It was Friday afternoon and Tony noticed two very distinct things when Peter slinked into his lab. The first thing being that the kid was clutching his backpack in his arms like a pillow rather than it being tossed haphazardly over his shoulder. The second thing was the mischievous grin plastered across his face as he did so.
"Hey, Mr. Stark.", Peter greeted happily as he strolled towards his mentor, backpack still in hand.
Eyeing the boy skeptically as he crossed the room Tony frowned. "Yeah... Don't you 'Hey Mr. Stark me.' You're up to something."
Peter froze mid-step as he tried to come up with a good answer to that. "N-no I'm not. Don't be silly. I am defiantly not up to anything.", he stammered. He wasn't exactly doing a good job of sounding innocent but it wasn't like he could get a do-over so he just smiled.
"Hmm.", Tony hummed noncommittally as he continued trying to measure up what on Earth the child could possibly be up to this time.
"I'm not!", Peter shouted in defense. Though, it was unclear if he was shouting out of emotion or to cover up the small noises that were now coming out of his backpack. "Shh", he strained quietly as he started to unzip the bag and slide his hand inside. An action that did not go unnoticed by his mentor.
As the kid slipped his hand into the backpack, Tony was sure he saw a flash of orange fur. Not willing to let that go he squinted his eyes at Peter who was still pretending to rummage around in his bag as if he were looking for something.. "Then what is that thing in your backpack?"
Realizing that he was caught Peter had no other choice than to go ahead and fess up. "Um... my new pet kitten?", he said as more of a question that a statement. This wasn't exactly the way he'd planned for this to go. Not that he had an actual plan... but if he did this would defiantly not be it.
Tony leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms firmly over his chest. "I happen to know for a fact that you're apartment doesn't allow pets."
"Then why is it in my backpack?", Peter boldly questioned with the same mischevious grin. He'd meant it as a joke but his mentor seemed to have missed the humor in it.
Looking at the kid, unamused, Tony mirthlessly replied, "I don't know. You tell me, kid. Why is it in your backpack?"
All of a sudden feeling way less confident Peter started to stumble over his next words. Tony looked... annoyed. "Um... well, you see, I... well I--"
Smiling gently at the kid's anxious posture, Tony softened his tone. "--You found it on your way here didn't you.", he asked knowingly. The kid probably saw hanging around somewhere outside and picked it with the intention of saving it. He loved animals almost as much as he did people.
"Something like that.", Peter mumbled under his breath before hesitantly taking the last few steps towards where his mentor was sitting.
Tony patted the seat of the chair in front of him to encourage the kid to sit down. "You didn't take in the car with Happy did you?", he asked as a realization crossed his mind.
Not sure where that question was going Peter wavered. "Um..."
"Kid, he's allergic to cats...", the man explained with a small smile.
Peter nodded his head in understanding. "Oh, well that explains a lot then.", he said finally taking a seat in the chair across from his mentor.
"Should I ask?", Tony questioned with a grimace.
Definitely wanting this part of the conversation to end, Peter tried to brush the whole thing off as nothing. He just hoped Happy wouldn't be too mad at him if he ever found out. "No, I mean it wasn't like a huge deal. He just kept sneezing. I just thought he had like, hayfever or something."
"In the middle of January?", Tony asked with an eyebrow quirked.
"Maybe. I don't know. I'm not a doctor.", Peter reluctantly replied throwing his hands up in the air in mild frustration.
Tony just laughed. "Says the kid who self-diagnosed himself with Mono last month."
"I didn't diagnose it, Web MD did", Peter returned defensively. "...and it's not my fault that the symptoms matched up!" That was what Web MD was there for right?
Smile falling to neutral, Tony rolled his eyes. "It was the flu, kid. Your school nurse told you it was the flu. May told you it was the flu. I told you it was the--"
"--I get it, Mr. Stark. It was the flu can we move on please?", Peter begged. That was not a day he cared to remember.
Pointing towards the bag resting in Peter's lap, Tony smirked. "Yeah, how about we go back to the cat that you have stowed away in your backpack?"
"It's not a cat. It's a kitten.", Peter calmly explained, finally pulling the animal out and placing it in his lap.
Avoiding looking at the little ball of orange fluff that was currently wallering all over the boy's legs, Tony quirked an eyebrow."It will eventually be a cat. You do know that right?"
"Obviously, Mr. Stark. ...but right now it's a cute and helpless kitten.", Peter cooed as the kitten propped up on his chest to nuzzle his chin.
"Uh-huh. Cute and helpless or not, you can't have it at your apartment.", Tony deadpanned having already figured out where this was going.
Peter just smiled. "I know. That why I was going to--"
"--Nope! Not happening. I have a hard enough time taking care of myself. I'm not taking on a cat."
"Aww! Come on Mr. Stark! Just look at him!" , Peter whined before unceremoniously dropping the kitten onto Tony's lap. Tony not wanting the kitten to get loose in the lab, reluctantly placed his hands on it and unconsciously starting to rub at its ears, causing the creature to purr loudly. "Look he likes you!", Peter happily exclaimed.
"I'm pretty sure it likes anyone who holds it, kid.", Tony said flatly. He then immediately stopped stroking the kittens head to handed him back before he accidentally gave off the wrong impression.
Taking the kitten back with both hands, Peter pulled it in close and tucked it under his chin. "Don't call him an 'it' Mr. Stark!", he said as if he were offended.
"What am I going to hurt its feelings?", Tony teased while gesturing towards the creature in question.
Peter rolled his eyes and settled the animal back down on his lap. "Ugh. It's just, well, he does have a name.", he mumbled.
"Oh, God. You've named it?", the man questioned in horror. When the boy confirmed just that he brought his hands up and ran them down his face. "You aren't supposed to name it, Kid! Then you get all attached and you can't keep it!", he pressed, making sure to emphasize the obvious.
"Don't you want to know what I named it?", Peter asked innocently as he blinked in Tony's direction.
Ignoring the fact that the kid was using 'that look' on him to get his way, Tony backed off for the moment. "Fine. I'll humor you. What did you name it."
"I named him Cheeseburger.", Peter said with a smile before lifting his chin in thought. "Maybe Chee or Burger for short. I haven't really decided."
"Cheeseburger.", Tony repeated in something between a question and a flat statement.
When Tony had looked at him dubiously, Peter swallowed and started trying to come up with a good reason for the name he'd chosen. He hadn't expected to be interrogated about it. "Yeah, that, that's how I got him to come to me. I, uh, I held out a piece of my lunch and he crawled into my lap to eat it."
The justification Peter offered was an obvious mistruth. He'd stuttered and avoided eye contact for the entire length of the story. It was cute how the kid thought that naming the stupid cat after his favorite food was going to work. Cute but no dice. Nope. "I'm not keeping the cat, kid.", he reiterated emphatically.
At those words, Peter hopped back out of the chair and held the kitten up towards Tony. He was clearly frustrated at this point but trying to continue to push through it to get what he wanted. "Please! Look at him. He's adorable. ...and I'll help take care of him I swear!", he relentlessly begged.
Tony rolled his eyes and smiled. "Right. You say that now, while he's all cute but what about in six months when he's a full grown cat?", the man asked.
"I promise I'll still take care of him every time I'm here.", Peter swore as he began to pace. "Come on, Please, Mr. Stark. He can't go to the pound, who knows what would happen to him there!"
Tony crossed his arms over his chest because guilt trip wasn't going to work on him. "If he's so cute then I'd imagine he would get adopted."
"But then some other cat wouldn't be adopted and it would be all your fault.", Peter urged, still pacing back and forth, kitten in hands.
"That makes no sense.", Tony laughed as he watched the boy pass in front of him once again.
"Yes, it does!", Peter grumbled. "If Cheeseburger lives here then the person who would have adopted him from the pound would adopt another kitten instead and then two kittens would have homes! See? It's logic and you can't argue with logic."
At this point, Tony was getting marginally annoyed that the kid was still trying to talk him into keeping the kitten at all. He'd already made it abundantly clear that it wasn't going to happen. "Here's some more logic for you. I said no cats.", he replied, trying to keep his tone somewhat even despite his irritation.
Peter sighed and sat back down on the chair across from his mentor. "Mr. Stark, please don't make me give him up.", Peter said quietly. His voice cracked a little on the last word as the disappointment started to burn in the back of his throat.
"Are you actually going to cry?", Tony asked softly because he could have sworn the boy's eyes were now glistening with tears.
"Maybe. I don't know.", Peter said with a slight rasp to his voice. It wasn't like he wanted to cry. He couldn't help it. "I just, well, I thought you would say yes and now, now I'm kind of sad.", he murmured as he tried to justify his emotional response.
"Fine.", Tony groused before he could stop himself. If him keeping the stupid cat meant that much to the kid then he supposed he could make it work. It's not like cat's required that much anyway. He was pretty sure that all you had to do was feed them and clean their litter box... He was also pretty sure he could hire someone else to do both of those things for him when Peter wasn't around.
Sniffing just a little, Peter looked up at his mentor hopefully. "Fine?"
"Yes, fine. Now give me the cat.", Tony said holding out his hand to take the kitten back into his own lap.
Peter eagerly passed the kitten back into Tony's hands with a smile. "Really? What are you going to name him?", he asked with enthusiasm.
Having already started scratching at the small animal's fur again, Tony looked at Peter with an eyebrow raised. "I thought you already named him..."
"That's when he was my kitten. Now he's your's so you should name him.", the kid explained with a smile.
Tony sighed and held the kitten out in front of him to get a good look. "Yeah, well, I think Cheeseburger will do just fine. Besides, I'm only doing this for you, anyway.", he muttered. Just because the kitten was sort of cute and he was maybe starting to be okay with the idea of it roaming around the penthouse, didn't mean he actually wanted it.
"Thank you, Mr. Stark! You won't regret it I promise. I'll come by all the time to see him and clean up after him and everything. I swear--"
"--Oh, I'm counting on it, Kid.", Tony quipped. Then against his earlier judgment, he set the kitten on the floor to grab his wallet out of his pocket so he could hand Peter several large bills. He paused for a moment to look down at the animal who was now casually rubbing up against his legs before saying anything else. "Now, take that and go buy some supplies."
"Yes, sir, Mr. Stark!", Peter happily shouted as he turned on his heels and headed towards the door. "I'll be right back!"
As soon as Peter had rounded the corner and was out of sight, Tony reached down to pick back up the still purring kitten. "...and now I have a cat.", he sighed as he looked down at the kitten in his lap. "That kid is making me soft", he grumbled. "...and I hope you know that because I partially blame you."
Petting the kittens full length, head to tail, he smiled. If taking in a kitten had Peter hanging around more often, that was perfectly okay with him. He enjoyed the boy's company. ...and if he also started enjoying the company of a small orange kitten, well, no one needed to know.
By the time Peter returned, Tony had left the lab and was waiting for him in the Penthouse. "Oh, good your back. Took you long enough.", Tony announced when he walked through the door carrying several large bags. "There's a mess over there in the corner of the living room. I hope you bought something to clean it up with..."
"Of course I did.", Peter replied with a smile as he set the bags down and started digging through them to find the carpet cleaner that the employee had suggested. "I need a cloth or something though."
Tony pointed towards the hall bathroom from where he sat in the recliner not bothering to get up. "Go look under the cabinet in there."
Dashing into the bathroom, Peter started to look for the towels the man was referring too. "All I see are like, the really nice towels, Mr. Stark!", he called through the door as he continued to move things around in the cabinet.
Rolling his eyes despite the fact that the kid couldn't see him, Tony called back to him. "Just get one, Kid. I want this mess cleaned up and it's not like I can't afford a new towel."
Making his way back into the living room, towel in hand, Peter glanced around the room. "Where's Cheeseburger?", he asked after scanning the room several more times.
"He's right here, Kid.", Tony replied pointing the spot between himself and the arm of the chair then waved his hand towards the mess. "You think I was going to let it back down on the floor after that?" That wasn't true. The kitten had climbed up there just before Peter had walked in and decided that between his thigh and the chair was the best place for sleeping.
"Better the floor than your lap?", Peter asked with a small laugh as he sat himself down on the beside the mess and began to read the instructions on the bottle. Once he had a handle on it began to get it wiped up.
"Right.", Tony replied drily. "What else do you have in those bags. ... and where's my change?"
The mess taken care of, Peter jumped up to go deposit the towel in the laundry chute and wash his hands. After which, he came running back into the living room, handed over what little change was left and eagerly started going through the bags. "I got so much cool stuff! Here, check this out.", he said as he tossed a small item over to Tony, who caught it deftly.
Looking it over with scrutiny, Tony squinted his eye's towards the gleeful teenager sitting on the corner of his couch. "What is this?", he asked. Not that he didn't know what it was, more that he didn't know why the kid would have picked that one.
"It's a collar, Mr. Stark", Peter answered. "It's an Avenger's collar. I thought it was cool."
"Kid, this is not an Avenger's collar... It's a Thor collar--"
"--Well, they were out of the Ironman ones!", Peter defended with a smile. "But the tag I got is red and gold... That's something right?"
"Sure, Kid. Whatever you say.", Tony sarcastically replied before reaching down to move the kitten into his lap. Even though he was obviously fine, Tony couldn't help but feel like he was suffocating down there like that. Besides, this way, he could get the collar snapped in place once he had the tag on it. "Where's the tag?"
Peter was quick to pull it out and hand it over. "I had his name put on it and then I didn't know the address so I added that.", Peter said with that mischievous grin of his. The one that made Tony want to roll his eyes before he even knew what the look was for. Peter sat there waited with giddy anticipation for his mentor to get his reading glasses on so that he could get a good look at the etching.
"Cheeseburger. I belong to Ironman. You know where I live.", Tony slowly read out loud. "Nice, kid.", he replied with a snort. "Let's just hope he never gets out, yeah?" As Peter rustled through the bags looking for whatever he wanted to pull out next, Tony attached the tag and put the collar on the kitten. Even after being adjusted to the smallest possible size, it was large on the small animal's neck. "Collar's too big. I hope you bought the runt some food."
"I did!", Peter called out, changing his focus to another bag. It didn't take but a moment for him to pull out a large back of high-end kitten food. "The lady at the store said this was the best one. It's, like grain-free, holistic and organic and stuff.", Peter said casually as he handed the bag over. "I got bowls too. Give me a second."
Glad he hadn't taken off his reading glasses, Tony started going through the label. Sure enough, every ingredient was specified as Organic and non-GMO. "You know, kid. I don't even this kind of stuff. Why would a cat need it?", he asked after some thought.
Shrugging his shoulders, Peter just smiled. "I don't know. I asked which food was the best one and that's what they told me to get."
"Uh-huh.", Tony replied without enthusiasm. "Was it the most expensive one?"
With his smile turning sheepish, Peter started to laugh lightly. "Probably? It was pretty expensive."
"Hmm... Maybe that's why they told you it was the best one. Sales driven marketing ploy. You got duped, kid.", Tony returned with a smirk. He wasn't surprised that the employees had pressured him into buying the more pricey items. The boy's heart was in the right place but it made him gullible and he had a pocket full of cash.
"It's not like I had time to do any research, Mr. Stark. You can buy him something different next time if you want to.", Peter defended before rapidly changing the subject by thrusting another item into the man's hands. "Look, here're the bowls I got."
"Now, that's more like it!", Tony said with a smile as he examined the clearly branded Ironman bowls. Then before he could say anything else the kitten jumped down out of his lap and started toying with the loose hem of his jeans. Watching for a moment, he tried not to smile. "You get him some toys or something?", he finally asked trying his hardest to sound annoyed.
"Yes! So many!", Peter shouted with excitement. "Here, this one's fun.", he stated as he handed over a stick that had a small catnip-filled Captain America shield on the end of it. He waved it in from of the kitten's face and slowly started to drag it across the floor. Laughing when he immediately pounced on it and began to try and chew on the plush shield at the end.
Snatching it out of Peter's hand, Tony started dragging it across the floor as well. "Think he could chew up the real one?", he asked with a smirk.
"I doubt it.", Peter said rolling his eyes and tossing a handful of other toys onto the floor in a pile. "I should probably set up the litter box or something.", Peter mused as he watched his mentor, who adamantly did not want a kitten, sit and play with the kitten. "Where do you want it, Mr. Stark?"
"Huh?", Tony asked having been thoroughly distracted by a kitten chasing a stupid shield on the end of a stick, of all things. He needed to be careful. The dumb cat was starting to grow on him already. Then when he saw Peter taking out the plastic box and bag of litter he realized what he'd been asked. "Go put it in the balcony or something.", he said with a wave of his hand. There was no way he was going to have a cat pooping in the middle of his living room... again.
"Mr. Stark. You can't put it out there.", Peter with mild amusement. He wasn't exactly sure how Tony could possibly think that was going to work.
"Well, I don't want it in here!", the man adamantly replied, throwing his hands up in frustration.
Peter, sighed and tried to reason with him. "If you put it out there then he can't get to it."
"Fine. Where do you suggest we put it then, Mr. I'm All of a Sudden Some Kind of a Cat Expert.", Tony mockingly came back. Though he knew the kid was right. He hadn't thought that through.
"The bathroom?", Peter suggested. "You'll have to keep the door cracked though."
"Gross but whatever. As long as it's not on the carpet.", he grumbled in reply. "...Oh, and you're cleaning it up every time it is by the way."
"What if I'm at school?", Peter asked with a challenging smile.
"I'll text you.", Tony blandly retorted. There was no way he was cleaning that up. If he had to hire someone to come over to do it, so be it.
Nodding his head in amusement Peter smirked. "Sure, Mr. Stark. Whatever you say.", he replied before going to set everything up.
After that was taken care of, Peter came back into the room and picked up the kitten who was now asleep at Tony's feet and placed him in his own lap. "I got him a bed too.", Peter said looking at the sleeping creature in his lap.
Watching Peter delicately scratching around the kitten's ears, he smiled fondly. "Oh yeah?"
"Mm-hmm. Where do you want it?"
"In here's fine, I guess." , Tony said before ending up with a sleeping kitten back in his own lap so that the boy could get it out of the bag. "You want some dinner?"
"Yes, please.", Peter happily answered. "I picked the red one because I thought you'd like it. Oh! The lady said you might want to get a scratching post or something so he doesn't tear up the carpet. I thought maybe we could just build one. What do you think, Mr. Stark?" The idea had struck him at the store when he saw how simple the structures were. He figured it might be a fun project that he and Tony could do together in one afternoon and an excuse for more time in the workshop was good with him.
"Sure, why not.", Tony said with a smile. He was always up for another project, though he typically chose more complex tasks... but hey, if it meant he got to spend some extra time with the kid, he'd do it. "Should I just order pizza?"
"I like pizza. Thank you.", Peter politely returned as he sat back down on the couch.
As soon as Tony had put in the order, Peter was looking at him from across the room as if he had something on his mind. Getting up out of his chair to join the boy on the couch he placed the cat on in Peter's lap. "What is it, Kid?"
"You really do like him, right, Mr. Stark?", Peter asked looking back and forth between the kitten and Tony's face.
"Eh. I can deal with him.", Tony answered non-committally. He wasn't about to admit that the kitten had already grown on him to an extent. He had an image to keep up after all. One that didn't involve a soft spot for cats.
"Oh.", Peter said somewhat disappointed. "Do you think you will... I mean, eventually?"
Giving in to the kid's look of defeat, Tony sighed. "I like the cat, okay.", he stressed. "He's great."
Smiling now, Peter looked towards Tony. "I'm just glad you kept him, Mr. Stark.", he said in earnest. "It would have been sad to have to take him to the pound or something."
"Yeah, well, like I said, I only did it for you.", he grumbled under his breath, reaching over to pet the kitten's head.
Peter smiled and pulled his feet up onto the couch so that he could turn into Tony's side, kitten still in his hands. "Thank you"
"Don't think it's going to happen again, though.", Tony said as he repositioned himself on the couch to accommodate the added weight of a clingy teenager. "So, don't even ask."
"I won't, sir. I promise.", Peter said with a genuine smile.
Looking down at Peter Tony smiled. "Uh-huh. I'm holding you to that.", he murmured. "...because this house has a one pet limit."
"I already promised, Mr. Stark!", he laughed.
"Yep and I totally believe you.", Tony said with a small laugh of his own. He did believe him though. Peter was good like that. He never made a promise that he didn't intend to keep. There was too much good in him for that. Then with a sigh, he reached an arm around Peter so that he could scratch at the kitten's ears too. "Just so you know... I really do like him. He'll be good company when you're not around.", he said with a sigh and when Peter scootched a little bit closer and turned to smile at him, he realized that had been the kid's plan all along.
When Pepper Met Cheeseburger
"Tony?", Pepper asked casually as she made her way into the lab where she knew he fiance would be working. "Why is there a kitten in the penthouse?"
Freezing in his actions because he probably should have mentioned something as permanent as adding a pet to the household to his future wife, Tony cursed under his breath. "Oh. You found him then, huh?", he replied in what he hoped sounded playful rather than sort of half-panicky like he felt.
"Kind of hard to miss, don't you think, Tony?", Pepper asked with a smirk. "I mean, there are toys all over the living room"
"Ahh..", he began but no words came which was sort of odd since he typically had all of the words. Too many words, even but right now he had zero. There wasn't really a great explanation for this.
Not getting an answer, Pepper pressed on with a good-natured roll of her eyes. "Since when do you have pets... let alone a cat..."
Sighing in defeat, Tony decided that he may as well go with the truth even if it did make him sound like a sucker who had somehow found himself wrapped around around a teenaged boys finger. "Since, the kid."
Pepper raised her eyebrows in questions but her smile had turned warm. "You got Peter a kitten?"
"No, not exactly.", Tony defended. He had definitely not gone that far into the parent hole but then again, the actual truth didn't really sound much better. "He got it for me.", he sighed out, resigning himself to the fact that he had definitely gone soft.
"What's his name?", Pepper asked as she closed the distance between them and placed a loving hand on her soon to be husbands shoulder.
Smiling fondly at the memory, Tony began to explain. "The kid named him Cheeseburger. Pulled all the stops to get me to keep it because he can't have pets at his apartment."
"Hmm", Pepper hummed knowingly. "...and you couldn't tell him, no huh?"
"I did!", Tony defended before dropping to neutral. "I told him no several times... but then he cried. He cried, Pepper. How do you say no after that?"
Laughing at the fact that Tony had been so easily convinced to do something so out of character as adopt a kitten, Pepper laughed. "It's a two-letter word, Tony. I'm pretty sure you could have said it if you wanted to but it was Peter..."
Balking at the accusation, Tony scoffed. "It's not like I let him off the hook or anything. I made him go buy all the stuff and clean up after it the whole time he was here.", Tony defensively explained. "...and I made him promised to come by more often to take care of it because I don't do litterboxes."
At those words, Pepper's smile went from warm to mirthful. "There it is..."
"There what is?", Tony returned in confusion.
"The real reason you kept the kitten.", Pepper said with confidence as she gave her husband's shoulder a squeeze and took a seat beside him.
"Come again?", Tony asked, still unclear as to what his fiance was referring too. He was pretty sure he had already explained why he had the kitten. Peter had talked him into keeping it because he couldn't. He didn't think he had eluded to anything else.
"You kept it so that Peter would come around more often.", Pepper observed with a shake of her head. "You could have just asked him you know. He loves you."
"That is not why I kept it...", Tony deadpanned, choosing to ignore the second half of her explanation. He knew the kid loved him but didn't want to think about it. It was almost scary to think that someone so young and impressionable would choose him as a role model let alone legitimately love him. "The cat might end up being... good company or something."
"Sure, Tony. Whatever you say.", Pepper said with a smile as she leaned over to kiss him on the cheek "I think it's sweet, though."
"I'm not sweet.", Tony grumbled under his breath. That was the last thing he wanted to be accused of. He was Ironman for Christ's sake.
Deciding that now was a good opportunity to give the man a hard time, Pepper smirked and playfully swatted him on the arm. "I wasn't talking about you. I was talking about Cheeseburger."
Tony cut side-eyes at his future wife as he tried to decide if she was being truthful or not. Deciding that he couldn't decide he chose to go with it rather than fight it. "Right... well, I guess he is."
"I'll let you get back to work. See you at dinner.", Pepper replied after a few moments of silence. Then she started back to the penthouse because apparently there was a cat up there to get to know.
When Happy Met Cheeseburger
After waiting in the lobby for what had to have been more than half of an hour, Happy was getting annoyed. "FRIDAY? Tell him if he's not down here in the next five minutes I'm coming up.", he grumbled towards the ceiling.
"Boss says he'll meet you down there when he's ready and that he advises that you stay in the lobby."
"What's that supposed to mean? What is doing?", Happy asked suspiciously. As security he had full access everywhere, Tony's suite included and he couldn't think of any good reason why the man would insist he not go up there.
"Getting ready.", The AI replied sounding almost annoyed by the question but Happy remained unfazed.
"I'm going up.", Happy immediately declared as he started taking long, hurried strides towards the elevator that led to the penthouse. He spent the entire ride trying to decide what was the most likely scenario for him to walk in on. Some were less desirable than others but none of them were great. "Tony?", he called the moment he stepped in the door before immediately sneezing into his elbow.
Rapidly exiting his room rouned the corner into the living room looking more confused than anything else. "Happy?", he asked stupidly. Of course, it was Happy. He was standing right there in front of him. "What are you doing here? I told you to wait in the lobby."
"Right. ...and I always listen to you. What are you doing that--", Happy started but he had to pause in the middle to sneeze twice more. "--that you didn't want me to find out about. I swear if you have get any more stupid ideas--"
"--I'm literally just getting dressed.", Tony said, holding his hands up in defense as he glanced around the room in order to locate the reason for his friends sneezing. That, however, didn't take very long since the kitten had heard Tony enter the room and it was now bounding in his direction. In an attempt to get Happy out of the room before he could spot the orange ball of fluff, Tony tried to usher him out the door by his shoulders. "Seriously though, you should probably wait in the--"
However, the other man indignantly resisted Tony's efforts and instantly spotted the small cat running towards them."--Care to explain to me what you're doing with one of those things in here?", he asked in surprise.
Already caught, Tony rolled his eyes and leaned over to pick up the small creature before it could rub all over Happy's pant legs. "Uh... Happy meet Cheeseburger?"
"Where did it come from?", Happy asked, completely unamused with his arms crossed over his chest.
Shrugging his shoulders as if it were no big deal Tony turned to drop the cat into the bathroom and shut the door until happy left. "The kid brought it over. I said I'd keep it."
"Why would you do that?", Happy asked incredulously. He knew Tony had grown attached to Peter and would probably do nearly anything for him but keeping a cat because he'd asked him to seemed over the top.
"I don't know.", Tony groused as he walked back towards his bedroom to retrieve his tie and watch. "...because he asked me to. I was being nice."
Following Tony to his room, Happy continued with his unamused stance. "It's a cat.", he flatly replied as though that was some major detail that Tony had missed because, well, it was a cat and why did Tony Stark need a cat?
"I'm aware.", Tony pointed out in the same unamused voice, his friend had been carrying throughout the majority of the conversation.
Leaning up against the man's bedroom door frame, Happy once again crossed his arms over his chest. "You, Tony Stark are going to take care of a cat."
"No. I, Tony Stark am going to pay someone else to take care of a cat... when the kid's not around to do it.", Tony returned almost irritably. Why was it so hard to believe that he would have a pet. Okay, maybe that was fair. He did travel a lot... and wasn't exactly... responsible. .... but it was a cat, not an infant or something.
"Wait, who's cat is this?", Happy asked all of a sudden unclear as to what was actually going on. Tony had indicated that it was his cat, given to him by Peter but now it almost sounded like it was Peter's cat...
"It's the kids! Well, sort of. I mean it's mine but he has to come over and clean up after it.", Tony tried to explain before rolling his eyes when his friend finally broke his nonchalant facade and began to laugh. "What? I'm not doing it!!"
"Then why do you have it?", Happy asked, wiping a tear from his eye as he remained tickled by the idea that Tony had literally kept a cat just because Peter wanted it and couldn't keep it.
"I already told you. I kept it for the kid.", Tony groaned, fully aware that reiterating that excuse wasn't really helping his case. The kid was going to be the death of him. He was sure of it.
"You make no sense, you know that, right?", Happy asked with a twinkle in his eye. Everyone seemed to know how much Tony loved Peter except for maybe Tony and Peter. If this didn't prove that then he wasn't sure what would.
Feeling the need to defend himself once again, Tony stood a little taller and crossed his arms over his own chest to match Happy's stance. "I make perfect sense, I'll have you know--"
"--Just hurry up.", Happy said with a roll of his eyes and a sniff of his still itchy nose. "I'll meet you in the lobby."
When Rhodey Met Cheeseburger
Tony had been int he lab for three days straight when Pepper gave up on even attempting to get him out and called Rhodes in to drag him out. He arrived late in the evening and the first thing he did was head down to the lab to try and talk some sense into Tony. He'd expected to walk through the doors and be completely ignored as was par for the course but to his surprise, Tony addressed him the moment the doors slid open.
"Hey! Don't let the cat out!", Tony shouted from across the room before even bothering to look at who was entering.
"I'm sorry did you say 'don't let the cat out'?", Rhodes asked in mild confusion as he crossed the room o where his disheveled friend was working.
finally looking up when he realized that the person who had entered the room wasn't Happy, Pepper or Peter, Tony squinted his eyes. "That's exactly what I said..."
Slightly concerned, Rhodes reached out and attempted to place his hand on Tony's forehead. "Are you hallucinating or something? I mean I know you haven't slept in a while but I didn't think it was that bad..."
Jerking away from the man's touch, Tony rolled his eyes. "I'm not hallucinating.", he said before clicking his tongue a few times and leaning down to get the kitten's attention. "See. Cat."
"Now I'm pretty sure I'm hallucinating...", Rhodes said with a laugh as he watched his friend scratching at the small animal's ears. "Seriously, why do you have a cat in here?"
Standing back up with a grunt, Tony sat down in a desk chair and leaned back. "Technically, he shouldn't be in here at all but I suspect that Pepper thought that by having the kid 'accidentally' forget to take him back up to the suite, that I would leave the lab to do it myself.", he explained with a shrug of his shoulders. "Didn't work. Still here. Too much to do."
"Okay...", Rhodes said drawing out the simple word. "I guess my next question is... Why do you have a cat at all?"
"Pete found it and couldn't keep so I said I would hold onto it for him.", Tony explained quickly as he started back into the work that had been occupying his time for the last several days. "It's not a big deal. It's just a cat."
Leaning down to pick up the kitten that was now rubbing against his legs, Rhodey hummed in acknowledgment. "You having a cat is a pretty big deal. How are you even taking care of it? You can't even take care of yourself... obviously. When is the last time you showered?"
"What day is it?", Tony asked still, fully distracted by the images before him.
"Sunday.", Rhodey replied without feeling. "...and if you have to ask for clarification on what day it is in order to answer that then we have a problem."
"I'm onto something. Give me... a few more hours."
Still standing there in the middle of the lab petting a cat, Rhodes looked at the other man and grinned. "What's the cat's name?", he asked already realizing that Tony wouldn't be able to resist talking to him about this. It had to do with Peter and if there was anything that could get him talking it would be anything to do with the kid.
"Huh?", Tony asked irritably at the further interruption.
"The cat, Tony. What's its name?", Rhodey repeated with glee.
Tony took his eyes off his screen for a moment in favor of glancing at his friend's face. When he decided the man looked genuinely interested, he blinked back a few times before answering. "Oh. It's Cheeseburger."
"Really?", Rhodey asked in disbelief. "Why would you name it that of all things?"
"The kid named it not me.", Tony explained with a small smile.
"Right, the kid.", Rhodes replied, nodding his head in understanding. "How did he do it?"
"How'd he do what?", Tony asked with a laugh.
"Talk you into keeping the cat...", Rhodey asked with a laugh. There was a good story in this somewhere. One that he'd be able to lord over his head for years.
Suddenly realizing that Rhodey was successfully distracting him from what he'd been doing, Tony rolled his eyes and turned back to the multiple holographic images spread around his workspace. "Can we talk about this later? I'm kind of busy here."
Reaching out and grabbing his friend by the shoulder to keep him from getting too far, Rhodes nearly shouted. "Tony! I haven't seen you in two months. You can stop for ten minutes to tell me about the stupid cat."
"Fine.", Tony conceded before sorting through the images and saving what needed saving.
Smiling at his own accomplishments, Rhodey decided to push for more. "...and maybe eat. ...and definitely shower."
"Alright! I get it.", Tony grumbled while having a kitten thrust into his hands.
"Then let's go. Now, take your cat and start talking. I'll make us some sandwiches."
When DUM-E Met Cheeseburger
Peter dutifully stopped by to see Tony and take care of Cheeseburger nearly every day between patrols. On one particular Saturday, when Peter showed up sometime late in the afternoon, finding his mentor still in the lab, Peter sighed. "Tony... have you been in here all day?"
"Uh... yeah. That's what I do, kid.", Tony replied somewhat distractedly.
It took no more than thirty seconds for Peter to turn on his heels and start heading for the elevator. "I'm going to go get Cheeseburger, Mr. Stark He's been alone all day."
"If you're bringing that cat in here you had better keep an eye on it. You hear me?", Tony called after the boy who already had his hand on the door.
"Yep. I will, Mr. Stark.", Peter replied and was out the door in flash.
By the time he returned, Tony was back to being engrossed in his project. Rolling his eyes at his mentor's unwavering dedication, Peter carried the kitten over to where DUM-E was standing by on the sidelines. Sitting down criss-cross on the floor in front of the robot, he held up the small kitten. "Look, DUM-E, this is your new brother, Cheeseburger."
When the robot, whirred to life making seemingly unimpressed noises Peter tsked. "Be nice, he lives here now too and you're going to have to get used to it. Look, you can play with him.", Peter announced, pulling a string out of his pocket and dangling it in front of the cat. "See? He likes it. I bet we could teach you to do that."
After multiple demonstrations, trial and error and a couple of tweaks to the robot's code, Peter had DUM-E happily chirping as he pulled and waggled a string across the floor. At some point, his laughter combined with DUM-E's beeping chatter gained Tony's attention. "What are you doing over there kid?", but rather than getting and answer Peter was giddily calling him over.
Being more curious about the ruckus than, reluctant to leave his work, Tony crossed the distance between them and immediately began to laugh. DUM-E was completely wrapped in pink yarn, while turning in circles and zig-zagging across the room, Cheeseburger hot on his trail. "What did you do, Pete?"
"I introduced DUM-E to cheeseburger. I think they like each other.", Peter observed with a wide grin.
Shaking his head at the sigh, Tony watched his creation continue to happily attempt to outrun the kitten. "Sure looks like it. ...and the best part is, now DUM-E has something useful to do. I mean besides poorly mop the floor. He can wear out the cat so it sleeps at night."
Peter nodded in agreement. "Yeah, he needed a new friend too.", Peter said as he leaned over to hug the man from the side.
"I think you're right, kid. He definitely needed another friend."