There were more mishaps than Tony or Steve wanted when raising Peter, but it all worked out. Even though it really, really shouldn’t have.
Tony tried really hard not to ignore Steve. It was hard originally because the man was annoying and always there and always so damn tall and muscular, and Steve was Captain America for crying out loud, how do you ignore Captain America, honestly? Then they had somehow, awkwardly, wound up in bed together, and then it had been maybe-more-than-just-sex because, well, Steve was Steve and Tony was, well, even if he was shit at actually conveying them he did have deep feelings. Those days had been heady and were difficult to recall accurately, but Tony had felt as though there would never be a moment that he would want to ignore Steve again.
It was impossible to deny that Tony wanted to spend something resembling the rest of his life with Steve, even if getting him to admit something even close to that was harder than deducing the exact nature of Natasha and Clint’s relationship. He did, he completely did, he would be gladly making out with Steve Rogers when they were both old, wrinkly men. It made him strangely tingly to think that even if they lived in the swankiest penthouse in the world Steve would add the homiest touch to the place. Steve was Steve, and Tony was Tony, and it worked out even though it shouldn’t.
Sometime after they had gotten Peter, though, Tony had learned to tune out Steve’s voice whenever it cried out, woefully, “Tony.”
He stared, fixated, at the small electronic chip he was fiddling with. No, he told himself, he couldn’t hear Steve. Steve was upstairs, Peter was asleep. And if Peter had woken Steve would be in his room, he wouldn’t leave Peter by himself in his room, and he surely wouldn’t bring Peter into the basement. No – he was absolutely and completely alone and that voice had just been a strange auditory hallucination.
“Tony, I know you heard me.”
He really should have taken Bruce up on his offer to meditate with him. Really fucking should have.
Defeated, Tony swirled in his chair to face his almost-husband and pretty-much-adopted son. Peter was absolutely silent and ogling one of the Iron Man suits stored behind glass, eyes wide, but Steve was frowning and shaking his head just slightly, just enough to let Tony know that, no, they wouldn’t be having sex anytime soon, not with the way Tony kept fucking things up. Steve adjusted his hold on Peter, distracting the boy enough that he looked from the Iron Man suit to the man who wore it.
He gurgled, and Tony was absolutely positive that he did not have any sort of emotional reaction to that, no, he did not, never, it did not make him want to sink into a puddle of goo and if he immediately stood up and took Peter from Steve’s grasp and cradled him well – it wasn’t because of that sound. No. Tony was completely unaffected.
“Thank you,” Steve sighed, almost running a hand through his hair before grimacing at the slime – a foul red grey color that Tony assumed was baby food of some sort – and dropping it back to his side. The frown still hadn’t left his face. “He’s been crying for you for an hour. Nothing I did helped.”
Peter squealed and tugged on Tony’s shirt collar before biting – toothless – on the man. He instantly drew back and glared at the bitten skin, obviously offended that it dared to taste unappealing.
“I thought he was in bed,” Tony responded. He was completely and totally unaffected by the baby in his arms. Completely. Peter cuddled closer and Tony nuzzled him back. Totally unaffected.
“Tony. That was last night. Do you even know what time it is?”
Shit. There was no watch for him to inconspicuously glance at. Had he lost track of time? Oh, Steve’s deepening frown was a definite yes. Yes, he had lost track of time, and it was probably well past dawn, and he should have been upstairs helping with Peter but feeding and changing and all of that was so, so, so not-Tony but he knew he couldn’t say that to Steve because then Steve would just stare at him and say, “We’re equals in this relationship,” and take Peter and go in the playroom and not talk to Tony for the rest of the day. And that wasn’t fair, because Peter was actually nice to hold and cuddle and talk to, even if he could only gurgle back. Tony was sure the kid would be a genius.
Steve had forgotten about the red goop and was running his hands over his face, exhaustion pouring off of him in overwhelming waves. “Tony. Tony.”
“Hey, I –“
“Can you take him? For a little while. Look, I don’t want to take you away from your work, but it’s past noon. He’s been up since six this morning. I need some rest. I need – I need some sleep. Okay?”
Steve’s hands had fallen back to his sides. His hair was a mess, his shirt was a disaster, and somehow his whole body seemed smaller.
Peter gave a great long whine and tugged at Tony’s shirt again.
“Okay,” he nodded. He was surprised when Steve managed to slug upstairs to the bedroom rather than falling down on the cot in the basement.
Peter wanted to look at everything.
When they needed a babysitter – when they needed a break from the baby because they were both sure they were going to go insane (Tony by building a variety of lethal machines and Steve by just slowly isolating himself from every living creature until he would refuse to leave his small corner of solitude) – the first choice was Pepper.
Peter loved her and would constantly try to grab her fingers and squeeze as hard as he possibly could. She adored the boy.
The babysitting proposal was met with a stern, “Tony, I am the CEO of your company. I can’t babysit both your kids.”
Steve assured Tony they could manage; they could push through the few rough months and cope with whatever Peter tossed them. Screaming endlessly – no problem, they’d figure out the perfect solution eventually (two hours later). Waking up crying at two AM every morning – no problem, they could just take turns checking on the little guy (Tony ended up taking more turns than intended). Diapers – no problem, they could handle that, it was just poop, right? (“Tony, if you don’t start changing the diapers, I am going to – I’m going – Just be a man and change his diaper for once! Tony!”)
No. It was definitely a problem.
That was why, they decided (reflecting on all of the events later on), they had agreed to let Thor babysit Peter. They had agreed even though Thor arrived with Loki trailing behind him. They had agreed even though Peter had growled at Loki and bit the Asgardian’s hand the minute the man came in the house (Peter, now with teeth, could cause an unfortunate amount of damage).
Astonishingly, Loki had simply gently removed his hand from Peter’s chomp once the boy relaxed and scooped the almost-toddler into his arms. Steve had nearly melted into a puddle of nerves at the sight of Avengers’ Enemy Number One holding his child, but through an odd conversation involving references to repenting and forgiveness and eight-legged horses the super solider had let his precious child leave the house in the arms of two gods.
It’ll be okay, it’ll be okay, it’ll be okay, was Tony’s mantra the entire time. Even if the time away from Peter was blessedly silent. Steve suggested bed, and they both gladly, euphorically tumbled in and fell asleep.
Two months after Peter’s first birthday the Avengers were called together to once again save the world. The first year raising Peter had been relatively calm for the team, with only a few of them called out for certain tasks, the larger jobs usually taken care of by another superhero team (it seemed, at the moment, that the X-Men were favored by the public). Fury had called the Rogers-Stark household and barked at them to get their asses over to headquarters and suit up – it was another alien attack on Manhattan, and the X-Men weren’t doing so well at containing the damage. Steve had suggested he stay with Peter, but Fury had quickly corrected his erroneous assumption that he could sit the fight out.
“I want both of you at headquarters. Find a fucking babysitter.”
When they had suggested that Fury watch Peter they had been met with frightening, raucous guffaws.
That was how they had ended up awkwardly handing Peter over to Loki yet again. Steve was a bundle of irritating nervous energy, and Tony had to clamp his hand down on Steve’s arm to try to contain him as Loki let Peter crawl over him. Thor had come with Loki, to offer some small comfort to the hesitant-dear-lord-this-is-the-worst-idea-we’ve-had parents as they placed their child in the hands of their first enemy. But Peter adored Loki now, and he shrieked with joy at the man, and Loki hadn’t done anything bad last time, though last time he had been with Thor, and there was no guarantee –
Steve looked about ready to wrestle Peter away from his unexpected babysitter, so both Tony and Thor walked him out of the house. It would be okay. It would be okay.
The fight had been unpleasant, dragging on for hours. Iron Man had been monitoring from the sky when Captain America had almost taken a full blast of the nasty alien ray energy to the chest, and for an instant it wasn’t Iron Man and Cap but Tony and Steve, and Tony wasn’t able to deny that he had stopped breathing in that moment when it seemed Steve really had been hit. But, no, Black Widow had knocked Cap down just in time, and they were back to normal.
The carnage only stopped when Charles Xavier and Magneto deigned to arrive, halting the confrontation with simple waves of their hands. Xavier was wheelchair bound but still youthful, his hair still long and curled, and Magneto looked much the same as he always had – atrociously dressed (at least, Tony thought so, and he knew Bruce agreed with him) and far too pleased with himself. The X-Men and Brotherhood gathered around their leaders, but Tony landed himself directly in front of Xavier. The man could have stopped the fight much earlier, but he and Magneto continued to have their damned power plays. Tony had minded much before – the Avengers were rarely negatively impacted by it, and the teams usually stayed away from each other – but this time Xavier’s manipulations had torn Tony from his son.
Steve was by his side before he could even begin insulting the telepath. Tony didn’t know whether to be grateful or resentful.
“Xavier,” Steve greeted, his tone icy compared to usual. “Thank you for assisting us.”
There had to be something more Steve was going to say, some biting reprimand delivered in perfect, patriotic fashion. But no, Steve was silent, and Tony didn’t know whether to gape at his almost-not-quite-husband or start screaming. Fuck it. Meditation with Bruce wasn’t helping with shit.
“I’m sorry we couldn’t make it sooner,” Xavier said, his small smile betraying how insincere he was. Oh if only Tony wasn’t made of so much metal. But he was, and he knew that if he made any, any move against Charles, Magneto would crush him in his own suit. The telepath locked his eyes on Tony’s exposed face, and he wished sharply he hadn’t raised the face plate. “Though I assure you, Peter is fine. Loki is not such a bad caretaker.”
Of course. Of fucking course Charles Xavier couldn’t keep his damn mind to himself – he had to go prodding and poking where he didn’t belong, and Tony thought as viciously as he could about performing a vague violent act against the man. He threw the thought at the telepath, but all he received was a breathy laugh.
The metal of his suit vibrated. Magneto was staring at him dispassionately, but the warning was clear. And it was Steve’s turn to drag Tony away, Thor once again coming to help.
Charles was right, naturally. Peter was absolutely, perfectly fine. Better than fine – he was fast asleep in Loki’s arms when his adoptive parents returned. Loki tensed the moment they walked through the door, his jaw clenched and his eyes wavering as they flicked between Peter’s fathers and Thor (come to escort his brother back home). They had been able to wash off at SHIELD headquarters, and Tony wanted nothing more than to go work off all his frustration on some of the robots in the basement. But seeing Peter, asleep, peaceful, and Loki looking not guilty but worried, as though his simply holding a child was a bad omen – all Tony’s anger spat out, not even hot coals remaining, and he let himself smile as Steve collapsed on the couch next to Loki, gingerly taking their baby from the Asgardian’s arms.
“Hey, kiddo,” Steve mumbled, adjusting Peter just before he could wake and giving the boy a small squeeze. Reassuring himself that Peter was there. Peter was real. He nodded at Loki after Peter had settled against his shoulder. “He was good?”
“I’m surprised you’re not asking about my behavior,” the god replied back, something just south of malice in his voice. He stiffened. “Yes, he was good.”
Steve smiled, and Loki just sat there, blank faced, staring at Steve being more than cordial. And then Steve thanked him, and Loki just stood up, affirmed that they could leave Peter in his care anytime, and walked out the door. It was all very awkward and strange and Thor was left tripping after his brother, but it felt right.
It worked, even though it shouldn’t have.
It continued to work. Steve eventually wrangled the entire story out of Thor, how Loki had come to have such a soft spot for kids, though Loki himself refused to speak about any of his children. Especially Sleipnir, though when Tony tried to broach the subject he had heard Loki mumble under his breath, “Worst grandfather ever, Odin.” It seemed when confronted with parents and children – well, when confronted with children – Loki couldn’t even keep up his mask of evil. Though, honestly, having seen how little havoc the god had caused in recent months, months which became years, Tony doubted the man was truly evil. And Peter loved him.
Peter loved everyone, actually, especially the Avengers and Pepper. He continued to grow, learned how to talk quicker than anyone expected, learned how to climb quicker than they were able to cope with, and learned how to woo hearts with a simple bashful smile. At three he was especially fond of Natasha and would beg to be held by her every time she visited, squeezing her tight and burrowing into her neck or chest or shoulder. At five he was trailing behind Hawkeye and wanting to see all of his ‘cool gadgets!’, and the next year he was tugging on Thor’s cape every five seconds. Of course, he still got tired and wanted to just curl up in bed for a good nap, though when he woke in the morning he would always shuffle into his fathers’ bedroom, rubbing his eyes and holding his large stuffed dog and blanket and crawl into bed with them. The year before Peter started school was one of the best. Tony had woken up, found Peter burying his tiny body between him and Steve, and realized life was absolutely perfect.
Of course, they still had to go out and fight whatever evil was threatening humanity that month, but now that Peter was older and Loki was always ready to babysit things went smoothly.
When Peter started school they went less smoothly. The biggest – the only, Tony thought – problem was that everyone knew Peter was their adoptive son, and everyone knew by now that Captain America and Iron Man were a bit more than just teammates. That last bit of information hadn’t been intended for the public, but there had been rumors and discussions and eventually Tony had decided to risk Fury’s, well, fury and just take Steve out to dinner, in public. No hiding. No shame.
“You only live once,” he had said to Steve.
Once the issue of Peter being a bit too famous for Steve or Tony’s comfort was resolved, mainly by switching schools and making sure no one would pester the five year old about his fathers, life returned to its simple, slow progression of saving the world, picking up Peter from school, watching Steve make dinner, watching Peter either joyfully accept or violently reject whatever Steve prepared, and falling into bed, pleasantly exhausted.
Save the world, pick up Peter, have dinner, sleep. Wake up, take Peter to school, save the world, repeat.
Tony had felt like each moment would last forever, each day, but they ended up blurring fast, and Peter was growing and getting older and asking so many questions and investigating so many things. He was as much of a genius as Tony had suspected he would be, if not more, and he spent plenty of time in the basement with Tony tinkering. When Tony wasn’t present Bruce would often stop by and discuss a variety of topics with the young boy. And Peter was still fond of Loki, too fond perhaps, because it seemed he had developed Loki’s ability to cause mayhem in whatever he did.
By eight he was fascinated with his superhero fathers and their teammates, unconcerned with his birth parents. Steve kept the small trunk of treasures he had received when they had adopted Peter, though, knowing that in the future he would want to know about the people that had given birth to him. Tony thought of Peter as their son – it was hard not to after having been splattered with baby food in the face and peed on (he had, indeed, changed a few diapers back in the day) – and it made his chest feel oddly tight to think that maybe Peter wouldn’t always think of them as his parents, but Tony figured the best thing he could do was be honest and always there for Peter. He would be a good father to the kid, just like Steve was.
Peter was ten when he first met Jean Gray, the meeting itself being an entire accident. Tony and Steve and Peter had been out for ice cream and a relaxing day, Peter euphoric to spend time with his parents, babbling about every new discovery he had made and commenting on everything in sight, when the boy’s head suddenly snapped to the side and he stared, absolutely silent, across the street.
Steve had tensed and followed his gaze. Charles Xavier was slowly wheeling towards them, accompanied by a young girl, and though Steve relaxed Tony tensed. There was something about telepaths that just drove him up the wall, and he never could shake the feeling. The young girl at his side – looking to be the same age as Peter – stared at their son intensely.
“Oh, Steve, Tony! What a pleasure to see you here. Jean and I were just stopping by for some ice cream,” Charles explained. That was when Tony realized how weathered and weary Charles looked, wrinkles slowly gathering about his eyes and his skin not as brilliant as it once was. And Tony had looked down at Jean and realized that Charles was training a replacement, or what he hoped would be a replacement, or maybe a guiding light, which seemed distinctly sad to Tony because Charles was still young – not as young as he once was, but still young – and yet he had always, since Tony had first met the X-Men, been planning for his death. While Steve and Charles were introducing Peter and Jean to each other, Charles gently explaining to Peter that Jean was a telepath, Peter’s eyes going wide and then excited as he bounded out of his chair and nearly crushed Jean in a hug, Tony was staring at Charles. He wondered if that moment in the past, the one no one talked about but everyone knew, which he had heard Emma Frost once call the ‘divorce’, had been the end of Charles’ life. Or at least his ability to look forward in his own life.
Peter was exclaiming something about the magnificent, marvelous wonder that was genetic mutation, though, and he had to focus on his son. Jean Gray, tiny, trim Jean Gray, seemed altogether confused and pleased with the attention being lavished on her.
Peter was thirteen when he became interested in his birth parents, but the Event That Changed Everything happened a little bit before that.
Looking back, Tony wasn’t sure they could have prevented what happened. Steve was practically a model in male attachment parenting, never wanting Peter to leave the nest for any reason, while Tony was relatively hands off and willing to let Peter scrap his knees, cut up his hands, and generally face the world on his own (mostly). Peter loved science, which was part of why he seemed to love Bruce so much and asked the man every question that popped into his mind, so it just seemed logical to take Peter to the exhibit on genetically modified spiders. The kid had nearly shrieked in joy when he learned they were going.
“Oh man! Oh, oh, thank you, thank you, thank you! You’re the best parents ever, seriously, the best!”
Not a second later he was excitedly texting Jean, his fingers conveying his excitement in their jerky, jumpy movements.
At the exhibit Steve had gotten absorbed in a general overview of the spiders and genetic modification. He was smarter than most people gave him credit for, even if he couldn’t match Tony or Bruce or Peter (well, he could, but once Peter got older he wouldn’t be able to). Peter had run off to the bathroom, and Tony had been waiting nearby, but the kid was a sneak (Tony would need to talk to Loki about the tricks he was teaching Peter), and Tony nearly had a system failure when he realized Peter had snuck away. Thankfully he had been able to put tracking devices on certain clothes or miscellaneous items Peter wore, though it was always a challenge to try to hide them well enough that Peter wouldn’t see them and just pluck them off. It had turned into a kind of game, but right then Tony desperately wished that Peter hadn’t removed the device. It couldn’t tell Tony exactly where Peter was, but it could beep him in the right direction.
He found Peter near one of the large wall displays, one with a variety of dead spiders ranging in size from miniscule to as large as Steve’s hands. He was rubbing his right hand and grimacing, and even though Tony observed that he didn’t process it until much later. Instead, called out to Peter and frowned at him as the boy turned around.
“Dad!” Peter exclaimed, instantly dropping his hands and looking well caught and guilty. “I, uh, ah…”
“Wanted to get away? Have some solitude? Discover some mysteries on your own?” Tony proposed, finally cracking a smile at his son and tugging him into a slight hug. Peter hadn’t yet had another growth spurt and was still smaller than Tony, though he had an unfortunate prediction that Peter might eventually grow taller than he was. “That’s fine, I get it, you just nearly killed me with fear, every time you sneak past me I worry my observation skills are getting dull –“
“They are,” Peter quipped, letting his father steer them both back to where Steve was sitting, still listening to the presentation with rapt attention.
“Hey, now. Behave.” But the rebuke had no force, and Peter just smiled sideways at the ground. The smile was off, Tony knew that then, but he couldn’t put the pieces together until later.
Later turned out to be near midnight, after they had arrived back home and had a delicious dinner and Steve had settled into bed, Tony shacked up in the basement yet again. He had been under the impression that Peter had slunk off to his own room sometime after dessert, but JARVIS informed him that his son was up and creeping towards the basement. Peter was smart and wily, but JARVIS was programmed with the best security measures.
Tony didn’t bother to turn away from the piece of armor he was working on when Peter cautiously entered the room, his footsteps remarkably quiet. Even if he thought that Peter was old enough to understand that sometimes Tony just wanted to be left alone and allowed to work without hurting the boy’s feelings he would still drop everything he was doing if he sensed any tension or hesitation. Peter shouldn’t be afraid to come to him. It was awkward to say so, but Tony tried to remind Peter as often as he could, “I love you.”
So when Peter was reasonably close to the working area Tony set down his tools and turned to face his son.
Peter’s face was horridly white. Tony felt his brain stutter in fear, but he clamped that down and gestured for Peter to sit on the work table. It was his preferred resting area, after all.
“What’s up, kiddo?” He absently fiddled with the armor plate, not properly looking at it, just needing a distraction, because Peter, Peter, oh Peter looked as though he was going to vomit.
Peter was going to vomit.
It was pure instinct that had Tony grabbing a stray trash can and lifting it to his son’s now green face. The sound was wretched as Peter spewed into the basket, and his shoulders were shaking, and Tony didn’t know what to think – though the first thing that popped into his mind was that Peter must have some sort of fatal disease and what were they going to do if he was sick, Peter had never been seriously sick, shit if Peter went to the hospital –
The retching stopped.
The smell was, predictably, awful, but there were robots that could move across the room and deal with the now permanently-ruined trash can, and once Tony handed off the puke-laden basket he found himself with an armful of trembling, pale teenager. As delicately as he could manage, he lowered them both to the ground. Peter didn’t reach out to hug him or even touch him; he just shivered and stared at the floor.
The shivering became jerky movements as Peter yanked his head up to stare at his father, eyes wide and horrified. “Dad,” he mumbled.
“Breathe in and out. Slow. In and out, kiddo. Come on. There you go.”
It took a few minutes of gentle breathing techniques – which Tony only knew about because of Bruce, and Bruce was definitely getting some new toys to tinker with because of it – before Peter finally stopped shaking and could settle himself on the floor. It took a bit longer for Peter to finally say what he had intended to.
“One of those spiders – today, those spiders, the genetically altered ones. Yeah, those – one of those…bit me.” His fingers brushed against his right hand once again, and every little detail Tony had seen but not put together fell in place with a thundering crack.
Now, what Tony had wanted to do at that moment was hide in a corner and have a very quiet, very small mental breakdown. But Peter was there, and Peter needed him to be an adult, and this was going to be fucking hard but Tony was a genius and Peter was brilliant and they would figure this out.
The first question of that long night that Tony asked was, “Are you sure it was one of those spiders, or did you just feel something bite you?”
The morning after the Incident was one of Tony’s worst. He had stayed up all night with Peter, running tests and asking questions and learning as much as he could. It didn’t seem like there were any affects, but it hadn’t even been a day yet at that point. Telling Steve was – hard. He was sure, he was so fucking sure Steve would blame him, say he hadn’t kept a close enough eye on Peter and this all could have been avoided if Tony actually paid attention.
That morning, over pancakes, with Peter finally passed out in his room, Steve took the news badly and crushed the fork in his hand. He had questions, and concerns, and he knew that it would be complicated to deal with their son being bitten by a strange new species of spider, but he never once said anything about Tony not being a good parent. No – when Tony confessed he had been up the entire night with Peter, calming him down and trying to learn what they could with the technology available to them, Steve had smiled brightly (considering the circumstances) and kissed Tony soundly.
“You’re a good father.”
Hearing that made everything better.
They thought, maybe, possibly, Peter had been wrong about seeing one of the definitely genetically modified spiders bite him. After a few months passed and – nothing, no reaction, no strange developments, nothing, even Peter began to think he was mistaken. Life went on. Saving the world, taking Peter to see Jean, having Jean over for dinner, watching Charles and Erik get older and realizing that they too, Steve and Tony and Natasha and Bruce and Clint, they were all getting older. Peter going to high school, Peter getting too smart for his own good, Peter sitting down and engaging Loki in continually stranger battles of wits and words that Tony barely followed.
There were times that they fought, the three of them. Steve and Tony rarely fought, not honestly, just constant bickering that made everyone around them roll their eyes because, really, they should just get married already. But Peter was growing up, he was stretching his wings, and sometimes they clashed. After the Incident Peter took a keen interest in his parents, and there were a few months when he was resentful towards Steve because he felt betrayed that his parents and birth family had been so unimportant. But Tony had sat down with Peter over robots and brought their son around to seeing that Steve had been the one to keep all the information about Peter’s parents, that Steve had always wanted what was best for Peter, and, of course, that Steve made the absolute best biscuits and gravy they had ever had.
It was rare for Peter to be mad at both of them, so they were able to, with relative ease, bring their son back around to peace every time. Occasionally he would get angry with the two of them and sulk in his room, seemingly endlessly, but Tony convinced Steve that sometimes teenagers ‘just needed that’ and that they should leave him alone.
It worked, even though it shouldn’t have.
Until Peter turned sixteen. They had been running a regular diagnostic test, just to make sure Peter was healthy, when a frantic beeping came from the computers. It took far longer than it should have, but Tony finally found the problem: Peter, it seemed, was no longer Peter. At least not according to his DNA. So Tony had tested every last variable he could, and then he had stared at the DNA string, puzzled and frustrated and raw with worry, and realized what had happened.
Steve came downstairs when JARVIS rang him from the gym and slowly, with obvious comprehension growing in his eyes, told Tony that Peter was out with Bruce for the day, didn’t he remember that? And Tony cursed, snapping at JARVIS to call Bruce, but then something happened and – Bruce was calling Tony. It seemed too abrupt, and fear was overriding every other thought Tony was having, so all he could do was stare at the multitude of screens flashing, ‘CALL FROM Science Bro’.
“Answer,” Steve said, taking the reins seamlessly from Tony’s limp hands. “Bruce?”
“Hey – Steve?” Bruce sounded – calm. Oh shit, what happened? Something had happened, something must have happened, fuck why had Tony stopped meditating? “Everything’s okay. Well. It’s okay. Can you come by, though? Peter is – it’s complicated. He’s okay, we’re okay. He’s just…”
“I’m stuck to the ceiling, dad!” Peter’s voice came, muffled and fuzzy from the distance but still audible.
Steve drove while Tony had a very, very silent meltdown.
It all seemed surreal – driving to Bruce’s house, walking up the steps, greeting Bruce and seeing him half-smile at them, walk them through the hall and past the kitchen. Tony felt like he was underwater, suspended in a weird fluid that made everything less-real. Then they stepped into Bruce’s living room, though, and Peter was hanging from the ceiling by the soles of his feet, and reality slapped back into Tony with so much force he actually cracked.
“Peter. Get down right now.”
“I can’t,” the boy began, but Tony shook his head.
“I saw that smirk before we came in the room. You think I don’t know what you’re playing at, but I raised you, all the tricks you know you got from Loki or me, and this,” Tony waved at Peter, swaying as he hung upside down. He sighed. “C’mon.”
With a grunt, Peter grabbed the ceiling with the tips of his fingers – holy shit seeing it happen made Tony wonder exactly how he could do that dear lord there would be so many tests to run – and swung himself down. Steve was instantly reprimanding their son, Bruce was frowning and turning to Tony to engage in a conversation about what, exactly, had just transpired, and Tony realized with a sharp twinge that their son was doomed to be as much of a freak as they were.
“It was the spider bite,” he told Bruce, letting Steve handle the chastisement. “The spider bite and Peter finally getting his growth spurt…”
Peter loved his powers. Not only that, he loved experimenting and honing them. Tony was more than willing to try the various ideas Peter spouted off the top of his head of how to make use of his more spider-like skills, though Steve nearly went mad when Peter proposed he try scaling buildings. But it was exciting, at least for Tony and Peter, and a whole new world had opened up in front of them.
Jean stopped by frequently, and then Peter began going to visit her and the other mutant teens more often, and it worked even though it shouldn’t have. At least, it did until Steve stumbled upon some sketches Peter had drawn of a spider costume that looked a bit too much like a superhero outfit for either Tony or Steve’s comfort, and they had to sit Peter down and tell him, in no uncertain terms, that they did not want Peter following in their footsteps.
It was the first time the three of them had truly fought, as parents against teen, to such an extent that Peter stormed away and slammed his door and Steve was left leaning his head into his hands and breathing through tight lips. They had done their best, at least Tony thought so, to convey that the level of risk in being a superhero was too much, that they couldn’t bear to see Peter die, that their work was dangerous and that Peter should be doing anything, anything else.
“Tony,” Steve breathed out. “Tony. I don’t even know what we’re doing anymore.” Softly, Steve leaned on him, sliding down until his face was buried in Tony’s neck and he didn’t have to face the world.
“Yeah. I don’t know either.”
They had stupidly assumed that Peter had listened. A few months later, after the Avengers crashed into a rundown warehouse that was so stereotypical Tony was practically begging for some more ingenious villains (practically ready to beg Loki to get into the business again just to add something new and innovative to the mix), they had found the bad guy strung up in a spider web and their son clad in a red and blue suit.
Near the end of that month Peter spent a lot of his time – still trapped in the house – talking to Loki, who came by both because he tagged along with Thor and because he wanted to see Peter. They would sit on the couch and just talk. Tony was never sure exactly what they spoke about, and he was committed to not eavesdropping, but it did make him wonder. After all, Loki had severe daddy issues, but the man was also a mother and a father. After one of their longer talks, after Loki had left, Peter had unexpectedly hugged Tony as tight as possible before immediately letting go.
“I just – I’m sorry.”
“I know, kiddo. I know.”
So it happened that at the end of the one month grounding, over Tuesday morning pancakes, Peter asked his fathers to teach him about their job and, using the same smile he had when he was three, convinced them to let him help them with their work for SHIELD. However Fury felt about that, well, they frankly didn’t give a damn.
Spiderman officially came out as a superhero after Peter’s eighteenth birthday, after he had moved out of his parent’s house and was rooming with a few of the mutants from Xavier’s school and Magneto’s Brotherhood. There were rumors that, what with the Avengers getting older, a new team would be needed, but Tony didn’t pay any attention to those. He was still perfectly youthful, and his health was perfect (shut up, Barton). The team was doing fine.
The city was in superhero fever. He could still remember the days he spent saving the world and picking Peter up from school. He could still remember snuggling together in the morning and watching Steve cook at night. He could still remember pancakes every Tuesday, with the morning light at just the right angle making their entire kitchen glow and Steve looking ethereal before Peter’s baby cries had broken the silence.
But the rhythm had changed. Peter was on his own, saving his own pocket of the world, being watched by SHIELD (and Tony) every moment to make sure he was safe. Saving the world was a monthly task at best now, with so many teams and superheroes. They would save the world, then Peter would, and then another team, and another. And while the other teams were out saving the world from destruction Tony was roughly (re)wooing Steve and Steve was making plans to finally, finally get married, and the rest of the Avengers would stop by and swap stories and steal beer and food, and Tuesdays were reserved for Peter and pancakes in the morning light.