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In Love and War

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Tony is good with kids. 

Somehow it’s both surprising and not surprising at all. They’re just back from one of those events, a meet and greet with kids in schools or orphanages. A chance for them to meet their heroes. Natasha organises them, or her people do, as she’s the one with the most experience of that kind of thing. Well, her and Steve, except Steve’s experience comes from the forties, so he’s not sure it applies here. But still. 

Tony is gentle with them in a way they’ve rarely seen before. From his expression, Clint has clearly seen him interact with kids before, on one of their many mysterious missions in life pre-Avengers and pre-New York. It is kind of cute, Steve decides, witnessing the tough, deadly Wolf Spider just... melt around a small child with a smile. Yeah, definitely cute.

“That was fun,” Steve comments.

“Yeah,” Tony nods. “It was. And it means a lot to those kids.”

“They loved you,” Steve grins. “Almost as much as they loved Natasha.”

“As awesome as I am, even I can’t compete with robots,” Tony grins. 

“You’ll make a great dad someday” Steve teases, only half teasing really. “Hey, maybe you already are. Maybe there’s a whole army of mini Tony’s running around.”

“Definitely not,” Tony replies, with a funny look in his eyes, his mouth set a little tight.

“It’s possible,” Steve shrugs.

“No, it’s not,” Tony shakes his head. “I can’t have kids.”

The world grinds to a halt.

“Tony, I’m sorry,” Steve says, and wonders if Natasha can lend him a crowbar to get his foot out of his mouth. 

“Why?” Tony smiles grimly. “You didn’t stick me under the knife.”

And then Steve frowns, because what?

Tony swallows.

“In the Red Room, where I was trained. Where I was raised,” he begins, “There was a, uh, graduation ceremony. They sterilise you. It’s simple. Effective. Eliminates the one thing that might matter more than a mission.”

Tony’s face is tight, and Steve is certain the agent’s eyes have taken on a sheen to them.

“What about love?” Steve asks.

Tony laughs, a harsh bark.

“They took him away from me too,” he says and walks away.