Tony made sure that the last wires were fastened properly and switched on the machine he'd just finished. The amputated robot arm waved enthusiastically at him and he grinned widely.
"Try not to blow anything up," Erik said as he walked through the room, heading for the door at the other end of Tony's room. He did this regularly - checked doors and windows. Tony had learned to not question those habits.
"Pfft," Tony said, switching off his little project. "You always say that and I never blow anything up."
Erik rattled the door with a wave of his hand, then turned back to Tony, a smirk tugging at his lips.
"That doesn't count," Tony said with a pout.
"It does, but only you and I know of it, so it's still our little secret," Erik promised him.
Tony grinned widely and sprang to his feet. "What'cha doing?" he asked curiously.
Erik didn't answer, just stepped over and waved his hand until Tony's little robot arm levitated from the floor. "Not bad work, kid," he muttered. "Integrity is better than the last model you made."
Tony tried not to show how much the praise meant, but was failing utterly to not show all his teeth in a grin. There was, though, still that little problem- "Erik? Are you sure I'll never be able to do that?"
"Huh?" Erik tore his eyes from Tony's science project and set it back down again, gently. Then he looked like he got the question. "No, Tony, you're not a mutant - remember, you got your way last month and uncle Hank and uncle Charles checked you over."
As always, there was no pity in Erik's tone of voice, and that at least, made it a little easier to accept. Although it still made Tony sad. That he'd never be able to do the things Erik did. It wasn't so much that Erik got to go away on missions with Tony's dad and aunt Peggy, but more about the powers. The ability to touch metal and make it do what he wanted. And the magnetic fields…
"Don't pout," Erik told him, resting a heavy hand on Tony's shoulder. "You've got your own gifts," he assured him.
Any other adult, and Tony would have said they were pandering to him, but this was Erik. Erik never made it easy for anyone, even Tony. He was a serious man, who thought before he spoke. At least that was how uncle Charles explained it. As such, praise from Erik was worth more than that of any other. Save perhaps his father's but… well, he didn't see his father all that often.
"You're creative," Erik said quietly, tilting Tony's head up to look him in the eyes. "You are smarter than most people - you're capable of putting those two things together and when you accept that, I genuinely don't think there's anything you can't do - can't create."
Tony sniffed. But he really wanted cool powers like his uncles had, at least, if he couldn't have Erik's.
Erik's stern look softened somewhat. It was as if he was reading Tony's mind, but it was only uncle Charles who could do that.
"Remember how your uncle Charles told you, that you were a brilliant young man?" Erik asked.
Tony shrugged. He was used to hollow praise from people. "It's what everyone says," he muttered, "but they don't care about what I make."
"Ah, Kätzchen, you know Charles better than that," Erik scolded him gently. "If your uncle Charles says you've got a beautiful, brilliant mind, then trust him - if anyone can tell, it's him. And Hank finds your ideas intriguing."
Tony nodded. It was true. A few of the people in Tony's life could be trusted to say what they meant. To not treat him like a little child.
"Done sulking?" Erik asked, mouth quirking up into a small smile.
Tony nodded, his mind already going a mile a minute.
"Can I trust you to not blow anything up till I return tomorrow night?" Erik continued, raising an eyebrow at Tony, obviously expecting an answer.
Tony nodded again. Now, if he were to start small, with perhaps a glove, or a gauntlet, like the ones that the armors along the hallways in uncle Charles' house had… and he could…
"I'm good," he said hurriedly, shooting Erik a distracted smile before turning to locate his pad and paper. "Won't blow up anything and if there's a risk of it, I'll wait until you're back."
"Thats all I wanted to hear," Erik said with a wink.
Tony was already calculating how powerful a magnetic field he could pack into something the size of a gauntlet. Maybe uncle Charles would let him borrow some of the ones at the mansion? He barely noticed Erik leaving, shaking his head fondly as he left Tony to his ideas.