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That Spot of Blue

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Tony stared at the readings in his lab. Bruce sat next to him, hands twining and untwining nervously. Neither man said a word for several long minutes.

Bruce finally broke the silence, though he studiously avoided Tony's eyes as he spoke. “Six weeks.”

Tony snapped: “I can read, Bruce.”

Bruce fell silent again, eyes fixed on the lines of data scrolling through the holograms, hovering in midair just in front of them. Tony's weight, age, heart rate, blood pressure. And then a second line of data on... the other thing.

Tony grimaced, rubbing one palm against his face. It was getting late, and he needed a shave before going out to see Steve tonight. They were supposed to go out to some little hole-in-the-wall Steve had found... Tony glanced at a clock on one of his screens. Right, five minutes ago.

Flipping off the screens with a sharp gesture, Tony grabbed his phone off the desk and started out of his lab, not waiting for Bruce to follow though expecting that he would. Sure enough, quiet footsteps padded closely behind Tony as he shut down the lab and headed for the elevator.

"I can't bring it to term," Tony finally said as they reached the elevator. His voice was softer than he really intended it to be, for some reason. Bruce looked like he might protest, so Tony continued quickly. "I don't have a uterus, I don't have anywhere for it to come out, I can't be out of commission for nine months, either from the Avengers or Stark Industries, and you know I'd have to be, I can't just show up in a tasteful maternity pantsuit to the board meeting one day..." Tony thought that image would provoke a smile from Bruce. It didn't.

Tony sighed. Bruce didn't seem convinced. Time to bring out the big guns. "Bruce." Reaching down, Tony grabbed Bruce's hand and shoved it against the arc reactor, hard and glowing beneath his Rush shirt.

Bruce's eyes immediately widened, his expression softening.

"There's no way my body could do it," Tony continued, softly. "Man or woman. It's too..." Tony's mouth tightened, his chest releasing a psychosomatic twinge as he forced the word out: "delicate."

The elevator doors opened behind him, and Tony stepped in.

"I'll work out a way to terminate it," Bruce said, voice more quiet than it might be. Tony flashed him a grin as the doors closed between them, ignoring the sorrowful look in Bruce's eyes.

"Thanks big guy," Tony got out just before the doors slid shut. As the elevator slid up to his floor, Tony sank against the back railing, arc reactor feeling painfully cold and bright in his chest. For a moment – just a moment, and he would make sure JARVIS deleted the tapes later – Tony let one hand flutter to rest low on his stomach.

He pulled it away like it burned as the doors slid open. Time to get ready for his night out with his favorite WWII vet. Bruce would probably have a solution for him by the time they got home. If not, Tony would head on down in the morning, pick up where he left off. They'd have it taken care of, by tomorrow. No one else needed to be the wiser.

That night, Tony tried to focus on Steve. Nice, good wonderful Steve. Steve who was too fucking perfect, who loved (which Tony was still having trouble with, to be honest, and probably always would) him in spite of everything, because of everything. Who still started forward to hold open doors and pull out chairs, and then would laugh and stop himself every time before actually giving in to his automatic chivalrous instincts. Tony really did try and focus on Steve that evening, in the quaint little authentic Korean BBQ place Steve had found, but he couldn't help his mind stray to other topics.

Steve, because he was Steve and impossibly perfect in every way, just smiled at Tony and asked, only once, if he had an important project to get back to. It was his way of signaling to Tony that it was alright, if something was wrong Tony was free to deal with it, and Steve would understand. But right in this moment, the last thing Tony wanted to do was deal with the problem. Bruce was dealing with it, that was enough for now. Right this moment he didn't want to be anywhere else other than peeling what might be pork off a skewer with Steve. Even if he couldn't enjoy the evening as much as he normally would.

On the drive home Tony weighed his options. He could beg off Steve with work and head down to the lab, or he could abandon Bruce for the evening and spend the night with Steve. Both options sounded appealing at the moment. Tony wasn't sure his heart – and Tony felt ice water run through his veins at the thought, about his heart, about how frail his body could be in certain contexts – would be in any proceedings with Steve tonight. And Steve would be able to tell, of course. But on the other hand...

Tony reached out and grabbed a hold of Steve's hand on the backseat of the car. Steve just smiled at him, bright and brilliant as usual, and squeezed back. Tony held on for the rest of the drive home. He wasn't going to drag himself back down to the lab tonight. Just at this moment, avoidance felt like the best idea in the world.

Of course, Tony's life never really went how he wanted it, did it? After saying goodnight to Happy, Tony and Steve walked hand-in-hand through the back of the Avengers Tower, intent on heading up to Steve's room for the rest of the night. Just as Tony felt himself start to relax, thoughts of Steve warm and content in bed with him overtaking darker concerns in his mind, all of Tony's good emotions ground to a halt.

Bruce was waiting for them, standing in from of the elevator to the Avengers' private rooms. Tony stopped walking, dragging Steve to a stop with him. He and Bruce faced off, glaring daggers at each other for long moments, before a very confused Steve broke the silence.

"Bruce? Is something wrong?"

There was a long, long look shared between Bruce and Tony. Silently, Tony willed Bruce to keep his mouth shut, to not breathe a word of his temporary inconvenience to Steve. There was a very good reason Tony wasn't planning on telling Steve about his problem, and Bruce knew it just as well as Tony did. Which of course was why he was here, set on telling Steve.

"Bruce..." Tony warned.

But he had no leverage over Bruce. And Bruce knew it. The other man just shook his head at Tony, before turning to look at Steve. His fingers were fiddling nervously with his reading glasses folded up in his hands, but his voice was calm and steady as he spoke.

"Steve, there's something you have a right to know."

Steve's forehead creased, worry line forming just between his eyebrows. For just a second his eyes flickered between Bruce and Tony, his grip tightening on Tony's hand.

Groaning, Tony realized how that sounded. "Not that," he grumbled. More clearly, more calmly, he turned to Steve and folded both hands in his. "It's not that," he said, looking Steve right in the eye.

Steve relaxed, then frowned at Tony. "I didn't think-" he protested.

Tony shook his head, waving away the white lie. Because Steve didn't really think Tony was cheating on him. Not consistently, like everyone else seemed to think. But Steve was only a man, and Tony's track record spoke for itself.


"Alright!" Tony snapped at Bruce, breaking eye contact with Steve to do so. Even angry as he was at Bruce for forcing his hand, for forcing the entire decision from what Tony wanted into what Tony and Steve wanted, Tony still knew that Bruce was doing this for a genuinely decent reason. For the most part. It just sure didn't feel like it, right now.

Turning back to Steve, Tony let out one breath, then two. He knew the longer he delayed the more nervous Steve would get, concocting all the worst – but in their world, disturbingly likely – scenarios in his head. It was more out of this desire to save Steve from any further mental distress than his own self-preservation instincts that forced the words from Tony's mouth.

"I'm... It's..." Definitely a sentence Tony never thought he'd be on anything other than the receiving end of, and things were becoming just a little too surreal for even Tony to take. But he had to tell Steve, or Bruce would. "There's a fetus. In me." At least that sounded like a science problem, rather than... rather than a basket of emotional issues.

Steve's brown furrowed further, the little line deepening. Mentally, Tony groaned. Please, just understand, Tony tried to will Steve. He didn't want to actually have to say the words.

"Is it... Is it a baby?"

And wasn't that almost the worst thing Steve could say? Dropping Steve's hands from his, Tony stepped back, angrily. "It's a fetus right now, Steve. It's not a 'baby' until... It's not a baby."

"I mean," and great, Steve was starting to get his Cap voice, this conversation needed that little addition like it needed a neurotic scientist interloper staring at them from the sidelines... oh, look! It had one of those, too!

Steve continued, swaying hesitantly forward before obviously reconsidering and leaving Tony his extra space. "I mean: is it a human baby?"

"Yeah," Tony huffed.

And then Steve did the one thing worse than the Cap voice. His eyes started to shine, his face looking... it looked like hope, and it just tore Tony's insides to shreds to see it.

"Is it ours?"

Tony needed to stop this, and fast. Steve would be picking out cots tomorrow if he didn't. And Tony couldn't, he just couldn't see Steve's hope raised up like that only to be brought dashing down later. Because Tony was going to disappoint him, again. He couldn't not, in this scenario. There was no way his body would be strong enough to bring a child to term, so there was no point in getting Steve's hopes up. Tony couldn't bear to let Steve down. Again.

"Bruce and me're working out a way to get rid of it, don't worry." Tony tried for nonchalant. All three men were painfully aware of his failure to achieve it.

"I can," Bruce affirmed. "Minor surgery. Like removing a cyst. But, Steve-"

"Tony!" This time Steve did step forward, into Tony's space. Tony tried glaring at Steve as he wrapped his massive hands around Tony's biceps, holding him in place. But Steve's expression was too heartbroken – and already, Tony was hurting him with this – for Tony to look at it for long. So he opted for looking down, somewhere around Steve's chest (or rather, not looking up, what with the six inch difference between the two of them).

"Tony, you can't," Steve pleaded. "Can't we just..." as Steve went to take several breaths, noticeably trying to calm himself, Tony cut in. He tried to shift his arms out of Steve's grip, but that wasn't about to happen.

"I can't do it," Tony said, still angry. Though he wasn't sure if it was at Bruce or Steve or himself (thousand bucks on the default answer; Tony was always angry at himself, everything was always his damn fault). "I physically can't, Steve. Even if I was a woman..."

He trailed off, looking up at him. Steve's eyes alit with the knowledge after just a moment, those baby blues flicking down to Tony's chest. Tony nodded, grimacing at the cosmic fuckery of it all.

"Tony," Steve whispered, sounding all but broken.

"It can't happen, Cap," Tony whispered back. Steve leaned down, pressed his forehead to Tony's, eyes closed. Sighing, Tony rolled his forehead against Steve's in what he hoped would come off as reassuring. Leaning forward, Tony pressed a quick kiss to the corner of Steve's mouth. His gut clenched as he tried to apologize, but the words wouldn't come.


Pulling apart, Tony leveled Bruce with the most condescending, asshole, "see-what-you-made-me-do?" look he could muster while still being somewhat plastered to Steve. Bruce, good friend that he was, ignored it entirely.

"That's not technically true," he put in.

Tony could actually feel Steve stop breathing. It might have been because he had as well.

"Which..." Steve voice was choked.

Tony's eyes narrowed even further as Bruce balanced his glasses between his two index fingers. "Which part?"

Tony had gone back to holding his head in the hands, not really feeling like mustering the composure to go through the science of it all with Bruce. Which, yes, okay, the science of it was absolutely fascinating, but for some strange reason Tony was just not feeling too keen on discussing how his body had apparently created a uterus for itself while he was distracted.

Unfortunately, Tony's brain wasn't always so in tune with his emotional state – which really explained almost everything anyone needed to know about Tony – and he found himself asking Bruce: "But I never ovulated. Or, I don't think I did. I never menstruated. I would have noticed that."

Bruce shrugged, glasses firmly in place as he fiddled with some of the projections and screens at his fingertips. "Well you know what they say: It only takes the once."

Tony stared at Bruce. Bruce grinned, then schooled his face into something just a little more appropriately serious. "What I mean is: I'm not sure what the causal story is here. You may have started ovulating a few months ago spontaneously, but the very first cycle was interrupted by the pregnancy, so you never menstruated. Of course, on the other hand, the uterus and female hormones might have started because of the pregnancy, somehow. Your body became pregnant before the presence of a uterus, and then formed one to deal with the pregnancy."

Tony rubbed his forehead. This was awful. And Steve standing stoically behind him like a good, supportive husband really wasn't making it any better. Any other time, Steve was his rock – though Tony wouldn't put it in quite so sappy language. Right now, the gesture of support just served to remind Tony which of them had managed to get knocked up.

"Okay, why don't we save the 'how' for later," Tony said, "and you tell me why you think this is a good idea."

Bruce nodded, fingers flying over Tony's displays as new graphs and information spun out from beneath them. "Well, number one: ignoring any pre-existing conditions," and of course that was just code for "arc reactor", everyone in the room knew it, "it would seem that your body has adjusted to be able to carry a child. There's a uterus where the fetus is currently residing, and your hormone levels are changing to accommodate a pregnancy."

Tony grumbled and crossed his arms over his chest. "So, what? I'm going to start crying at sad movies and lactating?"

"Tony." Steve's voice was reproachful. "Don't be sexist."

Before he could eve respond to that, Bruce cut in. "Well, actually..." he shrugged sheepishly at Steve and Tony. "The increased levels of estrogen will alter his moods. Tony's still a man, and how he was raised hasn't changed, so for the most part how he reacts to things won't change."

Tony gave a sarcastic little wave. "Still in the room, Banner."

Smiling just as sarcastically back, Bruce refocused his attention on Tony. "But, Tony, you may find yourself more... emotionally responsive than before. Things will feel more raw. And as for lactating, I honestly have no idea. Judging by the way your body has already changed you might expect some, and a certain increase in your... uh... mammary. Tissue. Fats. Uh."

"Boobs." Tony said flatly. Abruptly he uncrossed his arms, staring down at his chest. "I'm going to grow boobs."

Bruce shrugged, grimacing a little. "Probably just an A-cup? And although I can't say for certain, because none of this is certain, it doesn't seem like you'll be developing a. Ah." Bruce paused. Bruce paused for a while, face growing more and more red. For just a moment Tony wondered if he needed to call the armor over, just in case Bruce was going to Hulk-out from embarrassment. But after a few moments gesturing futilely at Tony, Bruce finally managed to stutter out: "A way out. For. The baby."

"Fetus," Tony grumbled, but it was half-hearted. Because right at this moment, his brain was processing what Bruce has said. He didn't believe Tony was going to grow a vagina. But he might.

Holy fuck.

Breathing through his nose, Tony's hand wandered up to the arc reactor, drumming lightly. Okay. One thing at a time. Deal with the vagina-bridge if they come to it.

"You said breasts. How are they... Bruce, I already cut huge amounts of tissue out for this." He tapped the arc reactor pointedly. "There might not be enough preexisting tissue for whatever this is to work with."

Bruce nodded. "Right, I'm getting there. So without considering your 'preexisting condition', it seems like your body is all set up to give you a baby. Now, you thought maybe the reactor would interfere, it'd make you too weak to carry to term, right?"

"Besides the fact that I have a penis, yes, the reactor was the other reason I didn't think I could get knocked up," Tony snarked.

Bruce shook his head. "You can. I mean... Look, I've gotten JARVIS to help me run biological figures on you and your body. Tony, your just as healthy... actually, you're more healthy than I am. Your cholesterol is actually better, your blood pressure is better... When it comes to your heart, the only way for you to be in a better position is to have injected some of Cap's serum."

All three men in the room fell abruptly silent at the turn of phrase. Steve broke first. "Uh... Bruce... Maybe not..."

"Yeah," Bruce blushed. "I didn't. You know. The. The actual serum. Anyway."

Raising his hand, Tony looked between the two men. "Hey, hang on, break up the awkward sexual innuendo squad here for a mo': Could that be how this happened?"

Steve opened his mouth, stopped, closed it, then opened it again. The little worry frown was back between his eyebrows. "The serum made me so much of a man that I can get other men pregnant..." he tried out, saying each word slowly.

Tony jumped up and kicked his rolling chair across the room.

DUM-E sprayed it with a fire extinguisher as it rolled lazily into one of his cars.

Angrily, he jabbed a finger at Steve. "You did not knock me up because you're more of a man."

Steve sighed and took a step forward. "I know. Tony, come-"

Throwing his hands up, Tony started pacing around the lab. This was ridiculous. On the second pass close to Bruce he turned and gestured wildly between himself and Steve. "I fuck him more often than not!"

Bruce and Steve simultaneously rolled their eyes. In addition, Bruce dragged his glasses off his face. "Tony, obviously this is some sort of... It's tech, or a virus, or magic, or something. It has nothing to do with masculinity." He paused, then continued. "Though, if whatever it was only affected you, then technically it is because of who was the... er. Receiver. Then."

Half of Tony's mind noticed Bruce and Steve both wincing, but half of his brain – the bigger half, because halves could totally work like that if he wanted them to, go ask any mathematician about limits at infinity and point nine repeating equaling one, okay? – was focusing on something else. A bigger problem. A much bigger problem.

"Okay, shut up, I don't care," Tony abruptly cut in, though he wasn't even certain if either man was speaking at the moment. "Guys: What about the other male Avengers? What about any of the Avengers not on birth control? Or even ones who are?"

Bruce and Tony's eyes widened.

Tony pursed his lips and snapped his hands together. "Shit. Cap, assemble. We need a team meeting."

Steve opted not to actually assemble the Avengers that night, mostly because it was half-past midnight already and with their lives, an uninterrupted night's sleep was a blessing. So Tony was forced to listen to Bruce reassuring them both once again that this could happen, draw some blood, and send them on their way.

And then Tony was forced to face Steve as they took the elevator to his room, and see that hopeful, happy look in his eyes again.

Steve, thankfully with years of dealing with Tony Stark behind him to guide his actions, waited until they were off the elevator and Tony was free to pace around before he started talking.

"Have you... Did this change... anything?"

Tony grimaced as he turned his back on Steve and strode away. Did it change anything? No. Not in Tony's mind, at least. Even if his body could support a child, even if his heart wouldn't fail him, there was plenty else about Tony Stark that would ultimately fail a child. Having daddy issues was practically a prerequisite of being an Avenger, and Tony still managed to have the vast majority of them beat. Except for maybe Bruce. So no, there was no reason Tony Stark should be allowed to bring a kid into the world. Because arc reactor, male body, or all other complications aside, Tony would still let that child down. And have to watch Steve's hope and happiness crumple so, so slowly in the process.

"It's not going to happen, Steve," Tony mumbled as gently, but firmly, as he could. He didn't want to hurt Steve, which was exactly why he couldn't raise a kid. Steve would get it, eventually. He was a smart guy.

"Tony, I don't know- Tony, stop!"

Steve was on him in an instant, strong hands wrapped around both his wrists. Tony blinked, staring down at his hands. Oh. He had started to fix himself a drink. Decanter in one hand, scotch glass in the other. He hadn't even realized... He'd been shaken, and. And.

Grimly Tony looked up to meet Steve's eyes. His mouth twisted into a self-loathing smile. "See? Already trying to fuck the poor kid up, and I just found out it existed today."

Of course the look in Steve's eyes wasn't anger, or even disappointment. Not yet at least. For now, it was just sadness, with a dash of sympathy and maybe a sprinkling of hurt. Yeah, it was there: hurt. Tony was already hurting Steve. All the more reason to get it taken care of sooner rather than later.

"Please," Steve whispered, loosening his grip on Tony's wrists but not letting go. His fingers stroked over Tony's pulse points: gentle, soothing. Tony found himself relaxing unwillingly. "Please, just... Just wait until tomorrow. For me? We'll talk to the team, see if it's just you and me, just Avengers, or even more widespread than that. For now, can we just... Can you just stay?"

Extricating himself from Steve's grip, Tony set down the scotch with a huff and turned away. He was halfway to the bathroom before he spoke again: "You said 'you and me'," he threw out over his shoulder at Steve, "but it's not you, is it? It's me."

With that, Tony shut the bathroom door behind him and leaned against it. He could see himself in the mirror: dressed up and clean shaven (around the goatee) for their date. Gingerly, Tony lifted his shirt and glanced at his lower abdomen in the mirror. Nothing, yet. What was the rule of thumb? Three months? He honestly had no idea. He'd probably show earlier though, unless his bone structure started to rearrange itself. He didn't exactly have child-bearing hips.

Leaning forward onto the counter, Tony stared at himself. He was thinking three months out. That was dangerous. That was impossible. He'd make Steve see sense after tomorrow's meeting. He just had to get through the night, and then this thing would be out of him by lunch. No big deal. And Steve would be upset with him, but it would pass. Even if it didn't, it would be better than bringing a kid into the world and then fucking the poor thing up beyond repair.

After splashing some water on his face and going through his evening ablutions, Tony stepped out of the bathroom to find Steve sitting on the edge of his bed, a small book held between his hands. His head was bowed over it, and although he must have heard Tony open the bathroom door, he didn't look up. Tony sighed and headed over to him, setting himself down next to him on the comforter. After a moment he nudged his shoulder into Steve's and nodded at the book.

"What is it?"

"Bedtime stories," Steve answered. Tony looked, and sure enough, it was. "It was the one my mother read to me whenever I was sick."

Tony closed his eyes, trying to force calm over himself. Steve was already gone, already head-over-heels at the thought of them raising a kid together. Tiredly, Tony dropped his chin onto Steve's shoulder and looked down at his thumbs flipping through the yellowed pages.

"Must have read from it a lot, then," Tony quipped.

It seemed to be the right-enough thing to say, because Steve's lips twitched into a small smile. "Yeah. Went through the whole thing every month or so, with me."

The two men fell silent for long minutes, the quiet only broken by the crinkling of pages as Steve turned them. Tony was almost dozing by the time Steve spoke again. "I've thought about it," he whispered.

Something squeezed tight in Tony's chest, and he kept his eyes shut, hard, against the feeling.

"With Peggy. Then Sharon, when I first... And with you. I've thought about it a lot, with you. I know we could adopt, or do a surrogate, but that never seemed... Too many other people involved, it seemed. Not that it wouldn't be wonderful, adoption and... That's such a good thing, to do. But."

Tony almost flinched as Steve moved to wrap an arm around his waist. Tony kept his eyes firmly shut, even as Steve buried his nose in Tony's hair and whispered his next words into it. "This is a gift, Tony. It's a child from both of us, of both of us, that we could raise together. Tony... I love you, Tony. And I can't force you. But. Tony."

Tony shook his head, pushing Steve away. The way his voice broke over Tony's name; the naked want that he wasn't bothering to hide...

"Let's just go to bed, Steve. Please. I'm tired, and I can't..."

Tony opened his eyes to see Steve nodding, though his expression wasn't any less wistful, or aching. "Okay, Tinman."

Tony's mouth twisted in an approximation of a smile. When Steve bent forward to kiss him, he was able to return it without any effort. He let himself be pushed back onto the mattress by Steve, kiss growing no more heated, but deeper and more languorous. Steve began to move down Tony's body, hiking up his shirt as he went so fingers could touch skin. Just as Tony's body was convincing his brain that this was good, that he could relax and enjoy this before the whole discussion started up again tomorrow, Steve stopped his decent. His lips moved, pressing soft little kisses to Tony's abdomen, and his fingers kept stroking in a gentle caress over the skin. But he didn't move any further down.

Tony froze. Forcing himself to open his eyes, he glanced down at Steve. His eyes were closed, and a blissful expression had relaxed his features beautifully. Tony's throat dried up. He knew what Steve was thinking. He knew, even if he couldn't feel it yet, even if Steve couldn't feel it yet, what was just below the surface of Tony's skin and muscle that Steve was paying such careful attention to.

"Steve," Tony croaked out. Steve jerked, looking up at Tony guiltily. Tony shook his head, swallowing against the pained expression that skittered across Steve's face. "Not... Please. Don't."

Crawling back up, Steve wrapped Tony up in a hug and buried his face in Tony's neck. "Sorry," he murmured. "I just... Sorry."

Tony groaned, squeezing his eyes shut. Steve really knew how to make a guy feel lower than low. "Not your... I'm going to sleep." Tony finished with. Gently he pried himself out of Steve's grasp, pausing to press a kiss to his temple before getting changed for bed. Steve watched him the whole time, only getting up to use the bathroom once Tony was sliding under the covers.

By the time Steve slipped into bed beside him Tony had a head start on pretending to be asleep. At his back, Steve spooned up against him, big arms wrapping around and gently pulling Tony close.

If Steve's hand drifted protectively over Tony's lower abdomen, neither man called attention to it. They were both too busy pretending to sleep, as it was.

The next morning found both Tony and Steve crawling exhausted from Steve's bed. Steve less than Tony, but that was all thanks to the serum rather than any indication that Steve got any more sleep. They both knew the other man had lain in bed, staring into darkness with his own thoughts for most the night. Neither one was about to call the other on it.

Steve gave the order to assemble, priority yellow, in the common area floor of the Tower. A few minutes later he and Tony were put together enough to head down. When Steve tried to reach out and take Tony's hand, however, he pulled away. Tony grimaced and shook his head as they waited for the elevator. "Don't," he ordered. Steve sighed, but he didn't say anything. If he stood a little closer in the elevator than normal and followed a half step less behind, Tony let him indulge in that much, at least.

Clint and Phil were the first two in the common area, having beaten Tony and Steve there. Tony knew this was all Phil's doing and none of Clint's. If it didn't involve sitting around and shooting things hours later, Clint didn't bother showing up on time to anything. Unless, of course, that anything involved Phil or Phil himself dragged him in on time.

"What up, Stark and Stripes?" Clint quipped. As soon as they were in range a drinks umbrella embedded itself in Tony's hair. And opened. Tony crossed his eyes staring up at it.

"I would ask how you did it, but I don't even want to know," Tony complained, heading straight for the coffee machine.

A sudden sensation of deja vu hit Tony when Steve appeared at his side in a flash, grabbing his wrists. Tony stared at him, completely confused in his sleep- and caffeine-deprived state. Steve's eyes were wide as he nodded significantly at the coffee machine, then at Tony's stomach, then back to the coffee machine.

What Steve was trying to say hit his brain like a ton of Hulk. Oh. Oh no. Not caffeine.

Amazingly, Bruce showed up just then and laid two gentle fingertips on top of Steve's hands. "Actually, studies show one cup a day is perfectly fine," he murmured, low enough that neither Phil nor Clint would hear.

If it weren't for the stunt he pulled last night – and the fact that Steve was, you know, right there – Tony might have kissed Bruce full on the mouth. Grinning, he snatched his hands back from Steve and busied himself with the coffee machine. He was actually feeling practically peachy, after having won such a simple battle.

After a minute Tony had his "one, Tony. One cup, Bruce said" of coffee in his hands and the rest of the Avengers were coming in. Jess and Carol were next, looking scary hot in workout gear and sweat glistening on their foreheads – they must have been in the gym. Thor and Jane (because Steve had made clear that significant others were a part of this particular order to assemble) were next, or maybe Natasha, who just kind of appeared in the room without Tony being able to determine when she had entered. Which was all levels of creepy, considering he was facing the stairwell and the elevator: the only two entrances to the floor.

Wanda and Pietro were last, the twins settling in close to each other on a loveseat separate from the rest of the team. Their status was still new, and tensions were still running a little high after the encounter with their father a few weeks earlier.

The alarms sounded and JARVIS piped some video of Deadpool mock-screaming as he was chopped up by Tony's security system. He shouted something that sounded disturbingly like "mozel tov" and left behind pink and blue knitted sword cozies. Tony didn't even bother hurting his brain wondering about it.

Cap stood up – and it was definitely Cap now, not Steve – and addressed the group once they were all settled. "Good morning, Avengers. Thank you for assembling. Dr. Banner, Tony, and I have some... odd information for you, and some personal questions to ask. I apologize in advanced for the nature of some of these questions."

Automatically Pietro and Wanda shifted closer together, eyes darkening. Steve smiled wryly over at them. "Trust me, whatever you're thinking this is about: it's not."

Bruce cleared his throat and stepped up at a nod from Steve. "Right. Uh. So. Last night..." he turned and looked at Tony, eyes pleading.

Sighing, Tony steeled himself. For three seconds he let his eyes drift closed and just focused on breathing. At the end of the three seconds he opened his eyes and trained them on the team. "I'm..." he groaned, trying to find a phrase that didn't sound absurd. Finally, he gave up and defaulted: "I'm pregnant."

Naturally, Clint's reaction was the most immediate and asinine. Tony and Steve were both on the receiving ends of vigorous handshakes and arm clapping, followed by several pieces of cutlery being appropriated as celebratory noisemakers. Tony groaned and gripped at his hair. He saw Steve doing the same next to him.

Wanda, surprisingly, spoke next. "How?" Her elegant eyebrows drew together as she looked carefully at Tony. "Is this a mutation? You said Pietro and I were the first mutants..."

Tony shrugged. "Don't have the X gene, I know that much. At least, I didn't as of whenever I bothered to check, years ago, probably."

Bruce cut in, shaking his head. "I ran some tests last night, just to check, and no: no X gene. In fact, Tony's genetic code is the same as it was last time he tested it. No changes."

Next to Wanda, Pietro seemed to be holding in laughter, glancing between Clint (who had progressed to making confetti out of paper towels, fantastic), Tony, and Steve with a smile trying its hardest to tug at his lips. At the back of the room, Carol was frowning deeply, eyes narrowed. He could tell she was trying to figure out who needed a good cosmic punch in light of all this. Tony really, really wished he had someone to blame for this so he could have told her, just so he could watch. Jess was next to her, whispering something in her ear. Whatever it was, Carol shook her head at it, mouth twisted in concentration. Thor, of course, was one Asgardian exclamation away from joining Clint in the festivities.

Only Phil caught on to the problem in the first minute following the declaration.

"We need to get tested," he said in a lull between Clint whooping and laughing hysterically.

That put a damper on Clint's celebrations pretty damn quick. Tony was going to have to get JARVIS to pull the footage for him later. At least something good came of the whole mess.

Looking decidedly green, Clint threw himself onto the back of the couch behind Phil, legs spread on either side of his torso. "What?!" Clint shouted. "What... How could... Is it because we're gay?!"

Bruce shrugged. "We don't know yet. We need anyone who has been sexually active in the past two or three months to take a pregnancy test. For the women, it's simple." From his messenger bag, Bruce produced five pregnancy tests. The female Avengers - and Jane - looked stunned, but moved forward as one to snatch the tests from Bruce's hands. Tony squinted at Carol and Wanda. He didn't know they had any guys hanging around. But then again, it could have been anyone, at any point in the last three months. Tony certainly didn't keep track of his teammates that closely, and Wanda hadn't even been on the team that long.

Of course, Tony hadn't noticed Natasha entertaining any men either, but Tony deeply suspected that her code name was... for a good reason. Discretion was the better part of valor, when it came to her.

"For the men," Bruce continued, "I'll need to draw blood."

Thor asked the obvious question: "But kind Bruce, what use have I of these tests? I have only copulated with my fair Jane for a goodly while, and she has certainly not inseminated me!"

Bruce winced, pinching the bridge of his nose. "We're not sure how this works. It could be that Tony only became pregnant because of his... liaisons with Steve, or it could be some sort of mix-up-the-sexes spell, where men get impregnated when they have sex with men or women. Since the only thing we are certain of is that Tony's not a mutant, not a woman – in the sense of having XY chromosomes and not XX and still retaining..." Bruce cut himself off abruptly, coughing to cover it up. For a long moment, everyone in the room pointedly avoided looking at Tony's groin. Tony just stared at the ceiling and waited for Bruce to continue. "We need to test everyone. Male, female, gay, straight."

Clint, who had sobered up considerably and had his hands kneading worriedly at Phil's shoulders, finally mustered up enough good humor to prod at Bruce. "Do you need to get tested?"

Tony shot Clint a look, sensing Steve doing the same beside him. Clint's jaw clicked shut and he mumbled some sort of apology. Bruce, even-headed as he (most of the time) was, just smiled condescendingly over at Clint.

"No, but I checked anyway last night. No babies."

"Fetuses," Tony gritted out between clenched teeth. He didn't look at Steve, who obviously heard him and was trying to catch his eye.

Apparently getting too nervous, Clint tossed himself off the back of the couch and hauled Phil up with him. "Let's go then," Clint gestured at the elevator, not letting going of Phil's hand as he did. "Get this over with."

As Tony stood and the men headed for the elevator, Tony couldn't resist taking a jab at Clint. "Seem pretty worried there, Clint," he mused. When Clint turned to glare at him, Tony knew he had hit on the right answer. "Wonder why? Well, guess we know something about you and-"

Phil was at Tony's side in a second, stepping out of a blind spot Tony didn't even know was there. Tony did not jump and nearly scream. He didn't.

"You were saying?"

Phil's voice was like a cool daiquiri: poured down Tony's pants and into his veins. Tony shook his head. "Nope. I'm... Nothing." Tony flapped his hands, shaking his head. "I was saying: let's get down to the lab and sort this problem out like respectable adults."

And of course, just at that moment Pietro appeared inside the elevator as the doors opened. "You guys are taking too long," he complained, then was gone in the next second. The stairwell door shut with a bang.

Tony groaned and let himself lean into Steve, just for a moment. Tesla help them if any of the other Avengers were pregnant. At least Steve, more than any of the other screw-ups and borderline psychotics on the team, would make a great dad.

As the doors slid shut on them, a thrill went through Tony, prompting him to seek out Steve's hand and squeeze it. For all the mental cons Tony had worked out in his head against carrying this fetus to term, that was one tiny little sliver of brightness in the “pro” column.

Steve would be the best dad.

Lunch found the Avengers assembled in Tony's lab, munching on a mixture of pizza and sushi (because whatever, Tony had the money to cater to everyone's tastes, it wasn't a problem) as they waited for the results. The women's results had all come back hours ago, and all negative. Thank goodness. Though Tony hadn't really ever given it much thought, he didn't think he was ready to deal with a child running around the Avengers Tower, wondering where mommy had gone to and why she hadn't come home yet. Judging by the relieved expression on all the women's faces, they hadn't been ready for that scenario, either.

Of course, that just reminded Tony about the hundreds-long “con” list, which right at the top – beneath daddy issues and alcoholic – was "superheroing -> shortened life expectancy". The “pro” list still remained lonesome, with only Steve on its side.

Bruce was expertly flipping through test results with his left hand as he plopped a California roll into his mouth with chopsticks grasped in his right. "Thor checks out... Pietro, Steve..." Everyone pretended not to be holding their breath as the last two results wound down. "Phil... clear. And Clint... clear."

Clint let out a whoop of relief and hugged Phil from behind, squishing his cheek hard against Phil's head. Phil let it happen.

"Oh, wow. Okay, thank fucking... Shit balls." Clint was near hysterical, voice shaky as he clung to Phil. "So are we out of the woods? Do we have to start fucking with protection or something?"

Bruce frowned at the screen before turning to face the group. "You might want to, until we figure out what caused this... spontaneous biological shift in Tony. But my gut opinion is no, you shouldn't have to worry. If women, straight men, and gay men all seem equally unaffected by this, it is most likely isolated to Tony."

Tony smiled tightly. "Great. Excellent." Wiping the grease from the pizza onto his jeans, Tony gestured around at everyone. "Crisis over. Thanks for stopping by, I'll call you if I need to. So." He made a shooing gesture. "My lab. Anyone who isn't my makeshift OBGYN, out."

Tony had purposefully left Steve out of that statement. Of course, Steve just as purposefully stayed his ground, staring at Tony from his chair over by a workbench.

One by one the other Avengers filed out, gathering up food in their arms as they went. Carol was one of the last out, and she stopped over by Tony just for a second, red lips pressed tight together. At least she seemed to find the whole situation exactly as humorous as Tony did. "You need anything," she ordered.

Tony nodded, flashing her a half-smile. "First on my list, gorgeous, and you know it."

Carol nodded and hurried after the rest of the Avengers, floating a foot off the ground until she caught up to Jess. In a minute they were piled onto the lift and out of the lab, excepting Bruce and Steve, who were staring silently at Tony.

"Surgery," Tony stated flatly.

He tried his best to ignore Steve's full-body wince.

Lest he think of Steve as a delicate flower for very long, however, Steve was speaking to Bruce without ever taking his eyes off Tony. "Bruce. I need a minute alone with Tony."

Bruce jumped and was gone in a moment. Steve had used the Captain voice again. It really wasn't fair.

And now they were in a stand off. Tony refused to look at Steve, and Steve did nothing but look at Tony. It was horrible.

"Would you wait until we found out how?" Steve finally asked, breaking the silence.

Jaw set, Tony shook his head. "We might never," he grimaced. "We might find out nine months in."

Steve's back remained ramrod straight. Good. Tony preferred Steve combative, strong. It made it easier to go against him. It was when Steve broke down, his edges going soft and his voice scared that ruined Tony's resolve.

"Would you at least give Bruce until the... the deadline."

Twenty weeks. Or twenty four. Something like that, Tony knew, was the general rule of thumb. The deadline.

He shook his head. "It's better this way," he said. "Better now, when it's just a bunch of cells-"

Steve jumped up from his chair, hand reaching out into space. He was dragging a hologram with him, spinning it to a stop in front of Tony. It was a heart monitor. Two heart monitors.

Tony stared blindly at the second heartbeat. Fast. So fast.

"It was a bundle of cells weeks ago. It.... It has a heartbeat, Tony. It's our baby. And that's its heart. Tony-"

Jumping up, Tony walked straight through the hologram, pretending it didn't feel like he was being shocked all over as he did so. It certainly wasn't the tech who was doing it to him, in any case. Steve followed close enough to touch behind him without actually reaching out to stop him.

They reached the far wall of the workshop and Tony stopped, Steve following suit just behind him. Still, Steve didn't reach out and touch him. Instead he waited a beat, then said: "Is it... Is it me? You don't. You don't want-"

Immediately Tony spun around, eyes bright and heart clenching with fear. "No!" Oh, no. There, all across Steve's face, was printed all that hurt and sadness that Tony had been trying so hard to avoid. "Please, Steve, God, are you kidding me? Do you have any idea how perfect-"

"That's it though, isn't it?" Steve interrupted. His blue eyes were two giant wells of sadness, and Tony wanted to yank the damn arc reactor out of his chest to try and replace the pain of seeing Steve like this with something more bearable. "Me, my genes: It's not this." Steve gestured down at himself. "You don't want my kid because it'll be like I was."

Arc reactor or no, Tony could have sworn a piece of shrapnel lodged itself in his heart at that. Racing forward, Tony cupped Steve's cheek in his hand and peppered kisses all across his face.

"No, Steve, no. You could... Never, never think that, Steve. Come on, look at me: last person who should be fighting alongside you, but I manage. If our kid turned out like you were, that's so much better..." Shaking himself, Tony tried to collect his words. "If he was sick, we'd heal him. If his legs didn't work, I'd build him robot ones. All that stuff, all that body, it doesn't matter. If he's yours, then he'd be good Steve, he'd be so good, and that's the most important thing, that's the best thing, Steve, please. Understand."

"I don't," Steve whispered, meeting Tony's eyes. One hand came up to cover Tony's own, still cupping Steve's cheek. "If... If you don't care how he'd come out, then...?"

Tony winced, shifting away from Steve before finding himself trapped by the hand over his.

"Tell me," Steve pleaded. "If you're... Can you at least tell me why? You owe me that, Tony."

Tony stared at Steve, trying to figure out how to answer that. Finally, he shifted away from Steve, and Steve let him go. Heading over to the nearest workstation, Tony grabbed a pen and got to work.

In the air above his head, a list appeared:


He drew a line down the center, which appeared in the air. Steve stood and watched, frowning all the while.


Steve grinned as Tony wrote that first. Tony grinned because he knew how short the "Pro" list was.

-Steve Rogers

Steve laughed. "Okay, sure, thanks, Shellhead. What else you got?"


Steve frowned, but stayed quiet, waiting for more.

-Alien plot?
-Magic plot?
-Tech plot?

Steve made a tsking noise. "These all count for one, Tony," he chided. Tony rolled his eyes, drew a squiggle next to all three and wrote:

-EVIL plot??

Steve shrugged. "Okay. So we don't know how this happened. Suffice to say if it's a cuckoo, you and Bruce will figure it out and you'll have my full permission to take care of it. But only if you've got proof. What else you got for me?"

Glaring, Tony continued to write.

-Superheroing = shortened lifespan

That at least gave Steve pause, a look of deep remorse passing over his features. He locked eyes with Tony for a moment, and they looked at each other through the holographic list. After a moment Steve whispered: "Not gonna happen. And if it does... We'll work out a plan."

Tony grimaced, but moved on.

-Easy target/leverage

Steve winced. Tony grinned. Looks like Steve hadn't thought of all the horrible ways this could go wrong. And Tony hadn't even started on the self-focused part of the list, which was enough to fill the entire lab.

But then Steve was shrugging this concern away. "I'd like to think if anyone can keep one kid safe, it'll be us. We'll have guards and the whole nine, and let Phil and Natasha train him as soon as he's old enough to walk. If he's more of a target than anyone else, we'll make him more adept at dealing with those kinds of situations than anyone else."

Tony groaned. They were going to have to get into the personal stuff, soon. And Tony really hated having to listen to Steve lie about what a good person he was.

-Fucked-Up Celebrity Kid

Steve snorted. "He'll get a talking to if he even thinks about it."

Tony rolled his eyes. Fine. Time to pull out the big guns.

-Tony Stark

Steve stayed silent for a long moment, the words floating between them. Tony rested against his workbench, stylus and tablet in hand as he watched Steve's expression carefully. It was... guarded. That was all Tony could be certain of at the moment. There was something going on under the surface there, but whatever it was, Steve wasn't ready for him to see it.

After a long, long moment, Steve walked through the holograph and over to Tony. Wordlessly he plucked the stylus and tablet from Tony's hands and scribbled on it. Tony watched as Steve struck through his name on the CONS side and rewrote it on the PROS.

Wordlessly Steve set down the writing tools and took Tony's hand in his, pressing it to his cheek. Tony sighed, staring at the stupid glowing list.


-Steve Rogers
-Tony Stark

"You're wrong," Tony mumbled.

"You trust me to make judgement calls in the field every day. Life or death ones," Steve murmured into Tony's knuckles. Pressing a kiss to them, he spoke into the skin: "Let me make this one. Trust me, Tony. Please."

Tony stared at the list for a minute. And then another. And another. Steve didn't relinquish his hand.

"I'm going to get fat," Tony whispered.

With a laugh so full of joy it made his heart burst, Steve swept Tony up into his arms and kissed him breathless.

"Love you," he whispered into Tony's mouth, against his skin, over and over again.

Tony's gaze lingered on the list, on the struck through "Tony Stark" under the CONS column, and hope that Steve had made the right call. Because he honestly didn't know.

Chapter Text

First thing was first: they needed a plan. They needed lots of plans. So Tony and Steve set to work coming up with plans.

Top of the list, at Tony's insistence, was figuring out how the hell this had happened. Tony really wasn't keen on the idea of carrying a fetus to term only to find out he'd played host to a supervillain's equivalent of a Jeff Goldblum fly-son monster. No thanks. Not in the cards. So priority number one was getting to work with Bruce and figuring out what happened. That section of the plan had a plan all its own, which included some names on a shortlist of people Tony really wasn't a fan of talking to, but would probably come in hand once Tony and Bruce had exhausted their own tests. Amongst that list of names of people Tony never wanted to deal with was Reed and Strange. Asshole and magic asshole. Definitely not Tony's favorite people. But, if this had to do with interdimensional magical hijinks, which was unfortunately likely, they were the men to talk to.

Second on the list was scaling back Tony's responsibilities. This, of course, was Steve's priority. No more Iron Man in the field absolutely was Steve's number one concern. Although Tony didn't like it, he agreed to it. They didn't yet know how well Tony's body would take to bearing a child. And although Tony still wasn't sold on the idea, he wasn't about to throw himself down any stairs just to get rid of it. So no more Iron Man in the field.

As a subsection of that, both Tony and Steve agreed – Tony as the team member on temporary leave, Steve as team captain – to bring on some additional members to help out on a probationary basis. Two guys had been on the Avengers radar for years now: street-level self-proclaimed "Heroes for Hire" Luke Cage and Danny Rand. Although they worked for pay, from what information Tony and Steve had gathered on them, they seemed to be the real deal, if somewhat more profiteering than an Avenger was supposed to be. But Tony was sympathetic. Everyone had to earn a living somehow – everyone who wasn't himself, at least.

It was at this point in the planning that JARVIS reported yet another security breach. This time Deadpool just threw his severed arm through the vents with a note attached to it via knife wound. When Tony bothered to get a good enough angle on the security cameras to read it, it said: "DEADPOOL FOR HIRE! I'D BE THE BESTEST AVENGER! CAN'T DIE! MOST OF THE TIME! LOOK! LOOK AT THE ARM! WOOGLY WOOGLY!"

Tony pressed a button and the arm and note were incinerated in a moment. He ignored the cries from outside the Tower that somehow managed to reach them over a hundred floors above the pavement.

What was worse than sorting out the Avengers was trying to figure out how to lessen his role in Stark Industries without drawing any attention to himself or making stock prices plummet. This plan called for Pepper. Luckily, Tony had at least another two months before he really had to worry about that part of the plan, so he marked that as low priority. He'd have coffee with Pepper sometime in the next few weeks and hash out the details then.

Next: health. Tony grimaced as Steve called in Bruce and asked him to help him go through all the "What to Expect When You're Expecting" books. Together they teamed up in some sort of terrible conspiracy to keep Tony from consuming everything he loved. No alcohol (though Bruce did admit that studies showed a single glass of wine a day did no harm to the baby, Steve countered with the fact that Tony was incapable of stopping after a first glass), one cup of caffeine a day, no raw meats or fish, &c. &c. &c. Tony wanted to fire a repulser blast straight into both their heads by the time the conversation was done. A hundred and more don'ts, and added "do's" which just made his life worse: pills and supplements and idiotic exercise routines.

"I'm an Avenger," Tony pointed out. They were watching a video of hugely pregnant women doing calisthenics in a pool. Tony ignored the niggling feeling in the back of his brain that informed him that somewhere, sometime, someone had gotten themselves off to this video.

"You normal exercise routine isn't appropriate," Bruce had pointed out. "You have sparring matches with Clint and Steve regularly. You need low impact, high cardio conditioning."

Tony groaned. "So boring running with zero contact sports to alleviate the tension. And I can't shoot bad guys in the face. Great." He turned his focus on Steve, who had been smiling indulgently since lunch. "You're going to be my only release for nine months. Do you have any idea how much fucking we're going to do?"

Steve blushed bright red at that, tips of his ears going red and everything. Bruce just coughed delicately and brought their attention back to the matter at hand. "Running is good, yes. And no sparring, for sure. Also the stationary bike, elliptical, and cardio machines like that are all fine. I would say the ergometer, too, but in a few months it'll be too awkward."

Tony frowned, staring down at his stomach. So fat. He was going to get so fat.

The last thing on the to-do list was Tony's political business. This would have to be dealt with in a similar manner to his Stark Industries business, though maybe even less delicately. There were some important pieces of legislation being talked about – a whisper of "forty-two" here, some murmurings of "registration" there – but Tony had probably two or three months before his stomach got big enough that it forced him to drop off the radar. Even then, the situation in Washington wouldn't need as elaborately delicate of handling as Stark Industries would. Legislatures wouldn't care if he stopped showing up in person for a little while and just talked to them over the phone, video conferencing, or through proxies like Pepper. Anything that needed sorting out on that end of things would be handled as soon as they figured out the Stark Industries situation.

"I can still act as a consultant," Tony pointed out. He refused to separate himself from the team entirely.

Steve nodded his agreement. They were sitting together on benches in Tony's lab, schedules and lists scattered through the air around them and the drafting table in front of them. Except on sticking points, like taking Iron Man out of play immediately, Steve was almost unbearably agreeable about everything. He'd even offered to cook Tony dinner, before having to leave to see about a possible HYDRA warehouse at the docks for a few hours.

Tony had stood on his Iron Man landing pad for an hour, looking out over the city. He was going to go stir crazy fast if he couldn't fly. Carol or Thor would have to help him out, just so he didn't do something reckless like gerry-rig the armor in place over a seventh-month bump.

Tony frowned, one hand drifting under the table to touch his stomach. He was going to get so fat.

Steve's hand closing over his that was still above the table made Tony jump. Steve was looking at him adoringly, smiling brightly. Inwardly, Tony groaned at the sight. The longer Steve had to think about this, the worse it was going to be if – when, because it was inevitably when – everything went to hell.

Instead, Tony just pouted at Steve and grumbled: "I'm going to get so fat."

Steve rolled his eyes and leaned forward to pull Tony into a kiss. "Yeah, but you know what I'm going to say."

Tony rolled his eyes. "That I'm glowing, and beautiful, and pregnancy suits me so well."

Steve shrugged and leaned back in his chair, eyes twinkling. "I was think more along the lines of teasing you mercilessly when you can't fit into your pants anymore."

Tony stuck his tongue out at Steve, mock-angry. "Oh, very funny. Not all of us have a serum to help maintain our girlish figure." Around all the teasing, Tony found himself actually feeling – just a little – happy. For a second, he allowed himself the same indulgences he was granting Steve.

Abruptly some of the mirth fell out of Steve's eyes and he was clearing his throat, looking nervous. "Oh, hey, so speaking of... I wanted to make sure we scheduled something tomorrow for dinner."

Tony shrugged, gaze already drifting back down to their plans. R&D wouldn't have him when he was pregnant, either. Not around the chemical stuff, at least. And really, there were probably rules about expectant.... "mothers", for lack of a better word... playing with welding torches in their third trimester. Personal projects of the non-explosion inducing or chemically volatile kind should be fine, but he'd have to look up the guidelines for everything else. Sighing, Tony wrote down "R&D, '-O_O-' "on the list.

"Oh, yeah," Tony murmured absently before glancing up at Steve. He was still looking nervous. Suspiciously nervous. Tony squinted at him. "Yeah, we'll do dinner, Steve. Why? Got another big announcement for me?"

He meant it teasingly, but Steve tensed up and glanced around the lab. "No."

Nervously, Tony half-joked: "No babies for you, are there?"

To his relief Steve immediately shook his head and seemed to relax some. "No, Tony. No babies for me. Just you. And the munchkin."

Tony rolled his eyes but settled back to the task at hand. Whatever it was Steve wanted Tony for tomorrow evening, it wasn't so bad as anything else Tony had dealt with today. Probably something mushy, like picking out names or building a nursery.

The thought struck an excitable chord with Tony. Oh! That was definitely something that needed doing. A nursery. Or, a whole wing for the kid. A playroom, learning center of some kind. Tony could invent a "Baby Stark" line of children's educational toys that would put that hack "Baby Einstein" line to shame. And monitoring devices! Oh, Tony would be the king of baby monitoring devices.

Before he even knew what he was doing Tony was sketching out his plans on a fresh document, focusing his mind on something other than the mystery of "Steve nervous about dinner tomorrow". It was for the best, this way: Steve always did hate it when Tony ruined his surprise by thinking about it too much, and Tony was willing to at least try and give Steve the courtesy of not figuring out what it was ahead of time.

With a flourish Tony scribbled at the top of the document "Tower Modifications for Stark-Rogers Munchkin", more for Steve's benefit than his own. After a few seconds of squinting at the hologram above their heads, Steve's face broke out into another grin and he pulled Tony against him, rolling chair and all. Tony pretended to be exasperated by Steve's affections, but he didn't push away as he continued to work. With what the last twenty-four hours they'd been through, Tony figured, it was okay to indulge themselves. So he let Steve settle big arms around him and rest his all-American jawline in the crook of his neck as he cordoned off three sections of floor for "nursery", "playroom", and "learning lab". Steve's warm smile in his neck was worth the slight inconvenience of having two hundred plus pounds of supersoldier glued to his side.

The next evening found Tony in a respectable blazer and not-so respectable "Avengers Do It Best!" t-shirt underneath it. He'd have to get Pepper started on an Avengers maternity line. Surely pregnant women wanted to wear superheroes across their chest just as much as Tony did. Tony asked JARVIS to take a note and remind him of it next week during lunch with Pepper.

On time as ever, Steve was already waiting for Tony in the back lobby of Avengers Tower at seven twenty. Tony blinked down at his watch. Seven twenty? How did he lose twenty minutes? Oh, though wait, he had started burying himself in early childhood development psych research, then got into a pissing match with some so-called expert over in Tuscon. Martha or Marsha or something. That was probably where all that time disappeared to.

Before he could even open his mouth to form an apology Steve was waving it away.

"I am sorry, though," Tony protested. "Sorry. There was this study on-"

Steve smiled indulgently down at Tony and pulled him in for a hug and quick peck on the lips. "I'm sure there was. Come on. Our reservations are for quarter 'til, and traffic's going to be awful."

Tony frowned. "You said they were for seven thirty."

Steve raised an eyebrow and glanced significantly at his watch. "I suppose I might have told you something along those lines..."

A warm bubble of laughter filled Tony's chest as they headed out the doors and to his car. "You're devious, you know that? One day I'm going to write it all down, tell the whole world how sneaky Captain America really is."

Steve smirked as he held the car door open for Tony. Tony rolled his eyes but got in. He usually sat on the right side anyway, when Happy was driving him.

"Real page turner," Steve quipped as he ducked and followed Tony inside. "All of two stories about me being deceptive."

When the door shut and the car started moving, Tony was abruptly reminded how little sex they'd had for the past two days. A similar train of thought seemed to be chugging away behind Steve's eyes, because the temperature in the back seat seemed to ratchet up ten degrees as the two men looked at each other.

Never one to waste a good car ride, Tony grabbed Steve by his button-down shirt front and tugged him against his lips. In less than a minute Tony found himself lying across the back seat, Steve pressing down against every inch of him as they made out like horny teenagers on prom night.

(So Tony had ascertained from pop culture. He was fourteen during his senior prom, and contrary to popular belief he hadn't managed to develop his skills as an incorrigible flirt until the following years at MIT. The intersection of his knowledge about high school from personal experience and pop culture was upsettingly small.)

Two quick handjobs later, Happy was rapping impatiently on the glass partition. Tony grinned, licking a stripe of cum off his hand as Steve reached for the more practical wet-wipes. They kissed leisurely as they straightened themselves up, Tony unable to control the grin that he wore every time he managed to muss Captain America up in an inappropriate way. Not that Steve ever kicked up much of a fuss, but it was the principle of the thing that had Tony laughing between slides of tongue.

"Alright, alright," Steve murmured as he pulled away. They gave each other a once over, brushing wrinkles out of shirts and checking zippers. Finally they stumbled out of the backseat, both men working to suppress giggles as Happy's "Aren't I so fucking happy for you?" face greeted them from the driver's seat.

"Probably ten?" Steve suggested. Tony slipped his hand into Steve's, still amused by the reaction that could evoke from some of the more conservative fans of the Avengers. With a jaunty wave to Happy, Tony tugged Steve around and they headed into the restaurant.

Tony's first clue that Steve was up to something especially out of the norm should have been how upscale the place was. Not as extravagant as some of the places Tony might have (somewhat misguidedly) taken Steve when they first started dating eons ago, but definitely well above the hole-in-the-wall places they generally preferred to discover together now.

But Tony tried his best not to think about it, lest he ruin the surprise. So he focused instead on how Steve's cheeks still had a flush to them and his lips still looked swollen and bruised from their impromptu activities in the car. That was enough to distract Tony, for the time being, from whatever Steve had planned for tonight.

Dinner was good – dinner was great. Unlike some high-class places where the chef didn't know a whisk from his dildo, the food here was posh but flavorful, the quality of the meat superb and the wine perfectly paired with it (which Steve actually let Tony have half a glass of, after Bruce's reassurances yesterday). Tony let himself relax, playing lazy footsie with Steve under the table, who actually let Tony rather than blushing and pulling away.

With dinner cleared away and their dessert order in, Steve started to tense again. Tony sighed and rubbed his foot up Steve's calf, smiling sweetly at him. "Come on," he prompted. "Might as well get it out now, before I guess what it is."

Steve winced, but nodded. Tony waited (almost) patiently as Steve fiddled with his fingers. The next moment Steve drew a couple deep breaths, his hands stilling on the table. "Tony. Iron Man." Tony raised an eyebrow over his (decaffeinated, ugh) coffee and waited. "I've known you just about longer than anyone else in my life. You were the first person who spoke to me when you unfroze me. You were a good friend and financier. When I discovered you were Iron Man as well, that was... It was like the two best things in my life merged to make each other even better."

Tony breathed calmly. This was beginning to sound- Uh. He breathed again.

"You were my best friend. After Sharon, you became my... my lover," and Steve barely stumbled over the phrase, which just showed how nervous he was about something, because normally he wouldn't be able to say that word in public. "And now you're having our..." That he did glance around the room at, since they had decided to keep it a secret from the world at large until well after the fact. Steve continued. "You're carrying it. For me. And I thought, after all of this..."

There Steve's hand went, reaching for the inside jacket pocket. All the blood in Tony's body felt like it was rushing through his ears, his face turning hot, burning with anticipation.

Tony's body went numb as his eyes focused on the blue velvet box Steve had pulled out of his jacket. Inside... Tony's breath stopped. Sapphires, diamonds, and rubies set into a platinum band. Of course. Because Steve would, he would want it to be like... Like Tony was his and...

"Tony? Tony?? Oh, no, here, sorry, I'm sorry." The box snapped shut and disappeared back into Steve's jacket. His hands reached across the table and grabbed for Tony's, which... Oh, huh, he was gripping the tablecloth pretty hard right now, he hadn't realized...

"Tony?" Steve said again, more urgently this time. "Hey, Shellhead, listen, forget I asked. I just... it seemed like the right thing- Not that I'm doing it because- I mean, some of it. Is because. It's why now. But I've wanted to- I know you don't want to, probably, I. It's not."

"Steve," Tony finally managed to exhale the word.

Steve's ramblings immediately stopped. Blinking several times, Tony finally managed to focus on Steve's face. He didn't even look rejected: more upset that he had misjudged things. Steve was worried he had made Tony upset.

Shakily, Tony forced a small smile onto his face. "Let me see it again."

And wow, Tony hadn't seen Steve smile that big since... Well, since he decided to keep the baby. Which was only yesterday, but it was still an all-too-rare expression on Steve's face. Nodding and still smiling, Tony squeezed at Steve's hands. "Come on, let me see."

Releasing only one of Tony's hands to do so, Steve reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out the ring again. Single-handedly he managed to flip it open, presenting the titanium ring to Tony again.

"Is it the ring?" Steve asked. "Because..." And then Steve was releasing both Tony's hands to rummage around the other side of his jacket. A moment later he pulled a red velvet box from the depths of his jacket and flipped it open. Tony laughed, a little hysterically. Inside was another titanium ring, this one lined with rubies and citrines. Tony coughed out a laugh.

Steve shrugged, sheepish. "My first instinct was the... Mine. Colors. For you. But then I thought maybe it was too..." Steve struggled for a word, finally huffing out a sigh and smiling ruefully: "Old-fashioned."

Looking between the rings, Tony sighed and reached for the red, white, and blue one. Slipping it on his finger, he examined it in the dim light of the restaurant. Looking at Steve's blissfully stunned expression, Tony allowed himself the smallest concession. Reaching out, he covered Steve's hands with his left. "Maybe I could use some old-fashioned right now. Our situation is a bit too science-fiction even for me."

Steve's thumb was running over the ring on Tony's finger obsessively, grin looking like it might break off his face if it got any bigger. Still, he managed to pull himself together long enough to quip: "Did we finally find something the futurist didn't foresee?"

Tony snarked right back: "Hey, I'll have you know I definitely included artificial wombs for women within a hundred years and artificial wombs for men within two hundred, barring any singularity-level events. I just didn't think it'd happen to me! Six weeks ago! Without any intervention on my part!"

Laughing, Steve shook his head and grabbed at Tony's left hand. "Wait, wait. If I'm allowed to be old-fashioned..." Gently he tugged the ring off Tony's finger and replaced it in the box. Tony huffed and rolled his eyes, but waited good-naturedly for Steve to go through the motions.

"Where was I..." Steve muttered to himself. "Anthony Edward Stark. It would make me happier than I have words to describe if you would, uh..." Steve winced. "Okay, this part I wasn't sure about. Should I say "marry" or "enter into a civil union"? I mean, the second sounds so technical..."

Tony laughed and, ignoring all sense of propriety (it was a good thing he had none) jumped up from his chair and settled himself in Steve's lap. Through his blush still managed to kiss Tony, though far more chastely than Tony thought an engagement called for. Laughing, Tony held out his hand for Steve and watched as he officially slipped the engagement ring onto his finger.

Sliding out of Steve's lap Tony grabbed a glass of ice water from the table and a knife. "Excuse me!" Steve was blushing furiously, but Tony ignored him. He was smiling, beneath all that red, so Tony figured it was alright. "Hi, everyone." Tony clinked the knife against his glass a few times, waiting as the dinners of the restaurant fell silent. Most looked irritated, which Tony found infinitely amusing. They probably thought he was on a bender or something, though really, with Captain America sitting with him and not trying to hush him, they should have known better.

"First of all, I have an announcement to make." Turning to Steve, Tony reached out a hand and waited for Steve to take it, smiling up at him. "Steve Rogers and I just got engaged."

Crickets. Then a smatter of polite applause which grew louder. Tony narrowed his eyes a little. This would have played much better at their typical hole-in-the-wall in Brooklyn.

Well, at least his next announcement would stir up some benevolent feelings in the other guests of the restaurant tonight. "And in celebration, all your meals are paid for. I'm covering everyone's tab." A gasp went through the room, and that garnered some more positive reactions from the crowd. Tony beamed, just a little falsely, now. "So drink up, eat up, and mourn the exit of the two handsomest bachelors out there."

Sitting back down – in his own chair, not in Steve's lap – Tony beamed. "So? Plans?"

Steve smiled at Tony. "I just thought something small. Avengers. Family." They'd known each other long enough that Tony knew by "family" Steve meant "Pepper, Happy, and Rhodey" for him. Which was nice, the knowledge of Steve's understanding. Not that Steve's familial situation was any better.

"Yours, too," Tony pointed out. Which included Bucky, Sam, a courtesy invite to Namor, who wouldn't show, and the higher-ups of SHIELD, such as Fury and Hill. Maybe Sharon, too. At least a courtesy invite. All in all, Tony would guess around thirty, maybe forty people, plus one's included. Definitely small on the scale of weddings Tony ever thought he'd throw.

"And you're meeting with Pepper next week, right?"

Tony nodded.

Steve's smile was bright and easy. "You tell her the news, and I'll take her out to lunch some day after you and we'll work out all the details. Unless you want to?"

Tony laughed and shook his head, hand waving dismissively. The ring caught the light and Tony looked at it, distracted. It looked good, on his left hand. It mirrored his MIT class ring on his right. Tony shook his head at himself. He couldn't even blame pregnancy hormones for his sap, this earlier on – that was all Tony Stark being stupid in love with Steve Rogers.

"I'll let you and Pep handle the wedding stuff," Tony agreed. "Just don't turn it into something that would make Kate Middleton burst into jealous tears, and I'm happy."

Just as they were leaving Tony's phone vibrated. Extricating himself from Steve's warm side, Tony pulled it out and glanced at the ID. Laughing, he answered it. "Pep? You know, I was going to-"

"Engaged?!" Pepper's voice was painfully clear in Tony's ear. Next to him, Steve was stifling laughter as they stepped out into the brisk autumn air. "Are you crazy? No, no, don't even... This is possibly the sanest thing you've ever done. Is Steve crazy?!"

"Hey!" Tony clutched his chest, even though Pepper couldn't see him. "That hurts Pep, it really does. How many times has People magazine listed me as a 'Sexiest Man' or 'Eligible Bachelor'?"

"I read about it on twitter, Tony! Twitter!" Pepper continued, obviously choosing to ignore Tony's more outlandish remarks. Which was why he and Pepper made such a good team, really.

"I was going to tell you," Tony promised, a little more serious now. "We've got lunch scheduled for next week, but then Steve kind of... sprang this on me..."

"I know, I'm watching it on youtube," Pepper replied dryly. Curious, Tony thumbed Pepper onto speaker mode and flipped through to youtube. Oh, yeah, there it was. Over his shoulder, Steve was beaming down at the video. They looked like a pair of love-struck morons, wow. That was going to be terrible for Tony's image.

Then again... Tony grinned, shooting Steve a look. He mouthed "I have a plan", then turned his attention back to Pepper. "Hey, alright, listen: Sorry I didn't tell you before anyone else. But! I'm making it up to you next week with lunch. I've got some more news, and enough things that need planning to keep you busy for almost a year. Like, nine months."

Pepper went silent, mind obviously working. Happy pulled up just then and Steve worked to suppress giggles as he held the door open for Tony. Again. Tony let him.

"Tony. Tony," Pepper's voice sounded urgent. "Why nine months? Tony... Tony, you need to tell me. Now. What's going on? Is there spin? How much? How much spin am I going to have to do, oh, Tony..."

"Don't worry, Miss Potts," Steve said, leaning towards the phone. "Tony's on his best behavior, right now. I'm watching him."

There was a pause, and then Pepper quipped: "Normally I'd trust your judgement, Steve, but you just asked Tony to marry you. Everything you say from this point out is subject. Tony!"

Tony almost jumped at the tone in Pepper's voice. “Pep!”

Her voice carried a low-level warning with it. Tony swallowed reflexively. "Stay out of the headlines until next week. And then you're going to tell me what mad Skrull took over Steve and got Stockholmed into marrying you." With that, the line went dead.

Tony laughed, leaning companionably against Steve in the dark of the back of the car. Casually he glanced down at his left hand, turning the fingers just slightly so he could watch the light from the street lamps bounce off it.

Of course, Steve saw what he was doing and reached out, hand covering Tony's and fingers smoothing over the roughness of the ring. "Is this really okay?" he asked over the quiet hum of traffic.

Tony let himself melt against Steve and sighed. "This? This is fine, Steve. It's more than okay. Give me ten minutes after we get home to check on everything and I'll show you just how much more than okay it is."

Tony could feel Steve's answering grin in the dark. Just for a moment, as Steve was basking in happiness, Tony let his own smile falter. This was good. This was all fine. Because Steve was an adult, who, though not without his own issues, knew Tony well enough to fully consent to the madness he just had.

But Tony still couldn't help but wonder about what they were thinking to subject a child to himself. Steve might think he was a good enough influence for the both of them, but Tony had a sinking feeling that in reality, it was just the opposite. He was more than bad enough influence to ruin a kid, even if Captain America was the kid's other dad.

It was a crisp autumn day when Tony found himself striding up to a little Italian deli in Queens, scanning for Pepper. She was seated outside already, a steaming mug of caffeinated perfection sitting in front of her. As Tony got closer and breathed deeply in, he realized it was some sort of seasonal drink: cinnamon and pumpkin and spice. Tony groaned, disheartened. He'd already had his one cup of coffee for the day. And he wasn't about to order decaf in front of Pepper before explaining everything to her. She might stress herself out with worry, thinking he had a heart condition or something. Or, a new heart condition, at least.

Pepper greeted Tony pleasantly enough, kisses to both cheeks, hugs, smiles. But her eyes were narrow and calculating as Tony eased himself into the seat. He wasn't going to be able to deflect for long. Or at all.

Sure enough, the first word out of Pepper's mouth besides generic greetings was: "Spill."

Tony held out a hand, begging for patience. Not so accidentally, he held out his left hand.

"Oh my God, Tony! It's... It's Captain America!" She laughed, turning Tony's hand this way and that to capture the light in the different stones. "I can't believe... Tattooing his shield on your forehead would have been less subtle," she teased.

Tony grinned. "Would you believe it, guy wasn't sure if I would like it, so he bought two. The other one was more... me. But I couldn't help myself. Stand by my man, and all that."

Pepper snorted delicately, not even trying to keep the incredulity off her face. Their waiter came by a moment later and Tony placed his order, wincing as Pepper's gaze grew more focused when he refrained from order either alcohol or caffeine. And there goes any time he had for normalcy.

"So," Pepper not-hedged. "I'm happy for you and Steve. But."

Tony sighed, running a hand through his hair. "Why," he prompted.

Pepper nodded. "Why. Why now? Why not years ago, why not never? It seems so..."

"Insane?" Tony suggested.

"Out of the blue," Pepper corrected him.

Tony took a breath. No matter how many people he was forced to tell about his condition, he still hadn't figure out a way of saying it that didn't feel ridiculous. "First of all, I'm not dying," Tony decided to start out with. Apparently it was the right thing to say, because Pepper seemed considerably more relaxed.

"About a week ago..." Tony sighed, lowered his voice and leaned forward. "This isn't a joke, please don't laugh: I'm pregnant. "

Tony waited a beat. Pepper waited a beat. Her eyes darted across his face, obviously trying to figure out if what he was saying was true. In the silence that fell between them, Pepper's phone trilled once. She glanced down at it, and her eyes went wide. Tony nodded. That would be a text from Steve informing Pepper that Tony was telling the truth.

"Not a joke," she repeated, staring carefully at Tony.

Tony grimaced. Shook his head. "It's the why for the sudden proposal. Steve... You know Steve. Wants to do the right thing."

Silence for a moment. Then Pepper was leaning forward, expression guarded. "Tony... Did... What do you think?" she finally settled on.

Tony crumpled, shoulders sagging beneath the weight of his light jacket. "I wanted to get rid of it," he admitted, quietly.

Pepper nodded. Pepper, bless her. She understood. While Steve knew all of Tony's flaws and loved him with them, Pepper knew all of Tony's flaws and protected Tony from the worst of himself.

"You have rights you know, Tony. We could get a legal team..."

Tony shook his head. That's not what he needed to hear from Pepper right now. "No, no. I'm keeping it." A little voice in the back of his head whispered for now. Out loud, Tony told Pepper: "Bruce and I are working on figuring out how it happened. If it turns out this is some sort of Kang the Conquerer plot to destroy me via evil offspring or something, we'll put a stop to it."

Pepper nodded, but she did seem all that reassured. "And if it's not..."

Tony sighed, forced a smile. "If it's not, then we've got plans to make, my darling Pep. Stark Industries plans. DC plans. And wedding and baby shower plans, but Steve seems to be more interested in that than I ever will be, so I'll leave that with you two."

But Pepper wasn't letting herself be distracted so easily. Smiling tightly, she leaned forward and placed one delicate, manicured hand over Tony's. Her fingers brushed his engagement ring. "Steve's going to make a great dad, you know," she said.

Self-loathing rose hot like bile inside of Tony, but he shoved it down with a smile. "Sure will. Best one there could ever be. And Junior won't be able to get away with a thing."

Pepper's smile was a little more genuine this time, and Tony opted to ignore how much that stung. Because he had come to the same conclusion himself. Steve would be a great dad. Captain America would be a great dad. Tony Stark, not so much. The kid would be better off with Iron Man than Tony Stark. At least the worst a suit of armor could be was detached, cold, unloving. Tony's worst... It was so much more than that. And he had forty years of personal evidence to back him up on that, on what the worst of Stark genes could do to a little boy looking for a hero.

Their food arrived before Pepper could reassure him – and subsequently make him feel worse – some more. Tony was able to easily steer the subject of conversation away from his skills as a parent (or not) and onto safer topics. Like what to do with Stark Industries when he became "the size of a whale."

Pepper glared good-naturedly at him. "I'm sure you'll still be sickeningly handsome," she teased. "Veritably glowing."

Tony snorted. "Yeah, or I'll gain weight all in my thighs and stomach, turn into this walking advertisement for Michelle Obama's healthy eating campaign."

Pepper laughed, a lovely, sparkling thing. In the back of his mind, Tony began to wonder how good of a mother Pepper would make. Probably a wonderful one. If it was her and Steve instead of Tony and Steve, the kid would have a fighting chance. The kid would be perfect, actually.

In fact, excluding Magneto and Kang the Conquerer themselves, the kid would probably be better off with just about anyone else as the second parent. Steve's goodness was probably enough to balance out all but the worst in others. Too bad Tony's worse was beyond that threshold.

"We can turn the engagement in our favor, then," Pepper was saying.

Biting into his fries – and oh, when did vinegar dressing become better than ketchup? That was weird – Tony contemplated this. "How?"

With her right hand Pepper was poking at her salad, while her left tapped furiously at her phone, taking notes. "It's an excuse for your absence," she stated simply. "With the board, we can't have you drop off the face of the earth, but we can't have you showing up in a maternity dress, either."

"Pant-suit," Tony corrected, forcing a grin. "But yeah. I said the same thing."

Pepper waved her fork calmly. "But now that you're engaged, we have an excuse. We schedule the wedding for just before you start showing. You're six weeks?"

Mouth twisting in a grimace, Tony placed a hand on his abdomen. "Seven, now."

Pepper nodded. "So we schedule the wedding for thirteen weeks. Your pants might need to be let out, but no one should really notice." For just a moment Pepper paused, fingers hovering above her calendar on her phone. "For goodness sake's Tony. That's six weeks away. I have to plan a wedding. For two Avengers. In six weeks."

Tony smiled at Pepper, watching her get just a little flustered. "Hey, we're not going to do a big thing anyway. Thirty, forty guests tops. Avengers, family, and plus one's only."

Pepper nodded, determination gleaming in her eyes. "Okay. I can do that. So we schedule your wedding for just before anyone notices, and then we say you and Steve are off relaxing as part of an extended honeymoon. A few months off. All through the second trimester you should be able to do conference calls, just so long as the camera is angled right. Third trimester, we'll have you and Steve decide you're going on a more secluded vacation, and no one will be any the wiser. Then when you come back with a kid, we can present "adoption" papers and the public will assume your extended absence was sorting out everything for the baby."

Tony smiled. "This is why you're the best, Pep. All planned out. Same for the Hill?"

Pepper nodded. "Handle whatever legislation you can from home, keep up the schmoozing for the next few weeks, and then use the excuse of a wedding-cum-extended honeymoon-cum-adoption as your reason for being preoccupied for the following months. They won't even miss you."

"Good to know that I'm so needed," Tony teased.

When lunch was over, Pepper hugged Tony tighter than their greeting, holding him close for long seconds. She didn't look down at his abdomen when they separated, but Tony understood. "Stay healthy," Pepper warned. "Whatever Bruce and Steve are telling you to do, do it."

Tony rolled his eyes. "Yeah, yeah. I'm already doing it! No coffee, no drink. Look how good I'm being."

Pepper laughed and leaned forward to kiss Tony's cheek. "Yes, very good. Now just keep it up for nine months."

Tony pouted, but laughed along with Pepper. "Steve'll call you about everything else," he promised. "Wedding and baby shower. Just put it on my card and trust Steve to make all the decisions for me."

Pepper nodded her acquiescence and they parted. As he walked away Tony pulled out his phone and tapped out a message to Steve. Pep's got the debriefing. Ball in your court; don't red white and blue the wedding too much.

A minute later Tony's phone vibrated and he glanced down at Steve's response. Star-spangled outfits as far as the eye can see. You can be my USO girl. xxxx Love.

Tony winced, tucking the phone in his pocket. Then he actually thought about himself in a USO girl outfit and Steve... actually, yeah, no, that could be really hot. He'd have to hang onto that idea for the "honeymoon".

For now, it was back to the lab with him to try out just a few more hypotheses with Bruce. One more week, and they were getting Reed involved. And boy did Tony hate having to go to that insufferable ass.

Chapter Text

So maybe the past few days in the lab had been fruitless, and Bruce had made Tony promise to call Richards tomorrow for help figuring out exactly how Tony had come to be in his "delicate condition". And maybe Tony was looking forward to that conversation about as much as water torture. Again.

But, right in this moment, Tony was curled up on the couch with Steve watching whatever movie Thor and Jane had on when they came in. His stomach was full of some fried noodle concoction Steve had brought him in the lab, and everything was good. Except that he was going to have to call Reed tomorrow, but whatever. He'd think about that tomorrow, not now.

Sighing contentedly, he pressed himself more snuggly into Steve's side. At the movement, Steve slipped an arm around Tony's waist and pulled him closer. Neither man acknowledged the way Steve's hand came to rest against Tony's abdomen.

The relative quiet of the night – as quiet as watching a movie with Thor could be – was shattered too soon by Clint stomping into the living room and throwing himself down on a couch. Without being too obvious, Tony glanced around at the surrounding room. No Phil. Great. That meant Clint was being left to his own devices at the moment, which was always a bad idea. Tony grumbled to himself before settling back into Steve's side. Hopefully if they just stayed quiet and still enough Clint wouldn't notice them. As if his vision was based on movement or something.

Sadly, this was not the case. "Oi, Stevie."

Next to him, Steve shifted confrontationally. Tony grinned into Steve's shoulder. "Yes, Clint?"

"You got tested, right?"

Both men stiffened. Straightening up, Tony shot a look at Clint. "Tested for what, bird brain?"

Clint scoffed and rolled his eyes. "I didn't mean tested tested, fuck, be less sensitive. I'm on your side of yay, queer-o rights, the whole nine. I mean: the kid. You sure it's yours?"

Oh. Without even waiting for Steve's response, Tony answered Clint. "I know it was Cap's, but yeah, I've got the bloodwork, too. Bruce and I figured-"


Steve interrupting him shocked Tony to silence. He turned, taking in the cloudy expression on Steve's face.

"I... I can show you..." Tony started. Did Steve not think it was his? It hurt, but Tony didn't blame Steve in the slightest bit. "If you want, I'm going to see Richards tomorrow. I can get him to do some additional tests, if you think Bruce or I might have-"

"No, Tony!" Steve was full-on thunderous now, to the point that Thor had cocked his head in their direction.

"What-" Tony stopped, at a loss. "What do you-"

"Tony, I know it's ours." Steve's eyes were big and shocked. "I knew since... Tony, this is why I begged you to keep it in the first place. Because it was ours."

Tony scoffed. "Yeah, but come on, Steve: you've got to have had your doubts."

Steve's entire face turned to stone. Shit.

"Do I have any good reason to, Tony?"

Fucking Clint. Tony was perfectly happy to blame this whole cluster-fuck on him. "No, Steve. Just... I haven't..." Tony stopped himself, searching for the right way to explain himself. "You are the only person I've been with for years, Steve." There, that was apparently the right place to start, because Steve's expression lightened. But not enough. He was still upset about something. Tony tried to fix that by talking more. Which should have been his first hint that this was a bad idea. "But I know my reputation. I was the biggest playboy this side of Atlantis. If you had any doubts, I would have understood."

"Clint." Steve's tone was sharp, and he hadn't taken his eyes off Tony's. Tony felt a flutter of nerves.

Clint apparently felt it too, because he was perched on the back of the couch and looking like he was ready to flee the room. "Cap?"

"If I hear you slandering Tony again, we're going to have words. Do you understand me?"

Nodding frantically, Clint dropped himself off the back of the couch. "Got it, Cap. Sorry. Tony. I'll just... Phil."

Clint fled the room like there was a pack of doombots on his tail.

With Clint gone, Thor (and Jane, though more subtly) turned his attention back on the movie. Tony tried to, as well, but he could feel Steve's gaze drilling holes into the side of his face. Wincing, Tony turned and faced Steve again.


To his surprise, Steve pulled him into a vicious kiss, right hand on the back of his neck squeezing tight, left curling gently over his abdomen. Tony gasped, feeling a thrill of arousal go through him at the possessiveness pervading Steve's person.

When Steve broke the kiss Tony was panting, leaning in for more already. But Steve obviously had more he wanted to say, because he held Tony in place with his hand on the back of his neck. Tony's mouth fell open in a quiet gasp.

"People shouldn't talk like that about you. You shouldn't talk like that about yourself, Tony."

Tony had a feeling that pointing out that he and Clint had only been stating facts about Tony's character would no go over well with Steve at the moment. So Tony nodded slowly.

Steve's eyes narrowed, like he knew Tony didn't believe him. Leaning in, Steve breathed against Tony's lips: "You're the father of my child. You're my fiancé. I love you. I chose you."

Tony shivered. He wasn't sure what was going on anymore, but he didn't mind. Just so long as Steve kept talking like that. And they managed to stumble into one of their rooms soon.

"Do you trust my judgement, Tony?"

Somewhat blindly, Tony nodded. Steve asked if he trusted his judgement. He definitely did. Every day, in the field and otherwise.

"Then trust me. You're a good man, Tony Stark. Stop letting people you otherwise. And especially don't listen to yourself on the matter."

A smile crept across Tony's face. Oh. He got it, now. You'd think a genius would be faster at that. Smiling softly, Tony nodded. "Alright, Cap. I gotchya."

Steve's stony expression finally cracked into a grin and he leaned forward for a more tender kiss. Tony smiled into it. He'd still leave the DNA tests somewhere Steve might notice it, just to ease his mind. But it was good to know Steve had never thought of questioning Tony on it.

Or a least refused to acknowledge that the thought had crossed his mind.

The mug shattered against the wall, the decaffeinated mud water spraying everywhere and making a hideous mess. Tony ignored the way DUM-E rushed over to try ineptly to clean up the shards of ceramic and splashes of coffee. He stayed studiously turned away from the entrance to his lab, ignoring the man standing patiently there. He started messing around with bits and bobs lying around, chucking holograms into the bin and pulling up new ones.

An hour later Tony had managed to lose himself in his work, actually lose himself rather than studiously ignoring the glass door to his lab. "Sir," JARVIS voice spoke up. "Dr. Banner is entering his override codes."

Tony grunted. He could deal with Bruce.

Unfortunately, Bruce was a fucking traitor.

"Tony." Steve's voice was exasperated but relatively calm. Especially since he had probably just spent an hour standing outside Tony's lab, waiting to be let back in.

Glancing over just long enough to assess the situation, Tony saw Steve standing patiently just inside the doorway. The elevator was already closing on Bruce. Dick.

Apparently ignoring him wasn't a good tactic to use on Steve. Which figured – Tony should really know him better than that.

Still infuriatingly calm, Steve continued: "Bruce tells me Reed didn't have any information for you. That's fine, we can-"

"Is that what Bruce said happened?" Tony growled.

And great. Now Steve was looking much too pleased with himself, now that he had managed to evoke a response from Tony.

"Come on, Tony. You know Reed can be a first-rate horse's ass."

"Were you there?" Tony snapped.

That was the wrong question to ask. Steve's face hardened. "No, because you wouldn't-"

"Okay, fine. Fine," Tony mumbled. He knew Steve would be mad with him shutting him out of these meetings. But really, Tony knew he didn't need Steve hanging around just in case someone figured out the worst. The fetus was inviable, or would kill Tony, or was alien, or some sort of Kang the Conquerer plot (which honestly, Tony was leaning towards Kang. This sort of tech had his fingerprints all over it. Of course, Reed didn't think it was tech...).

"How bad was he?"

Tony remained silent, poking at a tablet and doing nothing.

Steve took a step closer, bringing him away from the wall and into the room. "He didn't laugh. Reed wouldn't. Man's got the sense of humor of a garden slug. And I'm pretty sure that sentence was just an insult to garden slugs."

Tony's lips twitched. Entirely against his will.

"He wanted to perform experiments, right? Poke and prod."

Sighing, Tony threw the stylus onto the table and took a step towards Steve.

Steve seemed to take this as an apology, because he stepped closer to Tony with a smile on his face. Reaching out, Steve took Tony's hands in his. Tony sighed but let him.

"Both of us," Tony admitted. "He wanted to do experiments on both of us. Do you know, he wanted to abort it and then make us fuck, just to see if it would happen again?"

Steve's grip tightened on Tony's hands, and Tony breathed through it. Steve's grip could be problematically tight when he got upset. Good thing Steve wasn't the one to have to go through labor – Tony's hands would be broken by the end of it.

"And your response was-"

Tony's mouth twitched. "Told him if he wanted any tips on pleasing his spouse, all he had to do was ask."

Steve paused, considering this. After a beat he said "You offered to sleep with Sue, didn't you?"

"He wanted to kill our- He wanted to watch us fuck!"

There was a moment where Tony looked away from Steve and tried to wrestle his hands away from Steve. But no, there was no hope of that outside the suit. Steve held tight, neck craning to try and catch Tony's eye. When he finally did, Tony found Steve's baby blues were shining brightly.

In the next moment Tony was being crushed to Steve's chest in a rib-cracking hug. "Okay, okay," Tony murmured, stroking Steve's back. "Yeah, I know."

Privately, Tony thought to himself that a slip of his tongue didn't mean he was attached to the fetus. Not to the extent that Steve was, for sure. If it turned out this was an evil plot or deadly, Tony would have no problem aborting the fetus.

He just really didn't feel like doing it just because Richards wanted to use them as fucking guinea pigs. Prick had too many published papers to his name as it was.

After pressing a grateful kiss just below Tony's ear, Steve pulled back, composure mostly regained. Tony huffed, embarrassed, but didn't say anything. He'd let Steve keep his sentimentality.

"Okay, so Reed's out. Who's next?"

Tony groaned, knocking his forehead against Steve's chest. "Strange."

Steve just laughed. Jerk.

"So you're thinking magic?"

Tony beat his fists against Steve's chest. "I hate magic," he complained. "This always happens when you let magic get involved."

There was a beat of silence as Tony was given time to think about how ridiculous that sounded.

Sure enough, a moment later Steve commented: "When has this happened before?"

"Shut up," Tony grumbled. "I'm pregnant. I get to be all moody, right?"

Tony found himself being manhandled so Steve could squint down at him. "Hm," he pretend-contemplated. "This is different from how you normally act?"

"Hey, I've got cravings! Vinegar! I have vinegar cravings!" Tony protested. Because it was true. He knew the cliche was pregnant women and pickles, but he found anything with vinegar satisfied that particular craving. Vinegar chips, vinegar fries, vinegar salad dressing. He had started dropping a half cup of vinegar into his veggie smoothie every morning. At least that meant Clint wasn't liable to steal it, now.

"So Strange is next. When will you be able to see him?"

Tony shrugged. No one ever knew with Strange. He might be in another dimension for an hour or three years. Strange himself didn't know half the time. "I was going to drop by in a few days, see if he's in. If not..." Tony fluttered his hand meaningfully. Steve nodded, lips twisting a little in disappointment.

"Well, if you don't get in to see Strange by the end of the week, we need to get you scheduled for your eight week exam."

Tony blinked. "My what?"

Steve grinned, sheepish. Taking a step back from Tony, one hand went up to rub the back of his neck. Inwardly, Tony groaned. He was getting that besotted look on his face again. That dad look that had Tony wanting to run away screaming and getting rid of the baby however he could, because that look, that loving, paternal look just served to remind Tony that he'd never seen that look directed at himself. And then he thought about how impossible it would be for him to give that look to a child, to be loving and paternal and good. Because he was Tony Stark, the man with just enough self-awareness to know that his daddy issues were too great for him to ever, ever be a dad himself.

"I've been reading books," of course he had, "prenatal care and pregnancy problems and everything. I know our case is going to be different, but I figured it could help. And all the books say you should get an exam around eight weeks to get a baseline for your health and everything."

Tony shrugged this off. "So? Bruce and I have terabytes of data on my body. That was what we did two weeks ago when we figured out the situation."

Steve frowned. Oh no. He was turning on the Cap look. "Tony, as much as I respect you and Bruce, neither of you are medical doctors."

"Bruce has been."

And there went Steve's face, crashing downward in a full-fledged disapproving frown.

Tony rolled his eyes and tried damage control. "Steve, who am I going to go see? We're keeping this secret, remember? I can't just walk into a mommy-and-me class."

Steve's frown let up, his eyes brightening. That wasn't good. That was even worse. Steve looked practically sly, now.

"I thought you'd say that!"


"I went and talked to Charles-"

"Xavier?" Tony interrupted, incredulous.

Steve frowned, looking confused. "Yes. I figured he'd be more equipped than just about any of us with finding solutions to bodies going through sudden, unexpected, and undocumented changes. I was hoping maybe he'd seen a case of this before and kept it quiet, or at least-"

Tony growled and waved his hands, incredulous. "The man's only got one PhD! And we know it's not an X-gene problem. Do you even remember how many PhD's I have??"

Steve rolled his eyes, clearly nearing the edge of his initial store of patience with Tony. It was probably impossible to make him actually run out of patience, but he could get less charitable as time wore on.

"You don't even remember half the time," Steve pointed out. "It's four, by the way. But you told Scott it was seven last time-"

Tony threw up his hands: "He was questioning my science! Seriously, the guy-"

"Tony, please," Steve groaned. "Just listen, for one minute? Because this guy talking to right now, who's got no more than a BA, thinks he found a good solution, okay?"

Grumbling, and not happy about the whole situation, Tony quieted.

Sighing loudly, Steve continued. "I saw Charles, talked to him about this – and of course he's promised the utmost discretion – and he recommended we see a Dr. Castillo. She apparently is a human who specializes in mutants and superhumans. Of course she promises full confidentiality. And I figure with everything she's seen, she's not going to have half the reaction Reed did to your pregnancy."

A flare of resentment went through Tony at how easily Steve lobbed the word "pregnancy" around, but he quelled it long enough to think semi-rationally.

"So you want me to go to her for, what? Check-ups? Sonograms? PAP smears?"

Steve wrinkled his nose, looking actually horrified at the last suggestion. Thank goodness Steve had been with women before, otherwise Tony would be a lot more concerned about the possibility of growing a vagina before this was over. Not that he wasn't extremely concerned about the possibility now, but a sexuality incompatibility would have just lent another level of "fuck this" to the whole endeavor.

"Don't be crude."

Tony laughed. "I'm not! That may actually be a consideration by the end of this; we have no idea!"

"Then you should go to this Dr. Castillo. Apparently unprecedented situations are her speciality."

Tony sighed, knowing he wasn't going to win this fight. And at least if this woman had seen everything there was to see in the mutant population, she wouldn't look at him like a fucking lab rat like that pencil-dick Reed. And as much as Tony enjoyed getting into a pissing contest with the other PhDs around New York, Xavier could be trusted when it came to situations like this.

"Alright," Tony conceded. "I'll go to the damn doc. Get a clean bill of health."

"I'm coming with you."

Turning away, Tony just shook his head. "Fine. I don't care. Come with me. We'll go every two weeks and get sonograms and hang the dumb potato pictures on the fridge and everyone will pretend like it looks like a baby instead of a potato. The whole nine. Happy?"

It wasn't a surprise, but it was just a little bit comforting when Steve stepped up behind Tony and wrapped him in his arms. "Yes, Tony. I'm happy. You know I am."

Tony squirmed but didn't try to hard to get out of Steve's grip. First thing was first: get Strange on the interdimensional line, and hope this was all some stupid supervillain plot so they could get rid of the damn interloper and move on. Tony only hoped Strange was hanging out in this dimension this week.

Tony tugged the collar of his jacket higher as he trudged through the rain. Great. Just fucking great. And Happy was parked ages away, because Strange always found an excuse not to talk to Tony if he brought too much indulgent tech to close to his home. Which made no fucking sense, it wasn't like a car was tech, hell, the car was about as low tech as Tony got when his other transportation options included a flying suit of armor.

Next to him, Bruce was calmly ignoring the rain sluicing off his curls. "He can't help it if he's out."

"He knew we were coming!" Tony shouted over the sound of wet New York traffic. "He had a note waiting for us!"

"Well at least he had the courtesy to do that much," Bruce pointed out. "We might have stood around knocking on his door for an hour.

Gesticulating wildly, Tony stared wide-eyed at Bruce. "Why didn't he give us a call before we stood outside his mansion in the pouring rain?!"

Just then Happy pulled up next to them, window rolled down. "He probably thought your charming disposition could use a cool-down," Happy offered.

Tony flicked him off and yanked open the back door, sliding uncomfortably over quickly-soaked leather seats.

As Happy drove them to the mansion, Tony grumbled as he set about getting himself comfortable. Heated seats were turned on, soaked jackets chucked off onto the far seat, and just a bit of brandy to-


Shaking with cold and frustration, Tony carefully set the brandy back into the minibar in the back of the car. His eyes were shut, his hands entirely less steady than normal. This wasn't his fucking life. It couldn't be. Tony Stark wasn't supposed to be running around midtown, begging for favors, going to fucking assholes for help. Especially not stone cold sober.

He took a breath. Then two. Then three. After about twelve, he knocked on Happy's window. "Drop Bruce off at the Tower," he ordered, not looking at Bruce. "Then I'll tell you where to, next."

The rest of the ride was spent in silence, Tony staring pointedly out his window and Bruce staring just as pointedly anywhere besides Tony. Once Bruce exited and shut the door, Tony knocked on Happy's window again. "Carol's apartment," he ordered, offering no explanation.

The partition rolled up and the car started moving again, sliding seamlessly into traffic. Tony leaned back in his seat and put his face in his hands. He couldn't do this for another... fuck, what was it? Thirty, thirty two weeks? This was impossible. This was asking too much of Tony. Sobriety, okay, he could handle it. He'd had to before. And he wasn't nearly as bad now as he was ages ago, back in the early days of his and Steve's friendship. Caffeine deprivation... he'd never done without before, but it was just another substance. He could cope.

But not being Iron Man. Not being Iron Man, and groveling. Feeling helpless. Going to others and asking them to help him. It was wrong. It spit in the face of the order of the universe. Tony Stark didn't ask for help. Tony Stark hadn't asked for help since he was three years old and something went wrong with his computer.

"Daddy? How do I fix the computer?"

"Do you know who taught me how to fix computers? It wasn't my dad. It was no one. I learned to fix things all by myself, Tony. That's why I can do what I do. Figure it out for yourself and you'll never have to ask for help again. From anyone."

But now Tony was running around town, asking for the help of the likes of Reed, and Strange, and Xavier. It pained him to ask even Bruce for help on something, but to ask Reed? Tony wanted to give back one of his PhDs just because of the indignity of it all.

And he was doing it all for something he didn't even want! Not that... He wanted it for Steve. But if Steve hadn't wanted it, Tony would be done with this whole absurd ordeal and be back to being Iron Man, saving lives, helping others...

But instead he was soaking wet in the back of his car after he had been rejected by the second genius he had personally gone to, to beg for help.

When Happy pulled up to Carol's apartment and the car stopped, Tony waited. And waited. Drumming his fingers on the window edge inside the car, staring at the dumb mini bar in the car.

Finally he pushed himself off the seat and knocked on the partition to signal Happy. "Carol'll get me home. You're done for tonight. And get the minibar out of the car. I don't want to see it here tomorrow."

"No problem, boss," Happy answered.

Tony shoved himself out of the car and into the spattering of rain before he made it into Carol's apartment building lobby.

A minute later he was standing in Carol's place, peering around and poking at knick-knacks: pictures from the Air Force academy, shot of her standing on a private plane, some medals and awards, some sort of Kree... thing... Tony set down the metal quickly. No telling with alien tech. It wouldn't harm Carol, for sure, but no telling what it might do to him. Or... the thing. Inside him. Tony felt himself going even more sour than he had been, so he covered it up by proclaiming loudly: "You know, you can move into the Avenger's Tower anytime."

Carol snorted, padding out of the kitchen in bare feet, two steaming mugs clutched in her hands. She handed one to Tony and took a long draw from the second, sighing contentedly. "Yeah, and have to see Clint twenty-four seven? I've got two brothers, Tony. I've lived with bratty boys long enough to last a lifetime."

Tony snorted but didn't argue. Although Phil kept him in line most days, Clint's manners left something to be desired. Growing up in a circus may have honed Hawkeye's skills, but they left Clint's tact dull and unused as the day he was born.

As he followed Carol to some worn, comfortable-looking oversized chairs in the living room, Tony took a sip from the mug. He gasped, then groaned. "Oh, this hits the spot..." He murmured.

Carol winked at him as she curled up in her chair, legs tucked underneath her and own mug clutched firmly between her hands. "Just a splash of spiced rum, don't worry. And the coffee is decaf."

He looked at her mug longingly. "I suppose yours is caffeinated," he sighed.

Carol laughed. "And more parts rum than coffee. Sorry, Tony. Perks of staying unfertilized."

Tony frowned and sipped at his coffee. It was good, that much was true. But it wasn't going to get him buzzed, and certainly not drunk. He still tried to enjoy it as best as he could, in light of the circumstances.

The TV came on, unobtrusive and low volume. Just enough background distraction as Tony collected his thoughts. This was why Tony liked Carol. She knew when he didn't want to talk. Probably because there were plenty of times she didn't want to talk, and just needed someone to sit there and share a drink with her.

There was no way to talk to Carol about why he thought of her. Absent, cold fathers in their lives; a tough-love philosophy to nourish them at night; a stout refusal to ask for help from anyone if they could ever, ever help.

"What would you do?" Tony finally asked over the low hum of the TV. Carol glanced askance at him, lips pressed tight, considering. "Not if you were a man. If your stick had gone blue."

Carol thought for a moment, fingernails tapping on her ceramic mug.

"I'd have gotten rid of it," she finally admitted. "But. If I had Steve..."

She trailed off, fingers drumming more on the mug.

Tony thought about what she had said. It was a common sense answer. As a working woman – or man – being a single parent would be difficult. Damn near impossible in their line of work. And Carol didn't exactly have the support staff that Tony had.

But there was more to it than that. Maybe. Carol was like Tony, she thought about things the same way he did.

"Would you, though? If you had a Steve?"

And Carol understood what Tony was asking in that moment. She looked at him, long blonde hair falling into blue eyes, and she knew. Hair and eye color, she looked like Steve. But there, in the depths of her eyes, was Tony. Was all of Tony's doubts and insecurities and certainty that she wasn't good enough.

The silence stretched on. Tony nodded and looked away, looked down, as he sipped at his almost-Irish coffee. That was all the answer he needed.

An hour later Tony and Carol were curled up in the center of the couch together, snarking at a new Sci-Fi show on primetime. Carol was watching for mistakes in flight dynamics, physics, and math, while Tony was focusing on incorrect chemical formulas and "hacking". He moved away when he felt his phone vibrating in his pocket.

"Hey," he answered it.

Steve was on the other end. "Do you want a lift or is Carol going to bring you home?"

Tony stretched and looked at Carol. He mimed flying and she nodded, collecting their mugs and bringing them into the kitchen. Tony pretended not to see her taking another swing of rum, straight from the bottle. Or the two more that followed it.

"She's taking me now. Be home soon."

"Fly safe," Steve murmured.

Tony turned a little away from Carol and let himself smile softly against the phone. "No worries. Keep the bed warm."

By the time he ended the call Carol had shrugged on a pair of sweatpants and was stretching by the window. She held out a hand to Tony and he took it, grinning.

"Careful," he teased. "You're flying for three."

Carol's laugh was swept away by the wind, and Tony allowed some of his worries to follow it.

The stupid paper sheet crinkled beneath Tony's bare ass as he shifted on the table. Rubbing his hands together, Tony did his best not to move and crumple the sheet any more. What he wouldn't give to be well on the way to toasted right now. Or buzzed. Or just to be holding a scotch, just to steady his hand, give him something to do.

This was stupid. He could have just sent along his medical files, all the data he and Bruce collected over the years – and especially the last few weeks – and been done with this "eight week check-up". She wasn't even going to check on the fetus, at this point. At least, not according to anything Steve had read in his quaint little pregnancy books. That was a whole four weeks away. So why Tony was here, now, when all the doctor wanted to do was poke and prod at him to make sure he was "healthy" was beyond him. Just to give one more person a chance to marvel at the pregnant man.

"Hey, Shellhead."

Tony glared over at Steve, feeling small and exposed in the stupid paper gown they asked him to change into, while Steve was there looking every inch the hero he still was. The hero Tony used to be.

And Tony hadn't even gotten fat yet. It was going to be so much worse, then.

But Steve was smiling at him, all soft and happy and hopeful, and Tony couldn't begrudge him that. Steve wanted to be a dad, because Steve would be a wonderful dad, and raise wonderful kids.

Tony couldn't begrudge him that.

"Yeah, Capsicle?" he replied tiredly.


Tony sighed. Steve's gratitude was so genuine, so all-encompassing. Holding out one hand to him, Tony gestured for Steve to get over there.

Steve went in a moment, hopping up from the stationary chair in the room and grabbing onto Tony's hand like the kid was going to come right then. Tony titled his head up, just a fraction, before Steve took the hint and swept Tony up in a sweet, lingering kiss.

The door opened a moment later and Steve stood up ramrod-straight, practically at attention. A slightly plump middle-aged woman came in, with chin-length blonde hair a kind smile. "Good afternoon, Dr. Stark. Captain Rogers."

Tony grinned and glanced at Steve. Finally. Someone acknowledged his however-the-hell many PhDs. Steve rolled his eyes good-naturedly and stuck out his hand to the woman.

"Doctor Castillo? Please, call me Steve. Charles said he would brief you on our situation?"

Tony leaned back on his hands, stupid paper crinkling beneath his palms. "Briefed" on their "situation". Made it sound like a SHIELD operation. Which, knowing how Fury had eyes on anything, it probably almost was. Probably had a huge file already dedicated to it, Phil reporting on Tony's actions daily. Ate a burger, meat a little close to rare. Had a sip of Clint's beer. Walked close to the TV. Let Banner breathe on him.

Doctor Castillo turned to address Tony, smile warm but not patronizing. She certainly had a better beside manner than any other "Doctor" Tony was acquainted with. "He did, but if you wouldn't mind I'd like you to explain it to me in your own words, Doctor Stark?"

Tony rolled his eyes, but sat forward enough to extend one hand out. "Tony. And alright, though there's not much I can tell you Xavier didn't. Two weeks ago Bruce and I were running standard bloodwork, doing some tests, mucking around in the lab. Mine shows up hormonally weird. Do some more tests. Looks like I've got an embryo in me. From what we can reconstruct, sometime six weeks prior, so eight weeks ago now, Steve managed to impregnate me."

Dr. Castillo nodded, taking some quick notes. "Now, I'm about to do a full-body exam, but I'll ask this up front: You don't have a vaginal opening?"

Tony actually liked how matter-of-fact and clinical Castillo was being. She was good. It was definitely the attitude he needed her to take for him to get through this visit. "Not unless my ass has one."

Castillo nodded. "And the insemination: as far as you can gather, it was from unprotected anal sex, with you on the receiving end?"

Steve was slowly turning an interesting shade of puce, but Tony didn't even bother to tease him. The less he did, the faster they got through this appointment. "That's the sum of it, yeah. For the record, we don't always do it that way around. And with both of us clean of STDs and in a monogamous gay relationship, we didn't really have any good reason to wear condoms."

“Of course not, why would you? And you've had unprotected anal sex before without getting pregnant?”

Tony grimaced. “Plenty. This is definitely a new development.”

Tapping her pen against the clipboard, Castillo shrugged. “One question for Steve before you continue, Tony," she turned to Steve, who seemed to be doing his best to compose himself. It wasn't working entirely well. "Since Tony's impregnation, have you been on the receiving end of unprotected anal sex?"

Tony held his breath, trying not to laugh. Steve seemed to be holding his breath too, though Tony didn't think he realized it. Finally he managed a curt. "Yes. Ma'am."

Castillo hummed thoughtfully.

Feeling generous, Tony offered up some more information. "We have another male gay couple on the team, and we tested them. No dice. In fact, we tested everyone: male, female, gay, straight. No one's knocked up besides me."

"And Charles mentioned you tested for the X gene?"

Tony nodded. "We've got a couple mutants on the team, so we had perfect DNA to compare it against. Definitely did not spontaneously become a mutant in my forties."

Castillo scribbled a few notes. Chewing on the end of her pen for a moment, she seemed to be considering two sides of something, nodding her head back and forth. Finally she said: "If you send me over the complete bloodwork, Tony, I can spare you the trouble of drawing blood today. Just so long as you can be certain it's uncorrupted."

Finally, something was going his way. Tony winked at Castillo and grinned. "Done plenty of science in my day, doc. I can guarantee it was all by the book."

"Do you have any theories as to the generation of your condition, then?"

At that Tony deflated a little. "No. Nothing. Waiting on Doc Strange to get back to this dimension and ask him about it, because at the moment the best working theory we have is: magic." Tony said the lost word with a growl. Fucking magic. It hated him and the feeling was deeply, deeply mutual. Magic. Ugh.

Nodding sharply at this, Castillo set her clipboard down on the counter and smiled. "Alright then, Tony. If you can keep me updated on any progress you might make on the genesis of your condition, from this point on we can plan on treating it as normal pregnancy until we learn otherwise."

"Great," Tony mumbled.

"Great!" Steve's monosyllabic response was a sight cheerier than Tony's had been. Tony exchanged a look with Steve, lips quirking at the other man's "be nice!" glare.

"Then if you don't mind, Tony, I'll perform a basic full-body physical. Just lie on your back, if you would."

Rolling his eyes, Tony threw himself back on the table. Castillo came over, gloves on, and started poking and prodding at lymph nodes, organs, all the basics. She hmmed as she pressed her fingertips around the arc reactor, but didn't say anything.

Having her check his prostate was delightful, as it always was in a doctor's office. Tony was actually pretty sure he saw Steve politely look away at that part, which was so absurd Tony had to fight to keep from laughing. In the past, Steve's tongue, fingers, hand, and dick had all been firmly ensconced in Tony's anus, but oh, no, better give him a moment of privacy as the doctor shoved her finger up there.

Blood pressure, resting heart rate, &c. all came back just fine. As she wrapped the blood pressure cuff up, Castillo stared thoughtfully at the arc reactor. Tony sighed and tapped at it. "Question, Doc?"

Castillo put away the cuff and pulled out an otoscope. "I'm just wondering if it will interfere later in the third trimester. The uterus – which you tell me you have, at the moment – shifts up toward the ribs. Depending how much space that device takes up, your organs might not be able to make the shift."

A chill went through Tony, and try as he might he couldn't help but glancing over at Steve. He looked stricken.

This was exactly what Tony was trying to avoid when he told Bruce to just get rid of the damn thing six weeks ago.

Castillo put the otoscope away and tugged her stethoscope into her ears. "If you wouldn't mind sending over the data you have on that, and any x-rays you have of it, that could help my assessment. Though really, if it does end up posing a problem, it will be late enough in the pregnancy that we can remove the baby with very little risk to your health or its. So I wouldn't be too concerned over it yet. Deep breath."

Tony did as instructed, watching Steve's expression settle into something a touch more calm, and about a hundred times more relieved. Tony attributed his shiver to the cold metal of the stethoscope on his skin, and not to a feeling of dread whenever he thought about the pregnancy in terms of second or third trimesters. That seemed too impossibly far in the future for him to think about right now.

Castillo finished with that, making some notes on her clipboard. Then she smiled pleasantly at Tony. "From what I can see, your body is capable of carrying this child. Maybe not to term, but most likely long enough that the child will be fine, if a little small at first." Steve flinched visibly at that. "If it looks like your health is threatened as we get later into it, we can always put the fetus on steroids so its heart and lungs develop enough to be sustainable outside the womb. Obviously this isn't a preferable option, but the point is that you have them. Options, that is."

Steve relaxed a little at that.

"Any morning sickness?"

Tony blinked. That was supposed to be a problem, wasn't it? He had kind of forgot.

Shaking his head, Tony shrugged. "No. I guess there's one benefit of being a pregnant man," he laughed.

Castillo shook her head. "Not all women have morning sickness. My own mother got through four pregnancies without a single instance of it. Meanwhile I've got a sister-in-law who could barely gain weight like she was supposed to, she was vomiting so much of it back up. If you don't have it yet, you still might get it. But you could just be one of the lucky ones."

Tony rolled his eyes. Lucky him. Lucky lucky fucky lucky Tony Stark.

Then Castillo was smiling and shaking their hands again. "It was a pleasure meeting you two, Tony, Steve. I'll want you to schedule another appoint for two weeks from now, so we can get a first sonogram of the baby. And be sure to get my information from the receptionist so you can send over all the documentation you have on yourself and your body."

With that, Castillo left with a bob of blonde hair.

Well, that was mostly painless. Of course, two weeks from now was going to be the much more trying appointment, with the sonogram. Hopefully Strange will have returned from-

Tony stopped trying to pull his shirt on because he had two hundred pounds of all-American muscle clinging to his side.


"Thank you," Steve breathed, and fuck, Tony was going to start freaking out every time Steve said that if he kept up like this. And then Steve was pressing desperate little kisses to the side of Tony's face, and there might have been some spots of moisture there from Steve, but not from his lips.

Tony pulled back and swiped a thumb under Steve's eyes, heart breaking as he saw Steve, his Steve, his Captain America, so emotionally invested already. Tony was so scared of disappointing him, he almost wanted the child to be healthy and not part of an evil plot. But. But. But. All that meant was that Tony got to take the scenic route to hurting Steve through his child, and how bitter and broken and ruined it would become with Tony as his dad.

"Hey, come on. What would the team say? Crying over a little bundle of cells? Come on, Cap. You know Bucky would give you all sorts of shit if he could see you now."

Steve laughed, leaning down to give Tony more sloppy, wet kisses.

"Just... Just promise you'll protect him, okay?" Steve whispered between kisses. "I know... I know what this is for you, and how hard it is. But if it's not something bad, if it's really just our baby that we made, can you please promise me you'll protect him? From anything?"

Tony's throat closed. It took him four tries before he could swallow, and now great, he was on the verge of tears, too. But he swallowed those, past the painful lump, and shrugged. "Ask me again after I manage to talk to Strange," Tony deflected.

Steve seemed to take this as enough of an answer, because he kissed Tony one last time before letting him finish getting dressed. Meanwhile, all Tony could think as his shirt slid over the glowing blue circle of light in his chest was that if he made that promise to Steve, he'd have to keep it. And he might have to undertake some extreme measures to keep Steve's child safe from himself. From Tony Stark.

Chapter Text

This was bullshit.

Tony sat on a workbench in his lab cross-legged, fingertips flying as he tried to control the armor remotely. War Machine was in the battle too, but Tony absolutely refused to have Iron Man absent from this one.

There was a shout, and Tony looked at the different footage he was getting from all sides, scanning through it quickly. "Cap! Cap, get out of there!"

The alleyway Steve had taken cover in was quickly filling with explosives, little delayed-action bombs. They probably wouldn't work, because it was all tech stolen from him and reverse engineered by some morons, but he didn't want to take that chance.

Steve didn't seem to be in a hurry to move, so intent was he on talking to the lackey he had captured trying to run out the side door to the building Steve was now knocking him viciously against. Tony could see the lackey's mouth moving, but since he was watching via CCTV and not the remote armor, he only had Steve's half of the conversation.

With a grunt, Tony flared his fingers, firing the propulsion jets on the remote armor and extracting himself from battle. A second later he was landing behind Cap, and a half a second later (it should have been faster, but Tony still felt clumsy controlling the armor remotely, a whole new step removed from stimulus feedback) Tony was flying Cap out of the alleyway.

Naturally, it exploded just after they cleared it. The whole alleyway.

Steve grimaced and looked down, between his and the armor's feet. "I wasn't done talking to that guy," he complained.

"Well then you'll just have to try again later," Tony quipped. After a moment of scanning he found a safe spot on the outskirts of the battle and dropped Steve off. Without another word he flew back to give War Machine more support.

The one good thing about being out of the field was that Tony didn't have to deal with cleanup. Instead he typed a few commands to the remote armor, instructing it to put out fires and throw out debris or other generic tasks, then was free to sit back and watch the rest of the team do all the boring work.

He was just biting into a mayonnaise-covered pickle when Carol's voice said "Iron Man? You seeing this?"

Pickle shoved whole into his mouth, Tony started scanning through the feeds to find Carol. "Hang on, hang on," he muttered. "There, yes! Got you, Marvelous. What is it?"

Although Carol glanced around uncertainly for a moment, eventually she just held the artifact out in front of her. Tony fiddled with the resolution and ran a few sharpening algorithms until he was able to see it more clearly.

"You got eyes on it?" Carol asked.

Alone in his lab, Tony nodded. "Yeah," he said for Carol's benefit. "And I don't..." Then everything clicked in place.

"They're trying to blame me!" Tony shouted.

Because right there, in Carol's hand, was a Stark Industries logo. And not the company's weapons' logo, not the old logo. This was the new one: the one that was on Stark Phones and TVs and communication software.

Rage bubbled up in Tony. This was bullshit. He'd spent years, years changing the way his company operates: closing down the weapons' division, spreading out into consumer electronics, communication, green energy. And now some two-bit Justin Hammer wannabe was trying to make it seem like it'd all bee a lie? Like Tony was still making weapons on the side?

On the CCTV feed with Carol Phil had appeared, striding surely through the mountains of rubble and debris. Tony watched as he walked up and gestured at the piece of metal Carol was holding, then put it into an evidence bag. He pressed a hand to his ear as he spoke to Tony. "This was obviously part of a plan to target you, Mr. Stark. If you don't mind, I'd like you there for the debrief after we finish cleanup so we can talk about options."

Mind? Granted, normally Tony was running away from debriefs like they were nanobots trying to turn him into grey goo, but at the moment nothing sounded better than actually dealing with an Iron Man problem rather than sitting here, practically neutered as he tried be Iron Man with the poor substitute of remote control armor.

"Raise the bat signal and I'll be there, Agent," Tony promised.

Phil nodded and continued helping Carol and the rest of the team with cleanup. Flipping through feeds, Tony allowed himself a small smile when he found Steve. The man was currently wielding a push-broom, moving glass and dust and debris into neat little piles for collection. Tony rolled his eyes but kept watching, chin in one hand.

"How you holding up, Shellhead?"

Of course Steve would be able to sense it when Tony was watching.

Leaning back on the workbench, Tony let his eyes drift up and down Steve's body on the feeds, checking out the way the uniform clung to his, frankly unfairly perfect ass. Well, it would have been unfair if Tony didn't get that ass all to himself. Since he did, all was obviously right with the universe.

Really, poor Steve never had a chance at a uniform that didn't emphasize his best assets, between Phil and Tony designing it every time it needed an upgrade.

"Just thinking about how I could get used to this," Tony teased, even though no such thing was true. He was counting down the literal days until this thing, this squatter, got out of him and he could go back to being Iron Man.

"Waiting for my man to come home," Tony continued, at least warming to the idea a bit now. Teasingly he rubbed a hand over his groin, watching as Steve's back stiffened a little as his breathy tone. "Wanting to give him a superhero's welcome. Now that he's defeated all the big, bad, mean monsters."

"Robots," Steve whispered, but he was sounding a little breathless, too.

There was a minute where Tony panted a little heavier than he really needed to, just to watch the way Steve stopped sweeping and pressed a hand to his ear. Then a New York cop was shouting something at Steve, gesturing over at a group of civilians. The moment was broken and Steve was back in Cap mode. Tony could see him shake his head on the feed and when he spoke his voice was rueful: "I'll see you when I get home, Tony. Stay out of trouble 'til then, huh?"

Tony huffed and leaned back on the workbench, both hands behind him and holding him up. "Yeah, yeah," he grumbled. "No promises. You'll just have to finish up quick so you can check up on me."

"No promises," Steve shot back. And then he was talking to civilians and organizing medical help and Tony closed his mouth, letting him do his job.

And Tony couldn't help but feel the smallest bit of resentment at that. That was the job that used to be his, too. Especially if someone was fucking with his name.

In an attempt to make himself feel useful, Tony started pulling up every data stream he could on any enemy he might have. Tony blinked between all the information at his fingertips. He was going to have to narrow this. Otherwise Steve would come home and Tony wouldn't have any useful information to share with the team. After they did all the fieldwork, it was the least Tony could do to make himself feel useful.

By the time the team had gotten home, showered, and settled in for the debrief, Tony actually had managed to make some progress on his list of enemies. And the results were unexpected enough that he thought even Phil might be impressed.

Phil went first, running through the logistics of the battle, explaining what he saw and what he didn't, what other parties – like the police and... Johnny Storm, for some reason?... – had seen. Steve gave his usual leader "everyone did great let's hug" post-battle pep-talk. Then Tony was dimming the lights with a twist of his hand and flinging information into the air of the room.

"Domestic terrorists," were the first words out of Tony's mouth. "And by which I don't mean the Wrecking Crew or any of those thugs. It's an amateur group, but-"

"Why do you think it's amateur?" Phil interrupted. He had taken a seat next to Clint, but still was in Agent mode. Even if Clint kept shooting him concerned little glances, like he just wanted to crawl into bed with him and cuddle until the next battle. Or fuck, or talk about sitrep forms and arrows, whatever the hell those two did when they were alone.

Quickly Tony flicked out a few more pieces of information. This included charts of previous times and days of attacks from various organizations, images of the weapons used and the destruction caused. "They were gutless. They attacked on a Sunday, early morning?" Tony scoffed. "That's about the lowest casualty count you're going to get in New York City. And they attacked Times Square. They wanted exposure, but they didn't have any actual plan. No real targets, no real points of interest or information to extract or goals to achieve. All they were doing was trying to do was make a mess. To draw our attention."

Phil nodded, and Tony tried not to feel pleased by that. He wasn't about to start groveling for the agent's approval. "What do you think their objective is, then?"

This was where a lot of conjecture came in, but it felt right to Tony. So he pulled up a website, one of those horribly designed nineteen nineties disasters. Westboro Baptist Church had a better online presence than these imbeciles.

"It's an anti-supes group," Clint mumbled, as soon as the page was pulled up. Tony nodded.

Wanda and Pietro sucked in a simultaneous breath, eyes growing clouded. Tony sighed. He had expected as much of a reaction from the Magneto babies.

Surprisingly, when Wanda spoke it was with a level voice and clear head. "We don't know this one," she put out, scanning the page. "And their mission statement..." Slowly she rose from her chair, reading through the page. "Tony, this doesn't make any sense."

Tony smiled at her. "I know."

Wanda didn't seem to get it, though. She continued. "Tony, this lists you."

Tony spread his hands out in front of him, still smiling. "I know."

"It's a registration movement."

Everyone in the room – except Clint and Phil – jumped when Natasha spoke. She was standing in the back of the room, practically melted into the shadows in the corner of the room.

After regaining his composure, Tony inclined his head at her. Natasha stepped forward in a fluid movement, going from unnoticed to commanding the attention of the room in an instant. "SHIELD has been whispering about it for ages," she explained. Clint and Phil were nodding along with her. "It's not just for mutants," Wanda and Pietro clung a little closer together, "or human experiments," Bruce, Jessica, and Steve all exchanged a look, "or specials." Carol's fists glowed warningly.

"It's everyone. Anyone with an extra-ordinary skill set."

"There's been talk of it on the hill," Tony put in. Steve jumped like Tony had slapped him, looking guardedly at him.

"What do you mean?" Steve asked.

Tony shrugged. "Rumblings, if you know who to talk to. I've had an ear to the ground for years, suspecting something like this might show up. They want us to organize, to be controlled, to make sure we don't make any mistakes because we're young or untrained or just a sociopath trying to play dress-up with the good guys."

Steve's face clouded over, and Tony suppressed a follow-up question. Steve's negative response to registration wasn't surprising, but Tony wasn't sure if he had thought Steve would be quite so upset. They'd have to talk about it later.

"It makes sense," Jessica spoke up from next to Carol. When Carol jumped away from her like she had been slapped, Jessica shook her head and tossed her long, dark hair out of her face. "Not registration. That the group that attacked us would be anti-supes, pro-registration. Think about it: next to you SHIELD guys, Tony's the most human of all of us."

Tony snorted. First time in his life his "humanity" had been described as more than someone else's. Usually was the other way around. But he understood what Jessica meant.

Phil looked approvingly at Jessica, expression over-careful in its blandness. "Amongst the Avengers, who would you have to work hardest to turn public opinion against? Most the world thinks Wanda and Pietro are about to turn into megalomanic sociopaths any second now," he shrugged over at the twins, "no offense."

Phil's tie appeared hanging from the ceiling fan in the blink of an eye. Pietro smirked cruelly. "None taken."

Phil, to his credit, ignored the speedster. As he continued talking, Clint hopped up on the table to extract the tie and return it to its rightful owner. "Jessica and Banner are both science experiments, and with some distinctly extra-normal results. Thor is an alien, most of the world suspects Carol is one, too-"

Carol rolled her eyes. "Just infected by one," she snarked.

"-and Clint and Natasha are safe because they're already registered, in a sense, with SHIELD."

Tony whined. "What about Steve?"

Phil smiled dryly back. "You're never going to turn public opinion against him."

Tony shrugged as Steve looked a little sheepish. True.

"So they come after Tony," Bruce continued Phil's train of thought, "make it look like he's responsible for this big mess, and then they get to spin it with 'if only this was regulated, if only guys like Stark were held accountable, and hey, if we're holding him accountable of course variables like mutants and freak science experiments need it, too. Tony's human, after all, but we still want him to register'."

The room tensed up as Bruce breathed a little deeply at the end of his rant.

Thor, who had remained quiet during these proceedings – probably because all this talk of Migardian legislation was boring him to tears – frowned in sympathy and pressed a meaty hand to Bruce's shoulder. No one was so unkind to point out the way his hammer twitched on the floor next to him.

Clapping his hands together, Tony nodded at Phil. "You with me on spin for this?"

Phil nodded, already pulling out his phone to place a call. "You go Stark Industries, I'll corroborate with SHIELD. Don't say the word "terrorist" or mention registration at all. Let us handle that end."

Tony rolled his eyes. "I think I know how to handle a public statement."

Phil's smile was dry and thin-lipped. "I recall the last time I collaborated with you on a public statement, Stark. Just stick to the script."

The meeting broke up quickly after that, and Tony started scheduling press conferences, contacting the board, and releasing official statements from Stark Industries to the AP.

By the time Tony was about to collapse into bed with Steve, he was almost too exhausted to give him the superheroic welcome-home party he deserved. But generally speaking, Tony was never too tired for that.

And with Steve grinning down at him from where he was propped up against the headboards, hair still damp from a shower and smelling so good and fresh, Tony didn't need a lot of encouragement.

Shucking off his clothes in practically a single move, Tony crawled up from the foot of the bed, grinning up at Steve and fingers tickling at his bare skin. Steve was already moving to shuck his boxers, eyes lusty and smiling plucking at those plump red lips.

Tony sighed, pressing his nose into Steve's hip and planting little kisses along his groin. Steve twitched as his goatee scraped against his flaccid penis, and Tony laughed at the movement. Steve laughed too, then hummed happily as Tony moved his mouth to his penis, lapping gently at the slowly hardening member.

Working Steve to full hardness, Tony glanced coyly up at him from beneath long brown lashes. "Do you want to fuck me, tonight?" he asked.

Steve smiled, but didn't seem to have a preference either way. But Tony had a plan for how he wanted things to go. Running his tongue in one long stripe from base to tip, Tony asked again: "Does my superhero husband want to fuck me after a long day of saving the world?

Steve growled at that, eyes lighting up at the thought. Tony grinned and sat back on his heels, bracing for impact. A moment later miles of hard muscle slammed into him and were manhandling Tony onto his stomach. He laughed, arching up and present his ass to Steve who slapped it firmly.

Tony groaned and rolled his hips into the sheets once, then raised his ass up again, waiting. The bed shifted and rolled to one side, then back again, as Steve leaned over to his nightstand. The movement gave Tony just enough time to get his elbows under him steadily enough so that he could reach a hand up and stroke himself to full hardness.

Steve growled and slapped at his arm as soon as he came back, making Tony laugh. "Alright, alright," he conceded, wiggling his ass maybe a little more than was necessary. "I'll be patient. As long as you get to fucking me soon."

A slicked, fat thumb pressed against Tony's entrance, teasing him. Tony groaned, head hanging forward as Steve's thumb massaged and massaged, but didn't slip in. Within a minute he was panting, hole clenching and unclenching as it wordlessly begged Steve to fill him up. "Steve," Tony whined, pressing his hips back. A soft cry escaped his lips with Steve's thumb pulled back with him, not letting him fuck himself on it.

But then, oh, yes. A single thick finger slipped in, sending a shiver of relief through Tony's whole body. His inner walls clenched around it, trying to make him tighter, trying to make the finger enough to give him all the friction he needed. But it wasn't, it wasn't even close, and Tony was pressing back urgently, already asking for another one.

Steve, fucking gorgeous, fucking wonderful man that he was, slipping a second finger in almost immediately, and then a third. Tony groaned, pushing his hips back, fucking himself on Steve's thick, gorgeous fingers. "Gimme four," he moaned. Because suddenly, all Tony wanted was to be full. Painfully, achingly full. He didn't want Steve to even breathe on his cock, all he wanted was every inch of his hole stretched and filled and touched by as much as Steve as he could get in there.

Tony groaned, loud and long, as Steve's pinkie slid in beside the other fingers. Tony was fucking himself hard on Steve's digits, the bed creaking with the force of his thrusts. Behind him, Steve rubbed his free hand down Tony's flank, leaning close enough to murmur: "Do you need my hand, tonight?"

But Tony shook his head. "No. No. Get inside me. Get inside me and then fill me up with your finger- Fuck, fuck, fuck, Steve."

Tony was panting when Steve withdrew his fingers, sweat dripping down his forehead and onto the sheets. He blinked it out of his eyes, body taut and anticipatory as he listened to the sounds of lube and flesh behind him.

A moment later Steve was sliding into him, and fuck, it was amazing, it was perfect, but it just wasn't enough right now. "Finger, gimme one. Gimme two, Steve, fuck me, fuck me..."

As Steve slipped a finger in alongside his penis Tony's whole body shook, hole aching and still wanting more. It wasn't like Steve was small, either. Everything was nicely, perfectly proportional down there, and sometimes almost too much (if there wasn't any lube handy, for instance). But tonight, for whatever reason, Tony's body needed more.

Steve was fucking him hard, sharp slaps of their skin ringing out with every thrust. His finger alongside was good, but the second one was even better. Tony groaned, Tony almost cried at the feeling of his hole being stretched wide, too wide, not wide enough.

"One more, Steve, please..." But Steve was too focused on himself at the moment, and Tony could only hang on and wait him out. It was post-battle, and Steve had probably been keyed up all afternoon. As much as Tony felt like he needed six guys fucking his ass at the moment, Steve needed to let off some steam, too.

When Steve came Tony felt it, his thrusts quickening to piston speeds and then slowing into long, deep thrusts. After one or two breaths Steve picked it up again, slipping a third finger alongside his not-yet flaccid penis and trying to fuck Tony hard through it.

When his left hand slipped down to try and reach around Tony's front, this time Tony was the one to slap him away, shaking his head desperately. "No, Steve's, it's gotta be from that, I can't-"

With a muffled grunt Steve pulled out of Tony and hauled his ass higher up. Whimpering, Tony let his shoulders drop, face smushed against the sheets and mouth hanging shamelessly open as he whined and shimmied, begging Steve to get him off.

"Fuck!" Tony sobbed as Steve thrust four, five, six... he had digits from both hands spreading Tony wide, fucking inside of him, playing with his rim. Tony's body shook, trembled, desperate to get off. Steve's tongue joined his fingers inside of Tony, first lapping, then fucking into him, fucking the cum right back out of him with soft squelches that were lost under the sound of Steve's moans.

Tony finally came with a noise that was more sob than shout, with seven or eight of Steve's fingers inside of him and his tongue fucking viciously in and out. Tony's entire body was fucking back, fucking himself through it as Steve panted and came up for air, fingers still moving furiously in and out.

Tony collapsed after that, mind gone off to the far corners of the Tower, absolutely refusing to come back until his body had trembled its way through all the aftershocks. Which were almost constant, and every movement of the sheets against his skin made Tony trembled even harder. Ugh, fuck, he didn't want to touch anything with his skin right now. Not for a month.

Eventually he managed to roll over onto his back and was joined at the top of the bed by Steve, who was gazing at him with a somewhat more coherent and bemused expression than Tony thought he'd be able to muster for at least a few hours.

Fuck, his asshole hurt. Tony groaned and burrowed his head further into the pillow that had somehow ended up beneath it. Fuck, that felt amazing.

"What was that?" Steve murmured, rubbing slow circles on Tony's abdomen.

Tony groaned and mumbled for about a minute straight before he remembered that groaning and mumbling weren't actually words.

"Fucking of a lifetime," Tony finally managed to string together.

He was falling asleep, and that was fine, it was actually probably for the best because if he had to deal with this over-sensitization for any longer he was going to ask Jessica if she could tie him up floating in midair so he wouldn't have to touch anything, and that would be an awkward conversation.

It was only when he woke up the next morning with Steve curled up almost on top of him that it registered what Steve had been doing.

Trying not to move, Tony glanced down at his abdomen. Steve's hand was still curled protectively on top of it, where it had been rubbing last night. Tony sighed and stared at the ceiling high above his head. Fantastic sex was always welcome, but if shifting hormones thanks to the fetus were to blame, Tony would take normal-fantastic sex with Steve any day of the week.

Fuck. And his ass was really sore.

Of course, that was when a ball of light appeared hovering between Tony's face and the ceiling, informing him that Doctor Strange was ready to see him.

If Tony wasn't so certain throwing something in Strange's house would have gotten him killed by an extra-dimensional demon alien, he would be throwing everything right about now. Steve was also doing a decent job keeping him level, frowning at Strange but holding tight to Tony's arm.

"Great discord was in the future," Strange said, back to them.

Seriously. That fucking vase over there looked like it'd be good for throwing. Too bad it probably had some sort of China-demon in there. Ancient Chinese secret, sure. Chinese secret was a genie in Strange's living room.

Luckily, Steve spoke for Tony, and with a lot less of the choice words Tony himself would have used. "What exactly did you think gave you the right to mess with the future?"

"I dealt with the present, my dear boy," Strange corrected, still with his back to them. "The future will now play out as it may."

Tony watched a muscle jump in Steve's jaw. He could hear the faint sound of enamel grinding.

"Strange, you don't have the authority to go messing with people's lives. Especially if it has to do with some future conflict you don't even know-"

"My righteous captain," Strange proclaimed, finally turning to them. Man had eyebrows to make a Vulcan jealous. "Do you have any interest in hurting your lover, Tony Stark?"

The worry-line appeared between Steve's eyes. "Of course not."

"Tony Stark!" Tony jumped, staring wide-eyed at Strange. Fucking magic, never knew what was going to happen.

"What, fuck?"

Strange continued, unperturbed by Tony's reaction. "Do you have any interest in seeing your Captain die? Because of your actions?"

Tony growled. This was fucking ridiculous. And manipulative. Whatever Strange had done, it had something to do with Tony's "delicate condition". And now he was going through this song and dance number, trying to guilt Tony and Steve into agreeing that it was the right thing to do.

"Just tell us what you did, Strange," Steve growled. "And what 'potential future' you were trying to prevent."

"Knowledge of the future is reserved for us few who can find it."

That wooden box, over there? Tony would place money on it making a really satisfying noise when it broke. Right before some evil demon popped out and ate him and Steve both.

Pressing a hand to his head, Tony thought for a minute.

"Tell was what you can. A focus on the 'how' and information about the fetus, conception, long-term effects, and birth... options... would be helpful."

Strange stroked his beard. Of course Strange stroked his dumb beard. It was way more stupid-looking than Tony's goatee.

"I found a world where the discord I foresaw did not rock the future of it. I cast a spell to bring the vital parts of that world to this one. Whatever was key in preventing the same discord in that world has come to this."

Tony took a breath. Then another one. "I am a pregnant man in the other universe?" he gritted out.

Strange smiled. Tony really didn't like that smile. "To my knowledge, you are a woman in three-four-nine-oh. Natasha Stark. It would appear your marriage self's marriage to Captain America – or at least, a closeness of partnership – is key."

This was not news he wanted to hear. It seemed like it, on the surface, yeah. There wasn't any especially good reason for getting rid of the fetus, but there certainly wasn't any reason to keep it. He and Steve were already a couple, and now they were getting married - baby or no, Steve and Pepper had already thrown themselves so far into wedding plans that the ceremony was happening, no matter what villain thought he could interfere on that day. So if all the future needed was for him and Steve to work together, to stay close and remain partners in everything, that they could do with or without the baby.

But if they baby really was theirs, and there was nothing overly nefarious about its existence, then Steve wasn't going to approve of getting rid of it. Which meant Tony was going to have to keep it, because getting rid of it could start off the whole "discord" chain of events that Strange was apparently so set against.

"Is the baby ours or... or Natasha's?"

Oh. Tony looked over at Steve sympathetically. The guy looked like he was waiting to be crushed. There was no way Tony was going to be able to get rid of the fetus, now. Not without destroying everything between him and Steve.

"The child is yours, from your seed," Strange confirmed. "It would appear that Tony gained a uterus and the capabilities of carrying a child through my machinations, but nothing more."

Sarcastically Tony raised his hand. "Quick question? For my OBGYN, who is going to want to know?" He didn't wait for Strange's nod of approval, but Strange was giving him one anyway. Ass. "How did Steve's sperm get from my ass to my new uterus? Bruce and I checked: my ass didn't become a birth canal. There's no tubing there."

Strange smiled mysteriously. "The magic of the universe is sometimes indecipherable. Especially when it comes to the miracle of creating new life."

Magic. Fucking magic. Fuck this.

Tony jumped up and threw a thumb over his shoulder. "You two finish discussing my magic vagina-ass. I'm going to wait in the car."

And with that, Tony stormed out. Magic. Great.

He needed some phish food ice cream.

Fucking magic.

"This is my battle, Steve!"

Steve stayed, an immovable lug of muscle, with arms crossed in front of the armor. Tony had half a mind to signal it and let it knock Steve onto his ass, to just to remind Steve he could. With the armor, Tony Stark could do anything. And being ten weeks pregnant wasn't about to stop that.

"It's our battle, Tony. And, more to the point, you're carrying our baby. I'm not letting you-"

"It's not a risk!" Tony shouted.

Steve snorted. "Why would you even say that."

"Because it fucking isn't!" Tony snarled back. "I'm encased in a suit of armor. The fetus is inside me-"

"It's a baby, Tony-"

"It's an invasive life form from another dimension that I wanted to get rid of a month ago!"

Both men stopped, breathing hard. Tony could feel the edge approaching; it wouldn't take much to push them over it. Contrary to popular belief, Tony Stark did in fact know when he was pushing people too far. He just tended not to care.

"It's ours," Steve repeated. "The uterus is from another dimension. The adjustments in your endocrine system are courtesy this other Stark. But that baby is ours, Tony. We made it. If we hadn't made love that night, it wouldn't exist."

Tony side, feeling his resolve weakening. "But this is my battle, Steve. They're trying to use me as a rallying point for the anti-supes out there. If I'm not out there clearing my name-"

Steve interrupted Tony with a stride forward, hand coming up to cup his cheek. "Let me clear it for you, then," Steve murmured.

It almost physically hurt Tony to acquiesce to the kiss and let Steve hurry out of his lab. It really did hurt to crawl back on top of his workbench and watch the battle from there. For a minute, just one, Tony wondered if Steve would be able to tell the difference between the remote control armor and Tony in it. But Tony brushed that thought aside as quickly as it came. He'd know in an instant.

Besides. Tony hummed to himself as he pulled up all the anti-supes websites he could and started running facial recognition programs on the crowds and writing algorithms to sort through the mess of sites. Besides, Tony could still be useful in the lab. And if he discovered something important while everyone else was busy in the field. Well. It wasn't his fault.

The Iron Man HUD was giving him all sorts of information on the man in front of him that Tony wasn't interested in. Age, weight, education, marital status. What Tony cared about was information he'd probably only be able to get from the man's own lips.

"What is the proposed legislation?" Tony asked again, the Iron Man armor modulating his voice.

The man shook his head, trembling.

Tony sighed. Tried again. "What senator have you been meeting with?"

Again, another shake. The HUD display was telling him with ninety-two percent certainty that the man was telling the truth.

Grumbling, Tony retracted all the weapons in his armor and relaxed. "I thought you were the leader."

"I am!" the man insisted, then seemed to realize that this wasn't the circumstance to be proudly proclaiming that. "I mean... I'm the head of Humans First."

"And you coordinated the attacks. The ones designed to discredit Tony Stark to the public."

The man flinched violently, hands coming up to cover his face. Tony hadn't even moved. "I'm... I'm...."

Tony growled. This was getting him nowhere. Someone was playing this guy, someone good. Someone who had connections to the Hill but didn't want anyone else to realize it yet. "Alright, here's what you're going to do," Tony insisted. The man shook violently and looked ready to get to work, before even Tony even told him what he wanted. "Get me a list of every member of your organization. I want this down to kids who showed up at the bake sale you had at the church one time because you were hoping to recruit new members. Include addresses or phone numbers for everyone. Got it?"

The man was already scrambling for a pen. Tony would laugh, if this sad little man wasn't proving to be a part of the thorn in his side. "Then, I want a list of locations. Every meeting you've ever had. Building names, addresses. You get those to me, and you resign from your post and shut down that website of yours tomorrow, and you won't see me again."

The man nodded, dropping to the ground in relief. Tony sneered and turned away, adding a little bit of extra kick in his blast off, just to fuck with the little prick.

Ten minutes later Tony was landing in his lab, letting the bots shed his armor quick as could be. He should be back in time-


Tony stared, wide-eyed, at his workbench. His workbench which was now split down the center, thanks to Steve's fist coming down on it.

They stared at each other for a long minute. Tony tried to figure out if explaining, apologizing, or just staying silent was the best plan of action for the moment. He couldn't tell.

"I wasn't in the battle," Tony finally settled on, speaking quietly. His hands were held palms out, like he was talking to a spooked dear. Or a very, very angry papa bear.

"I know that," Steve hissed. "I'm not an idiot, Tony. I know the difference between you in the armor and out of it."

Tony winced. This was not going to go well. The best thing to do was grovel – explanations could come later. Because right now, Steve was not going to hear them.

Too bad Tony was terrible at apologies.

"It wasn't anything dangerous," he tried.

Steve stayed silent. That wasn't good.

"I tracked down the head of the anti-supes group who's been launching the attacks. He's a middle-aged guy who lives a little upstate. Just thought I'd pay him a visit, is all. Put the fear of Iron Man in him."

Steve was bleeding. Tony hadn't noticed it before, but where Steve's fist had cracked the workbench in half was swollen and purple and dripping blood. It was definitely broken. It looked like he had mashed all the bones in his hand to a pulp.

"Steve, you-" Tony took a half step forward before catching himself. "You're hurt, Steve. Let me-"

"Go on," Steve suggested. "I'm fine. My health doesn't matter. Keep telling me about this mission."

Tony rolled his eyes. That stung. "Okay, I get it, Steve. You've made your point. Now let's get you to medical before-"

Tony had stepped forward too quickly, reaching for Steve's good arm. Steve yanked back and slammed his fist into the workbench again. The two halves of the workbench separated from each other and came crashing apart. His fist split open more.

Tony's stomach roiled. He wanted to be sick. "Steve, fuck, stop. Please..."

Steve's eyes were flinty. "Feel it?" he growled.

Tony groaned, holding his hands against his eyes in an attempt to block out the sight of Steve's hand. And keep the tears at bay.

"Now you know how I felt the second I came home," Steve said. "And how I felt for the next hour as I waited for you to get back from your little trip. Do you have any idea, Tony? How I feel? How much I-"

Hearing the Steve's voice break was almost as painful as watching him do it to his hand. So Tony opened his eyes and strode forward, hands out. "Steve, fuck, okay, please, tell me what to do and I'll do it, just stop. Please."

Steve remained blessedly motionless as Tony pressed himself against his side, gingerly lifting Steve's wrist and looking at the damage. It was barely a hand anymore: it was a load of skin holding a pound or two of meat and bones in place. And it was split open, so it wasn't even holding everything in very well. "We have to get you to medical, Steve. Please."

Thank goodness, Steve followed him. Down in the lift, to the medical suite Tony kept in the Avengers Tower for just such occasions. He waited and watched as Steve's hand got patched up, ignoring everything but the stubborn set of Steve's jaw and the hurt in those eyes he wouldn't bring to look at Tony.

When they were alone in the room with Steve's hand in a fresh splint - because the doctors weren't even going to bother with reconstructive surgery, Steve's body would take care of it itself in a matter of days – Tony finally spoke.

"It was reckless, and I promised you I wouldn't put on the armor," he said.

Steve waited, but Tony didn't continue. He couldn't give Steve any more than that.

"Our next appointment is in three days," Steve finally whispered.

Tony flinched. He knew that.

"We're going to see our baby for the first time," he continued.

There was a long pause while Tony waited for Steve to finish the thought. Just when Tony thought that was it, Steve was done, the other man stood up and headed for the door.

"I think," Steve said, hand on the doorknob, "I think you'll love it then. Once we see it."

The click of the door shutting behind him seemed so, so loud in the silence.

"Love isn't the problem," Tony whispered to the empty room.

"You've gained weight," Castillo commented as she went about her doctorly duties.

Tony shrugged one shoulder. "I figured it was just lack of activity."

Castillo nodded, groping at Tony's lymph nodes and generally poking around. "Could be part of it. We expect to see some weight gain, though, at this stage. Not much, but some. Another week or two and you'll notice a bump."

Tony grumbled, peering down at his stomach. It was a little softer than before, but he didn't think he noticed any protrusions. Not yet at least. And it better hold off for a week and a half more, because Tony had a tux to fit into for the wedding. If there was a wedding. If Steve still wanted him after a week of escalating fights and mutually unsatisfactory make-up sex.

"Okay, now to the fun part. Lie down, Tony, and we'll take a peek inside."

Steve was waiting in the stationary chair in the room, studying tile patterns, but now he looked up, hesitant. Sighing, Tony gestured him over as he laid back and let the paper vest fall open. Steve was at his side in an instant, standing over him and peering at the machine Castillo was wheeling over.

His hands fluttered over to Tony, then away. Wordlessly Tony held his right hand out. Steve took it just as wordlessly. Tony knew Steve thought seeing the little freeloader inside of him on a screen was going to make him change his mind about the whole thing, for some reason. Tony was pretty sure he knew himself well enough to not have his hopes up. Seeing the little fetus wasn't going to change the fact that it was keeping him from being Iron Man, keeping him from drinking, keeping him from coffee and heavy metals in the lab and just generally going about his life.

"Alright, don't mind the gel, it's a little cold."

Tony didn't even flinch as Castillo spread the gel out over his stomach. Instead he snorted and glanced down. "Familiar sight. Gel and all sorts of other..." he glanced up at Steve who, rather than looking down and chiding Tony for his blue humor, had gone pale as he stared at the blank machine. Tony sighed and closed his eyes.

He felt the wand press into his stomach, Castillo search around for a moment. "You're carrying higher than a woman might," she observed. Tony still didn't open his eyes. "It's what I expected, with the shape of your pelvic bone. But it does mean we're going to have to keep an eye out in the third trimester, for when the baby starts to shift up. Between your hips and the arc reactor, baby's not going to have enough room to come to term."

Steve's hand squeezed hard in Tony's. "Is-"

Fuck. Tony's eyes snapped open, looking for Steve's face. He looked so scared. So distraught. Lost, almost. Tony didn't think he'd seen him look like this since... since Winter Soldier. Before they figured out how to bring Bucky back into his right mind. All the hope right there on the surface, being crushed piece by piece.

But Castillo didn't seem too worried. She shook her head, still moving the wand around and eyes focused on the monitor. "It shouldn't be a problem. It's not ideal, but if we put the baby on steroids and then perform a cesarian at thirty-four, thirty-six weeks, it should be just fine."

Tony tried for a stab at levity. "At least I'll have it out of me sooner."

Castillo looked knowingly at him, smile wry. "Cesarian means longer recovery, Tony. Trust me, in the end you'll have rather you'd been able to have it au naturale."

Tony groused and laid back. Nothing was going to go his way with this... condition. Fucking magic.

"Alright, everything looks normal. Here you go."

Oh, and Tony had meant to be looking away when Castillo turned the monitor to them. But he'd been distracted, thinking about weeks of bed rest recovering from abdominal surgery.

Tony gasped. Above him, a choked noise that was almost definitely a sob escaped Steve's lips.

Tony struggled for words. A full-color imagine of a little sort-of-alien-looking but definitely kind of baby-ish potato thing was on the screen. It had eyes. It had a head.

"Why's it in color?"

Tony blinked even as the words came out of his mouth. Castillo was looking at him, faintly amused.

"I mean... It's. I thought."

"New tech, Tony. I'm surprised you're surprised."

Trying to recover any scrap of dignity he had, Tony shrugged. "Oh. I should have figured. Xavier's got you on the payroll-"

But Castillo shook her head, lines in her forehead creasing more as she appeared to be trying not to laugh. "Everyone's got it now, Tony. Not just us. It's pretty standard."


Tony stared at the beige baby- fetus, it was a fetus... There was a baby. On the monitor. In him.

"What. What's the, uh... Aspect ratio..." Tony trailed off.

Castillo rolled her eyes and pressed a button, pausing the image. She took the wand away from Tony's stomach and gestured between them. "I'll give you two a minute."

Steve was in his arms before Castillo's back was even turned for the door, pressing his face to Tony's neck. His hands slipped through the gel still on Tony's stomach, fingers touching stroking caressing just where the wand had been, right above where that little potato baby on the screen was. A gasp fell from Tony's lips as his brain started to reconcile the two things: that thing on the screen, and that thing living inside him. That was in there. And that in there was going to be out here in a matter of months. As a baby. And a kid.

Tony didn't have time to feel faint because Steve was kissing him breathless, pressing him almost too hard into the exam table. For one second Tony considered not letting Captain America come in his pants in a doctor's exam room, but then Steve's hands – slick with the sonogram gel, and maybe that was a little weird, but who cared? – were gripping Tony's penis and stroking it erect.

"I love you," Steve whispered desperately against Tony's mouth. Tony whined and kissed him back, letting Steve feel his matching emotions rather than vocalize them. Steve was rutting against his leg, erection hard on his thigh and lower hip. Tony reached down, trying to get a hand between them, but Steve just growled and pressed down harder, pining him in place. Tony decided to lay back and enjoy the ride.

"I love you," Steve whispered again. "I love you, and I love our baby, and I'm so happy, Tony, I'm so happy, thank you, thank you, I love you, thank you..."

Tony arched up and came halfway through Steve's whispered endearments, spilling into Steve's hand. He felt Steve jerking hard against his thigh a minute later and then still, breathing heavily.

As the blood rushed back to Tony's head, he realized how loud their breathing sounded in the quiet exam room. And how noisy the paper was beneath his back.

"I think Castillo knows we just fucked in here," Tony commented.

Steve didn't even bother looking shamefaced, which was really unfair. Captain America should always have to be all "aw shucks" when things like this happened. If he wasn't, what was the fun in that? Instead he pressed a kiss to Tony's lips. Then he bent down and kissed Tony's abdomen, sonogram gel and all. Tony stiffened, but didn't stop him.

After a moment Steve straightened, grimacing as he did so. Tony laughed, knowing that grimace. "Why don't you run to the bathroom and lose the underwear?" Tony suggested. "I'll wrap things up with Castillo."

Steve nodded, rubbing the back of his head ruefully. Just as he reached the door he turned and fixed Tony with a stern look. "Get a picture," he ordered. Tony rolled his eyes.

"Alright, alright," he reassured Steve. "I'll get the dumb picture, we'll tape it to the fridge, mail it out to our friends, the whole nine. I'll even have JARVIS order you a scrapbooking kit so you can immortalize it, with little 'I knocked my husband up!' stickers, okay??"

Steve laughed and nodded, hurrying out the door after that.

Once he left Tony rearranged himself on the table, using some of the paper to wipe the gel – and other things – off his stomach. He chucked the wadded up paper to the trash and leaned back, eye catching on the monitor once again. The image was still frozen on there, the one of their potato-baby.

Tony looked at it sadly. He'd told Steve he'd promise to protect it one day soon. And Tony wanted to be able to make that promise. He could keep himself from taking the armor out, or getting into battles, or drinking, or any of those things. It was what happened when the kid was out, was running around and talking and thinking and watching everything Tony did that scared him. What would happen when one night Tony came home drunk and yelled at him? Or was photographed with his pants around his ankles at some stupid gala? What would happen when he stayed in the lab for days and snapped at the kid because he wanted attention? What would happen when the kid just needed his dad to listen to him and be proud of him?

Tony could love the kid. He could. And Steve, fucking perfect Steve, was right: seeing the little image did something, made it all the more real for Tony. But Steve had never thought about all the ways Tony Stark couldn't be a father. Love wasn't going to be enough. And Tony didn't have a plan to protect the little baby from that.

Chapter Text

Tony was immersed in blueprints when Rhodey let himself into the lab, War Machine armor clanking loudly. Tony wanted to sneer at the bulky, more awkward armor, but he had helped design it so he really couldn't speak too ill of it. Still, the Iron Man armor was so much better than that. An Aston-Martin to the War Machine's Hummer. Tony didn't even glance over his own armor as he continued with his work. Best not to think about it.

"Wedding plans?" Rhodey asked once the armor was put away.

At least Tony was able to chuckle at that. "No," he said, tossing the hologram at Rhodey's head. The man automatically started to duck before rolling his eyes and letting the hologram pass harmlessly through him.

"Nursery," Tony explained, as he watched Rhodey looking through the blueprints. "Well, and other stuff. Major redesign. Taking over Steve's floor." And Tony had a little bit of petty satisfaction out of that: that they were putting everything on Steve's floor and keeping Tony's lab, bar, and bedroom untouched. In theory Tony would be moving into Steve's bedroom, which was basically the practice anyway. But if Tony needed an escape, he had his own floor. Which Tony could only hope would be a little less hurtful than, say, spending large portions of his kid's life on missions in the arctic or Japan.

At least, Tony hoped it would be better. At this point he was just trying to implement some form of preemptive damage control, to protect his kid from himself. It was the least he could do. The only comforting thought he had was that at least he was good at damage control.

Tony tapped the arc reactor as he watched Rhodey flip through the plans.

"You gonna do all this yourself?"

Tony rolled his eyes and got up from his stool, walking over. He defiantly ignored the little bit of softness around his core, the way it felt like there was a little hitch in standing up already. Not much, but Tony was an expert at figuring out what was going on with his own body. Thank goodness he was almost as much of an expert at figuring out how to ignore it.

"Not allowed," Tony complained. "There will be paint fumes." He waggled his fingers in a suitably spooky gesture. Rhodey smirked in sympathy.

"How are the wedding plans coming? Anything I should know about?"

Tony shrugged, losing interest in Rhodey as he dragged his hologram back over to his workstation, fiddling with some specs here or there. "Don't know. Don't care. Talk to Steve if you want to go over wedding... stuff. I haven't been involved since I passed Steve off to Pepper and told the two of them to go nuts."

The hologram spun around in front of him as Tony tried to solve a lighting dilemma: did the nursery or the learning lab get the east wall, and which got the south? It'd be nice to have the nursery dark, but that's what blackout shades were for, but the more sunlight the smarter the kid was or something like that, vitamin D and all that jazz. And it was kind of a shame he'd be due in April; he'd heard something about kids born July, August, and September getting an IQ bump from all the vitamin D. Not that it mattered, since being smart didn't mean your kid would be smart. It didn't hurt, but all studies showed that the IQ of a child tended toward the average rather than being directly dependent on the IQ of the parent.

Of course, that didn't mean- He'd love the dumb kid even it was dumb. Or. He thought he might. Maybe. But he was always so impatient with people who didn't know what he knew, or at least who weren't smart and quick-witted. Steve might know next to nothing about thermonuclear physics, but that didn't mean the guy was dumb. He was a genius, really, when it came to strategy and planning and team dynamics and just plain old common sense. But what if their kid turned out with some sort of mental deficiency? Or just... average. What if? Would Tony lose his temper like Howard always had, snapping in frustrating because the kid couldn't figure out two-variable equations, or couldn't remember his spelling words, or always was asking for help with simple vector problems in physics class? He wouldn't do it on purpose, he would never want to hurt the kid, but that was what Tony did: act without thinking, say the first snide remark to come to mind. And if one day he forgot himself, was too tired or hurt or frustrated or absentminded and directed that sharp tongue at his kid-

A hand on his interrupted Tony's train of thought.

Tony blinked, and looked at Rhodey smirking at the ring. "He's really got you caught, doesn't he?" Rhodey teased.

And that thought almost made Tony feel worse than all his insecurities over raising a child. Tony snatched his hand away like it burned and spun on his heel, almost running up the steps. He didn't even offer an explanation to Rhodey, who would... Well, if he didn't understand, he'd at least be used to it.

Tony needed to find Steve, and he needed to get out of here. Just for a little while.

Luckily Steve was sitting at his desk, sketching something on the tablet Tony had bought him as a Christmas present two years ago. Tony saw it was something along the lines of a family portrait, and wow, great, wasn't that just perfect.

"I need to talk to you," Tony said, not thinking too hard about how perfect of a dad Steve would be.

Steve turned around in his chair, bright expression falling a little when he met Tony's eyes. "Is something wrong?" he asked, careful.

Yanking a chair along with him, Tony set it in front of Steve and sat down. Best to be as blunt as possible, with something like this. "I need you to let me chase down some leads on this Humans First movement. Before you say anything: I'm talking the political side of it, in the legislature."

Steve wasn't thrilled with the idea, Tony could tell, but he was listening, at least.

"Okay," Steve said slowly, "What intel do you have?"

Tony shrugged, leaning back in his chair. He felt a little less nervous now that Steve was treating him like a real team member again, just for a minute. "Not much now, but that's why I need to get over to the hill. I've got a lot of friends there, a lot of palms greased. If really want to get this figured out, we should come at it both sides. We've got all the information on the foot soldiers side we're going to get for a while, since we shut down the main group. Now it's time to start looking legislature. If we have two pieces, maybe we'll be able to see what brings them together."

Steve was nodding. Tony breathed easier. This was okay. This was enough. If Steve would let him do this, he'd be able to deal with not being in the Iron Man armor for at least a little while, before he felt the need to go out and do something else. He understood Steve's concern over battles, okay, that would be seriously dumb to do while pregnant. But this: this he could do, and there was next to no risk (in their lives, Tony found, there was no such thing as actual "zero risk"), but it was useful. Vital, in fact, to uncovering this plot and heading it off beforehand.

"Okay. But take Jessica with you."

Tony wrinkled up his nose. "Steve..."

Steve rolled his eyes and smiled. "It's not about protecting you-" Tony gave him a look. "Okay, it is. A little. But you try and tell me that when dealing with politicians things don't run more smoothly with a pretty dame at your side."

Tony cocked a grin, then narrowed his eyes. "Carol."

Steve was not amused. "You two would bring the city down on top of itself in a day."

"I can't even drink!" Tony pointed out. "And Carol hardly ever drinks without me there to goad her on." At least, not to excess. Most of the time. But Tony kept those thoughts to himself.

Steve knew he was being played, Tony could see it in his eyes. But Tony wasn't above pulling out all his tricks to get Steve to let him go. And with someone he could have fun with, too.

Sighing, Tony leaned back in his chair, touching his stomach subtly – but not too subtly. "I just wanted to do as much as I can before Castillo puts me on bed rest. Only a few months and I'll be trapped in here all the time, for your baby..."

When Steve started laughing Tony went with him, acknowledging that maybe he had laid it on a little thick at the end, there.

Steve rolled his eyes and shoved playfully at Tony's shoulder. "Fine, go," he acquiesced. "Take Carol. Destroy DC with your shenanigans. You deserve it. But I expect you back safe in time for the wedding!"

Tony let out a whoop, leaning forward to press a smacking kiss to Steve's mouth.

"Yes, oh, husband-to-be of mine, you are the best, you are a star, you are Captain America!" Tony laughed against Steve's mouth and kissed it again. Finally, he could do some good, and could take his mind off all his pregnancy concerns.

Oh, well. Steve's arm snaked around Tony's back as he pulled him in for a deeper kiss and Tony found himself pulled into Steve's lap. That worked, too, for taking his mind off everything else. Tony managed a muffled moan as Steve's hand slipped lower, grabbing at his ass.

After letting himself indulge for a minute more, Tony pushed himself off and caught his breath, smiling down at a not-even breathless Steve. "Okay, I gotta pack," Tony explained. "And finish the blueprints. I won't have time between now and the wedding if I'm heading off in the morning."

Steve's eyes went wide. "Wait, the nursery blueprints? Why do you need them finished by the wedding? We'll have months-"

Oh, right. Quickly Tony scrambled off Steve's lap and out of grabbing range. As he backed away toward the door Tony hurriedly explained. "Oh, I didn't tell you? Could have sworn I told you. I was figuring, hey, don't want to breathe in paint fumes, and all that hammering and noise can't be good for the baby-"

"Tony..." Steve growled playfully.

"I'm having it done while we're 'away' on 'honeymoon'," Tony said in a rush.

Steve threw his hands up as Tony raced out the door. "Don't I get to see the plans first?!"

"Nope!" Tony called back through the door. "Okay, I'm going to finish! Stay up for me so we can fuck before I leave. I'll call Carol and tell her."

Tony turned away from the door to find Phil with him in the hallway, staring at him.

It was silent for a long moment as the two men looked at each other.

Finally Phil commented: "Do I want to know why Carol is kept informed as to your sex life?"

Tony rolled his eyes and shoulder past Phil. "Why does Clint keep me informed about yours?" he quipped back.

"Because Clint's never learned a brain to mouth filter and so when he's fully satisfied he tells everyone. This is a remnant of growing up in the circus: what's your excuse?"

Tony raised an eyebrow back at Phil when he reached the end of the hallway. "Have you ever seen video of my father?" With that he rounded the corner and hurried out of sight. He could faintly hear Phil's "Point taken" before he got to the elevator.

Once he was inside he said "Hey JARVIS, get Carol on the line and pipe it into my lab. Tell her 'Road Trip'."

"I'm sure Ms. Danvers will be ecstatic," JARVIS replied, and the sounds of a phone ringing came over the speakers.

Tony grinned. A week in DC doing what he did best – outside of building and being Iron Man – and then back in time for the wedding. The week was looking up.

The week had sucked.

Tony and Carol had come back from DC around three am that morning, tired and empty-handed. A week of Tony schmoozing politicians and Carol not exploding every sleaze in a suit who undressed her with his eyes had left the pair exhausted. With nothing to show for it, it was even worse.

Well, it wasn't completely useless, necessarily. Tony had found out at least that the legislatures on his payroll and their cohorts weren't planning anything along the lines of a supers-registration bill anytime soon. And although they'd heard some rumblings about it, as one senator had put it "We hear rumblings about legislating against Roe v Wade, too. But it's never going to happen." So the most Tony knew was that some extremists wanted it to become law, but most the people in power didn't see it happening anytime soon, and weren't planning on supporting it even if something did come to a vote.

The one other benefit was that Tony at least had gotten to go out and feel useful, even if that use was just eliminating false leads. And Carol's constant low-level anger at all the fat old men leching all over her had been the source of endless amusement for Tony.

"You owe me," she had told Tony as they separated to head to their homes.

Tony laughed. "If Rhodey wasn't already my best man, I'd make you it. And if I could drink, I'd give you the honor of throwing a bachelor party."

Carol snorted. "Make sure it's open bar tomorrow and keep Steve distracted enough that he's not shooting me disappointed looks, and call it even."


Now, Tony was crawling into Steve's bed to catch a few hours before the wedding, and trying not to wake him. Of course, Steve rolled over immediately, arms wrapping around Tony and nose pressing into his neck. Tony sighed and shifted back against him, enjoying the easy moment. He'd missed this, and a week of nights cuddling up to Carol on a hotel room couch and laughing at bad TV wasn't even close to good enough to replace this.

"'time's it?" Steve mumbled into Tony's neck.

"Past three," Tony whispered back. "Go back to sleep."


Reaching for one of Steve's hands, Tony picked it up and pressed his lips to it. "Debrief in the morning, Cap. Beauty sleep, now. Tomorrow's a big day."

Tony could feel Steve's mouth curling into a smile against his neck. When he released Steve's hand, it drifted over his stomach before settling low. His fingertips caressed the spot, and Tony sighed. There was definitely a tangible bump there, now. Small, not noticeable in clothes. But he knew Steve could feel it against the pads of his fingers.

A minute later the hand stilled and Steve's breath evened out as he fell back to sleep. Tony, for as many worries and fears were fighting for attention in his head at the moment, found himself following Steve not thirty seconds later. He would have plenty of time to worry about everything on the "honeymoon," after all.

The morning of the wedding dawned sunny, if not a little chilly. But that was to be expected in October in New York. Of course, the weather didn't really matter since Pepper and Steve, being ever the pragmatists, had booked a reception hall rather than have the ceremony somewhere outside. Plus, it wasn't like Tony was up with the dawn anyway, so he certainly didn't see it.

When he did wake up it was nearly nine, and JARVIS was chiming softly at him.

"Yup, yup, up, here I am," he mumbled.

"Captain Rogers wished me to inform you that he does not want to see you until the wedding. He is already at the reception hall."

Tony snorted. His little traditionalist. And, hey: they hadn't had sex in a week, so they really were being traditional! Kind of.

Tony's feet hit the floor first and he sat on the edge of his bed for a moment, yawning and scratching his stomach. When his hand hit that little, barely softball-sized bump, he stopped, glancing down. More tradition, for them: a shotgun wedding. Tony stared at the little bump and thought about the sonogram picture, which Steve had hanging up on his side of the bathroom mirror, the fridge, his desk, and just about everywhere else he frequented.

Tony had taken a copy and set it in his lab. His eyes grazed over it from time to time.

"Alright, little potato," he grumbled at it. "Don't get any bigger on me today, otherwise my tailor's going to have conniptions." Worst came to worst, Tony figured he could always throw on a girdle or something. If it managed to keep Shatner's bulk in moderate check, it could work on the little bump.

Shower, hair, teeth, and some moisturizer later, and Tony was glancing at himself in the mirror, sucking in his stomach as he did so. It was next to nothing. Almost unnoticeable. With a sigh Tony grabbed for his tuxedo pants, shirt, and cummerbund. He turned, looking at himself. Everything fit. And, more importantly: no bump. Not even a whisper. Tony grinned and winked at himself in the mirror. The pants might feel like they were sitting on him a little different, but it wasn't showing. He'd have to give his tailor a bonus for this job.

Next was bow tie and jacket, and Tony was grabbing his cellphone and heading out back. Happy was already there waiting, car decked out in true wedding fashion. Tony rolled his eyes, but was inwardly warmed at the gesture.

They got to the reception hall early, to absolutely everyone's shock inside. Pepper's eyes went wide and she shouted "Tony!" Behind her, Steve spun around, swore, and high-tailed it out of there. Tony pouted after him.

"Pep! You had to go and ruin it," Tony teased.

She just rolled her eyes and pulled him into a hug. "You know it's because he's afraid he'll let you get him all mussed up before the ceremony, especially after being gone for a week. How was DC, by the way?"

Tony grimaced. "Boring. Mostly useless. Uninformative."

Pepper just smiled fondly at him and adjusted his bow tie. "Well Steve drove us to distraction while you were away. At one point Clint stole his orange juice and I swear, Steve was going to pin him to the wall."

Tony laughed, picturing Steve controlling himself but looking at Clint with all the ferocity of a hundred drill sergeants.

"I assume Steve's OJ was restored to him?" Tony asked.

"Every drop."

"Tony, get in here!"

From behind Pepper, Rhodey made his appearance, waving at Tony from inside a door.

Tony rolled his eyes. "Okay, seems my best man needs me. Call me if Steve decides he could use a little 'mussing' before the ceremony." Pepper's laugh was light and sweet. Just before he turned away Tony drew Pepper into another hug and whispered in her ear: "You look stunning, by the way."

"So do you," Pepper said. "Now get in there so Steve can come back out and check over every flower petal."

Tony laughed and kissed her cheek before releasing her to the wild of the reception hall. He rolled his eyes at Rhodey and spread his arms. "Okay, okay! Is really the welcome I get from my best man on my wedding day?"

Rhodey just tugged him inside without saying a word and set to work.

Now came the corsages, pocket squares, and ring. Tony frowned at the box, pouting. "You know, since I'm the one who got proposed to, I feel like my best man should have both rings. Just to even things out on the groom-groom spectrum."

"Maybe if you had anything to do with the planning of the wedding..."

Tony thought about this for a moment, then shuddered. "You know what? I approve of Steve's decision. All of them. Any of them. Don't care. Because I didn't have to make any of said decisions, I approve of them."

An hour later and Tony was glaring at the mixture of men and women who made up his groomsmen. "I'm not walking in like the bride."

Rhodey rolled his eyes. "You just said you didn't care-"

"Nope, not doing it."

Happy shrugged. "I'd say let them walk in together. What's the harm in that? They're both men."

Carol piped up, adding: "Do we really want to give Tony a special song and moment where everyone watches him make an entrance?"

The entire room fell silent at that, thinking.

Rhodey headed for the door. "Yeah, no. This is a terrible idea. I'm telling Steve that you're both heading up there together. It's not like either of you are being given away."

Tony frowned. "Wait. But. Pep was giving me away."

Carol raised a hand. "I'm sure Bucky could be convinced to do the same for Cap. Why don't you two just follow each other in with your giving-away people?"

Rhodey headed for the door again. "Okay, fine. I'll go tell Steve about the change in plans."

Fifteen minutes later and it was settled. Groomsmen first: Carol with Phil, Rhodey with Sam, Happy with Sharon (Tony had insisted Happy get Sharon, because at least one of the groomsmen-groomsmen pairs had to hook up. It was tradition). Bucky would walk down with Steve to give him away, and Pep would walk with Tony to do the same. Clint, Thor, Bruce, and Natasha were acting as "ushers", aka security. Peter Parker was taking care of pictures, and Deadpool was still not allowed in. Which left maybe a dozen people actually sitting in the pews to watch the wedding.

Whatever. It was theirs, and it would work.

To his great surprise, Tony found himself genuinely smiling as he stepped into the hall and got his first look at Steve, just stepping up the dais and turning to look at him. He was in his military uniform, of course, and looked... Tony smiled a little more dopily, unable to find the self control to stop. Steve was smiling back, just as broadly, and for a half hour or so Tony found himself forgetting about everything except that fact that he, Tony Stark, was getting married to Steve Rogers. It was perfect.

When they exchanged rings Tony blinked hard and held his eyes wide to keep from crying. Looking up, he saw Steve not even bothering to hold back the tears, but letting them stream freely down his face as he nestled the engraved titanium band against the engagement ring he had given Tony seven weeks ago. Tony beamed at them, then reached up to wipe the tear tracks from Steve's face with his thumbs. Steve laughed, and the two barely heard the "You may" part of the ceremony before they were kissing.

The reception was... ridiculous. Pepper and Steve had obviously put a lot of money down on the reception hall, because no one was coming in to check on them, and the place was... Well. It was full of superheroes getting drunk and partying, which was always interesting.

Bruce had already begged off and headed back to the tower after congratulating Steve and Tony. Which was probably for the best, since Thor was in the middle of the room laughing uproariously as he hefted a table in either hand over his head, with Jane, Carol, and Jessica sitting in the middle of one and Clint, Sam, and Pietro perched on the other. Clint and Carol were in the middle of shooting... everything at each other. Carol was firing her energy blasts and Clint had cobbled together a bow out of drinking straws and string and was firing all sorts of projectiles Carol's way, from wads of paper to champagne flutes. Carol was vaporizing them midair, even as she rolled on her side in the throes of drunken laughter and Jessica had to help prop her up.

On the other side of the room Wanda was laughing and joking with Bucky and Natasha, showing off little probability manipulations with her powers. Bucky had... Well, there was a hole in the table they were standing next to, and although Tony's first instinct was to blame it on Bucky's robot arm, between the three of them Tony just wasn't sure which one made it.

To Tony's delight, Happy and Sharon seemed to be hitting things off alright, chatting easily over finger foods and champagne. Tony not-so-surreptitiously gave Happy a thumbs up and a wink. Happy glared daggers at him for the following five minutes.

Phil... Huh. Where was-

"Excuse me a moment."

Tony jumped. Fucking hell. Apparently Phil had been talking to Steve for God knows how long and Tony just hadn't noticed. Ninja skills, that man.

But then in the next moment Phil had managed to vault himself onto the table Thor was still holding over his head and snatch Clint down from it. By his ear. Tony forgave Phil all sorts of transgressions just for that image. He really, really hoped Peter had gotten a picture of that.

Tony leaned into Steve, beaming. "Hey," he said, feeling like a kid at prom. Maybe. He figured this was like what prom was like – well, maybe at the Xavier manor – only better.

"Hey," Steve said, gazing just as blissfully back.

They kissed, and only separated because a mean man in a trench coat cleared his throat impatiently. Tony stuck his tongue out at Fury, and laughed when the man narrowed his eye at him. It was his wedding day: Fury could go let Maria Hill peg him, for all Tony cared about his impatience.

"I'd like to offer my congratulations to the happy couple," Fury said.

Next to him, Steve had gone all stiff and at-attention. Tony rolled his eyes.

"Thank you, sir." Steve said politely.

Tony just grimaced. Smiled. Same thing.

There was a moment when Fury looked hard at Tony. Then he turned to go, but paused. Over his shoulder, he said: "If you need it, SHIELD medical is at your disposal, Stark."

Tony couldn't even feel surprise that Fury had heard from somewhere. Enough people knew that it could hardly be expected to be kept secret amongst the superhuman lot, and Fury knew secrets well before the general population of heroes ever did. Steve seemed a little more perturbed by this than Tony, but let it drop as Fury turned and walked away, taking his leave.

A slow song came on as the door shut on Fury. Clint was already tugging Phil out to the dance floor and Phil was going, a smile on his face. Wanda had broken off from Natasha and Bucky to rejoin her brother, and although Natasha and Bucky weren't dancing, their bodies were close, and the moment seemed intimate.

Steve and Tony turned to each other at the same time and laughed when they almost bumped noises. They both hopped up, trying to help the other out of his seat before stumbling onto the dance floor together. Tony laughed and tugged Steve into a kiss as they swayed to the music. Thor had even put down the tables and was lugging his Jane around. The girl's feet weren't even touching the floor, but she didn't seem to mind.

Tony was distracted for a moment, gesturing frantically behind Steve's back at Happy, trying to get him to ask Sharon to dance. He did, finally, so Tony was able to turn his attention back to Steve. He grinned when he saw Steve gesturing at Luke Cage and Jessica – the other Jessica – and smiling broadly.

"Have you asked him and Danny, yet?"

Steve shook his head. "No, I was planning on taking care of that after we 'get back'." Then Steve frowned and bent his head to kiss Tony lingeringly. "And stop it. I refuse to talk about work for the next seventy-two hours. Unless it's another Skrull invasion, every other superhero in the world can handle it."

A loud blast shook the reception hall, interrupting the sweet moment. Tony and Steve both looked over at where Carol and Pietro where cackling hysterically in the middle of what appeared to be ground zero of an explosion. Steve's mouth started to open in reproach, but Tony preempted him by grabbing his chin and tugging him into another kiss.

"She'll pass out pretty soon," Tony said when they broke apart. "She's already three sheets to the wind."

"I don't understand how that's reassuring," Steve mumbled, but didn't say anything to Carol or Pietro. Tony grinned. There, promise to Carol fulfilled.

A dozen songs, congratulations, terrible toasts (Clint), heartbreaking toasts (Bucky and Pepper), and earnest but incomprehensible toasts (Thor and Carol, for entirely different reasons) later, and Tony was ready to fall into bed and stay there for the next forty-eight hours. They made their exit, Tony insisting that he would drive so Happy could stick around and get a little bit more tipsy with Sharon. On the way to the car Tony felt something nudging at his brain, then My congratulations. If you ever need anything, know that you are both always welcome in Westchester.

Tony looked at Steve to check. He nodded, and they simultaneously shook their heads in exasperation. So they had both gotten the message. At least Xavier had been polite enough to "knock" first.

Tony waited for Steve to settle into the passenger seat before setting off back to the tower – because although they told almost everyone they'd be "away" on honeymoon, the fact of the matter was they would just be staying in the "Iron Man" suite not a dozen floors down from their own. That way Tony could maintain his doctor's appointments, but they could also "disappear" for a while and give the shareholders of Stark Industries no reason to be suspicious over Tony's diminished presence for the next few months.

In the privacy of the car, Steve reached over and took Tony's hand in his, wedding band rubbing against the skin. Tony smiled into the dark. Then he spoiled the mood. "Do you know how much lube I've got stocked in our suite? All of it."

Steve's laugh filled the small space and Tony grinned some more. It felt good to be driving home with his husband.

“I'm fat.”

“You're not fat.”

“I'm so fat. Look at me, Steve! Look at how fat I am!”

Steve was grinning at Tony good-naturedly from his bed – their bed, now, kind of – sheet barely draped over his groin. Standing in front of their mirror, Tony sucked in his gut, then let it out. In. Out. In. Out. Ugh.

"Look, my abs are gone. Gone. Sixteen weeks, and poof." Tony splayed his fingers out in the air. "A lifetime of sit-ups and careful, careful maintenance. Destroyed."

"Well, it wasn't like you had the best abs to begin with."

Tony stared at Steve in the mirror, mouth open in feigned indignation. "Steve!" He spun around and jumped into bed, tackling him to the pillows. "You, you! You're supposed to be telling me I'm glowing, that I'm beautiful and perfect and you've never been so attracted to me!"

Steve laughed, big, belly laughs as he twisted and squirmed beneath Tony's hands, doing absolutely nothing to toss him off. He stopped struggling and looked up at Tony, beaming brightly. With way too much sincerity for Tony's taste, he said: "You're glowing, and beautiful, and I have never, ever been more attracted to anyone as I am to you right now."

Tony took long breaths as he watched the sincerity play over Steve's face. He groaned and leaned down, drawing Steve into a long, lingering kiss. "Shut up," he grumbled against Steve's mouth. "You're not allowed to do that."

They kissed again for an extended few minutes, stopping just before it was going to becoming a problem for either of them. "Okay," Steve grumbled, shoving up at Tony's armpits. "I've got a meeting with Director Fury I'm almost definitely going to be late to, now. Up."

Playfully Tony let himself go entirely limp, spread out against Steve's chest like a crustacean. "Oh no," Tony complained. "I can't move. I have lost all ability to move my limbs. And you can't manhandle me. I'm delicate."

Steve snorted and made short work of hauling himself out of bed, carrying Tony with him in the process before setting him back down amongst the pillows and comforters. Tony glared petulantly up at him.

"You've got a meeting today, too," Steve reminded him as he leaned in for one last kiss before heading off to the bathroom to get dressed. Tony rolled his eyes and flopped back on the bed, staring at the ceiling.

"Yeah, yeah," he replied. "JARVIS told me. And Pepper. And JARVIS again." His phone buzzed on the nightstand and Tony didn't even look at it. "And Pepper again," he groused.

"Get dressed," Steve ordered, coming out of the bathroom and heading for the closet. Within five minutes he was dressed and coifed, giving himself one last look-over in the mirror before coming back to the bed. "Work hard," he said before pecking Tony on the lips.

Tony rolled his eyes. "Soooo hard," he grumbled. A shareholder meeting. It was going to be incredibly taxing, really. He rolled his eyes and splayed back on the bed until JARVIS contacted him again.

"Sir, the shareholder meeting started five minutes ago. I suggest you put on a shirt and reassure them that you're still alive."

Grumbling, Tony sat up and set about his day. Not that there was much to meeting with shareholders and wandering down to his lab to fiddle with some more armor upgrades that he wouldn't be able to test out for months. A real packed schedule.

An hour later Tony was trudging down the street in a hoodie and a jacket, ski cap pulled low over his head and sunglasses over his eyes. He couldn't be entirely unrecognizable, but he could do his best not to attract attention to himself. And he needed to get out of the Tower every once in a while, lest he start to go stir crazy.

Passing by a Starbucks Tony sighed, staring at the green mermaid longingly. Maybe he could get one of those seasonal ones in decaf, but ask the barista to write "caffeinated" on the outside. Placebo-effect his body into thinking he was drinking coffee. As he pondered the sign, Tony tucked one hand into the center pocket of the hoodie and rubbed his stomach. Sixteen weeks. Two-fifths there, at the least. Probably closer to halfway, really.

And he still didn't have any plans for what he was going to do once the thing was out, walking and talking and watching him with big, wondering eyes.

At night, Tony would dream about those eyes. Big and blue, just like Steve's. They'd be watching him, watching every little thing he did. Even if he wasn't stumbling around drunk or dying in the middle of a firefight, those eyes would see every little cruelty Tony inflicted. Yelling at the bots, throwing a mug of coffee at the wall, swearing at Clint, poking and prodding at Bruce. Tiny, tiny mistakes. Small, almost inconsequential flaws. But those eyes would see all of them, and drink them up, and learn. Because that's what those little minds did, was learn all the time. Learn everything you did, and then tried to copy it.

Tony would know. It's what he did with his father. It's why he was the fantastic man he was today. A drunk, a caffeine addict, a thrill-seeker and textbook narcissist. It's why he was with Steve: only the most perfect guy in the universe could ever put up with his bullshit for any extended period of time. Did he really want his kid to turn out like that? The kind of guy only a Captain America could love? Because he would turn out that way. If Tony had any hand in it.

"Excuse me, sir?"

Tony blinked, looking around. His feet had kept him moving forward, and now he was standing in front of an alleyway. He looked suspiciously at the young woman who had spoken to him.

"Yeah?" he asked. Probably just looking for directions.

And then everything went dark, and Tony felt himself falling, falling, falling.

When he came to Tony did an automatic assessment of himself, even through the haze of whatever drugs they had him on. Hands tied, feet tied, chair. Metal. Fuck. Chair bolted to the ground. Double fuck.

Okay. Okay. What else. Some sort of drug, not a blow to the head. Shoes off, pants on, jacket off...

Tony jerked, hard. They'd taken his hoodie off. He still had his shirt on but. But. His stomach.

"You're awake."

Blinking rapidly, Tony tried to find the source of the voice. Behind him. Shit.

"Tony Stark. We've brought you here for one reason: to show the world what letting superhumans like yourself run amock, with no accountability to anyone, does to the fabric of society."

Tony tried to protest he wasn't superhuman, but his mouth felt like it'd been stuffed full of cotton balls, and he just couldn't get the words out.

"We're not here to talk, negotiate, interrogate, or conscript you. We just need your body, still alive for now, here."

That wasn't good. Any of the other scenarios Tony had run through a thousand different ways – and implemented a dozen of them over his lifetime – to get out of. If they were just holding him here... That was a problem.

"Not a supe," Tony finally managed to mumble out. It was next to impossible to talk, but getting easier by the second. He decided not to let his captors in on his increased oral dexterity. And wow, that was probably the least sexy time he'd ever thought that phrase.

"Oh, Tony Stark? Then what's this?"

He couldn't see who it was – he stayed behind Tony. But then a hand was reaching around and patting his stomach.

"Beer belly, then?"

Tony flinched. Hard. So hard that if the chair hadn't been bolted down he'd have upended it. As it was, he just felt painful, cold metal bite into the skin on his wrists and ankles.

"Get off," Tony growled. That hand was staying there. It was touching his baby. Tony tried knocking his head back, only to be met by a laugh. The hand vanished a moment later.

"You haven't hid the secret well, Tony Stark. You're just as disturbed as the rest of them. And even less accountable."

There was movement, and a hand on his face, and a cloth. Tony struggled – what would this do to the baby? – but then he was out again.

He jumped awake with a jolt, this time to familiar sounds. Gun fire. Exploding arrows (it was a twang, woosh, boom, instead of the just boom of a grenade). More explosions, and... Tony struggled against the stupid restraints, desperate to help. And the noise of vibranium, bouncing off some thug's skull.


Tony jumped a foot when Natasha's voice appeared behind him. Then he realized he could jump a foot, because his arms and legs were freed. She was holding out two bracelets to him, looking away. Tony grinned. Steve couldn't exactly blame him for suiting up now. Really, it was his safest bet for getting himself and the fetus out of here unharmed.

Slipping the bracelets on, Tony activated them immediately, already running across the warehouse. He scanned the room as he went, looking for shoes or hoodie or jacket. Nothing. Oh well.

The moment he stepped foot outside the armor was there, wrapping around him like an old lover. Tony had to make sure he sucked in his gut as the torso piece wrapped around him, and it was a snug fit, but it was good enough for now.

Outside, the Avengers were mopping up. A few stragglers were running here or there, but Clint was taking them down with brutal efficiency and a lot of stun arrows. Tony saw one heading around the opposite side, though, and flew after him.

"Hey, asshole," Tony shouted. The person - woman, actually - spun around with wide eyes. Tony recognized her as the woman who stopped him out on the street. The bait. Without thinking, Tony lifted his gauntlets and sent her flying across the concrete with a blast from his repulsers. She'd be out cold for awhile.


Tony turned, seeing Steve running across after him, face grim. Immediately Tony flipped up the faceplate to show Steve he was unharmed. "Hey, hey, it's alright," he was saying, before Steve even got to him.

Once they did find each other Steve pulled him closer, tugging Tony tight against him. The armor almost felt like it was creaking, Steve was squeezing him so hard. "What the hell happened, Shellhead?"

"Snatched, right off the street." And didn't Tony just hate to admit that, but it wasn't like he could lie. "They have something to do with the anti-superhero groups."

Steve's frown pulled every crease in his face down to his chin, it seemed like. "I know," he replied. "There was a battle across town with 'Stark tech'. They were pretending it was you out there doing the fighting, causing trouble. They were doing... I don't know what they were doing, Bruce said it was some science thing, but he knew they had to actually have you to do it."

Tony groaned. Of course. He nodded. "Signatures, no, I know. It makes sense. I was drugged up at the time, wasn't thinking straight-"


Steve and Tony locked eyes. Tony's hand armor-covered fluttered down to his abdomen, meeting Steve's on the way there. "I think it's okay," Tony breathed.

It had to be okay. Or he'd fucking kill every last one of these super-registration super-jackasses.

"We think we have their leader," Steve said, voice flat.

Tony looked at him, almost snarling. "Let me see him." When Steve's expression flickered, Tony shook his head. "Let me identify his voice. I don't feel sick, so the baby's probably okay. Let me see him, and then I'll go straight back to the lab and perform a full-body scan. I'll even book an appointment with Castillo tomorrow to be on the safe side."

Steve stilled seemed wary, fingers wrapped tight around Tony's over the armor.

"Steve," Tony whispered, pulling him in close. "Steve, he touched my stomach. He called me... He knows. And he hates it."

Tony could see it the instant Steve caved, because he saw the snarl on his face pass to Steve's. They turned as one and headed back to the front of the warehouse.

Kneeling in front of Natasha was an average-looking man. Nodding at Steve, Tony closed his eyes and did his best to listen.

"Say your name again," Steve ordered. Tony heard a soft "oof" and assumed Natasha had provided her own persuasion.

"Robert Sharpe. I had a little nephew, Damien Sharpe. You freaks killed him. Freaks like Tony Stark. Sick hermaphrodite-"

Opening his eyes and striding over, Tony grabbed the man by the throat, cutting off his diatribe mid-sentence. Tony smiled at the man: a cruel, nasty thing. "You know," Tony growled, "you're talking about this kid. This nephew." The man was going red. Tony ignored his spluttering. "Well I've got a kid coming, too. And it's mine, and I am never, ever going to let it grow up in a world full of a bunch of people like you. And you don't get to fucking touch him. You don't get to look at him, you don't get to have his perfect little voice grace your eardrums. Got that?"

Tony didn't wait for a yay or nay from this Robert asshole. Instead he let his metal-covered fist get acquainted with the side of the guy's head. He was out in a second.

Tony looked at the man where he lay unconscious on the ground. After a second, he gave his ribs a gentle tap with his boot. Just enough to crack one of them. Or four. He stepped on his wrist by accident, too. "Oops," Tony growled. "It's all this extra pregnancy weight. I'm just clumsy, all over the place."

He glanced over at Steve. "That was him," he supplied, entirely unnecessarily.

Steve didn't say a word. Just clasped Tony on the shoulder and shared a look with Natasha. "Will you head home, now? Do the check?"

Tony nodded. Yeah. The drugs definitely weren't out of his system: he was still feel woozy. He stumbled, just for a second, but Steve noticed. "I'm calling Happy," he said. "I'm not letting you fly home like this."

"I can watch him."

Jessica swung down from somewhere, hanging by a thread of webbing. "Follow him, catch him if he falls. It'll be faster than driving, and the faster the better, right?"

Steve didn't seem sold on the idea, but Tony leaned in and placed a hand on his arm. "The armor has autopilot, especially to get home. If I start to conk out, it'll kick in. Jessica would be the back up's back up."

That seemed to satisfy Steve well enough. He leaned in and kissed Tony on the cheek, hand subtly running over the front of the armor one last time. "Okay. Let me know as soon as you know.... As soon as you know anything, okay?"

Tony nodded. "As soon as I know, you'll know. But it'll be fine."

Tony started to back away, to get clear for take off. But Steve grabbed his wrist and looked at him, eyes darting back and forth between Tony's.

"What?" Tony asked.

"You..." Steve smiled: the first time Tony had seen it since he woke up in the warehouse. "You called it a baby. Instead of a fetus. And."

Tony's gut was churning uncomfortably, though it had nothing to do with the baby. He smiled, watery-eyed, at Steve. "I guess I did," he conceded.

They separated, Steve having said everything he needed to just then, and Tony took off. His flight was unsteady, his vision all manner of muddled. But he managed to get home without any rescue required from either the autopilot or Jessica.

As he sat in the lab and had his machines run every scan they had and draw blood for further testing, Tony felt something he had never felt before as each test came back clear: relief. He was relieved the baby was unharmed, that everything was on track, that it was healthy and safe.

Hands shaking, Tony picked up a comm and slipped it into his ear to tell Steve the good news. And then he stayed on the line, listening to the clean-up efforts and mopping up, mouth closed as his mind turned over thought after thought after thought. If he wanted this, and he wanted it safe, and he wanted to protect it...

But that didn't change anything. It didn't change Tony. All it did was harden Tony's resolve to figure out some way to make sure his baby was protected from the one person who could hurt him the most, in the end: Tony Stark.

Chapter Text

“Yeah, come on, Steve. Fuck me on my back. Come on, fuck me, fuck me hard.”

Tony moaned, rolling his hips shamelessly up into Steve's, feet first pressing down onto the mattress, then hiking up onto the small of Steve's back as he tried to get him in deeper. Fuck, but being pregnant was making Tony so fucking horny. It was fantastic. He just wanted Steve's cock in him all the time.

"Ung," Tony hiccuped as Steve's hips picked up the pace.

Then they faltered, and Steve started thrusting more shallowly, less forcefully.

"Steve, no, no Steve, please," Tony whined. He dragged his stunted fingernails down Steve's back, eliciting a sharp shudder and low groan from the other man. "Come on, fuck me, Steve, I need it. No teasing, come on..." Tony dug his heels into Steve's back, like he was trying to get a horse to start galloping, "come on..."

Panting, Steve leaned back, away from Tony. "I... I'm sorry, Tony."

Tony almost slammed his fists onto the mattress in a six year old's display of frustration. "Steve," he growled. "I need you to fuck me." Tony stared up at Steve's face, searching for whatever the problem was. His dick was hard, so at least Tony could rule that out. It just wasn't moving hard and fast inside him like Tony needed it to be.

"I'm..." Steve's hands were fluttering. Hips, waist, sheets. Hips, waist, sheets. Glancing down, Tony grabbed at them, stilling them.

"Oh." A though occurred to Tony as he was confronted by the sight of his own swollen stomach. "You don't..."

"I want to," Steve said quickly, face flushed. "I just... I don't want to hurt it."

Oh, was that all? Tony laughed, a little relieved. He had been worried it was some sort of psychological thing, that Steve was disgusted by the sight of Tony's now obviously-swollen belly. But he just didn't know where to put his hands.

Fuck. That was fine. That was more than fine. They could fix that, easily.

"Grab my ass, Steve," Tony ordered.

Steve's face brightened up immediately and there was some shifting. Steve's cock slipped out of Tony once or twice as Steve hauled Tony's hips higher and grabbed firmly on. Tony grinned and shifted down, pushing Steve's cock back in and moaning at the sensation. Steve's hands squeezing hard on his ass only served to make everything all the more hot.

"Fuck, yes," Tony groaned, finally able to relax and enjoy himself. Steve's cock slid inside him, hands alternatively spreading him wide and squeezing him tight on the hard member. Tony moaned, shameless, fucking himself down onto Steve with every ounce of coordination he had left. He needed inside him, deep and hard and fast. And fuck, there it was, perfect, just, just there, just inside, all the way deep-

"Fuck!" Tony shouted, orgasm bursting out of him. He clung to Steve's biceps, fingernails digging ten little hemispheres into Steve's skin. His body shook, legs and stomach trembling as his cock pulsed long lines of sticky white all over his distended stomach.

Steve moaned, almost losing his balance entirely as he bent down. His tongue lolled out of his mouth, running up and down Tony's stomach as he lapped at the come there. Tony gasped, body still trembling through the aftershocks as Steve pounded harder into him, mouth wide open and touching as much of Tony's come-covered stomach as it could.

Steve came with a strangled groan, which dissolved into a whimper during his last few thrusts. His mouth and tongue kept working at Tony's stomach, discombobulated and confused, but trying to gather all the come into his mouth, to lick Tony's stomach clean.

Tony stroked his hand through Steve's hair and waited for him to come back to himself. When he did he was flushed, staring down at Tony's stomach with a mixture of disbelief and embarrassment.

"You need a minute alone with my fat?" Tony teased.

Steve flushed even more, though it was hard to seen beneath the already sex-reddened cheeks and rivulets of sweat. "It's just... I just..."

Tony rolled his eyes and gathered Steve up into his arms. "Yeah, yeah. You Tarzan, me Jane. You put baby in my belly, manly manly man."

In his arms Steve squirmed uncomfortably, but didn't deny it except to mumble: "I didn't mean for it... I mean...."

"Shut up and go to sleep, Cap," Tony laughed. "Don't worry: I love it when you go all primal alpha male on me. Very hot. And if you still feel bad, let me fuck it out of you tomorrow and you can go back to feeling like a civilized gay man with a pregnant husband again, okay?"

Steve snorted into Tony's chest and relaxed at that. "Okay." After a beat: "If your penis can even reach me past your stomach."

Tony's fingernails dug hard into Steve's flank, causing him to hiss and moan. "Even if it was a problem, which it's not," Tony growled. "You forget that I'm the world's greatest engineer. And I got nothing but time on my hands, waiting for you to come home. Be careful when listing things you think I can't do in my 'condition'."

Steve's voice was already slurring as his body relaxed into sleep against Tony. "Wouldn't dream of it," he mumbled. "You're perfect, after all."

As Steve fell off the precipice into sleep, Tony sighed, staring up at the ceiling for a while longer. Yeah, right: perfect. As if anyone but Steve would look between the two of them and assign the label to Tony. But, Steve meant it, in his way. For right now, that was just going to have to be good enough for Tony, and good enough for the kid. Until he thought of a better plan.


Tony groaned and started to shift over.

"No, no. Tony. Tony, wake up. Feel."

Through a haze of sleep Tony felt someone – Steve, probably, if he had to guess, probably a safe guess – pressing his hands to his stomach. Tony grumbled and tried to roll over again. His stomach was growling, and... Huh, wait. Not growling. What?

"Tony." Steve's voice was a whisper but so, so excited. "Tony, I can feel the baby."

Tony's snapped open. He found himself looking straight at Steve's forehead, his head bent and gaze otherwise focused on Tony's stomach. There was a movement, like his stomach was growling for food, but without the discomfort. And lower.

Tony gasped softly, cause Steve to look up. His eyes were shining, hand still splayed across a broad expanse of Tony's stomach.


Tony blinked. Felt the movement again.


Then he laughed, because he realized Steve had pressed his hand against his own stomach. He moved it away, watching Steve frown at him as he did.

"I can feel it without my hand there," he pointed out. "It is happening inside me."

Steve's face brightened at that, then slowly reddened as he realized his mistake. "I just-"

"Quiet," Tony ordered, leaning forward for a closed-mouth kiss. Steve, perfect as he was, actually managed to not have morning breath. Something about his immune system killing the bacteria in his mouth before it had a chance to build up? Tony, on the other hand, did. Horrendously, most mornings.

Steve fell silent, hand pressed to Tony's stomach and eyes unfocused. Tony felt the baby move again, and glanced at Steve. His grin looked liable to fly right off his face and roost somewhere on the ceiling.

"It's a big day for him," Steve pointed out. "Do you think he knows?"

The baby moved again, more forcefully this time. Tony couldn't help but laugh. "I think it knows that you have a fifty percent chance of turning out to be a presumptuous misogynist in a few hours," Tony pointed out.

Steve's mouth fell open, eyebrows drawing together in hurt. "I... I didn't... I just figured by default..."

Tony laughed and leaned forward to kiss him, to shut up his splutter. "Actually, if it had been my sperm which was fertilized by your sperm, it'd be a fifty-twenty-five split in favor of male. So you wouldn't be quite as much of a sexist pig."

Steve frowned, but it was directed at the percentages, not at Tony's jibe. A shot of sadness went through Tony before he explained, in a quiet voice: "Twenty-five percent would have been nonviable. Y-Y."

A small sigh of understanding escaped Steve's lips. His fingers curled just slightly on Tony's stomach, protective.

"But," Tony continued, trying to keep the mood light, "Since it's Natasha Stark's eggs and your sperm, that means it is fifty-fifty. Well, actually, more like forty-nine point oh-ninety-five to fifty-one point oh-five." Steve blinked at him. "Male children are more likely to die so a very slight percentage more of them are born."

Steve thought about this a moment, then a grin appeared on his face. "So, actually, what you're saying is that before we knew how you got pregnant, it was a fifty precent chance it was a boy, three-eighths chance it was a girl, and one-eighth chance it was non-viable." Tony gaped. Steve just smiled sweetly and said: "Because we wouldn't have known if you had gotten pregnant through a combination of sperm and sperm or sperm and egg."

Tony mock-pouted at Steve, then moved to roll himself out of bed. "Nope," he insisted. "Not-uh. You're not allowed to be good at math, too. That's my job."

Steve rolled his eyes. "I can manage multiplying fractions, Tony," he pointed out.

"No," Tony insisted, leaning on the bed for one more kiss. "I'm the smart one. You're the muscle. If you've got brains and brawn, you'll just put me out of work."

"I don't know," Steve teased. "With how big my brain is, I'm sure I could find use for you somewhere."

Tony laughed and headed for the bathroom, rubbing his swollen stomach. Ugh. So fat. And his skin was definitely feeling tight, no matter how much cocoa butter he rubbed on it. So not only was he getting fat, he was getting stretch marks. Tony mentally whined as he lined himself up with the toilet.

"I'll start breakfast," Steve called in after him. "Don't go back to sleep! We need to leave in an hour."

"Pickles on jam!" Tony called out after him. Because apparently, yes, that was exactly what his body wanted this morning. "Grape jam! And Chinese."

"No Chinese," Steve called back. A moment later Tony heard their bedroom door shut behind him. Tony grinned. There would be Chinese. A smattering of fried rice with eggs and veggies mixed in or something. But there'd definitely be some sort of Chinese, because it was impossible for Steve not to give into even the most outlandish of his cravings.

When Tony was settled at the kitchen table fifteen minutes later – fried rice with egg and toast with pickles and grape jam in his plate – Thor came in, dragging a sleepy-looking Jane behind him. Thor himself looked fresh as a daisy, as he always did. "Friends! Is this the day we determine if the child will be a fair maiden or a fierce warrior?"

There was movement, then Natasha was standing over by fridge, an apple skewered on a knife. She looked at Thor.

"Do not reproach me, warrior Natasha," Thor said, waving his arms expansively. "I myself am familiar with a woman's warrior spirit. You, too, are acquainted with Sif!"

"Acquainted," Natasha repeated. There was something in the way she said it that had Tony staring hard at her, though he couldn't be sure... Well, he could never be sure of anything with Natasha. She was gone in the next second anyway, so Tony let the matter shift to the back of his mind, where he'd pick at it later.

"And yeah," Steve was saying to Thor. "We find out today."

Thor beamed as he pulled pop tarts from the cabinet and started placing pairs of them in the line of toasters they had across one counter. The array of a half dozens toasters was a necessity in the Avenger's Tower.

"Oh! And we felt it." Steve was smiling that big smile again as he sat down next to Tony. It was the only reason Tony let him place an indulgent hand on his stomach in public right then. Also because he was sliding a nutella-filled crepe onto his plate. "The baby was moving this morning."

Thor threw his arms up in the air. "Splendid! We must feast to the virility of your offspring!"

Tony and Steve were saved having to answer that by Phil's entrance to the kitchen. Clint, thank goodness, wasn't with him. Tony was sure he'd stumble in an hour later and Phil would shove food and coffee down his throat until he woke up enough to manage it himself. "Nineteen weeks?" Phil asked, pulling out his phone. "Average for first movement that can be felt from outside the carrier."

For how impossibly ninja and a little totally boring Coulson could be at times, Tony did love the way he had started calling Tony the "carrier" rather than "mother" in the earlier days of the pregnancy. For one, it helped Tony see everything in more clinical terms, which was always welcome. And for another, it wasn't the word “mother”. Phil's lesser half, of course, insisted on almost exclusively using the word “mother” when referring to Tony and the baby.

"Is it..."

Tony glanced over at Jane, where was putting away her second large cup of coffee. Tony was jealous. He remembered the days when he was part of that community of scientific caffeine addicts. It used to be a comfortable brotherhood.

"Is it still moving?" she asked, voice soft and curious.

From anyone else (besides Steve), Tony would have been annoyed with what she was asking. But Jane was so earnest and nice that Tony couldn't help himself. And more, he'd seen the way she had looked between Tony's stomach and Thor wistfully, and Tony couldn't begrudge her that. She was old enough to have some stability in her life but young and healthy enough to be thinking about kids. And her boyfriend was a Nordic god, a perfect specimen of alien-man. Of course she was thinking about it, and probably wondering if it was even possible between her and Thor. Tony himself wasn't sure.

"It calmed down," Tony said, but shifted away from the table nonetheless and gestured Jane over. She came, practically tiptoeing, and pressed her hand gently to Tony's stomach.

"I read somewhere it's mostly active when I'm still, because my movement lulls it to sleep, or something," Tony said, when the baby seemed to be uninterested in moving against Jane.

"I read that," Steve pointed out, "and told it to you."

Tony shrugged. "Hey. Age of external memory. And that's not always referring to a harddrive - sometimes it's a husband, too."

Steve laughed and ruffled Tony's hair, causing him to squawk indignantly. "Hey, I just styled that!"

"You can fix it on the car ride. Speaking of which."

Tony nodded, swallowing down the last of his OJ. Steve didn't help him out of his chair, but it was a close thing as Tony leveraged himself up. And he wasn't even close to how big he was going to get, yet. Fat. So fat.

They settled into the back of the car together and Tony immediately leaned against Steve, falling asleep as Happy began to drive them upstate. His dreams were unfortunately troubled, filled with nonviable Y-Y babies and crying little hermaphrodites. Tony jerked awake well before they got to Castillo's office and just stared out of the window, letting Steve stroke his stomach absently on the long drive.

"Still sitting high," Castillo said as she moved the wand over Tony's abdomen. "I can almost guarantee you'll have some problems in the last two months with breathing. We'll plan on inducing three weeks early or so, but for about three or four week before even that you're going to find yourself having problems if you're lying on your back."

The look she turned on Tony wasn't too concerned, which did wonders toward easing Tony's worries. Bedside manners: this woman had them.

"Next time you come I'll have some pamphlets on sleeping positions and things you can do to alleviate the problem," she said. "A lot of sleeping on your side with a pillow under your stomach, is what it boils down to."

Tony grimaced. He hated sleeping on his side. Even if he started out the night that way, he always ended up on his back or stomach by morning. But that was just a temporary inconvenience, not an actual problem. Not like the three dozen other things that Tony knew were going to go wrong, either before or after the kid came out.

After a moment more of looking at the screen Castillo nodded. "Other than that, everything seems to be progressing normally. Do you want to know the sex?"

Tony breathed deep. Steve's hands were already gripping tight on one shoulder, his entire body leaning forward in anticipation. Tony glanced up to see Steve's eyes flickering between the monitor and Tony's stomach, like he'd be able to figure it out for himself.

Tony smiled ruefully at Castillo and nodded. "Yeah, shoot. Gotta figure out what to paint the nursery sometime."

Steve frowned just a little at that. "I thought Carol had told us we were going with a gender-neutral space theme? And that she was going to paint it next week?"

Tony rolled his eyes. "Well now she can know whether to put pigtails on the little astronauts on the moon or spiky short hair."

Castillo was looking at the two men, a faint smile on her face. "Well, I guess you can tell Carol pigtails it is. You're having a girl."

Tony could hear the blood rushing through his ears. A girl. A girl. The little... the baby, it looked like a real baby at this point, when did that happen?... was a girl. It was... He was going to have a little girl running around the Avengers Tower.

For the first time since getting used to the idea of being pregnant, Tony felt nauseas. And he hadn't wanted a drink as badly as he did now since Pepper had left him, years ago.

Above him, Steve was laughing and hiccuping and maybe – no, definitely – crying a little, hands clenching and unclenching around Tony's shoulders.

"A girl, oh my... I. We're going to have a little girl, Tony. Think about it. Think about everything we're going to show her! We can have Natasha train her in self-defense, and you can work on cars or... or spaceships, or robot dolls, I don't know, whatever she wants to work on. And I'll put her in the girl scouts! Tony, Tony, I could take her camping. And we're going to buy her little bathing suits and teach her how to swim - not this bikinis, I don't think those are appropriate for children, but. Oh, can you even imagine her bringing boys home? Or girls? She's never going to be able to get a date with us as her parents!"

Tony listened. Tony listened and heard what Steve was saying. But while Steve was running through all the best-case scenarios, all the wonderful things that he could do with their daughter, and teach her, and show her, Tony's mind was taking a different tack. Tony was thinking about Natasha, orphaned and brainwashed by men trying to control her, to turn her into a weapon. He thought about Jessica, experimented on by her father while she was still in the womb. Wanda, whose father... well. Was Magneto. Fathers didn't get much more insane than that.

And Carol. Carol, whose father wasn't a mad scientist, or megalomanic bent on genocide. Whose father was there, and raised her. But Tony thought about the little cruelties he inflicted upon her, just for being herself. How she watched her father pay for her brothers' college education, but left Carol to pay for it herself. How she joined the military to do so, and the Air Force because that would make daddy see, would make him notice, would make him proud of her. Tony thought about the drinks Carol had when he was around, and the ones he knew she had when he wasn't. A string of bad relationships and the constant insecurities, of feeling that she had to be better, to be more, to show everyone, to show them all.

Tony knew that even if he raised his little girl, even if he didn't experiment on her or try and take over the world, that he could end up doing that. Those sorts of little cruelties, those little, tiny murders, every day of his daughter's life: those he was capable of. They were in his blood, in how he was raised, in what he was taught while watching his father.

That would be his legacy to his daughter. Steve's would be Girl Scout meetings and brushing her hair, play-sparring with her and carrying her on his shoulders. Tony's would be the smell of scotch, distracted glances, of unkind words said out of exhaustion, absent-mindedness, and alcohol.

Tony laid back on the table and gave Steve a small smile. "You want to name her Margaret, don't you?"

And Steve smiled and blushed, rubbing the back of his neck. And Tony smiled, and looked at the monitor. And worried.

Carol opened a bottle of sweet tea vodka with a laugh and filled her glass with it. She splashed some lemonade on top of it, then poured a glass of just lemonade for Tony. They clinked glasses and Carol winked. "Mozel Tov," she said, winking.

Tony rolled his eyes but clinked glasses with Carol. They settled on her couch, some terrible A&E show playing in the background. Something about people living in storage units or buying garbage? Tony wasn't paying attention enough to see.

"So, you realize you're going to have to fight all the girls to play with her," Carol pointed out. She grinned, bright and sharp. "You have to let me teach her how to fly. Well before Steve says she's ready." Laughing, she took a long drink. "Of course, you'll probably have her outfitted in her very own line of Iron Kiddie armor, complete with jet packs and repulsers, by the time she can walk, so maybe flying a plane won't seem quite as exciting. But there's definitely something different about it, flying outside the machine and flying in it." Carol's expression grew wistful as her fingernails tapped her glass. She jabbed a finger at Tony again. "I'm teaching her to fly."

Tony nodded, sipping at his lemonade. "No problem," he replied. "She's all yours."

Tony winced. He hadn't meant for that to come out so... eager. There was a long pause as Tony stared off at the TV. Maybe they were living in garbage and buying storage? Was that what was happening? This channel had the oddest shows.

"Tony," Carol prodded.

Carol's gaze was harsh when Tony chanced a glance over at her. He flinched, dropping his eyes to watch his fingers play with the glass.

"Don't fucking tell me just because she's a girl-"

"No!" Tony felt his heart race. No. No, never. Not because she was a girl. Never because of that. When he heard Steve's future planned out for their little daughter so clearly, Tony had wanted it so much. Had wanted to see little blonde pigtails racing through the Tower, laughing as Jessica hung her up from the ceiling with webbing or playing astronaut with Carol in the beautiful bedroom that she would paint. But Tony knew there was something in common with all those beautiful, perfect domestic images: he wasn't in a single one of them. And if he wanted their little girl's future to be that bright, he couldn't be.

"Carol, no. Don't you think I-" he cut himself off. He was about so say "want a daughter', but he couldn't. Couldn't want one that was his, because that would just mean messing her up. "Don't you think I want Steve to have a daughter?"

There was a soft sigh of understanding at that. Tony risked a glance up, and he saw Carol's eyes gone dark with empathy.


"No, really." Tony laughed darkly, looking everywhere but Carol. "Think about it. Think about me, Carol. Can you imagine how badly I'd screw her up? She'd be-"

"If you're about to say 'better off without me', I might have to punch you square in the nose, Tony Stark," Carol warned.

Tony sighed. Managed to grimace out a smile.

"Better off with Steve," he tried.

Carol shook her head sharply, blonde hair fanning out around her. "Bullshit," she said. "Complete bullshit."

Tony snorted, rubbing a hand over his swollen belly. Thinking about every cruel word Howard had ever said to him. Imagining every encouraging word Mr. Danvers had never said to Carol.

"Come on, Danvers," he teased, but not really. "If you got to pick me or Steve for your dad, you'd pick Steve, every time. Anyone would."

"No I wouldn't," Carol scoffed, like it was the most obvious thing in the world.

Tony looked at her, incredulous. "Of course you would," he replied. "Everyone would. You- Of course you would, you can't pick me over him."

Carol rolled her eyes. "Oh, sorry, is Tony Stark telling me what to do? No, asshole, I'd pick you?"


Tony winced. He hadn't meant that to sound so... so needy. But Carol, blessedly, stayed angry instead of sympathetic and ignored his pathetic whine.

"Because Steve's too fucking perfect," she said immediately.

Tony snorted, but Carol was really getting into this now. She took a big swig of her drink and set it between her legs. "No, really," she insisted. "Think about it. Your girl's a teenager, gets drunk, wakes up on a friend's bathroom floor. Forgot to call you guys, broke curfew, all that."

Tony laughed, picturing it. Picturing Steve, oh, the poor girl. That Captain America guilt look, she'd never want to do another bad thing again.

"Well, okay, but that's why Steve would make the better dad," Tony pointed out. "He wouldn't get angry - well he would, but - he wouldn't shout and scream or lose his temper. He'd just stay all steady and calm and guilt her into apologizing of her own free will."

Carol smiled wickedly, like she was making the exact progress she wanted to. It was a scary look, on a woman as resourceful as Carol. "Okay, good. And what would you do?"

"Tell her to drink liquor before beer the next time."

Carol grinned wider. "Perfect father," she teased. "Wish my dad had given me those words of wisdom before I had to figure it out myself. Okay, new scenario." Carol splayed her hands out. "Little Stark makes a mistake. She does something stupid. Fucks a guy and he breaks her heart. Gets knocked up. Fails and exam. Gets caught smoking pot and tossed in the slammer for a night. Whatever." Carol leaned forward, hands on her knees. "Do you really think Steve is better equipped to deal with that than you?"

Tony frowned. "Of course he is. He deals with me."

And that's when Carol's smile was blinding. She'd decided she'd won, right then and there. Tony was still looking for the punchline.

"There it is," Carol said. "You've done these things, Tony. You've made the mistakes, you've got the life experiences. You're going to be able to empathize with your baby girl so much better than Steve. And sometimes, Tony, that's going to be what she needs. Not a dad making her feel bad about what she's done, or telling her it's okay, or comforting her or telling her off. Sometimes, someday, your little one is just going to need you to sit down next to her and say 'Hey, I've been there. And I'm here. So take some deep breaths, calm down, and we'll get through this. Because I did. And it's okay'."

Tony breathed deep, tears stinging at his eyes. "That's-" he choked on his words. Shaking his head viciously, Tony tried to blink the tears from his eyes. "That's not-"

"Tony," Carol whispered, placing a hand on his knee. "How you're feel, right this instant? The fact that you're feeling this way? That's all you need to know to realize you're going to be a great dad. Do you think our dads ever sat up at night with their friends, worrying over what a terrible dad they'd be? Thinking of every possible way they could fuck their kid up?"

Curled up on the couch, with the soft light of reality TV buzzing illuminating the dark room and Carol confident and putting her faith in him at his side, Tony thought that he might believe her. He wanted to believe her, to be sure. But he also knew who he was. He knew that his best intentions had gone awry, time and time again. He'd hurt people before with his thoughtless actions, people he would never in a million years want to hurt: Pepper, Rhodey, Steve. The only reason they stuck around was because they were adults, and they could handle him. But a little, precious girl?

Tony knew he couldn't let that happen. He couldn't let himself hurt her. His hand rubbed at his stomach some more, staring at the TV without actually watching it.

"Congratulations, Tony, Steve. Your fetus is now viable. It's still got quite a bit of development ahead of it, but at twenty-four weeks there's enough of a chance of it surviving outside the womb that we can all start breathing a little easier."



Tony snatched the papers from his lawyer angrily, reading over them.

"Mr. Stark, as your legal counsel I have to strongly advise against you doing this. If you and Mr. Rogers ever separated-"

"Why do you think I'm doing this?" Tony snapped. He glanced down at the page. No. They were still leaving him with too many rights.

"Change it," Tony ordered, throwing the papers back at the lawyer. The man – Robert? Richard? Rumpelstiltskin? – was looking close to losing his cool. Good. Maybe then he'd actually do what Tony wanted out of spite.

"For this to hold up against... uh... yourself in any court, you would need to have Mr. Rogers here to approve the decision as well."

Tony shook his head, tugging at his hair hard enough to hurt. "Where the fuck did you get your degree, community bullshit law?"

Lawyer guy's nostrils flared. Tony knew it was Yale. Maybe. Probably.

"Listen, set it up like a will. Except instead of it kicking in when I kick the bucket, make it so that it kicks in when... if Steve wants to challenge me for custody. The kid's as much his as mine, biologically and everything, so it shouldn't be a problem."

Lawyer guy frowned, but gathered up his papers. "Give me a moment," he said, all false politeness. "I'll see what I can draw up."

Tony rolled his eyes and turned his back on the door, staring out the window. Inside him, the baby squirmed. Tony put a hand on his stomach, rubbing at it. "Shh, little Martian. Settle down. I'm just trying to take care of you."

Some pigeons started and flew away. When he was a boy, Tony remembered being so pleased that the pigeons at least stuck out the cold winters in New York. Now he was just irritated with them, like every other New Yorker.

Tony pressed his forehead to the glass, sighing. It was cool against his skin, helping to clear his head, somewhat. This was the right thing to do. Sign over his parental rights to Steve without telling him. Then, when Steve realized how rotten Tony was, how bad he would be for their daughter, Steve could take her away. It was the only way Tony knew how to protect her from himself. And it was imperative Steve didn't know ahead of time, because he would refuse to let Tony do this. Then, when the time came - which it would, it inevitably would - for Steve to take their little girl away from Tony for her own good, the court case would be an absolute nightmare.

Better this way. Better now, and best Steve didn't know about it.


Tony didn't even jump at Steve's voice. Figured. Fucking lawyers. What ever happened to client confidentiality and "best interests"? Though, Tony supposed any lawyer with his salt could defend his actions in court. Calling Steve in, the only person who could put a stop to this, was technically in Tony's best interests. In a legal sense.

"I don't even want to have this argument with you, Steve," Tony said, suddenly so very, very tired. He'd spent so much energy these past few months trying to think his way out of this, trying to accomplish something impossible: protect his child from everything that could ever harm her, when he himself was the worst thing possible for her. But, he was Tony Stark, the man who invented a new kind of sustainable energy in a cave with a box of missile scraps. He found a way.

And now Steve was here to ruin all his hard work, and Tony just didn't have the energy to fight anymore.

"Funny," Steve said, not sounding amused at all, "never thought I'd hear you say you didn't want to argue. That's like hearing Carol say she doesn't feel like flying."

Carol. Tony shut his eyes against the bright light of the winter day. Carol thought he'd be a good dad. Carol thought his daughter would need him, to balance out Steve.

Carol might be too damn smart for her own good. But knowing and mustering the strength to wave aside decades of emotional abuse and the insecurities and fucked-up logic that came with that were two entirely different things.

"Get out of here, Steve." Tony finally turned away from the window and faced him. Steve's jaw was set, his leather jacket still zipped up against the cold outside. He must have broken all sorts of traffic laws to get here as fast as he did.

"Not without you," Steve insisted. And wasn't that just like him: make this into a no-man-left-behind situation. Tony gritted his teeth. This was going to happen. Fine. Then have it happen. Maybe by the end of it, Steve would be angry he'd remember how shitty of a person Tony Stark could be.

Tony stepped forward, glaring at Steve. "What did you make me promise? What's the one thing you made me promise about her?"

Steve, perfect fucking Steve, knew exactly what Tony was talking about. "Protect her," he replied.

Tony spread his arms.

Steve's eyes flashed. "Giving her to me and running away isn't protecting her, Tony. It's abandoning her."

"Sorry if I don't see how giving my child to Captain America to raise is harmful," Tony snapped.

"Sorry if I don't understand how abandoning her isn't," Steve shot right back.

Tony breathed. Rubbed his stomach. "You were the one who wanted her in the first place," Tony pointed out. "Now you can have her. No strings attached."

That caught Steve off guard, though Tony wasn't sure why. He just knew it did, from the way Steve's brow forward and his mouth turned down. "But... But Tony, we know she's going to be okay. Your arc reactor and everything, it's not a problem. She might come a little early, but Castillo-"

Tony rolled his eyes. Oh, they were back on that. Fine.

"Yeah, you know, how easy was it for you to ask me to keep her? As soon as Bruce- No, no, before Bruce even said we could do it, you wanted her. You wanted her so fucking badly, Steve, that's all you could think about. You didn't even consider the problems the reactor might pose until I reminded you about it."

"It's because I don't think of it as an impairment-"

"I'm talking."

Steve's jaw clicked shut. He nodded.

Tony took a breath and continued. "You didn't think about it. You didn't think about my body, about how I was a man, how I have a hollow space in my chest filled with a metal tube that's going to put me on bed rest for the last month of this damn ordeal. When Bruce said it was probably fine, you were ecstatic. By the time Castillo gave the go-ahead, you had her college fund planned out."

“Tony, you know that if it came down to a choice between you or the baby-”

“Yeah, yeah.” Tony rolled his eyes. “You'd pick me. Thanks a lot, Cap. Tough call, there. Really appreciate you choosing your husband, partner, Iron Man, genius engineer philanthropist and fucking three time doctorate over a thing that can't breathe on its own! I'm amazed you had the moral fortitude to solve that dilemma!”

"Tony, if you were that concerned over your health, you should have said something." And Steve still wasn't getting it, he wasn't. "But after everyone said it was okay, I thought you were okay. I thought we were okay. Tony..." And great, Steve was upset, Steve was sad and looking at Tony with all that hurt in his eyes again and it wasn't fucking fair, Tony was trying, for once in his damn life, to do the right thing: to remove Tony Stark from the equation.

"Tony, why don't you want her? I don't... Just help me understand. Please. Tell me, and..." Steve took a breath, and Tony's heart jumped. "Tell me and I'll sign the papers. If. If I can't convince you otherwise, I'll let you do this. But you have to explain, Tony."


Tony gestured at one of the chairs at the long table in the room. Steve took it, eyes tracking Tony's every move. Gritting his teeth, Tony walked on unsteady feet to the mini bar in the office. "Drink?" he asked, without turing to Steve. There was no response, but Tony knew there wouldn't be.

Without another word Tony poured the drink, then strode over to the table he sat down, set the glass full of brown liquid down, and slid it at Steve. He caught it without taking his eyes off Tony.

"No drink?" Tony asked, feigning confusion. "Not a drinker, Steve? Oh. Right. Your dad, he was a drinker, wasn't he? A mean one, too."

Steve's fingers tightened on the glass. Tony smirked.

"I didn't think you'd remember me telling you that," Steve said.

"Why, because I was almost blackout drunk in section eight housing at the time?"


"You know I'm still an alcoholic, right? You've been in the future long enough to understand all the baggage that comes with that word? Rehab and twelve-step programs and AA meetings and relapses? You picked up on all that? Do you understand that it's going to stay with me, forever? That if I don't pick up a drink for the first ten years of our-" Tony's voice cracked, but he forced the words out through it "our little girl's life, there might come a day where I'm right back in that tenement house, pissing myself and drunk out of my head."

"What did you ask me, Steve?" Tony asked again, eyes clouded over with tears.

"To protect her," Steve whispered back.

"What do you think I'm doing?"

A long, long silence spread out between the two men. The first movement that they made was Steve uncurling his fingers from around the brandy glass, one by one. Steve slid the glass back across the table to Tony.

"Are you going to drink that?" Steve asked.

"That's not the point," Tony snapped. Because he understood what Steve was saying. Tony had been good, these last few months. He'd hardly had a drink the whole time, and even then, only a half glass of wine with food. He'd limited his caffeine strictly to one cup a day. He'd avoided sushi, steak tar tar, paint fumes, and volatile chemicals. He'd been a good dad.

"It's four months," Tony said, shaking his head. "I have a lifetime to fuck up."

"You won't."

And that was the worst thing Steve could have said. Tony jumped up, knocking his chair back. "There it is!" he shouted, gesturing at a bewildered Steve. He jabbed a finger at him. "There's exactly why you don't get it, Steve. You're. Perfect. You're Captain America. You don't make mistakes."

Steve frowned. "I make mistakes."

Bucky. Tony knew, immediately, that Steve was thinking about Bucky. And that thought – that only fucking Steve Rogers would consider what happened with Bucky his person failing – made Tony laugh.

"You make errors. You don't make mistakes. You don't move fast enough, or turn around in time. That's the kind of mistake you make, Steve. And then when you do, you beat yourself up over those! Those tiny miscalculations that no human on earth could blame you for. I hurt people. I destroy people. I hurt myself. I fly around drunk and almost kill people. And that's why you'll never understand, Steve. You'll never understand how scared I am of myself, of what I'm going to do in the future, because you're perfect. You don't know what it's like to not know if you'll make the right choice tomorrow, do the right thing. Because you're Captain America. You can't help but do the right thing."

Steve was out of his chair in an instant, striding over to Tony. When he reached him, he grabbed Tony's biceps, pulling him in close. "Listen to me, Tinman," Steve said, eyes trained on Tony's. "Listen to me. What did I ask you to do?"

Tony blinked. "Protect her."

"Do you love her?"

Tony growled. "Why do you think I'm doing this? It's for her, Steve. So she can have you, when I go... When I fuck up. Like I always do."

Steve ignored this. "Do you love her?"

Tony crumpled under Steve's hands, feeling the weight of his little Martian tugging at his stomach. "More than... More than I thought I could."

"That's your job, then," Steve said. "Leave the protecting to me. I just want you to love her."

"Fuck, Steve-"

"Hey." Steve shook Tony lightly, ducking his head to keep eye contact. "That's it. That's all you do. And if I'm so perfect, then I'll be the one to protect her, and I'll protect her from you, if she ever needs it. But don't go leaving us already, Tony. Please. She needs you to love her. Do you think you can do that?"

Tony sniffed, loudly. Fuck, when did he start actually crying? Steve's hands came up to his cheeks, thumbs wiping away the tears.

"I'm going to mess up," Tony whimpered. "I'm going to ignore her, or make her feel like she's not good enough, or be drunk in front of her, or-"

"No you won't."

Tony sobbed. Fuck.

"You're not Howard, Tony. You won't."

And then Tony was in Steve's arms, and Steve was wrapped around him, holding him tight. Protecting him.

"I'll kill you if you let me hurt her," Tony growled in Steve's ear, just barely on the right side of hysterical.

"I'd let you if I did," Steve replied.

And that was okay. That was enough. For now. Tony could live with that. If Steve said he'd protect their little girl, he would. Steve had gone against Tony before, had stood up to him and made the right decision. He would do it again, if it meant protecting her. And maybe, maybe, maybe... Maybe Tony would be able to keep himself from hurting her. Mostly. If Steve thought...

Steve always saw the best in people. Thought the most of them. But he didn't lie, and he didn't sugar coat things. If Steve knew Tony loved her, and thought that was enough. If he thought Tony wasn't Howard. Maybe. Maybe.

Chapter Text

Tony grunted, tugging Steve's hips higher to get a better angle. Steve keened beneath him, breath panting as he fucked himself back onto Tony's dick.

“Like that?” Tony growled, fingernails digging into Steve's hip.

Steve just groaned and tipped his hips up further. His fingers clenched at the sheets around his head, which was bent low as they moved together. From this angle, Tony could see Steve's blonde locks brushing against the bed below them.

"Feel good Steve, you feel so fucking good," Tony babbled, not really paying attention to what he was saying. To absolutely no one's surprise, Tony was a talker in bed. Luckily, more than just accept it, Steve loved it, making all sorts of appreciative noises as a stream of filthy phrases poured out of Tony's mouth.

"Fucking you so good and deep, you love that, don't you?"

Reaching down... Damn it. Tony tried to keep his hips going, and his belly comfortably above the firm curve of Steve's ass, and reach down to grab at Steve's hair, but he couldn't manage to do it all at once. Grumbling to himself, Tony adjusted his movements and instead beneath Steve to tug on his dick.

"Tell me you love it," Tony ordered. Far be it from him to allow his filthy, debaucherous dialogue to be interrupted by a little on-the-fly adjustments for his extra girth.

His fingers tightened around the base of Steve's cock, not moving even as Steve's thrusts grew more pointed, as he tried to fuck into Tony's hand.

"Love it," Steve whined, thrusting back hard. "Love you inside me."

"Yeah," Tony growled. He pistoned his hips several times in quick succession, then bottomed out hard and deep once, twice. Steve groaned beneath him, practically a sob.

"Yeah, you love it. You love me fucking you hard. Love my cock in your ass." Tony threw his head back, eyes shut, as he focused on fucking Steve to climax. His body was flexing, tensing and relaxing in alternative, increasing erratic cycles beneath him. He was close, and Tony was determined to send him over the edge sooner rather than later.

"Gonna fuck you so deep, you'll be knocked up next. Fuck up into you, come so hard, you'll be pregnant. Big swollen belly, my come, my baby, and then I'll fuck you like that, I'll come inside you so much-"

Steve cried out, tension in him snapping abruptly. Tony gave his cock a few courtesy strokes to get him through, hand growing wet as Steve spilled into it.

Tony groaned, feeling his own orgasm cresting as Steve's body tightened around him. With a grunt Tony pumped himself into Steve twice more, then buried himself deep, spilling his release into Steve's body.

The room was filled with the sound of harsh breaths for a long moment. Tony was splayed out, as well as he could be, against Steve's back. At least this position allowed him to rest his stomach against Steve's back, offering his own back a little relief.

Another minute, and then Tony peeled himself off and out of Steve, rolling over onto his back with a groan. Steve was there in a moment, kissing Tony's neck and shoulder in thanks.

"Better enjoy it while you can," Tony grumbled. "Won't be able to do that much longer."

Steve's blue eyes smiled up at Tony from his shoulder. He kissed him again before saying "We're creative. I think we'll be fine."

"Unless Castillo's right," Tony corrected Steve.

That news had been really welcome, Tony thought sarcastically. After checking his blood pressure and other vitals, Castillo had declared that Tony may find himself impotent sometime within the last two months of pregnancy. Steve had dismissed the speculation out of hand, but Tony hadn't. He understood heart and alcohol induced impotence, and knew that no matter how much the spirit might be willing, the flesh could be weak.

He only hoped that if it did happen, Steve didn't take offense to it. The serum had pretty much guaranteed Steve a lifetime of perfect erections, and he might not understand Tony's inability to perform and think it was down to himself. Then again, Steve knew what it was like to have a body that didn't do what he wanted it to do. So that conversation might go better than Tony thought.

The bed shifted as Steve got up, and Tony realized he had been dozing. He groaned and rubbed at his stomach, breathing deeply into his diaphragm. The little martian was starting to press in all sorts of unfortunate places, now that they were just inside the third trimester.

Tony's thoughts and grumblings were erased a moment later when Steve crawled back into bed with him and maneuvered a heating pad beneath his back. Tony smiled and reached a hand out, pulling Steve into a kiss without even opening his eyes.

"Dinner tomorrow," Steve reminded him. Warm lips moved over the skin of Tony's shoulder as he spoke.

"Mm." Tony's mouth twisted into an ironic smirk. "Chez Stark, how exotic." He was referring to the restaurant in the Tower where their reservations were – the only place they could eat "out" without word getting out that Tony Stark was carrying a lot of extra weight in some very conspicuous places.

"Candles on the table, seared steak, romantic music..." Tony could feel Steve's smile against his shoulder, and he couldn't help but smile back.

"Yeah, yeah," he said. "What a good hubby: taking me out to all the nice places even after the honeymoon."

Steve's snort was quiet but definitely audible.

"Go to sleep, Stark," he growled.

"Maybe if you stopped talking, Rogers, I- Ow!" Tony smacked Steve with his left hand as the other man stifled giggles. He reached up to rub his shoulder where Steve had bit him with his right.

They both fell asleep with smiled on their faces, Steve curled up against Tony's side, one hand protectively pressed to his stomach.

He couldn't breathe. He couldn't breathe. He couldn't breathe.

Tony awoke gasping, in pain, chest burning but unable to heave. He couldn't breathe, no, no, he couldn't-

“Hang on, hang on, Tony. I've got you. Just...”

Big hands rolled him off his back and onto his side. A sharp stab of pain went through Tony's back as his stomach tugged forward. But then a pillow was being placed beneath it, propping it up, and Tony could breathe. And lie in relative comfort.

Tony breathed. And breathed. Fuck.

Steve's hands were at his back and his neck, rubbing and surreptitiously checking pulse points and inhalations. After a few minutes, when Tony finally felt safe again, he huffed loudly. “Thanks. It's fine, now.”

Steve's hands didn't stop moving, but there was an extra layer of nervousness, of hesitancy in them. Tony waited for him.

“I'm sorry,” Steve murmured, breath warm against Tony's neck. He placed a small apologetic kiss there.

Tony shifted, belly moving on the pillow. He let his left hand rest there, stroking the distended skin. The right tapped thoughtfully on the arc reactor. “Don't apologize,” he chided. “You did good, it's fine now. No harm done.”

“I made you do this.” Steve's words were whispered into Tony's skin, barely meant to be heard.

Tony sighed. The physical problems he could deal with. They weren't pleasant, but he'd dealt with worse medical maladies before.

“It's okay,” Tony said. “I've got a month more of this, maybe less. I'll be fine.”

“I'm sorry,” Steve repeated.

Tony rolled his eyes, adjusted his hand on his stomach. “Do we have to go through this again? I'm fine, you're fine, the little martian's going to be fine. We're all fine.”

They lay in silence for so long that Tony thought Steve had fallen back to sleep. But then his grip on Tony's hip tightened and he whispered: "Do you wish I hadn't asked you?"

Tony sighed at the broken tone in Steve's voice. Slipping his hand off his stomach, Tony groped for Steve's hand on his hip, squeezing tight when he finally found it. "At the beginning? Yeah. Four weeks ago?" Tony breathed out, thought about it. "It was complicated."

He could hear Steve's sad little hiccup, even though he knew Steve was doing everything in his power to suppress it.

"But now," Tony continued, still holding onto Steve's hand, "now: no. I'm glad you did, Steve. I want to raise our daughter with you as much as you do."

"Why'd you say yes?"

Tony bit back because I couldn't bear to see you so hurt, to force this rift between us, to take away the one thing I'd known you'd wanted forever that I'd never be able to give you. What was done was done, and Tony wasn't going to make Steve feel guilty about it. Not when everything was relatively okay now – pregnancy-induced sleep apnea aside.

"You'd make such a good dad. I didn't want take away the opportunity you had with me."


Tony sighed. Tried again. "You'd make such a good dad. I thought if anyone could cancel out how much I'd screw up a kid, it was you."

Steve shifted against Tony, spooning closer to him. He could feel Steve against him from toes to head. Tony sighed and moved back against him, cuddling close.

"You're going to make a great dad," Steve whispered into his hair.

"Yeah, yeah," Tony murmured. Though every day that went by, every little decision he and Steve made about their future daughter, he thought: maybe. Maybe. He thought about the nursery that Carol had finished painting the other week, a Van Gogh-esque rendering of space with little girl astronauts flying around and having adventures. He thought about the wardrobe he and Pepper had sat down and started ordering, ridiculously overpriced couture that they agreed to keep secret from Steve because once he saw the outfits on their daughter he wouldn't be able to refuse, but until then he would protest mightily. He thought about the swing he had already built in his lab, that just needed a coat of paint that Bruce had promised to do for him later this week. Then there was the learning lab he had set up, the curricula he had designed that would make an educational psychologist cry tears of jealous joy over.

And he thought about the contingency plans he and Steve had talked about in the still of the night. Special needs programs they had looked up, autism research, Xavier's brochures on teaching control to even the most extreme cases, like Rogue. All of this just in case, just in case. And Tony thought about how planning those things didn't change how he felt about his little girl, because she was his and he loved her and he would, no matter what.

He drifted off mid-thought, breathing easily.

There was smoke, and shouting, and fuck, Tony's head hurt. But what... What had... He wasn't supposed to be out in battle. Right? There were... reasons. Some sort of reasons. And he wasn't in his armor. He needed to be in his armor if he was going to- no, wait. The armor wouldn't fit. Why wouldn't the armor fit?

Tony's hands fluttered to his stomach, his skull throbbing with every heartbeat. Martian. Martian. Martian. His little martian. That's why he couldn't-

"Tony! Tony!"

His eyes wouldn't open to focus on Steve. Oh. Steve was going to be so mad.

One hour earlier

"No, Pep. There's no way I can-"

"This is just you trying to saddle me with all the work!" Pepper's voice was teasing over the phone. "I know what you're doing, and I won't let you."

Tony huffed. adjusting the bowl of buttered noodles with gouda on his stomach. "How exactly am I supposed to leave the house to help you shop for baby shower supplies? I can't go into any stores looking like this." A terrible thought occurred to Tony and he almost choked on his noodles. "You're not going to put me in drag, are you? Oh please, Pep, please don't! Muumuus do terrible things to my hips!"

He could hear the eye roll on the other side of the line. Tony snickered.

"I was thinking more along the lines of a father's-day-out lunch down in one of the conference rooms on level one."

Lunch. Tony glanced down at his noodles, fork halfway to his mouth. The pasta was dripping butter into the bowl.

"Unless you already ate."

Not even trying for subtly, Tony shoved the forkful of pasta into his mouth and said, mouth still full: "No, I could eat."

"You know the more weight you put on the harder it is to get it off."

Tony snorted. "Just get me whoever works with that head on a stick over at Regis. She weighs ninety pounds and has had what, three kids?"

There was a pause for a moment, and Tony shoved another forkful of noodles in his mouth, this one with a clump of gouda speared on the end. He could barely hold back an almost orgasmic moan.

"We're definitely going into baby-shower planning mode," Pepper finally said. "Because if you'e sitting around watching Regis and Kelly enough to know how many kids Kelly has, you have too much spare time."

"That's what I've been telling everyone for months!" Tony complained.

"Great, then you'll be happy to meet me downstairs in an hour and put that big brain of yours to good use.”

“Picking baby shower decorations? Really, Pep?” Tony complained, but he was really doing it more show than anything. He'd be glad to get out of the apartment for a while... even if it was just to visit Pepper within the same building dozens of floors below him.

“One hour. Don't be late. I have a company to keep looking the other way while you lounge around and have a baby, you know.”

“Love you too, Pep!” Tony teased cheerily at the phone. He flipped it off and tossed it on the table, setting his empty pasta bowl beside it. With a minor effort he managed to push himself off the couch – over the past month, years of subconsciously wondering why pregnant women moved around differently was beginning to make a whole host of sense – and headed over to his wardrobe. Tugging it open, he gazed inside it at all the sort-of maternity clothes he and Pepper had managed to cobble together that were suitable for a man. He rubbed his stomach thoughtfully. Even if lunch with Pepper was just a few floors down and in his own Tower, Tony still figured he could use the opportunity to dress up a little.

An hour and a half later Tony was freshly showered, shaved and looking pretty fantastic, if he did say so himself, in his westernized semi-bisht semi-suite semi-a little bit of everything flowy to cover the baby-bump as much as possible. Tony ride down the elevator with hands in his pockets, feeling not too bad about the state of the universe at the moment.

He really should have known better than that.

"Tony? Tony! Tony, Tony, you've got to open your eyes. Tony, Tony, no. He's bleeding. Head wound, I think... Tony!"

Tony groaned. Oh. Steve. Steve was yelling. Shit, why the hell was Steve yelling? Oh, his head. The baby. Something... Why was he in a fight? Without the Iron Man armor? With the baby? He wasn't supposed to do that, he wasn't... Oh, no, he was hurting her, he was sure of it...

"Tony, Tony, come on. Eyes open. Come on, I know you're awake. Eyes open."

A streak of light hit Tony's eyes and he cried out, shutting them tight against the finger that were tugging at them.

"Tony, if you can hear me, squeeze my hand."

Steve. Steve was holding his hand. That was nice. Tony squeezed at it, thinking that was important. For some reason.

He heard something. Some noise from Steve. He sounded upset.

"Dun- Shrorryy."

"It's okay, Tony. It's okay. I'm going to make it okay."

Steve was here. That was good. That meant Tony could just-

"Tony, Tony!" Everything was shaking. Ugh, his head. It hurt. And now his stomach was roiling. That- Oh no.

Tony found himself being rolled just in time to vomit up his lunch... where ever. He couldn't even open his eyes as he did. A strong, comforting hand was on his back, rubbing soothing circles. The other was holding him in place, keeping him steady as the world rolled and spun out in the black behind his eyes.

"Tell me what you were doing before," Steve prompted, once the world had stopped spinning all wrong.

"Hm." Now he was tired again. Why wasn't Steve letting him sleep?

Then Steve shouted, and ow, that hurt. "We need them over here, Luke! I don't care!"

"Hey, hey." Steve's voice was nice again. That was good. "Hey, what were you doing before this?"

Tony fought hard to remember. Something... "We were in bed..." he murmured. "We were... I love you."

"Okay, that's- I love you, too, Tony. That's good..." There was something niggling at Tony's brain, something that told him it wasn't good, but... he was tired. His head hurt. He could think about that later.

Then Cap's voice started up, and Tony almost smiled. He hadn't heard the Captain America voice, not in the field like this, in months. It was nice.

"He's concussed. Doesn't remember anything earlier than four hours ago, it seems. But listen, this is important: He's pregnant. Seven months. Don't speak. Listen. He's seven months pregnant. I need you to call Dr. Castillo. I'm sending Dr. Banner with you. He can answer any of your medical questions."

Cap's voice was so nice. Strong and certain. That was good.

"Tony, Tony! Hey!"


"What else we were doing this morning Tony? Tell me?"

Tony wanted to giggle, but his head hurt a lot, so we didn't. "Me. In the shower," he teased. He started to wiggle his eyebrows but then that hurt. He groaned.

Hands were on him. Moving him. He reached out and grabbed for Steve, but Steve was there, Steve was always there. He could feel Steve's wedding band. Tony's fingers stroked it. That was good.

"Listen to me." That was Cap voice. Tony didn't think it was for him, but he tried to listen anyways. Even though he was so very tired.

"If it's a choice. Between Tony and- and the fetus. You save Tony. Do you understand?"

Yeah, sleep was... That was nice. Sleeping would be good.

"I'm his medical proxy. He's not going to be in his right mind until he's already out of the woods. So I'm telling you right now, and you pass this on to the doctors at the hospital: Save. Tony. He's your priority. Do you understand? Save Tony."

Sleep sounded too nice. Tony let himself go.

Oh, damn, Tony knew those lights. And that ceiling. He was in a hospital. That wasn't good.

Tony's body jolted when he realized where he was. A hospital. Oh, oh no. That really wasn't good, that was so much worse than not good did he lose the baby what was-

A heart rate monitor was going crazy in the background, though Tony didn't notice it until the door to his room flew open and Steve came barreling in. Tony's hands were already at his stomach, feeling, prodding, testing. It was still there. It still felt like- but where was the second heart beat on the monitors-

"It's okay," was the first thing Steve said. He was still in his Captain America uniform and looking worse for wear, bits of rubble and scratches dotting his uniform, normally shiny blonde hair a dulled grey from concrete dust. He lifted Tony's hands from his stomach and cradled them between his own. "It's okay. You're okay. Our girl is okay. You had a concussion – you're still concussed, actually – but it's okay."

Tony breathed. Out. Then in.

"You've done this three times already," Steve informed him.

Tony would have rolled his eyes, but he'd done that before with a concussion and learned his lesson quickly. "You think it'll stick this time?"

Steve laughed, bringing Tony's captured hands up to his lips and kissing each knuckle in turn. Tony watched, smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.

Lowering himself into a chair next to the bed, Steve pressed his head to the sheets for a moment before looking up, smiling grimly at Tony. "I have information to pass on, but I tried that the first time you woke up and you just forgot it, so now I'm waiting until you start retaining new information again."

Tony smiled. Cautiously he turned his head right to left, up and down. He moved his eyes around the room, rolling them slowly in their sockets, the works. He focused on various collections of things around the room, trying to focus on individual objects and count them. A dozen balloons, six bundles of flowers. A bear. A stuffed Thor doll.

"If it's any help, I think the worst of the concussion has passed," Tony offered.

Steve smiled up at him. "You said that last time."

Tony groaned. "Could you tell me anyway? Even if you have to tell me again?"

"You said that last time, too."

Tony's grin turned sly. He knew Steve too well. "You told me, didn't you?"

Steve groaned and pressed his head to the sheets again. "This will be the third time," he complained. Rolling his head to the side, Steve peered up at Tony with one eye. "You really think you'll remember, this time?"

"Even if I don't, you'll keep telling me now matter how many times I forget."

Steve's smile was small. "Guess I do have some character defects," he just said in reply.

Warmth spread through Tony. He could live with that.

"Okay," Steve said, straightening back up in his chair. Their hands stayed interlocked on the hospital bed. "You and the baby are fine. No early labor or anything," the unspoken thank God passed between both men. "But Dr. Castillo is on her way down from upstate. There are some minor concerns that... Well, the doctors said some things, but the basics of are that you might be on bed rest from now until the end of the pregnancy."

Tony groaned, squeezing his eyes shut. Two months. Or, one, if Castillo ended up needing to induce when she was predicting it would be too crowded inside Tony for the good health of himself or the baby. Still, a whole month in bed was not something thought himself capable of dealing with. He'd gone nearly stir-crazy with the whole of Avengers Tower at his disposal.

"But there's good news. After a fashion," Steve continued. Tony perked up. "You have a project."

Okay, that was good news. If Tony had a project – research or design, obviously, if it was something Tony could do in bed – that was okay. He'd have to get Thor to haul some of his equipment up to their bedroom from the lab... Er. Maybe not Thor. Maybe Bruce. Directing Carol. Not Thor.

"What's the project?" He grinned abruptly. He felt like himself again, just for a few minutes. He could deal with bed rest, he definitely could, so long as he got something useful to do during it.

From his pocket Steve pulled out his cellphone. He tapped a few things then turned it over to Tony. "The attack today? It was targeted at you."

Tony grimaced, but couldn't say he was surprised. He started scroll through the information Steve had given him, realizing it was one of those pro-Registration sites.

"And our girl."

Tony blinked. His jaw clenched. "What do you mean?"

Steve wasn't looking much happier than Tony at the moment, which was a small consolation. "They. They know about your condition, somehow. And they seem to think that if they start... I don't know what they're thinking, Tony. But they're mad. They couldn't make it seem like you were reckless, like you were causing large amounts of property damage, so now I guess they're changing tack. Going after you and..."

White-hot anger flared through Tony. Idiots. Idiots! It didn't even make sense, what they were doing! Making Tony seem reckless, like he needed to be registered, okay. But attacking Tony, trying to hurt his baby? What possible way could that spur-

"Excuse me." Tony raised his head from Steve's phone to see Phil standing calmly in the doorway. He looked... neutral. Bland. Tony was never good at reading Phil. But just behind him, in the hospital hallway, Tony could see Clint. And Clint was pissed.

"Is he coherent?" Phil asked, stepping into the room.

"'He' is right here," Tony grumbled. He placed a protective hand on his stomach as Phil and Clint approached the side of the bed opposite of Steve. Clint, however, did seem about to make any smart-ass remarks. His jaw was set, eyes narrowed and flashing, like he was just looking for an excuse to put an arrow through somewhere not so nice.

Phil was ignoring him, still talking to Steve. Which, if Tony had as bad of a short-term memory loss as Steve was saying, was probably reasonable. Still pissed Tony off.

"You might want to look at the news."

Steve went for the remote immediately, flipping on the hospital TV and thumbing through the couple of channels it offered. After a minute he found CNN and settled, watching the coverage of the attack. Tony watched attentively, confusion growing with every moment.

"-a domestic squabble gone wrong? It would appear that having so many superheroes in one place isn't good business, contrary to what Mr. Stark has lead us to believe. Witnesses report shouting, explosions, and superhumans fighting amongst themselves at Avengers Tower."

"What-" Tony started to say, but Steve just shook his head and grabbed his hand.

"It's a lie," he said shortly.

The news anchor was still speaking "-with a very pregnant, newly-exposed superhuman Tony Stark as the source of the commotion."

They cut away to a "your opinion" segment, showing people being interviewed on the street, reading twitter statements and letters to the editor. Apparently the event had its own hashtags: #superssquabble #superfight #superdomestic and, new to Tony, #SHRA.

"Someone get me my phone," Tony growled.

Even Tony could tell Phil was bothered by this, the frown tugging at the corners of his mouth pulling his whole face down. But Phil shook his head and said calmly: "We don't want you to release any statements yet. Not until we know more about where this misinformation is coming from."

Tony rolled his eyes and held out his hand more emphatically this time. "No shit, Couls-lock. That's why I want my phone. Steve said I got a project while I'm on bed rest: Well, I'm starting it now. Phone. Give me."

Phil still seemed wary, but he nodded at Steve after a moment. As Steve went over to a bag in the corner of the room – it was Tony's emergency kit, he realized – J. Jonah Jameson came on the TV. "I've been saying it for years!" his voice boomed out of the box. He stabbed his cigar emphatically at the screen as he spoke. "Superhumans are a menace! Look at Spiderman! This vigilante justice should not be tolerated in this great city, or country! If these 'superhumans' – or, 'freak shows', as I prefer to call them – want to run around and play dress up, they have to get registered! We don't give a cop a gun without teaching him how to use it first, do we? Of course not! So why are we letting Tony Stark run around in a million dollar piece of technology, shooting lasers and bullets and glowing blue blasts at people without making sure knows how to use the damn thing? Why are we letting Bruce Banner out into public at all? Why has Spiderman not been brought in and prosecuted for all his crimes agains this great city?!"

Steve muted the TV.

Tony swallowed. "I need to make some phone calls." He ignored the churning in his gut. This was escalating. Rapidly.


Tony cut off Phil with a look. "I'm calling some friends on the Hill. I need to see what's happening on the legislative side of things," he explained.

Steve frowned. "Why would you think-"

Grimly, Tony turned his phone around to show Steve the search he had run while Jameson was enjoying his screentime. "You know that 'SHRA' hashtag that's trending worldwide?"

A flicker of annoyance passed over Steve's face. It was his 'some technology is just stupid and why are we having this conversation with these words?' look. Tony ignored it.

"It stands for 'Superhuman Registration Act'," Tony continued. "They're coming after us, Steve. The palms I've got greased in Washington told me months ago this wasn't going to happen, that the fringe groups didn't have the clout for something like this. Well, fifty million fans worldwide on the SHRA fanpage on Facebook tells me that the clout is increasing. Give it two days, time for all this misinformation about the attack today to spread? The number will double."

Tony looked around the room, at the three grim-faced men who were looking back at him. He looked down at his phone and tried to get his head in order. Superhuman registration wasn't a bad idea. It wasn't. Or rather, it wasn't something that was never going to gain traction. He and some others had been planning for this for years. When the time finally came, Tony was planning on doing his best to minimize the damage the bill did, but support it in the end.

But now. Now those militant idiots had made the biggest mistake they could have. They went after Tony's kid. So now Tony was going to have to work to reverse the tide of history that he thought was inevitable. Because he wasn't letting those loony's intimidate, or coerce, or scare him into letting their bill pass because they were threatened by him. Tony was going to take these bastard down. He was going to bury them, like they tried to bury him and his child.

And he was going to do it all from his bed while seven months pregnant. That's okay. He'd built an arc reactor out of scraps in a cave. This would be a piece of cake.

Tony's neck cracked as he twisted it from side to side, eyes not ever leaving the screens in front of him, nor fingers hesitating a second as they sorted through information. Names, dates, credit card records, high school diplomas, paper trails and eHarmony profiles all flashed in front of his eyes, discarded or bookmarked in an instant.

"Sir, your algorithm has found a-"

"Pull it up," Tony told JARVIS. He pulled his right hand away from the holographic keyboard for a moment, letting it come to rest on his stomach. The little Martian was kicking up a storm today. Probably because Tony was staying still and the room was blasting AC/DC. His girl already had good taste in music, much to Steve's chagrin.

"Son of a bitch," Tony muttered. One of the SHRA guys, the ring leader they'd brought in months ago, was connected to a charity for compensating the victims of superhuman violence. His sister had received compensation from them for the attack that killed her son, Damien. But the real interesting part was the donors to the charity. His algorithm had found dozens of moderate-sized donations – large enough to be helpful, small enough not to attract too much notice, all falling between five hundred dollars and ten thousand – from seemingly unconnected cooperations. But all those cooperations were actually a series of subsidiary corporations of a handful of bigger corporations, who were all shell companies funded by – and Tony wanted to jump up and high-five DUM-E at this – OSCORP.

"Son. Of. A. Bitch," Tony repeated. "What in the super villainous hell is he up to this time?"

Of course, that part didn't really matter. Not yet. What mattered was that now Tony knew who was behind everything, and now all he had to do was go about getting the proof. That part was a hell of a lot easier now that Tony knew what he was looking for.

Giving his stomach one last rub, Tony reached for his holographic keyboard again and went back to work.

Tony had just hung up the phone with one of his most senior senators that he was friends with when a light flashed in the corner of his vision. His eyes flickered to it, taking in the information before waving it off. Steve was home. Tony grinned and turned his music back up. At least he had information to share with him, even if it wasn't all good news – even if it was mostly bad news, actually. The fact that he had information was good, at least.

The door to their bedroom opened a few minutes later, by which time Tony was almost completely reabsorbed in his work. He registered the door opening but didn't look away from the screens in front of him, hands flipping through names and contacts, eyes scrolling over various municipality legalese and search algorithms.

His music switched off and he turned to see Steve making his disapproving-face, hand still held up in the gesture to shut the music. “That noise can't be good for her,” he grumbled.

“She loves it,” Tony shot back.

Pausing only to toe off his shoes, Steve crawled into bed with Tony and curled up at his side. “You couldn't play Mozart or Beethoven? It's supposed to be good for them.”

“Studies say no, actually,” Tony said absently. “But anyway, that's boring. Who wants boring?”

“You could at least play some Dean Martin,” Steve grumbled.

Tony grinned. “And who ever said your musical tastes were dated? That's some futuristic stuff there, forties boy.”

“Or Simon and Garfunkel,” Steve said, ignoring him. “Good music.”

Tony just kept grinning.

Steve's finger poked at one of the documents in front of him, pulling up SHIELD's file on Norman Osborn.

"Osborn?" he asked.

Tony hummed, flipping through information and calling up the relevant bits and bobs for Steve. "He's behind it," Tony explained. "OSCORP's been funding all the SHRA groups. Not sure why-"

"He wants in," Steve said immediately. He pushed himself up from where he had been casually draped next to Tony and started moving through the information himself. "Think about it: registration means we all have to register. All of us. And if we're all registered, tight on a government leash-"

Tony frowned at the negative phrasing, but didn't interject. Registration was going to happen at some point or another – he'd been preparing for this for a while. But considering the methods that had been taken by these extremists... Tony's right hand fluttered down to his stomach. He wasn't feeling so inclined at the moment to be understanding.

"-what's to keep fellows like Osborn, or any other previous delinquents, from offering to register to go good?"

Oh. Oh. Absently Tony reached out and touched Steve's shoulder with one finger, before his full attention was drawn to the screens in front of him. "There was something," he muttered. His mind was racing. Something, something, something he had read earlier was niggling at the back of his mind. Something about supervillains and registration...

"Aha!" Tony pulled up the document, expanding it to fill the air in front of them.

It was a seemingly innocuous bit of legalese, an obscure law on the books in Montana.

"It's a rehabilitation option," Tony explained. He couldn't wait for Steve to skim through the dense language. "Supervillains in Montana. Register your powers, skill set, whatever, undergo training. Released back into society as part of a work-study program, of a sort, using your unique skills for the good of the community. If you robbed banks by controlling elk, they put you to work as a vet. Raped some women with your hypnosis abilities, you get to help a shrink deal with compulsion disorders in patients."

Steve's jaw went tight. "That doesn't sound very safe."

Tony shrugged. Okay, that was dumb. But he wasn't necessarily against rehabilitation programs. He'd seen a few in his day – he'd participated in a few in his day. Sometimes people really did deserve a second chance. Though, when it came to Osborn, Tony wasn't exactly holding out home for a sudden change to the side of righteousness and goodness.

"This is what Osborn's going to do," Tony said, suddenly certain. "Get public opinion turned against us, get the SHRA through congress, and 'rehabilitate' his way out into the world, a free man."

Before Steve could answer - though judging by the muscle jumping in his jaw, Tony could guess at what sort of opinion he had on Osborn's plan – JARVIS cut in from the ceiling. "Sirs, Agent Coulson is requesting you turn your attention to CNN."

Before Tony could even lift his hand to wave the TV on, the door to their bedroom burst open. Steve jumped up, fists raised and feet set, ready to defend Tony at all costs (Tony grimaced at the overprotective gesture. He had enough technology at his fingertips to quell any threat faster than Steve probably could. But there was no stopping Steve's protective instincts, especially since they were in overdrive after the attack). But it was just the Avengers. All of the Avengers. Somewhat self-consciously, Tony tugged the comforter up over his stomach.

"Did you see?"

"They want to-"

"My father has warned-"

"-never believed the head case-"

"-going under ground-"

"-fucked if they even think-"

"-all we've ever done is help-"

"-seen it happen before-"

"-maybe we should take a breath-"

"Fuck them!"

"-find our center-"

"Fuck them up the ass-"


"Fuck this!"

"-have some contacts, take out the leaders-"

Tony stifled a groan and resisted the urge to rub his temples. He had the start of a pounding headache, after days spent staring at computer screens and processing data. He didn't need all this noise in his bedroom right now.

Steve was trying to calm them down, back tense with worry, but he wasn't doing much of a job. Probably because he was in casual clothes, barefooted and, until ten seconds ago, relaxing in bed. Took some of the authority away from him, being in that position.

With a flick of his fingers Tony flipped his music back on. The screeching chords and vocals of classic rock came on, volume at eleven. The room fell silent as one, men and women leveling glares of varying intensity at Tony. Carol was holding back a grin, actually, though Clint looked pained and was tugging at his ear. Oh. Tony winced when he saw Clint pull his hearing aides out and fiddle with them. Tony hadn't meant to do that, but, no fixing it now.

A twist of his hand the other way and the music shut off. Tony raised his eyebrows at everyone. "Okay, so. CNN, was it?"

The TV flickered on against the far wall of the room, and the Avengers all crowded in as one, barely remembering to leave enough of a gap so Tony could see it, too. Steve stayed standing by the bed with Tony, though he shot him a worried look. Tony smiled tightly back. If this was what he thought it was... Well. He had contingencies. They would manage.

"Reports are coming in that the devastation was once again the result of superhumans run amuck. This time it would appear that Tony Stark was testing some sort of pathogen... initial ground reports are saying it was a synthetic hormone. There's speculation from EMTs reporting on site that its deployment might have something to do with Stark's rumored pregnancy. A large-scale test of some sort."

A hand tugged on Tony's. He blinked, glancing up to see Steve looking down worriedly at him. "Tony." Steve's voice was soft. "Tony, let go."

Another blink, and then pain. With a grimace Tony relaxed his hands, realizing too late that he had dug his fingernails into his palms and cut himself. He winced as his eyes focused enough to pick out spots of red on the sheets.

"We are just getting word from Washington, where supporters of the Superhuman Registration Act are holding a protest today, in the hopes that legislators will pass a law forcing superhumans like Tony Stark-"

Clint snorted. "Congrats, Tony. Apparently you're superhuman."

Two-thirds of the room "shh'd" Clint so loudly that he jumped.

"Senator Graham had this to say."

Tony narrowed his eyes. He knew that senator. He wasn't someone who had enough power to sway the majority, but he could sway a minority. A significant minority. And with the way things were going...

Ignoring his still bloody palms, Tony started swiping at the displays at his eye level. Next to him Steve was making mother-hen noises until he hurried off to the bathroom. Tony ignored him. This was more important, right now.

Word was spreading, fast. The news anchors and crowds of people might be shouting the loudest, but Tony had his ear to the ground and ways of hearing the whispers of powerful men before anyone else. Preliminary counts were saying... Tony's face shuttered. Fuck. He had just talked to-

"Give me your hands."

Tony sighed, but offered his hands over to Steve as he trotted back to the bed. The Avengers were slowly starting to shift their focus between Tony and the TV, whispering and wondering. As Steve started to carefully disinfect and bandage Tony's hands, he straightened up and turned to look at the assembled Avengers.

"Okay, listen up."

To his surprise, they did. Tony felt a surge of affection for his team. Five and a half months he'd been sitting around, sidelined, feeling completely and utterly useless and like less a part of the team than ever. But in one instant, with one command, they listened to him. Even though he was sitting in bed with a seventh-month swollen pregnancy stomach while his husband bandaged his hands. They were still looking at him with respect.

"Registration is coming," he said. There were mutterings, flashes of anger. Wanda and Carol's palms glowed, Pietro's whole form shimmered, Luke cracked his knuckles. Bruce and Danny were the only two who retained some semblance of calm, though they were far from placid.

"It's coming," Tony repeated. "It's been coming for a long time. I've been watching it happen, watching public opinion start to turn. Others have noticed it too, and we had started discussing our options months ago. Years ago. None of them have been too great for us. I was working out ways to have it not happen, to work around it, but in the end my contingency plan was to back registration, when it came time to. Back it, and try to minimize the invasiveness of the bill from the inside."

Steve's fingers on his hands stilled for a second, enough of a stutter that Tony looked over at him. His face was grim, jaw locked in a frown.

Tony smirked. "But guess what?" He didn't take his eyes off Steve's. "They came after me. They came after me, and my kid, and Steve. They just lost their biggest supporter. And if I'm against something, you know it's going to fail."

Steve grinned at that. "Don't be too sure about that. But I know I'm against it. So registration is never going to pass."

For a long moment Tony just sat there and smiled at Steve, watching him smile back and feeling the warmth grow in his chest. Secretly he couldn't imagine Steve wouldn't have accepted what Tony had planned originally, but it was good to know they were both on the same side of this, right from the start. Hell of a lot easier this way, especially since Steve could be a stubborn bastard when he wanted to be.

Of course, Tony wouldn't mind if Steve went through one of his Nomad phases again. That outfit... Did they still have it around here, somewhere? They should bring it out one of these nights...


Tony blinked, glancing around. The Avengers were all staring at them, at Tony, waiting to see what he would say.

Carol spoke again. "What's the play?" she asked. Her arms were crossed over her chest, hands tucked in on herself. Tony thought he could see a faint glow from them peaking out from beneath her breasts.

"Lucky I'm a pretty flexible genius, as Steve could tell you," Tony joked. Steve flushed but was smiling, so Tony knew he didn't care. "First off is spin. I gotta get out there..." Tony glanced down at his stomach. Frowning, he placed both his hands on top of it – freshly bandaged, thanks to Steve. "Metaphorically. Start doing the press junket as well as I can from bed," he continued. "We're the victims, here. Gotta try and make that as clear as possible. Carol and Jess, I want you two with me and Steve on this." Both women frowned, glancing at each other.

Tony smiled big and answered the unasked question: "You're both hot women with superpowers who aren't related to a supervillain. Sorry, Wanda."

Wanda shrugged. "I'd rather not be paraded around for a superhuman rights cause, anyway. I've had my fill of that for one lifetime."

Clint snorted. "Okay, so, no denying the girls are gonna do great gaining public support..."

There was a pregnant – for lack of a better expression – pause in the room. It took Tony a second to realize that the tension was originating from Phil.

Shakily Clint laughed and wrapped an arm around Phil's waist before withdrawing just as quickly, shooting him nervous looks. Phil's face remained as calm as ever, though Tony swore he was somehow growing more intimidating by the second. Somehow.

"But why just them? Why not-"

Holding up one hand Tony started to tick off the other members of the team. "Thor's an alien and doesn't really get a say in any of this. Plus, no offense big guy, not so great with the press."

Thor beamed, seeming to take this as a compliment. Whatever.

"Pietro's got the same problem as Wanda with the awkward daddy issues." The whole room nodded in agreement, including the twins. "You never want to bring Bruce out on a campaign trail that's primarily focused on how in control we are." Again, the room nodded in agreement. Tony shrugged apologetically at Bruce, who waved the apology away wordlessly. "Luke's a big black guy, so, you know. Not a face that's going to win over public sympathy and trust, as stupid as that is. Danny's got oriental ties with his powers, which is not the best thing to remind the American public of when we're trying to get them to trust us..."

The room seemed to pause, considering at that.

Tony rolled his eyes. "Americans are afraid Asian countries like China are going to rule the world in fifty years. Danny's powers are oriental, ergo China fears."

Clint blinked and threw a thumb over his shoulder at Danny. "But he's white. And from New York."

Tony shrugged. "I didn't say Americans were smart. I just said this is what they would think."

Clint cut in again. "Okay, fine. So then Natasha is Russian, so no go there, but what about me?"

Everyone in the room stared at Clint, disbelieving. It was Phil who broke the silence.

"Honey, you're not a superhuman," he said dryly. "And you're a SHIELD employee. You're already as registered as it gets."

Clint pouted and fiddled with his hearing aides. Tony still felt a little guilty about earlier. "Fine," he grumbled. "I get it. Wouldn't want to upstage the ambiguously gay duo with my handsome mug, anyway."

"Jess and Carol," Tony repeated. "You're with me and Steve. We're doing spin. Spin, press, and PR. We're going to get Pepper to organize it, so it's going to be amazing."

"It's not going to be enough," Phil mused.

Tony caught his eye. Phil was sharp. Too sharp, sometimes. But it made Tony respect him enormously. Too bad the poor sap went and shackled himself to Barton, otherwise Tony would have no reason to ever question his judgement.

"You're right," he agreed. "It won't be enough. Which is why, after we've done all the press and meetings and spin and talked our mouths clean off, we're going to offer a compromise."

"A compromise?" Tony wanted to wince at the tone in Steve's voice, but instead he just smiled reassuringly.

"A compromise," Tony said again. "I've got a few back-ups to registration. Things I didn't think the public would accept, but would be better than actual registration. The best of best case scenarios. And even though what's going on out in the world right now really calls for the worst case scenarios, they went after me, and Steve, and our kid. So they're getting my best case, because the morons don't deserve any better." Tony's grin was steel as he made eye contact with every member of the Avengers standing in his room, before they finally came to rest on Steve. "They're going to have to do this on our terms, now."

And when Steve smiled at him, soft and confident, Tony knew they were doing the right thing, heading down the right path. They'd figure this out together.

Chapter Text

The TV cast flickering light over Tony's bed, throwing the curves of the sheets gathered around him into sharp relief or softly glowing, alternatively. He watched the light ebb and flow, soundless, silent, through his room.

The bathroom door opened just as Tony's eyes were growing heavy, his breath slower.

"Hey," Steve whispered.

Tony slowly opened his eyes and gazed wearily up at Steve. "Mm?"

"Come on." The bed dipped and moved – though not as much as it used to, with the amount of weight Tony had gained – as Steve climbed into bed. "On your side."

Tony grumbled but let Steve manhandle him onto his side, shoving a pillow under his stomach. Two weeks. Two more weeks, then Castillo was going to induce. Not a minute too soon – or maybe two weeks too late, really, Tony thought to himself. His back was aching, his tits were sore, he had stretch marks everywhere, and it was a rare night that he didn't wake up gasping, Steve holding him in the best position he could and talking him through it. He'd ask Castillo to induce today, if he thought it was safe. But Castillo was already going to be performing the cesarian a month early – every extra day the little Martian could stay inside him counted, at this point.

"You're exhausted." Steve's breath was warm against Tony's neck as he settled in behind him.

"Been worse," Tony replied, unthinkingly. Because no matter how little sleep he got, no matter how hard he worked, there was always a time in his life where he had slept less, worked harder, gone longer than this time.

But Steve was nipping him reproachfully behind one ear, and Tony realized that maybe he needed to amend his response slightly. "Really?"

Tony hummed, pressing his ass back against Steve's groin teasingly. Not that they were going to do anything. It was tough going, at this point, to get Tony erect. He could, with some effort, but maintaining it for any time was hard – pun definitely not intended – and coming to completion was almost impossible. In the past two weeks they'd managed it once. Steve, perfect gentleman that he was, refused to let Tony gratify him if he didn't get off, too. No matter how many times Tony tried.

"I'm just lying in bed all day, doing nothing. You might as well fuck my face and put me to good use."


And that had been the end of that conversation.

"You'll never get me to admit I'm overworked," Tony chided. "Especially not for this."

"You've done amazing," Steve whispered, lips kissing behind Tony's ear with every syllable. "You've done all this press, and PR, and campaigning, all from here. You've systematically exposed each attack as an act of terrorism designed to turn the public against you."

"I proposed the compromise," Tony reminded Steve.

Steve sighed, and Tony almost followed suit. There it was. The sticking point. Not impossible, not anything that had come to shouting matches, or even especially heated arguments. Just... debate. Serious, thoughtful debate, but nothing even close to the worst they'd been with each other.

"The compromise is good," Steve replied. "It's smart. It gives the people something to make them feel safe..."

"And it gives people like us somewhere to go," Tony pointed out. Because that was the important part for him. The schools, the training programs, the courses and support groups. The system in place that anyone – anyone -- could take advantage of: mutant, superhuman, inhuman, gene splice, tech geek, or experiment gone mad. Now they had somewhere they could go and learn to control their powers. Or somewhere to go after something went wrong. People to turn to, a support system to help them through the worst of things. Tony was jokingly calling it SA – Superhumans Anonymous.

"It's important," Tony said. "For them to have somewhere to learn, or someone to turn to. Think about if Spiderman had that when he was younger. Maybe Gwen would still be alive. Maybe Osborn, Connors, or all the other assholes out there would be more permanently taken care of, rather than getting away half the time."

He paused, listening to the quiet of the room. The TV was still flickering around them, illuminating soft edges and hard corners throughout the room. JARVIS would turn it off once Tony was asleep.

"I think I should join AA."

Steve's gasp was soft, but in the silence of the night it seemed loud, so loud. Tony waited, body tense and cramping and miserable. He could feel Steve's thoughts stopping and starting, turning down one alleyway then backing out, looking for another.

Finally, a simple: "Whatever you want, I'll support you."

And Tony smiled into the night, shaking his head a little, because he knew Steve would. Support him, that is. Steve would run around making the entire Avengers Tower a dry building. He'd threaten Carol every day to make sure she wasn't drinking around Tony. He'd pull Clint aside and do more than threaten if the sarcastic archer ever even thought about sabotaging Tony's sobriety, then bring Phil in on it just to really control Clint. Steve would be so supportive Tony would want to choke on it, but he pushed down the nausea and his pride and reminded himself that was a good thing.

"Fuck," Tony grumbled. Now that he was stilling for the night, little Martian was kicking up a fuss.

Steve's big hand was sliding over his stomach in an instant, holding there for a second as he felt her kick. Tony could feel Steve's grin against his neck, and stilled, waiting for what came next.

Tap tap tap tap. Tap. Tap taaap tap tap. Tap taaap tap tap. Taaap Taaap Taaap. ... Tap tap. Taaap tap. ... Taaap tap taaap taaap. Taaap taaap taaap. Tap tap taaap. Tap taaap tap. ... Taaap tap tap. Tap taaap. Taaap tap tap. Taaap tap tap. Tap tap. Tap. Tap tap tap. ... Taaap tap taaap tap. Tap taaap. Taaap tap. Taaap. ... Tap taaap taaap. Tap taaap. Tap tap. Taaap. ... Taaap. Taaap taaap taaap. ... Taaap taaap. Tap. Tap. Taaap. ... Taaap tap taaap taaap. Taaap taaap taaap. Tap tap taaap.

Hello in there. Your daddies can't wait to meet you.

Tony's cock was aching, hard and warm against the bottom of his stomach. He groaned and tried to push up into Steve's hand, but his hands and feet slipped on the wet porcelain of his bath.

"Damn it, Steve," he growled, reaching for Steve's wrist.

Steve just laughed and pushed him away, hand continuing its leisurely pace up and down the length of Tony's cock.

"I'm never going to come at this rate," Tony grumbled. He leaned back in the bath, trying to relax. Which maybe he'd be able to if he could just fucking come, but Steve felt like teasing him today, apparently. Bastard wasn't even in the tub with him. He wasn't even naked. He was just crouching there, next to the bath, one sleeve rolled up on the arm that was working Tony with the patience of, well, Captain America.

It was actually unfairly hot. It was all such a weird mix of proper and dirty, put-together and debaucherous, that it had Tony aching and groaning, trying to get an iota more friction.

"Come on," Tony whined. "Give me something to work with..."

"Finger yourself."

If anyone ever asked Tony who was in charge of their relationship, he'd say they were equal partners. If a friend, in private, who wouldn't tell Steve, asked Tony the same question, he'd say himself. Which was why it was so embarrassing that Tony's hand jerked for between his legs so fast he splashed water all over the both of them. Obviously Tony chalked it up to being so turned on he wanted to die, and the fact that he hadn't managed to come in three weeks. If Steve didn't get him off today, Tony was marching down to Castillo's tomorrow morning and demand she cut him open right then and there, five more days be damned.

Tony's whole body shuddered as he spread his legs further, allowing for enough room for Steve to keep jerking him off while Tony fingered himself. He teased his flexing pucker for all of two seconds before he was shoving two fingers inside. His groan echoed off the bathroom walls. Fuck, that felt good. Oh, fuck... Tony arched up in the bath, dropping down quickly as he tried to get the right angle to fuck himself on his fingers. He needed this so bad. He needed his asshole full, he needed Steve pulling him open and stuffing him full, he needed Steve's own tight hole around him, sucking him in, squeezing those ass muscles of titanium around his cock. Fuck, Tony needed everything, all at once, and it was so fucking frustrating-

He hadn't realized he had closed his eyes until soft lips and wet tongue and nipping teeth covered his mouth, swallowing his whines. Tony groaned into the kiss, one sopping hand coming up to palm Steve's cheek as the other kept working inside of him, three fingers – fuck it, four fingers now, he needed it.

Tony threw his head back, breaking the kiss as he panted for air. His stomach was so large that he couldn't even see his erection in Steve's hand, but he knew it had to be deep purple, leaking, begging for release. Tony let his mouth fall wide open and looked up at Steve pleadingly.

Steve was starting to look just as wrecked as Tony felt. His hair was damp and scattered every which way, a clump sticking to his temple here, his forehead there, pressed back here. His eyes were wide, mouth hanging open with pink lips glistening with moisture framing it.

"You're beautiful," Steve gasped, like he was caught off-guard by the idea.

Tony groaned and moved his mouth, begging. Steve caught on, finally, and shoved two fingers into Tony's mouth.

Tony moaned and sucked around them, saliva feeling like it was overflowing in his mouth. Fuck, fuck. He needed this. He needed Steve's fingers in his mouth and cock up his ass and and on his dick and he needed to be surrounded by Steve. He wanted to be skull-fucked by Steve and reamed by Steve and stuffed full of Steve's come again and again and again, until it dripped out of him, until it poured out of him.

Tony's wrist was cramping up and he knew Steve's had to be too, but he was close. He was closer than he had been in months, and fuck, Tony was humping down onto his fingers and up into Steve's hand so hard that water was sloshing over the edge of the tub. The four fingers inside of him almost hurt but they felt so fucking good. Groaning, Tony dropped his free hand from Steve's shoulder and rubbed his swollen stomach. Fuck, fuck. He wanted to come. Tony's hand slid around, fingers playing with his distended belly button, tugging at the increased pubic hair, tweaking at a tender nipple until he moaned.

An answering moan met his as he did that, and then Steve was ducking his head down, pulling one sore nipple into his mouth. Tony writhed, whole body jerking, as Steve's tongue first lapped gently at the sensitive bud. His fingers were still in Tony's mouth, fucking steadily in and out, and Tony bit lightly on them. When Steve's tongue just kept lapping, lapping, mouth sucking gently, Tony bit down harder.

Steve's fist picking on pace on his dick was the only warning Tony had before Steve bit down, not even that hard, on Tony's nipple. Tony's brain went off, his body lighting up so fast with sensation that he hadn't even realized he had started cumming for a few seconds, until then that hit him as a wave, coursing through him and out, out, fuck fuck fuck OW!

"Steve," Tony groaned, body shuddering. Shit, shit, ow, what the fuck.

Steve was moaning, face buried between Tony's not-quite breasts. Tony's vision was clear enough for a second for him to see that Steve's right hand had migrated down to his own erection and was stroking furiously. He couldn't be more than a minute from getting off.

But ow ow fuck shit ow that pain was happening again, what the fuck was...

"Shit, Steve, Steve Steve stop!"

Steve, fucking impossibly perfect Steve, actually did manage to stop. His head jerked up, big blue eyes working hard to focus on Tony. His hand took a few extra seconds after that before it stilled between his legs. "What?"

"Ow, fuck!" Tony gasped, body trying to curl forward but finding itself unable to with his stomach as huge as it was. "Fuck!" Tony cried, clutching his stomach, then his back, then, fuck, everything was hurting, what the hell.

"Oh, shit."

And even though Steve did swear, and the occasion certainly called for it, Tony still managed a few bursts of laughter at sight of poor Steve, shocked into swearing at the side of his bath.

And then everything hurt again and Tony had to stop laughing. Steve was shoving himself into sodden khakis and scrambling for a cell phone, shouting at JARVIS and then rushing back at Tony's side to grip his shoulder in what Tony thought was supposed to be a reassuring manner but really just hurt like a son of a bitch.

Tony laid back and breathed. He just had to wait-

Bruce burst through the bathroom door in a moment, and wow, Tony really didn't think the elevators in the Avengers Tower moved that fast. Or maybe he had zoned out because ow fucking excruciating pain.

"You're going to be alright, Tony." Bruce was in calm doctor mode. That was probably for the best. Not-calm Bruce was not something Tony needed around him right now.

"Castillo is going to meet us at the hospital," Steve put in. He was standing in the bathroom door and looking the most panicked Tony had ever seen him. And Tony had seen him during a lot of situations that probably warranted more panic than this one. His hair was sticking in all different directions – up, down, and sideways – his pants were wet all over, his shirt was mis-buttoned, and through all this he had a duffle bag and a little stuffed Bucky Bear toy clutched in one hand.

Tony's heart would have melted if it didn't feel like all of his insides were going to be doing that simultaneously.

"I'm giving you something to suspend labor," Bruce explained even as he swabbed a section of Tony's arm and injected him. "And something to kind of... Get you heading for your happy place."

Oh, yeah. Tony was finally able to relax as the second injection hit his system. Those were good drugs. Definitely in his happy place. Happy and no pain. Happy happy.

He smiled up at Steve, who was still looking way too scared. "'s'alright." Tony beamed up at Steve, who just got frownier.

He told Steve as much. But that made Steve even frownier.

"-safe for the baby?"

"-Castillo ran me through-"

"-get him-"

Tony giggled. They were moving him. That was fun. Oh, now they were in a car. Huh. That was- Oh, it's a hospital now. How did the car do that?

"Hey Steve?"

There Steve was. He was in green. Tony wrinkled his nose up at Steve. "Hey. Hey Steve."

"Tony." And Steve's voice was weird. No way Tony could figure it out. Happy, and sad? Scared and excited? Too many feelings. Tony smiled up at the ceiling, then remembered Steve was next to him.

"Hey Steve."

"Everything's going well."

That was kind of funny, that Steve told him that. Tony hadn't asked. But it was probably good, that things were going well. Well-goings were-

Something was crying. Tony blinked, trying to figure that out. He looked at Steve, who although his eyes were shimmering and mouth was wide open, wasn't crying. What was... Was he crying? No, he felt really good, he couldn't be-

"Tony," Steve whispered.



Tony blinked.


There was a baby.

There was a little baby thing in Steve's arms. And it was pink and wrinkly, and small so small, as small as a doll, but she was squirming and kicking up a fuss and wailing her little lungs out.


Steve was laughing, he was sobbing, he was shaking so hard that Tony held out his hands because if Steve was shaking he probably shouldn't be holding the little delicate baby.

"Say hi to your dad," Steve was whispering at the gunky little ball of wrinkles, and... and...

She had hair. Little tufts of dark brown hair. Tony reached a clumsy hand out for her. Steve brought her closer, tucked her into one arm as he guided Tony's hand. "Gently," he whispered. And that was dumb, Tony knew to be gentle, it was a... It was his.

Oh, that just. That struck him. He hadn't.... He had known, but.

There she was. And she was his.

"Hey little Martian," Tony whispered. His eyes suddenly felt heavier. He grumbled, shaking his head, trying to clear the feeling. "Welcome to Earth."

Steve's lips were pressing against his temple, then his forehead was nuzzling against Tony's. "Go to sleep," he whispered. "We'll be here waiting for you."

Tony smiled, tilting his head in their direction even though his eyes already felt glued shut.

"I love you, Tony."

Tony thought he replied, but he wasn't sure if his mouth actually moved. And then his brain blinked right off, and he couldn't think about it anymore.

Chapter Text

"You are not seriously going to let her wear that to school," Tony grumbled, eying little Kate from across the kitchen. She was chewing happily on her cheerios and writing a story on her StarkPad, completely ignoring the quiet argument her dads were having.

"It's adorable," Steve contested.

"It's Clint," Tony hissed back.

Steve just smiled over his glass of orange juice. "I can't help it if she loves her cool Uncle Hawkeye better than Iron Man, and wants to wear Hawkeye bows in her hair..." he replied. Then he pressed a kiss to Tony's temple, because Steve couldn't even jokingly be cruel with undermining himself, before heading over to where Kate was sitting.

"Watchya got there, munchkin?"

And then the kitchen was filled with Kate's quick chatter, faster, Tony was certain, than even he talked. Most of the time. On average. Tony only caught bits and pieces of the story – enough to know Kate was shooting arrows at bad guys with Uncle Clint. Carol might have been involved, too. Kate might have been standing on her back as Carol flew around. Tony wasn't sure. The point was Kate was shooting arrows in her story instead of throwing a shield or shooting repulser blasts, and that was just awful. The worst.

Just as Kate was winding down – or just as Steve was managing to get her to think about winding down, because from the moment she woke up to the moment her head hit her pillow Kate was going – Clint walked into the kitchen, big grin on his face and hands behind his back.

Tony could see what the asshole had behind his back, because he was facing away from Tony and toward Kate. He took a step forward and opened his mouth to protest.

"Let him." Tony did not jump a foot in the air when Phil appeared at his ear. He didn't. More like six inches.

Tony turned and scowled at Phil, mouth already open to protest the gift. But before Tony could even get a word out Clint had tugged the miniature bow and arrow and quiver kit from behind his back and presented it to Kate, who screeched with delight. She was off like a shot, Uncle Clint jogging behind her as they ran down to the learning lab-cum-training room. Because as hard as Tony tried to teach her good stuff, educational stuff, Kate was being raised by the Avengers, and they all decided they wanted a hand in teaching her something.

Which was why Tony's little five year old was the best hide-and-seeker in the known universe, thanks to Natasha (and he suspected Phil's) tutelage. She could shoot a bow and arrow and hit a target thanks to Clint – who was her favorite, and Tony thought that with the biggest mental sneer he could imagine. Auntie Carol had already taken her flying, without Tony or Steve's permission, and Thor had spent hours carrying her around the house, letting her land "mighty blows" on him as he told great war stories from his youth.

Bruce, thank goodness, was on Tony's side with all this. He and Kate had built a little volcano science experiment last week. The chemicals were a bit more volatile that baking soda and vinegar, but Tony knew Bruce knew what he was doing. Though... Maybe Tony had made it a point to check for anything remotely related to gamma rays when Bruce and Kate were playing scientists. Just in case!

"She's going to be late," Tony pointed out.

Steve raised an eyebrow at him. "So now we're Mr. Punctuality?"

"Mr. Punctuality," Tony grumbled. Terrible. "It's her first day of school, even I want her on time for that."

"You just don't want her spending more time with Clint," Steve pointed out.

"Just because my motivations are less than pure doesn't mean I'm not right," Tony fired back.

Steve sighed and put down his orange juice. "Fine," he grumbled. "I'll get them back."

Tony took a victorious sip from his coffee as Steve left the kitchen, glancing over at Phil as he rounded a corner and disappeared from sight.

"He put a lot of effort into getting her that," Phil offered. "Kept me up worrying over it for two months straight."

Tony blinked, then realized Phil was asking Tony not to hurt Clint. Great. Once the robot was warning you to be sensitive to someone's emotions, you knew you were in danger of being a massive prick.

Tony mimed zipping his mouth shut just as Steve, Kate, and Clint came bursting back into the kitchen. "Daddy," Kate gasped. Her hands clutched at Tony's jeans, grabbing and grabbing as she asked for attention. "Daddy, did you see?"

This, right now, was about to be the best thing. Tony was about to do a wonderful, wonderful good thing, and he hoped every smug adult in the room recognized this fact.

Squatting down, Tony took the bow and quiver full of arrows from Kate and started examining it. He played up the ponderings and musings and examinations from every angle. When Kate was giggling so hard her belly was shaking – because she was old enough to know when Daddy was doing pretend science and when he was doing real science – Tony finally handed it back to her. "Well, I think you, Ms. Kate Bishop Rogers-Stark, just might have the best archery set of anyone in your class. No, no: anyone in your school."

Kate gasped, eyes wide. Clint snorted and seemed to be about to saying something – probably about how no one except him had a better set in the world – but a look was exchanged between him and Phil, and Clint didn't say anything.

Luckily, Steve was there to usher Kate back to her cheerios and continue her progress out the door.

All of the Avengers saw Kate out to the car that morning. All of them. Clint promised to look after her bow for her – because Daddy and Papa had told her there was no way she was bringing it to school. Thor scooped her up and threw her over his head, which still gave Tony a heart attack every time he did it. Jessica made a sticky cat's-cradle message out of her web that said "Good Luck" and let Kate poke at it. Aunt Carol swooped her up four stories and swooped back down, then adjusted her Hawkeye bows in her hair when they landed. Natasha crouched down and said something in Russian, which had Kate giggling and jabbering right back at her. Luke and Danny both held out fists for her to bump, which she did as hard as she possibly could, laughing and mock-scowling at the two of them when their fists remained perfectly still. Phil presented her with some Hawkeye school supplies – "No, Phil! Why not Cap stuff? Cap! Why couldn't you get her-" "Tony, I'm not sure who you think I'm enjoying in my bed every night, but it's not your husband." "Not in person, but maybe in your head-" "I fudging swear, Tinman, I will-" And then Steve happened of course and the arguing stopped – which Kate clutched close to her heart. Bruce presented her with the most expensive calculator on the market, which she was sure to use for nothing close to its intended purpose.

Finally, finally Tony was shoving everyone away and nudging Kate into the car that Happy was idling in their garage. Steve climbed in after him and soon they were off, after a quick rearrangement so that Kate was sitting on the bench opposite them, because "Going backwards is scarier, so it's better."

She was going to be a superhero by age seven and Tony was going to die of a heart attack by the time she was age eight. He knew it.

Halfway there Tony nearly had his first heart attack when he realized he hadn't packed a lunch for her. He was halfway across the car, knuckled raised to tap at Happy's window when Steve's hand found his shoulder.

"Tony," he chided. Then he was passing off a Captain America-and-Iron Man lunchbox to Kate.

Tony beamed at it the rest of the ride. Take that, Hawkguy. Jerk. Guy. Hawkjerk. Oh, that sounded oddly sexual and entirely gross.

There were tears, lots and lots of tears. But absolutely none of them were from Kate and all of them were confined to the backseat of the car on the drive home. Kate had bolted from the car with barely a "Bye Dads!", mountain of supplies clutched in her arms. Tony had watched as she swung straight into her classroom, no problem at all.


And of course that's when the tears happened, which Tony was happy to ignore but Steve wanted to talk about. Tony just ignored him even harder and stared out the window, ignoring the sniffles coming from Steve and extra-ignoring the sniffles that were most definitely not coming from him.

"Are you going to your meeting tonight?" Steve asked once they had been home for a little while and washed their faces.

Tony shook his head, munching on a celery stick as he flipped through the news stations. "I can't. Not wit it being her first day."


No protests today. That was a good sign. Tony grinned and snapped the TV off, turning his full attention to an almost-stern looking Steve. He sighed and sidled closer, tugging Steve in by his belt loops.

"I've missed meetings before, because of business or Business or whatever. I'm fine."

Steve inhaled and Tony knew he was going to say something almost-cruel but for his own good. Tony sighed and braced himself.

"You don't... It's a lot of stress, today. You sure you couldn't benefit from going?"

Fingers rubbing gentle little circles into Steve's hips, Tony smiled with just a dash more lightness than he felt. "I can always benefit from going. But I'm fine, I don't need a drink. In fact, I've got work to do."

Steve raised his eyebrows at that, eyes following Tony as he pushed away. "Oh? New project?"

Tony shrugged one shoulder as he started calling up files to show Steve. "Something like that," he confirmed. "Weird stuff going on down in Texas. Something about a scab cocoon and man-made viruses. Rumblings about a "tech virus", which no, is not a computer virus."

Steve frowned. "So what is it?"

As the data spread out before him, Tony let his eyes flicker over it, consuming one piece and then gesturing just slightly for the next.

"I don't know," Tony muttered, already getting lost in his work. Then he turned, smiling brightly at Steve. "But it'll keep me busy until the Martian gets home."

"You keep calling her that and she's going to get a complex," Steve teased.

Tony snorted and rolled his eyes. "Like 'munchkin' is better. She's going to have a Napoleon complex before she hits puberty. Besides, at least mine is accurate."


"The eggs that made her are from a female-me in a different universe. If that doesn't make her an alien, I don't know what does."

Steve snorted and stepped over to Tony, wrapping his arms around him. Tony sighed and let himself lean back, eyes still scanning the information in front of him. "I let you work," Steve murmured, pressing a kiss to Tony's temple.

"Mmm." Steve's footsteps started to recede, but at the last second they stopped in the doorway. After a moment Tony realized Steve was waiting, so he turned around, eyebrows raised. "Yeah?"

Steve was beaming at him from the doorway, blue eyes shining. "I love you."

Tony rolled his eyes but couldn't keep the smile from taking over the rest of his face as he looked back at Steve. "Yeah, yeah. Love you, too."