunch of groceries and had them put in the kitchen. I spent that whole month teaching myself how to cook. Cooking channels, cookbooks, demos on the computer. Anything I could find. End of the month rolls around and I’ve cooked a huge meal; Pepper was speechless when she showed up and I said we could discuss the documents she needed me to approve over the dinner I’d just finished.” Tony grabbed himself some food before he dropped down in the seat next to Peter and across from Steve who was staring at him in fascination from the story. “I have problems with omelets though.” He seemed slightly puzzled by the concept and remembered when he was dying.
“Stubborn. It’s always nice to know that I didn’t completely miss various aspects of your character while I was spying on you.” Natasha took a bite of her pasta and sighed. It was a bit of a sore point when she thought over some of the things she’d written in that report and then she’d remember Tony flying himself into that portal with a nuke on his back. Guilt overcame her briefly before she was able to push it aside.
Tony cocked an eyebrow, “Such a lovely psych evaluation it was, Natalie.” She smirked slightly. “I figured instead of having Peter learn in the same way I did I’d give him a crash course. Very fast learner.”
“Excellent teacher.” Peter nodded as he took a bite of bread.
“Now I’m getting nauseous.” Clint was elbowed sharply in the side by Natasha who didn’t look at him as she took another bite.
“Well this is delicious.” Steve beamed, “It’s nice to know we have two more that can be added into the cooking roster.” He took another bite of the food and hummed in appreciation.
Tony mock gasped. “Using complements for evil! Oh no...” the last part was moaned as though in agony, “Steve Rogers has gone to the dark side! Quick! Call Coulson…SHIELD is going to have to breakout their backup plans for such a heinous event! We’re all doomed.”
Peter snorted, “At least the dark side has cookies.” He looked around the kitchen at all of the cookies.
“Peter! You’re not supposed to let others know that we’re on the dark side. Have I taught you nothing recently?”
The others were noticeably amused by the spectacle that Tony was currently causing. “Oops. That wasn’t in the handbook!” Peter widened his eyes in pseudo horror. “We can’t let them leave now.” He sounded almost sorrowful at the end.
Steve’s shoulders were shaking from suppressed laughter at the two in front of him who were being overly dramatic. “Those cookies better be perfect!”
And then the kitchen was filled with laughter. It was picture-perfect. A nice peaceful moment that none of them thought they’d be enjoying months ago. Months ago when Bruce was on the run, Natasha was undercover and Clint was being bounced around. A time when Steve was struggling with losing his whole world, Thor was unable to return to Earth; Peter was an orphan living with his Uncle who was trying to hold a small family together, but having problems and Tony who had never thought he’d have a family or anything remotely close.
Tony looked up at his friends; the individuals who were quickly becoming the most important in his life including Pepper, Happy and Rhodey. And Peter had called him Dad…that should have terrified him, but instead he felt contentment. He’d never thought he would get a chance at creating a family of his own, of having a kid around or even adopting one. But with Peter there had been no question. He’d felt a draw to the teenager when he was stuck as a child, had felt protective of him when he’d returned to being an adult and had begun actively interacting with Peter. There had been no hesitation when he’d heard what had happened with Peter and he’d spent as much time as he could trying to help Peter with his loss because no one had tried to help him. No one had been there when he’d been orphaned, when he’d lost the last of his family and he’d be damned if someone as bright and good as Peter had the same happen.
Tony looked over the group and noticed one missing from the table who’d been there a second ago. Looking around he locked eyes on the stealthy Avenger who’d grabbed a plate full of cookies. “Barton! Put down the M&M cookies and step away.”
“Never!” Clint shielded them as best as he could as he took off running from the kitchen having abandoned having more lasagna in favor of stealing a plate of cookies.
“Those were mine!” he raced after Clint wielding a spatula which had been the nearest weapon.
Natasha turned to Peter who was staring after the two of them in fascination. “Are you sure you want Stark as a father figure?” it was said in a joking way, but was obviously a serious question.
“Yeah. He has felt more like a father since he returned to being an adult. I can barely remember much of my biological, but if I get to pick I know I want Tony Stark as a father.” The look on the teen’s face was awkward embarrassment as his cheeks turned red. “I couldn’t have been luckier that day I dove out into traffic.” He took a bite of his food as an excuse to break eye contact.
“We couldn’t have been luckier that day either, Peter. There was something missing from this little family and it’s nice to know we found that missing piece and got to keep Tony.” Bruce offered a smile. He was sure he would never be able to put into words how grateful he was for Tony’s unconventional ways of interacting with others and his own effortless acceptance of Bruce as well as the Hulk. “Tony seems to have a knack for fitting broken pieces together and creating something unexpectedly right.”
“GIVE ME THOSE COOKIES BACK OR I SWEAR I WILL MAKE YOU EAT THAT NEW BOW I MADE FOR YOU!” Tony’s voice interrupted the mildly touching moment.
Coulson walked into the kitchen with a stack of papers as he placed his phone into his pocket. He stared at the group in the kitchen and at the doorway. “I don’t want to know.”
“IT’S HAWK SEASON BARTON! JUST WAIT UNTIL I GET MY GUN!”
“I really don’t want to know.” Coulson picked up a cookie and took a bite. “These are good.”