It was a big day for five-year-old, Peter Parker. He was to be picked up early that morning from the only home he could remember, never to return, at least not as a resident. His foster mother had helped him dress and had gathered up everything he owned and put it into a small suitcase. He now sat in the foyer of his foster home, his legs dangling and bumping against the chair, staring at the clock on the wall as he waited for the social worker to come and get him. He had said goodbye to the other children who lived in the home the night before when they had held a dinner in his honor. He had asked the foster mother about rousing a few of them to say goodbye one last time, but the woman had shaken her head with a sad smile. “Best not to dwell too much on it Peter, you might make them jealous.”
Peter didn’t understand why anyone would be jealous of his situation. Yeah, he was going to a nice big house and he would get a bedroom all to himself and not have to share a room with three other boys. He would get new toys and clothes and a big backyard to play in. He would get parents. When Peter found out that the Stark-Stranges had decided to adopt him, he had cried tears of joy. But now, faced with the massive changes in front of him, he thought of his fellow foster siblings asleep peacefully in their beds, and he desperately wished it was like any other day. Just one more day, he’d be ready tomorrow, he’d swear.
Unlike other kids in his situation, Peter hadn’t daydreamed too much about what kind of parents he could end up with. Of course, his five-year-old imagination may take him down the path of spies, millionaires, and superheroes, but he knew he would be lucky to be adopted at all. As long as they were nice and gave him sufficient attention he would be alright. But no matter how you looked at it, Peter had scored pretty well.
Tony Stark was a mechanical engineer who owned his own start-up tech business, while his husband Stephen Strange was a yoga instructor and blogger. He wrote about natural remedies, combining his medical knowledge as a former doctor with healthy eating and meditation. During one of their supervised visits Peter had cautiously asked about his hands, why were they all scarred and shook ever so slightly. Stephen had explained about how he used to be a doctor but had made a mistake which led to him getting hurt. He had let Peter run a finger down one of the scars from the numerous surgeries, happy that the little boy had been more curious then afraid.
Through various visits with the couple at restaurants, parks, and museums it became obvious that they fit together. Peter had a mind for figuring out puzzles and knowing how things worked, which had delighted Tony. Peter and Tony had dashed around the New York Children’s Museum, looking around excitedly at the exhibits, Tony happy to explain each display to the wide-eyed boy, while Stephen spoke amicably to the case manager. Peter laughed at Tony’s antics and the couple’s good-natured bickering. He loved Stephen’s even, deep voice, calmly explaining things to him and never once patronizing him. They would make a good family.
Despite this, doubt still crept into Peter’s mind as he waited for the car to come get him and take him to his new home. What if they changed their mind? What if they decided they wanted a girl instead? Or Peter wasn’t as capable as other kids? What if they sent him back? When the case manager knocked on the door he nearly jumped out of his skin he was so anxious.
“You ready to go Peter?” asked the cheery woman. He hugged the foster mother tight and she wished him an absolutely fantastic life. She had been a good caretaker, though her attention had been split between a dozen kids.
The case manager walked him down to the car, putting his things in the trunk before settling Peter in the backseat. Then they were on their way. Peter watched the tall buildings pass by as drove out to his new home. Peter had never been there, and Stephen and Tony had just described to him. By the sound of things, they were rather well off from Tony’s business though the couple didn’t look wealthy based on Tony’s band tees and Stephen’s cardigans.
“Do you have a big house?” Peter had asked over some pizza one afternoon long after he had warmed up to the couple.
“It’s big enough, we have two floors and a few bedrooms, I have a room I do my exercising and meditating in while Tony has a workshop,” said Stephen.
“Yeah where I can make things and play with fire without accidentally setting Stephen’s macramé wall hangings ablaze,” said Tony with a wink.
Peter had stared at him shocked until Stephen had laughed and rubbed his back telling him Tony was just joking. When Stephen had gone to get them refills Tony had whispered to him that he’d show Peter around the workshop one day, but it was a secret promise. Peter’s eyes had almost sparkled when he shook his pinkie with Tony’s. Now, as they pulled into the driveway, that promise was about to be fulfilled.
Stephen and Tony stood on the porch, waving as they drove up. Tony was wearing a blazer over a t-shirt and jeans, while Stephen had on yoga pants with an oversized sweatshirt. Stephen had a arm draped over Tony’s shoulders.
The couple came and met them at the lawn as Peter marveled at the house in front of him. It was painted a soft blue and had colorful flowers growing in front of the porch. He could see a porch swing swaying in the breeze.
“Hey kiddo!” called Tony walking up to Peter, dwarfed by the too large backpack on his back. Tony bent to take the backpack and ruffled his hair.
“Hi Tony—I mean uh,” suddenly realizing this man was no longer just one of the men he had nice outings with, this man was one of his parents and he had no idea what to call him.
“Peter, our names are fine for right now, we can decide on titles later,” said Stephen. The taller man leaned over and held out his arms, “Now how about a hug?”
Peter walked into the embrace and Stephen squeezed him tightly, before releasing him so he could do the same with Tony. Stephen turned away and wiped his eyes with a quivering hand.
Peter stood in front of Tony, leaning backwards into his legs, the man’s hands resting on his shoulders, as the case manager explained some remaining details about hearings and paperwork. Then she finally shook their hands, and hugged Peter before departing.
The group watched her drive out of sight and Tony let out a whoop that startled Peter. Tony laughed and apologized, “Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you kiddo, I’m just so excited!”
“What do you want to see first Peter?” asked Stephen.
Peter didn’t have to think very long, “The workshop!”
“Yes! Let’s go there in style!” said Tony, letting Peter climb on to his back. He simulated galloping like a horse, making Peter giggle madly.
Peter was mesmerized by all the tools and Tony showed off some small gadgets he was working on. Stephen ducked out to start lunch and when Peter’s stomach let out a growl, Tony had led him to the kitchen where Stephen had prepared grilled cheeses and bowls of tomato soup. The kitchen was much nicer than the one at the foster home, with big shiny appliances and a vast island. They sat at a small built in table and enjoyed their lunch. Peter got a dab of soup on his chin at one point, but Stephen had grabbed a napkin from the center of the table and cleaned it off with a soft, “Here you go, sweetie.”
After they had put the dishes in the sink, Tony had exclaimed, “I can’t believe you’ve been here an hour and you haven’t been demanding to see your room!”
Peter suddenly turned shy and looked down at the floor “That’s okay, you can show me whatever you want.”
Tony laughed, “Strange, our kid is so polite.”
“Our kid” gave Peter a pleasant feeling in his belly.
“Come on, Peter,” said Stephen has he took Peter’s hand and let him to his room. They passed through the living room with the big screen TV and a sectional couch. Tony pointed out the stereo system with pride, “Your dads both have excellent taste in music, Pete. And we can’t wait to introduce you to the greatest hits. You’re going to be schooling the other kids.”
“Your dads”, yep there was the belly butterflies again.
When they got to the landing Tony yelled, “race you to the top!” and he and Peter ran up the stairs, Tony letting out a mock groan of despair when he lost.
Peter tried to peek into the bathroom, but Tony had urged him on, “The rest of these rooms are boring, let’s check out the coolest one.” Stephen and Tony had stood in front of the door, adorned with a small chalkboard with “Peter’s Room!” written on it. They pushed open the door together with a “ta-da!” and Peter walked in slowly taking it all in.
There was a full sized, wooden bed with a red plaid bedspread on top of it, sitting in the corner. A bedside table and lamp sat next to the bed. On the foot of the bed there was a blue knitted throw. “Stephen made that,” said Tony as Peter ran a hand on the soft fibers, “He’s an expert knitter.” “It’s good for my hands,” added Stephen.
The walls were blue and had pictures that detailed the constellations and the solar system. There was a bookshelf against the wall that already had two shelves full of books. “We remembered what books you chose when we went to the library that one time, Peter,” explained Stephen, “So we think we made a good selection.”
“We’ll go shopping tomorrow, Pete. You can pick out a couple of books yourself and get a few toys. There’s also clothes in the closet,” explained Tony.
Peter’s legs started to feel like jelly and he walked over to the bed, sitting down on it. The bed was softer than the bunk he had to share at the foster home by far, it felt like a cloud. Peter was being hit with so many emotions, all of them positive, but he was overwhelmed. When he tried to let out a small, timid thank you, all that came out was a sob and tears started to flow down his face.
“Oh baby!” said Stephen, moving forward to sit down on the bed and gather the little boy up in his arms. Stephen rocked Peter slowly as Tony came to sit down by them and rub his back.
The comforting motions calmed the boy and he sniffled against Stephen’s chest. “Sorry Stephen, I think I got snot on your sweatshirt,” said Peter is a small voice.
Stephen laughed, “Don’t worry, I signed up for things like that. And a little snot never hurt anybody. And trust, me I’m a doctor.” Stephen brought a shaking hand to smooth down Peter’s disheveled hair. Peter had never seen his hands shake so bad, and Tony must have noticed it to, because the man brought his hand up to interlock his and Stephen’s fingers, bringing the hand up and over to him to kiss the back of it.
“Ew!” said Peter before he could catch himself. Tony laughed, “Hey I forgot to tell you one of the rules of the house, little kids who don’t like me kissing my husband get tickles, now pay up.” Tony went for Peter’s stomach and underarms and Peter wriggled out of Stephen’s lap trying to crawl away from Tony’s tickling fingers. He was grasping the bedspread in his hands as he laughed so hard he had trouble breathing.
Stephen was just about to come to Peter’s aid when their horseplay was interrupted by a loud bark from outside.
Peter’s eyes flew to the window. “Oh that’s right, we got one more surprise, Peter,” said Tony. “Let’s head down to the backyard.”
The three went downstairs, and Stephen and Tony led Peter up to the sliding glass door. The backyard was a great size with a covered patio and outdoor furniture. There was a small wooden yoga deck with potted plants, candles and a mat laid out on it.
What would’ve caught any other kid’s attention was the wooden swing set back by the fence, but Peter had only eyes for the scruffy blonde dog sitting in the middle of the yard.
“You petted a few dogs at the park so we know you aren’t afraid of them, I found her at the local rescue and she’s so sweet Peter,” explained Stephen.
“What’s her name?” asked Peter eagerly.
“Ha, well she comes to Karen,” said Tony, “But that’s not a really cool dog name, you can change it if you want.”
“Sure is, kiddo. This is her new home too, you can get settled in together,” said Tony.
“Hi Karen,” said Peter as the dog walked up sniffing Peter’s outstretched fingers before licking them hesitantly. Karen’s tail started wagging excitedly as she came forward and let the little boy pet her. Stephen and Tony smiled as they watched their new son start to run around and play with the dog.
Not everything would be easy, not every day would be as perfect and as magical as this one. There would be tantrums, nightmares, misunderstandings. But for better or for worse, they were a family. And Peter Stark-Strange was home.