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Where I Belong

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“Mr. Stark!!!!” Peter had a smile a mile wide as the man steered the go-kart on the path at the compound. It was an off-road cart that Tony had rigged so they could ride comfortably and go very very fast which they'd been doing for the better part of the day.

Peter loved every minute of it. It was the last day of summer and Tony had promised to spend every waking minute of it with him.

Everything was perfect.

Tony did a quick slide and brought the cart to a stop. “How was that?” Peter was clapping his hands as he stepped out of the now stopped cart.

“Amazing! Best thing ever! Do you think we can do it next weekend too?”

“No can do, bud. We’ve got to get you settled for school and I’ve got some boring government stuff to handle,” Tony said almost sadly.

“That’s ok Mr. Stark, this was a blast! I don’t think I ever had a better day!” Peter pulled the helmet off his head and Tony followed suit. Even though this could be a sad day for many kids for Peter it was the start of something beautiful.

For the first time in forever, he was going to stay in one place. No more Mr. Jeff, no more Kyle and Nigel poking him and hitting him when no one was looking. Nope, he had a Mr. Stark and a lab full of friends.

“Hey Mr. Stark, can we have pizza and watch a movie?” Tony shrugged.

“One movie and yeah we can have pizza. We’ve gotta drive back to the Tower tonight so you can go to that fancy school you loved so much.”

Peter smiled at the memory, just two weeks ago Rhodey, Tony, and Peter had gone on several school tours. Peter had hated them all. Tony wanted him to go to some fancy prep school deep in the city that houses some of the kids of New York’s elite.

It looked like a prison to Peter.

The last school they’d visited was one known as Midtown Elementary. It was exclusive and you had to test to get in, but the labs and the science curriculum made Peter salivate. He’d begged to go there and Rhodey had helped.

So that day he became Midtown Elementary’s newest student.

“Mr. Stark,” Peter said slipping his hand into the man’s. “Do you think I’ll make friends?” Tony not missing a step reached down and swung the boy into his arms.

“I’m sure you’ll make friends. You know why?” Peter shook his head as he stared into Tony’s eyes. “Because you’re the smartest and nicest person I know.” Peter smiled.

“I’ve never been a fourth grader before,” Peter said.

“You know what, me either, so we’ll learn together, ok?” A wide grin crossed Peter’s face and he nodded. He didn’t know what he’d done to get to be in a place so perfect but he was so very thankful.

Chapter Text

Peter blew out a breath and took off his Midtown Elementary jacket. He left the rest of his uniform on while he stewed in silence as he thought over the events of the last hour.

Stupid Flash. His fist was still hurting from punching the other boy, but Peter felt oddly satisfied.

What Flash had done was wrong.

Peter could take a lot, but what he’d done not even Peter could bear.

But that didn’t seem to matter. The nine-year-old was sitting on the couch in the penthouse living room staring at the floor. Pepper had told him to sit there almost ten minutes ago when she brought him home from school.

Yep, Pepper Potts CEO of Stark Industries had moved back into the Tower.

And with her came a truckload of changes for Peter.

The first two months with Tony were great, he was home with Peter every day, made his lunch, took him to school, and they worked in the lab nonstop. It was heaven for Peter. It was just like his time over the summer except he didn’t have to worry about it ending.

Every day felt like a dream.

For the first time in a long time, it felt like he had a real family and a dad.

….Then everything changed.

Pepper moved in two weeks into the school year and just a few short weeks later told them both that she was pregnant during dinner. That was the end of things being how they were supposed to be.

With Tony in charge, everything was fun. Sure he had his ‘tough’ moments, but they had sooo much fun. They went on trips, worked in the lab, played games, and ate movies until late.

When Tony had told Peter Pepper would be moving in. The man had said that they would have to make adjustments because girls were like different. What Tony hadn’t told Peter that his world was going to spin into something that he didn’t recognize.

The biggest change was that he saw the man less.

Like a lot less.

Tony still took him to school each day, but instead of picking him up and them spending the entire night in the lab before Tony inevitably carried him off to bed. Now, Happy picked him up most days and Peter had to sit at the counter in a little area Pepper set up for him and do all of his homework. There was a basket for all the papers he had to have checked or get signed and a stack of pencils and erasers. She’d also had Tony put a special hook affixed to that side of the counter for his bag and lunch box.

‘Peter’s Place’ she called it.

The boy rolled his eyes at the thought. It was girl stuff. He’d done just fine doing his homework in the lab with Tony and making his lunch with Tony in the mornings after breakfast.

That was another thing...he had to do ALL of his homework before he could see if Tony was available in the lab.

How dumb was that?

To make it even worse, Tony was rarely available anyway. He’d taken a more active role in SI and it seemed a less active role in Peter.

It seemed like every day sucked a little more. Now, he was in trouble.

The adults had congregated in the kitchen to discuss Peter’s situation. They thought they were being quiet, but they weren’t. He could only make out a little bit of what they were saying, but it didn’t sound good.

Tony had only really punished him once. Peter had purposefully snuck into the lab when Tony was on a conference call and touched one of the new arc reactor prototypes. He hadn’t even known that Friday had tattled on him until Tony had Peter’s arm in his hand and a beet red face. Tony had made him sit in his room for the rest of the day only letting him out to eat dinner.

Peter did not want a repeat of that.

The boy wondered if he’d end up with a similar fate after the adults got together this time. He’d never seen people discuss kids as much as those three. Soon, the curiosity got to him and Peter pulled out his headphones and remote that were connected to his reconfigured helicopter drone.

He used it as his little “Eye in the Sky”. It told him secrets that none of the adults wanted to tell him.

He quickly flew the device into the kitchen where he heard Pepper, Rhodey, and Tony talking. “Look it’s his first time doing something like this, I know there’s a reason,” Tony said. “So let’s not overreact.”

“I agree, this is not like Peter,” Pepper responded.

“Guys, he punched a kid. That’s serious. Especially with him living full time with Tony. The kid’s parents could sue and this could get out to every news outlet,” Rhodey said. “Tony, they could take Peter from you for something like this or the school could expel him. How would that look?” Peter’s gut flipped. Oh no! He didn’t mean to punch Flash, it’s just those words he said made Peter’s blood boil. This was bad. Very bad.

“But don’t worry about that," Pepper interjected, “when I was on the conference call the principal assured me that with the other boy’s parents won’t sue as long as Peter apologizes. It seems everyone was surprised that Peter did this.”

“Exactly, I’m sure the kid deserved it,” Tony said. “This is the same Peter who just months ago was getting the hell beat out of him and took it on the chin. I know my kid, there’s something wrong. We just have to give him time to figure it out.”

“Well Tones, did he talk to you,” Rhodey asked. “Pep said he shut her down on the way here.” Peter saw Tony shake his head.

“What’d the school say Pep,” Tony asked. Peter felt his heart rumble.

“They said Peter punched this Eugene in the nose and refused to apologize,” Pepper said. “The school wanted to take away his privilege to go on their upcoming field trip.” Peter groaned he’d been looking forward to their surprise trip for weeks now. “But I got it cut down to in-school suspension for the rest of the week along with no recess, but it will only happen if he apologizes to the boy and the lunchroom monitor.”

“I’ll talk to him,” Tony said.

“I hate to say this Tony, but maybe you should push a little harder,” Rhodey said.

Peter saw Tony mutter to himself before speaking. “What do you mean?”

“Well, when the kid was coming over during the day you had him on a really good like rule set. He knew what he could and couldn’t do. You were firm with him. Now, he has a lot of rope,” Rhodey said. “And he's using every inch of it.”

“The kid has gone through a lot. It’s not that serious if he stays up late some nights or has dessert before dinner,” Tony shot back. Peter nodded. Yeah!

“Tony, that’s not what Jimmy’s referring to. Peter has been a lot more obstinate lately. He can be very sweet and his manners are great, but we do have to think about raising him. This isn’t just a camp anymore, this is every day. What we instill in him now is going to last for the rest of his life,” Pepper said. “I know you like to talk things out with him and that’s great, but I think something more drastic would be better in this situation.”

“What do you mean,” Tony asked.

“I think we should ground him,” Pepper said.

“Or maybe take away his science enrichment class for a week,” Rhodey said. Peter’s eyes burned with tears.

“He’s a good kid, guys.” Peter smiled at that.

“He is a great kid Tony, no one is questioning that. The problem is that he really only listens to you,” Rhodey said. “I love him, but anytime I say anything to him he acts like he can’t hear me. Happy says the same thing and it sounds like it’s happening at school now too. He’s a great kid Tony, but he’s a kid. You’ve got to give him boundaries." Rhodey took a deep breath. "Peter is such a good kid, but man sometimes he's so stubborn and just does whatever he wants.” Peter put his head in his hands. He knew that he’d been hardheaded but he didn’t think that he’d been that bad. Now they were all ganging up on him.

“You both feel this way?” Tony sighed after what Peter guessed were their confirmations that he was being spoiled. He heard a small commotion but he didn’t give it much mind.

Stupid Flash.

“Pete?” He jumped up and pulled his earphones off his ears an tried to hide the remote in his pocket. Wiping his eyes quickly Peter tried to smile up at the man, but Tony’s gaze dropped to his hand and Peter’s heart sank.

In the man’s hand was Peter’s drone helicopter.

“Oops,” the boy said.

“Oops is right. I was gonna take you out for ice cream to get you to talk, but it looks like you already heard our side, huh?” Tony shook his head. “Pete, I’m on your side, bud I am, but when you do stuff like this it makes it look like I’m doing everything wrong.”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Stark.” Tony sighed and set the helicopter on the table.

“Just talk to me. I know you’re smart,” Tony said gesturing to the rewired drone. “But tell me what’s going on in here,” he said tapping Peter’s chest. “What’s got you acting like this?” Peter flopped backward on to the couch.

“I didn’t mean to be disrespectful to Ms. Potts or Mr. Rhodes or Happy. I get tired of all the rules. Don’t do this, don’t do that. Sometimes I just want to have fun,” he said. “Like we do,” Peter added. A chuckle emerged from Tony as he sat next to the boy.

“They can be killjoys sometimes, huh?” The man nudged Peter with his elbow causing the boy to smile. This was the Tony that made Peter secretly call him dad. Tony spoke to him with a tender tone that he only remembered Uncle Ben using. It warmed Peter’s heart and made him sad all at the same time. “They just do that because they love you, bud. They’re probably much better at raising you than I am. They had normal parents. I didn’t as you know.”

“You’re doing great Mr. Stark, really.” Tony reached out and ruffled Peter’s hair.

“Thanks, kid.” Peter bit his lip and turned to look at Tony.

“I’ll um apologize to them. I’m sorry I was mean to them.” Peter smiled as Tony smiled at him. It made him feel all gooey and warm inside. He felt Tony pulling him close to his side. Peter lowkey loved Tony’s hugs they seemed to make all his worries wash away. He’d be content to stay in Tony’s embrace forever. Peter’s eyes slipped closed as he took in the familiar scent of motor oil and aftershave.

Those smells reminded him of home and his dad...well for now at least.

“Pete?” The boy let out a soft sigh. He did not want this moment to be disturbed.

“Who’s your favorite Avenger?” Peter smiled but didn’t turn around to face his mentor.

“Thor,” he said instantly. Tony huffed and pushed Peter gently with his shoulder.

“Traitor.”

“I'm just kidding, it’s always you always gonna be you,” Peter said. The boy felt Tony’s hand land on his head.

“Bud, I gotta ask. Can you tell me what’s got you so upset?” Peter stiffened and shook himself out of Tony’s grip.

“No,” he felt himself saying. “No.”

“Peter, I want to help you, but I need to let me ok?” Again Peter shook his head before standing to his feet. He saw the look of confusion and surprise on the man’s face.

“I don’t need your help, Mr. Stark! It was just something dumb between kids. That’s it!”

“Lower your voice, Peter,” Tony said. “What you did was serious. You could have caused a really big problem.”

“Sorry, that I’m so inconvenient,” he said snidely using the vocab word he’d learned the month before. Tony stood up to meet the boy before taking a deep steadying breath.

“Ok, that’s how you want to do this? Fine. You’re grounded.” Peter’s eyes grew wide as he stared into Tony’s purple-tinted glasses. “No sleepover and you will write an apology letter to that Fish kid.”

“No, I’m not doing that!”

“Peter,” Tony said. “It’s not a choice.” The boy hardened his glare. He was feeling terribly confused and hurt.

“You said I could sleepover at Ned’s! That’s not fair! You can’t take that back.”

“I just did. All you had to do was do what we asked, but you made the choice not to. So you deal with the consequences.” As much as he hated himself for it, Peter’s lip began to wobble. This was his first ever sleepover. He’d been looking forward to it for weeks.

“Can you ground me next weekend? Please?”

“It’s not negotiable bud.” Peter drew his face into a scowl and directed it fiercely at Tony and shook his head. This wasn’t fair.

It just wasn’t fair.

“Why do you have to listen to them? We were doing just fine! We don’t need them!”

“Peter, calm down. You’re gonna work yourself up,” the man started. Wiping his eyes Peter shook his head. Tony took a step toward Peter and in an act of defiance, Peter took one back as well. “Let’s just talk ok? Just tell me what happened. I can’t help you if you don’t let me.” The scowl on Peter’s face deepened as he glared at the man shaking his head. “Alright then, go to your room. Friday kill Peter’s lab and internet privileges for the next two days.” Turning around Peter stomped towards his room.

________________________________

“Hey Pete, can I come in?” Peter was laying face down on his bed. He’d long ago changed into a pair of shorts and a hoodie. “I know you’re mad at your dad, but he’s just trying to do what’s best for you,” Rhodey said.

“He’s not my dad. He’s my mentor,” Peter said in the pillow. He knew Rhodey heard and understood it.

“Well, he acts like your dad, huh?” Peter made himself sit still. “Look at me Little Tony, come on humor good old Uncle Rhodey.” Sighing Peter turned and let himself look at the man. Rhodey’s hair was peppered with gray now, but he still held his amused smile that he always seemed to have. “Why’d you hit that kid?” Peter just stared at the man. “Ok, let’s try this, why won’t you apologize to him or that lunch monitor?”

“I didn't do anything wrong,” Peter said defiantly. Rhodey raised his eyebrow.

“So hitting a classmate isn’t wrong?” The boy fought not to roll his eyes. Of course, it was wrong. He was so angry at Flash for saying all that stuff in front of everyone. Peter glared at the man. “Pete, we’re all trying to help you here we are all on your side.” Flopping back onto his stomach, Peter pulled the pillow close to his chest. He didn’t want to talk to anyone right now.

Ever since that stupid press conference, things had gotten progressively worse and Mr. Rhodes probing questions weren’t helping. All he could do was think about earlier in the day.

“So Peter, what do you have,” Ned asked.

“Uh,” he said opening his metal lunchbox. “A sandwich, pudding, and carrots.” He dug deeper in the box and found two packs of fruit snacks and two Slim Jims. “Here,” he said handing one of each treat to Ned.

“Your dad’s the best,” Ned said. Peter shrugged. He’d told Ned that he moved in with his dad, but he never told him who the man was or that the man wasn’t actually his dad. Tony had told Peter that the adults in his life thought it was best if they kept their relationship hidden so the press didn’t find out.

That’s why he was Peter Anthony...Stark would have been too obvious.

“Did you hear about Iron Man? Him and Pepper Potts are having a baby,” Ned said. Peter shrugged. “Come on, you love talking about Iron Man. You know more about him than anybody.”

“Just not today, Ned,” Peter snapped. Ever since the press conference the day before it was all anyone could talk about. Glancing at his friend Peter saw the hurt in the boy’s face. “I’m sorry, there’s just a lot of things going on right now.”

“It’s cool.”

“Can I borrow your notes for history. Uh, I missed the notes from today,” Peter said.

“You always miss history notes.” Ned shook his head. “You were writing the whole time, what were you doing?”

“I was uh thinking,” he said.

“You’re an awful liar,” Ned said starting to eat his own sandwich.

“So, Peter Stark,” Flash said snickering walking up behind Peter. Turning around Peter’s face lost all color as he saw his Iron Man notebook in Flash’s hand. “Sometimes, I want to call him dad, but I’m scared,” Flash said laughing as he read what Peter had written. “You’re crazy Anthony! You really think he’s your dad,” Flash said trying to wipe the tears from his eyes. Peter stood up feeling more embarrassed and angrier than he’d ever felt before. Flash had laughed himself to tears with Peter’s deepest thoughts. “Iron Man doesn’t need you and definitely doesn’t want a loser like you,” Flash said shoving the notebook on Peter’s chest.

A flash of red crossed Peter’s vision. All he felt was Flash’s nose crunch under his fist.

“Pete, are you listening to me,” Rhodey asked. Peter made no movement to even acknowledge that he even heard the man. “Come on, bud. This isn’t like you.”

“Hey Rhodes, give me a minute with the kid, huh?” Peter sighed as he heard Tony walk into the room. Rhodey whispered something to Tony as he left the room, but Peter didn’t catch it. “I just got off the phone with Ned’s mom,” Tony said after a moment. Instantly Peter rolled over and sat up.

“Why did you do that?” Peter's voice was raised to almost a yelling level, but he didn’t care.

“Well you weren’t going to tell me so since I had to cancel the sleepover I killed two birds with one stone,” Tony said slightly red-faced. “Why didn’t you tell me what Flash said?”

“It wasn’t your business,” Peter said.

“Come on kid, you know everything you do is my business. It’s our business.” Tony sighed. “I know I told you this before, but you can call me dad, you know. It’s ok.”

Peter’s eyes widened in horror. Tony wasn’t supposed to know that! Peter felt so exposed in that moment. “Get out,” Peter said.

“What?”

“Get out!” Tony pursed his lips into a line and then retracted a breath.

“I’m going to leave, but dinner is in an hour. You will be there and you will have a better attitude, got it?” Peter crossed his arms over his chest and glared. The man shook his head as he pulled the door closed.

Peter jumped off his bed and kicked the desk several times. It wasn’t fair! Nothing was private. First Flash, then Tony. Why couldn’t just some things be left up to him?

Did he want Tony to be his dad? Duh! But it didn’t mean a thing if the man felt forced into it.

“I’m never gonna be a Stark,” Peter said. “Stupid baby comes and it will be one the first day. I’m just a throwaway...Kyle was right.” Angry tears slipped down his cheeks as he threw himself back onto his bed.

Lately it was feeling like his dreams were also his nightmares.

Chapter Text

The next morning on Peter sat in his stupid booster seat while Tony sat next to him on the way to school in the giant black town car.

Peter knew that Tony had canceled another meeting that morning just to try and pry more information out of him. Usually Peter would love any time he got to spend with the man, but lately, it felt different. Before his time with Tony felt just like it did over the summer; it was a blast, but now it felt like Tony was a teacher who just wanted to get him off to the next class and Peter knew that feeling all too well.

He couldn’t help it as he sighed. Things were just so complicated.

“You ok there, kiddo?” Tony broke into Peter’s thoughts with his words.

“Yes Mr. Stark,” Peter said quietly.

“You don’t have to call me Mr. Stark, Pete. You know that right?” Peter shrugged in his seat even though his insides were churning.

He knew he wasn’t Tony’s son.

He was his apprentice.

In the quiet place of his heart though, he wished he was more, but that was just his dream.

“It’s what apprentices call their mentors. I read it in a book,” the boy replied. “Like Obi-Wan and Luke.”

“Alright, if you say so.” As they pulled up to the school, Peter checked his pockets. He had his badge to get back in the Tower, his inhaler, and his cellphone.

“Remember you have to go straight to the office and turn in your apology letters like Pep said, ok?”

“Yeah,” Peter said quietly. At dinner, they’d told him that he wasn’t being given a choice and he had to write the apology letters before he went to bed. That was the only way he would get to skip the in-school suspension part. Peter did his best not to roll his eyes when she told him. What lingered in his mind though was how Tony seemed like he didn’t want to enforce it, but Pepper was the one holding firm.

Stupid Pepper.

“Happy’s gonna pick you up today, ok? Have Friday tell me when you get home.” The boy nodded. “Got your lunch and homework folder?”

“It would suck if I didn’t, huh?” Peter knew that most adults wouldn’t appreciate the comment, but Tony did. A smile crossed his lips as he softly wrapped his knuckles against Peter’s head.

“My boy,” he said.

“Mr. Stark?”

“Yeah, Pete?”

“Can I please have my sleepover? Please?” Tony made a pained face and for a moment Peter thought he would cave in, but then the pain disappeared and was replaced by a firmness. Peter knew that look he’d been seeing more often now.

“No, you’re grounded. Maybe we can have one next week at our house.” Peter’s shoulders slumped.

“You guys are going away, remember?”

“Well Rhodey can stay with you guys, I’m sure he won't mind. How about it?” Right, like Tony wanted Ned to come to the Tower and discover their secret. Peter unbuckled himself and turned to get out of the car when Tony tapped him on the shoulder. “What? Did you forget?” Peter smiled and extended his hand to Tony. They did their super secret handshake that only they knew and saw. Something in Peter broke. Tony was the best adult he knew.

"Mr. Stark?" The man looked at him with eager eyes. Peter opened his mouth but the phone rang.

"Hey Pep! How are things? Is the baby ok?" Peter deflated. He offered a gentle wave before grabbing his backpack. “Knock em dead, Petey,” Tony said looking up from his phone as Peter jumped out of the car.

Peter didn’t look back when walked up the steps to Midtown Elementary.

All Peter had to do was get through the day.

_________________________________

Peter’s head was in his hand. After having to apologize to Flash in front of the class, Peter felt more demoralized than ever. He tried his best to keep to himself and hope that he didn't make anything worse. So, his day just dragged on and on. No matter how hard he tried to focus, he just couldn't do it. Finally, just before lunch he'd given up and started to do research on the internet. It wasn't like he was learning anything. They were doing fractions. Peter did Algebra problems with Tony for fun. “Mr. Anthony?”

His eyes were staring at the headlines from the press conference and the fallout.

‘Tony Stark and Pepper Potts Officially Reunited: Stark Heir On the Way’

'Stark and Potts Wed Secretly in Cancun: Pictures Inside'

“Peter,” the teacher demanded. Snapping his head up he saw the short brown-skinned woman with her hands on her hips walking towards him. “Are you with us?”

“Y-yes, ma’am,” he stammered as he tried to close the web browser. The woman shook her head. She was wearing a black skirt suit similar to what Pepper wore, but her continuous scowl made her scarier than her short stature.

"What were you looking at?" Peter gulped.

"Um, nothing." He let his head fall onto the desk when she took the Starkpad out of his hands and pulled up his web browser.

"Iron Man, again?" She shook her head. "Peter, we've talked about this. Your obsession is unhealthy. Do you understand?" Feeling his cheeks burn Peter nodded. "This is nonsense. You should be worried about things that will actually affect your future not the man in the can who flies around," she said as she walked back towards the board. “Bring your tablet up to my desk, I’ll keep it until after school.” Peter sighed as he heard the snickers behind him. His ears burned as he set his Starkpad down on her brown desk. Now he was going to have to handwrite everything for the rest of the day.

Just great.

Once he was back to his desk, Peter pulled out his notebook and tried to concentrate. No sooner than when he sat down did he feel a pencil stick into his side. “So uh Penis looks like your buddy Iron Man has a real kid coming. Guess your fantasy is over, huh?” Peter bit his lip. Flash was a spoiled kid who for some reason wanted to make Peter feel like he was nothing. “I see those notes you’re always writing,” Flash smirked. “Just because you wish you had parents doesn't mean you do.”

"Shutup Flash," he hissed.

"Mr. Anthony! We don't use that language here. Now, you already caused a disruption in the lunchroom yesterday and today you want to disrupt our math lesson?" Peter didn't know how to respond so he just kept his eyes focused on the woman. "Just because your mother was able to get you out of your punishment doesn't mean you can continue to be a discipline issue. Spoiled transfers are always the worst," she said shaking her head. Peter felt treacherous tears rising to his eyes as everyone stared at him. "Grab your things and go sit in Ms. Stone's second grade. Maybe you'll learn how you should act." The heavy tears slipped down his cheeks as he pulled his few items together and walked out of the door. He took a few moments to wipe his eyes before he gently knocked on the door to the other teacher's room. Ms. Stone was a young teacher who loved to wear wild colors. She looked like the lady on Criminal Minds that Ms. Karen used to watch.

"You're Peter?"

"Yes ma'am," he said quietly. Man, he wanted to be anywhere but there.

"Come on in, we're about to watch a documentary about vibranium. Have you heard of that?" Peter's eyes lit up.

"My dad works on research about it all the time!" The woman's eyes lit up.

"Does he? Where does he work?"

"He uh works at Stark Industries in the Research and Development department," he said smiling.

"Well, you can be my helper today then." As he looked into Ms. Stone's eyes his smile erupted further. Finally, he found an adult who wasn't secretly wishing that he'd dissapear.

_________________________________

The rest of the day flew by for Peter. Ms. Stone had let him practically annotate the documentary and all of the second graders were looking at him like he was a super genius. He couldn't keep the smile off his face that was until school let out. Then everything came back to him like a flood.

The uncertainty. The fear. The disappointment.

And his grounding.

He'd did his homework as quickly as possible so he could go to his room. He really wasn't in the mood to see anyone. Peter sighed as he flopped backward onto his bed. He really wanted to go to the lab and see what Tony was working on.

"Hey uh Friday, is Mr. Stark in a meeting?"

"No, he is in the lab as I told you an hour ago," the AI responded. Peter rolled his eyes at the device.

"Can I go see him?"

"No, unfortunately, you are permitted from entering the lab. Would you like me to alert him that you're in need of him?"

"No! Uh, that's ok. I'll just find something else to do." Peter blew out a breath and tried to build one of his Lego sets. He found that he quickly got bored. For some reason, his heart just wasn't in it. Man, he needed someone to talk to. He was going crazy sitting there alone.

“Hey Friday, if I call Ned on my phone would you tell Mr. Stark on me?”

“Peter, Boss has removed your privileges which include limiting your social activity so yes I would have to inform him,” the AI replied readily.

“What if it’s for homework then that’s not social, right? It’s for school?”

“That is not clarified. Would you like me to ask boss?”

“No! I’m just gonna call Ned to get homework notes ok?”

“As you wish Peter.” Taking a deep breath Peter turned on his Starkphone and pulled up Ned’s number. He smiled when Ned appeared on the screen.

“Hey! I thought you were grounded,” the other boy said.

“I am.”

“Your dad still lets you use the phone? He’s better than you say he is,” Ned said.

“Ned if I tell you something can you promise not to tell anyone else?”

“Peter, I won’t tell anyone ever. I promise.” A smile crossed Peter’s face. He knew he could count on Ned. “So what is it?”

“You know how I know more about Iron Man than anyone else?” Ned shrugged but nodded. “Well, I live with him.” There was silence on the other end. “Ned?”

“Peter, I know you really like Iron Man but I mean you don’t have to make something up to try and be cool. I like you just because you’re you.” Peter rolled his eyes.

“Friday?”

“Yes Peter.”

“When is Mr. Stark getting home?”

“Boss is home and in the lab. He is scheduled to be done working in approximately two hours. Would you like me to notify him?”

“No thank you,” Peter said. His eyes moved back to the screen where Ned was sitting with his mouth wide open. “Believe me now?”

“Peter, you’re my best friend! How did you never tell me before?” Peter shrugged. “We have to tell everybody! Flash will never mess with us again!”

“No! I mean, I’m supposed to keep it quiet so the news people don’t like mess with me,” Peter said.

“I don’t get it. Why can’t you say anything?”

“I don’t know,” Peter said.

“So Mr. Stark’s your dad?”

“No, he’s uh my mentor. Like he teaches me stuff. He’s not my dad,” Peter said quietly.

“Are you sure? I mean he packs your lunch and drops you off in the mornings, right?”

“Yeah.”

“And he grounded you. I mean that’s not something mentors do. I mean my mom does stuff like that so like are you sure he’s not your dad?”

“No Ned, he’s not.” Ned’s eyes grew wide.

“That’s why you punched Flash! He was reading what you wrote about Mr. Stark! Peter, you have to tell somebody. You got grounded for something that wasn’t wrong. You need to tell Mr. Stark.”

“No Ned,” Peter said. “If he feels like he needs to be my dad that doesn’t count. I want him to want to be my dad. Like he wants to be his own kid’s dad.” Peter sighed. “I uh when I lived with some other people they told me I could call them ‘mom’ and ‘dad’, but I didn’t want to right away and then they didn’t want to be my parents. What if that you know, happens this time?”

“Peter, I don’t think that will happen. I bet Mr. Stark thinks he’s your dad. I bet you,” Ned said.

“Maybe,” Peter said sadly.

“When he called my mom he said he was your dad.” Peter’s head shot up.

“Really?” Ned nodded enthusiastically. “I don’t know, I’ve been with a lot of people before. I mean he might feel like that now, but how’s he gonna feel when he’s got his real kid in front of him? I bet Ms. Potts won’t want me around then,” Peter said. “My aunt May, she loves me like she was my mom but when Mr. Stark called her to see if I could stay with her before I moved in here she said no. I don’t want to have to leave here,” Peter said.

“Peter you need to talk to Mr. Stark and Ms. Potts, they’ll help you.”

“I don’t want them thinking I’m a baby. Big kids like us don’t need help with this stuff,” Peter said. Out of his eye, he saw movement in his door. Peter looked up to see Rhodey standing in his doorway with his arms crossed.

“Mr. Rhodes,” Peter gasped. “I-I uh can explain,” he said looking at the phone in his hand, “please don’t tell Mr. Stark!”

Ned was becoming hysterical. “Peter, you’re talking to the Iron Patriot! How have you kept this a secret?” Peter’s eyes were only focused on the Colonel closing the door to Peter’s room and moving towards him.

“I’ll see you on Monday, Ned,” Peter said disconnecting the call. His heart was racing in his chest. “I know I’m grounded, but I-I…” Peter started. Rhodey’s face softened as he pulled Peter’s desk chair towards the bed where Peter sat.

“Pete, is this how you’ve been feeling,” Rhodey asked. Peter shrugged. “Come on kid, I know you. You love to talk. Just tell me what’s going on?”

“You’ll tell Mr. Stark,” Peter said quietly. “This is something I just want to keep to myself.”

“I respect that, Peter. We all deserve privacy.” Rhodey sighed. “You can trust us, you know that right?”

“Yes, sir,” Peter said quietly.

“You don’t have to do that, come on you’re my nephew,” Rhodey said. “No more formalities, ok?”

“Sure Mr. Rhodes.”

“Come on kid, ‘Uncle Rhodey’,” Peter tried to not smile but he couldn’t help it.

“Sure, ‘Uncle Rhodey,” he said.

“There you go.” The man opened his mouth to say something, but Peter cut him off.

“Are you gonna tell Mr. Stark?” Rhodey looked down at him and shook his head.

“I think you should tell him. He’ll appreciate it from you.” Peter rubbed his hand on his arm. “How about this, what if we tell him together would that help?”

“No thank you.” Peter felt himself sighing. “Him and Ms. Potts have their own kid coming. They don’t need to worry about me. I’m ok. I’m happy to be here.”

“Peter, you know you’re not just a guest. Tony really cares about you. He loves you kid, so do me, Pepper, and Happy.” Peter let his eyes fall to his socked feet. “I won’t say anything for now.” Peter sighed with relief. “But if you get in any more trouble I’ll have to say something ok?”

“Ok.” Rhodey reached out and pulled Peter’s head close to him laying a kiss on the boy’s hair.

“We are here for you Peter, you don’t have to carry this by yourself.”

________________________________

Peter was laying in his bed thinking. Tony and Pepper had both been busy leaving Peter to get his favorite pizza ordered in. After talking to Rhodey, Peter had noticed that his Nintendo Switch turned on.

Good ole Uncle Rhodey.

He’d played the game for a couple of hours before getting himself ready for bed. He knew that Tony would try to get home before he fell asleep. Peter figured that he wouldn’t be sleeping anytime soon. He’d mistakenly opened his Starkpad earlier and was bombarded with headlines.

Stark Heir On the Way.

Tony Stark Elated Over Arrival of First Child.

Potts/Stark Power Couple Welcoming First Child in Next Year.

Peter liked the idea of no one knowing who he was, but he hated how invisible he felt. Even his own friend...his best friend hadn’t believed him at first. The world was celebrating Tony Stark’s first child and Peter was sitting in the Tower like Quasimodo.

People were sending Tony and Pepper gifts for the baby and they were going to have a big baby shower that some network was going to shoot for a tv show.

They said that they would set Peter up on a playdate with Ned that day so no one would ask questions about him.

Tears threatened to fall, but Peter willed them away. He wasn’t a baby, no tears over this.

“Pete, you up?” The boy took a big gulp before nodding. He saw Tony walking into his room in his usual work attire of a three piece suite his tie was pulled down. He'd must have gone to a meeting for dinner.

“Yeah.”

“Sorry, we missed dinner bud. How was your day?” Rollins over Peter shrugged quietly. For some reason, Tony’s presence made him nervous like he was on trial. “How was your first day of being grounded?” Peter rolled his eyes causing Tony to snort. The man smiled as he pushed the boy’s curls out his face. Tony snapped his fingers and pulled Peter’s Iron Man comforter back.

“What are you doing?”

“Pep’s gone for the weekend so I figured you know...how about a late night lab session?” Peter sat up straight in his bed.

“Really?” Tony smiled and nodded. He jumped out of the bed and practically sprinted toward the door.

“Whoa Roadrunner, put your shoes on,” Tony said. Peter nodded and threw on the sneakers he wore to school. This night just got immensely better.

In no time at all Peter and Tony fell into their usual routine. Peter was sitting on Tony’s lap as the man explained the nuances of Tony’s new nanotech suit. “Do you think you can finally add in retroactive panels so you can go stealth mode?”

Tony grabbed Peter’s chin gently as he turned the boy’s face towards him. “Tell me the truth, are you an alien?” Peter giggled when Tony poked his side.

“No, I’m just smart,” Peter said with a wide smile.

“No there’s smart and then there’s you kid. Don’t forget that,” Tony said wrapping his arms around the boy and giving him a squeeze from behind. “So how do you think we can accomplish this kiddo?”

“Well since you’re altering the material on a molecular level if you insert the right components during the activation sequence then it should work, right?” Tony made a clicking sound with his teeth.

“That actually might work,” the man said. “Boy, I should have discovered you years ago. We woulda changed the world.”

“You think so,” Peter asked turning towards Tony. The man gave him a fond smile.

“Yeah, bud I do, but we’ve still got our whole lives to change things, huh?” Peter looked up hopefully.

“Like you and me forever?” Peter saw Tony’s eyes squint in confusion.

“Yeah, of course. You know that bud, right?” Peter nodded turning around to face the screen again.

“Yeah, I just forget sometimes,” the boy said shyly. Tony dropped a kiss onto the boy’s hair.

“Don’t forget anymore ok?”

“K,” Peter said leaning back into Tony. They sat like that for a while with Tony running his hand through Peter’s curls while they read articles and shot ideas back and forth. Before Peter could stop it, he let out a big yawn.

“Someone’s tired,” Tony mused.

“Nope, just a uh reflex,” the boy said sleepily.

“Uh huh. Fri, what time is it?”

“3:08am, boss.”

Tony grunted.“Didn’t know it was that late. We’ve got to get you to bed, kiddo. Pep’s gonna kill me for keeping you up this late.” Peter shook his head.

“I had fun. She shouldn’t get to stop us from having fun,” Peter said angrily. Pepper was ruining everything.

“She’s just being a mom. They’re like that. Mine was, making you eat your veggies and take vitamins. That junk,” Tony said.

“Well, I don’t need a mom,” Peter replied before yawning. Tony opened his mouth to respond, but suddenly Peter let out one of those yawns that made your whole body shake. Tony gave a hearty laugh and he stood up twisting Peter in the so that the boy’s chest was against his. Like months before Peter latched his legs around Tony’s waist and buried his face in the man’s neck.

“Let’s get you to bed,” Tony said as they walked out of the lab.

“More, Misser S’ark,” Peter whined.

“Tomorrow, bud.”

“Promise?” Peter felt Tony’s hand on his back giving him several reassuring pats.

“Yeah.”

Peter took a deep breath and smiled. He loved how his dad smelled and how safe he felt when he was in the man’s arms. “Miss you when you’re gone,” Peter said as they made it to his room.

“I miss you more bud. Trust me, those meetings are snooze city. I’d much rather be here with my favorite lab partner,” Tony said as he adjusted on Peter his hip so that he could pull the boy’s shoes off his feet. “Kid, wear socks. These things are ripe. Yuck. No woman wants a man with smelly feet.”

“Uncle Rhodey says it’s a manly musk,” Peter said. “He says girls love it.”

“Uncle Rhodey, huh? Here’s a tip, don’t take girl advice from a guy who’s single.” Even with his eyes closed, Peter knew the man was smiling. “Did you take your night time inhaler?” When Peter didn’t respond the man grunted. “Now I know how Rhodey felt in college. This must be kharma.” Peter heard the man rummaging in his medicine cabinet before tapping Peter’s head, the boy let out a whine. “Nope, none of that. Pick your head up and take the inhaler.”

“Makes me tired,” Peter said.

“Good, so you’ll sleep.” Peter let out a frustrated groan and snatched the inhaler from Tony. Giving himself one puff the boy handed the inhaler back to Tony. “No, that’s not how you do it and you know it. Come on, I know you’re tired but this is serious. Do you want me to get the one with the spacer?”

“Daddy, I’m tired,” he whined as he kicked his feet in frustration. “Wanna sleep!”

“I know baby, but you’ve got to do this,” Tony said.

“I’m not a baby,” Peter said indignantly.

“Then show me how a big boy does iit,” Tony replied brushing the curls out of the boy’s face. Peter sighed and pushed the inhaler into his mouth then concentrated on breathing and releasing the air at the right time. “Good boy,” Tony said as he took the inhaler from Peter. Peter relaxed as the lights went off in the bathroom and he felt Tony lowering him into his bed. “I had fun tonight Pete.”

“Me too. You’re the best,” Peter said. “I love you.”

“Love you too bud, get some rest.” Tony padded his way across the room. Peter closed his eyes.

“C-can you stay with me?”

“Buddy, you’re a big boy and all the books say you should be sleeping on your own now,” Tony said. Peter kept his eyes closed and nodded.

“You’re right. Sorry, I asked,” the boy said quietly as he rolled over before he could say another word he felt Tony launching himself onto the boy’s bed.

“We don’t follow the rules kiddo, why would I listen to those nutcases anyway?” Peter giggled when Tony pulled the boy close to his chest. “I’ll stay here with you forever, Petey.”

For the first time in a long time, Peter fell asleep with a smile on his face.

Chapter Text

It had been only a couple of days since the weekend and Peter was excited. He’d gotten over the pure embarrassment of calling Tony ‘daddy’ and somehow they’d fallen into a perfect routine. With Pepper gone it was like how things used to be. They pigged out on pizza and ice cream all weekend. The best part was the lab. Saturday night they’d altered their laser tag set and Happy, Rhodey, Tony, and Peter had turned the penthouse into a warzone.

Peter couldn’t remember the last time he’d had more fun. His happiness carried him all the way until Wednesday when his day was only going to get better. Their field trip was on Thursday and Tony had promised Peter that they would start working on his science project.

He practically ran all the way to the penthouse once Happy had let him out of the car.

Asthma? What’s that? He had a night in the lab with his dad er mentor. Screw asthma!

Peter ran into the living room where he heard voices. “Mr. Stark! I finished my homework in the car. We can do my project right now!” A slight squeeze hit Peter’s chest when he saw Tony’s back still turned towards him and the man put a finger up. Glancing towards his right he saw Ms. Potts and the beginnings of a baby belly with her hands on her lips looking worried.

After several agonizing and awkward minutes Tony moved towards Pepper and gave her a kiss. “They’re not budging at all, ingrates,” Tony said. Pepper offered a smirk.

“Then we have no choice,” Pepper said.

Tony nodded. “I have to go.” Peter gulped.

“When are you leaving,” he asked quietly. Turning around Tony winced.

“I uh forgot you were there bud. I have to go tonight,” Tony said. Peter shook his head.

“But but were gonna work on my project,” Peter said trying not to whine. “You promised.”

“It’s an emergency,” Tony said dropping crossing the room before pulling the boy into his arms. He dropped a kiss on the boy’s forehead amidst the boy’s pouting face. “I’ll be back in two days to hear all about your field trip and we can work on your project then.”

“But you said today though, I worked real hard on my homework all the way here,” Peter said deflated.

“Come on Pete, don’t make this any harder on your dad than it already is,” Peter heard Rhodey say. Where the man had come from Peter wasn’t sure.

“He’s not my dad,” Peter said as he squirmed out of Tony’s arms and ran to his room. He didn't care that he was being a brat, this just wasn’t fair. He thought he’d have a least another couple of months before they forgot about him.

He was wrong.

The baby wasn’t even here yet and he was already on the back burner.

________________________________

Peter knew his brat tendencies were coming through in a big way all night. He’d mostly ignored Pepper and had completely left the table when Tony had called the woman and asked to speak to Peter during dinner.

Oddly though, Peter felt justified. Tony had promised him and then he’d broken that promise. What other promises would Tony break? The boy let out a small grunt as he fixed his bed to go to sleep. At least he’d have a chance to have fun on the field trip tomorrow. He and Ned had spent the better part of the last month trying to guess where they were going, but they’d find out for sure tomorrow.

The door to his room clicked open revealing Pepper Potts with her red flowing hair cascading past her shoulders and a purple silk night robe. “Peter are you ready for bed?” The boy adjusted his pillow and shrugged without looking at her.

“Yes, Ms. Potts,” he said knowing it annoyed her...since it was really Mrs. Stark. He didn't want to give her the satisfaction of having the last name he so desperately wanted.

“Did you brush your teeth and take your inhaler?” Peter nodded knowing he hadn’t done either. “Good then. Would you like me to read to you or anything?” A tinge in Peter’s chest again caused him to cough before rolling into his bed.

“No thank you,” he said without looking at her. The woman walked into the room smirking at him.

“Well your dad likes to read to you,” Pepper said. “So I figured I could give it a shot.”

“He’s not my dad, but you know that.” The woman pursed her lips together.

“Ok. Well then goodnight, Peter.”

“Night Ms. Potts.” Peter sighed when the door clicked closed. He felt terrible about what he’d just done.

It was mean.

Peter wasn’t mean he knew that. Things were so jumbled lately. “Friday, what’s Ms. Potts doing?”

“She’s crying, Peter. Would you like me to get her?”

“N-no thank you.” Oh great he’d made her cry. Peter groaned Tony was going to be so disappointed in him when he found out.

________________________________

Peter woke himself up coughing one of those coughs. He instantly sat up and reached for his glasses. Throwing himself out of the bed he pulled his inhaler to his face and tried to take several quick puffs.

He kept trying but it wasn’t working.

“Peter you’re in distress. Contacting Mrs. Boss.” Peter wanted to say no, but he couldn’t get the words out. He dropped to his knees and began to desperately try to get air in his lungs.

“Oh my God, Peter!” Peter didn’t hear the woman rush across the room all he felt were her hands pulling him into a sitting position. He felt the inhaler with the spacer pushed between his lips. He let out a childish whine. “I know you hate this one, but it’s the best for right now.

He felt the familiar medicine hit his lungs. Peter had to admit the medicine felt like love as it ran through his chest. “Here’s another, just keep breathing.” With his eyes closed, Peter felt his breath start to even out. “Last one,” she said. Pepper ran her hands through his hair. Peter wanted to push it away, but he was tired and man did it feel good. “How are you feeling buddy,” she asked as she removed the device from his lips.

“Better,” he said quietly. The woman tried to stand up and chuckled to herself as her starter baby belly was making it difficult. Instantly Peter stood up and tried to help. “Why thank you, my little gentleman.” Peter smiled sheepishly at her.

“Ms. Pepper? I’m sorry about what I did earlier. You’re really nice and I wasn’t nice to you.” Peter smiled when Pepper laid a soft kiss to his curls before pulling him close to her side.

“You want to know something?” Peter nodded. “When Tony wants to be he’s quite the charmer, but he has a tendency to be rather rough when he’s dealing with something he wants to keep to himself. It looks like you really are Little Tony, huh?” Peter smiled at that and wrapped his arms around the woman.

“Thank you for being nice about it. You’re really awesome.” She smiled.

“Let’s get you into bed, buddy.” Peter climbed into bed. “You think you’re ready to go back to sleep?” Peter nodded. “Well, goodnight again Little Tony sleep well.”

“Night Ms. Pepper,” Peter said as he rolled over.

________________________________

A hand crossed Peter’s face in his sleep. “Peter, buddy wake up.” He opened his eyes to see Pepper standing over him in the dim light. “Sit up for me, bud.” Moments later he felt his glasses slide onto his face so he could see.

He coughed into his hand as he blinked a couple of times. Man, he was tired. “What’s going on?”

“Friday told me you’re having trouble breathing while you’re sleeping, it’s sounds like we need to do a breathing treatment,” Pepper said. The boy smiled at the Iron Man nebulizer that Pepper sat on the nightstand. It was like Tony. Usually, it was the man with the goatee that would nestle Peter into his chest as the medication worked its way into his lungs. As much as he hated the stupid nebulizer he loved having Tony’s undivided attention. For fifteen minutes Peter felt like he was the most important person in Tony’s world.

He knew he shouldn’t relish it, but he did.

He really did.

Knowing the drill the boy grabbed the mouthpiece and bit down on it after Pepper turned it on. Peter expected her to come back and check on him, but what he got was Pepper coming to sit on his bed next to him. “Your dad told me you don’t like these things so I figured I’d keep you company, is that ok?” Peter nodded feeling a tear come to his eye.

He’d been so mean to her.

“I’m sorry,” he tried to say but the woman shook her head.

“Whatever you’re going to say it’s fine. This was an adjustment for us all, huh?” The woman smiled as she let her fingers fall into his curls. He felt Pepper wince as she adjusted herself on the bed next to him. “It’s ok, don’t be scared, it just looks like I have two babies up tonight.” Peter was confused. The woman took his hand and laid it on her stomach. “Feel the kick?” Peter nodded eagerly in shock.

“Is that the baby?” Pepper nodded.

“Little one's usually not up this late, but looks like someone wanted to say hello.”

He started to cry.

The baby was coming so soon and this would all be over.

He’d be alone again.

“Hey, don’t cry Petey, do you want to talk to your dad?” Peter nodded miserably. He desperately wanted Mr. Stark to make things better. “Ok, just stay calm ok? I’ll get him on the phone.”

Peter started to cry harder when he heard Tony’s voice. “Pep, what’s wrong are you and the kids ok?”

“Tony, we’re fine. Peter here wants you,” she said turning the phone to see Peter.

“Oh buddy, had a rough night huh?” Peter nodded and closed his eyes. “I’m sorry I’m not there, but Pep is awesome at taking care of people. Trust me, I know,” Tony said.

Peter felt Pepper wrap her arm tighter around him. Man, he wanted the man so bad. “When are you coming home,” Peter said taking the mouthpiece out.

“I’ll be back on Friday, remember?” Peter let out a childish whine of frustration. He wanted him here now!

Pepper interjected, “Tony your meeting is in the morning and I think we can move some of the negotiations around. Do you think you can get home tomorrow for dinner?” Peter looked at the screen intently. It looked like the man and woman were having a conversation without words. Peter coughed again. He felt his heart warm up when Tony’s face got dangerously close to the screen.

“I’ll be home tomorrow night, ok? Put your mouthpiece back in. You’re gonna give me a heart attack kid,” Tony said. “Pep it’s what like four there?”

“Four thirty,” the woman said yawning.

“I think baby boy here needs a day off. He’s gonna be dead on his feet during that field trip tomorrow.” Peter whined and started to cry again.

“Pwffeas,” he said through the mouthpiece. Pepper gave him another squeeze.

“Ok, don’t worry. Just calm down and we’ll see how you feel in the morning, ok? Tony, that sound good to you?”

“Yeah Pep, that sound good. Petey, that ok with you?” The boy nodded. The machine sputtered to a stop and Peter sighed with relief.

“Alright, time for bed again,” Pepper said. The boy slid down in the bed but kept his eyes on Tony’s face.

“Get some rest kiddo, I’ll be back before you know it. I love you,” Tony said. “And goodnight to you baby in the womb. Daddy loves you and Mama a bunch.” Tears stung the back of Peter’s eyes.

He wasn’t Tony’s real kid.

Even if he wanted to be.

Chapter Text

“So you’ll tell them to call me if you’re not feeling well, right?” Peter nodded at Pepper as the woman fussed over him from the back of the Towncar.

“Yes, ma’am.” Peter smiled as Pepper’s soft hand brushed his curls out of his face. After that super long night Peter was exhausted. His eyes had ugly dark bags underneath them.

“You’ve got your inhaler in your bag and if you feel a cough coming on because it’s dusty or there’s pollen you drink lots of water, ok?”

“Yes Ms. Pepper, I know.”

“Sorry, I’m still new to the mom thing,” she said. Peter reached out and squeezed the woman’s hand. He unbuckled himself and climbed out of his seat.

“You’re doing great.” Peter laid a kiss on her cheek before he hopped out of the car and walked towards the back of the school where they were supposed to meet their teachers.

“Peter!” Turning around he saw Ned waving at him. He quickly cut the distance across the field and sat on the bleacher next to his friend. “Wow, you look like you those people on the Walking Dead.”

“Thanks, Ned,” Peter said yawning. “My asthma acted up so I didn’t sleep good.”

“That sucks. I got bronchitis one time and it was terrible, is that how it is for you?” Ned’s eyes were sincere and seemed to be hanging on Peter’s every word. Peter never had a friend like that before and he liked it.

“Sometimes, but it’s ok. Ms. Potts and Mr. Stark are really helpful when it gets bad,” Peter said.

“Fourth graders! Line up in your color groups!” Peter glanced at Ned after the teacher’s speech.

“I’m red, you?”

“I”m red too,” Ned said. “I’m so relieved. Could you imagine if we had to be separate?” The two boys chatted while they got into the line with the red rope.

“Hey, can we know where we’re going now?” Peter rolled his eyes at Flash.

“Well Mr. Thompson, yes you can. The blue team is going to Hammer Tech’s Field Facility, the green team is going to Oscorp and the red team is going to Stark Industries!” Peter and Ned looked at each other.

Oh dear God, no!

________________________________

Ned and Peter sat near the middle of the bus trying to stay as far away from Flash and his friends as possible. Peter picked at his jeans as he looked down at his phone. He could call Pepper and ask her to let him come home, but then he was already going home.

The drive to the Tower seemed to only take five minutes even though he was sure it was at least half an hour.

“Don’t worry, it’ll be ok. I mean how bad can it get when your parents work there?”

“Ned, they’re not my parents,” Peter said looking around. “Besides, Ms. Potts has a doctor’s appointment or something and Mr. Stark is gone on a trip. They won’t be there.”

“It’ll be ok Peter,” Ned said with a genuine smile. “I mean we’re not at school so it’ll be ok.”

“I hope so,” Peter said just as the bus lurched to a stop.

“Ok! We have everyone separated by grade. Please remember to stay in your groups and no wandering off. Any issues here will result in a phone call home,” the dean said.

Peter and Ned smiled playfully at each other and looked at the new model plane Peter was building on his phone when their group was called. "So Uncle uh Rhodey you call him? He bought this for you?"

"Yeah, when uh they uh go away for a meeting or something he watches me sometimes. He bought me this new flight simulator game and it's really cool.”

"That sounds awesome Peter!"

"I know it is. When we're uh not playing that we like to build these guys together," Peter said quietly.

"That's so cool! All my uncle does is tell me to pass the potato chips. Peter your life is great!" Peter only slid to the next picture. "When we have our sleepover can we look at them? Are you gonna add motors or anything to them?"

"No well Uncle Rhodey's thinking about it, but he says they might be too light to house motors," Peter said. "Da uh Mr. Stark says we can figure something out though, but we can't tell Uncle Rhodey until it's done."

“Mr. Anthony,” his teacher said as he climbed off the bus. Ned gave him a worried look as Peter stepped aside to speak with the stern looking woman. He knew for some reason that the woman didn’t like him. He suspected it was because she thought he daydreamed too much or because he had to bounce his leg a lot, but he couldn’t be sure.

All he knew was that the woman thought Flash was a saint and Peter was the devil. Go figure.

“Yes, ma’am?”

“Now, I know all about your obsession with Iron Man and this fantasy you have that he’s your father.” Peter felt a pinch in his chest. That was private. “I know you apologized to Mr. Thompson, but I don’t want to hear anything about you being difficult today, do you understand? You’re not going to embarrass us today. We got specially cleared for this and you will not ruin this for everyone. Do I make myself clear?” Peter nodded. “Good,” she said as she walked away. Peter followed her inside the familiar lobby.

Ned appeared next to his friend within seconds of Peter arriving in the lobby. “What happened?”

“N-nothing,” Peter said quietly. “She was just asking about my asthma. Ms. Potts sent a note,” Peter lied. As he looked around the large room his stomach was in knots. He recognized a few faces, but he was sure someone would recognize him and that couldn’t happen.

He needed to be unseen so it wouldn’t complicate things.

When he looked up he saw Ms. Jones a lovely older woman who always greeted him with a Tootsie Roll when he came in. He quickly pushed himself behind Ned and tried to hide his face. His teacher took his badge from Ms. Jones and handed it to him. He sighed with relief when he saw that it was a regular badge with a white background and the SI logo and the word ‘guest’ printed on it.

That was a relief.

“Doesn’t look like he lives here,” Flash said under his breath. “Freak.” Peter sighed, maybe the bullying would be best for today. If he had to choose between being bullied by Flash or having to leave Tony he’d let Flash call him the worst names every day for the rest of his life.

Peter’s eyes danced around the lobby again, he didn’t know too many people that were working right now, but he couldn’t be sure that someone wouldn’t recognize him. Even though he took the private entrance a lot, he was pretty sure that a good number of employees had seen him running the halls of SI or walking into RD with Tony when the man was called into an impromptu review session.

“This is so awesome, Peter, you live here?” Peter rolled his eyes and tried to calm Ned down.

“Yes, but no one can know, ok?” Ned shook his head while he continued to look around. "Promise me, Ned. Please," Peter implored.

“Yeah uh huh." Peter sighed with relief. He could count on Ned. "So where’s your room?”

“Ned!” Peter took a deep breath like Tony did with him sometimes. “How about this? I’ll show you my room later if you don’t say anything ok?”

“Peter! I can’t keep a secret why do you tell me these things?”

“Ok class, be on your best behavior, the tour is starting,” their teacher said. Peter let out a prayer and followed along with this class into the elevators.

________________________________

Peter felt himself calming slightly with each passing room. All of the kids were oohing and awwing at the many areas they had seen so far. For Peter, it was somewhat entertaining, but after seeing Tony’s lab this stuff seemed rather mundane. Ned was practically bouncing next to him the entire time. Especially when they went to the Avengers museum. That really wasn’t anything Peter was excited about. Afterall most of them had betrayed Tony. If they weren’t good enough to be Tony’s friend then Peter didn’t want them to be his friends either.

He yawned and rubbed his eyes as they walked into a room where they were working on enhanced medical prosthetics...like his Uncle Rhodey used. “Mr. Anthony, is this boring for you?” Looking up Peter’s eyes bulged in his head when he realized that everyone was looking at him.

“Um no ma’am,” Peter stammered cheeks burning red. The woman nodded and turned back to the tour guide.

“So uh tell me, did you ever mail that letter to Tony Stark,” Flash whispered into his ear. Peter’s ears burned as he eyed the boy. Apparently, a fist to the face did nothing for Flash’s temperament. Dropping his head Peter trudged along with the group.

“Iron Man came into existence in 2007 right after the attack at the Monaco race,” the guide said. Peter yawned again, but he muttered 2008.

“Mr. Anthony,” his teacher said glaring at him. “Do you think you know more than the tour guide?” Peter gulped.

“No-no ma’am,” he stammered out. His ears were burning with embarrassment and he did his best not to look down at his shoes.

“Well then let her speak,” his teacher finished.

“But she’s wrong,” he said before he could stop it. “I don’t mean to be rude, but that’s not true.” He heard his class snort and snicker. His teacher’s face was not amused. “Iron Man started in 2008 after being kidnapped in Afghanistan,” Peter said recounting the story that he’d read so many times. He felt a sense of pride that his Tony had done something like that.

“Peter this woman has been trained by Stark officials. She knows what she’s talking about,” his teacher said.

“I um know ma’am, but that’s not right, see um,” he started before the woman cut him off.

“What you know you’ve seen on tv and read and that’s fine, but she has first-hand training.”

“But I do too,” he said.

“And how Peter, how have you gotten the same type of training that she has?”

“I um come here a lot,” he said. He knew that he wasn’t supposed to correct or argue with adults, but he felt like he was being trapped. He wasn’t a liar but he hated how she made him feel. He lived here and if he could have just one thing in this world it was first-hand knowledge about Iron Man. His teacher stalked towards him and grabbed him by the hand pulling him away from the other children.

“You are not going to disrespect this nice tour guide and embarrass the school or yourself,” she said. “I told you that this morning. One more outburst and you’ll sit on the bus for the rest of the tour, do you understand?”

“Yes ma’am,” Peter said dropping his head.

“You’re going to stay with me for the rest of the tour.” Peter nodded silently and trudged behind her. When they started walking again Peter felt the tears of shame pooling behind his eyes. Ned gave him a sympathetic look as they continued to walk down the halls. The tour guide continued to make mistakes, but Peter didn’t dare correct her again. He figured he could just tell Tony later.

________________________________

Peter plopped his head on the table in the lavish dining room and pulled out his lunch. Almost everyone on the trip had brought money to eat, but with Peter's asthma Pepper prefered to give him a balanced meal. He sat down in a small table by the window in the back waiting for Ned to return. He honestly felt like he was dead on his feet. Flash had noticed apparently and for some reason had made it his mission to trip Peter when no one was looking. It only had worked one time, but it was enough for Peter to stumble and end up on his face. The glare Ms. Clemons gave him was enough for him to just pull himself up and dust himself off literally.

"You ok?" Peter looked up to see a quiet girl who he was pretty sure was named Michelle looking at him.

"Uh yeah, t-thanks," Peter said. The girl nodded and promptly stood up before walking away. Ned came and sat down in the seat Michelle had vacated. His plate was covered with junk. Peter smiled at his friend.

"I got you a hotdog," Ned said.

"Yes, thanks!" Peter happily reached across the table and grabbed the hotdog. He pulled it to his face but someone kicked his chair before he could bit it. The delicious piece of meat promptly hit the ground.

"Oops Penis, did I do that? Sorry," Flash said snickering. "So my dad has some friends who work here and uh they say there's this little orphan who runs around here all the time. Would you happen to know who that is?" Peter felt his face heating up and tears rising to his eyes.

"I'd watch out Eugene, Peter might slug you again," Michelle said literally appearing out of nowhere. Flash's smile dropped into a prompt scowl. He stormed away just as Peter felt the first tear fall.

Maybe he should have just stayed home.

"Don't worry about him man, he's just jealous," Ned said. Peter felt himself slipping.

"Jealous of what Ned? Why does he hate me so much? He has everything. What do I have?" Peter wiped his eyes again.

"You have a good heart Peter, and that loser couldn't find one if it hit him in the face," Michelle said. Peter smiled at her. She was wearing a short skirt and her blue Midtown polo.

"Thanks," he said.

"Yeah dude, Flash has always been like that. His dad's a real jerk. I bet he wishes his dad was Iron Man," Ned said. For once Peter didn't try to make his friend lower his voice.

"Maybe," was all Peter could say as Michelle offered them both a small smile. "Would you like to sit with us?" The girl shrugged but took a seat. Peter did his best not to smile like a goof.

Looks like he'd made a new friend.

________________________________

Peter smiled at the countless photos of Tony in the halls. There were many of him in his Iron Man suit. Some from the Mark II all the way to his most recent rendition.

For Peter, Tony was home...for now anyway.

His mind kept drifting back to the night before. It made his stomach feel funny. He felt so warm and gooey at one minute and so scared at the next.

The baby was coming. He’d felt it kick and there wasn’t anything more real than that.

That had to mean that he had to leave. Why would they need him and their own baby?

The rest of the tour had been so boring. The guide was droning on about the Accords and how things were restructured. Peter had read all about that and he could care less. He was happy though that as the tour seemed to go on Ms. Clemons paid less attention to him. He used this new found freedom to look at the spacious room. There were many relics in there that Peter had only seen a handful of times. The tour guide continued to give inaccurate information as Peter’s eyes fell onto the arc reactor display. The glass case housed several of the models Tony used before he created the new element. Tony had explained it to him that the old cores were corroding and seeping into his bloodstream. If he hadn’t found the new element then he would have died. Even though it was years earlier the thought of Tony dying had scared Peter to his core. He’d even had a nightmare about it that night, but he never told Tony.

Yawning again, Peter reached out and put his hand on the display case. The device hissed open and he pulled the reactor into his hands. He knew that Tony had removed any dangerous pieces before putting it out for display. “Peter Anthony!” Gasping the boy turned around to see his teacher stalking towards him. “What do you think you’re doing?”

“I uh, I wanted to see it, ma’am,” he said realizing he was in trouble. His teacher shook her head disapprovingly at him. Ned looked scared and Flash had a wide grin on his face. Peter’s heart was beating a mile a minute. Staff and crew were sprinting into the room to replace the altered relic and to figure out why the boy had been able to open it in the first place.

Within seconds the teacher had Peter sitting in a chair with her trying to call his parents. He sighed he was going to be in so much trouble. The other kids were talking quietly among themselves and snickering in his direction while he awaited his doom.

“Hey, it’s LT!” Peter was brought out if his stupor momentarily by one of the interns smiling at him. The nickname ‘Little Tony’ had stuck and somehow become his only name in the Tower. How he still wasn’t quite sure.

“H-Hi Lewis,” he said quietly.

Peter’s teacher looked down at him and then at the intern. “You know this boy?”

“Of course, that’s LT. He’s here all the time. He’s always with Mr. Stark.” Lewis reached out a fist for Peter to pound. “Looks like you touched something else you’re not supposed to huh?” Peter shrugged. “Oh uh LT, I’ve got clearance to start on my project. When you want you can help. That is if you’re not in too much trouble for this.” The brown-haired man laughed. “Wait until I tell the guys it was you. They’re gonna flip. See ya around, kid,” Lewis said.

His teacher looked down at him and seemed to be contemplating something. “Peter, do you really come here a lot?”

“Yes ma’am,” he said with head down. The woman clicked her tongue.

“Well, I’ve called your parents. Your mother answered her phone. She’ll be here shortly.” Peter sighed.

“She’s not my mother,” he muttered. His teacher raised her eyebrows.

“I’m sorry, what’d you say?”

“Nothing ma’am.”

“So, why do you visit here? Do one of your parents work here?” Before he could answer he heard the room go quiet as heels clicked into the room. The teacher’s head snapped in the door’s direction as Pepper walked towards them. Looking as radiant as ever Pepper glided into the room with poise and grace, unlike anything he’d seen before.

Peter sighed with relief when the woman smiled at him at least she wasn’t angry. She walked directly towards him much to the shock of everyone else. She leaned down to look at him.

“Peter baby, are you ok?” Peter nodded.

“Yes ma’am,” he said as Pepper rubbed his cheek.

“You look exhausted kiddo,” she mused. Peter heard her mutter ‘like father like son’ and a wide smile crossed his face.

“Ms. Potts, I am very sorry about this. He will be appropriately punished for damaging that display. It’s in our policy to have a full behavior review for something like this,” his teacher said.

“Oh, I don’t think that will be necessary,” Pepper said. “That display wouldn’t have opened for anyone it wasn’t authorized to open for. It was the fault of our little genius here who likes to make adjustments to his security clearance, hmm?” Peter winced. He felt the underlying warning in her voice.

“I don’t understand what you mean,” Ms. Clemons responded.

“All of our displays are coded to only be accessed by those with clearance. Peter here seems to have given himself an increased clearance recently, although that will be changed before the night’s out. So this isn’t an issue that will need to be addressed at school. We will handle this here. However, we will support any repercussions of the school that might come from him not following directions.” The teacher looked very confused and Peter honestly felt a little justified.

Peter yawned again and closed his eyes. “Ok, little man, let’s get you up to your bed,” Pepper said. “I think your tour is over.”

“Uh Ms. Potts, I’m sorry, but we can’t allow that unless his parents authorize it,” his teacher said. “I just got off the phone with his mother and she’ll be here shortly.” Pepper gave the woman what Peter dubbed her ‘get crap done’ smile.

“I’m sure that you’ll see if you check your records at that I am his mother.” Peter felt like he momentarily went, deaf...his mother? Pepper set her hand on Peter’s shoulder. His teacher looked through her digital file.

“I have his parents listed as Anthony E. S. and Virginia P. S.” Peter noticed how Pepper adjusted her shoulders ever so slightly.

“Yes, I am Virginia ‘Pepper’ Stark and I’m sure you know my husband Anthony or Tony as many know him. I'm also sure that you can understand why we registered Peter under an alternative name. Peter's safety is our utmost responsibility," Pepper said with a smile of an angel but the tone of a lion. Peter heard gasps from the class.

He really does know Iron Man!

He lives in Stark Tower!

Flash Iron Man is gonna kill you!

“I’m sorry when we spoke on the phone, I didn’t realize,” the teacher said sheepishly.

“Would it have changed if you’d known? Peter had a rough night last night with his asthma and he barely got any sleep. I sent an email to you this morning about this, but it doesn’t look like you read it.” When his teacher didn’t respond, Pepper continued to talk. “Peter begged us to let him come on this field trip even though he’s exhausted and we allowed it because we thought he would be taken care of and it would take his mind off the difficult night he had. I must say that I’m very upset that he didn’t seem to have any fun today.”

The teacher crossed her arms challenging the woman. Peter shook his head. Bad. Bad idea. “How did you come to that conclusion, may I ask?”

“I watched some of the security footage before I made my way down here and I’m very concerned that Peter wasn’t cared for in the manner that he should be. He’s been tripped, poked, and ridiculed. Now some may say that’s how children are and that’s fine. But he was also harangued by you for simply trying to help.” Pepper flashed the smile again. “My husband and I would like to schedule a conference with you and the principal sometime next week if you don’t mind. We'd like to discuss your unfair treatment toward Peter.” Peter saw the smile on Pepper’s face but knew it was the piercing glare in her eyes that made everyone in front of them cower. “Let’s go bud,” she said to Peter. “Stacey, please go over the NDA with the school and explain it to the children as well,” Pepper said to her assistant as she led Peter out of the room.

The whispers continued as they walked into the hall. Peter felt an odd sense of satisfaction as Pepper took him up to the penthouse. He leaned against the wall and yawned again.

“I have some work to do, but I want you to go lay down ok? You really look dead on your feet,” Pepper said pushing a curl out of his face.

“Ms. Pepper? Why’d you tell them that I live here? I mean I thought it was a secret.” The woman smiled at him.

“Just from the press, Peter. I mean look at the baby. It’s not even here yet and people are already making Instagram pages for it. We want you to have some privacy. Trust me, it’s going to be hard enough growing up as Little Tony. In a couple of years, you’re going to miss this time.”

“Oh, ok,” Peter said still not fully getting it. The woman reached out and brushed another curl out of his face.

“We love you very much Peter and we just want what’s best for you,” she said smiling at him. As they walked out of the elevator she gave the boy a gentle nudge towards his room. “I’ll be working in the living room if you need me, ok?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Do you want me to sit with you?" Peter shook his head. "Ok, go get some rest, Petey.” Yawning Peter walked down the hallway and into his room. He pulled off his shoes and collared shirt before slipping into a pair of shorts and the Mets hoodie that Tony had bought him just to piss off Mr. Jeff a couple of months before.

“Hey Fri?”

“Yes, Peter?”

“Do parents keep their adopted kids and have their own?”

“I don’t have personal experience with that, but from the research, I conducted for boss months ago the answer is yes. Many families have thriving lives with biological and children they’ve acquired.”

“Did Mr. Stark say why he wanted to know?”

“He was doing research on acclimating adopted children into families with biological children.” Peter smiled at that. Maybe just maybe his dream could still come true.

Chapter Text

Peter yawned as he woke up. He wasn’t feeling so sluggish like he was earlier in the day. Sliding over he reached for his glasses and put them onto his face. He took a deep breath and yawned again as he slipped out of his bedroom and into the hall.

When he rounded the corner he heard...voices. Before he could stop himself he took off into a dead sprint.

“Daddy!” He didn’t hesitate to run into Tony’s arms and bury his face in the man’s neck.

“Hey, there kiddo. I missed you so much!” Peter squeezed the man hard.

“I missed you more!” Tony pushed the boy’s hair back and laid a kiss on his forehead. The man sat down with the boy positioned onto his lap. Usually, Peter would put up a fuss about being babied, but he felt like the last week had been a rollercoaster...and he wanted to be babied. He let his head rest on Tony’s chest. “I heard you had a rough field trip home, huh bud?”

“It was terrible,” Peter said shaking his head.

“Want to tell me how you changed your clearance...again?” Peter looked up at Tony’s raised eyebrow and shook his head vehemently. Peter snuggled back into the man’s chest hoping that was the end of it.

“So Petey, after you took your nap, I spoke with Ms. Clemons and she told me what Flash really did,” Pepper said. Peter kept his eyes on his lap instead of looking up at the woman.

“Kiddo, you don’t have to keep this bottled up anymore. We want to talk to you,” Tony said rubbing the boy’s back.

“Ms. Pepper’s baby is coming soon, right?” Peter didn’t look up but he knew the adults were giving each other weird glances.

“Yeah bud, you got to see the sonogram last month, remember,” Tony asked laying his chin on top of Peter’s.

“Yeah. When the baby comes uh nevermind.” Peter felt Tony grab his chin and make him look the man in the eyes.

“We’re here to listen, bud.” Peter let his thoughts settle in his mind. This was his one shot to tell them how he really felt.

Dreams could come true, right?

“When the baby comes what’s gonna happen to me,” Peter managed to get out.

“What do you mean, buddy?” Tony made a clicking sound with his tongue.

“Me? Do I gotta leave? You know because the baby is coming. Your real kid.” Before Peter could react Tony had pulled the boy close to his chest.

“Oh buddy, that’s why you’ve been acting like this?” Tony rubbed Peter’s hair and turned the boy so that he was fully looking at him. “Of course you’re staying here! Peter, what would make you ever think that?”

“I just, well Kyle said. He said you wouldn’t let me stay and that I was just a placeholder until you had a real kid,” Peter said looking at his lap.

“Peter, don't listen to that kid. He's nuts. Why do you listen to his kid anyway?" Peter saw Pepper place a hand on Tony's shoulder. "Bud, you are my real kid, our real kid,” Tony said.

“I just thought with your own kid coming you wouldn’t need me anymore,” Peter said softly. "That's the rule. You got me 'cause you didn't have any kids of your own. Now you do. So I have to leave."

“Ok let's do this. Forget everything that Kyle kid told you. None of that's true. I didn't get you because I didn't have any other options. I brought you home because this is where you belong. Right here with me." Peter blinked away a few stray tears when he looked at Tony. "You’re our first kid. We’ll always need you and we'll always want you,” Tony said.

Peter felt himself brimming with indignation. It couldn't be true, could it?

“But what if it’s a boy? Then he could be just as smart as you say I am. He’d be better. He’d be a real Stark and he’d be Little Tony like for real.”

“You can’t really think that bud,” Peter slumped his shoulders and let his head fall to his chest. “Peter, I can’t imagine my life without you. Just like I can’t imagine my life with Pepper, Rhodey, or even not so Happy. You’re my son, kiddo.” Peter’s head snapped up.

“S-son?”

“Yeah, bud.” Tony nodded in understanding. “That’s why you kept up the Mr. Stark thing and the mentor-apprentice talk. Peter let’s get this straight, ok? You’re my son. My firstborn. I mean you started as my apprentice but you became my son quicker than you or I noticed.”

“That’s true,” Pepper said smiling. “He was your dad long before either of you figured it out.” Peter saw that her eyes were red. He felt his lip start to wobble.

“You’re our son, Pete,” Tony said. “Get it?” Peter finally nodded and let himself fall into Tony’s torso again. The man gently started to rock and unable to stop it Peter let the fear and anxiety he'd been carrying for so long fall from him. It was so nice to hear that he was wanted.

His little mind drifted to the last time his mom wrapped him up in her arms and how his dad pulled him close before they left on that plane. He remembered that he wanted to go, but they told him if he was good they would go for ice cream when they got back. He never did get that ice cream. His eyes squeezed tighter as he remembered just how much he used to miss them. It was so bad that it hurt sometimes. He loved Ben and May, but they weren't mommy and daddy. Peter made due though. He adjusted and tried his hardest to be a big boy.

Soon it would be Ben's arms that would wrap him up on those scary days. Ben was like his new daddy. He was just a sweet and caring, but then Ben left him on that cold night just two years after his first daddy had left him. After that things just weren't the same. Peter tried he did, but it wasn't in him. May tried and tried too, but she was so buried in grief herself that she couldn't help him any more than she could help herself. Then that horrible day when the men in uniform came and dragged him away from her. He'd been sobbing and reaching for her and she was reaching for him.

That's how things had always seemed for Peter, close but just out of reach.

Maybe in this moment that would all change.

A hand ran itself through his curls causing him to wipe his eyes and look up. He saw Pepper smiling down at him.

"You ok there little guy?" Peter nodded.

"Yes, just thinking," Peter said. He felt Tony's hand rub his arm.

"Want to talk about it, bud?"

"I just don't want this to end," Peter said softly. "It always does, but this time I don't want it to."

Pepper reached out and grabbed his hand. The smile on her face was so warm and soft that it made Peter forget how nervous he was. “Peter, remember when Tony and I had to leave last week and we missed dinner?” Peter nodded. He was pretty sure that was the night he’d updated his security clearance. “Well, we were meeting with an attorney about something we’ve been working on for a while. We’re adopting you.” Peter sat up.

“Really?”

“Yes, buddy. We want you in our family forever,” Tony said. Pepper leaned forward as much as she could go with her baby belly.

“We were doing all the legal mumbo jumbo so you didn’t have to worry about it,” Pepper said. “I thought Tony here had told you, but it looks like it slipped his mind,” she said shooting a glare at Tony.

“I was nervous,” the man mumbled.

“Well look how he’s been feeling,” Pepper said gesturing towards Peter. “It’s ridiculous how you share no blood and yet you’re both exactly the same.” She shook her head with a fond smile. “So Peter, Tony and I are making things official for you but before we finish everything we wanted to ask you a question.”

“Ok,” Peter said holding his breath.

“Well we wanted to see if you’d like a new name,” Pepper said. Peter made a sputtering sound with his lips in shock. All he could manage was to keep turning his head back and forth between him and Pepper. Tony smiled and gave the boy a kiss on the temple.

“I think we broke him, Pep.” Shaking out of his stupor Peter rolled his eyes.

“A n-new name?” He took several rapid deep breaths. “N-Nigel and Kyle got new names when they got adopted. They um well Nigel made his name Cole ‘cause that’s Mr. Jeff’s dad’s name. Is that what you mean?” Pepper nodded.

“Something like that,” Tony said with a voice heavy with emotion.

“Petey, we were thinking of giving you the new name of Peter Anthony Stark, like your daddy,” Pepper said. Peter felt tears come to his eyes. The only response he could give was to wrap his arms around Tony in shock. Another set of kisses were pressed to Peter’s head.

“We love you, buddy,” Tony said. “Mommy and Daddy are here.”

________________________________

That night Tony and Pepper decided to put Peter to bed. Each of his parents sat on his sides while they tried to lull him to sleep. A warm feeling encased Peter, but it was a really good feeling.

“So, Petey we have a secret for you,” Tony said.

“Ok.”

“You’re going to be a big brother soon,” Tony said smiling. “You’re gonna have a little sister.” Peter sat up and looked between Tony and Pepper.

“Really? It’s a girl?” They nodded.

“Now we’ll have a complete set,” Pepper said. Peter bit his lip. He shouldn’t be happy that it wasn’t a boy, but he was. He wouldn’t have to compete or try to be the best. He could just be Peter.

This was so perfect.

He let a smile cross his face and seep into his bones. “I’m gonna be a big brother?”

"Dont' sound so surprised, kiddo," Tony said nudging his shoulder slightly. "We told you months ago."

"I didn't believe you then," Peter said softly.

Tony smiled at the boy. "But you do now?" Peter nodded enthusiastically.

"I've never been a big brother before. I've never been a brother before. Is this real? She'll be my sister?"

“Yep,” Pepper said. “It's 100% real. I've got a whole new line of stretchy outfits to prove it," she said making everyone laugh. "But Mr. Peter, we’re gonna need a lot of help from you keeping this a secret. No one can know she’s a girl yet, ok?”

“Anything. I’ll do anything I can to help,” he said practically vibrating in his bed. “You can count on me! I'm gonna be the best big brother ever!”

“We know,” Pepper said. Peter looked up at the woman and then turned to look at Tony.

“Do you know what you’ll name her yet?” Tony smiled.

“We’re gonna name her after my mom,” Tony said. Peter couldn’t stop smiling.

“So she’ll be named after your mom and I get to be named after our dad? I can’t believe it. So I get to be Peter Anthony Stark?”

“Yes, that’s your new name,” Pepper said. “Now when I say ‘Mr. Stark’ you both can turn around.” Peter giggled when Tony poked his side.

“So then you are still Mr. Stark and Ms. Pepper?”

“Well, we were thinking about Tony and Pepper,” the woman said. “Would you feel comfortable with that?” Peter let his fingers trace the little repulsors on his comforter.

“If you want to, bud,” Tony said. “You don’t have to change if it makes you feel weird.” Peter bit his lip.

“Well um, I really miss May and Ben. They were awesome and kept me safe. We used to snuggle on the couch when we watched movies.” Peter coughed, “kinda like this.”

“We’re not trying to replace May or Ben, Pete,” Tony started but Peter shook his head effectively silencing the man.

“No, that’s not what I meant. Um, I uh I haven’t got to be a son in a long time and um when I was little and I was a son I called my parents mama and daddy so uh I’d like to do that again.” Pepper put her hand to her mouth and Tony’s eyes glistened. “I know you’re not them, but is that ok?” They both nodded rapidly.

“It’s perfect, baby,” Pepper said with her fingers in his hair. Peter smiled feeling like the weight finally fell off his shoulders.

After four long years, he’d finally found a home.

Chapter Text

Peter tapped his foot anxiously as the day drew closer to an end. It was nice to be able to let out his excess energy without fear of being sent to the corner or get a lunch detention. That was one of the many changes that had come since the field trip.

The biggest, of course, was that Ms. Clemons was gone.

Well, she was on ‘administrative leave’ during the time a full review into her behavior could be done. It seemed that while he was napping a Mrs. Pepper Stark had gone on a very professional rampage about the unfair treatment that bordered on abuse that her son was receiving from his teacher. Peter winced at the memory of seeing the video Friday had shown him of Pepper practically scolding his teacher in the private conference room with the dean in one of the boardrooms at Stark Industries.

That was why he got to watch Mr. Clark talk about the Revolutionary War and tariffs. A part of Peter felt bad about it, but he figured that if his mom was on the case it was best he should stay out of it.

Besides, he had bigger fish to fry; he was finally going to get to have his sleepover with Ned this weekend. His whole body was practically vibrating with excitement. “Ok, I’ll see everyone on Monday. Remember your homework modules.” Jumping up Peter smiled and slammed everything inside his bag. A familiar twinge came to his chest. Pulling out his inhaler he focused on giving himself two quick puffs.

“Must be all that exhaust he breathes in from those Iron Man suits,” Flash said appearing in front of him. A small group of kids appeared next to him ready to taunt Peter like they had nothing else to do. “My dad says the city's gonna have to create a new environmental ordinance to combat the fumes coming out.”

“That’s dumb, Iron Man suits don’t give off exhaust Flash,” Ned said appearing next to Peter.

“How do you know Ned? You’ve never even seen it in action,” Flash shot back.

“He will tomorrow,” Peter said. “We’re having a sleepover.” Peter didn’t know why he always felt the need to defend himself against Flash, but for some reason, he couldn’t help it.

“Oh yeah and Tony Stark’s gonna let you two touch his suits?” Flash laughed.

“Well I have already, I’m in his lab all the time.” He glanced at Ned offering as confident as a smirk as he could muster. “Ned’s gonna be in there tomorrow,” Peter said not sure if it was true or not.

“Yeah Flash, we’re gonna have a lot of fun and you’re gonna be stuck at soccer or something lame like that,” Ned said smugly.

“Right, like that’ll happen. The orphan and the blob meet Iron Man, it should be a movie,” Flash said giggling rudely. Peter glanced at Ned’s whose face also had fallen.

Somehow Flash always managed to say just what Peter needed to hear to ruin his mood.

“Hey, Peter! You’re gonna be on the academic team with us, right?” Turning his head Peter saw Michelle handing him a form. “Have your mom or dad sign it. We start practice next week.”

“Uh ok, sure. I used to do it at my old school,” Peter said.

“Yeah, with those losers that don’t even have books? Right. Penis here wouldn’t stand a chance.” Before he could respond, Michelle stepped in front of Flash effectively shoving him out of the way.

“We need more science, Eugene here lost it for us last time. Isn’t that right boy who thinks an electron weighs more than a proton?” Flash scowled and stomped away.

“Thanks,” Peter said.

“He’s brainless, unlike you two losers,” she said as she walked away.

“She’s kinda weird,” Ned said.

“Yeah, but it works though,” Peter said shrugging as they walked out of the classroom.

“I’m so excited for tomorrow, dude. Like I’m sleeping at Avengers tower. It’s crazy.”

“It’s Stark Tower and it’s going to be so much fun. I’m trying to see if Dad will let us have a laser tag war. We had one when my mom was gone and it was great!”

“That sounds awesome! We don’t do anything like that at my house!” Peter shook his head and smiled at his friend. He stopped mid-step when he noticed that Ned stopped walking. “Peter!”

“What?”

“It’s the Iron Patriot!” Turning around Peter saw that it was, in fact, Colonel James Rhodes standing in front of a Mercedes Benz Sports car. “Is he here for you? Oh my gosh is he gonna be there tomorrow! Peter give me details!”

“I’ll see you tomorrow Ned,” Peter said laughing. It was odd how just a couple of months ago he would have had the same reaction as Ned and now the man in the polo shirt with the bright smile in front of him was like family. “Hi, Uncle Rhodey.”

“Hey LT, how was school?” Peter shrugged he went to open his mouth but he felt someone sling their arm around his shoulders.

“Hi, Mr. Iron Patriot.” Peter let a wry smile pass his lips. This would be good. “I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting you,” Flash said brightly. Rhodey looked down at Peter and then back at Flash. He stuck a tentative hand towards the boy.

“Nice to meet you, Flash is it?” The boy nodded.

“Yep, me and Peter are really good friends. I see he’s told you about me.” Without even looking at him, Peter could see Flash’s arrogant grin spread across his face. “Peter was going to invite me over today, but he forgot. Do you think I can come with you?” Peter’s smile dropped and he felt himself starting to feel anxious. It would be terrible if Flash came home with him.

“I’m sorry, Peter and I have an important engagement to get to. If you were one of his friends I’d be happy to take you, but,” Rhodey said smiling his patented ‘I’m smarter than you think’ smile, “I don’t think you understand how close I am to my nephew. You see Peter tells me a lot sometimes it’s about what he likes and sometimes it’s about what he doesn’t like. One of the things he doesn’t like is to be bullied or made fun of.” The man put a gentle yet firm hand on Peter’s shoulder and pulled him close to his side effectively removing Peter from Flash’s embrace. “I’m sure you understand that don’t you, Flash?”

“Uh yes Mr. Iron Patriot um, I should go,” Flash said scurrying away. The man chuckled.

“You were really good at that.”

“Well, I had to do that a lot for your dad when we were younger. It’s been a while but it felt just as good. I guess I should get the title of ‘Stark Protector’.” Peter laughed at his silly uncle.

“My real friend Ned and me are having a sleepover tomorrow. Can you come?”

“No, I have to go to this meeting for work, but maybe next time.” Peter shrugged. “Come on hop in, I’ll take you for some ice cream before I drop you off at home.” Not having to be told twice Peter climbed into the backseat of the Benz. He smiled with relief when they were was no booster seat.

This day just kept getting better and better.

_____________________

Peter climbed into his bed and turned on his Nintendo Switch. As much as it sucked to eat dinner by himself it was so awesome to get to eat his dinner in front of the television in his room. After Rhodey had left, he’d spent the rest of his time playing his games or watching movies. He knew his dad had a livestream into his room via Friday so he didn’t do anything too crazy.

Plus he didn’t want to stress them anymore than they already were. There had been some big emergency meeting that Pepper had to leave for and Tony hadn’t been able to get home quick enough from his own meeting. So that left Peter with Friday as his official babysitter for about an hour.

It didn't happen often but the giant cheeseburger he’d gotten as a consolation prize was more than enough for him. His mom almost never let him eat junk food. His dad on the other hand...well he was a completely different story.

“Hey Petey, can I come in?”

“Hi, Daddy!” Looking up Peter saw his dad walk in looking like the weight of the day had come crashing down on him all at once. “Whoa, you look terrible!”

“Thanks for your kind words kiddo,” Tony said plopping down on the bed next to Peter chuckling.

“Was work that hard?”

“It was eventful, how about that?”

“Is it because of the Accords?” Tony turned to look at Peter with his brows furrowed.

“How do you know about that?”

“Uncle Rhodey took me for ice cream after school. I heard him on the phone,” Peter said looking up at his dad. “He said those documents were going to be the death of him. I figured he meant the Accords because of how much you both hate them.”

“You’re a really smart kid. You know that?” Peter nodded.

“You tell me all the time.”

“That’s because no one ever told me when I was your age,” Tony said. Peter stared at his dad. It looked like his dad was regretting saying that but didn’t know how to get out of it.

“Well, I’m glad I get you to say it to me.” He leaned over to give his dad a hug.

“You feel warm buddy, are you feeling ok?”

“I’m ok, a little tired and excited. Ned couldn’t stop talking about it today.” Tony turned on the bed and was staring at his son.

“How would you feel about having another person sleepover sometime?”

“Who?”

“Well uh, I have someone who’s about your age who helped me out a couple of years ago. He’s having a hard recently and I thought maybe you two could be good friends.” Peter sat up. He instantly felt himself starting to get hot.

Did Tony collect kids?

Peter felt himself start to panic. Why did he bother to dream? “He’s uh my age?”

“Yeah uh his mom just got remarried and he’s got a couple of new siblings and they just moved to New Jersey. His mom says he’s having some time adjusting to everything, so well anyway, he could use a friend. I don’t know anyone who’d be a better friend for him.”

“Just friends?”

“Yeah, what else would you be?” Tony chuckled slightly. “Don’t worry, you and your sister are my only babies. Ok?” Peter nodded. “Ok,” Tony said again before reaching out to tickle Peter. Unable to stop it Peter started to laugh uncontrollably.

“That’s one of my favorite sounds,” Pepper said as she entered the room.

“Mama! Make him stop!” Tony let go of Peter with a huff and playfully pushed his son across the bed.

“You’re a real switchout, you know that? I used to be everything now it’s ‘mama this’ and ‘mama that’,” Tony gruffed out.

“Well she is better,” Peter said with a smug smile. Pepper snorted as she walked closer.

“You boys must have had a good night, huh?” Peter shrugged and picked up his tablet again.

“Daddy just got here and started messing with me. That cheeseburger was really good though! It was the best I ever had! Can me and Ned have those tomorrow?”

“Tony,” Pepper said harshly. “You were supposed to be here with him, remember? We talked about this.”

“I know Pep, but the meeting ran long and then the next thing I knew it was dinner time. I made sure he was fed.”

“Yeah! It was great, Uncle Rhodey took me for ice cream after school and I got a strawberry and chocolate milkshake with dinner. Friday sent it up the elevator shoot thing. It was great! Like Back to the Future for real! Oh, I even got,” Peter started to say before his dad put his hand over his mouth.

“And that’s it motor mouth. Geez kid once you start you don’t stop,” Tony said shaking his head.

“Tony, you sent Jimmy to get him and you fed him pure sugar for dinner? You’re unbelievable,” Pepper said. She walked towards them. Peter winced when he saw his mom completely skip over his dad and kiss him on the forehead. “Did you brush your teeth and take your inhaler?”

“Yep, sure did. I gotta be good for tomorrow ‘cause of my sleepover.” The woman gave him a soft smile.

“You sure will, well I’m going to take a shower. You rest up for tomorrow, ok bud?” He lifted his arms and let his mom engulf him in a hug.

“I missed you today,” he said as she rubbed his back.

“I missed you more little guy,” Pepper said. “I’m going to bed now before your sister wakes up and starts practicing karate on my organs. I’ll see you in the morning, Petey.”

“Night Mama.” Peter turned to see that Tony had his eyes closed and his face was tight. “Did I get you in trouble?”

“Nope, kid I’ve been doing that by myself for the last ten or so years, she’s used to it.” Tony pulled Peter’s head towards him and laid a kiss on his forehead. “Did you really take your inhaler and brush your teeth? I know you like to lie about that.”

“Yeeees,” he whined.

“You sure? Don’t make me ask Friday.”

“I did! For real!” Tony laughed.

“Ok, but if you’re lying I’m sicking Mama on you,” Tony said as he stood up.

Peter crossed his arms and let a pout cover his face. “Not fair.”

“Yeah well, kid that’s the price you pay for snitching.” Tony smiled as he got near the door. “Night Little Tony.”

“Night Daddy.”
_____________________

Peter woke up groaning. It felt like his head was heavy and there was a weight on his chest. “Friday,” he croaked. “Time issit?”

“It’s 7:06am, Peter.”

“Thank you,” he said flopping back over. “I don’t feel so good.”

“You have your sleepover with Ned Leeds today,” the AI reminded him. Pressing his eyes tight, Peter nodded.

“Thanks, Fri. I should get up now and pack.” Rolling out of the bed, Peter yawned and tried to stay upright. His head felt like it was swimming. He was in a pair of blue Iron Man pajamas with arc reactors on them. His dad told him they were an abomination when they ordered them online, but Peter said the blue reminded him of the pretty blue hue of his ever-present arc reactors.

Tony conceded of course.

He peeled the sticky pajama top off and ran his hands through his hair. Smiling he slid on his shower glasses that his dad had built specially for him. They were like sports goggles but steam resistant.

He let out a soft smile as he’d finally graduated to showers. To show him how much he cared Tony had built those for him. ‘So he didn’t fall again’ the man had said. Peter didn’t care. It meant one thing: no more baths like a baby, nope. He was a big kid for real now.

Now, he just had to get rid of that stupid booster seat.

Climbing into the shower he hoped the warm water would loosen up his sinuses, but all it did was make him cough. He had to admit though, the water felt great on his achy joints. After rinsing himself off Peter felt himself starting to get really tired. He turned the water off and tried to dry off as quickly as he could.

Somehow though he ended up sitting on the toilet resting his head on the counter top.
____________________________

Peter woke up feeling something soft against his face. Moving his sore limbs he realized he was in a bed...his bed. “He almost passed out getting out of the shower, Tony,” Pepper hissed quietly.

“He wanted to be independent. I get it,” Tony said.

“Of course you do, he has the same reckless stubbornness you have! Every day he becomes more like you.”

“You say that like it’s a curse,” Tony said smirking.

“Trust me, it is,” Pepper said. “Hopefully baby girl here will take after me.” Peter tried to stay still as he heard Pepper sigh. “Well, I called Ned’s mom and cancelled. He’s gonna be so devastated about this sleepover. He’s been talking about it for months it seems.”

“There will be another time,” Tony said. “What are we gonna do about today?”

“You’ve got to take him upstate with you,” Pepper said. “No, Tony don’t look at me like that. I’m four months pregnant. I can’t get sick.” Peter heard his dad sigh this time.

“Ok, I’ll figure something out,” Tony said. “I guess we’ll stay up there until Wednesday. He should be cured by then, right?”

“Let’s just take it day by day Tony,” said Pepper. Peter couldn’t make out whatever his dad mumbled, but his mom did. “You’re going to be fine. You’ve done this before.”

“Yeah with a cough here or there but never a full blown cold. What if he gets sicker Pep? I just don’t want to be too far away from you if he gets really sick. You always seem to know what to do.”

“Tony, you’re such a great dad. Don’t worry, you’ll be fine.” Peter heard his dad sigh.

“What about school Pep?”

“They’ll be going on break soon so they shouldn’t be learning too much. Take this time and nurse him back to health. With his asthma, we can’t rush this. Besides you can ease his mind that you’re going to be there for him. Use this time to bond with him and make memories. He needs that right now.” Peter heard his parents kissing he tried to not gag.

“Ok, I'll handle it,” Tony said.

“I know you will. Asthma can be really tricky when you’re sick. So stay close to him, ok?”

“Maybe I can hire a nurse to sit with him. You know, just in case.”

“Tony, you have to stay with him. He’s gonna want you or me you know that. Please don’t leave him with Friday or some random person watching him. You know how he gets,” Pepper said. “ You’re a good dad and you’re going to be fine. Just remember that.” Peter tried not to smile, but he loved how tender Pepper was being.

She really did love him.

“Mama?” Peter instantly felt Pepper’s cool hand on his face. “Don’t feel good.”

“I know, Daddy’s gonna take you upstate for a couple of days,” Pepper said.

“You’ll come?”

“No, I have to stay here, but I’ll call you and check up on you, ok?”

Peter opened his eyes and saw her blurry red hair. “Can’t you come?”

“Not this time, Daddy will take good care of you,” Peter laughed.

“Not better ‘an you,” he said through his clogged nose.

“Traitor,” Tony said. Peter saw Pepper give her husband a quick kiss.

She smiled down at the boy. “Moms just have a touch, right Petey?” The boy nodded. “I packed his bag while you were making your phone calls. Please make sure he gets some rest and lots of fluids,” Pepper said.

“Yes Mrs. Stark,” Tony said chuckling. “Come on Petey,” the man said reaching down to pull the boy from his position in the bed.

“Cold,” he whined and kicked his feet when the blanket fell off of him.

“Ok, bud let’s get you a nice comfy blanket to travel with Iron man, ok?” Peter started to rub his arms as Pepper slipped his glasses onto his face.

“Nope, want Thor he’s strong,” Peter said with a smug smile. Pepper snorted from across the room. Peter smiled as Tony dug in his closet.

“Blasphemy. Oh here let’s use this Hello Kitty blanket,” Tony said walking toward his son. Peter opened his mouth to protest, but Tony cut him off. “Nope. That’s what happens when you sass Daddy.” Peter gave Pepper an imploring look as Tony wrapped the bright pink blanket around him.

“You’ll be fine, baby,” Pepper said giving the boy a kiss on the forehead while Tony pushed sneakers onto the boy’s feet.“ Be a good boy. Don’t give your dad too much trouble.”

Peter felt himself lifted into Tony’s arms. He instantly latched on and tried to hold himself even though he felt like jello. “Buddy, you’re way too hot. We may have to go to the doctor.”

“No doctors. I’m okay,” Peter croaked before sneezing.

“Oh yeah, you’re the picture of health,” Tony said sarcastically. Giving up Peter let his head rest on Tony’s shoulder. He sneezed again.

“Why can’t Mama come?”

“She’s pregnant, bud. She can’t get sick.”

“Ok,” Peter said. “I’m sorry.”

“Why are you sorry?”

“I know you and Mama have meetings. I don’t mean to get sick.”

“Oh champ, it’s ok. Don’t apologize. We’re always going to protect and take care of you. No matter what.”

“Love you,” Peter said. Tony pressed a kiss to the boy’s hair. A whine popped out of Peter’s mouth as he felt his feet hit the ground.

“You have to get in the car bud. I can’t carry you into the car.” Peter sat down next to the booster seat affixed in its usual spot. Tony rolled his eyes when he slid in. “You want me to hold you?” Peter nodded not caring how much he sounded like a baby. “Alright, come here.” Peter smiled as he let Tony pull him onto his lap. He sank into his dad’s embrace as the man wrapped his arms around him. “You’re a clingy baby, you know that?”

“No booster,” Peter said closing his eyes.

“Kid, you are too much sometimes,” Tony said.

_____________________________

Peter woke up to see his dad’s back as it headed toward the elevator. “Daddy?” He heads Tony curse. Soon the man came back into his view wearing a different suit that before.

“I need to go to a meeting just downstairs ok?” Unable to stop it, Peter let out a whine. “I know, but I’ve got to do this. Friday will call me if anything happens. Just lay down and watch your cartoons. I’ll be back before you know it.” Peter pushed a pout across his face,

“You’re supposed to stay with me. Mama said so,” Peter said. Tony made a face at him.

“I wouldn’t leave you if I didn’t have to. Just lay back and get some rest. When the meeting’s over I’ll be right up here and you can snot all over me.” Peter kicked his feet under the hideous Hello Kitty comforter. He knew it wasn’t acting much like a fourth grader, but he didn’t care. It was scary when he was sick.

“Daddy,” he whined. “Don’t go!” Tony sat down next to Peter and grabbed his hand.

“I won’t be gone long, I promise,” the man sighed. “You know how me and Mama have been promising you a fun trip to our cabin for Christmas?” Peter nodded. “Well because of my work, some of the Avengers won’t be able to get home to their families for Christmas unless I help them. So I have to go so their kids can have their daddies for Christmas.”

“Ok, I get it. I would be sad if you weren’t there. It wouldn’t be Christmas without you,” Tony leaned down and put a soft kiss on the boy’s forehead. He brushed the sweaty curls off his face.

“You’re so kind and smart, Petey,” he said as he stood up. “I left you juice and some crackers. Try to nibble on those if you get hungry. Your inhaler is on the table right by your hand. When I get back we’ll try some of that medicine and some applesauce or something like that. So enjoy the quiet while I’m gone.”

“Ok.” Tony turned to leave.

“Cartoons?”

“Yep. Gonna watch them right here,” Peter said. Tony blew him a kiss from across the room as the elevator doors closed. Peter smiled to himself.

His dad was a true hero.

_____________________________

Peter woke up to heavy feet pounding on the floor. “Where is he? It’s just like him to disappear and worry only about himself,” one voice said as it came closer.

“He’s been advocating for us for months, he’ll be here,” another voice said.

“You can’t trust Stark period,” the first voice said. Peter groaned and rolled over. They were just too loud and his head was so heavy. The footsteps moved closer toward him. “Stark!” Peter flinched and took a deep breath. He felt a tightening in his chest. He whimpered and pulled the blanket over his head.

Maybe they would just go away.

The voices got closer and then they were right on top of him. “Who are you?” Peter started to cough violently just as the blanket was pulled off of him. He hissed as the cold air came in contact with his skin. His eyes traveled around the room. His dad was nowhere to be found.

The man continued to push. “Who are you? Where’s Stark?” Peter looked between the woman and the man and started to cough more.

“I-I am,” he said starting to wheeze.

“Who are you,” the woman demanded forcefully yet calmer than the man. Peter couldn’t help it and he started to cry. “Maybe it’s his kid? Is that why he’s not at the meeting?”

“He’s not here? Oh no!” Peter felt himself starting to slip into a frenzy. He frantically started to look around. Stay calm he kept telling himself. His dad would come. He promised.

“A baby Stark? Yeah right. Stark doesn't have a heart. There's no way he’s got a kid.” Peter’s chest tightened further. He started to panic as the air in his lungs seemed to dissipate with each passing moment.

“Daaaaaddddy!” He yelled out. His breath really started to sputter when he cried out again. “Daddy,” he whined. “Friday get Daddy!” All his words were coming out raspy and his breath was getting tighter. The man with the short haircut took a tentative step forward.

“Nat, uh who’s this?” Peter started to cry more. He frantically tried to find his inhaler. It was just there. “Hey, don’t cry. We’ll find your dad, ok? Just don’t cry.”

“Peter!” Turning around all Peter could do was lift his arms up for Tony to grab him. The man wasted no time pulling the boy off the couch and into his arms.

“Can’t breaff,” he wheezed. Tony instantly pulled an inhaler out of his pocket. He quickly shifted Peter into a sitting position on his lap as he sat down in a chair. Moments later he pulled his son close to his chest.

The medicine worked his way into his lungs. Peter let out a sigh of relief. “Good job, here’s another.” Peter took several deep breaths and grabbed Tony’s hand. “One more,” Tony said. Peter let himself fall against Tony with a contented sigh. He felt Tony’s arm wrap around him. “Better?” Peter nodded as his dad’s hand rubbed his face.

“Yep,” he said leaning against Tony. “I called for you. Where were you?”

“I came Pete. I did,” his dad said apologetically.

“But they came first,” he said pointing to the man and woman.

“Don’t worry Daddy’s gonna make them disappear real quick. You’ll see. It’ll be like a magic trick,” Tony said harshly. Peter figured he could comment on that later. Bigger things were at hand.

“Can you stay?”

“I’ve got to that meeting, buddy,” Tony said. Peter felt himself start to cry. It was so scary to wake up like that. Tony quickly stood up and settled the boy on his hip. “It’s ok. You’re safe.”

“You weren’t here! Want Mama!”

“Bud, you know she’s at home. You’re ok. It was scary I know, but see you were scared and Friday told me right away.” Turning around Peter basically started to outright wail.

“Daddy don’t go! Please don’t leave me again! I was so scared,” he said gripping the man’s jacket tighter than he ever had before. He heard Tony sigh.

“Tell Ross, I’ll have to take a raincheck. My kiddo here is sick.”

“Stark, you know this is important,” the woman said. “We all agreed to be here. Regardless of the cost.”

“Yeah well, that was before my son got sick.” Peter started to cry more. “Calm down Pete, you’re gonna make yourself sick again. Come on buddy, breathe.”

Peter did as he was told, but didn’t loosen his grip on his dad. “I’m sorry.”

“For what?”

“You wanted to get them home for Christmas. I know it. And I’m ruining it. I’ll be a big kid,” Peter said trying to be as brave as he could. Peter felt the tension ease in the room.

“We didn’t know that Stark, we thought you’d forgot about the meeting,” the man said. “We were just trying to find you, man.”

“Yeah, so scaring my kid half to death was an appropriate response. If at least expect you to understand something like this Clint.” Tony kept bouncing slightly and Peter felt himself calming down. Then it clicked in his mind.

“That’s Hawkeye and the Black Widow!l” Peter shot them a scowl. “That was mean! Heroes aren’t mean!” Tony chuckled and pushed his son’s head back down.

“That’s right,” Tony said.

“Boss, Secretary Ross is requesting your presence,” the AI said. Peter kept his face buried in Tony’s neck sniffing in the man’s scent as best as he could through his stuffy nose.

“You should go, no kid should be without their daddy on Christmas. Even if he is mean,” Peter said looking up just to glare at Clint. Tony gave the boy a gentle pat on the back.

“No, bud I’m gonna stay here with you,” his dad said.

“I hate to say this Stark, but I don’t think we’ll reach a resolution without you,” Nat said.

“Hey Tones, you good man?” Peter turned his head to see Rhodey walking into the room. “What happened here?”

“Legolas and the Turncoat came in and scared Pete to death,” Tony said. Peter felt Rhodey’s familiar hand on his back.

“Kid’s warm Tones, you give him anything yet?”

“Earlier. We have some special stuff he has to take for his asthma. Can’t let them mix.” Tony sighed before settling Peter back on the couch. Peter bit his cheek to stop himself from whining again. He really wanted his dad.

“Hey, buddy, Uncle Rhodey’s here. Can he stay with you for a while?” Peter nodded tentatively. He was a big kid and big kids were brave.

“Hi, Uncle Rhodey.” The man leaned down and looked at Peter. Uncle Rhodey.” The man leaned down and looked at Peter.

“You want your dad, huh bud?” Peter bit his lip.

“It’s ok. I know his job’s important. I’ll be ok. We can watch movies.” Peter swallowed trying to suppress the scratchiness he felt in his throat.

“Tones, LT here wants you, man. I’ll go handle Ross, you stay here with the kiddo.” Peter smiled and opened his arms for Tony.

“Alright cuddle bug, dad’s here.” He snuggled deeper into Tony’s midsection.

“Everything’s better when you’re here,” Peter said as he let his head rest against his dad’s chest.

_____________________________

Peter sat with his head resting on his dad’s chest as the nebulizer pushed medication into his lungs. After a marathon day, his dad was doing everything he could to keep Peter awake. So they were currently playing a game where they played ‘open versus closed’. When Peter wanted to say yes he opened his hand if he wanted to say no he made a fist. Where Tony found the game he didn’t know, but Peter knew that it was coming anytime he was starting to fall asleep during a breathing treatment.

“So tell me bud do you like science more than math?” Peter pushed his hand into an open palm. “What about Han Solo more than Obi-Wan?” Peter rolled his eyes and slumped deeper into his dad’s embrace. “Come on bud, you’ve got to stay awake for me.”

“Tired,” Peter said through the mouthpiece.

“I know baby, but we’ve got to get through this. Then you can sleep, I promise.” Peter whined through the machine. “How about this, if you can keep those peepers open for me I’ll let you spend time in the lab with me tomorrow. Maybe let you try to put a motor in one of your airplanes.” Peter turned to look up at his dad.

“Reary,” he said through the stupid mouthpiece. His dad nodded.

“But you’ve got to stay awake.” Peter closed his eyes right and then opened them really wide..

“Mofe shessens,” he said.

“What’s that? More questions you ask? Oh, I don’t know,” Tony said laughing.

“Faddy,” Peter whined.

“Ok ok. Well um is Uncle Rhodey better than Happy?” Peter made a face and put up two empty hands. “Oh, you’re so cute. What about Michelle your new friend. Do you think she’s cute?” Peter felt his cheeks turning red and he kept his hands firmly in his lap. “Ooh, that’s my boy! A Stark through and through.” Peter wanted to disappear.

“Aff’iend.”

“Yeah, sure bud. Try that when your ears aren’t as red as a tomato.”

“Shonna teff Mama,” he pouted. Tony snorted.

“Good luck with that. Moms are the worst with that stuff. She’ll ask you more questions than I ever would.” The machine finally sputtered to a stop. Instantly Peter plucked the mouthpiece out and turned to glare at his dad.

“You’re mean!” Turning back around he crossed his arms over his chest.

“Oh, you’ll be fine.” Peter kept his arms crossed over his chest. “Want some more soup or crackers?”

“No.”

“Ok, bed it is then.” Pete turned around.

“Can I sleep with you tonight?” Tony took a deep breath.

“I know you’re scared but you’ll be ok on your own.” Peter dropped his head. “What is it?”

“Nothing.”

“Come on, what is it? I know it’s something.”

“When I was really little and I was with my parents they left me with a babysitter one time when I was sick. I woke up gasping and I couldn’t breathe. I was so scared and the lady didn’t know how to help. They had to call the ambulance because she said my lips were turning blue.”

“Oh, Pete.”

“It happened last year too with Mr. Jeff and them. I was so scared. Ms. Karen helped me a bunch but I still woke up and I couldn’t breathe. I know we have Friday, but what if it happens again?” Peter felt himself getting nervous. “It’s just what if I can’t see and it’s dark and I’m alone and I can’t scream for you,” he said rushed out. Peter tried not to cry when his dad pulled him close to his chest.

“It’s ok guy, it’s ok. Just take a deep breath.” Pete let his dad soothe him for a couple of moments. “We did a breathing treatment so that should help you a bunch and your doctor says your lungs are much better than they used to be, so you should be ok.” Peter nodded. “Friday based on Pete’s increased intake levels and his current lung capacity what are the chances that he’ll have another episode?”

“12%, sir.”

“See? That’s a low number,” his dad said. Not low enough Peter thought.

“I’m a big kid, I can do this.” Tony smiled at him.

“You say that a lot when you’re scared. Buddy being a big kid doesn’t mean you don’t get scared. It’s ok to be scared. I get scared all the time.”

“You do?” His dad nodded.

“How about this? Tonight you can sleep in my room and tomorrow if you’re ready you can sleep in your room again if not no harm no foul. How’s that sound?” Peter smiled with relief.

“Thanks, Daddy.” The man stood up pulling Peter into his arms. “You’re not like the other ones,” Peter said as his dad carried him down the hall.

“What do you mean?”

“You’re a real hero. You’re not mean. You want to help people. They didn’t know how good you are, but I do. You’re what a hero is. Those other guys are fake.” Peter expected his dad to say something back to him, but all he got in response was a tight hug and a kiss to his temple. He let his head rest on his dad’s shoulder and let sleep come for him.

Chapter Text

Peter sat with his leg jumping under the desk that was set up in front of the room. It was the last parent-teacher conference before Christmas break and Peter’s nerves were all over the place.

Apart of him was afraid that somehow his mom and dad would find out that he wasn’t as smart as they thought he was. He tried to push the thought out of his head, but it was hard.

To calm his mind he turned to see the scene before him. The adults were huddled over the small table that was brought into the room looking through what he figured were his assignments and maybe some notes. Mr. Simon, one of the deans was there with Mr. Clark, but so was Ms. Clemons. He didn’t know what would happen but so far everything had seemed mostly calm even though his dad looked like he wanted to maim Ms. Clemons on the spot.

“Overall, Peter is an excellent student. He works very hard and he loves to help anyone who needs it,” Mr. Clark said. “Intellectually he appears to be well beyond his peers. I see no reason why he shouldn’t be ready for fifth grade next year.” Peter wanted to smile, but he saw Ms. Clemons shift in her seat as if she disagreed with what she was hearing. Judging from how his dad tensed in his seat, Peter realized that his parents saw it too.

His mom was the one who broke the ice. “Is there something you would like to ask Ms. Clemons?”

“Well, considering how you have clearly stated that I have mistreated your son, I would prefer to keep my comments to myself,” the woman said tersely. His dad leaned forward but he saw his mom gently lay her hand on his shoulder.

Oh boy.

“Well, we have never said anything about you speaking your mind. Our issue has been with your treatment and unfair assumptions about our son. If you have something to add that is constructive we would love to hear it,” Pepper said smiling. Peter knew that look. His mom was pissed.

“Your son is very smart,” Ms. Clemons said. “He loves to learn and is always willing to help. He knows more about science and chemical properties than any child I’ve ever encountered.” Peter smiled at that. He couldn’t remember the last time she said something nice like that to him. “But, his head is always in the clouds. If he’s not reading something about Iron Man, he’s watching videos on his Starkpad. Keeping him focused is a chore and his constant outbursts are a cause for concern. I think he needs to be tested for ADD.” Peter felt his lip wobble, but he bit down hard on it. He wasn’t going to cry in front of her.

“Now, wait one moment,” his dad said. “You’re suggesting we get our son tested for a learning disability? He has an IQ over 160 at last check and you want us to test him for a learning disability? And you’re a teacher.”

“Tony,” his mother admonished. That only seemed to stop his dad from talking, but the man’s eyes were still ablaze.

“Having a learning or behavioral difficulty doesn’t affect intellectual capability. Which of course I’m sure you know,” Ms. Clemons said smiling smugly. “As I said your son doesn’t listen well. Case in point how he disrupted the entire tour to your facility so much that we had to cancel the rest of the trip. You may want to deny it because you look at your son through rose-colored glasses, but he has behavioral problems that need to be addressed.” Peter slumped in his chair. A sinking sensation hit him. It was like he’d been spat on. Peter heard his dad scoff before leaning forward.

“Now you hear me, ok? Peter can learn just fine and he doesn't have behavioral issues. Mr. Clark hasn’t mentioned one of these issues nor has his specialized enrichment teacher. She gives him glowing remarks and has never once said anything like this,” Tony spat. “And when he’s working with me, you know I’m my state of the art lab, his attention is spot on for a boy his age. I’ve seen him go for hours on one project without any break in his attention. So it appears that the issue isn’t with him as much as maybe with the instructor or their mundane style of teaching.”

The woman crossed her legs and set a firm smile across her lips. “What are you insinuating Mr. Stark?”

“I think you know exactly what I’m saying, Ms. Clemons. My son doesn’t have any issues, he’s an energetic nine-year-old and as far as we are concerned his so-called outbursts are due to your blatant favoritism which you don’t want to get me started on.” He saw Ms. Clemons lean forward.

“Favoritism? If you remember correctly your son was due for a weeklong in-school suspension for punching another student and your wife used her clout to pressure the school into changing his punishment. Now if that’s not someone choosing favorites, then I don’t know what is.” That’s when his mom jumped in.

“Ms. Clemons, I want to assure you of this one thing: we talk to our son. He has told us how he is picked on and sometimes mocked for who he is or what he likes. As I’ve mentioned before some things he has to go through because that’s apart of life and growing up. However, everyone has a breaking point. We will now and forever support our son for standing up for himself when someone is cruel to him whether its a student or an adult.” Peter saw Ms. Clemons open her mouth, but his mother shook her head. “You knew what Eugene Thompson said to him that caused this issue and you never intervened; you never even told anyone. Not even after Peter was given his stiff punishment. So, when our son was going to be overly punished for a situation that could have been resolved if an adult had stopped it; you better believe that we intervened on his behalf. Someone had to because clearly, you didn’t think it was necessary.”

“We will always act in the best interest of our son,” his dad said. “No matter the cost,” he pushed out firmer. Even Peter didn’t miss that insinuation.

“We apologize again for that situation,” the dean said. “We resolved the issue so that Peter wouldn’t be punished so severely. We made sure to rectify it on our end.”

“And we appreciate it. All that we desire is for our son to have a teacher that doesn’t let their bias affect his ability to learn and grow,” Pepper said. “Peter can change the world when he’s older and we want him to develop in an environment that will foster his curious mind.” Peter smiled at that. He hadn’t had anyone to stand up for him like this in his whole life.

“She’s not your teacher anymore, right bud?” Peter looked up at his dad and nodded. “And she won’t be again. We can promise you that,” his dad said before standing up. “My wife will finish the details with you. Me and my son are leaving before you pollute his mind with more baseless lies.” Peter followed his dad out of the classroom. His stomach was churning.

“She really doesn’t like me,” he said softly.

“That won’t matter anymore,” Tony said. Peter shrugged.

“I guess.” He felt his dad lay a firm hand on his shoulder.

“Hey, you’re the smartest kid I’ve ever met. Stuff like this will happen but you’re gonna be ok.”

“What if she’s my teacher next year or the year after that?"

“Don’t worry about her buddy. Trust me. You have no worries in the world. You know why?” Peter shook his head. “Because you have a mama and a daddy who love you and who’ll do anything to protect you.” Peter didn’t stop his dad from picking him up and pulling him into his arms. Like he did every time it happened Peter latched his legs around his dad’s waist and his arm around the man’s neck. “Besides you have a sleepover tomorrow and no one's gonna take that from you.” That made Peter smile like he’d just won a million dollars. “All you have to do is plan what order you will watch Star Wars in.”

“Will you watch with us?”

“You two don’t want an old man like me around,” his dad said.

“Daddy, I’m always going to want you around,” Pete said letting his head rest on the man’s shoulder. “Always.”

__________________________

After his crappy day, Peter had barely slept the night before. It was like Christmas morning for him. It was taking everything in him to contain his excitement. He was going to finally have his sleepover. No more cold, no more getting in trouble. Nope, the day was finally here.

There was just one issue...it was like a gnat in his existence. “But Dad! I’m a big kid, I don’t need no stupid booster seat!!” Peter has his arms crossed over his chest and his face was tout in a pout.

“Bud, we’ve been through this. You’re just got big enough yet.”

“But Ned ain’t gotta use one and he’s younger than me!”

“Ned’s a bit than you buddy,” Tony said. Peter felt a surge of indignation and kicked the door of the car.

“But I’m older!” Tony’s face fell from an amused smile to a straight line.

“Peter!” The boy whirled around to see Pepper approaching them. Her face was tight in a scowl laced with disappointment. “You know better than that, don’t you?” Peter bit his lip and nodded. “We planned this sleepover because you've been such a champ with the baby coming and us having to leave for meetings. Do we need to give Ms. Leeds a call?” Peter hook his head violently. He’d just gotten a haircut so his curls didn’t bounce nearly as much as they used to.

“No Mama, I’m sorry. I won’t argue anymore. I promise!” Pepper looked at Tony.

“Ok,” she said smiling. “I think you owe someone else an apology.”

“I’m sorry Dad. I shouldn’t have kicked your car. It was mean of me.” Tony offered a smile.

“It’s ok buddy,” Tony said. Peter sighed with relief. “Let’s go,” he said.

Even though the boy still was irritated he climbed in the backseat of Tony’s car happy that he’d dodged that bullet.

His sleepover was still on.

Peter was practically vibrating in his seat as Tony drove down the road. “I’m so excited! I’ve never had a sleepover before!”

“I know bud, you’ve only mentioned it once maybe a thousand times since breakfast,” Tony said with a smirk.

“I’m excited. It’s like how I always wanted stuff to be before,” Peter said softly. “I got friends and a mommy and a daddy. It’s so good I can’t believe it.” Peter kicked his feet absentmindedly before he looked up. “Dad, are you crying?”

“No, I um just happy. It makes my eyes sweat.” Peter furrowed his brow.

“So your eyes are wet? Dad that’s crying. Did I make you cry? I didn’t mean to. Your car didn’t get hurt I promise.”

“No Petey, I uh I’m just happy that you’re happy. Do you get it?” With a big smile on his face, Peter nodded. “You make it really easy to be your dad.” Peter smiled wide and looked at his dad in the rearview mirror.

“You know how your dad didn’t let you cry? I’m uh glad you let me cry. I think I’d burst if I didn’t. Sometimes I get sad and sometimes I’m so happy that I cry too. I’m so happy I got you as a daddy and not your daddy. He sounded mean.” Peter kicked his shoes off and let his feet flow freely.

“Pete?”

“Yeah?”

“You need to wear socks kid. I can smell that from up here,” Tony said. Peter opened his mouth to speak and then stopped. His dad was sneaky.

“I know what you’re doing.”

“Oh really?”

“Mama says you change the subject when you’re emotional.”

“Well tell Mama,” Tony started before he saw Peter smiling at him with his cellphone pointed towards his dad. “That I love her to the moon.” Peter gave him a sly smile before setting the phone down.

“You’re a traitor, kid,” Tony said.

“I know, but Mama scares me.”

“Scares me too bud. Guess we have that in common, huh?” Pete giggled before reaching down to grab his shoes again. They were getting close. He started to countdown the house numbers with each passing one he started to vibrate in his seat there it was! Quickly unbuckling himself and jumping out of his seat Peter was leaning against the door.

“That’s Ned’s! Look!” Tony turned around briefly before pulling the car up to the curb.

“Back in your seat buddy.” The boy sighed but sat back down and buckled the stupid straps again.

“Dad! Hurry!” Tony laughed.

“You’re so full of energy today. You know he’s not going anywhere, right?”

“We only get tonight and some of tomorrow together so I got to do everything! We don’t got much time!”

“Peter,” his dad said turning around to look him in the eyes. “You’re going to have so many sleepovers with your friend. We’re not gonna go anywhere. Remember that, ok?”

“Got it. Can I go get him now?” Tony nodded and Peter practically ran up the stairs and knocked politely. He had a huge smile on his face. Ned’s mother came out smiling in a pretty floral dress.

“Hi, Ms. Leeds!” The woman opened her mouth but Peter heard thumping coming from deep in the house.

“Peter,” Ned screeched as he ran to the door. Before either of them realized what was going on they were on the ground. All Peter could do was laugh. It looked like Ned was as excited as he was.

__________________________

Peter and Ned were playing with their lightsabers and running around Peter’s new playroom. They’d had a great day so far. Tony had gotten them pizza and let them eat a bowl of ice cream and cake for dessert much to his mom’s displeasure. That seemed to only increase their energy and they spent most of the early evening running through the tower shooting each other with Nerf Guns until Pepper had suggested they go play quietly. They played with Peter’s flight simulator game his Uncle Rhodey had given him. Ned was super good at it even though he almost got sick the first time.

But Peter was still so excited.

He had so many things he wanted to show Ned and they really had the whole night to do it in. So far the night had gone off without a hitch. Aside from the fact that his dad had pulled him aside and told him to ‘calm down’. Peter wasn’t sure what he meant but his dad been giving him the ‘timeout’s around the corner’ look for most of the day. He’d shrugged it off and reminded himself yet again that he had to show Ned the best time of his life.

The plastic device struck Peter in the side and he dropped to the floor dramatically. “How could you betray me,” he said acting. They both fell into a fit of giggles after Peter’s dramatic death.

“Can you believe a new Star Wars is coming out? I’m gonna go see it with my dad. He’ll be in town then.”

“That’s cool! Maybe we can go together!” Peter jumped up and down. “That would be so amazing!”

Ned spun his lightsaber again. “I’m gonna be a Jedi when I get older!” Peter jumped at Ned and tried to attack him but the other boy moved out of the way and they started jousting again.

“I’m gonna be a Jedi Master! My dad says I can be can whatever I want,” Peter said.

"I wish I had a real lightsaber. I would protect the world like the Avengers!" Peter stopped mid-swing. "What?"

“Ned! I have a great idea!! We have an arc reactor. It’s like a real-life lightsaber. Want to see it?”

“Yes!” Ned’s eyes grew huge in awe.

"Maybe we can get an idea of how to make lightsabers from seeing it!"

"Oh my gosh, yes! Let's do it!" Just then the door popped open revealing an immaculately dressed Tony Stark. Peter wondered how parents always timed stuff like they were spying on you. He gulped and tried to act calm.

“Hey, boys! What are you up to?”

“Nothing,” Peter pushed out. “Me and Ned are just playing,” he said holding up the lightsaber.

“Well, that’s why you have a playroom, huh?” Peter nudged Ned with his elbow.

“Yes sir Mr. Iron Man,” Ned said. Peter watched Tony give the boy a weird look.

“Are you boys up to something?” Peter shook his head.

“No uh, we’re just excited. Ned’s never had a sleepover either,” Peter said. His dad stared at him before he nodded.

“Ok. Well me and Mama have to go to a meeting.” Tony put a hand on his son’s shoulder. “Friday is down right now for maintenance so I need you two to stay in here. When it’s done we can go see my lab, yeah?” Ned gasped.

“Ok!” Tony chuckled.

“Be good boys. We’ll be back soon,” Tony said as he closed the door. Ned turned to his friend.

“I can’t believe your dad is Iron Man!”

Peter shrugged. “He’s just my dad.”

“How can you say that? I mean like last year he was Iron Man and not your dad and this year he’s both! Like isn’t it weird?” Peter shook his head. He’d never thought about it like that.

“No, not really. I mean it’s awesome that my hero became my dad, but even if he wasn’t Iron Man he’d still be my dad.” Ned shrugged.

“If my dad was Iron Man, I’d be super excited. Like building repulsors every day.” Peter smiled at his friend.

“So uh you ready?” Ned gave him a funny look.

“Maybe we shouldn’t. I mean your dad said to stay here.”

“It’s ok, really,” Peter said trying to sound sure of himself.

“Are you sure your mom and dad won’t care?” Peter smirked.

“Friday’s doing maintenance so they won’t know. They’re in boring meetings until later, remember? It'll just be for a few minutes. We’ll go and see it then come right back.” Ned nodded. “Ok let’s go.”

The boys quickly took the elevator down to the basement floor. As they got closer they felt the steady whir of the Arc Reactor .“Isn’t this where your dad fought that guy and became Iron Man?”

“No, that was in California. He built this one here to be like a prototype or something,” Peter said opening the door. They both gasped in awe. Peter had seen the smaller arc reactors, but his dad had never let him see this one. It glowed with a white light as pretty as anything he’d ever seen.

“Peter is it supposed to look like this?” Peter was shocked. The reactor flickered before pushing out an even stronger set of light.” This is really bright. I mean maybe we shouldn’t be down here,” Ned said.

“My dad wouldn’t let it be in the building if it wasn’t working right. It’s ok. We just can’t touch it.”

“This is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen! Can we take a picture?”

“No! We’re not supposed to be down here!” Ned laughed.

“Oh yeah. This light is frying my brain,” he said before Peter joined in on the laughing. They stood silently staring at the sight before them. It was so crazy to see.

“Peter Anthony what the hell do you think you’re doing!” Peter turned around and gasped. Ned pushed himself behind Peter in an attempt to shield himself from Iron Man’s wrath.

“Please don’t zap us with lasers,” Ned screeched. Peter rolled his eyes as Ned’s hands clung tightly to his shirt behind him.

“I uh, wanted to show Ned the Arc Reactor.” Peter watched Tony’s fierce eyes pierce his own. He felt his hands start to shake. “S-sorry,” the boy pushed out.

“Out out out,” Tony said. Peter and Ned scurried past the man. Once they were out of the room and door was closed Tony turned back towards the boys. “What were you thinking Peter?” Peter shrugged. “Use your words,” he demanded.

“I wanted to show Ned the Arc Reactor. It’s like a big lightsaber from Star Wars. We um were gonna make plans and build one.”

Tony narrowed his eyes. “Peter are you allowed down here?”

“No,” Peter said.

Tony’s arms were crossed against his chest intently. “Why not?”

“Be um cause it’s dangerous,” Peter said wincing.

“It’s dangerous, that’s right. Do you know why?”

“Because of the voltage,” Peter supplied knowing he was digging himself into a deeper hole. The distinct sound of heels clicking came closer. Peter was astonished how she could be carrying a baby and still wearing heels, but his mom said it was just apart of the job.

“Tony what’s going on,” Pepper asked. “You ran out of the meeting like something was on fire.” Peter closed his eyes tightly.

This was bad.

“Our son decided to take his friend on a tour of the Arc Reactor,” Tony said.

“The new one?” Pepper turned to look down at Peter. “You know better.” Peter bit his lip and looked down. This was so embarrassing.

“Can me and Ned go upstairs now?” Tony laughed incredulously. As soon as Peter saw the look in his dad’s eye he knew he’d made a terrible mistake.

“I’ll do you one better. Friday?”

“Yes, Boss.”

“Call Mrs. Leeds let her know that Ned will be coming home within the hour,” Tony said. Peter gasped.

“Daddy no! Please! I’m sorry, I won’t do it again I promise! Really! Please!” Tony shook his head and bit his lip in frustration.

“Tony, Peter has been looking forward to this sleepover. Let’s just take a deep breath and we can talk about this. How about we do an hour cool down in his room? Then we can explain to the boys why this was wrong,” Pepper said. Peter held his breath waiting for Tony’s response.

“No. We’ve done the timeout thing and it hasn’t worked. He needs to know that there are certain things in his building that are off limits,” Tony said firmly. “He knows the rules he just keeps deciding to do what he wants. That stops now.”

“Mama?” Peter reached out for her hand and pulled it with a sharp tug. “Please? I’m sorry! It’s not Ned’s fault! Please?” The woman looked down at him before turning to her husband.

“Tony,” his mom said again.

“Pep, he knew it was wrong and he did it anyway. There’s no discussion about this,” his dad said.

“Ok, then that’s what we’ll do. Come on boys let’s get Ned ready to leave,” Pepper said. Peter shook his head.

“I didn’t even get a warning! That’s not fair! Please don’t make Ned leave. We haven’t even watched movies yet,” Peter said.

“No Peter,” Tony said.

Peter felt himself getting more frustrated. “But Ned didn’t know not to!”

“You did Peter! You knew it was wrong! Friday had to stop her maintenance to tell me that you were doing something so completely dangerous that she had to use her emergency protocols!” Peter opened his mouth but Tony shook his head. “I don’t want to hear it,” the man said.

“You’re not listening to me,” Peter started.

“And now I’ve got to hear it,” Tony said. “Go on, tell me why you just had to disobey every rule I’ve given you about safety in here. Tell me.” Peter shrunk back at his dad’s demand.

“I just wanted to show Ned,” Peter said softly, Tony sighed and looked down at the boy.

“Why didn’t you wait until I was out of the meeting and ask me?” Peter gulped and tried to hide the guilty look on his face. “Because you knew I would say no, didn’t you?” Peter fixed his eyes on the ground. “Point made Pep. Kid’s stubborn as a mule and way too smart for his own good,” Tony said. “Friday get Happy up here to take Ned home. Sleepover is canceled.”

“Yes Boss,” the AI responded.

“No! It can’t be canceled, it’s barely even started yet!” Out of the corner of his eye, Peter saw Pepper leading Ned toward the elevator.

“Peter Anthony Stark this is your last warning. Do not say another word.” Peter was glaring at Tony.

“You’re not fair!” Tony scowled.

“Friday remove Peter’s lab access for five days,” Tony said. Peter’s eyes grew wide. “And let his enrichment teacher know he’ll be missing his sessions this week.” The man looked down at the boy. “Want to try that again?” Tears pooled in his eyes. He was never mean like this before.

“You’re so mean! I don’t want you to be my Daddy anymore,” Peter said viciously.

“You don’t mean that,” his dad said jaw tight.

“Yes, I do! Anybody would be better than you,” he screeched before he ran away. He was grateful that the elevator was empty because he couldn’t stop his tears. As soon as the door opened he ran to his playroom and threw himself on the couch.

This was the worst day ever!

__________________________

Peter was sitting with his knees pulled to his chest in his room while Ned packed up his bag. “I’m sorry,” he said for the hundredth time in the last hour.

“It’s ok Peter. I wanted to see it too,” Ned said. Peter slid his glasses up so he could wipe his eyes again.

“I ruined it all! Flash is gonna make fun of us even more now.”

“Peter, I got to see Stark Tower. I’m gonna brag to Flash for years about this! I can show him the cool pictures we took. I had a good time Peter,” he said wrapping his arm around his friend. Peter was so happy that Ned was a good friend.

“So we can still be friends?”

“You’re the best friend I’ve ever had Peter. We'll always be friends,” Ned said. Peter smiled just before the AI spoke.

“Peter, Mrs. Boss is requesting Ned in the elevator. Mr. Hogan is in the garage waiting to drive him home” The pang in Peter’s chest returned.

“I’ll see you on Monday,” Ned said. “Maybe you can come over.”

“I’m grounded. Maybe next week?” Ned nodded.

“Ok, I’ll ask my mom,” Ned said. Peter watched his friend leave and wiped his eyes again. Why was he so stupid?

__________________________

Peter wasn’t tired even though he’d been sequestered in his room. No matter how hard he tried to sleep or play with his Legos nothing seemed to work. He hated being in trouble. Finally deciding that enough was enough he moved out of his room. He wanted to find his parents and apologize. He’d been wrong and he desperately wanted a hug from them. All he needed to know that they weren’t still mad. As he walked up to his parents' door he heard them talking.

“He said he didn’t want me to be his dad anymore. How am I supposed to respond to that?”

“He was angry Tony. So were you.”

“God Pep, I was so scared. Friday said he was down there by himself and I couldn’t breathe.” Peter heard them murmuring something that he couldn’t make out. “He’s just a baby.”

“He’s growing up Tony, he’s not a baby anymore. You did what you had to.”

“Maybe I was too hard on him.”

“I don’t think so. You grounded him and canceled his sleepover. It may seem terrible to him as a nine-year-old, but it’s not bad at all,” his mom said.

“You think so?”

“It’s age appropriate and a natural reaction to his decisions. I hate to say it, but he can be a little stubborn. This isn’t the first time he’s disobeyed safety rules,” she sighed. “I think you did great, Tony.”

“He’s been looking forward to this months. Maybe I shouldn’t have sent Ned home. I was just so angry at him. It was such a dumb thing to do. He’s right though, it wasn’t Ned’s fault. Maybe I overreacted.”

“Well it’s done now,” his mom said. “Let’s just hope he learns from this.” It grew silent and Peter thought they were done, but then he heard his dad speaking in a low tone.

“What if I’m not cut out for this?”

“What do you mean?”

“To be his dad, Pep. What if he’s right? What if this was a mistake?” Peter stepped away from the door.

He’d ruined it.

Now, they were talking about the one thing he never wanted them to talk about and it was all his fault. Feeling his chest get tight Peter did the only thing he knew to do; he walked away.

He let his feet take him to the elevator. Peter knew he wasn’t supposed to ride it alone past their floors at night but, he needed to think. Only moments later he stepped out into the night not sure where he was headed.

Chapter Text

Peter kept his eyes mostly on the ground as he let his feet carry him away from the Tower. He’d been so dumb to tell his dad that he didn’t want him to be his dad. That was the exact opposite of what he wanted.

He pushed out a deep breath. His life had changed so much since he’d met Tony. He wasn’t afraid all of the time and he could just enjoy this life. The man sat up with him when he was scared and held him when he cried. Tony did everything Peter wanted a dad to do and he did it without even being asked.

He’d paid for him to get his cavities filled and bought him a bunch of clothes and shoes that fit him. He didn't have to worry about being teased for wearing a shirt that used to belong to someone else. Tony had done that. Peter shook his head in frustration. He was so stupid.

Peter thought about how Tony had handpicked a program for him so that he could learn about science to his heart's content. He thought about how the man had helped him on those nights when his enrichment homework didn’t make sense. When he'd been crying because he thought he was stupid. The man helped him realize that he was just doing a formula wrong. It'd taken hours but Peter had got it and Tony's smile was brighter than Peter's when they were done.

God, he’d been so dumb. Tony probably hated him now.

“I remember you,” the voice said breaking into his thoughts. Peter let his head look up and smiled at her in recognition. “You’re my one slice of pie science nerd.”

“You changed your hair. It’s green now,” Peter said looking at her new appearance.

“It is. How are you?” Peter shrugged his shoulders and looked down at her shoes briefly.

“I’m good. Just out thinking,” he said before he started to cough. She blew a last breath of smoke and stomped on the butt.

“I forgot how sensitive your little sinuses were,” she said giving him a fond smile. “It’s really late for you. Is that man still giving you trouble?” Peter shook his head in confusion.

“What man?”

“The guy you used to come in here with you. You know the guy with his wife and those two giant boys. You know who I’m talking about.”

Mr. Jeff.

“Oh, them! No, um they’re not bothering me anymore. I am with someone else now,” he said quietly. Well, at least he was supposed to be.

“Well I hope they’re treating you good.” She turned to go back inside the diner. “You coming?” He paused, was it a good idea to stop here? Finally, he shrugged and followed behind her. The small place looked exactly the same. He pulled himself into the same booth he usually did. It was crazy to think just a couple of months ago this was the only place he felt safe and now well things were different. Peter smiled as he saw milk and apple pie slide towards him. “My treat,” she said.

As he chewed on the pie and warm milk, he realized this was a special place. It was the exact spot where he’d met Tony. Unable to help it a smile covered his face. That was one of the best days of his life. Before that he’d never had anyone show interest in him like that. Not since his Uncle Ben that was.

He took a bite of the pie and let his head rest on his hand. It’d been such a long time since he’d been this sad. Fear was an emotion he was used to, but sadness came and went. Each time it took more out of him than the last.

And Peter was sad. Happy had taken Ned home and it just wasn’t fair. How was he supposed to know that Tony would get that mad? They weren’t gonna touch the reactor, just look at it. There were tours to see it. Why was just looking at it so wrong? Peter shook his head. Adults were so complicated.

A huge man sat down at the table in the seat of him. Peter jumped back in his seat and started to look around. “No need to fear Little Tony,” the man said. Peter sighed with relief.

“C-captain,” the said in a shaky voice. The man was clearly disguising himself and Peter didn’t want a mob scene to descend upon them. “What are you doing here?”

“Your dad called us. He's gove everyone looking everywhere for you.” Peter’s shoulders slumped.

“They know I’m gone already? It hasn’t been that long.”

“You remember a computer lives in your house, right? They knew as soon as you left,” Steve said. “Or a little after I think because Friday was down.”

“Oh yeah.” Peter sighed. “I guess he’s coming since you’re here, huh?” The man gave an apologetic nod. It had been a while since he’d felt the need to wander and he’d forgotten how scared he always was he realized how big a mistake he’d made. When he wandered and Mr. Jeff found him...Peter didn't like to think about that. His stomach started to churn, Tony was going to be pissed at him.

“So um, I know that you don’t like me very much and I understand why, but I want to tell you that I didn’t mean to hurt your dad. He was my friend.”

Peter bit down on his lip. Every time he thought about it he got angry all over again. “You hurt him a lot. Friends don’t do stuff like that.” Steve made a face.

“It’s not always that easy to understand.”

“I understand alright, you wanted to do what you thought was right and you were going to do whatever to see that it happened. Including hurting my dad. He was really nice to all of you and you hurt him really bad.” Peter has to stop before he worked himself up too much. He’d stupidly forgotten his inhaler. An attack right now would mean a trip in an ambulance.

“Do you have a best friend?” Peter nodded. Ned was definitely the best friend he ever had. “Well, I had a best friend too. I’d known him my whole life. He was there for me when my mom died and anytime I needed him. He fought off bullies for me. He helped me look for work. We were like brothers. Together through everything. During the war though, I thought he died and it made me really sad. Then a couple of years ago I found out he wasn’t dead and somebody hurt him and made him do bad things.” Peter stared at the man.

“You mean the Winter Soldier?” Peter saw the man wince.

“He uh his name is Bucky.” The man cleared his throat. “Peter, what would you do if your best friend hurt a bunch of people because he was sick? Would you leave him or would you try to convince everyone that he was sick?” Peter stared at the man and knew his answer.

He would protect Ned to the end of the earth if he had to.

“That’s why you hurt my dad?”

“I didn’t want to. Your dad was a really good friend to me, but he wasn’t my best friend. Does that make sense?”

“Yes. I guess it is kind of complicated. I’m sorry I hit you.” His mind went back to that encounter. He’d punched the good ole Captain in his mansack three times before his dad had pulled him away. “I shouldn’t have hit you Mr. Rogers. I was just mad that you hurt my dad.”

“It’s ok Little Tony, I said that right this time?” Peter laughed and nodded. Before he could say anything else Peter felt himself roughly pulled out of the booth.

“Let’s go, Peter,” his dad said. Instantly fear latched onto him. His dad's face was bright red and he too wore a hat that was pulled down over his eyes.

“Tony, just calm down,” Peter heard his Uncle Rhodey say, but he was son confused. It was like the world was moving at a rapid pace. Finally, after hearing his dad mutter something to Captain America Peter was able to pull his head out of the fog.

“I don’t want to go yet,” Peter managed. “I didn’t finish my pie.” Tony’s hand tightened around Peter’s small one and pulled him outside hastily into the night. He didn’t even get a chance to say bye to Captain America. They were walking quickly which meant that Peter had to practically run to keep up. “Can you slow down?”

“Tones! The kid’s struggling just slow down.”

“We can’t! We’re out here unprotected in the middle of the night. We need to get home now,” Tony ground out.

“Tony!”

“I don’t have a suit or anything,” his dad gasped out. Peter hadn’t heard him sound like that before. It was like Ned when he was excited, but his dad wasn’t excited was he? His dad gave his hand another sharp tug. “Come on,” he urged.

“You’re hurting my hand!” Tony kept up his rapid pace. Peter watched as the man’s eyes darted frantically back and forth like he was looking for something. “Daddy! Please, it hurts!” In an instant, Tony turned around and glared down at Peter.

“Shutup! God, you’re so stubborn and you never listen!” Peter shuddered and shrunk into himself, with his lip wobbling Peter tried to speak.“I said shutup!” The scream had never been so close to his face. Not from Tony. Unable to help it, Peter felt tears slip down his cheeks as he tried to quicken his pace so he could keep up when his dad started his frantic pace again. He could barely see the places around him as he was almost running to match his dad’s long strides.

Peter heard his Uncle Rhodey shout, “Tony look at your son!” They stopped for a moment as Peter was breathing heavily and rapidly wiping his face. His dad let out a string of curses and leaned down to wipe the tears off Peter’s cheeks.

“I’m sorry,” he said as he reached down to pull Peter into his arms. As he always did, Peter latched himself to his dad’s front.

______________

He was laying in his bed with his face buried in his pillow. Oh, he was in so much trouble! The pillow was clenched in his hands as he tried to control the bevy of emotions that were running through his little body. He’d really messed up this time.

His tears stained the pillow as he cried. He didn’t even hear when his door had opened all he heard was the warm soft voice that he knew too well. “Petey?” It only took Peter two seconds to latch himself onto his mom when she sat next to him on his bed.

“Mama, I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean to scare you!” He found himself relaxing a bit when she wrapped her own arms around him.

“It’s ok. You just made a mistake.”

“Daddy hates me!”

“He doesn’t hate you. He’s just scared. You scared us both really badly.”

“I didn’t mean to.” Peter was curled around Pepper’s waist as the woman ran her hands through his hair. “I was mad and scared and I don’t know. Please don’t send me away!”

“Peter, we're not going to do that. You’re our baby, remember?” Peter continued to keep his face mostly buried in her side. Her scent was comforting him more than she knew. "You know that you're a lot like your daddy." Peter didn't say anything. "Instead of walking around to clear his head he likes to build things. Did you know when he was scared one time he built fifty Iron Man suits in a couple of months? Peter pulled his head away from her and looked up at her.

"Really?" His mom nodded.

"Yeah. He built fifty of those suckers and he even sent one with me on a date!" Peter gasped. "And he thought I wouldn't notice. That stinker." Peter let me himself smile. That definitely sounded like his dad.

"How'd he stop building them?"

"He stopped letting fear rule him. Instead, he tried to focus on the present. You see when you worry too much then your mind can trick you into thinking about a bunch of stuff that will never happen." Peter bit his lip. That was probably what happened to him all the time.

“I’m really sorry,” he said sniffling. “Am I gonna be in more trouble now?” Peter sighed when she didn’t say anything. Instead, she chose to simply rock him back and forth.

“We love you Petey,” she said softly. With his face buried in his mom’s chest, all he could think about was how he ruined everything.

____________________________

Sliding out of his room Peter felt like he was breaking yet another rule. He knew he wasn’t supposed to be out but he really wanted to see his dad. After talking with his mom he didn't feel as scared, but she wasn't his dad. Tony always made everything better and Peter wanted better really bad right now.

Besides he hadn’t seen the man since he’d told him to go to his room when they came back from the diner.

He let himself quietly move down to the lab. He went to open the door but found that it was locked. “Friday? Can you let me into the lab, please?” The AI was silent. “I’m sorry about earlier. I don’t know if you have feelings, but if I hurt them I’m sorry.” Peter still didn’t get a response, but the doors to the lab opened. As his eyes traveled around the room, Peter smiled when he was Tony sitting in the middle at one of his workstations. He rushed towards the man. “Daddy?” Tony looked up from his hologram at Peter. His stomach sank when he saw his dad’s red eyes.

He'd made his dad cry.

Peter saw broken glass on the floor across the room where the three bots were. The lab looked completely destroyed. “Aren’t you supposed to be in bed,” his dad asked cutting into his thoughts. Peter winced at how harsh the words were. Tony never talked to him like that.

“Yes sir, but um I wanted to check on you.”

“Check on me? I’m not the one who ran away in the middle of the night.”

“I know, but Mama said I scared you guys. I didn’t mean to do that. I wanted to say I was sorry.”

“Ok. Thank you.” Peter made a move to sit on Tony’s lap, but the man adjusted his legs so that Peter wasn’t able to sit on them and shook his head. “You need to go to bed.” He felt his heart start to flutter with fear.

“But you always let me sit with you while you work,” Peter said. “Even when I’m bad.” Tony didn’t look at him. Instead, he kept his eyes fixed on the hologram in front of him.

“Goodnight Peter.”

"Daddy," he almost whined. The man shook his head and again didn't turn around.

"Go to bed," his dad said in a tone that left no room for Peter to argue with. A heavy sigh fell out of him as he turned to leave the lab. Tears slipped down his cheeks as he ran into the elevator.

____________________________

Sitting on the floor in his room Peter sighed. His morning had been completely terrible. The penthouse always was full of noise whether it was one of the bots screwing something up or his dad generally just being loud with his overwhelming desire to have music blasting. This morning though everything was eerily quiet. It was like he was all alone.

He’d tried to mostly stay out of the way and was sent back to his room as soon as he finished his breakfast. It calmed him down a little when his mom kissed him on the forehead before she left for her meetings, but it still made him sad. He hadn’t seen his dad since he’d left the lab last night. Peter was hoping that things would have been better when he woke up, but if anything they were worse.

That’s how he found himself building something aimlessly with his Legos. He wasn’t quite sure what he’d make, but it was the only thing he could do besides read a book or play with one of his cars.

“What’s up LT?” Looking up Peter saw his Uncle Rhodey standing in his doorway. He shrugged and let his eyes find his Legos again. “What’s got you so down in the mouth?”

“Dad’s mad at me,” he said not looking up.

“He’s not mad," his Uncle said pulling a chair up so he could sit down in front of Peter.

“Then why wasn’t he at breakfast? Or why did he make me leave the lab last night," he asked still not looking up. "He didn’t kiss me goodnight or give me a hug. I haven't seen him all day. He’s gotta be mad at me. I know it.”

He felt his uncle's hand gently slide under his chin making him look up. “Do you know why?” Peter took a deep breath trying to blink away his tears.

“I wandered away. Well, I left without permission or because I went to the arc reactor. I don’t know. Mama said I scared them. Is that why?” His uncle dropped his hand and sat up sighing.

“That’s true, but your dad’s not mad at you because of that.” Peter stared at his uncle. He was so confused.

“What else could it be?”

“He’s mad because you put yourself in danger. His job is really dangerous and he works really hard to keep you and your mom safe. That's why he's always working on Friday and working in his lab. When you left like that you could have been really hurt and he would be really mad at himself if you got hurt.”

“Oh.” Peter sighed and stood up. He let his uncle pull him onto his lap. It was rare that it happened but it always helped. Peter desperately wanted help right now. “I wasn’t trying to do that Uncle Rhodey. I just wanted some space to think.” The man chuckled at him.

“Kid you’ve got an entire tower. How much more space do you need?”

“I always like the night air. It just helps me think.” Peter sighed and stared down at his bare feet. “Do you think he’ll make me leave?”

“Peter, you know he won’t ever do that. Your dad loves you.”

“Mr. Jeff made me leave. He liked me at first then he realized I don’t run so good and he hated me after that.”

“Peter your dad’s not like that. You know he’s different.” Peter sighed and let his eyes fall onto his lap.

“He won’t even look at me. Mr. Jeff used to do that all the time,” he said voicing his fear but not directly.

“Peter,” the man started but he kept going.

“He yelled at me. He never does that. Like he gets mad, but he was screaming. He wouldn’t even hug me. He always hugs me. Always. Even when I’m in trouble. Something wrong. I know it! I’m scared, Uncle Rhodey.” Peter buried his face in his Uncle's chest. The man rubbed a gentle hand across the boy's back and gave him a tight squeeze.

“Peter your dad’s just working through some things. He still loves you though.” Peter sighed as he wiped his eyes and leaned deeper against the man’s chest.

“Doesn’t feel like it,” he said miserably.

“Peter, your dad’s told you about his dad, right?”

Peter nodded. “He was mean to him.”

“Did he tell you that he used to hit him?” Peter nodded again slowly. He’d forgotten about that. “When you ran away last night your dad got scared. Really scared. Then when he found you he got really angry. It was like all his emotions just flew out all at once. He got so mad he thought he might hit you and in his mind, that would be the worst thing he could ever do. He’d never want to hurt you in any way.”

“Oh.”

“So he’s just taking some time. He’s dealing with a lot. But I want you to know, your dad loves you so much.”

“Thanks Uncle Rhodey.” Peter sighed. He felt worse than he did when his uncle had first walked in. If he wasn’t such a screwup then none of this would have happened. Maybe Mr. Jeff was right. Maybe he did need some sense smacked into him. “Um, can you tell him that it’s ok if he would have hit me? I deserved it.”

“Don’t you ever say anything like that ever again!” Peter gasped and saw Tony in the doorway. The man thundered towards him at a pace Peter wasn’t used to his dad moving. “Listen to me," he said gripping Peter's arm tightly. "There is never anything you could do to deserve to be hit! Do you hear me?” Peter nodded frantically.

“I’m sorry!” Peter balled his hands into fists and pressed them against his eyes. The stupid tears wouldn’t stay inside. “I can’t do nothin’ right!” He heard his dad sigh before the man pulled him off of his uncle's lap and into his arms.

“We need to talk,” his dad said. “Rhodes, can you give us a minute?” Peter didn’t say anything when his dad sat down on his bed and set Peter in his lap. “I am sorry for yelling at you just now. I just don’t want you to think it’s ok for anyone to hit you ever." He heard his dad let out a heavy sigh. "I spent too much of my life thinking I deserved it and I don’t want that for you. I want you to have a better childhood than I did.” Peter didn’t say he just let himself fall into his dad’s embrace. They sat like that for a long time. His dad’s thumb made slow circles on his arm while Peter listened to the steady thump of his dad’s heartbeat. He felt himself calming with each passing moment.

“Daddy?” Peter how whiney his voice sounded.

“Yeah bud?”

“Mr. Jeff used to hit me...a lot. He’d scream at me too.” Peter felt his dad tense.

“Is that so,” the man asked in a tight voice. Looking up Peter saw his dad’s jaw was drawn into a fine line.

“Uh huh. He said it was ‘cause I was bad. He hated it when I wandered away or when I cried or if I got mad that I never got to watch what I wanted on TV. You remember that day we met?” His dad nodded. “Well um yeah.”

“He hit you because of that?” Peter nodded.

“I was supposed to stay at the field, but I hated it there. Ms. Karen didn’t mind when I went to the diner, but Nigel called Mr. Jeff when I wasn’t there instead of Ms. Karen. He said he had to leave work and come find me. He was so mad at me. I was so scared that night. He yelled at me and Ms. Karen then he hit me so much. She told him to stop but he didn’t. I just hated him for hurting me like that.” Peter sighed. “I was so scared all the time.” He paused and dropped his head. “He said I deserved it because I didn't listen and you said that too. I thought you were gonna hit me last night you know like he used to.” Peter felt his dad’s arms wrap around his small body.

”You don’t ever have to worry about that here, bud. With me and Mama you’re safe." He heard his dad curse softly. "My dad used to hit me a lot too and I don't want that for you ever again. I’m doing everything I can to break this cycle. I'm sorry that I scared you, but I promise you we don’t ever hurt you. You understand?”

“Ok.”

“We may get mad at you, but we’re never going to hit you. God, Peter we love you so much. You know that right?”

“I know.” Peter took a deep breath.

“Just remember you’re safe, buddy. As long as me, Mama, Happy, and Uncle Rhodey are around no one is ever gonna hurt you again.”

“I know what safe means, but it’s been so long since I lived in a safe place, I forgot what it’s like.”

“I’ve been there bud.”

“Really?” Tony gave his son a tight squeeze.

“Remember when I told you about my dad? I never felt safe around him. I didn’t feel safe really until he was gone but I was an adult by then.”

“Wow! Not even when you’re dad was gone on work stuff?” Tony shook his head.

“No, because he had a really good memory,” he said with his voice cracking. “So um if I did something wrong he’d remember it as soon as he saw me again. I was always scared that I would do something wrong and he'd find out about it.” Unable to stop it Peter turned around and gave his dad a big hug.

“I’m glad you’re not like that. You’re a great dad and I’m sorry about what I said. You saved me and protected me and I really love you, ok?”

“Yeah bud,” his dad said squeezing him back.

“I wished you were my daddy the first day I met you. I’m really sorry I said that I didn’t. You saved me and love me and I don’t want you go anywhere.”

“I’m not going anywhere and neither are you.”

Peter looked up at his dad with as much hope in his eyes as he could muster. “So, we’re ok?"

“Always ok, Petey,” Tony said kissing his hair.

“Good. I was really scared.” Peter looked up at Tony again. “I’m really sorry I went to the Arc Reactor. I knew it was wrong, but I wanted Ned to have a great time.”

“Showing off?”

“No, well yes. Kinda,” Peter sighed. “I just haven’t had anyone over before and I really wanted him to have a good time so he could stay my friend. It’s hard to make friends. I thought if I showed him the coolest thing in the world then he'd always want to be my friend.”

“Pete, kid you’re way too much like me.” He chuckled. “You know I don’t have many friends either. Just Uncle Rhodey and Happy. Sometimes you don’t need a bunch of friends. Just some really good ones.” Peter smiled. “And good friends don’t want you to show off. They just want to hang out with you. It took me a while to understand that, but it’s true.”

"Really?" His dad nodded.

"Ask Uncle Rhodey, he'll tell you. I tried to buy him a car sophomore year of college. He turned it down of course. Your Mama has way more stories, trust me."

“So Ned’ll be my friend no matter what?” His dad nodded. “I wish I would have known that yesterday.”

“That’s the story of my life kid.” His dad stood up and set him onto his feet. “Come on, you’ve got a playroom to clean up.” Peter stopped. He had Ned had practically destroyed the playroom yesterday in their sugar frenzy. There was almost no place for them to step that wasn’t littered with a Lego or pieces of model planes.

He looked at his dad in confusion. “The whole playroom? That’ll take forever!”

“Well, next time don’t leave without asking first,” his dad said as he left his room. Peter stared at the open door. He wanted to grumble and complain but he knew things could be so worse...sooo much worse. So he followed his dad into the hall. “Get to it, kid!”

“I’m going,” he said with a smile on his face.

Chapter Text

Peter watched his dad grab his briefcase which Peter was sure was only for show and walk onto the balcony. Peter stood there with his dad and his mom feeling dread build up in his stomach. His mom had her arms tight around his dad’s neck and her shoulders were trembling slightly. He could tell that she was trying hard not to cry hard in front of him. Peter knew that feeling.

This was the first time his dad was leaving on a mission since he’d become his dad and he wasn’t ready for that.

In all of Peter’s daydreams, it never occurred to him that watching Iron Man fly away would mean that his dad would have to leave too, but it did. When his mom stepped back he saw his dad face him with a found yet sad smile on his dad’s face.

“Be a good boy for Mama, ok?” Peter bit his lip and nodded. He could feel the tears welling in his eyes. His dad reached down and pulled him into his arms. “You’re gonna be too big for these soon, huh?” Peter couldn’t say anything. “I won’t be gone long, just a couple of days then we’re gonna have a nice Christmas. Just the three of us, ok?” His dad set him down and kneeled down to his height. “Remember what we talked about?” Peter nodded. The night before his dad had come into his room and explained that he would be leaving and that Peter needed to be a real big kid for his mom. He wanted Peter to make sure that he kept his toys off the floor and didn’t give his mom any problems. Peter knew he could do that. “You gotta be a good boy for mama and a great big brother ok? Remember your sister’s gonna be here soon so Mama is going to need your help.”

“I’ll do great.”

“I know you will.” His dad stood up. “I better go now or I’ll never leave he said. Love you guys.” His new suit melded over him and moments later all he could see the trail of smoke in the sky.

___________________

Peter woke up gasping for air...he looked around and realized it was just a dream. It had been two days since he’d last seen his dad and he kept having the same dream; his last moments with his dad were on repeat. Was his mind trying to tell him something? Would that be the last time he was his dad? His heart started to race and his breathing picked up. It felt like his whole body was covered in sweat.

He reached for his glasses before he turned to climb out of his bed and felt his clothes stick to the sheets. Closing his eyes tightly he groaned. “No! Please no!” He picked up his comforter and saw there was a distinct wet spot right in the middle of the bed. Unable to control it he started to cry. He wasn’t a baby.

He wasn’t!

Peter hadn’t wet the bed since he first left Aunt May’s. It’d been right after he started living with Ms. Karen and Mr. Jeff. He was lucky that Ms. Karen got it cleaned up before Mr. Jeff noticed, but it was still so embarrassing. She made him have a plastic slip under his mattress from then out and she told him that if it happened again he’d have to wear special underwear to bed. He didn’t have accidents anymore after that he made sure of it. That would have been too much for him.

“Petey?” Looking up he tried to cover himself and the spot as best as he could. “Friday said you’re not feeling well.”

“I’m ok, Mama! Really.”

“Are you sure, Friday said it looked like you had a nightmare.”

“I didn’t,” he said. His eyes betrayed him by looking down at the darker spot on his bed. “Please just leave me alone!” Her face softened and she walked closer. “I said go away!” Instead of walking away Pepper came closer with a solemn look on her face. She made a move to sit down on the bed next to him, but Peter wasn’t having it. “Please leave! Just go! I-I’m fine!”

“Hey baby, it’s ok. This happens to everyone.” Peter’s face burned with embarrassment and tears started to fall again.

“I’m not a baby,” he whined.

“I know bud. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it like that.” She gently pushed her hands through his hair. “You know there’s a reason why we call them accidents.”

“I don’t have accidents! I’m a big kid! This doesn’t happen to us.” She hummed in response. “I’m gonna be ten!”

“You know in one of those mommy magazines I read, it says that sometimes kids can wet the bed until they’re eleven.” Peter looked up.

“Really?” She nodded.

“Yep, perfectly normal kids wet the bed all the time.” She leaned closer to him. “You know that you’ve had a lot of changes recently. Your body might just be reacting to everything.” Peter bit his lip. “Everybody adjusts to life differently. Sometimes it happens because you’re scared or because you had a nightmare or because you have something wrong in your body and sometimes it’s just an accident. So it’s nothing to be embarrassed about ok?” She stood up yawning. “Lets’ get some new sheets on your bed.” Peter pushed the blanket down as soon as she touched them.

“I can do it.”

“Petey, I have a really early meeting in the morning. I need you to let me help you so we can get back to bed.” She moved to pick up the comforter again, but Peter pushed it back down.

“Buddy, this bed is too big for you to fix on your own. Let me help you,” he voice was clipped and he could tell her patience was thinning but he didn’t care. She wasn’t touching those sheets! Again she reached for the blankets, but Peter adjusted so he was on his knees giving him a better opportunity to knock them back down. “Peter, I don’t have time for this. I have a busy day tomorrow and you’re making this harder than it needs to be.” Frustration and shame devoured him. In moments his bottom lip trembled and he dropped his head.

“I want my daddy!” Reaching across the bed she pulled him close. “Please just bring me, my daddy,” he sobbed miserably.

“I’m sorry, buddy. You’re ok. You didn’t do anything wrong, ok?” Peter could tell by the hollow sound in her voice she was crying. “I miss him too.” He laid there letting her gently rock him. After a while, she wiped her eyes. “How about you sleep in our bed tonight?”

“K,” he said. He didn’t know how much he needed that until she said it. She laid a gentle kiss to his hair.

“Get cleaned up, ok buddy? I’ll be waiting on you.” She walked across the room and closed his door. Peter climbed out of his bed and quickly peeled off his gross pajamas. He took a quick shower and changed into a pair of shorts with a T-shirt. He desperately wanted to grab his bear off his nightstand but decided against it. He wasn’t a baby.

He knocked on the door before quickly sticking his head inside the room. His mom was sitting up against the headboard. She gestured for him to come closer. Like he always did he climbed in at the foot of the bed and crawled towards the top.

This time though he burrowed his face into the pillow on Tony’s side of the bed. He heard a soft hum before fingers gently started to card through his hair.

“Want to talk?” He shook his head. Tears were already coming down his cheeks and he didn’t need her to see that. Daddy said to be strong for her. “Ok, that’s fine. Is there anything I can do for you?”

“Want Daddy,” he pushed out.

“I know baby. He’ll be home soon.” Her hand moved from his hair to his back. Soon he found himself falling asleep with the scent of his dad filling his nostrils.

___________________

The school day had been a blur for Peter. It seemed like as soon as it started it was over. He, Ned, and Michelle had run to the computer lab almost instantly as soon as the day ended.

They all had just one thing on their mind: they’d made the Academic team!

Well it was more important for Peter because they’d been on the team last year too, but for him it was different. He had never tried out for anything and succeeded. Countless times Mr. Jeff had made him try out for a sports team only to be sent to those ‘everyone gets a trophy, leagues’. Every time he came back with another poor result, Mr. Jeff and Ms. Karen seemed to lose more interest in him.

When he found out that he’d really done it, Peter had been so excited that he’d practically vibrated out of his seat when he’d told his parents at dinner the week before. It was an amazing feeling to know that he’d been one of the ones chosen. Just this once, he hadn’t been turned away. Over forty kids tried out and he’d been picked. That was something no one could ever take away from him.

At his old school they just told him to come to the practices, but here there was a written test and an oral one to decide who made the team. Then there was a final less official round to see who was best suited for which category.

It was the third round that he’d found himself working through at the moment. He was sitting in front of the room with three other kids simulating a mock meet to see who would be best in general science. Ned had been sorted into Math while Michelle was slated for English. Peter was already the strongest they had in chemistry and physics, just through osmosis of being a Stark, but he wasn’t so sure about general science where Flash was pretty strong. Usually, this wouldn’t be a problem, but general science was 15% of the requirements while chemistry and physics only made up for 10% combined. So, if he wanted to be on the first team he’d have to beat out Flash in this round so he could prove he was their best hope at winning in science.

He had a big advantage though, Ms. Stone was the faculty advisor and she loved using Peter to help with her second graders ever since that first day when he’d been sent to her room. Sometimes she even asked Mr. Clark if Peter could come help and explain a concept to the smaller kids. He was so excited that he could finally do something that was in his element and get praised for it.

“Ok,” Ms. Stone said, “we’ve got a few more questions and then we’ll tally up to see who’s going to be our science representative. Everyone ready?” Peter felt his stomach jump. Even though he was on the team, he really didn’t want to be an alternate. He wanted to be on the first team with his friends. It was a guarantee to go on all of the fun trips and it meant that he would have something to tell his dad as soon as he got back.

He had to do this for his dad.

“Good luck, Peter,” he heard Ned whisper. He smiled at his friend.

“Wind, water, geothermal solar, and biomass are what types of energy sources?” Instantly Flash buzzed in.

“Alternative,” he said. Ms. Stone nodded and Peter felt his hands start to sweat. He only had three more questions.

“This type of pollution is the result of gases released by burning oil and coal mix with water in the air?”

“Acid Rain,” Peter buzzed in instantly.

“What is the world's tallest grass plant?” Peter buzzed in but Flash was a millisecond faster.

“Bamboos,” he said almost as if he was out of breath.

“That’s correct!” Peter held his breath. “This is really coming down to the wire.” Flash scowled at him when Ms. Stone turned her back towards them.

“You’re going down Penis. Your Iron Daddy can’t save you now,” he hissed. Peter wanted to say something smart to him, but his tongue glued to the roof of his mouth.

“Ok, so the tallies show that Eugene and Peter are tied. Whoever gets this next question will be the official representative for science. You boys ready?” Peter nodded but he was so focused he didn’t see what Flash did in response. “Which is the hottest planet in the solar system?” Peter buzzed in but once again Flash was a split second faster. Tears pooled into his eyes. There went his chance to make his dad proud.

“Mercury,” Flash said smiling. “Yes! I did it!” Peter dropped his head in defeat.

“I’m sorry, Eugene that’s incorrect,” Ms. Stone said. Peter’s head snapped up. “If you can answer this correctly Peter then you will win.” Peter’s heart was jumping in his chest. “Which is the hottest planet in the solar system?” Peter closed his eyes. He remembered his dad going over this with him during some time in the lab together last week. “Peter I need an answer.”

“Venus?” His heart thumped in his chest.

“Correct!” Yes! Peter exploded out of the chair and raised his arms in triumph. He’d never done anything like that in his whole life! “Congratulations Peter, you’ve earned your spot. Eugene that was a great effort! What a show you put on there. Keep studying everyone and I’ll see you all after the break!” Ned screeched and ran over to him.

“That was awesome Peter! Like something out of a movie! Like you thought you lost and then boom! Flash answers wrong and you win instead! This is going to be great! We get to go to the Barclay’s center for the state final! It’s like a million kids.” Peter just smiled at his friend. He couldn’t imagine being as excited as he was.

He made sure to put all of his winter stuff on before grabbing his backpack and slinging it over his shoulder.

Somehow Michelle appeared next to both of them without either of them noticing. “What are you losers planning for the break?”

Ned spoke first as he put on his hat. “Uh, my mom’s taking me to see my dad then we’re going to my grandma’s. What about you Peter?”

“We’re going up to a cabin. I think they want to get away before the baby is born.” MJ made a sound of pity.

“My mom had my little brother last year. Screamed his head off for three months straight. Good luck Anthony.” Peter looked at Ned who shrugged.

“So uh Michelle, what is your family doing? For you know Christmas,” Peter said awkwardly.

“Oh we don’t celebrate really. We just watch movies and eat popcorn,” Michelle said. “See you two losers after the break. Study hard,” she said walking out the door.

“Like she poofs in and out of places like a ninja or a fairy. I don’t care what you say, she’s still super weird,” Ned said shaking his head

“And we aren't? Come on.” They made their way out of the room and into the hallway. Peter saw Flash rush past them and onto the front steps. He let his eyes travel to see where the boy stopped. Sure enough, he found Flash with his shoulders slumped as a woman towered over him. It didn’t take Peter long to realize what she was doing. It was exactly how Mr. Jeff used to act. Suddenly Peter was filled with deep pity for the boy. He’d been hoping to make his parents proud just as much as Peter had.

“Peter, I think your mom is calling you,” Ned said next to him. Turning his head, Peter saw Pepper smiling from the front seat of a car Peter hadn’t seen before.

“I should um go. We’re leaving today. I’ll text you?” Peter hated how insecure he felt all of a sudden, but watching Flash get berated seemed to really throw him off.

“Uh yeah dude, I want to know what you get for Christmas. I’m totally thinking my moms gonna buy me a new drone.” Peter gave his friend a smile. “Merry Christmas Peter.”

“Merry Christmas Ned.” He smiled as he walked towards his mom. She was bundled up in what Peter was sure was the absolute top of the line. “Hi Mama,” he said feeling a sudden gust of wind.

“Hey Petey, are you ready?” He nodded and opened the back door. His mom turned in her seat and winked at him. “Go ahead and climb up here with me, Petey.”

“In the front seat?”

“Yes,” she said smirking. “Your father insisted that we drive a reinforced car to the cabin, so I think you’ll be safe up here with me.” Peter didn’t need to be told twice and threw his backpack into the backseat of the Land Rover and climbed in the front seat. He didn’t even complain when he saw the stupid booster seat moved up there. A partial win was still a win.

Soon they were off. The radio was playing softly while Peter busied himself with the Nintendo DS his mom got him for the trip. Occasionally she would say something to him, but mostly she concentrated on the road a munched on crushed Oreos.

His mind kept wandering back to Flash. He never thought he’d feel bad for the boy, but it after what he’d seen it made it hard not to want to help him. His family had helped him. Would it make him a bad person if he knew what was going on and didn’t help?

What if he was still in a place like that. Wouldn’t he want someone to help him? He’d gotten so lucky with how things had turned out. He was in a good place now. That’s what mattered.

After driving for what felt like hours, his mom finally pulled the car to a stop in front of a two-story log cabin.

“Uh Mama? Is this it?” She turned off the car and nodded. “This is almost as big as the compound,” he said. His mom laughed and ruffled his hair.

“Not quite Petey, come on, let's go get settled.” Peter unbuckled himself and looked up at the house in front of him. It was even bigger than Ned’s house. There was a large wooden porch and windows for days. He turned around and all he could see were trees. It was like someone cut out a small section of the woods and plopped a house on it.

Peter came back to his senses when he heard his mother grunting at the foot of the truck. He rushed over and tried to take the bag from her hands. “I’ll get it, Mama.”

“It’s ok, baby, I can do it.” Peter stepped back momentarily and shook his head. His dad never let his mom carry anything other than her purse.

“Here, let me help,” he said again stepping between her and the bag. He jumped back when the back slammed into the ground.

“Peter,” he said in frustration. “I said I can do it.” Tensing he waited for the blow that he was sure to come. He peeked his right eye open when it finally didn’t. He let out a sigh of relief. It was his mom, not Mr. Jeff. His mom had her hands on her hips while she looked down at the bag in frustration. Peter noticed that for once she looked just as lost as he was. He guessed if she had that look on her face that he wasn't doing a very good job helping her.

“I’m sorry. I wanted to help you. You have a baby and you shouldn’t have to do this alone.” Her frown broke into a soft smile. She leaned forward so she was closer to his eye level.

“I’m sorry too. I forgot how much of a little gentleman you are. How about this? We can get the bags down together ok?” Peter nodded and smiled. This time she reached into the back of the truck and he grabbed the strap on the bottom while she grabbed the one up top. That’s how they successfully lowered three full-sized suitcases onto the ground.

“Imma pull them to the porch and then we can pick them up together,” he said. She smiled and nodded. Peter turned to grab the first handle and tilted it forward. With all his might he pulled it across the small path towards the steps of the house. Each bag was heavy and the suitcases were almost as tall as he was. When he was finished with the third one he was sweating and starting to breathe harder. If his mom noticed she didn’t say anything about it. Instead, she simply requested that they leave the bags downstairs until his dad came. Peter, of course, was fine with that.

He grabbed the small backpack that his mom packed for him and her small handbag before he followed his mom up the stairs and into the maze of rooms. His mom stopped in front of one door with PAS engraved on it. He turned and smiled at her. “Our room is across the hall, right here,” she said pointing to a door that was parallel to his. His mouth dropped when she opened the door. The room was smaller than his at the Tower, but there was a shelf full of puzzles, books, and a bunch of old looking electronics. “I figured you’d like something to play around with while you’re here.” Peter nodded enthusiastically.

“I love it! I’m going to see what I can build before Daddy gets home.” Peter ran and jumped on the lower bunk bed.

“Do you like them?”

“I had bunk beds with Aunt May and Uncle Ben. I made all kinds of forts and stuff.” His mom smiled at him.

“That’s perfect because I thought that maybe one day we could bring Ned up here.” Peter gave her a bright smile.

“That would be amazing!”

“Alright unpack your stuff for me and take a shower, ok? There are a few pieces of clothes in the dresser. Meet me downstairs when you’re done.” Peter gave her a two finger salute and nodded.

_________________

Peter let his feet fly down the stairs and he rushed into the kitchen. “We’re fine Hap. Got here safe and Friday’s got everything locked up tight. You can go enjoy your mom’s for Christmas. Yep, we’ll see you right after the New Year.”

As his mom hung up the phone Peter climbed on to the barstool to look at the assortment of ingredients. There was tomato sauce, cheese, meat, fruits, and Peter gasped, fruits and chocolate sauce.

They were making pizzas!

Peter figured that maybe he was smiling too much because his mom pulled a seat up next to him and nudged his shoulder with hers. “Are you excited?”

“I’ve never made my own pizza before except in a Lunchable,” Peter said. “So this looks like a bunch of fun.” His mom didn’t respond but kept her eyes on the pizza ingredients in front of them. “Mama, are you ok?”

“Yeah, baby I’m fine. I’m just a little tired.” Peter looked up at her long hair cascading down her back and pinched his brows together.

“I didn’t know you got tired.” She gave him a soft chuckle as she turned he saw bags under her eyes for the first time since he’d known her.

“Everyone gets tired.” Peter reached out to grab her hand.

“You’re like that bunny on tv you never stops. I mean you and daddy don’t ever get tired.” He hopped off the stool and grabbed the plates from the counter before returning to the island where his mom was seated. “I can make the pizza for you? Just tell me what you want on it.” HIs mom gave him a sweet smile and ran her fingers through his hair.

“You are the sweetest little boy, you know that?”

“My Aunt May used to say that to me.”

“Really?”

“She said I was so sweet that I would give everyone cavities.”

“Well I agree with her on that.” Peter smiled at his mom. “So I’ll let you make my pizza, but you have to answer some questions. How does that sound?”

“What kind of questions?”

“Well, since your daddy left you’ve been quieter. I want us to talk.” Peter fidgeted he really wanted to make her dinner and help like his dad asked him to, but he didn’t want to talk about this. “So I was thinking maybe we could make it a game? For every topping you put on my pizza I get to ask you a question and for every fruit, I put on our dessert pizza you can ask me a question. How does that sound?” He sighed. This was what his dad meant when he said his mom was smarter than both of them combined.

Peter pulled up the dough and opened the jar, but his mom grabbed his arm gently. “Did you wash your hands?” Sliding off the stool he ran to the sink and quickly washed them.

“I’m ready. You want red sauce or white sauce?”

“White, please.” Peter nodded and started to spread the white alfredo sauce over her pizza. “So, how have you been sleeping?”

“Ok.”

“Just ok?” Peter shook his head.

“Nope, I’m still spreading sauce.” His mom leaned forward and laughed.

“Ok, Little Tony is here in full force. My, little man.” Peter put his sauce on there as slowly as he could. Soon he was so caught up in his thoughts that he didn’t notice his mom put her hands in his hair as he moved the sauce around the dough. He moved onto the mozzarella cheese before he started to add the green bell peppers before he realized what he’d done, but not caring for some reason. “You missing your daddy?” Peter nodded feeling tears in his eyes. “You know that he loves you a whole bunch, right?”

“Yes.”

“You know that I miss him too?” Peter dropped the onions in his hand back into the bowl he’d got them from. She offered a kind smile.

She’d said it the night before but he thought she was trying to make him feel better. “Really?”

“He’s your dad, but he’s my husband. It’s lonely when I can’t talk to him.” Peter nodded with his head down. “But you know we’ve got each other, right?” Feeling himself start to cry, Peter buried her face in his mom’s chest and she didn't hesitate to pull him in close. “It’s ok baby. I know it’s scary, but we’re going to get through this. You, me, and your little sister.” Peter let himself sit back in his chair and wiped his eyes under his glasses.

“I love you.”

“I love you too, Petey.” Slowly regained himself and fond that his mom had already started making his pizza.

“I thought I was going to help you.” She smirked at him. Peter groaned she’d tricked him. “How do you do that? You’re like a ninja or something!”

“Years of experience with your dad taught me everything I need to know about people and little boys named Peter.”

“Well I hope Morgan gives you a hard time you won’t be able to trick her with your Jedi mind tricks.”

“How do you know her name?”

“I was coming to ask a question last week and I heard you and daddy talking.” She shook her head.

“Like father, like son.” Peter smiled at that. He was Tony Stark’s son. That was pretty cool. For some reason, he realized that he used to be nobody's son. Not his aunt and uncle's not Mr. Jeff and Ms. Karen's either. It was crazy that he'd come so far in such a short time. What if though he’d never gotten to meet Tony and had been sent somewhere else? What if Mr. Jeff and Ms. Karen had adopted him? Would he have ended up mean like Flash? The thought tormented him more than he wanted to admit.

“Mama, um something happened at school today. This boy um Flash, his mom was yelling at him after school.” His mom hummed in response. “He’s not real nice. I thought it was because he was just a mean kid, but after today I feel bad for him. Does that make sense?”

“It makes a lot of sense, honey. It’s called having empathy for someone.”

“That’s when you understand what’s happening to them?” She smiled and nodded. “So is it ok that I want to try and be his friend even though he’s mean to me?”

“I think it’s a great idea, but just be careful. He may not be used to people being really nice to him so it may take a while for him to believe that you want to be his friend.” Peter chewed his lip and ate a slice of pepperoni. He thought about it all the way until his mom plopped their pizzas in the oven. He was going to try to be Flash’s friend and maybe he could be the one person for Flash like Tony had been for him.

That would be a good present for Christmas, right?

__________________

When it was time for him to sleep, Peter was sitting up in his room. It was so quiet out there, it was almost like the compound, but way more quiet. Literally there was nothing making noise outside his window.

It was two hours after his mom had kissed him and told him to go to bed, but he couldn’t fall asleep. Thoughts were running through his mind that he just couldn’t get to stop. So he figured he could build one of the model planes his Uncle Rhodey had left for him on his last visit. He was about halfway through when he heard a knock at the door.

“Petey?”

“Hi Mama,” he said looking up. “I’m uh gonna go to bed.” She wore pajama pants and a matching camisole with a robe.

“So, I wanted to ask you a question do you think you could keep me company tonight?” Peter furrowed his brows in confusion. “Well, it’s really quiet out here and I’m not used to that, so I figured my favorite little guy could help me out?” Peter gave her a big smile.

“I’ll do anything to help you.” His mom smiled at him.

“I knew I could count on you.” Peter grabbed his Starkpad and followed his mom into their room.

At this point he shouldn’t be surprised how big the room was but he was. It was massive. There was a bookshelf and the room was split into two floors. How they were able to pull that off, he didn’t know. He climbed into the bed next to his mom.

He was hoping that maybe he could sleep better with her around. When did he become such a baby? He’d been sleeping alone for years and now he couldn’t?

“I want to give you something special, ok?” Peter nodded. She pulled out his dad’s MIT hoodie. “If you put this on, I bet it will be just like he’s here.” Peter slid into the hoodie and was instantly met with his dad’s scent. The long hoodie covered his limbs and bunched up at his waist. A weight fell off his shoulders. He let himself fall backward onto the bed.

“Mama?”

“Do you think Daddy’ll make it home for Christmas?”

“I know he will buddy. He wouldn’t miss our first Christmas together as a family for anything. You can count on it.” Peter smiled at her. Sitting up he reached out and gave her a kiss on the cheek.

“Goodnight Mama.”

__________________________

The sky was cloudy as an impending snow storm was coming. After having a light breakfast his mom suggested that they keep it calm and just relax. Peter was sitting against his mom’s side as he read from the newest Science Journal for Kids.

Most of the children around the world can be vaccinated. Only a few of them should not because they suffer from a disease that affects their immune system: they are said to be immunodeficient. Thanks to herd protection, when healthy children are vaccinated, they provide protection for those sick children as well.

Nowadays, vaccines are also given to pregnant women to protect their babies. The vaccinated mother transfers her antibodies to her child during pregnancy and then through breast-feeding. This is important to protect newborns before they can be efficiently vaccinated themselves. An example is whooping cough than can lead to severe respiratory infection during the first weeks of life.

Peter looked up at his mom. “Are you going to vaccinate Morgan?” His mom didn’t look up from her laptop as she continued to send emails.

“We will. The research against it isn’t consistent or substantial enough for us to not vaccinate her.”

“My parents were scientists you know. My first mom and dad.” Peter bit his lip. “They used to tell me about all sorts of fun scientist stuff. One time she told me that they thought about not letting me get shots for my asthma. My mom said there was a chance we could be making it worse by treating it like that.”

“Did they change their minds?”

“No, um that’s when they didn’t come back. Aunt May and Uncle Ben didn’t know anything about it so I kept getting them.”

“Do you want to get them?”

“They help sometimes, but they’re not working like they used to.” His mom gave him a tight squeeze. “Now it’s like getting a shot and feeling terrible for a day and I still can’t breathe good.”

“Well, when your daddy comes back we’ll go and find you a special doctor that treats asthma and see what we can do. You’ve got to be ready for when your baby sister gets here.”

“Yeah. Michelle told me that her mom didn’t sleep much when her brother was born. Do you think Morgan will be like that?”

“I’m not sure. Every baby is different.”

“I can help if you need me to.”

“I know baby. We’ll handle this together as a family. Everything is going to be fine. I promise.” Peter nodded. “Want to read me another article?” Peter smiles at his magazine. How did get two awesome moms?

“How about this one? ‘How does climate change affect the Great Lakes?’”

“Sounds good baby.” Smiling Peter leaned back and his mom’s hand moved into his hair. With a sense of calmness washing over him, he started to read.

“The Earth has become warmer – and our climate continues to change – since humans began burning fossil fuels and releasing large quantities of greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide, into the air.”

________________________

Peter was asleep in his bed when he felt the warm hand on his face. It was the second night that he was sleeping with his dad’s hoodie and he was finally able to sleep easy. “Petey buddy. Wake up.” Rolling over Peter blinked trying to find his glasses. Instantly the blob in his vision took shape.

“Daddy!” He leapt out of his bed and into his dad’s arms. Peter had a tight grip on him with a large smile on his face. “When you’d get home?”

“Just now buddy.” His dad’s smile was bright and wide. “I was thinking you could sleep in our bed tonight. Have us a slumber party.” Peter didn’t need to be told twice and nodded frantically.

“Yes, please!” His dad laughed and turned to walk out of the room. Peter felt more excited than he had in days! His dad promptly tried to dump him on their bed, but Peter wouldn’t let go.

“Come on buddy. Daddy stinks, you gotta let me go.” Peter grunted and shook his head. “Come on, you’ve got me for nine days straight. Just give me five minutes, ok?” Sighing Peter loosened his grip and let himself sink onto the bed. He scrambled towards the head of the bed where his mom was.

“I told you he’d make it. You can't count Iron Man out,” she said winking at him. Peter smiled at her. She was the best mom he could ask for.

________________________

Peter woke up to hushed voices speaking over him. “If we let him sleep any longer it’ll be noon,” his dad said. He could tell by the vibrations he was feeling under his cheek that he was sprawled across his dad’s chest.

“He didn’t sleep well when you were gone. He had an accident a couple of nights ago. We should let him sleep a little longer.” Peter felt his face flush.

“Pep,” he dad whined out. “He can’t wait for Christmas!”

“Him or you?” Peter didn’t have to open his eyes to know his mom was smiling. “Go ahead.” Instantly he felt his dad start to tickle his sides.

“Sleeeeepyhead! Get up!” Peter couldn’t help it and let out the giddiest giggle.

“Daddy, stop!” Unable to stop himself he started to kick his legs frantically with laughter. Before he could catch his breath his dad scooped him up and pulled him close.

“Merry Christmas Little Tony!”

“Merry Christmas! Can we open presents now?” Tony smiled and nodded. “Yes!” Peter vaulted off the bed and ran downstairs. He expected to see a room full of presents, but instead, there were maybe a dozen or so which was still more than enough for him. Somehow he knew that was his mom's doing.

He tore into the first one he could put his hands on. He gasped, it was an Iron Man helmet but it was smaller. Peter picked it up and it didn’t feel like a toy. Slowly he turned the device over in his hands and smiled that instead of burgundy and gold it was blue and red...his favorite colors.

“That’s so whenever daddy’s gone you can reach me. Just tell Friday you want to send me a message and she’ll make sure that I get it.” Peter turned and wrapped his arms tightly around his dad almost knocking the man over.

“This is the best gift ever!” He wasn’t sure why he was crying, but it was just soo perfect! His dad wrapped his arms tight around him before laying a kiss to his hairline.

“You’re my best gift ever. Well, your mom and sister are too, but you know.” Peter smiled up at his dad. He sure did know. It was like a whirlwind of gift opening for the next hour. Nothing had come close to the custom Iron Man helmet. He’d have to send a picture to Ned.

After their blitz of a morning, the newly formed Stark family lay on one of the oversized beds downstairs doing their best to share yawns. It appeared that everyone was tired. Peter was laying on his stomach with his dad carding his hands through his soft curls. It wasn’t helping him try to stay awake even though he was fighting to.

This was his first Christmas as a Stark and he wanted to remember every second of it. It was nice to have his dad and mom together just being still. It seemed like so much of their lives revolved around meetings and being an Avenger it was nice to just have them. He wasn’t sure what he’d done to get so lucky, but boy was he grateful.

“Petey?” He looked up to see his mom smiling at him. “Want to take a nap?” He shook his head.

“Not tired,” he said with his groggy voice betraying him. His parents laughed much to his annoyance.

“It’s ok, Pep. Pete here wants to soak in all he can with us before the baby gets here.”

“Morgan,” his mom corrected. “Our little genius discovered her name recently.”

“Well aren’t you a spoilsport?” Peter giggled when his dad poked his side. “Well, smarty pants, what’s the most fun we had this year?” Peter furrowed his brows in confusion. Rolling over he saw that his dad had a funny look on his face.

Oh, this was going to be good.

“Building SCRUB?” His dad smiled.

“Getting closer.”

“SCRUB was awesome! I mean once he stopped catching on fire.” Peter smiled they were done with the code for the bot and now it had been sent off to R&D to try to make more cost effective.

“Earth to Petey?”

“Oh um...the roadster! You let me help you fix that up and riding in it it is great!” The smile on his dad’s face grew wide.

“Yep,” he said popping the ‘p’. “I got you one that’s just your own size that we can fix up.” Peter gasped.

“So I can drive it?” His dad nodded. “Yay!” Peter starting bouncing on his knees on the bed. This was definitely the best Christmas he’d had in a really long time.

“We’ve got one more gift for you,” his mom said.

“Play it Fri,” his dad said behind him. Peter turned to look at the screen that appeared before him.

“Merry Christmas big boy!” Peter gasped. Aunt May! “I know you had a great day with your new mom and dad. They’ve been sending me pictures about you for months now.” Peter turned to look at his parents who had bright smiles spreading from ear to ear. “You’re growing up and becoming the little guy I knew you’d always be. Your parents and your uncle Ben would be so proud of you. You’re sweet, kind, brave, and so pure and I’m hearing that you’re excelling at a special school. I couldn’t be any more proud of you. I’m so happy that I get to know you.” His lip started to wobble. “I know we had to be away from each other for a little while but guess what Petey? You get to come and stay with me for a couple of days right before school starts back after the New Year!”

He turned around to see his parents. “Really?”

“Yes, really,” the video answered as if she knew what he was going to ask. Giggling Peter turned back to face the screen with a wide smile on his face. “We have so much to catch up on. So,” she said gesturing to an assortment of gifts behind her, “you’ll get these when you come.” Peter’s smile stretched even further across his face. He knew his aunt hadn’t forgotten about him. Kyle could suck it! “Oh and there’s one last thing, Peter, a judge recently asked me if I’d be ok with you being adopted by Tony and Pepper and guess what? I said yes! We all thought it would be great to save your best Christmas gift for last, so surprise and congratulations buddy!” The hologram ended and Peter turned to look at his parents. Still, in his pajamas, he crawled towards the bed where his mom had a framed certificate in her hands.

‘Peter Anthony Stark’

“It’s official, Petey,” his dad said. Peter felt tears forming in his eyes. Instantly, his dad reached across the bed and pulled him tightly against his chest. It hadn’t even been a year yet that he’d known the man, but he was already as much his dad as his first dad was. Peter knew that if it wasn’t for Tony sitting with him in the diner that day then his whole life would look different. He wouldn’t have an Uncle Rhodey, he wouldn’t have Ned and Michelle, he wouldn’t be able to see his Aunty May. He’d have none of that. There were just so many things that he got as a bonus, just because he knew Tony. Most of all though, without the man he loved so much choosing him, Petr knew that he wouldn’t have a family. Not a real one. He would have been stuck in that shelter all alone.

He gripped his dad tighter than he ever had before. “I love you Daddy,” he said. “So much.” His dad kissed his hair.

“I love you too Petey. You know your hugs are one of my favorite things in the whole world?” Looking up, Peter smiled through his blurry eyes. In that moment as he leaned against his dad’s chest, and saw his mom’s shimmering eyes, he realized that after years of searching he finally found where he belonged; right there sandwiched between his mama and daddy.

 

________________Epilogue________________

“I’m up to my eyeballs in numbers. Like I don’t want to see anymore algebra for a while,” Ned whined as he let his head fall forward on the desk. Peter laughed and patted his friend on the back.

“Dude! You signed up for math, what’d you think was going to happen?”

“Well, I knew you’d beat me in science and Michelle is a freak about English and unless I wanted to bore myself to death with history it was math.” Ned sat up and nudged Peter’s Starkpad.

“What are you studying?” Peter looked around and showed Ned the schematics for a his roadster. “Peter! This looks awesome! Your dad’s gonna let you put all of this in there?”

“I haven’t asked yet. These are just a mockup,” he said. “He says we have to wait ‘cause we’re on ‘baby watch’.” Ned nodded. They heard someone running frantically down the hall. Moments later the door exploded open.

“Peter!” Looking up he saw his dad looking like he’d just run a marathon. He was in jeans and an old hoodie. “Come on! The baby’s coming!” Gasping Peter closed his folders with his Starkpad and threw them in his bag. Before he could start to run his dad pulled him into his arms and took off in a sprint.

“Daddy! The parking lot is that way,” he said pointing towards another door. His dad didn’t stop he just picked up more speed. When they hit the back door Peter realized where they were going. His Uncle Rhodey stood in one of the other older Iron Man suits.

“Pete, I’ve got to get there right away, so Uncle Rhodey’s gonna fly you over ok?”

“Will I get to meet Morgan?”

“As soon as she cleans up after they pop her out.” Peter nodded. His dad took off into the sky seconds later.

“You’re gonna be a big brother soon. Are you ready?” Peter nodded.

“Me and Mama have been watching videos and reading books. I’m gonna be a great big brother.” His uncle smiled at him before closing the face mask. He handed Peter a full face helmet that Peter knew his dad made for him just for moments like this and slid it over his head.

“Hold on,” his uncle said before flying up. The ride was instant and glorious all at once. He’d imagined for years what it would be like to fly in one of these and now he was finding out. It only took them about ten minutes to get back to the tower and as soon as his Uncle Rhodey landed he set Peter down and told him, “she’s almost here!” He ran as fast as he could towards the elevator and Friday made it faster than he knew it could go. As soon as he hit the floor for the Medbay he heard the sounds of crying. He saw Happy sitting in one of the chairs smiling. The man stood up and plopped a hat on Peter’s head. ‘Big Brother’ it read.

The door burst open just like it had almost twenty minutes prior and it was his dad this time. “Come on, she wants to meet you.” Peter vaulted forward and was in the room in no time. His mom’s hair was messy but yet she still glowed like it was effortless. He felt his dad’s hands on his shoulders as he walked closer. When he looked down, the baby’s hair was a shimmering autumn like their mom’s.

“Morgan, this is Petey, your big brother. Do you want to say hi?” The little eyes looked up at him and Peter felt like his insides were melting. Hating himself for it, he started to cry.

“What’s wrong, Petey,” his dad asked.

“She’s so perfect,” he said through his tears. “I never thought I’d have any brothers or sisters.” His dad reached down and pulled him into his arms and set him on his hip so that all four Starks were on the same level.

“Now Pete, you never have to worry about that again. From this moment on you’ll always be a big brother.”

“But,” his mom said reaching out to put her now free hand on his face, “you’ll always be our first baby.” Peter felt more tears coming...he couldn’t think of any title he’d rather have more.

The End