Summary - Stephen is asked by Christine (a maternity nurse in this au) to give a preemie baby company because of its mother’s death and its father’s dangerous drug addiction and general distaste for children. Feelings happen.
The world seemed to be falling apart for Stephen. His hands, which were constantly shaking, were also cramping. They were a painful, incessant reminder of his failure. His failure to be a decent human being, his failure to adhere to the morals that come with being a doctor. His failures haunted him in the form of those goddamn shaking hands.
Stephen stared at his hands in disgust, the rest of his body shaking with him. His days weren’t always this bad, in fact, they were usually pretty good. It was just that Tony hadn’t been home for a while, he hadn’t heard much from Peter, and Christine was yet to contact him since Thanos went down.
But, speak of the devil, his phone began to ring, and the name clearly read Christine. He sighed and answered her call. Of course she called on the one day that he didn’t want to talk to her. Or anyone, really.
“Yes?” His voice was rough and he sounded agitated, as if it strained him to even think about speaking.
“Stephen, I know you probably don’t care much about the NICU, but you’re my only option. We have a preemie baby girl whose mother died in childbirth and I desperately need someone to come in and connect with her. Her father is some form of drug addict and can’t stand to look at her without going into some rage and none of my nurses can take her for longer than thirty minutes.”
Stephen blinked once.
“Are you asking me to come in and hold a baby, Christine?” He knew he sounded disgusted, but he honestly couldn’t help it. A baby, he thought, she wants me to hold a baby? They carry all sorts of germs once they’re out of the womb and have been exposed to the atmosphere, and they usually smelled horrible. Not to mention, he couldn’t stand the sight of drool running out of a child’s mouth.
“Yes, that’s exactly what I’m asking. We’ll pay you? And it’ll get you out of the house while Tony isn’t home!”
Stephen swore to himself that the only thing that made him do it was the mention of Tony. There was absolutely, positively, no other reason that he was willing to hold a baby for more than five minutes. That was it.
And there he was, holding a tiny child to his chest. She was much too small, of course, seeing as she was premature, and she was connected to breathing tubes. But she was making the tiniest noises, cooing when Stephen shifted her and sighing quietly when she settled herself into his arms.
He promised himself that he was only enjoying it for the science of what was occurring. Her tiny body had connected with his, she was breathing with him, her heart was beating with his, and she had fully relaxed into his arms.
After about an hour, he spoke to her, “You are much too small, little one. I do hope you grow quickly.”
“She will. She’s only about a month and a half early.” Christine’s voice scared him, causing his heart rate to speed up and the baby to indignantly huff as she was jostled.
“Oh. How long should I-“
“A month. We need to monitor her health, both of her parents are- were- addicts and because of that, she’s got a few problems. Her lungs are the least of her issues. We’re monitoring brain activity and we think she’s suffered some form of brain damage.”
Stephen took a sharp breath and spared a glance at the sleeping child in his arms. The pitiful girl had tubes coming out of her arms as well -which he hadn’t noticed until about thirty minutes into his session.
“I see. I’ll, um. I’ll be back tomorrow, Christine. I’m expecting Tony to be home tonight.”
He left the small girl in her incubator and, with a nod in Christine’s direction, promptly left the hospital.
That night during dinner, Stephen brought it up to Tony.
“Christine asked me to come in to the hospital today,” he said quietly, pushing his chicken around in his plate. Tony quirked an eyebrow at him, then reached out and pushed a piece of chicken closer to Stephen with his own fork.
“Oh? What for?” Then, distractedly, “also, eat your chicken. I spent thirty minutes on a nice dinner for us.”
“You spent thirty minutes on the phone for a nice dinner, Anthony. And yes, she did. She wanted me to come hold one of the premature babies, so it could connect to someone. Usually they ask the mothers but... this one doesn’t have one of those.”
Tony’s face softened and a bright smile crept onto his face, which was dimly lit by the New York City lights that blinked through their living room’s windows.
“A baby? What’s her name?” Stephen nearly melted watching Tony get excited.
“Yes, a baby. She doesn’t have a name yet. Looks like a Sirena, maybe a Samantha. She’s much too small.”
Tony raised his eyebrows, weighing the two names. He stabbed a bite of chicken, and around the bite said, “I’d say Samantha. Sirena is too bitchy.”
Stephen nodded in agreement while he sipped on some expensive (and disgusting) wine.
They ate the rest of their meal in silence, enjoying each other’s company and the background noise that New York provided them. As Stephen finished eating, Tony said something to FRIDAY about reminding him to load the dishwasher the next morning. He took Stephen’s plate and dumped it in their sink, running a little water over it to rinse off what the dishwasher wouldn’t be able to clean.
Tony turned around to face Stephen, his hip rested on the counter top.
“Adoption agency lady called today. She spewed some bullshit about not having any available, but I think it’s a gay thing.”
“Tony, you know it’s not a gay thing. Adoption processes take time, love.”
They had a silent staring contest, trying to test each other’s will. Tony got too frustrated too quickly, and Stephen always won the arguments when that quick temper kicked in. Finally, Tony sighed and changed the subject.
“So are you going to go back?” Tony’s eyes were brimming with hope and excitement, but his tone was nonchalant.
“I believe I will. She was quiet enough.”
Stephen went back nearly every day for a month. Nothing very eventful happened, and her father still refused to sign her birth certificate, so she had no official name. Stephen called the man himself to tell him when it had to be signed.
“Sir, listen, I know this is really tough for you. I understand. You are grieving, just like anyone else would be. But your daughter’s birth certificate has to be signed by the twenty-third, or you’ll be charged money. You could always give her up for adoption, if you’re so set on not having her, but-“
“Then where do I sign?”
Stephen could’ve sworn he stopped breathing. He was almost certain that his heart stopped beating, too. This was his chance. During his time connecting with the baby girl, who would soon be considered a ward of the state, he had developed a significant attachment to her. He adored the child, and would do anything to take her home with him.
“Where do I sign the fucking adoption papers?”
Stephen motioned Christine over wildly, a smile growing on his face.
“Um, well have to call an agency and uh, you’ll have to come to the hospital and sign it officially-“
“I’ll be down in fifteen minutes. Have the fucking papers ready. Do I have to name the kid?”
“No, sir, you don’t. The adoptive family can do that. A nurse and adoption agent can meet you in the lobby and go over everything.”
The man didn’t even thank Stephen, he just ended the call. Stephen told Christine everything that happened, then called Tony. His heart was racing, trying to keep up with his brain, which was kicking into overdrive.
“Tony, hello, I love you dearly and that is why you won’t be angry when I tell you that we may be adopting a child today or tomorrow.”
“Stephen what the fu-“
“So you should hire someone to make sure the nursery looks good because an inspector will be at the apartment in approximately three hours.” Stephen rambled on, not giving Tony time to object.
“Stephen I don’t understand, what the fuck do you mean-“
“Just do it, Anthony, this is our chance.”
He ended the call before Tony could finish asking what was happening, then made yet another call to their adoption agent and sent her on a house call. After all of the details that he knew needed to be taken care of were given attention to, he leaned over the incubator and brushed the baby’s cheek.
“You’re coming home, lovely.”
Tony was nearing absolute hysteria. He had three of his interns sorting everything out in the nursery, which, translated into normal vernacular, meant they were busting their asses to build the crib and get everything looking perfect, down to the bottom shelf of the changing station.
One of his interns cleared her throat and wiped her forehead of sweat, trying to catch his attention. “Mr. Stark, sir, it’s done.”
Tony thanked her and the others profusely. Shortly after they left and he had taken a moment to breathe, FRIDAY’s voice came over the apartment.
“Sir, there’s an adoption agent waiting to be paged up.”
Tony sighed and gave FRIDAY permission to let them up. They walked in holding a clipboard and a pen, and Tony had never felt more intimidated by anyone in his entire life. Not even Thanos. This person decided if he got to have a kid.
“Hello, Mr. Stark. My name is Emily Wells and I’ll be inspecting yours and Stephen’s apartment today. I’m hoping you have a nursery?”
Tony took a deep breath to calm himself and then, with shaking hands, gestures toward the hallway.
He took her to the nursery. It was a small room with yellow walls and a wonderful view of downtown New York City. It had one very small window that was lined with lacy light purple curtains, and below it sat a white rocking chair. Next to the rocking chair was a white changing station, filled with diapers, wipes, and a wipe warmer that was waiting to be loaded with a pack of wipes. It had purple detailing on the sides, a nice accent to the curtains. Across the room from the changing station was the crib, also white, and it had a yellow swaddling blanket sitting in the middle of the mattress, which was covered by light purple sheets. Finally, there was a dresser filled with baby clothes that went from size newborn to 6 months.
“Well, Mr. Stark, this is all well and good, but do you have any idea how to baby proof once the child starts walking? And your robots, what happens when they come in contact with children? Have you thought about any of that?”
Tony took another second to breathe and calm himself down, trying to ward off the inevitable anxiety attack, and answered.
“Until the baby is old enough to get into cabinets, they remained unproofed. The robots generally stay in my lab, but when and if they do somehow get out, they’re programmed to recognize and ignore children unless the child wants to interact, in which case, DUM-E will soon be equipped with distracting toys. Is that satisfactory?”
She seemed surprised at his answer for a moment, then smiled in a trained way that left him feeling a bit annoyed.
“Yes, Mr. Stark. It meets our standards. You’ve passed this inspection with a score of ninety-eight, two points taken off for not having the nursery within ten feet of your bedroom. I assume you have a car seat for the child as well?”
“Of course we do. Anything else?”
She huffed at him, eyebrows furrowed.
“No, Mr. Stark, that will be all. Here’s your proof of inspection, and my number if anyone has any questions.” She handed him a few papers, the first of which listed his and Stephen’s address and their information, as well as their inspection grade.
Tony felt his anxiety levels increase at her imperfect score, but his annoyance with her was a sort of override.
“Thanks. So, are we taking her home today or tomorrow?”
She raised an eyebrow, looking unimpressed.
“Today, if you can make it to the hospital on time.”
Stephen was meeting with their actual adoption agent, a sweet elderly woman by the name of Lily Reese. She was going over everything that they would need, and he was checking off each thing (albeit uncertainly. He didn’t know if Tony had gotten everything yet). And, on cue, his boyfriend tumbled through the lobby door, disoriented and smiling crazily.
“Where is she, Stephie?” He was looking around the lobby, trying to see if they had brought the child out yet.
“Not down here yet. Biological father is over there, signing through papers. Are you ready, love?”
Tony smiled softly, leaning up to kiss Stephen.
“With you, dear, I’ll always be ready for something new.”
There was a shout at the other end of the lobby, and then, “I’m done, I signed it and everything. There. Take it away from my sight, and never ask about it again. I’m done.” The baby’s biological father threw a clipboard and pen at the front desk, and then he was gone. Stephen ran to give the receptionist the board and pen, smiling as he did.
“Terribly sorry for this mess, Regina. He’s been this rowdy since she was born.”
The receptionist, Regina, smiled and waved her hand toward the door.
“Shoo. You have a baby to go sign off on.”
Christine picked the baby up, shushing her when she cried. “You ready to meet your other dad, baby girl?”
She made her way down the hallway, feeling more proud with each step she took. She had not only watched the baby grow, Stephen had grown with her. He’d become more open and soft, and didn’t lie about his hands not bothering him anymore. He had built a bond with the child, one that Christine guessed was founded on the similarities that he shared with her. The baby girl was damaged, cast out, and had survived much more than anyone expected her to. She was quite like Stephen.
Christine didn’t even notice that she had reached the lobby until she heard Tony excitedly chattering.
“Is this her? Oh my god, she’s beautiful, Stephen look at her! What are we gonna name her? Wait, you’ve seen her. Can I hold her? What are we naming her?”
Stephen snorted, flicking Tony’s head, “I was thinking Samantha. We could call her Sam or Sammy.”
Tony nodded seriously as Christine handed the baby - Samantha - off to him.
“Samantha. I like it.”
They signed the papers and packed her up into the minivan (that involved teasing from Stephen) - and went home.
Home, which was finally complete.