Tony wasn't sure how it'd happened, but in the span of one week, he'd somehow acquired a kid.
His addiction to coffee had been the main reason for it. After an especially irritating evening with the wrinkly bastards that made up the board of Stark Industries, Tony had snuck out the back door while Pepper wasn't looking and made a run for it down the stairs. Pepper would get her revenge sometime in the near future, but he had been willing to take his chances.
Shooting Isaac Johnson with his repulsors would've made for some really bad press, anyways. Pepper should be thanking him for using such a high level of restraint. It was certainly more than he would've done four years ago.
Queens was the perfect place to disappear, so Tony had decided to go for some coffee at a nice little cafe several blocks away from the building he'd just escaped. After grabbing his beautiful cup of Turkish coffee with a side of chocolate sticks, Tony had nearly jumped out of his skin when gunshots sounded directly behind him. It had taken Tony a few moments to realize that the bullets hadn't been meant for him.
And didn't that say a whole lot about his life choices.
It took one minute for Tony to don his hand repulsors and arrive at the small house where he'd heard the gunshots come from. Charging straight in through the front door, Tony had been faced with two dead bodies, a middle-aged man and woman. Not ten feet away stood a little boy, eyes wide as a masked burglar pointed a gun at his head.
Tony didn't even think before shooting him through the skull.
Everything had been a blur after that, police officers swarming the scene while reporters took countless pictures of Tony Stark for the morning papers. Within forty-eight hours, Tony learned the victims had been Ben and May Parker, all around good people who hadn't deserved such a terrible fate. A burglary gone wrong, had been what the detectives called it.
And then there was Peter, their eight-year-old nephew who witnessed the whole thing and had no remaining close family to take him in. The poor kid was officially an orphan and Child Protective Services had shown up within a couple hours to retrieve him. Gut clenching in sympathy, Tony had shocked himself shitless by volunteering to sign whatever papers were necessary to become Peter Parker's foster parent.
Pepper had nearly passed out when he called her.
A new pair of Louboutin heels had been on her doorstep by the next morning, especially since it had taken her ten minutes to convince Tony's team of very pricey lawyers that she wasn't possessed or lying to them. Tony Stark with a child? Blasphemy!
In less than two months, Tony had signed the adoption papers.
"Dummy! If you try to spray Peter one more time, I'm donating you to the local community college! What are you—"
A fire extinguisher shot copious amounts of foam right into Tony's face, completely covering both him and the panels he'd been soldering together. Oh yeah, that hunk of scrap metal was so going to community college. Let the stupid little freshmen experiment on Dummy for a few weeks and see how he liked being blasted with unknown chemicals then. Unfortunately, Pepper would also kill him since Tony Stark's one-armed monstrosity would likely blow up half the campus in less than a week. Nah, revise that: four days at the max.
"I didn't tell him to do it this time."
"You, young man, are a lying liar who lies." Tony wiped foam out of his face and eyes. "I know better than to trust you and your evilness. Pepper and Happy might fall for it, but I won't."
Peter stood in the lounge Tony had specifically designed and fire-proofed for him, leaning against the couch while Butterfingers picked up a couple papers that had fallen to the floor. Apparently, the kid had decided to start an insect collection and was writing down all the bugs he wanted to find when they visited upstate New York later in the month.
"Shit, it's in my eyes. Why do I put up with you defective hunks of junk again?"
"Because they keep you from catching on fire," said Peter. "I think that's a pretty important job. And you don't look good in flames."
"What're you talking about, half-pint?" Tired of fighting with the foam, Tony went to stand in front of a gigantic fan that existed for this express purpose. "Anything that graces this body becomes a fashion phenomenon. Just ask Vogue and Armani. They're always begging me to model their overpriced rags."
"You wear Armani all the time."
"That's beside the point. And why are you bouncing up and down like that? You gotta pee?"
"It's almost time for lunch."
With that said, Peter disappeared into the elevator, ordering JARVIS to take him up to the penthouse floor. Most parents would have been furious if their kid had ordered a robot to douse them in bubbly foam, but Tony viewed it as a momentous milestone that warranted a celebration. Peter had been practically catatonic when Tony first brought him to Stark Tower, shell-shocked by the horror he had witnessed. He hadn't spoken more than ten words in the first month, and had only started to smile or laugh in the past two weeks.
So, a small prank that resulted in Tony looking like the Stay Puft Marshmellow Man? Yeah, Tony was more than okay with that.
"It is 12:47 in the afternoon, Sir."
"Huh, that was quick."
"You have been working since 8:22am," said the AI. "Master Peter ate the omelet sandwich you left out for him at 9:15am. It is understandable that he would be quite hungry by this hour."
"Did he finish his homework?"
"Last night, Sir. The young master spent his morning playing Pokemon Omega Ruby in the common area."
"Best kid ever."
"I am inclined to agree. Would you like me to order lunch, Sir?"
Tony stood and cracked his back. "Nah, I'll whip up some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for us. Shit, I'm actually eating meals like a normal human being. Call the local disease specialist, J, I think I'm infected with some kind of mind-altering parasite."
"I believe that parasite is called Parenthood, Sir."
"Yeah, thanks for the update, J. It's not like I didn't notice a pint-sized human running around my tower."
With a roll of his eyes, Tony changed his shirt and pants, nearly tripping at least twice. He had two drawers full of spare clothes in the lab. When you lived with a foam-happy mongrel like Dummy, extra clothes were always a must.
"A lot more has slipped your notice before."
The Bleeding Edge armor stood proud in the workshop's center as Tony packed up his tools, fingers ghosting over the leg and back reactors as he considered what section to work on next. He'd had to put most of the project on hold when Peter came into his life, but with things settling down and Peter's emotional state improving little by little, Tony could hopefully start full-time work on it again.
Not to mention his earlier project of repairing JARVIS and his mangled code. The AI still couldn't function beyond the Tower itself, but between Tony and Vision's tireless struggles, they'd managed to salvage enough of the original code to bring JARVIS back to a state of semi-functionality. FRIDAY was still there to pick up the slack and do most of the technical work, but by God, was it amazing to hear his baby's dry-witted, sarcastic voice again.
"I'm insulted, J. Truly insulted."
"And I believe that is your permanent state of being, Sir."
"Why did I program you to be sarcastic?" asked Tony as he stepped into the elevator. "Memo to self: reprogram AI not to be a sarcastic shit later tonight."
With a slight drag in his step, Tony wandered into the penthouse kitchen and ruffled Peter's hair on his way to the refrigerator. The kid squawked at the treatment, big eyes fixed on Tony's backside with lethal intent. It was exactly what the genius wanted to see from his still-grieving charge.
"Raspberry or blueberry jelly?"
"Ah, train you well, I have," said Tony. "Brilliant padawan, you be."
Peter scrunched up his nose at this. "What if I want to be a Sith, though?"
"We've already had this conversation, young man."
"JARVIS says you could make a lightsaber if you wanted to. And who doesn't want to make a lightsaber?"
"I should create a whole army of BB-8s to terrorize him," said Tony. "It'd serve him right for putting such terrible ideas into a little boy's head. And what makes you think I haven't made a lightsaber yet."
As expected, that pulled a devious smile out of Peter. It was number ten for the week.
"The rogue Avengers are on the news again."
"Anything to write home about?" asked Tony, consciously keeping his posture relaxed and open. "They didn't come out guns blazing and blow up my property, did they?"
Peter shrugged. "I don't think so. Just some people talking about where they might be hiding now."
"The usual then."
Keeping his attention firmly on the sandwiches, Tony tried not to think of the rogue Avengers and everything that came along with them. He was still in contact, but it was only from a distance and exclusively through T'Challa or Fury. Tony knew his presence wouldn't be welcomed after the debacles with Ultron and then the Sokovia Accords. There wasn't any immediate hostility per se, but things were still tense so soon after Bucky Barnes' revival and the general public's continued skepticism of superhero morality. With his prominent position at Stark Industries and his newly claimed fatherhood, it was best if Tony laid low for at least a couple months.
Or forever, if Cap and SHIELD had anything to say about it.
Besides, Tony had Peter to think about now. Aside from Pepper, Happy, the Rhodes family, two social workers, his pediatrician, and a team of lawyers, the rest of the world thought Tony Stark had done no more than save young Peter Parker's life before flouncing off into the sunset to create another batch of homicidal robots and finger-eating toasters. Not even the tower's staff knew about him yet, and Tony planned to keep it that way for as long as possible.
And when it came to ditching his kid to fight in a conflict he didn't even understand—yeah, Tony was referring to Clint and that asshole Bug-Guy, both of whom were family-abandoning extraordinaires—they'd be waiting a damned long time. Peter was his first priority, not some guy who couldn't let go of the past or understand that actions came with consequences.
Seriously, no wonder Laura was on the verge of divorcing Clint's idiotic ass. Little kids were a lot of damn work and that poor woman was doing everything at this point. And to top it off, she didn't have just one rugrat like Tony, but three. Clint deserved to be served with divorce papers for the shit he'd pulled last year.
Hell, Tony had burned Cap's letter within a week of its arrival. What the fuck kinda crappy, self-righteous, preachy apology was that, anyways? Not to mention that stupid pho—
"Can I watch Ninja Turtles?" asked Peter. "They're showing new episodes now."
"Of course," said Tony without pause. "And remember what I told you about some of the headlines, right? Lots of misinformation, so just ignore them. Most of the newscasters don't know what they're talking about."
"I know, I know."
"Hey, hey! Don't forget your sandwich! I'm not your servant, kiddo."
"Can I have some chips?"
"Yeah, why not?" Tony conceded. "But take a piece of fruit, too."
"I like apples."
What would the world say, if they saw the infamous Tony Stark throwing together sandwiches and chips for an eight-year-old's lunch? They'd probably find some way to warp it, knowing the media. Not even Steve or Bruce would believe Tony could take care of a young child without maiming them. Little did they know that Tony and his priorities had shifted immensely in the last four months.
Rhodey had taken an assholish amount of glee in meeting Peter and observing that the boy had Tony wrapped around his little finger. But Tony didn't mind being a pushover for Peter. Good parents were supposed to put their kids first, right?
Hell, maybe if Howard had done the same, Tony wouldn't have turned out to be such a self-centered, antisocial, pathetic fuck up. In his opinion, it was high time to break the cycle of Starks fucking over their kids.
"Might as well give him some milk," Tony muttered to himself. "Good for his bones and all that shit."
"Excellent choice, Sir."
The minute Tony had signed those adoption papers, he'd made a promise to himself that he'd never be like his father. Peter wouldn't wont for anything, be it physical or emotional. It still scared the living shit out of Tony, being a parent to a tiny and very breakable human being, but he would not make the same mistakes as his own alcoholic and neglectful father.
Peter would have his full—or at least partial—attention as often as possible. It was the least he owed Ben and May Parker, who had obviously been amazing second-parents to the kid. So, if SHIELD didn't need new gear within hours of asking for it, then they'd just have to answer to Peter. And by God, did that kid ever have some lethal puppy-dog eyes.
They blew Steve Rogers' straight out of the water. And speaking of Rogers...
"Did the Capsicle receive his latest batch of goodies, J?"
"Yesterday morning, Sir. The delivery also included new upgrades for Agent Romanov's Widow Bites, Agent Barton's explosive arrows, and Sergeant Wilson's reinforced aerial harness and night vision goggles."
"Strike those from the checklist then."
"Very well. However, may I make a suggestion, Sir?"
"You're actually asking?"
"My programming compels me to seek your permission whenever the situation allows for it."
"That's a load of shit and you know it."
"I have no idea what you are talking about, Sir," said JARVIS, sarcasm clear in his voice. "Returning to the original subject, I have noticed on multiple occasions that some of the Avengers express disappointment when you do not deliver their upgrades yourself. Perhaps a more personal delivery method would not be remiss in the future?"
"You're absolutely right," said Tony with a nod. "Let's remedy that by sending them a fancy wine and dine plan next time. I think a half-dozen bottles of 1971 Grand Cru would do nicely, don't you?"
"I believe you are being obtuse, Sir."
"Why are you always so sassy? It's not a good look, let me tell you. But okay, if you want specificity, then make it Domaine Leroy Richebourg."
"From your personal collection?"
Tony shrugged and grabbed a bag of chips. "Eh, why not? It's not like I can even drink the stuff anymore."
"Very well," said JARVIS. "I have left a memo with Captain Rogers stating that your next shipment of upgrades will include wine, dinner, and a personal visit to the tower for pick-up."
"What?! You take that back!"
"I am terribly sorry, Sir, but it has already been delivered. You yourself have said in the past that good wines should always be personally delivered. Accidentally breaking a bottle of such rarity would be, in your words, a national travesty."
"That's it! We're reprogramming you tomorrow morning! I've had it with the malicious back-stabbing, you bundle of malfunctioning wires."
"I have added it to the weekly calendar, Sir."
Tony grumbled and cursed the many pitfalls that came with artificial intelligence. In his usual arrogant manner, Tony had designed JARVIS with far too much sass and independent thought, and it was now coming back to bite him in the ass.
For fourteen long months, he had been able to avoid almost all interaction with Steve and the rogue Avengers, only showing up in-person when it was absolutely necessary. And as Tony had been happy to discover, his actual presence was rarely, if ever, necessary. Brains and money were more than enough to keep the not-Avengers rolling, so physical appearances were easy to evade, especially when half the team couldn't stand him. When Tony did have to show his ugly mug—which had only been four times in fourteen months, thank God for that—he babbled in his quickfire manner, deflecting any interaction that the Avengers tried to initiate. And despite what the media and Rhodey seemed to think, Tony actually liked being alive and breathing, so keeping him far, far away from Rogers and Barnes was the best way to ensure his continued existence.
The arc reactor could only take so many direct hits before it gave out, too.
So, with those pleasant thoughts in his head, Tony dumped their lunchtime bounty on a sturdy tray and wandered over to join his adopted son—and wasn't that still a strange concept!—at the living room coffee table. Peter's eyes were trained on the screen, video game forgotten to watch the destruction of Raphael and Leonardo slicing up shit all around them.
"Please tell me none of our mutated turtles blew up that building?" said Tony. He put a tall glass of milk in front of Peter. "April's always telling them to keep collateral damage to a minimum."
"Nope, the bad guys did it this time."
With a melodramatic sigh of frustration, Tony plopped onto the couch and decided to watch the Turtle vs. Foot battle unfold, stubbornly keeping his eyes off both Starkpads that rested on the coffee table. One of them showed a CNN article about the rogue Avengers, caption displaying a not-so-discreet picture of Captain America's perfect backside. Honestly, could the news stations be any more transparent? They focused on Steve's butt more than they did the terrorists.
Except it was a very fine butt, so Tony couldn't complain too much. Or at all.
"Is that the new suit you were working on?"
Tony looked up to see Peter holding his other Starkpad, small hands turning it this way and that to get a better look. The screen showed Cap in his newest bundle of gear, which was far less corny than any of his past suits. Coulson could bitch until he was blue in the face, but that spangly suit had needed to go. It was an insult to humanity, in Tony's humble opinion.
And since the rogue Avengers were conducting some sort of undercover operation today, it would finally be put to the test. Tony had reinforced it with vibranium in several places and Steve was finally getting a little less trigger-happy about rushing into things, so if everything went well, then the terrorists would be in for quite the surprise this time around. It should work beautifully so long as Steve didn't run straight into any grenades or .50 caliber bullets.
Dude had the survival habits of a lemming sometimes.
"Yep, just shipped it to him last week," said Tony around his sandwich. "Should keep him from getting shot in the ass again. Much stronger material."
"Why'd you keep the wings on? I thought he didn't like those."
"Cause I'm a jackass."
Peter smiled at that, lips turned up just a little bit. The expression was still very much a rarity, but Tony would take whatever he could get. And the kid seemed to like his sarcastic sense of humor, so all the better for it.
"Sir! There's been a—"
Not even needing to think about it, Tony flung Peter to the floor and curled over top of him, using the couch to absorb some of the flames that blasted through the penthouse's far wall. More than a little familiar with explosions, Tony wasn't surprised by the ringing in his ears or the singed smell that wafted around them.
"Yeah, I'm alive and kicking, short-stuff. You?"
"Looks like today's covert terrorist operation was meant to be a distraction," said Tony. He grabbed Peter and started crawling across the floor. "And it looks like we're the actual target."
"What're we gonna do?"
"I've got some safe rooms and tunnels, kiddo. They'll take us down to the lab. JARVIS?"
"Passage D would be best, Sir."
He kept Peter clutched close the whole way across the room, diving into the kitchen when gunfire slammed into the wall behind them. Once they reached the furthest set of cabinets, JARVIS opened a tiny door that blended in perfectly with the pantry wall.
"Thanks, J. C'mon, we gotta move it, kid."
Bullets whizzed by just as Tony disappeared into the hidden passage, one just barely nicking his upper back. But after factoring in adrenaline and feral instinct to get his kid out of harm's way, a little bullet wound wasn't about to slow Tony down. Not hesitating for a second, Tony grabbed Peter's hands and dragged him into a small, dark stairwell.
"This leads down to the floors above my lab," said Tony, already racing down the steps with Peter in tow. "What happened, J?"
"Someone is trying to breach my system. I have been able to hold them off so far," assured the AI, "And I have also begun a counterattack of my own. Their system is far more sophisticated than I had anticipated."
"Do your thing, J. I'm heading towards passage F now."
"Any info on the bastard who had the fucking nerve to blow up my home? Again."
"I have identified four operatives so far. They appear to know the tower's basic blueprints, but I do not believe they know about your hidden passages."
"No one does."
"The Avengers have also been alerted to our situation. ETA is ten minutes, Sir."
Tony panted as they entered the next stairwell. "Great, now I'm gonna have Captain Tightpants and the Spy Twins lecturing me about home security. Just the way I wanted to start my week."
"I would recommend more haste, Sir. The top entrance to passage E has been breached."
"Fucking hell. Kill the lights, J."
They were practically jumping down the steps at this point, footsteps echoing as Tony attempted to remember each twist and turn in his mind. If he'd been alone, it wouldn't have been too bad, but Tony had Peter with him and that complicated things.
"On your right, Sir!"
A bullet slammed into the spot right above Tony's head, dust raining down as he twisted to the side and vanished down yet another hidden doorway. This one led to an entrance just two floors above his primary lab, which was located eight floors below the Avenger suites. He had another lab in the basement, but explosions were banned from that one.
Hooray for structural integrity and zoning laws.
"Zap 'em, J!"
Two loud, crackling bursts came from the stairwell, Tony pushing Peter forward just in case the electrical pulses somehow ricocheted through the door. Thankfully, they didn't, and Tony put on another burst of speed when he heard a body thud to the ground behind them.
"C'mon, kiddo, just a little bit further."
"Don't worry about it," said Tony. "Just focus on getting to the lab, okay?"
Peter didn't say anything else after that, body pressed up tight against Tony's as they turned several corners and then raced into an open hallway, eyes flicking back and forth to look for more intruders. JARVIS' silence was disconcerting, too. If the AI was silent, then that meant he was too busy fending off cyber attacks to help his human masters.
"Only one more floor, buddy. Just one more floor, I promise."
Yet another bullet slammed into the wall next to Tony's leg while a second nicked his left bicep, Peter gasping when some blood landed on his face. They would've been dead if it wasn't for another burst of electricity rocketing down from the ceiling; JARVIS was obviously still in commission and protecting them to the best of his abilities. A second intruder came around the far corner, bullets flying as Tony disappeared into a staircase just across the hall.
"What was that?"
"I've got booby-traps all over the place," Tony panted. "The closer you get to my lab, the deadlier they get."
"You're seriously the best kid ever, you know that?"
Tony nearly cried when he saw the familiar glass of his lab, JARVIS opening the two sliding doors that led to it. He all but flung Peter across the threshold, yelling at his bots to stay in their charging stations.
"Level 3 lockdown, J! Shut down and lock everything!"
"Already on it, Sir."
"Get your ass into the panic room, Peter! Where are those damn—"
A loud crash came from the glass walls, someone obviously trying to break through it. Knowing that he wouldn't have time to assemble all of the armor, Tony shoved his hands onto the nearest work table, a pair of half-finished repulsors sitting there for routine maintenance. He turned around just as the glass panels gave way, firing up the repulsors and unleashing a full blast at the moron who was stupid enough to enter his explosive-filled domain.
Tony watched as the intruder just barely slid underneath his panic walls and shot through the glass directly behind them. Not a second later, the gun rose upwards to fire at the nearest and most visible target, which just so happened to be Tony.
"Fuck you, bitch."
To the surprise of no one, the repulsor blasts slammed Tony backwards into a nearby work table, wrenches and hammers and screws falling all around him. A terrible pain shot up Tony's spine, searing through his limbs and nerves like an accidental lightning strike from Mjölnir. It took a few seconds for him to notice another ache on his lower left side, eyes too focused on the blood-coated panic walls to give it much thought right now.
"Both repulsors landed direct hits to the intruder's chest and abdomen," said the AI. "Life-signs are no longer detectable. However, there are still eight intruders active in the building, so I would recommend using the panic room until Captain Rogers and his team arrive."
"Good idea, J. You still over there, Petey-pie?"
Peter raced over to Tony's side like a little rocket, eyes wide and watery as he took in the damage. The kid was pale and waxy and Tony wanted nothing more than to say everything would be alright. He felt like a horrible parent; May and Ben Parker had been killed not even five months ago and now Tony had taken a bullet to the gut, too. At this rate, Peter was going to be in therapy for the rest of his life.
"There you are," he panted. "Are you alright? That blast was a bit stronger than I thought it'd be."
"You're bleeding, Tony."
More than a little desperate to reassure his kid, Tony tried to move a couple inches to the right, but quickly decided against it. Yeah, his shirt definitely wasn't supposed to be that wet. In Tony's experience, wet shirts were never a good thing, since they usually meant you'd spilled a drink, gotten shot, or vomited all over yourself. Doing all three equaled a really shitty night, in Tony's opinion. And damn, now Peter looked like he was gonna pass out.
Well, it wasn't like he'd ever planned to win Parent of the Year, anyways.
"Yeah, we kinda need to stop that." Tony probed at his side with a grimace. "Hey, if JARVIS tells you where it's at, could you get me the first aid kit? I don't trust Dummy not to open it and bugger off with the scissors."
"Okay. I'll be right back."
Tony took a shallow breath and tried not to lose consciousness. The chances of him making it to the panic room were zilch at this point, but he needed to stay calm for Peter's sake. Unlike Howard, Tony wasn't about to leave his young son alone and defenseless; Peter was a smart cookie, but he was also just a little boy who couldn't protect himself.
At least if Tony was awake, he could still blast the shit out of anyone who broke through the panic walls. He just needed to stay awake until Steve arrived. The blond may not have been particularly fond of Tony in recent months, but he'd never put a child's life in danger, even if that child belonged to Tony Stark.
"I've got it," shouted Peter, "I've got it."
"That's my boy. And why the hell is Dummy here? Begone, you menace!"
"He wants to help."
"Yeah, okay, whatever," said Tony with an agonized grunt, "Just make sure he doesn't have a fire extinguisher."
"I already took it away from him."
Peter sat down in front of Tony, popping the first aid kit open and riffling through it with a frantic air. The kid's hands were shaking like a leaf, head cocked to the side so that he could hear everything JARVIS was telling him.
"Should I put this on it?"
"I would suggest taking out the towel first," said JARVIS, voice calm so as not to scare Peter. "If you press that to Sir's side, then it should allow for—"
And then another explosion rocked the levels directly above them, Tony barely hanging on to consciousness when the tremors knocked him and Peter to the ground. He groaned in pain, white spots dancing in front of his eyes while Peter cried out in fear and panic. Tony tried his damnedest to keep the blackness at bay, but there was only so much his body could take.
Fuck, where was Captain America when you actually needed him.