The trip to the private airport was uneventful, and as soon as the car was parked, Tony was throwing open his door and running around to the opposite side. He was careful when opening Peter’s door though, as he had just gotten his son to sleep before they left, and he planned on keeping it that way.
“You good, Boss?” Happy asks, watching Tony as the billionaire strategically maneuvers the car seat out of the vehicle.
“Yep,” Tony says softly, his eyes never leaving Peter as the baby continues to sleep. “Yep, yep, yep. All good. Hap, can you…?”
Happy picks up on the unsaid request and moves towards the trunk, “You got it.”
Knowing that the bags were going to be taken care of, Tony starts towards the plane; Peter’s car seat in one hand, a stocked diaper bag slung over the other shoulder.
If the Tony from nine months ago could have seen the future, he would have thrown up because of how domestic future Tony looked.
“I would imagine traffic was terrible judging by how long it took you to get here,” Pepper says as Tony approaches her.
“Not my fault that you think people need to arrive six hours early to catch a plane,” he says, stopping and allowing himself a second to adjust the bag strap cutting into his shoulder. “Also, we had to make a little detour. We had an accident.”
Pepper’s eyes widen slightly. “Someone hit the car?”
“What? God, no, Pep. Peter had an accident. We had to pull over so I could change him.” Tony laughs, although Pepper doesn't seem to share his humor. “I know who I’m hiring; Happy would never get in an accident.”
Pepper shakes her head, and Tony pats her on the shoulder before starting up the steps leading into the plane.
“Oh, Pep,” Tony says, suddenly turning and looking down. Pepper looks up, obviously anticipating the worst. “Please get someone to help Happy with the luggage. I know he’s gonna have trouble with Peter’s play-crib.”
At that moment, a loud snapping noise can be heard, and Happy cries out in anger, cursing loudly.
“Called it!” Tony announces before ducking into the jet.
Rhodey was already sitting in one of the seats, his nose buried in a newspaper, but he looks up just as Tony places Peter’s car seat down on one of the chairs. Tony keeps his eyes trained on his son as Rhodey stands and walks over to his friend.
“I think he’ll be okay, Tones,” Rhodey says as Tony adjusts Peter’s hat for the fifth time.
“I just don’t want him to be cold, Rhodey.”
“I know, but it’s warm enough in here. Pete will be fine.”
Tony frowns, giving the hat one more gentle tug before pulling his hands away. “Okay, fine. I’ll stop.”
Rhodey smiles, walking back over to his seat. “Nothing about you in the papers yet. I’m surprised that no one spotted you in the city.”
“Yeah, well that might be because I paid off the two reporters who were going to print something. Caught them just in time. Besides, every doctor signed a non-discretion contract.” Tony sits down in his seat, sneaking a glance at Peter still snoozing. “I’m not letting them get their hands on him just yet… I need more time with him being ours.”
“I know, Tones,” Rhodey says from across the aisle. “He’ll always be your baby. You don’t have to worry about that.”
“I know, I know,” Tony says, leaning against the armrest. “It’s just-- God, Rhodey, it’s hard for me to believe how much I love him.”
Rhodey chuckles, “Trust me, Tones, it’s harder for me to even believe that he is actually yours. Sometimes I still see you as that confused fifteen-year-old on his first day at MIT.”
“It’s only been sixteen years.”
“Only,” Rhosey scoffs, “that’s still a long time to be tied down with you, Stark.”
“Oh come on, you love me, Honey Bear.” Tony smiles and leans towards Rhodey, watching as his friend tries to fight off a grin.
“What are you two bickering about?” Happy asks as he lumbers into the plane, Pepper on his heels.
“Nothing new,” Rhodey answers, opening his paper again.
“I swear, it’s like an old married couple with these two,” Happy remarks to Pepper as she takes her seat.
“Don’t I know it,” Pepper says before pulling out a laptop and started to type away softly.
It takes another half an hour before the plane is safe to fly, and during that time, Peter never rouses, so Tony has hope. But that is before he remembered what happened when the altitude changes.
Peter starts to cry as soon as the plane enters the clouds. Tony can sense everyone on the plane instantly tense, and he doesn't miss when Happy hides his frown in his mystery novel.
“Hey, hey, hey Baby,” Tony says, unbuckling Peter as quickly as he can and pulling the sobbing child into his arms. “Bubba, I’m here.”
Peter doesn't seem to notice the contact and continues to scream. Tony bounces him, shushing the child under his breath, but it falls on deaf (and hurting) ears.
“I’m sorry,” Tony whispers to Rhodey before speed walking towards the bathroom.
He slides the washroom door shut with his heel, hoping to dampen the noise while trying to console Peter. “Peter, it’s okay, Bub. It’s okay.”
He immediately tries to start pacing, as that is what he has done with Peter before, but the bathroom is smaller than any closet he owns, and he can’t take two steps before having to stop and spin around.
“I really need to get a jet with a bigger bathroom,” he mutters to himself against his son’s wailing.
Finally, he slowly leans up against the back wall and sinks to the floor. Tony tucks Peter closer to his chest, trying to give the baby as much comfort as he can.
“I know it hurts, Petey. Planes are mean like that-- it hurt me too. But it will be over soon, I promise,” Peter just hiccups on a sob, his tiny fingers clenching on Tony’s shirt like a lifeline. “I know, Bubba, I know.”
It takes a few grueling minutes, but Peter’s sobs eventually turn to slow cries, and then to a sparse hiccup, and then to the snuffly noises he makes in sleep. Tony smiles, just watching as Peter continues to hold onto his father. With his free hand, Tony reaches over and wipes a few tears from his son’s cheeks.
“Tony?” A voice asks outside the door. It is suddenly being slid open, and Tony shushes Rhodey from where the colonel towers above the billionaire. “Sorry. Are you okay?”
“We are now. I totally forgot about how his ears would pop. I would have given him a pacifier otherwise. Sorry about that.”
“Don’t worry about me, I’ve sat through worse. Just glad to see the little guy okay.”
Tony followed Rhodey back to his seat and sat down, keeping Peter tucked in his arms. Pepper flashed a reassuring smile. Happy looks up from his book before saying, “What was it someone once said about babies on airplanes?...”
“Not a word, Hap,” Tony retaliates.
Tony ends up drifting off while watching Peter sleep. He normally never naps, but that just proves how tired he must have been if he didn’t stop himself before it was too late.
He wakes up to Peter whimpering.
Tony’s eyes snap open, and he instantly realizes that the familiar weight isn’t in his arms. “Peter,” Tony says, his gaze darting around the plane in search of his child. “Peter!”
“Tony, it’s okay,” Rhodey says, and Tony looks over to see his best friend bouncing Peter lightly. “He’s right here.”
“Peter,” Tony gasps in relief, jumping from his chair and falling to his knees beside Rhodey. Peter wasn’t crying yet, but his face was scrunching up in the way that it did before he started to wail.
“We’re landing,” Rhodey says, letting Tony know the reason the baby was on the verge of tears.
“Pacifier,” Tony says more to himself and reaches into the diaper bag. He pulls out the soother and nudges it into Peter’s mouth. Instantly, the baby’s tiny features relax.
“I took him as soon as you fell asleep,” Rhodey informs, “neither of you even stirred. He was good, though. Slept the whole time.”
Tony smiles, reaching one hand over to lay on Peter’s stomach gently. Peter kicks out a tiny foot, blinking up at his uncle.
“How long was I out?” Tony asks.
“Just over an hour. You must have been tired. I don’t think I’ve seen you take a nap in years.”
“Pete kept me up all night. Wouldn’t stop crying,” Tony runs a hand down his face, and he realizes that he could fall back asleep at this moment if Rhodey told him too. “Apparently it was because he missed me. And yeah, I know that’s beyond adorable, so wipe that look off your face, Platypus.”
Rhodey tries and fails at hiding his grin, and Tony just rolls his eyes, slinking back over to his seat and falling into the faux leather.
“Do you want him?” Rhodey asks but makes no gesture to hand Peter over.
“Nah, I’ll have him soon enough,” Tony says, trying to keep his eyes from falling shut. “I think what people say is true. Parents really got it rough.”
“You’ve been a parent for a week.”
“Still… I might just fall over. Will you catch me if I fall over, Rhodey?”
Rhodey chuckles, “That would be quite a feat if I could catch you and keep your baby from hitting the ground.”
“I expect nothing less--”
“You better not fall over,” Pepper cuts in, saying her first words since the plane took off. “People will be waiting for us -- important people -- and if you faint on the tarmac, I swear, the papers will be broadcasting you as a narcoleptic by tomorrow morning.”
Rhodey and Tony exchange wide-eyed, humored glances.
“Well, you heard the boss,” Tony says, “no falling asleep on the job.”
The plane lands with a skid and a bump, and bless everything above, Peter didn’t cry once. He fussed slightly when placed in the car seat, but Tony was able to calm him quickly with a few soothing words and by running the back of his finger down the baby’s temple.
“That’s it, Bubba,” Tony whispers, “we’re okay. Don’t worry.”
The hot, California sun beats down on Tony as soon as he steps out of the plane, and he pulls his sunglasses on instantly. With the diaper bag and carseat in tow, he was hoping to maintain his usual genius-billionaire-playboy deminer for the few strangers who were watching him depart.
He doesn't pay any of them any mind while strutting past, but he does stop when he approaches Obie. The older man smiles down at Tony, although it looked forced, and Tony can’t help but feel trapped in his shadow.
“Anthony,” Obie says, and Tony bites back any response about his name. “Glad to see you back.”
Peter suddenly makes a curious, babbling sound, and both men look down towards the car seat. Peter blinks up at them from behind the visor, and an expression that looks like the opposite of joy passes over Obie’s face.
“And who do we have here?” Obie asks, continuing to stare down at the child.
“This is my son, Peter,” Tony says, not hiding his smile.
“Future CEO, I presume?” Obie asks, his words laced with humor. “Passing the torch? That’s what I like to see, Anthony.”
“We’ll just have to wait and find out,” Tony says, not adding the words that he was actually thinking. There is no way in hell that I am ever letting Peter get near the weapons that we produce, Obie.
“Well, he sure is a handsome boy… tiny though,” Obie places a hand on Tony’s shoulder, and he’s staring too intently at Peter to catch the scowl Tony is sending him. “Nevertheless… I’m proud of you.”
“Thanks, Obie,” Tony forces himself to say.
Obie pats him once more, making Tony feel slightly like a dog, and Tony immediately sets off towards the car. He ignores the stares he is getting as he takes longer than necessary to secure Peter’s seat, and then falls into his own spot with a tired sigh.
Happy climbs into the front, while Pepper gets into the passenger seat.
“Home, James,” Tony mumbled, staring out the window.
“I’m not a driver,” Happy grumbles.
“And yet you are driving me home,” Tony remarks. Pepper gives a huffy laugh. “Sorry, how about: Please Happy, my dear friend, will you take my son and my tired bones home?”
“Sure, if I must.”
The car falls into silence, and Pepper only speaks up when they are a good distance from the airport. “So Obie seemed nice.”
Tony just grunts under his breath.
“Well, he should try harder.”
Pepper gets dropped off first since her apartment is closer, and Tony watches as she struts up to her front door and is greeted by her doorman, Marcus, before turning and waving one final goodbye to the car. Tony only allows Happy to drive away once she's safely inside.
“Thanks, Hap,” Tony says once the bags are inside.
“Anytime, Boss,” Happy smiles, and for the first time in a while, it’s genuine. “Now please, go inside, get that Kid to sleep, and then take a well-deserved nap. We both know that life isn’t going to get easier from here.”
“Yeah, of course. See you soon.” Tony pats the roof of the car, and then Happy is taking off down the street. Tony turns and trudges up the driveway.
Once inside, Tony looks around at the open concept and sighs. He remembers buying this house and thinking about how empty it was. Thinking about how unnecessary it was that the living room took over most of the first and second story; how the floors were made of marble; how the kitchen island rivaled his childhood dining table in size.
How big and open everything was when he was only one person.
But now there were two.
Tony looks down at his son who was sleeping in his car seat. His itty-bitty fingers twitch and his chest rises and falls rhythmically. Tony melts.
For the first time, his life finally wasn’t feeling so empty.