“May, I have no idea how to take care of myself, let alone a baby!” Tony said, eyeing the basket currently sitting on his table containing a small bundle. “Surely you’ve seen what’s been written about me.”
“Unfortunately I have, and believe me I wish I had another choice, but Mary and Richard were very clear in their note. They wanted you, his real dad to look after him.” May said, tears welling in her eyes as she thought about the recently late Parkers.
“I don’t understand May! Why can’t they just take care of him! It was a one-night stand for Christ’s sake – I never wanted a kid!” Tony ran a hand through his hair and over his face, trying to keep his eyes away from the slowly awakening baby. A small hand reached through the blankets, grabbing at the air as the small infant slowly awoke, a small gurgling sound escaping its mouth.
“Tony… they died. Last month. Plane crash, dead on impact. You’re what they wanted. You’re what Peter needs right now, not me. He needs to be with family, he needs his dad. Please Tony…” May pleaded as the baby began to cry, quietly at first, but slowly gaining volume. Tony couldn’t help but feel his heart break a little more. This helpless thing, this tiny human, needed him like no one ever did. “At least look at him.”
Tony shuffled forward, hands trembling as he pulled back the soft yellow blanket covering the baby, and was instantly hit by the biggest brown eyes he had ever seen, a direct reflection of his own. His eyelashes seemed to be almost as long as his podgy fingers, his chestnut hair already long enough to begin naturally curling, and his cheeks a healthy shade of pink. His small lips curled into the sweetest smile Tony could ever had imagined, his tears now forgotten and Tony knew, he just knew, that he would kill for this kid. No matter if he was unqualified for the job, he knew he couldn’t let Peter out of his life now that he had gazed upon the face of an angel that he had helped to create.
“Okay. I’ll take him. He’s my son I should be the one raising him.” Tony said, determinedly, looking over at May who had shock plastered over her face. “But if I’m gonna do this, I need your help.”
“Anything for Peter.” May said, her heart in her chest at the prospect of finally fulfilling her sister-in-law’s wishes into action. She looked down at the small 4 month old boy, still gazing up at his father, and she knew – she had made the right choice.
3 hours later, and May had finally left, with the promise of keeping Peter’s identity secret, Tony sat on the floor of his penthouse apartment. After ordering practically everything baby related on the internet through JARVIS, Tony was exhausted, and apparently so was Peter, as he yawned and scrunched his little face up as Tony began to stand up with him in his arms and moved him back towards his bassinet. However, as Tony began to set him down, the boy let out a small whimper and his lower lip began to tremble, eyes glassing over as they began to fill with tears. How is it possible for a baby so small to have such large bambi eyes?
“Hey, hey, hey. Don’t do that! I’m not gonna put you down okay?” Tony said as he lifted Peter back out of the bassinet and back into the crook of his arm. “You know, I was never really a baby person.” Tony whispered into Peter’s hair, taking immense comfort in the “baby head smell” parents so often rave about. “I always saw kids as a bit of an f-word, guess I have my father to thank for that. But, I promise, I’m gonna be everything he wasn’t. You’re never going to feel alone, or scared, or worried, not as long as I’m around. And I promise you, I’m gonna be around. I’m gonna be around when you take your first steps, I’m gonna be around when you first go to school, your first school dance. I’m gonna stick every single one of your papers on any available surface so that everyone can see just how proud I am of you. I’m gonna be there when you’re sick, when you’re heartbroken, when you’re exhausted. I’m gonna be there when you bring your girlfriend or boyfriend home, and I won’t judge, or if you don’t want anyone at all, I’ll still be there for you. I promise you, I’m not going to be my father.”
To be fair to Tony, he was there. At least at first. He stopped drinking and his playboy attitudes, focusing all his attention on Peter. Pepper, his assistant, became so much more than that. She began helping Tony raise Peter, giving advice that seemed to just come more naturally to women than men, like how to change a nappy. May, of course, helped after every shift she did. As a testament to her dedication, Tony decided to let Peter keep her last name, Parker, as he couldn’t take the Stark name without attracting unwanted media attention. Everything was working, Tony was happy, but he still slipped.
“Daddy?” A small voice said behind him, his music instantly cutting off.
“Pete? Kiddo you know you aren’t supposed to come into the lab.” Tony said as he turned towards his two year old son, pushing the dark curls out of his eyes, surprised when his fingers came away slightly damp. “Bambi, what’s up? Are you feeling okay? Isn’t Uncle Obie supposed to be looking after you?” Tony asked, not letting the child reply as parental worry began to creep up his throat.
“Oh, come here kiddo.” Tony said as he spread his arms wide and Peter gratefully walked into them, squealing as Tony lifted him high into the air, pulling him closer to his chest as he began to move towards the sofa in the lab, which he had often fallen asleep in. “You wanna talk about what happened?”
Peter shook his head, his soft curls tickling Tony’s neck as his small fist grabbed at the sleeve of Tony’s t-shirt.
“You wanna go back to bed?” Tony asked again, trying to get an answer out of the toddler cuddled close to his chest. Again Peter shook his head, his breathing soft in Tony’s ear. “What do you want to do then bambi?”
“Build stwuff.” Peter mumbled, pointing half-heartedly at Tony’s lab table, a project unfinished scattered across the workspace.
“Ohhh, you want to play with your legos?” Tony asked, already heading towards the small stash he kept downstairs, for emergencies such as this. Peter nodded, eyes now completely dry and sparkling with the excitement of playing with his favourite toy.
“What’re you bwuilding daddy?” He asked softly when Tony put him down and began to lay out his legos in front of him. His large pooling brown eyes were fixed on the latest piece of Stark tech, another explosive.
“Oh, that’s um, that’s a new thing Daddy is working on, don’t worry about it Bambi.” Tony tried to explain, instantly regretting not just shutting down the question. It wasn’t that he actively tried to stop Peter from finding out that he sold weapons of mass destruction, it was just that he was convinced Peter would look at him differently. Stop seeing him as the hero he does now – and Tony didn’t know if he could have dealt with that.
“But what is it?” Peter asked innocently again.
“Peter, just leave it.”
“Peter, stop trying to push my buttons.”
“Because I don’t want to tell you what it is.”
“Because I said so!” Tony yelled, earning a small gasp from Peter, who quickly returned to his lego pieces, his lower lip trembling slightly.
“oh God, I’m, God I’m sorry Petey. Daddy is just a bit stressed right now.” Tony said, turning back towards the project and screwing furiously, trying to avoid the tension which now hung in the air. Tony expected Peter to go back to playing with his legos, afraid to open his mouth again, but instead he felt two rather squishy arms wrap around the backs of his knees.
“Sworry Daddy.” The little voice came from behind and Tony’s heart melted.
Bending down so he was eye level with the small brown haired child, he said “no Petey, I’m the one who needs to be sorry. I shouldn’t have snapped – you know I larb you right?” Tony smiled as the boy giggled and smacked his chest lightly.
“That May’s thing!” The small boy giggled, his laughter only increasing as Tony brought his hands to his side and tickled.
“Peter! What have I told you about coming in here and disturbing your father?” Obie shouted from the door of the lab. Peter’s smile faded in an instant and his head droped, mumbling out a small apology.
“Obie, don’t worry about it. He had a nightmare, he was just scared.” Tony said, picking up Peter and handing him over to Obadiah who looked less than impressed.
“He should have been in bed. You spoil him Stark. He needs to learn some discipline.” Obie said firmly, and Peter squirmed in his grasp.
“I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that.” Tony muttered to himself, before leaning forward to place a soft kiss on Peter’s head, carding his hand through the boy’s curls. “Night night baby.” He whispered lovingly, turning away as he tried to ignore the mad grabby motions Peter seemed to make towards him. He had to finish the product.
The longer he was apart from his dad, the more uneasy Peter seemed to feel. By the time they had reached his space themed bedroom, the feeling had grown into more than just butterflies in the stomach. Obie stalked towards him, grabbing hold of one of his little parts and pulling slightly so Peter had no option but to look at him. “I asked you once and I’ll ask again. What did I tell you about disturbing your father while he is working?” Peter shrunk under his intense gaze, and answered in a voice too timid for a toddler.
“I would get in troub-b-ble” Peter stuttered out as a tear slipped from the corner of his eye.
“You’re crying like a baby Peter. You’re not a baby are you?” Peter shook his head, confused. “Maybe I should treat you like the baby you are then. Babies only respond to one thing.” Peter’s spare hand flew to his cheek as the blow landed, tears filling up in his eyes again and spilling down onto his cheeks. Obie pulled him towards his bed, bending his small frame over his knee as he started hitting Peter again on the behind. Peter cried out each time, his face tear streaked and his body shaking with sobs, but Obie showed no mercy. An eternity later, it finally stopped, and Peter was laid back down under his star sheets.
“Now. I didn’t want to have to do that, but your behaviour forced me to. That was your fault Peter. If you misbehave again I can promise you the punishment will be much more severe.” Obie said as he stood up and began to leave the room. “Now tell me. Whose fault was that?”
“M-m-mine.” Peter gasped out between sobs.
“M-m-ine sir.” Peter replied, a pain in his eyes which should not ever exist in a toddlers eyes, where excitement and wonder so often lie.
“Good boy. Now – I’m going to have to tell your father just how bad you’ve been. He will be so disappointed in you Peter.” Obie said, openly manipulating Peter.
“No!” Peter almost shouted, until he remembered that he was supposed to be being good. “Plwease don’t tell Daddy…”
And that evening, the reason unbeknownst to all even himself, Tony felt the urge to have a drink. That drink led to another, and another, and another, until it was no longer just a simple drink to calm him down after a long day in the lab. It led to him passing out in front of his bar, completely ignorant to the muffled sobs of his son only a couple of rooms above his head.
They say life is a downwards spiral.
If this is true, then life and Tony Stark are incredibly similar.