Tony Stark found that even as Steve Rogers adapted to the twenty-first century, he still clung onto many of his 1940s values. Steve had a crazy concept about how couples should act and Tony thought he put up with it pretty damn well when they started living together.
When Steve moved into the mansion, Tony found that things were becoming a little domesticated. Steve’s silly old fashion ways, really. Steve started cooking and dinner was set on the table promptly at six pm, Tony learned to be at dinner on time unless he wanted Steve to barge into his workshop and carry him out. Sometimes Tony was late on purpose. Breakfasts with coffee and discussions about the morning paper were mandatory. Nights that might have been spent out at parties were spent at home watching movies, Steve was kind of obsessed with movies and had seventy years’ worth of cinema to catch up on. When they did go out, they went dancing. Cuddling in bed and pillow talk happened on a regular basis. And they hosted pleasant dinner parties for their friends.
They were basically blissful newlyweds. All they needed were rings. Maybe Tony would have Pepper get started on that.
Tony enjoyed the domestic part. He liked the stability and warmth that Steve brought to his home. He’d never admit it, but he liked it. Until Steve started acting a bit weird, even for him.
It started out one evening during movie night. Steve had come home late, from Captain America business, and they curled up on the couch together. As the movie started Steve made a comment about helping the new mini Justice League and seeing Superman. That made Tony’s eye twitch. No man irked Tony more, including super villains, than Superman and Tony didn’t know why Steve respected him so much. Well, maybe he did, but still, Superman was a jerk. The only person who could pull off the wholesome image without seeming like a complete bastard was Steve Rogers, thank you very much. Ignoring the movie, Tony leaned over and nibbled on Steve’s ear and succeeded in distracting him for the rest of the evening.
After that though, Steve’s behavior began to change. He went out more often, which was fine, Tony wasn’t a jealous and territorial boyfriend, not at all. Steve began to ask Tony about his father Howard. Old family albums were pulled from their dusty shelves. Steve started spending more time in one of the empty guestrooms and looking at paint samples and furniture catalogs. Brochures for schools appeared. And finally, Tony found books about adoption and baby names hidden under Steve’s stack of sketchbooks (he wasn’t snooping, damn it, he was just concerned).
Pepper looked over Tony’s shoulder as he stood in shock, holding a book of baby names, and she smiled. An evil, terrible smile.
“Well, it looks like Steve wants to take domestic life to the next level,” she clicked her tongue and her smile widened.
Tony felt a little lightheaded. A baby. Steve wanted a baby. Steve wanted them to be a family. Picket white fence, flower print curtains over the kitchen windows, Sunday dinners, a dog, summer road trips and children. The American dream, from the 1940s at least. All Tony needed was a dress and a pair of heels.
Later, Tony found himself wishing that was all Steve wanted.
Captain America immediately recognized the group as being affiliated with the Justice League, he remembered Robin, Kid Flash and Aqualad, though the others he had never seen before. Normally Captain America wouldn’t interfere with the Justice League, but these were teenagers up against Solomon Grundy and they weren’t fairing too well. Agreements be damned, Captain America threw his shield and knocked down Grundy before he could attack a struggling Robin. All of the teens looked at him with wide eyes and he could hear Kid Flash gasped, “Holy crap, Captain America!”
And without another word about it, he helped the group take down Grundy. Afterwards though, they seemed a little uneasy by his presence and Robin was the one who spoke up about it.
“Hey Cap, not that we don’t appreciate the help, but aren’t you supposed to not get involved?”
“Dude, who cares? This is Captain America!” Kid Flash hissed at his friend. “Do you think he’ll give me his autograph?”
Captain America just smiled a little and shrugged. “I never consented to the agreement made by Nick Fury and the Justice League.”
“The rumors are true, he has been around Iron Man too much,” Artemis whispered.
Aqualad glared at her and then nodded at Captain America. “Right, this is off the books. Thank you, Captain.”
Kid Flash was at Aqualad’s side instantly and said into his ear, “Ask Cap to give us autographs!”
But their off the books arrangement was suddenly null and void by the appearance of Superman. The Man of Steel had obviously come to clean up the mess that the group of sidekicks were in and lifted an eyebrow at the sight of Captain America. Now there was no doubt that this would be reported to Fury and Steve was never going to hear the end of it. The rules were clear, the Avengers stayed out of Justice League business and the League stayed out of the Avengers’ way. Only a couple of times in recent history had the Avengers and the Justice League combined forces to save the world. For Tony that was far too many interactions with them as he called the League a bunch of pompous asses. Steve rather liked them, but Tony said that Steve liked anyone who wasn’t a Nazi. Still, that didn’t mean they weren’t good people.
And Superman seemed to be one of the best. Not only in strength and abilities, but he was a good man. Or that’s what Captain America thought anyway.
“Captain,” Superman said his name without a hint of hostility. If it had been anyone else from the Avengers there would have been, but there seemed to be special exception for Captain America, apparently being a decorated war hero counted for something.
“Superman,” Captain America said back with a nod. He slung his shield over his back and was prepared to leave when a blur of yellow and red appeared in front of him and Kid Flash held out a pad of paper and a pen to him.
“Could you make one out to Kid Flash, another to Robin and one to Artemis?” Kid Flash glanced over at his team and Aqualad looked at him expectantly. “And one to Aqualad. Actually, include Miss Martian and Superboy too, don’t want them to be left out.”
Captain America smiled politely and took the offered pen and paper, signing the individual sheets and tried to come up with personalized messages. They were all really good kids. As he made out his autographs, Captain America overheard a hushed conversation between Superman and Superboy.
“Superman, I was wondering—”
“Not now, I need to take Grundy into custody.”
“Yeah, but about my powers—”
The words came out so clipped and annoyed that Captain America could hardly believe that they came from Superman himself. Superman hastily made his exit with Grundy, not bothered that he was leaving a team of teenagers with a member of a rival group, even if it was Captain America. Superboy stood there, his hands in fists and his jaw clenched. Then Superboy leapt into the air and disappeared into the night.
“Poor Superboy,” Miss Martian murmured.
“Superman is not aster, not at all,” Robin shook his head.
Steve stood there shocked, not sure what to make the situation, but filed it away in his mind. He needed to get home anyway, it was movie night with Tony.
Steve replayed the incident between Superman and Superboy again and again in his mind. It bothered him greatly. Even though Nick Fury told him to stay away, Steve gathered all the information he could on Superboy and Young Justice. He was glad that Tony kept such extensive records on the Justice League and taught him how to use the computer to access them, even if he was still slow at it.
Steve found out that Superboy was the clone of Superman, created by Cadmus. Superman had a son and if Steve had known earlier he would have sent a card. He figured that what he saw was some father and son fight, sometimes kids and parents just didn’t get along. Steve’s own father died when he was still young, so he casually asked Tony about Howard as a father. All that got him was a few grumbles and Tony walking briskly away to his workshop and he didn’t come out until Steve slung him over his shoulder to force him to come upstairs for dinner.
Finally Steve just decided to let the incident go, but to keep his eyes open for anything unusual.
Two weeks after he first met Superboy, Steve and Tony had to go to Metropolis. There was a meeting with Lex Luthor that Tony Stark couldn’t avoid, no matter much he loathed the man. Tony told him he didn’t have to come, but Steve didn’t listen. Tony could take care of himself and Pepper was always ready for action, but that didn’t mean that Steve was going to stay at home keeping dinner warm. Even if Captain America wasn’t allowed inside of LexCorp’s headquarters, he could still keep an eye out for anything unusual.
So Steve went to Metropolis, donned his costume and watched as Tony and Pepper entered LexCorp from a distance. Standing on the rooftop of an adjacent building, Captain America heard the shuffle of feet in the darkness and he spun around, raised his shield, ready to throw it, but stayed his arm. It was the mini Justice League, as Tony liked to call them. All of them were there and Captain America took a discreet look at Superboy, who hung at the back of the group, his arms crossed.
“We really need to stop meeting like this, Cap,” Robin said with an easy grin.
“Aw man, I need to start bringing my comic books with me on missions,” Kid Flash whined.
Aqualad was not so casual. “Captain America, may we ask as to why you are here? It is rare for the Avengers to come into Metropolis.”
Normally he would never discuss the details of a mission with the League, it was protocol, but these were kids and he wasn’t really on a mission. And it wasn’t a secret that Tony Stark was in Metropolis. “I’m just here as a favor to Mr. Stark, it never hurts to have a little extra security.”
“That is a wise decision considering who he is meeting with.” Aqualad’s gaze rested on the LexCorp building.
“And what is your team doing here?”
“Both Mr. Luthor and Mr. Stark are high profile targets, we are here to make sure nothing happens to them.”
There was more to their mission, Captain America knew that much, but he also knew they wouldn’t harm Tony. So he pointed to some of the other buildings. “There are some good vantage points over there, especially for your long range fighters.” Captain America paused and felt his face flush. These weren’t his troops, they weren’t even a part of SHIELD or the Avengers. “Of course, I’m sure you have your own plan.”
“We will take your advice into consideration.” There was a small smirk on Aqualad’s face and Captain America felt better.
The teens dispersed, but the girls hesitated and then approached him. A magazine that had been previously stuffed in Artemis’s quiver was thrust in his direction. It was opened to a picture of him roughed up a bit, uniform torn, with Iron Man supporting his weight, arms protectively around Captain America. Under the photo was a caption that read ‘Teammates or More? – Iron Man saves Captain America and holds him in an intimate embrace.’ Steve was very familiar with that photo, Tony had it framed, even as Tony told to the press that he and Captain America were just friends and teammates. After all, Tony Stark was in a committed relationship with Steve Rogers.
“Will you sign it?” Artemis held out a pen, sounding embarrassed.
He didn’t say anything, but he took the magazine and pen, polite smile firmly in place, and signed it. The girls giggled, took the magazine and disappeared. Steve sighed, teenagers these days.
Captain America went back patrolling the parameter of the building and it didn’t take long for him to notice that he was being followed. Stopping suddenly, Superboy almost crashed into his back and looked genuinely surprised that Captain America noticed him. Superboy was less than subtle, but he was a good choice to tail Captain America because if his team felt the need to restrain Captain America for whatever reason, Superboy was their best bet.
“If you’re going to follow me you might as well keep me company.” Captain America gave the teen his best grin and Superboy just shrugged and fell into step with him. “How do you like being a sidekick?” That seemed like an appropriate topic. It was not.
“I’m not a sidekick.” The words were actually growled at him. “I’m part of a team.”
“And it’s a swell team.” Superboy gave Captain America a suspicious look. “I actually like the Justice League,” he explained and Superboy was now looking at him like he had grown a second head. It was the exact same look Tony had given him when he said that out loud for the first time, but Tony had also thrown in a fake heart attack to be funny and ended up freaking Steve out instead. “The League does really good work. I’m disappointed that we don’t work together more often or work under one organization.”
Superboy glared. “Not everyone wants to work with SHIELD or to be at the whims of a playboy billionaire benefactor, even if he is Iron Man.”
Steve was a little insulted. He happened to be in love with that playboy billionaire benefactor. “Mr. Stark is a respectable, honorable man, despite what the press says. And he does not dictate our operations, he is a valued teammate.”
Silence fell between them and Superboy looked away, a scowl on his face. Steve really hoped he didn’t upset the boy, that was the last thing he wanted. But before he could apologize, Superman made an appearance, not surprising considering that Metropolis was his city and Lex Luthor was his arch nemesis.
Superman landed next to Captain America. “I wasn’t expecting to see you here, Captain.”
“I’m here as backup for Mr. Stark, I’ve seen on the TV what can happen here in Metropolis,” Captain America replied. “Did you come to speak with Iron Man?”
Superman made a face and shook his head. While Captain America was friendly towards the League, Iron Man liked to use a lot of four letter words when he was forced to talk to them. “No, not at all. I just wanted to remind both you and Iron Man that Luthor is a Justice League problem, not an Avengers problem.”
It came out a bit coldly, but Captain America didn’t take it personally. “I’m just here for Mr. Stark, I trust that you’ll be more than able to take care of Luthor if he decides to act up.”
Superman visibly relaxed. “I’m glad to hear that, Captain. I’m sure it’ll be a quiet night.” And with that Superman took off into the air.
A minute later Captain America realized that Superman hadn’t said a single word to Superboy. Not even to say hello or to ask what he was doing with an Avenger. And from the expression in Superboy’s eyes, he noticed that he was blatantly ignored as well. There was a terrible sinking feeling in Captain America’s chest, the one he’d get whenever he’d see bullies terrorizing the defenseless in his old neighborhood. He told Tony about it once and Tony said it was his bleeding heart acting up.
“Let’s get back to work,” Captain America said, forcing a cheerfulness he didn’t feel after what he saw, and Superboy blinked at him. “You’re supposed to keep an eye on me for your team, right? So, let’s secure the parameter and find a good place to watch the building.”
The teen nodded in agreement.
“What’s your favorite baseball team?” Captain America suddenly asked. “Mine’s the Dodgers, though I still can’t believe they left Brooklyn.”
Superboy just stared at him like he’d gone mad.
The next time Steve saw Superboy and Superman he was Steve Rogers, not Captain America.
A week after their uneventful trip to Metropolis, he and Tony were in Gotham. There was some big party being thrown by Brue Wayne in one of the fanciest hotels Steve had ever seen. It was some charity event or at least that’s what Steve thought, charity was usually the excuse for large gatherings amongst the rich. Steve didn’t go to parties very often, he felt terribly out of place and it was hard for him to field questions from people wanting to know more about Tony Stark’s latest conquest. While Tony’s identity as Iron Man was public knowledge, no one outside of the Avengers and certain members of SHIELD knew that Steve was Captain America. Because of that, it was hard for Steve to explain to people within Tony’s social circle why a billionaire was interested in an unknown artist beyond his looks.
At the party Tony had to mingle with his business connections, leaving Steve behind with Pepper. He thought that Steve would be more comfortable with Pepper and Steve was happy for the consideration, because he’d much rather stay at Pepper’s side than to be leered at by strangers. So Steve stuck close to Pepper, who indulged him in several dances and he was so proud that he didn’t step on her five hundred dollar shoes.
After less than an hour, Tony made his way back to Steve and Pepper with a couple drinks in him to numb himself to the inane chatter of Gotham’s social elite. He immediately linked arms with Steve and leaned his head against Steve’s broad shoulder. “Let’s get out of here. There’s a great burger place you’ll love, we’ll have dinner there and then we’ll spend the rest our time in Gotham naked in our hotel room.”
Pepper didn’t even blink at the comment and took out her phone, ready to call for the car.
“Tony, I hope you weren’t planning on escaping.” Bruce Wayne approached them and blocking Tony’s escape route. “I don’t think I’m that boring.”
“Bruce, you are never boring, but you need to invite better people next time or spend all of your time entertaining me,” Tony waved his hand and snagged a glass of champagne from a server. He smirked at Steve from over his glass, “I have better things I could be doing right now.”
“Lois Lane is here.”
“Oh? Is she?” That caught Tony’s attention right away.
“She brought Kent with her,” Bruce added and Tony sighed dramatically.
Steve was interested, he wanted to meet more of Tony’s friends, but Tony just shook his head. “Lois is ready to tear me a new one for blowing off my interview with her when we were in Metropolis and her boyfriend, Clark Kent, is an idiot who’d bore even you to tears, Steve.”
Steve frowned. “That’s not very nice of you, Tony, I’m sure Mr. Kent is a very interesting man. And you shouldn’t have stood up Miss Lane like that, it isn’t proper.”
“I stand by my statement about Kent, but I’ll make it up to Lois, I swear. Pepper, send Lois something nice.”
Pepper rolled her eyes. “I sent something before you even left for Metropolis.”
Bruce followed the exchange with amusement and studied Steve as Tony and Pepper bickered, Tony seemed insulted that Pepper predicted that he would stand Lois Lane up. Tony noticed Bruce’s gaze on Steve. “Oh, I haven’t introduced you two yet. Stevie, darling, this is Bruce Wayne, a friend and business associate. Bruce, this is Steve Rogers, the man that I’m madly in love with.”
Steve held out his hand to Bruce and was surprised by his firm grip. “It’s a pleasure, Mr. Wayne.”
“The pleasure is all mine and please, call me Bruce.” Bruce didn’t let go of Steve’s hand and instead placed his free hand on Steve’s shoulder. Blue eyes deliberately examined all of Steve’s features. “The pleasure is certainly all mine.”
Before Steve could become flustered and before Tony could become jealous, a loud explosion surprised them all. There was now a hole in the wall of the ballroom and there were men with guns, led by Two Face. At some point during the commotion Bruce Wayne had disappeared, causing Steve some concern over the man’s safety.
“Can’t they think of anything original to do? Really, this is just tacky. I would make a much better villain, all of my ideas would be original and you could be my sexy second in command,” Tony babbled and Steve’s hold on his arm tightened.
“Oh, right.” Tony threw his empty champagne flute over his shoulder without a care. “I’ll clean up this mess, and then we’re getting naked.”
“Ok, ok. Steve, get Pepper out of here.”
“My shield is in the car, I’ll be back soon.” He knew he should have taken it in with him, but Tony told him that there was no way for him to hide it on his person. That was the last time he was going to listen to Tony about his shield.
“No. Iron Man’s presence in Gotham is explainable, but Captain America as a part of Tony Stark’s security for a party is a little overboard.” Tony gave Steve a shove towards Pepper, who gave Tony a suitcase. “Now get out of here.”
Tony rushed off with his suitcase with his Iron Man armor in hand and that left Steve to get Pepper out of the hotel safely. There was greater confusion and panic by the arrival of Iron Man, then the Young Justice team, who were followed by Superman. Young Justice must’ve been assigned to watch the party, but he didn’t know why Superman was in Gotham. Steve did his best to usher other people out of the way of the fighting and he was relieved when he found Bruce Wayne in the crowd, going the wrong direction.
“Mr. Wayne!” Steve managed to catch his arm. “You’re going the wrong way.”
Bruce was startled to see him. “Steve—”
“Pepper, can you get Mr. Wayne out of here? I’m going to try to get everyone else out before anyone gets hurt.” He handed Bruce over to Pepper, who tried to twist out of Pepper’s grip, but she was too used to manhandling Tony to be so easily shaken off. Steve patted Bruce’s shoulder comfortingly, “Don’t worry, Mr. Wayne, Miss Potts has experience with these kinds of situations, she’ll know what to do.”
“If you get hurt, Steve, I’m going to kill you, because I’ll never hear the end of it from Tony,” Pepper told him, pulling him in for a kiss on the cheek and dragged a protesting Bruce Wayne out of the ballroom.
Steve ran around the ballroom, avoiding the gunmen and grabbing people who were huddled under tables or in the line of fire and leading them to safety. After getting the last scared waiter out through the exit, Steve heard someone shout, “Look out!”
Steve didn’t have any time to react, something strong and solid barreled into him, knocking him down to the ground. For a moment Steve thought that he was being attacked, but quickly realized that it was Superboy and that there were several bullet holes in the wall where he had been standing. The impact had been much harder than necessary and if Steve had been a normal man he’d probably have some broken ribs, especially if he had been his old, frail self. There’d be some bad bruising, but better that than dead.
“Hide,” Superboy snapped and threw himself back into the fray.
Taking Superboy’s advice, Steve took cover. It was hard to be on the sidelines of fight, but all the people from the party had been evacuated and the combined forces of Iron Man, Superman and Young Justice made short work of Two Face and his men. And soon enough, Iron Man held his hand out to Steve and helped him to his feet, an action that made Steve’s ribs groan in protest and he winced in pain.
“Are you alright, Steve? Are you injured?” The faceplate of the armor flipped up and there was real fear in Tony’s face.
“I’m ok, really.” The bruises would heal in no time, they both knew that.
But Superboy didn’t and he looked guilty. “I might have hurt him when I knocked him out of the way.”
Steve shook his head, “No, I’m fine, perfectly fine.”
“You can’t be so reckless! With your strength you could have killed him!” Superman said quickly, moving to Superboy’s side, looming over the teen. “We’ll be lucky if Tony Stark doesn’t sue the League,” Superman said under his breath and he stomped away before Superboy could get a word in edgewise.
Superboy’s hands clenched and he looked ready to jump away like the first time Steve saw him. But Steve laid a hand on Superboy’s arm, steadying the boy, and gave him a grateful smile. “I don’t know how to thank you enough, Superboy, you saved my life.”
“Yeah, cheer up, Supey, you’re a hero!” Kid Flash urged his teammate.
“He would have died if it wasn’t for you.” Miss Martian’s smile was sweet and encouraging.
“God, Superman’s such a self-righteous asshole,” Iron Man muttered. He turned to Superboy and grinned, “Don’t worry, kid, I’m a class act, I wouldn’t sue the boy who just saved my precious Stevie’s life.” Steve glared, he knew Tony taking advantage of the opportunity to tease him. “Seriously though, kid, thank you. Anything you want, call me and it’s yours,” Tony added and Steve’s glare melted into a gaze of approval and adoration.
The encouragement seemed to rally Superboy’s spirits, his eyes brightened at their words. But the teen glanced over to where Superman was standing, talking to a newly arrived and annoyed Batman. The Man of Steel had completely disregarded the fact that Superboy had saved Steve and was more concerned with the boy’s faults. There wasn’t a single word of praise from Superman, only criticism, and Steve watched with sadness as the light in Superboy’s eyes died.
Steve wanted to reassure Superboy again, maybe even invite him out to the mansion or for dinner to show his gratitude, when Iron Man grabbed his shoulder and addressed him. “I thought I told you to escape with Pepper.”
“You ignored me, put yourself in danger and almost got killed.”
“Tony, there were innocent—”
“You’re so cute when you play hero.”
“Tony,” Steve growled. He really wished he had his shield.
“Come on, I’ll give a hero’s reception in bed, soldier.”
“Wait, what—!?” Steve yelped when Iron Man picked him up bridal style and flew him out of the gaping hole in the hotel wall. He looked down and spotted Superboy, standing in the middle of the trashed ballroom, alone in the swarm of people below. Alone and angry.
Steve decided that he was going to change that.
“Here is all of SHIELD’s information on Young Justice,” Natasha held out several folders to Steve, who accepted them gratefully and thanked her thoroughly. “You know, Tony could have easily gotten this for you.”
“I know, but Tony’s been busy and I don’t want to bother him.” Technically that wasn’t a lie, but Steve also didn’t want to make Tony worry by telling him about his little investigation.
“Like Tony could ever say no to you.” Natasha smirked at him. “Why do you want know about the Justice League sidekick club anyway?”
Steve tried to act casual. “I’ve run into them a few times in the last month, I thought it would be good to know what they can do.”
“Makes sense, they were in both Metropolis and Gotham when Tony was. Do you think the League is watching Iron Man?”
The thought had honestly never passed through Steve’s head, but now that it had been introduced he couldn’t rule it out as a possibility. Not that he was suspicious of the kids, they were a good bunch, but he wouldn’t put it past the Justice League. And it would give him a good excuse to look into their group a little more without drawing attention to himself. If he found anything that might be a concern to Tony, then he’d bring it to light, and if not, then he could still dig deeper into Superboy and Superman’s relationship or lack thereof.
“I just want to be informed.” Steve made sure to use his protective tone of voice. It was usually the tone he used when Tony wasn’t taking care of himself or had one too many drinks.
“Uh-huh,” Natasha raised an eyebrow and he knew that his ruse worked. “Well, make sure you don’t step on the League’s toes while you’re marking your territory, Steve.”
Steve frowned and furrowed his brow. “I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes or make anyone upset.”
“Of course you don’t.” Natasha reached up and patted his cheek good naturedly. “Now go home and use your cute little bashful looks on Tony.”
Steve thanked Natasha again and did as she said. Well, he went home at least. He went up to the room that he had setup to be his art studio and office, sat behind the antique, solid oak desk Tony bought him and started looking through the files. Tony had extensive records on the Justice League, but SHIELD’s was more thorough. Tony’s information was mostly about their abilities and powers, anything to gain an advantage during a fight, but SHIELD’s records were almost like a biography and it looked like Natasha was able to get her hands on some classified information. Such as the location of Young Justice’s base, not that something like a mountain base could be kept from SHIELD. Or like a supposedly secret giant space station orbiting the Earth. Even Steve knew that was less than subtle, though he thought it was really cool.
Tipping back in his chair, Steve was concerned over the fact that apparently two of the members of Young Justice lived at the base, Miss Martian and Superboy. From SHIELD’s report Red Tornado lived there as well. Red Tornado was a valiant hero, Steve had no doubt about that, but he wondered what kind of parent the android was. He wasn’t terribly worried about Miss Martian, she was the Martian Manhunter’s niece and the Martian Manhunter had been observed visiting the base several times a week. And Miss Martian seemed like a well-adjusted young lady, who always had a large smile on her face. But there were no observations of Superman visiting the base and Superboy did not make regular tips into Metropolis. And from the reports he saw from Metropolis, any interaction between Superboy and Superman consisted of Superboy trying to help Superman and then Superman hastily leaving once everything was over.
Steve closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. Miss Martian always smiled, Superboy never did.
Going back to the files, it looked like Superboy patrolled Happy Harbor when he wasn’t on missions. There was a low level SHIELD facility not far from there, probably Fury’s way of telling the League that yeah, they knew that the League had a base there. The facility would be a good excuse for Captain America to be in the area.
Hiding the files in his desk and writing a note to Tony not to wait up for him, Steve went on a fieldtrip to Happy Harbor. Actually, it took a few nights before he ran into Superboy. And when they met again, the teen didn’t look very happy about seeing Captain America.
“What are you doing here?” Superboy demanded. “You’ve been here all week.”
Superboy found him not far from SHIELD’s base and Captain America was thinking of going straight home. Tony was beginning to whine about the fact that Steve wasn’t at home all day. But since Superboy was there he might as well stick around. “I’ve had some business with SHIELD,” he answered diplomatically. He was volunteering his services in training some of the new agents at the base.
“Doesn’t SHIELD operate in New York and LA?”
“We do have a presence in other parts of the country,” Captain America countered lightly.
Superboy hesitated. “Well, that doesn’t explain why you’ve been hanging out in Happy Harbor.”
So his presence did catch their attention. “Well, I’ve never been to Rhode Island before. You know, I’ve spent most of my life in New York and I never visited most of New England. In the thirties we didn’t have the money to go on trips, or anything really, and then there was the war and we were all busy putting our resources into the war effort. Nowadays I’m busy with the Avengers and SHIELD, though I guess it wouldn’t hurt to take a small vacation now and then, Mr. Stark always says I should.”
The teen stared, obviously confused as to why Captain America was telling him all of this.
“You’re from this area, right?” Superboy made no indication that he was, but that didn’t discourage Captain America. “There’s a pizza place just down the street that I wanted to try, come on, it’s my treat.”
When Superboy didn’t budge from where he was standing, Captain America just smiled.
“I’ve been told it’s a good pizza place. There’s this thing called Yelp and Hawkeye told me that I should look at it if I want to go to a good restaurant. Mr. Stark put the Yelp on my phone, he calls it an app.”
Finally Superboy relented and followed Captain America to go get pizza. It was pretty late into the night and the restaurant was almost empty. The young man at the counter stared at Captain America, unsure if he was the real deal or just in a really good costume, but either way the young man took Captain America’s order without question. Captain America got their pizza and a couple of sodas to go and the pair sat in an empty park nearby to eat.
“How is school?” School had to be a safe subject, better than sidekicks at least.
Superboy washed down his pizza with his soda and answered blandly, “Haven’t gone.”
“Oh.” Oh. He wasn’t very good at this.
“It hasn’t started yet,” Superboy clarified in lightly frustrated tone and grabbed another slice.
“I guess it is kind of early for that, but I’m sure you’ll have a good time in high school. You’ll be a shoe in for the football team for sure.” He grinned at the teen, who didn’t seem too pleased about his comment.
“Not after I almost killed Iron Man’s boyfriend,” Superboy snorted.
The self-deprecation broke Captain America’s heart, he could remember when he had those kinds of thoughts about himself when he had been too small and weak to do anything. He would set the record straight though. “I know both Mr. Stark and Mr. Rogers pretty well and they only have the nicest things to say about you. Actually, Mr. Stark is rather angry that the League won’t give him an address to send you a gift for saving Mr. Rogers.”
The teen’s eyes flickered over to Captain America. “A gift?”
“He said something about a device that will revolutionize videogames.” He wasn’t quite sure what it did differently, only that Tony said that it would put the Wii, PS3 and X-Box to shame. Which was impressive, because Steve really liked the Wii. “I’ll try to deliver it to you for him.”
“It doesn’t matter.” Superboy’s eyes dropped down to his piece of pizza and silence fell between the two of them.
“What’s your name?” Captain America broke the silence, but then he realized that was probably the wrong thing to ask. “I mean, you don’t have to tell me, I’m still getting used to superhero etiquette.”
“Superboy.” And when Captain America opened his mouth, Superboy said, “Just Superboy.” That must have struck something in the teen, because he turned his head away from Captain America, clearly annoyed.
Steve’s heart broke even more at that statement. “Well, then next time we see each other we’ll think of a name together. We can’t have you running around with only a codename.”
Superboy just shrugged. “Whatever.” He got up from the picnic table and was prepared to leave. Captain America thought that he somehow managed to alienate the teen beyond repair, but then Superboy paused and said as an afterthought, “Thanks for the pizza.”
“Anytime,” Captain America beamed as the teen leapt into the air.
Captain America stood there in the darkness, thinking about his encounter with Superboy. He felt like he was getting through to the teen, even if it was only a little bit. But the more he learned, the more the truth depressed Steve and the more he wanted to help. The more he was reminded of the isolation of being new to the world, of waking up all of a sudden and there’s no one who understands. As Steve stared off in the direction that Superboy had disappeared in, he knew he had to get home or he’d mope all night.
Once he got home and changed out of his uniform, Steve went downstairs to the workshop to find Tony. His boyfriend spun around when he heard Steve’s approach, goggles on, hair sticking up in different directions and greasy smudges on his t-shirt, obviously working on something. Tony pushed off his goggles and smirked, but he dropped it when he saw the small frown tugging on Steve’s lips.
“Hey, what’s wrong?” Tony took a step forward and wrapped his arms around Steve’s shoulders.
“Nothing, it’s nothing.” Steve shook his head, but Tony didn’t believe him. “I just … I need …” He put his hands on Tony’s hips. He just needed Tony, he needed to feel something other than despair. “If you’re not …”
“Never too busy for you.” Tony kissed the corner of his mouth and Steve sighed with contentment. “Let’s go upstairs and I’ll take care of you,” Tony murmured. “All you’ll have to do is lie back and watch me ride you.”
No matter what they’ve done in the bedroom, Steve was convinced that he would never stop blushing at the things Tony said.
The next day, a reenergized Steve walked into a bookstore while he was running some errands. He told himself he was just going to buy a new novel to read, but he found himself moving towards the section that was cheerfully labeled “Parenting” and he stood there, not knowing what he was looking for. He caught sight of a book on baby names, so he grabbed it and flipped through the pages. A few young women were hanging around the section, staring at Steve, a tall, handsome man, who was looking at baby books.
Feeling self-conscious, Steve clutched onto his book and went to the cashier to purchase it.
Superboy thought it’d be best to ask Robin about Captain America. Captain America was a part of the Avengers and the Avengers and the Justice League were not on speaking terms, but looked like the Captain had forgotten about that and it confused Superboy greatly. If anyone knew what was going on, it was Robin. He cornered the Boy Wonder in the kitchen, where he and Wally were making a snack. Wally sounded like he knew a lot about Captain America, so it wouldn’t hurt to ask him too.
“What do you two know about Captain America?”
Robin lifted an eyebrow, but Wally spoke up before he could say anything. “You’re interested in the Captain?” Wally sounded eager. “Let me get my comic books!” And he zipped out of the kitchen.
Robin laughed at their friend and tilted his head to the side. “You probably know as much as I do. He’s a war hero from World War II.”
“And he punched Nazis in the face!” Wally added as he came back into the kitchen and gave Superboy his comics.
“He was in a plane that went down in the Arctic during the war and was frozen there until SHIELD found him over a year ago.”
Superboy frowned, he already knew all of that.
“I wish someone like Batman had found him,” Wally pouted, “and then Captain America would’ve been a part of the Justice League!”
“What do you mean by that?” Superboy’s frown deepened. Was Captain America forced to work for SHIELD just because they found him? For some reason that thought made Superboy angry.
“Captain America is devoted to his team, but he just wants to fight for freedom and justice and all that kind of stuff. He probably would’ve joined the League if we had found him,” Robin explained. “He’s the kind of guy who wants us all to play nice and fight together for the greater good, must be a military thing.”
“Or an awesome Captain America thing,” Wally said, his arms flailing about. “That’s why he helped us out with Grundy. Because he’s awesome like that.”
Considering what Captain America told him before, Superboy wasn’t terribly surprised about the Captain’s optimism over working together. “Everyone seems to like him,” he observed. “Unlike the rest of the Avengers.”
“Well, yeah,” Robin gave him a lopsided smile, “because we all grew up learning about Captain America in school and all of a sudden he’s back. And the first thing he did was help the Avengers save the world.”
“And how can you dislike a guy who punched Nazis in the face?” Wally was in the middle of the kind of hero worship that usually only came up when he talked about the Flash. “Even if he is an Avenger it’d be unpatriotic to dislike Captain America. And the guy gave us autographs! Did you see the magazine he signed for Artemis and Megan? If you asked Batman and Superman to sign a photo that made them look like a couple you’d be dead, but Cap signed it without blinking. Nothing bothers Cap.”
“Does anyone know his civilian id?” Superboy asked.
“No,” Robin shook his head. “From what I’ve heard, they pretty much keep him cooped up at SHIELD’s HQ in New York.”
Hearing Robin say that he was kept hidden away in SHIELD’s headquarters made Superboy feel oddly sympathetic. Superboy looked down at the stack of comic books in his hands and stared down at the stylized picture of Captain America heroically charging alone towards a group of Nazis. It was hard to imagine someone like Captain America, a genuine hero according to Wally and Robin, running around with a group of loose cannons like the Avengers.
Wally grabbed one of the comics from the stack and held it up to Superboy. The cover had a picture of Captain America and the first Flash fighting together on the frontlines of the war. “This one is my favorite! Man, how awesome would it be if Cap and the first Flash really did fight together?”
Robin looked at the stack and snatched one that had Captain America with a teenage sidekick. “I like this one, though from what I’ve learned Sergeant Barnes was actually the same age as Captain America, if not older.”
They settled in the living room to look through the comics. They didn’t really tell Superboy much about Captain America, but he was beginning to understand why everyone liked him. He was a legend, a real live hero who served his country. And after running into him a few times, Superboy had to admit that Captain America was a nice guy.
After spending the rest of the afternoon reading comic books with Wally and Robin, Superboy went out in the evening, drawn back towards SHIELD’s facility right outside of Happy Harbor. It wasn’t a large base, Robin had mentioned once that its presence was there just to annoy the Justice League. But there must have been something important there if Captain America was visiting it, Superboy thought. Superboy was just going to find out what SHIELD and a prominent member of the Avengers was doing there. That’s all.
He didn’t have to wait long before Captain America emerged from the building with a backpack slung over his shoulder. The man noticed Superboy standing at the outskirts of the base right away. His face lit up and he waved to Superboy, approaching him with a cheerful expression.
“Good evening, Superboy,” Captain America greeted him.
Superboy just nodded.
“Are you hungry? I feel like burgers. There’s a place not far from here and the Yelp said that it’s supposed to have the best milkshakes in Happy Harbor.”
“You’re pretty comfortable with technology,” Superboy commented, actually making an effort to start a conversation.
“Well, not really, but I’m getting used to it. And I just really like the Yelp, it has yet to let me down, though I don’t always like the comments people write. There’s no need to be rude.”
Like the time before, Captain America treated Superboy to dinner and they went back to the empty park they had pizza in. There was something surreal about a World War II hero handing him a bag of burgers and fries along with a strawberry milkshake, acting like it was the most natural thing in the world. Which it wasn’t. None of it seemed real. He watched the older hero eat and he was vaguely reminded of Kid Flash from the amount of food that Captain America could put away. A high metabolism like Kid Flash, but with table manners.
“What’s in the backpack?” Superboy asked eventually. It could easily be SHIELD secrets, weapon designs, classified information on the Justice League—
Captain America wrinkled his nose. “Personnel files and paperwork.”
Or personnel files and paperwork. If anyone else from SHIELD or the Avengers had said it, Superboy wouldn’t have believed them, but he was under the impression that Captain America wouldn’t lie.
“I came up with some names.” Captain America told him brightly once they were finishing up their burgers.
“I don’t know why you think I need one. It’s not important, I am the Superboy, a clone and weapon,” Superboy replied automatically.
“No! It is important! You’re not just a clone or a weapon, you’re a person! Not commodity that people can use when they feel like it, telling you what to do, who to fight, who to talk to, who to be.” Captain America’s voice had a hint of desperation that Superboy left him wondering if the Captain was talking about Superboy or himself. Or maybe both. “You should have a proper name,” Captain America plowed on, the edge in his tone dying down. “Because that’s what everyone needs.”
“Fine.” Superboy didn’t really care, but it seemed to mean a lot to Captain America. “What were you thinking?”
The older hero perked up. “Um, how about James?”
He shook his head, it didn’t sound right.
“Ok, not James then. Howard?”
That sounded worse.
Not him at all.
Superboy grimaced. “Like Iron Man?”
“I didn’t think you’d like that one, but I think it’s a perfectly good name. That’s ok though, I have a whole list.” Captain America held up a list of names.
Superboy didn’t know how long he suffered through names, until something caught his attention. “Conner?”
Captain America paused, a small smile appearing. “Conner.”
“It’s not bad. Conner. It’s better than Anthony at least. Yeah, ok, I like Conner.”
“Conner it is then.” The small smile became a wide grin and held his hand out to Superboy. “Conner, I’m S—”
“I don’t want to know,” he interrupted quickly and the older man’s grin died and he lowered his hand. “I mean, it’s probably better that I don’t know,” Superboy hastily amended himself. “Justice League and everything.”
A half smile appeared. “You’re right.” Captain America stood up. “It’s getting late, we should both start heading home.”
Something like panic bubbled up in Superboy’s chest and he had the horrible feeling that he was being dismissed. It was the same feeling he got when Superman brushed him off. Typical, Superboy thought, they were all the same, both the Justice League and the Avengers. That panic quickly turned to anger, but it faded at the genuine smile on Captain America’s face. Superman never smiled at him.
“Maybe next time we can get Chinese takeout?” Captain America suggested hopefully. “I’ve had a craving for it, but none of my friends like it as much. Well, the Hulk does, but he always wants the last eggroll.”
The promise of future plans made Superboy relax. He shouldn’t though. Everyone liked Captain America, but he was still an Avenger and Superboy was affiliated with the Justice League. But honestly, what harm could come of it? And it wasn’t like Superboy was going to let the Justice League tell him what to do.
“Yeah, that’d be ok and I won’t take the last eggroll.” Superboy agreed and the smile he got for it almost blinded him.
“Oh, before I forget, this is for you.” Captain America took something out of the bag he had and held out a wrapped package to him. “It’s a thank you gift from Mr. Stark and Mr. Rogers.”
He took the package, it was wrapped in red and gold Iron Man wrapping paper. “Tell them thanks.” And he left before Captain America could do anything else to surprise him.
Back at Mount Justice, Robin and Wally almost died of envy. Wally was envious because he saw Captain America again and Robin was envious because he received a gaming console, accessories and games from Stark Industries that wasn’t supposed to come out until Christmas. While Robin scanned the gaming console for any recording and tracking devices (none were found), Megan noticed another, smaller box that came with the package.
Opening up the box, Superboy found himself staring at a framed drawing of himself. The drawing was done in pencil, carefully detailed and shaded. He was in mid leap, ready to take to the air in a heroic pose. The lines of his face were softened, not his usual expression of anger, but rather one of pride and determination. In the bottom right corner was Steve Rogers’s signature.
“It’s beautiful,” Megan gasped and Artemis hummed in agreement.
“It is an excellent likeness of you, my friend.” Kaldur admired the picture.
Later Superboy put the framed drawing on his desk in his room. Megan lightly tapped on the doorframe and Superboy motioned her to come in. She slipped into the room and she picked up the drawing. “It’s a really beautiful drawing of you,” her voice was low and filled with wonder.
Superboy’s heart pounded in his chest as he watched her. Her fingertips slid over the glass of the frame, tracing the dark pencil lines. He wanted to say something, anything, the right thing.
“What do you think of the name Conner? You know, for me?”
Megan’s eyes lit up. “Conner is one of my favorite names! It’s a wonderful name for you.”
He looked away. “Yeah, it is.”
Superboy stopped as he passed by the kitchen and Megan’s voice softly called out to him.
“Going out again, Conner?” Megan asked as she pulled her lasagna out of the oven. Megan and the team had taken a liking to his new name, taking every opportunity to use it. They seemed to like it more than he did.
“Yeah.” He felt guilty when he saw all the food she made, knowing that she’d be eating it by herself.
“Ok,” she said cheerfully. “Kaldur is coming by soon, I think he’s spending the night, so you won’t miss him.”
That made him feel better and the guilt in him eased. “Good. I shouldn’t be out long.” He moved to leave.
He stopped again.
“I don’t know what …” Megan trailed off and Conner tensed. “I just wanted to say that you seem happier lately,” she tried again and a smile formed on her lips, “and I’m really glad.”
“Uh, yeah.” Conner hurried along, grabbing his jacket as he left the confines of the cave.
Superboy went out to the SHIELD facility, staying well out of sight from the guards, waiting for Captain America to come out. This time Captain America had mentioned something about Italian food, the man enjoyed trying new restaurants a little too much. Maybe next time Conner would bring something Megan made, he didn’t know how much home cooking the older man got and he might appreciate the change.
They had met a few times after Conner had chosen a name, eating together each time and one time Captain America had brought a Frisbee with an eager grin. It had been an interesting game, the man had excellent aim and Superboy had a lot of super strength to spare. They stopped when they accidently knocked down a tree and the next time they met they planted a new one in its place at the older hero’s insistence. And when Captain America realized that Superboy wasn’t really one for talking or for answering questions about himself, the older man started telling Superboy stories from the war. Conner found himself listening eagerly as Captain America told him tales of the brave Sergeant Barnes, the brilliant Dr. Abraham Erskine, the fearless Howling Commandos, the tough Colonel Philips and the strong Agent Carter.
Captain America was consistent, a solid presence in Superboy’s life. But it was beginning to dig into Conner that he was spending time with an Avenger. Even if Captain America was a hero to the entire country, if not the world, he was still a part of the Avengers and the last time Superboy checked, the Avengers and the Justice League didn’t play together. He wasn’t sure what his friends would think of it, besides Wally being jealous, and he knew Batman’s head would explode from paranoia and anger. Superman probably wouldn’t even be able to look at him. But Superboy wasn’t one to let others tell him what to do, even if meeting with the Captain tugged on his conscious.
Shaking off those thoughts, Conner watched out for Captain America and wondered idly if the Captain would finish his story about his first mission with the Howling Commandos. An hour crept beyond their agreed meeting time and he became progressively more frustrated as he stood in the darkness. Another half hour passed and Conner left in a huff, feeling like an idiot and returning to the cave angrier than he had been in a long time. He shouldn’t have gotten his hopes up, he shouldn’t have been risking his loyalty with the team for someone who would abandon him like Superman. It had been too good to be true.
As he stomped past the living room, Megan waved at him, catching his attention. Both she and Kaldur had been sitting on the couch and she watching the TV intently, which wasn’t unusual. But when Conner looked at the TV, Megan’s usual shows weren’t on, instead it was live coverage of an attack on LA by several robots and the Avengers were in action. Superboy barely had time to process what he was watching when Wally came racing into the cave, throwing himself on the couch to watch what was happening. Not long after Wally, Robin and Artemis appeared.
“Are those Iron Men?” Artemis leaned in closer to the screen. “I mean, they look like really bad copies of Iron Man.”
“Do we have any info about what’s going on?” Wally asked.
Robin accessed his computer, running various news feeds and the Justice Leagues own surveillance. The two organizations might not communicate with one another, but they did monitor each other’s’ missions, especially the public ones. Robin narrowed his eyes behind his sunglasses and reported, “It looks like it’s an attack by Justin Hammer on Stark’s corporate headquarters in LA. I guess Hammer didn’t get the memo that Stark moved to New York while he was in jail.”
“It has spilled over into the streets,” Kaldur observed quietly. “Hammer does not care who he harms to get his revenge on Iron Man.”
“Typical villain,” Robin spat. “At least the Avengers had the sense not to let the Hulk run loose this time.”
Conner tore his eyes away from his friends and his gaze landed on the TV in time to watch one of the robots grab and toss Captain America high up into the side of a building and hit him dead on with a bright blast. The Captain started falling limply towards the ground below and all of Young Justice held their breath and let it out when Thor made a saving catch. Then all hell broke loose when Iron Man attacked the poor copies of his armor with vengeance and Thor happily joined him. The robots were so preoccupied with the God of Thunder and Iron Man, that they completely ignored Black Widow and Hawkeye, which was a mistake. Especially since Black Widow had what looked to be a mini rocket launcher on her.
After that the fight was pretty much over. The Avengers quickly took control of the situation and the robots were reduced to scraps of metal. SHIELD agents rolled in, collecting what remained of the robots and took them away. None of that mattered to Conner though as he couldn’t stop staring at Captain America, who was slowly getting to his feet with Hawkeye’s help, and Iron Man was quickly at his side. The tension that had been built up Conner finally faded away when he saw Captain America move.
Wally sighed loudly with relief. “Man, they took a bad beating there.”
“Yeah, good thing for them Hammer makes some pretty poor quality robots,” Robin agreed.
Megan slumped back into the couch. “I hope they’re all ok.”
Tuning out his friends, Conner took a moment to feel ashamed for getting so upset, he should have figured that Captain America had been called away by an emergency. Instead he had quickly assumed the worst, even though he knew that Captain America was an Avenger first. His duty was to fight the bad guys, just like the Justice League did and that meant having to drop everything at a moment’s notice. The Avengers didn’t have the luxury of someone handing them missions when it was convenient, when it fit into their schedules, like Young Justice did. Captain America’s priority wasn’t to hang out with someone like Superboy, it was to protect the innocent.
A couple of nights later Superboy waited outside of SHIELD’s facility, knowing that he wouldn’t see Captain America, but he hoped he’d overhear something about the hero and his condition. From what he could pick up from guards and employees heading in and out of the building, Conner learned that the Captain was going to be out for at least two weeks on medical leave. He had been injured pretty badly during the fight in LA, but he was a fast healer and was being taken care of.
Once Conner had gotten all the information he wanted, he started to head back to Mount Justice, but the sound of someone approaching made him stop. He was surprised to see Captain America, holding himself a bit stiffly, favoring his left leg over his right and his right arm was in a sling but no cast. Despite that, Captain America looked more concerned about Superboy than his own state.
“I’m sorry I missed our meeting,” Captain America frowned, sounding regretful over the fact that he had to help save a city instead of eating Italian food with Superboy.
Conner shook his head and eyed Captain America’s injuries warily, he wasn’t even sure if the Captain should be up and about now. “You had more important things to do.”
“You’re important too,” the man insisted. “It’s ok if you’re mad at me.”
“I’m not mad!” Conner snapped, then reigned himself in. “I was … disappointed,” he admitted, “but I understand, you’re an Avenger and you have responsibilities. I’m … I’m just glad you’re ok.”
Captain America was visibly relieved. “Good, I mean, not that you were disappointed, but, well, you know.”
“Yeah.” He scraped his boot against the ground and glared at the older man. “Why are you here? Shouldn’t you be recovering?”
“Uh, yeah, but I wanted to apologize and explain why I wasn’t here earlier. I should probably leave soon, before Mr. Stark finds out that I snuck out and he comes looking for me.”
Superboy crossed his arms and suddenly felt fiercely protective. “Why would it be any of Iron Man’s business what you do? You’re a grown man, you don’t have to listen to anything he or SHIELD says.”
The man blinked with surprise. “No, no one’s telling me what to do. Mr. Stark is just concerned about me, he just feels particularly guilty since the attack was retaliation against him.”
“You mean he wants you to stay at SHIELD’s HQ like a good boy.” That came out with more bitterness than even Superboy expected.
“I haven’t lived at SHIELD’s headquarters since the first month after they found me. And Mr. Stark was the one who helped me to find a place in New York, he always hated my room at the HQ.” He smiled fondly at the memory. “Conner,” his voice was gentle, “they don’t keep me caged up or hidden from the world. I have a home now.”
Superboy deflated as all of the outrage left him.
“What about you?” Captain America asked quietly. “Do you have a home?”
The question was unexpected. There was Mount Justice, it was where he lived and where his friends gathered. The few things he owned were there and Megan was there. When his friends were there the mountain actually felt alive, but when no one was there it was just a cave. And sometimes when it was quiet, the stillness and the lack of natural light reminded Conner of the basements of Cadmus.
Conner shrugged and chose not to answer the question.
“You know, if you ever want a place to stay or just want to visit New York, I’ll always have a room open for you.”
The invitation was casual, but genuine and warm. In Superboy’s mind, he could easily picture what the Captain’s home might look like. An old house outside of the city with a well maintained yard, a place with lots of windows, a cheesy welcome mat and friendly neighbors. The type of home that Megan’s TV shows often portrayed. Something curled in Conner’s stomach, something warm and tempting. And envious.
“You should leave,” Superboy said sharply, but the expression that washed over Captain America’s features made Conner feel like he just kicked a puppy. “You’re hurt. You should go and get some rest, I heard you’re on medical leave.”
Captain America smiled a little. “That’s what they tell me.”
“Go rest,” Conner repeated. “I’ll be here next week. We’ll get tacos.”
The smile got bigger. “I look forward to it.”
Conner shoved his hands into the pockets of his jacket and muttered, “Me too.”
Steve stared at the mostly empty guestroom. It had the bare essentials of a bedroom, a bed, a nightstand and a closet, but it was unoccupied. There were no personal touches and while it was bright with plenty of natural light, there was no color to the room. The only person who ever used it was Thor when the God of Thunder had too much to drink and Steve had to haul him upstairs to sleep it off or risk the wrath of Jane Foster.
Holding up the paint samples in his hand, Steve frowned. Dark blue would make the room look too drab, but the light blue would make the room look too much like a nursery. Red might be a better option. He held up the red samples and wondered if they would be too bold. He was good at painting and drawing, but somehow interior decorating was just beyond his grasp. Maybe if he sketched how he wanted the room to look like he’d have a better idea about which colors to use. Sitting down on the edge of the bed, Steve opened up the IKEA catalog he picked up earlier. He might be having a hard time picking paint colors for the room, but he had some good ideas for furniture choices.
“Did you seriously bring an IKEA catalog into the mansion!?” Tony all but screeched.
Steve blinked, staring at Tony, who was standing in the open doorway. “The lady at Home Depot told me that IKEA had good quality furniture for reasonable prices and all I have to do is assemble the furniture.”
“You went to Home Depot?”
“To get paint samples.”
“You want to use paint from Home Depot and furniture from IKEA in our home?”
“Yes.” Steve didn’t think his catalog and paint samples were that bad, but this was Tony, who wouldn’t let Steve stock up on food because it was on sale or buy his clothes from Sears.
Tony rubbed his face and sighed. “And why are you suddenly interested in home design?”
“This room is plain, it’s boring.”
“Uh-huh. Ok, I need to talk to Fury about getting you back on active duty, you obviously don’t have enough to do.”
“I have plenty to do.” Steve stuck out his bottom lip, even though he was getting rather restless while on medical leave and most of his injuries were healed.
Tony threw his hands up into the air. “And don’t you dare buy anything from IKEA or let Home Depot paint touch these walls, I’ll get you real furniture and paint.”
Tony disappeared from the room and Steve just shook his head. He was used to Tony’s eccentric ways. Before it used to make him angry because he didn’t understand, then it worried him, and now Steve was more concerned when Tony wasn’t acting eccentric.
He went to his office and took out a sketchbook, but his mind began to wander as he worked on the outline of the room. Steve had started redecorating the guestroom with Conner in mind. The more he learned about Conner, the more Steve wanted to do for him. Somehow visits into Happy Harbor and talking didn’t feel like enough to Steve, not when the boy was sitting around in a mountain, waiting for a new mission to get him out and about.
Conner had his friends and Miss Martian lived with him, but they were all kids. Steve remembered growing up, his mother working long hours before she died and his father had passed on when he was young, and Bucky had a similar home life too, leaving them to their own devices. It left Bucky to raise and protect Steve. They obviously both turned out ok, but they missed something without their parents. Conner had a parent though. A parent who for as far as Steve could tell wanted nothing to do with him. To Steve the Martian Manhunter acted more human and more like a father towards his niece than Superman, raised on this planet, did to Conner.
And preparing the room might just be a good idea to have a place for Conner in case he took Steve up on his offer. A place that he could come to and feel at home. A place that had some life to it, where light could come in and there were always people who cared. A home was an important place to have and Conner needed one.
Putting down his pencil, Steve went to the bookshelf and his hand gripped his old photo album. It had been neatly tucked away in his trunk when he was in the army and thankfully Howard somehow got a hold of it and kept it. There wasn’t much to his album, but it was a firm reminder of his past. Among his few photos was one from his parents’ wedding, another snapshot of his parents together, a single family portrait, a baby picture of Steve, a portrait of Bucky before he shipped out to Europe, a picture of Howard and Peggy in Howard’s workshop, and a group shot of the Howling Commandos. When Steve closed his eyes, he could still see everyone clearly and hear their voices ringing in his eyes. They were the people who had looked out for him, who cared, even if they were all gone now.
Steve shook his head. He had a new family now, Tony, the Avengers and even Pepper, Happy and Rhodes. They might not be related or have long histories together, but they loved Steve all the same. They had his back and they made the twenty-first century home when Steve believed he’d never have one again.
Did Conner have that? Conner deserved a home and family, but Steve wasn’t sure how to provide it.
Strangely enough, it was Bruce Wayne who gave Steve a solution to his problem.
A few days later Bruce Wayne was in town for business and Tony invited him and his ward, Dick Grayson, over for dinner, claiming that Steve was a great cook. That was a lie, but Tony said that Steve needed something to do that wasn’t redecorating or looking at old photos while he was on leave. It was really sweet actually, Tony was afraid he was brooding over the past and wanted to distract him.
While on his medical leave, Steve noticed that he gained an extra shadow in the form of Tony Stark. After he snuck out to apologize to Conner, Tony threw a huge fit and made Steve promise to stay in town while his injuries healed. As a result, Steve spent a large amount of time redecorating the guestroom, shifting through their old photo albums, drawing and thinking quietly in his office. His behavior was driving Tony up the wall and Steve knew he should talk to Tony about Conner soon, but he didn’t want to worry him until Steve decided exactly how to help Conner. So Tony did the only thing he knew to do, which was to distract Steve by taking him out, inviting people over and by getting naked. Steve really loved Tony.
Dinner had gone pleasantly enough, no one blasting holes in the wall and trying to rob them as Bruce jokingly said. And everyone complimented Steve on his cooking, apparently only Alfred, Bruce’s butler, was better. Dick proved to be a bright and delightful kid, asking Tony about the mechanics behind his Iron Man suit, JARVIS’s AI system and begged to see Tony’s workshop, which Tony claimed was more secretive than the Batcave. Then Tony, Pepper and Bruce turned the conversation to business as they were finishing up dessert, a lovely cake Pepper brought, and Steve caught sight of the young teen rolling his eyes. Dick saw that Steve caught him and gave him a cheeky grin instead of being embarrassed.
Taking pity on Dick, and on himself, Steve leaned over to Dick and whispered loudly, “I’m bored too. We can watch a movie in the other room.”
Dick brightened at the prospect and glanced at Bruce, who gave him a slight nod of approval. The teen got up and followed Steve out of the dining room, making a beeline to Tony’s ridiculously large TV and started looking through all of DVDs. Steve’s heart almost stopped when Dick picked up Band of Brothers, he wasn’t sure if he could watch it without crying. Clint and Bruce Banner learned that the hard way when they brought it over as a gift for Steve.
He let out a breath when Dick chose the new Spider-Man movie. Steve thought it was a good choice, even if Hollywood’s Spider-Man was nothing like the one he knew and the love interest in the movie didn’t hold a candle to Mary Jane. And then there was the small fact that Peter Parker had yet to forgive Tony for sponsoring the movie.
“JARVIS, lights, please.” The lights dimmed appropriately after Steve started the DVD without a mishap. “Thank you, JARVIS.” Even if JARVIS was an AI, Steve still felt weird if he didn’t say please and thank you.
“We totally need to get this for the manor,” Dick said in awe. “After the movie, can I play with JARVIS’s system? I want to program it so that whenever Mr. Stark wakes up it plays that theme song from that Superman TV series.”
Steve chuckled and shook his head. “Maybe next time.”
“Well, maybe by then the Justice League movie will come out, then I can program dialog from the movie into JARVIS,” Dick replied with confidence. “Man, I can’t wait for that to come out.”
“Me too, it looks like it’ll be good,” Steve agreed. “So, you’re a Justice League fan?”
“All the way.”
Steve grinned. “I like the League too, but the Avengers are my favorite.”
“I hope one day the Avengers will get a film.” He thought that would be swell, Steve liked movies a lot and to see their exploits on the big screen would be exciting.
The idea amused Dick. “You do realize that if that happened your character would be the damsel in distress, always being rescued by Iron Man, right?”
Wincing, Steve remembered that most people thought of Captain America and Steve Rogers as two different people. “I would like to think that my character would be there for moral support and occasionally gets to punch the bad guys.”
“Damsel. In. Distress.”
He just ruffled Dick’s hair and the boy laughed even as Steve messed up his carefully slicked back hair. Their attention was soon drawn to the movie with Dick providing a snarky commentary that made Steve chuckle. Dick told Steve about why Hollywood’s explanation on how Spider-Man got his powers was completely unreasonable and how they misrepresented Spider-Man’s abilities. Halfway through the movie though, Steve noticed that Dick’s commentary had ended and he saw that the teen had fallen asleep, slumped over on the couch. Now that he looked closely, Steve could see the dark circles under the kid’s eyes, he figured it was probably from the excitement of travel and late nights. Grabbing the throw blanket off the back of the couch, Steve draped it over Dick and tucked a pillow under his head.
Steve didn’t realize he had fallen asleep himself until his sensitive ears picked up the sound of soft footsteps coming towards him. He could fall asleep while watching TV, but he would always jerk awake at the sound of someone approaching him. Blinking sleepily up at Bruce, Steve moved to wake Dick up, but Bruce shook his head and picked up the young teen instead. Dick probably would’ve protested, but the kid was dead asleep with a thin line of drool coming from the corner of his mouth. And now his head was resting on Bruce’s shoulder, drool pooling on a ridiculously expensive jacket, but the billionaire didn’t seem to care.
“He’s a good kid,” Steve whispered.
“The best,” Bruce’s smile was warm and more genuine than Steve had ever seen it.
Seeing Bruce and Dick together made Steve’s heart ache longingly, they were such a nice little family. Steve was well aware of Bruce’s reputation as a playboy, it rivaled Tony’s, but at that moment Bruce was a father with his son. He wanted that for Conner, that sense of family and belonging, to be someone’s son.
Steve wanted it too. He wanted to be a father.
“This is a great book on adoption,” the kindly saleswoman told Steve, holding the book out to him. “A lot of couples who have adopted kids said this really helped them out. And this one is another good book, especially if you plan on adopting older kids.”
He accepted the books, whispering a thank you as he took them. The saleswoman kept looking at his face, which he tried to hide with his lovingly worn Dodgers baseball cap. Steve Rogers wasn’t nearly as famous as Captain America, but his current relationship with Tony Stark did put him in the limelight. Taking the books, Steve purchased them and grabbed some pamphlets on local private high schools.
Checking his watch as he left the bookstore, Steve started to pick up his pace a bit. He had an important lunch date that day and if he didn’t hurry he’d be late. The restaurant he stepped into was a nice one, but it wasn’t the kind that Tony would usually drag Steve out to, which was why Steve agreed to meet Bruce Wayne there. He took the time to take off his baseball cap, throwing it into his bag, and ran a hand through his hair. He hoped he looked semi presentable in his slacks, button up shirt and brown leather jacket.
The host looked at him with suspicion when Steve told him that he was there to meet with Bruce Wayne. Thankfully Bruce spotted him and led him to his table in a secluded corner of the restaurant. To felt a little too intimate to Steve’s sensibilities for a casual lunch and it didn’t make things better when Bruce helped him out of his jacket, draping it over the chair he had politely pulled out for Steve. Now he knew how Tony felt when he griped about his masculinity when Steve did the same things for him.
Steve sat straight up in his chair and tried not to fiddle with the tablecloth. “Thank you for meeting with me, Mr. Wayne, I know you’re rather busy while you’re here in New York.”
“It’s my pleasure, Steve, and for the last time my name is Bruce.” Bruce smirked at Steve’s manners. “Trust me, you’re better company than my business partners and you make less of a scene than Tony.”
“I usually try to prevent those scenes,” Steve sighed. “But you know how Tony is.”
“Unfortunately, yes. At least he’s calmed down a bit after he started seeing you, I regret ever discouraging him from pursuing you.” Steve’s eyes went wide, but Bruce held up a hand in his defense, “Tony pursued you for almost six months, it was basically harassment, and I was afraid you would have him arrested for stalking. Which would have been completely justified.”
Steve relaxed and smiled sheepishly. His and Tony’s friendship was rocky at the start. Tony had irritated a newly woken up Steve to no end, though Tony claimed it was love at first sight for him. Most likely lust. And as they slowly became friends, Steve had been completely unaware of Tony’s intentions, though Natasha said that it was the most obvious thing in the world. Even when Tony made it clear that he wanted to be with Steve, he had been resistant as Steve had been more worried about the team and their working relationship than a romantic one. Then Tony showed up at his apartment window in his Iron Man suit, holding up a pair of dancing shoes and reservations for dancing lessons for two for the next month. Steve said yes.
“Thankfully it didn’t come to that, though I did have a lot of friends threatening to do something like that,” Steve replied with a laugh. Fortunately Natasha waving her gun in Tony’s face did little to deter him. Bruce and Steve made small talk, ordering their lunches, and once the waiter disappeared, Steve leaned forward in chair and stated, “So, there was something I wanted to talk to you about.”
Bruce had been expecting this. “I’m assuming it’s not about business.”
“No,” Steve shook his head, “it’s kind of personal and I’d really appreciate it if you didn’t mention this to Tony.”
Bruce lifted an eyebrow and after a pause nodded in agreement.
“I was … I was just wondering …” Steve tried to figure out what to say while Bruce waited patiently. “When you took in Dick, do you think … Was it … Was it the right decision? To become a father?”
“Taking him in was the best thing I ever did,” Bruce answered without hesitation. “Steve, why are you asking me about Dick?” There was a slight edge to Bruce’s voice, a small hint of a warning.
“I’m just … I’m trying to decide if adoption is a good option for me, and you have Dick and …” Steve trailed off and Bruce relaxed, looking at Steve thoughtfully.
“You want to be a father?”
“I …” Steve bit his lip and nodded. “I came to accept that I might never be a father, but then I met this teen not too long ago. He doesn’t have a whole lot, no mother and his father doesn’t even acknowledge his existence and he lives with friends, he’s never really had a real home. He’s a really great kid, who needs a family and I want to be able to give that to him.”
“Raising a grown child can be difficult, let alone a teenager.” Bruce grew serious. “Dick was nine when I took him in and it wasn’t an easy adjustment, especially after what he had been through. It took a while for me to adjust as well and it has completely changed my life. But I’ve never regretted it. Not for a second.”
“I can tell, from the way you act with him,” Steve said warmly.
“I’m happy that you’re considering parenthood, Steve, but you know that you’ll have to talk to Tony about this. This isn’t something you should do alone, even I had help. A lot of help.”
Steve’s shoulders slumped. He kept wondering if it was fair for him to ask Tony about adopting Conner. He and Tony were in love, there was no doubt about that, but this was asking for a level of commitment they had never discussed. “I know, I’ll talk to Tony soon, but I want to make sure that this is something that I want first. I love Tony, but if I talk to him about this he’s either going to freak out or he’s going to make a really big deal out it. I just really want to be sure before I say anything.”
“I think you already are.”
“Maybe,” he whispered. “No, I am sure. I just … I wonder if I’ll be enough.”
“I’m sure that once Tony has his meltdown, he’ll support you and you’ll be able to give a proper home to any kid.” Bruce smiled encouragingly and chuckled. “Though I don’t envy you for having to tell Tony.”
Steve laughed weakly and focused on enjoying the rest of their lunch. Bruce proved to be good company, though he kept asking Steve questions about himself and Steve did his best to answer as truthfully as he could. Steve found Bruce entertaining and charming, but he got the distinct feeling that he was being studied by the other man. After they fought over who would pay the bill, with Bruce somehow winning, Bruce took out a business card and scribbled down his cell phone number. He held out the card and told Steve to contact him if he had any other questions. Steve slipped the little card into his wallet, his heart light with knowing that he had more than just books to rely on.
Considering Bruce’s advice, Steve thought about talking to Tony, but the mansion was empty when he got home after spending most of the day in the city. That wasn’t unusual, Tony sometimes worked long hours at the office and recently Tony had been taking time off to spend with Steve during his medical leave. Normally the emptiness of the mansion didn’t bother Steve, he was self-efficient enough to find something to do, but now it made him think of Conner, who lived in a large cave with only his friends to look out for him and had nowhere else to go. And it made Steve think of his first month in the twenty-first century, when he lived in SHIELD’s headquarters and while everyone liked Captain America, no one thought twice about Steve Rogers.
Shaking off those thoughts, Steve went to his office to look at his new reading material on adoption and local schools, before hiding them with the book of baby names under a stack of filled up sketchbooks. Leaning back in his chair, Steve closed his eyes as he thought about adopting Conner, not opening his eyes again until he felt Tony touch his shoulder almost an hour later. Steve almost told him, but he saw the tiredness in Tony’s face and decided not to.
“Come on, let’s get you to bed.” Steve got up and took Tony’s hand.
A wicked grin graced Tony’s lips. “Will you wear your Captain America uniform tonight?”
Steve rolled his eyes. “Sleep first.”
“Sex first,” Tony insisted as he hopped up onto Steve’s desk. “Have we done it on your desk yet? Let’s do it just in case we haven’t.”
Ignoring Tony, Steve grabbed him around the waist and slung him over his shoulder.
“The firefighter fantasy, that’s one of my favorites! Oh Mr. Fireman, let me thank you for saving my life!” Tony babbled on.
Steve sighed, he would talk to Tony in the morning about Conner.
But he didn’t. Even as they sat the table for breakfast, bagels and coffee, Steve couldn’t bring up the topic. Steve never got around to telling Tony and they went about their regular routines of work, saving the world, putting up with Nick Fury and hanging out with the other Avengers. And when he didn’t think Tony was paying attention, Steve would slip off to Happy Harbor, having lunch or dinner with Conner and talking. Steve was happy when Superboy started to open up to him, telling him vaguely about missions he’s been on, about his friends and their antics.
Maybe that sense of accomplishment with Superboy was what blinded Steve to the looks that Tony started giving him. It was the kind of look that Tony got when he was trying to figure something out, when one of his equations didn’t make sense or when one of his modifications to his suit didn’t work out the way it should. And being the genius that Tony was, he couldn’t leave things alone when they didn’t add up in his overactive mind. Maybe if Steve hadn’t been daydreaming of becoming a father, of giving Conner a home, then he might have noticed those gazes and seen the wheels turning in Tony’s head.
Then one day, a couple of weeks after Steve’s lunch with Bruce, he and Tony were snuggled on the couch for movie night. They were watching WALL-E, because Steve thought they’d both enjoy it, it was a love story and had robots, something for both of them. Everything was perfect, Tony was curled up to his side with a bowl of popcorn in his lap and with Steve’s arm around his shoulders.
And halfway through the movie suddenly Tony said, “You know I’d give you anything, right?”
Steve blinked, his attention taken away from the movie and transferred to the man leaning against him. “What?”
“I’d give you anything. Anything. You want a family, right? Picket white fence, kids, dog and terrible trips to Disneyland in the summer. I can do that, I can give you that,” Tony kept talking.
“What?” Steve asked again.
“I saw them,” Tony continued, “I saw the books in your office. I wasn’t snooping, I swear, I was looking for something and I found them. Ok, maybe I was snooping, but you’ve been acting weird and I was worried. You want to adopt a baby. We can do that, we’ll get married, have a baby and we’ll get Fury to build a daycare at the HQ. Thor can be the godfather, because he’d be a literal god father.”
Oh. Oh. Steve sucked in a deep breath and decided to cut off Tony’s rant with five simple words.
“I want to adopt Superboy.”
With one short sentence, Steve managed to kill Tony’s train of thoughts and render him speechless.
“I want to adopt Superboy.”
After thirty seconds of a blank mind, Tony’s brain kicked into high gear, retracing the steps of when he found out that Steve wanted a family. It was only a few days ago, he was in his workshop, tinkering with glove of his suit when Steve came in.
“I’m going out, don’t wait up.” Steve gave Tony a kiss. “And if you’re still in the workshop when I get back I’ll personally make sure that you’re in bed promptly at nine pm for the rest of the week.”
“That’s not much of a threat, Cap, especially if you come to bed with me,” Tony murmured, leaning closer to Steve. “Anything I can do to make you stay?”
“Maybe, but the fact that your doohickey over there is on fire doesn’t help your cause.”
Tony spun around and groaned loudly when Dummy failed to put out the fire and had to do it himself. “Bye, Stevie, my love. I’ll be naked and in bed when you get home, scout’s honor!”
Steve pressed a kiss on Tony’s cheek and left the workshop. Tony waited for a few moments before he let out a sigh, wondering about how much Steve went out these days. Not that Steve was a kept man, he had friends, took up commissions to do freelance artwork, worked with SHIELD and the Avengers, he had a life outside of Tony. But Steve was suddenly gone more often, working at the SHIELD facility in Happy Harbor. Normally Tony would assume that his partner was cheating on him, but this was Steve. Captain America could deceive the enemy with his brilliant tactical mind, but when it came to Tony, Steve couldn’t keep a straight face when he ate the last of Tony’s cereal. It had to be something else.
Tony slowly made his way upstairs after Steve left, slipping into Steve’s office and art studio to find something that would give him a clue about Steve’s odd behavior. When he gaze landed on the desk, he noticed a couple of books under a stack of sketchbooks. Tony grabbed them and almost dropped the books once he picked them up. They were books on adoption and baby names. Steve had books on adoption and baby names. Tony didn’t know how long he stood there, staring at the book of baby names. He hardly noticed when Pepper came into the room, looking for him. Apparently he missed a meeting with her or something.
“This is where you went,” she said. “What is this?” Pepper peered over his shoulder.
“It’s Steve’s.” Tony sounded oddly detached from reality.
“Well, it looks like Steve wants to take domestic life to the next level,” Pepper’s voice was light, like she knew something he didn’t, and it was filled with pure evil.
“What am I going to do?” Tony started to panic. “Steve wants a kid.”
“The only thing any man can do,” Pepper answered firmly. “You’re going to marry your boyfriend and adopt a baby with him.”
“Wait, why am I marrying Steve?”
Pepper gave him a look of disbelief. “You mean besides the fact that you two are madly in love and he’s absolutely perfect and you two act like married couple already?” Tony nodded. “Because the man is from the forties. Do you really think Steve will have a kid with you without him getting down on one knee in front of you with a diamond ring and serenading you with love songs?”
That night Tony laid in his bed and thought about the books he found. At first he rejected the idea of doing anything so domestic, despite what Pepper insisted. But then he thought about having a little kid who looked like Steve and had Tony’s brains. A child who had Steve’s courage and Tony’s charm. A tiny boy or girl who Steve would carry around in one strong arm with his or her little head cradled on Steve’s broad shoulder.
And when Steve came home, slipping into their bed with a smile and his blue eyes bright, Tony knew. Yeah, he could totally do the domestic family thing as long as it was with Steve.
That day replayed itself in Tony’s mind and he was jerked back to the present as Steve carefully cupped Tony’s face in his large hands. Steve looked so concerned, afraid that he had broken Tony, which he might have. Because Steve didn’t want to adopt a baby, he wanted to adopt a teenager.
“Tony,” Steve said softly. “Please say something.”
Tony grabbed Steve’s hands, lowering them down into his lap. “Let me get this straight, Steve. You want to take in Superboy?”
“Yes.” Steve nodded with a level of seriousness that Captain America had a copyright on.
Tony felt lightheaded. Superboy. Of all the kids in the world, Steve wanted to adopt the clone of the Justice League’s shining superstar. Superman was basically the Captain America of the Justice League, he was the world’s darling golden boy and Steve wanted to take in his son.
Tony hated the Justice League and Steve wanted a kid from their kindergarten. But Tony had promised to give Steve anything he wanted, not that the other man ever asked for anything, and now he was asking for something. A big something. There would be so much fallout for attempting to adopt Superboy, let alone if they succeeded. At the thought of the backlash, Tony almost felt giddy. The part of him that loved to push people’s buttons, the part of him that rebelled and marveled at his own genius was tickled by the idea of adopting Superman’s son. The part of him who pissed off Steve when they first met, who constantly annoyed Fury, who made Pepper roll her eyes, who made fun of the Justice League at every opportunity, practically demanded that they adopt Superboy.
As he continued to think, Tony was beginning to warm to the idea. And kid himself wasn’t bad at all, he saved Steve’s life, which to Tony meant he deserved a goddamn medal. A kid like that deserved a home and deserved to be Steve’s son. Tony had seen how Superman treated the teen, that night in Gotham when the Man of Steel was more preoccupied with yelling at Superboy than patting him on the back. From his debriefings about the teenage team from SHIELD, he also knew that the boy was sequestered away at their mountain base in Happy Harbor. Tony could sympathize with Superboy, the lack of approval and coldness from a father was something that he knew too well. The kid deserved more.
“Great. I can see the headlines now: Captain America and Iron Man Adopt Superman's Son.” There was a hint of glee to Tony’s tone that Steve seemed to pick up on. “The media is going to have a field day with this, you know. Batman will go all Dark Knight on us, Superman'll throw a hissy fit even though he doesn't care, and we'll forever be in the Justice League's Top Five of their shit list.” Tony waved his hands about, his voice rising with excitement.
Claiming that they’d be on the League’s shit list was an understatement. It was beginning to look like Tony was going to have to line that picket white fence with kryptonite just to keep Superman away. The Justice League was going to despise them. But Tony loved the idea of getting under the League’s skin even more than usual, of rubbing it in Superman’s face that they could provide a family to Superboy when he refused to. He loved the idea of being able to give Steve what he wanted, no matter what it was. He was Tony Stark, he could do anything that he put his mind to.
Plus there was the fringe benefit of Steve being eternally grateful towards Tony if he managed to adopt Superboy. The kind of grateful that promised that Steve would be in his Captain America costume every night in bed if Tony asked for it. Tony could live with that.
Steve saw the gleam in his eyes and heard the enthusiasm in his voice. He gripped Tony’s hands tightly and his smile was bright with relief. “You ready, then?”
Tony’s heart fluttered and his mind raced as he planned his immediate future. First he was going to marry Steve, then adopt Superboy and piss off both the Justice League and Nick Fury at the same time.
“I don’t care if he’s an Avenger, it’s like the Royal Wedding, I have to keep track of it!” Artemis claimed as she tore the remote from Conner’s hand and changed the channel. On the TV screen was the current news coverage of Tony Stark and Steve Rogers’s upcoming wedding, along with a replay of the proposal.
“Oh, I love this! It’s so cute!” Megan sat down next to Artemis as she watched the proposal for the hundredth time.
It was a video from someone’s cell phone of the couple dancing at a garden party thrown by fashion designer Janet Van Dyne when all of a sudden fireworks were launched into the air. The guests of the party all stopped to watch, including Steve Rogers, who turned his head towards Tony Stark, but instead found his boyfriend down on one knee with a small box in his hand. Rogers went red before giving an enthusiastic yes and pulling up Stark to his feet and dipping him down for a Hollywood style kiss.
Stark laughed loudly when Rogers literally swept him off his feet and Stark proclaimed, “Pepper, I’m going to be the prettiest bride there ever was!”
“You are not going to wear white!” Pepper Potts’s disembodied voice told him.
“Oh yes I am!” Stark yelled back and that was the end of video.
“If you had never saved Steve Rogers we wouldn’t have to put up with this,” Wally said to Conner. Conner wasn’t sure why Wally was complaining though, he remembered not too long ago Wally commenting on how good looking Steve Rogers was, which had earned the speedster a glare from Red Arrow.
“Just because you don’t know anything about romance doesn’t mean the world should be deprived of it!” Artemis glared and then indulged herself in watching the latest interview with Tony Stark about the wedding. Steve Rogers was absent from almost all of the interviews, but Stark was eating up the attention and rattled on about how many superheroes and celebrities that were invited to the wedding.
“I heard that they were already secretly married, because Mr. Rogers is such a romantic and private man and Mr. Stark just can’t say no to him,” Megan gushed.
Artemis shrugged at the rumor. “I don’t care when they officially got married as long as I still get to see Steve Rogers in a tux. Iron Man is annoying, but he’s cute and his boyfriend is hot.”
“Seriously man, we have to put up with this for god knows how long!” Wally waved his hands about in outrage. He paused and grinned, “Maybe instead of throwing a bouquet they’ll throw Thor’s hammer or Cap’s shield.”
“I somehow doubt that,” Kaldur murmured with a small smile.
Conner just sighed. Despite Wally’s griping and the media frenzy around the couple, he was happy that he saved Steve Rogers’s life, remembering the praise and gifts he received with some pride. Stark and Rogers were the friends of Captain America, if the Captain approved of them, then they couldn’t be that bad. And Conner vividly remembered the grateful smile on Steve Rogers’s face and the compliments that came so easily from both him and Iron Man.
The only drawback, beyond Artemis and Megan’s constant watching of news coverage of the upcoming wedding, was that it seemed to occupy Captain America’s time. The older hero still made time for Superboy, their routine of grabbing takeout wasn’t interrupted, but Conner could tell something was on his mind. When Conner asked about it, the Captain just gave Superboy a tired smile and said that he was helping with security for the event and even as a close friend of Tony Stark, the man was frankly driving him up the wall.
It shouldn’t bother him, Conner reasoned, Stark wasn’t cutting into his time with Captain America, but the man was obviously tired. And oddly happy.
Conner looked up as Robin snuck into the room and the young teen silently gestured for Superboy to follow him. Curious about what the other boy wanted, Conner got up and left with Robin, his departure doing little to rouse the attention of his friends, they were used to Conner coming and going.
Once they were out of hearing range of the others, Robin told Conner quietly, “Batman wants to see you.”
As he and Robin walked down the halls of Mount Justice, Conner tried to think of a reason why Batman would want to talk to him, their last mission went well enough and he hadn’t had any recent outbursts during training. But his heart sank when he thought about his visits with Captain America, of his friendship with an Avenger. Considering Batman’s paranoia and uncanny ability of knowing everything, Conner became sure that Batman was going to tell him to stop talking to the Avenger or even worse, accuse him of betraying his team. He tried to think if he revealed any secrets to Captain America, he had talked about some of their missions, but mostly in terms of who he punched. And he’s told the older hero about his powers and some of his teammates’ abilities, but those weren’t much of a secret.
They stopped at a conference room and Robin gripped Conner’s arm with sympathy. “You’re not in trouble, you know,” the Boy Wonder said.
Conner tensed under the contact, causing Robin to squeeze his arm and a small frown tugged on his lips. Conner relaxed and did his best to smile despite the uncharacteristic nervousness fluttering in his stomach. He tried to think of what Captain America might do to comfort someone, so he placed his hand over Robin’s, patting it awkwardly, and said, “Thanks.”
Robin looked satisfied and let go of Conner, letting Superboy slip into the conference room alone. Batman was waiting for him, looming over the large table in the room, not bothering to sit down despite all of the chairs in the room. Suddenly Superboy understood why Wally was so intimidated by Batman sometimes as he came to the ridiculous realization that he’s never seen the Dark Knight actually sit down before. He was always standing, asserting his control over everything.
Conner stopped in front of Batman, eyeing a stack of papers on the table near the older man. A flare of rage passed through him, thinking that the papers might be reports of surveillance on him. Conner’s jaw tightened, his nervousness turning into outrage. He had every right to do what he wanted, if he wanted to talk to Captain America then he would and not even Batman would stop him. He wasn’t betraying his team to the Avengers and if the team wanted to talk about that issue with Superboy then he’d listen as he owed his friends his complete loyalty. But he didn’t owe anything to Batman or the Justice League. Or Superman.
Before Superboy could lash out, Batman picked up the papers and held them out to Conner, saying, “These are orders from a judge, placing you in the temporary custody of Steve Rogers and Tony Stark.”
The words almost didn’t make sense to Conner and he flipped through the papers in his hands with urgency. Phrases like ‘child neglect’ and ‘lack of parental supervision’ leapt out at him, deepening his confusion. Instead of trying to read anymore, Conner crumpled the sheets in his hands. “What is this!?”
“Stark’s attorneys have raised a petition to the courts to place you under his and Rogers’s custody, citing that you lack a guardian and are being neglected by the Justice League,” Batman stated dryly, with no indication of how he felt.
“And what are you going to do about it!?” Superboy demanded.
“There is nothing we can do now except obey the orders.”
Conner’s head was swimming. “What do you want me to do then? Spy on Stark and the Avengers?” An undercover mission made sense, that was the only explanation, the only reason why Batman would let this happen.
“Then what am I supposed to do about this?” Conner shook the orders in his fist.
“We will work something out, but at the end of the week you will go to New York and … enjoy yourself.” Batman’s voice sounded less severe and it made Conner stare. “Think of it as an opportunity to experience life outside of Mount Justice and Happy Harbor.”
Batman ignored his outburst and continued, “Since you have been discreet with Captain America, I am sure I don’t have to tell you that what goes on during your missions, with the team and the League is classified and not to be discussed with Stark or Rogers. Especially Stark.”
A flush of anger and embarrassment about being caught crept up Superboy’s neck. Of course Batman knew, but he wasn’t mad like Conner had imagined. There was no edge to his words or threat in his voice. Instead there was a thick veil of neutrality and Conner found himself wishing that Robin had stayed to translate for him. And maybe for some moral support.
“Why would they want me anyway?” Unlike Batman, Conner couldn’t mask his emotions and his frustration and confusion was evident.
“They apparently took an interest in your wellbeing after the incident in Gotham.”
“And what am I supposed to tell the team?” Conner stared down at the crumpled orders and his heart felt heavy. It was bad enough he saw Captain America on a regular basis in secret, now he was being taken in by Iron Man and his fiancé.
“Is there anything else I need to know?” He snarled. “Besides go pack my bags?”
“There is nothing else. I will keep you updated on the situation.”
That situation was his life and for the second time in his short existence everything he’s known has been turned upside down. First he was the weapon of Cadmus, designed to take down or even replace Superman if there was a need to. Then he was part of a team, an indestructible force to protect his friends and to be on hand when missions came up. Now Conner was being told to go to a mansion in New York to be under the care of an Avenger, probably used to taunt the Justice League. Conner’s mouth thinned out into a firm line and he almost growled at Batman. Turning on his heel, he stormed out of the room before Batman could say anything else and before he became too tempted to throw the Dark Knight across the room. He imagined Robin wouldn’t approve of that very much.
Robin was sitting out in the hallway, his computer up and playing Angry Birds without much enthusiasm. He scrambled to his feet once he saw Conner and was at his side in an instant. “So, how did it go? You ok?”
Instead of answering Robin, he just shoved the judge’s orders at the Boy Wonder and marched out of the cave, ignoring his friends’ inquiries about what was wrong when he passed them. There was one person Conner could think of that could fix things. It was still early, but Conner stood outside of SHIELD’s building in plain sight, waiting for Captain America. His presence wasn’t ignored for long and one of the guards slipped into the facility and about five minutes later Captain America emerged from the main entrance. The older hero looked concerned and asked Superboy if he was ok.
“I need to talk to you,” Conner stated.
Captain America didn’t even ask why, didn’t brush him off or tell him it wasn’t a good time. “Alright,” Captain America said without hesitation, “let me tell one of the guards that I won’t be back for the day.”
He quickly found a guard, speaking to him quickly and was back at Superboy’s side in a matter of minutes. They walked over to their empty park, the sunlight fading quickly into the west, as if it were any one of their regular meetings. Though it felt a bit odd to come to their park without food or without the intent to play a rather destructive game of Frisbee.
Conner decided it would be best to get straight to the point. “Tell Stark and Rogers that I’m not going to New York.”
Captain America blinked once and asked, “Why?”
To Superboy that seemed like a completely ridiculous question to ask. “Because I won’t be used to get at the Justice League! Because I belong here! I’m needed here, I’m needed by my team, to protect them!”
The older hero frowned slightly. “Conner, you’ll still be able to be a part of your team, I know that Mr. Stark and Mr. Rogers have no intention to take you away from those responsibilities. But you also deserve more. You deserve a home like any kid.”
“I’m not a kid, I’m a weapon.”
The frown on the Captain’s face deepened and something flashed in his blue eyes. “You’re not a weapon! You’re Conner! You’re a kid, a teenager, and you need something more than a base to live in, trust me, I know. You aren’t supposed to be sitting around, waiting for the next mission. You should be out in the world, going to school, making friends, getting into reasonable amounts of trouble and having a real childhood. And this isn’t about the Justice League and the Avengers, Mr. Stark and Mr. Rogers only want to give you a home.”
“Well, tell them I said no! I’m part of the Justice League, not the Avengers!” Superboy fumed.
“Please,” Captain America looked pained, “just give them a chance. I know them and they aren’t doing this maliciously, they just want you to have a real home.”
Superboy clenched his fists, suddenly getting irritated at Captain America’s sincerity. Because the Captain really believed this was for the best, that this was right for Conner. That being pulled away from his team and placed with an Avenger was the best course of action for Conner’s life. He hated it, hated being told what to do and he could still see the solemn look in Batman’s face when he told Superboy that there was nothing they could do at this point.
“Please, Conner,” the Captain’s tone softened, “if you don’t like living with them, I promise you don’t have to stay.”
Superboy just glared.
“They’ll listen to me,” the older hero tried to reassure him. “I promise you.”
“Like Tony Stark would listen to anyone.”
“Trust me, I can make Tony listen to me, the Avengers always come to me to deal with him,” Captain America said as if it were an inside joke. It probably was. “And if you aren’t happy, I will personally make sure something is done about it.”
Snorting in frustration and disbelief, Conner crossed his arms. “They have a week,” he relented. “If it’s not any better, then I’m coming back to Happy Harbor and I don’t care what some judge has to say about it.”
Captain America gave him a small smile and placed a large hand on his shoulder. “Thank you, Conner, I know this will mean a lot to them.”
“Whatever,” Conner mumbled indifferently, but his anger was quickly leaving his body.
“No, it really will, I know it.” The older man’s expression became a little nervous and he rubbed at the back of his neck with his free hand. “Conner, I need to tell you something important. I’m—”
“Mm, that Captain.” A whisper, sounding suspiciously like Artemis, reached both Superboy’s and Captain America’s sensitive ears.
Robin’s trademark laugh followed the statement and his own hushed voice was filled with amusement. “You do realize you said that out loud, right?”
Captain America and Superboy froze and turned towards the whispers, finding Conner’s team poorly hidden behind a single tree. Conner honestly wasn’t surprised that he was followed out and could only grit his teeth over being caught with an Avenger. He should have noticed them earlier, but he was too focused on his own emotions to bother with securing his surroundings. Seeing that they were spotted, Young Justice went quiet and both parties stared at each other.
It was probably the most awkward silence of Conner’s short life.
“Dude! Way to hold out on us!” Wally broke the silence, his exasperation apparent. “Not only are you about to live in mansion, but you’re also friends with Captain America! This is totally unfair!”
Conner’s welcome to Tony Stark’s mansion early Saturday morning was a blissfully quiet one. From everything Superboy knew, Stark had a flair for the dramatic or explosive. But when Conner arrived at the mansion with his bag slung over his shoulder and his friends standing with him, there was only Steve Rogers, Tony Stark and Pepper Potts to greet them. Rogers was all smiles, giving Conner a hug and happily shaking the hands of all of his friends as he made introductions and took Superboy’s duffle bag for him. Miss Potts also gave Conner a quick hug and she kept looking over the teenagers’ heads, searching for something. Stark didn’t hug Conner, but he slung his arm around the teen’s shoulders briefly.
Once everyone was ushered inside, Miss Potts turned to the group and the corners of her mouth tugged downward. “The Justice League told us they’d provide you with an escort to New York.”
“That’s what we’re here for,” Wally answered. He and Artemis didn’t bother with masks or disguises, neither were overly worried about their identities as they were unknown teens.
“Black Canary was going to come with us, but she was called away by the League,” Kaldur explained.
“And bringing Red Tornado would just be asking for the media to swamp us. By the way, good job drawing the press away with Miss Van Dyne’s revealing the design for your dress for the wedding,” Robin said. Robin, unlike Wally and Artemis, had his sunglasses on, plus a hat with the bill tucked low over his face.
“We try to take these things into consideration and plan for unexpected mishaps,” Miss Potts said and made a note in her PDA.
“I’m happy that all of you were able to accompany Conner so he wouldn’t have to come alone.” Rogers sounded far too cheerful for a man who had six teenagers in his home. “You kids are always welcome to come by to visit.” He glanced over at Stark expectantly.
“Oh yeah, uh, the door is always open. Our home is your home. Come whenever you want, except for when the door closed and there’s a tie on the doorknob,” Stark chattered on until Miss Potts glared at him. Stark cleared his throat and gave Miss Potts an apologetic pout. “Anyway, let’s give you kids the grand tour of the mansion.”
Conner hung in the back of the group as Stark showed them around, with Rogers following at his side. His friends looked around with wide eyed fascination, except for Robin, who seemed almost bored by the tour until Stark gave them a glimpse of his workshop. Spotting half-finished prototypes and pieces of the Iron Man armor, Robin tried to worm his way to the workbench, but Kaldur had the sense to stop him. While Stark gave Robin a wary stare, Rogers chuckled good naturedly. Nothing seemed to bother that man.
Wally grinned widely at Conner as they passed through a well-stocked kitchen and into a living room with a TV that put the one in the cave to shame. “I’m going visit you every day, Supey.”
Artemis, sneaking a glance at Steve Roger’s ass, nodded in agreement. “Mm, yeah, this mansion has some better … assets than our base.”
“And Mr. Stark, Mr. Rogers and Miss Potts have been really nice and welcoming,” Megan said.
Conner bit back a remark about them not getting too comfortable. As impressive as the mansion was, Superboy wasn’t planning on staying. He made a promise to Captain America to give Stark and Rogers a week, but he already knew that by next Saturday he was going to pack up his bag and go back to Mount Justice. He was a part of the Justice League, he reminded himself, not the Avengers. He was just grateful that the team had taken the whole being friends with Captain America in stride. Mostly they were hurt that he didn’t tell them about the Captain, but they had quickly forgiven Superboy and proceeded to bombard him with questions about the Avenger. And the team had the utmost confidence that Batman would be able to get Superboy out of Stark and Rogers’s custody and back to Mount Justice in no time.
The last stop on the tour was Conner’s bedroom. The room was much larger than the one he had at Mount Justice and was well furnished with a big bed, a nightstand, a sleek desk with a laptop and a new cell phone on it, a couple bookshelves that had novels and comic books alike, a flat screen TV with various gaming systems, a walk in closet, and a connecting bathroom. The walls were painted a deep red with a light trim and a large S-shield painted in black on one side, an inverse of Superboy’s shirt. There were also six framed watercolor paintings on the walls and upon closer inspection Conner saw that they were individual portraits of the members of his team.
His friends explored every nook and cranny of the room. Robin was immediately drawn to the laptop and Stark rattled off about it. Wally checked out the TV and the vast collection of videogames and movies provided. Kaldur and Megan admired the portraits with Miss Potts. And Artemis looked in the large connecting bathroom. But what Conner was most drawn to was the large window in the room that let in lots of natural light. He never had a window before. Pushing aside the sheer curtains, Conner took in the view and looked up wonderingly at the sun.
“We can make any changes you want to the room,” Rogers said as he stood next to Conner. “Really, if there’s anything you don’t like or if there’s something you want to add just let me know. I just … I didn’t want you coming here to an empty room.”
“The room’s fine,” Conner replied. He glanced over at Rogers, who had such an open and eager look on his face. Conner swallowed and added, “It’s nice.”
A large, unrestrained grin lit up Rogers’s face. “I’m glad you like it.”
“Conner!” Wally called out. “You’ve got the new Justice League vs. Avengers videogame! Let’s play! I get to be the Flash, no, wait, I wanna be Cap! Uh, don’t tell the Flash I said that.”
Conner rolled his eyes and went to go pick up the offered controller. The others soon gathered around them, taking turns and trash talking to each other while several pizzas and sodas soon arrived courtesy of Miss Potts. It was fun, Conner had actually forgotten that he was at Stark’s mansion, even with Rogers occasionally giving advice as they played, sheepishly admitting that he often played the game with Hawkeye.
But by the late afternoon his friends’ individual lives and responsibilities pulled them away from him and Superboy was reminded that he wouldn’t go back to Mount Justice that night. Instead he watched as his friends waved goodbye to him after they helped clean up and all of them reassured him that they’d visit soon and that he could call them whenever he wanted. Once they left, Conner stood in the mansion awkwardly, not knowing what to do without his friends. Rogers sensed his unease and asked Conner to help him cook dinner. Conner just shrugged and followed him to the kitchen, chopping and mixing whatever Rogers handed to him.
The older man told him about his and Stark’s usual routine, when they had their meals, when Miss Potts and Happy Hogan come to the mansion, and when Stark comes back from work, which apparently ranged anywhere between eleven in the morning to midnight. Conner paid half attention, nodding along, but didn’t say anything unless Rogers asked him a direct question. By six o’clock dinner was set on the table and Miss Potts dragged Stark up to the table from wherever he had slipped off to.
Conner didn’t say much during the meal and strangely enough, neither did Stark, but Rogers and Miss Potts provided enough conversation for the four of them. Despite his determination not to, Superboy found himself liking Miss Potts, who insisted he call her Pepper. Pepper was kind and warm, her personality contrasting with the cool professionalism of her appearance. And Conner was even beginning to like Rogers, who reminded him a little of Captain America with the easiness in which he handled Superboy’s mood and filled his silence with interesting stories. Like Pepper, Rogers insisted on being called by his first name. At least Stark remained distant to Conner, obviously uncomfortable around the teenager, and that actually put Superboy at ease.
After dinner Pepper left and Superboy was about to go up to his room when Rogers told him that Saturdays were movie nights. “Well, Saturdays are movie nights when the world isn’t about to end,” Rogers added with a small smile.
That was surprising to hear, considering that Stark was a notorious playboy, a reputation that didn’t let up despite his long term relationship with Rogers. Conner half expected the couple to go out and to be left alone from the rest of the night. But he found himself on one end of the couch with a bowl of popcorn, Stark sitting on the other end and Rogers in the middle with an arm wrapped around Stark’s waist. Conner had the honor of picking the movie for the night, which took a while since Stark seemed to own every single movie made. He settled on Return of the Jedi.
It wasn’t like when Conner hung out with his friends, Robin and Wally would chatter their way throughout the film, Artemis would comment on the attractiveness of the actors, Megan would swoon over every romantic and emotional scene, and Kaldur would muse over the differences between the ocean and the surface world. There was none of that with Stark and Rogers, though Rogers was very expressive throughout the movie, leaning in during the intense parts, cheering when the good guys won a fight and sniffled when Princess Leia and Han Solo reunited. And at one point Rogers whispered to Stark, “I still can’t believe Darth Vader is Luke’s father.” It wasn’t like when Conner hung out with his friends, but it was still pretty entertaining.
He slipped upstairs after the movie to go up to his room even though it wasn’t very late. As he climbed the stairs, Superboy could hear Stark say to Rogers, “Don’t take it personally, he’s a teenager, he needs his privacy. You remember what it’s like … Well, kind of, I mean, I know things were different when you were … You know what, forget I said anything.”
Conner flopped down on his bed when he got to his room, reflecting on the day. He sighed loudly, one day had already passed, he could make it the rest of the week. The teen stared up at the ceiling, spending the rest of the night like that with his thoughts before he finally fell asleep. Later, the sound of footsteps in the hallway and the quiet swing of his bedroom door woke Conner up. He laid perfectly still in his bed, waiting until the door closed again. The alarm clock on the nightstand told him it was almost one in the morning.
“He’s still asleep,” Pepper said quietly as she walked back down the hallway. Conner strained to hear who she was talking to, but he only heard a faint murmur from a cell phone as she walked away. “No, no, I have everything covered … Uh-huh … You know, I’m not one to tell you how to do your job, but shouldn’t you be concentrating on Dr. Doom? … Ok, be safe and take care of Tony.”
Conner blinked at the darkness, wondering who Pepper had been talking to and why she was there so late in the night. He stayed in bed for another five minutes before he got up and wandered downstairs. It didn’t take him long to find Pepper sitting on the couch in the living room, looking tired and anxious as she watched TV. She looked radically different than she did earlier that day, dressed down in a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt that was too big for her, her hair pulled up in a messy ponytail like she had just rolled out of bed. Her head jerked up when she heard Conner’s heavy footsteps, obviously startled, but Pepper managed a smile despite her obvious stress.
“What’s going on?” Conner asked.
She motioned for him to sit with her and he obeyed. Pepper rubbed at her face as she waved at the TV that had live news coverage of the Avengers with the Fantastic Four fighting Dr. Doom. “Oh, it’s just the Fantastic Four calling in a favor from the Avengers, Tony and Steve had to leave to go fight Dr. Doom. Typical of them.”
Conner raised his eyebrow at the mention of Steve. “Why did Steve have to go?”
“Steve does some very important work for SHIELD and the Avengers, it’s classified,” she said quickly. “They left about an hour ago and asked me to come and stay with you. Steve also left you a note.”
Pepper pushed a piece of paper towards Conner.
My apologies, but an emergency that both Tony and I must attend to has come up. Miss Potts will be here for you, so please don’t hesitate to ask her or JARVIS for anything. Miss Potts and JARVIS know how to get a hold of us if you need to speak with either Tony or I. Again, I am very sorry for our abrupt departure, but we will be back in the morning and I will explain everything then.
“Is this guy for real?” Conner blurted out.
“You know, I used to ask myself that all the time,” Pepper chuckled. “You’ll get used to it.”
Conner was about to tell her that he wouldn’t be around to get used to it, but decided against it at the last second. He didn’t want to be rude to Pepper, she was only trying to help.
Pepper noticed his frown and she patted his shoulder comfortingly. “Hey, don’t worry about them, they’ll be fine. You might as well go back to sleep, they’ll be back by the time you wake up.”
He could have easily gone back to sleep, he wasn’t very worried, but Pepper was. “I’m not tired,” Conner replied and he really wasn’t. She only nodded and Conner shifted awkwardly, saying, “You know, you don’t have to worry either. Iron Man can take care of himself and Steve isn’t out on the field, right? They’ll be ok.”
“I know, it’s stupid. Normally I’m not too worried, but it always seems like whenever the Fantastic Four are involved the worst always seems to happen,” Pepper answered.
“They’ll be ok,” Conner repeated and turned his attention to the news coverage, watching as Captain America struck down one of Doombots before it could attack Iron Man. “Captain America has Iron Man’s back.”
Pepper’s smile was warm and sincere. “Yeah, he does.”
A couple hours later, Conner opened his eyes and found that he had fallen asleep on the couch with Pepper. Getting up, Superboy grabbed the blanket that Pepper had thrown over him and placed it over her. He then listened carefully to the mansion, trying to see if Stark and Rogers had come home yet. Following a faint murmur of voices, Conner went down the stairs to the workshop and he could hear Stark ranting.
“Damn it, Steve, we should have gotten you looked at before coming home. Reed said he’d take a look at you, but noooo, you wanted to go home. I’m not nearly as good at the nurse thing as you are. You know, sometimes I think the Thing would make a better nurse than me. Of course I’d be a much better looking nurse than Ben. Actually, I’d say I’m even better looking than Johnny, who kind of looks like you, but not nearly as handsome as you. Have you ever noticed that?” Stark kept talking, but there was distinct edge of worry to his tone.
“I’m fine, Tony,” Rogers replied quietly. “It’s just my ribs, they’ll heal quickly. Plus, I know Reed just wants to lure me into the Baxter Building for blood samples and a million experiments.”
Conner peeked into the workshop and saw a roughed up Rogers sitting on one of the tables as Stark bound his ribs. While the injuries concerned Superboy a little, his attention was quickly diverted to Rogers’s attire. He was shirtless, but next to him was a familiar red, white and blue top and cowl, and he was wearing matching blue pants and red boots.
And lying within arm’s reach was Captain America’s shield.
After managing to get a few hours of sleep and calling Happy to come and take Pepper home, Steve was surprised to find Conner already awake in the early hours of the morning. The teen was just sitting in the kitchen, not doing anything, so Steve started making breakfast. Steve moved around the kitchen stiffly, his ribs still ached from the fight last night, but he wanted to make sure that Conner got a good breakfast. Glancing over at Conner, Steve frowned a bit. Maybe he was trying too hard to make the teen feel comfortable, because Conner looked distinctly uncomfortable. The boy hardly made eye contact with Steve and had yet to say a word.
“I’m sorry we had to run out last night, it’s not exactly what I wanted for your first night here,” Steve said as he finished up making breakfast.
“It’s fine,” Conner said sharply. “You didn’t have to call Pepper.”
Steve did feel bad that he called Pepper in the middle of the night, but he’d do it again if he had to. “I didn’t want you to wake up and find that no one was here, it wouldn’t be right.”
Conner didn’t reply and silently helped Steve bring the plates and food over the table. The teen readily dug into his meal, keeping his head down and his eyes fixed on his plate. Steve took a careful sip of his coffee and tried to think of the best way to tell Conner that he was Captain America. He and Tony weren’t out defending the Earth every night, but last night was a reminder to Steve of all of his responsibilities, which now included the happiness and wellbeing of a teenager.
“About last night,” Steve started.
“You’re Captain America,” Conner interrupted. “I saw you and Iron Man down in the workshop last night. You were injured.” The last statement sounded rather accusing.
“Oh.” Steve flushed that he and Tony hadn’t been more careful, but he wanted to get home as soon as possible. He had felt badly about leaving Conner with Pepper, even though she was more than capable of taking care of him.
The teen clenched his hands in his lap and Steve could almost hear the grind of his teeth. “You should have told me,” Conner bit out, his voice sharp and angry.
“I’ve tried, I really did, but every time I tried to tell you who I am you’ve stopped me.” It was true, Steve had tried to tell Conner, but every time the teen had interrupted him, had told him that he didn’t want to know. That was ok, Steve understood that telling Superboy his identity put the teen in an awkward situation and that he might be obligated to tell the Justice League. He really understood, especially sometimes he seemed to be Captain America first and Steve Rogers a distant second.
Conner opened and closed his mouth, his brow furrowing as he realized that Steve was right. “Yeah, well, that doesn’t excuse anything! You should have told me! Especially since you were planning this!” He waved his hand around the mansion, glaring at it like it had done something to him.
Deflating under Conner’s anger, Steve’s shoulders sagged. “I know, you’re right, you’re right there’s no excuse for this. And I’m sorry, I really didn’t want to hide this from you, I didn’t want this to be a secret. But everything I’ve said before is true, Tony and I just want to give you a home, because you deserve one, Conner. You really do.”
The teen just stared down at his half eaten breakfast, his unhappiness was clear.
“I … I would still like you to give us a chance, a week like we settled on. No, that’s not true, I’d like you to stay and make this your new home. But if you want to leave now I … I’ll be terribly sad, but I’ll understand.”
They sat in silence. The longer the silence stretched, the further Steve’s heart sank. He was afraid that all the work he put into his friendship with Conner was now irreversibly damaged and the teen would storm out at any second. And the thought of Conner going back to that cave, without anyone to look out for him, broke Steve’s heart. He couldn’t keep his sadness and worry off of his face, Tony always said that Steve was an open book when it came to his emotions. Actually, Tony said something along the lines of, “A giant, flashing neon sign of emotions.”
Conner frowned at his expression and sighed loudly. “So,” he broke the silence, “there was a gym downstairs that I wanted to check out.”
Steve couldn’t keep the relieved grin off of his face. It wasn’t a confirmation that he wanted to stay, but it wasn’t a refusal either. “We’ll go once we finished breakfast and I’ve done the dishes.”
After they cleared the table and loaded up the dishwasher, they headed down to the gym. Steve gave Conner a more thorough overview of the area, pointing out all of the special features that were designed for super humans, mutants and gods. “The other Avengers come by to train here, SHIELD has a really good facility, but they say they like it here better. We also have a lot of heroes who are affiliated with the Avengers that come by,” Steve explained. “This punching bag over here can withstand a punch from the Hulk, though we often don’t encourage Bruce to transform in the mansion.”
Conner examined the bag and took a swing at it. He looked impressed when it didn’t immediately break. He punched the bag a few more times and it gave Steve an idea.
“Have you ever boxed before?” Steve asked and Conner shook his head. “Want to learn? Happy taught me and I’d like to spar with someone other than Thor, who cheats.” Conner raised an eyebrow at that and Steve clarified, “Thor doesn’t like to be restricted to just his fists, he’s kicked me a few times … and used his hammer.”
“What about your injury?” The teen gestured at Steve’s ribs.
“I’ll be fine, we’ll go easy this time around and just start with the basics.” Steve went over to the boxing ring in the gym and found a couple of pairs of gloves, tossing a set over to Conner with a large grin. “It can also be a good lesson in controlling your strength, when I was sparring with Happy I had to really learn to hold back so I wouldn’t hurt him.”
Conner looked interested at the prospect of learning something, but then he smirked a little and asked, “Where’s the fun in that?”
Steve chuckled. “There will be plenty of opportunities to use your strength. Now, watch what I do.”
Conner followed along well, though his brow creased whenever he caught Steve moving slower than usual or wincing when he twisted the wrong way. Finally the teen said that he saw enough and wanted to practice the punches and moves Steve taught him. Picking up some pads, Steve braced himself and let Conner practice, giving him pointers and telling him how to control his strength. It was always a good lesson to learn when fighting against people without superpowers, Thor learned the hard way that mere mortals couldn’t take a full on punch from a god. Thankfully the man survived, but it didn’t save Thor from Nick Fury.
Whatever frustrations Conner had, he took out on the pads Steve held up and the older man took the blows with all the patience in the world. Steve was still afraid that he had lost Conner’s trust, but he felt hopeful over the fact that the teen hadn’t immediately left. Despite everything, Steve thought things were going well. Conner seemed to be enjoying himself, he took directions rather well and he even cracked a smile when Steve told him a story about Tony and Hawkeye stealing his shield to use it to go sledding.
“Follow through with your punch. Good! That’s better, you’re picking up on this really fast!” Steve beamed. “I know I’m not as good of a fighter as Black Canary, but I’ve been trained in a lot different types of unarmed combat if you want to learn anything else. And Black Widow knows even more than I do.” Steve gave that a second thought and shook his head when a distinct memory of Natasha strangling poor Peter Parker with her thighs popped into his mind. “Black Widow can consult,” he amended himself.
Conner just shrugged and threw a left jab.
“You’re a lot better at this than I was when I started.”
“I doubt that.”
“Just ask Happy! I was terrible.” And Steve launched into a story about how after the serum he was unsteady on his own feet and basically had to relearn to do everything. He was so clumsy in his new body that Howard had banned him from his lab. He managed to get half a laugh from Conner, which Steve considered a success.
“What the hell are you two doing!?” Tony’s voice sliced through the slap of boxing gloves against pads and Steve’s words of praise and advice. Tony stood there in his pajama pants and a loose shirt with his hair sticking up, looking rather annoyed. It was almost noon, but considering the night they had before, Steve didn’t bother to try to peel Tony out of bed. “You,” Tony pointed at Steve, “are supposed to be resting after your … fall.”
“Conner knows I’m Captain America now, Tony.”
“All the more reason for you not to be down here! Since when am I the responsible one here? There’s an order to our relationship! I do crazy shit and you try to stop me from doing crazy shit, it’s not the other way around!”
“Tony, language,” he scolded as Conner rolled his eyes. “But it’s probably a good time to take a break, it’s almost time for lunch. What did you want, Conner?”
“No! You go rest, I’ll make lunch,” Tony insisted and Steve gave him a dubious stare. “I mean I’ll tell JARVIS to order some sandwiches from that place you like. Did you hear that JARVIS? The usual and for the kid,” Tony glanced over at Conner, who just shrugged, “get Conner the same thing as Steve. And lock Steve out of the gym!”
“Very well, sir,” JARVIS answered, “I will order two Italian subs and a box of donuts and lock the Captain out of the gym. Sorry, Captain Rogers.”
Tony kept ranting as he left the gym and Conner eyed Steve’s fiancé with a touch of weariness and suspicion. Steve patted Conner on the shoulder and told him, “Tony’s like that when he hasn’t had his caffeine.”
They ended up with visitors not long after they got their lunch and settled to watch some TV. Tony had taken his box of donuts and a mug of coffee down to his workshop when JARVIS let Kid Flash, Aqualad and Miss Martian into the mansion. Conner perked up at the sight of his friends and Steve left to find something for the newly arrived teens to eat. After he provided the kids with some lunch, Steve disappeared up into his office to give the teens some privacy that Tony was adamant that was so important to teenagers. He had to remind himself that it wasn’t personal.
A couple hours later Steve was in the middle of working on a commission for a drawing for a local magazine when there was a light knock on the door and it swung open before he could answer.
“My friends went home. I don’t know what’s going to happen next,” Conner referred to his stay at the mansion, “but I’m going to tell my friends who you are.” There was no question, it was a statement.
Steve nodded. “I don’t mind and I’m sure Tony won’t.” Fury might flip his lid, but Steve kept that to himself.
Conner smirked. “I’m sure you won’t be saying that after I tell them. Especially Kid Flash.”
“What? Why?” Steve blinked, but Superboy didn’t clarify.
Without another word the teen grabbed a comic book, which Steve used for reference, from the bookshelf and sat down on the couch in the room. The company was nice, it wasn’t often that Steve had anyone up in his office and when he did it was usually to pose for a portrait. His last one was for Happy and Pepper, it was one of his favorites.
They sat there with only the scratch of a pencil and the flip of pages to fill the silence, but for once it felt comfortable.
Monday and Tuesday for Steve were spent showing Conner around New York while Tony was busy at work. He took Conner to all of his favorite places, both from the past and the present, and all of the famous landmarks within the city. Conner was quiet as usual, but he was attentive and his small smiles spoke volumes, he didn’t mention leaving and it gave Steve some hope. Tuesday afternoon they ended up running into Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson, and ended up having lunch with them.
He introduced Peter as a friend and the photographer for his and Tony’s wedding. But as they settled into a booth at a diner, Peter grinned, obviously recognizing Superboy, and told Conner in a whisper, “Since you’re going to be around the mansion, I should tell that I’m your friendly neighborhood, well, you know what.” He wiggled his fingers like a spider for emphasis and Conner nodded solemnly in understanding.
“Peter and I will show you around since you’re new to the area,” MJ offered. “I mean, Steve’s probably a great tour guide, but he’s kind of old,” she teased.
“Yeah, we’ll take you to dinner and a show, MJ knows people in the business,” Peter added. “I mean, if Steve’s ok with it.”
“Of course! Though it’s really up to Conner,” Steve said quickly.
Peter’s grin was both dorky and mischievous. “I’m moving up in the world, Cap’s trusting us with his kid.”
Conner frowned a little at Peter’s statement, but he smirked when MJ put her boyfriend in his place. She sighed loudly, “I would hardly call that moving up in the world and you know that Steve’s just going to have Tony send a security detail. So, what do you think, Conner? Come out with us on Friday night?”
Steve held his breath for a moment and beamed when Conner hesitantly accepted their invitation. Assuming that the world wasn’t in danger on Friday night. He knew that Conner had great friends, but he was happy to see the teen make new ones. Peter and MJ weren’t in high school anymore and they were far from being normal kids, but Steve thought they’d be a good influence and would help Conner get adjusted to life in New York City. If Conner chose to stay.
The beginning of the week had gone well, better than Steve had imagined. The only snag in it was the clear distance Tony put between himself and Conner. Not that Tony was cold towards the teen, just uncomfortable, and any conversation the two had over dinner tended to be awkward. And while Conner warmed up to Steve, he seemed content enough that Tony spent a lot of his time down in the workshop or at the office. Steve started consulting with Pepper and they began tentatively blocking Tony’s schedule for the next few weeks so Steve could plan family outings around work, saving the world, planning for a wedding and meetings with lawyers to formalize Conner’s adoption.
The middle of the week did not go as well as the beginning of it. Which was disappointing considering that Wednesday had started out so well since JARVIS finally let Steve back into the gym and he and Conner got a good sparring match in. Steve also managed to get Tony to take the day off and they planned to go to lunch. As it was getting close to noon, they went upstairs and found that they had company.
Tony was up in the living room with an unfamiliar young lady and man. Tony visibly brightened at the sight of Steve and Conner and he waved them over to where he and the couple were sitting. “Stevie, Conner, this is the fabulous Lois Lane of the Daily Planet and that guy is Clark Kent. Lois graciously barged in for an interview about the newest addition to our family, isn’t that nice, Stevie?” Tony batted his eyelashes at Steve.
Steve ignored Tony’s flighty tone and held his hand out politely. “It’s a pleasure, Miss Lane, Mr. Kent.” He noticed the extra firm grip to Kent’s handshake that made Steve feel oddly suspicious. “This is Conner.”
Miss Lane held her hand out to the teen, but Conner ignored her as he turned to Steve and asked, “Do I have to stay around for this?”
“We would actually like to ask you a few questions, Conner,” Kent said, his voice straining on Conner’s name.
Steve pressed his mouth into a thin line, he didn’t like the feeling he was getting from Kent. He didn’t want Conner talking to him, but that wasn’t his choice. “You can go do whatever you want, Conner.”
The teen nodded sharply and glanced over at the reporters, his gaze lingering on Kent for a few seconds. He started moving towards the stairs and said, “I’ll be in my room. Make this quick, I’m hungry.”
Tony grinned as Steve sat down next to him, wrapping an arm around Tony’s shoulders. “Charming, isn’t he?” Tony waved his hand in the direction Conner left in. “Reminds me of myself when I was a kid.”
“Did you really think that you could adopt Superboy without someone noticing?” Miss Lane hissed, outraged and not amused.
“No, of course not, Lois,” Tony smiled pleasantly. “I knew you’d notice, even though the Justice League wants to keep their child neglect case quiet and the Avengers don’t want it to look like they don’t have a handle on Iron Man.”
Miss Lane leaned in closer. “Tony, this is going to be on the front page of the Daily Planet.”
“Actually, it won’t,” Tony said with confidence. “I love you, Lois, but when you run that article, and I’ll know when you run that article, I am going to give the Daily Planet an exclusive on Steve’s wedding ring.”
“And do you really think that will make the front page over you taking in Superboy?” Miss Lane countered.
Tony laughed. “Oh Lois, I know it will.”
“That’s what your wedding is,” Kent snapped, “it’s a publicity stunt to cover up your other activities. Your proposal was a sham, because if this really did hit the press, then your past will call into question your ability to raise a child and whatever leverage you have over the Justice League would be gone.”
Steve usually stayed pretty quiet during interviews, Captain America was good at being a spokesperson for the Avengers, but Steve Rogers was a private man. However, Kent’s statement angered Steve and he wanted to say something. His jaw clenched tightly with harsh words not appropriate in a lady’s company on the tip of his tongue. Fortunately, Tony spoke before Steve could say anything he would later regret that Miss Lane had to hear.
All the good cheer dropped from Tony’s face and his eyes narrowed dangerously at Kent. “I won’t punch you for that only because I hope to still be Lois’s friend after all of this. But I swear, if you say anything like that again about my relationship with Steve, I will make your life a living hell without ever raising my hand against you. And for your information, I would never use an innocent kid against the Justice League, just because the League likes to kick their kids around doesn’t mean I do. As for leverage, I wouldn’t need a kid, I’ve got plenty on the Justice League if I ever cared enough to bother with them. Besides, this,” Tony gestured to the mansion, “is a lot nicer than the literal cave the League stuck Superboy in. I’m sure if you did some digging around, Lois, you’d find that I’m right. You might want to call into question the whole child endangerment bit while you’re at it. If anything, I can easily spin it as us taking in a poor, manipulated kid from people who have ignored him. A billionaire playboy and his male fiancé will look like a godsend after how the Justice League will look if you poke around how many laws about children they’ve broken.”
Iron Man was undoubtedly a fierce Avenger, but sometimes Steve forgot how dangerous Tony Stark could be. It made his heart beat just a bit faster, especially after seeing the uneasy look on Kent’s face.
“Now, Lois, I’d appreciate it if you and your unpleasant man over there left. I have a lunch date I’d like to keep.”
Tony’s conviction warmed Steve’s heart, but the situation made Tony agitated for the rest of the day. He considered Lois Lane a friend and her prospective article as a direct attack on him and Steve. Conner also wasn’t happy by Miss Lane and Kent’s sudden appearance, mumbling something about people needing to mind their own business. He also didn’t seem very happy over the fact that Tony had information on the League and threatened them. He demanded that Steve promise that Tony would never use it. But Steve’s promise and a later visit from Artemis and Miss Martian couldn’t bring Conner out of his mood.
Thursday wasn’t much better. While Steve was happily surprised to find Conner up and ready to join Steve for his morning jog, the afternoon wasn’t nearly as pleasant. A few of Conner’s friends had shown up and the teens went out into the city, giving Steve the chance to go to SHIELD’s headquarters to drop off some reports and files. As he walked through the familiar halls of the headquarters, Steve could feel the gaze of almost every agent he passed on him. It wasn’t until Clint stopped him did he find out why.
“Let me take those and you get the hell out of here,” Clint grabbed the papers from Steve and started pushing him away. “Fury is pissed, he’s living up to his name right now.”
“What? Why?” Steve asked.
“Cap, you and Stark are adopting Superboy. Fury’s eye almost popped out when he found out. Hell, all of SHIELD has a betting pool over what Fury is going to do to Stark once your little boyfriend steps into the HQ.”
“What?” Steve repeated. “Why would he do anything to Tony?”
“You know, the PR nightmare it’ll cause, that kind of stuff. And Fury wouldn’t harm a hair on your head, but you know he’d jump at the chance to run Stark through the ringer.”
Steve didn’t doubt that. “And this betting pool, you’re a part of it?”
“Hey! I’m a friend, Steve,” Clint sounded offended and Steve almost apologized, but Clint kept talking. “I only have fifty bucks riding on Fury just punching Stark, but Coulson has a hundred on Fury returning Superboy and stealing you and the Iron Man armor after slowly murdering Stark.”
It was at that point Steve decided to go home. He almost made it out without speaking to anyone else, but a firm grip on his arm stopped him. Natasha pulled him into an empty lounge and smiled her sharp, disapproving smile at him, which he wasn’t used to being on the receiving end of.
“Pretty brave to show up here after the stunt you and Stark pulled,” Black Widow chided him.
“It’s not a stunt!” He snapped quickly and immediately felt ashamed of using such a tone with Natasha.
Her smile softened. “I know, Steve, but you know you can’t keep him, right? Superboy is Justice League.”
Steve frowned. “We’re going to adopt Superboy and he’s going to become a part of our family. I don’t know how him being a part of the Justice League has anything to do with that.”
Natasha shook her head and looked at him as if he were a child. “Oh Steve, you’re so naïve sometimes, it breaks my heart.”
He didn’t reply. He slipped out of the room and went back home.
That night didn’t go very well either. After dinner, Steve and Conner sat down to play videogames. Despite Clint’s best efforts, Steve still wasn’t very good with videogames and it didn’t help that there seemed to be a million different gaming consoles, but he was happy to indulge Conner. And at least when they played Smash Brothers Steve could just press a bunch of random buttons and hope that his little avatar would attack Conner’s. After several rounds of his elf knight being defeated by a pink ball, Steve finally put his controller to the side and proclaimed that he was done.
Tony had been watching them, perched on the armrest of the couch next to Steve. He grinned and ruffled Steve’s hair, teasing him. “Ouch, Steve, beaten by a teenager. And I thought that your serum was supposed to make you into the perfect soldier, what will Fury do with you now that you’re not so perfect?”
Conner’s eyes hardened at that statement. “Steve is more than just a soldier for Fury or you to use!”
And with that, Conner stormed off to his room. Tony and Steve sat there, shocked over the outburst, both were unsure where it had come from. Then Tony slinked off to his workshop, leaving Steve alone in the living room, not knowing who to talk to first. He decided to go see Conner, but even as the teen let him into the room, he refused to talk about what had happened and didn’t listen when Steve tried to reassure him that Tony was only teasing.
When it became clear he wasn’t going to make any progress with Conner, Steve went downstairs to speak with Tony, who was worse than the teen. Tony just refused to talk and ignored Steve’s hug and kisses. Steve couldn’t throw Tony onto the nearest table and have sex with him to snap him out of his sulk, not with a teenager with super hearing in the mansion. And the bedroom had yet to be soundproofed.
Steve wasn’t sure what to do.
Friday was even worse. Having Professor Charles Xavier wake him up in the middle of a very private dream about his fiancé was not Steve’s preferred method of starting his morning. An emergency involving the X-Men was worse than the Fantastic Four as they usually ended up in the middle of an old lovers’ spat between Xavier and Magneto. And for the life of him, Steve couldn’t remember if Jean Grey was still alive or if she had died. Again. He would never get used to the Phoenix Force.
As Steve was scrambling to find someone to stay with Conner for the day while getting dressed in his uniform and shoving toast and caffeine into Tony’s face, the teen walked into the room and raised an eyebrow at Captain America and a half awake Iron Man.
“There’s an emergency with the X-Men,” Steve explained. “Several students from Xavier’s school went missing—Tony, eat your breakfast!—and we’ve been asked to help since several of the X-Men are away. I’m about to call Happy, he’ll stay here at the mansion with you today. We’ll be back as soon as we can.”
Conner shrugged. “Don’t bother. I’ll go to Mount Justice.”
Steve’s heart skipped beat. “But you have plans with Peter and Mary Jane tonight.”
“I’ll cancel.” And Conner took out his cell phone and was already typing a text message to Peter. “And I was going to Mount Justice tomorrow anyway.”
Steve felt cold and he was surprised by the sting in his eyes. He immediately pulled Conner into a tight hug. “Take care of yourself,” he whispered thickly, “and don’t hesitate to call me if you need anything.”
The teen just nodded and went back upstairs.
“Steve,” Tony wrapped his arms around him.
Steve squeezed Tony before taking a step back and looking away. “Could you call Happy for me? Someone should be here to see him off.”
“Yeah, I can … Steve, I’m not very good at this, but I think this is one of those moments when we talk about our feelings.”
“Not now.” Steve Rogers disappeared and Captain America stepped up. “We have a mission.”
Tony laid a hand over Captain America’s glove covered one. “Steve …”
He closed his eyes briefly to ease the burn of tears and shook his head. He had no right to be upset, he gave Conner a choice and the teen had made his decision. If only Steve had been better, if he didn’t lose Conner’s trust, if only he could have provided a better home, then maybe things would have been different. Steve swallowed past the lump in his throat, despite supposedly being the peak of human perfection, Steve’s life sometimes seemed to be built around phrases like ‘if only’ and ‘would have been.’ At least ‘if only he had been a better father figure’ was a little better than ‘if only he had been able to reach Bucky.’ Both were instances that proved that Steve was far from perfect.
“Not now,” he repeated, his voice wavering. “I can’t, I just … We need to find those kids.”
The only good thing that happened on Friday was that they found the missing mutant children and they ran into Sabretooth, which meant Captain America could take out all of his frustrations on the violent mutant without worrying about accidently killing him. His strikes with his shield were so vicious that even Wolverine commented on it, though it sounded more like praise than a scolding. It also didn’t help that Iron Man kept glancing over at him during the entire mission, that in itself wasn’t unusual, but Captain America knew his partner was worried.
By the time they got home it was already Saturday morning, the sun was beginning to rise and Steve was too exhausted to do anything other than flopping down on the bed in full armor. He didn’t move an inch when Tony tugged off his clothes, but he couldn’t help moving when Tony gave him a sudden blowjob. He figured it was Tony’s way of saying that he was sorry that Conner left, he appreciated the thought even if it didn’t make him feel better afterwards.
In an uncharacteristic fit of depression that wasn’t related to being seventy years out of his time period, Steve spent most of the day in bed. He tried not to think about Conner living in a cave without anyone to look after him. He tried not to think who was a worse father, him or Superman. He tried not to think about the empty room down the hall. He tried not to think.
Finally, Tony dragged him out of bed. “It’s movie night,” he insisted, “we never miss a movie night when we’re home and we’re not about to start now.”
Steve didn’t feel like a movie.
“We can watch The Wizard of Oz,” Tony offered. Steve didn’t take the bait, so Tony upped the ante. “I’ll let you sing along with the songs.”
Tony was trying, really trying, because there was an official SHIELD rule banning Steve and Thor from singing along with musicals. It was right under the rule banning Tony from trying to grope Steve in the middle of Avengers meetings. So Steve relented and started making popcorn while Tony started up the DVD.
“I brought my friends to movie night.”
Steve jumped at the voice behind of him and spun on around to see Conner standing in the kitchen, his duffle bag thrown carelessly to the floor.
“The cave is drafty and my room there isn’t as nice,” Conner said offhandedly. “And just to let you know, I told them yesterday.”
“What?” Steve barely got the word out before the kitchen was invaded by a group of teenagers.
Kid Flash grabbed his hand and shook it enthusiastically. “Oh my god, you’re Captain America, you’re totally Captain America, Conner’s going to be adopted by Cap! Oh my god, I know Captain America. My friend lives with Cap, my friend is going to be Cap’s son! Can I call you Steve? Can I come to the wedding? Can I get a picture with you? Can I hold the shield? Can I get a picture with you while holding the shield?”
Steve tried to answer all the questions thrown his way and to attend to all of his newly arrived guests, but he couldn’t help looking over their heads and over at Conner, who hung in the back. The teen met Steve’s gaze with a shy, lopsided smile and a half shrug.
Saturday was by far the best day out of the week. Steve didn’t even mind when The Wizard of Oz was replaced by Die Hard or that Kid Flash ate all of the popcorn.
Conner had fully intended to go back to Mount Justice and stay there. Not necessarily because he disliked living in New York City, but because it was the right thing to do for his team. He owed it to his friends to stay where he was needed. In the cave he would be immediately available for missions, ready to protect his team. That’s what he was made for, that’s what weapons were for.
Despite Conner’s protest, Steve had called Happy and the older man was there to see Conner off with a hug. Conner had only met him a few times before, but Happy was sad to see him go and it was nice to have someone there when he let. Conner had a feeling that he would have liked Happy, anyone who was dating Pepper Potts couldn’t be too bad.
No one was around when he returned to Mount Justice, Megan had gone out with her uncle and Red Tornado was out on a mission. His footsteps echoed unusually loudly in the cave and his room was small and uninteresting. He thought about working out, but Batman had yet to install a punching bag that could take his strength and the thought of going through the boxing moves Steve taught him made his chest ache with an unfamiliar hollowness. So Conner went to the living room and stared at the TV with the words ‘No Signal’ glaring back at him.
Robin appeared an hour into his staring match with the TV. The young teen threw a couple of files in his direction and flopped down on the couch next to him. “I brought you some reading materials.”
Conner looked down and saw that the files were labeled ‘Captain America/Captain Steven G. Rogers.’ “You know.”
Robin rolled his eyes and turned the TV onto a proper channel. “Of course I know. Batman knows, so I know. I thought you’d want to know more about him, past and present.”
Flipping open the first file, Conner found himself looking at a black and white picture not of Captain America, but a thin, frail and determined Steve Rogers. Everything from Steve’s early life was there, the grades he got in school, his parents and their history, the addresses he lived at, his extensive medical records, information on Sergeant James “Bucky” Barnes, everything was there. It took him awhile to realize that what he had was Batman’s personal file on Captain America.
“How did you know that I came back already?” Conner asked.
The slight elevation of Robin’s eyebrow was all the answer Conner needed.
“Right, stupid question.”
“I think the real question is why are you here?” Robin countered. “Shouldn’t you be enjoying being Captain America’s son and living in the most awesome mansion ever? Hey, do you think you could sneak me into Stark’s workshop?”
“I’m back here for good.”
Robin snorted. “That’s dumb.”
Conner glared. “It’s for the team. I’m needed here.”
“You don’t need to be here twenty-four seven. Even Batman has a personal life, we all do and you get to have one too. We’re not the Justice League, we don’t respond to emergencies, we’re a covert team with planned out missions.” Robin was breaking down Superboy’s reasoning with ease.
“I can’t live with a couple of Avengers.”
“Of course you can,” Robin waved off Conner’s concern. “We know you, we know that you’re not going to reveal any big secrets or put us in any danger. Rogers is Captain America and if Cap isn’t trustworthy then I don’t know who is.”
“What about Stark?”
Robin paused and said, “He’s not bad and I don’t think he cares enough about the League to do any damage.”
Superboy closed the file he was skimming, deciding it would be better to forget Steve and his insistence that Superboy needed things like a name, a home, a family.
“Don’t.” Robin reached over and opened the file again. “They’re good people and Cap cares about you. The team, we don’t care if Stark and Rogers are Avengers, we just care that you’re ok and right now you’re totally not. And who cares about what the Justice League thinks? Batman doesn’t care.” Conner didn’t look convinced, so Robin said, “Ok, let’s tell the team about Rogers and what they think about you staying in New York. Because that’s what you want, I can tell.”
There was a sense of finality to Robin’s voice that sounded like Batman and it left no room for argument. “Ok, fine,” Conner sighed.
“Cool. Hey, I’ve heard you’ve taken up boxing, wanna teach me?”
Conner wasn’t even going to ask how Robin knew that, but he was glad that Robin knew things that he shouldn’t. Out of impulse, he gave Robin a hug, because he’d seen Wally do it a million times and it felt like the right thing to do.
Robin was right. Their friends seemed excited over the prospect of him staying in New York and more excited over the fact that Steve Rogers was Captain America. Even Kaldur’s voice held an edge of wonder to it.
Wally had seized Conner by his shirt and pulled him down until they were eye to eye. “Steve Rogers is Captain America and he wants to be your dad? Dude, I will stop being your friend if you don’t go to New York. Oh my god, do you think he’ll let me hold the shield? Have you held the shield yet? Is there anything else you’re not telling us? Are you going to become Cap’s sidekick? If you are, can I come on patrols with you?”
Wally’s enthusiasm was comforting, if not kind of disturbing.
“I don’t see anything wrong with staying, it doesn’t matter who you know or who your family is, it doesn’t change who you are. Just because your parents are Avengers, doesn’t make you one,” Artemis said to him in private, sounding almost defensive. “Plus, if you stay you can get us invitations to the wedding.”
Artemis had a good point, he’d have to remember it and to ask for invitations to the wedding.
Megan had given him a huge smile. “I think this is great! I know that Captain America is a good man and Iron Man must be a good man too if the Captain loves him so much. You deserve this, a family, I can feel it when you’re with Mr. Rogers. I’m sure you and Mr. Stark will build a good relationship. And don’t worry about me, I’ll miss you, but my uncle always comes to visit me and I have Red Tornado.”
It was a relief that Megan was so happy for him, he had worried that she’d be sad to see him go.
Later that evening, Kaldur had pulled Conner off to the side to speak with him. “I have full confidence in your loyalty to the team and I know that living with Captain America and Iron Man will not compromise that loyalty. We only wish for you to be happy and you seemed rather content while living with them.”
It felt good that Kaldur had such confidence in him, it made things easier.
By Saturday afternoon, Conner had his choice and grabbed his bag and went back to New York with his friends.
He knew Steve would be happy to see him again, but he underestimated the older man’s joy. His smile didn’t even falter when Conner told him he didn’t want to be officially adopted right away, he was just content that Conner had come back. And Steve didn’t protest once when Conner became his shadow. During the week he trailed after the older man, following him on errands around the city, letting him take Conner to museums, going on early morning jogs, sparring afterwards and they started going to Central Park with containers of takeout for lunch. Sometimes Stark would join them and Steve would try to get them to talk to each other without much success.
Even with his friends’ reassurances, Conner still felt uneasy about Iron Man being an Avenger. But for some reason knowing Captain America was an Avenger didn’t bother him anymore. He soothed himself by telling himself that he wouldn’t have any interactions with the other Avengers or SHIELD. Towards the end of his second week at the mansion though, he was proven wrong.
Conner had gone grocery shopping with Steve one day, because the man did those kinds of things regardless of Stark’s wealth. He had sat at the kitchen table with newspapers that morning, looking at what was on sale, clipping coupons and writing a meticulous list while asking Conner if he wanted anything special from the store. They had just gotten through the door with their bags when JARVIS cheerfully told them about their guests. Conner had hoped that it was his friends, but the names sounded unfamiliar to him.
“Captain Rogers, Dr. Blake and Mr. Barton are in the living room here to see you and Mr. Conner. I believe that they have taken liberties with Mr. Stark’s beer and the pop-tarts,” JARVIS informed them.
Steve sighed as he reluctantly handed over his groceries to a helpful robot, which put them away. “Thank you, JARVIS.” He gave Conner an apologetic smile, “This isn’t how I wanted you to meet my teammates, but I guess there’s no way around it now.”
“I could throw them out,” Conner suggested helpfully.
Steve chuckled. “You could throw out Hawkeye, but you might have some trouble with Thor.”
Conner cocked his head to the side and followed Steve to the living room, where two men were sitting on the couch, watching TV and drinking beer. The larger guy with long blond hair, obviously Thor, rose at their entrance and immediately embraced Steve.
“Steven, my friend! I congratulate you on the adoption of your son! The arrival of a child into a home is a most joyous occasion! I will speak with your betrothed and we will hold a grand celebration for your son. I will bring Asgardian ale and gifts for your young one.” Thor released Steve and introduced himself to Conner. “I am Thor, son of Odin and God of Thunder. My mortal name is Dr. Donald Blake, it’s official on my Midgardian name card and on Facebook!” Thor proudly held up a driver’s license for Conner to see.
“Um, I’m Superboy, uh clone of Superman and my Earth name is Conner. Nice to meet you.”
“The pleasure is mine, Conner!” And Thor gave him a hug that made his bones ache from the force. God of Thunder indeed. Once the god let go of Conner, he gave him a hearty pat on the back that made Conner stumble forward. “You must be proud to have such honored parents! The Captain is a celebrated hero and Tony has a ‘business empire,’ and they both have many victories on the battlefield. And I hear that you are a fine warrior. I look forward to testing your strength and skill, I have heard that Kryptonians are champion warriors of this realm.”
“Uh, yeah, we do ok.”
“Leave the kid alone, Thor,” Hawkeye said after draining the last of his beer. He got up and held his hand out to Conner. “Hawkeye, civilian name’s Clint Barton.”
Conner took his hand, looking at Hawkeye’s arms and tried to figure out who was the better archer, him or Green Arrow.
Barton grinned at Steve and threw an arm around him. “Aw, Steve, I was hoping you guys had gotten the cute blond one, Supergirl, but the kid seems alright. How old is he exactly? When can Uncle Hawkeye take him to strip clubs and bars?”
“Never,” Steve growled at his friend.
Barton laughed, stepping away from Steve to ruffle Conner’s hair, “Don’t worry, Conner, I’ll sneak you out to have some fun. I’m sure Stark will look the other way.”
“Clint, you’re officially off of the list of potential babysitters.”
“What!? You know I’m way more responsible than Stark!”
Conner didn’t know what to make of Barton, but he was glad when Thor clasped his shoulder and said, “Come, Conner, we will let them bicker. I wish to see your skills in battle.”
Fighting a god was more thrilling than it should have been. Conner was admittedly outmatched in every way possible, Thor was stronger, faster, more experienced and it should have annoyed Superboy. It didn’t, because Thor wasn’t smug about it, he was sincerely enjoying himself and Conner couldn’t help but feel the same way. Off to the side, Steve shouted out suggests about when to block, where to strike and what to watch out for. He also yelled at Thor to not hurt Conner, threatening to throw his shield at the God of Thunder until Barton managed to distract him. After a while, Conner became more interested in the conversation between Barton and Steve than his fight with Thor.
“Fury just got your request for paternity leave,” Barton told Steve.
“Well, I can’t be running around working for SHIELD while trying to get Conner settled in. But I’ll still be an active member of the Avengers and I’ll be back at SHIELD part time after the school year starts up.”
“And when Fury denies you said paternity leave?”
“Tony will take care of it.”
“Of course he will or you’ll finally become a kept man. I heard him gloating about that thing with the reporter chick and her boyfriend. If I ever need anyone intimidated I’m coming to your fiancé.”
“He didn’t intimidate Miss Lane and Mr. Kent, he was just being Tony.”
“If that’s what you want to call it,” Barton snorted. “This isn’t going to be pretty you know. Fury’s not happy, but he’s not going to do anything, except have an aneurism and make Stark miserable. But from what I’ve heard, the League has an impressive team of lawyers.”
“So does Tony.”
“Not. Pretty.” Barton reiterated.
“Don’t. Care.” Steve replied and added softly, “It’s worth it.”
Conner stumbled on his own feet, but Thor was quick enough to grab his arm and steady him. The god smiled broadly, “You have much potential, Conner, experience and training will do you well.”
“Once I can fly and have heat vision I won’t be so easy to take down,” Conner said confidently.
Thor’s smile widened. “I look forward to it.”
Conner smirked. “Me too.”
Hawkeye and Thor weren’t so bad, Conner decided. He was appreciated their straightforwardness and Thor was fun to spar with. He was almost disappointed when Stark kicked them out in the evening, grumbling about them drinking his beer and that Thor ate all of their pop-tarts. Afterwards, Conner tried to comfort himself with the fact that he wasn’t getting too friendly with the Avengers, that they weren’t friends. But then he got a text from Peter Parker, asking if Conner wanted to go out with him and his girlfriend to make up for last week.
Without thinking, Conner said yes.
At least Spider-Man wasn’t an official Avenger. He just fought with the Avengers on the occasion, used the gym at the mansion and was on a first name basis with Steve and Tony. And it wasn’t like Conner was going to try to form a new team with Spider-Man, they would be friends, because it would make Steve happy. That was all. They’d have dinner and maybe go see a play.
So it really wasn’t Conner’s fault when things got a little out of hand when he met up with Peter and MJ on Friday night.
“Curfew is at midnight, call if you’re going to be late. Pepper and Happy will be here if there’s an emergency and Tony and I have to leave. And take a jacket, it’s supposed to get cold tonight.” Steve diligently ironed a set of clothes for Conner, he told Steve not to, but the older man insisted on it. The teen wasn’t dressing up, he was going to wear his usual cargo pants and a plain black t-shirt, even though Stark had filled his closet with new, expensive looking clothes.
“Jesus, Steve, he’s invulnerable and can jump over buildings, he doesn’t need a curfew. And didn’t I make you a robot to do that?” Stark barely looked up from the tablet he was working on.
“All teens need a curfew and I like ironing.” With that, Steve shut down the argument before it even began. “There you go,” he picked up Conner’s shirt, put it on a hanger and handed it to him. “Peter should be here to pick you up soon.”
“Is he still driving that terrible piece of scrap metal?” Stark snorted. “Tell him I’ll buy him a new car to save me the embarrassment of having him drive it to my house.”
Conner ignored them and went to his room to change out of his slightly wrinkled clothes into his immaculately pressed ones. He came back with his brown jacket in hand when Steve presented him with a new jacket. It was a similar shape and color of his old one, but it was much nicer, made of leather and had more weight to it.
“Tony bought it for you,” Steve said with pride before Conner could thank him.
“Oh.” Conner shifted from one foot to another. “Thanks, Tony.”
“Don’t mention it.” Stark’s eyes were still glued to his tablet, but Conner could hear his heart speed up.
He didn’t have time to comment on it as JARVIS announced Peter’s arrival and they left for dinner. MJ was already at the restaurant, sitting in a discreet corner with a young blond man, who Conner recognized Johnny Storm, the Human Torch from the Fantastic Four. For the first half of dinner, Conner sat stiffly, quietly listening to Peter and Johnny joke back and forth, but MJ was able to coax him out of his shell. She was able to make him feel at ease, while Peter was nice, but awkward, and Johnny was overwhelming.
“Are you seeing anyone?” MJ asked lightly, her mouth curling up and her eyes were bright with curiosity. There was no teasing in her tone, just a sincere interest to get to know Conner.
Conner shook his head.
“If you need some help in the dating department, I am your man.” Johnny sounded thrilled. “Which one of those teen heroes do you like?”
Leaning back, he thought about it for a moment and answered, “I like all of my friends, but I think Miss Martian is pretty,” he admitted, which earned him a squeal from MJ. “I think Robin is too. I wish he’d take off his mask so I’d know what color his eyes are. I don’t like secret identities.”
“That is the cutest thing I’ve ever heard,” MJ declared as Johnny laughed, and Peter choked on his drink.
“Robin? Really?” Peter asked after he cleared his throat.
“Well, yeah,” replied Conner. “I looked at Kid Flash once, but then Red Arrow threatened me, something about kryptonite arrows.”
“I like him, he’s ballsy if he likes Batman’s kid.” Johnny grinned widely with approval that made Conner oddly happy. “Let me know if you want any dating advice, for both Miss Martian and Robin.”
Conner didn’t answer, but he made note of the offer.
By the time they finished dinner, Conner was having a good time and he was disappointed when MJ told them that she had to leave. She promised to take Conner to a play soon and, much to his embarrassment, pressed a kiss on his cheek. Once they saw MJ off, Conner expected to go home, but Johnny Storm other ideas.
“You know, there are other things we can do,” the blond man grinned.
“Yeah, but I need to get Conner home by midnight and I don’t exactly have what I need,” Peter said hastily.
“It’s barely past nine and we’re not far from the Baxter Building, you’ve got a spare under my bed.”
“Cap is going to kill me.”
Peter looked defeated, but he wasn’t overly disappointed about it. Conner wasn’t sure what they were going on about until he was standing in the middle of Johnny’s room and Peter pulled his Spider-Man costume out from under the bed. It was going to be one of those nights, Conner thought with satisfaction. He hadn’t been on patrol in New York yet, only Happy Harbor, which was rather quiet, and Metropolis, in hopes of getting Superman’s attention. While Peter and Johnny suited up, Conner just shrugged off his new jacket and followed Spider-Man and the Human Torch as they vaulted off the balcony with Sue Storm yelling at them to use the door.
It wasn’t long before they ran into a man in a cape and cowl, riding some sort of glider and throwing jack-o-lanterns at them. And Superboy thought Gotham had weird villains.
“He’s the Hobgoblin,” Spider-Man filled him in. “He’s your run of the mill villain. Enhanced strength, reflexes, speed, bad fashion sense, and has exploding jack-o-lanterns.”
“I don’t think you guys can comment on bad fashion sense,” Superboy ventured with a jab.
Superboy could practically see the smile under Spider-Man’s mask. “Ouch, man, breaking my heart.”
“The flames are not bad fashion sense, they’re great defense and offense,” Human Torch defended himself with a laugh. “And the suit is practical, it’s fireproof. Do you know how annoying it is when your clothes burn off?”
“Can’t say that I do,” he couldn’t help smiling. “So, is this guy punchable?” Superboy asked as he dodged whatever the Hobgoblin threw at him.
“Why don’t you find out?” Human Torch chuckled.
As it turned out, the Hobgoblin was very punchable.
They didn’t manage to capture the Hobgoblin, but they did manage to foil whatever scheme he was up to. In all honesty, they were too absorbed in teasing one another that they completely missed the Hobgoblin’s monologue. No one was hurt, nothing was stolen and the world was in one piece, so they chalked it up as a win.
“Why didn’t the Avengers come when the Hobgoblin attacked?” Superboy asked back at the Baxter Building, letting Peter examine him for any wounds, which was completely unnecessary.
“The Hobgoblin throwing a hiss fit is hardly a problem for an entire team of superheroes. If we didn’t come along, then SHIELD would have just sent a couple of agents to deal with him or Hawkeye for some target practice,” Johnny explained.
“Yeah, so don’t tell Cap and Tony about this. I don’t want them to know that I took you out to fight the Hobgoblin. Wait, what’s the time? I promised Steve I’d get you home before midnight. Johnny, can I use one of Reed’s time machines?” Peter looked panicked at the thought of getting Conner home late.
“I doubt Reed will let you near them, but I can drive really fast.”
Johnny got home him with ten minutes to spare before his curfew. Steve and Stark were still awake, both were down in the workshop and Steve came up to greet him when JARVIS announced his arrival.
“Did you have fun?” Steve asked with a hopeful smile.
“So, what did you kids—?”
“Captain Rogers,” JARVIS interrupted, “Mr. Stark has just advised me to tell you not to pry into Mr. Conner’s life. Teenage privacy, he insists.”
“Oh, right, yeah.” Steve flushed. “You can tell me later. If you want.”
“At breakfast.” Conner promised and went straight to bed, tired and happy from his night out.
Conner woke up the next morning to find that he several text messages on his phone that he had left on silent. He normally never had so many messages and he wondered why he was so popular all of a sudden.
One was from Johnny Storm, who had programmed his number into Conner’s phone. We’re in the paper! But couldn’t they have thought of a better name for us?
The next was from Peter. Let me know ASAP if Cap is going to kill me.
Saw the paper. Cool pic. B isn’t too happy about the press, but oh well. That was from Robin.
MJ sent him one too. You’re famous now :) I’m saving the article! Sign it for me later?
Wally’s first message read, Dude! Did you get a new team!?!?! It was followed by, You know Johnny Storm!? Introduce me? Please? He kind of looks like Cap. And then he sent, Don’t tell Roy.
Conner put away his phone and wandered down to the kitchen for breakfast. Right away he could hear Stark talking on his cell phone over the noise of Steve making breakfast. At the table, Stark sat with his phone glued to his ear with the newspaper spread out before him. On the front page of the paper was a headline that read ‘The Terrific Three’ and Conner knew what Johnny was griping about. The photo under the headline was one that showed Superboy midair, punching the Hobgoblin’s glider while the Human Torch was nearby, aiming a fireball at the villain and Spider-Man was in mid swing. It was a rather good photo, except Conner’s face was blurred, making it hard to identify him.
Steve sat down plates of blueberry pancakes on the table and looked at the paper. “It looks like you had an entertaining night. You weren’t hurt?”
“Invulnerability.” Conner started eating, taking pleasure in food that wasn’t burnt by Megan.
“Right, and Peter and Johnny?”
“They were fine.”
“Good.” Steve ruffled his hair. “Next time, let me know when these things happen. I want to make sure that you’re ok when you come home.”
Obviously Steve didn’t understand the meaning of the word invulnerability.
Stark finally put his phone down and sent a pointed gaze at Steve. “No damage done,” Stark told them. “The reporter couldn’t identify Conner, but I’m sure Lois is going to pounce on this with that article she’s preparing. I’ll have Pepper set up a press conference so we can tell the world about our little bundle of joy.”
Conner wrinkled his nose. “Why? Why is it anyone’s business?”
“It really isn’t anyone’s business, but it’s better to make the announcement on our terms before Miss Lane and Mr. Kent make a bigger deal out of it with Miss Lane’s article.” Steve wasn’t bothered by the situation at all. “Tony has this covered.”
“This is nothing,” Stark was awfully smug. “It’ll be easier than when I revealed my secret identity, but I’d avoid going out for the next couple of weeks, the press is going to be ruthless until something else happens. I wonder if I can convince Clint and Natasha to pretend that they’re dating to distract the media. No, too predictable, maybe Clint and Bruce? Bruce and Thor? Oh, maybe a love triangle involving Coulson?”
Steve deflated. “But we were supposed to go to Coney Island next week. All of us.”
“I don’t remember that.” Stark poked at his tablet. “Well, it’s in my schedule. Let’s just replace the Coney Island trip with a visit to my villa in France and we’ll be good.”
Steve didn’t look happy and Conner snapped, “We can go wherever we want.”
Stark frowned. “I’ll work something out.” He got up and leaned in to kiss the corner of Steve’s mouth. “I’m going to go meet Pepper and go over my statement. We’ll schedule the press conference for Monday if I don’t hear about Lois releasing her article any earlier. Did you and Conner want to be there?”
As always, Steve waited for Conner to make a decision. Conner didn’t say anything, but he made his unhappiness known by glaring at Stark. Steve returned Stark’s kiss and shook his head. “We’ll pass and you have to finish your breakfast before you go see Pepper.”
“Do I really look like Howard?”
That shut Stark up rather quickly.
Conner was a little disappointed when he was called away for a mission later that afternoon. He was going to miss movie night and Robin had just given him an old Captain America movie that he wanted to watch. He was also uncertain about how his friends would react to him running around with other superheroes, heroes who were affiliated with the Avengers. By now, they had all probably seen the article. Of course, his team couldn’t say anything in front of Batman, who gave Superboy a long, significant look before telling them about their mission.
But once they were in the bioship, nothing held them back.
“Glad you could make time for us,” Artemis said.
“Still holding out on us,” Kid Flash sighed.
Superboy’s heart skipped a beat. “It’s not like that!”
“They are just teasing you,” Aqualad interjected, laying a calming hand on Superboy’s shoulder. “We all know where your loyalties lie.”
Artemis leaned towards Superboy from her seat. “But it wouldn’t hurt if you introduced us to Johnny Storm.”
“And Dr. Richards, I have an article he published last year on alternative universes that I want to ask him about.” Kid Flash had a dreamy expression on his face.
“I want to see some of his inventions. Do you think he really has a time machine?” Robin asked. Despite what he heard the night before, Superboy decided not to answer.
“I would like to meet the Invisible Woman and I’m sure the Thing is rather interesting,” Miss Martian added. “I’ve never met someone from Earth who’s made of rock.”
“What about the whole Justice League not getting involved with the Avengers?” Superboy looked at them as if they had all gone mad.
“That’s the Avengers, we’re talking about the Fantastic Four. Besides, technically we’re not the League and Avengers are basically your family now.” Robin wasn’t concerned and Superboy allowed himself to relax.
If Robin, Batman’s protégé, could be flippant about this, then there couldn’t be any harm in it. On some level, Batman must approve or at least wasn’t worried about the arrangement, if Robin was acting that way. Maybe even Superman approved, maybe Superman thought New York was a good place for Superboy. Not that he had any evidence of that, he hadn’t seen Superman for several weeks now and Conner surprised himself when he realized that he hadn’t actually thought about Superman much since he started staying at Stark’s mansion.
“We’re approaching our destination,” Miss Martian announced as she slowed the ship. Superboy pushed his thoughts from his mind and was glad that he spent the night before punching the Hobgoblin since they were on a watch and observe mission, following up on a lead about the Kobra cultists. He hated watching and observing.
The mission had gone without a hitch, making it a boring one, and Conner got home rather late after the debriefing. JARVIS cheerfully greeted him back home and Steve was up waiting for him. He even had hot chocolate and cookies ready, making Conner think of the old TV shows Megan always watched. Steve asked about his safety and if the rest of his team was ok, avoiding specific questions about the mission, which Conner appreciated.
After reassuring Steve that he and his friends were fine, Conner said, “I’m going to bed.”
“It is pretty late. Why don’t you go down to the workshop and let Tony know that you came back home ok?”
“I’m sure JARVIS told him.”
“Yeah, but I think he’d like to hear it from you.”
Conner suppressed the urge to point out that if Stark wanted to see him, that he’d come out of his cave every once in a while. It was no secret that Stark spent an obscene amount of time downstairs and it annoyed Conner, because Stark was Steve’s fiancé and he should spend more time with the Captain instead of hiding away. But he showed an uncharacteristic amount of self-restraint by not saying it, because making Steve upset was like kicking a puppy and he wanted to avoid that as much as possible. To make Steve happy, he made a detour downstairs and looked into the workshop.
Stark was sitting at one of the worktables, his music ridiculously loud, with a pair of scissor and the newspaper from that morning spread out in front of him and his back to Conner. “JARVIS, order me one of those photo album things that you put newspaper clippings and stuff in.” Stark ordered as he cut out the photo and article featuring Superboy, Spider-Man and the Human Torch.
“Do you mean a scrapbook, sir?” Conner was sure he heard JARVIS sigh.
“Yeah, one of those. Maybe one that’s black and red, but god help you if it’s Superman themed.”
“Very well. That’s very sentimental of you, sir.”
“Quiet you, it’s for Steve and Conner. I have a reputation to hold up, you know.” Stark carefully smoothed out the newspaper clipping against the table.
“And cutting back on your drinking, limiting your partying, proposing to your long term boyfriend and adopting a child has done wonders for it, sir.”
“Everyone’s a critic,” Stark muttered and stared down at the clipping.
Conner crept back up the stairs, unsure of what to think.
Steve bit his lip as he watched the press conference begin. Pepper had given him a copy of Tony’s statement for his approval, but Steve was still nervous. Conner wasn’t interested in the press conference and was playing videogames with Kaldur up in his room. Steve couldn’t keep away from the TV though. Earlier that morning, he had caught Tony by the arm and whispered, “Please, don’t do anything drastic.”
Tony had grinned and kissed Steve, but he made no promises.
He tried to not worry when Tony approach the podium looking as composed and confident as he always did and started to speak. “I would like to announce my intention to adopt Superboy with my fiancé, Steve Rogers. This isn’t about the Avengers or the Justice League, it’s about a kid, who is in need of stability and a family—” Tony looked down at the cards with his speech on it and threw them away, making Steve’s heart sink with dread. “So, seriously, Steve and I wanted to adopt a kid and who better than Superboy? There’s the League and all that stuff, but did you know that this kid saved Stevie’s life in Gotham? That makes him an instant hero in my books.”
Steve’s phone beeped at him and there was a text from Pepper, I am so sorry. I promise to kill him for you. After that he received a message from Clint, Do you want me to tranq him? Got a clear shot. His fingers itched to type back to Clint to go ahead, but he kept his hands in tight fists and tried to decide which couch Tony would be sleeping on for the next month.
“I’m not saying that the Justice League is abusing kids or anything like that,” Tony continued. “They just hadn’t found a suitable home for Superboy yet and hey, I’ve got a really big house, lots of money and I’ve got a nice stay at home fiancé to spend time with the kid. Seriously, he’s better off. Before we met this kid, he didn’t even have a proper name. I mean, I’m pretty sure Superboy isn’t a biblical name.”
Burying his face into his hands, Steve began to wish that Hydra would attack just to end the press conference.
“And I know I have a history of irresponsible behavior, but we all know that I’ve gotten a lot better and Steve is the most perfect person in the world. Besides, there are much worse people out there who have kids. Super villains have kids! So, why can’t Iron Man and his soon to be husband have a kid?” Tony kept talking, his outrage building over the thought of people objecting to them taking in Conner. “Before you ask, this isn’t about the Justice League. I couldn’t care less about the League and I don’t even have any contact with the League, besides through my lawyers, a few prank phone calls and skywriting ‘Avengers Rule’ and ‘Suck It Justice Losers’ above the Hall of Justice.”
Steve wondered if the chunk of ice he was trapped in for seventy years was still around and if he could crawl back inside of it. He had to admit though, Tony’s deviation from his original speech didn’t go too terribly and Tony avoided outright insulting the Justice League. But watching it left Steve exhausted and he turned off the TV as Tony started fielding questions even as Pepper tried to drag him away. Steve stretched out on the couch, throwing an arm over his eyes and was glad that Conner was occupied with Aqualad. His phone kept beeping annoyingly, messages from everyone he knew from SHIELD and the Avengers were giving their feedback and offers to kill Tony for him.
“Captain Rogers, I am sorry to disturb you in the middle of your mental breakdown induced by Mr. Stark,” JARVIS apologized, “but Mr. Wayne’s car is approaching the mansion. Shall I let him in when he arrives?”
Steve got up, there were few people he felt like seeing at the moment, but Bruce was a friend and had been a rather helpful one as of late. “Uh, yes, thank you, JARVIS.” He looked down at his button up checkered shirt that was now wrinkled and wondered if he had time to change before Bruce arrived.
The AI apparently read his mind. “I do not believe you have enough time to change, Captain Rogers, but may I comment on how well you look and that your ass looks good in those jeans.”
Steve flushed, he would never forgive Tony for programming JARVIS to compliment him. He went to go greet Bruce when he arrived and felt a little better upon seeing him.
“I was in town and saw the press conference, I thought you could use the moral support,” Bruce said after greeting Steve.
“Thank you so much, Bruce,” Steve smiled at the other man and escorted him to the kitchen and started to make coffee. “I don’t think the press conference went too badly, but I might also be delusional when it comes to Tony.”
“No, considering that he threw away his speech, it wasn’t bad. I don’t think the Justice League will be bothering you too much.” Bruce accepted a cup of coffee from Steve as they sat down at the table. “Tony was crude, but he was rather sincere.”
That instantly made Steve feel better. “I think so too, but don’t tell Tony I said that. I’m going to have a talk with him about ditching his prepared statements all the time.” Steve took a long sip of his drink and did his best to push the press conference from his mind. “So, how is Dick doing?”
“He’s doing well. Keeping busy with friends and he’s been trying to build his own JARVIS since he was last here.”
“Next time you should bring Dick with you,” Steve suggested. “I’d like Conner to meet him.”
“Trying to setup a play date?” Bruce smirked.
“No, not really, well, maybe. I mean, Conner has really great friends and all of those kids are amazing, but I just want him to have more, you know? I want him to have something of a normal life. I want him to have all the things Tony and I never had.” His grip tightened around his mug as he thought of never having enough during the Depression, of hardly ever seeing his mother, who loved him dearly, because she had to work all the time. And of Tony, who had anything he wanted except for his parents’ attention, companionship and love. Conner should have all of things that Steve and Tony never had growing up.
“Steve, from what I can tell, you’re doing a good job.”
Steve smiled warmly as Bruce placed a hand on his shoulder. He was glad to have Bruce’s friendship through the process of adopting Conner, the man understood and gave valuable advice. It was a pity that he lived in Gotham, Steve thought, because he was sure that Conner and Dick Grayson could become good friends. His smile widened as Conner walked into the room, letting him know that Aqualad had left and asking about lunch. Even as he spoke, the teen’s eyes focused on the hand on Steve’s shoulder and his gaze didn’t leave it until Bruce withdrew his touch.
“Bruce, this is Conner. Conner, this is Bruce Wayne, he’s a friend of mine and Tony’s,” Steve introduced them.
“I know who he is,” Conner said quickly, his eyes narrowing at their guest.
Noticing Conner’s glare right away, Steve tried to tell him why Bruce was so important. “Bruce has been helping Tony with all of the legal issues of you staying here, he’s been very supportive from the beginning.”
Conner didn’t comment and continued to glare at Bruce like he had done something wrong. Steve became worried, Conner wasn’t the most open teenager, but he usually wasn’t this cold and unreceptive. Before he could try to get Conner to warm up to Bruce, his phone rang and he excused himself. Steve didn’t know what happened while he stepped out of the room until much later when Bruce told him.
Taking a step towards Bruce once Steve was out of sight, Conner growled, “I know who you are.”
Only the slight widening of Bruce’s eyes betrayed his surprise. “And who am I?”
“Some rich playboy!” The teen snapped. “There’s only one billionaire I’ll tolerate and you’re not him! So, keep your hands off of Steve!”
Bruce paused and then tipped his head back to laugh. That’s how Steve found them, Conner scowling at a laughing Bruce. The other man chuckled at Steve and repeated, “You’re doing a good job, Steve.”
Bruce didn’t stay long after that and left Steve and Conner to wearily watch news trucks park outside the mansion gates. Conner grew more and more agitated by their presence and only Steve’s firm stance on not throwing reporters around kept him inside.
Tony finally made it home right before six, just as Conner was setting the table and Steve was taking dinner off the stove. While Tony ruffled Conner’s hair and kissed Steve, he was clearly nervous as he could sense Steve’s displeasure with him. That night, Steve waited until Conner had gone out to meet with his team, carefully avoiding the press camped outside of their home, to alternatively shake and kiss Tony over his actions. He couldn’t decide if he was angry for Tony going off from his prepared statement or loved him for his clear affection for Conner. He decided on the latter, mostly because he and Tony had some precious private time together.
Tony laid his head down on Steve’s naked chest as they cuddled in bed after some much needed sex and said, “I promise I’ll make up for the press conference today.”
“Coney Island?” Steve let his hope rise.
“I was thinking something a little bit nicer than Coney Island.”
Steve stuck out his bottom lip. “I don’t want to go to France, all we do in France is drink wine and make love. I want to do something family oriented.”
“It’ll be family oriented.” Tony promised as he nuzzled Steve’s throat. “The most family oriented place on Earth. Hey, do you think we have enough time for another go before the kid gets home?”
Flipping Tony onto his back and pinning him against the mattress, Steve’s smirk was all the answer Tony needed.
A couple of days later, Steve found his suitcase packed, Tony shoved him and Conner into a car, and they headed to the airport to Tony’s private jet for an impromptu trip. Apparently when Tony said family oriented, he wasn’t kidding. How Tony managed to rent Disneyland for the day during the summer was beyond Steve. It was nice though as all three of them were together, along with Conner’s friends.
“Seriously, this is ridiculous,” Wally whispered to Conner. “Ridiculous, but awesome!”
While Steve preferred Coney Island, it had sentimental value, he was happy to watch the teens run around the otherwise empty theme park. Anything that they wanted, Tony bought it, even the copious amounts of food that Wally ate. They rode Splash Mountain and Space Mountain dozens of times, mainly because they were Kaldur and Robin’s favorites. Artemis’s goal was to make Wally throw up on the teacup ride and for a moment it reminded Steve of Bucky doing a similar thing to him decades ago. Steve could have lived without the Small World ride, but Megan liked it and only Steve was kind enough to ride it with her more than once. And Conner looked at everything with wide eyed fascination.
Midday, Steve sat down on a bench with bags of gifts and souvenirs for the kids at his feet and sighed with contentment. He was exhausted. Between spending time with Conner, trying to plan his wedding, keeping Tony in check, meetings with their lawyers, and now dealing with the media storm, Steve felt like he hardly had time to breathe. He couldn’t remember a time when he was happier.
“Stark likes to throw around money, doesn’t he?” Conner observed as he sat down next to Steve.
“That’s the way Tony is.” Steve shrugged and grinned when he saw that Conner had on a Mickey Mouse ear hat with his name embroidered on it. “It’s how he deals with things because he doesn’t always know how to deal with people. I know it seems overindulgent, but this is how he shows that he cares.”
Conner was silent for a moment and then took off his hat. “And this thing?”
“That’s Tony being Tony.” Steve let out a tired chuckle. “You know, Tony means well, he really cares about you.”
“If he did, he wouldn’t hide in his workshop all the time,” Conner huffed.
“I think Tony is kind of like you, a little shy. He has a tough front, but it’s hard for him to get close to others. When he does want to get close to people, he doesn’t do it the normal way, he does things like this.” Steve gestured to the theme park. “He hides in his workshop because it’s what he knows and it’s safe. But I think Tony would be happy if you kept him company down there some time, he always likes it when I go down there and just read or sketch. I think you’d get to know him better and you’ll see that he’s a good man.”
“I don’t,” Conner stopped and took a deep breath, his eyes fixed on the Mickey Mouse hat in his large hands. The hat was admittedly childish, but endearing and Tony was trying, really trying. “I don’t mind Tony so much. He’s still a jerk, but he’s not at the same time.”
It wasn’t perfect, but Steve knew it was progress.
Steve, Tony and Conner ended up spending the rest of the week in California at Tony’s old home. It was good to be removed from the chaos of their lives back east, the break was exactly what they needed. New York would always be Steve’s favorite place, but he did have a fondness for California, even if the state did steal the Dodgers. His sketchbook was soon filled with the scenery, of Conner running up and down the beach, and of Tony sunbathing, going through all of the pictures Steve took of their trip to Disneyland on his tablet.
One day they ran into a couple and their little girl, who were walking their dog. Conner spent the rest of the day with the little girl chasing the dog on the beach. When he was sure that Tony was within hearing range, Conner said to Steve, “I want a dog.”
“We’ll see,” he replied, but out of the corner of his eye he saw Tony reach for his laptop.
The next morning there was beautiful husky puppy with clear blue eyes and thick, dark fur in the mansion. Steve didn’t say anything, but Tony couldn’t keep quiet, “What are you going to name her?”
Conner picked up the puppy and studied her face as she leaned forward and licked his nose. “Her name is Dog,” he decided.
“He gets his creativity from you,” Tony accused Steve.
It was best time they’d since they became a family, or at least a family in Steve’s mind. They ate takeout on the beach, made dinner together, watched movies every night, Tony and Conner worked on trying to teach Dog tricks and playing with her, Steve and Conner took long morning jogs, and they even managed to get into a Dodger’s game without being noticed by the press. His communicator was blissfully quiet, Thor promised that all Avenger business would be taken care of, and Tony’s cell phone was turned off, Pepper was managing Stark Industries, and Conner wasn’t called away for a mission or training. Steve couldn’t have an imagined a better vacation and was sad when they had to leave to return to their normal lives in New York.
When they got back to New York, papers from the Justice League’s lawyers were waiting for them, contesting Steve and Tony’s custody of Conner.
Superboy didn’t have time to dwell on legal issues, the Avengers and the Justice League, since almost as soon as he returned to New York he was called for a mission. When he came back from Bialya, reluctantly leaving Sphere behind for the time being, he found the mansion in a burst of activity. Stark was constantly on the phone, yelling into it and stomping around, while Steve tended to all of the people coming in and out of the mansion and barking out orders to Stark and everyone else with military precision.
Besides Stark’s lawyers, the Avengers, SHIELD agents and other associated heroes came over to offer advice and support. Agent Coulson and Hill came by often with stacks of files that had classified stamped all over them that Stark took away to his office. And Conner finally got to meet the last two members of the Avengers. Black Widow was pleasant enough, but he could hear her whispering to Steve, “I told you this would happen.” Bruce Banner was nothing like Conner imagined, he couldn’t believe that such man was the Hulk. Banner was rather awkward in his reassurances to them and they quickly found that Conner’s short temper and Banner’s need for tranquility didn’t work out very well. Stark was rather proud and Steve was slightly horrified when Banner transformed in the middle of their gym because of an outburst by Conner.
As a show of his loyalty and friendship, Thor stood on the coffee table with his hammer in hand and proclaimed, “I will strike down all those who threaten the house of Rogers and Stark! As my shield brothers, I am bound to protect them and their kin!”
“That’s nice, buddy.” Hawkeye tried to pull Thor down. “Jane! Jane, come get your psycho boyfriend!”
Bruce Wayne dropped by a couple of times, obviously upset about the turn of the events. Conner didn’t mind him too much as he spent most of his time counseling Stark in legal matters, the teen listened in just in case. But he did catch Wayne shaking Steve’s hand a little longer than necessary and Conner made his displeasure clear.
There were reporters and journalists permanently parked in front of the mansion and had worked themselves into a frenzy over the League’s legal actions. Everyone got pretty good at sneaking around them, but Stark and Steve did their best to deal with them. Stark would say offensive things about the League, while asserting his determination in fighting for his and Steve’s right to keep Conner. Steve was much more polite, but his face was set in a strong sense of resolve that often led troops into battle. He was firm on his commitment of becoming a parent and stated in clipped tones that he had nothing against the Justice League, but was appalled by their lapse of responsibility when it came to Superboy.
The whole affair made Conner uneasy and he knew that soon he’d have to choose a side. Either tell Steve that he was going back to Mount Justice or dig his heels in and refuse to leave New York. Before he made the decision to stay and to not be officially adopted yet, but now he’d have to decide.
Towards the end of the week Stark came back late into the night from his office, looking tired and stressed. He told Steve that he’d talk to him about it later, which to Conner was basically an open invitation to eavesdrop. After Conner went upstairs to his room, they went to the workshop, where Conner wouldn’t have been able to really hear them in his room if he stayed there. He spied down at them from the steps and JARVIS was kind enough to keep quiet.
Steve was sitting down while Stark paced in front of him. “I got the League’s lawyers to agree to let Conner stay here while we work things out,” Stark said.
That perked Steve up. “That’s great.”
“No. I mean, it is, but that’s not all. They’re using how I acted when I was dying against me!” Stark threw his hands into the air. “How tacky is that? Natasha told me that they’re also trying to get SHIELD’s evaluation of me, but thank god that no amount of lawyers can overcome Fury’s paranoia and secrecy. And I’m pretty sure that they’ve found all of my exes to give statements against me. You don’t have anything in your past that’s going to come up, do you Steve?”
“Well, everyone who knew me in the past is dead,” Steve gave him a sad smile.
“Right, I’m sorry, I’m being an ass. It’s just,” Stark sighed loudly, “I’m having all of my past mistakes thrown in my face to discredit my ability to provide a kid a home.”
“No, I expected this. And I’m not beaten, Steve, not by a long shot, I haven’t even started yet. They stuck Conner in a cave! A fucking cave, Steve! With a robot as his caretaker! And they think I’m going to be worse? At least the Martian girl has family visiting her, but where the hell is Superman? That’s what I want to know! Where is the deadbeat dad of the year, huh? Self-righteous son of a bitch!”
“Tony, this isn’t about him. This is about keeping our family together, that’s all.”
“And I’m going keep us together, all three of us. If those idiots think they can win against me, they’re mistaken! They aren’t the first people to come after me and they’re going to fail like all the others.”
Steve got up, wrapped his arms around Stark’s waist from behind and pressed his cheek into Stark’s dark hair. “I know, love, I know.”
Stark slumped against Steve’s chest. “I’m going to fix this, Steve, I’m going to fix this for us.”
“I know you will. And you know what I’m going to do? I’m going to throw my shield in Superman’s face.”
Stark laughed, the tired expression immediately leaving his features. “I knew I loved you for a reason.”
Conner decided he had enough when Stark turned around to kiss Steve and attached himself to the bigger man like a kola to tree. He went back to his room and tried to go to sleep, but after an hour of tossing and turning, he got out of bed with a sleepy Dog following him. The mansion was quiet, but when Conner concentrated he could hear a faint clank of metal and figured that Stark was still awake. Conner was pretty sure that only person who kept regular hours in this place was Steve. Stark was up at all hours of the day, fueled purely by caffeine and stubbornness, and Conner often slept uneasily and had taken to wandering the mansion and its grounds at night.
Conner followed the noise to the garage, where Stark was occupied with the engine of one of his many cars. “Can’t sleep either?” Stark asked as he carelessly wiped his grease stained hands against his jeans. “Steve went to bed, but I can get JARVIS to wake him up if you want.”
“I’m fine,” Conner said and Dog woofed in agreement.
“Uh, yeah, well.” Stark leaned against the car. “Do you know anything about cars?”
“Not really.” Conner got up peeked inside the vehicle, unsure of what he was looking at. Stark went back to his work, babbling on about the car and the engine with everything he said going clear over Conner’s head. He was lost in Stark’s tangent that somehow moved from cars to computer science, vaguely remembering Steve’s horror stories about Stark trying to teach him about technology.
Stark paused, seeing the blank expression on Conner’s face. “I’m not good at this.”
“No, you’re not,” Conner agreed and wandered away from the car, automatically drawn to the line of motorcycles. All of them were shiny and new, with the exception of one older Harley.
“That one is Steve’s,” Stark provided. “You don’t want to know how many times I’ve had to rebuild that thing because he’s wrecked it during a mission.”
“I like it.” Conner ran a hand over the handlebars. “Did you build the others?”
“I mostly buy them and then tweak them, but I’ve built a few.” Stark moved away from his car and knelt down by Steve’s bike, fiddling with something by the front wheel. “I can make you a custom bike if you want one.”
“I want to build it. You could help me, right?”
“I could do that.” There was a lightness to Stark’s tone that Conner hadn’t heard since they left California. “What kind of bike do you want? JARVIS, show the kid some of the current models. Or do you want one like Steve’s? JARVIS, pull up some Harleys from the forties.”
Conner watched as holographic computer screens popped up and Stark started talking about what they could do with the bike, everything from the brakes and engine to the color scheme, in which he immediately ruled out red and blue. Conner started to become excited. “It doesn’t take very long, right?”
“So impatient, like Steve when he’s waiting for his bike,” Stark huffed. “This takes time, especially if we’re building this from scratch. I assume you know how to drive one.”
“What about a car? You’re sixteenish, can you drive a car?”
“We can get you a car, maybe something old and classic that we can restore and I can teach you how to drive. I know you’d probably want Steve to teach you, but his style of driving is only good if you’re trying to avoid Nazis. We can always get Happy to teach you, or Pepper or Rhodey if you want.”
“No, you’re fine.” Conner even dared a smirk and Stark visibly relaxed. “So, I’m getting a car, huh?”
Stark grinned at him. It was an open, unguarded type of grin that Stark rarely gave to anyone who wasn’t Steve. Conner’s own smile widened and he decided that not only did he not mind Stark, he actually kind of liked him.
Hours later, Steve’s heavy steps alerted Conner and Stark of his presence. The man stood there, his arms crossed over his broad chest and asked with outrage, “Did either of you go to sleep last night!?”
He ushered both of them to their respective bedrooms, his hand firmly on the back of Conner’s neck, Stark slung over his shoulder and Dog at his heels. Conner slumped down into bed as Steve quietly told him to sleep well, ruffling his hair affectionately and stopping just short of tucking Conner into bed. Before falling asleep, he thought about Stark’s words to Steve, his declaration of fixing things for them. He could do that, Conner decided, he didn’t need Stark or Steve to do anything when Conner could go straight to the source.
The next evening provided a nice distraction as Steve was rushing around in the kitchen in his Captain America uniform. He managed to put dinner down in front of Conner, with his cell phone cradled between his ear and shoulder as he struggled to tug on one of his boots. Recently most missions from SHIELD were taken care of by the rest of the Avengers team, but Loki needed the full team’s attention. “Tony! I can’t get a hold of Pepper or Happy and we have to get going soon before Loki destroys New Mexico!” Steve shouted to his fiancé in an odd scene of superhero domesticity.
“They’re visiting Pepper’s mother!” Stark yelled back, his voice carrying over the noise of his armor assembling down in the workshop. “The kid doesn’t need a babysitter! He’s invulnerable!”
“I’m not letting him spend the night alone! Do you think Jim is available?”
“War Machine’s been called in too!”
“Then I’m calling Peter.”
“What!? There is no way you’re putting Parker in charge of my mansion!” Iron Man made his way to the kitchen in full armor, his faceplate flipped up so Steve could see the serious look on his face. “We could just bring Superboy with us, I bet he’d be useful.”
“No!” Steve protested. “I haven’t trained him to deal with people like Thor’s brother, it wouldn’t be safe.”
“He’d be fine! Loki’s not that tough.”
“Remember when he tried to take over the world?”
“A lame effort at best and it brought us together.”
“Or when he transformed you into a kitten for a week?”
“I was a very adorable and affectionate kitten.”
“I’m going to Central City to stay with Wally,” Conner cut in. “I have an open invitation there.”
Steve hesitated. “Are you sure it’d be ok?”
“Steve! Just trust the kid. We’re kind of running out of time.” Iron Man tapped on his wrist as if a watch was there.
“Ok, ok.” Steve pulled Conner into a hug, reminding him to call them if he needed anything before running off to his mission.
Conner finished up his dinner and cleaned up a bit before leaving. He wasn’t headed for Central City though, he was going to Gotham. He had the decency to feel bad about lying to Steve, but not too much. If anyone knew what was going on with the League, it was Batman, and if he could find him or Robin, then he’d get what he wanted. Once he got to Gotham didn’t take long for Superboy to spot Robin his rounds through Gotham, mostly because there was a bright yellow streak running alongside his motorcycle. He quickly gained their attention and immediately met him on a nearby rooftop.
“Hey Supey, needed to escape your castle for the sights of Gotham?” Kid Flash asked teasingly.
“I need to talk to Batman,” Superboy replied and Robin nodded understandingly. The team threw their loyalty behind of him instead of the League, a gesture that he appreciated. Then he raised an eyebrow at Kid Flash and wondered out loud, “Why are you here?”
“Trouble in paradise,” Robin whispered loudly.
“No! I just don’t wanna go with Red Arrow to follow a lead on Cheshire.” Kid Flash was obviously pouting. “Aqualad is watching his back for me.”
Robin rolled his eyes. “What you mean is that Aqualad is making sure Red Arrow keeps his hands to himself for you.”
“Hey, I trust Roy!”
Superboy growled in frustration, this was getting him nowhere. “Where is Batman?”
For a second Conner was unnerved over the fact that Batman managed to sneak up on him, but he recovered quickly, turned around and glared at the man. “Get the League to back off!”
Batman’s expression was as unreadable as usual. “You want to be adopted by Stark and Rogers?”
“Maybe, probably! But it’s my choice, not the League’s! I’ll stay there for as long as I want.” And he wanted to stay, he really did. He had his own room, his own routine, his own pet, his own Steve and Tony. There wasn’t anything that he wanted to leave behind.
“How could this happen?” Kid Flash dared to ask. “I thought you had things … under control.”
Batman’s jaw tightened. “Green Arrow. He doesn’t agree with the case, but he believes in the Justice League’s right to bring it to court.”
Robin let out a low whistle and Kid Flash mumbled, “No wonder Black Canary’s been in such a bad mood lately.”
“You need to fix this!” Superboy snapped. “Tell the League that this isn’t their decision. This is my life, not theirs!”
“The man has a point.” Kid Flash quipped, but fell silent under Batman’s stare.
Batman’s brought his attention back to Superboy. “I’m doing what I can within the Justice League and outside of it. Trust me when I say that I did not instigate this.”
That did nothing to ease Conner’s anger. “Just point me in the direction of who did.”
“Metropolis,” Batman provided without hesitation.
“That was cold,” Robin muttered under his breath, earning him a sharp look from Batman. But the young teen just smiled at the fact that the Dark Knight threw the Man of Steel under the kryptonite bus.
With the mention of the city, Conner hardly heard another word. He didn’t even notice when Batman disappeared into the shadows nor did he notice Robin and Kid Flash lingering near him. Of all the times Superman decided to step into his life, this was it. It made him mad and strangely hopeful at the same time. Something in his stomach twisted, but he couldn’t tell if it was anger or happiness. He had never had Superman’s attention before and now he had it without having to ask. If Superman was behind the lawsuit, then that meant that he cared about Superboy. He didn’t know how to feel about that.
Kid Flash suddenly bumped his shoulder with his own, interrupting Conner’s train of thoughts. “I like the new shirt.”
Superboy blinked at that statement and looked down at his shirt. For the first time he noticed that he was wearing a Captain America shirt that Stark had bought him.
Robin grinned. “It’s a good look.”
Then the Boy Wonder leaned in closer to his friends, giggling and asked, “So, we’re going to Metropolis?”
“Well, that was a waste of time,” Iron Man griped as he piloted the Quinjet back to New York not long after they left the city. “I told you Loki wasn’t a big deal, he was taken care of before we could even get there.”
“We were lucky that the X-Men were in the area and managed to get things under control, but we need to be on alert now that Loki has made another appearance,” Captain America insisted. He was glad that they were going home though, he could have a nice, quiet night in and pretend that all was right with the world, before waking up and fighting a completely different battle in the morning. “I should call Conner when we get back and tell him that he can come home if he likes,” he said.
“The kid is at his friend’s place, he probably doesn’t want to come home,” Iron Man countered. “Plus, we’ll have the place to ourselves.” With his helmet off, there was no mistaking the lustful gaze or the deepened tone of his voice. It was enough to make Steve blush.
“Some of us are trying to have a peaceful plane ride home without picturing the two of you getting it on!” Clint shouted from behind of them.
“I don’t mind picturing it,” Natasha hummed to herself.
“Nor do I,” Thor said with enthusiasm, instantly cheering up from his sulk over not getting to fight or see his brother. “I am sure that the Captain is a most generous lover and Iron Man has long bragged about his prowess in the intimate arts. It would be both an enjoyable and a learning experience.”
Bruce buried his face in his hands. “Ok, I’m jumping out of this jet now.”
“Hey! If the peanut gallery doesn’t mind, I’m trying to have a private conversation with my fiancé!” Iron Man snapped and the rest of the Avengers shuffled away to the other end of the jet. Once the team was out of hearing range, Tony asked Steve quietly, “Are we doing the right thing?”
Steve was confused and concerned. “What do you mean?”
“Conner,” Tony clarified. “Are we doing the right thing with Conner? I’m not, you know, screwing him up, right?”
Steve smiled softly and placed a hand on Tony’s armor covered shoulder. “No, Tony, you’re not screwing him up, not at all. And yes, we are doing the right thing.”
“Ok, good. You’ll tell me if I’m screwing up?”
“Only if you tell me when I am.” Steve bent down and pressed a kiss against Tony’s temple. “You don’t have to be scared, you’re doing really well with him.”
“Scared? What are you talking about?” Tony snorted, his arrogance shining through. “There isn’t anything I’m not good at. I’m a genius billionaire playboy philanthropist, remember?”
“How could we forget? You remind us every day!”
Tony twisted around and snapped, “Didn’t I tell you to shut up, Clint?”
“Hey, if I became your and Cap’s son, can I get a private jet?”
“Shove it, Clint!”
“I’d be your son for a lab and funding for research.”
“Zip it, Bruce!”
“I would be their son for the honor and glory of being the offspring of Iron Man and the Captain.”
“Shut up, Thor!”
“I don’t want to be Stark’s kid, but I wouldn’t mind sitting on Daddy Cap’s lap.”
“Hands off, Natasha!”
The flight home was short and debriefing would be held off until the next day since nothing of importance happened. Everyone went off in their different directions, going home for the evening. Just before they parted ways, Natasha caught up with Steve and murmured, “You are doing the right thing, though you two are making quite a mess of it.”
Steve’s face lit up at Natasha’s approval and would have thanked her for her support if Tony’s armored hand hadn’t grabbed him and dragged him away back to their home. Tony was more than eager to have some private time and once his armor was off, he led Steve up to the bedroom. “Leave the uniform on,” Tony whispered into his ear when Steve tried to remove his top and ran his hand over the large star on Steve’s chest. “I’m feeling patriotic tonight.”
“Just, just wait a bit.” Lightly pushing Tony away, Steve said, “Let me call Conner and tell him that we’re home.”
“Fine, fine, be responsible and give him a call. Tell him to stay in Central City tonight if he wants that car.” Tony threw himself down onto their bed.
“What car?” Steve demanded, they were supposed to go over those kinds of decisions together, but Tony didn’t respond. Sighing, he called Conner’s cell phone and didn’t get an answer. Not too worried, Steve called Wally’s cell phone, he had made sure to get the phone numbers of all of Conner’s friends and Wally was especially enthusiastic to give his. But he didn’t get an answer from Wally either. “Tony, I can’t get a hold of Conner. JARVIS, can you look up the Wests’ home number?”
“Of course, Captain Rogers, the number is in Mr. Stark’s file on Kid Flash,” JARVIS replied and rattled off the number.
Steve glared at Tony, who merely shrugged like keeping files on your kid’s friends was the most natural thing in the world. Before Steve could call the Wests, his phone beeped with a text message from a blocked number, Check Metropolis. Steve stared down at the message and then grabbed Tony’s hand, pulling him off of the bed.
“Get back into your armor, Tony, I need you to fly me to Metropolis.”
“I’m not getting laid, am I?”
“Tony, armor, now!”
It wasn’t long before they were off and flying towards Metropolis. Captain America told Iron Man about the text message and that he thought they’d be able to find Conner there. Iron Man spent the rest of the short flight trying to get JARVIS to trace the number without any success.
“What a stupid city,” Iron Man grumbled as they entered Metropolis. “New York City is obviously better.”
Captain America wisely ignored Tony and scanned the rooftops and the streets below them. “Look! There, on the Daily Planet building!” He pointed over to the building to catch Iron Man’s attention. On top of the Daily Planet were three teenagers that Iron Man quickly identified as Superboy, Kid Flash and Robin. The teens noticed them right away, but they didn’t try to run or hide.
Kid Flash looked like a deer caught in the headlights when they touched down on the rooftop. “Oh crap, we’ve been busted by your parents.”
“Your superhero parents,” Robin added.
Conner’s jaw clenched, but he didn’t correct his friends.
Captain America frowned, trying to work the situation out in his head. He wasn’t mad, just confused as to why they were in Metropolis. “What are you doing here, Conner? I thought you were going to be in Central City.”
Conner didn’t look him in the eyes and instead glanced upward. Captain America looked up to where Conner’s eyes were fixed and saw Superman in the air. Apparently a group of superhero teens running around the city and Iron Man and Captain America flying into Metropolis caught Superman’s attention. His heart sank when he realized that Conner was there to see Superman. In a single, terrible moment, Steve thought that Conner had come to Metropolis to see if Superman was willing to take on the responsibility of being a father.
“What are you two doing in Metropolis?” Superman demanded as he landed, any of his usual courtesy towards the Captain was gone and there was nothing except for hostility.
Iron Man managed to shrug in his armor and said offhandedly, “Just here to collect the kid, it’s past his bedtime. You know, we’re just concerned about his general welfare and such, like good, responsible adults.”
Superman’s eyes dangerously narrowed at Iron Man and Captain America hefted up his shield in warning. “We’re passing through to collect Superboy.” He turned to the teens and gave them a stern look. “And to make sure these boys make it home safely.”
“They’re not your concern. None of them are.” Superman said quickly.
“Yes, they all are,” Captain America gritted out. “Superboy is the responsibility of Iron Man, and these boys are his friends.”
“This adoption stunt has gone far enough. I can believe that Tony Stark would do something like this to get to the Justice League,” Superman said, glaring at Captain America, “but not you, Captain Rogers.”
Captain America didn’t even cringe over the fact that Superman knew his secret identity. Between x-ray vision and intelligence from the Justice League, he doubted many superheroes had a truly secret identity. He just glared back at Superman, holding his ground.
“I told you to let me line your cowl with lead, darling, or can you see through that too, Kent?” Iron Man said rather cheerfully from under his faceplate, showing off SHIELD’s own intel on the Justice League.
At that point, Superboy was tired of being ignored and spoke up. “I came here to speak to you.” He pointed at Superman, who finally seemed to notice that Conner was there. “Tell your lawyers to leave me alone! I’m not going anywhere unless I want to!”
The Man of Steel started, obviously not expecting to hear that.
“I’m going to stay, I don’t feel like leaving New York any time soon. I don’t care what your lawyers or courts have to say about it, I don’t take orders from anyone, not from them and not from you. Hell, I would like to see them try to make me go. I’m fine where I am, so leave us alone.”
“We’re trying to help you!” Superman quickly recovered. “These men only want to use you because you’re part of the Justice League. You can’t let yourself be blinded by a few toys they throw at you.”
The accusation stung, the implication that what Steve was trying to do wasn’t helping Conner hurt. Because like everything else that Steve put his mind to, he was putting all of his heart into giving Conner the life he deserved. He placed his free hand on Conner’s shoulder and gently reminded him, “It’s always been your choice, Conner, you know that. If you want to stay and be a family with us,” Steve gripped his shield tightly, “then I’ll make sure you do, no matter what. You’re my son and I’d do anything for you.”
Conner nodded slightly at Steve and scowled at Superman. “See, I don’t need your help! They’re not bribing me and I’m not there against my will. Maybe you don’t think people can care about me since you don’t, but Steve and Tony do. They actually give a damn about me!”
Superman visibly flinched.
“Steve and Tony have given me more than anyone outside of my team! I have a place to be now outside of Mount Justice, I have a home, new friends, and people who care about me. I’m not going to fight for the Avengers or leave my team, but what I do in my personal life is my business and no one else’s. The only people who have the right to complain is my team and they support me. Now back off!”
Superman didn’t look convinced. “You cannot rely on these people, especially considering Captain America is seventy years out of his own time and how self-destructive Iron Man is.”
“For fuck’s sake, get off of your high horse! You’re the last person who has the right judge us,” Iron Man wouldn’t let himself or Captain America be insulted and he ran his mouth. “It’s not like you’re volunteering your home to the kid! I would know, I’ve read the paperwork for this lawsuit a hundred times. All you really want is for him to go back to that cave! Well, I’m not having it and my team of lawyers is prepared to tear you a new one if you think otherwise! It would seem that this self-destructive man here is being the responsible one here. How does it feel to have a high functioning alcoholic be a better father, a better person, than you?”
There was a flash of anger in Superman’s eyes and he took an instinctive step towards them. Captain America quickly placed himself in front of the Superman with Iron Man and Superboy protectively behind of him before anyone else could react.
“Not a step closer!” Captain America’s voice echoed with authority and an edge of anger that did nothing to put Superman at ease.
Captain America brought his shield up into a defensive position, he wouldn’t strike first, but he was prepared to move into action. There was a running bet amongst SHIELD agents and the Avengers over whether or not Captain America’s shield could hurt Superman, and Steve had a sinking feeling that he might find out soon. He didn’t want an all-out war with the Justice League, but Steve would have no problem starting one to protect his family. He had already lost everything once before and he wasn’t going to go through it again without one hell of a fight. He wasn’t going to lose anything to Superman, not to someone who took the good things in his life for granted.
“This is totally not happening,” Kid Flash whispered roughly. Robin and Kid Flash were off to the side and the older teen was desperately clutching onto Robin’s arm while the Boy Wonder quickly tapped on the communicator in his ear.
“Kal-El.” A deep, quiet voice broke the standoff and Superman turned on his heels to face the shadows of the rooftop. Batman emerged from where he was hiding, or maybe he just got there, and glared at Superman. “This has gone on long enough.”
They all watched as Superman and Batman stared each other down, a silent communication going on between the two. It was the kind of communication that went between two people who worked together and knew each other well. From the firm set of Batman’s mouth and the narrowing of his eyes, Captain America could tell that whatever was going through his mind wasn’t pleasant. Finally a sort of agreement was reached and Superman flew off and Batman fired his grappling gun, both disappearing into Metropolis’s darkened cityscape without a single word.
Captain America lowered his shield and all of the tension escaped from his body. He took a step off to the side, a little shaken over what he was prepared to do. Not long ago he had admired Superman, thought highly of him and everything he stood for. Now, he was ready to bash his shield into the man’s head, he dreaded to think about what might have happened if Batman hadn’t shown up. But he would have done it without hesitation.
“Asshole,” Iron Man kicked at the ground, “leaving just like that without a goddamn word.”
Kid Flash sat down heavily on the rooftop. “That was scary. Supey, remind me not to come back to Metropolis with you. I really don’t want to see the start of World War III.”
“Batman will sort everything out,” Robin told Superboy with confidence. “He and Superman will fight like an old married couple, Superman will be forced to sleep on the couch and then he’ll come around.”
Iron Man cleared his throat. “You’re kidding, right?”
Robin just grinned and briefly grabbed Conner’s hand, squeezing it comfortingly. “Everything should be fine,” then he lowered his voice, though Steve could still hear him, “but you might wanna reassure Cap over there.”
“I’m glad you want to stay,” Steve told Conner as the teen walked up to him. “I wasn’t prepared to lose my son.”
The lines of anger softened on Conner’s face and he even managed a half smile. “Yeah, well, I figured I wasn’t going to get that car and motorcycle if I went back to Mount Justice. And you’re a pretty good dad, Tony’s not bad either.”
It was the first time Conner referred to Steve as a dad. There were few things that could have made Steve happier than that. His family was coming together as the old dreams he had during the war of returning home and settling down with someone he loved and starting a family were happening. Though he hadn’t necessarily dreamed of being married to a man and to adopt a Kryptonian son, but those were really minor details. Either way, Steve couldn’t have been any happier at that moment and he wondered briefly if Tony would consider expanding their little family in the future.
Then something else Conner said clicked in Steve’s mind and he was left blinking with confusion. “Wait, what? A car and a motorcycle? TONY!”
Conner frowned at himself in the mirror. “I don’t like the uniform.”
“I think it looks great!” Megan’s fingertips brushed his neck as she straightened his collar.
“Miss M is right, you look sharp,” Robin agreed as his nimble fingers buttoned up Conner’s sleeve cuffs, the pads of his fingers pressing into the inside of his wrist.
Conner couldn’t stop blushing, he was trying on a school uniform sent to the mansion for him and his friends wouldn’t stop fiddling with it. Tony told him to try it on to see if it fit and since Conner had no experience putting on anything more complicated than a t-shirt and jacket, his friends were helping him out. From across the bedroom, Wally and Artemis wouldn’t stop smiling at him and even Kaldur could barely hide his look of amusement. Before, Superboy would have just stormed out of room in anger, but now he was taking the situation in stride. The attention was embarrassing, but not necessarily bad.
“So, you’re going to be a private school brat?” Artemis asked.
Robin glanced around Conner to send her a glare from behind his sunglasses. “I thought I heard you’re going to a private school too.”
Artemis groaned and sat down on Conner’s bed, where Dog happily made herself comfortable in Artemis’s lap. The young archer scratched between Dog’s ears and sighed loudly. “Don’t remind me. It’s not by choice.”
“Tony said he went to this school when he was a kid before he was shipped off to boarding school,” Conner said absently as he tugged at his tie and both Megan and Robin batted his hands away. “They sent me the uniform along with all the paperwork for admission. Well, a bunch of other schools did too.”
“It’s probably good publicity to get Tony Stark’s superhero kid into your school,” Wally mused, “even if it isn’t official yet.”
“It will be,” Conner said firmly. A few days after the confrontation with Superman and the lawsuit had yet to be dropped. But Steve said that they’d beat it, his conviction was strong and unyielding, so Conner found no problem in believing him.
Wally looked over at Robin expectantly and the Boy Wonder shrugged. “Batman’s working on it,” Robin insisted, “he’s going to fix everything.”
“Tony said that Mr. Wayne has his own legal team working on the lawsuit too. Anyway, I don’t care, I’m not leaving.” Conner frowned when Robin thrust the jacket of the uniform in his direction and made him put it on.
“I’m glad you’re staying,” Megan smiled brightly. “Captain Rogers and Mr. Stark are so nice! And they’re so cute together!”
“Yeah, I don’t think Superman could give you anything half as nice as this.” Artemis gestured to the room and to Dog. “You can get anything you want.”
“Oh! Ask for a little brother and sister, big families are always fun.” Megan suggested, her mind wandering to Mars and her numerous sisters.
“I think you two are missing the main point,” Wally interrupted, “Conner is Captain America’s son now! Cap’s son! Captain America Jr.! He can be Captain America’s partner if he wants to!”
That thought immediately piqued Conner’s interest. All of his friends had mentors, had partners, except for him. He had Black Canary, but she was everyone’s teacher and his friends had their own personal mentors in addition to her. To become Captain America’s partner had a certain appeal, even if Cap was an Avenger. But he worried how it might look. Being Steve and Tony’s son was one thing, being Cap’s partner was completely different. Wally was enthusiastic about the idea, but Wally was enthusiastic about anything related to Captain America.
Robin seemed to sense what Conner was thinking and he grinned reassuringly, his hand resting on the larger teen’s shoulder. “I think being trained by Captain America would be a great idea. We’ll all be jealous of you, but why not become Cap’s partner? It’s not like you’re signing on to join the Avengers.”
“I believe it would be most beneficial for the team for you to get the extra practice and training,” Kaldur put in his opinion, solidifying his approval.
The uneasiness that had settled in Conner’s stomach quickly disappeared with Artemis and Megan’s echoed their approval of the idea. His friends always immediately asserted their support over any ideas relating to Steve and their feelings about Tony were rapidly improving. The idea was stuck in Conner’s mind even as the topic changed and his friends started asking him to introduce them to the Fantastic Four again, with Artemis and Wally pressing to meet Johnny Storm.
At dinner, after all of his friends had left for the evening, Conner still thought about becoming Captain America’s partner. He only half listened as Steve and Tony talked about work, meetings with lawyers and their upcoming wedding, and played with the pasta he helped Steve make instead of eating it. It wasn’t unusual for Conner to be quiet, but he mostly ignored Steve’s attempts to bring him into the conversation. He was trying to figure out how to bring up the topic of asking Steve to be his mentor, normally Conner would just say what was on his mind, but he was feeling shy about approaching the subject. All of his attempts to get Superman to train him had been met with negative feedback and it had left Conner with a bitter mix of disappointment and insecurity.
“It looks like Conner wants to say something,” Tony said suddenly, causing Steve and Conner to stare at him with surprise. The billionaire smiled slyly. “I know the look of a kid wanting to ask his parents something that they might say no to. I used to have it all the time when I talked to my dad when I was little. You know you can say anything to us, but I’m getting wise to you, kid,” Tony pointed his fork at Conner accusingly. “If you’re going to ask for a jet, then the answer is no. See, Stevie, I can set boundaries.”
Steve sighed and shook his head at Tony, and then looked over at Conner. “Is there something you wanted to say, Conner?”
Conner wanted to deny that he had anything to say, but decided to just be out with it. “I want you to be my mentor and train me.”
Both Steve and Tony were startled by the request. The shock immediately left Steve’s face and his smile and perfect white teeth almost blinded Conner. There was a sort of happiness in Steve’s eyes that Conner could remember seeing the first time he agreed to hang out with Captain America, eating their takeout and talking about anything and everything. It was the same look that Steve had during their vacation in California and after Conner told Superman that he wasn’t leaving New York.
“Of course! I’d be more than happy to be your mentor and train you.” It didn’t seem possible, but Steve’s smile got even wider.
“Nobody’s asking me to be their mentor,” Tony grumbled, though Conner could see the corners of his mouth curl up.
“Tony, behave,” Steve said teasingly. They shared a look, one that reminded Conner of Megan’s assertion that Steve and Tony were “cute” together.
The next morning started out like any other. Steve and Conner took their morning jog, careful to avoid the press still camped out in front of the mansion. Afterwards they had breakfast with a half conscious Tony, who tried to drown himself in coffee, and then Steve and Conner went down to the gym for their workout. But this time, instead of boxing with Conner or showing him a few things Black Widow had taught him, Steve had a structured regiment for him to follow on a daily basis. In some senses he was a stricter trainer than Black Canary, always critiquing his stances and forms to the point where Conner stomped out on a few occasions. But Steve also had a great amount of patience, he never lost his composure and stayed down in the gym, waiting for Conner to let off steam and come back.
“How can you be so patient?” Conner asked after his third walkout.
Steve tossed Conner a bottle of water and finished the energy bar he had been snacking on while waiting for Conner to return. “I’m both Tony Stark’s fiancé and teammate. Trust me, you have nothing on him.”
Conner only laughed and was determined not to let his temper get the better of him, at least not for a good long while.
Superboy’s work with Captain America shined through during his next training with his team and Black Canary couldn’t help but praise him. “Good job, Superboy! Your form is a lot better! You too, Aqualad. You almost had Superboy, but you were surprised by his throw, you reacted instead of taking action.”
“Yes, I was not expecting that move,” Aqualad agreed. “Next time I will be better prepared and I will not lose.”
“I look forward to it,” Conner grinned and helped Kaldur up.
As soon as training ended and the team was going their separate ways, Black Canary called to Conner. “Superboy, I’d like to speak to you.”
Conner hung back, his friends sparing him glances, but Black Canary’s firm gaze made them scurry away. Crossing his arms and squaring his shoulders, Conner nodded his head slightly, already predicting what she wanted to talk about. Nothing could change his mind now, Conner decided. With the approval of his team behind of him and even Batman’s support, Conner wasn’t going to leave Steve and Tony. It would be the first time Black Canary would approach him on the topic, as most of the Justice League seemed to avoid altogether, but he had seen her before, studying his expressions and temper during the time he spent Mount Justice.
Black Canary moved towards him, pressed her hand against his arm and asked, “Are you sure about this? Staying with Stark and his fiancé?”
Her words fell heavily, with a grave seriousness that he didn’t often hear from Black Canary. Black Canary’s face was neutral, not betraying if she felt one way or another, though Conner had his suspicions considering a few things Robin had said before and the fact that she never asked before. Instead, Black Canary kept her silence on the topic, but she no longer looked at him with motherly concern, she wasn’t as worried as usual. And Conner suddenly understood in rare bit of insight that she wasn’t asking for herself, she was asking for the Justice League.
“Yes, I’m sure.” His voice was forceful with a confidence that he genuinely felt. “I’m happy there.”
Relief broke out in Black Canary’s expression. “I thought so.” She began to remove her hand, then thought better of it and tightened her grip on his arm. “Let me know if they make you unhappy. No amount of SHIELD agents or Avengers will be able to stop me from beating up Stark and Rogers. And just to let you know, the only thing that protects Superman from me is Batman.”
He covered her hand on his arm with his own. “I’ll be fine.”
“I know.” Black Canary pulled him into a tight hug. “You deserve a home and a family, you always have. You’re a good kid, they’re lucky to have you as a son.”
Conner just blinked away the sudden sting in his eyes.
The next day, Tony came home with papers in his hands that he waved in front of Steve and Conner. “The League rescinded their lawsuit! I told you that they have nothing on us! And I didn’t even get to use all the dirt I have on the Justice League, kind of disappointing, but it’s less messy that way. Let’s go celebrate! We’re going to the nicest restaurant in New York City. No, wait, I’m going to buy the nicest restaurant in New York City and I’m naming it ‘Stark Beat the Justice League’ or something classy like that. Conner, think of a classy restaurant name.”
The teen tilted his head and thought about it. “How about Restaurant?”
“Never mind, kid. JARVIS, call Pepper, tell her I need to buy a restaurant.”
Steve rolled his eyes at Tony and smiled at Conner. “I told you that everything would be fine.”
Conner nodded and returned Steve’s smile. They would officially be a family soon.
“I would like to congratulate my shield brothers in their defeat of the Justice League, they fought a valiant battle and forced the Justice League into shameful surrender! I would also like to welcome Conner the Superboy into the house of Rogers and Stark! May he always strike down his enemies and bring glory to his honored parents, Captain Steven Rogers of America and Anthony Stark, the Man of Iron!” Thor lifted up his glass of ale in a toast.
“I’ll drink to that!” Tony lifted his glass of whiskey.
Clint clinked glasses with Tony and wiped dramatically at his eyes. “Thor’s speeches always move me to tears.”
“They’re like poetry,” Banner added drily.
“Thank you, Thor,” Steve patted Thor on the shoulder after he took a drink of his Coke. Thor had offered him some Asgardian ale, but Steve wisely stayed away from it. It was the one form of alcohol that could actually get him drunk.
Before he tried to explain to Thor that they didn’t necessarily defeat the Justice League and that the combination of the pressure put on by Tony’s legal team, Batman and ultimately a vote by the Justice League itself made the lawsuit go away. Apparently both Batman and Black Canary lobbied for their case and the Justice League decided that their resources were better spent elsewhere and that the publicity could turn rather poorly in their favor. From what Wally told them, it was a close vote and he said, with pride, that the Flash and the Green Lanterns backed Superboy’s decision.
But the concept was lost on the God of Thunder and all Thor could think about was the new addition to his friends’ family. The adoption had just become official and while Steve wanted to wait until after he and Tony were married so that they would officially become a family at the same time, they decided not to risk it by waiting. On the day the adoption went through with the helpful push of Tony’s sway and money, Thor threw a celebration in Conner’s honor at the mansion. Tony never turned down a party and when asked about it, Conner merely shrugged and asked if his friends could come.
The large turnout was surprising to Steve. The Avengers were all present, along with several SHIELD agents and Thor’s usual entourage of Jane, Darcy, Erik and on this occasion Lady Sif and the Warriors Three. There was also the Fantastic Four, Peter and Mary Jane, Wolverine and Storm from the X-Men, their allies Janet Van Dyne, Hank Pym and Sam Wilson, and there was of course Pepper, Happy and Rhodes.
Then there was the addition of all of Conner’s friends and another older teen, Red Arrow, who Steve had a sneaking suspicion was Wally’s boyfriend. Steve was surprised that Conner’s friends were able to attend an event that had so many SHIELD affiliated heroes, but he heard whispering that the kids didn’t actually tell their mentors about the nature of the party. He didn’t necessarily approve of lying or the omission of information, but since the party was for Conner, he didn’t say anything.
Steve watched as Conner introduced his team to Johnny, Peter and MJ. The team was obviously happy to meet Conner’s new friends and both Wally and Artemis didn’t want to let go of Johnny’s hand when they shook it. Red Arrow had to peel Wally’s hand off of Johnny’s and spent the rest of the party glaring at the Human Torch. Steve was glad that the younger heroes were getting along so well and any fears he had that Conner’s two groups of friends might not get along were put to rest.
“They all seem rather chummy,” Natasha murmured to Steve.
“I’m glad that they’re not letting their group affiliations get in the way,” Steve replied, smiling as Peter, Robin and Wally were engaged in conversation about science that went way over Steve’s head.
Natasha looked at the teens thoughtfully before turning her attention back to Steve. “Which last name did Conner decide to take?”
“He decided to go with Rogers-Stark and we’ll be sharing the same birthday.” Steve’s smile widened as he remembered filling out the paperwork and asking Conner for a birth date. Natasha raised an eyebrow at him and Steve quickly explained, “The fourth of July was the day that Conner’s friends broke him out of the Cadmus facility, he said that was the first day his life really began.”
“And in the winter you and Stark will be married.”
Steve couldn’t keep the content look off of his face. “Yes, we will.”
Natasha stretched up and leaned her head against Steve’s shoulder in a move that was almost feline. “What a pretty little family you have, Steve, and no one could deserve it more.” There was a roar of laughter on the other side of the room that was centered on Tony, making Natasha sigh loudly. “Though some might say you deserve more than that.”
Steve chuckled. “Be nice, Natasha. Tony’s been really good lately.”
“I’m sure. Let me know if he isn’t.” Natasha pressed a kiss on Steve’s cheek, making him blush furiously. “Oh, I guess the little one didn’t like that,” she said, spying Conner staring at her as if his heat vision might manifest at any moment. “He’s so protective of you, must get it from Stark.”
Natasha disappeared into the crowd as Conner stomped over to Steve. “What did she want?” He demanded.
“She was just congratulating me on my great family.” Steve slung an arm around the teen. “Don’t worry about Natasha. She mainly does it to get a rise out of Tony, but Tony’s not really paying attention right now.”
“Well, that doesn’t mean she has to do it.” But Conner was more amused than annoyed at that point.
“Hey, kid! We’ve got presents for you!” Clint waved them over. “A little welcome to the Avengers family kind of thing. Come on, I’ve got a crossbow with your name on it!” Steve pushed Conner in the direction of his new aunts and uncles, looking cheerfully over the teen’s shoulder as his teammates and friends handed Conner gifts. Though Steve was quick to snatch up the box of cigars Logan so thoughtfully brought.
The party ended late into the night and Conner and his friends stumbled off to bed, the team making use of the various guestrooms in the mansion. Just after Steve finished steering Red Arrow out of Wally’s room and into an unclaimed guestroom, he caught sight of Tony lingering outside of Conner’s room, his hand pressed flat against the door and whispering, “Welcome to the family, kid.”
Smiling softly, Steve grabbed Tony’s other hand and tugged him into their room.
The following weeks flew by in a frenzy of happiness that Steve could hardly remember ever having. Both he and Tony went back to work once Conner started school, a ridiculously expensive school that Tony once went to before he blew up one of the labs. Steve spent his days either taking up art commissions or at SHIELD’s headquarters, but he always arrived at Conner’s school once the school day was over. After Conner finished his homework, they trained until it was time to make dinner and afterwards Conner and Tony would disappear down into the garage, working on Conner’s promised motorcycle. Most of the time Steve would go to garage, Dog curled up at his feet, and he filled his sketchbook with drawings of the pair working. And every Saturday night was movie night, Steve’s favorite day of the week.
There were a few deviations to their routine. Missions and emergencies called them all away, there were always meetings with their respective organizations and there were the occasions when Tony would appear, pull Conner out of school and drag Steve away from SHIELD for an impromptu trip. It gave some variety to their new life.
The occupants of the mansion also changed. Steve stopped being surprised when he’d find more than one sleepy teenager stumbling into the kitchen on Saturday and Sunday mornings, hoping for a hot breakfast. It wasn’t only teenagers though, as Conner had an odd habit of bringing home pets. There was a large, alien metal sphere, aptly named Sphere, that Conner claimed missed him too much to keep at Mount Justice. Then there was Wolf, who became immediate friends with Dog. One Sunday afternoon, Steve found Tony setting up a fishbowl in Conner’s room.
“Conner said we should have a fish, for Kaldur’s sake,” Tony explained as he dumped a goldfish into the bowl. “As if we didn’t have enough animals in this place.”
Steve shook his head. “You can always say no, Tony.”
Tony stared at him like he didn’t understand what the word no meant. Conner promptly named the goldfish Fish and Fish got into frequent arguments with Aqualad.
There were a few moments weren’t pure bliss, such as the alarming incidents of the attack on Mount Justice by Red Tornado’s siblings and the training exercise with Conner’s team that went terribly wrong. Both events had freaked Steve and Tony out. Tony had tried to break into Mount Justice to update the security system and Steve took to lingering around Happy Harbor when Conner went to the base. Captain America even managed to get a hold of Black Canary and told her firmly that Conner was no longer allowed to participate in that kind of training ever again. He used his sternest voice to let her know that he was serious, but Black Canary looked amused and called him sweet.
Other than that though, there was a relative peace within their household. Life fell into a comfortable pattern of work, family activities and saving the world. To Steve nothing outside of his domestic life, friends and work seemed to exist anymore. He had actually mostly forgotten about the withdrawn lawsuit and Superman, until one night after a patrol of the city with Superboy.
He and Superboy didn’t patrol New York City very often. There were more than enough vigilantes for that, but sometimes the gym didn’t dissipate the teen’s restless energy, so they would go out together. Not long after the disastrous training exercise, Steve took Superboy out on a patrol. The distraction did wonders for the teen’s mood and he opened up to Captain America about his talk with Black Canary about the aftermath of the exercise. There was nothing like stopping a few muggings for a father and son to bond over. Only a couple hours into their outing, they ran into Spider-Man and the Human Torch.
“Hey, Cap! Can Superboy come out and play?” Spider-Man asked.
Superboy looked over at his mentor, then back at the Human Torch and Spider-Man. Captain America clasped his shoulder and said, “Don’t stay out too late and be careful.”
Rolling his eyes, Superboy replied, “Invulnerability.”
“Doesn’t mean everything,” Captain America reminded him lightly. “I’ll be there when you come home.” That meant Steve would stay up and make Conner a hot drink and a snack when he came home.
A small smile broke out on Superboy’s face. “Right, I’ll see you then. I’ll want a sandwich and maybe some hot cocoa. Leave the marshmallows on the side this time.”
“Come on, Cap Jr.! Villains aren’t going to beat up themselves!” Human Torch shouted impatiently.
“Keep your pants on, Matchstick!” With one last look at Captain America, Superboy ran towards his friends and disappeared into the night.
Captain America laughed quietly at the odd little team and decided it was time to head home. Tony would be happy to see him come home early and even happier to know that they would have some time to themselves. But he didn’t make it very far before he was stopped by yet another superhero, though this one was an unfamiliar sight to New York City.
“Superman,” Captain America nodded slightly to the other man.
“Captain.” The Man of Steel didn’t look nearly as angry as he did the last time Captain America saw him, but he was visibly uncomfortable.
“You’re here about Conner.”
“Yes. I …” Superman paused and thought about his next words. “This isn’t about the Justice League, is it? You and Stark really care about him, right?”
“Of course, it’s always been about Conner.” Captain America didn’t even hesitate in his answer as Superman carefully observed his reaction. “All I want is to make sure that he’s taken care of.”
“It’s still hard to believe.”
“If you spent some time with Conner, then you’d believe it’s quite easy,” he shot back. “Conner is a great kid and you would know it if you ever had a proper conversation with him. He makes it very easy for anyone to care about him.”
The Man of Steel stood there in silence, absorbing the Captain’s words. “I’ve always respected you,” Superman said unexpectedly. “It’s hard not to, considering what I learned about you as a child, and I don’t think any of that has changed. But Stark has a reputation, I know what he used to do and how he acts. He’s hardly a suitable parent.”
“Tony does have a reputation,” Captain America couldn’t refute that fact, “but I would never bring a child into our home if I didn’t think Tony would be a good father. Neither of us are perfect, but we’re working together, learning to be family. But I can assure you that Tony Stark is a good man and a good father, I wouldn’t agree to marry him if he wasn’t.”
Superman took what he said into consideration. “I had to make sure on my own, I couldn’t even take Batman’s word for it. I had to know, Superboy is my …” Superman couldn’t finish the sentence and Captain America pitied him for it.
“I wouldn’t mind you getting to know Conner, it actually might be good for both of you,” Captain America offered tentatively. “Of course, only if Conner agrees to it.”
Superman seemed startled and hesitant about the offer. “Not now. I can’t … I don’t know if it’s a good idea. Right now, at least. As long as he’s being taken care of, everything should be fine. But I’ll know if you’re mistreating him.” His last sentence held the edge of a threat, but it left Steve wondering if the other man would follow through.
Captain America stayed silent and after a moment, Superman took to the air and left. While Steve had been afraid that Superman might demand custody of Conner again, he felt awful over the fact that the man seemed to have little interest in getting to know Conner. Feeling drained after that conversation, Steve headed back home as he first intended and found Tony lounging on the couch, working on the design of a large airship.
Tony perked up at Steve’s appearance and set his laptop to the side. “You’re home early. Where’s the kid?”
Steve tugged off his cowl, sat down next to Tony and wrapped an arm around his waist. “Out with Peter and Johnny.”
“Really now?” A large grin formed on Tony’s face and he leaned against Steve’s side, but he noticed right away that there was something wrong. “Ok, tell me what’s bothering you and I’ll make it better. With sex.” Steve told Tony about his encounter with Superman. Tony snorted with indifference, obviously not impressed with Superman’s plight, but he squeezed Steve’s hand in a comforting gesture. “His loss is our gain, Stevie,” Tony told him.
It was a terrible thought that his happiness could come at the cost of Superman rejecting his son, but Steve agreed with Tony. Because in all honesty, Steve had never been happier in his life, something that he didn’t think could be possible when he first woke up in the twenty-first century. But now he had a wonderful son, an amazing man to share his life with and he continued to dutifully serve his country.
Tony straddled Steve’s lap, all thoughts of Superman clearly out of his mind. “Now, let’s take advantage of the fact that you’re still in your uniform. Oh, let’s do the ‘I’m a genius super villain and Captain America is going to teach me a lesson’ fantasy! That’s a good one.”
Steve laughed, tangling his fingers into Tony’s hair and pulled his head down for a kiss, enjoying the scrape of his fiancé’s stubble against his own skin. He really had never been happier.
“I can do this. This is going to be easy. No pressure, none at all.” Tony paced the room, pausing every once in a while to readjust the bowtie of his blindly white tux.
Off to the side Conner sat silently, slightly amused by the situation. He only half listened to Tony’s rambling as he fiddled with the gold cufflinks on his new suit. They were one of the many gifts he received for Christmas, Steve had tried to hold back Tony’s newfound enthusiasm for the holiday, but Steve eventually gave in and let Tony go overboard. Conner didn’t mind the over extravagance of his first Christmas as he learned that was just how Tony did things. He never did anything in a small way and it was mostly to Conner’s benefit. The teen now had an old Mustang to work on in the garage and along with every videogame, comic book, DVD and piece of clothing he could ever want.
Over the last few months, Conner learned a great deal about what it was to be a family. He almost ran away after the first argument he and his adopted parents had. But his friends had managed to stop him when he came to Mount Justice with a bag in his hand, explaining that arguing with parents was normal. And he worried when he overheard Steve and Tony argue for the first time, afraid that they’d split up. His friends reassured him that parents fought occasionally and that Steve and Tony weren’t breaking up. He learned to take the bad with the good and lived with the satisfaction that there were much more happy moments in the mansion than bad ones. Not that he’d ever say that out loud.
“Oh god, I’m going to screw this up. I don’t even remember my vows! Did I even write my vows? Fuck!” Tony ran his hands through his hair in agitation.
“They’re in your coat pocket, Steve put them in there this morning, and don’t mess with your hair, Pepper will get mad.” Conner often found himself being the voice of reason whenever Steve was absent, he learned more just fighting from Captain America. That wasn’t to say that Tony was irresponsible, just irrational at times and Conner found it odd having to be the reasonable one. Things were much better when it was all three of them, Conner was honestly still too hotheaded to be reasonable all the time.
Tony patted his coat pocket and found his messy handwritten vows. “Thanks.”
Conner nodded and said, “It’ll be fine.”
“What will, kid?”
“It’ll be fine, old man,” the teen repeated. “You make Steve happy and you’re a good father, so I like you too. Even if you do screw up your vows, it doesn’t matter, because we’ll still love you and we’re family. Now stop freaking out, your pacing is making me dizzy.”
Tony stopped his pacing and ruffled Conner’s perfectly combed hair. Pepper was going to have a fit. Tony took a step back, a large smile on his face, and straightened out his suit. Every bit of arrogance that Tony Stark was known for appeared and there was even a swagger to his walk as he moved out of the room. “Come on, kid! Let’s get this show on the road! I’m getting hitched today.”
Conner sighed with exasperation and followed Tony out.
The ceremony was surprisingly small and held in the ballroom of the mansion, decorated in red and gold. Steve had immediately rolled over on the color scheme as he did with most matters about the wedding, Pepper said that was because Tony was being a Bridezilla, whatever that meant. Only people who were close to both Steve and Tony were invited, which meant a lot of superheroes, SHIELD agents and the Avengers, with the press firmly shut out. It seemed everyone there knew of Steve’s secret identity and didn’t bat an eye when Steve appeared in his 1940s dress uniform.
Conner and his friends were the only people who were connected to the Justice League to attend, but his friends were too caught up in scoping out all the other superheroes to care. Later, Artemis would claim that she spotted Nick Fury wiping a tear from his eye and Megan said that she and Professor Charles Xavier had a wonderful telepathic conversation before the wedding started.
Despite their status as Justice League members, Conner’s friends sat in the second row, with the exception of Robin, who was missing from the event altogether. Conner stood behind of Thor, Steve’s best man, and watched as his parents took each other hands, exchanging rings and promises to love each other forever.
After they kissed, Conner’s keen ears picked up on Steve whispering to his new husband, “I’m so happy I woke up in this century and met you.”
Tony’s eyes suddenly became suspiciously shiny.
While the ceremony was small and private, the reception was not. Held at an overly fancy hotel, every single acquaintance Steve and Tony ever had was in attendance. There were numerous waiters running around with food and drinks, countless tables setup for dinner and the largest cake Conner had ever seen sat proudly off to the side, waiting to be cut. On top of the cake was a little figurine of Steve with a figurine of Iron Man at his side. There was also a large dance floor where Steve, dressed in a black tux for the reception, and Tony had their first dance of the evening. It was also where Thor made an open invitation to fight anyone, claiming it was not a proper wedding without a fight. Only Natasha accepted his challenge and Clint happily took bets.
Conner did his best to make himself look as unwelcoming as possible during the reception. He didn’t enjoy the inquiries from strangers about himself, his ridiculously wealthy parents and Superman, though he did like a lot of the superheroes who introduced themselves to him. He especially liked Wolverine, who he meant before, even if Logan insisted on calling him Steve Jr.
His teammates rarely left his side as they took in the sight of large gathering. There were times when Wally would grip Roy’s hand or someone’s arm and hiss something like, “Oh my god, that’s Dr. Hank McCoy! And Dr. Banner is right over there!” Or, “There’s Susan Richards! She’s just as good looking as her brother!” But the speedster couldn’t work up the nerve to talk to them or Roy just wouldn’t release his hold on Wally’s waist. Artemis and Megan gushed about the celebrities and younger heroes, and managed to get Johnny and Peter’s cell numbers with the promise of going on patrol sometime. Kaldur remained faithfully at Conner’s side, making observations about the Justice League’s rival group.
“I think it would be beneficial if the Avengers and the Justice League were allies, though I do not think that will happen anytime soon,” Kaldur mused. “However, I believe we should make connections with groups like the Fantastic Four and the X-Men.”
“If you want to be allies with the Avengers, then do it. Don’t wait around for the Justice League’s permission,” Roy scoffed at the thought.
Wally grinned. “We totally should make the Avengers our official allies! Maybe Tony will make all of us armors!”
“It’ll be good connections to have when we become a part of the Justice League, then we’ll be able to open communication between us and the Avengers,” Megan added.
“Oh my god, are you guys talking business at the most anticipated wedding and party of the year?” Mary Jane suddenly appeared, her red hair pinned up and her dress shimmering under the lights, looking at the teens disapprovingly. “Even Ben is dancing and being sociable!” She waved her hand at the Thing dancing with his girlfriend. MJ snatched Kaldur’s wrist and started dragging him away. “Come on, Kal, you’re going to dance with me. Don’t worry, you’ll all get your turn!” She pointed her finger threateningly at the rest of the teens.
“Kaldur’s such a gentleman,” Megan sighed as they watched their friend actually bow to MJ before taking her hand. Conner didn’t say anything, but carefully watched what Kaldur did, because Megan might want to dance later and Conner wouldn’t mind trying it. She was really pretty in her new blue dress, Pepper had bought the girls new clothes for the wedding, though Megan had changed her skin color from green to blend in. Conner liked it better when she looked like herself.
“You could learn something from Kaldur, Roy—Ow!” Wally winced as Roy elbowed him in the ribs.
“Hey, who is that? He looks familiar.” Megan pointed to a young teen dressed in a dark suit and slicked back hair coming towards them.
“That’s Dick Grayson,” Artemis whispered and paled. “Oh, um, look Megan, isn’t that Thor’s girlfriend, Jane? Let’s go say hi!” She grabbed Megan’s arm and ran away from the group. Wally just smiled broadly as if he was in on some kind of joke. And Roy purposefully slipped his arm around Wally’s waist again and glared at the approaching teen.
Dick Grayson came up to them and held out his hand out to Conner. “I’m Dick Grayson, Bruce Wayne’s ward.”
The older teen carefully took Dick’s hand. “I’m Conner and these are my friends, from school,” which was the official excuse for Conner’s teammates being there, with the exception of Kaldur, “Wally and Roy.”
Dick smiled and squeezed Conner’s hand. “It’s nice to finally meet you, Conner, and your friends. I’ve heard so much about you from Bruce.”
“Steve’s talked about you too.”
“Hopefully I’ll be able to come to New York soon, I’d love to get to know you better and I’m a huge fan of JARVIS.”
Dick Grayson had eyes only for Conner and while he was perfectly friendly to Wally and Roy, most of his attention was focused on Superboy. Wally, for once, didn’t seem to mind being mostly ignored and was highly amused by the scene in front of him. Conner stood stiffly, but allowed himself small smiles whenever Dick said something clever. He flushed though whenever Dick would casually touch him on the arm or shoulder, while Dick, for only being thirteen, was rather comfortable and confident.
Eventually, Dick caught sight of an older gentleman, who was waving him over and frowned at the interruption. “That’s Alfred, I think he wants a word with me. It’s been great getting to know you, Conner. I hope we’ll meet again soon, I heard that Tony and Steve will be away for a week, maybe I can drop by so you won’t get too lonely.”
“I’m not going to be lonely, Pepper and Happy are staying with me,” Conner said quickly, he thought Dick might be applying that Steve and Tony would leave him by himself. Then he caught a look of disappointment on the younger teen’s face and added, “I wouldn’t mind if you came over, though.”
“Great! Give me your cell phone, I’ll put my number in it.” Conner relinquished his phone and watched as the other boy put in his number. Dick actually winked at Conner as he handed it back and ran off.
After Dick left, Conner sighed loudly and Wally frowned worryingly. “What’s wrong, Supey? Didn’t you like him?”
“He was a lot better than I expected,” Roy murmured, relieved that Dick Grayson didn’t flirt with Wally.
“I like him,” Conner replied, but he didn’t look too happy about it. “But I already like Robin and Megan, and now I like Dick Grayson too. Is it ok to like three people at the same time?”
Wally had to cover his mouth to stop the giggles bubbling up in his throat while Roy raised an eyebrow. Once he managed to control himself, Wally reassured Conner, “Oh, that’s fine, that’s perfectly ok, Conner.”
Conner wasn’t completely convinced, but he let it go as Steve and Tony made their way over to them. “I hope you kids are enjoying yourselves,” Steve said brightly. “I wanted to thank you for coming and let you know that you’re all welcome at the mansion while Tony and I are on our honeymoon. Just mind Pepper and Happy, they’re in charge while we’re gone.”
“And if you behave, we’ll bring you all something back from Italy,” Tony promised teasingly. He patted Conner on the shoulder and asked, “What did you want from Italy, kid? They make some nice cars over there.” Tony smiled innocently and ignored Steve’s glare. Steve thought that a custom motorcycle and a car was more than enough, Tony thought that less than a dozen of each was depriving Conner.
Thinking for a moment, the teen answered, “I want you to bring me back a little sister. We’ll call her Girl or Sister.”
Tony’s mouth dropped open and snapped shut before dropping open again. “You can’t just say things like that! Steve! Stevie, do something! Use your Daddy Cap voice! Anything!”
Steve smiled warmly and squeezed his son’s arm gently. “We’ll talk about it when we get back, Conner. Come on, Tony, we need to go cut the cake.”
Tony kept talking as his husband led him away. “He wants a sister! A sister! Should we have another kid? We can’t let him name his sister! What about Stephanie? That’s a good name. We’ll need a nursery. Why am I agreeing to this?”
“What was that?” Artemis asked as she returned to her friends, watching Steve and Tony’s retreating forms.
Conner shrugged. “Nothing, just expanding my family.”
At the end of the reception, the team piled into a limo around the back of the hotel that would take them back to the mansion where Robin would meet them. Conner stayed behind and waited for his parents to come out to say goodbye. They were going to another hotel for the night, undisclosed to the press so they’d have their privacy, and then they were taking Tony’s jet to Italy in the morning for two weeks. It’d be the longest Conner would be separated from them ever since he started living in New York and he could feel a slight ache of loneliness and fear that came with his lingering insecurities. He didn’t think he’d ever get rid of the doubt that plagued from Superman’s indifference, but that ache and doubt eased when Steve and Tony came outside to say goodbye.
Steve clasped his shoulder and told him, “Now, remember to listen to Pepper and Happy while we’re away and you can call us anytime, don’t worry about the time difference. I want to know if you go on missions or on patrol and call me right away when you get back from them. Don’t forget to continue your training and do your homework right when you get home from school and no spending the night at Mount Justice on school nights and no parties at the mansion.”
“Stevie, we’re only going to be gone for two weeks, he’ll be fine.” Tony shook his head.
Steve hugged Conner. “I’ll miss you. I love you, son.”
“I love you too, Dad,” Conner replied.
He let go of Steve and turned to Tony, who gave him a lopsided smirk and said, “Don’t get mushy on me,” but Tony pulled him into a hug anyway.
“Love you, old man.”
“Love you too, kid.” Then Tony whispered, “You can totally have a party. I’ll be disappointed if you don’t.”
After he untangled himself from his parents, Conner stood off and watched as they climbed into a waiting car. Steve rolled down the window and was hanging halfway out of the car as it pulled away, waving and shouting goodbyes as if Conner wouldn’t be able to hear him. Finally, he got into the limo with his friends and let out a deep breath.
Megan grasped his hand in between her two slender ones and looked at Conner with worry. “Are you ok, Conner?”
“Yeah, I am.”
He really was. Steve and Tony would be back soon and his life would fall back into its proper routine. They would always come back to Conner, because they were family and he wasn’t someone they could cast aside. He was important to Steve and Tony, they loved him as their son and he loved them.
Conner smiled at his friends, his extended family. “Hey, so next weekend, I’m going to have party at the mansion.”
If a few years ago anyone had told Tony Stark that one day he’d be married to Captain America and adopt a bunch of kids with him, Tony would have laughed until he cried, then laughed some more. Tony wasn’t laughing at that thought anymore. It was his reality.
Little did he know that when he met a newly thawed out Captain America and promptly made fun of him, that he was on the road to domestic life. That after he relentlessly pursued Steve’s affections, Tony would eventually promise to spend the rest of his life with him and start a family, though not necessarily in that order.
That was why he was picking up the remains of Conner’s eighteenth birthday which consisted of torn wrapping paper, empty plates and sticky cans of soda at the end of the day. It was technically Conner’s second birthday, but Tony was never one for technicalities. In the morning, Steve had opened up his own birthday presents, but the rest of the day belonged to their son. Conner had wanted a low key day, one where they lazily walked the beach, had a barbeque and set off fireworks once it got dark.
Conner wanted to go to the mansion in Malibu, so that’s where they went and when Tony started planning a party, the teen stopped him. They fought over it, Tony wanted a large party for his son’s eighteenth birthday and Conner wanted a quiet day with the family. Steve, like usual, got them to compromise. Today was strictly a family day, then tomorrow they’d have a birthday dinner with Pepper, Happy, Rhodey, Bucky (who was recovered a year ago) and Conner’s friends, and next week Tony would get to throw a party. Only Steve could negotiate peace in their household.
Despite his status as a family man, Tony still liked to hold the occasional party and he could think of no better excuse to have one than to celebrate his kid’s birthday. Plus, he wanted to do something for Conner before he went away to college. It hurt to think that Conner would be leaving to go to college soon, but Tony held back his emotions for the sake of his family, he wanted to stay strong for Steve and their other children.
Over the last two years he and Steve ended up with two more kids. Not long after Tony and Steve got married, Conner managed to find a one year old child in the rubble after an attack on Metropolis by Brainiac. Superboy came back with the baby girl wrapped in his shirt and told his parents that the girl was now his sister. Of course Tony and Steve searched for her parents and they found them unfortunately amongst the dead. With no other family available to the child, they adopted her. Conner wanted to call her Girl, but thankfully she was already named Sarah.
Their third child, James, was almost as impromptu as Sarah. Agent Coulson dropped the newborn into Steve’s arms last year and shoved a blank birth certificate into Tony’s hands without a word. They quickly put the name James on the certificate, after both Bucky and Rhodey, before Conner could suggest the name Boy. Tony still couldn’t find the reason why Coulson gave them the kid, no matter how much Tony hacked SHIELD’s computers. The mystery continued to bug him, but Tony’s surprising happiness overruled everything else.
Once everything was cleaned up, Tony wandered up to his bedroom and found Steve stretched out on the bed with their daughter curled up under his arm with their infant son sleeping peacefully on his chest. A book, Goodnight Moon, had slid off to the side, forgotten as they had all fallen asleep. Dog laid at the foot of the bed and lifted her head protectively when Tony peeked inside, lowering it only when she deemed that there wasn’t a threat.
JARVIS had already turned off the lights and quietly informed Tony where he could find his oldest child. Going outside and back to the beach, Tony found Conner talking quietly to Superman with Wolf faithfully at his side. At some point Superman had decided to try to establish some sort of relationship with Conner and the man became an on and off presence in their life that Tony could honestly do without. Even Steve was uneasy about him, but he was insistent that they allow Conner to have contact with Clark Kent if he wanted to.
Superman took notice of Tony and then murmured a quick ‘happy birthday’ to Conner before flying off.
“What did he want?” Tony demanded, glaring angrily at the figure disappearing into the night sky.
“Presents from Grandma and Grandpa Kent, they also sent some stuff for Sarah and James.” Conner held up the cheerfully wrapped boxes for Tony to see. The billionaire could already guess that Conner got another hand knit sweater from Mrs. Kent.
The Kents weren’t bad people, Steve had actually called them swell, but Tony suspected that was because Mrs. Kent baked him an apple pie and knitted him a sweater. Once they knew about Conner they wanted to know their grandson and Steve was adamant that Conner should know his other family. So the grandparents called him often and Conner received frequent visits from his pretty cousin, Kara. Tony didn’t mind, not all, but he did mind when Conner went to their farm for two weeks last summer. He was selfish about his time with his family and he often thought of summer, all of it, to be exclusively belonging to him.
“I also got a present from him,” Conner gestured to the sky. Tony flushed angrily and opened his mouth to say something mean about Clark Kent, but Conner interrupted him. “It’s a DVD set of The Hobbit.”
Steve would say something kind, something like, ‘At least Mr. Kent is trying, let’s write him a thank you note,’ or ‘Hey, he knows that you like Tolkien!’ But Tony wasn’t Steve and Steve wasn’t around to enforce manners that Tony didn’t have. “I got that for you before they released the second movie,” Tony snorted indifferently. “All that man is good for is donating DNA.”
Conner’s mouth twitched, but he didn’t say anything on the matter. While he got along with his grandparents and cousin, his relationship with Superman was strained to say the least. Conner sat down in the sand, Wolf sitting down next to him. “He’s not terrible. He was impressed by the college I got into.”
“You know you’re breaking Steve’s heart by going away to college in the fall,” Tony said, struggling for indifference in his voice as he sat down next to his son and tried to get off the topic of Clark Kent.
“I’m not going away, I’m going to NYU!” Conner protested.
“You’re moving out.”
“Into a condo you bought me.”
“You’ll be alone.”
“Peter is moving in with me.”
“You won’t be around anymore.”
“I already promised to come home for dinner at least three times a week.”
“You’re going to make Sarah cry.”
“She’s excited to see the campus and that she has her own room at my place.”
“You’re still breaking Steve’s heart.”
“Steve’s the one who got me the admission paperwork.”
Tony huffed in annoyance.
“I’ll miss you too, Dad,” Conner admitted quietly. “But I’m not leaving you or Steve, you’re my family and always will be. I couldn’t even think about leaving New York, of being far away from you, Steve, Sarah and James. You and Steve gave me a home and family when I had none, taught me that I was more than a weapon, that I had a right to happiness and to a life.”
“That was mostly Steve,” Tony interrupted. “He saw you and he knew there was something wrong right away. He pretty much wanted to be your father from the moment he saw you, I just provided the lawyers and the house.”
“Don’t sell yourself short. I know what you’ve done, I saw you stand up to Superman for me. You’re just as much of a dad to me as Steve is and I know you love me as much as he does and I love you as much as I love him.” There was strength and conviction behind Conner’s voice, emotions took a long time to build and to become comfortable with. “I know you stay up to make sure I come home ok, that you regularly talk to Black Canary to see how I’m doing, that you tell Peter and Johnny to look out for me and that you keep a scrapbook for me, Sarah and James. Don’t pretend that you’ve done less for me than Steve.”
“Yeah, well …” Tony didn’t know what to say, but he reached out and squeezed Conner’s shoulder. The teen had been around him enough to understand and the smile Conner gave him was more sincere than Tony could bear, so he quickly changed the subject again. “So, who is the mystery kid you’ve been going out with? Is it Megan, Robin or Dick Grayson? I want to make sure they come for dinner tomorrow.”
“And because there’s a bet going on at SHIELD,” Conner added slyly.
It was becoming a rather large pot at SHIELD with all the Avengers, several agents and Nick Fury in on it. Personally Tony had two hundred on Megan, Steve had fifty on Dick Grayson and a very opinionated Pepper Potts had a hundred on Robin, making Tony suspect that she knew something they didn’t. The teen was rather secretive about his love life, driving both Tony and Steve up the wall about it. But they both agreed that Conner had a right to his privacy, though it didn’t save the teen from a very long and embarrassing talk about safe sex from Captain America. Tony suspected that at first Conner was just uncomfortable and now Conner kept it a secret just because he could.
Conner grinned, “I’m not telling.”
“I’ll find out one day, kid.”
“Yeah, when I tell you, old man.”
They continued to bicker as they made it back up to the mansion just as Steve was about to put the kids to bed. Sarah was draped over one shoulder and James on the other. “I’ll take her,” Conner held out his arms to take Sarah. He held her gently in his arms and pressed a kiss to her temple.
“Connie,” Sarah murmured sleepily as she wrapped her arms around his neck. “Me and Jamie are gonna be a supa hero like you.”
“Of course you two will. Robin will teach you and James to fight like him and you’ll both join Young Justice and then become a part of the Justice League.”
Tony frowned and crossed his arms. “No, we talked about this, I’ll build them suits and they’ll be Avengers. And I told you, just because Sarah has Wonder Woman pajamas doesn’t mean she’ll be League. It’s just a phase. Don’t you want Daddy to build you a suit, sweetie?” Tony leaned in and gave his daughter a kiss. “It can be any color you want.”
“Don’t you want to be able to do gymnastics like Robin?” Conner countered, appealing to his sister’s love for the Boy Wonder.
“Don’t you want to be able to fly?”
Conner opened his mouth to reply, but Steve cut him off. “It’s too late for this argument again. Remember that they get to choose, if they want to be superheroes, which they won’t after I discourage them.” Steve frowned as his over protectiveness shined through. He could barely accept his invulnerable son going out late at night to fight crime, let alone the thought of his non-meta kids fighting. “Now, it’s time for bed. Goodnight, sweetheart,” Steve kissed Sarah’s cheek and slung an arm around Conner, “and happy birthday, son.”
“You too, Dad.” Conner disappeared down the hall to put Sarah to bed, despite the fact she’d crawl out her bed in the middle of the night, dragging her beloved Superboy plushie behind her, and sleep in his room.
Steve headed in the opposite direction towards James’s nursery with Tony following him. Tony never got tired of watching his husband with their children, whether it was Steve training Conner, having a tea party with Sarah or rocking James to sleep in his shield. Steve often said similar things to Tony, telling him that he loved to watch Tony and Conner work on cars together and inventing toys for Sarah and James.
“We’ve got some great kids,” Steve whispered as he brushed James’s fine blond hair as he laid him into the crib and covered him with an Avengers themed blanket.
“Yeah, we do. We should have another one,” Tony said, surprising both Steve and himself.
Steve’s face softened with joy and he encased Tony’s slim, calloused hands within his own large ones. Conner was pretty vocal about his desire for several siblings, but Steve usually remained quiet about his want for a large family. “Tony …”
“Or we can get Pepper and Happy to take the kids out tomorrow and we can try to make one ourselves.”
Steve just laughed quietly, kissing Tony and led him to bed. Tony hoped that meant that Steve agreed with his idea.
This wasn’t exactly what Tony had imagined when he found out that Steve wanted children. It wasn’t all picket white fences, Sunday dinners and bad summer vacations to Disneyland. It was more like a whirlwind of rushing out the door to save the world, takeout dinners, movie nights, teenage heroes hanging out in the mansion and renting out entire amusement parks for his family. He couldn’t even count the times he’s had to shove Sarah and James into Pepper’s arms and run off with his husband and eldest son to stop some criminal. Or how many times he stayed awake pretending to work on something just to wait for Steve and Conner to return home from patrol or for Conner to come back from a mission. And that’s nothing to say of the designs of armored suits for his non-meta children that were hidden under other blueprints.
It wasn’t what Tony imagined domestic life would be like. It was better and a lot more exciting.