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Peter's New Step-Bother

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The first time Peter met Harley was when he was in Kindergarten. The boy, three years older, was in the third grade. Peter hadn’t thought much of that, as he climbed up the jungle gym with Ned and MJ by his side. The boy, at the top with his friends, laughed when Peter lost his footing and almost fell off.

Peter had almost cried, because they were laughing at him. He glanced back at his new friends, tilting his head. They both glared at the group of older boys, so Peter decided he should continue up the playground.

However, he did cry when the leader of the group, who Peter would soon learn was named Flash, shoved him when he neared the top, making him topple to the ground.

Harley had blinked at him, mouth in a straight line as the others in their group laughed at the crying kindergartener. The boy had watched, eyebrows furrowed as a teacher on playground duty hurried to Peter, pulling him up and escorting him and his two friends to the office to get his new scraps bandaged.

That had been the first time Peter Stark had met Harley Potts.


Peter liked his life. It was a nice life- a nice existence.

He had everything he could ever want. A daddy who loved him loads, and aunts and uncles.

He lived in a nice house just outside of Manhattan. It was big, with loads of bedrooms for when his aunts and uncles came to stay with them. He had toys and a cool bedroom- bunkbeds for when Ned came to sleepover. He had loads and loads of Legos, and other cool toys his daddy gets for him.

Then, there was the garage, where he and his daddy spent loads of time tinkering on things.

His daddy owned two businesses, Stark Industries which did a bunch of boring business stuff, and a mechanics shop, which Peter liked much more. Peter wasn’t into cars like his daddy was, although he knew how to take apart an engine and reassemble it, just like his daddy had taught him.

He was more excited by the tools that were kept at the shop- ones too big or dangerous for daddy to keep in the garage. There was loads of scrap metal for building with and cool things to see.

Peter wasn’t quite sure how much money his daddy actually had, but he knew it was a lot. Both his dad’s companies had been on the news multiple times, and, sometimes they were even on the news- or, daddy was at least.

Peter thought that was pretty awesome. None of his friend’s daddies did anything like his did.

Peter also liked his school a lot. He had his friends there- well, he mostly just had Ned, but he liked MJ a lot too. MJ was nice, and cool, and they’d always hang out together, just the three of them. Then there were friends like Harry, who he knew and played with sometimes, but they’d never come to his house before.

He liked his bus ride to school too- it was long, but they crossed a bridge and that was always fun. Plus, the bus driver was always super nice to him. And he got first dibs on a seat because he was always the first kid on the bus.

Of course, there were some things he didn’t like too much.

One of the bigger things he didn’t like was Skip. Peter didn’t like him at all. Peter didn’t like the games that they played when his daddy would be gone for the evening at work. Thankfully, he didn’t see Skip very often, since usually one of Peter’s aunts or uncles, or family friends could come stay with him while his dad was gone. Playing with Skip scared him, but Peter didn’t want to worry his daddy, when his dad was already super busy.

And... and there was Harley and Flash and their group of friends.

Peter didn’t like them. And they didn’t seem to like him. The two fifth graders and their group of friends were always teasing him and picking on him at recess. Sometimes Flash would shove him, or knock him over- or Harley would call him a mean name, but Peter never told. It wasn’t worth telling.

The boy wasn’t too sure why they picked on him. He’d never done anything to them. He just accepted that they didn’t like him. Not everyone was going to like him, that was something his dad had told him.

Most of all, Peter didn’t like how busy his dad was. Daddy was always super busy. Peter knew it was because he had two companies to be running, but that didn’t mean that Peter didn’t miss him when he was working past dinner, or gone before Peter woke up in the morning.

Sometimes he really missed his daddy.

His dad tried to make time for him, Peter knew, but the man had a lot to do... and sometimes Peter just got brushed onto the back burner. He knew his dad never means to do it, so if he forgets to attend Peter’s spelling bee, it’s not really a big deal.

Lately though, his dad had been going out a lot more in the evening. Peter isn’t too sure why, because he’s never had so many meetings during the week... and if some of his uncles, who work with his daddy weren’t at the meetings too, he didn't know where his daddy was going.

“Uncle Rhodey?” Peter asked slowly as we walked into the kitchen. It was yet another night of his dad being gone for dinner, and probably past his bedtime. The man in question was stood at the stove, stirring a boiling pot of boxed macaroni and cheese pasta, turned to look at Peter.

It was the third day this week that his daddy was away until after he goes to bed.

“What’s up, bud?” the man tilts his head at Peter. The boy shuffled on his feet for a second before moving into the kitchen and seating himself at the kitchen island, where he’d watch his dad make omelets in the mornings- or he would when his dad was here.

“Where’s daddy?” Peter asked after pulling himself into his chair. “He’s... he’s never had this many meetings before.” And it’s been going on for months now, the boy didn’t add. This was the third meeting this week, Peter also didn’t mention that.

“There haven’t been any meetings recently,” Rhodey’s eyebrows furrowed in confusion.

“There haven't?” Peter blinked.

“No,” Rhodey shook his head, “who told you he was in meetings?”

No one had told him anything. Peter had just assumed. That was usually the only thing that would be taking his dad away from him. Meetings, and work- and every once and a while, a business trip.

Peter shrugged in response to the man’s question, lowering his gaze to the counter top in front of him, where he absently drew his finger back and forth along the marble.

“Peter...” Rhodey’s voice was uncharacteristically soft, “your daddy hasn’t been going to meetings.”

The boy lifted his attention to his uncle, frowning thoughtfully.

“Where’s he been then?”

“He’s been...” the man bit his lip, turning to look at the mac and cheese before looking back at Peter, “he’s been going on dates, Pete.”

Dates. He’s known people who go on dates. Uncle Rhodey has, and aunt Natasha. Steve and Bucky go on dates all the time- but his daddy has never...

“Dates with who?” Peter asked slowly. He bit the inside of his cheek as the man turned back to the pot of pasta; draining it in the sink and then adding the cheese powder, milk and butter as the directions specified.

The man didn’t respond at first, the only noises in the kitchen were those of water filtering down the drain and the sounds of Rhodey mixing the mac and cheese together. Peter watched silently as the man pulled a plate from the cupboard and started spooning things from trays and pots on the stovetop onto it.

Then, with a sigh, the man finally spoke, “listen, Bud, I think this is something you should ask your dad. It’s not mine to share with you.”

The man set the plate, contents being a breaded chicken breast cut up in small pieces, mac and cheese and broccoli, on the counter in front of Peter, before turning away to take care of the dishes. A subtle ‘end of conversation’ Peter had gotten more times in his life than he can count.

The boy picked up his fork, taking a bite of the mac and cheese, elbow settled on the table and his cheek falling against his fist. What was his daddy up too?


His dad came home late. Peter rubbed the sleep from his eyes, glancing towards his Star Wars alarm clock. At was a bit after ten o’clock. The boy yawned tiredly, slipping his book under his pillow but leaving his flashlight on. If he turned it off, he’d fall asleep.

Peter wasn’t used to being awake this late at night. Even on weekends his daddy like him in bed before nine thirty. And on school nights, it was always eight o’clock- unless he’d been super good or had loads of candy, then he could sometimes push it to eight thirty.

The house had been quiet, well, besides Rhodey, who had been watching some tv show for past two hours since putting Peter to bed at eight.

Peter sat up in his bed, bear snuggled against his chest. There was a possibility he could get in trouble, but he didn’t think he would. Daddy didn’t usually get mad for stuff like this. Or, he hasn’t before, because Peter doesn’t really do this.

But today, he just wanted to see his daddy. He hadn’t seen him in forever; since yesterday morning at least. That’s practically forever.

The door opening caught Peter’s attention. He wasn’t going to get out of bed, but he wasn’t going to fall asleep either. He was too tired to move, but to curious to fall asleep. He'd wait for his daddy to come check on him, like he does every night.

Downstairs, the television shut off as Tony entered the house, grinning at his friend.

“Hey, man, how was it?” Rhodey asked, sitting up from where he’d been slouched over on his friends incredibly comfortable couch, and stretching his tired joints.

“It was perfect,” the man sighed happily, sitting beside his friend, kicking his feet up on the coffee table with a dopey little smile on his face that almost made his best friend laugh, “she’s so great, Rhodes, I mean, she’s practically perfect.”

“I’m happy for you,” Rhodey smiled at his long-time best friend, expressing his happiness, but then he chewed his bottom lip, thinking back to his conversation with Peter. He frowned lightly, then looked towards Tony, catching the man’s eye before muttering a soft, “just... you know, don’t forget about Pete.”

“Forget about him?” Tony’s voice rang in surprise- bordering on offended as he shot his attention to his best friend. “Did he say something to you? I can’t... I could never, you know that.”

The thought of his boy thinking he could forget about him tugged at his heart strings. Peter was his everything.

“I know that,” Rhodey agreed in response, “but does he? He was just... y’know, he was asking about you. Thought you’ve been at meetings and stuff.”

“I see,” Tony sighed, scrubbing a hand down his face, “he’s my number one, man. No one can replace that kid; I love him to death.”

“I know,” Rhodey laughed, “but he’s seven, and seven-year-old's have weird ways of thinkin’.”

“Yeah,” Tony nodded in agreement. There had been a couple things the seven-year-old had said that left Tony clueless. “I’ll talk to him tomorrow. During breakfast. I think...” the man paused, biting his bottom lip before blowing out a slow breath, “I think it might be time to introduce them?”

“It’s that... serious?” Rhodey questioned, a bit shocked, “that’s... I mean, are you sure? It’s one thing to tell Pete, but it’s another entirely to actually introduce him to her.”

“I think this is actually getting serious, Rhodey...” Tony agreed with a nervous smile, attention on his best friend, “I really like her- and, I mean, she likes me too. She’s got a kid a bit older than Pete. We’ve been dating for months, I think it’s time.”

“It’s up to you,” Rhodey shrugged, “your kid, your life. Just... make sure everything’s good with him. This can really stress a kid out- you know his anxiety.”

“Of course,” Tony agreed instantly, “Peter comes first. And he always will. If he doesn’t... if he doesn’t like her, then that’s it.” There was a pause. “She’s amazing though, so I don’t think that’s really a problem.”

They talked a little more about Tony’s date, and Rhodey’s evening with Peter. It was about an hour later that Rhodey stood to leave. Tony stood, following his friend to the door, to see him out.

Tony stepped back into the house a couple minutes later. He turned the lock after shutting the door. He was just so happy. His date with Pepper had gone amazingly well. She was perfect. Perfect for him, and perfect for his Peter.

He knew he’d been seeing her a lot recently, but he really liked her. He really wanted this to work out. He was sure that she was staying around- and it was time to introduce Peter to her and her son.

The man made his way into the kitchen, snorting to himself when seeing Rhodey had basically already cleaned everything. He moved to the sink, putting away the dishes that were finished air drying. He tidied up a little more, clearing some of Peter’s little toys off the kitchen island and putting Peter’s homework away in his backpack, then preparing his son’s lunch for the following day.

It was just before eleven when he decided to head upstairs.

Despite knowing that he trusted Rhodey, and all his friends with his son, the man still felt the pull to check on his boy. He needed to make sure Peter was okay before he could head off to bed himself.

Tony walked up the stairs, slowly turning towards Peter’s room, where he noticed a stream of light coming from under the seven-year-old's room. Peter had a tendency to read past his bedtime, and no matter where Tony hid the flashlights, the boy always managed to find them.

Tony sighed to himself, pulling the door open quietly. The dull light of the flashlight lit up Peter’s slouched over frame. The boy was asleep sitting up. His head was lulled against the wall, and his stuffed bear held in his lap. Tony smiled to himself, moving into the room.

The movements startled Peter from his half-asleep state.

“Oh,” Peter sighed, “Dah,” the boy yawned, “Dah-ddy.”

“It’s okay, honey,” Tony whispered as he moved up the stairs, “what’re you doing up, Bambino?”

“Missed you,” Peter explained shortly, wrapping his arms around his dad’s neck as Tony settled beside him on the bed. The man pulled his son into his lap, pressing a kiss to Peter’s curls covered forehead.

“Aw, I missed you too, baby.” Tony felt his head flutter in his chest and he held his boy just a little tighter. “You should be asleep though, baby. It’s very late, and you’ve got school tomorrow.”

“Wanna... wanted to know about your date,” Peter hummed drowsily, curling his head under Tony’s chin.

“My date?” the man repeated in surprise, “what do you wanna know, honey?”

The man was a little shocked to be having this conversation now, while Peter was half asleep, but he went with it. If Peter had been waiting up for him, he was obviously thinking something.

“Wanna... where’d you go?” Peter asked sleepily as Tony stood up with Peter, pulling his son’s Star Wars bedsheets back and carefully laying the boy down. When Peter was laying, eyes barely open, the man slipped his bear in beside the boy, then sat himself on the edge of the bed to car his fingers through Peter’s hair.

“I went to a little restaurant,” the man hummed, hoping to lull Peter to sleep at this point. Peter being grumpy tomorrow was inevitable at this point. “They had breadsticks and some pasta. Maybe we can go there sometime.”

“Mm’yeah,” Peter sighed, forehead pushing against Tony’s thigh as the man continued brushing his fingers through Peter’s hair, “w-who, who’d ya go wiff, daddy?”

“I went with my friend Pepper,” the man bit his bottom lip, now moving his hand to run up and down Peter’s spine. It was a sure-fire way to get the boy to sleep, and it had been since he was born. “We had such a nice time, baby. I really like her,” Tony whispered.

Peter’s breaths had evened out now, so Tony knew he was asleep. That didn’t mean he was going to move just yet. The man loved moments like this- just watching his son’s chest rise and fall with even breaths.

Tony didn’t make it to his own bed until just past twelve, but it was fine.


That next morning Tony was awake to make pancakes for breakfast. It was one of Peter’s favorite breakfasts, and Tony thought that he’d need to have something treat-like to finally be dropping the ‘girlfriend bomb’ on his son.

Tony didn’t really know how Peter was going to react to this. Tony had never... he’d never introduced Peter to anyone. Nothing had ever lasted long enough for the thought to even be relevant. One-night stands and weekend getaways were the most he usually did- and Peter didn’t know about those. As far as the boy was concerned, Tony had never had a serious love interest.

Pepper wasn’t like that though.

When six-fifteen hit, the man moved upstairs to wake his boy. He’d let Peter sleep an extra fifteen minutes, though he was sure the boy would still be irritated and grumpy.

As expected, Peter rolled out of bed with a grumble.

It took twenty minutes for the seven-year-old to go about his morning routine of getting dressed, brushing his teeth and hair and taking care of his bathroom routine.

Tony had a plate of chocolate chip pancakes waiting at his usual kitchen island placement. Tony figured the boy could use the chocolate pick-me-up after staying up late.

“Good morning, Bambino,” Tony smiled at the boy pulling himself into his chair.

“G’mornin’, Daddy,” Peter replied, a tiny bit more chipper than he had been when he first woke up. It wasn’t much, but it was something. The man watched his son fork at his pancakes for a second before finally clearing his throat.

“So, what were you doing awake after bedtime? I know uncle Rhodey put you to bed on time, young man.”

Peter winced lightly at that, frowning down at his pancakes.

“W-wanted to make sure you got home,” the boy mumbled, “you... you’ve never... you don’t date, Daddy.”

It was Tony’s turn to look down at his meal now. He blew out a breath, before giving his son a small smile. Peter was too cute sometimes

“That’s very sweet of you, honey, but you know you have to go to bed at bedtime, or else you’ll be grumpy and tired through the day.”

“M’not grumpy,” Peter scowled cutely, proving the man’s point- not that Tony was going to point that out. “You didn’t tell me you were goin’ on dates, Daddy,” Peter accused, dropping his fork to his plate and crossing his arms across his chest.

“I know, Bambino,” Tony frowned, moving to sit on the stool beside Peter’s. He pulled the boy into his lap, then slid Peter’s plate over in front of him too so Peter could continue to eat. “We can talk now. Do you know what a date is?”

“Like a play date?” Peter questioned, picking his fork up again and forking a piece of pancake into his mouth, “like me’n’Ned do?”

“Kind of,” Tony hummed, "it’s something adults do though. We... we, well, yes. I suppose it’s just like your play dates with Ned, except we talk about grown up things and don’t play. It’s like a business meeting.” The man chuckled at Peter’s sour face at the description, “see, bud, when an adult likes another adult, they take them out to a movie, or to a restaurant for dinner. That’s where they can get to know each other without other people around.”

“In private?” Peter turned slightly to look at his dad. “You like someone, Daddy?”

“Yes,” the man nodded, “I do really like her, Pete.”

Peter seemed to think that over as he took another bite of his pancakes. Tony watched his son process it, waiting patiently for any questions Peter could have.

“Do you... do you like like her, Daddy?”

The man restrained from laughing at the kid’s serious question. He took a breath before nuzzling his nose into Peter’s curls and whispering a soft, “I do, Pete. I do like like her.”

Peter nodded thoughtfully.

“Is she nice?”

“She’s very nice. You know, she really wants to meet you, is that something you’d like, Pete?” Tony asked carefully, “we can go to the playground, or maybe the zoo or something? How does that sound?”

“I love the zoo!” Peter squealed. He turned in his dad’s lap to grin at him, eyes sparkling in excitement.

“I know you do!” The man matched his son’s enthusiasm, “it’ll be you, me and Pepper going to the zoo, how’s that sound, Kiddo?”

“Yeah!” Peter nodded. “Sounds fun, Daddy!”

“Great,” the man grinned. “Maybe we can go this weekend?”

“Mhmm!” Peter grinned, shoveling another mouthful of pancakes into his mouth.

Conversation continued on about Peter’s day at school yesterday and if he’d gotten his homework done and checked by an adult. Finally, it’s a couple minutes before the bus comes to pick Peter up, so Tony walks him out to the bus stop.

The man watches his son get on, greeting the bus driver enthusiastically.


It was that following weekend that Peter met Pepper.

His dad had been giddy on the drive to the zoo, talking happily to Peter, who was sat in the backseat in his booster seat. Tony sang to the radio, grinning at Peter- in a generally good mood.

They’d arrived at the zoo before Pepper, but waited at the gates for what felt like forever. Peter held his dad’s hand, toeing his sneakers boredly into the gravelly dirt they were standing on. Peter’s eyes were down, looking at the dirt around them, so he didn’t really notice when a pair of feet, feet like his aunt Nat’s, stopped in front of them.

It was the sound of his dad’s voice, bright and attentively greeting someone that drew Peter’s attention in. The boy looked up, instantly feeling shy and shuffling to half hide himself behind his dad’s legs.

“Tony,” the woman greeted, her voice just as his dad’s.

The woman looked nice, she had long hair pulled back into a ponytail. She had blue eyes, and looked nice enough. That said, Peter couldn’t help but wrinkle his nose at her. And the way his dad’s hand settled on her waist for a second before he pulled back.

“Pep, this is my son, Peter,” his dad pulled him around, then crouched behind Peter, arm wrapping around Peter’s torso to keep him in place, “and this is my friend Pepper, Bambi.”

Peter raised his hand in a shy wave, turning away almost immediately to hide his face in his dad’s shirt.

“Hi, Peter,” Pepper smiled, also crouching down to Peter’s level, “it’s nice to finally meet you. Your dad talks about you all the time!”

Peter pulled away to look at her again, studying her- from her smile, to the clothes she was wearing. Then he tilted his head back to glance at the grin on his father’s face, narrowing his eyes before looking back at the woman.

“’s nice to meet you too,” Peter mumbled respectfully. He still shied away, but thankfully, Pepper wasn’t looking for a handshake like some of his dad’s friends or the teachers at school looked for when he first met them. Peter didn’t really like touching people.

That seemed to be good enough for the adults who smiled, then stood to full height again.

“What do you say we head in now? Check out all the cute animals?” Tony amped up his excitement for Peter’s sake.

“Yeah!” Peter grinned up at his dad, then subtly glance at Pepper. She smiled, but didn’t say anything. Peter latched onto his dad’s hand, following silently as his dad paid for everyone’s admission into the zoo.

“Where would you like to go first, Peter?” Pepper asked, friendly smile cast down at him.

“The...” Peter bit his lip scanning the map in front of them, “the snow leopards! I wanna go see the snow leopards!” Peter jumped in spot, grinning before flashing what his dad always called his ‘doe eyes’ at the two, “pleeassee?”

“You’re in charge, Petey,” Tony grinned, giving Pepper a side glance. The woman smiled, nodding along.

“We can go visit any animals you want today,” she agreed.

They slowly made their way to the snow leopard enclosure, Peter skipping happily beside his dad, clutching tightly at his hand and Pepper and Tony talking in hushed voices to each other. On the way to the snow leopards, Peter got distracted by the sea lions, pulling his dad to a stop to watch.

“Look. Look!” Peter pointed, letting his dad’s hand go to get closer to the barrier. He pressed up against it, craning his neck to see the sea lions. He felt his dad come up behind him, and then Pepper step to his right.

“So cool, isn’t it honey?” Tony enthused, smiling down at Peter.

“Mhm!” Peter grinned back at the two adults, “I like them, but I like the snow leopards even more.”

“Well, let’s go see them then!” Pepper cheered.

“Yeah, let’s go!” Peter agreed, taking his dad’s hand back into his and dragging him along. It was not Peter’s first trip to the zoo, and he was starting to memorize where everything was- between his visits with his class, his dad or one of his aunts or uncles.

“The snow leopards are this way,” Peter told the two, letting go of his dad’s hand to lead them. “Snow leopards are my favorite kind of cat. They’re so pretty,” the boy spoke, not looking back and trusting the adults were following him.

When they arrived at the snow leopard encloser (since Peter had zeroed in on it and refused to even glance at any of the other enclosures), he beamed happily, moving to stand on his toes to glance into the enclosure.

“Up please, Daddy. I can’t see ‘em.” Tony obliged, moving to Peter and picking him up. Peter was quite happy to be settled on his dad’s hip, grinning down in the enclosure at the snow leopard. “Did ya know that snow leopard babies are born not being able to see, and they don’t get to see until, like, nine days after they’re born?” the seven-year-old turned his interested eyes to see how Pepper liked his fact.

“No,” the woman smiled, “I didn’t know that.”

“Andd,” Peter continued, grinning, “they’ll stay with their mommies for two years after they’re born, even though they’re solidary animals, which means they like to live by themselves!”

“Woah,” Pepper enthused, “that’s a long time for cats. Thankfully people babies stay with their mommies and daddies for much longer.” Pepper teased easily. Peter felt his dad squeeze him a little tighter for a second before returning to just holding him.

“Peter’s a snow leopard enthusiast,” Tony mused, bouncing the boy lightly in his arms and flashing a grin.

“Yeah!” Peter agreed happily, “oh, oh, and, snow leopards can’t roar like lions and tigers, so they hiss, growl and make meowing sounds.”

Almost as if to prove Peter’s point, the snow leopard in the encloser growled at one of the toys in the enclosure before making a quiet meowing noise. Peter grinned, leaning closer to see over the barrier.

“You’re such a smart boy, Peter,” Pepper applauded, “where do you learn things like this?”

“Books mostly,” Peter informed with a shrug, finally patting his dad’s chest to be put down. Tony settled the boy on the ground, fixing Peter’s shirt, which had ridden up, before standing to his full height again. “I learn a lot from school too! I really like our library, and the public library. There’s so many books about science, and snow leopards and, and, everything!”

“A smart boy just like his daddy, huh?” Pepper grinned at Peter, then up at Tony, who blushed lightly, settling his hand on top of Peter’s head.

“Yeah,” Peter turned to look up his dad with a look of adornment. “My daddy’s the smartest and he’s the best.”

“Yes, he is.”

“Okay, okay,” Tony interrupted, brushing his fingers through Peter’s hair, “let’s go get something for lunch? Peter, what do you think about a hotdog?”

“Yeah!” The boy grinned, taking Tony’s hand, “I like ketchup on my hotdog, what about you, Pepper?”

Tony and Pepper shared a pleased smile over the boy’s head before Pepper cleared her throat to speak, “I like mustard.” The woman stepped up to walk on Peter’s other side.

“Daddy likes his hotdogs plain, right, Daddy?”

“I do,” the man nodded, grinning at Pepper.

Peter continued to babble on about some of the animals they passed on their way to a little concession stand by the entrance, and talk animatedly about snow leopards, sharing more facts he knew about the large cats.

The hotdogs they got for lunch were good. Peter carefully squeezed one line of ketchup along his hotdog, then sat down with his dad and Pepper to eat. Peter didn’t like the bun very much, so he mostly ate the hotdog itself, with a couple sips of his dad’s cola soft drink.

“You know, Peter,” Pepper started, wiping her mouth on a napkin, “I’ve got a boy who’s a couple years older than you.” Peter perked up at the sound of his name, tilting his head as Pepper spoke.

“You do?” he asked, furrowing his eyebrows, “what’s his name?”

“His name’s Harley, and he’s ten.”

“I’m only seven.” Peter tilted his head, biting his bottom lip, “that’s so old,” the boy frowned. His heart quickened with anxiety. The thought of meeting Pepper’s son almost sent Peter into a panic. Thankfully, his dad had gotten good at detecting when he was starting to panic.

“Hey now,” Tony threw an arm around Peter’s shoulder, pulling him into his side, “we can have friends older than us, remember? Skip’s your friend, right?”

“Oh yeah,” Peter deflated, lowing his eyes. “He’s my friend.”

“Yeah,” the man grinned, “Harley can be your friend too, right?”

“Mhm,” Peter flashed an anxious smile, before looking away again. “Can we go to the monkeys next?”

The rest of the trip to the zoo was filled with a slightly quieter Peter. The boy kept a hand on Tony, whether in his own larger hand, or gripping an article of the man’s clothing. The visited a couple more animals, watched a couple informational videos and even watched a penguin feeding before they started to head to the exit.

Peter was exhausted, eyes drifting shut as his father pulled him along. It was only when he almost face planted after tripping over his own feet that Tony decided to put the kid out of his misery and pick him up.

Peter curled instantly into his dad and sighed happily, eyes drifting closed.

“Let’s just check out the giftshop before we go,” Pepper suggested. “I promised Harley I’d get him a stuffed monkey.”

“Sounds good,” Tony agreed, following behind her with an easy smile. Peter’s head lulled on Tony’s shoulder and he’d blink his eyes open before letting them slip closed again for a couple seconds.

“Look, Peter,” the boy lifted his head to look at Pepper, who was holding a big, fluffy snow leopard stuffed animal. Peter’s tired eyes widened and he grinned, reaching over his dad’s shoulder to finger through the toy’s soft fur.

“Can I have it, daddy?” Peter asked tiredly, letting his cheek fall back to Tony’s shoulder.

“No, honey, you have enough stuffed toys,” Tony frowned in thought. Peter frowned too, looking sadly down at the toy in arms reach.

“Don’t worry about it,” Pepper waved him off, flashing a playful smile, “I’ll buy it for him. I’m already getting Harley a toy, and I was the one to show him.”

Peter grinned wide at Pepper, taking the toy from her outstretched hand and holding it close to himself.

“Are you sure?” Tony asked slowly, eyeing the toy before looking at Pepper with concern, “he really doesn’t need it.”

“Nonsense,” the woman laughed, “never too many stuffies, right, Peter?”

“Yuh, Daddy,” Peter tilted his head to catch a glimpse of his dad’s face, then looked back to smile at Pepper, “never too many stuffies.”

Both adults laughed, and Peter smiled, hiding his nose in his dad’s neck. Peter watched with bleary eyes as Pepper paid for a stuffed monkey and the snow leopard Peter was still clutching. She flashed a smile at him and Peter ducked his head.

“What do we say, baby?” Tony prompted, rubbing Peter’s back.

“Thank you for the new stuffie, Pepper,” Peter mumbled easily. “I really like it.”

“No problem, Buddy,” Pepper gave Peter a half smile, “I’m glad you like it.”

Peter didn’t really remember much more after that. They walked to the car together, and his dad put him in his seat, buckling him in and setting the new toy in his lap. Peter also faintly remembers his daddy kissing Pepper. Which had him recoiling slightly in his sleepy state.

Daddy had never kissed anyone but himself and grandma Rhodes before. His daddy must really like like her.