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raising Peter: OR, the story of how Steve and Tony became Papa and Dad

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November, 2015.

 

Steve had woken gasping for air, tripped out of bed, and smacked his knee off the nightstand before he could finally escape, and though Tony had roused, calling after him, all it took were two placating words, I’m fine, and he was snoring again.  Steve considers this a success, really.  Tony’s been on the off again side of his relationship with sleep for a few weeks, and tonight is one of the first times he’s managed to find it.

 

And so, that’s why he finds himself yanking on his running shoes at four in the morning.  Truthfully, he would have woken up two hours later regardless and done the same thing, but he feels a little nauseous with exhaustion this morning when he greets the dawn running away from his mind.

 

Running helps.  It’s like a physical shake, honing in on just this, one two three four, one two three four, one two three four, this constant cadence in his head that his feet are always trying to fall into.  It’s distracting right up until the rest of Manhattan starts to wake up.  He makes a mental note to add this to the list of reasons why he wants to live somewhere more secluded, somewhere with more trees than there are people during his morning run.

 

As he’s turning back, Steve touches one hand to his ear and says, “Jarvis?”

 

“How can I be of assistance, sir?” Tony’s AI asks.

 

“Please check for any messages.”

 

Steve waits, the cement clicking underfoot, until Jarvis says, “Several work-related emails, sir, that I’ve compiled into different folders for your perusal after breakfast.  I am also showing one email from Miss Potts regarding the house hunt, and a voicemail from Miss Carter.”

 

“Voicemail first, please, Jarvis,” Steve says, nodding in the direction of another runner passing him by.

 

“Steve,” Peggy’s voice cracks around his name, “Sharon’s pregnant.  I don’t—I don’t know what to do.”  It ends there, but Jarvis is already redialing.  Peggy is talking as soon as she picks up, “I’m sorry, I know it’s early.”

 

“Peg,” Steve says, trying to let his voice sound soothing even though there’s blood rushing in his ears, “It’s okay.  I’m out for a run, I’ll head your way.”

 

“She’s going to abort, Steve,” Peggy says, her voice wavering, “Her parents told her she had two options, to have an abortion or to fucking leave.  God, I hate my sister for marrying that man.  She has no problem with leaving, she could come live with me, but it’s not realistic, and I know it isn’t.  Fuck.  I’m leaving in four months, Steve.”

 

“Shit,” Steve says, and turns left instead of continuing straight deeper into Manhattan and back to Tony, “You got an assignment?”

 

“I’m going to be gone for two years, at the very least.  I don’t know what to say to her.  God, she was so upset when she called me.  I have to call my sister, and make her see reason.  She can put it up for adoption.”

 

When Steve finally arrives at Peggy’s apartment, he walks in to find her already on the phone with her sister, arguing.  He sighs, and goes into her kitchen to make tea, eggs, and toast, texting Tony once everything’s started.  Had to stop by Peggy’s, I’ll be home in a bit.  Sorry.

 

He gets no response by the time Peggy’s off the phone and dumping into one of the chairs at the kitchen table, so he assumes he’s either still asleep or already working.  He spends the next hour with Peggy, listening to her rant and comforting her when she eventually starts crying.  6:30AM creeps around, though, and she hastens to get ready for work while Steve tries to psyche himself back up for running home.

 

“Call me for anything,” Steve reminds her, dropping a kiss on her cheek before they head out.

 

There’s a sleek black car sitting outside, and as soon as Steve steps foot onto the sidewalk, Happy gets out, coming around.  “Good morning, Captain Rogers,” he says amicably, “Mister Stark thought you might prefer a ride home.”

 

“He always knows,” Steve says, smiling as he turns Happy’s way.

 

When he had first started dating Tony, he was shocked to learn that he drove anywhere.  Howard had never sat behind a wheel, though he could wax poetic about his love of cars after a few fingers of whiskey.  He had met Howard first, when he was barely 19 and brand new to the army, trying to look impressive as the famous creator of every single one of their weapons had stepped out of a Humvee for a weapons demonstration.  He was cold and calculated, and Steve had been in awe of him for nearly four months until the next demonstration came, and his son was there.  He’d watched Howard treat him like he was no better than the dirt crunching underfoot, and, just as quickly as he’d been inspired by this forward thinking man, the image was shattered.  He was nothing more than a father who hit his son behind a Humvee when he thought no one was looking.

 

Howard had stalked off, furious, and Steve had opened the back door of the Humvee, startling Tony, who ducked his eyes to hide the bright red mark across his face.  Steve had knelt to pick up his fallen sunglasses and handed them over with a quiet, “You don’t deserve that.”

 

One year later, Steve was holding his hand while he buried his parents, and despite many attempts on Tony’s part to self-sabotage, Steve had weathered it all, and here they stood, fourteen years later and unbelievably—Tony had once told him that he would only marry him after a decade of not fucking this all up—three years married.

 

And yet, they’re still right here, at this argument, “Dogs shed.”

 

“Not only do you have a maid,” Steve points out, flipping his omelet, “I enjoy cleaning.”

 

“Which is also a sin,” Tony says, and then wrestles his way in front of Steve to drop a yawn into his chest.  “Why do you want a dog so bad?” Tony mumbles.

 

It comes out before Steve can stop himself, “It’s not like we’re going to have children anytime soon.”

 

“What makes you say that?” Tony says, not moving, and Steve knows it’s to hide a grin, so he tugs on one of his ears.  “Ow,” Tony whines, starting to back away.

 

Steve turns, steering him away from the danger of burning himself on the stove.  “Go make coffee before you die,” Steve says, and pushes him toward the other end of the kitchen.

 

“Yes,” is all he manages to say, but, even still, Steve smiles fondly at him.

 

“Jarvis,” he says, still tending Tony’s omelet, “Please pull up the email from Pepper.”

 

“No,” Tony moans by the coffee machine, “You’re going to love it.”

 

He does.  Jarvis shows him several pictures of the property Pepper’s found, as well as its surrounding location, and then he pulls up the blueprints.  “Tony,” Steve sighs, transferring the omelet from skillet to plate, “It’s perfect.”

 

“Told you,” Tony mutters into his coffee.

 

“Please,” Steve says, kissing his jaw, “Just look at it with me?”

 

“What is wrong with where we currently live?” Tony says, following the food as Steve goes over to the island.  Steve’s got two forks, and he starts to tell him he’s not allowed to share when he sees the sheer size of the omelet he’s made.

 

“This place is massive,” Steve says, “There are twelve bedrooms.  I don’t even know where some of the bathrooms are half the time.  I got lost the other day.  Your father lived here.”

 

“You did not,” Tony accuses, and Steve’s bitten back grin confirms that, “It’s not that big.”

 

“You’re obnoxious.”

 

“Okay, well.  Truth, but still.”

 

Steve spears a pepper, points it at Tony, and says, “You said you would compromise.”

 

“Oh my god,” Tony groans, reaching for his mug, “You’re trying to move me to the country.”

 

“Obnoxious is not enough,” Steve says, still grinning, “It’s still in New York.”

 

“It’s in Copiague,” Tony says like it’s a chore, “It would take me, at minimum, an hour to get into Manhattan.”

 

“You’re a Stark, I’m sure you can arrange something,” Steve says, and he says it so easily that Tony outright guffaws at him.

 

Steve takes it in stride, stealing another bite of eggs and vegetables.  He shrugs when Tony settles, and says, “I know, it’s too far.  I’ll ask Pepper to keep looking.  Anything on deck today?”

 

Tony can see it clearly in his face, how badly he wants to get out of the city, and even though he knows Steve would stay here with him always, they’ve spent nearly half their lives fighting the traffic, the noise, and the insanity of it all, which is to blame for why he says, “How big is the dog?”  Steve looks up at him unsurely, but Tony just keeps on eating, waiting him out right up until he opens his mouth, and then he says, “Not a puntable.  Is there at least a guest bedroom?”

 

Steve is startled into a laugh, and he looks at Tony with such fondness and something that might be joy that Tony almost makes a face at him.  “What the hell is a puntable?” he asks.

 

“You know,” Tony says, and mimes punting a football, “A Chihuahua or something.”

 

“God, no,” Steve says, “A German shepherd or lab, maybe.”

 

“A husky?” Tony says, lifting an eyebrow.

 

“If you’re into huskies, I definitely am,” Steve says, “I can work with that.”  Tony just stares at him, eyes narrowing, so Steve continues, “Four bedrooms.  And a pool.  Also, an indoor and outdoor living room.  Separate ones.  Perfect for hosting.”

 

“Stop using words you know I like,” Tony says, waving a piece of egg at him, “It’s lacking a basement, isn’t it?”  When Steve just smiles sheepishly, Tony lets out possibly the most obnoxious noise and says, “Oh, fine.  When is the showing?”

 

“Miss Potts can arrange one for this afternoon, if you’d like,” Jarvis says, “And there appears to be a shelter not far from its location.”

 

“You’re the devil in disguise,” is the last thing Tony says before he disappears with his coffee, and Steve just grins and finishes their omelet.

 

——

 

“Jay, you up?” Tony asks as he enters his workshop, making a beeline for his desk.

 

“For you, sir, always,” Jarvis says evenly, “How may I be of assistance?”

 

“It’s only a matter of time before Steve sends down the listing.  Can you do a background check on the neighborhood?  Maybe ring the local shelter and see what kind of dogs they have right now?  I had a third question.”

 

Tony dumps into his chair, letting it turn slowly as he tries to remember.  “Alternate routes to the Tower from Copiague?” Jarvis supplies.

 

“Atta boy,” Tony says, grabbing his desk to pull him to a stop.  He draws his legs up underneath him and spreads a hand across his desk as he lifts his mug with the other.  A holographic keyboard comes to life as several screens displaying his latest project flicker to life in front of him.

 

It’s strange to think that he’ll be back to work on Monday.  Steve got back from a tour this month, after nearly a year gone, and Tony had taken off a few weeks to spend with him, but now it’s back to falling asleep during board meetings and running a company he watched swallow his father whole.

 

“Jarvis, any chance Pepper left me an agenda for Monday?” he asks, frowning at his screens.  He doesn’t want this to end, this unlimited time with Steve.  He’s been able to wake up to him every day, kiss him good morning, and start his day off as leisurely as he wants to.  He’s made Steve in breakfast so many times, he’s not even sure he knows how to eat in the kitchen anymore.

 

“Sir?” Jarvis’s voice brings him back, “You asked for an agenda?”

 

Tony turns to the new screen Jarvis has pulled up, attempts to review it, and ultimately gives up, saving his work before he strips out of his shirt and goes to yank at the underbelly of one of his cars.

 

Like clockwork, Steve shows up around noon with food, coaxing Tony out from under the car by dropping down beside him and circling his ankle with one hand.  “Okay, definitely a success this time,” he says, thumb swiping over the bone jutting out there.

 

“Did you try sushi again?” Tony asks, other foot pushing against the ground to give him momentum to roll out from underneath the car.

 

When Steve hands him a pair of chopsticks, Tony gladly sits up, leaning their shoulders together as they try Steve’s latest foray into the world of making his own sushi.  He’s got a mug of tea next to him, and Tony frowns when he sees it.  “You left early this morning,” he says, gaze lingering on the tea before he lifts it flicker over Steve’s face, looking for anything there that he missed earlier.

 

He shrugs the shoulder resting against Tony’s.  “You haven’t been sleeping,” Steve says, and then turns his head, dropping a kiss on Tony’s bare shoulder, “It’s okay.”

 

“Steve,” Tony says, “You’re supposed to wake me up for that.”

 

“It’s okay, really.”  Steve kisses his shoulder again and then reaches for another piece of sushi.  “I saw Peggy this morning anyway, so it turned out alright.  Well.”

 

“Yeah, Happy was there forever.  Something happen?”

 

It’s a long moment before Steve responds, and Tony watches him, knows what the slight downturn of his mouth means.  Something has happened, but something he’s nervous talking to Tony about, and then he puts a period on that train of thought by sipping his tea.  Tony waits him out, though it’s absolutely killing him to do so.

 

“Sharon’s pregnant,” he says finally.

 

Tony gapes.  “What is she—fifteen?”

 

“About to turn sixteen,” Steve says, “It was her first time.  Her parents are in a right fit, and she’s a mess.  And—Peggy just got an assignment.”

 

“Jesus,” Tony says, and shakes his head, “Of course.  She wanted to take her in, help her keep the baby, didn’t she?”

 

“She’s going to try to convince her sister to let Sharon have it and give it up for adoption.”

 

“Well, what’s the other alternative?” Tony asks, and then makes a noise of disbelief when Steve just looks at him.  “Seriously?” Tony says, “They’re going to make her abort it?”

 

Steve nods slowly, looking down at his tea.

 

God, Tony hates seeing him like this, unsure of what to do and what to say, unsure of how to help.  He grew up with Peggy, enlisted with her, and was there for every single one of Sharon’s birthdays until her mother uprooted them for Wisconsin and a hateful piece of shit that once tried to goad Steve into a fight by saying every possibly offensive and derogatory thing about his relationship with Tony that he could think of.  He can still remember Steve’s face that night as he’d curled close and sobbed about just everything.

 

“Hey,” Tony says, setting down his chopsticks and reaching for his hand, tangling their fingers together, “What if—well, when is Peggy leaving?”

 

“Four months,” Steve says miserably.

 

“So Sharon stays with her for four months, and then—” Tony shrugs, and Steve looks over at him, brow furrowed.  “Well, I mean, we have an extra room,” he says.

 

“Tony,” Steve says, looking at him like he’s hung the sun in the sky, “No, it’s okay.  You don’t have to.”

 

“Don’t have to what?” Tony says, “It’s not like we’d be harboring a fugitive.”

 

“She’s pregnant, Tony.  You don’t want kids, let alone everything that comes with being pregnant.  I don’t want to put you through that.”

 

“I never said—well, I don’t know,” Tony mumbles, releasing his hand and grabbing the last roll of sushi.

 

“Sleep on it,” Steve says, leaning over to kiss his temple, “We’ll talk more tomorrow night.  Who knows, maybe Peggy will have convinced her sister to let her keep the baby and stay there.”

 

Tony doesn’t respond verbally, just drops his head onto Steve’s shoulder and wonders if he’d turn into his own father given the opportunity.

 

——

 

“This,” Tony says, gesturing wildly.

 

Steve watches him, trying to decipher what exactly it is that’s bothering him since they’re driving well over the speed limit.  He tried to convince Steve to let him drive with the top down, but then Steve had tossed a scarf around his neck and drawn him in for a kiss, so he’d settled for something more reasonable.  Now, they’re about twenty minutes out from the house, and the traffic has been kind.

 

“I’m going to need a few more words before I can formulate a response,” Steve says, and Tony barks a laugh at him.

 

“I love when you get snarky.  I’ve been a good influence on you.”

 

Well.”

 

“Hey, you’re the one that made this ass your permanent place of residence.  If this was what the roads were like on a Monday, I’d be fine with country living.”

 

“Oh my god,” Steve says, shaking his head, “Tony, we can stay in the city, it’s okay.”

 

“It’s not,” Tony says, “Or shall I reference vacation number—”

 

“Oh my god, you’re such a diva,” Steve says.

 

“Just trying to make a point,” Tony says, “Which happens to be a point in your favor, doofus.  You and I are both better off away from the city, I’m just going to bitch for a while about the drive.  Listen, if this makes you happy, then I’m happy.  Oh, the suburbs.”

 

“Pepper said it was out of the way,” Steve says, peering at Jarvis’s directions, “We should be seeing the coastline pretty soon.”

 

“Wait,” Tony says, glancing at him, “Wait.  It’s on the coast?”

 

“Did you not look at the listing at all?”

 

“Did you send it to me?” Tony counters with.

 

“Yes.  After breakfast.”

 

Tony waves a hand dismissively at him, and Steve rolls his eyes.  “I was downstairs.  Oh my god, there’s no downstairs.  How am I going to live, Steven?”


If you’d looked at the listing, you would have noticed the garage,” Steve says, “It’s enormous.”

 

“Enormous enough?”

 

“I’m selling you on EBay,” Steve says, and then points to a turn Tony’s about to pass.

 

Somehow, they make it in one piece, though Tony’s still laughing about the EBay comment when they finally turn down a long road with only a small scattering of houses.  The ocean sits to their right, as does a newly paved drive up to the house they’re interested in.

 

“Okay,” Tony says as he gets out, gaze wandering over the front.

 

There are two garage entrances, one of them larger than the other, and the house sits at an angle, the front entrance built beneath a covered porch on the other side.  Pepper’s arranged a private showing, so the door is open.  Just inside is a vaulted ceiling that opens on the right into an open concept kitchen, dining room, and great room, on the left into a guest area and indoor entrance to the garage, and straight through into an outdoor living and dining space.  Steve goes right while Tony goes straight, stepping outside into the brisk November air.

 

They both cook, and with typically unlimited resources, they’re always trying out extravagant recipes, so Steve is impressed by the large, spacious kitchen.  He can already imagine turning the rest of the space into solely a dining area as they’re usually the ones to host.  He passes by the stairs leading up to the second level in pursuit of the master suite, which does not disappoint.  To the right of the master hall is a laundry area, straight through leads to a study, and to the left is the master bedroom, which has a positively absurd walk-through closet, a covered pavilion off the left, and a master bath to rival even some of the ones back at the mansion.

 

He hears footsteps on the stairs, and wanders off to follow Tony, who’s busy appreciating the view while Steve checks out the other two bedrooms, loft, and living area upstairs.  When he finally joins him halfway down the stairs, he can’t stop smiling, and Tony says, “Yeah, I know.  I’ll get in touch with the realtor.”

 

“Tony, really?”

 

“That smile?” Tony says, and kisses him, “Yeah, I’d like that every day, please and thank you.”

 

He walks away before Steve can respond, and he’s already on the phone by the time Steve joins him back downstairs and heads outside to check out the back.  The outdoor living and dining area is split in half, one set just beyond the doors and another just around the corner of the house, both bracketing a massive pool.  The yard is dead, so late in November, but it’s vast with a small garden space along one side of the house and areas circled off throughout the yard itself.

 

“It’s cold out,” Tony says as he comes up behind Steve, arms circling him and dipping beneath his shirt to press chilly fingers against his warm, hard stomach.  Steve just hums and lays his hands over Tony’s, closing his eyes to the sound of the ocean in the distance.  Tony turns his head until he can lie his cheek between Steve’s shoulders, listening to the thrum of his heart.  “I put an offer down,” he says softly.

 

“Already?”

 

“She accepted.”

 

“What?” Steve exclaims, jerking away from Tony and turning, “Already?”

 

“Well, I overbid,” Tony says, rolling his eyes, “Didn’t want to chance having to humiliate someone in a bidding war.  Plus, Pepper already let her know we’d likely be interested, so she got final offers from the other interested parties.  They were short a few zeroes.”

 

Tony.”

 

Tony panics.  “Shit.  Do you not actually like it?”

 

“I love you,” Steve says, and crushes him in a rib-breaking hug that Tony melts happily into, burrowing against his husband.

 

“Mm, I love you, too,” he whispers into his chest, “Remember that feeling when I tell you Pepper’s got me on a schedule straight out of hell next week, so I’ll be home late every day.”

 

Steve just laughs and holds on tighter.

 

——

 

Monday comes before either of them are prepared for it.  Steve wakes at five—he’ll never be able to shake the up and at ‘em attitude, no matter how much he enjoys staying in bed with Tony—and by the time he’s returned around six, Tony’s in the shower, still half asleep and whining at Steve to get in here and love him.  Steve happily obliges, sidling right up behind him and peppering his wet shoulders with quick kisses.

 

He’d forgotten what this routine was like, mornings with Tony.  They shower together, dress around one another, arguing about colors and if gold really is too absurd for a Monday or what particular shade of blue goes best with Steve’s eyes, they fight over counter space and the best way to cook eggs, Tony begrudgingly makes tea while his coffee is brewing, and he’s always late because Steve won’t stop touching him, whether it’s a hand curled around his elbow, a thumb pressing against his wrist, or a kiss frustratingly placed anywhere but his mouth, Pepper always sighs loudly at him when he arrives twenty minutes late every day.

 

“We should just agree on a later start time,” Tony always says.

 

This morning, however, he’s late because he’s every bit needy as Steve is, not wanting to leave him after so long not having to.  “So,” Steve says, tearing a piece of bacon in half, “When can we move in?”

 

Tony shrugs.  “Whenever we want.  I got an email from the realtor last night, everything’s good to go.  Now listen, Steven.”

 

“Uh oh.”

 

“Indeed,” Tony agrees, “Let me do this for us, okay?”  Steve narrows his eyes, but lets Tony continue, “I want to pay for it outright.”

 

“The house?  Tony, that’s—that’s huge.  I saw what they were asking.”

 

“Billionaire,” Tony reminds him, “Come on.  I hate bills.  They’re boring.  And even if we do eventually move back into the city, we can keep it as a country house.”

 

“You do realize we’d still technically be in a city?” Steve reminds him.

 

Tony snorts.  “Sure.  I won’t do it if you don’t want me to.  We can play house, and pay our mortgage like every other asshole in the world.  But.  I’d be much happier if you let me just get it over with.”

 

Realistically, Steve knows it makes sense, but it still bothers him sometimes, that he feels like Tony is their sole provider.  He knows it isn’t true, knows that he supports them as much as he can financially, and even more so emotionally, but even so, it would be nice not to have to worry ever.  “Ha,” Tony says when Steve’s expression shifts, “Okay, settled.  I’ll have my lawyer settle everything.  Ah, I’m late.”  He shoves a last bite of toast in, grabs a handful of bacon, and says, “I’ll be home past dinner probably.  Pepper’s hounding me about an international meeting.  When’s your next drill weekend?”

 

Steve kisses him before he answers, “This weekend.”

 

“Oh, boo,” Tony says, frowning, and then kisses him again before he heads out of the kitchen, “Start packing, if you want.  I can pretend to help when I get home!”

 

And then he’s gone, and Steve just shakes his head as he leaves.  Some days, he feels like a trophy husband, particularly on days like these, when Tony’s dressed to the nines and working to absurd hours at night, but Steve just keeps reminding himself that he was in Afghanistan for the last year of his life, and he deserves to relax.

 

Though Steve knows that Jarvis can easily jump between the mansion and SI, he tries to refrain from bothering him, which Tony has also reminded him is impossible.  However, Tony will be en route for at least the next fifteen minutes, so Steve says, “Good morning, Jarvis.”

 

“Good morning, sir.  Shall I select a playlist of music to your liking?”

 

“That would be excellent, thank you,” Steve says, smiling as he gets up from the island.

 

All it takes is one good Justin Timberlake song, and Steve is dancing while he cleans up.

 

He allows himself four full seconds of missing dancing with Tony in the morning before he swallows it down and gets to work.

 

The mansion is, for lack of a better word, ostentatious.  When Tony had first asked him to move in, nearly six years after they’d started dating, he’d outright refused.  He was not going to live in the house Tony grew up in, the house where Howard beat him and Maria ignored them.  Tony, however, was not going to leave, and thus, four months later, here he’d been, trying to feel at home in this barren place and never really accomplishing it.

 

Now, though, he’s almost glad for it.  He doesn’t have a wealth of belongings, and there’s much Steve already knows Tony won’t want to keep, and so he imagines packing will be a breeze until he’s wandering through the various rooms they inhabit, and he hates the idea of taking any of it with them.  It all feels like a world he’s unfamiliar with, a world he’s been playing at for too long.

 

Around 8:30AM, he texts Tony, I’m about to ask you a Stark level question of absurdity.

 

See, I was thinking new everything, is Tony’s response, and Steve’s reminded, immediately, of why he first asked him, “Hey, you wanna get out of here?”

 

Is that too much?  I feel like that’s too much.  You’re rubbing off on me.

 

I’ll rub something on you.

 

Steve laughs despite himself, clicking out of Tony’s message and thumbing through his contacts, tapping into one first and then the other.  “I hate when you conference call us,” is the first thing Natasha says.

 

“I think it’s fun,” Sam says, “Feels like we’re about to go on an adventure.”

 

“So, we bought a house?” Steve says.

 

Sam, predictably, starts yelling, and Natasha’s eye roll is palpable.  “Is this the part where you ask us to help you move?” she asks, nearly whining.

 

“Nah,” Sam says, the sound of his car door opening in the background, “This is the part where he says he’s ditching all of Howard Stark’s old relics, and we’re going plate shopping!”

 

“He’s not wrong,” Steve says, and Natasha hangs up.

 

They both live outside of Manhattan, so Steve grabs an armful of collapsed boxes from the foyer where they left them last night and heads into the library.  This, at least, is something he knows he can’t replace.  He’d always admired Howard’s library, even when he was here under the pretext of just Tony’s friend, and then later, when they would spend hours in here, Tony working and Steve curled up with his head on his lap, slowly making his way through Howard’s collection.  And really, he’s not that surprised when the doorbell rings, and he’s only got half a box done, but he’s three chapters deep in Moby Dick.

 

“Damn it,” he mutters, marking his page and stowing it away in a box before heading out.  “Nat, stop!” he yells when she keeps ringing the bell, but she ignores him, so he suffers through the shrill noise bouncing around the foyer as he yanks on his shoes and grabs a jacket.

 

“Plate shopping?” she says when he opens the door.

 

“Is this Stark plate shopping, or Rogers plate shopping?” Sam asks.

 

“It’s a combined effort,” Steve says, “Tony actually has excellent taste, but we already had sets of everything, so it seemed wasteful.”

 

“I think this argument still applies,” Natasha says.

 

Sam flicks her ear, and she very nearly throws him to the ground.  Instead, he holds his own, deflecting her blows and only delivering one of his own before Steve’s starting the ignition in his car and calling an end to their fight.

 

It turns out to be more of a productive day than he expects.  Natasha hates lingering, though, and so her presence alone forces him to cut his debates short over whether he wants gold trim or red on the plates, but then Sam finds these wooden square ones, and they’re back to the beginning.  She ultimately groans at them and goes off in search of throw pillows, which leads to a sofa war, which leads to blankets.  Overall, they spend about five hours in Pier 1 before stopping for lunch, but Steve still manages to send Tony an annoying amount of pictures and buys what feels like half the store.

 

“Are you refurnishing entirely?” Natasha asks over lunch, “Because I’m down for that if that’s the case.  Schedule’s wide open for complete house makeover, but if it’s just little things, I’m going to be busy tomorrow.”

 

“Honestly, I never thought something like that was possible,” Steve admits, “But—yeah, I think so.”

 

“Sucks being married to a billionaire,” Sam mumbles, so Steve punches him.

 

After lunch, Natasha provides vague directions to a furniture store she’s listened to Tony drone on about before, and that’s the last time they see the sun.  “I’m wasting away,” Sam bemoans around 7PM, leaning heavily against Steve.

 

“I’ll make you food if you help me box up the library,” he says, draping an arm over Sam’s shoulders as he looks between two different beds.

 

“Lots of food.  Italian food,” Sam says.

 

“I just bought fresh parmesan yesterday,” Steve says.

 

“You’re my hero.”

 

“I think I like the black one.”

 

“Huzzah!” Natasha exclaims, and collapses back onto it.  They settle up for the day, head back to the mansion, and Steve cooks while Sam packs in the library and Natasha starts planning for tomorrow.  “Tell me if I’ve forgotten anything,” she says suddenly, fingers tapping out a rhythm on the marble countertop, “Bedroom, kitchen, living room, dining room, both times two but outdoor for one set of each.”

 

“Times two and a half,” Steve says, “There’s something like a sunroom in the master suite.”

 

“I can’t wait to see this place,” Natasha says, typing, “Are we furnishing the other bedrooms, as well?  I mean, right now?”

 

“Honey, I’m home!” Tony’s voice echoes over to them.

 

“I’m not sure yet,” Steve says.

 

“Fair enough,” Natasha says, “Well, we covered almost the entire kitchen minus appliances.  We can do that tomorrow, as well as start on the outdoor furniture.  Unless you want to wait until warmer weather to shop for that?  That makes sense, never mind.  Appliances and bath tomorrow.  Evening, Anthony.”

 

“Natalia,” Tony says, making a face at her back even as he comes around to Steve.  “Mm, hi,” he hums, ducking under Steve’s arm and tucking up under his chin.

 

“How was work?” Steve asks, kissing his mess of hair.

 

“Boring,” Tony mumbles, “I’ll be in Hong Kong this weekend.  How’s packing?”

 

“Slow going,” Steve says, stepping back to give Tony room to move when he pulls away, “We got a lot done today, though.  We’ll be out again tomorrow, but I might be at the house late.  They’re delivering a few things.”

 

“Jeez, you work fast,” Tony says, dropping a kiss on his cheek before he heads out to change and bother Sam.

 

Sam and Natasha leave after dinner, and Tony takes a tablet into the library dressed in sweats that hang low on his hips and one of Steve’s shirts, his toes curling around the edge of the leather armchair when he sits down.  “Tell me you didn’t get any leather,” he says as he opens up the project he’s working on.

 

“Did you look at any of the pictures I sent you?” Steve asks from his place on the ladder, piling books onto one arm to carry them down.

 

Tony doesn’t respond, but when Steve looks over, he’s browsing through the several pictures.  “God,” he says eventually, and Steve looks up, smiling when he sees him zoomed in on the sofa, “Next life, you need to be an interior designer, I love this shit.  Hey, idea.  Are we keeping the walls beige?”

 

Steve’s smile widens, and he sets his armful of books down in a box before he comes over.  Tony gets up without even looking at him, and Steve drops into the armchair, Tony settling in his lap.  Steve winds an arm around his back, the other draping over his shins as he tucks his knees in close, and Tony leans against him, temple coming to rest on his shoulder.  “Blue for the bedroom?” Steve asks.

 

He expects Tony to keep working, but instead watches him shut down the tablet and drop it to the floor with a thud before he curls closer to Steve, taking the arm around his shins and winding their fingers together, keeping it tucked in close between them.  “Red somewhere,” he says, “I hated how white this house was growing up.  I still hate it.”

 

“No yellow.”  Tony rumbles his agreement and kisses Steve’s neck, though it’s just a soft thing, not meant to arouse, but rather just to let Steve know he’s not going anywhere.  “Red for the dining room?”

 

“And the kitchen,” Tony says, “Black cabinets.”

 

“Tony—”

 

“Nope, it’s going to be punk rock, get over it.  Black furniture.  The living room can be pastels or whatever.”

 

“A new color for each room, then,” Steve says, and Tony laughs softly, closing his eyes.  He’s been yearning for this all day, Steve’s arms around him, the warmth of him surrounding him.  “Are you falling asleep?” Steve whispers into his hair before he kisses his forehead, “It’s still early.”

 

“Navy bed,” Tony says instead of answering, “Ugh, transferring Jarvis is going to be a pain in the ass.  New idea.  Hire someone to paint.”

 

“Tony.”

 

“At least the kitchen,” he mumbles, shifting until he can lean his knees against Steve, as well, “You can do the bedroom, but leave the weird colors to professional people.”

 

“Fine,” Steve says, shaking away from Tony’s hand until he can tuck it under his knees.

 

“Don’t you dare,” Tony threatens, though his voice is muffled against Steve’s shirt.

 

“I’m not falling asleep down here with you,” is all Steve says before he stands up, carrying Tony easily.

 

“How come you didn’t do this on our wedding night?” Tony asks, tipping his head back to kiss Steve’s jaw.

 

“I carried you into the house,” Steve protests.

 

“You threw me over your shoulder!”

 

“You were being lewd, you had to be stopped.”

 

Tony’s kiss turns into a bite.

 

——

 

The rest of the week passes in a blur of shopping for linens, discussing shades of colors over dinner, and Tony collapsing into bed later and later each day until he comes home around 10PM on Thursday, and Steve kisses the back of his neck before he asks, “Can you go in late tomorrow?”

 

“Mm, yes, definitely, come here,” Tony says, and rolls up and over until he’s straddling Steve’s waist and pulling up the hem of his shirt while he kisses them both awake.

 

He can’t actually go in late, and though Steve knows this, it still hurts a little when Tony says, over breakfast, “I won’t be home tonight, catching a red eye for Hong Kong, but I’ll try to be home at a normal person time on Sunday.  I know,” he adds at Steve’s face, though it’s followed by him gulping the rest of his coffee and getting up, “Next week will be better, after I haven’t been away for nearly a month.”  He hums before kissing Steve, lets himself linger there, and then he’s gone.

 

He spends Friday in Copiague, painting the bedroom and spending at least an hour in total staring at the blank walls of the study and trying to decide what he wants to do with them.  Tony had the brilliant idea to turn it into a studio, and while Steve had loved that idea, now he’s stuck being nervous about the color of the walls.

 

Peggy saves him for certain domestic death.  She’d texted him that morning asking for the new address and told him not to eat lunch, and that’s how they end up eating pizza on the floor.  “I’ve been on the phone all week with my sister,” Peggy says as they dig in, “She finally agreed to let Sharon have the baby and give it up for adoption under one condition, of course.”

 

“Oh boy,” Steve says, frowning.

 

“She has to arrange everything before the baby’s born.  Her fucking husband has the audacity to say that if she’s going to have it, she has to make sure it’s going to a good home.  I can’t stand him, Steve.”

 

“Jesus, what a hypocrite,” Steve says, shaking his head, “He doesn’t want her to have it, but now that she is, well, better take care of it.”

 

“Exactly,” Peggy mutters, “And I’m an idiot, so I tried to get out of my assignment.”

 

“Peg,” Steve sighs.

 

“I know.  I know.  Bad idea.”  They lapse into silence, eating, until she looks up and around, taking in the new area, and asks the last question Steve is expecting, “Do you think you and Tony will ever have kids?”

 

“No,” Steve says immediately, almost laughing, “Tony doesn’t want kids.”

 

“But you do,” she says, dropping her gaze back to him, “You always have.”

 

Steve shrugs.  “I don’t see it ever happening,” he says, “And I’m okay with that.  I love him, and I knew when I was marrying him that that was part of the deal.”

 

“This is a perfect neighborhood,” Peggy says, “I’ve been looking at schools all around New York, and Copiague has a really great preschool program that they just started a few years ago.”

 

“Maybe in my next life,” Steve says, and grabs another slice, “For now, I’ll settle for a dog.”

 

No,” Peggy gasps, “He said yes?”

 

Steve just grins.

Chapter Text

December, 2015

 

“Aw, pooh bear, why the long face?” Tony says when he sits down across from Rhodey.

 

“When you asked me to meet you for coffee, I planned on swinging by the Tower to pick you up, not driving to fucking—where are we?” he asks, glancing out the window.

 

“I know, it’s scary town out there,” Tony says, flipping his wrist to check his watch, “But the last coat is drying on the kitchen right now, so I was kicked out.”

 

“Of?”

 

Tony tries for a grin that doesn’t look like he’s been keeping vital parts of his life secret from Rhodey for the better part of three weeks.  “Our new house?” he says.

 

“You’re an asshole,” Rhodey says, “Copiague, really?”

 

“That’s what I said.  Ah!  So you do know where we are?”


“No, Tony, I asked Siri to take me to a coffee shop of her choosing, and somehow landed in the right place,” Rhodey says, and means to go on, but Tony’s apparently taken great offense by his words if his horrified expression is anything to go by.  “What?” he says.


“You still use Apple?  What a waste of a friend,” he mutters.

 

“Shut up, you big queen,” Rhodey says, and kicks his shin under the table, “When did you move?”

 

“We haven’t exactly moved yet,” Tony says, lifting his coffee and making a face at it.  It’s the first time he’s been anywhere in their new city, and he’s suspicious.  “We’re still getting the house ready, but Steve’s been using his down time to furnish and paint and whatever else it is that trophy husbands do.”

 

Rhodey gapes at him.  “Anthony,” he says firmly.

 

“Oh, I know,” Tony whines at him, “I’m quoting him.  He’s having a moment, which is half of the reason he kicked me out of the house.  Also, this is not why I asked you for coffee.”

 

“Listen, I’m not trying it until you do,” Rhodey says, indicating both their untouched drinks.  Tony heaves an enormous sigh and sips at his, blinks in shock, and quickly takes another, and much larger, sip.  “Alright, then,” Rhodey says, lifting his, “Tell me about this midlife crisis.”

 

“That’s such an awful phrase,” Tony says, waving a hand about, “Can’t we call it a—younglife worry?”

 

“You sound older already.”

 

“Sharon’s having a baby.”

 

Rhodey lifts an eyebrow.  “I’m going to need a little more than that, surprisingly,” he says, “Sharon as in Peggy’s niece Sharon?  I thought she was just a kid.”

 

“She is,” Tony says, tracing a finger along the rim of his cup, “Fifteen, due to turn sixteen just after the baby is born.  She’s giving it up for adoption.”

 

“I imagine that’s got to be hard on Peggy.  I heard she got a two-year assignment,” he says, “She tried to waive it.”

 

“Really?” Tony says, looking up in surprise, “I didn’t know that.”

 

“Tony,” Rhodey says slowly, and Tony immediately drops his gaze again, focusing on drinking his coffee, “What’s going on?”

 

Tony shrugs one shoulder.  “I heard Steve on the phone the other night with her.”

 

“And?”

 

Tony shrugs the other shoulder.  “He may have mentioned that if it was even in the realm of possibility, it would be a conversation he and I could have.”

 

“It?  What’s it?  A baby?  I’m sorry, wait,” Rhodey says, setting down his cup, “There are a few different things to address in that sentence.  Break it down.”

 

Rhodey expects Tony to make some kind of joke about him sounding like a rap star, but instead he just says, “He doesn’t think I’d ever want children.”

 

Rhodey blinks.

 

Tony gestures at him as though making a point.

 

“Well?” Rhodey prompts, “Would you?”

 

“See,” Tony says, leaning back in his chair, “Why does everyone always assume I wouldn’t?”

 

“Tony, you haven’t really shown a particular fondness toward children in—well, ever.  And that doesn’t include the various charities that Stark Industries take part in.  Or—you know.”

 

Tony’s expression sinks, his brows drawing together, and he can see the second Rhodey realizes the mistake he’s made.  “Right,” Tony says curtly, his voice clipping at the edges, “Because how could Howard Stark’s son ever succeed where the great man himself could not?”

 

Tony,” he says it with such sorrow in his voice that Tony doesn’t get up and storm out like he wants to.  “Cut it out,” Rhodey continues, “I’m your best friend.  Be straight with me.  You can’t tell me that’s not something you’ve thought about anytime you might have considered a future with children.  Children plural?”

 

Tony makes a face.  “Probably just child singular.  I would fuck it up, and we both know that.”

 

“Or, consider this,” Rhodey says, “You wouldn’t, and for the very reason you think you would.”

 

“So, what, reverse psychology?  My dad treated me like shit, so I’m bound to treat my own child like it shits gold?  Tywin Lannister didn’t, and his son proved that.”

 

“Alright, nerd,” Rhodey says, smiling, “Maybe you should talk to Steve.”

 

“About adopting Peggy’s niece’s unwanted child?  Yeah, no thanks.  I know exactly where that conversation lands us.”

 

“And where is that?”

 

“I told Steve I liked huskies, and now there’s a puppy shedding all over my new house.”

 

Rhodey laughs, loud and clear, and Tony hates him for being right.

 

Later, when Rhodey pulls in behind him, there’s a second car in the driveway that Tony thinks is Sam’s and confirms when they walk in and hear, “Yo, this ain’t no Ikea bullshit!”

 

He leads Rhodey through the small foyer and into the kitchen, which yawns open to display a massive table, which Sam’s got his feet kicked up on.  The other half of the room has been transformed into a small, but comfortable living space.  “I’ll kill you,” Steve says, and whacks his feet off as he comes in from the master suite, “Make yourself useful, and—hey,” his voice changes in a way Tony isn’t expecting when he notices he’s back.  It shifts into a softer, warmer register, and it makes Tony’s stomach plunge and his heart trip up into his throat.

 

God, I love you,” he says because there’s nothing else he’d rather say.

 

Steve’s smile widens, and he crosses through the great room in quick strides.  Rhodey makes a noise that sounds like the same noise Sam is making, but Tony ignores them in favor of meeting Steve halfway, letting his hand find his hip and tug him close, kissing him like it’s the first time he’s seen him in days.  Eventually, Steve pulls back because Sam’s talking loudly about the weather, and Rhodey’s been sufficiently distracted by Nuada, a five-month-old grey husky that Steve brought home last week and Tony promptly fell in love with, though he’s still denying all accusations.

 

“Kitchen’s done,” Steve says, still looking at him like that, and Tony’s hard-pressed to turn away, particularly when Steve steps in close behind him, thumbs hooking in the belt loops on Tony’s pants and kissing his jaw before he whispers, “I love you, too.”

 

The color is a rich, striking crimson, the cabinets sleek and black with silver handles, and the appliances new and sharp looking.  “I’m starving,” Tony says, just to see if Steve will fall for it, and fall he does, releasing Tony and tapping his nose excitedly.  Tony wrinkles his nose in response, grinning as he watches Steve go over to the large fridge and open it, which is well stocked.

 

“Options are limited, however,” Steve says, closing it again, “You need to finish the grill, and I haven’t hooked up the stove yet.”

 

“Yeah, I’m making sandwiches,” Sam says, and elbows him out of the way, “None of that healthy salad shit.  Nat’s on her way over, and she said you either had to feed her or never see the light of day again.”

 

“Vampires,” Tony says, “I could dig that.  Rhodey, stop hogging the dog!”  At Tony’s raised voice, Nuada promptly drops into a seat and looks up at him expectantly.  “Listen, just cos you’re cute,” he says, and tosses a cookie in her direction.

 

“When the hell did you get that?” Rhodey asks, looking at him in bewilderment.

 

Nuada catches it, and Tony gives her a thumbs up.  “Stopped at the pet store on my way over,” he says.

 

“Wait,” Steve says, “I’m trying to picture you in a pet store.”

 

“I’ll hurt you,” Tony tries to snap at him.

 

“Promise?” Steve says, and absolutely crumbles all of Tony’s resolve.

 

“Christ on a cracker,” Tony mutters, “Rhodes, be a dear and help me with the workshop.”

 

He disappears, but not before he sees Steve giving him a once over, and when they’re in the clear, unloading equipment from Steve’s truck, Rhodey says, “Pooh bear, I think your husband wants to rip your clothes off.”

 

“Jesus, yeah,” Tony says, “Roles are usually reversed, and I’m all for this delightful shift in mood.”

 

“Alright, why did he kick you out earlier?” Rhodey asks, falling to the bait.

 

Tony waves a hand dismissively before he shifts a large box into his hands.  “We were talking about tiles and how we both liked wood better, and he just went off on how he can’t believe this is where his life has taken him, a captain in the army and he’s busy making a decision about bathroom décor.”

 

“He just got back from a tour,” Rhodey says, “Give him some time to readjust.  I know you had a freaking month off with him, but still.  Nuada is a clear sign he’s not all the way there yet.  What the fuck does Nuada even mean?”

 

“Protector,” Tony says like it’s a chore, “It’s an Irish name.  He thinks he’s funny because the dog’s a pipsqueak.”

 

“That thing’s gonna be huge.”

 

“Oh, I’m aware.”

 

They spend the next few hours carefully unboxing Jarvis’s modems, breaking only for lunch.  Rhodey eventually heads out with Sam to pick up the last boxes from the mansion, Peggy, and Pepper.  Natasha arrives with Clint, who’s just gotten back from an overseas mission in a location he keeps saying is classified and will 100% reveal over dinner, shortly followed by Bruce and Betty, who come in bearing food and immediately draw Tony’s attention.

 

“Oh, you are my favorite seven times over,” he says and embraces them both.  He sweeps everything out of Betty’s arms, ignoring her complaints as he leads them into the kitchen, and only when he’s set everything on the counter and turned does he ask, “How are you?”

 

“Fucking enormous,” Betty says, and Tony grins.

 

“You’re beautiful, actually,” he says, holding out a hand as she shrugs out of her jacket, “Are you excited?”

 

“I hate that question,” Betty says, but she’s smiling, “But yes.  One more month, and I’m all done with this creating an alien lifeform bullshit.”

 

“It’s called science,” Bruce says on his way by.

 

Their afternoon carries on.  Tony forgoes the workshop to set up the grill at Steve’s request, and Tony starts to whine at him when he sees Steve’s smile as he watches Betty and Nuada get acquainted.  A couple from down the street show up with their three-year-old daughter and a casserole to welcome them to the neighborhood, and Steve is practically melting the next time Tony finds him.  He’s pulled into a tight hug, Steve’s breath rushing out against his neck as he clings to Tony and whispers, “Thank you.”

 

They’re just sitting for dinner when there’s a knock on the door, and Steve looks out of the huge window, eyes going wide when he spots a familiar truck parked on the street.  “No fucking way,” he says, and gets up, drawing everyone’s eyes.

 

No one else seems to understand his excitement, but then Thor’s voice is booming through the house.  “Brethren!  I have returned!”

 

He and Steve walk in together, and Tony laughs at them in all their blonde, big-shouldered glory, beaming like they’ve just won some great prize.  “Thor!” the cheer goes up, and he exchanges embraces with everyone and an exclamation of joy at Betty.

 

“I’ve only been gone six months!” he says, squeezing her hand, “When are you due?”

 

“Next month,” she says, “Are you staying this time, you vagabond?”

 

Thor grins and straightens, taking the empty seat next to her.  “My adventures have brought me back home, yes,” he says, “However, I have had an offer to travel down under in April.”

 

“Back to the homeland?” Steve says, taking his seat at the head of the table again.

 

Thor lifts thumb and pinky in the air, hand shaking.  “That’s right,” he says, “Can’t wait to visit my brother and give him hell.  Not tellin’ him before I arrive.  Nice little surprise on his doorstep.”

 

“You’re evil,” Pepper says, shaking her head, “Whatever will we do with you?”

 

“Food, of course!”  And that settles it.

 

Later, when the sky is a deep, dark blue, and the front door is finally locked, Tony leans against the doorway into the kitchen, watching Steve load the dishwasher.  He’d looked so happy tonight, surrounded by all of his friends, though particularly when he’d walked in on him, Peggy, and Betty curled up on the sofa together, talking babies.

 

It occurs to him that this is his chance, right now, to voice the thoughts banging around in his head.  He almost does, too, almost blurts out that he knows Steve wants to adopt Sharon’s child and should just fucking ask him, but it’s terrifying, this mental image of a baby in their house.  There’s already a puppy here, who is currently curled around Steve’s ankles and trying valiantly to stay awake, and Tony’s already afraid he’s going to fuck that up, he can’t imagine something that actually needed him.

 

“You’re thinking loud,” Steve draws him back.

 

Tony opens his mouth, and it almost crawls itself right out of his throat.  Instead, he swallows it down, and says, “Just tired.  Long day.”

 

Steve nods in agreement.  “I need to take Nua for a last walk.  Wanna come?”

 

“Sure, why not,” Tony says, rolling over his shoulder and stepping back into the foyer.  He waits for Steve, hands tucked into his pockets and shoulders shrugged up by his ears until Nuada comes running out at the word outside, and he smiles, reaching down to clip her leash on.

 

They walk in silence for a while, occasionally commenting on the stars, but otherwise just enjoying the nearness of each other.  Nuada is still working on the whole leash thing, so they occasionally have to remind her she needs to walk with them, but she’s leagues better than the last time Tony was out with her, which, realistically, was only a few days ago.

 

“Are you happy?” Steve asks him out of the blue.

 

Tony almost stutters to a physical stop.  “What?” he says, looking over at Steve.

 

“Are you happy?” Steve repeats.  He looks so unsure that is strikes a chord in Tony’s chest, plucks at his ribs and threatens to reach inside.

 

“Of course I am,” he says, “Why would you ask that?”

 

Steve shrugs, looking away from him.  “You’re not telling me something,” he says quietly, “I just wanted to make sure it wasn’t something—I don’t know.  I just—I’m happy, so I want you to be, as well.  If this is all too much, Tony, I need you to tell me.”

 

Tony’s stomach rises, heaves right up into his throat, and he forces it back down.  He takes a slow, steady breath, and says, “It’s nothing.  Just a lot going on at work.”

 

Steve doesn’t believe him for one second, and Tony knows he can’t sit on this for much longer.

 

——

 

Tony’s never good at new places.  When he was little, in boarding school, he was invited over to another boy’s room for a weekend sleepover.  He’d felt so proud of himself, having made a friend that thought him worthy for an invite, and then his brain had pulled a fast one on him.  He’d never spoken to that boy again, not after waking screaming that first night, these terrifying images that he couldn’t even speak about haunting him for days on end until the next one came.

 

He learned how to wake silently, how to gasp quietly back into consciousness, and by the time he was let home for the summer break, his parents would never know.  Maria found him once, after one that had followed him into his waking hours, pacing the hall outside his door and trying to convince himself that there was no one inside his room.  When her voice shattered his perfect concentration, he scrambled out a lame excuse and forced himself back inside, where the shadow man was waiting in the corner.

 

When he was twelve, he blamed it on his father after a study linking childhood abuse and nightmares came out.  When he was fourteen, he forced himself to stop blaming anyone but his own fucked up head.  When he was twenty, and Steve asked him to stay the night, he almost broke up with him because he couldn’t think of something to explain why he wanted to go home.  Instead, he watched the moon sink back into the horizon and the sunrise.  In the morning, Steve took one look at his haunted gaze and said, “Nightmare?  Me too, but it wasn’t that bad this time.  Must’ve been you.”  He’d been joking, but that was all it took for Tony to start testing the theory.  One year later, standing at the foot of his father’s grave while they filled it in, he said, “I sleep better when you’re next to me,” and Steve had kissed his knuckles, bloody from hitting the wall.

 

He knows it’s just going to take some getting used to, but he still wakes up shaking in the dead of the night, soaked in a cold sweat and terrified of looking in the corner.  It’s their first night here, the first of many, and Tony tries to tell himself that it will be okay eventually.

 

Something shifts at the foot of the bed, and he nearly sprints from the room, but then he spots an ear perking up, and he exhales loudly.  “Fuck almighty,” he whispers, flattening a hand over his chest.

 

Nuada’s head lifts at his voice, looking over at him blearily, though when she notices he’s awake, she starts to stretch and tiredly pads over to him.  “Hey,” he whispers, smiling as she climbs right into his lap and settles down again, “Sorry I woke you.”

 

She nudges at his hand with her nose, so he runs his fingers through her fur, pausing at her ribs and just letting the thrum of her heart lull his back toward something normal.  “Come on,” he says, scooping her up and setting her down next to Steve.  He lies down again, shifting onto his side, and continues petting her, focusing solely on the slow rise and fall of her breaths until the shadows are just shadows, and he’s asleep again.

 

In the morning, when Steve wakes, the sun is making a feeble attempt at greeting the morning.  He can feel Nuada warm beside him, and can’t stop the smile that forms when he sees Tony’s hand resting against her, his face peaceful.  He’d felt him wake last night, and was halfway to shaking off sleep when he heard him whispering to her.

 

“Nua,” he whispers, and one of her ears instantly shoots up.  “How about a run around out back, and then some breakfast?”  Her little legs stretch toward him, and Steve smiles, fingers circling one of her paws.

 

He gets out of bed as slowly and quietly as he can, trying not to disturb Tony.  He waits until Nuada’s had her fun, and then scoops some food into her bowl in the kitchen before disappearing back into their bedroom, closing the door behind him.  Tony’s still asleep, and so Steve slides in next to him, shifting close enough so that he can run a hand along his arm, dip down his side, and slide under the waistband of his sweats.  He’s not wearing anything beneath, and Steve bites back a groan, reaching around to squeeze his ass.

 

There’s a huffed laugh that lets him know Tony’s awake enough to know it’s him, and so Steve closes the gap between them, hand coming out of Tony’s sweats to curl around the back of his knee and hook his leg over Steve’s hip, foot dropping onto the bed like dead weight.

 

“Morning,” Tony mumbles as he ducks under Steve’s chin and presses close.

 

“I have a proposal for you,” Steve says, hand drifting down to rub small circles into his lower back.

 

Tony hums.  “The last time you said that, you asked me to marry you,” he says.

 

“And you said no,” Steve says, sliding his hand down beneath Tony’s sweats.

 

“Well, you weren’t on your knees,” Tony says, and he’s just about to pull back to kiss Steve when his phone starts ringing.  Three seconds later, Steve’s does, as well.

 

“Hang on,” Steve sighs, rolling away from him and reaching for his nightstand.

 

Tony does the same, groans loudly, and answers by way of, “Only heathens call on Sundays.”

 

“Tony!” Steve can hear Obadiah’s loud voice even from here.

 

He frowns when he looks down and finds Peggy’s calling him.  “Hey,” he says, “What’s up?”

 

“Is it too early?  Sharon ran away.”

 

“What?” Steve says, jerking the covers back and jumping out of bed, “Where is she?”

 

“I don’t know, Steve.  She called and said she was on her way to anywhere but here, and she won’t answer my texts or calls.  My sister won’t answer, either, and of course her husband’s phone was disconnected.  I don’t know what to do.”

 

“Calm down,” Steve says, grabbing a shirt from the closet and leaving Tony to argue with Obadiah about whatever deal they’re trying to close.  “Do you want me to come over?” he asks.

 

“No,” she says immediately, “I don’t know.  I feel like I should just fly out there and take her back with me.”

 

“Peggy, you’re leaving in March,” he reminds her.

 

“I completely forgot to tell you last night!  She’s due right before I leave.  Her parents forced her to go to the doctor to find out for sure how far along she is.  Turns out she was lying about when she first missed her period, and she’s five fucking months, Steve.  She’s due in the beginning of March.”

 

“Oh my god,” Steve says, “And she’s known all this time?”

 

“I don’t know!” Peggy exclaims desperately, “Steve.”

 

“Breathe, Peggy.  It’s going to be okay.  We’re going to figure this out.”  He lets his breaths be audible until he can hear Peggy breathing with him, and then he says, “There you go.  Now, why don’t you try calling her again?”

 

“There’s a flight to Wisconsin in six hours,” she says.

 

Peg,” he says firmly, “Better idea.  What if she came here?  Let her make it her decision.”

 

“You’re right,” Peggy says, sighing, “Okay.  Okay.  Thank you, Steve.”

 

“Call me if anything,” Steve says, “I’m home all day.  Keep me updated.”

 

“Thank you, darling,” she says and hangs up.

 

When he puts his phone down and turns, Nuada is looking up at him gleefully and Tony’s still in their room.  Steve just sighs and turns back, opening the fridge to start breakfast.

 

——

 

It takes almost a full 24 hours, but Peggy finally texts him to let him know that Sharon’s landed safely, and she’s staying with her for the remainder of her pregnancy.  Steve sends her back a short video of Nuada, who’s running laps around the drained pool, and tells her she’s doing the right thing.

 

“You’ve been out here for an eternity,” Tony says as one of the doors opens, and he comes to join him.  He hands over a mug of tea, which Steve accepts happily, and steps in close to him, fingers curled around a steaming mug of coffee.

 

“How’s the lab coming?” Steve asks, turning to kiss Tony’s temple before he sips the tea.

 

“Almost done,” he says, “Jarvis is lapping the house, so he asked me to go away.”

 

“He did not,” Steve says, and then, “Oh, this is good.”

 

“Right,” Tony says, gesturing vaguely at his mug, “I forgot to tell you.  Betty was telling me about this monthly tea thing she takes part in, and it looked fucking awesome, so I got you a subscription.”

 

“Just out of the blue?” Steve asks, though he’s smiling widely.

 

Tony shrugs.  “It’s all loose leaf, but that shit’s got apricots in it.”

 

“I know, I can taste them,” he says, “Thank you.  Nua!”

 

Tony laughs when she tumbles to a stop, ass over tea kettle, and springs upright, tongue lolling out of the side of her mouth.  “She is the dog equivalent of Thor,” Tony says, and whatever Steve had been about to command her to do dissolves in a fit of giggles.  Tony grins, just happy that he’s happy, before he whistles, and Nuada comes sprinting up the side of the pool and over to them.  “Sit,” Tony tells her, and cheers when she does so, grabbing a treat from his pocket.

 

“Do you just carry those around?” Steve asks, watching him.

 

“She follows me,” Tony says, rolling his eyes, “Figured she should at least get something out of it.  Go do your business, you savage, so we can go back inside.”  He shoos Nuada off, and she goes running toward the yard.  “Psycho,” he mutters.

 

“She’s just excited you’re paying attention to her,” Steve says, lifting his tea again.  He’s quiet for a moment before he says, “Sharon got to Peggy’s safely.”

 

“She’s staying until March, then?” Tony asks, watching Nuada sniff around the yard.

 

“Yeah,” Steve says, “I wish there was something I could do, some way I could help.  I feel like she’s on an island out there.”

 

“I mean, technically, we’re the one on an island now,” Tony says, nudging him.

 

Steve doesn’t bite.  “It’s not even like we could throw her a baby shower or anything.  She’s just—giving it up.”  Tony swallows, watching longing war with frustration on Steve’s face.  Steve shakes his head, sipping his tea again.  Nuada starts to turn back toward them, and Tony’s about to tell him, fuck it, they’ll figure it out, when Steve says, “Peggy always wanted children.  She made me promise her, when we were growing up, that if we were both still single when we turned 30, we had to get married, and I had to man up and give her children.  God, I’m sorry,” he adds with a sigh, looking over at Tony, who quickly looks away, tracking Nuada with his eyes, “I didn’t mean it like that.  I’m happy with you.  I’m just feeling a little—I don’t know.”

 

“Next life,” Tony tries to joke, nudging him again.

 

Steve exhales an empty laugh and says, “Yeah, next life.  Are you coming in?”

 

“In a second,” Tony says, still not looking at him, and he can’t keep his eyes open when Steve kisses him on the cheek and turns to leave, Nuada following at his heels.

 

He waits until he’s gone before he lets out the breath he’s holding.  There’s only one thing for it.

 

“Tony?” Betty says when she picks up, “Darling, I’m on my way to a class right now, can I—”

 

“Weirdest request ever,” Tony interrupts her, “Can I join you?”

 

“To my birthing class?” she clarifies.

 

“Yeah,” Tony says, shrugging, “Is Bruce with you?”

 

“No, actually.  Something happened with his mother, so he’s gone off to check on her.  Is everything okay?”

 

“Not—really?” Tony says, “So?”

 

“Yes, Tony, you can come.  I’ll send you the address.”

 

“You’re the best, love you, bye,” Tony says, and turns toward the house, mentally preparing himself for an undoubtedly bizarre afternoon ahead.

 

After he promises Steve that nothing’s wrong with Betty, just that she asked to meet him for a quick coffee and chat, and then subsequently hates himself for lying to his husband, he’s on the road, breaking a few speed limits, but arriving just on time.

 

“This actually works out,” Betty says when she spots him, “Bruce is going to be with me in the delivery room, so you can pretend to be him.”

 

“Excellent segue way into a potentially labor-inducing question.  What do you think about Steve and I adopting?”

 

Betty, true to her character, reacts exactly the opposite way Tony’s expecting.  She shrugs, grabs his hand to steady herself as she drops into one of the low-sitting chairs, and says, “It’s the perfect time for it.  Are you looking?”

 

“Why do they make these chairs so low?” Tony asks, sitting next to her, “Isn’t that a bit rude to pregnant women everywhere?”

 

“We’ll be sitting on the ground eventually, so it actually makes it a little easier,” she says, “But thank you for your concern.”

 

“I know you were talking with him and Peggy the other night,” Tony says.

 

“You don’t know about what,” Betty says, and looks convincing, but Tony still raises an eyebrow, and she sighs, “Fine.  Yes.  Steve would love nothing more than to take in that baby and raise it as his own, but he doesn’t think you would ever go for it.”

 

“Do I give out some kind of vibe that’s anti-children?”

 

“No, it’s—” Betty pauses, looking around the room, and then curls a hand around Tony’s shoulder, pushing herself upright, and leaving him to watch her in confusion.  His eyes go wide as he watches her stop at another woman, who’s holding a real live baby, who immediately smiles and nods, handing the baby over.

 

“Oh god,” Tony hisses under his breath, and then it occurs to him, if he’s this nervous about even the idea of being close to a baby that he’s not doing this for the right reasons.

 

“Alright,” Betty says when she reaches him again, “Tony, this is Johnny.  He’s about three months old right now, and he’s an absolute menace in disguise.  Come here.”  Tony obeys, standing up and trying valiantly to swallow down his fear.  “I’m going to give him to you.  Is that okay?”  He nods quickly, gaze shifting to the small blue bundle she’s holding, one fist sticking out as though in objection, and he doesn’t even notice he’s smiling until Betty’s carefully transferred Johnny to his arms and made sure he’s holding him correctly.

 

Without warning, she sits down, and Tony starts to panic when Johnny’s fingers uncurl, his arm waving wildly to smack back against Tony’s chest and fist in his shirt.  He looks up at Tony like he’s got something to say, and Tony almost laughs.  “Bet you’ll be a little ass kicker when you grow up,” he says softly, and Betty laughs quietly at him before reaching up and tugging on the hem of his shirt until he sits next to her.

 

“Not so bad, right?” she says, watching him.

 

Tony shrugs.  “He’s alright.  It’s not like he’s making it exactly difficult, though.  He’s just—there.  Oh yeah?” he adds when Johnny’s eyes narrow, “What’re you gonna do about it?”

 

His face shifts, and Tony recognizes that expression, starts to tell Betty no fucking way is he holding a crying baby, when his brain short circuits and tells him to stand back up.  His legs move without his permission, pulling him back upright, and then he’s swaying, and he doesn’t remember giving his body permission to do any of this, but Johnny settles, fingers clenching and unclenching in Tony’s shirt.

 

Tony shifts him a little, working on an instinct he didn’t even know he had, until he can move one of his arms around enough to still support his butt but reach one of his hands up, fingers wiggling until Johnny notices and immediately reaches over for them, latching on.  Tony’s smile turns into a small, unsure laugh as he watches Johnny’s baby blue eyes wander around, his tiny little fingers wrapped tight around one of Tony’s.

 

He wonders if his father felt like this, if he held him and thought the whole world ought to meet this amazing little boy, and then he remembers his mother telling him Howard had never once held him, never once held his hand while he was first learning to walk, never even paid attention to him until he was starting to form full sentences.

 

Tony turns, finds Betty watching him with a fond smile, and asks, “What if I screw everything up?  My father hated me, Betty.”

 

“He didn’t hate you, Tony,” Betty says, reaching out a hand.  He follows her back into his chair, and, this time, Johnny seems to trust him enough that he doesn’t react to not moving.  “Just because he didn’t know how to be a father to you doesn’t mean you can’t be a father to someone else.”

 

“I’m pretty sure bad parenting is hereditary,” Tony says.

 

“Don’t be daft, it’s not a good color on you,” Betty accuses sharply, “You and I both know that’s a load of crap.  Bruce has every ounce of the same fear as you, but a parent is only as strong as their co-parent.  It’s not only Howard’s fault, Tony.  Maria did nothing to stop what was happening to you, and I know she was kind to you, and you loved her, but if she had been stronger, if she had stood up to Howard, your childhood would have been much different.  Bruce is afraid he’ll fall into a rage and hit our child, but I would never let him.  I would stop him, and we will be successful as parents because of both our strengths.  If you’re terrified of turning into your father, all you have to do is look to Steve.”

 

Tony looks back down at Johnny, whose little eyes have closed, his tiny mouth open just a fraction.  He’s about to respond when the woman who had been originally holding Johnny tells them it’s time to begin.  “Nope,” Betty says when he starts to get up, “He’s your responsibility for the next hour.”

 

Tony waits for the panic to rise, and though it stirs, he thinks, maybe, he could do this.

 

——

 

Steve decides to meet Peggy for lunch after Tony leaves, and that’s how he finds himself baby-watching.  He doesn’t mean to, but his gaze keeps finding every toddler or infant that’s in the restaurant with them, smiling as he watches them bang on the table or pick at their food like it’s the greatest thing in the world.

 

“Sweetheart?” Peggy’s voice brings him back.

 

“Yeah, sorry,” he says, turning back to her, “What’s up?”

 

“Steve,” she sighs, “What’s going on with you?  You’re so distracted today.”

 

He shakes his head quickly.  “It’s nothing, sorry,” he says, “Just—a little baby fever, that’s all.”

 

“Really?” she says, “It is because of Sharon?  I’m sorry, I know it’s all I’ve been talking about, you must be—”

 

“Hey, no, don’t do that,” Steve says, “It’s a lot.  I get it.  Rant it out whenever you need to.  I just—it’s reminding me what I gave up.”

 

Peggy frowns.  “Steve, I thought that wasn’t bothering you anymore.  You and Tony talked about this.”

 

“I know, I know,” Steve says, “Trust me, I know.  I’ll never forget that fight, but—I don’t know.  It would be nice.”  The one and only time he brought up having children with Tony had been two years before they got married, and Tony had screamed at him, his fear a physical thing that Steve had seen etched deeper than just his tense shoulders and twisted expression.  It was a bone-deep fear that would never go away, and he’d never brought up the topic again.

 

“Okay,” Peggy says, “Enough.  Come on, talk to me about anything.  How’s the house?  That video of Nuada you sent me was adorable.  How’s Tony taking to her?”

 

“He loves her,” Steve admits, smiling, “She actually helped him post-nightmare last night.  It was incredible.  He keeps pretending he doesn’t care, keeps putting on that front, but I know him.  He’s carrying around treats in his pockets.”

 

“What a goon,” Peggy says, laughing, “Steve!  We should shop for Christmas trees while we’re in the city.”

 

“You, too?” Steve protests, “We still live in a city!”

 

“Darling, you live on the coast,” she says, “Hate to inform you, but you’re not in a real city anymore.  Come on, they have the best ones out early, and it’s only a few weeks away.  Plus, I haven’t even started my shopping, and now I’ve got a teenager to celebrate with.”

 

“I’m told I’m, under no circumstances, allowed to make a stocking for Nuada.”

 

“Which means you are,” Peggy says, laughing as Steve grins and nods, “I guarantee Tony’s already picked her up something, and he’ll never own up to it.”

 

“I can hear it now,” Steve says, pitching his voice lower into a whine, “Santa brought it for her!  God, Steve, don’t ruin our child’s Christmas dreams!”

 

Peggy laughs loud enough to turn heads, quickly clapping a hand over her mouth, and Steve’s smile just widens when his phone buzzes, a quick staccato that feels like a heartbeat in his pocket, which Tony keeps reminding him is over the top gay, even for them.

 

He opens the message as Peggy is winding down, talking about what color scheme she’s thinking of for the tree this year, but it all falls deaf as Steve reads the four words that once heralded the first time Tony told him he was feeling suicidal.

 

We need to talk.

Chapter Text

Tony doesn’t expect his phone to ring after he tells Steve they need to talk, and he ignores the first two calls until it becomes evident he’s not going to stop, so he’s forced to step away from the other moms-to-be and answer.  “Hey, it’s nothing bad,” Tony says immediately, “I’m with—”

 

“Nothing bad?” Steve says, his voice cracking on the other line, “Fuck, Tony.  I thought you were spiraling out or something or—shit.”

 

He sounds out of breath, terrified almost, and Tony frowns, tries to find a reason for why he’d immediately jump to that and is reminded blindingly of the time he’d called Steve toeing the line of inebriated and alcohol poisoning.

 

“I’m so sorry,” Tony rushes out, “Oh my god, I didn’t think, I didn’t—I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.”

 

“Shit,” is all Steve manages.

 

“Hey, it’s okay, everything’s okay, don’t freak out on me,” Tony says, trying to keep his voice light and easy, “I should have been more clear, but I’m with Betty and all the other moms, and I was distracted.”

 

“The other—moms?” Steve says.

 

“Oh.  Uh.  So I fibbed about where I was going, but it was—Bruce is with his mom, and—well, I was thinking—and there was that time with—but really, it’s all just—”

 

“Tony,” Steve says firmly, refocusing him.

 

“Babies aren’t so bad,” Tony’s mouth betrays him, “Fuck, shit.”  There’s silence on the other line, and Tony’s too worked up to decipher if it’s a damning one or not, so he just plows right on, “This is so not how I wanted to have this conversation with you, but balls, here we are.  Babies—aren’t so bad.”

 

“What the hell does that mean?” Steve asks.

 

Tony lifts a hand to rub at the back of his neck, shrugging even though he knows Steve can’t see him.  He turns back toward the talking moms, and Betty feels his gaze, turning her smile on him.  She lifts a thumb in his direction, and Tony nods quickly.  “I went to Betty’s class with her,” he says, “I wanted to—I don’t know.  I wanted to see if this was something I wanted.”

 

“You need to be specific right now,” Steve says.  He sounds hollow, like he’s not letting himself get his hopes up, but Tony knows him better, knows that they’re skyrocketing right now.

 

“Can we just talk about this later?  In person?” Tony pleads.

 

“No,” Steve says, “Don’t fucking do that to me.”

 

“Okay, short version, and then I’m hanging up.  I’d like to talk about having a baby with you.  That’s not even scientifically possible, fucking hell, bye.”

 

And he does hang up.

 

Miles away, Steve drops his phone.

 

——

 

Tony gets home first.  He can already hear Nuada before the door opens, barking happily and jumping around.  She zooms out when he stands aside, door held open, and he decides to forgo the leash, instead letting her wander around while he walks the street with her.

 

“What do you think, little devil?” he asks.

 

Nuada beams up at him, tongue waving happily, and Tony laughs at her.  “Yeah, me too,” he says, and then almost curses the sky above when he sees their neighbors out with their daughter.  He starts to lift a hand in a wave, but Nuada is overjoyed at the prospect of people almost as much as their daughter is at a dog, and the two go crashing toward one another.

 

Tony starts to apologize when they both convene in on the happily playing pair, but the woman just smiles and says, “No trouble at all.  We’ve been thinking about getting a dog, but we weren’t sure how Jane would take to one.  This is a good field test.”

 

“Well, you’re welcome, then,” Tony says, and she laughs.  He holds out a hand.  “Tony.”

 

“Sarah.  This is my husband, Michael, and our little girl, Jane.”

 

“What’s her name?” Jane asks, peering up at Tony.

 

“Nuada,” Tony says, and there goes his body again, dropping him into a squat so he can level with her, “But we call her Nua.”

 

“Hi Nua,” Jane says, waving.  Nuada jumps on her.  Jane laughs brightly, and Tony smiles, watching them.  “She’s funny,” Jane says once she’s righted herself again, “How old is she?”

 

“Five months old.  How old are you?”

 

Jane hums, apparently thinking, and she glances up at Sarah, who shakes her head, so she goes back to thinking and ultimately holds out three fingers.  “That many,” she says, “How old are you?”

 

“Jane,” Sarah says.

 

“That many times a lot,” Tony says, and Jane laughs instantly.

 

Tony straightens when she turns her attention back to Nuada, who has started to wander off, so Jane is quick to follow.  “How are you settling?” Michael asks, “Looks like the back and forth has finally stopped.”

 

“Everything’s in, yeah,” Tony says, glancing back at the house, “Officially no longer city boys.”

 

“Steve said you moved from Manhattan.  This must be different.”

 

“It’s better,” Tony says, “Healthier.  I still work in the city, but it’s nice coming back to this now.”

 

“Jane!  Not too far!” Sarah calls before turning back to them, “We should get back inside.  It’s getting cold, and she’ll need a nap soon.  It was lovely to finally meet you, Tony.”

 

“Likewise.”  He smiles, waiting for them to depart before he calls for Nuada, heading back down the street.  “Alright, devil,” he says once they’re inside, “What’s the game plan?”

 

Nuada is wired straight out of an electrical current, it seems, for she won’t relax, instead running around the house, collecting all of her toys and bringing them into the kitchen to show Tony while he frowns at the kitchen and tries to decide on dinner.  He doesn’t realize what she’s doing until the fourth toy, and then he just laughs and goes to make coffee while she runs back and forth.  He throws her for a loop one time, hiding one of the toys behind his back while she’s gone, and she careens to a halt as soon as she drops the one in her mouth.

 

“Jesus, okay,” he says, and throws the toy toward the master suite.

 

She takes off, running after it, and that’s about when Peggy calls him.  He’s been expecting it, knows that she would wait until Steve was on his way home before she prepared herself to rip him a new one for faking Steve out.

 

When he answers, she’s already going, “Anthony Edward Stark, you better not be messing around with this right now because I will rip your eyes out.”

 

“That’s a new one,” he says, “I think you can do better.”

 

“I swear to Satan, Tony.”

 

“Peggy.”

 

“This isn’t okay.  You can’t just dangle that in front of him and then snatch it away.  If you’re serious, you better damn well follow through with it because—”

 

Peggy.”

 

“—I will tear you limb from limb, you hear?  You will not get away unscathed if I hear one peep about you not being honest with him.  This is everything he’s ever dreamed of, and—”

 

“Peggy!”

 

“—he will be devastated, Tony.  What?” she finally snaps.

 

“I wasn’t messing around,” he says, “It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a little bit.”

 

“Oh.  Well.  Now I look like an ass,” Peggy mumbles.

 

“Is he on his way home?” Tony asks.

 

“Yes, and he has a tree.  Don’t yell at me.  I wanted to get Sharon’s mind off everything, so I made him come tree shopping with me.  Please be kind to him, Tony.”

 

“If I make lasagna, how much do you think he’ll freak out?”

 

Peggy’s laugh is instantaneous, and Tony smiles, setting down his mug in favor of going back to the fridge, opening the meat drawer.  “You’re going to give him a heart attack,” she says, “He said he needed to stop at the pet store on the way back, so he’ll still be a while.  He was talking about strawberry shortcake today.”

 

“Luckily, he talks about it every day, so we’ve always got the ingredients stocked, just in case.  I swear, I don’t know how that man stays in shape.  Nua, stop,” he adds when she won’t stop getting underfoot, “You’re going to get a paw or tail stepped on, I swear, and then our relationship is going to be all downhill from here.”

 

“Tony?”

 

“Yes, dear?”

 

“If it’s any help, I think you’d make an excellent father.”

 

Tony is completely and utterly derailed by that statement, so he mumbles out something incoherent, Peggy says something sweet that he forgets immediately, and their conversation ends.  “Well,” he says, clearing his throat, “Jay, music.”

 

“Of course, sir,” Jarvis says, “And might I add, I’ve finished recalibrating to this new location, and I’m quite fond of it.”

 

“Already?  Jeez, you’re easy in the sheets.”

 

Sir.”

 

“Oh, come on, don’t be all pouty about it.  Can you also—no, not a shortcake recipe.  Really?  Really?  Is that how little you know me?”

 

“My sincerest apologies, sir, it slipped my mind the sheer amount of times Captain Rogers has requested you make it.  What recipe shall I provide?”

 

“He liked that sauce last time, the one with the—yeah, that one.  Thanks, you’re a doll, go play with Nuada.  Seriously!  Go somewhere else.  I’m going to trip over you trying not to step on you, and then there’s going to be boiling water all over the floor, and—oh, fine.”  He succumbs, scooping Nuada up and depositing her in the fridge.  She burrows right back behind the yogurt, knocking everything over, and settles right down.  “Five minutes, and you’re done,” Tony says, and then proceeds to be annoyed by the fridge every time it beeps because he’s left the door open a crack.

 

He’s halfway through setting his second layer of pasta when he hears Steve pull up, and Nuada goes sprinting past him to wait by the door.  Seconds turn into minutes, and Tony frowns, pacing backward into the dining room to look out the window.  Steve’s just sitting there, car running, staring at the wheel in front of him.

 

“Jarvis, call Steve,” he says, going back into the kitchen.

 

It takes two rings, but he finally answers, “I’m coming.”

 

“Take your time,” Tony says, “But Nua’s at the door, and she’s pretty sad you haven’t walked through yet.”

 

“Tell me something that will make my stomach stop trying to heave itself out of my body.”

 

“I’m making lasagna?”

 

“Oh god, that didn’t help,” Steve says, and Tony can hear his head thud back against the seat.

 

Tony shrugs off this overwhelming urge to yell at Steve for making this harder for him and instead finishes his second layer and says, “I met the neighbors today.  Sarah and Michael, and their daughter Jane.  She’s three, sharp as a knife, and her and Nua got along like a house on fire.”

 

“You have the oddest sayings,” Steve informs him.

 

“She was really cute.  Definitely cuter than baby Johnny, who I changed a diaper for today.  That was an experience.  Babies aren’t actually that cute, I discovered.  They kind of look like how I imagine alien babies do, so maybe, hey, reverse psychology, alien babies look like we think ours should?  I mean, everyone else seems to think babies are the cutest fucking thing on the planet, but even Nua is—”

 

“Babies are ugly,” Steve says, “Unless they’re yours.  It’s kind of like pugs.”

 

“No, pugs are just ugly.  Nua, come here!”  She whines, but comes back into the kitchen, and she looks so sad, he says, “Goddamn, she really likes you more than me.”

 

“I’m coming,” Steve says, and this time it’s accompanied by the sound of the car door opening.

 

Tony hangs up on him and distracts Nuada with a spoonful of sauce, informing her she needs to taste test.  She laps it up, smearing red across her cheek when she licks her lips, and Tony just rolls his eyes when the door opens, and she nearly trips over herself in her haste to greet Steve.

 

“Hey Nua,” he says warmly.

 

“Close the door, it’s cold!” Tony calls.

 

“It is,” Steve says, finally coming in, “Getting dark early, too.  God, that smells heavenly.”  He sheds his jacket, comes up behind Tony, and loops his arms around him, pressing a kiss into the side of his neck.  “You know, both of my plans have been foiled this weekend,” he murmurs, mouth drifting down to his shoulder and then back up to bite lightly behind his ear.

 

“And what plans were those?” Tony asks, setting the final layer on the lasagna.

 

“Was gonna wake you up Saturday with my fingers in your ass,” Steve says, licking a spot near his hairline before he bites there.

 

Tony’s eyes roll back, head dropping forward as his hands still.  “Go on,” he says.

 

“Maybe later,” Steve says, and kisses the spot he’s bitten, slowly drawing back.

 

“You fucking tease,” Tony says, and whips him with a hand towel.

 

Steve just smiles and drops a kiss on his shoulder.  “I’m going to go get the tree and dog food,” he says, “You say anything about how big it is.”

 

“Listen, I already got a reaming from Peggy, not you, too.”

 

Steve groans.  “I should’ve known she was going to call you,” he says, and then disappears, Nuada running out after him.

 

The tree is massive.  Steve wrestles it into the corner of the great room, right next to one of the sofas, and stands back to admire his handiwork while Tony admires him.  “I was thinking about making strawberry shortcake while the lasagna cooks,” Tony says, and Steve’s groan goes straight to Tony’s dick.

 

“You’re my favorite husband,” he says.

 

“Alright, enough,” Tony says as he kicks the oven door down and puts the lasagna in, “Stop putting up a front and come talk to me.”

 

Four years ago, he might have poured them wine to make it all a little easier, but that was before he decided marrying Steve might be a life move he was ready for and dumped every bottle of liquor in the mansion.  Now, he just leans back against the counter and holds out his arms.  Steve comes willingly, somehow making himself small as he folds against Tony.

 

“Do you mean it?” he whispers.

 

“I’m thinking about it,” Tony says, rubbing circles over his back.  Nuada butts her way in between their legs, resting against Tony’s shins, which just makes him smile and gives him courage to continue, “I went with Betty today to just talk it out, figure out where my head was, and then she put a baby in my arms.  I was nervous I was only thinking about it for you, but holding him was—I don’t know how my dad never did it.  I wanted the world for that kid, and I’d known him for four seconds total.”

 

Steve straightens away from him, frowning.  “Howard never held you?” he asks.

 

Tony shakes his head.  “Didn’t really do much until I was talking.  Or, so my mother always claimed.”

 

“Tony.”

 

Steve’s frown deepens, and Tony kisses it away.  “We’re not talking about me,” he says, “Well, not that half of me.  Well.  Yes, actually, because my biggest fear is that I’m going to fuck up royally like he did, but then Betty said something along the lines of it was Maria’s fault, too, and if I’m that worried, all I have to remember is that I have you, and you’re universally inclined to be the best father in the world, and I want to be able to give you that, Steve.  I do.  And maybe I want to find out firsthand if my fears are unwarranted.  Also, you’re doing that smile that I love, so.”  Tony gives him a total of one second to respond before he says, “This is all not too much.  It’s never going to be too much.  I love you, and I’m not going anywhere, and if loving you wholly involves child, singular, then—well, maybe it’s something we should consider.”

 

“Yeah?” Steve says, and now, he’s letting the hope infect his voice in a way that Tony wants to make happen again and again.

 

“Yes,” Tony says, rubbing his hands over his arms, “I’m kind of in pre-heart failure right now, but I’m just gonna keep on keepin’ on.  So Sharon is giving her baby up for adoption, and I know that’s very soon, but I also know that you told Peggy and Betty you would gladly take the baby.”

 

“Which means you know the other half of that sentence,” Steve says.  He starts to step away, but Tony holds onto him.

 

“I know I don’t exactly get giddy at the prospect of being around children like you do,” Tony says, “But I wish you had just asked me.”

 

Steve drops his gaze, looks down at Nuada curled up on their feet, and Tony waits until he looks up again, lets him have this moment.  “I’m sorry,” he says, “I just—you freaked out last time.”

 

“I know,” Tony says, “We’re both at fault.  But I’m older now.”

 

“Don’t say it.”

 

“Wiser, even.”

 

“You’re cancelled,” Steve says, and kisses him before Tony can make fun of him.  It does the trick, muffles the quip already coming out, and Tony’s smiling easily when they part again.  “How about this,” he says, “We’ll sit on it for a week.  Open, honest dialogue about all of it, anything that comes up, and if we wind up here again on Sunday, we’ll talk to Sharon.”

 

“And then we never speak of it again,” Tony says quickly, and Steve smiles fondly at him.

 

“Yes, child, singular,” he says, head tipping up to kiss Tony’s forehead.

 

When he steps away, Nuada follows, and Tony barely gets out his bafflement, “You did this on purpose!”

 

“What?”  Steve looks mildly amused, and Tony fumbling with his words only heightens it.

 

“First the shedding, and then the crying.  You planned this, you butthead.”


“Oh, come on, would you have honestly predicted this conversation last month when we were adopting Nuada?”

 

“Shut up,” Tony mutters, and turns to the fridge.

 

Steve’s laugh follows him into the master suite, as does Nuada, and Tony can’t stop grinning at the strawberries.

 

——

 

Monday comes, and Tony tries to ask Pepper’s advice four separate times until she finally plucks the pen out of his hand and says, “Alright, spill.  What’s going on?  You were here early, and you haven’t made a single comment about signing by hand even though you’ve made it your life’s mission to be miserable every single time someone doesn’t hand you a tablet to sign off on something.”

 

“Realistically,” Tony says, grabbing another pen and continuing to sign, “Everything should be sent over the communal drive that I created for this sole purpose.  Why are you looking at me like that?”

 

“Is that tea?” Pepper asks, appalled.  She’s staring at the mug he’s reaching for.

 

“It’s still caffeinated,” he says, flipping to another document.

 

Pepper sits down.  In all her time with Tony, he’s never witnessed her sitting in the absurdly comfortable chairs across from his desk, but now, he’s afforded the view of her dropping into a seat out of sheer confusion.  “What the hell is going on?” she asks, “It can’t be anything with Steve, he’s already outdone himself time and time again.  Did something—unless.  Oh god, has he finally agreed to open your relationship to a third person?  Tony, I told you that wouldn’t end well, sweetheart.”

 

“Pep,” Tony says, setting his mug back down, “Do you want children?”

 

Pepper blinks at him.  “Someday, yes,” she says finally, “Do—you?”

 

“Until recently, I hadn’t really given it much thought.  It didn’t seem like something that would ever happen.  And yet.”

 

“Tony,” she says slowly, “Did you steal a baby?”

 

“Pepper!”

 

“What?” she says, standing up, “It’s a completely reasonable question.”  When Tony pauses in his signing to lift an eyebrow at her, she sighs and takes the completed stack from him.  “Well, explain, then.  Did you and Steve talk about having children?”

 

“Scientifically, no,” Tony says, if only to get a rise out of her.  Pepper heaves a long-suffering sigh, and Tony turns his grin down to his papers as he looks over the next document.

 

He knows he was meant to keep speaking, but the language in one of the clauses gives him pause, and so the moment drags on until Pepper says, “I think you’d make a really great father, actually.”

 

“People keep saying that,” Tony mumbles, not looking up.

 

“And most are probably just being polite,” Pepper says, “But I mean it.  Tony,” she adds when he still continues reading.  She waits until he meets her gaze before she says, “Truly.  I know you, sweetheart, and I know why you’re asking me this, but you have no reason to be afraid.  Wherever you feel like you might stumble, Steve will be there to catch you, and even if he wasn’t, you can do anything you put your mind to.  You’re going to be good at this.”

 

“I haven’t even said we’re doing it,” he says, though it’s lacking conviction.

 

“Are you?”

 

“We’re reconvening on Sunday to make a decision.  We just started talking about it last night.”

 

“Talking about what?” Obadiah’s voice disrupts them as the door closes as soundlessly as it had opened, “Hopefully not that communal drive again.”

 

Pepper glances at Tony, whose expression shifts into business as he says, “The communal drive would make everyone’s lives easier, and, bonus points, you wouldn’t have to listen to me pitch it anymore.”

 

“When your board isn’t full of old, white men, we’ll discuss it,” Obadiah says, going straight for the liquor Tony still keeps in his office, though Obadiah’s the only one that seems to drink it.  When Pepper had first tried to have it removed, Tony claimed he liked having the temptation because it kept him on track.

 

“New proposal, then,” Tony says, finishing off the last signature with a flourish, “Revamp the board.  Let’s hire a bunch of millennials.  Oh.  Let’s ransack Google and steal all of their best employees.”

 

“Not Apple?” Obadiah teases.

 

Tony groans loudly.  “Don’t.”

 

“That’ll be all, Miss Potts,” Obadiah says before Tony can start ranting about the indecency of bringing up Apple in his presence.

 

Pepper flashes a dashing smile Obadiah’s way, turns to Tony, and says, “Anything else, Mister Stark?”

 

“Anything close to lunch?” he asks, leaning back in his chair.

 

“I can rearrange and find somewhere halfway, if you’d like.”

 

“Perfect, thank you.”

 

Obadiah remains by the liquor, swirling the amber liquid in circles around his glass even when Pepper is gone.  “How was Spain?” Tony asks.

 

“I’ve been gone for four months, Tony, and you decide now is a good time to play house?” Obadiah says, his voice calm even though it’s dripping with disdain.

 

For no reason Tony can understand, he wants to hide all of himself from his oldest friend, and though he’d like nothing more than for Obadiah to support him, he stows away the set of smiles he reserves for the likes of Steve and Pepper and Betty, and instead gives him the cold, business one.  “Haven’t the faintest what you’re on about, Obie,” he says easily, getting up, “Shall we?  Pepper’s got me on a tight schedule these days.”

 

Obadiah steps into his path, and Tony careens to a quick halt, brows knitting in.  “You give her too much power,” he says, lifting one hand to smooth an invisible wrinkle in the lapel of Tony’s jacket, “The board was furious that she ruled in your absence.”

 

“Ruled?  What are we, knights of the round table?” Tony snorts, and steps around him, heading for the doors.

 

“Tony,” Obadiah says in that warning tone he uses only with him, “The board—”

 

“The board is furious because I threatened their jobs,” Tony says, pulling the door open, “There’s not a single individual idea between the six of them, and they nearly had a fit when they found out we were giving R&D more power.”

 

Tony.  We talked about this.  R&D is a waste of energy and money.  Let it die.”

 

“We’re not a weapons manufacturing company anymore, Stane,” Tony says, shrugging, “Sooner or later, you and the board need to come to terms with that.”

 

He leaves before allowing Obadiah a comeback and strides quickly down the hall, exhaling in relief when Pepper comes up on his left, a coffee in hand.  “Is it Peggy’s niece?” she asks.

 

Tony almost chokes on his coffee.  “Yes,” he manages, “How did you know?”

 

“One plus one,” she says, “You were talking about it last week.  I hope it works out.  Let me know if there’s anything you need, anything at all.”

 

Tony digs up a brilliant smile for her, and nods.  “Thanks, Pep.”

 

“Hold onto that feeling.  First meeting’s with our new friends in Hong Kong.”

 

Tony makes a face as Pepper steers him inside a conference room, and it’s the last peaceful moment he has all day.

 

It’s not until several hours, and several condescending remarks later, that he’s finally stopping by his office to collect his tablet, jacket, and an Advil for the headache threatening to pull him under.  To top things off, it’s already nearing 7PM, traffic is a nightmare, and he wasn’t able to pop out for lunch, not with Obadiah looming about.

 

“A month, Tony?” he’d sneered after the board meeting, “You were gone for a month to spend time with your husband?  Howard’s rolling over in his grave as we speak.”

 

He wants to punch something.

 

Instead, he calls Steve, who, thankfully, answers on the first ring, “Hey babe.”

 

“Hey,” Tony says tiredly, leaning back against the wall of the elevator, “Happy words, please.”

 

“I’m making cheeseburgers.  I found a new recipe for grilling jalapenos into the burger, and I got pepper jack cheese.  And, get this, Whole Foods was giving samples of this new gelato, which has hazelnuts and caramel in it.  Also, I love you.”

 

“You’re my favorite human,” Tony says as the doors slide open, and he walks through the lobby of SI with a stupid ass grin on his face, “I think I wanna have your baby.”

 

Steve’s laugh is loud and beautiful, and it erases almost everything from today.  “I thought we agreed on Sunday,” he says.

 

“I’m impatient,” Tony whines, “We already both agreed we want to do it, and we’re going to have until March to have as many freak outs as we need to, so I say we call Sharon when I get home.”

 

“After dinner.”

 

“After dinner, we’re having sex,” Tony says, “We were interrupted at every possible opportunity this weekend, and I’m bitter about it.”

 

He can almost feel Steve’s smile as he says, “Yeah, I miss you, too.  Make sure you speed.”

 

“The Copiague police are going to hate us.”

 

“Stop saying it like that, or I’ll punch you.”

 

“Bring it, hot stuff,” Tony says, and hangs up as he drops behind the wheel of his car.

 

——

 

Steve’s been staring at the ceiling for at least two hours, one arm trapped beneath Tony and one foot warmed by Nuada.  He hasn’t been able to settle all night, instead has been keeping himself busy by making extravagant cheeseburgers, doing laundry, browsing online for outdoor furniture, pinning Tony to the bed, and, eventually, just giving up and rolling out his yoga mat to try tiring out his mind.

 

None of it works, and he’s left here imagining every possible outcome of calling Peggy tomorrow.

 

“Jarvis,” Tony murmurs suddenly, shifting and flattening one hand against Steve’s chest, “Call Peggy.”

 

“Tony, it’s late,” Steve hisses, “Jarvis, please don’t.”

 

Please,” Tony mutters, rolling off of him and onto his back, lifting up so Steve can extract his arm, “You’ve called her at more ridiculous times before, and vice versa.  You’re never going to get to sleep.”

 

“Exhaustion will eventually win.”

 

“Call Peggy.”

 

Steve’s only response is to reach for Tony’s hand, trying to quell some of his nerves.  Tony squeezes back, and then holds his breath without meaning to when the ringing stops.

 

“Insomnia club, what’s your poison?” Peggy says.

 

“I’ve been staring at the ceiling for an eternity,” Steve says.

 

“You don’t make for a very good pillow when you’re tense,” Tony comments.

 

“Evening, Tony,” Peggy says, “It’s been a while since I received a phone call with a costar.”

 

“Damn, all of my witty banter has suddenly been replaced by the overwhelming urge to vomit my nerves.  Mind if I cut to the chase?” Tony says, steeling himself against the way Steve closes his eyes.

 

“Oh,” Peggy says, and there’s a noise like sheets moving, “Yeah, sure, what’s up?”

 

Tony looks over at Steve, who nods once, so Tony waits, watches his husband throw up as many walls as he needs to before he says, “Peg, has Sharon found someone to adopt the baby yet?”

 

“No,” Peggy sighs, “She hasn’t really been looking, either.  I think she thinks because she’s here now, she doesn’t—”

 

“Peggy.”

 

“Steve?”

 

“We—we’d like to, um—”  Tony lifts their hands to kiss his knuckles.  Steve takes a steadying breath.  “Would it be possible to sit with Sharon and discuss ourselves as potential parents?”

 

There’s a long, heavy silence on the other line broken by the quiet noise of Peggy crying.  “Oh my god, yes,” she gasps, “Yes, absolutely.  When are you free?  Can you come over tomorrow night?  I’ll make dinner.”

 

Steve glances at Tony, who says, “We’ll be there.  Seven okay?”

 

“Perfect.  Steve.”

 

“I know,” he says, “We’ll talk more tomorrow.  Sorry for calling so late.”

 

“No, no, never, it’s okay, just—thank you.”

 

“Night, Peg,” he says, and Jarvis ends the call.

 

Steve lies there, still staring at the ceiling, and he thinks he might be a little in shock until Tony rolls over on top of him again, nuzzles under his jaw, and whispers, “You wanna be dad or pops?”

 

Steve exhales a laugh.  “I feel like I could run a marathon right now.”

 

In the morning, Tony nearly calls in sick, but Steve convinces him to go until he’s left home alone, and he feels like he might go stir crazy.  He doesn’t want to go out because he’ll just end up shopping for baby things without being able to buy anything, but he can’t stand the idea of staying in for the next twelve hours.  And so, that’s how he ends up in the Museum of Natural History with Sam.

 

“You know, you should start coming to group again,” Sam says as they’re slowly making their way through, “Especially with the possibility of a baby on the horizon.  Work to get your head under control before you throw a huge variable in.”

 

“I know,” Steve says, nodding, “Still Wednesday nights?”

 

“There’s a new guy I think you’d get along with.  Might be good to have a friend in the military that’s not me.”

 

Steve knocks their shoulders together.  “I know, mom.”

 

“Hey, not me who’s about to become a parent,” Sam says, and Steve’s grin is unstoppable.  “That excited, huh?”

 

“I’m trying not to be,” Steve admits, “She could say no.”

 

“To you?  You really think so?”

 

“Can we just—not?” Steve asks, offering Sam an apologetic smile, “I’m sorry.  I just need to focus on something else, or I’m going to go crazy.”

 

And somehow, Sam manages to keep him preoccupied for most of the day.  He runs home around four to hang out with Nuada, taking her on an hour long walk, and when he finally gets back, Tony’s calling.  “Hey, are you already out?” he asks, “It’s only five.”

 

“I can’t sit in here anymore.  Wanna come in early, and we’ll get coffee or something?  My hands won’t stop shaking,” Tony says all in one breath.

 

“Alright,” Steve says, “I’ll be right there.”

 

He drives in silence, the truck rumbling around him, and he’s drawn up a list that’s a mile long of things they need to buy by the time he finally gets into Manhattan and stops in front of the Tower.  Tony’s outside, surprisingly, pacing back and forth across the entrance while he talks on the phone, though he’s quick to hang up when he sees Steve.

 

“Rhodey,” he says when he climbs in, “I made Pepper crazy, so she kicked me out, and I had to keep my head busy.”

 

“Are you okay?” Steve asks.

 

“I’m kind of freaking out,” Tony says, and then quickly adds, when he sees the fear on Steve’s face, “No, not like that.  A good freak out.  I’m excited.  I’m also nervous as fuck.  I really want her to say yes, Steve.”

 

Steve smiles and reaches for his hand.  “Me too,” he says softly before putting the car in drive and pulling away from SI.

 

They get coffee to go and then stop at a bookstore to waste some time.  Steve tries to get lost in the astronaut biographies, but there’s some kind of vibrational pull drawing him toward the children’s section, and, when he finally gives up, he’s surprised to find Tony already in there, paging through a picture book.

 

They allow themselves this moment, picking out books they would read as bedtime stories and even reading a few to each other, until it’s finally time to head over to Peggy’s.

 

It’s nothing short of wild when they arrive.  Peggy is trying valiantly to remain calm, talking about the dinner she made as she leads them in.  Sharon is setting the table, wearing a sweatshirt that hides what little stomach she has now.  Tony is a bundle of nervous energy, but he shakes it off like a physical thing, his smiles quickly becoming forced and unnatural.  Steve is the one to break it, dropping into a seat at the table and saying, “Can we just talk about this now?”

 

“Please,” Sharon says, and sits opposite him, “I feel like I’m going to throw up, I’m so worked up.”

 

Peggy looks rooted to the spot, but Tony slowly comes over, taking the seat next to Steve, who turns fully to Sharon, his smile a small and unsure thing.  “Sharon, we’re interested in giving your baby a home after it’s been born.”

 

“He,” Sharon says.

 

Steve stops breathing.  “What?”

 

“He,” Sharon says, “I found out last week.  It’s a boy.”

 

Steve’s mouth open and closes several times before he just looks to Tony, unable to proceed.  “Goddamn it, Steve,” Tony says, eyes shutting for a brief second before he turns his gaze to Sharon.  “Whatever you need,” he says slowly, “Whatever way we can help, we just—we would like to start a family, and if you were willing—”

 

“I am,” Sharon interrupts, “I am willing.  I know you, Steve.  I know what kind of man you are, and even though I haven’t spoken to you a lot, Tony, I know Steve wouldn’t have married someone he didn’t trust and love implicitly.  This—this feels so much better than just giving him up to a stranger, knowing exactly the type of environment he would be entering.  I only ask that you raise him as your own, without mentioning me.”

 

“Wait—” Steve tries.

 

“I don’t need any platitudes or well wishes or whatever it is you think you have to say,” she continues, “I’ve been thinking about this all day, and this is the right decision.  I want you to adopt him.”

 

Steve starts crying.

 

He’d intended to wait until they got home, to bottle it all up until later, but he’d also expected this conversation to take an hour, maybe more, and yet, here they are, taking the hugest step of their lives, and Steve has zero control over what his body needs to do.  “I’m sorry,” he says, wiping at his face, “I don’t—I can’t—Sharon.  Thank you.”

 

Sharon smiles, shrugging one shoulder.  “Just seeing you now, how much you want this,” she breaks off to nod.  “This is the right thing to do.  You’ll do wonderfully by him.  I can see that.”  She’s quiet for a few moments before she stands up abruptly and says, “I’ll give you a moment.”

 

It doesn’t really sink in until later, when they’re lying in bed, Nuada stretched out between them, and Steve can’t stop smiling.  “Tony,” he whispers into the dark.

 

“Yeah,” Tony says, lifting their twined fingers to kiss Steve’s knuckles.  He’s still smiling from earlier, and his face aches with it.  He can’t believe this is actually happening.  “Me too.”

 

“We’re going to be dads,” Steve says.

 

Tony closes his eyes.  He’s never slept so well.

Chapter Text

January, 2016

 

Between the overall excitement, going back to visit Sharon the following day to discuss everything in detail, Christmas, a sudden ear infection that makes Nuada walk in a diagonal line, and the general unavailability of everyone, Steve isn’t actually able to do any preparing until after the New Year.  And then, of course, his first free second is eaten up by a drill weekend, Monday and Tuesday are straight out of hell—between a gala and Nuada taking off in the snow and ending up lost for several hours—and Steve’s not sure he’s ever looked forward to group on Wednesday more.

 

When he finally arrives, on the brink of being late, Sam’s still in the hall greeting everyone, and he cheers softly when he sees Steve.

 

“I thought there wasn’t a chance in hell you’d show tonight,” he says, “Not after the week you’ve been having.”

 

“Four fucking hours in the snow,” he says, “I’m never letting her off leash again.”

 

“Well, she is a husky,” Sam says, grinning, “Listen, remember that military guy I wanted you to meet?”  Sam turns halfway, spots whoever he’s looking for, and turns back to Steve.  “He’s over at the coffees.  He’s really nice, and he’s having a bit of a hard time adjusting, particularly to the group.  I know you’re living in crazy pants world right now, but maybe you could sit next to him, do your Cap smile, and make him feel welcome?”

 

“Yeah, sure,” Steve says, smiling, “Anything to help.  Good gathering tonight?”

 

“Almost everyone is here, yeah,” Sam says, swelling with pride, “It’s good, that they keep coming back.  Hey, you busy after?”  Steve deflates just a little.  “Nah, nothing crazy,” Sam says quickly, “Just wondering if you wanted to grab a quick burger and then go look at cribs?”

 

“What?” Steve says, floored by his confusion.

 

“Tony sent me no less than sixteen different cribs and told me to take you out tonight and research them, which I can’t believe you haven’t already done, man.”

 

Steve sighs even as this steady warmth envelops him from the inside out.  He’d been complaining the other night about how they weren’t even remotely prepared to be parents in three months, but he’d never expected this.  Tony’s out of town all week in California, and while the time difference isn’t bad, he’s missed him like there’s been an anvil sitting on his chest the past two days.

 

“Yeah,” Steve says, “It’s been a little crazy, but this is happening whether or not we’re ready, so I’d rather be prepared.  Thanks, man.”

 

“Absolutely.  Now, come on.  Go make friends with Bucky, and I won’t say a single thing about the sixteen cribs.”

 

Steve just smiles and follows him in.

 

It’s everything he’s been needing, especially after a drill weekend.  He makes sure to get coffee with Bucky during their break, officially introducing himself, and, by the end of the night, he thinks he may have just made a new friend.  It’s confirmed when Steve asks if he’ll join for burgers, and he agrees, although with a wary smile.

 

They take Steve’s truck to a small diner down the street, and it’s not until they’re sitting that Sam holds out his hand.  “What?” Steve says, eyebrows shooting up.

 

“First rule of crib shopping is you give me your damn keys and get a beer.”

 

On another night, Steve might have declined, but he’s going home to an empty bed to sleep badly, so he shrugs and drops his keys in Sam’s waiting palm.

 

“Crib shopping?” Bucky says, looking between them.

 

“You’re looking at America’s soon to be greatest father ever,” Sam says, grinning widely, “And his psycho husband sent us on a mission to review sixteen cribs.”

 

“You said you’d stop bringing up the sixteen part,” Steve says, “He’s just thorough.  Trust me, the actual list is several pages longer.”

 

“So you’ve seen it?”

 

“I was the one who narrowed it down to sixteen.  I would have kept going, but he applied the secret weapon.”

 

“Whore,” Sam accuses, and Steve laughs, leaning back into the booth.

 

They chat about anything that’s not their tours.  The first time Steve tries to bring it up with Bucky, Sam shuts them both down and tells them they’re off the clock and just hanging out, and really, Steve blames him for why they all end up, two hours later, frowning at a highly overpriced crib.

 

“This thing is ridiculous,” Steve says, “Are you sure this is on the list?”


“Number four,” Sam says, already scrolling through it, “Shall we mark it off?”

 

“It looks like a robot,” Bucky says.

 

Steve just holds out a hand in his direction in agreement.

 

Eventually, ten minutes to closing, they stumble across the perfect one just as they’re giving up.  It’s not on the list, which is why Sam walks past it, but Steve starts to slow, frowning at it.  “Sam,” he says softly.


“Not on the list,” Bucky says for him.

 

Steve stops, facing it.  It’s a convertible with changing table attached, and it’s in a dark, rich wood.  It’s the kind of elegant style Tony’s been looking at, with an arching backboard, but it’s still simple, not over the top.  It’s everything that the others have not been, and Steve sends one picture to Tony, who fires off a quick approval, and then they’re buying it.

 

It’s like bringing it home makes it real.

 

Up until now, Steve’s been living in his old life, trying to keep up with the way it’s trying to shift drastically, and here it is.  There’s a crib in what he once imagined would be a small studio.

 

Sam’s promised to come out with him and Nat tomorrow to shop, but Steve can’t stop staring at the massive box in the middle of the room.  “Hey, Jarvis,” he says softly, “Call Tony, please.”

 

“It’s about 7PM there, sir.  He may still be working.  Shall I leave a message if he is preoccupied?”

 

“No, it’s okay.”

 

Steve waits, still staring at the box, until Tony finally picks up, “Hey sugar.”

 

“You busy?”

 

“Not for you.”

 

“Jarvis, video call, please.”

 

“Oh, crib unboxing!” Tony yells even as a screen pops up opposite Steve and snaps to life with Tony’s image.

 

He’s missing pants, if his bare knees at the edges of the video are any indication, and he’s already in bed, which is a mess of papers, three separate tablets, and a clear container of sushi.  “Busy week?” Steve asks, smiling at him.

 

“I miss you,” Tony says, exhaling loudly, “I want to come home.  Are you putting it together now?”

 

“Is that okay?  You don’t want me to wait for you?”

 

Tony waves a hand dismissively at him.  “I won’t be home until late Friday, and you’ll just spend half the day staring at it, so might as well get it over with.  Plus, I can still yell at you for not following directions this way.”

 

“You wouldn’t have,” Steve accuses, tugging the box cutter out of his sweats that he grabbed just in case.

 

“Yes, because I have a master’s degree in engineering, you fool.  Ha!  You were already prepared!  Oh, are those my pants?  I was wondering where they were just fifteen minutes ago.”

 

“Tell me you didn’t open the door for sushi with no pants on.”

 

“Of course I did.  They thought I was crazy when I placed an order fit for three people.  I was only doing them a favor by confirming that.  I got a sunset roll.”

 

“Jackass,” Steve says, and Tony’s grin just widens.

 

“Are you going out with Sam and Nat tomorrow still?”

 

“I wish it was with you,” Steve says before he considers the words, and then he’s left wincing at the box and slowly looking up.

 

To his surprise, Tony’s distracted, and he wonders if he’s even heard his comment when he says, “Okay, I’ll be home tomorrow night.”

 

Steve drops the box cutter.  Tony yells something about being careful and blood on the new crib, but Steve can’t stop looking at his blue eyes and wondering how he got so lucky.  “You’re amazing,” he says, effectively silencing him.  Compliments always seem to do that to him.

 

Tony wrinkles his nose.  “Don’t turn me into a sap,” he says, and Steve smiles, picking up the box cutter again.

 

They spend their night together, Steve building and Tony yelling at him for doing it wrong even though he’s following the instructions, and Steve absolutely falls asleep on the phone with him, one hand stretched out to the other side of the bed like he’s right there.

 

——

 

February, 2016

 

“James,” Steve says.

 

“Ugh, no, that’s Rhodey’s name, he’ll get all high and mighty and think I like him or something,” Tony says.

 

Steve turns to roll his eyes at him, but he’s not there, and he smiles when he finds him sitting on the ground with three different onesies in his lap.  “Alexander,” Steve says, just watching him.

 

Tony’s head tilts to the side as he says, “Feels too kingly.  And I hate shortening names.  He’ll end up being Alex quick as lightning.”

 

“Edward.”

 

“Get the fuck away from me,” Tony says, but it’s with no bite because then he lifts two of the three onesies and holds them up, looking up at Steve imploringly.

 

“Get both?” Steve says.

 

“You said only one!” Tony exclaims, “I’ve been sitting here for an eternity, and I’m too fucking old to be on the ground, and now you tell me I can get more than one?  What the fuck, Rogers,” he ends in a mumble, latching onto Steve’s hand and yanking to get himself to his feet.  Steve nearly unbalances, but manages to right himself, shaking his head as he starts to laugh.

 

“Alright, I’ve given you three, your turn.”

 

Tony groans loudly, and says, in his most obnoxious voice, “Grant.”

 

“Don’t be an ass,” Steve says, and flicks his ear, “Are you getting both?”

 

“Yes, I’m getting both,” he mutters, stalking past Steve and out of the clothes section.  Steve follows him over to the toys, though they’ve both agreed to wait until after the baby is born to buy much beyond a few things.  “Remus,” Tony says.

 

“We’re not naming him after a Harry Potter character.”

 

“Points for knowing, though.  Rory.”

 

“Or Doctor Who.”

 

“Goddamn it.  Your turn.”

 

Steve picks up one of those sets with a triangle and different sized rings, smiling as he imagines little baby hands fumbling with the rings.  “Michael.”

 

Mike,” Tony says, sticking out his tongue, “Also an archangel.”

 

“Most names can be shortened, including yours, so stop making this difficult.  Jonathan?”

 

“No, one of Betty’s friends has a baby named Johnny,” Tony says, taking the box from Steve and adding it to their cart, “She’s bringing Gwen tonight, who is, until March, my absolute favorite small human ever.  Do you have any idea what this whole secret thing is we’ve been kicked out of the house for?”

 

Steve shrugs.  “She wouldn’t tell me anything.  Lucas?”

 

“Skywalker?  Okay,” Tony says.

 

“No,” Steve says, “Sorry, vetoing.”

 

“Whatever, loser.  Christopher.”

 

“Columbus.”

 

Fine.  Andrew.”

 

Steve pauses, considering.  “It’s a contender,” he says, “I don’t hate it.”

 

“Thomas?” Tony says, plowing right past him.

 

“The tank engine?” Steve says, and Tony laughs, turning toward the main aisle and up toward the registers.

 

They’re in line when Tony turns to Steve and says, “Holy shit, it’s almost March.”

 

“Are you nervous?” Steve asks.

 

Tony shrugs one shoulder and nods.  “Still excited, though,” he says, “You?”  Steve’s smile is answer enough.

 

——

 

Betty is at the door holding Gwen when they get home, and Steve is quick to coo and take her from Betty while Tony rolls his eyes and hangs up his jacket.  “Are we allowed in?” he teases, smiling when Betty points at him threateningly.

 

“Listen, it was for a good cause.”

 

Steve toes off his boots and heads past them as Betty’s threatening finger drops and she watches Steve with a smile she’s trying to bite back.  “Betty,” he says slowly, and Tony quickly follows him into the rest of the house, careening to a halt just inside the kitchen.

 

There are blue decorations hung up and a small gathering of balloons tied down in the middle of the table, which has been set with food.  Peggy is just coming out from the master suite to join Nat, Clint, and Sam in the sitting room, and Rhodey is outside, cleaning the grill and chatting with Bruce.  “Thor was running a little behind,” Betty says, herding Tony in further, “He was picking up drinks on his way over.”

 

“What is this?” Steve asks, turning toward her.

 

“It’s just a small thing,” Betty says, “I know you didn’t want to make things weird and were just trying to stay on the DL about everything, but we couldn’t not throw you a baby shower.  No, don’t,” she adds at Steve’s face, “It’s not really a baby shower.  It’s just us, just—coming together to celebrate.  This is exciting.”

 

“Betty, thank you,” Tony says, “Steve, give the alien back to her mother.”  Steve moves robotically, transferring Gwen to Betty’s arms, whose frown deepens.  “Can we just have a second?” Tony asks, trying to make his smile light and easy.

 

Though Betty nods and walks away, she glances back at them, and Tony is quick to tug at Steve until he follows him over to the counter, where Tony opens one of the cabinets in search of a glass.  “Talk to me,” he says, filling it under the tap.

 

“I’m just—” but Steve stops there and doesn’t continue, looking conflicted.

 

Tony gulps at the water before pushing it into Steve’s hands, who blinks at it for a moment before seeming to realize what it is.  “I know this is weird,” Tony says, “Sharon should be having this, not us, but we’re going to be dads soon, Steve, and they’re just trying to show their support and how happy they are for us.”

 

“I know,” Steve says, nodding and looking down, and Tony sees the breath move through him as his shoulders rise high and then slowly fall.  When he looks back up, he’s smiling like he’s trapped the sun right in front of him.  “I know,” he says, “God, I can’t wait.”

 

“Good,” Tony says, taking the glass back from him, “Good because I feel like I might throw up.”

 

“Makes it a little more real?” Steve guesses, casting a glance around at the decorations.  Tony nods, not really trusting himself to speak, and then Steve says, “Last chance to back out.”

 

Tony swallows every ounce of fear, forces himself to smile, and says, “Not fucking happening.  Now, let’s go.  If Rhodey grilled, this is going to be one badass dinner.”

 

Their night passes spectacularly.  Betty pawns Gwen off on Steve to take care of during dinner, Nuada whines about being replaced and follows Tony everywhere, curling up on one of his feet and not moving until he gets up later, and then she just waits until he sits again and jumps up onto his lap.  They talk about the million and one things they have left to do to get ready, Peggy gives them an update on Sharon, who has been cursing up a storm about how she’s never getting pregnant again, and eventually, when Gwen starts fussing, their night comes to a close.  They bid everyone goodbye, clean up, and then get ready for bed, Tony going into the bathroom while Steve migrates into the nursery, which they painted last weekend.

 

“Bastards,” Steve mutters when he walks in and finds wrapped presents inside the crib.

 

“Anything good?” Tony asks, and Steve jumps, hand coming up to flatten over his heart.

 

He turns, finds Tony at his elbow, and says, “Make some noise, Jesus.”

 

Tony isn’t listening, though, is instead staring at the crib, a cryptic expression on his face.  Steve opens his mouth to question it, but Tony says, “I’m gonna be in the shop for a bit,” and disappears.

 

He knows what Steve’s face looks like as he walks away, but he knows standing in there with him isn’t an option right now, and so he wastes away the night until it’s near the witching hour, and Jarvis says, “Sir, please.  Go to bed.”

 

Tony grumbles, but obeys, shutting his monitors down, sending the robots to sleep, and padding barefoot out of the lab and back into the house.  Steve is asleep when he enters their room, but there’s evidence of him trying to wait up in the form of a half-finished book on his chest.  Tony sighs and carefully sets the book aside, brushes his blonde hair back, and kisses his forehead before stripping out of his clothes and climbing into bed.

 

He’s asleep for forty minutes before it starts.

 

He drowns, deep, dark blue pulling him under and swimming through his lungs, weighting him down toward a bottomless emptiness that never stops and never kills him.  He keeps gasping for air, reaching for a light that isn’t there, begging for a god that doesn’t exist, screaming with no noise to voice his fears and nothing but salt water sloshing through his veins.

 

He wakes panting, struggling to catch his breath, and Steve is dead weight next to him.  Even Nuada doesn’t move, and Tony frowns as he waits for one of her ears to perk up, waits for her to scramble over to him, but she keeps lying there.  He zeroes in on that, tosses the water and darkness away in his effort to focus on a single thing, and that’s when he notices she isn’t breathing.

 

“Shit, Steve!” he yells, reaching over to grab his shoulder and shake him.

 

Steve rolls under his touch, and he’s awake but he’s not, seeing but not, alive but not, staring up at nothingness, his mouth agape as though he’s trying to swallow the universe whole, and it’s bigger than should be normal, stretching past just shock and into something horrifying.

 

“Steve?” Tony says, not moving.

 

Steve’s head turns, like a door creaking open, those sightless eyes finding him as his jaw unhinges and draws impossibly longer.

 

“Steve,” Tony pleads, slowly backing up.

 

“Tony,” the voice that says is his name is Steve’s, but it’s not, and Tony shouts, twisting and throwing himself off the bed, smashing his knee off the nightstand and cracking his elbow on the floor when he finally falls.

 

Tony hauls himself upright, spinning, but Steve isn’t in bed, and Tony closes his eyes for a breath, trying to will his mind to shut down, to stop.  When he opens his eyes again, Steve is standing at the foot of the bed, and his mouth won’t stop opening wider and wider, and his face is in shadows like his eyes, and Tony’s reminded, all at once, of the shadow man he used to run from.

 

“Fuck,” he says, and turns.

 

The bathroom has no exit, and the closet loops back into the room, so he crashes through to the nursery, slamming the door behind him.

 

“Tony!” it sounds more like Steve than before, but it’s not, it’s not, it can’t be.

 

“Fuck, fuck, fuck,” Tony chants, hands coming up to fist in his hair as he squeezes his eyes shut again, pacing in a small circle and trying to calm his heaving chest.  “It’s okay,” he tells himself, “Wake up.  Just wake up.”

 

A baby cries.

 

“No,” Tony moans, and opens his eyes.

 

The crib is standing opposite him, and there are presents on the floor, ripped open and oozing something black and sludgy, something that smells like acid and threatens to burn at the slightest touch.  The silence is overwhelming, and Tony shudders in relief when there’s a soft cry again.  He creeps toward the crib, careful to avoid the sludge, and nearly steps in it when there’s a loud boom on the door.

 

“Shit, fuck,” he swears, jumping toward the crib and peering inside.

 

There’s a small baby there swaddled in a red blanket, and Tony tries not to think about how it might be blood because then it is, and everything his brain has ever supplied has always led to something worse.

 

The boom comes again, and the door creaks.  “Alright, come on,” Tony says and throws the blanket off the baby, lifting it into his arms and turning toward the other door.

 

Steve is standing there, arms outstretched.  “Tony,” it groans, it because this isn’t Steve, it can’t be, it—Tony drops to his knees, curling around the baby and trying to shield it with his body.

 

“It’s okay,” he whispers, “It’s okay, I’ll protect you, I won’t let—”

 

Light floods the room.

 

Tony stops breathing, opens his eyes and finds that the baby is still there.  “Wake up,” he whispers, forehead pressing against his knee, “Wake up, damn it.”

 

He hears something awful to his right, and his spine shivers in response.  “Okay,” he says, shifting the baby, “Here’s the plan.  Don’t make a sound, alright?”

 

The baby blinks at him, wide blue eyes holding a promise.

 

Tony runs.  He shoulders open the door to the nursery, sprints through a decaying living room, and just manages to grab his jacket before there’s this unholy and overwhelming roar behind him, and then he sprints from the house and out into the sunlight.

 

Tony blinks against the brightness of it, lifting a hand to shield his eyes.

 

“Tony!” he hears from behind him, and it’s Steve now, Steve scared shitless.

 

He looks down, finds that while his arms are empty, there are small cuts all over, and the sharp tang of blood fills his nostrils.  There’s snow under his feet, and he’s not wearing any pants, but he’s got on the jacket he grabbed, and he doesn’t know when morning happened.

 

“I’m behind you,” Steve says before he comes around, and Tony blinks at him.  “Are you awake?” he asks.

 

“Where am I?” Tony asks.

 

“Okay,” Steve says, and reaches forward, grabbing Tony by the arms and pulling him close.  “God, you scared me,” Steve exhales.

 

“Where’s the baby?” Tony asks, his voice muffled against Steve’s chest.

 

“Tony, you were asleep,” Steve says, finally pulling back, “You were—sleep walking.  It was a night terror, I think.”

 

“What?”  Nothing makes sense.  Tony feels like he’s speaking a different language.  He hasn’t had a night terror since the night he found out his father died.

 

“Come on, let’s go inside,” Steve says, trying to lead him away.

 

Tony twists out of his hold.  “No, the baby,” he says, blinking quickly and stepping away, “You were—and it was—Nua was dead.”

 

Steve flinches.  “Nua’s fine,” he says, “She’s inside, waiting for you.  Can we please go inside?  It’s cold out, Tony.”

 

“Steve?  Tony?” a familiar voice says, and somehow this is what rockets Tony back.

 

His exhale shatters around him as he drops his chin toward his chest.  “Hey Sarah,” Steve says, “How are you?”

 

“Is everything okay?” she asks.

 

“Yeah, fine,” Steve says, looking down as Tony reaches a hand back.  He quickly takes it, twining their fingers together and tugging gently.  Tony goes, steps right into Steve’s space, and tries to hold it in.  “Sorry, sleep walking,” Steve says, “It happens sometimes in new places.  You ready to go inside?” he drops his voice, addressing Tony.

 

“I can’t breathe,” Tony whispers.

 

“I know, come on,” Steve says, leading him away.

 

Tony forces his body into lockdown until they’re in the house, and then he darts away from Steve, yanking off the jacket and breaking into a run at the last second before he vomits into the kitchen sink, knuckles going white where he’s holding onto the counter.

 

Steve and Nuada both join him, Nuada circling his feet repeatedly while Steve rubs his back, murmuring nonsense that Tony doesn’t understand, but it’s his voice that helps.  When he finally feels like he might not come apart at the seams, he pushes away from the counter and paces away from Steve, holding up a hand when Steve tries to follow.

 

He’s done this dance so many times, Steve knows to keep his distance.  Tony is always wrecked after a night terror, can’t get his head on straight and doesn’t feel safe in his own body.

 

“Can you explain the cuts on your arms?” Steve asks softly.

 

“I don’t know,” Tony says, shaking his head and finally coming to a stop.  He turns toward Steve, arms wrapped around himself, and just stares at him.  “Open your mouth,” he says.  Steve obeys, brows knitting together when Tony flinches, jerking back a step.  “Is that as far as you can go?” he asks.

 

Steve closes his mouth.  “I was in it?” he asks.

 

“You were the fucking—” Tony breaks off, but Steve’s heard about the shadow man before and knows not to press it, “God, that’s never happened before with you.  There was—Nuada was fucking dead, and there was a baby in the crib.  You were chasing us.  I ran outside with it.”

 

“It?”

 

“Him.  It was ours.  He was ours.  I can’t—fuck.”  He drops his gaze, inhaling deeply as his shoulders shake.

 

“I’m gonna call Pepper and let her know you’re not coming in today,” Steve says.  Tony doesn’t confirm or deny, just stares at the floor where Nuada’s sitting, staring back at him, and he doesn’t move until Steve’s left the kitchen.

 

Tony drops to his knees immediately, reaching for Nuada, who jumps up, paws landing on his shoulders.  “I thought you were dead,” he whispers, holding onto her, laughing brokenly when she licks his ear.  “How about some breakfast?” he says, finally releasing her and smiling when she licks his face, clearing away any evidence that he might have been crying with her sloppy kisses.

 

It turns out to be both a blessing and a curse.

 

They make breakfast together to help steady Tony’s hands, and it all smells so good that his rolling stomach calms down and allows him to eat in peace.  He’s just easing back into the realm of physical touch when Steve ghosts a kiss across his knuckles before he gets up to retrieve an orange from the fridge, and Tony just sighs, smiling as he watches him walk away.

 

He’s about to crack a joke when Jarvis says, “Sir, incoming call from Mister Stane.”

 

“Private line, Jay,” Tony says, and only just suppresses the wince at the way his whole body tightens when the line comes to life in his left ear.  “Obie,” he says amicably.


“Where the fuck are you?” Obadiah snaps, “Are you honestly at home right now, Tony?  Do you know how bad this looks?”

 

Tony presses his thumb and forefinger into his eyes as he says, “Pepper is perfectly capable of ruling in my stead, or whatever medieval thing you’ve got cooked up next, and I would hope so, considering she is currently my only appointed successor.”  Might as well kill two birds with one stone, he decides, as he plows on, “I called to let her know why I wouldn’t be in, and that should suffice.”

 

“Your husband called,” Obadiah says, and it’s evident in his voice that he still doesn’t approve of Tony’s personal life, “Told Pepper you had a fucking nightmare.  Grow up, Tony.  I’ll see you in an hour.”

 

Tony’s mind reels.  “Did you bug the Tower?” he demands.

 

To his credit, Obadiah doesn’t bother feigning ignorance.  “It was for your own good,” he says, “You’re a mess, Anthony.  First a month off to waste having sex and letting your father’s company nearly combust in the hands of a woman, and now with this baby bullshit, I won’t have it anymore.  I’m not letting you down this road.  I’ll be at your house in twenty, and I expect you to be ready.”

 

“I don’t live in Manhattan anymore,” Tony says, and hangs up.

 

“Something wrong?” Steve asks as he starts peeling his orange.


“What the fuck is his problem, honestly?” Tony snaps, “I know he’s an asshole, but it’s been a little extreme lately.”

 

“Well,” Steve says, handing over an orange slice, “How about this?  We forget he exists and go shopping instead.”

 

Or,” Tony says, “We vote on either Gilmore Girls or Will & Grace, watch no less than three episodes, take a shower at some point, and then go shopping?”

 

“Only if I get to kiss you,” Steve says, smiling.

 

“Deal,” Tony says, and stands up to start cleaning off the table.

 

——

 

March 5, 2016

 

Several things happen at once.

 

Steve is still in bed, naked and breathing hard, when the water starts running, and he yells at Tony for being impatient at the same time his phone rings.  “Jarvis, answer please,” he says because he has no idea where it is in the kicked off blankets and strewn clothes.

 

“Steve?”

 

It’s Sharon, and Steve sits up immediately.  There’s a crash from the direction of the bathroom, and then the water’s shutting off as he says, “Sharon?  Is everything okay?”

 

“Aunt Peggy’s at the office,” she says quickly, “They called her in to talk about a possible leave date adjustment, and—god.”

 

“Sharon,” Steve says urgently as Tony bursts into the room sans towel, collarbone popping as he holds his breath.

 

“I think I’m in labor,” she says.

 

“We’re on our way,” Steve says, scrambling out of bed as Tony runs back the way he came.

 

“I think something’s wrong.”

 

Steve freezes at the closet door, closing his eyes.  “Why?” he asks, trying not to let fear infect his voice.

 

Sharon doesn’t respond right away, her shaky breaths filling the silence.  “There’s a lot of blood,” she chokes out finally, and Steve almost breaks.

 

“I’m calling an ambulance!” Tony yells from the bathroom.

 

“Sharon, it’s going to be okay,” Steve says, swallowing past the lump in his throat, “Tony’s calling an ambulance, and we’ll be there as soon as we can.  I’ll call Peggy.  Do you have everything ready?”

 

“I think so,” she says, “Can you—can you stay on the phone with me?”

 

“Absolutely,” he says, and finally steps into the closet.  He starts dressing as he keeps talking, “When did it start?”

 

“About an hour ago,” Sharon says, “But it’s still so early, he isn’t due for another two weeks, and I thought they might just be Braxton Hicks contractions, but then it was getting worse, and they were closer, and—”

 

“Sharon, breathe,” Steve reminds her, “Come on, slowly.  It’s going to be okay.”

 

“Ambulance is on its way,” Tony says as he erupts into the closet, “Sharon, how are you doing?”

 

“I’m okay,” she says, “I’m scared.”

 

“I know,” Steve says, yanking a sweater on over his shirt.

 

“Can we talk about something else?” Sharon asks, “Did you think of a name yet?”

 

Tony glances at Steve, this wobbly smile on his mouth, and Steve returns it, lets his be stronger as he replies, “Peter.”

 

“Oh,” Sharon sighs, “I love it.  Will you—maybe you could send a picture once a year?  Just so I know what he looks like?”


“Of course,” Steve says, “Whatever you want.”

 

“Nothing more,” she says quickly, “I don’t want to ruin his life any more than I already have.”

 

“Sharon—”

 

“I know what you’re going to say, Steve, and I appreciate it, but it’s better this way.  It will be easier for him.  Oh, I hear sirens.”

 

“That was fast,” Steve says, looking over at Tony, who shrugs one shoulder.

 

“There’s a hospital a few blocks away from Peggy.”

 

“That’s not where she’s having the baby,” Steve says quickly, turning to face him.

 

“I know,” Tony says, tugging on a sweatshirt, “I pulled a few strings.  They’re going to take her to Doctor Cho, don’t worry.  I just wanted to get her with someone as soon as possible.”

 

Steve exhales, steps forward, and kisses him.  “Thank you,” he whispers.

 

“Steve, they’re here,” Sharon says, “I’m going to go downstairs.  Thank you.  I’ll see you soon.”

 

“Be careful,” Steve says, and then Sharon hangs up.

 

“Ready, papa?” Tony asks, and Steve laughs breathlessly and nods.

 

——

 

They arrive before Peggy, whose leave date has been rescheduled to tomorrow, and who has used so many possible incarnations of various profane words in the last twenty minutes that even Tony’s impressed.  They’re immediately shown back when they check in at the front desk and brought to Sharon’s room, who is pale and sleeping.

 

“Doctor Cho will be right in,” the nurse says before leaving them.

 

Even so, Tony takes the chart from the end of the bed as Steve watches him anxiously.  “Jesus,” Tony says as he reads through, “She’s been approved for a C section.”

 

Steve paces away from him, hands coming up to link behind his head.  “He’s feet down,” Tony keeps reading, holding the first page up, “She lost blood because of how he’s positioned.  It’s not good, Steve.  They’re taking her in for an emergency C section.”

 

“Tony, I can’t do this,” he whispers, shaking his head as his arms drop by his sides, “I can’t.  I—”

 

“I know,” Tony says, setting the chart down and coming over to him, “Come here.”

 

Steve loses himself in Tony’s arms, closing his eyes against his cotton shoulder and letting Tony ground him, letting his loud breaths pull him back.  “Tell me it’s going to be okay,” he says, the words muffled against him.

 

“I’m not going to lie to you,” Tony says, “We need to be prepared for every possible outcome.”

 

Fuck,” Steve gasps.

 

The door opens, and Tony pats at his back until he straightens, turning.  Tony takes one of his hands, lacing their fingers together as Doctor Cho comes in.  “Good morning,” she says lightly, “I trust you’ve already read through Sharon’s chart, Tony.”  When Tony just shrugs sheepishly, Cho smiles and walks past them to pick it up.  “We just finished prepping the OR, and we’re going to take Sharon in now.  I want to prepare both of you for any potential outcome.  While we will do everything in our power to make this a safe and healthy delivery, Peggy, as Sharon’s medical proxy, has signed off on Sharon’s wishes.  If there is a choice to be made, our goal is to keep Sharon alive.  Do you understand?”  Steve nods as Tony squeezes his hand.   “I’ve got to take her in now.  I’ll send a nurse with any updates if necessary, but hopefully the next face you’ll see will be mine.”

 

“Thank you,” Steve says quickly, and pulls at Tony until he follows him out of the room.

 

The waiting nearly does them in.

 

Tony can’t sit still, and Steve doesn’t trust him to be gone long.  The first time he had, he’d found Tony taking apart the coffee machine and forced him back into the waiting room.  Now, though, he has to suffer through Tony pacing circles around the waiting room while Steve’s knee jumps through the air, his breaths coming short and quick.

 

It gets marginally better when Peggy arrives, who is calmer than Steve expects and even manages to coerce Tony into a seat.  She hands them both hot chocolate chased with peppermint that she picked up on the way over and pulls up a chair to sit opposite them.

 

“Sharon said you thought of a name,” she says as she pulls her knees up and sips at her drink.

 

“Peter,” Steve says, “It doesn’t come from anyone.”

 

“I like it,” Peggy says, smiling, “I just hope I’ll be able to meet the little bugger before I leave.”

 

“Two years?” Steve asks, sighing when Peggy nods, “We’ll send pictures and videos and—”

 

“A yearbook,” Tony jokes, and Steve looks over at him, smiling.

 

“I can’t believe this is really happening,” Steve says, and Tony’s about to respond when Cho comes through the doors.  He’s on his feet before the rest of them, though Steve and Peggy are quick to follow in response, turning.

 

“She’s okay,” Cho says, beaming, “And so is Peter.  I can take you back now to meet him, if you’d like.”

 

Steve starts crying.

 

“Oh my god, you big sap,” Tony says, and smacks him in the arm.

 

Steve’s smile is wavering and beautiful, and Tony feels like he might implode, so he just grabs Steve’s hand and tugs him over to Cho.  “This is it,” Steve says, pulling his sweater down over his fingers to wipe at his face, “I’m going to be a dad.”

 

“Hey, me too,” Tony says, elbowing him, “Don’t take all the fun.”

 

Tony.”

 

“I know.”

 

It’s like a moment out of another world.

 

“I’m going to see Sharon first,” Peggy says as they approach her room, “I’ll catch up with you.”

 

Cho leads them on and into the nursery, where little beds are colored in blue and pink.  “He hasn’t had any physical contact other than the nurses,” Cho says, “So it is vital that one of you holds him right now.  He needs to feel that parental bond, and—well, Sharon refused.  She didn’t want to look at him.”

 

“We know,” Steve says, nodding.

 

Cho nods, as well, and leads them down through the rows of little beds to stop at a blue one.  “Can I?” Steve asks, not taking his eyes off of the tiny bundle there.

 

“Yes, of course.  There’s a button by the rocker if you need anything.”

 

And then she’s gone, and they’re left with their son.

 

There’s this calm like Steve’s never experienced before as he reaches in and carefully picks him up, adjusting him in his arms until he’s comfortable.  He turns, and Tony reaches over to pull the blanket down a little, away from his face.  “Steve,” he whispers.

 

“He’s beautiful,” Steve agrees, swaying gently.

 

Tony brushes a thumb across his little cheek, up over his tiny, barely there eyebrow, and his little tuft of brown hair.  “He’s perfect,” he says.  He can’t stop looking at him, can’t stop wondering over and over again if this is all real or just a wild dream.

 

“I love you,” Steve says, and Tony looks up to find Steve looking at him and not their amazing little boy.

 

“Damn right,” Tony says, and kisses him, one hand curled gently around Peter’s head.

Chapter Text

March 7, 2016

 

After a couple days in the hospital to ensure he’s healthy and stable, they’re finally given the okay to take him home, and Steve’s not sure he’s ever been more excited to wake up early in his life.  They arrive earlier than planned, but he kept hounding Tony to hurry up, who was already showering and dressing at the speed of light, and they very nearly get either pulled over or in an accident because Tony’s driving like a maniac.

 

When they do finally arrive, though, Steve makes them sit in the car for a minute.  “I’m worried about Sharon,” he says finally.


“Why?” Tony asks, turning to face him.

 

Steve shrugs.  “She hasn’t seen him at all.  She won’t.  She’s planning on flying back home as soon as she’s cleared.  I just—I know this is hard on her, and I tried to talk to her the other day, but she wouldn’t let me in.”

 

Tony frowns, looking down at Steve’s hands, which are twisting his lap.  He reaches out for them, taking both and lifting them to kiss his knuckles.  “She’s doing what she thinks is the right thing to do for her to get over this,” Tony says, “I know you would react differently if you were fifteen and a girl—”  Steve laughs, and Tony smiles, leaning over to kiss his cheek.  “Let her handle this the way she needs to, and, in the meantime, we have a baby boy to bring home.”  Steve’s mouth splits open in a wide smile, and Tony nods, squeezing his hands.  “Come on, kid, let’s go.”

 

They head inside, holding hands and trying to maintain their cool, but then they’re in the nursery, and Cho is smiling, and Steve just can’t contain himself.  “Hey, little man,” he coos as he reaches Peter’s little bed, immediately scooping him up and holding him close, “Are you ready to go home finally?”

 

“We already talked about check-ups,” Cho says, glancing between them, “But he should be good to go.  Please call if you have any questions, and I’ll see you in a month.”

 

“Thank you so much for everything,” Steve says, leaning his head against Peter’s and just breathing him in.

 

Cho leaves them to get their things together, and Steve laughs when Tony tugs a little Stark Industries beanie over Peter’s head.  “Oh yeah,” Tony says, pretending to fist bump Peter, “You’re a rock star now.”

 

“Have you talked to Obadiah yet?” Steve asks as he gets Peter situated in the carrier, rubbing a hand over his little belly before he buckles him in.

 

“No,” Tony says, watching him, “I was going to pop by later this week to talk to him.  Figured it’s better to take care of this in person.”

 

“Okay,” Steve says, “Are you sure about this?  I can take care of him, Tony.”

 

“He’s my son, too,” Tony says as Steve stands.


“I know.  I didn’t mean it like—”

 

“I know you didn’t,” Tony quickly says as he sees panic spread across Steve’s face, “But I want to bond with him and spend as much time as I can with him in the beginning, and fuck whatever he says.  Don’t make that face,” he adds when Steve frowns, “You are the worst potty mouth I have ever met, and let’s not even pretend we’re going to start saying things like darn and fudge.”

 

Steve bites his lips, trying not to laugh at the idea of Tony replacing his favorite swear word with fudge.

 

“Shut up, or I will dismantle you,” Tony snaps, though it’s without any bite, “Now.  Are you ready?”

 

“To become dads for real?  Yeah, why not?” Steve says, and this time, Tony’s laughing.

 

It’s uneventful leaving the hospital.  Peter’s asleep by the time they reach the car, and he doesn’t wake when they buckle him in.  Really, he’s great up until they’re about twenty minutes outside of Copiague, and he just starts bawling.

 

It happens so suddenly, Steve actually jumps, looking back, and Tony looks out the window wondering if someone’s been shot before remembering there’s a child in his backseat.  “Oh, Peter,” Steve says, reaching a hand back and around, trying to soothe him.

 

“Is he hungry?” Tony asks.

 

“He might be.  How far away are we?”

 

“Well, we can be ten minutes away if you want to.”

 

“Yeah, just get us home,” Steve says, twisting until he can grab hold of one of his feet, stroking the bottom of his socked foot.  “Hey, it’s okay,” he says softly, “We’re almost home, I promise.”

 

Peter starts to quiet as Steve keeps talking, though he’s still crying intermittently by the time they finally get home.  “I’ll get everything, just go inside with him,” Tony says as Steve hurries to get out and around back to retrieve Peter.

 

“It’s fine,” Steve says, shouldering one of their bags.  He’s starting to worry that Tony’s nervous about being around him.  He’s held him a few times, but he keeps referring to him as the baby or him, and Steve keeps swallowing down every response he has.  He knows this is difficult for him, but he also knows that he needs Tony, and this isn’t going to work if he can’t overcome his fears and be a father to Peter.  Which is why, ultimately, Steve finds himself asking, “Do you want to feed him?”

 

He can see it written all over Tony’s face that he knows this is a test, but he still steps up to the plate and nods, smiling.  “Yeah, okay,” he says, “Just—don’t let me muck it up, alright?”


“Hey,” Steve says, kissing him, “You’re going to be fantastic.  Why don’t you head into the nursery, and I’ll get his bottle ready?”

 

Steve watches Tony look down at the carrier, take a deep breath, and nod to himself before he kneels.  “Alright, so this contraption’s gotta go,” Tony says, unbuckling him, “I’m sure I can invent something more baby-friendly.”

 

Peter blinks at him.

 

“Exactly,” Tony agrees, “It’s for the birds.  Now, what do you say we do a little house tour?”

 

Tony ignores Steve’s grin when he stands back up with him, holding him close, and instead leaves him in the kitchen as he heads through the house and toward the nursery.  “You just missed Christmas, unfortunately,” Tony says, “But your papa got this massive tree.  He’s such a nerd about the holidays.  Just wait, bet he’ll get your birthday declared as a national holiday.  Alright, and here’s your—”

 

“Son of a—” Steve breaks off, and Tony turns halfway to find him in the kitchen, on the phone.

 

“Papa was trying to get this weekend off from drill,” Tony says, “Looks like he wasn’t able to.  Alright, Peter, here’s your room.  For now, let’s just get one thing clear, you’re going upstairs as soon as you can walk, you little devil.  And, Nuada’s already in here.”  Tony looks down at Peter, his curious little eyes darting around the room aimlessly, and waits until he doesn’t hear Steve approaching with the bottle before he takes a seat on the ground, crossing his legs.  “Good girl,” he says when Nuada doesn’t approach, though she does whine softly, “Can you be gentle?”  Nuada edges closer.  “Okay, only if you promise.  Come here.”

 

Nuada carefully approaches, and Peter startles when she bumps her wet nose against his cheek.  “Sh, it’s okay,” Tony says, rocking gently side to side with him as Nuada keeps sniffing him, “It’s just Nua.  She’s going to be your best friend in the entire universe, and I know that for a fact because she’s actually the coolest dog ever, and don’t you dare tell papa I said that.”

 

Nuada takes that opportune moment to lick Peter’s face, who trips right onto the edge of crying, and then Nuada sits down, head resting against his belly, and Peter blinks, calming, little fists waving wildly in her direction.

 

“See, told you,” Tony says, smiling as he watches them.

 

“Hey,” Steve says angrily, coming in behind him, “Phillips wouldn’t approve it.”

 

“You’ve got drill this weekend?” Tony says, looking up at him.

 

Steve sits next to him, turning the bottle and letting a drop fall onto his wrist.  “It should be cool enough now,” he says, handing it over, “I’m so sorry, Tony.”

 

“It’s okay,” Tony says, “I’ll manage.  I admit, I’m fucking terrified of being left alone with him right now, but—” he breaks off, shrugging.

 

“Call for anything,” Steve says, “I mean it.  I don’t care if it get in trouble for taking a call, I can’t—honestly, I can’t believe I’m going to have to be away from him so soon.”

 

Tony frowns, watching him, before he leans into him and says, “If it makes you feel better, I’ll skip the paternity leave.”

 

“Thank you,” Steve says, leaning up to kiss his forehead, “It’s okay.  I’m just upset.  Come on, he’s gonna start fussing.”  Tony takes the bottle from him, shushing Peter when he decides he’s definitely not taking it, and eventually, he settles, accepting it and sucking gently.  “I’m still nervous about using formula with him,” Steve says.

 

“Really?” Tony says, looking at him, “Steve, come on.  We’ve had this conversation a thousand times.  I wasn’t breastfed, and I’m pretty sure I’m above average, actually.  In fact, you were breastfed, and you were just about the sickliest child in the world, so statistically, he’s better off with formula.”

 

“You can throw statistically at me using only two variables, punk.”

 

“Asshat,” Tony throws back, “He’s going to be fine, Steve.”

 

“Why won’t you call him Peter?” Steve asks, and damn it, he’d meant to keep that bottled up for a little longer.

 

“What?” Tony says, blinking in confusion, “I call him Peter.”

 

“I haven’t heard it yet.”

 

“Steve,” Tony says firmly, “I know his name is Peter.  I was just talking to him and using it.  Sorry that I’m not calling him by his name every other second.  I don’t use your name that often, either.”

 

“I’m sorry,” Steve says, head dropping down, “I’m just—”

 

“I know,” Tony says, leaning against him again, “I know.  It’s okay.  And that’s what we call a hiccup.  I know, I hate them, too.”

 

Steve looks over, watching Tony carefully edge the bottle out and swipe his thumb underneath Peter’s lip to clean the milk dribbling out there.  “Listen, Stark boys don’t make a mess, so get a hold of yourself.”  Peter just blinks at him, so Tony sticks his tongue out and gives him back the bottle.

 

——

 

March 9, 2016

 

Tony lets out a loud groan as Steve presses closer to his side, exhaling hot air against his ribs.  “Right on schedule,” Tony says as the alarm on his phone starts going off in time with Peter’s soft crying through the baby monitor.

 

“You good?” Steve mumbles, still about 97% asleep.

 

“Yeah, stay here,” Tony says, dropping a soft kiss onto his temple before he scoots out from under him, throwing the blankets off and climbing out of bed.  He grabs the robe hanging off the back of their door on the way, and is just securing it around his waist as he closes the door to the nursery.

 

“Hey crank,” he says as he comes over to Peter’s crib, though his mouth pulls down in a frown at his balled up little face, tears spilling out over his cheeks.  “I know, come on,” he soothes, leaning in to pick him up.

 

Peter settles a little once he’s in Tony’s arms, his blanket wrapped snugly around him, and Tony hums softly as he prepares his bottle in the kitchen.  Steve had rolled his eyes and sighed loudly the first time he caught him humming Zeppelin, but it seems to calm Peter down, and so he’d kept on introducing him to old rock.

 

Now, though, when he looks down, Peter’s nearly asleep again, and Tony sighs, shifting him until he starts to rouse again, nose scrunching up and mouth wrinkling.  “Hey, none of that,” Tony says, taking him back through the house and into the nursery.  Nuada is whining softly from their room, so Tony opens the door enough to let her in before he drops into the rocker.

 

This is how Steve finds him three hours later, Peter sleeping soundly, bottle on the floor, and one of Tony’s hands hanging off the side, buried in Nuada’s fur.  He’d woken to his alarm only and panicked when Tony wasn’t next to him, but now he can’t stop smiling as he looks down at his little family.

 

He kneels in front of them, brushing a hand over Peter’s head, before he kisses Tony’s hand and leaves them to go prepare his next bottle.

 

They’re not in the nursery when he gets back, but the door to their room is open, and his smile widens when he finds Tony in bed, Peter next to him and Nuada settled behind his bent knees.

 

“Hey,” Steve says, climbing in opposite him.

 

Tony opens his eyes slowly, offers him an exhausted smile, and says, “Sorry, didn’t mean to fall asleep in there.”

 

“I’m sure it won’t be the last time for either of us,” Steve says, “Mind if I—” he trails off, glancing down at Peter, and Tony hums his assent as he lifts the hand off his belly and closes his eyes again.  Steve carefully gathers Peter and scoots back against the headboard, getting him situated.  Tony reaches out his hand to curl around Steve’s ankle, and that’s how they pass the night.

 

In the morning, Tony’s received no less than seven calls from Obadiah, and he’s cooking breakfast while Steve feeds Peter in the nursery when Jarvis says, “Sir, incoming call from Miss Carter.”

 

Tony answers by way of, “Peggy?”

 

“Sharon,” she says, “I’m at Aunt Peggy’s, though.  Getting ready to leave.”

 

“Oh,” Tony says.

 

He’s not sure how to tread these waters, but luckily Sharon saves him, “I was wondering if I could ask a favor.”

 

“Yes, anything,” Tony says, and immediately regrets his words.  He keeps having this nightmare of Sharon calling to say she’s taking Peter back, and he’s already woken up once in the middle of the kitchen, crouched against the cold floor and breathing hard.

 

“I was, uh—my flight is in a couple hours, and I just—I don’t want to be alone.”

 

Oh,” Tony says, “Okay.  One of us can come keep you—unless you wanted us to bring—”

 

“No,” she says quickly, “I—I don’t want to see him.  I was hoping maybe—maybe Steve could come without him.”

 

Really, the idea of talking to Obadiah about taking paternity leave is terrifying, but the prospect of Peter being with him makes it all a little—less.

 

“Yeah, I’ll talk to him,” Tony says, “He can head over as soon as we’re finished with breakfast.”

 

“Thank you, Tony.  I’ll, uh—I’ll talk to you later maybe.”

 

“Yeah, have a good—”

 

“Sir, Miss Carter has hung up.”

 

Tony exhales loudly, shaking his head once before he turns back to breakfast.  He has the island set by the time Steve comes back out with Peter.  “So Sharon called,” Tony says as Steve transfers him to one arm, “She was wondering if you could come hang out with her before her flight.  Without Peter.”

 

Steve pauses in stabbing a mushroom, looking up.  “You’re supposed to go in to see Obadiah today.”

 

“Yeah,” Tony says, “So I was thinking I could take Peter with me, might do wonders for Obie’s temper, and I know Pepper will flip if she finally gets to see him.  It’ll be his first outing.  Maybe we can get lunch after?”

 

Steve looks a whole new shade of nervous, but he nods and says, “Yeah, okay.  It’s just—it’s only been a few days.”

 

“Studies show outside time is good,” Tony says, “It’ll be nice for all of us to get out and get some fresh air.  We’ll be inside, in the car and in SI, and if we go outside, I’ll be careful, promise.  You can even pick our lunch spot.”

 

“Oh, Mexican,” Steve says, surprising Tony.

 

“Really?”

 

“I have been craving a burrito like you wouldn’t believe.  I know that place we like is loud, but—”

 

“Not at lunch time.  I’m down.  I’ll let you know when I’m done at SI.”

 

And that settles it.

 

Tony decided not to set a specific time for Obadiah, didn’t even let him know he was coming in, so he takes his time getting to SI.  He stops off at a café first, pretends to muse over the menu for something Peter would like, who starts making these adorable little noises and sufficiently distracts him from all of his nerves.  He gets the coffee to go, smiles when the cashier absolutely swoons over Peter, and then they’re back in the car, and Tony’s talking a mile a minute.

 

“Seriously, even these car seats are subpar.  SI’s definitely opening a baby branch.  We’ll start creating high-tech, low-cost, super freaking awesome equipment that just makes everything easier.  Like this whole heating up the bottle thing?  Medieval, honestly,” he pauses to get into the front seat after having secured Peter, and then keeps going once they’re back on the road, “Man, and just wait until you start getting actual food.  I’m taste testing that shit for science, Peter.  We’ve got a lot of work to do in improving all that mush, so I’ll need some honest feedback.  Anything you don’t like, throw at papa, you hear?”

 

Peter gurgles, fists lifting into the air.

 

“Right on,” Tony says, frowning as SI comes into view, looming in the distance, “Okay, real talk time.  We’re going to dad’s work, and there are some less than nice people there that you might have to stand up to, but as a Rogers, I’m confident you’ll be okay.  You don’t even know, papa was crazy when I first met him.  Told my father where to go and how to get there.  It was—amazing,” Tony smiles, thinking back on that day, “I’d never thought anyone was noticing, which will not happen with you, promise.  Anytime I’m being a dick, you just throw it right back in my face, and we’ll hash it out.  Alright.  Ready, kid?”

 

Peter yawns, and Tony smiles, watching him through the rearview mirror.  He parks, makes short work of getting Peter out, and then they’re left staring up at SI.  “Question,” Tony says, “Carrier or stroller?”  He looks down at Peter, who’s starting to nod off.  He reaches a hand in to tuck the blanket up closer to his chin, away from the cool chill of early spring, and then takes a deep breath, plunging in headlong.

 

Tony drops a coffee off at the front desk, gets a smile in return, and then heads for the elevators, closing the doors before anyone else can join him, though not many have tried before.  “Jay,” he says once he’s inside, “Find Pepper, please.”

 

Four seconds later, her voice filters through the elevator, “Tony?  What are you doing here?”

 

“Is Obie in?”

 

“In your office, yes,” Pepper says sourly, “He was furious that the door was locked, so he broke in.”

 

“How charming,” Tony mutters, glancing down at Peter.  Just the sight of him starts to dissolve his looming bad mood, and he sighs, reaching in to rub a thumb over his cheek before he steps out of the opening doors.

 

Pepper’s coming down the hall toward him, though her pace slows significantly when she sees the carrier on his arm.  “Is that—” she breaks off, fighting a smile.

 

“Yes, I brought the alien,” Tony says, and Pepper lets out a noise of delight, hurrying forward.

 

Tony’s secretary looks up at the noise, lifting an eyebrow in surprise.  Everyone but Obadiah knows why he’s been out of work, and he’s surprised he hasn’t found out yet, though they all seem to be standing in solidarity against him at the moment.

 

“Oh my goodness,” Pepper says when she reaches them, “He’s so sweet.  And little!”

 

“Well, he’s only a few days old,” Tony says, “Sharon had him on Saturday.”

 

“Tony!” Pepper exclaims, straightening up, “It’s Thursday!  Should he be outside yet?”

 

“Fresh air is good for the soul, or so Steve keeps telling me.  Yes, Pepper, it’s fine,” he adds when that doesn’t seem to assuage her fears, “And every baby book will tell you the same thing.  It’s a myth, keeping them inside, as are most of the crazy things that the world will tell you, but that’s what you get with people trying to tell other people how to raise their children.”

 

“You’re rambling,” Pepper cuts him off.

 

“I’m—yeah.  I’m just going to head in and get it over with.”

 

“Do you want me to watch him?” she asks.

 

“Peter?  No, he’s coming with, it’s about time he learned what being a Stark means.”

 

Pepper sighs at him, but Tony just flashes her a dashing smile and heads down the hall for his office.  Inside, Obadiah is already drinking and is going through a small pile of papers.  “Ah, Pepper, good,” he says, “I’ll be needing—Tony.  About time you showed up for work.  Yet another week of unexplained absences, and—what the hell is that?” he breaks off as he sees the carrier.

 

“My son,” Tony says, coming forward and setting the carrier down on one of the seats, facing Obadiah.  He reaches across the desk for his tablet before dumping into the other, crossing his legs and opening up his email.

 

“I thought—”

 

“That I was joking about adopting a baby?” Tony says without looking up, “That seems like a bizarre thing to joke about.”

 

“This isn’t funny,” Obadiah says, staring at Peter like he’s something out of a horror movie, “Why?  What could you possibly gain from this?”

 

Tony doesn’t look up as he says, “They say babies bring about things like joy and life fulfillment and all that crap.  Personally, we’re planning on raising him to wage the next war on Christianity, raise demons from the underworld and herald floods of locusts or whatever it is the hippies are doing these days.  What?” he adds when he finally meets Obadiah’s disgusted gaze.

 

“I never thought I’d live to see the day,” he says, leaning back in Tony’s chair, who waits, knowing there’s bound to be more.  Obadiah shrugs, lifts his drink, and says, “Your father was a good, strong man.  He never let Maria control him, never let her have the upper hand.  You don’t seem to have that quality when it comes to Steve.”

 

Oh,” Tony says, nodding, “So Steve’s what in your eyes, exactly?”

 

“I’m sure he’s not working now that you have this thing,” Obadiah says, brandishing a hand in Peter’s direction.

 

“No, because serving your country is a part-time hobby,” Tony says angrily, “And even if Steve was working, it wouldn’t matter.  I want this.  I want to have a family with him.  I am not my father, and this company is not all there is to life.  I—” Tony stops, shaking his head.

 

Peter stirs in the quiet, little legs stretching as his mouth opens in a wide yawn.  Tony watches it all, lets it be the only thing in his focus, and then turns back to Obadiah.  “I didn’t come here to argue with you,” he says, “I don’t want to.  I don’t understand why we’ve been at such odds lately, Obie.  You’re my partner, man.  I just want us to—”

 

“Why did you come in, then?” Obadiah cuts him off.

 

Tony frowns, looking away again.  Peter’s starting to fuss, just tiny, waking up noises, and he checks his watch, makes a face when he notices the time—he’ll be wanting a bottle soon.  “I’m taking paternity leave,” he says finally, standing, “Just four weeks, and I’ve already worked out the logistics with Pepper.  I’ll be attending the monthly board meeting, and there are a few R&D meetings that require my attention, as well as some other departmental things, but, otherwise, I can be reached by email and phone if you need anything.  I’ll stop in once a week, but only for a couple hours.  If you have any other questions, please direct them to Pepper.  She’s been officially granted a legal signature for SI.”

 

“Tony,” Obadiah begins, his rage evident as he stands.

 

“Not now, Obie,” Tony says, gathering Peter, “He’s hungry, and I’m tired.  I’ll see you next week.”

 

He leaves without waiting for Obadiah to say anything further, and Jarvis is quick to find Pepper for him, who is downstairs.  “Let her know I’ll be in her office,” Tony says quietly before he heads down the hall toward Pepper’s office, three doors down from his.

 

Pepper finds him forty minutes later, just coming out of a briefing and on the phone.  Her voice drops lower when she comes in and spots him at her desk, facing the huge windows and talking quietly to Peter.

 

He waits until she’s finished before he turns, and her smile could give the sun a run for its money.  “You look good,” she says, taking a seat on the other side of the desk.

 

“Just a baby with a bottle,” Tony says, easing the bottle away from Peter when he starts coughing.  “Slow down, killer, it’s not going anywhere.”  He waits until he’s breathing sans milk again, and then he shifts him, bringing his head higher before he lets him have the bottle again.

 

“Still,” Pepper says, “I know how nervous you were, and it looks natural, finding you here with a baby.”

 

Tony snorts.  “No, it doesn’t,” he says, and Pepper laughs, nodding.

 

“Yeah, no,” she says, “But it’s still a good sight.  How’s it been?”

 

“Exhausting,” Tony says, “We’re taking shifts at night, but we still wake up every two hours.  Nuada loves him.”

 

“Good,” Pepper says warmly, “Before you know it, Peter will be riding her into battle.”

 

Tony laughs, looking back down at him.  “Alright, sucking at air, dude,” he says, pulling the bottle away, “We’re going to have to teach you manners, and soon.  Also, if you puke on me, we’re in a fight.”

 

“I have to get back to work,” Pepper says when he shifts Peter up near his shoulder, “You get puke on that chair, and we’re in a fight.”

 

Tony laughs, but nods, getting up.  Pepper takes his place, working through her emails and a few calls while Tony circles the room, bouncing gently and patting at Peter’s back until, finally, he burbs loud enough to startle a laugh from Pepper.  “He takes after Steve,” Tony says, pausing by the window to look down, gaze darting through the parking lot until he finally shifts to the front of the building, and sure enough, Steve’s truck is just pulling up.  “Speak of the devil,” Tony says, going over to Peter’s carrier and getting him settled, “Papa’s here for lunch, so you go ahead and—yup, fall asleep.  Pep, I’ll talk to you later?”

 

“Call if anything,” she says, signing a document with a flourish before she looks up, “Maybe I could swing by this weekend with Rhodey and dinner?”

 

“You’re my hero,” Tony says, lifting the carrier, “I’m free whenever, but I’ll let you know if Peter decides to throw a spontaneous rager.”

 

Pepper smiles widely.  “Make sure you keep him in line.”

 

Tony lifts two fingers in salute on his way out, and then he’s striding quickly past his office and into the elevator, down into the lobby, and out to find Steve loitering on the sidewalk, on the phone.  He’s quick to hang up when he spots them, though, and his expression transforms when Tony comes outside.

 

“Hey, little man,” Steve says, beaming as Tony turns the carrier so he can see Peter.  “How was he?” he asks.

 

“Better behaved than Obie was.  I’m starving.  My car’s already got the seat in it.”

 

“Truck’s low on gas anyway,” Steve says, following Tony, “So I’ve got some good news.”  Tony glances back at him, and really, most of the reason he doesn’t continue right away is because he’s just so enamored with the sight of Tony and Peter.

 

“You’re doing that staring fondly thing again,” Tony says, waving a hand, “Please tell me that was Philips on the phone.”

 

“It was,” Steve says, “He granted my request for this weekend.”

 

Tony lifts a fist in the air and says, “Hear that, Peter?  Papa’s gonna witness your crazy rager.  Better do it when we’re asleep, then.”


Steve just laughs and winds an arm around him, drawing his boys close.

 

——

 

March 16, 2016

 

“What about—something simple?” Steve says, looking over at Tony, “Just a calendar on the specific month, maybe a little banner?”

 

“Boring,” Tony says, making a face at the screen in front of him, “I told you, I don’t hate the flowers.”

 

“You do hate the flowers,” Steve says, looking back down at Peter, whose arms are waving wildly.  He smiles, elbows hugging in against his ribs as he lowers down, hovering above him to kiss his nose before he straightens up again.

 

“They’re flowers,” Tony mutters, “You’ll turn it into this big, beautiful thing, and he’ll end up having an allergy.”

 

“Just because you have seasonal allergies,” Steve says, lowering down in his push-up again to kiss Peter’s chin, “Not that that matters since he doesn’t have our DNA.”

 

“Nature versus nurture,” Tony says.

 

“Are you even paying attention?” Steve says, straightening up.

 

“We’re discussing monthly baby photos,” Tony says, tossing away one of his screens and tipping his head back, sighing.  “What about just a simple backdrop?”

 

“Plaid?”

 

Gross.”

 

“I know,” Steve coos as he kisses Peter’s belly, and he makes this little noise, not quite a giggle but a shadow of one.  He holds the push-up, beaming as one of Peter’s hands lands on his face.  “How do you feel about flowers?” Steve asks, leaning into Peter’s hand as his fingers flex and curl.

 

“God, you’re sickeningly cute,” Tony says, and Steve laughs, pushing up through straight elbows again, looking over at his husband.  “Seriously,” Tony says, waving a hand at him, “This is absurd.”

 

“He likes it,” Steve says in defense, turning his gaze back down to Peter, who’s yawning, eyes squeezed shut.  “Oh, are you tired, little man?”  Steve drops down to pepper kisses over his face, mimicking the sound Peter makes in response.

 

Steve straightens up, does a few elbow taps, and then drops into a quick down dog before he stands up, squatting to pick up Peter and hold him close.  “I know, baby boy,” he whispers when Peter starts to fuss, one fist smacking against Steve’s chest, “Time for a nap.  Tony, what time is it?”

 

“Bottle time,” Tony says, already getting up and heading into the kitchen.

 

“Peter,” Steve sighs when Peter hiccups past fussing and into crying.  Steve sways with him, rubbing circles into his back.

 

“I’m going, I’m going,” Tony says as he pulls a bottle from the fridge.

 

“Daddy’s gonna make it all better,” Steve says, smiling when Nuada comes loping out from their bedroom carrying one of her toys.  She always seems to enjoy presenting her toys to Tony while he’s in the kitchen, and she starts now, bounding back and forth.  “It’s early,” Steve says, “Do you want to come with Nua and me for a walk?  We can take Peter in the stroller.”

 

“Yeah, sure,” Tony says without turning around, “Maybe we could get dinner out tonight, too?”

 

Peter wails without warning, and Steve starts bouncing him, humming softly until that’s evidently not working, and then he starts singing, picking a tune at random and landing on Sleeping Beauty.  Peter starts to settle almost immediately, little face pressing against Steve’s neck while he sings, and then Tony’s appearing in front of him, a bottle in hand.

 

“Good job, papa,” he says, smiling, “You feed him, I’ll find something to wear outside?”

 

“Translation: you’ll make noise about everything and say it’s not cool enough.”

 

“You need to let me buy him a leather jacket.”

 

“How about for his first birthday?” Steve tries to reason with him as he drops into the rocker.

 

“Oh my god, don’t say that,” Tony hisses, opening up the top drawer in Peter’s dresser to find him something warm to bundle up in, “I don’t want to think about him being that old.”

 

“There you go,” Steve says when Peter finally takes to the bottle, “Hungry little horror.”

 

“So dinner tonight?”

 

“Sure,” Steve says, “Somewhere quiet and nearby.  It’ll be nice to get out.  I miss you.”

 

Tony smiles, still rifling through the drawers, and Steve leans his head back, just watches him make faces as he lifts things and put them back in.  He never really thought they’d get to this moment, him feeding a baby while Tony worries over what to dress their son in.

 

“Thank you, Tony.”

 

“Oh, this again?” Tony says, waving a hand dismissively at him, “I like the little rugrat just as much as you do.  Well, maybe not that much, but he did get me off work for a few weeks.”

 

“I can’t believe you got an entire month.”

 

“As CEO, I kind of make the rules, though I am henceforth installing a four-week paternity leave.”

 

Steve laughs.  “Did you just naturally use the word henceforth?”

 

“I’ll smite you.  Better yet, I’ll get Thor to smite you.”

 

“Thor!”

 

“Ah, yes!” Tony says, turning suddenly, “We should invite everyone over this weekend, have a little get together so they can meet Peter.”

 

“Is it too cold to barbeque?”

 

“Not with the heating finally finished outside.  Goddamn, he sucks those down like it’s going out of style.”

 

“Does he throw up with you ever?” Steve asks as he starts to burp Peter.

 

“Once or twice.  He’s good about keeping his shit down.  Listen, I’ve got something to run by you,” Tony says, finally dropping some clothes on the top of the dresser before coming over, and Steve turns his head up, expecting words and instead getting Tony’s mouth.

 

He kisses him slowly, easily, like he’d be content to stay right here for the rest of his life.  Peter interrupts them with a healthy burp, and Tony laughs softly, pulling away.  “I miss you, too,” he whispers, kissing Steve again, “He’s been sleeping a little more than two hours lately.  We could probably get away with a little alone time tonight?”

 

“Yeah,” Steve says, hand going still on Peter’s back as he lets his gaze flicker over Tony’s face, “I’d like that.”

 

Tony just smiles and kisses him again.

 

Outside, they get stopped by Sarah and Michael while Jane just about tackles Nuada.  They chat for a while until Nuada sees a squirrel and goes running, and then they’re off to follow, and eventually corral, her.  Peter wakes up halfway through the walk and is delighted by the sights and sounds, bursting with adorable little sounds and waving fists.

 

“Just wait until he’s on our shoulders reaching for the sky,” Tony says, leaning into Steve.

 

“Oh, when we go apple picking with him,” Steve says, smiling, “He can sit up there and reach them by himself.”

 

“If he’s anything like us, he’ll probably just grab onto a branch and start monkey swinging.”  Steve laughs, but nods, thinking back on all the stories he’s heard of Tony’s youth when Howard as out and Maria had the nannies take him out.

 

“Can we agree on something?” Steve asks.

 

“We usually do,” Tony says, looking over at him.

 

“No nannies.”

 

“God, no,” Tony says, “I hated that.  But, realistically, what happens if you get called in?”

 

“We’ll find daycare,” Steve says, “And you’ll take care of him at night.  I’m hopeful, though.  I’ve only got four years left of active service, and then I can retire.”

 

“Jesus,” Tony says, shaking his head, “Retiring at 38, I can’t even imagine it.  My father would have had a heart attack just thinking about it.”

 

“Do you think he ever would have?”

 

“He did,” Tony says, “When he died.”

 

“Tony.”

 

“Don’t Tony me,” Tony says, reaching over to flick Steve’s ear, “Come on, my ass is starting to freeze, let’s go back.  Nua!”

 

When they get home, Peter’s awake and restless, so Steve takes him into the sitting room for some tummy time, lying down on his side next to him.  To his surprise, Tony drops down on his other side, leaning over to kiss Peter’s shoulder before he settles in for an afternoon of watching him try to lift his head.

 

——

 

March 19, 2016

 

Steve almost doesn’t hear Peter.  It’s about 4AM, but he’s been up most of the night with Tony, whose mind won’t shut down.  He’d already woken in a sweating panic once after they went to bed early due to a headache that had nearly incapacitated him, and now, he’s not sure how long Peter is crying before he hears him.  Tony’s not in bed, but the light is on in the bathroom.

 

Steve frowns, pausing to try to decide which route to take first, but Peter is quickly moving past quiet crying into outright sobbing, so he passes by the bathroom and pushes into the nursery.

 

“Peter, what’s wrong?” Steve says, flicking on the light and coming over.

 

There’s vomit matted in his hair and spilled around his neck, and Steve swears, quickly picking him up just in time for him to puke all down his front.  “Oh honey,” Steve says, rubbing his back, “Are you not feeling well?”

 

Peter just keeps crying, little fingers balled into fists.  Steve shifts him in his arms so he can feel his forehead, frowning at how warm he’s running.  “Okay,” Steve says, lifting him back toward his shoulder, “Why don’t we—” Steve breaks off, face scrunching up as he feels Peter hiccup, his cries pausing for a breath before he’s back full force, and he definitely just threw up again.

 

“Alright,” Steve says, turning out of the nursery to knock on their bathroom door.  “Tony, can I come in?”

 

“Door’s open,” Tony mumbles.

 

Steve opens it to find Tony sitting with his back to the wall, bare chest shining with sweat, and looking uncomfortably pale.  “Oh,” Tony frowns when he sees them, “Is he sick, too?”

 

“I’m going to take him into the shower with me.  Are you okay on your own?”

 

Tony just closes his eyes, head tipping back against the wall again, and so Steve makes short work of his pants before he turns on the water and gets in, waiting for it to warm before he starts to clean him and Peter up.  Peter keeps crying until Steve’s got him cleaned up and out from under the spray.  “Jarvis, draw a bath, please,” Steve says as he shifts Peter to one arm and uses the other to push open the door.  “Do you want to come in?” he asks.

 

“Yeah, in a sec,” Tony says.

 

In the end, Steve takes care of both of them.  Peter loves the bath much more than the shower, and he curls up against Steve’s chest as they settle in the warm water.  Tony passes out on top of him, temple resting against his shoulder and face turned toward Peter, and that’s how they pass the night.  Jarvis keeps the water at an even temperature until Steve is starting to drowse himself, and then he coaxes Tony awake and back into bed, bringing Peter with them.

 

In the morning, Tony’s still asleep when Peter starts stretching, but Steve’s awake after tossing and turning for three hours.  “Feeling any better, darling?” Steve asks before he turns Peter over onto his belly, watching his fingers fist in the sheets as he tries to gain purchase and push himself upright.

 

He’s content to work on his abs as Tony calls it for about a half hour before he’s looking for breakfast, and Steve leaves Tony to keep sleeping.  He’s awake, but still in bed, when Steve returns an hour later carrying a tray of eggs, toast, and jam.  “Hey sunshine,” he says as he comes over, “How are you feeling?”

 

“Been better, been worse,” Tony says, sitting up, “Where’s Peter?”

 

“He’s exhausted, so I put him back to bed.  Went out with Nuada for a bit to tire her out, so it’s your turn.”

 

“Oh good, I come after the dog,” Tony jokes, smiling when Steve grumbles at him.

 

They get almost forty minutes together before Peter’s up and making noise, though he sounds happy, so they leave him for a while longer, just lounging and enjoying the nearness of one another.  And then, Peter lets out a wild shout, and Steve laughs, pressing his face into Tony’s shoulder.  “I think that’s your cue,” Tony says, kissing his hair.

 

“Everyone should be arriving around noon, lunch is scheduled for one.  How does tea outside sound?”

 

“Only if you swaddle the shit out of him.  We don’t need a sick baby.”

 

“Maybe we should swaddle you, too,” Steve says, and then jumps out of bed before Tony can retaliate.  Tony shouts various threats as Steve leaves him to go get Peter ready, changing him first before he pulls on a new onesie, a pair of red pants, a plaid sweater, baby socks that still make him smile giddily every time he sees them, and his SI beanie.  Because Peggy’s a saint, she knit a gorgeous blanket that he wraps Peter in now.

 

And, that’s how they spend their morning.  They drink coffee and tea, respectively, while Peter tells them about the birds and the sun and everything that catches his eye while Tony carries on a conversation with him, and Steve just smiles fondly, listening on.

 

They stay outside until the doorbell rings for the first time, and then they’re scattering about.  Bruce, Betty, and Gwen arrive first, and Tony offers to take Nuada out for a walk with Bruce when she starts bouncing around excitedly.

 

“Oh, Steve,” Betty says when she’s got an armful of Peter and is staring lovingly down at him.  Gwen is set up on the floor on a baby mat, a mobile dangling above her, though she’s busy impressing them all with her mini pushups while she looks around the room.

 

“Yeah, I know,” Steve says, opening the fridge, “He’s amazing.”

 

“He’s beautiful,” Betty says, “Really.  How’s he sleeping?”

 

“Actually, really well,” Steve says, “He’s averaging at about four hours right now, but he was up sick last night, so he’s a little tired now.”

 

“Lucky bastard,” Betty says, smiling when Peter yawns widely, “You’ve got one of the good ones.  Gwen is up every three hours on the dot, and she’s loud about it.  Nat, hey!” she adds when the door opens, admitting Natasha and Clint.

 

“Oh, is that him?” Clint says, quickly shedding his jacket and boots before he comes in, smiling delightedly.

 

Natasha just narrows her eyes and comes over to Steve, knocking their shoulders together before she asks, “Anything I can do to help?”

 

“Salad,” Steve says even as starts mixing a marinade for the chicken, “How’s life?”

 

“Well, Clint’s officially got the okay to stay home for a year,” she says, smiling softly as she starts collecting salad ingredients, “So we’re planning a trip soon.  Your life is significantly more interesting, though.  How’s the mini human?”

 

“Between you and Tony, he’s going to grow up thinking he’s abnormal,” Steve says, brandishing a spoon at her.

 

“Well, one half of his parents is abnormally strange.  Speaking of—”

 

“He’s fine, don’t go there,” Steve says, a certain hardness creeping in at the edge of his voice.

 

“You can’t blame me for asking,” Natasha says, reaching past him to get a bowl, “Tony’s just about on the bottom of the list of people I would trust with a  child, and that’s not me being mean, so stop making that face.  He and I are probably tied for last.”

 

“He’s wonderful with Peter,” Steve says, “Really, Nat, please.”

 

“Okay, sorry,” she says, though it sounds very far from convinced.

 

He’s just about to sigh and turn toward her when the door opens, and there’s an echoing shout of, “Uncle Thor has arrived!”

 

Steve blinks, back pedals into the middle of the kitchen, and grins when he sees Thor in the foyer, taking off his jacket and boots.  “I thought you were still in Australia,” Steve says.

 

“And miss nephew Peter’s grand welcoming party?” Thor says, making a beeline for Betty and Clint.

 

“Oh, but,” Betty tries to protest, but Thor’s already scooping Peter out of her arms and lifting him high, hands cradling his head to keep it steady.

 

Clint quietly sings, “Nants ingonyama bagithi baba.”

 

“Everything the light touches shall be yours,” Thor says and lowers him down again, holding him gently and beaming down at him, “What a handsome little boy you are already.  Steven!  You have created greatness!”

 

Steve just laughs and goes back to finish his marinade.

 

Tony arrives at the same time as Pepper and Rhodey, and about the same time that Peter starts looking for a bottle, making these adorable sniffling noises and nuzzling against Thor, who finally puts one and one together, and says, “Your offspring is looking for sustenance.”

 

“I got him,” Steve says as Tony starts laughing, “Marinade’s almost done if you want to get the grill ready.”

 

“Rhodey, go turn on the grill,” Tony whines, leaning into him.

 

“God, you’re worse than your own infant.”

 

“I’ll come with you and snuggle for warmth,” Tony says, darting down to loop his arms around Rhodey’s waist and burrow against him.

 

Rhodey just lets his arms fall in defeat by his sides while Steve smiles, watching them.  “Thor, are you good for a while longer?” he asks.

 

“We shall continue the conquest of his kingdom,” Thor says, and well, Steve thinks that means yes.

 

Sam arrives with Bucky in tow, whom Steve has been sharing coffee with after meetings, and Sarah, Michael, and Jane are not far behind.  Betty immediately takes it upon herself to show them around and introduce them to everyone, and Jane is so torn between Nuada and Gwen that she ends up on the floor with both of them, helping Gwen reach her toys and giggling whenever Nuada licks her.

 

“Hey,” Steve says when he steps outside, a bowl of marinated meat in hand, “How was Nua?”

 

“Finally managed an entire walk off leash without her running away,” Tony says, taking the bowl, “She got a couple treats, so I’m sure that helped, but still.  How’s Peter?”

 

“Loving Thor,” Steve says, looking over his shoulder.  His smile disappears as he sees Thor swaying in the kitchen, away from everyone else.  “Though potentially on the verge of a meltdown.”

 

“Food is the most important thing in that kid’s life.  I get it,” Tony says, and Rhodey laughs loudly as Steve heads back into the house.  He can hear Peter’s voice pitch up out of angry fussing and into a full blown cry a second before he reaches the kitchen, but Thor seems unfazed.

 

“I can take him, if you want,” Steve says even as he opens the fridge to get a bottle.

 

“It’s fine,” Thor says, smiling, “Unless you’re jealous of all the love he’s receiving, but I can feed him.”

 

“Sure,” Steve says, “He seems quite taken with you.”

 

“Oh, I know,” Thor coos, tapping Peter’s nose, who blinks and stutters into quiet, “See, life’s not so bad.  Listen, you’re a warrior now, and you need to understand one thing—yeah, or that,” he adds when Peter just starts crying again, “Dude, your food is in sight.  I promise your dad won’t let you starve.”

 

“Salad’s done,” Natasha says, and promptly runs away.

 

“Steve, plates?” Pepper asks as she comes in.

 

Thor slides out of the way when Steve points to a cabinet behind him.  “So, Peter?” Thor asks.

 

Steve shrugs.  “We were having a hard time deciding, and it just popped up one day.  We both liked it.”

 

“It’s a strong name,” Thor says, nodding, “How’s Sharon?”

 

Steve sighs.  “We haven’t spoken since she left.  She asked us for a picture every once in a while, but she doesn’t want any contact with him.  I get it, I do, but—I can’t imagine what that’s going to be like for him, growing up.”

 

“Well, he’s got you and Tony,” Thor says, “That’s a whole lot of love right there.  Any rules?” he adds when Steve holds out a bottle.

 

“Don’t let him choke,” Steve says, shrugging, “Other than that, he’s pretty good about it.”

 

“Ah ha,” Thor says when Peter takes to it immediately, “See, what did I tell you?  Your future is looking bright, indeed.  Oh, dude, come on, that’s the cutest noise ever.”

 

Steve smiles, leaning against the counter to watch him.  He loves that noise, Peter greedily sucking down the milk like he’s never going to have another chance, and he sounds so content, so happy that it erases every single dark corner in Steve’s mind.

 

“How are you doing?” Thor asks, “I mean, I know you’re exhausted, but otherwise?”

 

Steve’s smile just grows.  “I love being a dad,” he says, “It’s—it’s the best feeling in the world, and Tony’s made it even more amazing.  I never thought we could have this, and yet.”

 

“Here you are,” Thor finishes for him, “I’m happy for you, Steve.  So, tell me about these two little ladies.  Future prospects?”

 

“You are not pimping out my child right now,” Steve says, following Thor’s gaze to Gwen and Jane, who are playing happily together, “Jane is three years older than him.”

 

“And Gwen’s only a couple months.  Child’s play,” Thor says, grinning, “I’m putting down money on Gwen right now.  Not marriage, but definitely something.”

 

“You’re the worst.”

 

“Nah, that’s your husband,” Thor says, and Steve laughs, letting his gaze wander to Tony, who is talking fast enough that he needs his hands.  Rhodey is grinning back at him, clearly egging him on, while Sam throws in the occasional wrench, and Bucky just watches them with an amused expression.  “Life is good,” Thor agrees.

 

Later, when they’ve long since moved from the dining room to the sitting room, several beers have been cracked and a bottle of wine, Tony gets up to make tea, looks over toward Steve to see if he wants any, and smiles when he finds him fast asleep, Peter resting comfortably on his chest, sucking gently on his thumb.

 

“Yeah, me too,” Betty says when she sees Tony’s smile.  Gwen is in her arms, burrowed against her and out like a light, as well.  Jane is what draws a chorus of aw’s, however, when she’s spotted napping with Nuada, using her as a pillow by Steve’s feet.

 

“Seems like our cue,” Bruce says, getting up, “Mind if I bum some caffeine off of you for the ride home, though?”

 

“Yeah, of course,” Tony says, and leads him into the kitchen, “Thanks for coming today.”

 

“Absolutely,” Bruce says, smiling, “We’ll have to start setting up playdates now.”

 

“Ugh,” Tony says, shoulders shrugging up by his ears, “How is that even a phrase that we use?”

 

“Honestly,” Bruce says, leaning back against the counter as Tony starts making tea, “I thought me and you were going to be childless for this life and probably the next, but the universe is funny like that.”

 

“How is it?  With Gwen?” Tony asks.

 

“She’s my light,” Bruce says, gaze finding Betty and her in the sitting room, “I don’t know what I’d do without either of them.”

 

Tony just nods, smiling stupidly at the kettle.

 

Everyone begins to trickle out, saying lengthy goodbyes to each other, and Steve sleeps through it all.  Tony lets him, knows that while he’ll likely be upset he didn’t get to see everyone off, he needs the rest.  It’s still early when the house is empty again, only about eight, but Peter’s thumb pops out of his mouth as his arm stretches up toward Steve’s jaw, knuckles bumping there, and it’s this that stirs him.  He hums, rubbing a hand over Peter’s back as he opens his eyes, looking around.

 

“Where is everyone?” he asks.

 

“Nua, walk?” Tony says as he pulls on his jacket, “Last ones just left.  I’ll take her out, and then we can head to bed.”

 

“I’ll come with,” Steve mumbles, holding onto Peter as he sits up, twisting to each side so his spine pops.

 

“Stay here,” Tony says, yanking on his boots, “You’re exhausted.”

 

“Okay,” Steve says, and really, Tony’s surprised he isn’t putting up more of a fight, but then Steve takes Peter into the nursery, and Tony feels like he might find him already in bed when he gets back, so he hastens to leave with Nuada.

 

He’s awake, but in bed when Tony finally gets in from the dark sky and chill of night.  He stops by the nursery to check on Peter and to press a kiss to the top of his soft head, and then he clambers into bed and mucks about making noise and disrupting the sheets until he’s on top of Steve, who laughs and winds his arms around him, holding him close.  “I love you,” he whispers, lips brushing the shell of Tony’s ear before he kisses his temple.

 

“Mm,” Tony hums, closing his eyes, “I love you more than the moon.”

 

“Impossible,” Steve says, and Tony just laughs quietly.

 

——

 

March 30, 2016

 

“Oh!  What’s that?”  Steve exhales, blowing air over the top of Peter’s head, who smiles delightedly in response.  He knows it’s not a real smile yet, just a reflex, but he still loves it nonetheless, and so he blows a quick raspberry on Peter’s stomach, his own smile widening as Peter lets out three quick noises in response.  When he leans back up, Peter’s arm sails past his face again, and Steve beams, an open mouth smile that Peter tries to mimic.  “What’s that?” he says again just in time for Peter’s fingers to spread wide on his arm’s next swing through the air.

 

“How about these?” Steve switches tactics, kissing each of his chunky little thighs, “Are these for dinner?”

 

He blows another raspberry near his knee, and the sound Peter makes really can’t be considered a giggle, but Steve’s going to pretend it is.  “Does that—tickle?” Steve says, blowing air across his feet.

 

Peter wiggles, both fists sailing through the air, and Steve just grins before leaning up and away, sitting back on his heels as he hears Tony’s footsteps approaching.  “Who is that?” Steve asks, stroking the bottom of one of Peter’s feet, “Is that daddy?”

 

Peter reaches for nothing at all, and Steve leans back toward him, blowing air across his face and head again.  He blinks rapidly, smiling as he does, and Steve kisses his nose.  And then, there’s his fist again.  Steve laughs as it lands on his cheek, fingers spreading before they try to grab.  “What’s that?  Is that yours?”  His hand taps once, lightly, before it’s gone again, and Peter starts wriggling excitedly.

 

“Is my favorite boy getting into trouble again?” Tony says, and Peter’s wiggles get wildly more pronounced.

 

“Oh, do you know daddy’s voice?” Steve says, leaning back again and tracing a circle over his bare belly.

 

“He better, after all that—” he’s cut off by a shrill squeak from Peter, and he just smiles and sits down next to Steve, holding up an outfit.

 

“Yes, better,” Steve says, “Can you dress him while I set up the flowers?”

 

“Can’t wait for baby sneezes,” Tony teases, but still elbows Steve out of his way.  Steve disappears to find his bag of flowers while Tony starts dressing Peter, first pulling a white onesie on over his head and making a face when he does.  “I can’t believe you’re already almost a month old,” he says, easing his little feet into a pair of navy blue pants with a white pattern.  “You know, my parents never did this,” he says, reaching up a hand when Peter starts squirming.  He presses a finger against one of Peter’s fists, waiting for his fingers to unwind and curl around his finger, before he finishes with the pants, grabbing a pair of navy socks after.  “I only have a couple baby pictures, actually,” he says, “Sam wanted to do this lame as hell slideshow thing for our wedding reception, and it was like a freaking wartime raid trying to find one.  But your papa is crazy with that camera, and you can bet he’ll have every single day of your life documented.  Jesus, how much did you spend on those?” Tony adds when Steve returns and starts emptying out the flowers.

 

“Oh please, like you actually care,” Steve says, and Tony just grins at his back before turning back to Peter.

 

“Alright, chicken legs, I need this hand back.”  He pulls out of Peter’s hold, who scrunches up his face in response, so Tony tickles his belly while he reaches for his shirt.  It’s white with a little brown pocket, and Tony’s not sure he’s ever seen a more handsome baby when he gets it settled.  “You’re so cute, and papa just wants to ruin all our fun,” he says as he slips on the baby boat shoes, “What do you say to a little leg day?”  He picks Peter up under his arms, hands bracketing the back of his head, and Peter immediately starts kicking his legs toward the ground, cooing excitedly.

 

He lets Peter dance a little, feet tapping against the ground, before Steve asks for his opinion, so he carefully turns him over, setting him on his belly.  “Big and strong,” he says, gently squeezing one of his upper arms before coming over to Steve.  “Looks good.”

 

“Does it look like a one?”

 

“Yes, Steven, your artist skills far outweigh your vocal skills.”

 

“Oh, shut up,” Steve says, though he’s smiling as he knocks into him, “Peter, are you ready?”

 

They both turn in time to watch him push upright, little fingers gripping the floor and this look of pure concentration on his face before it’s gone, and he sags back toward the ground.  “Peter!” Steve exclaims happily, and Peter chirps back in response, “My sweet baby boy, are you doing pushups?”  There’s that not-giggle again, and Steve twists over until he’s lying down, chin propped up on his hands.  “Are you super strong?”

 

Peter gets a total of two more pushups before Tony finally convinces Steve to take the picture before he starts fussing, so they set him up on his back on top Peggy’s blanket and a gorgeous floral arrangement in the shape of the number one.  There’s a huge sunflower near the top that seems to catch his eye, and Steve gets a shot of him staring, wide-eyed and mouth open, that he falls in love with.

 

They continue the photo shoot for a while longer until Nuada wanders in, bites a chunk out of the sunflower, and plops down next to Peter, nudging at him with her nose until Peter starts squirming, trying desperately to reach for her and only managing to wave about like a little rock star, according to Tony.

 

Later, when he’s tuckered out and sleeping in the bassinette in Tony’s workshop while Steve’s out for a run, Tony can’t help but laugh when he finds Nuada inside the bassinette with Peter, and he makes a note to remind Steve that he reinforced it so he doesn’t freak out when he finds them.

Chapter Text

April 4, 2016

 

Their routine takes about four minutes total to feel like it’s been happening all along.  Steve is nervous, at first, about what their mornings will look like now, but then it all just—falls into place.  He’s not naïve; he knows that the last month together has certainly helped to ensure the success of their first day with Tony back at work, but it still leaves Steve smiling that there are no outstanding issues when Monday arrives.

 

He wakes at five thirty, kisses a grumbling Tony back to sleep, and quietly dresses for a run.  When Nuada realizes what’s happening, though, she runs sprints around the room in her excitement until Tony groans loudly, and Steve yanks on his jacket before hurrying out with her.  When he gets back around six, Peter is just waking up, and though Steve is sweating and would love nothing more than a shower, he stops in the nursery to watch him wake up in earnest, little limbs stretching as a big yawn overcomes his small mouth.

 

“Good morning, handsome,” Steve says, rubbing a hand over his belly as he starts blinking, “Think you can last another ten minutes?”

 

Peter yawns again, this one wider and longer, so Steve leaves him to take a lightning fast shower, leaving the water on when Tony stumbles blearily in behind him.  “Morning,” Tony mumbles and kisses Steve’s wet shoulder.

 

“Eggs?” Steve asks, turning and kissing him before he can respond.

 

“Gross, bed mouth,” Tony says, though he returns the kiss.  “Waffles,” he counters with when Steve opens the door.

 

“It’s Monday.  Save the waffle craving for the weekend.  How do you want them?”

 

“Big jerk,” Tony mutters, so Steve blows him a kiss and grabs a towel.

 

The monitor is letting out a quiet babble of baby talk that makes Steve’s heart swell, so he’s quick to dry off, don a pair of briefs and jeans, grab a shirt, and he’s just tugging it over his wet hair when he gets into the nursery and finds Peter’s fingers opening and closing above him, as though he’s reaching for the stars.

 

“Hey, little man,” Steve says, picking him up, “Are you ready for the best Monday ever?”

 

Peter’s head is warm and solid against Steve’s shoulder, and he nuzzles lightly against him before sighing happily and leaving to start breakfast.  He’s still not fussing, so Steve sets him up on his belly in the kitchen, scattering a few toys around him and dropping a kiss onto his tuft of brown hair for good measure.

 

“So, game plan,” he says into the fridge, trying to decide what vegetables he’s craving, “I was thinking we could go shopping first since you’re growing at the speed of sound, maybe grab lunch with Uncle Sam and Buck, and then Aunt Peggy has us scheduled for four.  Are you excited to meet her?”

 

Peter pushes upright with determination, and Steve squats down enough that Peter will be able to see him.  “Big and strong,” he says, reaching forward to squeeze one of his arms gently.  Peter coos happily and drops back down.

 

“I appreciate the extra hour this past week, too,” Steve continues, finally taking his vegetables and eggs over to the stove, “You’re taking after your father, loving sleep more than food.”

 

“Food is for the weak,” Tony says as he comes out of the master suite, “Where’s my little body builder?”  As he raises his voice, Peter lets out a shrill sound, fingers fisting in the mat beneath him as he tries to lift himself again.

 

“He gets so excited when he hears you,” Steve says, watching Tony swoop down and lift Peter into the air.

 

Tony lets out an obnoxious snort.  “He loves you way more than me,” Tony says as he settles, Peter in one arm while he opens the fridge with the other, “You provide for him.  I’m just the cool dad.”

 

“Is that so?” Steve says even as Tony starts preparing his bottle.

 

“Shut up, big jerk.”

 

“You are infinitely more attractive when you’re holding him,” Steve says, and abandons the eggs to distract Tony.

 

In the end, Tony is late as ever.  They still can’t stop touching each other, though half of the reason he’s late is suddenly devoted to blowing air over Peter’s head and pressing kisses to his toes and holding full length conversations with him.  They both treat him as though he’s another adult at the table, asking him questions and pretending his soft noises are coherent answers, and really, Steve thinks he might actually be floating when Tony finally rushes out of the house, chugging the rest of his coffee even as he grabs a travel mug.

 

“Plaid?” Steve says, and Peter burps, “Right on.”

 

It’s still cold out, so Steve dresses him warmly in thick, dark grey pants and a plaid sweater complimented by the boat shoes that Tony keeps making absurd noises about and his black SI beanie, which Steve has finally admitted he loves seeing him in.  Though he’s never been particularly fond of Tony’s company, he does appreciate the direction they’re going in, and Peter looks adorable in the hat.

 

When they’re ready to go, Peter decides now is the ideal time for a poop so smelly, even Steve cringes.  “Peter,” he exhales loudly when he lifts him up and smells it, “Really?  After all that?”

 

And so, he strips him back down, makes faces at him to distract him, and they’re about a half hour late for their targeted leave time, though Betty just rolls her eyes and smiles when he tries to apologize later.  “Honey, it’s fine,” she says as she winds a scarf around her neck, “Babies make you late for everything.  Are we taking the truck?”

 

“Unless you want to take yours?”

 

“The mom mobile?” Betty says incredulously, “Never, thanks.  I hate that car.”

 

“It’s just an SUV,” Steve says, glancing over at her hulking black car.

 

“It’s a soccer mom car,” Betty says, heading over toward it.

 

Steve just grins and gets into the truck to wait for her.  The last time he’d tried to help move Gwen’s seat and stroller from the SUV to the truck, she’d thrown her purse at him, so Steve knows better now, and he waits until Betty drops into the passenger seat, closing her eyes.  “My boobs hurt,” she says, startling a laugh out of Steve.

 

“Do they now?”

 

“Gwen bit me this morning, fucking bit me,” Betty says, finally moving to buckle in, “You’re so lucky you don’t have breasts and have to go through all this nonsense.  And I know, formula versus breast feeding, Bruce and I had this conversation a thousand times.”

 

“Hey, I’m on your side of the conversation, actually.”

 

“Really?  Hm.  Interesting.”  Steve’s about to ask what’s so interesting about it when Peter lets out a soft, sad cry.  He frowns and glances into the rearview mirror, wishing that they were still in Betty’s driveway so he could check on him for real.

 

“Oh, honey,” Betty coos suddenly, reaching back, “What’re you making all that noise about?”

 

And then, without warning, he’s crying, hiccupping straight past fussing and into sobbing.  “Hey,” Betty soothes, turning in her seat to give her more room so she can rub one of Peter’s legs, “It’s okay, baby boy.”

 

Steve wants nothing more than to stop the car, but he’s trying not to coddle him too much, trying to help him learn how to soothe himself, and so he keeps driving.  “Yeah, I know,” Betty says when she drops back into her seat, “I hate listening to Gwen cry.  Oh, there we go,” she adds when Gwen joins in, “It’s like sympathy vomiting.”

 

“Oh gross,” Steve says, making a face, “Why?”


“Sorry, yeah, bad example.  How was he this morning?”

 

“Fine,” Steve says, glancing back at him, “Great, actually.  Slept later, ate later, I don’t—” he breaks off, frown deepening as Peter’s cries pitch higher.

 

“It’s only fifteen minutes away,” Betty says, and does her level best to distract them both.

 

When they do finally arrive, Peter’s tired himself out, and Gwen hadn’t lasted long into the crying, either, but his face is tear-stained and twisted into something that looks like pain when they finally park and Steve can go around back.  “Peter,” he says, unlatching the car seat, “What’s wrong?”

 

Peter stirs at his voice, mouth turning down in a pout and eyes filling with tears.  “Hey, it’s okay,” Steve says, pulling up his beanie to feel his head, “Papa’s here, don’t worry.  He’s a little warm,” he says, looking over at Betty, who’s kneeling in to unbuckle Gwen.

 

“Your call, papa,” she says.

 

If she wasn’t here with him, Steve might have turned around and gone back home, but he can’t keep them cooped up forever, and Peter showed no signs of being sick all morning, so he nods and backs out, taking the carrier with him.

 

Armed with strollers and diaper bags, they head for Carter’s, and Steve has one of those moments again, where he can’t quite believe this is real life.  He’d convinced himself he would never have this and that he was okay without it, but now, as he lets himself peek at the 12 months clothing and finds the smallest denim jacket he thinks he’s ever seen, he’s overwhelmed with something that can only be classified as bliss.

 

“I love you,” he whispers as he kneels in front of the stroller and kisses Peter’s sleeping face.

 

——

 

Around four, when they’re due for Peggy’s video call, Peter considers it an opportune moment to puke all over his handsome plaid shirt, and Peggy calls just as Steve’s stripping him out of his clothes.

 

“Sir, Miss Carter is calling.  Shall I answer via video?”

 

“Yes, thank you.”  Steve waits until he pulls up a feed and Peggy’s face appears before he turns his attention to her, smiling.  “Hey gorgeous,” he says.

 

“Steve!” she exclaims happily, “I can’t believe it’s really you.  Oh.  Is that him?”

 

“Yeah, sorry, he’s not feeling too hot today,” Steve says, gaze shifting down when Peter starts whining, legs kicking out.  “I know, sweetheart,” he says, tugging off his pants, “How does a bath sound, hm?  How are you, Peggy?”

 

“It’s hot out here, but it’s good.  We’re getting a lot done, and I’m proud of the work we’re doing.  Confidential, sorry,” she adds when Steve starts to ask, “I can talk about it when I get home, but not over this feed.  I talked to Sharon the other day, too.  She seems to be doing great.  She’s back in school and on track with her grades.  She was talking about college.  It was so strange, but it felt right, and—oh, look at him!  He’s so big!”

 

“Gained two freaking pounds since he was born,” Steve says, leaving the nursery behind to go into the bathroom.  The bathroom is spacious regardless, but Steve’s discovered a new found appreciation for how large the sink is for times like this, when he can’t afford to shower with Peter.

 

They keep talking while he gives Peter a bath, who interrupts them once when his hand comes rocketing up and then back down, splashing water everywhere.  Steve and Peggy both laugh, and Peter seems delighted by their joy if his reflex smiles are anything to judge by.  He’s getting sleepy after, though, so Steve feeds him while he keeps talking to Peggy, and, before he knows it, it’s past five, Peter’s asleep, and Tony’s texting him that he managed to sneak out early.

 

“It was so good to see your face and hear your voice for real,” Peggy says as Steve gets Peter settled in his crib, “Thank you for this, for letting me see him.”

 

“Yeah, of course,” Steve says, straightening up, “Sorry it wasn’t very—entertaining, I guess.  Just wait until his motor skills kick in, he’ll be a hoot.”

 

“I can tell,” she says, smiling fondly, “He seems amazing, Steve.  I can’t wait to meet him.”  She sighs, and Steve watches her, but there’s no sign of sadness.  “Alright, sweets,” she says, “I have to get back.  I’ll let you know when I’m free next month.  Give Peter lots of kisses for me, and tell Tony I said hello.  I love you, darling.”

 

“I love you, too, Peggy,” Steve says, and they wave before Jarvis cuts the call.  “Alright,” Steve says, turning his gaze down to Nuada, who is quite nearly pouting at him, “I know, you’ve been so good, but just the backyard, okay?”  Nuada whines, leaning against him.  “I’m not leaving your brother alone in here.  Come on, you can run laps just as easy out back.”

 

Nuada follows at his heels, winding through his legs as though she’s trying to trip him until he finally gets the back door open.  He doesn’t want to leave it open, this late at night while it’s so cold, and so he pulls his phone out of his pocket as he steps outside with Nuada, thumbing over a page and opening up a program Tony finalized last week.  It’ll allow him to keep an eye on Peter when he needs to go out with Nuada and doesn’t want to take him, and though he doesn’t fancy leaving him in the house alone regardless of the situation, he fancies the idea of waking him up right now to put him in the stroller less.

 

He stays out with Nuada for a good ten minutes, throwing one of her balls around until she finally tires a little, and though she’ll need a good, long walk later tonight, she follows Steve inside obediently and drops into a seat by her bowl.  Steve just laughs at her and gives her food before he starts staring at the open fridge while he tries to decide what he wants for dinner.

 

“Jarvis, call Tony, please.”

 

“Three guesses,” Tony says by way of answer, “What does it have in its pockets?”

 

Steve grins, finally opening the meat drawer and taking out a tray of chicken.  Whenever Tony used to come home from international trips in the beginning, he would bring back souvenirs, anything he thought might make Steve smile, and it’s been a while.  “Did you go anywhere fancy today?” Steve asks, picking out vegetables next, “Rice or potatoes?”

 

“Why do you still ask that question?” Tony says like he’s offended, “The answer is always the same.  Oh.  Do we have any big ones, or just little ones?”

 

“Big ones it is.”

 

“You’re my favorite husband.  And no, nowhere fancy.”

 

“I’m your only husband,” Steve says, and then quickly adds, “Hopefully.”

 

“I’m not killing you off, so you’re stuck with me until death do us part.”

 

“Ha, and I’ll definitely outlive you.  Is it edible?”

 

“I 100% agree with you.  Nope.”

 

He can almost hear the grin in Tony’s voice, so he asks, “Does it contain words?”

 

“I’m going to be so mad if you guess it!” Tony yells, and Steve laughs as Nuada looks up from her dinner.

 

“I mean, it did come out today,” Steve says, pausing in cutting a pepper.

 

Ugh,” Tony groans.

 

“Oh my god, the new David Mitchell book?” Steve says excitedly.

 

“Yes, you fool.  I’m twenty minutes away, and I’m starving.”

 

“Chicken and potatoes,” Steve says, “Anything else you’re craving?”

 

“Cucumbers, weirdly,” Tony says, “And avocado.  Hey, healthy breakfast, avo on toast.  Do it.  Make it happen.”

 

“Counter argument,” Steve says, “Spring mix tomatoes, avo, and cucumbers.”

 

“Woah.”

 

“How long is the book?” Steve asks because he can’t resist.


“It’s the size of a brick, let me tell you.  Jay?”

 

“609 pages, sir.”

 

“Good grief.  How’s my little man?” Tony asks.

 

“A little sick,” Steve says, “He cried all the way to Carter’s, and he was running a tiny fever, but it was gone by the time we got home.  Puked everywhere earlier, but he’s asleep now.”

 

“Princess!” Tony yells.

 

Nuada barks in response, and Steve laughs, shaking his head.  They spend the rest of Tony’s drive talking, about nothing and everything, from their days to the state of the universe, and Steve misses him like a physical thing when his car finally pulls up in the drive.  The chicken’s on low with the vegetables, and the potatoes are nearly done, but Steve still finds himself outside, kissing Tony hard enough to warm them both despite the cold.

 

“Mm, hello to you, too,” Tony says when Steve finally releases him, “I hope there’s more of that for dessert.”

 

Steve’s eyes flutter shut, teeth scraping over his bottom lip as his hands tighten on Tony, who hums and kisses him again, licking into his mouth this time as one of his hands slides up to fist in Steve’s blonde hair.  His nails scratch over his head, and Steve presses them impossibly closer, fingers fanning over the small of Tony’s back to pin him there.

 

Nuada starts barking, and Steve groans, dropping his forehead against Tony’s as he pulls back.  “Yeah, I’m hard now, so,” Tony says, and kisses him before he can step away.  Steve has every intention to go back inside, but Tony’s mouth has turned wicked, and he finds himself yanking his shirt from his pants and sliding a cold hand along his side until he can curl it around his ribs.  Tony’s hand falls to dig into the nape of Steve’s neck, and it just about does him in when Nuada barks again, loudly and quickly followed by another.

 

“Shit,” Steve says, jerking back a step, “Let me just—she might be yelling because of Peter.”

 

“Yeah, yeah, yes,” Tony says, blinking, “Peter.  Go.  I’ll be right in.”

 

Steve turns away even though every sense is tuned to Tony’s frequency, and he wants nothing more than to manhandle him through the front door and strip him naked before they even make it to their bedroom, but then he’s inside, and Peter’s screaming.

 

“Fuck,” he says as he starts running through the house.  Aside from the crying, he’s fine, even with a clean diaper, and though his head is a little warm again, Steve can’t find anything obviously wrong, so he just holds Peter close, swaying as he walks around the nursery.  When his screaming only tapers into all-out sobs, Steve sighs and takes him into their room to find the k’tan, and it works like magic.  As soon as he’s swaddled up against Steve’s chest, his sobs quickly shudder into soft sniffling until he’s fighting to keep his eyes open, thumb in his mouth.

 

Steve doesn’t know what it is, but he loves being held like this, wrapped up tight and close, and sometimes just craves it endlessly.  “Is he okay?” Tony asks as he comes in, already shrugging out of his suit jacket, “Aw, kangaroo time?”

 

“He’s you all over,” Steve says, one hand held against Peter’s head, partially covered by the thick material.  He leans over to kiss Tony, who stops in tracks, suit jacket dropping to the floor as his hand covers Steve’s.

 

“Mm, stop,” Tony says, pulling away, “I’m all wound up.  Bad for business.”  He drops a kiss on Peter’s head and then heads for the closet, talking to Jarvis when he’s inside.

 

The rest of their night passes smoothly.  Peter stays wrapped up and sleeps through dinner, though he starts to wake after, when they’re in the workshop, Tony tinkering and Steve sketching with one hand, pad trapped under his leg to hold it in place while the other arm stays draped across Peter’s huddled form against his chest.

 

“Evening, love,” Steve says when he starts to stir, thumb popping out of his mouth as he yawns, “Feeling any better?”

 

Peter’s head turns as he nuzzles against Steve, who smiles and leans down to kiss him.  “Let me know when you’re ready,” he says, and keeps shading in Tony’s outline until Peter starts making soft, cooing noises, and then he’s off to make him a bottle.

 

He’s still awake after, so Steve detours to the nursery for some play, making faces and beaming when Peter’s little reflex smiles kick in.  Though he loves them, Steve’s eager for his real smile, particularly because he knows it’s coming in the next week or so.

 

They spend a fun hour playing peek-a-boo, singing about his fingers and toes, pretending to walk, and reading a few of his favorite books before he’s starting to tire out, and Steve gets him to bed, spending a few minutes leaning into his crib watching him.  The lure of Tony is stronger now that he actually has a second to spare, though, and so Steve leaves in search of his husband.

 

When he enters the workshop again, Tony is bare chested, and there’s evidence that something was burning in the smoke curling near his station and the large hole in the shirt he’s discarded.  There’s a light sheen of sweat on his back, as well as a smear of grease across his ribs, and Steve just wants to ruin him.  He knows that Tony knows he’s there in the way his head shifts minutely, jaw twitching as the corner of his mouth quirks, and then Steve is on him.

 

He winds his arms around him as he kisses a wet, hot line across his shoulders, and Tony’s hands still, one clutching a soldering iron, knuckles going white as Steve makes his way up the back of his neck, noses at his hairline, and then bites the nape of his neck.

 

“Fuck shit mother—hubbard Christ on a cracker,” Tony swears, and Steve dissolves, laughing into the side of his neck as Tony quickly puts the soldering iron away before he sucks at his two burned fingers.

 

“Your fault,” Tony says even as he shrugs Steve off and turns, “Favor?”

 

“Anything,” Steve says, leaning down to kiss him.

 

Tony only lets them have a moment before he pulls back and asks, “Fuck me?”

 

They don’t make it out of the workshop.

 

——

 

April 13, 2016

 

Steve fell asleep to the soft pitter patter of rain, Peter quietly babbling in the background, and Tony draped across him, warm and heavy and unbelievably soft.  There’s so much of him everywhere, miles of bare skin pressed snug against Steve, and he falls asleep feeling safe and loved.

 

He wakes up in Siberia.

 

It’s cold, colder than he remembers, and it makes his breath puff out white in front of him when he exhales.  There’s snow underfoot, and none of it makes sense.  Siberia was years ago, before he and Tony married, right after Howard’s death, and his dreams have been plagued with Iraq and Afghanistan lately, not this, not stumbling blindly through a white wasteland and wondering if he was ever going to make it out alive.

 

Steve closes his eyes, tries to envision his bed, the weight of Tony on top of him, the slow shuffle of rain against the window.  Instead, he’s greeted with an extraordinary noise, something that rockets him to his knees, arms coming up to curl around his head and hide him from the fallout.

 

He can’t hear, can’t see, can’t feel his fingers as they burn with the cold around him.  God, there’s so much red.  It’s bright in the stark world around him, and he follows its source to the wound in his thigh, bright and blooming.  He’s going to die.

 

It’s unending.  There’s nothing for him to latch onto, no landmark to point him home, just a white horizon and snow steadily falling, preparing to bury him alive.

 

There’s another explosion, and Steve collapses onto his back, spread eagle, staring up at the white sky without seeing any blue, any black, any sun, any stars.  It’s just white.

 

“Steve!”

 

Steve wakes up on the floor.

 

He’s having trouble piecing together the seconds between the bed and the floor, but then Tony’s kneeling in front of him, and he can’t breathe.  This noise he doesn’t recognize stutters out of him, and Tony immediately backs up, hands held in front of him.  “It’s me,” he says softly, “It’s Tony.  Are you with me?”

 

Steve’s exhale shatters around him, and he can see him, he’s right here, it’s okay, he opens his mouth, and the sky splits apart, yawns open and tosses its thunder into his bones.  Steve jerks, eyes squeezing shut as he presses back against the bed.

 

“Okay, fuck this,” Tony says, and, without warning, he’s right there, climbing into Steve’s lap and wrapping them together.

 

Tony,” Steve gasps.

 

“I know,” Tony says, tightening his hold, “I know.  I’m here.  Nua?”

 

Immediately, Nuada’s there, trying to squeeze in between them.  When that won’t work, she just leans against them, head dropping onto Steve’s shoulder so she can lick the side of his face.

 

They stay like that, Tony grounding them and Nuada protecting them, until Steve finally shifts and kisses Tony’s jaw.  “I’m okay,” he whispers.  Tony slowly releases him, leaning back as his blue eyes flick over Steve’s face, sharp and piercing in the darkness.

 

“Okay,” Tony says, seeing something there that convinces him, “Bed?”

 

Thunder rumbles in the distance, and Steve winces a half second before lightning strikes again, showers bright, white light into their room.  “Okay,” Tony says, getting up and striding over to the massive window.  He starts drawing the curtains as Nuada clambers on top of Steve, who curls around her, burying his face in her fur.  He waits until Tony’s drenched the room in darkness before he starts to move, getting back into bed.  Nuada follows, stretching out along his back as he lies on his side and watches Tony climb in opposite him.  “What do you need?” he asks.

 

Steve holds out an arm, so Tony scoots over, lets Steve tangle their legs together as his hands fan out over Tony’s back and he hides, head ducking beneath his chin to burrow against him.  “You’re safe,” Tony promises, and presses a kiss to his head to prove it.

 

Steve watches the sun rise.  He thinks Tony might, too, from the way his breaths don’t shift back into slumber.  He’s awake with the sun, too, mouth a warm presence against Steve’s temple as the sun starts to peel out over them.  “I’m sorry,” Steve whispers.

 

Tony squeezes him.  “Don’t,” he says, “I’m going to go in late.  Just an hour, shut up.”

 

Steve doesn’t protest, instead closes his eyes and reaches a hand back to thread through Nuada’s fur.  Tony holds him, helps Steve piece himself back together with gentle kisses and whispered words whenever a shiver rakes through him.  When, finally, Peter starts making noise over the monitor, Tony rubs a hand over his arm and says, “Why don’t you go take a shower, and I’ll feed him?”

 

“Okay,” Steve mumbles, slowly unraveling from Tony.

 

“Hey,” Tony says when he sits up, “I can stay home, if you want.”

 

Steve shakes his head.  “No, it’s fine,” he says before taking a long breath and getting out of bed.  He can feel Tony’s eyes on him as he crosses the room into the bathroom, but then he’s gone, and Tony’s got Nuada scooting closer to him and Peter heralding the opening act of a rave, so he gets out of bed, sighing.

 

“Look at you,” Tony says when he enters the nursery to find Peter kicking out his legs, yanking his blanket off little by little, “You’re going to be quite the trouble maker.”  Peter just squeaks delight and waves his hands about.  “Listen, I’ve got a favor to ask,” Tony says as he picks him up and sets him down on the changing table, “Papa’s not feeling too hot in the head, so I need you to be extra charming, okay?”  Peter grunts, nose scrunching up, and Tony laughs at the smell that fills the room.  “Thanks for that,” he laughs, reaching over for a new diaper, “So, what d’you say?  Got anything up your sleeve you can throw at him today?  Maybe a smile?  I know he’s excited about all that.  See, it’s not too hard,” Tony adds as he pinches up Peter’s mouth, thumb and forefinger on either side.  Peter makes noise about that, so Tony rubs circles into his cheeks before he goes back to changing him.

 

He gets him changed, dressed in something warm, swaddles him up in Peggy’s blanket, and then goes to prepare a bottle that he takes outside with his coffee and Nuada.  Steve finds them eventually, hands curled around a mug of tea and looking marginally better.

 

“Think you’ll be able to nap at all today?” Tony asks, watching him sit down and fold up, legs drawing under him and shoulders hunched up.

 

Steve blinks, watching Nuada crash into a bush in an attempt to retrieve her ball.  “Maybe,” he says, “I’ll nod off with Peter at some point.”

 

“I’ll be home late,” Tony says, “Otherwise, Obie will be up my ass about this morning.”  Steve just nods, and Tony frowns.  “Steve?”

 

“I’m sorry,” he says, lifting a hand to pass over his face before he exhales loudly, “I’m awake, I’m here.”

 

“Are you?”

 

“Not really,” Steve admits, looking over at him.

 

“I can work from home.”

 

“No,” Steve sighs, “No.  I can’t be crippled by a nightmare every time now.  I need to be able to take care of Peter.”

 

“You know it’s not just a nightmare,” Tony says, “Steve, really.  It’s okay.”

 

“It’s fine, Tony,” Steve mutters, lifting his tea.

 

“I just want to make sure Peter will be fine, too,” Tony says, watching anger flash across his face, “If you’re not okay, I’d rather stay home with him.”

 

“I’m fine,” Steve snaps, not looking at him, “Peter will be fine.  I would never hurt him.”

 

“Okay, come on, I never said anything about hurting him, but you and I both know how this works.  I’ve had full conversations with you that you don’t remember.  I know you wouldn’t intentionally do anything, but what if you leave the house without him and get halfway to—I don’t know, wherever, before you remember?  I’m not trying to be awful, Steve, I’m just worried about you.”

 

“I don’t need your fucking worry,” Steve growls, tea mug slamming down on the small table in between them before he jerks to his feet.  He turns to Tony, arms extending out.  “Give me Peter, and go get ready for work.”

 

Tony stalls, “It’s only been a little bit.  I told Pepper I’d be an hour late.  Come on, we’ll make breakfast, and—”

 

Tony.”

 

Tony swallows, trying to see past the twisting emotions on Steve’s face.  “I think you need to calm down first,” he says carefully.

 

Steve blinks, jerks back a step, arms lowering to his sides.  “You don’t trust me with him?”

 

“I didn’t say that,” Tony says, standing up, “I’m just trying to give you space to clear your head.  I’m here, Steve, if you need me.”

 

“I don’t need—” Steve breaks off abruptly, averts his gaze, but they both heard what he was going to say, and Tony’s gone when he looks back up, Nuada coming to sit at his side and look up at him.

 

Inside, Tony grabs the k’tan without thinking, wraps Peter up in it, and goes into the kitchen to make breakfast.  Peter talks to him through it, and he’s just finishing up the eggs when Steve wanders in.  “Why don’t I take Peter to work today?” Tony says, not turning to face him, “You can come pick him up after lunch, if you want.”

 

Steve scoffs, “What am I, a fucking trophy husband?  Take our son to work so I can have a mental health day, and maybe, if I’m feeling up to it, I can take him off your busy hands later?  Or, maybe, just maybe—”

 

Salt explodes across the stove as Tony throws it down and whips around, one hand braced against Peter.  “What the fuck do you want from me?” he yells, “Do you want me to fight with you?  I can’t have this conversation with you anymore.  If you want to get a fucking job, go ahead.  We’ll put Peter in daycare and figure it out, but stop throwing that shit at me.  I never once said I thought you were a trophy husband, which is a ridiculous, backward, stupid fucking phrase, by the way, and I’m insulted that you think I would ever consider us anything but equals.  You had a nightmare, a bad one from the way you’re reacting, and I’m trying to offer you help, trying to give you space, and I’m not doing this with you, I’m not fighting with you when you’re half in—fuck, wherever you are.”

 

Steve opens his mouth to retort at the same time Nuada bumps her head against his shin and Peter starts crying.

 

“Shit,” Tony says, reaching in to try to soothe him as he starts bouncing, walking away from Steve.

 

“Siberia,” he tells Nuada when he kneels down to pet her, “We lost so many.”  She pushes her nose into his hand, and Steve sighs, closing his eyes.  “It was so cold,” he whispers.  He stays there for a few moments longer, lets Nuada distract him until his thoughts are solely on American soil, and then he stands up to finish breakfast.

 

Tony doesn’t reappear, and Steve doesn’t seek him out.  Instead, he eats breakfast alone with Nuada, listening for any sounds.  Peter is quiet, and Steve’s not sure where they are until twenty minutes later when Tony comes out of the master suite in a suit.

 

“He’s awake, but in bed,” Tony says, words clipping at the edges as he strides past Steve, “I’ll try to be home by eight.”

 

“Tony—”

 

Tony skips past the kitchen, not bothering to make coffee, grabs his jacket, and is gone.  Steve turns, watches him throw himself into his car, and frowns as he peels out of their driveway and down the street.  He only lingers a few moments longer before he gets up to put his dish away and tuck in for a lazy day with Peter.

 

——

 

It all threatens to unravel rather spectacularly.

 

Steve takes Peter out in the stroller for a walk, Nuada sniffing everything in sight, and it does the trick.  The fresh, warming air is enough to shake the rest of the cobwebs from his head, and when they finally reach the park, Steve pulls up at a bench, turning the stroller to face him as he digs out his phone.

 

Nuada comes over to nose at Peter, who gurgles happily and swats at her harmlessly.  Nuada seems to think he’s playing, though, because she darts around behind the stroller and then back around front, barking quietly.  Peter squeaks, arms waving, and Steve smiles as he lifts the phone to his ear, listening to it ring.

 

“I’m in a meeting,” Tony says by way of answer.

 

“I’m sorry,” Steve says, “I was an absolute ass this morning, and you didn’t deserve that.  You were right.  Peter wasn’t in good hands, and I shouldn’t—I shouldn’t have driven you out like that.”

 

“Wasn’t past tense?”

 

Steve nods, though he knows Tony can’t see him, and looks over at Peter, who is absolutely loving this bizarre game of hide and seek Nuada’s playing with him.  “Yeah, past tense,” he says finally, “We went to the park.  Nua’s—being strange.”

 

“She usually is.  I’m sorry I walked out like that.”

 

“Don’t be.  Please.  It wasn’t—god, it wasn’t your fault.  It was—”

 

“It wasn’t yours, either, so don’t go there,” Tony cuts him off, “Listen, I—I’d love to keep talking to you, but I really am in a meeting, and Obie’s already pissed about this morning, so I should get back in there.”

 

“Tony.”

 

“Yeah?”

 

Steve smiles, watching Peter.  “I love you,” he says.

 

Tony’s voice is warm, almost like a physical thing that wraps around Steve as he says, “I love you, too, Steve.  I’ll see you later tonight.”

 

Steve hangs up with him, inhales a deep lungful of gorgeous spring air, and says, “Smells like rain.”  Peter finally manages to slap a hand down on Nuada, who instantly stills, staring at him with her wide blue eyes, and Peter shrieks with delight, fingers fisting in her fur.  Nuada edges as close as she can get with the stroller, burying her face against Peter’s, who just keeps squeaking happily, and Steve laughs, shaking his head.

 

“Nua, come on,” Steve says, reaching forward and pulling the stroller closer.  He undoes Peter’s buckle before lifting him out, carefully turning him so that he’s face out, but still supported.  “Say hello to the world, Peter,” he whispers, leaning down to kiss his cheek.

 

Peter waves out an arm, face opening up wide as he looks around, and Steve bumps a finger against his fist so that his fingers unwind and curl around his.

 

They spend an hour like that, just sitting together and watching the world pass by while Nuada rolls in the grass and chases a few squirrels to remind them of their place.  Eventually, though, it’s starting to get close to lunch, and Peter will be looking for food soon, so Steve packs them up.

 

They’re just rounding the corner onto their street when Steve sees the car parked outside their house.  Nuada growls, low in her throat, as they get closer, but Steve shushes her with a quiet noise and frowns when they step up to find the car empty.  He freezes, rooted to the spot as he looks up toward the house and finds the front door open.  “Nua,” he says quietly, looking back down at the car.

 

There’s a file in the passenger seat with Stark Industries labeled across the front.

 

“Steve,” Obadiah’s voice fills the silence.

 

Steve’s head jerks up, and he lets out a hard breath when he finds Obadiah exiting their house.  “How did you—what are you doing here?” he asks, coming around the car with Peter and Nuada.

 

“Well,” Obadiah says, indicating the stroller, “Tony hasn’t brought the little tike by since that first week—wanted to check up on him myself.”

 

“That’s very—kind of you, Obadiah,” Steve says, stopping just short of him, “Why were you inside the house?”

 

“Well, you weren’t here,” Obadiah says, smiling tightly, “And here I thought stay at home dads did just that—stay at home.”

 

Steve swallows down a retort, jaw clenching as his fingers curl tighter around the stroller.  “How can I help you, Obadiah?”

 

“Steve,” Obadiah says in that charming note of condescension he’s perfected, “Anthony said you were unwell.  He was in a right state this morning when he finally had the time to come in, what with handling your—ah, delicate mental state.  I simply wanted to make sure everything was better now so that he might be able to focus on his company.”

 

Steve forces himself to remember that Obadiah’s had the Tower bugged, and that it’s very likely he was listening in on a conversation between Tony and Pepper, but his words do everything he knows Obadiah is hoping to accomplish.  Steve still manages to force a smile as he says, “Well, thank you for stopping by.  If you don’t mind, we—”

 

“You really shouldn’t leave your front door unlocked, Steve,” Obadiah says, stepping around him and back toward his car.

 

Steve’s pulse, if possible, skyrockets.  “I—didn’t,” he says, glancing back at the house with a frown.

 

It’s a mistake that nearly does him in.  When he looks back, Obadiah’s knelt in front of the stroller, one hand reached inside.  Steve resists yanking it away from him, and instead holds his breath as he watches him.  “Here’s hoping you take after your father, young man,” he says to Peter, “After all, we’ll become good friends in the future when you start working at SI.”

 

Steve looks away, and Nuada growls once, a short, clear note of warning.  Obadiah heeds it, straightening up and brushing away nothing from the lapels of his jacket.  Steve levels him with a glare that’s shattered the resolve of better men.  Obadiah merely smiles.  “I’ll be seeing you, Steve.  Peter,” he adds, flashing his awful smile down to Peter before he turns on the spot and walks briskly to his car.

 

Steve waits until he’s behind the wheel before he takes Peter and Nuada back up to the house, and he’s quick to extract Peter from the stroller and hold him close once he’s inside, looking around.

 

“Sir,” Jarvis says, and Steve jumps, jostling Peter and startling him.

 

“Oh honey, I’m sorry,” Steve soothes, rubbing a hand over his back as he whimpers.

 

“Sir, Mister Stark is calling.”

 

“Please answer,” Steve says breathlessly.

 

“Is he still there?” Tony is furious when the line picks up, “I’m on my way, I’ll fucking kill him, I can’t believe he would do that, ambush you while you’re home alone with Peter, I—”

 

“It’s okay,” Steve forces himself to say, “He’s just leaving.  Tony, what the hell?”

 

“I don’t know,” Tony says, and there’s the sound of a door slamming.

 

“Tony, stay there,” Steve says before he steps back toward the door, locking it, “Just—Jesus.”

 

“He fucking broke into our house!” Tony shouts, and Peter starts crying.  “Peter, no,” Tony tries to calm down, “Don’t cry, daddy wasn’t yelling at you.”

 

“He’s just—he’s feeding off of me,” Steve says, trying to take a steadying breath, “I’m just—I don’t know if—he was in here.”

 

“Okay, breathe,” Tony says, “Jay, run a scan on the house.  Triple the speed, let’s go.  Steve, stay in the foyer for a second.  Listen to me.  Inhale, and exhale.”

 

Steve obeys, breathing with him, swaying with Peter until they’re both calm and Jarvis says, “Clean, sir.  Your workshop was accessed, however.”

 

“I’ll talk to him,” Tony says as Steve moves out of the foyer and into the kitchen, “I’m sorry this happened.  I don’t know what’s going on with him, but I’ll find out, and we’ll sort it.”

 

“Just—come home tonight, okay?”

 

“Promise.  Are you okay?”

 

“I’m fine,” Steve says, “I’m just—Peter’s hungry, so I’m going to feed him and then try for a nap.  He just—I just wasn’t expecting it.”

 

“I know, I’m so sorry, I’m—yeah, Pepper, they’re fine.  Where is he?  Steve, I have to go.  Call me if anything,” and then he’s gone.

 

Somehow, the nap happens.  Peter’s drowsy halfway through his bottle, and he only gets one burp before he’s falling asleep on Steve’s shoulder, so he takes him into their room, sets up pillows on his other side, though it really isn’t necessary when Nuada wedges herself between the pillows and Peter, tucking her nose beneath one of his arms.  He looks so beautiful and peaceful like this, one arm resting on Nuada’s face and the other held up near his face, thumb in his mouth.  He’s sucking gently, his face relaxed and so at ease that it exudes a calm that washes over Steve and pulls him under.

 

He doesn’t mean to, but it’s getting dark when he stirs, groaning as he turns his face into his arm, other hand reaching out to make sure Peter’s still next to him.  “You were supposed to wake me,” he mumbles, and Peter just hums softly.  Steve smiles, pushing up onto his elbow and rubbing sleep out of his eyes before he looks down at him, stroking a hand over his soft, brown hair.  “Hey, sleepy boy,” he says when Peter yawns, “Good nap?”

 

Peter’s whole face scrunches up with the yawn, and then he’s blinking slowly until he focuses on Steve’s face, who smiles, rubbing a thumb over one of his cheeks.  And then, without warning, Peter’s smiling back at him, this incredible, open-mouthed smile that looks like nothing Steve’s ever seen before.

 

“Hey,” Steve gushes, “Oh my gosh.”

 

Peter lets out this tiny, happy noise, smile widening as his legs kick out, and Steve leans down to kiss his nose, his cheeks, his forehead, every inch of him he can reach, and Peter just keeps on smiling.

 

——

 

April 23, 2016

 

“No!” Steve yells, laughing even as he falls onto his back, “Tony!”

 

“Oh, Steven!” Tony croons, “Weekends are fancy days.”

 

“Oh my god,” Steve says, sitting up and shaking his head as he drops his elbows to his knees, chin into his hands.

 

Tony is dressed impeccably, in a gorgeous, rich blue, three-piece suit, a dark emerald tie tucked beneath his waistcoat, and a matching pocket square peeking out.  His shoes are sharp and brown, and the hand that’s not tucked into his pants pocket is holding Peter, who looks equally as dapper.  Over his white onesie is a knit, forest green one lined in navy blue with clip-on, navy suspenders, a matching plaid bowtie, and excitable bare legs kicking out wildly.

 

Steve’s still in jeans and a paint-stained white t-shirt, but Tony’s looking at him like he’s the only thing in the world he has eyes for, and, not for the first time recently, he wonders how he got so lucky.

 

“So,” Tony says, catching hold of one of Peter’s feet and running a thumb along the underside, “Reservation is for six, and I promise to get us home before he turns into a pumpkin.  We have a private table, so even if Peter decides tonight is a good night to finally try out his public screaming lungs, we’ll be fine.  Steve?” he adds when Steve just keeps staring at him.

 

“If I walk into the bedroom, is there going to be a suit laid out for me?” Steve asks, standing.

 

“There might be,” Tony admits, shrugging one shoulder.  He means to go on, but Peter kicks his hand, so he looks down at him, tapping his nose.  “Rude,” he says, “Those are my toes until you move out, little man.”  When he looks back up, Steve’s in front of him, smiling like he’s discovered life’s secret.  “What?” Tony says.

 

“Do you know how amazing you are?” Steve asks.

 

“Well—”

 

“I am the luckiest man in the world,” Steve says, kissing him, “Thank you.”

 

“It’s just dinner,” Tony says, trying to wave him away.

 

“You know it’s not,” Steve says, “Come with me?”  He heads for the master suite, and Tony’s quick to follow, Nuada at their heels.  “We need out,” Steve says, “Staying cooped up here all the time.  It’ll be good to be back in the city for a little bit.  Where are we going?”

 

“That’s a secret,” Tony says, leaning against the doorway as he watches Steve stop at the bed, gaze darting over the suit.

 

“Tony,” he says slowly.

 

“Now listen—”

 

“Is this—holy shit.”  Steve turns, gaping at him.  “Is this fucking Brunello?”

 

“Just try it on.”

 

Steve quickly obliges, stripping out of his jeans and shirt while Tony watches on appreciatively.  It’s a dark charcoal grey three-piece suit with a navy tie and matching pocket square, as well as new, navy shoes, and he looks dangerously handsome when he finally shrugs on the jacket and runs a hand through his hair.  “This feels expensive,” he says, turning to Tony.

 

“Just a couple grand,” Tony says, quickly adding, when Steve balks, “Shut up, and let me pamper us.  Plus, mine was even more obnoxious.”

 

“Where are we going?” Steve asks.

 

“I told you, it’s a—”

 

“Tell me it isn’t Le Bernardin.”

 

“You ruin all my fun,” Tony mutters, and turns out of the room.

 

“Tony!”

 

Near on an hour later, when Tony’s handing his keys to a valet while Steve gets Peter out of the back, Steve asks, “How did you even swing this?  I doubt they’d normally let a baby in there.”

 

“They don’t,” Tony says, “But I’m abnormal, and they like when we come.”

 

“We’ve been here a grand total of four times.”

 

“Do you remember the check for each of those four times?  They love me.”

 

“I’m sure,” Steve mutters, though he’s grinning when he comes around the car with Peter.

 

The man that greets them carefully avoids letting his gaze wander to Peter, who has been quiet thus far, though he’s starting to make noise now that they’re in a new place, fingers reaching for everything and anything.  True to his word, they’re shown to a private room, and really, Steve thinks the sight they make is a little hilarious.  Tony’s carrying Peter’s diaper bag while Steve’s got the carrier, and their suits, combined, are probably worth, at minimum, ten grand.  And, though it’s ostentatious and Steve has been known to sigh loudly about these things, he likes to have this every once in a while, to just live luxuriously.  Really, he’d thought these kinds of things had gone out of the window as soon as they had Peter, but then Tony put him in suspenders and a bowtie, and Steve’s just in awe of the shape their life is taking.

 

They start with oysters and snapper, pausing every so often to converse with Peter about what’s caught his attention now, move onto seafood truffle pasta and artichokes, steal from each other’s salmon and black bass, and, because they simply cannot choose, end with three separate desserts, apple, mango, and pineapple each.

 

“This was incredible,” Steve says, spearing a bit of pineapple and dipping it in the guava jam, “Really, Tony.  The whole night.”  Peter makes a noise as though in agreement, though when they look over, his face is screwed up, and Steve flips his wrist, checking his watch.  “He’s probably getting hungry,” Steve says, “Anything planned after this?”

 

“Stargazing?” Tony says hopefully.

 

Steve beams at him.  “I’d love nothing more,” he says.

 

They wrap up, Steve very much does not want to know how much it all cost, and then they’re on their way out, Tony’s car already pulled up around front.  Peter starts whining while they’re driving, but he manages to self-soothe, just humming softly in the back until they finally pull up to a park.  It’s getting steadily warmer, but Steve still takes a blanket to wrap Peter in, and that’s how they find themselves under the dark sky, watching the stars whip by, one of Tony’s arms draped around Steve’s shoulders, Peter tucked up between them and eating greedily, Steve warmed to his very core.

 

——

 

April 30, 2016

 

“Hello!” Steve says, smile widening when Peter smiles brightly, fists waving in the air.  “I know, you’re such a good boy,” Steve says, fingers skimming down to tickle his belly, “Oh!  What’s that?”  He makes that noise like he’s trying to laugh, but can’t quite figure it out, and Steve leans down to kiss his nose.  “How’s it coming, dad?” he asks, looking over at Tony.

 

“You know what,” Tony says, and throws a lilac onto the ground, “Nope.  You win.  Switch places.”

 

Steve laughs, but gets up, taking care of the flowers while Tony dumps onto the ground next to Peter, rolling him over onto his belly.  “Come on,” Tony says, squeezing one of his arms before he flips over onto his front, as well, “I’ll do them with you.”

 

He tucks his hands under his shoulders, elbows pinned in against his ribs, and waits until Peter’s fingers flare open and flatten against the ground, face scrunching up in concentration as he pushes upright.  Tony snaps up into a high plank, holding it while Peter carefully lifts his head, swiveling it to the side, smile bursting out when he spots Tony.  “Oh my god,” Tony groans, and lowers down into a pushup, “You might actually be the cutest baby in the world.”

 

“He’s very smiley today,” Steve says, glancing over at them.

 

“Oh, two in a row!” Tony exclaims, straightening again as Peter does, “Think you could do some elbow taps?”

 

Peter sinks back down to the ground, so Tony follows suit, leaning over to kiss his forehead when he turns his head to look at Tony.  “Do you think the blue eyes will stick?” Tony asks, waiting for Peter to move before he does.

 

“Honestly?” Steve says, “No.  I think they’ll be brown.”

 

“Me too,” Tony says, “Which, okay, acknowledging that we didn’t actually make this perfect human being, but it’ll be weird to have a brown-eyed baby, don’t you—oh Peter, it’s okay,” Tony breaks off, dropping out of his pushup to rub a hand over Peter’s back as he starts crying.

 

“Don’t freak him out,” Steve reminds him, forcing himself to stay put.

 

“You hit your chin on the ground,” Tony says, still rubbing circles into his back, but not picking him up, “And that hurt, I know, but it’s going to get better in a second.  Wanna know why?  Cos daddy’s got the magic kiss!”  He peppers kisses along Peter’s cheek and over his slowly growing hair, and it sufficiently distracts him.  “Alright,” Tony says when he’s calm again, pushing up into a seat before he picks Peter up, helping him support his head while letting him try to touch his feet to the ground.

 

“You are certainly going to be the best dressed baby in the world,” Tony comments, looking past Peter to where Steve is frowning at his number two.  Peter’s in fake jeans today, a grey sweater with fat buttons and a dark hem, and those damned boat shoes that Tony can’t wait for him to grow out of.  “Papa,” Tony says.

 

“Yeah, I know,” Steve says, sitting back on his heels, “I think it’s good.”

 

“Celebrity time,” Tony says, standing up and carefully maneuvering Peter until he’s facing out, pretending that he’s walking with him as he stoops over, letting his feet tap dance against the floor as they hobble over.

 

Steve gets a shot of him with fists raised above his head, mouth open in something that was a dull roar at the time and that later makes them laugh hysterically when they’re deciding which one to use for his second month, the number two bright with lilacs and tulips.  The shoot itself takes no time at all because three shots after the one they settle on, Peter starts shrieking, legs kicking every which way, and they have to stop for food.

 

After, when he’s been put down for a nap, Tony kicks their door shut, leaving Nuada in the nursery, and gets naked in record time, dropping onto his back and winking at Steve so that he nearly trips out of his jeans in his haste to join him.  It’s just the start to a long and wonderful weekend.

Chapter Text

May 6, 2016

 

Somehow, it’s 6PM when Tony next checks his watch, and subsequently fumbles the tablet he’s holding onto the floor.  The door opens as he swears and stoops down to grab it.  “Obie, hey,” he says as he straightens, shutting down his tablet and grabbing his jacket.

 

“We have a conference call in twenty minutes,” Obadiah says, frowning as Tony shrugs into leather and snatches his phone from his desk.

 

“I’ll take it remotely,” Tony says, reaching over to shut down his desktop, “I’m already running late.”

 

“Anthony,” Obadiah says firmly.

 

“Obadiah,” Tony says, letting his voice pitch into an annoying octave.

 

Armed with a tablet, a stack of files, and an earbud, Tony tries to leave and is stopped when Obadiah steps in front of him.  “I’ve been lenient,” Obadiah says, reaching forward to straighten Tony’s leather jacket before reaching underneath to smooth the lapels of his suit jacket, “Admittedly, I think it’s a little more than leniency these days, more an outright allowance.”

 

“We can do this tango some other time, yeah?” Tony says, and sidesteps around him.

 

“Anthony,” Obadiah growls, and Tony stops, turning halfway, a retort already half-formed when he continues, “I take some of the blame for letting you stray so far, but this fantasy you’re playing at is over.  You will attend this conference call in person, or I will confirm an invite to a private board meeting to discuss your future as CEO.”

 

Tony’s mouth twitches, and he reaches for the handle of his door.  “What board?” he says, and steps out into the hallway.

 

He gets halfway to the elevator before Obadiah’s bursting out of his office, following hot at his heels.  “You replaced three of the six board members?” he bellows.  The receptionist at the end of the hall jumps at his voice, looking over in surprise.  “This is unheard of.  This is—deception.”

 

“Oh, good word,” Tony says, spinning to walk backward as the elevator doors ding open, “Funny story, really.  As SI continues to move in a new direction, I found that the board was lacking in that department.  Moving forward, as it were.  If you’d paid attention to Pepper’s emails, you would know we’ve been interviewing candidates and reviewing stock.  They weren’t replaced, Obie.  They were bought out.  They were all given options, and not a single one thought his money was worth the direction SI is taking.”

 

“Because you are letting this company drown,” Obadiah snaps, one hand slapping out to hold the elevator door open as Tony steps inside and jabs a thumb against the bottom level button.  “This family,” he spits.

 

“Ah,” Tony says, holding up a hand, “Conference call is beginning.  I can be reached by phone this weekend, but Steve’s got drill, so Jarvis is directing all work related calls to voicemail.”

 

“You—”

 

“I am a father now, Obie.  Get used to it,” Tony says, looking away as his phone buzzes.

 

Obadiah steps back, furious, as Pepper says into his earbud, “Tony will be taking this call remotely.”

 

“The sun shines a little too bright this close to the surface,” Tony charms before he mutes the call and answers his phone, “I know, I’m on my way.”

 

“Tony, it’s already past six,” Steve says.  He can hear him moving on the other line, and then this little burst of noise that must be Peter.

 

“Is that my favorite little boy?” Tony coos.

 

Peter emits an excited noise before Steve says, “I have to leave by seven.”

 

“I’ll speed,” Tony says, “I promise I’m going to be there on time.  I—”

 

“You were supposed to be here now,” Steve says, and he doesn’t sound angry, but upset.

 

“I’m sorry,” Tony says softly, frowning at the elevator doors as the numbers tick by, “I lost track of time.”

 

Steve inhales like he’s going to keep them on this vein, and then exhales loudly.  There’s the sound of something being zipped, and then his voice is closer, warmer.  “I just—I wanted to see you before I left,” he says, “It’s fine.  I’ll be back on Sunday.  Are you sure you’re going to be okay alone with him?  Betty said she’d swing by tomorrow to hang out if you wanted.”

 

“Steve, really,” Tony says, “We’re going to be just fine.  In fact, we might even leave the house once or twice.”  Peter lets out a resounding burp, and Tony laughs, his frown turning into a grin.  “See, like father like son.”

 

“God, I know,” Steve groans, “He’s turning into you.  You’re a bad influence.”

 

“Shit, I have to go,” Tony says as the conference starts to turn in his direction, “I’m on a call, but I’ll ring when I’m done, okay?  Don’t freak out.”

 

The traffic is murder on his way home.  He breaks several laws in an effort to get home in forty minutes, and somehow still manages to sound eloquent on the call, which only wraps up about ten minutes outside of Copiague, and Steve is frantic when he answers, “What the hell?  It’s—you have six minutes.  Honestly,” and hangs up.

 

Tony swallows down every nasty thing that rises up and blows two red lights, but he gets home at exactly 6:58PM to Steve tossing a duffel bag into the backseat of his truck, dressed in jeans and a leather jacket and making Tony hate every second he wasn’t home to tear them apart and send Steve off loose and happy.

 

“Jesus, finally,” Steve says as he gets out, “Peter’s in the kitchen.  I made fajitas, and there’s some leftover in the fridge.  We were out all day, so he hasn’t had any tummy time.  Can you work that in before bedtime?  Oh, and he just ate about a half hour ago.”

 

“I’m sorry, Steve,” Tony says as he comes over, one arm full of work things and the other already reaching for him.  Steve goes, lets Tony pull him close and hold onto him, free hand fisted in his jacket and nose against his jaw, inhaling him as Steve buries his face in the crook of his neck and relaxes into the embrace.  “I’ve got this,” Tony promises, fist uncurling to rub a hand over his back before he steps away, “I’ll call you if I need anything, but don’t freak out if I don’t call.”

 

“I’ll try,” Steve says, “I love you.”

 

“I love you, too,” Tony says, leaning forward to kiss him, “Now go do some pushups or whatever it is you soldier types do.”  It works.  Steve laughs softly, ducking his eyes.  Tony reaches for his hand, lifting it to kiss his knuckles.  “And when you get back on Sunday, Peter will be in bed early, and I will be naked.”

 

Steve looks up, smile turning into something wicked.  “I’m holding you to that,” he says before he kisses him again, and then he’s gone.  He casts one fleeting glance toward the house, toward Peter, and then climbs into his truck.

 

Tony doesn’t watch him leave, instead goes inside to find Peter in the bassinette, sucking on his thumb and eyes tracking Nuada as she darts from side to side in her bizarre peek-a-boo attempt.  He stops by to make a face and kiss his nose before he dumps his things on the table, wolfs down dinner, and then comes back to scoop Peter up, smiling when Peter squirms excitedly.

 

“Hey, sweet boy,” he says, smile widening as Peter returns the expression, little fingers flaring out and reaching for Tony.  He manages to slap down on his face, and Tony leans into his hand as his fingers flex against his face.  “So,” he says, heading for the master suite, “Month two is all about the fun stuff.  Complex patterns, better listening, and, the best part, longer sleep cycles.  Well, hopefully.  You’ve been good so far, so don’t change on me now, you hear?”

 

Peter burps in agreement.

 

“Excellent.  Game plan, ready?”  He sets Peter down on the bed so he can strip out of his work clothes, keeping an eye on him while his arms straighten, and his head swivels to look toward Tony.  “Shower, play, read, and sleep?”

 

Peter’s fingers curl tighter in the sheets, and Tony just watches on, swelling with pride.  He’s been getting better and better with holding himself up, and Steve had sent him a video earlier that week of him trying desperately to roll and only just managing to lift up a tiny bit toward his side.  And though he’s nervous about spending a full two days alone with him, without even the possibility of Steve being nearby to help, he’s excited, too, to experience what his husband does on a daily basis.

 

Peter loves water, apparently, and Tony’s not sure he’s ever had so much fun in the shower.  When they finally emerge to a steam-filled bathroom, he’s still giggling over Peter’s antics, who is blinking rapidly and full on beaming.  He changes Peter first after the one incident when Steve had set him on the bed, had one leg in a pair of jeans, and Tony had been drawn by his yelling because Peter was peeing freely.  He’s not about to repeat that horrifying minute of his life, so he dresses Peter for bed, tips him over onto his belly, and leaves the nursery door open while he dries off and changes into a pair of sweats.

 

Set up across from him, Tony talks constantly, narrating every second of their evening as Peter pushes upright, digs his left hand in and tries to roll over onto his side, and clutches at brightly colored toys.  After about an hour, Peter’s still wound up and full of energy while Tony’s draining fast, so he takes him into the kitchen, waddling behind him while they pretend Peter can walk, to make popcorn.

 

“Scifi or drama?” he asks, turning Peter out and reaching for a spatula.  Peter latches onto it, and Tony nearly loses an eye when he swings wildly.  “Alright, drama,” he mutters, smiling, “Jarvis, what’s on Netflix that Peter will like?”

 

“I’m not—” Jarvis pauses, and really, that’s why Tony misses the spatula zooming through the air again and plunging into Peter’s mouth, “Sir, I’m not sure what constitutes as entertainment for an infant.”

 

“Oh dude, no,” Tony says, tugging the spatula from his mouth, “Come on, papa will be so mad if he finds out.  Here, how about—” he turns, trips over Nuada, and only just manages to keep his feet, but there’s a toy just behind Nuada, so he picks it up, drops it in Peter’s hand, and sighs when he sticks it in his mouth.  “Yeah, okay, I guess that’s better,” Tony says, “Jay, come on.  He’s not actually going to watch it.”

 

Jarvis sighs, actually sighs, and Tony is almost more proud of that than the fact that Peter’s toy suddenly goes flying and smacks Nuada off the nose.  “Hey!” Tony exclaims delightedly, turning Peter in his arms as he laughs, “That was amazing, thank you for that.”

 

His laugh quickly tapers off as Peter’s face scrunches up, brow furrowing, but as soon as he stops laughing, Peter’s mouth splits open in a smile.  “Um,” Tony says.

 

Peter coos, fists wiggling through the air as his nose wrinkles up even though he’s still smiling.  “Seriously, you’re pooping now?” Tony says, “I just changed you, little man.”

 

His diaper is clean when he checks, though, and Tony hums in confusion as he snaps the buttons on his onesie again.  “What are you playing at, huh?” he says, hand darting up to tickle Peter’s belly.  His legs kick out, and Tony leans down, both hands fanning out to tickle his tiny ribs as he blows a raspberry on his cotton belly.  “What, you think that’s funny?” he says when Peter starts squirming, this incredible smile stretching his face.  “Pretend you’re stinking up the joint, and then nothing to show for my trouble?”  Peter lets out a chirp, one hand landing on Tony’s face, who laughs again, dropping his cheek down to rest against his belly.

 

Peter hums, legs still kicking, and Tony closes his eyes, just enjoying the warmth of him until one of his feet lands on Tony’s jaw, and he feigns pain, lifting up and gasping.  “Super strength!” he says before picking him up, “Careful, you’ll knock a guy out with those thunder thighs.”

 

He takes him into their room, rearranging the pillows until he can comfortably set Peter up next to him, almost as though he’s sitting, and he gets about fifteen minutes into whatever dramatic movie Jarvis has chosen before they’re both bored.  “Okay, new plan,” Tony says, steadying one hand against Peter before he twists over toward his nightstand, yanking open the drawer to grab a tablet.  “Yeah, yeah, I know,” he says when Peter’s hands find his, and he latches on.

 

In no time, he’s got one of Tony’s fingers in his mouth, and Tony just sighs, leaving his pinky there while he surfs through Netflix on his tablet.  “You’re all smiles tonight, so how about—ah ha!”  And that’s how they end up watching Bob’s Burgers.

 

Tony catches on around the second episode, when Peter’s scrunched up face returns as Tony’s laughing at something, burying his joy in another raspberry.  “Oh,” he says suddenly, gaping at him, “Wait.  Jarvis?”

 

“Yes, sir?”

 

“When do babies laugh?”

 

“My research shows that most infants learn to laugh around three or four months of age, sir.  However, many infants take longer to do so.”

 

“Holy shiznat,” Tony says, grinning at Peter, “Are you trying to laugh?”

 

Peter gurgles, landing a kick on Tony’s arm, who quickly flips over onto his front, arms braced on either side of Peter to hold him up.  “Alright, killer,” he says, “So there was this one time, right, your papa decided he was going to turn me into an outdoorsman.  Yeah, I know,” Tony agrees, letting himself laugh as Peter coos, corners of his mouth twitching up.  His volume increases at Tony’s laugh, so he’s quick to continue, “Took me to a freaking mountain, Peter, and somehow thought it was a good idea to hike the thing.  Just please, for a moment, imagine me hiking.”  Peter frowns at him, and he looks so stern that Tony laughs without meaning to, face dropping onto his belly as his shoulders shake.

 

Peter lets out a noise that’s so close that Tony almost mistakes it for a laugh, but it dissolves almost instantly into a cry.  “Peter,” Tony sighs, lifting his head, “What’s up?”

 

When he keeps crying, Jarvis makes a sound like clearing his throat and says, “Sir, it’s quite late.”

 

“Man, you’re a grandpa already,” Tony says as he gets up, taking Peter with him, “Don’t worry, we’ll get that laugh down this weekend, show papa how cool we are when he gets back.”

 

The rest of his night passes easily.  Peter settles as soon as he has a bottle, dozes off while Tony’s trying to burp him, and goes to bed without trouble.  Later, Tony wonders if that was his sign that the rest of the weekend would be chaos.

 

Saturday is more amazing than Tony could have possibly imagined.  Peter wakes up late, around 7:30AM, and they have coffee and milk out on the enclosed porch outside the master suite.  He makes breakfast while Peter plays with a mobile, on his back with arms flailing while he makes a symphony worth of noises.  After, they take Nuada out for a long walk to the park, and by some wild chance, one of the moms from Betty’s class is there and recognizes Tony.

 

“No,” she says as she approaches, “Tony?”

 

Tony looks up from making faces at Peter, blinks, and smiles as it slots into place.  “Sue, hey,” he says, getting up, “I didn’t know you lived around here.”

 

“We just moved,” she says, coming over to him, “Reed’s off with Johnny and the ducks right now.  Oh, is this Peter?  Betty’s told us so much about him.  How old is he?”

 

“Just over two months,” Tony says as they sit, “It’s so good to see you.  How’s everything?”

 

“Well, Johnny’s seven months old now, so he’s giving us a run for our money.  I swear, he’ll be running by next month, it’s ridiculous,” Sue says, shaking her head, though her smile is fond.

 

“Is he already walking?” Tony asks.

 

“Oh, not yet, but he’s crawling up a storm.  He’ll be an early walker, though.  God, two months.  He looks so big.  How are you today, Peter?”

 

Peter lifts a fist in solidarity, and Tony just laughs, bumping knuckles with him.  He spends some time with Sue, and Johnny is up in arms when he arrives with Reed and sees another baby, so they introduce them, which Peter seems overjoyed about.  Eventually, though, Sue and Reed leave with Johnny to find lunch, and Tony digs out his phone to snap a picture for Steve because Nuada is busy licking Peter’s face clean.

 

“Alright, little man, hungry yet?”  Peter lets out a quiet noise, gaze fixed on Tony’s face, who smiles and leans into the stroller to kiss him.  “I know,” he whispers, pressing a kiss to each cheek, “How does pizza sound?”

 

They spend their afternoon at home, playing in the backyard since it’s getting warmer out, and the sun is still high and shining.  Peter is enthralled by the grass and keeps trying to pull up handfuls of it, so Tony stretches out with him sans blanket and just enjoys a moment of calm in his usually wild life.

 

The chaos begins around 4AM.

 

When Tony next wakes up, he’s standing over Peter’s crib, who is absolutely screaming, and he has no recollection of the space between falling asleep and coming to right now.

 

Fuck,” he gasps, jerking back a step.

 

He lifts a hand to his mouth, trying to silence his loud breaths, but Peter just keeps screaming, and it sounds like it’s tainted with fear in a way that Tony worries he’s done something.  Bile climbs up the back of his throat, and Tony drops to the floor, pressing his face into his thighs.


“Jarvis,” he whispers.

 

“Sir, to my knowledge, you have not touched Peter since you got out of bed.”

 

God,” Tony gasps, fingers reaching up to fist through his hair, arms bracketing around his head as he tries to find some semblance of control.

 

Peter’s screams are laced with heavy, terrified sobs, but Tony can’t get up, doesn’t trust himself to go near him.


“Am I awake?” he mumbles into his thigh.

 

“I am 98% certain you are, sir.”

 

“I need—someone.”

 

“Shall I call Captain Rogers, sir?”


“Fuck,” Tony spits, finally unfolding, “No.  No.  Fuck.  No.  Call—shit.  Call Pepper.”

 

Tony looks over at the crib, where Peter’s fingers are clenched into tight fists, and his face looks awful, red and scared and wet with tears.  “Tony?” Pepper’s voice filters through, “Oh my god, is that Peter?  Is everything okay?”

 

“Pep,” Tony says quickly, “I just—I don’t know—help.”

 

Oh,” Pepper says, “Okay.  Tony, I need you to get up.”

 

“I can’t.”

 

“Tony, whatever it is, deal with it later.  Your son needs you.”  When he doesn’t move, doesn’t respond, Pepper snaps at him, “Tony, now.  Peter is crying.  He needs you to help him.”

 

“Sir, I recommend following Miss Potts’s direction.”

 

Tony rocks to his feet, shoulders hiked up by his ears as he pauses, and then Pepper’s voice is there again, soothing, “Tony, sweetie, it’s okay.  I promise you, whatever it is, it’ll be okay, but this, right now—this is more important.”

 

Tony inhales slowly, closes the distance between him and the crib, and exhales as he reaches in to pick Peter up.  “Oh, sweet boy,” Tony shushes, bouncing as he paces away from the crib, one hand holding him steady and the other rubbing circles of his back, “It’s okay, Peter.  Daddy didn’t mean to frighten you.  Hey, hey, sh, it’s okay.”

 

As he reaches the wall, Tony turns, sees the crib, and sees an image of himself looming over it, and he can’t be in there anymore, crashes right through to his bedroom and swallows down a shout when he gets inside.

 

“Fucking shit, Jarvis, what did I do?” he says, turning and putting his back to the bed.  The sheets are a mess, tossed every which way, the door to the enclosed porch is open, and light spills in from the bathroom, illuminating various toiletries and pill bottles on the ground.  All of them are capped, and Jarvis quickly lets him know he hasn’t taken anything.

 

“Okay, I’m coming over,” Pepper says.

 

“Pep, no,” Tony says, exiting through the main door that leads him through a hallway and out into the house, “It’s fine.  I just—”

 

“Tony, shut up.  I’ll be there in an hour.”

 

She’s gone before Tony can argue, which is probably for the best since Peter is still crying.  “Peter, I’m so sorry,” he whispers, leaning his head against Peter’s little one, “I didn’t mean to, I swear, I didn’t—”

 

“Sir,” Jarvis interrupts him, “Perhaps it would be best to fix a bottle for Peter and retire somewhere—”

 

“Shit!” Tony yells without meaning to, which just startles Peter’s softening cries back up to frightened sobs, “Jay, where’s Nua?”

 

“I don’t—”

 

“Scan the fucking house!  Where is she?”

 

Tony is rooted to the spot as he waits, and his exhale gets trapped in his ribs when Jarvis says, “I am reading no other signs of life than you and Peter, sir.”

 

Fuck.”

 

Tony turns and closes his eyes when he finds the door open just enough for him, and thus Nuada, to get out into the backyard.  Peter’s cries break off abruptly, and Tony opens his eyes in time for Peter to puke on him, his sobs picking right back up after.  “Okay,” he says, and turns back to the nursery.

 

It takes almost a full twenty minutes, but he manages to calm Peter down while Jarvis monitors the backyard, cleans them both up from not one, but two, vomit incidents, and then swaddles Peter in the k’tan before he throws on a sweatshirt, finds a pair of shoes, and carries him out into the night.  It becomes quickly evident that shouting for Nuada while with Peter isn’t an option as it trips him right back into crying, and so Tony’s left pacing the house with Peter while he waits for Pepper.

 

The sun is just beginning to peak over the horizon when Pepper’s car pulls up, and Tony greets her in the foyer with, “I’m so sorry, can you take him?  Nuada got out.”

 

“Jesus, Tony, okay,” Pepper says, and dumps her bag and jacket on the ground to take Peter before Tony runs past her and out of the house.  “Peter,” Pepper says when he hiccups into a quiet cry, “Honey, what’s wrong?  Are you feeling alright?  Or just nervous from earlier?”  She lifts a hand to his head and frowns when she finds how warm it is, so quickly closes the door and takes him into the nursery to extract him from the k’tan and wrap him up in a blanket.

 

It takes the better part of an hour before Tony finally tracks down Nuada, who is just beyond their property, rolling in the sand on the nearby beach, and though Tony is furious with her for straying so far, he can’t do anything but sink to his knees and hold onto her when she bounds over to him.  “Don’t ever do that again,” he whispers into her fur.

 

When he gets back, Pepper’s in the nursery with a crying Peter, trying to calm him down and failing miserably.  “Thank god,” she says when Tony comes in, “He’s been crying on and off since you left, and he’s really warm.”

 

“Of course,” Tony says, taking Peter as Pepper hands him over, “The first weekend Steve leaves us alone, I manage to fuck everything up in grand proportions.”

 

“Tony,” Pepper sighs, shaking her head, “It’s not your fault if he’s getting sick.  It’s not your fault for having a nightmare, either.”

 

“Night terror,” Tony says, “I think.  I don’t know.  I can’t remember any of it.”

 

“What happened?” Pepper asks, walking out of the nursery and back into the house, “I’ll make breakfast.”

 

“I woke up—I don’t even—I woke up standing over him,” Tony finally says, shifting Peter so he’s tucked into the crook of his arm, snug against his side.  He starts nuzzling against Tony’s ribs, so he follows Pepper into the kitchen to make a bottle while she rummages in the fridge for eggs.  “I don’t remember any of it,” Tony says, “Usually, it’s incapacitating.  I can’t get my head on right after a night terror, but this—I don’t know what it was about, how long it lasted, I just—I woke up in the nursery, my room was trashed, and Nua was gone.”

 

Pepper glances at him, frowning.  “Tony, I know you don’t want to hear this, but maybe it’s time to start seeing someone again.”

 

“For what?” Tony says, turning to her, “There’s absolutely no reason for me to be like this.  Steve has an excuse.  He’s seen terrible things, and he has every right to be fucked up, but I don’t—I have no reason.  Oh, great, my father was abusive and my mother was neglectful, that doesn’t exactly add up to fucking night terrors and sleepwalking.”

 

“Tony,” Pepper says.

 

“I know,” he says, dropping his voice as Peter starts fussing again, “I know, Peter, I’m sorry.  I’m sorry, Pepper.  I shouldn’t have called.”

 

“Don’t do that,” Pepper says, glaring at the stove, “Don’t pretend like you need a reason to—I don’t know, be in a bad mental place.  What they did to you, and what—” she breaks off, shaking her head.

 

“Say it,” Tony says because he thinks he knows.

 

Pepper cracks an egg over the skillet before she turns and says, “What Obadiah is doing to you right now is enough to drive anyone to drink, and hell, even attempt suicide, but you rose above all of that, and it’s okay to still be getting over it, Tony.  Your parents are dead, but Obadiah is right there doing the same thing Howard did to you.”

 

“I’m trying,” Tony says quietly, looking down at Peter, “I’m trying to—to get him out.”


“What?”

 

Pepper sounds so shocked that Tony looks back up at her and nods.  “A new board will give him less power.”

 

“He won’t quit if that’s what you’re hoping for.”

 

Tony barks an empty laugh.  “I know.  Just—give it time, okay?  This isn’t easy, especially now with Peter.”

 

“He hates that you’re better at this than Howard was,” Pepper says, smiling.

 

“That’s not exactly setting the bar very high,” Tony says, sighing.  They lapse into silence, broken only by Tony leaving to sit at the table so he can feed Peter.  Pepper stays with him after breakfast, watches Peter while he cleans up his room and the enclosed porch, and then makes him promise to call later before she leaves.

 

Tony prays that’s where this day ends, and then Jarvis informs him an unmarked car has just pulled up outside the house around noon.

 

His hair is a mess from the amount of times he’s run his fingers through it, he’s pretty sure he’s got vomit on his shirt somewhere, Peter is bawling, again, there’s snot smeared across his shoulder from where Peter had wiped his face—who is, undoubtedly, on his way to being sick—and, to top it all off, they’re out of formula.

 

“Are you fucking kidding me,” Tony says when he sees Obadiah get out of the car.  He lingers for a moment, just staring out the window in disbelief, before he walks away with Peter into the nursery.  “Peter,” he sighs, setting him down on the changing table, “Talk to me, buddy.  How can I make this better?”

 

He lets out a great, big yawn, and Tony smiles sadly, reaching up a hand to stroke his growing hair back, fingers fanning out to just hold him.  Peter’s head tilts into his hand, eyes fluttering shut, and his yawn seems to signal the end of this round.  “I’ve got an idea,” Tony says, leaning down to kiss each of his feet, “Bath and nap, right, you stay asleep while daddy goes out to get formula, and then you can cry all you want when we get back, or, you can just settle down for an early night.”

 

Peter yawns again, so Tony takes that as an approval and sets about getting him undressed.  “Sir, Mister Stane is at the door,” Jarvis says when Tony’s carrying Peter into the bathroom.

 

“Let him in,” Tony says, though he desperately doesn’t want to.

 

He’s got his hands full with Peter when Obadiah appears, leaning against the doorframe.  He’s dressed casually, in slacks and a nice shirt, with a handsome jacket on top, and he looks every bit as unimpressed as Tony thought he might.

 

“Why are you here?” Tony asks as he shields Peter’s eyes and pours water over his head.

 

“Just thought I’d check in, see how things were going,” Obadiah says evenly, “Steve’s away this weekend, so I thought you might need a little help.”

 

Tony laughs, a hollow, terrible thing.  “You?  Help?  Okay,” he says, and he means to go on, but Peter coughs, nose scrunching up and brow furrowing, so Tony lifts his hand and blows air over his face, smiling widely when Peter blinks up at him.  “You’re alright,” he says, rubbing a thumb over his cheek, “Almost done, and then we’ll get in snuggle clothes, yeah?”


“I’d offer to watch him while you cleaned up, but—well, you seem to be doing a bang up job yourself,” Obadiah says with a smile that twists on its way up.

 

Tony shrugs off the remark and says, “I don’t need this right now, Obie.  Please, just—stop.  He’s sick, and I—”

 

You—” Obadiah cuts him off, “—are playing a game you can’t win at.”

 

Tony forces himself not to react, instead focuses on finishing up Peter’s bath, who is starting to nod off.  Obadiah follows him, though, from bathroom to nursery, hands dropping into his pockets as he looks around.  He waits until Peter’s on the changing table and with a new diaper before he finally responds, “I’m not sure what game you think I’m playing, but—”

 

“Fatherhood, Tony?  Really?” Obadiah says.

 

Tony pauses at Peter’s dresser, which is barely a foot from the changing table, but he can see it in Obadiah’s face that he thinks he’s made some kind of grave mistake, stepping away from him like this.  “It’s okay,” Obadiah says, coming forward.  Tony refrains from jumping in front of Peter before Obadiah can reach him, but then he’s there, peering down at him.  “You’re not cut from the same cloth as Steve, Tony,” Obadiah says as Tony rifles through Peter’s dresser until he can find warm, comfy clothes, “He’s meant to be a father.  You’re just trying to fill shoes that are too big for you, and it’s okay if you never get there because that’s what Steve is for, right?”

 

His voice is so much softer than usual, like he’s trying to be gentle with Tony, but something snaps in him, and he whips around, fist half raised when Peter starts crying again.  Tony blinks, jerks back a step, and looks over at him, finds Obadiah pulling his hand away.  “Don’t touch him,” Tony snarls, and quickly gathers Peter up, holding him close, “Get out.”

 

“Tony—”

 

“I don’t know who you think you are, coming in here uninvited and trying to make me feel like shit while my son is sick and hungry and—”

 

“Interesting, isn’t it?” Obadiah says, effectively silencing him, “The first time Steve is gone, the infant falls sick?  And why is he hungry?  Did you forget to feed him?”

 

“Fuck you,” Tony tries to say it angrily, but his voice shakes, and he’s out of the nursery before Obadiah can do anymore damage.  Nuada is just outside, whining, and Tony pats his thigh as he keeps walking so she’ll follow.  Once in the foyer, Tony kneels, setting Peter down in the carrier and quickly dressing him as he says, “I need you to stay with your brother for a second, okay?”  He gets Peter’s grey pants on, tugs a grey and black sweater over his onesie, black socks, and is about to pull on his SI beanie when he looks at the logo and breaks, letting it drop to the ground as his gaze shifts to Peter’s face.  “I’m so sorry, baby boy,” he whispers, thumbing beneath his eyes to check for wetness, “I promise tonight will be better.”

 

Peter just sniffles and turns into Tony’s hand, his own hand stretching up.  “There you go,” he murmurs, helping him find his thumb, “Just a second longer, love, and then we’ll leave.”

 

He presses a firm kiss to Peter’s head before he shifts him in the carrier so he can buckle him in.  When he straightens and turns, Obadiah is watching him.  “Tony,” he says, shaking his head, “It’s just—”

 

“We’ll talk about this tomorrow,” Tony says, grabbing his jacket, “You’re not welcome in this house again, and maybe we should discuss your responsibilities at SI, as well.”

 

“Tony—”

 

Alarm has started to infect Obadiah’s features, so Tony takes that opportunity to grab the carrier and leave, Nuada running after him.

 

“Tony!”

 

“Go home, Obie,” Tony says, heading for his car, “And don’t come back here again.”

 

Anthony.”

 

“I have nothing to say to you,” Tony says, yanking open the back door and leaning in to put Peter away.  He’s only just secured Peter in his seat when Obadiah’s hand slams down against the car.  Peter jerks awake, but Tony rubs a hand over his belly, humming softly as he checks to make sure he’s in safely before he straightens back out.  “What?” he snaps, facing Obadiah, “What do you want from me?”

 

“I want you to give up the charade,” Obadiah says, reaching forward as though to grasp Tony’s shoulders like he’s always done.  Now, though, Tony steps back, closing the door and opening the passenger one to let Nuada in, who refuses and instead stands by his side, gaze fixed on Obadiah.  “This is ridiculous,” Obadiah continues, indicating Peter, “This isn’t you.”

 

“It is now,” Tony says, “Nua, get in the car.”  She doesn’t look happy about it, but she obeys, nose pressing against the window when he closes the door.  “This needs to stop,” Tony says, gesturing between them, “Twice now, you’ve come out here to behave inappropriately toward both myself and my husband, and it’s over.  If you come to my home again, I’ll involve the police, Obie.  You’re not welcome here anymore.”

 

“This is absurd,” Obadiah says, but he takes a step back, “You’ll regret this.”

 

“We’ll talk about the rest tomorrow,” Tony says, and puts his back to him to walk around the car.  He waits, hands gripping the steering wheel, until Obadiah pulls away, and then he says, “Jarvis, call Pepper.”

 

“Thank you for remembering to call,” she says when she picks up, “How is everything?”

 

“Well, Obie just left.”

 

“Are you fucking kidding me?” Pepper exclaims, “The nerve of him!”

 

“Peter’s sleeping.”

 

“Shit, sorry,” Pepper says, dropping her voice, “What did he say?”

 

“The usual.  It’s—I’ll deal with it.  We’re going out right now because of course I forgot to buy formula.  I knew we were running low, and instead of doing the shopping yesterday, I decided to wait until today.  Fantastic idea, really.”

 

“Honey.”

 

“Yes?”


“Deep breaths.”

 

“I’m going to end up with grey hairs before my time has come.”  Pepper laughs loudly, and it eases some of the tension out of Tony’s shoulders.

 

Thankfully, their excursion is successful.  Peter remains asleep, Tony avoids all possible parents that look like they may want to coo over him, which Nuada helps marvelously with by sticking close to Tony’s side, and he’s in and out with formula and a small smattering of food before the hour is up.  He doesn’t feed Peter until he wakes, and then they spend the rest of the day in bed.  He keeps an eye on his temperature, but otherwise, they’re content to watch cartoons and rest.

 

In the end, Tony’s out cold when Steve gets home with Peter tucked into his side, sleeping soundly.  Steve smiles when he finds them, changes into something comfortable, and slips in opposite them.

 

——

 

Steve wakes around 2AM to an empty bed.  He’s cold when he stretches awake, rolling over onto his front and reaching an arm out to make sure Tony isn’t just on the other side.  He doesn’t come in contact with Peter, either, or Nuada when he shifts his feet across the end of the bed.  Something tells him not to panic, though, and he’s rewarded a few minutes later when the door to the nursery opens into their room, revealing Tony.

 

“Hey,” Steve mumbles, smiling sleepily when Nuada jumps up onto their bed, “Everything okay?”

 

“Yeah, sorry,” Tony says, clambering onto the bed and over to Steve, kissing him softly, “Woke up an hour ago, and he didn’t want to go back to sleep.  When’d you get in?”

 

Steve hums, shrugs one shoulder.  “Late,” he says, “Not until eight or nine.  How was your weekend?”  Tony responds by dropping onto his side and scooting close to Steve, burrowing close to him.  “No,” Steve sighs, arms winding around him, “Bad?”

 

“What if I’m not meant to be good at this?” Tony whispers into his chest.

 

“Tony, no,” Steve says, tightening his hold, “What happened?”

 

“Everything that could possibly fucking happen,” Tony mutters before shoving away from Steve, rolling onto his back, “God, it was—it was fucking awful.  Saturday was great, we had so much fun.  We went to the—the park,” his words start to clip themselves short as he tries to swallow down his sorrow, “Sue was there with Reed and Johnny, and Peter was so excited to see another baby.  We—fuck.”

 

“It’s okay,” Steve says, finding his hand and twining their fingers together.  Tony tries to pull away from him, but Steve holds on, lifting their hands to kiss the back of his.

 

“It’s not,” Tony breaks, squeezing his eyes shut when he can’t hold it in anymore, “I woke up standing over the crib, and he was screaming, and I couldn’t remember anything, and I was so scared, and he was—he was terrified, Steve.  And Nua got out, but I couldn’t go after her until Pepper got here, and Peter wouldn’t calm down, and it was—awful.  And fucking Obie.”

 

Steve’s fingers tighten around Tony’s as his gaze shifts to the wall, redirecting his anger so Tony doesn’t see it.

 

“I told him I’d call the cops if he ever came by again, and we were out of fucking formula, and it just didn’t stop.  God, and he had a fever, just a little one, but he was throwing up, and he wouldn’t stop crying, and I’m just—I’m not good at this, clearly.”

 

“Stop it,” Steve says, shifting across the bed until he can draw Tony close again.  “Please,” he whispers as he leans his forehead against Tony’s jaw, “Please believe me when I say you’re doing amazingly with him.”

 

Steve.”

 

“You are.  I promise, Tony, you’re a good father.”

 

Though he doesn’t try to fight him on it, Tony still turns into Steve and hides everything he’s afraid to let go of until he falls into a fitful slumber, leaving Steve awake to watch over him.

 

——

 

May 11, 2016

 

Steve meets Betty, Sue, Sarah, and Thor for lunch at a small, easy place just outside of the city, and it’s quite the sight, the four of them trying to arrange themselves around a table with varying degrees of children while Thor tries to help everyone at once.  “Does this boost you to space?” Steve hears him ask Jane as he helps her into her booster seat while Sarah’s picking up her discarded jacket.

 

“It might!” Jane shrieks excitedly.


“Jane, dear, inside voice,” Sarah says as she drops into the seat next to her, “Thank you, Thor.”

 

“It my pleasure, fair maiden,” he says, and everyone ends up laughing.

 

Johnny is alert and looking around with wide eyes in a highchair next to Steve who has, thus far, caught his toy six times already before it plunged to the ground, Peter is tucked into his carrier but unbuckled on his other side, banging his hands off the edges every time Gwen makes a noise next to him.  She’s also in a highchair, but a little wobblier than Johnny, though Steve can’t help but smile every time she reaches for Peter.

 

“Are we still taking bets on the Peter and Gwen situation?” Thor asks when they’re finally settled, “Cos it’s looking like they’ve already got the hots for each other.”

 

“Oh my god,” Betty groans, shaking her head, “Stop trying to mate our children.”

 

“Betty,” Thor says, laying a hand on her arm, “Ten bucks?”

 

Steve laughs even as Betty throws a glare at him, so he busies himself looking at the menu.  Somehow, lunch goes off without a hitch.  Peter is interested in absolutely everything, so Steve keeps him informed of what’s going on, which Gwen seems equally fascinated by.  Johnny keeps trying to grab from any plate that he can reach, and Jane keeps stealing fries from Sarah and Thor, though the latter happily gives his up.

 

Finally, though, it’s Betty that breaks the lull by elbowing Thor in the ribs and saying, “So.  Big news?”

 

“Ah, yes,” Thor says, grinning as his shoulders go back and he looks around at all of them, “The lady Sif and I are engaged.”

 

“Thor!” Steve exclaims, “Congratulations!”

 

“Is this the woman you met in Australia?” Betty asks.

 

“She’s a world traveler,” Thor says, “She was stopped in Australia for a month, and her next trip was to Spain.  We spent some time together, and we’ve been meeting in different countries to continue the trend.  It’s been incredible, truly.  She’s amazing.”

 

“Mhm,” Sue says, leaning onto one elbow, “So she’s pregnant.”

 

“Well, yes, there’s that, as well,” Thor says, and the entire table erupts.  After a full thirty seconds, and several questions that demand lengthy answers, Thor continues, “We’re not doing anything fancy for the wedding.  I think we’ll be in—Thailand?  She’s still traveling, and I have a plane to catch tomorrow to meet her in Greece.  However, we’ll be coming back to New York in September, and yes, staying put for their first year.”

 

“Their?” Steve is the only one to catch it, and Thor’s responding smile confirms it.  “Thor, no,” he says, “That’s amazing.  Twins?”

 

“Indeed,” Thor says, and then the table is erupting with noise again.

 

Steve hangs back, listening to everyone shower their joy and excitement upon him, turning his gaze instead to Peter, who almost immediately finds his.  He smiles, nose scrunching up as he does, and Steve sighs, leaning over to press a kiss to his forehead.  “I love you,” he whispers against his soft skin.

 

One of Peter’s hands lands on Steve’s face, and he’s still grinning like an idiot when he surfaces again.

 

The rest of their lunch passes by in a blur until they’re finally gathering their things, and Betty’s fingers curl around Steve’s elbow.  “What’s up?” he says, turning to her.

 

“Any chance you’re free for coffee?”

 

“Yeah, of course,” he says.  They part ways outside of the restaurant with the others, and Betty’s quiet as they head down the street.  “Is everything okay?” Steve asks after a block of silence.

 

“Oh, I’m sure it will be eventually,” she says, “Just—a lot going on, but I’ll tell you over coffee.  How are you?  I know Tony had a tough weekend.  He said something about Obadiah.”  Steve shakes his head, swallowing every ounce of anger that wants to rise up.  He’s trying not to let on just how furious he is with the situation, but then Betty loops her arm through his and says, “I know, sweetie, me too.”

 

“He broke into our home,” Steve says.  Betty’s arm tightens around his.  “I hate that Tony works so closely with him, and he’s crossed a line this time.  He showed up this weekend, too, made Tony feel like absolute shit, like he was never going to be a good enough father.  I hate him, Betty.”

 

“I know,” she says, leaning into him briefly, “He’s been down in R&D a lot talking to Bruce.  I wish there was something he could do.”

 

“Well,” Steve says, shrugging, “He’s working on something.  I can’t really—talk about the finer details of it, but hopefully, SI will move in a direction that leaves Stane behind.”

 

“Wow, really?  I can’t imagine what Howard would say.”

 

“Who cares,” Steve says, and Betty laughs, nodding.

 

“Here’s good,” she says as they turn a corner, “They have this delicious herbal tea that Bruce has been talking about nonstop.”

 

“You drink herbal tea?” Steve says, quirking an eyebrow as he opens the door.

 

“It’s not all bad,” Betty says, not meeting his gaze as she quickly walks past him.

 

They order drinks before finding a table by the window with comfortable armchairs that they gratefully sink into.  Though Gwen is napping, Peter is itching to get out of the carrier, so Steve takes him with, settling back into the armchair with Peter stretching out his legs and arms, squirming around as Steve watches him, smiling.

 

They talk about nothing of import until their drinks arrive, and then Betty leans forward onto her elbows on the table and says, “Two things.  Less wild one first.”

 

“Okay,” Steve says, shifting Peter to his left arm so he can better hold his mug.  Peter tries to bang it out of his hands, and Steve lifts it out of his reach, smiling down at him.

 

“I want you to be completely honest with me.  I want to go back to work, and because Tony’s a saint, he’s being amazing about it.  Right now, I’m looking at working from home two days, working at SI for three.  I’m going to look into daycare, but I was wondering if you would be interested in watching Gwen for a day, maybe Monday, and then she can go to daycare Tuesday and Wednesday.  Peter should start socializing soon, and come on, I’d totally love if they became best friends, but I thought it might be nice, you know, for Peter to have another baby for at least once a week, and—”

 

“Betty,” Steve interrupts her, setting down his mug, “That sounds incredible.  If you wanted, maybe—well, I’d have to talk to Tony and really just see how Peter does with another baby around, but maybe I could even do the three days, if you were interested?”

 

“Okay, part two,” Betty says, “Because I love you, and you’re amazing, and I would love nothing more in the world, and I’m pregnant.”  Steve doesn’t register what she’s told him right away, not until Betty lifts her hands and says, “Yeah, I know.  Kind of my reaction, too.”

 

Steve blinks.  “You’re pregnant,” he says.

 

“Again,” Betty says, “Kind of an accident.”

 

“Kind of?”

 

Betty exhales loudly and downs half of her tea.  “Okay, so Bruce and I have always wanted children, plural, but I guess we didn’t really pay attention during the whole most surprise pregnancies happen in the first few months after you’ve given birth, and I’m three months pregnant.”

 

Three?” Steve says, “But Gwen was—in February?”

 

“I know,” Betty says, her voice dropping into a near-whisper, “Everything healed so fast, and I was feeling great, and my gynecologist says that that happens sometimes, and I was one of the lucky few, and god, Steve, I missed him.  It’s not like we were celibate for nine months or anything, but no one really wants to have sex when you’ve got a baby the size of a small seal pup ready to burst out of your vagina, so it had been a few months, and we just—the first fucking time, Steve.”

 

“Jesus,” Steve says, looking down at Peter and trying to imagine two of him, all the time.  It’s not a thought that scares him, but also one that he’s not ready for.  “Are you—okay?” he asks, looking back up at her.

 

Betty shrugs, sinking back in her armchair and pulling her knees up to hug them against her chest.  “I think so,” she says, “I’m—excited, but I’m also nervous.  I was so ready to go back, you know, and we’d been making all these plans about what we were going to do with Gwen while we were both at work, and I hadn’t been getting my period, but that happens sometimes.  But then certain foods started tasting weird again, and I was nauseous if we ever had to be in the car for a long time, and I absolutely could not stand the smell of curry, which is the worst fucking pregnancy thing ever because I miss Indian food almost as much as I missed fucking sex, Steve, and it’s not fair.”

 

Steve tries valiantly not to laugh, but it still comes out, and Betty throws a napkin at him as he does.  “Listen, I’m sorry,” he says, ducking.

 

“At least you’re gay, and you can have sex whenever you want, asshole,” Betty says, and Steve just gapes at her, laughing harder.

 

And then, without warning, one of Peter’s legs kicks out, catching Steve in the stomach, and he makes a sound that’s almost identical to Steve’s laugh.  “Oh my gosh!” Betty says, hands clapping over her mouth as Steve’s gaze snaps down to him.

 

Peter immediately goes serious, looking up at Steve like he’s done something wrong, until Steve’s mouth bursts open in a wide smile, and he lifts Peter up to face level.  “Something funny, little man?” Steve says, and leans forward to blow a quiet raspberry against his belly.  Peter gurgles, so close, and Steve laughs for him, beaming as Peter responds in like, doing a wild leg kicking dance as he giggles.

 

“Steve,” Betty says, squeezing her knees, “Is that his first one?”

 

“Yeah,” Steve says, lowering him down again until he can sit on Steve’s thigh, balanced into the crook of his arm, “God, it sounds wonderful.  Doesn’t it?” he directs to Peter, “Do you have the cutest laugh in creation?”

 

He tickles his belly, and Peter giggles again, squirming.

 

“That makes it better,” Betty says, indicating him, “I can’t wait for another first laugh.”

 

“When do you find out the sex?” Steve asks.

 

“Next month, maybe, if he’s feeling up for it.  It feels different than Gwen,” she adds at Steve’s eyebrows shooting up, “I think it’s a boy.”

 

“This is a good thing,” Steve says, “He’ll be so close in age to Gwen and Peter that they’ll all probably end up friends.”

 

“God, imagine when they’re all in high school,” Betty groans, and Peter laughs right along with Steve when he does.

 

——

 

May 20, 2016

 

Steve sighs when he opens his eyes around 6AM, and the bed is empty next to him.  Ever since the incident with Obadiah during his drill weekend, Tony’s been gone more than he’s been here.  The first week, it was business as usual, but what with supporting the new board members, revamping an entire department in R&D, and dealing with Obadiah on the home front, he was coming home later and later each day.  This week, he was away the first three days in Singapore, and he was gone before Steve woke yesterday and home after he was asleep.  Today, Steve feels like the same thing might happen, and although he knows, as CEO, Tony’s always going to be busy, it stings a little, not having seen his husband in five days.

 

The baby monitor crackles to life as Peter starts waking, and Steve leaves his sorrow in bed as he climbs out and disappears into the bathroom.  Peter’s starting to babble, quiet little noises, when he comes back out to dress for a run, and he’s fully awake by the time Steve steps into the nursery.

 

“Good morning, Peter,” he says, reaching in to lift him out of the crib, “How do you feel about greeting the sun in person with that handsome face of yours?”

 

Peter just coos happily, so Steve sets about getting him ready.  His runs are shorter and slower when he’s with Peter, but with Tony gone, he doesn’t have another choice, and so it’s barely 7AM when he rounds the corner and jogs back onto their street.

 

Nuada lets out one short bark when she sees their house and takes off, and Peter starts banging against the stroller in response.  Inside, their morning is fast becoming ritual—tummy time while Steve cooks, breakfast for Peter after he’s eaten, and tea in the backyard while Nuada rolls in the grass.  And though he loves it, Steve worries that Peter is going to feel disoriented the next time Tony is here and willing.

 

“Stop it,” Steve says out loud, shaking his head.  Peter hums, eyes tilting away from his bottle and up to Steve.  “I’m sorry, love,” he says, “Don’t mind papa, just thinking too loud.”

 

They’ve got a full day ahead after that—spring cleaning with Peter facing out in the k’tan and Steve singing, virtual lunch with Peggy, a walk to the park with Nuada to chase the squirrels and meet up with Sue and Johnny, and then home to play, work on their muscles, and test out Peter’s hand-eye coordination.

 

What Steve isn’t expecting is Tony’s car in the driveway on his way home from the park.  “Is that dad?” Steve says when Nuada’s ears perk up.  And then Tony walks out of the house with a suitcase.

 

Steve deflates, and though Nuada starts to run toward him, she pauses, looking back at Steve.  “It’s okay,” he says, nodding, “Go see dad.”  She stays regardless, though, walks by Steve’s side as he heads down the street.

 

Tony’s in the kitchen making coffee when Steve gets in.  He takes his time getting Peter out of the stroller before he comes in, holding him up against his shoulder so he can push upright and stare around.  “Hey,” Steve says, “I didn’t know you’d be home.”

 

“Sorry, Pepper, one second,” Tony says before he turns, “You wouldn’t believe—”

 

“Where are you going?”

 

“What?

 

“I just want to know where you’re going,” Steve says, and he feels so tired that he thinks Tony might see it in his face.

 

“California,” he says, frowning, “It’s just for a couple days.  There was an explosion at our R&D facility out there, and—Pepper, I’m going to have to call you back.”  He hangs up, even takes out the earbud, before he says, “What’s wrong?”

 

“What’s wrong?” Steve says, giving him this look of utter disbelief before he turns away, shaking his head.

 

“Steve—”

 

“I’ve barely seen you in two weeks, Tony,” he says, facing him again, “We’re supposed to be forming bedtime routines and introducing Peter to more people, not to mention the fact that he hasn’t seen you in that long, either.  You leave before either of us wake up, and you’re home after we’re asleep.  How can you expect him to—”

 

“Don’t,” Tony cuts him off, “Don’t put that shit on me.  You knew this was going to be a busy month.  I’ve had these international meetings scheduled for May for months, Steve.”

 

“And now you have a son!”

 

“Who has a perfectly capable father to watch after him right now!”

 

“Oh,” Steve says, his mouth curling up in an awful smile, “Oh, okay.”

 

“No,” Tony says, sighing, “That’s not—Steve, don’t twist my words like that.”

 

“Nope, you go play big man on campus,” Steve says, turning away from him, “You keep bringing home all the money and expecting me to hold up the fort while you’re gone.  It’s fine, really.  I’ll keep you abreast of anymore firsts so you can feel like you’re actually part of Peter’s life.”

 

The nursery door slams behind him, but Tony is hot on his heels.  “Fuck you,” he spits as he yanks open the door, “This life wouldn’t be fucking possible without months like these.  Steve.”  He grabs him by the arm, yanking him around to face him.  “I am doing the best that I can, but I can’t avoid things like this.  I’m the fucking CEO in case you had forgotten, and—”

 

“Let Pepper handle the meetings!” Steve finally breaks, his voice knocking up an octave, “Two weeks, Tony, and I haven’t—you missed his first laugh.”

 

“And that sucks!” Tony yells, “But I’m probably going to miss other firsts, just like you are, and fine, okay, maybe you’ll miss less, but we can’t both be here for everything.  It’s not feasible.  It’s—honestly.”  Tony shakes his head once, teeth scraping over his bottom lip as he tries to hold it in.

 

“What?” Steve says, his anger leaking into his voice and making it hard, “Just fucking say it.”

 

“Why do you think he sleeps until 6 and 7 in the morning?  Why do you think he’s okay going on a run with you before he eats?  Do you think there’s some kind of magical fucking milk faerie feeding him before you wake up?  How are you getting full nights of sleep?  I’m sorry I haven’t been home, but I’m doing everything I can when I am, and you can’t just—you can’t throw the bad father card at me, you fucking cannot.”

 

“Oh, please,” Steve scoffs, “I never said you were a bad father.”

 

“No, much worse,” Tony snarls, “You just implied that my son isn’t going to know who I am.  Fuck you.”

 

He leaves before Steve can reply, and he sighs, going over to set Peter down in his crib before he follows Tony back out into the house.  “Don’t just walk away from this,” Steve says.

 

“I have a flight to catch,” Tony says, grabbing his coffee.

 

“Tony—”

 

“Please keep me fucking abreast of any developments.”

 

“Tony—”

 

“What do you want from me?” Tony shouts, his voice cracking at the end.

 

“I want you,” Steve says, stealing his coffee to set it back down on the counter before he pulls at Tony, doesn’t let him fight as he presses them together.  “I miss you,” he whispers, tucking his face into Tony’s neck and kissing the skin there.

 

Tony gets heavy in his arms, surrenders to the embrace.  “I miss you, too, you know,” he mumbles.

 

Steve pulls away, holds his gaze for a moment before he asks, “How am I supposed to know that?  Two weeks, Tony.  I haven’t seen you, barely talked to you, and I appreciate what you’ve been doing with Peter at night and in the morning, but I—I need you, too.”

 

“What do you want from me?” Tony asks, though his voice is softer now, unsure.

 

“I just—” Steve breaks off, shrugging.

 

“My flight back is Sunday night, and then I’m home until Tuesday, out to Tokyo until Saturday, a stop in London on the way back, and then a two-day stint in Pennsylvania.  After that, it’s just the Tower until September.”

 

“Okay,” Steve sighs.

 

“I’m sorry,” Tony says, “I—hey.”  Steve’s eyebrows shoot up at Tony’s sudden change in demeanor, suddenly full of energy.  “London’s beautiful this time of year.”

 

“Tony, we have an infant.”

 

“I’ve done a ton of research about flight with infants, and they’re pretty much good to go right out of the womb.  Meet me in London.  Please?”

 

He looks so hopeful, and really, Steve tries to consider it for more than half a second, but he’s aching for him in every possible way, so he says, “Send me the dates, and I’ll find a flight.”

 

Tony scoffs, smiling.  “No way,” he says, “I’ll arrange something at SI, have one of the private jets take you.  Stop making that face, trophy husband.”

 

Oh,” Steve says, and grabs him.

 

In the end, Tony’s late for his flight, though he keeps reminding Steve that since he owns the plane, it leaves when he arrives, so he can certainly afford an hour of being pressed into the bed and showing his husband just how much he missed him.

 

——

 

May 31, 2016

 

“I can’t believe you brought the flowers to London,” Tony says, smiling as he watches Steve frown at the pile of flowers in front of him, “You’re so lame.”

 

“Shut up, and make him cute.”

 

“You hear that, Peter?” Tony says, leaning back to admire his handiwork, “Papa doesn’t think you’re cute enough as is.  We have to up the ante.”  Steve makes an obnoxious noise, so Tony laughs and gets to work dressing him.  Steve had laid out a pair of overalls and a striped sweater, but Tony ignores it in lieu of the shirt he found and yesterday.

 

He tugs on Peter’s jeans first, making faces while Peter tries to squirm away, and then he peppers kisses over his face before he pulls the shirt on over his onesie.  “Oh yeah, you’re cooler than all the other kids,” he says, rubbing a hand over his belly and smiling when Peter babbles happily, little fingers uncurling and reaching for Tony.

 

“Up you go, little man,” he says, picking him up and turning him out so he can slip on his boat shoes.  “Oh, thank god, you’re starting to get too big for them,” he whispers when Peter whines about them.  He kisses his temple and then his ear before turning him around again, holding him up to eye level.  “Are you cute?”

 

Peter smiles widely in response, and Tony is just amazed by how lucky he is to know him.

 

“Alright, ready,” Steve says, standing up and back to admire his handiwork.  Tony comes over to set Peter down on the blanket near the number three, which is an explosion of color this time, a few orange tiger lilies drawing his attention.  “Tony,” Steve says, elbowing him, “Where the hell did you get that?”

 

Tony grins at the black shirt that reads SMALLS before he turns, holding out his arms and revealing his own, matching shirt that reads YOU’RE KILLING ME SMALLS.  “Okay, I’m the lame one?” Steve says, and kisses him before Tony can defend himself.

 

“Listen, I got you one, too,” Tony says, and turns back to Peter.

 

He waits, praying to whatever god is in the world that Steve won’t notice the rest until after the shoot, and they’re just arguing over a photo of Peter grabbing one of the lilies, mid-laugh, when Steve stops short, blinks, and starts shouting, “Did you draw a lightning bolt on his forehead?”

 

“When in London!” Tony yells, and dodges Steve as he lunges at him, giggling.

 

Chapter Text

 

  June 2, 2016

 

Peter shrieks, and Steve jumps enough that his head almost hits the top of the truck.  “Peter, Jesus,” he says, looking into the rearview mirror to find his shoes and socks missing, fingers fisted happily over his feet.  He smiles, shaking his head and returning his attention to the road in front of him as he says, “Did you finally figure out how to get your shoes off?  Daddy hates slip ons, but then you wouldn’t get to have so much fun, so really, I think it’s a win/win situation.”

 

Peter shrieks again, and Steve decides to pretend they’re having a conversation, and thus responds, “Really?  See, I think the truck’s a perfectly reasonable vehicle for transportation.  Sure, if your harem of friends turns out to be as large as it’s looking, we won’t be able to chaperone much, but still.”  Steve waits, smile widening when Peter chirps loudly.  “I know, but can you imagine me driving an SUV?  Maybe a hatchback.  We’ll see.  The truck’s getting old anyway.  Hey, this is our exit, Peter.  Do you know where we’re going?”

 

Peter just hums contently, wiggling his feet back and forth, fingers still fastened tightly.  “You don’t?  Okay, surprise, then.  It’ll be more fun that way.”

 

After the exit, it’s just another few minutes before Steve’s pulling up to a stop outside of a house.  He thinks, if Peter hadn’t yanked off his shoes and he hadn’t had to wrestle them back on, Sam might have waited inside, but he appears on the other side of the truck as Steve’s tugging on Peter’s socks.

 

“Hey Sam,” he says, flashing him a smile, “Sorry, Peter decided he was throwing an in-car rave.”

 

“With his dad in tow?” Sam mocks horror, “How daring, you little devil.”

 

“Bucky and Nat in?”

 

“Bucky officially moved in last week, so Nat will finally stop trying to cut me slack on the rent.  She’s been—”

 

“A good friend,” Steve supplies for him, “I think that’s the phrase you’re looking for.”

 

“Driving me mental, actually,” Sam says, “She’s wonderful, don’t get me wrong.  The rent I am paying is way under what I should be for a two-family, but still, she’s a little crazy sometimes.”

 

“Is Clint home?” Steve asks, finally straightening up out of the car with the carrier.

 

“On his way,” Sam says, pushing away from the truck, “He got stuck in traffic.  There was a huge accident.  Did you get caught in it?”

 

“No, thankfully,” Steve says, following him up to the house, “How’s living with Bucky?”

 

“Really great, actually,” Sam says, nodding, “He’s quiet, keeps to himself a lot, but he’s a shit ton of fun when he wants to be, so—oh, oops.  Are we not supposed to swear in front of him?”

 

“In an ideal world, no, but this is Tony and I we’re talking about.”

 

“Very true.  Buck, Steve’s here!  Alright, stop hoarding him.”

 

“Jeez, calm down, we just got here,” Steve says, stepping around Sam and into the living room, “Three minutes tops to adjust.”

 

“Ugh, fine,” Sam says, dropping onto the sofa.

 

Steve follows suit, setting Peter’s carrier down at his feet before leaning in to take him out.  “Hey,” Steve says as Peter starts looking around, “You’re in a new place.  This is Sam and Bucky’s house.  You were here a few times when you were little, but you might not remember.”

 

“Narrating his life?” Bucky asks.

 

Steve looks over to find him leaning against the doorway.  “Any talking helps his language skills,” he says, “It’s good to see you.”

 

“Dude, come on, he is actually the cutest baby ever,” Sam says, already reaching, so Steve gives up, handing Peter over, “Like, dude.  This is a hipster baby, I love him.”

 

Steve shrugs, watching Peter tense up a little, head swiveling to find Steve, who smiles when he does so.  He’s in one of Tony’s outfits, a black shirt that says WILD over an arrow, grey pants with trees all over, his boat shoes, and a grey beanie that has a small mountain stamped on the front.

 

“Think you’ll ever take him hiking?” Sam asks, turning Peter out so he can lean back against his torso and stare out at his new environment.

 

“Eventually, yeah,” Steve says, “I’d like to start this fall, preferably.  He’ll be seven months old in September, so he should have no problem in a back carrier.  We might do a few trial runs before then with a front carrier, but I’m still looking into it.”

 

“You hike?” Bucky says, commandeering one of the arm chairs, “I’ve been looking for a good hiking partner, but none of these military types seem to want to hit the trails.”

 

“You have not been asking at the meetings,” Sam accuses, “I told you to, but alas.”

 

“Well,” Bucky says, shrugging, “I’m asking now.  So there.”


“That’d be awesome,” Steve says quickly, “Yeah, definitely.  Maybe even—”

 

“Steve!” Nat’s voice rings out before Sam’s front door opens, “Give us a hand, darling?”

 

“Go on, then,” Sam says, nodding toward the doorway, “I’ve got him.”

 

“You sure?”

 

“Come on, Steve, be a big boy and go help the poor, weak lady with her shopping bags.”

 

“Samuel Wilson, I will—”

 

“I’m coming!” Steve yells, getting up and hurrying out before Nat can threaten bodily harm.

 

“So baby,” Bucky says, shifting his gaze to Peter.

 

“His name is Peter,” Sam says, “Not a fan of children?”

 

Bucky shrugs again.  “I don’t particularly want children of my own, but other people’s aren’t that bad.  You can just give them back when—well, that,” he says when Peter starts fussing, mouth turning down in a frown as his eyes scan the space where Steve was.

 

“It’s okay, little devil,” Sam says, turning Peter so that he can see him, “Daddy will be right back.”

 

Peter’s frown turns into a pout, and his chin starts to wobble as he stares at Sam.  “They like movement, don’t they?” Bucky says quickly as Peter’s fussing starts turning into crying.

 

“Right, yes,” Sam says, and gets up, holding Peter against his hip and swaying with him.

 

“Dude, support his head,” Bucky says, “He’s not—here.”

 

He gets up, extending his arms, and Sam regards him for a moment before carefully handing Peter over.  Bucky adjusts him so that he’s face down, legs splaying open, and starts rubbing a hand over his back as he walks away from Sam, who says, “Um?”

 

“Shut up, my sister has kids,” Bucky mutters, “Like I said, not my own, but they’re pretty cool.  Alright, dude, what?” he adds when Peter gives up and just starts crying.  Bucky adjusts him again, holds him up by his shoulder, and then Peter lets out a sharp, terribly sad cry, fingers fisting in Bucky’s shirt as he tries to push himself upright.

 

“Peter, it’s okay,” Steve says, and Bucky turns, which just pulls another cry from Peter.

 

“Shit, sorry,” Bucky says, immediately turning again.

 

“Hey,” Steve says, switching the bags to one hand as he comes over and lifts a hand to wipe the tears from his cheeks.  “None of that,” he whispers, kissing his nose, “You’re okay.  Papa’s here.”

 

“Damn, I said daddy,” Sam mutters.

 

“Tony,” Steve says before leaving them again, going into the kitchen to deposit the bags.

 

“Where is Tony, by the way?” Sam asks, “Is he still traveling?”

 

“He’ll be home tomorrow, thankfully,” Steve says, “It’s been nearly a month without him.  Alright, alright, I’m here, come on,” he adds when he’s back in the living room and Peter won’t stop.

 

He takes him from Bucky, and he immediately quiets as he burrows against Steve, fingers fisting in his shirt.  “Magic touch,” Sam says.

 

“Familiar scent,” Bucky corrects as he takes his seat again, “He knows you.”

 

“Does that apply to a parent who’s been gone for a month?” Nat asks as she comes in.

 

“Let’s—not,” Steve says, “Please.  I’ve already had this fight with him.”

 

“And?”


“Nat.”

 

“Fine.  I see you brought the infant.”

 

“Oh, sorry I didn’t leave him with the fucking nanny,” Steve snaps, turning toward the window.

 

“Don’t be like that,” Nat says, sitting, “He’s just always with you now.  A nanny might not be a bad thing.  You could have some time to yourself, which is not a terrible thing to want.”


“Maybe it hasn’t—never mind,” Steve says, “Let’s not, okay?”

 

“Fine,” Nat says, holding up her hands and leaning back in the armchair, “But let’s talk about the game last night.”

 

“Utter bullshit!” Bucky yells, and they’re off.

 

Eventually, Peter is settled enough that he doesn’t fall apart the next time Sam asks to hold him, and Steve even manages to leave the room to help Nat with the food since Sam demanded Bucky stay with him just in case he needs baby magic powers again.

 

They work in silence until Nat slams down a bowl and says, “This is stupid.  I’m sorry.”

 

“He’s my son, Nat,” Steve says, not looking at her, “He’s going to keep being there when I’m there, and it’s not my fault if you don’t like it.”

 

“It’s not that,” Nat says, grabbing a knife, “It’s just—well, now Clint’s talking about children, and I don’t want that.  I’m happy for you.  You’re doing something that you want, and that brings you joy, but that does not bring me any joy whatsoever.”

 

Steve frowns, watching her mutilate an avocado.  “Do you want to try holding him?” he asks.

 

“No,” she says quickly, and then sighs loudly, “Maybe.  It’s not going to sway me, and I’ll stab you in the fucking thigh if Clint sees me doing it, but he is your son, and I shouldn’t be avoiding him.  Or you.”

 

“It’s okay, you know,” Steve says, “To be afraid.”

 

“I’m not afraid,” Natasha says, finally looking back up at him, “I just don’t want it.  I’m not interested in that future, and he knows that, but he’s still pushing it.”

 

“How about this?” Steve says, smiling, “You send Clint my way for a few hours of dirty diapers, throw up, and having to lie on the floor all day for tummy time, yeah?”

 

Natasha laughs, nodding.  “Thanks, Steve.”

 

“Hey, at least you call him the infant instead of the alien.”

 

“Is Tony still doing that?”

 

“Sam calls him a devil.  I don’t know if anyone knows what his name is.”

 

“Peter,” Nat says, “It’s a good name.”

 

Steve just smiles in response, looking back to where Sam is helping Peter stand, his little feet bouncing off Sam’s legs, and he’s never felt more content.

 

——

 

June 10, 2016

 

Steve triple checks everything on his list, frowns at the empty carrier, and looks up to find Peter and Gwen lying together in the kitchen and Betty frowning at the fridge.  “Are you sure about this?” he asks, coming over.

 

“Yes, of course,” Betty says, not turning away, “It’s been ages since you’ve spent any quality time with Tony, let alone seen him, and you’re doing me a huge favor by taking Gwen on Mondays for now.  It’s the least I could do.  Where are you going?”

 

Steve grins.  “Gallagher’s.”

 

“Oh, I hate you,” Betty says, finally turning away to hit him on the arm, “I haven’t had steak in god knows how long.  When does he get in?”

 

“Two hours,” Steve says, checking his watch, “So I should probably go.  Our reservation is at seven, so we’ll be by around nine, probably, to pick up Peter.  You have everything?”

 

“Sweetheart,” Betty says, smiling, “Even if I don’t, I have Gwen, which means I do, okay?  Go home, and don’t worry.  We’re going to be fine here, and you’re going to have an amazing night out.  Okay?  Steve.”

 

“I know, I know,” he says, casting one last glance at Peter before he drops a kiss on Betty’s cheek and takes his leave.

 

Once home, he goes for a run with Nuada, and he’s barely under the hot water when Tony calls.  “I’m naked,” Steve says by way of greeting.

 

Tony, as always, reacts smoothly, “I’m hard, thank you very much for that image.  Why are you naked?  Can I come play?”

 

“How far away are you?” Steve asks, letting his voice drop lower.

 

“Jesus, okay,” Tony says, “Speeding now.  Fifteen minutes away.  Why are you naked?  Is Peter napping?  Steve, will you fuck me?”

 

Steve has to close his eyes and press a fist against the wall to stop himself from kick starting their night.  “Peter’s with Betty, actually,” he says, and Tony moans, actually moans into the phone.

 

“I know I shouldn’t be that excited about our son being away, but holy shit, I miss you.”

 

“Your ass misses me,” Steve says, opening his eyes again and hurrying to finish his shower.

 

“God, stop it,” Tony whines, “This is bad enough as is.  How long is he with Betty?”

 

“We’re going out for dinner after, too.”

 

“You’re my favorite husband.  See you in ten.”

 

He hangs up before Steve can respond, and he’s home in eight.  Steve doesn’t want to know how fast he was going to arrive so quickly, but doesn’t have time to ask because Tony walks in stripping.  As soon as he’s through the door, his shoes are off, his suit jacket hits the kitchen floor, and really, Steve can’t be blamed for dropping his towel to the floor and reclining on the bed, just waiting for him.

 

Fuck me,” Tony groans when he walks in and finds him.

 

“That’s the idea,” Steve says, and then Tony’s on top of him, shirt half unbuttoned and pants still infuriatingly on.

 

It’s been weeks since he last had this kind of time with Tony, and neither of them last long the first time, too eager to touch and be touched, their bodies a fast, hot mess that ends in the sheets twisted off the bed, sweat lingering in the curve of Tony’s spine, and Steve’s mouth trailing slowly across his shoulders.  “I missed you,” Steve lets the words ghost out over Tony’s jaw before he leans forward to kiss him slowly.

 

“Jesus Christ,” Tony mutters when he releases him, “Fucking super stamina back there.”

 

“Mm, not yet,” Steve murmurs even though other parts of him disagree.  He drops over onto his side, leaning into his elbow as he looks down at Tony.  “How was Pennsylvania?”

 

“Boring,” Tony says, drawing his arms up to pillow under his head as he looks over at Steve, “I just wanted to be home.  I missed you, too.  Both of you.  I’m actually kind of sad that Peter isn’t here.  I mean, now.”

 

“Now that you’ve been satiated?” Steve says, smirking.

 

“Satiated?” Tony echoes, pushing upright, “Not even close.”

 

It’s a miracle that they make their reservation.  After Tony rises up and takes from Steve, their breaths shattering into the dying light of day around them, they take a fast shower, change into handsome suits, and end up pressed against the bedroom door, Tony’s hand drifting beneath Steve’s pants even as Steve pins a hand around his jaw and kisses him senseless.  It ends as quickly as it begins when Jarvis interrupts them with a traffic report, Steve whines, and Tony swears colorfully.  “Later,” Steve promises, kissing Tony a last time before he pulls them apart and heads out.

 

They’re both famished by the time they finally arrive, and Tony starts to order everything in sight until Steve reigns him in, and he succumbs to just something simple before their steaks.  They steal from each other’s onion soup and coal-fired peppers, share a beet and arugula salad with goat cheese and oranges, and then they’re ordering steaks worthy of a plaque, they’re so beautiful.  They skip dessert in favor of one of their favorite ice cream stands a few blocks over, and it’s still early enough that Steve drags Tony to the coast to kiss him under the moon.

 

It’s nearing nine when they pull up at Betty’s, and Steve’s about to get out when he looks over and finds Tony asleep in the passenger seat.  He hadn’t really stopped to consider for a moment how tired he must be after this past month and then tonight, and so he keeps the car running to give him another few seconds of peace before Peter’s back.

 

“Hey, how was your night?” Bruce asks when he opens the door.

 

“Incredible,” Steve says, following him in, “Thank you again for watching Peter.  We really appreciate it.”

 

“Oh, just wait until we’re dumping a toddler and an infant on you next year so we can run away to—Rome or something.”

 

“No, we’re taking them to Rome,” Betty says as she comes out from their nursery, Peter in her arms, “He just fell asleep a few minutes ago, right after his bottle.  Where’s Tony?”


“Also asleep,” Steve says, “He’s had a long day.  How was he?”

 

“An angel, as expected,” Betty says, kneeling by his carrier, “He and Gwen are getting along wonderfully.  I can’t wait until they’re both walking and talking.  I’m sure they’ll be fast friends.  Give our love to Tony,” she adds as she stands, “And let us know anytime you need a few hours alone again, okay?”


“Thank you, Betty,” Steve says, smiling warmly as he takes the carrier in hand and accepts Peter’s bag, “I’ll see you and Gwen on Monday?”

 

“Bright and early.”

 

He says his goodbyes as he heads out, and Tony stirs as he’s getting Peter situated in the back.  “Mm, sorry,” he mumbles, stretching, “How long was I out?”

 

“Just a couple minutes,” Steve says, “Peter’s asleep, too.”  He gets into the front before he continues, “It’s okay if you sleep until we get home.”

 

“No, it’s fine,” Tony says, straightening and yawning.  “So, anything planned for the weekend?”

 

“No,” Steve says, pulling away, “Just us.”

 

Tony smiles and reaches over for one of Steve’s hands, winding their fingers together before he kisses his knuckles.

 

——

 

June 16, 2016

 

Some days, their little family is all that keeps Steve held together at the seams.

 

He wakes up hours before the sun, after three hours of tossing and staring at the ceiling, one hour of actual, albeit awful, sleep, and then there’s this—waking up toeing the line between Iraq and America, between gunfire and blood and Tony, warm and solid next to him.  He can feel Tony stirring when he folds a hand over his shoulder, just to ground back in the present, so he quickly retracts and pads out of their bedroom and into the nursery.  He doesn’t go near the crib, just collapses into the rocking chair and pulls his knees up, resting his chin there so he can look over at Peter’s sleeping form.

 

It only takes Tony four minutes before he’s stumbling in after him, and he all but falls down next to Steve, leaning his head against the side of his leg as he folds his own beneath him.  “Go back to bed,” Steve whispers, dropping a hand down to thread through his hair.

 

Tony hums, leaning into the touch.  “No,” he says finally, “I’m fine.  Stay with you.”

 

“Come on,” Steve says, unraveling and reaching down to haul Tony to his feet, “I’m not letting you sleep on the floor.”

 

“Mm, Steve,” he mumbles, stumbling into him.

 

Steve smiles despite it all, kissing Tony’s temple as he steers them back into their bedroom.  Tony is an octopus the second they get in bed, wrapping around him and holding him close, nose buried against his sternum as he clings to Steve, who almost breaks because Tony just knows, even mostly asleep and incoherent, he knows what he needs.  Nuada seems to understand, too, because suddenly she’s shaking awake and clambering over to wedge herself in between them.

 

Somehow, Steve manages to sleep after that.  He still wakes a few hours later at 4AM, still too wound up, and after a quick kiss and a whisper pressed against Tony’s jaw, he slips out of bed and out into the cool morning for a run.

 

It’s been a long time, longer than he’s happy about, since he’s been able to just go.  Jarvis keeps him informed of his location every fifteen minutes or so, but otherwise, his world is silent, just the slow trill of birds waking up and the gentle rising of the sun.

 

“Captain Rogers,” Jarvis says eventually, keeping his voice low, “It is 5AM.”

 

“Thanks, Jarvis,” Steve says, and starts to turn around.

 

He gets home around 6AM, and he feels better than he has in days.  He can hear water running when he stops in the nursery, and the crib is empty, so he follows the familiar route into their bedroom just in time to hear, “The itsy bitsy spider climbed up the water spout.  Down came the rain, and washed the spider out!”  Peter giggles, and Steve smiles, stripping out of his clothes as Tony keeps singing, “Out came the sun and dried up all the rain, and the itsy bitsy spider climbed up the spout again!  I know, spiders are so fun!” Tony’s voice hikes up in pitch, and Steve opens the door in time to find him making distracting faces while he washes out Peter’s hair.

 

“He’s going to have hair like yours,” Steve says as he gets in.

 

“It’s wild,” Tony says, keeping that light, easy voice as he smiles at Peter, “Right, little man?  You’re going to be a little lion soon.”

 

Peter coos happily, legs kicking out a crazy beat.  They shower around one another, switching Peter when they need an extra hand, and it’s the kind of morning Steve has been yearning for.  Tony leaves around 7AM, after breakfast in the backyard while Nuada runs around, and then it’s a slow morning of tummy time, reading, laundry and singing, a picnic in the backyard for lunch, and then a walk to the park for the afternoon.  By the time they finally get home, Peter’s ready for a nap, and Steve is still feeling exhausted from last night, so he joins him, tucking up in bed with pillows and Nuada on one side.  He manages to watch a full eight minutes of one of Tony’s ridiculous sitcoms—which he secretly thinks Peter is falling for—before he’s out cold, Peter sucking on his thumb next to him.

 

Before he knows it, Tony’s voice is pulling him back from the depths of slumber.  “Oh, I know, baby boy, papa was just a little bit more tired than you, it’s okay.”

 

The bed dips, and the tiny warmth of Peter snug against him disappears.  Steve groans and rolls over, reaching out.  “I’ll make dinner,” Tony whispers, kissing the back of his hand, “Oh hush, Peter, you’re fine.”

 

He registers Peter’s faint crying, then, and though he tries valiantly to get up, Nuada squirms closer to him, licking his face, so he settles against her fur, letting himself doze for another few minutes.  Eventually, though, something starts to smell delicious, and so he forces himself up and out to go investigate.


“Hey,” he says as he pads barefoot through the house.

 

“Hey yourself,” Tony says, glancing over his shoulder, “You were out.  How are you feeling?”

 

“Better,” he mumbles, arms winding around Tony so he can drop his chin on his shoulder, “Was Peter crying long?”

 

“Nah, Jarvis said he only started crying when I got home.  Must’ve heard the car door close or something.”


“Jarvis,” Steve says, turning his face into Tony’s neck, “How long was he awake?”


“About forty minutes, sir, but it appears he was preoccupied with Nuada.”

 

“You needed it, it’s okay,” Tony says, rubbing a hand over one of his arms, “You would have woken up if he was actually crying, or Jarvis would have.”

 

“Still,” Steve says, lingering a second longer before releasing him, “Where is he?”

 

“Peter!” Tony calls.

 

“Very funny,” Steve says, giving his ass a squeeze before he leaves.  Tony makes a high, surprised noise, and Steve just grins as he stops in the living room, kneeling down next to Peter’s play mat, where he’s batting at the mobile above him.  “How’s my favorite little boy?” Steve says, rubbing a hand over his belly.

 

Peter shrieks at his voice, eyes finding him as he starts squirming, and Steve’s grin turns into an all-out smile as he picks him up.  “He was telling me all about your day today,” Tony says as he comes back into the kitchen with him, “Seems like you had a ton of fun.”

 

“Oh yeah?  What’d we do?”

 

“You know,” Tony says, waving a spatula, “Little bit of this, little bit of that.”

“Uh huh.”

 

“Listen, smug ass,” Tony says, brandishing the spatula at him now, “You’re a predictable little shit.  Tummy time, read or sing or both, laundry, and park.”

 

“We also had a picnic,” Steve says, so Tony huffs loudly and turns back to the stove.

 

Their night turns out to be as lazy as their day.  After dinner, during which they linger at the table, just talking while Peter bangs his hands and toys against the edges of his bassinette and sings quite the song, they retire outside to drink coffee and tea under the dying light while Peter plays in the grass.  When, ultimately, he starts fussing because he’s tired, Steve takes him inside for a bottle while Tony walks the neighborhood with Nuada.

 

In the end, they fall asleep together, Peter tucked between them while the credits on some movie waste away into the night.

 

——

 

June 19, 2016

 

“Tony, we have to go!” Steve calls, “Stop changing him!”

 

“Listen,” Tony says as he walks out of the nursery holding Peter, “He’s still the hot new kid, okay?  Until Sif and Betty pop, Peter has to keep up his cool kid status.  Isn’t that right?” he directs the last bit to Peter, and Steve had a response that dies when Tony burrows his face against Peter’s cheek, doing something to elicit a giggle from him.

 

“Alright, let’s see, then.”

 

Tony stalks past him to kneel in front of Peter’s carrier, buckling him in.  When he steps back, Steve smiles and pulls him in for a kiss.  “Good job, dad,” he says.  Peter is wearing navy and white striped shorts, a white shirt patterned with navy triangles, and there’s a grey, hooded sweatshirt tucked to the side in case he gets cold.  Tony groans loudly when Steve darts down to slip on his boat shoes.

 

“You’re the worst,” Tony says, pushing him, “You’re the reason all the older kids make fun of him.”

 

“By older kids, do you mean Gwen?  Because Jane loves him.”


“Whatever.  Hey, are they coming?”


“Sarah said they were,” Steve says, picking up the carrier, “Do we have everything?”


Tony grabs the diaper bag, double checks inside, frowns at Steve, and they both stall for a moment before it occurs to them.  “Nua!” Tony calls.  She comes bounding from upstairs with a toy in her mouth, and Tony smiles, reaching down to scrub a hand over her head.  “Only one toy, okay?”

 

“Because you’ve got another in the diaper bag,” Steve accuses, heading for the door.

 

“And until one of those losers gets a dog—”

 

“Right, Nua’s gotta be the cool dog,” Steve says, and then is gone to leave Tony grumbling after him.

 

It’s interesting, traveling with everyone to Thor’s new place.  It’s less than 20 minutes door to door, but Peter is rehearsing a rock concert with Nuada in the backseat, and Tony is a giggling mess when they finally arrive.

 

It’s the first time they’ve all been together at a party rather than just dinner at one another’s houses since just before Peter, and so they’re eager to see everyone.  The party is just starting to take off when Thor shows them out back, and it’s not long before the rest of their friends are showing up.

 

“Cheers to a wonderful summer solstice!” Thor yells when they’ve all finally arrived.

 

“Tony, hey!”  Tony turns at his name, beaming as he finds Rhodey approaching him.  “Oh, and my favorite baby,” he adds when he spots Peter in his arms.  He’s holding him against one hip, arm wrapped snug around him while Peter keeps his head up and looks around.  One of his legs starts wiggling when he sees Rhodey, and Tony smiles, letting Rhodey take him.  “Hey, monster!” he says happily, lifting him in the air before settling him again, “How are you today?”

 

Peter just smiles widely and squirms briefly, stopping only when Rhodey drops a kiss on his cheek and shifts him until they’re both comfortable.  “How are you, Tony?” he asks, opening the other arm for a hug.

 

“It’s great to see you, Rhodey,” Tony says, embracing him, “It’s been too long.”

 

“Too preoccupied with the cutest little man ever,” Rhodey says, nodding sagely at Peter, “Isn’t that so?”  Peter squeaks, and he looks like he’s having a grand time until he looks up at Rhodey’s face and seems to realize he isn’t Tony.  “Oh,” Rhodey says, recognizing the oncoming storm as Peter’s mouth twists down, “It’s okay, bud, dad’s right here.”

 

“You’re safe, Peter, don’t worry,” Tony says.  Peter’s head swivels at Tony’s voice, and he stalls for a moment longer before reaching out.  “Well, that’s a first,” Tony says even as he takes him from Rhodey.

 

“How’s he doing with Gwen during the week?”

 

“Steve says it’s going well so far.  I haven’t had the opportunity to see it firsthand yet, but he only threw a tantrum the first couple of times whenever he realized Steve wasn’t paying attention to him.  He’s such a papa’s boy.”

 

“Where is Steve, speaking of?” Rhodey asks, looking around.

 

They spot him by Sif, Betty, and Pepper, where they’re all somehow not talking about babies.  “You wouldn’t believe it, Steve,” Betty says, shaking her head, “I can’t believe he did it in such a public place like that.”

 

“I think he’s starting to realize what Tony’s doing,” Pepper says, “He replaced another board member earlier this week.  R&D is taking up most of his time, and he all but shut down one of Obadiah’s biggest projects.”

 

“Wait,” Sif says, turning to Betty, “Is this the same company you said you thought would be a good fit for me?”

 

“Oh, without Obadiah, SI is amazing,” Betty says quickly, “The work Bruce and I are doing in R&D is just—out of this world.  Really, just the work Tony is doing is something awesome, though, admittedly, he’s been doing a lot less these past few months.”

 

“Ha,” Steve says, smiling, “Trust me, he’s still working.  If he’s not playing at insomnia, he’s up early because of Peter.  They spend a lot of time in the shop together.”

 

“Well, maybe for the first few years, then,” Sif says, “But Thor and I do plan on traveling still, at least until the little ones are ready for school.”

 

“God, school,” Betty says, “Don’t even.  I’m trying to pretend Gwen is going to be not talking and sweet as pie forever.”

 

“Maybe the sweet part, but Tony’s putting bets on their intelligence already.”

 

“At least it’s not their mating possibilities,” Sif says.  Betty just groans loudly, and they all laugh.

 

Somehow, Tony loses Peter.  Betty takes him at one point, tickling and cooing nonsense at him until he’s laughing up a storm, and she promises to watch him for a bit while Tony wanders off to find food.  When he next spots him, he’s in Thor’s arms, and he looks absolutely delighted at that, so Tony takes his food and finds Steve.

 

“Hey,” he says, coming up behind him, “Hungry?”

 

“Starving,” Steve says, tipping his head back and accepting a kiss.


Tony drops into the seat next to him, speaking even as Steve starts to, “Don’t worry, he’s with Thor.”

 

“Been a while since it was just you and me,” Steve says, picking up his burger, “Is it sad that I miss him?”

 

“You haven’t been with him all afternoon,” Tony says, “Not sad, just a little lame.”

 

“Shut up, assface.”  They eat in silence for a few moments, just enjoying the nearness of one another, until Steve says, “So Sif was talking about school earlier.”

 

“Oh my god,” Tony chokes, nearly dropping his burger to the ground, “Don’t say that, holy shit.  He’s still a baby.  Let me enjoy this before he becomes a little shit.”

 

“If he becomes a little shit, it will be entirely your fault,” Steve accuses, and laughs loudly at Tony’s resulting look of pure shock.

 

My fault?” he says, his voice cracking at the end, “Who used to get in after school scraps with bullies three times his size, huh?  Who used to talk shit in alleys and bars whenever someone didn’t follow your little code of conduct?  Hey!” he yelps when Steve grabs his chair and yanks him closer.

 

“I love you, you little shit,” Steve says, effectively cutting Tony off as he kisses him.

 

It’s broken by a sharp, thin cry.

 

Both of them jerk apart, looking around.  “Was that Peter or Gwen?” Tony asks.

 

“Soon, that’ll be a long list,” Steve mumbles, trying to find their son and sighing when he does.  “It was Peter.  I’ll be back.”

 

As he approaches, Sif hands him over to Sarah, who starts rubbing his back while Peter buries his face in her shoulder, sobbing.  “Hey, what happened?” Steve says when he finally reaches them.

 

“I think he was looking for you,” Sarah says, easing him over to Steve, “Must have realized neither of you were nearby.”

 

“Thank you,” Steve says, starting to walk away as soon as he has Peter in his arms.  “Sweetheart, it’s okay,” he whispers, leaning his head against Peter’s as he keeps crying, “Papa’s here.”

 

He walks to the edge of Thor’s backyard, bouncing gently and trying to soothe Peter.  He can’t seem to calm down, though, and Steve’s starting to get a little desperate when Tony appears.  “Everything okay?”

 

“He won’t stop crying,” Steve says, turning to him, “Can you get his bottle?  I packed one in the diaper bag.”

 

“Yeah, I’ll be right back.”

 

“I’m going to take him inside,” he says, and follows Tony over.  They both go in, where Steve checks his diaper and tries to give him a bottle, but he’s having neither, and he looks over to Tony hopelessly.

 

“Let me see,” he says, holding out his arms.

 

Steve gives him Peter, and it’s like magic.  The second he’s tucked up against Tony, he starts to settle, sobs dropping off into hitching cries until he’s just sniffling before finally yawning.  “Hey, now that’s not nice,” Tony says, rubbing his back as he looks to Steve, “Papa’s just as good as I am.”

 

“Yeah, but he was with you when we got here,” Steve says, sitting down, “He might be looking for that familiar scent.”

 

“Well, he tuckered himself right out with that little drama show,” Tony says, sitting next to him, “Think we should leave soon?”

 

“Maybe in a bit.  Do you mind holding him for the rest of the afternoon?  He might get fussy if we try to let him sleep in the carrier.”

 

“Do I mind?” Tony echoes, looking down at Peter, “Never.”

 

His smile only widens when Steve presses a kiss to his temple.

 

——

 

June 29, 2016

 

“Just think of rolly pollies,” Tony says.  He’s lying down across from Peter, who’s on his front, arms straightened into his mini pushup.  “It’s easy, see,” he continues, and mimics Peter’s position before pushing off of one hand and rolling over onto his back.

 

Nuada collides with his side as she shows Peter how to roll as well.  Peter frowns at both of them, left fingers gripping against the blanket beneath him before he bends at the elbow and starts pushing.

 

“Right on, little man,” Tony says, quickly getting back onto his front.  Nuada follows, lying next to him on her belly, and watching Peter intently.  “Come on, just a little more effort, just like—see!”  Tony rolls again, Nuada knocks into him again, and Peter’s face screws up with determination before his elbow snaps out again, bending, and then he’s shoving off the ground, teetering on his side as Tony yells, “Steve!”, and Steve turns in time to see him successfully roll over onto his back.

 

“Peter!” Steve exclaims, clapping his hands together, “You’re so amazing!”

 

“That he is,” Tony says, darting forward to kiss his forehead and then his chin, “Look at how cool you are.”

 

Nuada rolls from back to front, and Peter’s gaze follows her until he’s trying valiantly to roll back onto his front again.  He doesn’t succeed, but they don’t give him much time to try, either, before they’re setting him up next to a number four with lupines and baby’s breath taking center stage.

 

“I can’t believe he’s already four months old,” Steve says, pausing in the middle of their shoot.  They look down at Peter, in his grey overalls and striped shirt, and just stand there together, in awe of how far they’ve come.

 

“I can’t believe we’ve been parents for four months,” Tony says, looping his arms around Steve’s waist, “I can’t imagine this working without you.  Thank you, Steve.”

 

Steve smiles, leaning into him and rubbing one of his arms.  “I love you, Tony.”

 

“I—” Tony breaks off in a laugh when Peter shrieks, kicks off the ground, and throws himself over onto his front.  They only manage a few more pictures, then, because Peter’s overexcited about his newfound ability and won’t stop moving.