Someone had left him on the doorstep of the tower.
The fucking doorstep, in the early weeks of a freezing spring. Tony could still hardly get over it- how could anyone fucking do that to a baby? It was goddamn lucky that he had JARVIS to inform him as soon as the little basket had been dropped off, or he didn't even want to think about what could have happened.
As soon as he'd gone down and picked it up in the armor (because people left weird shit outside the doorsteps of the Avengers tower, and Tony always practiced health & safety in those instances), he'd called a meeting immediately, completely gobsmacked. Most of the team had been asleep, seeing as it was three in the morning. Tony himself had been getting ready to pack up and head to bed, curl into Steve and have his usual battle for a little bit of blanket that the goddamn supersoldier always loved to hog.
I can't keep him, the note attached to the basket had said, he's one of you.
And now, here they all were. Five Avengers in their pajamas, all staring in disbelief at the small baby boy in his arms, sleeping soundly.
"Okay, so I'm not the only one who's seeing this, right?" Clint blurted, pointing a finger at the small mass cradled in Tony's arms, "there is definitely a baby person there."
"It appears so," Thor said, cocking his head, "Tony, not to be rude, but, uh- what the fuck?"
Tony shrugged helplessly, shuffling the tiny thing around a fraction. "Someone left him at the door ten minutes ago," Tony said, keeping his voice quiet. He knew what babies sounded like when they screamed. He did not want that right now. "I tried to trace them, but they didn't pass any of my cameras. They just... dumped him and left."
Steve was staring at the baby like it was a bomb about to go off. He hadn't said a word. Natasha stepped forward, her hair loose and limp around her neck. She tilted her head and squinted. "Did they leave anything else?"
"A note," he responded, and Natasha's eyes encouraged him to explain further, "said: 'I can't keep him, he's one of you'. "
"What the damn hell is that supposed to mean?" Bruce blurted, before his eyes widened and he turned to everyone else. "Oh My god- you don't think he could be... related, do you?"
Everyone froze, and Natasha raised her hands. "Well it's not mine," she told them all drily. "Any of you remember who you were banging nine months ago?"
Immediately, Steve pointed to Tony and Tony nodded back over to Steve. "We're both out," Steve said firmly, "so if it's anyone's, it's Clint or Thor or Bruce."
"I haven't- uh- been with anyone for a while. Over a year now," Bruce said, cheeks tinting pink, "I'm very sure."
Thor and Clint turned to one another, both looking nervous. "I have," they said at the same time, before Thor clicked his fingers and grinned triumphantly.
"Wait!" He said, "nope, it's not mine. Nine months ago was in June, right? I was casually seeing another man back then, not a woman. Michael was great, but most certainly did not have the ability to get pregnant. I'm safe."
Clint paled, glancing over to the small baby. "Nope," he said, "no, that is not mine. No way. I always use protection. Always."
Tony looked down, cocking his head and trying to see a resemblance. The child had a thick head of hair already, curly and wild and chocolate brown. His nose was button-like, different to Clint's wonky potato one. Then again, he supposed it had been broken so many times that no one could know what it had looked like at the beginning. "It might not be a son," he tried, "nephew? Third cousin twice-removed?"
"I have no family either," Natasha said, her face carefully blank, "so this has nothing to do with me."
"Look," Steve said, stepping forward and seeming to break out of his little trance, his voice commanding and Captain-like, taking charge of the situation, "it doesn't matter whose it is for now. Clint, we can do a DNA test tomorrow. But we need to work out what to do with it. Can we give to- I don't know, SHIELD?"
Everyone pulled a face. "God, no, we're not doing that," Tony said defensively, "this is a small human, not an agent. They're not going to be much use with him."
"Child services?" Bruce offered, but then Clint's brow furrowed in disdain and he shook his head.
"Look, if it's ours in any way, I don't want the little guy being put into care," he told them all, "it's shitty and lonely in there. Babies need, like... love and stuff. Affection. Anyway, it could get out that we've put a kid into the system and then all hell will break loose."
"Track down the mother," Thor said, "we have the resources. Just give it back."
"nuh uh," Tony shook his head vehemently, glancing down once more as the baby stirred a little bit, "she left him here, in the cold, out in the streets of fucking New York. She's not getting him back now."
"Tony, he's not our responsibility- we can take her back and then guide her toward some of the better decisions she can make, give her more options than just dropping him at the feet of some superheroes," Steve tried, but Tony shook his head again, lip curling in distaste.
"We have a duty of care, Steve," he snapped, "and this is a helpless baby. He's damned well our responsibility now." He sighed and then slowly lowered himself onto the couch, swallowing nervously. His own words settled some sense of enormity onto the situation they'd just been dropped into. This was a very small child in his arms, who couldn't talk or communicate or probably even walk yet. And none of them had any idea about what to do with him.
But Tony knew that he sure as well was not giving him back to the person who'd left him there. Not a chance.
"Okay, here's an idea," Natasha said after a few seconds of heavy silence, her eyes analyzing the baby. Better than Steve's 'danger threat danger threat danger danger threat' stare, but still a little too clinical for Tony's liking. "We keep him here overnight. Do some DNA tests, see if it's really Clint's. Work out our options, and what we are going to do with him. Maybe call a few people and see if there is anywhere we could put him that would be safe for him and relatively hassle-free for us."
They all looked at one another, nodding at the evaluation. That seemed sound. They could deal with a very small, very vulnerable human for 24 hours or so, right? They'd saved the universe before. This was small potatoes, really. "Where are we gonna put him?" Thor asked, folding his arms, "I don't think he should be left in his own room."
Another round of looks flew around the room, these ones a tad more uncomfortable. No one particularly fancied the responsibility of that, and kids were known to be... loud, when they woke up and felt hungry or needed to poop or whatever it was that babies did in the night.
"I vote Tony and Steve," Clint said, and Steve shot him a mutinous glare, "two superheroes are better than one, and their room is probably, like, homely, yeah? Nice happy family and stuff."
Tony blushed, beginning to smile- right up until he heard Steve's voice snap at the archer. "Don't be stupid, Clint."
Oh. Alright then. Tony looked down at the baby with a small frown and a disappointed little clenching in his heart, fingers brushing gently at the blankets wrapped around him. Honestly, he wasn't even sure if the kid was a boy. He'd just assumed from the blue blanket with rockets on it.
God, this was weird.
"Yeah, that's probably best," everyone said, all of them determined not to be saddled with the responsibility. Tony rolled his eyes, looking over at Steve for confirmation. The man looked like he was swallowing cement, but eventually he just sighed and shrugged in defeat.
"Right," he said tightly, "yeah, sure, we can deal with it for the night." He looked dubiously over to the bundled baby in Tony's arms, taking a deep breath and straightening his back. "How hard can it be?"
"Oh, those are some famous last words," Bruce said with a small grin, patting Steve on the shoulder before backing up. "I'll be up early so we can get started on the DNA testing. For now, I think that everyone should get back to bed. It's late."
There was a round of murmured agreement, and Tony stood back up again gently, walking over to Steve and sharing an apprehensive look. "Right," he said with a swallow, "back to bed for us, I guess."
"We don't have a cot," Steve said, fingers flexing against his side before lifting, just a little, as if he wanted to touch the kid. But a second later he thought better of it, and then let his hand drop again.
Tony just shrugged. "He can sleep in the bed with us, right?"
But Steve shook his head rapidly. "No, no, we can't do that. You wriggle in your sleep, and I'm heavy. We could accidentally... squish it."
Oh God, that was true. So many things to think about that Tony had never even considered. This... this was definitely not what he'd been wanting to spend his brain-power on tonight, that was for sure. He looked around the now-empty common room, hoping for an answer. "Uh, we could shove the couch right up to the bedside and then put him on that? That way he won't accidentally roll off."
Steve nodded wordlessly, starting to walk off in the direction of their quarters once more. His whole body was stiff and tense, clearly unhappy with the situation. Tony couldn't help but feel a little
hurt annoyed at it- Tony wasn't exactly leaping for joy at this development either, but it wasn't the end of the goddamn world. Did kids really make Steve that uncomfortable? Or was it just the idea of a kid in the room with him and Tony? It seemed like it could be a gateway for some conversations about future plans, potentially, but... well, it didn't have to be weird. And- and they'd been together for three years now; was the concept of a child being there really that strange?
Tony shook his head and just walked quietly with Steve, holding the baby as carefully as he could until they eventually both slipped into their room a minute later. Steve got to work with setting up the couch, while Tony softly commanded JARVIS to order foods that were suitable for babies to the tower for the morning. He'd probably need formula too, right? He put it on the order.
Steve quietly informed Tony it was ready, and Tony looked back up. Steve appeared to have gone to all the effort of dragging the couch around the room in order to put it on Tony's side, as opposed to the much closer side that belonged to Steve. He didn't mention it, though. Just nodded and then walked over in the darkness, very gently placing the child down against the soft pillows of the couch. He winced when the little boy's hands twitched and his face stirred, but luckily he didn't wake up. Tony sighed in relief, slipping his hands away. As he did so, the blankets that had previously been swaddling him slipped away, exposing the child's little sleep-suit and a yellow stickynote that had been placed over his chest. Tony frowned, plucking it off.
"Huh," he huffed quietly, glancing back down with a cocked head, "Peter Parker."
"What?" Steve said from the bed, shuffling around to look over at them. Tony held up the sticky note and raised an eyebrow.
"Well, we've already reached one developmental milestone tonight," he said as he slipped into bed next to Steve and handed him the note, "seems that we've got a name."