Tony hums as he accesses the highly explosive piece of equipment in front of him. His music is on as loud as it can be, and there are empty bottles of whiskey littered around his workbench.
It’s a perfect night.
Well, it would have been perfect if JARVIS hadn’t decided he was going to try and stop Tony from building his newest missile.
“Sir, I highly recommend waiting until your blood alcohol level is under at least .10 percent before you begin attaching those wires,” the AI advises. “The last thing any of us would want is for the mansion to explode, killing every resident here.”
“Boring,” Tony sings. “You think death scares me? I’m living life on the risky side, JARVIS, and sometimes that means playing a little booze and bombs, don’t you think?”
“As ridiculous as that sounds, Sir, I was more referring to the four year old boy who is currently asleep in his bed upstairs.”
Tony pauses, hands hesitating over the machinery. He forgot about Peter.
Well, he didn’t forget about him, more like got drunk enough to become ignorant to the fact that the boy was living under the same roof as him, and yet has not been in the same room as Tony for… how long has it been?
Tony squints his eyes, trying to remember the last time he saw the kid. Maybe he should go see him, make sure the boy is still breathing. Quickly, he shakes his head. That is in the best interest of literally nobody. Peter doesn’t need him ruining his life.
It was four and a half years ago, the day Tony’s life was changed forever. A young woman, a drunken fling the man barely remembered, had arrived at the mansion’s front doors with tears in her eyes and a determined look painted along her face.
A few weeks and five prenatal paternity tests later, Tony had no choice but to admit that he was the father of her child. The child that she did not want to keep.
Tony didn’t want to keep it. Him. The baby. He knows first hand the kind of damage that a Stark man can inflict upon a child in their care. He remembers the harsh words, the disappointed glares, and the violence whenever Tony got in Howards way. He didn’t want to become that person.
It was Obadiah Stane, in the end, who forced Tony to keep the baby. For financial matters, for press matters, so that the kid can’t come knocking on his door in 18 years and demand money.
So Tony kept the baby. The mother was out of the picture; with one firm non disclosure agreement and a promise to never return to try and claim Peter back, she disappeared from her son’s life.
To fill the maternal gap that was now in the baby’s life, Tony hired nannies, caretakers, cooks, tutors, everything he could think of until soon the boy had a small army at his disposal. Anything the boy wants, the boy gets. Everyone is happy.
He sees the kid, from time to time. Never tries to get too close, and as the boy got older, Tony began to sense that Peter feared him. He knew that was bound to happen eventually, so he began to keep a further distance than usual. Peter is healthy, he has all of his needs taken care of, and JARVIS is always monitoring him to make sure nobody is harming him, nor taking advantage.
Tony laughs dryly. “Well, would accidentally blowing up my house and consequently murdering my son count as first degree murder, or second?” JARVIS doesn’t respond, emitting a disappointed air from the silence alone. Tony scoffs, but nevertheless doesn’t go to touch the machine.
Instead, he stumbles his way up the stairs of the lab. He wanders into the kitchen, where he gathers a handful of nuts from a bag and pops them all in his mouth before making his way to his bedroom.
A benefit of having so many caretakers working around the clock is that visually, there is no sign that a toddler even lives here. Everything is always being cleaned within minutes of the mess being made, and even then, Tony has had several reports that Peter is a very polite and tidy kid. One of the nannies is always nagging Tony, cornering him with concerns about the boy being too quiet. Despite Tony’s reassurances that there is never anything wrong with being a little quiet, she is adamant that the boy must have something wrong with him. He has contemplated letting her go, but that would lead to a whirlwind of backlash that he definitely does not want to deal with right now, and anyway, Peter seems to like her enough.
As he makes his way to his bedroom, he glances down the hallway. When the baby first came home, Tony had ordered Peter’s nursery to be as far away from his own bedroom as possible. He barely got any sleep as it was, how was he expected to sleep with a wailing infant?
He sees Peter’s bedroom down the hallway, the door kept half open, a soft yellow light emitting from the inside, where Tony is sure a nightlight of some kind is on for the comfort of the boy. He contemplates going over and peeking in, but then quickly decides against it. The last thing Peter needs is to wake up and see his absent father staring down at him.
Quickly, he retires to his own bedroom, and passes out in a nice drunken stupor for what remains of the night.
When Tony first opens his eyes, it is to the blinding light of the morning sun, which causes his morning headache to begin its swelling.
“Good morning Sir,” JARVIS greets. “The time is currently twelve thirty-three in the afternoon. You are scheduled to receive an Apogee Award tonight in Las Vegas, the ceremony commencing at nine o’clock, though it is expected you arrive an hour early.”
Tony groans. “Forget about that. I’m thinking casino night.”
“Sir, there is a specific presentation dedicated to you and you are expected to be there to accept the award.”
“Make Pepper go and accept on my behalf,” Tony says.
“I’m not sure a personal assistant will be deemed acceptable to accept an award such as this,” JARVIS says.
“It’s fine,” Tony shrugs. “I’m sure Obie will be there.”
He spends the rest of the day working in the lab and getting ready to go to the casino to hide from the award show. His BAC is finally low enough for JARVIS to allow him to work on his explosives, so he makes quite a lot of progress during the hours before he leaves.
As he makes his way up the stairs to get ready for the night, the nanny from hell stops him in his tracks.
“Good Evening, Mr. Stark,” she says in her stern voice.
“Ah, yes… Cindy?” He says.
“Sierra, Sir,” she corrects with a glare.
“Right,” he nods. “What is it that you’ve decided is a problem with my son today, Sierra?”
Sierra coughs slightly, as if to clear her throat, before continuing. “Nothing at all, Mr. Stark. Peter is perfectly healthy.”
“Then what is it you need me for?” Tony asks, dramatically looking at his watch.
“Well, Peter had his parent teacher conference earlier today, and as you decided it was below your pay grade to attend, Ms. Potts did.”
Right. Pepper did mention a parent teacher conference. He faintly remembers telling her that he was not going to be caught dead in a germ filled classroom with snotty kids.
“Okay. I’ll make sure to get the 411 from her later. I’m sure he’s doing fine in all his preschool classes.” Tony says.
“He is doing fantastic at school, Mr. Stark. I’m sure Ms. Potts will tell you all about it,” Sierra says. “I was simply wondering if you would allow me to buy Peter pizza for dinner to celebrate his hard work? A reward system works very well developmentally while children grow up, especially around absent”-
“Right,” Tony cuts her off, not wanting to hear her spiel about him being an awful father. He knows what an awful father can truly look like. “Pizza. Sounds delicious.” He digs into his pocket for his wallet and hands her a 100 dollar bill. “Keep the change.”
Before she can say anything else, Tony moves past her and heads up to get ready for the casino.
He’s feeling lucky tonight.
“Mr. Stark! Excuse me, Mr. Stark! Christine Everhart, Vanity Fair magazine. Can I ask you a couple of questions?”
Tony looks at Happy as he begins getting inside of the car. “Is she cute?”
“She’s all right,” Happy replies.
Tony turns around and approaches her, allowing the security to let her through.
“Hi,” he says.
“You’ve been called the da Vinci of our time,” she says. “What do you say to that?”
“Absolutely ridiculous,” Tony responds. “I don't paint.”
“And what do you say to your other nickname? ‘The Merchant of Death’?”
Tony purses his lips and nods slightly. “That’s not bad. Let me guess. Berkeley?”
“Well, Ms. Brown,” Tony says, beginning the same statement he has made for years. “It's an imperfect world, but it's the only one we've got. I guarantee you, the day weapons are no longer needed to keep the peace, I'll start making bricks and beams for baby hospitals.”
“Ah, yes, but you do make regular donations to one baby hospital in particular, I believe the same one your son was born?” She states this as if it were a question. “Is that correct, Mr. Stark?”
“Indeed,” Tony says. “Nothing but 100% quality care taking wherever the Stark’s go. That has a cost.”
“How is your relationship with your son?”
“Perfect. He’s inherited the mind that every Stark needs to thrive in the world.”
“Will he be taking over Stark Industries in his future?” Ms Everhart asks.
“I don’t plan on leaving anytime soon, if that is what you are asking,” Tony jokes. “But yes, that is in the itinerary.”
“How do you feel that you’re going to be raising your son in the world of war profiteering?”
“Tell me, do you plan to report on the millions we've saved by advancing medical technology or kept from starvation with our intelli-crops?” Tony asks. “All those breakthroughs, military funding, honey.”
“You ever lose an hour of sleep your whole life?”
“I'd be prepared to lose a few with you.”
He doesn’t sleep that night. Never does, in fact, whenever someone else is in his bed. Instead, he goes to the lab and spends what little remains of the night in there.
“JARVIS, give me an exploded view of that,” he asks.
“The compression in cylinder three appears to be low,” JARVIS says.
“Log that,” Tony says. “I’m gonna try it again, right… now.” He hears his music being cut off, and whips his head over to where Pepper is walking towards him. “Please don’t turn down my music”
“You are supposed to be halfway across the world right now,” Pepper says.
“Why are you trying to hustle me out of here?” Tony says.
“Your flight was scheduled to leave an hour and a half ago.” Pepper reminds him.
“That's funny, I thought with it being my plane and all, that it would just wait for me to get there.”
“I need to speak to you about a few things before I get you out the door,” Pepper says.
They talk for a few minutes about things regarding the policy, Tony making sure to add a few dramatic yawns when it gets too boring.
“I need you to sign this before you get on the plane.”
“What are you trying to get rid of me for? What, you got plans?” Before Pepper can answer, he notices something god awful and pink behind the paper he is currently signing. “What… what is that? New art project?”
He lifts the contract and sees that it is a children’s drawing, the sloppy words ‘Happy Birthday’ written on the front.
“It’s your birthday?” Tony asks.
“Yes,” Pepper says.
“I knew that,” Tony says. “Already?”
“Isn’t it strange? It’s the same day as last year.”
“Get yourself something nice from me,” he says.
“I already did,” Pepper says.
“It was very nice,” she says. “Very tasteful.”
“I’m glad you liked it,” Tony says.
“Unfortunately, it’s not the best thing a Stark has gifted me on my birthday,” Pepper says in a sad tone.
Tony glances back down at the card. It truly is awful, the entire page filled with pink scribbles and a stick figure of a woman holding hands with a smaller, child-like figure. He grabs it off of the clipboard and opens it. On the inside, there are even more pink lines, though in giant letters that take up most of the page, the words “Love, Peter” are written in blue.
“Awful choice for a colour combination, really,” Tony says.
“Tony,” Pepper scorns. “Peter made that for me on his own. Nobody had to tell him it was my birthday. I mentioned it to him maybe three weeks ago, and he remembered to make me that card.”
“Good memory,” Tony nods. “Better than me.”
Pepper shakes her head. “There are a lot of things he has that are better than you.”
“Ouch,” Tony says, grabbing his heart. “Words hurt, Ms. Potts.”
“If you really want to give me a birthday present, say goodbye to your son before you leave,” Pepper says. “It will mean the world to him.”
“I have to make that plane though, you’re already mad I’m late,” Tony says in haste. The last thing he wants to do is go try to bond with his son.
“Well, what’s ten more minutes?” Pepper says. “I’m sure they will understand if you mention Peter.”
“I’m only going to be gone four days, maximum,” Tony argues. “I’ve gone much longer without seeing him before.”
Pepper huffs out a laugh that is more like a cry. “Mr. Stark. Tony. That little boy is four years old and he thinks his father hates him.”
Tony jerks back. “What?”
“I spend quite a lot of time with Peter when I’m here,” Pepper says. “He’s a really sweet boy. He’s smart, and charming, and he makes everyone fall in love with him the minute they see him. But for some reason, his father doesn’t want to be in the same room with him.”
“I’m a busy man,” Tony says.
“You make time for the casino,” Pepper says. “For Christine Everhart. Make time for Peter, or he’ll grow up to resent you.”
Tony scoffs. “Stark’s have hearts of iron, Ms. Potts.”
“Well than the paternity test made a mistake, because Peter has a heart of gold,” Pepper says. “Go say goodbye to your son.”
She leaves the room without another word. Tony stands there for another moment, wondering what the hell had just happened, but he decides to go to find his son anyway. It’s better to not be on Pepper’s bad side.
“JARVIS?” Tony asks.
“Young Peter is in his bedroom, Sir.” JARVIS informs him.
Tony makes his way to Peter’s bedroom, walking slowly as if attempting to convince himself not to.
When he gets to the room, the door is open just as it had been a few nights ago, and Tony slowly peeks his head in.
Peter is on the floor by his bed, two Star Wars action figures in his hands, quietly making them speak to each other. From the looks of it, Han and Luke are now in a relationship and are wed to be married, and Princess Leia is… with Chewbacca? Tony smiles uncomfortably toward the boy, before clearing his throat to announce his presence.
Peter’s head jerks up swiftly at that, gasping and eyes widening like saucers when he sees who his visitor is. As quick as a mouse, the actions figures have been thrown under the bed as if to hide the fact they were ever there, and the boy has run over to his desk, grabbing a thick mathematics book.
Tony remembers buying that book, he remembers the conversation with Peter’s tutor. The man had insisted that Peter be advanced in his classes, move up a few grades, and Tony had refused. He knows first hand what it is like to be the youngest person in a class by several years, and it is not fun. There is bullying, resentment, and a lack of friendship that comes with constantly moving up. Tony had come to an agreement with the tutor, that the man could teach Peter more challenging, mind alerting topics, though Peter remains in the grade he is in.
He hates that Peter feels like he has to abandon his toys for his homework. He is reminded of Howard, who never let Tony have any toys because he felt they were a distraction Tony didn’t deserve. He isn’t sure when Peter felt that Tony thought the same way, but he would have to have some words with the boys caretakers.
“H-Hi D-Daddy. Dad,” Peter stutters out. Tony isn’t a big fan of the stutter as well. Peter has been having weekly appointments with a qualified speech pathologist, though that doesn’t seem to be helping, in Tony’s opinion.
Tony smiles awkwardly. “Hey kid. You don’t have to stop playing, you know.”
Peter shakes his head. “I.. I d-don’t wanna play anym’re.” He lifts the book up. “It’s t-time to read. I wanna read now.”
Tony feels a sharp pain in his chest and he isn’t sure what the hell is wrong. He hates having to talk to Peter. He feels an uncomfortable distance between them, knowing that he has no way to relate to this child. The feeling scares him. He just knows that if he were to spend more time with Peter, the more the feeling will grow, and he will inevitably turn into Howard. A cold, unforgiving man who resents his son. He can’t have that.
Tony leans against the doorframe. “Okay. Whatever you want, kid.”
Peter looks up at him, squinting his eyes. “Are you o-okay, daddy?” He pauses and furrows his brows. “Dad, I mean.”
Tony isn’t sure where that came from, either. Which one of the boys caretakers had convinced him that he isn’t allowed to call Tony ‘Daddy’ anymore. The kid is only four. Even Howard allowed Tony to call him that before weeding it out around the age of six.
“Yeah,” Tony replies. “I’m fine. I’m going on a trip for a few days. I wanted to make sure you were okay before I left, if you needed anything.”
Peter looks confused. “I-I’m o-okay, dad. Sierra got me a whole pizza last night.”
Tony smiles. “I heard. Maybe tonight she’ll get you some ice cream, if you’re good.”
Peter wrinkles his nose and looks at Tony wearily. “M’only allowed to have j-junk on special days, l-like c-c-conference days.”
“Oh,” Tony says. He didn’t know that. “Well tell her I said you can.”
“O-okay,” Peter says, tilting his head slightly. He opens his mouth and shuts it several times. Tony wants to tell him to spit it out, though holds himself back. After waiting a few more moments, Peter seems to decide against whatever he was going to say, and deflates slightly.
“Well, I better get going,” Tony says, noticing the awkward air Peter seems to be in. “I’m really late for my plane.”
“Oh,” Peter says, looking at the floor. He shifts slightly, and walks over to Tony. Looking up at the man, he shifts again, arms raising slightly before falling back into place. “Um. Have a good trip, daddy.”
“I’ll try. Go play,” Tony says, placing a finger under Peter’s chin to lift his chin. He makes eye contact with those giant, scary brown eyes, before walking away without another word.
He saunters down the hall to the sound of Peter talking to himself, and just as he closes the front door, hears a faint, “No, Luke!” and smiles slightly.
As he steps onto the plane, Rhodey scolding him for being so late, he makes a mental note to tell the nannies that Peter is allowed to eat whatever he wants, as long as he keeps a balanced diet.
Of course, he never gets that chance, because that day he gets bombed with weapons painted with his name.