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Mistakes

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Tony could remember the day it happened clearly.

It had started like any other. He woke up, left whatever woman he had had in his bed the night before to go start working in his lab. And there he stayed, for a good many hours with only Dummy and Jarvis and the other bots as his companions. Pepper came by, talked to him for a bit, wanting paperwork like always.

And then, not like always, Jarvis went off line. Tony spent a few minutes working to get him back online, Pepper hiding in the safe room, until Jarvis was up again.

“Jay,” Tony said jokingly. “Sleeping on the job isn't part of your protocols. What's goin’ on?”

“Someone seemed to have cut power, temporarily, to the network,” the AI said quickly. “However, there is something, or rather, someone at the door.”

“Do you recognize them?” Tony asked, moving towards the stairs. “And tell Pepper she can come out.”

“It's hard to run facial recognition on a child when no child has ever been to the house, sir.”

In that moment, Tony felt his heart lurch, his stomach roll and clench at the same time. His first thought had been ‘Oh God’ and the second was ‘Pepper told me so’. And, of course, his third was ‘Pepper can never know’. She'd never trust him again!

“Delay the order to Pep!” Tony said, rather manly, and not at all in a panicked squeak. “I'll… I'll deal with it!”

Jarvis, thankfully, didn't say anything. He hurried up the stairs, nearly tripping on the last step, and through the living room. When he got to the front door, he paused, unsure, before opening it. And, sure enough, there was a basket with a wrinkly sniffling baby wrapped in layers and layers of blankets.

Quickly, Tony reached out, picking up the basket by the handle, doing his best not to touch the kid. The baby squirmed, making Tony flinch and fidget himself. He carried the basket as far from him as he could placing it on the table.

“Jay, perform scans.”

“Scans for…?”

“Injuries,” Tony said, though it came out more like a question. “Illnesses? I don't know!”

At his confused cry, the baby started to cry himself. Or… herself. God, Tony didn’t even know this kids gender. Or, if it was even his! He tried to make shushing noises, trying to get it to stop crying. The noise only made it worse.

“Performing scans now, sir. Should I call out Miss Potts?”

“Yes,” Tony said in an instant, because Pepper made everything better. “No,” he said quickly after, because he didn't want to see Pepper’s disappointed face. “God, I don't know!” was his final reply because he really didn't know!

“Calling up Miss Potts, sir.”

Tony couldn't hear, waving his hands in front of the baby, trying to get it to calm down. “Don't cry,” He said desperately. “Come on, I can't deal with crying babies! I can't deal with any babies! What do you want?!”

The wailing increased, and Tony nearly began to cry himself. Then, the blessed and horrid clicks of heels on the floor entered his ears over the wailing. And just like that, Pepper was by his side, mouth open and gaping at him and the basket.

“Oh my god,” Pepper said, a hand over her mouth. “Tony!”

“Pepper,” Tony managed. “Help…”

She moved fast, biting her lip as she reached into the basket, pulling out the baby. He continued to cry, wriggling within the blanket. Pepper immediately started to unwrap it, leaving the babe in a little blue onesie. Freed arms went to wrap around Pepper’s neck, crying wildly as she swayed. It was then that Pepper noticed the letter at the bottom of the basket.

She reached for it, still trying to bounce the baby as she opened the letter. And, with Tony panicking and staring dumbly at the red faced baby from as far as he could, she had to. Once it was open, she began to read aloud.

“‘Dear Mr. Stark, I understand that you aren't the father type-” Pepper scoffed at that, “-but I'm eighteen, with no parents, siblings, or family to speak of. The baby is yours, as you were the only one I'd had sex with since my first time at 16. I know what I'm asking is a lot, but I hope that you will take care of him. I named him Peter.

“It would, of course, have been easier if I had put him up for adoption, I know, and you just might, but I wanted to do my best to prevent that. I was in the foster system myself, since I was three, and the living conditions at so many of the foster homes and orphanages are terrible. Older kids, at all the places I went to, usually beat of the younger ones, since they had a better chance of adoption. But because of my condition, Peter would never get a chance.

“After we had our… night, when I went to the doctor, it wasn't because I thought I was pregnant. I'd been feeling sick, of course, but the reason for that was-” Pepper paled, voice shaking. “-was because I was dying of bone cancer. I hadn't noticed it before, no doctor had, but to get treatment would mean that I would need to have an abortion, and I couldn't do it. Because even if I did treat it, my chances of survival would only be an extra year.

“I nearly died during birth, and I probably would have. But, thankfully, I didn't. I've just been released from the hospital, last week, and I'm sure Thanatos is waiting for me. So, I leave Peter to you. Hopefully, you keep him.

“From, the little blond hacker from California State University you met a year ago.’”

Pepper looked up at Tony, the baby- the boy- Peter now quietly sucking his thumb in her arms. Tony stared at the boy, getting up without a word. He couldn't take care of a baby. He was an alcoholic, and a workaholic, and a fuck ton of other bad things. Without a word, he turned and walked to where his tablet sat, starting to type.

“Tony?” Pepper asked. “What are you doing? We need to talk about this.”

“There's no need to,” Tony said, going to sit on the couch. “You get him tested, see if he's mine, and when you prove that he is, I call my old nannies and hire them again. They can raise him.”

“That's no way for a kid to live.”

“It's how I was raised, why not him?”

“Tony-”

“This is how it's going to be, Pepper,” Tony snapped, then turned, guilty, to go back to his workshop. “Jarvis will take care of everything else.”

And, with that, Tony left his first and only child in the hands of someone else. That was his first, and most unforgivable, mistake.

XxXXxX

Months passed, and Tony fell into a quick routine.

The nannies were set on a four person rotation, covering twelve hour shifts. Peter seemed to learn just as quick as he had, and Tony got biweekly reports on Peter's progress. There were times that Tony did see Peter, briefly, when one nanny was relieving another. Peter didn't seem to like the nannies as much as he liked Tony. Though, Tony had never even picked him up, even though Peter was nearly one.

Tony couldn't have Jarvis be in charge of the nannies, since he needed him in the lab. So, on a whim, Tony built a second house AI to be head nanny and Peter's teacher. Her name is Friendly, Rather Interesting, Daily Advisor of Youngling, or Friday. She was in charge of creating Peter's schedules and routines, based on a collection of child rearing advising books off the internet that she routinely updated for milestones two months in advance.

By the time Peter was two, walking and talking, Friday had become an essential part of Peter and Tony's lives. Tony was still drinking, and working in 72 hour shifts, so Friday kept Peter occupied with books and cartoons on holoscreans. The nannies were cut to two, only coming to clean, feed, and put Peter to bed.

Tony's absence from Peter's younger years was the second mistake he made.

Though he was never there, whenever Peter saw Tony, he was excited. He called him Dad, or a word that he didn't know, surprisingly. Friday would later inform him that it's what the ancient greek word for father was. Apparently, Peter's mother had a second major in Mythology. Peter liked the stories of his mother's gods.

Since Tony had kept Peter as far from the paper's as he could by having Pepper say he was her nephew, it didn't matter what Peter did. At least Tony could do one thing right...

XxXXxX

When Tony left for Afghanistan, Pepper had taken charge of Peter, and brought him with her to wave him off at the strip. Tony didn't do anything other say give Peter's hair a ruffling before getting on board with Rhodey.

They partied, and there were strippers.

After the demonstration, Tony road with three soldiers, drank and listened to loud music. They took pictures. It was the epitome of the funvee!

What wasn't fun was that they were attacked. And then getting blown up with his own shrapnel bomb. And then getting kidnapped and a car battery attached to his chest.

Yensin helped him, in so many ways. He translated, was his lab assistant, and helped him install the mini arc reactor. They ate together, came up with a plan to escape, and worked together to build the suit.

One night, as they played a board game, Tony got a little chattier then normal.

“So you never told me where you're from,” he said.

“Gulmira,” Yensin had said casually. “A small village.”

“Got family?”

“Yes,” he said simply. “And I will join them once we leave here.”

There was a pause, as they played for a bit longer. Then, Yensin looked up. Little did the man know, what he said next shook Tony's very being.

“What about you, Mr. Stark?” Yensin asked. “Do you have family waiting for you?”

And in that moment, everything changed. Before this, when he thought about the people he would leave behind if he somehow died, when he wrote his will not long ago, he'd thought of Pepper first. He left the company to Pepper, then some of his stocks and fortune to Rhodey. Happy would get enough money to keep him healthy and happy for all the shit he'd given him. Then some money to his nannies, for helping to much. Then Obie, a few other people. Then he'd thought of Peter.

Now, with the chance of actually dying, Tony thought only of Peter. He thought only of his… of his son that he'd had since he was four months old, but had never held. He'd never even picked up his own son! He had become the one thing he had never wanted to be. He'd become his own father.

“Oh god,” Tony gasped. “I… I do…”

“You don't sound to happy about it, Mr. Stark. Why is that?”

“I… My son… He's five and I never… I've barely even spoken to him! I've never even picked him up!”

For a moment, Yensin said nothing. He looked at Tony curiously, frowning ever so lightly. Tony was having a major freak out and all Yensin did was stare at him. He was horrified with his own actions. If he continued this way, Peter could end up as bad as him… God, the only thing he probably did right was make Friday! Friday was like Peter’s Jarvis, and Jarvis was… Jarvis was Tony’s life line…

“So you are a man,” Yensin began slowly, “Who could have everything, but chose to have nothing.”

And, Tony’s only thought was that Yensin was right. His only thought was that he had to get back to Peter. He had to correct his mistakes. God, he had to correct his will . He had to tell his son how much he really meant to him.

Several days later, when they staged their escape, Tony stood over Yensin’s dying body, and promised that he would make things right, with Stark Industries and with his son. He promised to never waste his life again. Then, he had to walk away. He walked out, torched everything, and flew off, leaving only a flaming and exploding crater behind.

When he crashed, he climbed his way out of the suit, and began to walk. He walked for hours, hoping to find help, or shade, or for help to find him. And when Rhodey flew overhead with a helicopter, Tony fell to his knees, screaming with joy.

“How was the funvee?” Rhodey had asked, grinning as tears welled in his eyes. “Next time… you ride with me.”

And Tony just hugged him, because Rhodey had to deal with so much of his fucking crap. They went back to the states after that. And, God, when the plane's ramp finally lowered, showing him everyone standing there, waiting for him… Pepper, with her red eyes and serious face, stood with the one person Tony needed right now, hands on Peter’s shoulders, as the body stood frozen in place.

As soon as Tony saw his son, saw the moment his son grew teary eyed and stiff, he forced himself to stand. He walked down the ramp, Rhodey trying to help him, then broke into a jog, and finally a run. As soon as he was close enough, Tony dropped to his knees on the cement, reaching out and pulling Peter into his arms.

Peter went stock still for a moment, before wrapping himself so tightly around Tony, he almost couldn't breath, not that he could in the first place. Tony held his son, one hand holding him close at his back, and then the other threaded through Peter’s messy brown hair.

“It’s okay,” Tony choked out, eyes squeezed shut. “I’m okay. Daddy’s here now…”

Peter wailed louder, burying his face in Tony’s shoulder. Mumblings came out, incoherent words that Tony really didn’t care what they meant. With a deep breath, Tony hefted Peter up, holding him to his chest as he smiled at Pepper.

“Your eyes are red,” he said. “A few tears for you long-lost boss?”

“Tears of joy,” she said, glancing at Peter. “I hate babysitting.”

“Yeah,” Tony said, smoothing a hand through Peter’s head. “You’ll never have to babysit again.”

They moved to the car, Tony carrying Peter with him. God, he felt so heavy. Was Peter supposed to be that heavy, or was it just because he was five? He’d ask Friday about it later.

“Where to, sir?” Happy asked.

“Take us to the hosp-”

“No,” Tony said, Peter still clinging to him, though he seemed interested in the soft glow of the arc reactor under his shirt.

“No?” Pepper asked. “Tony, you have to go to-”

“No,” Tony said again. “There are two things I want to do. I want an American cheeseburger, and the other-”

“That’s enough of that. There’s a child-”

“My child,” Tony corrected, making Pepper turn to him in surprise. “I want you to call for a press conference now.”

“Call for a press conference? What on earth for?”

“Hogan, drive. Cheeseburger first. You want a cheeseburger, Pete?”

Peter looked up, as if he blinked then Tony would be gone again. He nodded, almost shyly. Tony grinned, hugging Peter tight to him. They ended up going through a Burger King, and Tony made sure Peter got a kids meal. One with a burger, and one with chicken nuggets, once he found out Peter barely ate while he was gone. So maybe Peter wasn’t heavy… Maybe he was light. Tony didn’t want to risk it.

When they pulled up to the press conference, Obie opened the door for him. He had Peter move to the center seat for a moment, then turned to reach in and pick Peter up. Now, with the knowledge that Peter hadn’t eaten much while he was gone, he felt painfully light. Everyone was silent as he turned, Happy bringing over the bag.

“Tony,” Obie said quickly. “What are you…”

“Having a burger,” Tony said as he looked at Peter, who he held to his hip with his good arm. “Could you hold the bag, my little angel?”

“Not an angel,” Peter said, pouting, but took the bag from Happy anyway.

“You are to me,” Tony said, grinning as he walked towards the entrance. “Come on, Obie. Pete, can you grab me my other burger?”

They went inside, people muttering around them as they do so. Once they were in the conference hall, reporters went crazy, shouting questions. Obie went to stand behind the podium, but Tony went and as on the floor in front of it, Peter on his knee.

“Alright,” Obie said. “Let’s get started. Uh…”

“Hey!” Tony called out, Peter holding onto suit jacket tightly. “Would it be all right if everyone sat down? Why don’t you just sit down? That way you can see me, and I can… Little less formal then. Pete, can you open this for me?”

As the reporters sat, Peter opened up the burger, holding it out to him. Tony took it, placing a kiss to Peter’s temple in thanks. Peter didn’t say anything, and Tony reached into the bag to pull out the box of nuggets. He got a smile in return, and watched as Peter shyly ate his nuggets.

“Good to see you,” Tony said first to Obie.

“Good to see you,” he got back.

“I never got to say goodbye to Dad,” Tony said as he looked first to Obie, then to Peter. “I never got to say goodbye to my father. There’s questions that I would have asked him. I would ask him how he felt about what this company did. If he was conflicted, if he ever had doubts. And not just about the company.”

It was then that he looked up. “There are two things that I’m here to talk about today, and the first, before there are rumors that are just gross, is about this little guy. Peter, can you say hi to all the reporters?” His heart, or rather the arc reactor, seemed to skip a beat as he felt sick saying it. Well, if he was going to start acting like a father, he’d need to set the record straight first.

Shyly, Peter looked up, mouth half hidden behind a half eaten chicken nugget. “Hi…”

“This little guy,” Tony said as he ruffled Peter’s hair. “This little guy is not, in fact, Pepper’s distant nephew she’s raising. No, he’s her nephew, just not by blood. Everyone, this is Peter Parker Stark. My son. And before you start shouting for answers, please keep in mind that Peter isn’t used to loud groups and so many people watching him like I am.

“Now, about my father. I don’t know if he knew, or if he had doubts. Or maybe he was the very man we all remember from the newsreels. But I saw young Americans killed, by the very weapons I created to defend them, and to protect them. And I saw that I had become part of a system that is comfortable with zero accountability.”

“Mr. Stark,” a few people whispered, raising their hands.

“Hey,” Tony said, pointing to one he remembered. “Ben.”

“What happened over there?”

“I had my eyes opened,” Tony said, moving Peter off his lap so he could stand. He moved behind the podium, Peter following to cling to his leg. “I came to realise that I have more to offer this world than just making things that blow up. I came to realise that that isn’t the legacy I want to leave behind for my son. And that is why, effective immediately, I am shutting down the weapons manufacturing division of Stark Industries-” Everyone one jumped to their feet, shouting for his attention, and making Peter cling painfully tight to his leg. “-until such a time as I can decide what the future of the company will be, what direction it should take, one that I’m comfortable with is consistent with the highest good with this country, as well.”

Obie quickly led him away from the podium, and Tony took Peter’s hand as he was ushered away. Obie took over the conference, and Tony led Peter outside, scooping him up as they went. He had Happy drive him to the factory, to go see the big arc reactor. Peter was amazed by it all, and Tony couldn’t blame him.

“That’s Daddy’s heart now,” Tony said to Peter, who he once again had at his hip.

“That?” Peter asked, eyes wide.

“Not exactly that one,” Tony corrected. “A smaller one. A much smaller one.”

Peter nodded, rather sagely for a five year old. “It’s pretty.”

His face was so serious, Tony couldn’t help but laugh, pressing his forehead to the top of Peter’s mess of hair as he did. That’s how Obie found them, Peter looking confused but serious and Tony laughing his ass off.

“Tony,” Obie started, catching his attention. “What were you thinking? We’re a weapons manufacturer.”

“I don’t want a body count to be our only legacy,” Tony returned, holding Peter just a bit tighter.

“It’s what we do. We’re iron mongers. We make weapons.”

“It’s my name on the side of the building.”

“And what we do,” Obie said, ignoring him, “keeps the world from falling into chaos. To keep people here safe, like this little miracle that I didn’t know about.” He reached out, to ruffle Peter’s hair, only to have the boy, duck his head away from him.

“Not from what I saw,” Tony said, moving to set Peter down, but still have him close. “We’re not doing a good enough job. We can do better. We’re gonna do something else.”

“Like what?” the man practically hissed, giving a pointed look at Peter. “You want us to make baby bottles?”

“I think we should take another look into arc reactor technology.”

“Come on!” Obie cried dramatically. “The arc reactor? That’s a publicity stunt! Tony, come on. We built that thing to shut the hippies up!”

“It works,” Peter said, rather insistently, glaring up at Obie from his hiding spot behind Tony’s legs.

“It’s a science project,” he scolded Peter. “It’s not cost effective. It’s a dead end.”

“Maybe,” Tony said, turning to look down at Peter as he scurried to his front as Obie went behind him.

“Am I right? We haven’t had a breakthrough in what? Thirty years?”

“That’s what they say.” Tony turned to face him, studying his face. “Could you have a lousier poker face? Just tell me, who told you?”

“Never mind who told me. Show me.”

“It’s Rhodey or Pepper.”

“I want to see it.”

“Okay, Rhodey.” Glancing around, Tony picked up Peter, who shied away from Obie. “Pete, can you help me open up my shirt? I’ll show you my new heart, okay?”

Peter glanced at Obie, then unbuttoned the top few buttons of his shirt. There, in the center of his sternum, sat the mini arc reactor. Peter stared, Obie forgotten, and reached out to touch it. Obie seemed to dislike this, and quickly reached out to button Tony’s shirt back up.

“It works,” Tony said, shifting his hold on Peter.

“Listen to me, Tony,” Obie said, frowning at Peter. “We’re a team. Do you understand? There’s nothing we can’t do if we stick together, like your father and I.”

“I’m sorry I didn’t give you a heads up,” Tony said, turning to walk towards the exit. “But if I had-”

“Tony-”

“If I had, you would have stopped me. Look, I gotta go. Need to get Peter home.”

He turned, bouncing Peter at his hip as he did. The kid seemed happy to go home, and reached out almost greedily towards the car.

“Tony,” Obie called behind him, making him pause as he put Peter in the car. “Just lay low for a little while.”

He gave a mock salute, sitting down with Peter secured and buckled next to him. Happy drove them home, and Tony carried Peter all the way inside.

“Greetings, Sir,” Jarvis said as soon as they entered. “It’s good to have you back.”

“Hey there Boss,” Friday chirped cheekily. “Welcome back. Peter, you-”

“Friday,” Tony said instead, humming to himself as he put Peter down. “Clear his schedule for the rest of the day- No, the rest of the week, at least. And get me a carseat, to. Also, tell the nannies they won't be needed anymore.”

“On it Boss,” Friday cheered.

“Daddy?” Peter said, looking up with him.

Tony took a deep breath, then knelt on the floor beside him. “Peter, I know I haven’t been around much, but that’s going to change right now. Today, it’s gonna be you and me. Why don’t you go up to your room and find your three most favorite toys, and bring them down here to show me, okay?”

It was amazing to see how Peter’s eyes sparkled at that before he ran off towards the stairs. If Tony had any guess, if Peter was anything like he was, he’d probably take a good few minutes on each toy before he finally chose. He knew he’d bought Peter a lot of stuff. Or, at least, ordered it.

Quickly, Tony walked to the lab, heading down and setting things up as fast as he could. He didn’t want Peter to see this, and he knew that he wouldn’t leave his side for long. Jarvis would already have the new arc reactor made for him with the schematics he set up in the car on the way over.

However, he ran into a snag rather quickly, and called the first person he knew would be in the house.

“Tony?” she asked as soon as she answered.

“How big are your hands?” was his even faster response.

“What?!”

“How big are your hands?”

“I don’t understand why-”

“Get down here. I need you.”

She hung up, and Tony could hear her as she came down the stairs. She stared at him through the glass at the entrance, and he grinned a little. The new, even brighter arc reactor sat in his hands.

“Let’s see them,” he said quickly. “Show me your hands, before Peter comes down and ends up seeing.” She lifts her hands, staring. “Oh, wow. They are small. Very petite indeed. I just need your help for a sec.”

“Oh my god,” she gasped. “Is that the thing that’s keeping you alive?”

“It was,” Tony hummed, looking at the new one. “It is now an antique. This is what will be keeping me alive for the foreseeable future. I’m swapping it up for an upgraded unit, and I just ran into a little speed bump.”

“Speed bump, what does that mean?”

“It’s nothing, just a little snag.” He reached up, pulling out the original reactor. “There’s a loose wire under this device. And it’s contacting the socket wall and causing a little bit of a short.” He snapped it out. He didn’t have much time before Peter came back.

“What do you want me to do?” Pepper asked, taking the old reactor from his hands.

“Put that on the table over there. It’s irrelevant. I want you to reach in, and you’re just going to gently lift the wire out.”

“Is it safe?”

“Yeah,” he said quickly. “It should be fine. It’s like Operation. You just don’t let it touch the socket wall or it goes beep.”

“What do you mean, Operation?”

“It’s just a game. Nevermind.” Just gently lift the wire. Okay? Great.”

She moved to reach in, then quickly pulled back. “You know, I don’t think that I’m qualified to do this.”

“No, no,” Tony said, glancing at the timer Friday had set up for estimated time. Peter would be leaving his room any second now. “You’re fine. You’re the most capable, qualified, trustworthy person I’ve ever met. You’re gonna do great. Is it too much to of a problem to ask? Cause I’m sure Pete would-”

“No,” she said quickly. “No, I got it. I can do it.”

She reached in, making a disgusted face. When he hand touched the plasma discharge, she looked about ready to run. Then she made a comment on the smell, and hey! That was just rude. She eventually got the wire, starting to pull it out. As she pulled, it touched the walls, and Tony jerked.

Tony screeched, gasping in pain, as Pepper appolicized. Slowly, the wire came out more and more, and Tony began to warn her about the magnet. Just as he said it, she pulled it out, surprising him. Pepper moved to put it back in, but he reflected her.

“What’s wrong?” she asked frantically.

“Nothing,” Tony said, breathing hard as he glanced at the timer. “I’m just going into cardiac arrest just about a minute before my son comes running in here, ‘cause you yanked it out like a trout-”

“What?! I thought you said it was safe!”

“We gotta hurry,” he said, holding up the new reactor. “Take this. Take this. You gotta switch it out really quick.”

Like the champ she was, Pepper took deep breaths, reaching in to attach it to the base plate as he started to feel dizzy. And, just like that, he was back to life, giving a shout of surprise. Pepper jumped, though she thankfully didn’t yank out the reactor, and slid it into place. He laughed, watching her as she stared at her plasma covered hands.

“Don’t ever,” she started, reaching for a towel, “ever, ever, ever ask me to do anything like that ever again.”

“Don’t worry,” Tony said, pulling off the electrodes, just in time to see Peter appear at the glass door. “There’s my Peter! Jay, let him in!”

“What should I do with this?” Pepper asked, holding up the old arc reactor as Peter ran in, three little toys in his arms. Though, he dropped them in favor of being picked up.

“Why don’t we let Peter decide,” Tony said, turning to let Peter see the old one as well as the new one. “That’s Daddy’s old heart, Pete. What should we do with it?”

“Trophy,” Peter giggled, grinning widely. “Best heart in whole wide world!”

“The whole world?” Tony asked, turning to lift Peter as high as he could, holding him under his armpits. “But the best one is in Daddy’s chest!”

Peter giggled, spreading his arms as far as he could before Tony’s arms hurt a little, and he had to put him down. Pepper smiled, leaving them to their bonding.

“What’s that?” Peter asked, pointing to Butterfingers.

“That,” Tony said with a grin, “is one of my robots. His name is Butterfingers, and he cleans my workshop. Or he’s supposed to. Hey, Butterfingers! What’s all this stuff doing on top of my desk? That’s my phone, that’s a picture of me and my dad. Right there. In the garbage. All that stuff.”

Peter giggled, covering his grin with both his hands. Tony returned the grin, instead turning to start moving some things around. They set up a special area, over in a spot where Peter could see everything that was going on in the workshop. It would be where Peter would be whenever he came down with him. Tony would, of course, have to stop sleeping in the shop, and drinking while doing so.

But it would be worth it, for Peter.

They called in chinese for dinner, and Tony found out that Peter loved egg drop soup. Noodles were his second favorite, and he was strangely delighted when he found brocoli. Didn’t kids hate brocoli? Once they finished, and after Peter had insisted he eat lots and lots of food to, they went back down to the lab so Tony could do a little bit of work, making plans for a new suit, and so Peter could play and watch.

And it turned out that now that he was actually taking part of Peter’s life, Friday told him when it was Peter’s bed time. Peter was, in fact, yawning when Friday warned that it was ten minutes before nine and Peter still hadn’t taken his bath.

“That’s fine,” Tony said as he pulled the sleepy boy up into his arms. “He can take one in the morning.”

“Sure thing, Boss.”

“Since you’ve fired the nannies,” Jarvis drawled. “Should I wake you when Young Sir awakens?”

“Nah. He can come get me once he’s up,” Tony said as he made it towards Peter’s room, only just then realizing how far it was from his own.

“Daddy,” Peter whined sleepily. “Don’ go…”

“I’m not,” he assured. “Why don’t you sleep with me tonight, okay?”

Peter nodded, ever so slightly, as Tony carried him to his room. Tony’s room, big and spacious, was more used then Tony remembered. He rarely slept there, except when he had, uh, company over. Now, it looked like someone had been sleeping in the bed daily for months.

And then, as Tony tucked Peter in on one side, and slid in on the other, Tony knew who’d been sleeping there. Who else but the little five year next to him? Tony winced, then looked down as Peter wriggled over to him. He sighed, and went to reach for his tablet, only to realise just how tired he was, and fall asleep.

XxXXxX

The next day, Tony regretted telling Peter he could wake him up. He regretted it so fucking much. But, what he regretted most was the five year old sized bruise forming on his ribs.

“Daddy!” Peter was cheering, jumping on the bed, and on Tony. “Daddy, wake up!”

“Okay,” Tony said, snagging the kid right out of the air before he could get another pair of knees to his ribs. “That’s enough of that. Daddy needs coffee. Jarvis, time.”

“Friday, time,” Peter mimicked.

“It is currently six eighteen, Sir,” Jarvis said rather chipperly. “And the coffee machine has already started. It is currently 62 degrees outside, with a supposed high of 82 degrees. High tide has already passed, though there is a fair chance of higher waves this evening.”

“It’s six eighteen, Baby Boss” Friday said cheerily. “Its supposed to be hot today, like the old bot said.”

“I am not old,” Jarvis gasped, scandalized.

“You are, you-”

“No fighting, Tony groaned, still holding a wriggling Peter and very much wanting coffee. “If you two are gonna fight, do it where I can’t hear you.”

“My apologies, Sir.”

“Sorry, Boss. Baby Boss still needs his bath, and I can get the water started now, if you want.”

“Right,” Tony yawned, moving instead to the kitchen as Peter ran ahead of him, jumping up onto a bar stool. “Start the bath. Jay, is the coffee ready?”

“Yes Sir. Also, the carseat you asked for has been placed in the garage.”

“Great.”

“Reminder that Baby Boss likes waffles for breakfast. There are frozen ones in the freezer. Just put them in the toaster.”

“Right.”

Tony moved on auto pilot. First pulling a pair of frozen round waffles out of the freezer, then putting them in the toaster, before finally pouring himself a cup of coffee. He drank it in one go before pouring another, Peter’s waffles popping up. Tony put them on a plate, poured a bit of syrup on them, then handed the plate to Peter, who ate and made a mess.

“Sticky!” Peter giggled, showing Tony his hands.

“Yup,” Tony said, yawning a bit. “Finished and now it’s bath time.”

Peter nodded quickly, grinning, and hurried to the bathroom. Tony followed, finding the tub already filled, only halfway, and Peter already pulling of his clothes. He set his coffee cup on the counter, rolling up his sleeves. This would be easy. Piece of cake.

Not even five minutes later, the tub was nearly empty of water. He had lost the bar of soap somehow. And when the hell did a rubber duck get in his pants? Peter kept splashing, and Tony was wide awake now. God, he had been wrong. Not a piece of cake. Peter was a water devil . But he eventually got clean…

The boy giggled the entire time that Tony spent drying him off. He grinned at him, and Tony couldn’t help but smile back. Then, he sent him off the go get dressed, while Tony showered himself. He watched Peter scurry off, wrapped in a big, fuzzy towel three times his size, and then went to take a sip out of his coffee cup. Bad idea.

At least he found the bar of soap.

When Tony came out, he went to his own room to get dressed himself. A simple pair of jeans and a random band t-shirt would do. He put on a leather jacket and his shoes after a second of thinking. He would go ask Rhodey about his idea today.

When he came out, Peter was waiting, looking up at him with big brown eyes he definitely got from Tony.

“Are you leaving?” Peter asked, eyes seeming to somehow get bigger, as his lip seemed to quiver.

“We’re going to go see Uncle Rhodey,” Tony said. “Go get your shoes and a jacket. And meet me in the lab”

In an instant, Peter was off, running back to his room. Tony went down to the lab, going over to the cars. He stepped on something as he went, looking down at it. It was Peter’s toys. One was a bag of marbles, and another was a box of what looked to be legos. The last one, however, was a plushie. A Captain America plushie.

Tony knelt, picking it up easily. It was old, he could see by the mended seams and neatly replaced patches. And, not only that, but it looked home made. The singled round bubble of a head, on a plump little body with floppy arms. This was a plushie that Tony knew. This was the plushie his Aunt Peggy had made him when he was Peter’s age.

“Sorry,” a voice came behind him, Peter running up in a thin black jacket. “I’ll pick up.”

Tony frowned, watching his son for a moment, picking up toys and taking them to his little area of the workshop.

“Peter,” he said, when the boy reached for the plushie. “Where did you get this?”

“Aunty Peggy,” Peter said, as if he were getting scolded, though Tony was more surprised then anything. “She came to the house while you were… While you were gone and watched me for a while. She gave this to me when she left… Am I not supposed to have it.”

“No,” Tony said, handing it back. “You can have it. It… It was mine when I was little. Aunt Peggy made it for me. She knew Captain America.”

Peter went wide eyed, holding the plush close to his body. “Really? Cap’n ‘merica is my favorite superhero!”

“Yeah. Mine to, Pete… Now come on! Time to see Uncle Rhodey. Why don’t you bring Cap with us?”

Peter nodded eagerly, holding the plush so hard that Tony could have sworn the head would pop off. It didn’t, thank god, but it looked like it would.

After a hassle with getting the car seat set up, Tony eventually got them on the road. Peter slept most the way, though only after asking what felt like a game of a million questions. Peter was… definitely a Stark. Only Stark men could ask that many questions without breathing.

When they finally reached the base, Tony showed Peter around for a bit. He loved looking at the different planes, and somehow ended up sitting on Tony’s shoulders as he walked around, the Cap plush sitting on his head. When they found Rhodey, he was lecturing about pilotless planes.

“Colonel,” Tony said, as he walked up, holding onto Peter by his shins. “Why not a pilot without the plane?”

“Look who fell out of the sky,” Rhodey said, rather strained. “Mr. Tony Stark.”

“And Mini Stark,” Tony said, moving to shake a few hands. Most eyes were on the giggling five year old on his shoulders though, anyway. He didn’t take any offence to that. Peter was adorable. “Speaking of manned and unmanned, you gotta get him to tell you about the time he guessed wrong at spring break. Just remember that. Spring break, 1987. That lovely lady you woke up with-”

“Don’t do that!” Rhodey sighed.

“-what was his name? Wasn’t it Ian?”

The cadets were all snickering, and one looked just about to die from his red face. Tony smiled, though Peter seemed confused.

“They’ll believe it,” Rhodey sighed. “Don’t do that.”

“Okay,” Tony said, giving the cadets an apologetic shrug that made Peter giggle. “Sorry guys. He’s right. It was me. Ian and I still text, though.”

“Give us a couple minutes, you guys.” As soon as all the cadets leaving, Rhodey spoke. “I’m surprised. I swear, I didn’t expect to see you walking around so soon.”

“I’m doing a little better than walking.”

“I can see that.”

“Rhodey,” Tony said seriously. “I’m working on something big. I came to talk to you. I want you to be a part of it.”

“You’re about to make a whole lot of people around her real happy,” he said with a smile. “‘Cause that little stunt at the press conference, that was a doozy.”

“This is… Not for the military. I’m not… It’s different.”

“What?” Rhodey asked, all humor gone. “You a humanitarian now or something?”

“I need you to listen to me.”

“No. What you need is to get your mind right. I’m serious.”

“Okay. Peter, say goodbye to Rhodes.”

Rhodey scowled at him, even as Peter gave a little ‘bye-bye, Uncle Rhodey’. And with that, Tony turned and left. He drove back to Malibu, and set up in the garage. The project file was ready, on a secure server, and he opened it up. Once he was sure that Peter was safe in his little space, Tony really got to work.

The first thing he had to work on, was the flight capabilities. He built the boots, heavy but movable, first. The first model was done by the time they broke for lunch, and Tony managed to make PB and J for lunch.

Testing came after eating, and dear god. It was bad. So bad. He hit the ceiling. And Dummy doused him with the fire extinguisher. And Peter started crying. That was the worst part. Being mildly concussed and having Peter crying. Tony felt like he was getting his heart ripped out.

After testing came more building. Flight stabilizer this time. Peter was let out of his space during this time, and clung to his leg as as he did the 3D hologram modeling. By the time he was on to second building stage, it was dinner time, and Pepper was coming down to get him.

“Obadiah's upstairs,” she said as she put down a coffee cup and placed a package in his desk. “What would you like me to tell him?”

“I’ll be right up,” Tony said, lifting up the flight stabilizer. Peter quickly scurried off into his protective space, though he left the door open.

“I thought you said you were done making weapons.”

“I am,” Tony said, taking a deep breath. “This is a flight stabiliser. Completely harmless.”

To prove such, Tony charged it up, and let it rip. And it did rip. It ripped him right off the floor and into the wall. And possibly his arm out of its socket. Definitely his pride out of his chest as he gasped for breath.

“I didn’t expect that.”

Eventually, he made his way upstairs, after some more crying from Peter, and scolding from Pepper. Obie was sitting at the piano, a pizza box on the table. Oh look, Obie brought dinner.

They talked for a while, Peter eating a slice with him. Pepper and Obie seemed to team up on him, and Tony managed to get out of it for a bit when Friday said it was bed time. Thankfully, Tony figured out to do bath time before bed time, since Peter was tired in the evening. No ducks in pants, and no soap bars in coffee mugs. Definitely more water staying in the tub.

Tony vaguely remembered drying Peter off and dressing him in pajamas, but after that, it was a haze of sleepy mutterings and a weight on his chest. Then, his back hitting bed and the weight cuddling up with him. A door seemed to squeak open, and Tony thought he saw someone there, big and looming and dangerous, but they were gone, and the bed was warm.

He didn’t remember when exactly he fell asleep.

XxXXxX

Tony did more testing after that, over the next week or so. Peter continued his routines, now adjusted for lessons and reading to take place in the sectioned off area of the lab. Friday was mainly in charge of Peter, for that time, though Tony made sure to keep an eye on him even as he was testing out the suit.

U was recording everything, and Peter loved to watch as the boots got better and better. He loved watching him fumble around with flying. And when Dummy drenched him with fire extinguisher foam.

After the first test flight, and Tony’s mild concussion, they sat and talked about Peter getting one. Tony knew with every bone in his body that he couldn’t let Peter fly one yet. They made a deal that once it was totally finished, no kinks in it, they’d talk again.

It was then that Peter brought out the package Pepper had left them days ago. They opened it, together, to see the old reactor mounted on a little pedastal. Around it read ‘Proof That Tony Stark Has the Biggest Heart.’ Peter couldn’t help but grin and point at it. That was his idea. That was his daddy’s award. And Tony could only hug him, and accept it.

As they sat in the lab, trying to figure out what to eat for dinner, the news playing in the background, Tony noticed the party. It was being held under his name…

“Did we get an invite to that, Jay?” Tony asked, playing with the suit's faceplate.

“I have no record of an invitation, Sir.”

“None for Baby Boss either, Boss.”

Tony hummed, listening to the reporter until she said that people thought he had PTSD, and that he was hiding out with Peter. Trying to hide. Stark men don’t hide. The render was completed, and Tony drank a bit more veggie sludge before heading to get himself and Peter into some suits.

Peter brought his Cap Plush, though it stayed in the car when Tony pulled up to the concert hall. He tossed the key to the valley, instead helping Peter out. In seconds, reporters who had been swarming Obie were suddenly around him. People called out to him, and Tony was pleased with the ever present hold Peter had on the leg of his slacks.

“What’s the world come to when a guy’s gotta crash his own party?” Tony asked making sure that he kept a hand at the top of Peter’s head at all times.

“Look at you,” Obie said, forcing a smile. He glanced at Peter, who puffed up his cheeks and tried to look bigger. “Hey, what a surprise.”

“I’ll see you inside,” he said quickly, Peter reaching up to take his hand instead as they started to walk away from Obie.

“Hey!” the bald man called back. “Take it slow, all right?”

“Just cabin fever. We’ll just be a few minutes. Pete’s got bed time in an hour anyway.”

At this point, even Tony could see that Obie didn’t like him being there. He took Peter inside, making sure he had some water and the he didn’t drink. Well… Much.

“Give me a Scotch,” Tony said, then reaching down to pat Peter’s head. “And an empty cup, plastic if you have it, with olives? This little guy loves ‘em.”

“Olives,” Peter said, nodding his head sagely.

“Mr. Stark?” a man in a fed suit asked. He sounded serious. “Agent Coulson.”

“Oh yeah,” he nodded. “The guy from the…”

“Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division.”

“That’s long,” Peter chirped, as he got his olive cup.

“Thats right, Peter,” Tony said, sitting at his scotch. “You guys need a new name for that.”

“We get that alot,” Coulson sighs, though Tony’s eyes were wandering over the whispering crowd. “Listen, I know this must be a trying time for you, but we need to debrief you. There’s still a lot of unanswered questions, and time can be a factor with these things. Let’s just put something on the books. How about the 24th at 7pm, at Stark Industries?”

“Tell you what,” Tony said, holding out a hand. “You got it. You’re absolutely right. Why don’t you go clear it up with my assistant, over there, while I get my kid some real food to eat with those olives?”

“Like olives,” Peter insisted, though he followed when he walked towards a small time with spreads of crackers and cheese.

Coulson did in fact go to Pepper, who was off on the dance floor. Tony got Peter some different crackers, some cheese, and picked him up as he ate. Peter was getting tired, Tony could see. Not that he could blame him. Events like this took a lot out of Tony, too.

“Wow,” a woman said, coming up to his side. “Tony Stark.”

“Oh,” Tony gasped, trying his best to not sound startled. Peter looked up at the woman with droopy eyes, half chewing the cheese piece that was partially in his mouth.

“Fancy seeing you here,” the woman said, glancing at Peter as he laid his head on Tony’s shoulder.

Tony struggled with a name, until she finally gave it to him.

“You have a lot of nerve showing up here tonight,” Cristine hissed at him, making Peter squint. “Can I at least get a reaction from you?”

“Panic. I would say panic is my reaction.”

“Because I was referring to your companies involvement in this latest atrocity.”

“Yeah, they just put my name on the invitation. I don’t know what to tell you.”

“I actually almost bought it, hook line and sinker.”

“I was out of town for a couple months, in case you didn’t hear.”

“Is this what you call accountability?” She handed him a stack of photos, which he struggled to look at one haned. “It’s a town called Gulmira. Heard of-?”

“Yensin?” Peter asked, looking up at the sound of a familiar name. Tony had, of course, told Peter all about how he escaped with Yensin’s help. He hadn’t had the heart to tell him that Yensin was dead, and instead said Yensin returned to Gulmira.

“So you have,” Cristine said, crossing her arms.

Tony ignored her, looking at the different photos. It was definitely the Ten Rings, carrying cases with his company's logo. And then, he saw it. The Jericho missile. It was right there, clean and brand fucking new.

“When were these taken?” Tony asked, deathly serious.

“Yesterday.”

“I didn’t approve any shipment.”

“Well, your company did.”

“Well, I’m not my company.”

With that, Tony turned, walking pulling Peter with him to go find Obie- No, Obadiah. The man had been strange since he returned, and if Tony was right… He could never be Obie again. He was outside, still, with reporters pushing camera’s in his face.

“Do you mind?” Obadiah said more then asked, pushing a reporter out of the way as Tony came up, Peter clinging to him, now on high alert.

“Have you seen these pictures?” Tony demanded, practically waving them in Obadiah’s face. “What’s going on in Gulmira?”

“Tony, Tony. You can’t afford to be this naive.”

“You know what?” Tony asked as Obadiah led him off to the side. “I was naive before, when they said ‘here’s the line, we don’t cross it. This is how we do business.’ If we’re double-dealing under the table… Are we?”

Obadiah said nothing for a moment, simply looking away. Then, he turned, looking out at the sea of reporters.

“Let’s take a picture. Come on. Picture time!”

He threw a hand over Tony’s shoulders, but Tony was having none of it. He pulled away, turned and picked up Peter, who seemed to realise they needed a way out. Peter yawned in his cutesy little way, big open mouth and a little fist rubbing his eyes. Tony gave is award winning smile, all fake, but still believable.

“Not today,” Tony told the reporters. “It’s way past Pete’s bed time.” Turning back to Obadiah, he said “This isn’t over.” And then, he left.

Putting Peter in the car, he buckled him into the car seat and drove. He drove a little fast, glancing into the mirror every now and then to check on Peter. The kid fell asleep rather quickly, and didn’t make even the slightest of peeps the entire ride. And for that, Tony was thankful.

When he got home, he carried Peter upstairs from the garage, and into their bedroom. Tony tucked him in, leaving him to sleep, before heaving down to the lab. He sat on the couch down there, putting on a gauntlet, and tweaking it as he watched the news.

“The 15-mile hike to the outskirts of Gulmira,” the reporter was saying, “can only be described as a descent into hell, into a modern day Heart of Darkness. Simple farmers and herders from peaceful villages have been driven from their homes, displaced from their lands by warlords emboldened with a new found power.

“Villagers have been forced to take shelter in whatever crude dwellings they can find in the ruins of other villages, or her in the remnants of an old Soviet smelting plant.” There were sounds of gunfire from the tv, and Tony took deep breaths, clenching and unclenching the gauntlet fist. “Recent violence has been attributed to a group of foreign fighters referred to by locals as the Ten Rings.

“As you can see, these men are heavily armed and on a mission. A mission that could prove fatal to anyone who stands in their way. With no political will, or international pressure, there’s very little hope for these refugees.”

Tony stood, tossing the screwdriver aside. Then, the reporter talked about a woman whose husband had been kidnapped. He looked at it, then turned, and raised the gauntlet. It whirled, and fired a blast over the workshop. A light sparked and clanged as it fell, and Tony felt anger welling in his chest.

Turning, he saw his reflection in the glass of the doors. In a fit of rage he blew them all out, then went and dressed in a tight body suit, to get in the armor. He let it form around him, connecting with the arc reactor.

“Friday,” he said as he moved towards the door. “If I’m not back before Peter wakes up, tell him not to worry and go eat breakfast without me. I’ll be back later.”

The AI said nothing, and Tony took off.

When he arrived in Gulmira, it was a slaughter. Men were dragged to a slaughter wall. Women and children were forced to watch. He arrived just before one could be shot. He knocked three men away, turning to find five more holding hostages. Woman, teenagers, children, even a baby. He lowered his gauntlets, letting the targeting system take them all out.

A boy, held by his clearly terrified mother, pulled from her grip and ran to his father. They embraced, holding each other tightly. The boy looked at him, as he passed, going to grab the leader of the group. Tony pulled him through a wall, tossing him down in front of the crowd.

“He’s all yours,” he said, voice masked by a modifier.

He didn't wait to see what they did, instead flying out to go find the Jericho. And he did, only to get knocked from the sky. When he stood, he faced off with a tank. He dodged the first missile, and sent a little counter of his own, destroying the tank in one go. And, with men firing bullets at him, he rose, and destroyed the Jericho in one move.

As he flew back home, he got a call from Rhodes.

“Hello?”

“Tony,” he said, though it was hard to hear. “It’s Rhodes.”

“Sorry? Hello?”

“I said it’s Rhodes,” he said again, this time a bit louder.

“Speak up please,” Tony said, sounding as casual as he could.

“What the hell is that noise?”

“Oh yeah,” Tony said, thinking fast. “Pete and I are out, driving with the top down.”

“Yeah, well, I need your help right now.”

“Funny how that works, huh?”

“Yeah. Speaking of funny, we got a weapons depot that was just blown up just a few clicks from where you were being held captive.”

“Well, yeah, say that’s a hot spot.” He was a little out of breath, now, taking in a deep gulp of air as he went. ‘Sounds like someone stepped in and did your job for you, huh?”

“Why do you sound out of breath, Tony?”

Think, Tony think! “I’m not, I was just jogging in the canyon.”

“I thought you were driving with Peter.”

“Right,” he said quickly. “I was driving, uh, to the canyon, where Peter and I are going to jog.”

“You sure you don’t have any tech in that area I should know about?”

“Nope!”

“Bogey spotted!” someone in the background shouted.

“Okay,” Rhodey said, sounding a little distracted, and oh, that can’t be good. “Good, cause I’m staring at one right now and it’s about to be blown to kingdom come.”

Two jets came up behind him, and Tony did his best not to groan. Great. Just, fucking great. Turning, he gave a quick “That’s my exit,” and hung up.

He gave Jarvis the order to go speed up, and went supersonic. Then, a missile came in and he deployed the flares. Things just got worse from there, the jets opening gun fire on him, and he had to deploy flaps and cling to the bottom of one of the jets.

“Jarvis,” he gasped, holding on tight. “Call rhodey’s cell!”

“Calling, Sir.”

After a second, the man answered.

“Hello?”

“Hi, Rhodey, it’s me.”

“It’s who?”

“I’m sorry, it is me. You asked. What you were asking about is me.”

“No, see, this isn’t a game. You do not send in civilian equipment into my active war zone. You understand that?”

“This is not a piece of equipment,” Tony ground, the hud going staticy for a second. “I’m in it. It’s a suit. It’s me!”

Just then, the jet he was under turned, belly towards the other jet. And dear god was he fucked! The jet rolled, and he lost his grip. He flew back, hitting a wing. The pilot flew out, caught for a second in the explosion, and fell. No chute was deployed, and Tony turned, acting fast, to go help him out. The second jet followed, and Tony just had just enough time to get the man’s chute open before Jarvis reengaged evasive maneuvers.

“Tony,” Rhodey said, sounding terrified. “You still there?”

“Hey, thanks,” Tony panted, grinning to himself.

“Oh my God, you crazy son of a bitch. You owe me a plane. You know that, right?”

Tony laughed. “Yeah, well, technically, he hit me. So… Now are you going to come by and see what I’m working on?”

“No no no no no,” Rhodey said quickly. “The less I know, the better. Now, what am I supposed to tell the press?”

“Uh, training exercise. Isn’t that the usual BS?”

“It’s not that simple.”

And with that, Tony hung up and finished his way home. Friday told him that Peter eaten, by then, and Tony gave him permission to come down, with shoes. Peter did come down, and stared up at him as he went to the dismantler.

Eventually, Tony got Peter to go sit on the couch, to wait, while he got the suit off. It was hard, getting the suit off, and Peter was giggling as the bots tugged at the pieces.

“It is a tight fit, sir,” Jarvis was saying. “Sir, the more you struggle, the more this is going to hurt.”

“Be gentle,” Tony said, jokingly. “This is my first time. I designed this to come off, so… Ow! Hey!”

“Please, try not to move, sir.”

“Yeah Daddy,” Peter giggled. “Look silly!”

“What’s going on here?” Pepper asked, surprising him, and he went still.

Slowly, he looked over his shoulder at her. Then, because he was tired and hurt, he spoke without thinking.

“Let’s face it. This is not the worst thing you’ve caught me doing.”

“Are those bullet holes?”

“Can we talk about this once I’m out?”

Thankfully, Pepper agreed, leaving to go cool off and taking Peter with her. As much as Tony loved his son, he needed a moment. However, within an hour, he had forgotten the deal, making some fixes to the armor. When she returned, without Peter, he looked up.

“Hey,” he said as casually as possible. “You busy? Think you could run an errand for me? I need you to go to my office. You’re going to hack into the mainframe and you’re going to retrieve all the recent shipping manifests.”

Picking up a USB, he held it out ot her. “This is a lock chip. This’ll get you in. It’s probably under Executive Files. If not, they put it on a ghost drive, in which case you need to look for the lowest numeric heading.”

“And what do you plan to do with this information if I bring it back here?”

“Same drill,” Tony said simple. “They’ve been dealing under the table, and I’m going to stop them. I’m going to find my weapons and destroy them.”

“Tony,” she started, then sighed. “You know that I would help you with anything, but I cannot help you if you’re going to start all of this again.”

“There is nothing except this,” Tony snapped. “There’s no art opening. There is no benefit. There is nothing to sign. There is the next mission, and nothing else.”

“Is that so?” She asked, voice soft and filled with hurt. “Well, then I quit. Peter can come live with me, and you can keep your missions.”

She tossed the flash drive onto the desk, causing Tony to flinch at the clank. He didn’t know what came over him. Peter… Peter would always come first. It was Peter, then he mission. As she turned to walk away, she spoke quickly.

“The mission is for Peter,” he said, causing her to stop, pause and turn to him. “I spent years, with you by my side, reaping the benefits of destruction, instead of caring for him, about how he saw me. And now, when I don’t want to be the Merchant of Death, to be a villain in his eyes, and trying to protect the people I put in harm's way, be the hero that Peter deserves, you’re just going to walk out?”

“You’re going to kill yourself, Tony,” She said. “And I’m not going to be a part of it. I’m taking Peter, and I’m leaving.”

“He forgave me. Peter. He wouldn’t have done that, unless it was for a reason. I’m not crazy, Pepper. I just know, after I saw what happened in Gulmira, and Peter when I got back, what I have to do. I had spent years, as a kid, trying to make my father proud. But now, I know, that I need to make Peter proud. To make him proud to say, when he’s older, ‘that’s my dad’. And I know, in my heart, that this is right.”

Taking a deep breath, she walked back over to the desk, picking up the lock chip. She looked at it, then back at him, before smiling.

“You’re all he has, you know.”

And with that, she left. Tony went back to work, fixing up the suit as he waited for Pepper to come back. He ordered pizza, for dinner, and went up to eat with Peter until it was bath and bedtime. The kid slept pretty easy now, and after some work, Tony had moved Peter’s room closer to his. With only a wall between them no, and a night light that Tony had built to give the exact same glow as the arc reactor, Peter could sleep in his own bed, most nights.

As he went back to the sitting room, looking for more pizza and wondering about Pepper, the phone rang. He was tired, after such a long day, and walked slow, picking up a few pillows before he found it. Pepper calling… He answered, sitting down.

“Tony?” she said, only for his body to go ridged, a ringing in his ears. “Tony, are you there? Hello?”

The phone was lightly pulled from his grip, and he was eased backwards onto the couch. If he wasn’t paralyzed, he’d probably be having quite the heart attack. Someone was in his house. Some one was in his house with Peter asleep in the other room !

“Breathe,” the sickeningly familiar voice said as stared at the device in Obadiah’s hands. “Easy, easy… You remember this one, right? It’s a shame the government didn’t approve it. There’s so many applications for causing short-term paralysis.”

Obadiah got up, smiling as he moved around to Tony’s front. He grabbed his face, turning him to look, as he chuckled.

“Ah, Tony,” he practically laughed. “When I ordered the hit on you, I worried that I was killing the golden goose.” He reached into a bag off to the side, pulling out a device that he put against the arc reactor. “But, you see, it was just fate that you survived that. You had one last golden egg to give.”

And with that, Tony jerked, the arc reactor being pulled from his chest. Stane looked down at it with an evil smile, the glow casting light over both of their faces. Then, Stane pulled hard, the cord snapping as he looked at it with greed. Tony couldn’t move, could feel the shrapnel moving towards his heart.

With that, after bragging and saying words that Tony couldn’t understand in his haze of hate, betrayal, and fear, Stane left, the arc reactor in hand. Once he was gone, Tony worked his hardest to get to the elevator. He managed to get inside, stumble his way into the lab. Jarvis nor Friday said anything, the network had to be down. He couldn’t say anything, couldn’t call to Peter for help, and crawled his way across the lab floor.

When he got to the desk, where the case with his ‘Best Heart’ trophy was, he tried to grab it. He did. But he couldn’t reach, and laid on the floor. Then, a soft whirring sounded above him. The case appeared in his peripheral vision, and Tony nearly cried when he saw Dummy, looking down at him with his camera, claw turning ever so slightly.

“Good boy,” Tony managed before he turned, smashing the trophy on the floor.

He took the arc reactor with shaking hands, and managed to fit it into his chest. For a minute, he blacked out, feeling weak and off center, and oh so dead . But he wasn’t. He could hear Rhodey, blessed Rhodey shouting out. But, man, stupid Rhodey! Didn’t he know Peter was sleeping.

“Tony?” his friend called. “Tony? Peter?”

“Uncle Rhodey?” a softer, much younger voice called back, and oh, Rhodey’s done it now!

“Peter,” he heard Rhodey say. “Where’s Tony?”

“He said he still had work to do,” Tony barely heard. “Lab?”

And then, there were feet on the stairs, two sets. One big with boots, one small with slippers. Tony managed to turn just as they saw him, Peter screaming and running to him without caution for the shards of glass still around the broken windows. God, he needed to fix that… Peter could get hurt.

“Daddy!” Peter wailed, and Tony reached up to grab him.

“Tony,” Rhodey gasped.

“I’m fine,” he managed to slur, one hand holding Peter and the other grabbing Rhodey’s sleeve. “Where’s Pepper?”

“She’s fine. She’s with five agents. Their about to arrest Obadiah.”

For a second, Tony stared at him, as they sat him up. “That’s not going to be enough.”

Rhodey helped him up, Peter still clinging to him. He had them help him into the suit, taking deep breaths as he got used to the weaker reactor.

“That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen,” Rhodey said, standing with Peter, who looked scared and worried.

“Not bad, huh?” Tony said, though he could tell it was a bit more subdued. “Let’s do it.”

He stepped off the assembler, using a repulsor to push his ruined car out of the way of the hole in the ceiling. With quick steps, he moved into place, Jarvis and Friday still rebooting but online. Turning back to Rhodey and Peter, he smiled, eyes watering. He took in the sight of them, not sure if he would come back from this.

“You need me to do anything else?” Rhodey asked, his own eyes watering.

“Keep the skies clear,” Tony said, then, in a much more serious tone after the faceplate snapped into place, “And watch Peter.”

They both knew that it was probably more then just a temporary babysitting, and he took off, heading for Stark Industries factories. He couldn’t stand waiting, and he eventually asked Jarvis.

“How do you think the Mark I chest piece is going to hold up?”

“The suit’s at 48% power and falling, sir,” the AI said truthfully. “That chest piece was never designed for sustained flight.”

“Keep me posted.”

He sped up just a bit, having Jarvis call Pepper.

“Tony!” she cried, clearly frightened. “Tony, are you okay?”

“I’m fine. How are-”

“Obadiah, he’s gone insane!”

“I know. Listen, you’d better get out of there.”

“He built a suit.”

“Get out of there right now!”

“And he’s-”

Tony gave up on talking with her, now having the factory in sight. He dived, as Stane opened fire on him. They crashed, through cement parking lot, then through the wall of the lab. They ended up on the street, cars blaring horns.

Stane got up first, picking up a car, before getting read to throw it at him. Collateral damage, Stane had called them. Tony gave shot at Stane through the chest piece, and caught the car, though power went down to 19%. Probably shouldn’t do that again!

He car, of course ran him over, and Stane attacked him with a motorcycle. Then literally stomped on his chest and threw him into bus. For extra measure, Stane even blew it up with a missile. He managed to right himself, after the blast, power getting lower, and hovered. Stane lifted up, his own suit able to fly. Tony didn’t appreciate Jarvis snark, and rose to maximum altitude.

Stant, thankfully, followed. As they reached where ice had begun to build up the first time, suit now at 7% power, Stane reached out, grabbing hold of Tony’s bot and pulling him down by the throat to look at him.

“You had a great idea, Tony,” Stane laughed, ice covering his face plate but still climbing. “But my suit is more advance in every way!”

“How’d you solve the icing problem?” Tony asked, smirking behind his own, ice free, faceplate.

“Icing problem?” Stane got out, before the lights of the faceplate went out.

Tony grinned, hitting Obadiah’s helmet, and letting the man fall. He stayed there, watching, as he hovered. He’d done it. He’d actually done it. Stane would be finished after a fall like that, and Tony hadn’t died!

“Two percent,” Jarvis said, just as the thrusters cut momentarily.

He fell, slowly, thanks to emergency power, and thrusters jumping in and out. Eventually, he stumbled into a land on the roof, calling Pepper again.

“Potts,” he said quickly.

“Tony!” She cried. “Oh, my God, are you okay?”

“I’m almost out of power,” he explained, starting to pull off the suit, gauntlet first. “I’ve got to get out of this thing. I’ll be right there.”

There was a thud behind him, and he had just enough time to turn to Stane to dodge the first attack. Like an idiot, he held up his empty hand to attack, looking at it stupidly for a second before being nearly punched off the roof. He threw a punch, only to get held in a tight hold, weapons crushed.

Thinking fast, he managed to set off the flares, blinding Stane and ducking out of view. Think, he thought, though an idea came quickly.

“Potts?” he whispered.

“Tony!”

“This isn’t working. We’re going to have to overload the reactor and blast the roof.”

“Well, how are you going to do that?”

“You’re going to do it. Go to the central console and open up all the circuits. When I get clear of the roof, I’ll let you know. You’re going to hit the master bypass button. It’s going to fry everything up here.”

“Okay,” she said, as Tony turned to look at what Stane was doing. “I’m going in now.”

“Make sure you wait till I clear the roof. I’ll buy you some time.”

Just as Stane came to where he could see him, Tony went around, managing to get onto Stane’s back. He held on tight, using his gloved hand to punch in and pull out some wires. For a moment, Stane flailed, before managing to throw him off, taking his helmet, and opening up his own.

“I never had a taste for this sort of thing,” Obadiah said with a smirk, crushing Tony’s helmet like a tin can. “But I must admit, I’m deeply enjoying the suit!”

He tossed the smashed helmet to Tony, who looked up at his old father figure. Never again, he thought, however, as Stane joined him on the center of the roof.

“You finally out did yourself,” Stane said. “You’ve made your father proud.”

“No,” Tony said, glancing down at Pepper below. “I’m making my son proud. Pepper!”

Obadiah laughed, shooting at him with a mistle, but missing. “You tried to rid the world of weapons, but you gave it its best one yet.”

“Time to hit the button!” Tony called down again, trying to move, but failing.

“You told me not to!” Pepper cried back.

“Hold still you little prick,” Stane laughed.

“Just do it!” Another missile sailed over his head.

“You’ll die!”

“Push it!”

Tony had just a second to see her hit the button, and run before the first wave pushed him out of the way, and into a wall. Stane, heavier, didn’t move, and was caught in the second wave of the blast, his suit over powered as the entire factory went out, and he fell into the large reactor.

Tony turned, as the blast flared over him. He could hear Pepper screaming, and then… nothing.

XxXXxX

The next day, Tony sat in a room with a newspaper, Pepper, and Peter, as Rhodey spoke to the press outside.

Pepper was fixing up his bandages, while Peter sat in his lap, having refused to let go for the last hour or so. He was looking at the paper in Tony’s hands, though he couldn’t read it.

“Iron Man,” Tony said, smirking to both himself and Peter. “That’s kinda catchy. Got a nice ring to it, doesn’t it, Pete? I mean, it’s not technically accurate. The suit’s made of a gold-titanium alloy, but it’s kind of evocative, the imagery, anyway.”

“I like it,” Peter said, holding onto Tony with one arm and the Captain America plush with the other. “Superhero name. Like Cap’n ‘Merica…”

Tony grinned, about to speak, only to have a set of cards shoved into his face by Coulson.

“Here’s your alibi,” the agent said. “You were on your yacht. We have port papers that put you in Avalon all night, and sworn statements from 50 of your guests.”

“See, I was thinking maybe we should say it was just Peter and me. Showing him the island.”

Coulson gave him that smiled. “That’s what happened.”

With a sigh, Tony looking through the cards. “All right.”

“Just read read it word for word.”

“There’s nothing about Stane here.”

“That’s being handled. He’s on vacation. Small aircraft have such a poor safety record.”

“And what’s with the whole story that it’s a bodyguard? He’s my… I mean, is that… That’s kinda flimsy, don’t you think?”

“This isn’t my first rodeo, Mr. Stark,” Coulson said simply, turning to leave. “Just stick to the official statement, and soon, this will all be behind you. You’ve got 90 seconds.”

Tony sighed, looking over the cards as Pepper thanked Coulson. Peter looked at the cards, then at Tony, and made a sour face as he got up. Tony stood, still looking at cards, and let Pepper help him put on his jacket.

“You know,” Tony said, Peter at his side. “It’s actually not that bad. Even I don’t think I’m Iron Man.”

“You’re not Iron Man,” Pepper insisted, buttoning up his coat. Peter had different ideas.

“Iron Man!” Peter said, holding up his arms to be picked up.

Tony, finding his son forever adorable and precious, pandered to his whim and picked him up. They grinned at each other, then at Pepper. She gave a long sigh.

“Will that be all, Mr. Stark?”

Tony smiled, and turned to walk out as Rhodey introduce him to the crowd. He stepped up to the podium with Peter still in his arms, ever the one to be different, and set him down to stand with Rhodey.

“Been awhile since I was in front of you,” he said, holding up to cards. “I figure I’ll stick to the cards this time.” They laughed, Tony cleared his throat. “There’s been speculation that I was involved in the events that occurred on the freeway and the rooftop-”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Stark,” Christine said with a hand raised in the air. “But do you honestly expect us to believe that that was a bodyguard in a suit that conveniently appeared despite the fact that you-”

“I know that it’s confusing,” Tony interrupted. “It is one thing to question the official story, and another thing entirely to make wild accusations, or insinuate that I’m a superhero.”

“I never said that you were a superhero.”

“Didn’t? Well, good, because that would be… outlandish and fantastic.” Christine made a face, so he tried again. “I’m just not the hero type. Clearly. With this laundry list of character defects, all the mistakes I’ve made, largely public.”

“Just stick to the cards,” Rhodey said, leaning to whisper in his ear.

“Yeah,” Tony said, lifting to look at the cards. “The truth is…” He trailed off, turning to look at Peter. His son stared up at him, big eyes practically pleading. So, Tony turned, and cleared his throat. “The truth is… I am Iron Man.”

Instantly, everyone jumped to their feet, asking questions and trying to get him to answer. He ignored them all, in favor of scooping up his son, who was grinning from ear to ear. They left quickly after that, Rhodey ushering them out to keep himself from ‘killing Tony himself’. Then, when they were finally out, and in their car, Tony grinned at Peter in the back seat.

“Where you wanna go, bud?”

“Home,” Peter said with a grin. “Go home and have donuts!”

Tony laughed, reaching back to ruffle Peter’s hair before driving. They went through a Krispy Kreme drive thru, and then went to eat them somewhere for while before heading home. When they walked in, it already growing dark outside. Peter was asleep in his arms, and mumbled as Jarvis welcomed them.

But, the lights were out, and a man stood at the far end of the living room, looking out of the floor to wall.

“I am Iron Man,” the man said, rather disapprovingly. “You think you’re the only superhero in the world? Mr. Stark, you’ve just become part of a bigger universe. You just don’t know it yet?”

“Who the hell are you?” Tony demanded, holding his son closer to him.

“Nick Fury,” he said, stepping out of the shadows.“Director of SHIELD. And I’m here to talk to you about the Avenger Initiative.”

Tony’s first thought was ‘nice eye patch’. His second was ‘must have really pissed off SHIELD’. His last one, however, was ‘Why do I think of Captain America when he says Avenger?’