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What he doesn't know

Chapter Text

'On your left, Iron Man,' Steve calls as he drops and rolls under some fallen masonry.

'Yes, Captain Cautious,' Tony ignores the bullets that ping against his armour and continues to stare the data he's lifting from the AIM servers. 'Hulk, be a dear?'

'Hulk SMASH!' Hulk agrees.

Steve rather wishes Hulk was that ready to follow his orders.

He hurls his shield at another man trying to flank Tony from the side away from Hulk and catches it on the rebound as he spins to check behind them.

'Clear for now,' he calls.

'That's lovely,' Tony says distractedly. 'Give it to Cap.'

Hulk huffs and drops a mangled thug at Steve's feet.

'Err,' Steve swallows back the instinctual terror everyone but Tony seems to have. 'Good job.'

Hulk huffs again and lumbers away.

'Blackwidow, status,' Steve orders.

'Clear,' Natasha reports in over the comm.

'Coming to you,' Clint adds.

'Roger,' Steve lets himself relax a little.

'How's the hacking?' Clint asks.

'Iron Man is connected to the computer and is making progress,' Steve tells him.

'You have no idea,' Natasha calls him on it.

'I have no idea,' Steve agrees. 'But nothing's been blown up so...' he shrugs even though they can't see it.

'AIM are into some weird ass shit,' Tony informs them.

'Good to know,' Steve replies, knowing that Tony isn't really listening to them.

'Meeting resistance,' Natasha tells him and he can hear gun fire down the corridor.

'Where did they all come from?' Clint complains. 'Between us and you, Cap. Think you can come take them from the rear?'

'On my way,' Steve agrees readily. 'Iron Man, keep working on that,' as if Tony would do anything else, 'Hulk stay and guard...'

'Big Green,' Tony interrupts, 'go with Spangles.'

Hulk is moving off towards the gunfire before Steve can argue.

Steve runs after him down the corridor and into what looks like a large laboratory. Equipment has been toppled over and piled into the middle of the room to make a circular barricade; the remaining AIM operatives start shooting from behind it.

Steve ducks his head behind his shield as Hulk roars and charges them.

'Nice, Cap,' Clint appears on the other side of the lab.

'He's starting to listen to you,' Natasha says, approvingly.

'Iron Man told him to come,' Steve admits as he watches Hulk wander around the large room as if he's patrolling.

'It isn't that he doesn't like you, Cap,' Clint insists.

'He just likes Iron Man more?' Steve ducks into the ruined barricade to check for survivors.

'Iron Man just tells him to do things he was already inclined to do,' Natasha disagrees as she starts piling bodies.

'Ummm...'

'No, they have some sort of understanding...'

'Guys?'

'It helps that he isn't scared of him,' Natasha adds with a smirk.

'Everyone is!'

'Hey!' Clint snaps before softening his voice. 'I think there's a kid back here.'

There's several long seconds of silence and then all eyes are on Steve.

'What?' he stares back.

'You're Captain America,' Clint tells him. 'Saving children is definitely your job.'

'This may surprise you, but I didn't actually run into many kids in need of saving in the middle of Hydra bases,' Steve hisses at him.

'Just be you,' Natasha tells him. 'Kids like you.'

'Kids like Hawkeye,' Steve objects.

'Kids like to laugh at me when I juggle knives or shoot things like a badass,' Clint grins at him. 'They think you'll keep them safe.'

Steve does not feel trained for this.

He pushes back his cowl and runs his fingers through his hair in an attempt to look a little more normal.

'Hey,' he calls softly as he ducks down to look behind some machinery. Sure enough there's a small boy, maybe three or four years old, curled up in the tiny gap. 'Hey, it's alright now. You're safe.'

'Tell him you're Captain America here to rescue him!' Clint instructs over the comm. with a grin.

'Be quiet, Hawkeye,' Natasha scolds.

'You can trust me,' Steve tries a smile and hopes he's not all over with blood; he didn't think to check. 'It's ok. Do you want to come out here? I'm sure I can find you some juice if you're thirsty?'

The little boy just stares at him with big brown eyes.

'Offer him milk and cookies!' Clint can't help himself.

'You want to stay in there?' Steve nods. 'Yeah, I understand. It was very scary out here a moment ago but all those bad people have gone now. It's just me and my friends now.'

'And a green rage monster,' Clint adds and then yelps as Natasha clearly loses her patience.

'Did they hurt you?' Steve tries to get a better view of the boy but he flinches and scoots further behind the machine. 'I'm sorry,' Steve leans back again, 'I won't hurt you. I promise you're safe now.'

'Those fucking bastards!' Tony suddenly seethes over the comm.

'Iron Man?' Natasha questions in Steve's stead.

'I hope they suffered!' Tony snaps and Steve blinks in surprise at the venom in him voice.

The comm. is silent for a few moments, a sure sign Tony's speaking with Jarvis, and then they can hear the armour approaching.

'He'll scare the kid,' Clint warns.

'Iron Man, wait...!' Steve calls out too late as Tony walks into the room and scowls through his open faceplate.

Three surprising things happen very quickly.

Firstly the armour retracts, which doesn't normally happen unless they have confirmed a location safe, and Tony moves to stand behind Steve.

Secondly the little boy, who has been half cringing from Steve this entire time, lights up at the sight of Tony and scrambles out from behind the machinery.

And finally Tony drops to one knee, opens his arms and the little boy, with only a moment’s hesitation, runs straight to him and flings his arms around his neck.

'What. The. Fuck.' Clint is as eloquent as ever.

Chapter Text

Steve is quite sure his entire team are still working to comprehend the sight in front of them.

Tony Stark is standing in front of them, flicking at a tablet that he has magicked from somewhere, with a small boy perched on his hip and cuddled against his side.

'You should have just told him you were Captain America,' Tony tells him without looking up from what he's doing.

The little boy finally lifts his head away from Tony's neck and stares at Steve, apparently looking at his suit.

'I wasn't sure Captain America would be very reassuring,' Steve shrugs, 'he's very young.'

Tony just hums vaguely.

'SHIELD are on the way to clean up,' Natasha tells them. They've moved to the clearer end of the lab and away from the bodies.

'Right,' Tony's head jerks up. 'Ok, I have some things I need to take care of. I'll try to meet you back at the helicarrier. Cap, you need to look after him, ok?' he shifts the boy into Steve's arms.

'What's...?'

'Please, Cap,' Tony silences all protests. 'Just look after him. Do not let him out of your sight. Don't even let the SHIELD doctors take him anywhere. You stay with him at all times. Promise me?'

'I promise,' Steve agrees readily.

'Thank you,' Tony sounds relieved as he steps back into his armour and rockets away.

'Ok,' Steve makes the effort to smile at the boy who's tracing the star on his chest with a finger, 'we're good aren't we? And Tony'll be back before you know it.'

Huge brown eyes just gaze up at him before a moment before the boy curls into his side and promptly falls asleep.

'What the fuck?' Clint just looks bewildered.

'Language,' Steve scolds, quite automatically, with a glance to the boy in his arms.

Natasha hums and moves to a console against the wall. After a few minutes she's apparently hacked in.

'Well,' she turns back to them, 'whatever it was he found he's wiped the data from here. Chances are he has the only copy now.'

'Let's get out of here,' Steve decides. 'We don't need to wait for SHIELD and the quicker we get back to the helicarrier, the quicker we can get home.'

*          *          *

On the helicarrier they get some strange looks, but they aren't stopped until after Bruce has left for his room and the remaining three of them get to the conference room.

'I'll take the boy,' an agent smiles and reaches for him.

'No, that's fine,' Steve smiles back as he feels small fingers tighten their grip on the neck of his suit.

'He'll be perfectly safe with me,' he persists. 'I can find him something to eat and some toys.'

What toys could there possibly be on the helicarrier?

'Some water would be great, thanks,' Steve steps around him and into the conference room. Natasha and Clint follow him and then close the door.

'Not that Stark isn't a great guy at heart,' Clint voices what Steve's been thinking, 'but why does he care so much about what happens to the kid? No offence, kid.'

The boy just stares at him and then fidgets on Steve's lap as he sits down.

'What's your name?' Steve tries asking again.

The boy just stares at him.

'I'm Captain America,' Steve smiles, 'but you can call me Steve, if you'd like. What shall I call you?'

The boy's head tips to the side as if he's considering the question and Steve hears a sudden intake of breath from Natasha across the table.

A sound like that from Natasha is like screaming hysteria from anyone else.

Steve glances at her but she doesn't give anything else away.

And then the door opens and Fury strides in, shattering the quiet moment,

'What have we got here then?' he stares at the boy who clutches at Steve's arm but stares right back.

'He was at the AIM compound,' Steve reports with a slight scowl towards the Director. 'He's in my custody right now.'

'Not Stark's?' Fury asks and flicks a look at Natasha.

Steve stays silent; they clearly think they know something.

'Captain,' Fury smiles, 'I know I have the advantage of having seen him before, but look at the boy. Who does he remind you of?'

Steve looks at the boy in his lap, brown hair and eyes, skin that's slightly darker than his own, a gaze that seems to be obtaining knowledge through pure force of will...

'He's my son,' Tony declares as he strides into the room looking like he just stepped out of a high rollers' casino.

'You had time to change?' Steve blurts pointlessly.

'I arrived on my jet,' Tony shrugs and tucks his sunglasses into his pocket. 'I can get lots of things done on that jet.'

Fury narrows his eyes at Tony, who smirks in response.

The boy on Steve's lap then squirms enough to get to the floor and run to the man who is apparently his father.

'Your son?' Clint stares. 'Ok, a bit embarrassed I didn't see it before; he looks just like you.'

'He's a clone,' Tony scoops the boy back onto his hip as if he's been doing this for years.

'There are two of you,' Clint deadpans and the drops his head onto the conference table.

'Why would anyone want that?' Steve asks in confusion.

He sees Natasha smirk, hears Clint huff a laugh but it takes Tony's bemused stare for him to realise what he's just said,

'Not that you aren't just swell,' he offers Tony an embarrassed grin and hopes their friendship has progressed far enough for this.

'I won't bore you with the details, but they wanted a me loyal to them to make them tech,' Tony rolls his eyes. 'Guess they were playing the long game.'

'Why can't he talk?' Steve worries.

'He can talk, can't you buddy?' Tony looks at the boy who nods and then glances around.

'Where's mommy?' he sounds scared.

God, Steve thinks, we have to find...

'She isn't coming,' Tony smiles, 'you won't see her again.'

The boy breaks into the most enormous grin and hugs Tony tightly around the neck. Tony closes his eyes and hugs him back.

Chapter Text

Steve stares at the closed door for several seconds after Tony has left with his son.

What small boy doesn't want his mother?

And why was Tony not surprised?

'Captain?' Fury's voice cuts through his thoughts. 'Would it be alright with you if we debrief now?'

Steve represses a flinch at his tone,

'Sorry, sir.'

'Isn't much to tell,' Clint shrugs as he sprawls in his chair. 'Tony got a tip that there was an AIM base, we went, he hacked, we conquered.'

'And the data?' Fury clasps his hands together as he looks between them.

'Stark has it,' Natasha tells him.

'Stark has it,' Fury repeats. 'And when do you suppose he'll hand it over?' he looks straight at Steve.

He knows Steve isn't going to chase Tony to hand anything over to SHIELD.

'I'm confident he'll make us aware of anything important,' Steve replies, stubbornly.

Fury snorts,

'The more important it is the less likely Stark is to share.'

'It was his tip,' Steve tells him, 'that makes it his mission and his data. You're the one that made him a consultant and not a full Avenger.'

Fury is too controlled to pull a face like he's sucking a lemon.

'The clone is of Stark,' Natasha adds. 'The data he has recovered is most likely the research into achieving that and their plans for raising the boy.'

'Eliminating the nature verses nurture variable,' Fury mutters to himself; a statement that Steve resigns himself not to understand.

'Most likely,' Natasha agrees, straight faced and not giving a thing away.

'If you two think you're being subtle...' Clint scoffs.

'Not our secret to tell,' Fury shrugs and flicks a hand. 'And it's mostly guesswork on my part.'

'Then we don't need to know,' Steve tells them, decisively. 'If it's Tony's business then we can respect that.'

'Hmm,' Fury watches him intently.

'What Tony found on the computer isn't important right now,' Steve insists. 'The point is we worked well as a team.'

Fury subsides, to Steve's relief, and the discussion on team tactics begins.

*          *          *

'We're collecting my friend Bruce and then we're flying home,' Tony tells the boy in his arms as he abandons the rest of his team to do the debriefing thing.

'Ok,' a small nose is pressed against his neck.

Tony won't let himself panic.

He can do this.

'Pepper is going to be so mad at me,' Tony grins manically as he jogs the last few feet to hammer on Bruce's door. 'She's going to love you though. Come Brucey-boo! Time to go home!'

Bruce opens the door, looking tired, and falls in step with Tony without comment.

'Bruce is my favourite science bro,' Tony tells his son as his brain summons up how much he had wished Howard would just take the time to talk to him. 'And we're going to get his opinion on that machine I've acquired.'

'Is this going to be another situation where I remind you what sort of doctor I actually am?' Bruce looks over. 'Oh, hello.'

'Bruce, this is my son,' Tony tells him with a perfectly straight face.

Bruce stares then shakes his head,

'You were right then; they did get their hands on some DNA.' He gets it, and that's why he's Tony's favourite.

'Yup,' Tony pops the p at the end.

'And he's going to move in with us?' Bruce asks carefully; Tony had admitted his suspicions of AIM having some of his DNA but they didn't discuss what would happen if they found a live child.

'I'm an arsehole,' Tony informs him, 'but if all I manage is to be a better parent to him than mine were to me then he'll turn out alright. There are people in the penthouse now converting my second guest room.'

'When you decide something needs to happen it certainly happens fast,' Bruce just laughs and shakes his head.

'Jarvis has created him a back story,' Tony adds. 'Born to a surrogate and living with me in secret. I just need to choose a name and he can falsify all the birth records. Any problems from Fury and I unleash the pack of SI lawyers..'

'Ok,' Bruce agrees, probably ignoring that last part. 'Do you have any in mind?'

'Ah, well, there's a complication on that front,' Tony grins as they step onto the lift for the quick trip to the flight deck. 'I'll tell you on the jet, come on.'

The boy tucks himself tighter to Tony's chest as they go outside, burying his face against the arc reactor and away from the wind that races across the deck. They move quickly over to the jet and up the steps as the flight crew finish the preparations for take off.

'What's the problem?' Bruce asks as soon as they sit down.

'Coffee please,' Tony smiles at the steward.

'Certainly, mister Stark.'

'Rhodey only chose me three names and I might need four,' Tony tells him simply as he puts his son onto the seat beside him next to the window. He holds onto the boy's arm as the jet lauches off the side of the helicarrier and then lets him scramble away to look out the window.

'Might need four,' Bruce repeats and rubs his eyes before pinching the bridge of his nose. 'Tony, I'm quite tired, can you spell this out for me?'

'The machine he was hiding behind?' Tony reminds him and Bruce nods vaguely. 'An incubator.

'Can we have burgers and fries, please?' he diverts easily into beaming at a stewardess who's bringing over his coffee now that they're in the air. 'And juice. Orange juice with bits.'

'Of course, Mister Stark,' she smiles. 'Would you like a straw with that?'

'What the hell, yes please,' Tony grins.

'An incubator,' Bruce likes to repeat things when he's tired.

'Yeah, and it's working so...' Tony shrugs letting Bruce join the dots.

'So there may be a third Stark on the way,' Bruce slumps back in his chair.

'Or a clone of someone else,' Tony shrugs. 'We don't know for sure that they don't have anyone one else's DNA. That's where you come in.'

'Right...' Bruce looks stunned.

'I got my people in before SHIELD arrived and... acquired the incubator. It's in my workshop in the tower.'

'You work really fast,' Bruce shakes his head again, impressed. 'So, if this second baby is yours...'

'And if it's a boy,' Tony agrees, 'then I'll have to check with Rhodey what other names I can use.'

'Is this a bet you lost?'

'I'm not allowed to name human beings,' Tony declares.

'Probably wise,' Bruce smiles.

*          *          *

'Well?' Tony knows patience isn't his strongest suit. He stretches as he stands up from the couch where he's put his son down to sleep using his tailored suit jacket as a blanket. In a practiced move he dodges around Dummy to get to where Bruce is studying the data from the AIM servers.

'This is incredible research,' Bruce sounds impressed and reminds Tony of Reed.

'They cloned me,' Tony smirks, 'and I'm not your average guy.'

'No,' Bruce agrees with a smile.

'Is the kid mine?' Tony leans into Bruce's side.

'Ah,' Bruce looks awkward but doesn't move away. 'Yes and no.'

'Mine but not another clone,' Tony guesses. 'Any idea who the mother is?'

Bruce looks up,

'Steve.'

Tony glances over his shoulder expecting the Captain to have arrived, but there's no one there.

'Oh,' Tony turns back to face his friend. 'They managed to create a child from me and Cap?'

That's... weird.

'Yes,' Bruce sighs. 'It seems that due to the serum they were able to manipulate some cells of Steve's into behaving as eggs so then they just injected them with your DNA.'

'Why?' Tony shakes his head as his mind races.

'Your mind with Steve's serum?' Bruce suggests with a shrug. 'Maybe just a simple straight up bargaining chip against you both.'

'They can't know what traits it'll display,' Tony scowls, 'unless they know the serum will be passed on.'

'Your own intelligence could be argued to be genetic,' Bruce adds mildly.

Bruce is allowed to mention Howard because he's Tony's favourite.

'There's that,' Tony agrees. 'How long until it's... born?'

'Two and a half months if we're going to believe this convenient countdown,' Bruce gestures to the screen. 'I'll read the rest of their notes to be sure.'

Tony starts planning in his head,

'Ok, we can work with this.'

He can definitely work with this.

'It's a boy,' Bruce adds, 'for what it's worth.'

Tony nods,

'Right, ok. Jarvis, run those names past Rhodey.'

'Of course, sir.'

'What are you going to tell Steve?'

Tony hesitates for a moment and then shakes his head.

'That the second child is mine and the other parent isn't known.'

'You're going to lie.'

'He doesn't need to know,' Tony shrugs, his gaze settling on his son sleeping across the room.

'It's his son too,' Bruce points out.

'Look, I like Cap,' Tony gestures vaguely. 'We're getting along alright and he's settling in better now. I don't think suddenly having a child is going to help. And having a child with me? When we're only just at the stage were he feels he can tease me? And with him coming from the 40s? No, it'll throw him off his stride when he's only just found it.'

'You really think it's ok to keep his son from him?'

'What? No,' Tony scoffs. 'I'm not going to do this alone. What the hell do I know about caring for a baby? I'm going to shove them together at every possible opportunity. I'm just not going to tell Cap that the kid's his.'

'So he'll have the relationship with the boy but not any of the responsibility,' Bruce shakes his head with a smile. 'Tony, that's an interesting line your morals are letting you walk.'

'I'm a billionaire with a support structure, such as it is, outside of the team,' Tony grins self-depreciatingly. 'Cap only has the team and still occasionally freaks out over the price of takeout.'

'And if the child bares an uncanny resemblance to Steve?' Bruce asks, but he's smiling so Tony's pretty sure he's happy with this plan.

'We shall blow up that bridge when we come to it,' Tony claps him on the back.

'Sir,' Jarvis calls out, 'Colonel Rhodes has approved of your chosen names for the children. He will be calling you later when he's able.'

'Great,' Tony smiles. 'You approve too, buddy?'

'I am honoured, sir.'

Tony nods,

'Then, Bruce,' he gestures across the lab to the sleeping child, 'meet Peter Jarvis Stark and,' he gestures to the incubator, 'James Steven Stark.'

'Congratulations, Tony,' Bruce smiles and grips his shoulder, 'you're a dad.'

Tony blinks in surprise and smiles before waggling a finger at Bruce,

'Do not let me fuck up raising Captain America's kid.'

Bruce just smiles.

Chapter Text

After debriefing Steve heads straight home. Still, it's late in the evening before he finally gets back to his floor of the tower and is able to shower and change.

'Jarvis, where's Tony?' he asks as he wraps a towel around his hips and starts rubbing his hair dry.

He's gotten used to being under constant surveillance, and at least with Jarvis he can be pretty sure the AI doesn't pay active attention when he isn't dressed unlike when he was still living under SHIELD's radar.

'Sir is in the living area of his penthouse, Captain. Would you like me to relay a message to him?'

'Can you ask if I can go up to see him?' Steve rubs himself down and finds some pants.

'Sir would be delighted to see you,' Jarvis is clearly partially quoting, 'in whatever state of dress you may find yourself.'

Steve just laughs and pulls on a shirt before getting on the lift,

'Penthouse please,' he smiles vaguely upwards, knowing Jarvis will know it's for him.

'Of course, Captain.'

'Cap,' Tony grins at him from over on the couch as soon at the doors open. He's shed his suit jacket but is still wearing the dress shirt and suit pants, his shoes have gone as well. 'Come in. You need a drink?'

'I'm good, thanks Tony,' Steve smiles. He glances around, 'where's your... son?'

'Peter Jarvis Stark,' Tony tells him with a grin, 'is asleep in my room. It's been quite a day for him and Jarvis told me seven thirty was a perfectly acceptable time for a three and a half year old to go to bed.'

'You named him,' Steve approves as he sits down across from Tony. A quick glance at the screen that is the coffee table shows a large number of pictures of brightly coloured children's toys.

'Yes,' Tony agrees and lounges back, 'and the other one.'

'Other one?' Steve finds himself looking around wildly as though a child might suddenly jump out from somewhere.

'James Steven Stark,' Tony tells him, watching him intently. 'He isn't born yet.'

Steve knows he's smiling goofily,

'Steven? Really?'

'I agreed the permitted names with Rhodey over a decade ago,' Tony makes his excuse, still watching Steve. 'I had a bit of a hero worship thing going on; you can blame Howard.'

'Yeah,' Steve scoots forwards a little in his seat, 'but you know me now and you still... I'm honoured, Tony.'

Tony flashes him a quick, but genuine, smile,

'Blame Rhodes,' he dismisses.

'Well, he gets to have the first name,' Steve smiles.

'Yeah, but I never actually call him James,' Tony screws up his face.

'You don't call me Steven,' Steve teases.

'Steven Stark?' Tony smirks suddenly, 'you like the sound of that?'

Steve might be blushing,

'When's he due?'

'Couple of months,' Tony flicks a hand.

'Is he another...?' is this a rude question?

'Clone?' Tony tips his head in the identical way to Peter earlier. 'No. I don't know who the other parent is.'

'Gosh,' Steve crosses his arms as he leans forwards. 'Will you be ok?'

'Ok?' Tony looks amused. 'I don't know. Probably not. You know me; I'll forget to feed them and wash them and even talk to them. It's very sad. Hey, you available to babysit? I can pay well... how's a couple of grand an hour?'

Steve laughs,

'I'd love to babysit if you're ok with that.'

'You'd like kids, Spangles?' Tony gets up and turns away as he heads over to his bar.

Steve is glad he's realised that the names are meant teasingly rather than maliciously.

'Yeah,' Steve nods as he watches Tony pour himself a scotch. 'Once I became...' he gestures to himself awkwardly, 'this... I figured kids were something I could hope for in my future. I still hope I can, one day. It's more daunting now though. Not that I was great at meeting people before,' he shrugs.

'Ah, well, borrow mine then,' Tony tells him as he comes back over and sits beside him. 'There are going to be times when I can't have them with me. I'm the only one around here actually holding down a job after all.'

'We're grateful,' Steve tells him earnestly, 'for everything you do for us. I'm sure we'll all do anything we can to help with your sons.'

Tony rolls his head against the back of the couch to look over at Steve,

'Look, doll,' he drawls, 'you and Bruce? Sure. I can get on board with that. But Clint? No. And something tells me Natasha would rather try her hand at running SI for me than looking after a baby.'

'Oh...' Steve shrugs, 'well. Umm. I'm sure they'll help in some way.'

'Sure, sweet pea,' Tony takes a sip of his drink. 'Now, what did you play with as a kid?' he gestures to the images on the table.

'Sticks?' Steve offers him a lopsided smile. 'I had a baseball and some toy soldiers.'

'Very wholesome,' Tony mocks.

'What did you play with then?' Steve challenges.

'I built things,' Tony shrugs. 'Basic machines, small weapons powered with elastic bands... I don't know.'

'Well,' Steve leans forwards too, 'there are blocks. If he's anything like you he might like the puzzle thing? Or would it be too simple for him?'

'Too simple,' Tony smirks.

'An Iron Man action figure?' Steve grins back.

'Avengers merchandise!' Tony grins suddenly and waves a hand across the table making all the images disappear and new ones form. 'Some of the things I authorised are brilliant!'

'You authorised? Not Fury?'

'He has rights to Hawkeye and Blackwidow but of course I have rights to Iron Man and Bruce made sure I had copyright on Hulk... I got the rights for Thor too but I make sure I funnel the money from there to Foster.'

'And Captain America?' Steve asks, curious.

'Howard owned the rights to you and he passed them to me,' Tony wrinkles his nose. 'I can sign them over?'

'No,' Steve shakes his head, 'it's fine.'

Steve watches as Tony flicks through the images and wonders that Tony is as clueless as him about appropriate toys.

'Did you just select a cuddly version of my shield?'

'Yeah, but that's totally for me because I feel neglected that you won't let me play with the real one.'

'I have never said you couldn't have it,' Steve objects.

Tony looks suddenly so innocently surprised that Steve can't help but smile.

'Really?'

'Of course,' Steve tells him. 'Whenever you want just call and I'll bring it down to your workshop. '

Tony beams at him,

'I'll let you have the plush one then.'

'Give it to Peter,' Steve smiles 'I'll have a cuddly Iron Man instead.'

Tony laughs and puts down his finished drink,

'Sure, I can do that.'

'Where will he stay?' Steve doesn't really want to have to point out to Tony that his penthouse isn't exactly child proof.

'He'll sleep in my room until my second guest room is converted,' Tony misses the point. 'That should be finished in a couple of days.'

'We're...' Steve hesitates as Tony looks at him curiously, 'a long way up and there's no barrier on your balcony.'

'I hadn't admittedly thought of that,' Tony looks over at his glass wall. 'But Jarvis would never let him outside on his own and even if he did get out Jay can catch him with a suit.'

'That's the plan?' Steve finds himself unfortunately charmed by Tony's attitude. 'If your son falls off the edge of a skyscraper it's ok, because your AI butler will catch him with one of your robot suits?'

'Yes?' Tony just looks confused. 'No?'

'It's a fine plan, Tony,' Steve smiles at him. 'Though, of course, hopefully we'll never have to test the plan.'

'Right,' Tony agrees before scowling suddenly. 'Jarvis, get me one of those child-sized crash-test dummies.'

'Certainly, sir.'

'And when the baby is born?' Steve decides he doesn't want to ask after that request.

'There's a third guest room,' Tony tells him. 'Jim can have that. After that I'd have to convert the workshop downstairs into living quarters so I guess that'll be it for the Stark line.'

Steve laughs,

'What about the first guest room?'

'Where would Pepper sleep?' Tony sounds almost offended.

'You could make her her own floor,' Steve tries to repress his grin.

'I offered before,' Tony looks disgruntled, 'she said a room was fine.'

'Well, there's a spare room on my floor.'

Steve can see when Tony realises he's teasing.

'That's true,' Tony agrees with a sudden grin, 'I'll stay with you, and the three kids and Pepper can live up here!'

'What about if I have a kid?' Steve doesn't bother hiding his grin anymore.

'Alright,' Tony waves a hand, 'I keep the master room in the penthouse, Pepper has the guest suit, my third kid gets the second guest room, your kid gets the third, and Pete and Jim get your floor.'

'I seem to have lost out in this scenario,' Steve points out with a very fake pout.

'Oh?' Tony acts surprised. 'Well, you're bunking with me, of course, as we raise our scientifically generated family together,' he grins teasingly.

Steve hopes the sudden warmth he feels at the mere concept of having a family doesn't show on his face,

'Oh, that's quite a nice upgrade I'm getting.'

'And you haven't even seen my bed yet,' Tony's wearing a very smug smirk.

Steve feels himself blush,

'I hope it's big enough for the both of us.'

Tony very obviously looks him up and down,

'I think I can manage to fit you in, big boy.'

'Christ Tony,' Steve gives up and buries his red face in his hands with a laugh.

'I win!' Tony crows.

'I'm not sure I can afford to lose games against you,' Steve tries to get his expression under control before he looks up.

'Hah, you're lucky we didn't agree to a bet then,' Tony's still grinning at him. 'Rhodey strictly owes me a couple of million and don't let him tell you I owe him a plane, because it hit me not the other way around!'

'I'll make you breakfast,' Steve offers before his brain catches up with his mouth, 'I'm not a sore loser even if I didn't know we were competing.'

Tony considers him for a moment,

'Make it breakfast for three and you're on,' his expression is teasing but Steve thinks the invite is genuine.

'Alright,' Steve smiles, 'I'll make pancakes in the morning then; I'm sure little boys like pancakes.'

'We have a deal!' Tony sticks out a hand to shake on it. 'Jarvis make sure you let Cap in to cook for us tomorrow.'

'Of course, sir,' Jarvis agrees.

'Right,' Tony rubs his hands together and gets up. 'I should probably go to bed now then. You may not have heard, but I have a hot date with two gorgeous young men tomorrow morning.' Steve laughs. 'Goodnight, Captain.'

'Goodnight, Tony,' Steve smiles, 'sleep well.'

*          *          *

'That went well,' Tony comments after Steve leaves.

'Yes, sir,' Jarvis agrees.

Tony enters his bedroom and gazes for a minute at where his son is asleep on his bespoke bed, still clutching his suit jacket. He smiles and gets changed before climbing into the opposite side of the bed.

'Goodnight, Jay,' he lays down facing the sleeping boy.

'Goodnight, sir,' Jarvis replies quietly and turns off the light.

Tony waits for his eyes to adjust and then keeps watching his son,

'Jay?'

'Yes, sir?'

'I'm not going to fuck this up, right?'

'Ignoring your unfortunate tendency to swear,' Jarvis scolds, 'you have shown every indication so far of being a perfectly adequate father.'

'Good,' Tony relaxes, 'that's good.'

'You have always been better at caring for others than for yourself,' Jarvis adds.

'I know my limits,' Tony lets his eyes close.

'Yes, sir.'

'Steve won't hate me for lying, will he?' Tony asks, mostly asleep now.

'I do not believe so,' Jarvis replies gently.

'I will tell him,' Tony wants to make sure Jarvis knows. 'Make a reminder; I have to tell Steve by Jim's sixth birthday or you just send him a message the day after.'

'Reminder created,' Jarvis confirms quietly.

'You're my favourite,' Tony tells him and falls asleep.

Chapter Text

Tony wakes up to an empty bed.

Jarvis didn't wake him, so Pete must be fine; Steve must have arrived.

'Jarvis?'

'Good morning, sir. Peter is currently eating blueberry pancakes with Captain Rogers.'

'Marvellous,' he stretches and relaxes back bonelessly.

'Ms Potts has left instructions for me to contact her once you are awake.'

'What time is it?' Tony mashes his face into his pillow.

'The time is seven forty five,' Jarvis responds.

It's for the best that Pete isn't here to hear Tony's response to that news.

'Tony?' Pepper's voice sounds out across his room.

'Pep!' Tony sits up and rubs a hand over his face. 'Congratulations, you're an auntie!'

'So I've heard,' Pepper beams at him when he finally picks up a tablet from beside the bed so they can see each other. 'Congratulations, Tony.'

Tony smiles at her,

'You have time to come out here and meet him?'

'Of course I have time,' she scoffs at him. 'Tony, you know you're going to have to be careful how you release this to the media.'

'I know how to handle the media,' Tony reminds her.

There's a moment of silence as she smiles at him,

'How are you, Tony?'

'I'm fine.'

'Tony,' she scolds.

'I'm just thinking about what happens when the second baby is born,' Tony admits. 'If he actually looks like Steve I guess I just hope no one jumps to the right conclusion.'

'Why would he look like Steve?' Pepper just looks confused.

'Because AIM are crazy people who made a kid from me and Cap,' Tony tells her.

'You aren't going to tell him,' she doesn't look impressed.

'He doesn't need to know,' Tony shrugs.

'Tony,' she shakes her head, 'that just isn't fair! On either of them!'

'I'm not going to keep them apart,' Tony points out. 'They'll see each other all the time.'

'No,' she disagrees, 'why would you even want to keep this from him?'

'Not forever!' Tony tries reassuring her. 'Cap's still a little... unsettled in this century. If I tell him the kid is his then he'll have this responsibility that he can't walk away from. He isn't ready for this bullshit, Pep.'

'You think this is better for Steve?' she hisses at him.

'I do,' he nods. 'Because it is. He's just starting to find things that he enjoys; I can't rip that from him and hand him a baby.'

'Does he not like kids?' Pepper's still not looking happy.

'He does,' he tells her, 'doesn't mean he wants one with me, though. And I will tell him. Definitely. Before Jim's sixth birthday or Jarvis'll do it for me and the fall out from that would be much worse.'

'Six years?' she shakes her head.

'Look,' he interrupts her with the tone she knows he means he's actually being serious, 'what does it matter? It's just DNA. If he wants to be in the kid's life, he will be, if he wants to be responsible for helping look after him and protect him, he can. What does it matter if I don't tell him? If he doesn't want anything to do with him then it's for the best that he doesn't feel obliged.'

Pepper just looks sad now.

'If he sticks around,' Tony continues after a moment, 'then they'll both know it was because he wanted to.'

'But...'

'There's no downside,' Tony interrupts. 'Either Cap gets it and everything is fine or he's angry, but he'll be angry with me, not with Jim. If the only fall out is Cap being furious with me,' he shrugs, 'then I'm definitely doing the right thing.'

'I'm not happy with this,' Pepper tells him.

'You don't have to be,' Tony wrinkles his nose. 'Just don't tell Cap.'

'Who else knows?' she sighs.

'Bruce and Jarvis.'

'Oh, like either of them would argue with you...' she mutters. She forgets how sensitive the mics are in StarkTabs.

'Women make this choice all the time,' Tony tells her. 'I'm trusting you not to tell him.'

Blatant manipulation on his part.

'I won't tell him,' Pepper finally agrees, 'but we're going to talk about this again when I get there.'

'The deadline is his sixth birthday,' Tony reminds her, 'I can tell Cap before that if I think it's a good time.'

'Captain Rogers is about to enter hearing range,' Jarvis reports.

'I'll speak to you later, Pep.'

'Steve's there at this time in the morning? Did you sleep with him?' Pepper's eyes have widened.

There's a choked noise from the hallway.

'Yes, we had crazy monkey sex,' Tony tells her.

'Gah...' Steve has apparently forgotten how to speak.

'Alright,' Pepper seems to relax, 'but why is he there?'

'He's making breakfast because he's,' Tony gestures at Steve and grimaces, 'wholesome.'

'You make that sound like an insult,' Steve remembers how to speak. 'Good morning, Ms Potts.'

'Good morning, Captain,' she replies with a smile. There's no hint of what he's told her in her tone; she's his favourite. 'I'll call you later, Tony.'

'No breakfast in bed?' Tony dumps his tablet and gets up.

'I wasn't even sure you were awake,' Steve replies and glances away as Tony stretches his arms over his head.

'I'd always welcome a wake up call from you,' Tony smirks at him.

'I'll remember you said that the next time I fancy company on my morning jog,' Steve shoots back as he leads the way back down the hall.

'Jogging isn't my thing,' Tony replies easily, 'but I'm sure I can think of an activity we could do together that'll work up a sweat.'

Steve laughs; a marked improvement over a few weeks ago when he would have flinched and glared angrily.

'Dada!' they're interrupted as Pete jumps down from his seat at the bar and runs to Tony.

'You don't have a table,' Steve informs him, 'so we ate at the bar.'

'Huh,' Tony scoops up his son and then glances around as if he's expecting to find a table. 'Right. I've not needed one. Good morning, Pete.'

'Dada,' Pete wraps his arms around his neck.

'What's the verdict, kiddo? Does Cap know his way around a pancake?'

'I know my way around a coffee machine,' Steve replies and hands over a steaming mug.

'You are my favourite,' Tony informs him as he inhales the vapours.

'There were blueberries,' Pete tells him matter-of-factly.

'Yeah? Well, Cap's an overachiever,' Tony tells him and hops up onto one of the bar stools. 'Feed me.'

'Sure, Tony,' Steve just looks amused as the turns back to his frying pan.

'You still hungry, squirt?' he asks the boy as he traces a finger over the glowing outline of the arc reactor through his shirt.

'Nuh, I had three,' Pete holds up three fingers to demonstrate.

'Sir,' Jarvis calls, 'three shipments have arrived for you; one of clothing, one of toys and another of refined iridium.'

'Don't get those muddled up,' Tony smirks.

'I shall endeavour not to, sir,' Jarvis snarks. 'The toys are being loaded onto the lift.'

'Have you two been introduced?' Tony waves a hand vaguely. 'Pete, the voice without a face is Jarvis; he's my best friend and he looks after us, ok?'

'Hullo Jarvis,' Pete says carefully.

'Hello, Master Peter,' Jarvis replies gently.

'Here,' Steve puts a stack of pancakes in front of Tony and pours syrup over the lot, 'I'll take Pete and you eat those.'

'I love you,' Tony informs him as he relinquishes his son and attacks his breakfast.

'That's good to know,' Steve sounds a little strange but Tony's too busy right now to wonder about it.

'You got him dressed alright?' Tony asks as he swallows down some more coffee. He nods vaguely to where his son is clearly not dressed in the pyjamas Tony put him to bed in.

'I may have dared to enter a 24 hour mall on my morning run,' Steve admits, 'and they had some clothes in his size. You don't mind, do you?'

Tony just scoffs,

'Oh, so much. The liberties you've taken... Make me breakfast for the rest of the week or I'll never forgive you.'

Steve laughs,

'Well, I can't have that.'

'Delivery on the lift for you, sir,' Jarvis announces.

'Get that for me?' Tony asks, waving vaguely at the lift doors as they open. 'It's all stuff for Pete.'

'All of it?' Pete sounds awed.

'Sure thing,' Tony agrees.

He may have gotten a little carried away, but it's not like the kid doesn't deserve it.

He swallows down the last of his pancakes and refills his coffee before venturing over to help Steve with the boxes. Dumping them all in the middle of the floor means they can see what's arrived as well as freeing up the lift.

'Wow,' Steve murmurs and glances at him.

Getting one of each of the Avengers action figures was necessary though, and he couldn't help the cuddly shield. The three tubs of Lego technic just make sense and so do the large number of toy cars, the road mat to go with them and the multilevel car park and garage. As for the paints and crayons, what kid doesn't like that shit? And the three remote controlled cars were just too good not to get, though, actually, if he just adjusts the gearing... But not right now. The bicycle is, admittedly, not the most practical toy at the top of a skyscraper, but the penthouse is pretty open plan and he doesn't have carpets.

Pete is quickly enamoured with the little toy cars and sends them shooting off in all directions across the polished floor. Tony sits cross legged next to him as he puts stabilisers onto the shiny red bike and Steve shakes his head before starting to remove various toys from their packaging.

'There isn't a puppy in here, is there?' Steve asks quietly.

'No,' Tony knows he looks baffled.

'There's every other present a little boy could want,' Steve replies with a shake of his head.

'No pets,' Tony looks back down. 'Perfect, that's the first thing he can resent me for.'

'Don't be absurd,' Steve tells him. 'He'll just make himself a robot dog and everything will be fine.'

Tony laughs quietly,

'If it turns out like Dummy that's not much of an improvement, but it wouldn't shed on everything, I suppose.'

Peter finally flings the last of the cars across the floor and scrambles off after them.

'I think this may be yours?' Steve asks a few minutes later, holding up a StarkTab.

'Why would I want another of my own tablets?' Tony smiles. 'It's Peter's. Turn it on, will you? Jarvis can configure it from there.'

'He's three,' Steve objects, but does as he's told.

'And a half!' Pete adds from across the room as he wiggles his way under the couch to reach one of his cars.

'Three and a half,' Tony nods, 'get it right, Cap.'

'Sorry, Pete,' Steve shakes his head with a laugh. 'Tony, is this a gun?'

'A nerf gun,' Tony agrees. 'There's a bow and arrow version around here somewhere too,' he grabs it from Steve and shoots his son who shrieks with laughter and runs around dodging.

'This is so wrong,' Steve is grinning.

'Probably,' Tony agrees as he runs out of ammo. 'Kid, bring me all those darts so I can reload.'

'So very wrong,' they watch Pete scoop up all the nerf darts and carry them to his dad.

'Good job,' Tony tells him as he reloads. Pete beams and then runs to duck behind a box of paints as Tony takes aim. 'That's cheating Pete; Starks don't cheat.'

'Don't listen to him,' Steve retorts, 'your Dada is a massive cheat, he just talks his way out of it after.'

'That's slander Cap,' Tony grins and leans to the side to fire off a shot. 'I dare you to prove it in court.'

'I'm willing to take a settlement,' Steve grins back. 'A couple of million should do.'

'Done deal,' Tony tells him, and then shoots him in the shoulder.

Chapter Text

Before Steve realises it he's spent all morning playing with Tony and Pete, and he only realises then because Jarvis makes an unsubtle hint to Tony about it being lunchtime.

Tony nods,

'Right. What food do we have up here?'

'I had the cupboards stocked during the night, sir.'

'Great!' Tony grins and claps his hands together. 'I'm going to put on clothes that aren't sleep pants, when I get back I'll make sandwiches, ok kiddo?'

'Ok,' Pete just smiles at his dada adoringly.

'Cap, would you put some more coffee on and find some fruit to go with lunch?' Tony starts backing out of the room. 'And milk for Pete. And yourself. Probably.'

'I'll have coffee,' Steve rolls his eyes.

Tony just winks and disappears into his bedroom.

'Jarvis,' Steve turns to root through the kitchen as Pete turns his attention to the entire zoo of plastic animals Tony bought, 'shouldn't there be people working on Pete's room?'

'No structural modifications were required to the second guest room,' Jarvis tells him. 'There are apples in the cupboard to your right. The room has been painted and work is progressing elsewhere on the manufacture of the bedroom furniture. New carpet will be installed tomorrow and the furniture will be installed on the day after that.'

'Wow,' Steve laughs. 'Being Tony Stark really is something, huh?'

It's quiet for a moment and then Jarvis speaks again,

'Sir is worried he will not be good at this; his own upbringing was far from stellar.'

Steve stops what he's doing.

'I will, of course, help him in any way I can,' the AI continues, 'but may I make a request of you, Captain?'

'Of course,' Steve squares his shoulders.

'Be patient with him,' Jarvis pauses. 'Sir simultaneously knows how important family is and doubts its necessity.'

'I'll help out as often as he'll let me,' Steve scowls. 'What do you mean he doubts...?'

'Sir knows, only too well, how being of the same blood does not equate to a loving family,' Jarvis replies quickly.

'I don't underst...'

'The cupboard above and the left of you for plates, Captain,' Jarvis interrupts.

'Is this as far as you've got?' Tony strides into the room. He's now dressed in jeans and a SI t-shirt and still manages to look like he should be on the front of a magazine. 'Cap?'

'You're advertising yourself,' Steve tells him.

Dear God. One day; please just let me have one day where I do not say something stupid to Tony Stark. Amen.

'That sounds... dirty,' Tony looks bemused.

'Umm.'

'It brings out the glow of the arc reactor,' Tony tells him pompously and then laughs as he turns to the fridge.

Get a grip, Rogers.

He puts three plates at Tony's side and pours their coffees. Pete has wiggled his way into one of bar stools by the time Steve turns around, which makes him feel terrible.

'You need a real table, Tony,' Steve tells him as he helps Pete move his chair closer to the bar.

'Yeah,' Tony glances over his shoulder to where his son is waiting for food.

At least he's on the side away from where all the alcohol is stored.

'Jarvis,' Tony turns back to his sandwiches, 'search for a table that matches the decor. Run it past Pepper and then get it delivered. By tonight if you can.'

'Of course, sir,' Jarvis replies.

'Hah!' Tony turns around looking triumphant. 'And you thought I couldn't cook.'

'You made a sandwich,' Steve points out as he pours a cup of milk.

'I made three sandwiches,' Tony pouts as he puts the plates on the bar and hops onto the seat beside Steve and opposite his son. 'With three ingredients.'

'I'm very impressed,' Steve grins.

'I'm very impressive,' Tony replies. 'You want me to cut up your apple, kiddo?'

Pete hands the apple over wordlessly.

Which is for the best as he's just crammed an enormous amount of sandwich into his mouth.

'Hungry, huh?' Tony just smiles at him as he cuts the apple into slices. 'There you go.'

Steve's heart may have melted.

The first slice of apple disappears before Pete has even swallowed his entire mouthful of sandwich.

'Try not to choke, bud,' Tony advises.

'This is pretty good, Tony,' Steve adds.

'No need to sounds so fuuu...' Tony glances at his son, 'unky...'

'Funky,' Steve represses a smile.

'Yes,' Tony grins back, 'no need to sound so funky surprised.'

'That must be a modern saying,' Steve turns back to his lunch.

'Shut up,'

By the time he's finished eating Pete's eyelids are starting to droop.

'Nap time, buddy,' Tony says quietly and scoops his son off of his stool.

'Dada,' Pete slumps against Tony's chest.

'Yeah, baby boy, I'm here,' Tony murmurs quietly as he walks off towards his bedroom.

Steve watches him leave and then tidies up the remains of their lunch. After that he starts picking up Pete's toys which are pretty literally covering the entire penthouse floor.

'God you're so domestic,' Tony reappears and slumps onto the sofa. 'I'm totally keeping you.'

'You're an amazing father, Tony,' Steve smiles at him and abandons the tidy up job.

'Hey, I'm just aiming to be better than Howard,' Tony shrugs.

Steve has learnt not to comment to Tony about Howard.

'How long do kids even nap for?' Tony asks.

'I'm afraid I have no idea,' Steve smiles at him.

'I have found research suggesting forty five minutes should be adequate,' Jarvis tells him.

'Great,' Tony pulls out a tablet. 'Bring up the blueprints for the repulsors for the Quinjet.'

'Of course, sir,' Jarvis sounds strangely relieved.

Steve gazes at Tony through the slowly rotating hologram for a few moments,

'I'll leave you to it.'

Tony looks up in surprise,

'You're leaving?'

'You have work to do,' Steve shrugs, 'and I've already completely invaded your morning.'

'I don't mind,' Tony blinks at him. 'And Pete likes you.'

How messed up is it that he wishes this little domestic scene they've acted out were real?

'I had a lot of fun,' Steve smiles, 'but we both have things to do.' He makes himself walk to the lift, 'I'll see you around?'

'I'm getting food sent to the communal floor for dinner,' Tony tells him. 'I need to introduce Pete to the others. You'll be there?'

'Of course,' Steve can't fight the grin. 'Just tell me when.'

Tony nods and watches as he gets onto the lift,

'Thanks,' he calls just before the door would have closed. 'For this morning. Thanks, Cap.'

'You're welcome.'

Chapter Text

Tony loses himself in his work for a time before jolting back to himself,

'Jarvis, what's the time?'

'Peter has been asleep for an hour and five minutes,' Jarvis tells him promptly. 'I have been monitoring his REM cycle and believe it would be best to wake him in ten minutes or so, if he does not wake on his own.'

'Right,' Tony relaxes back into his chair, 'thanks, Jay.'

'Of course, sir.'

'I still have a lot of work to do,' Tony looks down at the tweaks he's been making. 'You think I can take him to the workshop, let him play with Dummy and You?'

'I believe they would be delighted,' Jarvis also sounds pleased.

'Don't think being a dad is going to keep me out of the workshop,' Tony reassures him with a grin. 'I'm going to be a better father than Howard, but I can't give up working.'

'I shall prepare the workshop for your arrival, sir,' Jarvis replies as Tony gets up to wake his son.

He pauses at the door to his bedroom to gaze at the boy for a moment,

'He's gorgeous, isn't he J,' Tony smiles.

'You are fishing for compliments, sir,' Jarvis replies.

Tony laughs quietly,

'Fair enough.'

Pete wakes with a start as Tony brushes his hand through the boy's hair,

'Shhh, sorry Pete, it's just me.'

'Dada,' he wraps his arms around Tony's neck.

'Yeah, come on baby,' Tony stands up. 'I have to get some work done downstairs so...'

'I want to stay with you!' Pete declares and tightens his grip.

'Hey,' Tony just hugs him back, 'that's fine; you're coming with me. You can play in my workshop while I'm working. We'll take your toys with us, ok?'

Pete is silent for a moment,

'You aren't going away?'

'No,' Tony tells him emphatically as he carries him to the mess that is the main room of the penthouse.

Pete settles against his chest, though his hand is fisted in the material of Tony's t-shirt.

'Shall we take your cars or your zoo animals with us?' Tony asks, noting the Steve seems to have managed to split those two into separate boxes.

'Animals,' Pete declares.

'Ok,' Tony grabs that box and heads to the lift. 'You can play with those, and with the bots, and I can try to fix what those idiots at SHIELD managed to do by guessing their way towards my tech.'

Dummy perks up as soon as they set foot inside the workshop and chirps happily, You appears to be monitoring the incubator in the corner but also turns to greet them.

'Hello boys,' Tony grins, 'Dada's home. This is Pete, you saw him yesterday but he was sleeping then, you'll all play nice now, won't you. Pete,' he gestures to the bots, 'this is Dummy and You; they're robots.'

He takes Pete over to the sofa in the corner and helps him arrange his animals on the floor,

'I'm going to be just over there,' Tony waves vaguely. 'You need anything you just shout, ok?'

Dummy has rolled over slowly and peers over Tony's shoulder where he's kneeling down. Pete gazes at the bot and then offers him the plastic elephant.

'Ok,' Tony smiles as he moves away.

Dummy takes the elephant gently and the waves it around before balancing it, badly, on the arm of the sofa. It takes him five attempts before it stays put and Pete is giggling happily when he does.

'Good boy,' Tony smiles at his bot and then engrosses himself in his work.

*          *          *

Steve feels strangely lonely after he leaves the penthouse. It's incredible how much he already adores that little boy and his regard for Tony has reached new heights after seeing him as a father.

'Jarvis,' Steve calls out as he gathers up some paper to start drafting his report of the mission, 'can you order me a camera? There should be photos of this time and I'm not sure Tony will remember to take any.'

'I feel I should remind you, Captain, that your StarkPhone is fully capable of taking photographs,' Jarvis replies.

'Oh, of course,' Steve collects it from where he'd left it with his bike keys. 'I guess I'll learn how to use that function then.'

'I can assist you, should you require it,' Jarvis adds.

'Thank you,' Steve smiles as he turns on the phone

His report goes forgotten.

Chapter Text

'Sir, Ms Potts has arrived at the tower,' Jarvis pulls Tony out of his work. 'It is also now half an hour before the time you scheduled for dinner.'

'She's going to yell at me, isn't she?' Tony sighs and saves his work.

He turns to find his son and his two bots playing with some paper and pencils.

'I suspected Captain Rogers would not mind if Peter used some of his paper,' Jarvis says by way of explanation.

Tony just nods,

'You need a drink or anything, kiddo?'

Pete looks up and beams at him. He runs over clutching the paper and thrusts it at his father.

'What's this?' Tony smoothes it out.

'Dada,' Pete keeps smiling at him, 'an' me an' Dummy an' You an' Jarvus.'

'And Jarvis,' Tony corrects even as he grins.

Sure enough there's a figure with a blue chest, a smaller figure, two deformed sticks in different colours and a squiggle that runs above their heads.

'We'll stick it up somewhere,' Tony tells him. 'Somewhere it won't accidentally catch fire.'

'I suggest the penthouse, sir. I shall take a scan and we can keep a digital copy down here,' there's a flicker in the corner and then a hologram of the picture activates.

'Great,' Tony agrees. 'Ok, bud, we need to get back upstairs so we can have dinner.'

'Ok,' Pete holds up his arms expectantly and isn't disappointed. The plastic zoo animals have all miraculously ended up back in their box so Tony picks that up too as they leave.

'Be good,' he calls out as the doors to the lift close.

'Now you get to meet all of Dada's team mates,' Tony tells him as they ride up. 'We'll put these back in the penthouse and then we'll go down to the communal floor for food.'

The communal floor is abuzz with suppressed curiosity when they arrive. Pete curls close against Tony’s chest as the other Avengers all turn to gaze at them.

'Pete,' Tony starts gesturing to his team mates, 'you remember Bruce? And that's Clint and Natasha. Where's Cap?'

'Laying the table,' Natasha tells him as she walks closer. 'Hello, little one.'

'Hello,' Pete gazes at her.

She smiles. Tony debates complaining that she wasn't this nice when she met him.

'Hey kid,' Clint comes to stand beside Natasha. 'How's being the first born son of an over generous billionaire treating you?'

Pete just stares at him.

'Clint is an idiot,' Tony tells him.

'Rude,' Clint pouts.

'I want to stay with you,' Pete tucks himself closer to Tony.

'You are staying with me,' Tony reassures him. 'They're just going to be here too.'

'I got you a present,' Clint declares.

'Oh?' Tony lets Clint tug him towards the sitting area.

'He'll like building shit, right?' Clint grins.

'Language,' Steve appears from the dining area and sounds like he may have said that word quite a few times today.

'Cap,' Pete offers up his first beaming smile that isn't aimed at Tony.

Tony watches Steve melt into a puddle of patriotic goo.

'Oh, I see how it is,' Clint just grins. 'There's competition to be the favourite uncle!' He wields a large, badly wrapped, box in Tony's direction, 'for you, Pete!'

'Thank you, Clint,' Steve says, for Pete, as he comes and sits beside Tony to help Pete rip off the paper.

It's a massive box of Duplo.

'Why didn't I think of building blocks?' Tony asks as Pete examines his new toy with all the seriousness a three and a half year old can muster.

Clint sits himself on the floor and promptly builds a tower.

'I'm so impressed by you right now,' Natasha deadpans.

Clint just grins up at her and then stares as Pete slips down onto the floor and builds himself a small car.

'Oookaaay...' Clint glances back at his pitiful tower.

Tony grins,

'Genius, remember?'

'That's impressive,' Bruce sits beside Natasha.

Clint huffs and starts building something that looks like it's probably a plane. This offering does at least entertain Pete when Clint starts waving it around and making engine noises.

'Planes go in hangers,' Pete tells the archer with a quick glance at Tony.

'Let's build it one,' Clint agrees and they set to work.

Tony relaxes back against the sofa and watches as Steve takes a photo with his phone.

'Productive afternoon?' he asks as his other team mates become more involved with the building project.

'Jarvis taught me to take photos and videos,' Steve blushes as he gestures with his phone. 'And showed me how to save them to the server.'

'You know Jarvis monitors everything, right?' Tony looks at him in amusement. 'And I perfected my coloured 3D holograms?'

'That's awesome and horrifyingly creepy,' Clint adds from the floor.

'You can't put a 3D hologram on the wall,' Steve tells him stubbornly.

'Jarvis can form a 2D image from them,' Tony grins.

'Stop teasing him, Tony,' Bruce just smiles. 'Jarvis can't get a 3D image from anywhere at anytime.'

'No,' Tony agrees and then leans against Steve so he can see his phone, 'let's see then?'

God super soldiers run warm!

Tony presses himself against Steve's side as the blond seems to freeze,

'Come on,' Tony gestures to where Steve's loosely holding his phone.

'Right,' Steve holds where they can both see and awkwardly operates it with one hand.

'Do you want me to move?' Tony looks at him closely.

'It's fine,' Steve gives him a tight smile and shifts the arm Tony had been leaning on to the top of the sofa. He then blushes as Tony just tucks himself under his arm.

'Alright then,' Tony opts to ignore him and just steal his phone. 'They're good,' he approves as he flicks through the couple of shots Steve has taken before handing the phone back.

'Thanks,' Steve fidgets.

'Sir, your food has arrived and is approaching on the lift,' Jarvis informs him.

'Right, thanks Jay,' Tony gets up. 'Come on, kiddo, to the table.'

'I'll get it,' Steve heads to the lift, followed by Bruce.

'Is Pepper joining us?' Natasha asks as Tony puts Pete onto the chair that someone, probably Steve, has put a booster seat on.

'Doubt it,' Tony sits down and pours himself a glass of wine. 'She's only just got here and she always has things to do when she arrives. I'll see her later.'

Also he and Pepper both know that they're going to have an argument and they prefer to do that in private.

'I love it when it's your turn to cook,' Clint grins as Steve and Bruce carry in covered serving plates on trays.

'Indian?' Natasha sniffs.

'Yeah,' Tony confirms, 'with enough rice and naan to keep even Cap happy.'

'I love Indian,' Clint declares and homes in on the hottest of the available dishes.

'Pass the Korma,' Tony beckons and serves his son once Bruce has put the dish in front of him.

'I still think it's cheating,' Steve smiles.

'Starks don't cheat,' Pete informs him gravely.

Tony grins widely as Clint chokes on his mouthful,

'That's right, this isn't cheating. It's actually a public service. Philanthropist, remember?'

Steve just laughs.

Chapter Text

Dinner is a more restrained affair than is usual when they all sit down together, but it's still clearly exciting enough to exhaust Pete.

After finishing eating they return to the sitting area to play with the Duplo, but after half an hour Pete clambers his way into his father's lap.

'You tired?' Tony holds his scotch out to Steve so it doesn't get spilt. After the boy his settled against his chest he reclaims his glass.

'That's fucking adorable.'

'Clint! Language!' Steve scolds quietly.

'I'm telling you,' Clint shakes his head, 'release that image to the press and they won't have a bad thing to say about us all week.'

'Speaking of...' Steve mutters and fumbles to take a photo with his phone. He then gazes at it adoringly so Tony can be pretty sure his tech is proving itself.

'I am still drinking scotch,' Tony points out.

'You're a very long way from drunk,' Steve is looking at Pete adoringly.

'I wish I could fall asleep that quick,' Bruce smiles.

'He's asleep?' Tony glances down. 'Jay, what time is it?'

'It is quarter to seven, sir.'

'How much money have you spent on watches that you never look at?' Natasha shakes her head.

'Hah, don't answer that, Jay,' Tony swallows the last of his scotch. 'I'm going to put squirt to bed and see Pepper. I'll see you freeloaders around.'

'I'll see you tomorrow for breakfast?' Steve cuts in as Tony stands, being careful not to jolt his son.

Oh, right, he made Steve agree to make him breakfast all week.

'Sure,' he looks over to where Steve is giving him a look he can't decipher, 'sounds like a plan.'

'Good night, Tony,' Bruce calls.

Tony smiles and offers a sloppy salute to the group.

'Is Pepper in her room?' he asks as the lift starts moving up.

'Yes, sir.'

'Tell her I'm on the way up and that Pete's sleeping.'

'She is moving to greet your arrival,' Jarvis tells him.

The doors slide open and whatever Pepper may have been planning to say to him instead comes out as,

'Aww...'

Tony grins,

'Pepper, this is Peter Jarvis.'

'Oh, Tony,' she steps closer and touches a gentle hand to Pete's head, 'he's adorable.'

'Naturally,' Tony smirks, but feels his expression gentle as he looks at his son.

If they had only managed to get it to work between them...

'Jarvis showed me the picture he drew,' Pepper smiles, 'he's quite pleased with it.'

'Ah, leave it to my son to win over the most advanced AI in the world with a pencil drawing.'

'I stuck it to the fridge, it seemed appropriately cliché.'

Tony glances up to look and then notices the rest of the penthouse,

'Did you tidy up?'

There is a line of colourful boxes against the wall by the lift that weren't there before.

'Old habits,' she smiles at him. 'I know you, Tony.'

'You knew I'd buy several thousand dollars worth of toys and have nowhere to store them?'

'Yes,' she replies simply. 'I also had all of the clothes you bought stored in the third guest room for now and adjusted your schedule to skip the meeting in DC tomorrow.'

'That was tomorrow?' Tony wanders over to the wall to look at the boxes. 'Why am I not going to DC? I could have made it to DC. I have a jet.'

'And leave your son with someone?' Pepper does that thing where she's reminding him that neither of them are stupid. 'Or take him with you?'

'Good point,' Tony waves a hand. 'Make it a conference call; I'll sit in if I can and record it if I can't.'

'Alright,' Pepper agrees.

There's a pause where Pepper just smiles at him.

'I'll put him to bed,' Tony gestures to his room. 'Back in a few.'

It's easier than Tony ever would have guessed to brush the teeth of a nearly unresponsive three and a half year old and then wrestle him into a diaper and pyjamas. He could go straight back to Pepper, but he lingers to watch his son sleep.

'Making Ms Potts wait is unlikely to improve her mood,' Jarvis reminds him quietly.

'True,' Tony takes a breath and heads back out, 'alert me if he stirs, Jay.'

'Of course, sir.'

'You want a drink?' he calls to Pepper as he arrives back in the main room.

'No, thank you,' she sighs. 'Tony, let's just get to this; you need to tell Steve.'

'Why?' Tony rolls his eyes and pours a scotch. 'Really, Pep, what will he gain by knowing?'

'How would you feel if your positions were reversed? If you had a child that no one told you about?' Pepper scowls at him.

'Statistically that is quite likely,' Tony points out. 'The mother get's to make the choice if she doesn't want the father involved.'

'You think Steve wouldn't be a good father?'

'I think Steve has enough to be worrying about.'

There's a pause where Pepper looks sad and angry at the same time.

'Pep, it's not like we slept together and accidentally produced a baby. This isn't some unfortunate consequence that we both knew might happen; our DNA was stolen. Are you telling me you think it's ok to make a baby from someone and then expect them to deal with it? It isn't fair.'

'And you?' Pepper asks. 'You think it's fair to you?'

'I already have Pete,' Tony shrugs, 'another isn't Earth shattering. And I have money, and you, Rhodes and Jarvis.'

'You're dodging the question,' Pepper glares.

'Of course it's not fair,' Tony snaps, 'but I can deal with it. I am dealing with it.'

'Tony,' Pepper steps closer as he takes a large swallow of his scotch. 'Tony, you have to tell him.'

'Pep...'

'Tony, this is Steve we're talking about.'

'Yeah,' Tony nods, 'Steve; the guy raised to believe the only way to have a family is a man and a woman who love each other and are married. He's from the forties, Pep.'

'You know he'd 'do right' by Jim.'

'I don't want him to feel that he has to,' Tony gestures violently without spilling a drop of scotch. 'That's the point, Pep!'

'No,' Pepper scowls, 'Tony...'

'He's a damn virgin, Pepper!' Tony interrupts. 'He's been waiting for the perfect girl to come along and they'd get married and then have sex and then have All American babies and a dog or whatever. He wants that, Pepper. I can't take that from him.'

'This wasn't your fault, Tony.'

'No,' Tony agrees, 'but what happens now will be. Seriously, Pep, what would happen? Split custody? Jim spends the weeks in the penthouse and the weekends with Steve?'

'Well, you'd have to work it out between you.'

'He doesn't want this, Pepper.'

'You wouldn't have wanted this either, if I'd asked you a couple of days ago.'

'I can do this though,' Tony tells her, 'I have something of a support structure...'

'Not that you make that easy...' Pepper interrupts to complain.

'Steve doesn't know anyone outside of us and SHIELD.'

'Yes,' Pepper points at him, 'he lost everyone he knew and now you're going to keep his son from him.'

'I'm not going to keep them apart!' Tony slumps against the bar.

'You know it's not the same.'

'Really?' Tony grumbles. 'Why do people think that you care for someone more if you're related?'

'Tony, you aren't Howard, and Steve isn't Maria.'

Tony can't argue with that.

'Ok,' Pepper sighs, and pours herself some wine and tops off his scotch, 'I'll give you time to think about it.'

'I will,' Tony agrees quietly and allows himself to be towed to the sofa. Pepper curls herself against his side.

Tony has plenty enough brain power to be constantly over thinking this situation.

Chapter Text

It's five to seven in the morning when Steve arrives in the communal kitchen freshly showered after his run.

He makes himself some toast and pours some orange juice before sitting down at the table to read the newspaper that he picked up while he was out.

The sound of the lift opening again and the coffee machine starting is something of a surprise.

'Good morning, Tony,' he greets the other man in confusion.

There's no response initially; Tony is operating on autopilot as he continues to work on something on his tablet. He drinks some of his coffee and finally looks up and around.

'Cap?' he looks around again. 'Jarvis, why am I not in the penthouse?'

'Your desire for caffeine did not require you to go to the penthouse.'

Tony pulls a face and then shrugs,

'Fine, what time is it?'

'Three minutes past seven.'

'Have you been awake all night?' Steve blurts.

'Hmm?' Tony had turned back to his tablet but looks up again now. 'Yeah.'

'But what about Pete?'

Tony just stares at him.

'Won't you be tired?' Steve prompts.

Tony barks out a sudden laugh,

'I do this pretty regularly, sugar.'

Does Tony realise he saves all his sweetest nicknames for Steve?

'Well, ok,' Steve's flustered look is hidden when Tony just looks back down at his work. 'When do you want breakfast?'

'Whenever Pete wakes up,' Tony replies. 'Jarvis, bump it up half a percent and run the numbers again.'

'Additional strain to outer plating that would become disastrous at high altitudes,' Jarvis deadpans.

'Yeah, sure,' Tony nods, 'so increase outer plating thickness by a millimetre.'

'Additional weight will increase thrust requirements by...'

'Jay, you're such a ray of fucking sunshine.'

'Will Ms Potts be joining us for breakfast?' Steve asks.

'Probably,' Tony agrees as he flicks his fingers a few times. 'Enlarge, Jarvis,' a hologram appears between them which hopefully makes more sense to Tony than it does to Steve.

'Does she like waffles?'

'Everyone likes waffles,' Tony scoffs.

'Alright then' Steve smiles.

'Are you eating?' Tony suddenly flicks his entire attention to Steve.

'Yes?' Steve agrees.

'So waffles will be your,' Tony grins, 'second breakfast?'

'I get that reference,' Steve manages not to stick out his tongue. 'Clint showed me that movie and I'm much too tall to be a hobbit.'

'Hah,' Tony's still grinning at him, 'guess you are.'

Steve just smiles and turns back to his food.

The light show hovering over the table is a little distracting.

'What are you working on?' Steve asks as Tony continues to flick things around over his plate.

'Escape pod,' Tony mutters and moves something over.

'To escape what?'

'The tower.'

Steve waits but Tony doesn't elaborate.

'Sir, Peter is beginning to stir.'

'Right...' Tony replies distractedly and there's the smallest of pauses before his head snaps up, 'Right! Yes, ok.'

Steve smiles affectionately,

'I'll come up with you.'

'Yeah,' Tony's already heading for the lift. 'Save that, Jay.'

The lift starts upwards without them saying anything and Tony runs a hand through his hair. At the penthouse he's off and down the corridor towards his bedroom almost before the doors have opened all the way.

Steve takes in the colourful boxes along the way and moves to the kitchen.

'Oh,' that wasn't polite, 'sorry, good morning Ms Potts. I was going to make waffles?'

Pepper smiles at him across her tablet where she's sitting at a new round dining table,

'Call me Pepper,' she shifts her gown around her shoulders.

'Sure, ma'am,' Steve agrees and then his eyes widen, 'I mean Pepper.'

'You're sweet,' Pepper smiles at him.

'So I've been told,' Steve shakes his head and moves to the fridge, he smiles at the drawing stuck to the door. 'Would you like another coffee?'

'No, thank you,' she's watching him. 'Steve, I just want to thank you for looking out for Tony. He doesn't have many friends he can rely on for this sort of thing.'

'Oh, it's no problem, ma'a... Pepper,' he gets out the ingredients. 'Tony's great and Peter's amazing. I'm a little jealous really.'

'Jealous,' Pepper smiles, 'you'd like a family?'

'Yes, ma'am,' he smiles back before shrugging helplessly, 'sorry, Pepper. It's... It just seems nice, you know?'

'I do,' she's watching him like Natasha watches a target. Is it a woman thing?

'Look who's here Pete,' Tony reappears with his son freshly dressed and perched on his hip.

'Cap,' Pete beams at him.

'Hey, Pete,' Steve returns his smile.

'Pete, this is Auntie Pepper,' Tony adds. 'She organises your Dada's life.'

'Hello, sweetie,' Pepper stands up and moves to Tony. 'I brought you this,' she offers him a soft blue blanket.

'A blanky?' Tony cocks his head. 'I didn't think of that.'

Pete takes the blanket and pulls it to his chest as he tucks himself closer to Tony.

'It's alright, buddy,' Tony presses his cheek to his son's head.

'I want to stay with you.'

'You are staying with me,' Tony tells him. 'Look, Pepper got us a Pete sized chair! When did this arrive?'

He looks over his new table with four chairs, one of which has a booster cushion.

'Three thirty this morning,' Jarvis reports. 'I supervised the installation.'

'That's why Jarvis is our favourite, Pete,' Tony declares expansively.

'You're too kind, sir,' if Jarvis had eyes he'd clearly be rolling them. Tony just laughs.

'Here, Tony,' Steve waves him to a chair, 'coffee for you and milk for Pete.'

'My saviour,' Tony sits beside his son and pulls his coffee to his chest.

'Is that... an image of the arc reactor on the blanket?' Steve tries to get a better look without pulling it away from Pete.

'Yes,' Pepper sits down on Tony's other side. 'I had it commissioned.'

'Like Dada,' Pete pipes up, looking at his blanket.

'That's right,' Pepper agrees, 'like your Dada.'

'Do things always happen that quickly if you drop the name Stark?' Steve asks.

'Generally,' Tony grins at him.

Steve shakes his head with a smile and turns back to making breakfast.

'Tony, your conference call is at eleven,' Pepper gestures with her tablet. 'We should have the numbers in from California this afternoon and you know the Gala is a week tomorrow?'

'I'm not so interested in California's numbers as Florida's,' Tony replies. 'I want to know why they're behind.'

'Only by a day,' Pepper turns back to her tablet.

So much of this conversation makes no sense to Steve.

'Do I have a new suit for the Gala?'

'Yes, sir,' it's Jarvis that replies. 'It will arrive on the day in question.'

'I'm going to need Cap to come,' Tony adds. 'Get him a suit too.'

'Do I get a say?' Steve glances over his shoulder.

'No,' Tony smirks at him. 'I can't leave Pete with anyone so he'll have to come, so you'll have to be there to look after him.'

'Why do I need a suit if I'll be out the back playing with Pete?'

'Please,' Tony scoffs but doesn't respond further.

'Here,' Steve turns around with a plate stacked high with waffles, 'help yourselves.'

'Thank you, Steve,' Pepper smiles as Tony takes two from the top for his son before taking some for himself.

'Sir, the work force will arrive within the hour to install the carpet in Peter's room.'

Tony nods and takes a large swallow of coffee,

'We'll be out of here by then. Make sure they know they can help themselves to the kitchen.'

They eat in silence for a while.

'Will you be staying long, Pepper?' Steve asks.

'I'll be here for a few weeks,' Pepper tells him. 'Being in the same place as Tony means we can get some things sorted and I was planning to attend the Gala anyway.'

'And of course Pete has nothing to do with it,' Steve teases her nervously.

She laughs,

'He is the perfect excuse,' she admits with a fond glance at the boy. 'I do have a meeting of my own today though, so I'll have to leave you boys to it.'

'Don't do anything I wouldn't do,' Tony advises her.

'I plan to be quite a lot more restrained than that,' she stands up. 'Will that be all, Mister Stark?'

'That'll be all, Ms Potts,' they smiles affectionately at each other and Pepper goes so far as to press a kiss to Tony's hair before she retreats to her room.

'Will you go back to the workshop today, then?' Steve asks.

'I'm on a roll with the escape pod,' Tony nods. 'I have a few things to do this afternoon and that call at eleven. Can you have Pete for me for a few hours? I should really speak to those guys in DC.'

'Of course!' Steve may have been a little eager with that response. 'I could take him to the assault course a few floors down? It's basically a jungle gym...'

Tony laughs,

'Sure.'

'Is that alright, Pete?' Steve smiles. 'You can come and play with me when your Dada has his meeting?'

Pete glances at his father and swallows his mouthful of waffle,

'I like Cap.'

'Great,' Tony smiles at him. 'You know you can always tell Jarvis if you need me and I'll come straight there, ok?'

Pete nods and smiles a little shyly at Steve,

'Ok.'

'Perfect,' Tony claps his hands together. 'Few hours until then, but we still need to get out of here.'

'Pete can pick out some toys and we could go to my floor?' Steve suggests as he gets up to load Tony's dishwasher.

'Alright,' Tony agrees. 'Come on, Pete, let's see which boxes Auntie Pepper put everything in.'

Chapter Text

An hour later Steve is watching in mixture of amusement and faint horror as the two Starks pull apart one of the brand new, very expensive looking, six-wheeled remote controlled cars and gaze at the inner circuitry. That this is happening on his living room rug makes it all the more surreal.

'There,' Tony points as his son looks on in fascination, 'the belt will slip... But if we put this on here...' Tony seems to always know where to find a tool box.

'You fixed it?' Pete asks, wide eyed.

'Nearly,' Tony nods, 'need your help though, squirt, put your finger there to hold the wires back for me?'

The look of concentration on Pete's face is truly adorable.

Steve has to take a photo.

'There,' Tony sits back, 'we fixed it.'

Pete grins.

Tony snaps the plastic chassis back onto the car and turns it on as he hands Pete the remote,

'Have a go.'

The car shoots forwards and crashes into the wall before rebounding, righting itself, and zooming off to run straight into Steve's side table. The table gracefully topples to the floor as the car speeds on.

'Whoops,' Tony's grinning, 'let's turn the speed down,' he adjusts a dial and the car is suddenly under control. 'Sorry, Cap.'

Steve just shakes his head with a laugh,

'I should have expected it as soon as you got out the screwdriver.'

'It's like you know me,' Tony grins up at him.

'Why do I have the ominous feeling that my entire life is going to be defined by a series of badly thought out decisions prompted by Starks?' mentioning Howard even vaguely is something of a risk.

It pays off when Tony just laughs,

'Oh, Cap, you have no idea...'

'Well, it's all worked out so far, I suppose,' Steve picks his table back up.

'You think so?' Tony is smiling but his gaze seems just a little too intense.

'Sure,' Steve feels his own smile falter. 'I don't know how things would have played out if I hadn't become...' he waves towards his body vaguely, 'but I'd like to think I helped.'

'I meant for you personally,' Tony shrugs, 'here and now. You're ok with being in the future?'

Steve keeps his gaze and tries to puzzle out what Tony's actually asking. A remote control car humps his leg before flipping over and moving back across the floor. Tony's biting his lip against laughing at him.

'I blame you for this,' Steve informs him and sits cross legged on his couch and out of the reach of Pete's car.

'That's fair,' Tony grants him.

'I like it here,' Steve tells him as they watch Pete bump the car randomly into everything Steve owns. 'I've made friends now.'

Tony's expression turns serious again,

'I hope so. I'd give you anything you need to make it easier.'

Steve nods,

'I know, Tony. You're a good friend. How I reacted when we first met was...'

'Hey,' Tony climbs off the floor to side beside him, 'you can't take all the blame for that.'

'I can,' Steve shrugs and looks down. 'You were teasing me, but there was no reason for me to think you were being malicious.'

Tony leans against his arm,

'Hey, all's forgiven, sweetheart.'

It's wonderful and terrifying how tactile Tony can be without thinking.

'Alright,' Steve smiles and nudges Tony with his arm, 'thanks, Tony.'

The car crashes into the wall.

'Pete, do you know how to steer your car?' Steve asks.

'Yes,' large brown eyes blink up at him.

'So, you just enjoy crashing into things?' he grins.

'It's meant to,' Pete tells him. 'It flips, see?' The car drives into the sofa and flips itself over to move off again in the opposite direction.

'Right,' Steve smiles and watches as Pete follows after the car, dragging his blanket behind him.

Crashing something just because you can is definitely a Stark thing to do.

Tony's still leaning against his side.

'Would you like a coffee?' Steve stands up.

'Sure,' Tony looks up at him.

Steve winces as the car flips itself over against his ankle.

'Sorry, Cap,' Tony doesn't sound, or look, sorry.

'At least it can't fly,' Steve shrugs as he dodges around Pete and into his kitchen.

'Hear that Pete?' he can hear Tony's grin in his tone. 'Cap has an idea for an upgrade!'

Steve contemplates slamming his head repeatedly into his kitchen cupboard.

'Upgrades can only be worked on and tested in the workshop!' Steve calls back.

He hears a scoff,

'That's where the best toys are anyway.'

'Would it still flip?' Pete has his priorities straight.

'Yeah, we could do that,' Tony sounds distracted. 'Micro-repulsors in each corner on both sides...'

'Tony, can you please not plan to put advanced weapons on a child's toy?' Steve calls.

'My Iron Man suit isn't a weapon,' Tony replies promptly.

'Whatever you say,' Steve sighs

'Sir, Ms Potts is suggesting you prepare yourself for your meeting,' Jarvis announces as Steve re-enters his living room with their drinks.

Tony is still sprawled on Steve's sofa in his clothes from the day before,

'I bet she didn't say it was a suggestion,' Tony takes his coffee from Steve.

'She did not,' Jarvis agrees.

'Fine,' Tony stands up. 'Get someone to bring me a suit; I'll take a shower.'

'Certainly, sir.'

'When they get here with my suit can you bring it through to your room?' Tony asks.

'My room?'

'I'm borrowing your bathroom,' Tony doesn't wait for a response before leaving the room and tugging off his t-shirt as he goes.

'Sure...' Steve shakes his head and refocuses on Pete. 'Hey, buddy, would you like to do some painting?'

'Ok,' Pete drops the remote for the car and follows Steve to his dining table.

'Your Dada bought you a lot of paints,' Steve starts unpacking the blue storage box that Tony carried down with them earlier.

'Dada is the best,' Pete tells him as he kneels up on his chair.

Tony has bought everything from the paints and brushes to a plastic sheet to protect the table. Steve smiles as the first thing Pete does is pull the top off of all the different colours and dip a different finger in each one. He presses each finger to the paper.

'What are you drawing?'

'I'm not,' Pete hasn't quite managed the tone of true exasperation that Tony uses. 'I'm trying the colours.'

'Of course,' Steve smiles and then looks up as the door opens. 'Ms... Pepper?'

'I brought Tony's things,' she walks past carrying a suit bag and a small selection of toiletries. 'Is he still in the shower?'

'Yes ma'am.'

'Good, I won't be a moment,' she disappears down the hall.

Steve hears her first open his bedroom door and then the door to the bathroom. He can hear cascading water and muffled voices and then the door closes and Pepper reappears,

'Sorry for the interruption but he needs to look like Doctor Anthony E Stark, expert in electrical engineering, not Tony the privileged lazy rich boy. His charm can only take him so far,' she smiles.

'His charm takes him a long way,' Steve replies and then contemplates biting off his own tongue.

The look Pepper is giving him is, once again, assessing.

'It does,' she agrees finally. 'The meeting is at eleven; that's forty five minutes from now. Can you please make sure he is on his way to the conference room before quarter to?'

'Yes, ma'am,' Steve fights the urge to salute.

Her smile is sunny,

'You are incredibly sweet.'

There's not much he can say to that so he just smiles back.

She nods and gets back onto the lift.

Steve has noticed that Tony and Pepper never seem to need to wait for the lift; he suspects Jarvis.

Ten minutes of quiet, but messy, finger painting later Tony returns, dripping wet, with a towel around his waist,

'Very good, Pete,' he praises his son, 'where'd Pepper put my stuff?'

'In my bedroom,' Steve refuses to watch the path of a water droplet as it slides down Tony's collarbone and then down across the arc reactor and... beyond.

Luckily Tony doesn't seem to notice as he's found Steve's coffee from earlier. Once he's finished that, he presses a quick kiss to his son's head and heads back to Steve's room.

'Why do you stare at Dada?'

Steve whips his head back around, realising he's been staring at an empty doorway for a couple of minutes,

'I...' big brown eyes that are identical to Tony's gaze up at him. 'I like your Dada,' Steve tells him, 'I just like seeing him around.'

Pete seems to consider that,

'Is that why Dada wants you to watch me? Because he likes me?'

Steve can't be certain, but that sounds like quite an impressive bit of reasoning for a three and a half year old,

'Yes,' Steve tells him. 'He wants to make sure you're always safe.'

'Because he likes me?' he asks quietly.

Steve's heart breaks,

'Of course he likes you,' he voice comes out a little broken, he clears his throat. 'Pete, your Dada adores you, ok?'

'I do what?' Tony's fixing one of the cuffs on his shirt, which isn't buttoned all the way, with a tie hanging loosely around his neck.

How does someone make themselves that gorgeous so effortlessly?

'You like me,' Pete smiles.

Steve sees the tiny flicker of pain that races across Tony's face,

'Peter,' Tony replies seriously and crosses to crouch beside his son, indifferent to the mess the boy's fingers could make of his suit, 'Pete, baby, I love you.'

Chapter Text

'Jarvis,' Pepper pinches the bridge of her nose once the doors to Steve's floor have closed, 'can you check if Rhodey would be available to speak to me?'

'Of course, Ms Potts,' there's a small pause. 'Colonel Rhodes is currently playing a game on his phone; I suspect he is not too busy to talk.'

'Tower defence games again?' she asks as Jarvis puts her through.

'Jarvis, stop ratting me out,' Rhodey laughs. 'Hey, Pepper. How's the mad house?'

'That's what I need to speak to you about,' Pepper smiles at him so he doesn't worry. 'I need you to come home.'

'What's he done?' Rhodey sighs but Pepper can see he's worried.

'He's...' she pauses and gets off the lift at the penthouse as she considers her wording. 'I think there's a situation arising that could be quite... catastrophic.'

'Catastrophic,' Rhodey repeats dryly. 'For us, Tony, the public or SI?'

'Mainly Tony,' she settles onto the sofa.

'What's he done?'

Pepper sighs,

'Ok, you know he has a little boy and another on the way?' she waits for him to nod. 'The first, Peter, is a clone of Tony himself but the second, who he's going to call Jim, is biologically Tony and Steve's.'

'Steve?' Rhodey stares at her, 'Steve from the forties, Captain America Steve?'

'Yes. And Tony hasn't told him because he doesn't want Steve to feel like he's trapped into looking after a child with Tony that neither of them planned for.'

'And you want me to smack him over the back of the head,' Rhodey rolls his eyes and nods.

'Well, yes,' Pepper smiles. 'But I'm sure one of his main reasons, which he hasn't actually admitted to, is that he thinks Steve will want to take the baby.'

'Valid concern,' Rhodey wrinkles his nose, 'but doesn't he have a pack of lawyers that probably need some exercise?'

'It's not a valid concern,' Pepper shakes her head. 'This is where things get messy. I can't be certain, because he always acts a little strangely around me, but I think Steve is crushing on Tony.'

'You're kidding.'

'I might be wrong,' Pepper allows. 'People hero worship Tony all the time and Steve doesn't have that many friends.'

'But if you're right...'

'If I'm right this entire situation could...'

'So you want me to tell Tony to ask out Captain America?' Rhodey sounds a little hysterical.

'No!' Pepper can't stop herself rolling her eyes.

Men...

'What then?'

'I need you to come home and monopolise Tony's time,' Pepper sighs.

'Why?'

'Because if this is a passing crush for Steve then this is a terrible time for it to manifest.'

'Because given half a chance Tony will fall for him, and fall hard, but probably still not tell him the truth,' Rhodey groans.

'If he sleeps with Steve without telling him about Jim then their personal and professional relationships will be irretrievable,' Pepper concludes.

'How does this bullshit always happen to Tony?'

Pepper can't help but laugh,

'It will be good to see you again; Tony's missed you.'

'Yeah, well, I am awesome,' he smiles back. 'It'll be good to be back. I'll tell the brass that I have a Stark situation to deal with; they'll give me three weeks, no questions asked.'

'Great, thank you.'

'Hey, he's my stupid genius friend too! I'll see you tomorrow.'

Pepper signs off,

'Jarvis, is Tony ready for his meeting?'

'Very nearly,' the AI hedges.

How anyone can ever meet Jarvis and think for a second he is anything but as stubbornly loyal as his creator is beyond her.

'How is he, Jarvis?' she asks quietly.

'Sir is well, Ms Potts,' she knows from his tone that Jarvis hasn't pretended to misunderstand the question. 'His main concern at this time is Master Peter as the child fully reflects how sir, himself, was at that age.'

'Of course,' Pepper almost wishes it were a socially acceptable time to drink.

'He seems oblivious to Captain Rogers' attentions,' the AI adds.

'Jarvis, you monitor everything in the tower,' Pepper bites her lip. 'Does that fully include the floors that aren't Tony's?'

'Yes,' Jarvis replies simply. 'Several of the inhabitants of the tower... may believe they have disabled monitoring functionality within their spaces; they are incorrect.'

'Do you know if Steve actually wants to be with Tony?'

'I am not certain. Captain Rogers displays love struck behaviours, such as spending much time with sir, drawing his features from memory and acting protective towards him against SHIELD. However he has not been vocal whilst masturbating so I...'

'Jarvis,' Pepper laughs, 'please don't ever let Steve know you told me that.'

'No,' Jarvis agrees. 'I believe only you and sir are comfortable knowing everything I am capable of.'

'You won't tell me how Tony feels will you?' Pepper asks already knowing the answer.

'Sir is my primary concern,' Jarvis reverts to sounding like a computer when he doesn't want to talk.

'I appreciate how you protect him, Jarvis,' she nods understandingly.

'Sir has reached the conference room,' Jarvis adds.

'Jarvis,' Pepper considers her words so she doesn't offend the AI, 'you're keeping an eye on Peter?'

'The only being on this planet with more active surveillance is sir,' Jarvis confirms. 'I will keep him safe.'

'Good,' she smiles. 'Keep me updated on Rhodey's eta?'

'Of course, Ms Potts.'

*          *          *

Steve can see the reluctance Tony's feeling as he fixes his tie,

'The meeting shouldn't be more than a few hours,' Tony looks to where his son is painting again. 'I'll be back soon after. He'll need food before then...'

'Tony,' Steve interrupts with a smile, 'we'll be fine. I'll make lunch and make sure he has a nap. If we need anything I'll ask Jarvis to alert you.'

'Right,' Tony nods, looking more uncertain than Steve has ever seen him. 'He never told me, you know? Howard never told me if he...'

'You're CEO,' Steve adds gently when Tony trails off, 'you're the one that told me that means you can skip meetings.'

Tony nods,

'No, I need to know how their experiment worked. Our entire roll out plan for arc reactor power depends on it.'

Steve watches him silently for a moment,

'I don't know what Howard became while I was in the ice...' he hesitates when Tony's gaze snaps to him. 'I don't know how he could have... You aren't Howard. Your sons will know their Dada loves them.'

'Right,' Tony gazes at him and then gives a quick nod. 'Thanks, I'll see you later.'

One final glance to his son and Tony gets onto the lift.

Steve moves to sit with Pete at the table and watches him painting what looks like it must be him and Tony working on his car.

'Dada is working now?' Pete looks up at him.

'Yes,' Steve smiles. 'He has a meeting; he'll be back later.'

'I made a picture for Dada,' Pete puts down his brush.

'I'll put it over here so it can dry,' Steve lifts the wet paper carefully.

'Ok,' Pete watches him before turning to a fresh sheet of paper. 'I like painting.'

'Yeah?' Steve sits back down beside him. 'Me too.'

Pete pushes some paper towards him and looks up shyly,

'You should paint too.'

'Ok,' Steve agrees, 'what should I paint?'

'You like Dada too,' Pete tells him. 'You should paint a picture for Dada.'

Well there's some logic for you.

'Alright,' Steve agrees and tries to imagine Tony's face if Steve presented him with a painting.

Actually, knowing Tony, he'd probably pin it up in the foyer of the building and point it out to everyone he could.

Steve starts painting an Iron Man suit with a child's proportions; Tony should get a kick out of it.

'I'm painting Captain America,' Pete tells him.

'It's good,' Steve smiles as he looks at the blue figure holding a shield. 'He needs a head though.'

'I need yellow for the head,' Pete tells him.

'Captain America's cowl is blue,' Steve replies.

Pete looks up at him, looking confused,

'Your hair is yellow.'

Steve feels himself breaking into a bright grin,

'Right, of course you're right.'

Pete seems happy with that answer.

Chapter Text

After eating Pete settles against Steve's chest and tucks his head under his chin,

'Where's Dada?'

'Your Dada is working,' Steve rubs his back. 'Time for a nap, Pete.'

Pete nods against Steve's neck.

Steve presses a kiss to the boy's forehead and scoops up his blanket from the floor,

'Shall we take your blanky with us?'

He nods again and hugs it when Steve hands it over.

It's so hard to imagine that this nervous little boy could ever become Tony Stark as he knows him now.

'Ok,' Steve walks across the room. 'Don't worry; your Dada hasn't gone far. Jarvis, what's Tony doing right now?'

'Sir is arguing the relevance of what appears to be an anomalous data point,' Jarvis replies.

'Is he winning?' Steve smiles.

'Of course,' Jarvis sounds smug.

'I want Dada,' Pete nuzzles his face into Steve's neck.

'I know you do,' Steve's heart can't take this. 'By the time you wake up your Dada should be back, ok?'

'K...'

Steve puts Pete into the bed in his own room, makes sure he isn't too close to the edge and that he has his blanket. He presses a kiss to his forehead and crouches by the bed for a minute making sure Pete is definitely asleep.

'Jarvis, you'll tell me if he needs anything?'

'Of course, Captain.'

Steve smiles and quietly exits the room, leaving the door ajar.

*          *          *

Tony rolls his shoulders and scrolls down the numbers again,

'Does anyone know why power output is dropping in the evenings?'

Nobody answers which is really an answer in itself.

'Whatever,' Tony drops his tablet and looks at the screen showing the other members of his meeting.

'The numbers are very promising, Mister Stark,' one of the men says.

'Of course they are,' Tony mutters to himself. 'We knew they'd be good. I just want to know what's affecting the data set.'

'Sir,' Jarvis chimes in and instantly has Tony's full attention.

'Yes, Jay?' he's half out of his seat.

'Your night team are transmitting their report for their data set.'

'What the hell took them so long?' Tony grins and grabs his tablet back up. 'Get them in on this call.'

'Of course,' Jarvis confirms.

'Mister Stark,' a woman appears in a new hologram, 'I'm so sorry for the delay.'

'Hmm...' Tony waves a hand dismissively as he pours over the new data. 'Jay, let's get the data side by side.'

The other members of the night team have joined the meeting and are discussing the output values with their counterparts but Tony tunes them out.

This is all he needs to get the roll out going, he grins, soon all his facilities can be on arc reactor power. After that he can start supplying energy to other nearby facilities and beyond.

'Alright,' Tony knows he's grinning, '100% bonuses all round and put meals out on your expenses for your whole teams,' the people who haven't worked with him before are now stuttering. 'Jay! Press conference time!'

'Of course, sir,' Jarvis has probably already drafted a press release. 'Will the press room on the tenth floor in half an hour be adequate?'

'Do it,' Tony agrees. 'Let's get this ball rolling. Send messages to all our other teams; they need to start planning for the switch over. We'll alternate between east and west and work our way north.'

'But Mister Stark! The variations in power output are surely concerning?'

'No, no,' Tony waves a hand and Jarvis brings up the data in question in a graph and overlays it with indications of usage and power preservation, 'it's all explained. It's designed to match power requirements which reduce over night; I admittedly didn't expect it to drop quite so low, but I guess Stark Tower stays busier over night than you do.'

He gets up from the table,

'Anything to add?'

'You're a genius,' someone blurts.

Tony grins,

'Yes. Yes I am.'

*          *          *

'Ms Potts,' Jarvis interrupts Pepper from reading a budget request from one of the software development teams.

'Yes, Jarvis?'

'I thought you may wish to know sir has called for press conference in half an hour.'

'For the data from the other arc reactor prototype?' Pepper puts down her tablet. 'The numbers were that good?'

'The numbers exceeded everyone's expectations, except sir's and my own, of course.'

'Of course,' Pepper laughs, 'where is he?'

'With you momentarily,' Jarvis replies.

True enough Tony steps from the lift a minute later,

'Pepper! Did Jay tell you the good news?' he's already down the corridor to his bedroom so she follows him. 'Everything's good, Pep, we can get this thing going. This time next year we should have four more facilities entirely self sufficient!'

'That's great Tony,' she can feel his enthusiasm and grins back at him as he strips off his suit. 'What was wrong with that suit?'

'I want something flashier,' he tells her as he unbuttons his pants.

'Of course you do,' she sighs and walks into his closet. 'Black or grey?'

'The dark grey,' he calls back, 'double breasted.'

'Alright,' she lifts it from the rail.

'Red or blue?' she comes out to find him wearing a shirt and holding two ties.

'Red,' she smiles and lays his suit on the bed. 'I'll get you a watch.'

'How do I look?' he grins once he's dressed.

'Like a billionaire,' she rolls her eyes fondly.

'Perfect,' Tony nods and strides off to the lift. 'Jay, how's the timing?'

'You have ten minutes but the press are already assembled,' Jarvis replies.

Pepper just laughs; she's missed the bursts of chaos that come with living with Tony Stark.

*          *          *

Steve hears from Jarvis that Tony's holding some sort of impromptu press conference downstairs just before Pete wakes up.

'Dada?' the little boy blinks up at Steve as he wakes.

'It's Cap,' Steve smiles down at him. 'Your Dada's just telling the world how amazing he is; he'll be back soon.'

'I want Dada,' Pete's lower lip trembles.

'Oh, Pete,' Steve pets his hair as he hugs him to his chest, 'he's just downstairs.'

'I want to go downstairs,' Pete declares. 'I want to go to Dada.'

'Well...' Steve bites his lip.

'There is space 'backstage',' Jarvis suggests, 'should you wish to wait to the side for sir to finish his announcement.'

'Yeah, ok,' Steve gets up. 'We can do that, can't we, buddy? We can wait quietly to the side to see your Dada?'

'Ok,' Pete agrees promptly.

*          *          *

Tony has finished announcing the roll out of the arc reactors and is taking questions from the press when it happens.

He hears a gasp to his right and turns his head in time to see his son dash across the stage to join him behind his podium. Pete wraps his arms around his leg and clings. Across the stage Steve is standing two strides out of cover with one hand uselessly outstretched.

'Ladies and gentlemen of the press,' Tony quirks an eyebrow, 'I give you Captain America,' there are flashes from their cameras. 'Super strong, tactical genius, all round good guy and,' he makes sure he's grinning at Steve, 'apparently not a great babysitter.'

'I told you before I have a documented weakness for being talked into bad decisions by Starks,' Steve looks apologetic.

'Alright,' Tony turns back to the press, 'I have a second announcement for you today, you lucky people,' he leans down and scoops his son into his arms. 'This is Peter Jarvis Stark and he's my son.'

The room falls into stunned silence.

'Say hi, Pete,' Tony presses a kiss to his son's hair.

Pete lifts his head from Tony's chest to look out across the room, Tony smirks and throws up a peace sign as the room explodes with noise and camera flashes.

Chapter Text

'I'm so sorry,' Steve keeps apologising to him as they wait out of the way for the press to disperse.

'Cap, relax,' he laughs. 'It's fine; saves me the bother of calling them all in again.'

His son seems pretty unfazed by the attention and is far more interested in just hugging him.

'No harm done,' he interrupts, gesturing to Pete, before Steve can continue. 'And the first photos they have of him are with him clearly being happy to see me; should cut off many of the complaints, and having you there will have helped.'

'Sir, Ms Potts would like your input on drafting a press release. Also, would you like me to anonymously leak details of the surrogate?'

'I'm on my way and yes; like we discussed. And get some photos of me near a hospital on the internet dated over the last few months. Make them the normal 'omg it's Tony Stark!' postings and we'll see if anyone joins the dots and guesses about Jim.'

'Tony?' Steve looks so utterly lost.

'Jarvis is faking a history for Pete and Jim,' Tony tries to explain. 'Camera phone photos taken over a distance are easy to fake and he'll make it look like they were dated a while ago. If I leak the information in the right way they'll believe it's true. If I then publicly request that people stop calling up the lady that is my surrogate then they'll all be so busy trying to find her that they'll leave us alone.'

'That all sounds very complicated,' Steve blinks.

'Can't exactly tell them the truth; we might all be alright with him being a clone and Jim growing in a machine, but I hardly want everyone to know. Also it amuses me,' Tony admits with a grin. 'I'll probably have Jarvis put together some bland exposé from the surrogate and sell it to some rag; funnel the money into an adoption charity somewhere.'

Steve laughs but Tony's pretty sure he doesn't entirely understand.

He won't understand until Tony actually tells him that Jim literally has two fathers.

'Anyway,' Tony cocks his head, 'cheers for mostly looking after Pete.'

Steve looks embarrassed but at least he doesn't apologise again.

'We painted pictures for you,' Pete pats his chest with a small hand.

'Yeah?' Tony smiles at his son and shoots a glance at Steve. 'What did you paint for me?'

'I painted me and you, and you and Cap and everyone together,' Pete beams at him.

'You'll have completely decorated my fridge in no time,' Tony laughs. 'Cap, I need to go and see Pepper. Do you want to come up later for dinner? I mean, if you have plans don't worry...'

'I'd love to,' Steve beams at him and then seems to laugh at himself. 'Sorry; I just thought you'd be fed up of me by now.'

Tony shoots him a withering look and then carries Pete to the lift,

'See you later then,' he lifts his hand in a wave and his son copies him.

'Yeah,' Steve is gazing at him strangely again as the doors close between him.

*          *          *

'I'd like to point out,' Tony starts talking as soon as the doors open to reveal Pepper, 'that this was not my fault and, all things considered, I think I did ok.'

She rolls her eyes at him,

'Take a look,' she gestures to the TV as Pete scrambles out of his arms to go to his toys, 'the press are loving this.'

'How's it playing out?' he steps closer to read the scrolling captions.

'The initial pictures are circulating like crazy,' Pepper moves to stand beside him. 'You broke tumblr and twitter...'

'Hah,' Tony smirks.

'Looks to be mostly positive,' Pepper ignores his interruption. 'Some people are asking why they haven't seen him before but most seem happy that you haven't been shoving him into the limelight as a baby.'

'So, we're good?'

'There's speculation about his mother,' Pepper glances over to where Pete is digging out all his cars and ignoring them. 'And some photos have appeared which seem to show you near a hospital recently?'

'That's Jarvis,' Tony nods. 'He's leaking Jim's existence.'

Pepper nods,

'Remind me to remind you to tell Steve,' she pats his arm as she moves away to the coffee machine.

'Noted,' Tony sighs.

'This just in!' the reporter announces from the television. 'We have new images of Tony Stark visiting a hospital over the last couple of months! This added to reports that he has been sighted with an unknown, but heavily pregnant, blonde woman leads us to wonder if...'

'Mute,' Tony rolls his eyes. 'Blonde, Jarvis?'

'I'm sorry sir, what would be your preference for this fake woman's hair colour?'

'Don't you get snarky with me,' Tony claims the first mug from the coffee machine.

'So, what's the official line?' Pepper herds him over to the seating area.

'Surrogate,' Tony lounges while Pepper perches with a tablet on her knee. 'The same surrogate for both boys, though we aren't admitting Jim yet. We won't release her name for privacy reasons.'

Pepper is typing furiously,

'They'll want to know your relationship status.'

'They always do,' Tony shrugs. 'Single until proven guilty.'

'Nice line; they'll know that came from you,' Pepper reads back over what she's written and offers it to Tony who waves her away.

'Jay, proof read and then release,' Tony stands up and sheds his jacket and tie. 'If there's nothing else, Ms Potts, I'm heading back to the workshop.'

'That's all, Mr Stark,' she smiles. 'I'll let you know when the more serious side of the press decide to comment on the actual point of the press conference.'

'Great,' Tony rolls his shoulders. 'Come on, Pete, I have work to do.'

Chapter Text

Steve appears in the penthouse shortly after Tony calls him about dinner.

'Hey,' Steve looks suitably charmed when Pete runs over to give him a hug. 'Did you get your work done?'

''Done' implies complete perfection and no future upgrades,' he tells him as he pours a beer. 'My work is never done.'

Steve laughs and comes over to claim his drink,

'Alright, do you have a working prototype?'

'It's fabricating now,' he admits. 'I'll run tests tomorrow.'

'What are we eating?' Steve follows him to the bar and lounges as Tony pours a scotch.

'Pizza,' Tony settles beside him. 'It should be here soon.'

'Was Pepper very angry?' he looks apologetic again.

'Nah,' Tony leans into his side, 'it's gone across well. Stocks have actually taken a small jump.'

'Well, I know how you love to keep your board members happy,' Steve is looking at him strangely but not moving away so Tony feels he can continue to soak up his warmth.

'I do,' Tony agrees with a smirk.

'When you referred to them as a pack of short sighted jackasses with all the forethought and technical knowhow of llamas I'm sure you meant it with the highest level of affection.'

Tony laughs easily,

'Alright you, what is this? Blackmail?'

'Yes, Tony, I feel that living in a tower controlled by an AI who's your best friend is a really sensible way of obtaining blackmail material.'

'I do have digital copies of many of sir's baby photos,' Jarvis tells him.

'I would love to see those,' Steve breaks into a grin.

'Traitor,' Tony shakes his head. 'You is now my favourite.'

'I bet you were a cute kid,' Steve smiles at him.

'See for yourself,' Tony waves a hand at Pete. 'I looked like that.'

'I know,' Steve shrugs, 'I meant how you were as a kid; obviously you looked cute.'

Tony bites his lip to keep from laughing as Steve pauses for a second and then blushes,

'I mean... because I can see Pete is cute.'

'Sure,' Tony just shakes his head with a grin.

'Shut up,' Steve laughs at his own expense and shoves Tony with his elbow.

'Mean,' Tony pouts at him.

'Sir, your food is on the way up.'

'Great, thanks Jay,' Tony claps his hands together and moves to the table. 'Come on, squirt,' he helps Pete into his chair as Steve fetches the pizza boxes.

While they eat they talk about what they did during the day. Steve, perfect specimen that he is, sits with rapt attention as Pete tells him all about using a real screwdriver to screw real screws into a scrap of wood in the workshop.

His bots are the best babysitters.

Steve also tidies up after they've eaten and puts the leftovers into a little plastic box in the fridge.

'How the hell are you single, Cap?' Tony blurts from his seat on the sofa.

'All the people Natasha tries to set me up with are either SHIELD agents or undercover SHIELD agents?'

He looks so honestly put out that Tony has to laugh at him,

'Nothing wrong with mixing business and pleasure,' Tony suggests with a smile. 'At least they'd understand what you do.'

'I guess,' Steve looks away awkwardly.

Tony is rubbish at this sort of thing.

'Not complaining though,' he grins. 'You can come round and clean up after us more often if you're single.'

Steve offers him a small smile,

'I'm feeling taken advantage of.'

'Can't have that,' Tony grins at him, 'tell me what I can do for you.'

Steve shoots him a strange look and then just laughs as he walks past Peter playing with his nerf gun and sits beside him,

'I should charge for my services.'

'I fed you,' Tony points out. 'And you live rent free in the middle of New York.'

'Yeah, but that was before I started cooking and babysitting for you so it doesn't count.'

'Umm, no,' Tony keeps a straight face as he disagrees, 'you're cooking because you lost a game. And do you really feel you can play the babysitter card when you just revealed my son to a pack of reporters?'

'I actually blame Pete for that,' Steve deadpans.

'Oh, sure, blame the kid,' Tony sighs dramatically. 'I'm going to start charging rent, Rogers. Don't you think that I won't.'

'Well, sure,' Steve nods, 'if you feel that you need to.

'Hey, Tony? Can I borrow some cash to pay my landlord?'

Tony grins easily,

'Will you pay me back with interest?'

'If you start paying me to babysit...'

'How about I quadruple your rate when Jim's born and we call it quits?' Tony offers.

'Hey, I may not be as smart as you, but I know being paid nothing four times is still nothing,' Steve pokes him in the side.

Tony laughs and gets up to refill his glass,

'Worth a try.'

'Weren't there people fitting a carpet today?' Steve asks him after a brief pause.

'Yeah, they did,' Tony agrees. 'A very tasteful light blue carpet. It, apparently, goes very well with the even lighter blue walls and the furniture that'll turn up tomorrow.'

'He'll be moving into his own room soon then?'

'Eventually,' Tony smirks. 'Why? You have intentions for my bed, Cap?'

Steve always flusters so easily but it's great how he soldiers on.

'Well, it will be a shame to have no reason to be in your room anymore; you're such a charmer in the mornings.'

'Damn right,' Tony agrees. 'You'll just have to make it your job to bring me coffee.'

'I'm guessing I'll be paid at the normal rate for that service?'

'You guess right!' Tony raises his glass in a mock toast.

'I'll pass,' Steve tells him with a small smile.

'Your loss,' Tony shrugs and returns to the sofa with his drink.

'Whatever you say,' Steve shifts in his seat as Tony sits beside him.

Tony tips his head to the side as he considers his companion.

To tease or not to tease.

He opts to just ignore it and slumps against Steve's side.

'Oh,' Steve makes a strange sound as Tony settles himself under his arm, 'hi?'

Tony ignores him,

'Jay, put something child friendly on.'

'Of course, sir,' the TV descends from the ceiling. 'Would Tangled meet with your approval?'

'Yeah, sure,' it's not like Tony has watched TV for anything other than the news or the stocks in years.

'We're... watching cartoons now?' Steve asks.

'I suspect,' Tony smirks up at him, 'that any minute now a small person will...'

He cuts himself off as Pete comes round the sofa, his eyelids at half mast, and clambers his way into his father's lap,

'Dada.'

'Hey, kiddo,' Tony press a kiss to his hair. 'Have you come to watch this film with me and Cap?'

His son doesn't reply but his eyes glue themselves to the screen.

'I'm a genius,' he tells Steve.

'Yeah,' Steve's fond look for Pete seems to be transferring to him too.

'If I fall asleep on you poke me until I make it to my room?' Tony requests as he settles himself and his son against Steve's chest.

'Sure,' Steve sounds strange.

'You're the best, Cap.'

*          *          *

'Tony?' his pillow is moving.

Oh. That's Steve.

He feels as he's shifted to lie on the sofa and then drifts off again.

'Tony?' the warm talking pillow is back. 'Pete fell asleep so I've gotten him changed and into bed. Do you... Umm. Are you asleep? Shall I carry you?'

Oh, why not.

Because he isn't stupid enough to encourage that sort of thinking when it comes to Steve.

'I'm awake,' he grumbles.

'Sure you are,' he opens one eye to see Steve crouching beside the sofa looking at him. 'Except for this little nap you've been awake for around thirty six hours.'

'Yeah, that's nothing,' he tells the sofa cushion. 'Ask Pepper; I've made it to fifty before and still been lucid.'

His eyes flicker closed again as a hand brushes through his hair.

'Come on,' Steve props him up into a seating position. 'I need to make sure you don't brain yourself on the way to bed.'

Perfect excuse to soak up more super soldier warmth.

Pull yourself together.

'Yeah yeah,' Tony gets to his feet and stretches. 'I'm going...'

'Are you ok from here?' Steve sounds conflicted from where he's trailed Tony to the doorway of his bedroom.

'I was going to strip to my boxers,' Tony turns to smirk at him. 'If that would meet with your approval? '

He starts unbuttoning his shirt.

'Yes, that'll be fine,' Steve blurts and then blushes. 'You know that's fine. I'm going now. See you at breakfast.'

'Goodnight, Cap,' Tony smiles.

'Goodnight, Tony,' he smiles back.

Chapter Text

'Dada,' something is patting his face.

'Go away, Dummy...' he tries pressing his face further into his pillow.

'I'm not Dummy,' he gets a poke on the nose. 'I'm Pete.'

'Sure you are,' he pulls the sheet over his head.

'Dada?'                  

A small body burrows its way under the sheet and his arm to regain access to his face.

'Dada?' he opens his eyes to see Pete gazing at him in the gloom.

'I need to teach you to make coffee,' he informs the boy.

'Good morning, sir,' Jarvis calls. 'Captain Rogers is approaching your bedroom.'

'Wonderful,' he slumps over onto his back and pushes the covers from his face.

'Hey, Dada,' Pete beams and climbs up to straddle his stomach. He pats his chest with one small hand, 'it's day time, Dada.'

'Barely,' Tony replies.

The kid doesn't even have the decency to look anything other than wide awake.

There's a soft knock on the door before Steve pokes his head in.

'Tell me you have coffee,' Tony points a finger at him.

'I do,' Steve smiles and enters the room with a mug.

'Cap!' Pete grins and bounces on Tony's stomach in his excitement.

'Gah,' Tony groans. 'Tell me I wasn't like this as a kid?'

'I do not have the data to reach a conclusion either way,' Jarvis tells him.

'Come here,' Steve laughs as he sits on the bed by Tony's feet. Pete abandons his father in favour of Captain America.

Tony rolls over and glares at the coffee which Steve has left out of his reach.

Move to get the coffee or pull the sheet back over his head?

The coffee does smell good.

'What do you want to eat then?' Steve asks as he accepts a hug from Pete.

'Coffee first,' Tony pulls himself across the bed. 'Don't even tell me what the time is.'

'It's not that bad,' he can hear that Steve is trying not to laugh. 'Just quarter to seven.'

'I said don't tell me,' Tony sits up enough to drink his coffee.

Steve laughs because he's a terrible person.

'Come on, Pete,' his son is lifted onto Steve's hip as he stands. 'Let's get you dressed and leave your Dada to caffeinate.'

*          *          *

Steve makes scrambled eggs on toast for breakfast and a full jug of coffee.

Tony arrives freshly showered and shaved as Pete finishes his food. Steve immediately holds up the coffee jug as an offering and Tony makes a happy noise in his throat as his mug is refilled.

He could get used to this morning routine.

'Where's Pepper?' he asks as Tony drinks.

'No idea,' Tony shrugs. 'Jarvis?'

'Ms Potts is collecting Colonel Rhodes from the airport,' Jarvis reports.

'Rhodey?' Tony jolts upright and just beams, 'Rhodey's here?'

'His flight should be landing shortly,' Jarvis confirms.

'That's great!' Tony's still grinning. 'Cap, Pete, you can finally meet my other best friend and the guy that should definitely be your favourite uncle.'

'I'm not in the running?' Steve fakes a pout.

'You're not his uncle,' Tony's looks a little pained, 'you're Cap.'

Well, that makes the normal Tony amount of sense.

'I was only joking, Tony,' he looks away to check on Pete.

'Yeah,' Tony isn't looking at him either. 'Look, Steve, there's something I...'

'Hey,' Steve spots Pete opening the liquor cabinet under the bar, 'hey, no! Pete, no!'

There's the sound of breaking china behind him and things go a little insane.

Tony is suddenly between him and Pete, and two gun turrets have descended from the ceiling to aim at him.

*          *          *

His blood is pounding in his ears as he pulls short gasps of air into his lungs,

'Don't,' he hears himself as if from a distance, 'don't...'

He keeps his arm outstretched in front of him, palm out, and tries the blink his way through the haze in his vision.

There's shouting and he never knows what it is he does wrong.

'Tony?'

He tries to stop her, sometimes, but it always ends up hurting more.

'Don't!' he shouts.

If he watches though... There's still pain, but at least there's no surprise when it comes.

'Sir?'

Disappointment and shouting and pain. The only variable is the intensity.

The figure in front of him has their hands up and has backed away.

'Sir?'

Jarvis? That's Jarvis...

'Jay?' he finally drags in a halfway decent breath.

'Sir, Captain Rogers does not appear to be a threat at this time?'

He blinks again and it's Steve in front of him.

'Steve?' his voice sounds broken.

'Tony,' he's glancing at the gun turrets, 'God, Tony, do you really think I'd hurt him?'

'Fuck,' Tony drops his hand and leans forwards against his knees. 'Fuck, I thought this had stopped... Fuck.'

'Dada?' oh, great, Pete just watched him completely lose his mind.

'Hey, kid,' he manages to straighten up but he can feel himself trembling.

'Dada?' he's at his side with his arms in the air wanting to be picked up.

'I'm fine,' he lifts his son into a hug and presses his face into his hair. 'I'm fine.'

'I'll go,' he looks up to see Steve looking devastated.

'No,' he blurts, 'wait. It wasn't you. I don't think you'd... I just... You sounded just like Maria. I mean my mother. Her tone whenever she... When she was about to... I'm sorry. It wasn't you. Please don't go.'

Steve looks massively conflicted.

He takes a deep breath,

'I'm sorry. Especially for the guns. Jarvis, fuck, stand down. I appreciate it, buddy, but let's not shoot him, ok?'

'Of course, sir,' the guns retract.

Another deep breath.

'Do you want me to go?' Steve asks but takes a step forwards, his hand twitching towards him.

He's shaking his head wordlessly and remembering that night he called the suit on Pepper.

'It's alright,' Steve another step towards him. 'You're alright, Tony. Just breathe.'

He nods, his gaze still fixed on the other man as he hugs his son.

Pete leans back in his arms and pats his chest,

'Dada?'

'I'm fine,' he summons a smile. 'Everything's fine.'

'Did I do something bad?' Pete gazes up at him.

'No,' Tony swallows. 'No, you weren't bad. You're not in trouble. Just don't go in that cabinet again, it's got lots of glass bottles in it, ok?'

'Ok,' Pete gazes up at him.

'You want to go and play, squirt?' Tony glances at Steve and lets his son down.

'Ok,' Pete smiles at him for a moment then goes to his toy boxes.

'I'm sorry,' Tony tells Steve again. 'I thought I was past having...'

'It's fine,' Steve has gotten even closer.

'Jarvis nearly shot you!'

'No he didn't,' Steve disagrees. 'He backed you up but he never would have shot me.'

'I'm such a mess...' he rakes his finger through his hair and that's apparently Steve's breaking point.

He's tugged against warm, solid muscle and hugged.

'You're not,' Steve almost growls.

He sighs and wraps his arms around Steve's waist,

'Hey.'

'Hey,' Steve murmurs into his ear. 'Do you want to talk about it?'

'Nope.'

'Do you want me to shut up and just keep hugging you?'

'Talk, please,' Tony doesn't beg. He sighs and closes his eyes as his head rests against Steve's chest, 'Say something Captain America-y; recite the constitution or something.'

'Ok...' there's a small pause. 'Not all of us can storm a beach, or drive a tank, but there's still a way all of us can fight.'

'Oh my god...'

'Series E defence bonds: each one you buy is a bullet in the barrel of your best guy's gun.'

Tony leans back far enough to stare into Steve's face.

'We all know this is about trying to win the war. We can't do that without bullets and bandages, tanks and tents. That's where you come in,' he summons up a winning smile to emphasise his speech. 'Every bond you buy will help protect someone...'

'You still have this shit memorised?' Tony interrupts with something resembling a smile.

Steve huffs a breath,

'It was the most Captain America-y thing I could think of without breaking into song. And it made you smile so...'

Tony pulls away from him fully this time and scrubs a hand across his face.

'Do you need anything?'

Tony just shakes his head and doesn't meet Steve's gaze,

'I'm fine.'

He can practically feel how Steve isn't convinced. In the edge of his vision he can see Steve trying to catch his eye so he fixes his gaze on his son instead. He's lining up cars, probably ready to send them all shooting across the room.

'What do you need me to do?' Steve asks again.

Tony realises he has one hand pressed to his arc reactor and his other arm is hugged around his waist.

He forces both arms to his sides.

'Tony?' Steve takes a step closer.

He sways towards Steve before he realises what he's doing.

Steve pulls him back into a hug that has his face tucked against the bare skin of his friend's neck.

He lets out a long sigh as Steve pets his hair and slumps against him, knowing his weight is nowhere near enough to knock the soldier from his feet.

'Hey,' he may allow himself to press his nose against Steve's skin.

He must be allowed a free pass when he's just had a panic attack, and Steve doesn't normally read anything into his overly tactile nature.

'Hey,' he can feel Steve's voice vibrating his nose.

Ok, he may have just nuzzled Steve's neck.

Time to pulls away again before he can take any more liberties

'I'm just going to play with Pete until Rhodey gets here,' Tony rallies enough to throw up his media smile. 'You can go polish your shield or whatever.'

'Oh,' Steve looks confused and then gives him a wonky smile. 'Ok, I'll see you later then?'

'Sure,' he goes to sit with Pete and doesn't  let himself watch Steve go.

Chapter Text

Steve takes the lift down as far as the communal floor and then sets about preparing the massive batch of coffee for when the others start arriving.

'Is anyone else awake, Jarvis?' Steve asks quietly.

'Agent Romanov shall be coming up shortly,' Jarvis replies promptly. 'Agent Barton is unlikely to wake in the next hour, but seems strangely fond of coffee that is... past its best. Doctor Banner is asleep, but his alarm is set for 8am, which is in fifteen minutes time. Prince Thor is, as far as I am able to tell, still off world.'

'I'll set the machine running then,' Steve fusses with their mugs for a minute and then checks, again, that he's put in enough beans.

'Captain,' Jarvis breaks the silence, 'may I speak with you?'

Steve looks up in surprise,

'Of course you can. What's on your mind?'

'You seem troubled. There is little I can do to reassure you, but sir is ok.'

Steve nods,

'I wouldn't have left if I thought he wasn't.'

'Sir appreciated your presence, even if he did not say so,' Jarvis adds.

'Yeah?' Steve laughs dubiously. 'I'm not sure I was very helpful. You talked him down.'

'You were of far more help than some,' Steve doesn't question the censor in Jarvis' tone.

'I scared him,' Steve sighs and sits at the kitchen island. 'Will he even want me around Pete anymore?'

'Captain,' Jarvis pauses before continuing, 'sir rebounds from these episodes very quickly. I do not believe his desire to be alone is due to any fear of you.'

'You think so?' Steve smiles hopefully.

'If he feared you,' Jarvis replies, matter-of-factly, 'I would have shot you.'

'Reassuring,' Steve laughs, 'thanks.'

'You are welcome, Captain,' Jarvis would clearly be smirking if he could.

Steve sits in silence for a bit and his mood sobers again,

'Is he ok, Jarvis? I mean with everything that's happened to him in the last week, is there more I can do?'

'What you have been doing is sufficient,' Jarvis replies. 'Anything extra that you might do can only be at sir's request; he does not appreciate what he would see as meddling.'

'You were telling me something before,' Steve remembers. 'Something that you didn't want Tony to know you were telling me?'

'I was attempting to hint towards what you have just discovered,' Jarvis agrees. 'Sir had one parent who neglected him, one who actively abused him and a parent-like mentor who tried to kill him; he is unlikely to trust his son with many people.'

'He's only ever left Pete with me,' Steve realises.

'Yes, Captain.'

'That's... He really trusts me, huh?'

'He is trying.'

'I didn't think...' Steve's mind races. 'I mean, I knew we were friends now, but until a few weeks ago I still thought he meant to be mean every time he teased me.'

'Sir occasionally apologises in strange ways,' Jarvis tells him, and then adds 'and sometimes before anyone realises he's done anything that needs apologise for.'

Steve laughs,

'Yeah, that sounds like Tony.'

'Agent Romanov's arrival on this floor is imminent.'

'Ok,' Steve gets up and goes back to the coffee machine, 'thanks.'

'Steve,' Natasha greets him as she comes in. 'I thought you were having breakfast with Stark?'

'I did,' Steve nods, 'he's getting ready to see Colonel Rhodes now.'

'Oh,' she doesn't look convinced but accepts her coffee without complaint.

'Pancakes?' Steve offers.

'Alright,' she agrees. Her expression remains pleasant but her gaze sharpens.

'We...' Steve turns his back to her as he gets out the ingredients he needs.

What can he tell her? Tony wouldn't want him to tell her the truth.

'I think I've been spending too much time with Tony,' he settles for something that is probably true.

'He can get a bit much,' Natasha agrees blandly.

'Oh, no,' he disagrees before thinking that he could just let it slide, 'it's not that.'

'No?'

'I'm jealous,' he blurts, and realises it's true.

'Of Tony or of his son?' Natasha asks.

'Of... what?' Steve turns around. 'Why would I be jealous of Pete?'

'You'd like a baby then?' she smiles innocently but her eyes are laughing.

She's teasing him.

'I would,' he agrees. 'And stop that.'

'It would be one hell of a way to pop that cherry, Rogers,' she gives him that look of hers.

'Good morning,' Bruce steps into the kitchen and eyes them both.

'Bruce,' Steve smiles, 'I'm so glad you're here. Sit, have a coffee,' he pushes a mug into his hands, 'I'm making pancakes.'

'If you think I'm going to stop talking about this just because...'

'What are you working on?' Steve talks over her. 'Anything interesting going on in the lab?'

Bruce is clearly trying not to laugh at him,

'Do you really want me to describe my experiments?'

'Do you know anyone who might be interested in hooking up with a blond super soldier?' Natasha asks.

'Really, Natasha? Over breakfast?' Steve groans.

'I'm just trying to help you, Rogers...'

'Sure you are,' Steve shakes his head and dishes up the first batch of pancakes. 'Just eat your food.'

'I thought you'd be having breakfast with Tony,' Bruce sips at his coffee.

'I did,' Steve flips Bruce's pancakes one at a time. 'He's playing with Pete and waiting for Colonel Rhodes to arrive.'

There's a silence behind him that makes him think his team mates are exchanging a look.

'Oh, come on,' he turns around and wields a spatula at them, 'not you too, Bruce!'

Bruce smiles and shrugs apologetically,

'Sorry, Steve,' Bruce tells him, 'but we do worry that you... well... don't have that many friends.'

Steve shakes his head and turns back in time to flip the pancakes again,

'Really, I appreciate the concern, but you can't just push me at SHIELD agents and expect me to sleep with them.'

'No,' Bruce agrees, 'but as far as I know you haven't actually given any of the people Natasha has suggested a chance.'

Steve shrugs and turns to put Bruce's breakfast in front of him,

'I had enough of being set up with people I don't know for a lifetime, thanks.'

'Ask Tony out,' Natasha advises. 'Worst he can do is say no.'

'I'm not going to ask Tony out,' Steve rolls his eyes at her.

'Why?' Bruce asks innocently and then looks surprised at himself. 'Sorry, Steve, of course you don't have to do anything you don't feel comfortable with.'

'I don't think we'd be a good match,' Steve summons up a smirk, 'do you?'

'I could see it,' Natasha counters.

So can Steve.

'We'd drive each other insane,' Steve laughs.

'I don't know,' Bruce shrugs, 'you've been getting along much better. Especially since Pete arrived.'

This is killing him.

'By that logic I could be dating all of you.'

'There would be far too many dicks in one bed for me,' Natasha deadpans.

'My god, the mental images,' Bruce wrinkles his nose.

'I didn't mean...' Steve knows he's blushed scarlet by now. 'Why are we friends?'

'Proximity,' Natasha smiles sweetly. 

Chapter Text

Tony plays with Pete until Jarvis announces Rhodey's arrival a couple of hours later. He gets up from the floor to greet the lift,

'Hey,' he offers Rhodey a grin and pulls him into a quick hug, 'it's good to see you.'

'You too,' he grins back. 'How's it going?'

'Oh, pretty normal,' Tony pulls away still grinning, 'I have a clone, I'm expecting another child with a man who doesn't know about it, Steve managed to reveal the existence of my kid to the world during a press conference on green energy, I accused Captain America of child abuse and nearly had my AI shoot him in the head.'

'I...' Rhodey stares at him.

'In other news I'm rolling out arc reactor power to all of my facilities, I think Jarvis may have bought every children's film on the planet, including the ones not in English, and I have a new Audi.'

'Tony...'

'Here, meet your nephew,' Tony grins and waves to Pete. 'Pete, meet uncle Rhodey.'

'You nearly shot... Hey there!' he cuts himself off as he greets Pete. 'It's great to finally meet you, kiddo.'

'Hi,' Pete smiles up at him. 'Dada says we can give you upgrades.'

'Upgrades, huh?'

'Yes,' Pete nods.

'I've got a software patch for you,' Tony confirms. 'And a new phone.'

'Great!' Rhodey's grin looks a little wild around the edges.

'Come on,' Tony pats him the shoulder and nudges him back to the lift. 'Let's go to the workshop.'

'Yeah!' Pete grins and jumps in ahead of them. 'I'm teaching Dummy and You to draw.'

'I just can't leave you alone, can I?' Rhodey shakes his head as they step off the lift.

'Nope,' Tony walks ahead to his workstation and Pete runs off to the bots.

'Tony, what happened?'

'Which part, honeybear?' he sighs and fiddles with a wrench he must have left on his desk.

'Let's start with nearly shooting Captain America,' Rhodey suggests.

'I had another panic attack,' Tony admits with a quick glance towards his son.

'You told me they'd stopped,' his friend scowls. 'Pepper and I were only ok with you moving back to New York because you said...'

'They did,' Tony interrupts and waves a hand dismissively. 'This had nothing to do with wormholes.'

'Alright...' Rhodey draws out the word leadingly. 'So what did he do?'

'Oh, come on,' Tony rolls his eyes, 'you look like you're gearing up to beat on him.'

'Do I need to?' he challenges. 'I have the suit.'

'No! It wasn't his fault; he told Pete not to open the cabinet under the bar and I freaked out,' Tony snaps. 'Can we drop it now?'

'And then you nearly shot him?' Rhodey presses.

'Jarvis activated the ceiling turrets,' Tony gives in. 'Kept them aimed at Steve until I told him to stand down.'

'You have ceiling turrets?'

'Don't you?'

He receives a look for that, but it's no where near as impressive as Pepper's.

'Are you two ok?' Rhodey asks after a few moments of silence.

'Me and Pete?' Tony realises how often he's glancing at his son. 'We're fine.'

'You and the Captain,' he corrects.

'Oh,' Tony blinks. 'Well, he hugged me and I nearly licked his neck.'

This results in another period of silence.

'You want to sleep with him,' Rhodey looks like he's contemplating walking out and coming back later.

'Have you seen him?' Tony scoffs. 'Can you imagine having that under you?'

Rhodey may be having some sort of seizure.

'I'm not going to!' Tony reassures him. 'That's why I had to get him to leave when I did.'

'So that you wouldn't climb him like a tree and blow his forties mind?'

'So I didn't encourage him,' Tony laughs. 'The idiot has a crush on me.'

'Captain America has a crush on you,' Rhodey groans, 'did you wish really hard?'

'I'm not going to sleep with him,' Tony tells him again. 'I know all the reasons it would be a terrible idea.'

'Right,' he doesn't look convinced. 'You do need to tell him about Jim.'

'You too?' Tony sits down and spins in his chair. 'I don't understand why you all think it's such a big deal.'

'Just tell him, Tony.'

'I was about to,' Tony admits. 'He acted a little hurt when I said you should be the favourite uncle and that he was Cap. I was going to tell him why I wasn't going to teach my kids to call him 'uncle' but then I had the...' he waves his hand. 'So I didn't.'

'Christ, Tony...'

'Yeah...' Tony tries to smile up at him. 'Timing, right?'

'Of all the guys you could trust with your kids...' Rhodey starts.

'I know,' he cuts him off. 'I know I can trust him; he's... Steve...'

'So what's the real problem, Tony? You know he's too good to ever reject the kid and he's too stubborn to get himself trapped doing something he doesn't want to do. And, bluntly, if you thought he was doing either you could just up and move across the country. Again. Or out of the country altogether.'

Tony rubs his eyes and sighs.

He does owe Rhodey the full truth.

'You know there's a difference between knowing I can trust him and actually being able to do it,' Tony absently brings up a couple of holograms and then dismisses them. 'He's my kid, Rhodey; I can't let Steve take him.'

'You just told me the guy has a crush on you, that doesn't sound like someone whose first thought will be to take your son away from you,' Rhodey points out.

'I don't necessarily mean permanently,' Tony dismisses. 'I mean to do those father son bonding things that real people do.'

'You not being real,' Rhodey replies dryly.

He gives him a hopeless look,

'What do I tell Pete?'

'What?'

'When Steve wants to take Jim out for the day?'

Why does everyone have to think so slowly?

'Oh, sorry, Pete,' he hisses at his best friend, 'no you can't play with your brother today. He's off with his father; you're just stuck with me I'm afraid.'

'You aren't telling Steve about his son because you think Pete will be jealous of his brother?'

'If I just wait,' Tony hopes he'll understand, 'then he'll love both of them, right? And then, when I tell him, he won't be able to stop spending time with Pete too.'

'Tony...' Rhodey looks pained.

'Pete deserves more than just me,' Tony points out.

How can anyone think to argue with that?

Chapter Text

Steve heads to the gym after Natasha and Bruce finish their pancakes. Clint hadn't yet surfaced when he left, but that isn't overly unusual.

He changes into his workout gear and stretches as he walks over to where there's a heavy bag waiting for him. His first swing is a little wild and sets the bag trying to spin on its chain. He steadies it before resetting his stance and starting again.

Blanking his mind to think just of the next punch; just the next thump against the reinforced weave of the bag, works for a little while, but then other thoughts fight their way into his mind.

How could the man he knew back in the war have allowed his son to be so damaged?

How could anyone have a child like Tony, like Pete, and ever want to hurt them?

The bag crashes across the floor spilling its contents.

Steve rakes a hand through his sweaty hair and heaves a sigh as he catches his breath,

'Sorry, Jarvis.'

'For what, Captain?'

'Making a mess?' Steve shrugs as he gazes at the bag.

'Captain,' the AI sounds amused, 'I am able to have a little understood but active incubator, containing a live foetus, moved across the county and installed into sir's workshop without alerting SHIELD. I also avoided allowing any unauthorised access to the technology involved in the incubator or housed in said workshop. I assure you; arranging for some sand to be cleared away is not strenuous.'

'How would Tony cope without you?' Steve laughs but it's weak.

'I hope he need never find out,' Jarvis points out.

'Is he ok?' Steve heads back over to his gym bag as he starts unwrapping his hands.

'Sir is well,' Jarvis confirms. 'He is bickering with Colonel Rhodes in the workshop whilst Peter is drawing with You.'

'Good,' Steve feels himself smile. 'What's Dummy doing, then?'

'Dummy is stealing Colonel Rhodes' possessions from his abandoned coat.'

Steve cannot think of a single thing to say to that.

*          *          *

'Sir,' Jarvis interrupts Rhodey's nth version of you're an amazing person, Tony, don't sell yourself short.

As if that will convince him that Jim doesn't gain something over Pete by having Steve as a father.

'Yes, Jay?'

'Bifrost activity detected. Prince Thor is inbound.'

'Hey, great!' Tony grins. 'The gang's back together!'

'Arrival expected in three minutes,' Jarvis adds as Tony steps around Rhodey.

'Come on, Pete, time to meet an alien.'

'Ok,' his son waves goodbye to You and runs to join him in the lift.

'This is only postponing our discussion,' Rhodey points out.

'Anything you say,' Tony pats his shoulder. The lift rises to the penthouse. 'Right, Pete? I'm going to open the balcony door; you stay in here, ok?'

'Ok,' Pete agrees readily but follows him to the very threshold.

'He's yours,' Rhodey grumbles as he follows him out, 'what did you expect?'

Kind of have to accept that.

He steps further out onto his landing pad and looks across the skyline.

'On your two o'clock, sir,' Jarvis tells him.

Yep. There he is.

'My friend!' Thor strides over as soon as his feet are on the floor and grasps Tony into a bear hug. 'It is most wondrous to see you well!'

'Hey, Thor,' Tony can hardly not hug him back. 'Good to see you too. What brings you to our corner of the cosmos?'

'I came as soon as I heard your most joyous of news!' the clap to his shoulder is only enough to rock him rather than push him off the tower so Thor is trying. 'Truly! The arrival of a healthy heir must always be celebrated!'

'You get celebrity gossip on Asgard?' Tony laughs.

'Our Gatekeeper, Heimdall, keeps watch over all of the nine realms,' Thor smiles. 'I requested that he keep me apprised of the continued wellbeing of my Midgardian brothers in arms.'

'Intergalactic facebook stalking,' Tony nods and grins at Thor's confused smile. 'It's all good. Thor, this is an old friend of mine, James Rhodes. Rhodey, meet the god of thunder.'

'Hey,' Rhodey holds out a hand and Thor uses it to tug him into a hug.

'Well met, brother of my shield brother!'

Pete falls back from the doorway in awe as they approach.

'Ah, he has your likeness,' Thor beams and places his hammer just inside the door. 'Greetings, little one, I am Thor Odinson of Asgard.'

'Hello,' Pete glances to Tony, 'I'm Peter.' He pauses and tips his head as he thinks, 'I'm Peter Jarvis Stark of...' he looks at Tony beseechingly.

'Of Stark Industries?' Tony shrugs. 'Or Earth, I guess.'

'Of Stark Industries,' Pete repeats seriously.

'It is most pleasing to make your acquaintance, Peter Jarvis Stark of Stark Industries,' Thor nods solemnly. 'I have bought you a mighty gift from Asgard's vaults; one befitting the heir of so generous and noble a warrior!'

Pete smiles,

'I like you.'

'I am glad,' Thor goes to one knee and offers Pete a bundle wrapped in a shimmering cloth.

'Thank you,' Pete is clearly benefiting from being around Steve. 'It's heavy.'

'Now, perhaps,' Thor nods, 'but as your sword arm strengthens the weight shall merely feel welcome.'

Tony is beginning to get a bad feeling about this.

'Wow!' Pete sits on the floor as his gift opens up to be a long knife in an elegantly crafted scabbard.

'Ok!' he steps over to his son. 'Let's be very careful with that, shall we?'

'It's a real sword!' Pete grins at him.

'Yes it is,' Tony agrees as Pete tries to pull it from its sheath.

'An enchantment is placed upon the blade,' Thor adds with a knowing smile. 'It cannot be drawn if the intention of the wielder is to play.'

'You baby proof your weapons?' Rhodey laughs.

'Do you not?' Thor gazes at him innocently.

Pete looks a little put out by this.

'Fear not,' Thor smiles at him, 'I shall give you lessons with your blade and during such sessions you shall be able to draw it.'

Ok, his three year old is apparently going to be receiving sword fighting lessons from a Norse god.

But his son is grinning again so sure, why not?

'Thor!' Steve's voice sounds out as he and the others step from the lift. 'Welcome back! There's nothing wrong, I hope?'

'My friends!' Thor stands and stretches his arms out, 'I am glad to see you all again!'

Natasha and Bruce duck out of his way leaving Steve and Clint to be caught in the hug.

'Gack!' Clint stumbles a little as he's let go but Steve immediately thumps Thor on the shoulder with a grin,

'It's good to see you too!'

Natasha and Bruce make similar, but less enthusiastic, motions towards greeting their fellow Avenger. Quickly the exchanges establish that there's nothing wrong and Thor is just visiting.

And baring his gift.

'He gave me a sword!' Pete has dodged to Steve's side and waves the knife up at him.

Thank Thor for the Asgardian baby proofing, Tony grins to himself.

'Wow!' Steve's look of disguised horror is precious.

'It's alright,' Tony cuts in, 'he can't unsheathe it.'

'Oh,' Steve visibly relaxes, 'it's beautiful, Pete.'

'Thor is going to teach me,' Pete beams.

'Well, if your Dada says that's ok,' Steve doesn't look convinced.

'I can, can't I, Dada?' Pete turns to him. 'Please?'

'Of course you can,' may as well go with it from the beginning. 'As long as you're very careful and do everything Thor tells you.'

Pete grins triumphantly.

'Sir, the large batch of coffee that I took the liberty of preparing is ready,' Jarvis is a lifesaver.

'Ah, coffee!' Thor beams, 'I am most fond of this beverage.'

'Thor is going to teach Pete sword fighting?' Steve asks quietly as the others all cluster around the coffee machine.

'Do you want to be the one that tells him no?' he quirks an eyebrow.

Steve laughs,

'I couldn't get him to wait ten minutes for you to finish your press conference...'

'I meant Thor,' Tony grins and collects his coffee as the others move away to the seating area.

Steve smiles as he follows him,

'Good point.'

Chapter Text

Later, after they've eaten, Tony returns to his workshop with Rhodey and his son. He puts Pete down to nap and walks back over to where his friend is waiting.

'You need to tell him,' Rhodey jumps straight back in. 'That man adores you, Tony; you're going to break him if you don't tell him soon.'

'Break him?' Tony scowls. 'No. He'll just... He'll be angry.'

'Tony, I know you have the emotional maturity of a golf ball but you've got to realise how this will hurt him.'

Tony hesitates,

'I just want him to love Pete too.'

'You want him to love you,' Rhodey snaps quietly. 'Tony, the boy is a clone but he isn't you. You don't need to repair his childhood anymore than you already are. Pete loves you; you're his Dada. He doesn't need to have another parent to be happy.'

'No, this has nothing to do with me!' Tony argues. 'This is about me doing everything I can for my sons. If Steve ends up hating me that's fine, just as long as...'

'He already loves Pete!' Rhodey interrupts. 'The only one the room today keeping a closer eye on that child was Jarvis!'

'It's an adjustment though,' Tony can feel his arguments slipping away from him. 'He can bond with Pete first and then with Jim...'

'You're being ridiculous!'

'I just thought he'd cope better if he wasn't overwhelmed with all this so early,' Tony replies quietly.

'You think Steve can cope with loosing another friend?' Rhodey asks. 'Because that's what'll happen here, Tony. How will he be able to trust you after this?'

'He's Steve,' Tony blinks, 'everyone loves him. He doesn't need me.'

Rhodey looks constipated.

'He really will be fine, Rhodey,' he reassures. 'He deserves better than me too.'

'A golf ball, Tony,' Rhodey groans. 'I'm not kidding.'

Tony stares at him.

'Tony,' Rhodey's speaking gently now, 'he likes you.'

'I know that,' Tony rolls his eyes.

'And how many friends did you say he has?'

Tony suppresses his flinch.

'Please tell him?'

Tony rakes a hand through his hair and glances to the incubator in the corner.

He nods.

'You'll tell him?' Rhodey presses.

'Yeah,' Tony agrees. 'Yes, alright, I'll tell him.'

'Thank you,' Rhodey clasps his shoulder and gives him a small shake.

Tony laughs and steps forwards to let his head rest against Rhodey's shoulder,

'I never meant for him to be hurt.'

Rhodey just hugs him.

*          *          *

They spend the rest of the afternoon messing around in the workshop with Pete and the bots. For dinner the return to the penthouse to join Pepper. Rhodey cooks steak while Tony manages a salad to go with it as Pete and Pepper curl up on the sofa and read a story off of Pete's StarkTab.

Pete's room is finished now, but when Pete's eyes start to droop, while they're watching Cars, Tony still takes him back to the Master suite.

Rhodey and Pepper leave, for their floor and suite respectively, and Tony's left alone to finish his scotch.

And to think.

'Muffins,' Tony decides.

'Now, sir?' Jarvis queries.

'No, when I tell Steve.'

'Ah, yes,' his AI replies, 'nothing says I'm sorry I didn't tell you you're about to become a father like baked goods.'

'There's got to be rules about not hitting someone who's just fed you, right?'

'I do not believe Captain Rogers will hit you, sir.'

'As an icebreaker then,' Tony waves a hand. 'Hey, good morning Cap, there's something I need to tell you. Please eat a muffin.'

Short silences from his AI either mean he's checking a fact somewhere across the world or he's laughing.

Tony suspects laughter.

'Not my best work,' he admits. 'Not sure there's a suave way to do this one, Jay.'

'I suspect not, sir,' he agrees.

'I'm not kidding on the muffins though. Get me muffins. Like a giant basket of muffins. With a bow.'

'Do you have a preference regarding flavours?'

'Amaze me,' Tony dismisses. 'Whatever you think Cap will like.'

'Would you like the muffins before or after breakfast?'

'After,' he decides. 'I'm not doing this in front of Pete; get them delivered in time for when Pete has his nap.'

'A hundred muffins are on order, sir.'

Jarvis is such an enabler.

'Thanks, Jay. Should I wear a suit?'

'All day, sir? Or do you plan to dismiss Captain Rogers after breakfast so you might prepare to see him at lunch?'

'No suit,' Tony swallows back his drink and pours another. 'Would flowers be inappropriate?'

'I suspect Captain Rogers would believe you were asking him out if you gave him flowers.'

'No flowers, got it,' Tony nods.

'Unless you would like to ask out Captain Rogers...' he can hear Jarvis' amusement.

'One thing at a time,' Tony scoffs.

'He is very fond of you, sir,' his AI is serious again now. 'And of Peter.'

'You think this is the right time to tell him, Jay?'

'I do not know, sir. Captain Rogers wants a family and he is attracted to you. You have a son together. It is not difficult to see how this might end perfectly.'

'Or blow up spectacularly,' Tony toasts the air and finishes his drink again.

'You have not known each other long enough for me to extrapolate outcomes,' Jarvis informs him regretfully.

'Alright,' Tony nods, 'but you personally; do you think it's right to tell Steve now?'

'You are my first priority, sir,' Jarvis hedges.

'You do!' Tony puts down his empty glass and leans forwards to put his face in his hands. 'You thought I should tell Steve all along but didn't say so? Why?'

'Because Captain Rogers' emotional wellbeing is not my concern,' Jarvis retorts. 'You were not ready to tell him so it was not the correct time to tell him.'

'Jarvis...'

'You have had a large adjustment to make in these last four days,' Jarvis continues. 'Knowing you will be bound to the Captain through a child for the rest of your lives is not something easy to accept. I was confident, however, that you would always have chosen to tell him well before your deadline.'

'Was that factoring in Pepper and Rhodey?'

'Their involvement was always likely, sir.'

'True.'

'Without them I predict you would have told Captain Rogers as Jim was being born.'

'Because I can't announce something without drama?'

'It is something of your modus operandi at this point, sir.'

'What was the percentage chance of me telling Steve via a press conference?'

'On purpose, less than half a percent, by accident, seven percent.'

'That's really high,' Tony can't help but laugh. 'God, Jay, I'm a terrible person.'

'You are my favourite person,' Jarvis retorts.

'Yeah, well, you're biased; I'm one of the few people who knows about you,' Tony stands up and heads to his room.

There's a small pause,

'I think you are the only one that loves me.'

Tony's hand snaps out the grasp at the wall,

'Please tell me that I have told you that?'

'Sir?' Jarvis sounds alarmed.

'That I love you!' Tony blurts. 'You're my best friend and my kid and my conscience... Please tell me we haven't been together that long and I haven't...'

'You have,' Jarvis interrupts. 'Sir, that was my point.'

'The others like you,' Tony stays paused in the corridor.

'Indeed,' Jarvis agrees. 'But I am not one of the first people they would think to call if they had been injured.'

'I always call you,' Tony finally walks into his room.

'Yes, sir,' he can hear Jarvis' smile.

'Remember that time I went to Portland?' Tony grins as he strips off his clothes.

'I was not wired into your house there so you dialled your Malibu property to speak to me.'

'Ran up an enormous phone bill because I left the line open all week,' Tony climbs into bed beside his son. 'Don't think that I don't know that you're distracting me.'

'I merely hoped to give you a nice memory to dwell on before you go to sleep,' Jarvis replies.

'Sure,' Tony settles down, 'thanks Jay.'

'Good night, sir.'

'Good night, bud.'

Chapter Text

The penthouse is still quiet when he arrives; Pepper must be elsewhere again. He starts the coffee machine and leans against the kitchen units as it brews.

'Is Pete bouncing on Tony yet?'

'Not just yet, Captain,' Jarvis replies. 'He is awake, however.'

'I best go and save his Dada then,' Steve grins and pours a mug of strong coffee.

'Sir would likely appreciate that.'

He steps into Tony's room to find Pete sprawled on his father's back,

'Daaaaaadaaaaa....' Pete whines.

'Jarvis,' Tony's voice is muffled where his head is under his pillow, 'please tell me Steve's on his way.'

'Already here,' Steve laughs.

'Cap!' Pete scrambles to the edge of the bed and holds up his arms expectantly.

'Hey, Pete,' he scoops the boy onto his lap as he sits down on the bed.

'Is that coffee?' Tony peers out at him.

'Just the way you like it,' Steve can't help but smile as Tony levers himself up.

He tries to keep his gaze from slipping to Tony's bare chest.

'I really do love you, Steve,' Tony has no idea what he's saying before his coffee has kicked in.

'I'm glad,' he smiles as he hands over the mug.

Tony makes an obscene noise as he inhales the rising vapour.

'Breakfast, Cap!' Pete pats his chest.

'Alright,' Steve grins.

As he moves to stand up Pete suddenly throws himself backwards out of his arms and scrambles across his father's legs to the other side of the bed,

'Pete?' Steve asks in alarm and then grins as Pete collects a couple of items from his side of the bed.

The blanky has got to be relatively normal. The sword, not so much.

'Those are coming with us, huh?' Pete scrambles back over into his arms and manages to jab him in the neck with the sword hilt.

'Thor says I should always carry it so my arm gets stronger,' Pete tells him.

'Alright,' Steve agrees and shifts Pete in his arms until he isn't being stabbed. 'Tony, are you coming?'

The only response he gets is Tony kicking off his sheet but he takes it as a yes.

Tony pads along after him, just wearing some loose pants, as he gets Pete dressed and pours him a beaker of milk. He's getting the ingredients together for French toast as Tony slumps next to the coffee machine and refills his mug.

'Did you go to bed late?' he asks.

'Didn't sleep well,' Tony shrugs a shoulder and doesn't look at him.

'Oh,' a rush of shame floods his chest, 'I'm sorry.'

Tony glances up at his tone and blinks sleepily,

'Hey,' he shakes his head, 'no. Not because of yesterday. Not because of you. Just a lot on my mind.'

'I could look after Pete for a few hours, if you wanted to go back to sleep?' Steve offers.

'Nah,' Tony shakes his head, 'let me finish this and I'll be back to normal.'

'Coffee isn't food, Tony,' he smiles.

'Lies,' Tony shifts closer and slumps against his side.

Steve is getting far too used to this.

'Not sure I can make this with only one arm,' he teases as Tony practically nuzzles his bicep.

'You're so warm,' Tony informs him.

Steve valiantly doesn't keep thinking about how Tony is half naked.

'You could put some clothes on if you're cold,' Steve hopes his voice sounds steady.

Tony merely grunts.

'Are you falling asleep on me?' Steve smiles and flips over the toast to brown the other side.

'I probably would if you didn't keep moving,' Tony gazes up at him with big sad eyes.

'Oh, well, I am sorry,' he smirks and steps away to plate up the toast.

Tony grumbles but follows him to the table and cuts up Pete's toast for him.

After eating Tony does seem a little more human. Steve is now hoping that if Tony notices him staring at his chest he'll assume he's looking at the arc reactor.

Pete settles himself on the floor a selection of his plastic animals, some cars and lots of paper and pencils. That he's hugging his blanky as he draws and his sword is on the floor beside him rather completes the picture.

Tony sits down on the sofa with another mug of coffee cradled to his chest. Steve sits beside him so he has a good excuse to avert his eyes.

'Tony, can I ask you something?' he asks a few minutes later.

'Sure, Cap,' Tony's gaze is alert again.

'I just... Yesterday you said...' he pauses.

'You have questions,' Tony waves a hand. 'Jarvis had to threaten to shoot you to keep me from going completely off the rails, you deserve some answers. So, one time offer, shoot.'

'Your mother...' Steve trails off. He knows that, regardless of what he just said, Tony's walls will be up for this conversation.

'My mother beat me on a semi regular basis from as early as I can remember until I was sent to boarding school,' Tony reports mechanically.

'And Howard?' Steve almost doesn't want to know.

'He didn't hit me, if that's what you're asking,' he replies. 'He ignored me for the most part; told me to keep out of his way. If he knew that Maria... what was happening, then he never let on.'

'I don't understand,' Steve admits. 'You always act like Howard was such a terrible father but...' he falters when Tony gives a fake laugh.

'It's human nature, Cap,' he sees Tony's gaze slide to the bar for a moment before flicking to his son. 'They prod at what they think is the story. All the time I'm the poor spoilt rich boy, whose hero of a father just didn't have time for him, they don't think to ask about my mother.'

There's a pause where Steve cannot think of anything to say before Tony continues quietly,

'I don't like talking about my mother.'

Steve can't imagine having anything but the highest degree of love for his mom.

'I don't understand how anyone could let that happen,' Steve tries to keep his voice from cracking. 'You were barely more than a baby...'

Tony has one arm crossed over his bare stomach and his other hand covering his arc reactor.

That's twice in two days Steve has managed to make Tony that defensive.

'I'm sorry,' he blurts, 'this is none of my business.'

'I'm fine,' Tony retorts, 'you have a free pass.'

'That doesn't mean...'

'Just ask,' Tony scrubs a hand across his face.

Steve swallows,

'You know that her being a monster has no bearing on you?'

'Sure,' Tony agrees quietly.

'Tony...'

'Something must have set her off,' Tony just sounds defeated, 'and she definitely resented me.'

Tony should never sound like that.

'Hey,' Steve risks gripping his friend's shoulder, 'you were a baby. What could you possibly have done to deserve that?'

Tony just shrugs; he looks to be caught in his memories.

Steve should never have asked.

'Someone should have stopped her,' Steve can hear his own distress. 'How could nobody notice what she was doing?'

'She probably paid them off,' Tony turns to look at him now, but his eyes are shuttered.

'And Howard?' Steve can feel his distress turning to anger. 'What possible excuse could he have for ignoring the abuse of his only son?'

Tony glances to Pete,

'Yeah, well, I'm just glad we found Pete when we did.'

'Pete was relieved when you told him he wouldn't see his mom again,' Steve has a bad feeling.

'Nature verses nurture,' Tony's expression ignites with his anger before collapsing back with a sigh. 'They couldn't be sure what made me into me so they kept everything as close to the same as they could.'

'They had a someone beat him while claiming to be his mother?' Steve can't help the growl in his tone.

Tony nods,

'Yeah. You can't see it now, it's healed, but she broke his arm early last year and that matches pretty perfectly with when Maria broke mine.'

Steve feels sick.

'It's also why he recognised me, you see?' Tony continues. 'They had someone who looked like me, or was wearing one of those masks to be me, and they had him exist in the way Howard did for me back then.'

'And he just ignored you?' Steve asks quietly when Tony falls silent.

'Yeah,' Tony shrugs, 'but if he could see me at all Maria never touched me. At Pete's age he was my hero; he kept her away and he sometimes told me stories. I mean, he was mostly drunk when he did that and the stories were always how amazing Captain America was and how no one else could ever compare, but it was more than I got from anyone else so...' he shrugs again.

'Pete trusted me from that first day,' he turns to Steve, 'because he thought he already knew me.'

Chapter Text

Steve is quiet as he stews over the emotional dump Tony has just unloaded on him.

Tony opts to leave for a quick shower to try and relieve the tension.

'Jarvis?' he steps into the shower stall.

'Yes, sir?'

'Any chance Rhodey would let me off telling Steve about Jim on the basis I just raked open my childhood?'

'I suspect there is very little you might wish to do that Colonel Rhodes would not forgive you for,' Jarvis replies without answering the question.

'Are you suggesting I want to tell Steve? Because I'm quite sure I don't want to tell Steve.'

'You may not wish to tell him,' Jarvis knows him too well, 'but you do wish for him to know.'

'Maybe Pete could tell him,' Tony rubs shampoo into his hair.

'Wonderful idea, sir,' Jarvis replies dryly.

Tony laughs nervously,

'Just a thought.

'Do Hallmark do cards for 'Sorry, you're the father'?'

'I suggest,' Jarvis ignores him, 'that Captain Rogers may wish to have a picture of his son.'

This is why Jarvis is his favourite.

'Get one,' Tony agrees readily. 'Put it with the muffins. Are they here yet?'

'In the foyer, sir, ready to be put in the lift at my signal. I shall have an ultrasound style image placed in an envelope and attached to the basket.'

'Thanks, Jay,' he steps out from the spray and stares at himself in the mirror. 'I may need a pep talk when Pete goes down for his nap.'

'I shall do my best when the time comes,' Jarvis assures him.

*          *          *

Tony picks at his lunch but he can't really delay putting Pete down for a nap after the boy practically falls asleep in his plate.

'There you go, kiddo,' he tucks him into the bed in the master suite. 'We should probably try out your bed sometime, you know?'

He smoothes Pete's hair away from his face and presses a kiss to his forehead.

'Sir, you can do this; Captain Rogers is statistically unlikely to hit you.'

Tony sits up and grins,

'Jarvis, is that the best you could come up with?'

'I believed it touched upon the most important points,' Jarvis replies.

'Yeah, thanks, I feel so much better.'

'You are smiling.'

'Don't be smug. Alright, let's do this. Get the muffins on the lift,' he steps out into the main room to find Steve tidying.

Steve looks up and smiles,

'Hey, he went down ok?'

'Yeah,' Tony summons up a smile as he steps over to the lift.

It may have been a bit of a media smile as Steve's dims a little.

Ok, a hundred muffins is a very large basket of muffins.

'That's a lot of muffins,' he turns to find Steve looking baffled. 'We only just had lunch; what did you want muffins for?'

'They're for you,' Tony tells him and hands them over before taking several hurried steps backwards.

'Oh,' Steve holds the basket awkwardly for a moment before moving to place it on the table, 'thank you. What's the occasion?'

Tony's voice is stuck in his throat.

'Tony?' Steve has lifted the envelope containing the photo of their son, but hasn't opened it. 'What's wrong?'

'He's yours!' Tony finally manages to blurt and then mentally kicks himself.

'What?'

'Jim,' Tony drags a hand through his hair. 'He's yours.'

'He's my what?' Steve looks so honestly, trustingly, confused.

'He's your son,' his voice is finally steady and he keeps Steve's gaze.

All the better to see the ruination of their friendship played out across Steve's face.

At first he's still just confused but it morphs into shock. He then looks briefly delighted before returning to confused,

'Why would you say he was yours?'

'Because he is,' he stuffs his hands into his pockets to try and stop himself wanting a glass of something as a prop.

'I don't understand.'

'We found that AIM manipulated some of your cells to act as...' Tony falters as Steve flinches and crosses his arms across his chest, 'to act as eggs. They injected my DNA.'

He watches Steve swallow heavily and look away,

'Why?'

'We don't know,' Tony admits. 'Their notes don't say why. I guess they hope the serum will be inheritable.'

Steve nods,

'Who knows?'

'Well, I think we killed everyone in the base,' Tony replies, confused. 'I guess one of the higher ups in AIM might...'

'I meant who knew before me,' Steve interrupts. 'You said 'we', so, who know before me?'

'Me, Bruce, Jarvis, Pepper and Rhodey,' Tony tells him promptly.

Steve nods again, still staring at the floor,

'Right,' he lets out a bitter sounding laugh, 'ok, fine.'

'Steve...'

'What?' Steve snaps, but when he meets Tony's gaze he just looks lost.

'I'm sorry,' Tony tells him. 'I just didn't want you to be tied down.'

'You've known the entire time,' Rhodey was right; Steve looks stricken.

'Yes,' Tony won't lie now.

'So these last few days with Pete...' Steve waves a hand vaguely, 'that was some sort of interview? To check if I'm good enough to be near your... our son?!'

'No! That's not...'

'Why wouldn't you tell me?' Steve stares at him.

'I didn't think you needed to know!' Tony blurts.

'I didn't need to know...' Steve repeats with a strange sounding laugh.

'I was doing ok and you clearly would have been ok spending time with him without knowing.'

Steve just stares at him.

'It's just genetics,' Tony continues weakly, 'you shouldn't have to be involved if you don't want to be.'

'And it was up to you to make that decision?'

'It's up to me to protect my son from having a parent who isn't interested,' Tony retorts.

'That's what you think of me?' Steve asks quietly.

'Steve...'

'I'm just going to... go...' Steve gestures to the lift.

'Take the muffins,' Tony tells him. 'I'll only throw them away.'

Steve visibly hesitates, but then his shoulders slump a little and he picks up the basket. Tony steps well out of his way as he moves to the lift and watches as he steps inside.

'I'm sorry.'

'Yeah, I get it,' Steve retorts and then the doors slide shut.

That could have gone better.

Chapter Text

Steve carries his muffins onto his floor and places them on the coffee table. He glares at them for a moment.

Why would muffins make this ok?

He eats a muffin.

He's trying to see this from Tony's point of view, he really is, but all he can think is that the other man wants to keep their son to himself.

Maybe he should? Tony is rich, powerful, influential, great with Pete... Can Steve offer anything as Jim's father that he can't offer as 'Cap'? Is that what Tony meant?

It hurts somewhere in his chest to think that he couldn't be a good father. He thinks he's done ok with Pete. And surely that's not the point anyway? He still has the right to know even if he is a terrible father...

But nobody told him. This wasn't just Tony.

Why did nobody tell him?

How did he just eat five muffins without noticing?

He needs to speak to someone.

'Jarvis?' he squares his shoulders.

'Yes, Captain?' the AI replies promptly.

'Did he at least worry over whether or not to tell me?'

'Captain,' Jarvis sounds apologetic, 'sir reaches conclusions very quickly.'

'He didn't want to tell me,' he drops has head into his hands.

'He believed you would not want this,' Jarvis continues, 'that you deserved better than to be tied to him.'

'That wasn't up to him,' he sighs.

There's a moment of silence before the AI continues,

'He did not want you to prefer James over Peter.'

'How could he...?' Steve looks up, 'how can he think that I'd...? Jarvis, aren't we friends?'

'You may not believe me, Captain, but sir did believe this would not hurt you.'

'I meant you and me!' Steve stands up suddenly and waves a hand. 'Jarvis, aren't we friends? Why didn't you tell me?'

The AI stays silent.

Steve laughs bitterly,

'Right, that answers that then.'

'Captain...'

'Save it,' Steve walks to his bedroom, 'I'm going for a run.'

'Captain,' Jarvis persists regardless, 'I consider you one of the few friends I have, but sir is my creator. He is my father.'

Steve sighs and leans against the wall,

'You should have told me.'

'Sir was not ready for you to know.'

Steve lifts his head from the wall and then lets it drop back a couple of times.

He can't help but think that he'd be taking this better if there had apparently been ANYBODY on his side.

He gets that Jarvis wouldn't tell him, he does, and Pepper and Rhodes are Tony's friends not his, but Bruce?

Is he being unreasonable? It has only been four days or so.

What would he have done? If he found a child that was his and Tony's; would he have told Tony immediately? He thinks he would have.

But then he does have certain feelings for Tony that clearly aren't reciprocated.

'I'm going to be a father,' he tries to let that sink in.

What should he do? Tony clearly intends for the boy to live with him and Pete, so when does Steve get to see him?

This all comes back to Tony not thinking well enough of him to trust him with this.

He's such a fool; he thought they were friends.

But that may be those unreciprocated feelings again.

He walks back into his living room and glares at the muffins. And spots the envelope.

He chews on his lip as he considers if he wants to read anything Tony may have written to him. He doesn't, but he's not going to start running away now.

Leaving the penthouse earlier was definitely a strategic retreat...

When did he start eating this muffin?

He sits down and opens up the envelope.

Oh. His breath catches in his throat.

That would be his son.

Chapter Text

'Pepper! I fucked up,' Tony barges into Pepper's suite, collapses beside her on the couch and pushes his head into her lap.

It's always nice to see Pepper curled up in comfortable clothes, even if she is still working.

'Please tell me you told him?' she puts down her tablet.

'I told him,' Tony confirms. 'He didn't take it very well.'

'What happened?' she sighs.

'I lost my babysitter, that's what happened,' Tony pouts up at her.

'Tony...'                                        

She always sees through his ballshit.

'He left,' he shrugs and looks away.

'What happened?' she repeats as she runs her fingers through his hair.

'He asked if Pete was an interview before being able to be Jim's dad,' he admits. 'And he thinks I don't trust him.'

'You don't,' Pepper points out.

'That's not the point,' Tony objects.

'It's quite a lot the point.'

'Alright,' Tony concedes, 'but I don't see why that's on me.'

'I'm not telling you that you have to trust him,' Pepper tugs his hair and then soothes again, 'I'm telling you that's why he's upset.'

'I should trust him,' Tony disagrees. 'He's Steve.'

'He does adore you,' Pepper smiles down at him.

'Yeah?' Tony cracks a smile. 'So he'll forgive me, right?'

'Eventually. If you apologise.'

'Already did,' Tony shrugs. 'Jarvis, what says 'sorry I fucked up telling you about how I fucked up by not telling you about our son'?'

'Do you want a list of Captain Rogers' preferences, sir?'

'Truth, justice and the American way,' Tony rattles off.

'Beautifully put, sir,' Jarvis replies dryly.

'I know what to get him,' Tony sits up abruptly.

*          *          *

Needless to say he changes his mind three times on what to get Steve before Pete even wakes from his nap.

He gives up, for now, once his son is awake. Instead he takes Pete down to the workshop and shows him a car engine.

They wind up taking it to pieces.

'Tony?' they both look up to see Rhodey just inside the door of the workshop.

'Hi Rhodey!' Pete beams.

'Hey,' Tony smiles up at him.

'How are you both that covered in grease?'

Tony glances at his son.

Huh, that is a lot of grease.

'We're playing with the Lamborghini,' Pete tells him.

'You took apart the Lamborghini?' Rhodey looks aghast.

'It's not like I haven't before,' Tony smirks.

Rhodey just shakes his head before refocusing on the two of them.

'You know it's your job to clean him?' Rhodey is fighting a laugh.

Tony looks down at Pete as his son gazes up at him,

'I'm sure we'll figure it out?'

'You're a genius,' Pete tells him confidently.

'Exactly,' Tony agrees. 'Pete, wipe that down so Jarvis can get an accurate scan. I'm going to get Rhodey a drink.'

'How did it go?' Rhodey asks quietly as they move away.

'Not great,' he pours himself a smoothie. He offers one to Rhodey, just to see the face he pulls. Rhodey just pours himself some water. 'He left. Don't think he's talking to me right now.'

Rhodey nods,

'That's ok, Tony, he needs time to process.'

Tony shrugs a shoulder,

'I get that.'

'You just need to apologise,' Rhodey puts a hand on his shoulder. 'Explain why you didn't tell him and hope he understands.'

'And if he doesn't?' Tony swallows back the last of whatever it was Dummy had blended for him. 'If he never forgives me?'

'Then you communicate only through Jarvis, and Jim transfers between you on the lift,' Rhodey goes for the worst case scenario.

'Great,' Tony sighs.

'Just do what you do best, Tony.'

'You want me to sleep with him?' Tony times it so his friend has just taken a sip of water.

He chokes. Quite spectacularly actually.

Tony barely manages to crack a smile at his friend's misfortune.

'Dick!' Rhodey manages as he gasps in a lungful of air.

'Takes one to know one,' Tony pats his shoulder.

Rhodey just looks unimpressed.

'Fine,' Tony tips his head curiously, 'what is it that I do best?'

'You're generous and selfless,' he looks like complimenting Tony may be causing him pain. 'Show him that you want him involved in your sons' lives.'

'Alright,' Tony thinks that over. 'I can work with that.'

Chapter Text

In the end he does leave the tower, but only to go to the coffee place a few blocks over that he started visiting when he still lived in his SHIELD apartment.

He sits inside so that he can't see the tower every time he looks up and so that he can put his back to a wall and keep looking at this picture of his son.

His son.

'We have some fresh muffins, if you're interested, Captain?' the waitress smiles at him.

'Oh,' he hopes he didn't just pull a face, 'no, thank you, ma'am.'

'Ok,' she keeps smiling, 'let me know if you change your mind.'

He offers a small smile in return and looks back down at his picture.

Will he look like Tony or him? Brown eyes or blue? Blond or brunette? What if he doesn't have the serum? Could he be sickly, like Steve was?

He has his phone out and is calling Bruce before he remembers that he's upset with the other man.

'Good afternoon, Steve,' Bruce answers on the second ring.

'Bruce...' Steve trails off.

'What's wrong?'

'Tony told me,' Steve glances around the café to make sure no one can hear him. 'About Jim.'

'Good,' he can hear Bruce's smile. 'Congratulations, Steve.'

'I...' he's smiling despite himself. 'Thanks.'

'I'm sorry you didn't find out sooner,' Bruce adds. 'It wasn't right.'

'That's...' he cuts himself off; it's not ok. 'Why didn't you tell me?'

The line is silent for a moment,

'Shall we do this in person?' Bruce suggests. 'Where are you?'

After giving Bruce directions, and hanging up, Steve orders them a couple of drinks. He gazes at the picture until the chair across from him is pulled out and Bruce sits down.

'Steve,' Bruce greets him.

'Hey,' Steve offers over the picture.

Bruce smiles at it gently before handing it back,

'I am sorry for not telling you.'

Steve shrugs a shoulder,

'Why didn't you? I mean, I know you and Tony are closer than we are, but...' he trails off.

'Tony is...' Bruce hesitates before visibly opting to change tack. 'Do you know how many times I have... Hulked out... since moving into the tower? When we aren't on missions, I mean.'

Steve nods,

'You haven't, I know. You feel safe here with Tony...' he trails off.

Bruce is shaking his head,

'Three.'

'What?'

'Three times. Tony just never opted to set off any sort of alarm when it happened.'

'What happened?' Steve leans forward.

'We have been working on a way for Jarvis to track me, and the other guy, in the event of my capture,' Bruce replies calmly, as if this is a common concern. 'Also the other guy tends to head off into the wilderness if he's upset and I wake up completely lost. If Jarvis and Tony can track me then they can come and find me.'

'Right,' Steve finds he can't really disagree so far.

'Right,' Bruce looks amused. 'Well, while experimenting with a subdermal chip we had a bit of a malfunction. It may have exploded, under my skin, when it came into contact with my blood.'

Steve winces sympathetically.

Bruce just smiles,

'I don't always remember what the other guy does, but I remember blinking down at Tony in the lab. I remember a pause and then Tony just looks irritated and tells me 'The signal wouldn't get through your skin anyway; we're going to have to completely rethink our approach.' And the other guy just huffs at him.'

Steve doesn't know what to say.

'I'm sorry I didn't tell you, Steve, but I can't break the trust of a man who gives it so rarely and for some reason has given it to me.'

'Ok,' Steve nods, 'I understand. I'm not exactly happy about it, but I understand.'

'That's fair,' Bruce sips his tea.

Steve looks at the picture of his son again,

'Is he healthy, Bruce?' he asks quietly. 'Whatever genetic stuff he's getting from me... Is he ok?'

'He's healthy; the serum changed you fundamentally,' Bruce reassures him, 'the illnesses you had as a child won't be passed on to your children.'

'Right,' Steve sighs in relief.

'I'm guessing you have some stuff to deal with, with Tony,' Bruce adds mildly.

Steve nods,

'I'm trying to understand this from his point of view... It's just hard to realise that the guy I was thinking of as my best friend apparently doesn't trust me.'

'Tony trusts maybe four people in the world, and one of those is an AI,' Bruce points out.

'There's that,' Steve smiles despite himself.

'He does like you,' Bruce adds.

'Not as much as I like him,' Steve sighs.

And then he realises what he just said.

He shoots a worried look at Bruce, but just receives a knowing smile in reply.

'Pretend I didn't just say that?'

Bruce shrugs,

'I can,' he agrees.

'What should I do?'

'For the sake of your son you need to come to some sort of agreement with Tony,' Bruce suggests.

'I don't want to see him right now,' Steve admits.

'So don't,' Bruce agrees. 'He's hurt you. Get some amusement out of whatever bizarre presents he sends to you to apologise.'

'He gave me a hundred muffins already,' Steve rolls his eyes.

'Well, that's less insane than the six foot ornamental fountain he had installed in my lounge.'

Steve just stares.

'In fairness it's quite soothing,' Bruce smiles.

Right…

Chapter Text

The next morning Tony regains consciousness to the increasingly familiar sensation of having a small boy using him as a climbing frame,

'Daaaaadaaaaaa...' Pete pats his back before crawling around a little. The small hands and fuzz covered knees aren't exactly comfortable against his bare back so it's something of a relief when Pete collapses across his shoulder blades so their heads are together. 'Dada?'

'Hello, Pete,' he curls an arm around his face.

'Dada?' Pete rolls over on top of him.

'Yes, kid?'

'It's day time.'

'If you say so,' Tony rolls onto his back making Pete topple off of him with a giggle.

'Dada,' Pete beams at him as he opens his eyes.

That fuzzy Iron Man onesie from Rhodey is inspired.

'How about,' Tony tugs his son against his side, 'we try sleeping for a bit longer?'

'But it's day time,' Pete objects even as he curls against Tony's chest.

'Do you think so?' Tony's eyes have slid shut.

'Jarvis, is it day time?'

'Yes, Peter,' Jarvis sounds amused, the traitor, 'it is now seven twenty. Good morning.'

'Jarvis says it's morning time,' Pete tells him triumphantly.

Tony groans.

'Do you not like morning?'

'The morning's great,' Tony snarks, 'I just think it should be in the afternoon.'

Pete settles against him briefly before becoming restless,

'Up!' he pokes Tony in the ribs.

'God you're persistent, this is like Pepper trying to get me to a board meeting all over again...'

He opens his eyes as Pete climbs onto his chest,

'I'm not awake,' he tells his son.

Pete looks over at the bedroom door and then back to him

'You need coffee.'

Clearly this child is a genius.

He's looking at the door again,

'Dada, why has Cap not come?'

'I think it'll just be us today, buddy,' Tony rubs his eyes. 'Cap isn't coming.'

'Oh,' Pete looks confused before lying down on Tony's chest so that his cheek presses against the glass of the arc reactor.

Tony pets his son's hair and tries to make his brain wake up enough to say something comforting.

Maybe he should get Jarvis to call in Pepper.

Why couldn't he have just sucked up his insecurities and told Steve the truth from the beginning?

'But... who will make breakfast?' Pete asks quietly. 'And coffee?'

'Hey, come on,' Tony presses a kiss to his son's hair, 'we're Starks; we don't need anyone else.'

'Oh,' Pete doesn't sound very comforted.

'Except Jarvis,' Tony tries. 'Jarvis can make me coffee.'

'The coffee machine is running, sir.'

Tony sits up and his son slips into his lap,

'What do you want to eat?'

'Dunno,' Pete gazes up at him with big sad eyes.

'Jarvis,' Tony hugs his son against his chest, 'pour that coffee.'

'Of course, sir.'

'Life saver,' Tony mutters. 'Come on, kid, up and at 'em.'

Pete heads to his own room to get dressed, dragging his sword and blanket with him, as Tony detours to get coffee before coming back for him. He helps his son pick out clothes that match while gulping down his coffee.

'You aren't dressed,' Pete scolds him as they head to the main room of the penthouse.

Tony glances down to where he's just wearing sleep pants and shrugs,

'I'll get dressed when I wake up.'

In the kitchen he pours Pete a beaker of milk and refills his coffee.

'Breakfast...' he ponders his cupboards. 'Jarvis?'

'I suggest cereal is not beyond your capabilities, sir,' Jarvis is a condescending bastard. 'Alternatively there are also poptarts in the cupboard to your right.'

'Cereal... I can manage cereal,' Tony mutters and pours a bowl of lucky charms.

Pete attacks his breakfast with enthusiasm but he still seems subdued.

Tony can't think of a single thing to say.

'Is Cap fighting bad guys?' Pete asks quietly after breakfast  as Tony figures out how to load his own dishwasher. 'Is that why he didn't come?'

'Captain America is a very busy man,' Tony flashes up a smile for his son.

'Sir,' Jarvis interrupts, 'I suggest you turn the bowl over or it will not be able to drain.'

'Really, Jarvis, is that important right now?' Tony throws his arms into the air.

His AI has issues.

'So he's fighting bad guys?' all he has to do is lie and say yes.

He should lie, right? Steve probably wouldn't even want him to upset Pete by telling him they fell out...

'Jarvis said to turn it over,' Pete has slipped from his chair and come over to turn over the bowl.

'Right,' Tony watches his son reposition everything.

And who could have taught him that other than Steve?

He retreats to his room to get dressed as Pete curls up with his tablet on the couch.

'Jarvis, what do I do?'

'I do not have any suggestions for you, sir,' he replies regretfully.

'Where is...' he changes his mind. 'Where's Pepper?'

'Ms Potts is in her office downstairs,' Jarvis tells him, 'in a conference call with Tokyo. Captain Rogers is still out for his run and is the other side of the city.'

His AI knows him too well.

'And Rhodey?'

'Colonel Rhodes received an invitation out last night, he has not returned to the tower,' Jarvis reports delicately.

'That dog... Danvers?'

'Yes, sir,' Jarvis confirms his guess.

'Tell me when Pepper's available,' he drags a hand through his hair, ‘and when Cap gets back.’

Back in the main room he finds Jarvis is reading a story to Pete off of his tablet. He sits beside his son and brings up his home interface on the coffee table.

The hologram shows the latest stock levels, that he has twenty new emails (Jarvis filters out everything except what he might read), the data for the most recent escape pod prototype and, tucked away in the bottom right, the heartbeat readout from Jim's incubator.

He brings up his emails and gets to work.

Twenty minutes or so later he looks up as his son tugs on his sleeve.

'Dada?' Pete gazes up at him, 'Cap likes us, right?' and now he looks painfully uncertain.

'Hey,' Tony laughs and tugs him against his side, 'I don't know about me, but I have it on good authority that Cap loves you, baby.'

'Yeah?' Pete brightens. 'So Cap will come back?'

'He'll be back,' Tony just hopes he's not lying.

Chapter Text

Steve leaves earlier than normal for his morning run and chooses the longest of his various routes.

He's hoping to lose track of time so he won't be hyper aware of when it's time for Pete to be waking up.

It doesn't work.

He sits down on a park bench and drops his face into his hands.

He didn't sleep well.

The picture he has of Jim is already soft at the corners where he keeps pulling it out of his wallet.

He still smiles every time he looks at him though.

All he needs to do is work things out with Tony. This would be fine except he doesn’t think he can look Tony in the eye right now.

'What did he do?' he jumps to his feet in surprise as Natasha appears on the bench beside him.

'Natasha,' he sits back down, 'hello to you too. You're up early.'

'I was on an early assignment,' she smiles easily. 'Come on, Rogers, what did Stark do?'

'How did you even find me?' Steve looks around. 'Why were you looking for me in the first place?'

'I got back to the tower, asked who was in and was told you weren't. You don't go running at half four in the morning unless you're upset,' she bumps their shoulders together. 'When you still weren't back by quarter to seven I got Jarvis to track you and got a cab.'

Steve laughs,

'Alright.'

'What did he do?'

He doesn't bother asking how she knows it must have been Tony that upset him.

He hands over the photo of Jim,

'That's Jim,' he tells her.

She just blinks at it,

'Ok?'

'The incubator in Tony's lab?'

'Right,' she agrees. 'Tony's baby.'

'Yeah,' he grimaces. 'Well, he's mine.'

She just stares at him.

'Mine and Tony's,' he clarifies. 'He explained it... they manipulated my cells and added Tony's DNA, or something, it probably wasn't as simple as that sounds.'

'I'm guessing he didn't tell you,' she looks at the photo again.

'He doesn't trust me.'

'He doesn't trust anyone,' she dismisses.

'I just don't understand why,' Steve accepts the photo back. 'He knows I... He must know I like him? And he knows I like kids. Pete likes me. Does he just not think I'll... bring anything extra?'

'Cap,' Natasha scowls at him, 'I don't know what was going through Tony's head, but I can tell you this much; there is no way he thinks he'll be a better father than you. Whatever he was planning, he thought it would keep you around and that it was best for you and the boys.'

'He did say something about not wanting me to prefer Jim to Pete,' Steve recalls.

'That sounds like the sort of logic he'd go in for,' Natasha smiles.

'What about the others though? Bruce, Pepper, Colonel Rhodes and Jarvis all knew too.'

Natasha gazes at him for a moment,

'Why do you think he decided to tell you?'

'You think they talked him into it.'

She shrugs and they sit in silence for a moment,

'What are you going to do?'

'I need to work out some sort of...' he grimaces, 'arrangement with Tony. I need to know to what extent he's going to let me be a father.'

'You're just going to let him decide?' she stares at him.

'I don't want to fight over our son,' Steve tells her quietly. 'I'd rather be on good terms with Tony, and be on the edge of Jim's life, than be a more prominent fixture but have Jim know that his parents are fighting.'

'It's Tony,' she rests her head on his shoulder, 'he needs a shove in the right direction occasionally, but he's a good guy; he won't want to keep you apart.'

'I hope not.'

*          *          *

Natasha stays with him for a little before he decides to finish his run. He walks her to the curb where it turns out the 'cab' she got to find him turns out to be one of Tony's souped up cars.

'He won't mind,' she smirks as she slips behind the wheel.

He just laughs and waves her off.

Time to go home.

He starts out jogging but his speed picks up now he's moving towards what he wants. He pulls himself back from a full out sprint as the tower comes into view. The doors open to him as he jogs up and the lift is waiting for him.

'Welcome back, Captain Rogers,' Jarvis greets him.

'Hey, Jarvis,' he leans against the wall as the lift rises. 'What's the time?'

'Three minutes past ten, Captain.'

He steps off onto his own floor intending to go straight to the shower but stops when he sees what looks like a large picture frame covered with a dust sheet.

'What's this?'

'A gift from sir,' Jarvis tells him.

'Ok...' he pulls the sheet aside to find a beautiful oil painting. He finds himself studying the brush work before he can stop himself, 'it's lovely. The artist must have been a fan of Da Vinci; it's in the same style.'

'I do not know if the artist was a fan of himself,' Jarvis responds blandly, 'but he certainly has a recognisable style.'

Steve takes several hurried steps away from the painting,

'It's an original. Of course it's an original. How much did it cost him?!'

'In fairness to sir, on this occasion, it cost nothing as it was already in his possession,' Jarvis replies. 'To truly answer your question, however, I would estimate its value in the region of fifteen million dollars. Conservatively.'

Steve swallows heavily,

'What am I supposed to do with it?'

'Hang it on the wall?' he can hear Jarvis' amusement.

'I can't have a fifteen million dollar painting by Leonardo Da Vinci hanging in my lounge!'

'It is yours,' Jarvis dismisses, 'you may do whatever you wish.'

This is too much.

This is exactly what he should have expected from Tony Stark.

He needs a shower.

'He can't buy my forgiveness with this,' he adds as he strips off his shirt.

Jarvis doesn't reply.

Chapter Text

Jarvis gives Tony a written notification when Steve returns to the tower. He glances to his son, who's now playing a picture matching game on his tablet, and doesn't mention it.

He doesn't need to get Pete's hopes up when he knows Steve won't be visiting for a while.

'Sir, Ms Potts is requesting your presence in her meeting.'

'With Japan?'

'With your Board of Directors, sir.'

'Is it important?'

'She is trying to prove that the existence of your son is not affecting your working capability.'

Tony groans,

'Really? A half-assed attempted coup?'

'What shall I relay as your response?'

He bites his lip as he glances at Pete.

'Who's in?'

'SGR is on his floor,' Jarvis tells him carefully, 'Agent Romanov is out driving your Ferrari, Colonel Rhodes has not yet returned to the tower, Doctor Banner is working in his laboratory and Agent Barton is with Prince Thor on the communal floor.'

Well, decision time...

'Alright,' he sighs, 'tell her I'll be a few minutes.

'Pete,' he smiles at his son beside him, 'get your sword, ok? You're going to play with Thor and Clint while I go to work with Auntie Pepper.'

'I can learn swords?' Pete leaps from the sofa and grabs his sword.

'Maybe,' he smiles, 'if Thor's up for it.'

He ushers him onto the lift after grabbing his blanket and then leads the way into the communal lounge.

'Greetings!' Thor beams at them.

'Hi Thor,' Pete smiles shyly from where he is clinging to his pant leg, 'hi Clint.'

'Hey, kiddo,' Clint grins. 'What brings you rich types down to our level?'

'I have a Board Meeting,' Tony pet his son's hair absently, 'can you two look after him for a few hours?'

Clint looks suddenly panicked and shoots a look at Thor, but the demi god is already nodding,

'Of course, friend Tony, it would be our honour.'

'Great,' Tony grins. 'Remember to feed him lunch and then put him down for a nap. I'll be back in a few hours but you can always get Jarvis to interrupt me, ok?'

Thor nods solemnly and Clint shrugs,

'Sure, as long as Thor knows what he's doing.'

Very reassuring.

He kneels down to face his son,

'Ok, I have to go to work now, baby. You stay here, with Thor and Clint, and I'm sure you'll have lots of fun. You be good, ok?'

Pete looks less convinced now Tony's departure is imminent.

'You've got your sword and your blanky,' Tony adds, 'and you know Jarvis can always find me, ok?'

'Ok,' Pete nods, still looking nervous.

'Good boy,' he kisses his forehead and stands to face his fellow Avengers, 'he had better be in one piece when I get back,' he waits for their nods. 'Alright, I love you, Pete, I'll see you later.'

'Bye bye, Dada,' Pete gazes after him.

Tony smiles until the lift door closes between them. He leans against the wall and sighs,

'If he needs anything at all,' he tells Jarvis, 'tell me, ok?'

'Of course, sir.'

Fingers crossed.

*          *          *

Pete decides pretty quickly that Thor and Clint are brilliant.

Not as brilliant as Dada, of course, or even as brilliant as Cap, but very very very great.

When Dada first left he nearly asked Jarvis to make him come back, but then Clint had mentioned throwing knives and he asked about them instead,

'Ah,' Clint had looked strange, 'I didn't mean we should actually... oh, god, please don't cry! I have them right here!'

And then they found a dart board and Clint showed him how to throw knives at it, which was brilliant even though he wasn't allowed a turn.

After that Clint had told Thor that Pete needed a turn at something. He had been convinced they would both be repulsored where the sun didn't shine if Pete got upset.

Pete wasn't sure what that meant except that Thor then drew a sword and told Pete he'd show him sword stuff.

Playing swords is even more brilliant than Pete had hoped, even though it makes his arm hurt.

'My arm hurts,' he tells Clint proudly.

'We are so dead,' Clint moans dramatically. 'If Tony doesn't kill us then you can bet that Steve will.'

'All is well,' Thor just laughs, 'that is merely your arm becoming used to such activity and becoming stronger!'

'Ok,' he agrees with Thor because Clint is silly.

'Come, little warrior,' Thor beckons, 'we must find sustenance after such exertion.'

'He means let's eat,' Clint is the best for translations.

'Ok,' he holds up his arms and Clint pauses for a second before picking him up.

Now he can see what Thor is doing.

'Bacon and eggs?' Clint asks as he walks them closer.

'Indeed,' Thor nods. 'Such food is important for growing infants.'

'I'll get the ketchup,' Clint carries him to the fridge. 'What do you drink, kiddo? Juice?'

'Milk,' Pete tells him. 'Jarvis says it's good for my teeth and bones.'

'Right,' Clint puts the milk out beside the ketchup, 'always best to listen to your Dada's omniscient butler.'

'I like milk,' Pete tells him. 'Dada likes coffee.'

'Yeah, he does,' Clint laughs.

'Is coffee good for teeth and bones?' he wonders.

'Coffee is important for brain function in grown ups,' Clint tells him. 'Especially in the mornings.'

'Oh,' that makes sense. 'So Dada is a genius because of coffee?'

'That's quite the theory, little man,' Clint grins at him.

'You should drink more coffee,' Pete tells him, 'then you'd be smart.'

Thor laughs loudly,

'The little one is clever!'

'Thanks a lot,' Clint pulls a face and then pokes him in the stomach. He giggles so Clint does it again, 'oh my god, you're ticklish. Is your dad ticklish? How quickly will Jarvis kill me if I try to find out?'

He giggles some more and squirms in Clint's arms until he finally stops,

'Stop it,' he sighs and rests his head on Clint's shoulder.

'Here,' Thor has put their food on the table, 'bacon and eggs within bread.'

'Thanks Thor, come on kid, eat this before you sleep?'

He nods his head and sits up at the table. The sandwich is two rectangles, not two triangles like Dada does it, but it tastes good. Clint and Thor are talking but he doesn't listen to them because he has to concentrate on his food. He licks his fingers clean of egg before drinking his milk.

Thor appears in front of him and wipes his face and hands.

'Where's Dada?'

'Your father is meeting with those important to your Industries,' Thor tells him.

He considers that,

'I want Dada.'

'You shall sleep first, little warrior, ' Thor smiles.

But what if Dada doesn't come back?

'Dada?' he tries to go and find Dada but Thor is holding him.

'Hush, all is well,' Thor runs a hand across his head. Thor has a nice voice.

It's not as nice as Dada's.

'Dada will come back?' his head is too heavy so he rests it on Thor.

'Your father is a good and honourable man,' Thor tells him, ‘he would never willingly leave you.’

'Ok...' he closes his eyes.

Chapter Text

'Tony,' Pepper greets him at the lift as he steps onto the conference room floor.

'Hey, Pep,' Tony fixes the cuff links on the shirt he threw on after dropping off Pete; it is best to wear a suit to Board Meetings.

'Where's Pete?' she asks. 'With Steve?'

'With Thor and Clint,' he corrects as they start walking. 'I haven't heard from Cap.'

'Did you apologise?'

'I gave him the Da Vinci,' he admits.

'Tony...' she sounds a little strangled. 'Didn't we talk about not giving overly excessive gifts?'

'Yeah, but this was different,' Tony tells her. 'I thought this through.'

'You gave one of the most modest people I know a multi million dollar painting!'

'But he does like art!' Tony points out. He's a little proud of himself. 'And I didn't buy it, Howard did, so it's different.'

'That's true,' Pepper wrinkles her nose. 'But...'

'If anything happens to me then Jim will be Steve's,' he adds.

Pepper's gaze sharpens.

'I need to be sure my kids are cared for,' he tells her with a self conscious shrug. 'The last time I thought about what would happen if I died I gave Rhodey a suit and you SI; this wasn't that excessive.'

'Tony, Steve doesn't need that much money.'

Tony shrugs,

'Obe resented looking after me when I was so much richer than him.'

'Don't pretend you think Steve is anything like Stane.'

'I don't,' he agrees quickly, 'no, Steve is... But this is my kid, Pep; aren't I supposed to do everything I can to provide for him?'

Pepper sighs,

'Steve is going to think you're trying to buy his forgiveness if you don't talk to him.'

'I'm not going to make him talk to me if he doesn't want to.'

'Did you at least leave him a note?'

'There was an image of Jim with the muffin basket?' Tony tries.

'What muffin basket?' Pepper groans.

'The basket of a hundred muffins I gave him yesterday when I told him about... our son.'

'Of course,' Pepper shakes her head.

'You think I should leave a note with his next present?'

'There's a next present,' she doesn't even make it a question. 'Yes, Tony; if you aren't going to speak to him, you at least have to write to the man.'

'Ok,' Tony agrees, 'I can do that.'

'Good,' she stops at the door to the conference room. 'Ready?'

'For the Board?' Tony rolls his eyes. 'I know what I'm doing, Ms Potts.'

'Of course, Mr Stark,' she smiles at him and they enter the room together.

*          *          *

Steve has very gingerly carried the painting, he can't quite think of it is his painting, into his lounge.

He was going to ignore it and leave it where it was, but then he realised he was just being spiteful and, if nothing else, he needs to treat such a valuable piece of art history better than that.

Could he seriously just accept it and hang it on the wall? It is lovely.

He really needs to move these damn muffins or even with his incredible metabolism he's going to get fat.

He sighs and moves the muffins to his kitchen island and the painting, very carefully, to his spare room.

Out of sight out of mind, right?

If he's going to think this thing with Tony through logically then he can't let himself be distracted by his gifts.

Of course now he can settle down and feel bad about skipping out on making breakfast this morning.

Way to prove that you are fatherhood material, Rogers, just walk out when things get tough.

No, he tells himself, if Tony can take four days to tell him, then he is at least due the same.

Right, like he'd ever let this stand that long. He knows he'll be fighting for a resolution long before four days.

That said he still can't quite bring himself to ask Jarvis where he can find Tony.

He pulls out his picture of Jim,

'Jarvis?'

'Yes, Captain?'

'How long until Jim is born?'

'Approximately two months,' Jarvis tells him. 'Doctor Banner will have a better idea of when it will be best to open the incubator closer to the time.'

Steve nods,

'Would you... If anything happens to...'

'I shall inform you of any developments to James Stark's situation, Captain,' he assures.

He quirks a smile,

'Thanks.'

He smiles at the photo and runs his thumb over where his son's name is printed neatly at the bottom.

STARK, James Steven.

'He meant to name him after me, didn't he?'

'I expect so, Captain,' Jarvis agrees. 'He knew you were the child's father when he chose the name.'

He sits in silence for a moment as he considers that,

'He hasn't given his name to either of the boys.'

'They have his surname,' Jarvis points out. 'Besides, I suspect sir intended to honour those whose names he gave to his children. And he is not a fan of the name Anthony.'

Steve can't help his sudden smile,

'No; he's not.'

'Captain,' Jarvis breaks the silence again, 'sir would never want to keep you from your son.'

'No?' he sighs. 'But Jim will be living with Tony, won't he?'

'Do you wish to fight sir for custody?'

Steve feels himself blanch,

'No! I just... Does he even really need me? That's what Tony meant, isn't it? Jim doesn't really need me as a father if he has Tony.'

'Quite the opposite, Captain,' Jarvis disagrees. 'Sir believes your presence will be beneficial in whatever form.'

Steve sighs,

'This is all about trust for Tony?' he asks as he rubs his eyes. 'But how am I supposed to trust him?'

'It is not sir's fault that he doesn't trust you, Captain,' Jarvis retorts loyally.

'No,' Steve sighs, 'I guess not.'

'It is not yours either,' the AI adds after a small pause. 'If sir were to add another person to the very small list of those he trusts, it would undoubtedly be you.'

'That's something, I suppose,' Steve tries a smile.

He is just going to have to speak to Tony...

Chapter Text

Pete stays still when he wakes up; this isn't Dada's room.

'Jarvis?' he whispers as he peaks from under the covers.

'Hello, Peter,' Jarvis greets him and the lights turn up. 'You are in the guest room on the communal floor. Prince Thor and Agent Barton are just outside, shall I notify them?'

Jarvis talks funny.

'Where's Dada?'

'Sir is still in his meeting.'

He sits up and rubs his eyes,

'I want Dada.'

'He is not available.'

He hugs his blanket,

'You can always find Dada. Dada said so!' Pete accuses.

'I can,' Jarvis confirms, 'but I believe you like Prince Thor and Agent Barton?'

'I like Dada better,' he replies.

'Naturally.'

'Why is Dada busy?'

'He is meeting with the Board of Directors of Stark Industries.'

'That doesn't sound fun,' Pete retorts.

'Sir would undoubtedly agree with you,' Jarvis sounds amused. 'Perhaps you would like to go to the other room where you can play with the toy cars Agent Barton has brought down from the penthouse?'

That sounds fun,

'Ok,' he crawls to the edge of the bed, dragging his blanket and his sword. 'And Dada will come back later?' He pushes his sword onto the floor and slips off the bed after it.

'I am certain sir will escape from his meeting as soon as he is able,' Jarvis confirms.

'Ok,' he picks up his sword.

Thor and Clint are at the TV. Clint is shouting while Thor laughs.

'How can you be beating me at this?! Man, this just isn't right.'

'I am sorry, friend Clint, but this carting is most enjoyable!'

'I'm glad Nat isn't here to see this.'

'Why?' Pete wonders.

'Dear fuck!' Clint jolts and stares at him.

Clint is funny.

'When did you...? Hey, Pete!'

'Hi,' he climbs into the couch.

'Did you sleep well, little warrior?' Thor smiles at him.

'Totally don't use that word I just used...' Clint adds quietly.

'Yes,' he tells Thor. 'Which word?'

'Steve is going to kill me...'

Pete looks between the two of them and hugs his blanket a little tighter.

'What's up, kid?' Clint smiles.

'I want Dada,' he replies and gets tugged into a hug against Clint's side.

Dada gives better hugs.

'He shall be back later, little one,' Thor tells him.

'Yeah,' it would still be better to have Dada now...

'That is an impressive pout,' Clint ruffles his hair.

'Your miniature car collection has been brought down to this floor,' Thor tells him. 'May I request that you show it to me?'

He likes his cars.

'Ok,' Pete pulls Thor over to his box of cars and tips them out onto the floor.

'You have many,' Thor sits down.

'Yeah,' Pete agrees as he looks for the red one with gold wheels and red flames on the side. 'This one is my favourite,' he gives it to Thor, 'it's the fastest because it's on fire.'

'I see,' Thor nods.

'I bet Stark has a suit that can be on fire...' Clint makes no sense.

'I have an Iron Man car,' he shows them. 'It's my second favourite because it has a little Dada inside.'

'That's weird,' Clint flicks up the mask on the little man to see that it's Dada.

'Dada is the best,' Pete tells him firmly.

'Do you have a third favourite?' Thor asks.

'This one as a hook on the back,' he shows Thor. 'That means it can fix the other ones if they break.'

'Very cool,' Thor nods.

'Yes,' he agrees as he makes sure all the cars are up the right way.

'You know slang now too?'

'My Lady Jane has a companion, Lady Darcy, who makes much use of slang,' Thor smiles.

Thor smiles a lot.

'You'll be visiting her, I assume?' Clint plays with the purple car that shoots harpoons.

'She shall arrive in this fair city this very eve!' Thor beams. 'We are to dine together on steak.'

Clint laughs but Pete doesn't see how it's funny.

'Will she want to play cars too?' Pete asks.

'Perhaps,' Thor nods. 'Which of these may Lady Jane play with?'

'She can choose a favourite,' Pete offers generously. 'As long as it's not one of my favourites because they're all mine really.'

'Of course,' Thor agrees. 'My Lady would not wish to steal from you. She is what you call an astrophysicist, so maybe she could play with this one with the stars?'

Pete considers that; he likes the one with stars because it glows in the dark.

'Maybe she can have that one,' he agrees as he gathers his three favourites onto his lap. 'You can play with the one with the engine that sticks out.'

'Agreed,' Thor rolls the car towards him, 'I shall be most careful so that I am able to return it to you undamaged.'

That sounds fair.

*          *          *

Steve finally asks where he can find Tony only to be told he's in a Board Meeting.

He's spent enough time on his own now, though, so he makes himself get the lift to the communal floor.

He means to go straight to the kitchen to get himself a drink, and offer one to anyone else who's here, but he's barely two steps out of the lift when Pete is suddenly attached to his leg.

Why did he not think enough to realise that if Pete isn't with Tony, and not with him, then of course the other members of the team must be looking after him?

'Cap!' Pete beams up at him.

He can't help grinning back; he's missed this boy,

'Hey!' Steve scoops him into a proper hug. 'How are you?'

'We're playing cars,' Pete tells him.

'Indeed,' Thor stands up from the floor and places down a toy mustang. 'Greetings, Captain.'

'Clint used a bad word,' Pete tells him gravely.

'Did he?' Steve tries not to laugh as Clint groans and drops his face into his hands.

'He wouldn't tell me which one though,' Pete sounds disappointed.

'I'm going to make some coffee,' Steve smiles at his team mates, 'anyone else?'

'Sure,' Clint grins.

Pete pats his chest as he carries him into the kitchen,

'Jarvis had to make Dada coffee today,' he's informed, 'and Dada had to make breakfast!'

Ok, now he feels like pond life.

'Oh,' he manages to choke out.

'I had Lucky Charms,' Pete tells him.

'Were they good?' he asks as he manages to get out some mugs.

'Pancakes are better,' Pete tells him.

'I'm sorry I wasn't there.'

'Dada says you're busy lots,' Pete gazes at him trustingly.

'Yes,' Steve can hardly say anything else. 'Yes, that's right.'

He can't promise Pete he'll be around all the time when he doesn't know for sure if he'll be allowed to be.

'It's ok,' Pete tells him, 'we're Starks so we don't need anyone else.'

'Did your Dada tell you that?' Steve didn't realise it was possible to feel worse.

'Yes,' Pete confirms and beams at him.

Jesus Christ...

*          *          *

They play with the cars for a while; Pete makes up an elaborate scenario where Clint's car is trapped upside down under the couch and it's up to the rest of them to save him. Pete is, naturally, the only one allowed to have more than one car, but Steve is given the privilege of using his second favourite.

'Why does he get that car?' Clint fake pouts.

'Because he's Captain America and Dada is his favourite,' Pete tells them.

Clint spends a good minute remembering how to breathe as Steve avoids looking anyone in the eye.

'He is a good choice, Captain,' Thor adds quietly as Pete tells Clint off for moving his car.

Steve offers a weak smile before being instructed on what he has to do to help defeat the army of evil cars.

Just as they rescue Clint and are celebrating their victory Jarvis tells them he has a message,

'Sir will be longer than he thought,' the AI declares. 'He wanted me to check that one of you would be able to make sure Pete has dinner; he is caught in a conference call with his R&D department in Florida.'

'I am unable,' Thor looks crestfallen, 'I must soon depart to meet Jane.'

Clint looks vaguely terrified by the prospect but Steve isn't strictly sure he's got permission to be around Pete right now.

'I want to stay with Cap,' Pete declares.

'Captain Rogers it is,' Jarvis agrees.

Steve shoots a vague glare at the ceiling,

'If that's ok with Tony...'

'It's ok, right Jarvis?' Pete's pleading eyes will be their downfall.

'Sir has given no indication otherwise,' Jarvis agrees.

Pete beams.

'Favouritism,' Clint sighs, though he's clearly relieved, 'that's what this is.'

'Dada is my favourite,' Pete corrects him.

'And then Cap?'

Pete considers it,

'Yes,' he agrees eventually, 'because he gives hugs and makes breakfast, but Jarvis is my very next favourite.'

'Well, if that doesn't make you a Stark through and through I don't know what does,' Clint laughs.

'Can I help make dinner?' Pete asks

'If you'd like to,' Steve agrees with a helpless smile. 'Come on, then,' he gestures to the lift. 'Let's get dinner cooking and then we can watch some TV.'

'Ok,' Pete beams and waves to the others, 'bye!'

'Farewell!' Thor waves as Clint just grins.

Steve just hopes things go well when Tony comes looking for his son.

Chapter Text

Tony finally escapes after six hours; when Pepper gets her claws into him she doesn't let go.

'Finally,' he groans as the lift starts to rise, 'ok, who's got Pete?'

'Captain Rogers, sir.'

Tony jolts,

'Why?!' he grits out in exasperation.

'That is who Peter chose,' Jarvis replies blandly.

'Steve isn't even speaking to me!'

'Perhaps not, but he is speaking to your son.'

'Right,' Tony squares his shoulders even as he sighs, 'this isn't going to be weird at all...'

He straightens his suit just as the doors open to Steve's floor.

Here goes nothing.

He steps forwards as if he owns the place.

Which is easy enough as he does, in fact, own the place.

He immediately spots Steve sitting on his couch with the TV quietly playing some cartoon. Steve looks up and their eyes meet briefly before Tony concentrates on his son. Pete is fast asleep, hugging his blanky, with his head in Steve's lap.

'Come on, baby,' he crosses the room and carefully lifts his son into his arms while trying to avoid touching Steve's thigh.

'Dada...' Pete doesn't open his eyes but snuggles himself into Tony's chest.

Tony turns and takes a few steps back towards the lift before he's interrupted,

'Are you seriously going to leave without speaking to me?' Steve asks quietly.

Tony stops but doesn't turn around,

'I don't make a habit of speaking to people who aren't speaking to me.'

He hears Steve stand up behind him,

'I am speaking to you,' Steve points out.

'Well, I didn't know that, did I?' Tony retorts as he turns around.

'We need to talk, Tony,' Steve hunches his shoulders a little as he shoves his hands into his pant pockets.

'Yeah,' he pets Pete's hair absently.

They stare at each other for a moment.

'Thank you,' Steve blurts suddenly, 'for the painting. I mean it's insane and far too much and I have no idea what to do with it, but thanks; it's beautiful.'

Tony considers him with no small amount of confusion,

'You're thanking me?'

'Just good manners,' Steve shrugs with a tiny, but noticeable smile, 'I understand why you'd be confused.'

'Right,' Tony stares at him. 'We're not ok though, are we?'

'No, not really,' Steve confirms.

Tony can't think of anything to say.

'Tony,' Steve just looks sad, 'I just need to know what... I'd like to be able to see him?'

What?

'Who?' he asks.

'My... Jim,' Steve stutters.

'Your son,' Tony corrects and tips his head. 'Of course you can see him.'

Steve lets out a strange laugh,

'As his babysitter?'

Tony winces and breaks eye contact.

'I just don't understand why you didn't trust me!' Steve suddenly snaps. 'Why don't you trust me? What do I have to do to make you trust me?!'

'Dada?' Pete's head jolts up and he blinks blearily.

'Shush, I'm here baby,' Tony tells him quietly as he takes a couple of steps backwards. 'I'm taking you to bed now.'

'K...' he settles back against the arc reactor.

'Sorry...' Steve mutters and presses a hand to his face.

'Don't,' Tony dismisses. 'This is all my fault. I assumed things about... It's my fault and nothing you did.'

'Tony,' Steve gazes at him beseechingly, 'I thought we were friends; tell me how I can make you trust me?'

'We are friends...' Tony knows he doesn't exactly sound convinced. 'But this isn't...'

'This is new territory,' Steve understates earnestly, 'but we can do this... I mean, if you want me to help...'

'Do you think I don't want you involved?' he interrupts, confused.

'You haven't exactly included me so far,' Steve retorts.

'I've included you more than anyone else,' he shrugs.

'So that makes this ok?'

Tony hesitates as he looks at his son before meeting Steve's eye,

'It's not my fault that I don't trust you,' he replies quietly and walks the remaining distance to the lift.

*          *          *

He takes Pete to bed and immediately goes to the bar in the main room of the penthouse and pours himself a large drink,

'Jarvis, where're Pepper and Rhodey?'

'Already on their way, sir.'

'Thanks, buddy,' he walks over to the window. He swipes away the alerts that appear on the glass and rests his head against it as he stares out across the city.

'Tony...' Pepper arrives and moves quickly to his side.

'I need to learn to trust him,' Tony tells her. 'Tell me how to do that?'

'You know it doesn't work like that,' she sighs and tucks herself against his side.

'It should do,' he wraps an arm around her without looking away from the view.

'What happened?'

'He had Pete, so I went to get him,' he shrugs. 'Steve asked why I don't trust him; he wanted to know if I'd let him be involved.'

'And did you tell him he could be as involved as he wants?' Pepper asks leadingly.

'Right, that might have helped,' he concedes.

'It's alright,' Pepper tells him as he takes a gulp of his drink. 'He hasn't left; you can still work this out.'

'What will fix this is me trusting him,' he disagrees. 'I don't know that I can.'

'Tony,' Pepper sighs, 'Steve isn't some perfect god of a man that's judging you at every turn; he's upset that you don't trust him but he's capable of understanding why you don't.'

'He doesn't really seem that keen on forgiving me,' Tony sighs and looks up as Rhodey arrives. 'Maybe his next present will help...'

'Yeah, sure it will Tones,' Rhodey rolls his eyes. 'Jarvis, order us some chinese?'

'My pleasure, Colonel Rhodes.'

What ever would he do without these three?

*          *          *

Steve felt heart sick as he watched the doors after Tony left.

He spends that night turning what the other man said over and over in his mind.

The next morning, on his run, he manages to boil the situation down to the very basics.

Tony doesn't trust him, but he hasn't restricted his access to Pete and he seems willing to let him have a role in Jim's life too.

So, what does that mean?

Obviously Steve wants to be a father to Jim, which doesn't seem like it's completely off the cards.

He'd also like to spend time with Pete, which also seems like something Tony will allow.

So the only real problem is that he also wants to be best friends with Tony.

Well, he wants more than to be best friends, but he's shoving that small rebellious thought into the back of his mind.

He jogs up to the front doors of the tower and rolls his shoulders as he crosses the foyer to the lift.

Tony was always willing to trust him with the children, but not with the knowledge that Jim was his, so actually...

He shakes his head,

'Jarvis, Tony doesn't trust me,' he states, somehow without his voice wavering. 'But he'll still let me near his sons...'

'Yes, Captain,' Jarvis confirms as the lift rises.

'So, this isn't quite about trust,' Steve sighs. 'This is about Tony's sense of self-worth...'

'Sir has learned that few choose to stand by him for long,' Jarvis replies quietly.

'He didn't think I'd reject Jim, he thought I'd reject ...' Steve falters as the lift doors open to his floor and he sees a large item covered with a shimmering sheet waiting for him. 'You're kidding me.'

'A gift from sir,' Jarvis sounds amused.

What did he expect?

Chapter Text

'Dada?' his face is patted.

He groans and presses his face into his pillow.

'Dada, it's day time,' his son snuggles against him.

'That was yesterday,' he groans.

Pete giggles and settles against his chest instead of immediately starting to poke him again. He hugs his son close and presses a kiss to the boy's hair.

He dreads the first time he forgets to pay attention to his son.

'Dada?' he blinks open his eyes to see Pete playing with light from the arc reactor between his fingers.

'Yeah?'

'Will Cap come today?' Pete sounds so fucking hopeful.

'I don't think so, baby,' he closes his eyes.

'But it's ok, because we're Starks?'

'That's right,' he sighs. 'We don't need anyone else.'

'What about coffee?' comes a voice from the door.

'Cap!' Pete beams and scrambles over Tony.

'Cap?' he blinks in confusion as Steve crosses the room and perches on the edge of the bed.

Oh, that smells like coffee...

'It's really good to see you, Cap,' he inhales the vapour from his mug.

'I'd believe you more if you weren't making eyes at that coffee,' Steve sounds amused.

'Cap,' Pete has crawled onto Steve's lap.

'Hey, Pete,' he watches Steve gazing with pure affection at his son. 'Pancakes good for breakfast?'

'I like pancakes,' Pete curls against Steve's chest.

'Would you like some, Tony?'

He takes a tentative sip from his mug and hums happily.

'Dada is feeding his brain,' Pete declares.

'I think you're right,' Steve laughs, 'let's make sure we have some more brewed read for him.'

'Ok,' Pete launches himself at his sword and blanket before allowing himself to be lifted up from the bed.

'Tony?' Steve is gazing at him.

He stares back for a moment,

'Pancakes. Right. Good,' he gets out of bed and trails Steve as he gets Pete dressed.

He stands off to the side, cradling his coffee, as Pete chatters at Steve. Steve has pulled a chair over into the kitchen so Pete can watch him mixing.

'Blueberries or chocolate chips?' Steve asks once he's made the batter.

'Chocolate,' Pete beams.

'Alright,' Steve smiles and pours three pancakes onto the frying pan. 'They're nearly ready; take your milk to the table.'

'Ok,' he watches his son climb down from the chair before Steve hands him his beaker. Pete glares intently at the milk as he walks slowly across from the kitchen. Tony opts to help him put it onto the table and smiles as Pete scrambles up onto his chair ready for his breakfast.

He moves away again as Steve turns around with the cooked pancakes ready on a plate,

'Here you go,' Steve puts the plate in front of Pete.

'Thank you,' Pete beams again and tucks in.

Steve returns to his batter and Tony follows him so he's next to the coffee machine,

'Why are you here?' he asks quietly as he fiddles with his empty mug.

'Because...' Steve visibly squares his shoulders even as he lowers his voice, 'because we're about to become a family and I can't just ignore that. I'm not happy with you right now, but I get that you're sorry and that you're trying to make it up to me the only way you know how.'

Tony stares at him.

'And I do understand that it isn't your fault if you don't trust me,' Steve drops his gaze before rallying, 'I'll just have to prove to you that you can.'

Tony's brain is still trying to reboot from the use of the word family.

'Thank you for the motorbike,' Steve adds, 'it looks very... over-engineered.'

'It's super soldier proof,' he latches to that as a subject he knows about. 'That baby has offensive and defensive capabilites, can handle the way you drive like a maniac and is so green that polar bears want to have its babies.'

'I don't drive like a maniac,' Steve retorts.

'I'd fear for your life if you didn't have such a thick skull,' they're a family now? 'you don't even wear a helmet.'

'Tony, are you alright?' Steve glances across at Pete before refocusing on Tony.

'I'm fine,' he retorts. 'Glad you like it. Them. The presents.'

They're a family and Steve's ok with that?

'I do,' Steve agrees. 'I still think they're... over the top.'

'Barely cost me anything!' Tony retorts immediately. 'And I would have given you the bike soon anyway. There's a present giving occasion coming up, right? Jarvis?'

'It is Thanksgiving in five days, sir,' Jarvis reports.

'Right,' Tony agrees.

'Ok,' Steve looks amused but with an underlying concern.

'I'm glad you came,' he tries the 'talking about it' thing. 'Pete missed you yesterday.'

Pepper will be so proud...

'I missed him too,' Steve looks away. 'I just needed time to... I couldn't work out if you really wanted me here.'

'Of course I want you,' Tony scoffs and pours himself another coffee.

Steve is staring at him.

'What?' he stares back.

'Nothing,' Steve smiles a sudden bright smile, 'pancakes?'

'Gimme,' Tony agrees and joins Pete at the table.

Chapter Text

After breakfast Steve loads the dishwasher as Pete plays with his zoo animals. Tony goes to get dressed and then reappears tapping away on a tablet.

'You have work to do?' he asks.

'I always have work to do,' Tony replies.

He can't quite decide if he's forgiven the other man or not; on the one hand it would be so easy to just let it go and to fall into this little routine they seem to be setting up, but on the other hand... On the other hand Tony was apparently willing to lie to him about the existence of his son.

But then there was the startled look on Tony's face when he called them a family; a look that became a mild freak out. That was a little heartbreaking.

And the way Tony declared he wanted him as if it was the most obvious thing in the world, even if he didn't mean it like that.

So it's pretty clear that he's going to forgive Tony sooner rather than later.

He just needs to get Tony to clarify his role in this.

'What are you working on?' he joins Tony on the couch.

'Just running the numbers on an idea I had for the Quinjets,' Tony tips the screen towards him as if any of it will mean anything to him.

'Right,' he can see Tony smirking at him before returning to what he was doing. They sit in silence for a couple of minutes before he tries again, 'Tony?'

'Something I can do for you?' Tony doesn't look up.

'Can we talk about our son?' he asks quietly.

Tony's eyes flick quickly from Pete to Steve and then back to his tablet,

'Yeah, sure,' is the response.

'Tony, you know I don't want to take him away from you, right?' He tries a smile, 'you're his Dada.'

'I never thought you'd want to take him,' Tony fidgets before putting down the tablet.

'So what did you think?' he fights to keep his expression friendly.

Tony still looks like he's been backed into a corner.

'Tony,' he fights the impulse to reach out, 'please tell me?'

'I didn't think you'd want this,' Tony is suddenly looking him in the eye. 'Come on, Cap, none of this is fair on you.'

'Tony, I've told you before that I want kids.'

'With me?' Tony laughs with a pure amusement that only breaks Steve's heart more.

'It's not exactly perfect for either of us,' he tries, 'but I thought we were friends, Tony. If we're nothing else we're teammates; we're Avengers,' he pauses as he gages Tony's response, 'I just want you to believe that I want to be involved.'

'You want to know your son,' Tony nods, 'I get that.'

'Good,' he nods encouragingly.

'Alright,' Tony shoots another look at Pete, who isn't paying them any attention.

God, he still looks like he's expecting Steve to say something terrible...

'The basics first,' that's Tony's PR smile, 'do you want to change his name?'

'His name?' his mind blanks.

'Yeah,' Tony shrugs, 'I figured James was a name we'd agree on seeing as it's the name of both of our best friends, but if you want to...'

'Bucky?' he blurts in surprise.

'Is that an alternative suggestion? I'm not naming my son 'Bucky',' Tony's smile looks more honest.

'Christ, Tony...' he can only stare in surprise.

'Veto on those as well,' the smile gains confidence.

Tony named their son after him and Bucky?

It's things like this that'll make him forget not to forgive this man.

'No,' he manages to shake his head and smile at his friend, 'the name... his name is fine.'

'Good, because Anthony is a pretty terrible name,' Tony smirks.

'One of my very favourite people is called Anthony,' he replies.

Great, now Tony looks pole-axed. Good work Rogers.

'Pretend I didn't say that.'

How does he continuously find idiotic things to say to Tony?

'You want me to pretend I'm not one of your favourite people?' the PR smile is back. 'I'm Tony Fucking Stark; I'm everyone's favourite.'

'You should be,' he agrees and wonders how hard he'd have to slam his own head into the coffee table to make himself stop talking.

Tony just looks confused.

'Were you really going to give me that bike for Thanksgiving?' he changes the subject.

'Sure,' Tony shrugs.

'Thanksgiving isn't really a gift giving occasion,' he smiles.

'I can't cook,' is the reply.

'I know that,' he agrees perhaps a little too readily; Tony shoots him a bemused look.

'I can't help cook,' Tony tries again, 'but I can give presents.'

'Thanksgiving is about being together and being thankful for it,' he scolds mildly.

'Well, now you can be thankful for a new bike,' Tony shrugs.

'I'll be thankful for having you as a friend,' he corrects. 'I don't need a new bike for that, or lots of muffins, or an original Da Vinci.'

'They were to apologise,' Tony replies quietly, 'for not trusting you.'

'I know,' he sighs.

'Tell me how to fix it?' Tony requests suddenly. 'I don't know how to fix this; I want to trust you.'

'It's fine,' he gives in and goes with his instincts, 'I understand why you don't. Let's just... Let's go from here.'

Tony doesn't seem convinced.

'You don't trust me to' love you 'stand by you,' he stutters, 'but I will. For as long as you'll let me, I'll be here for you and the boys. I just need to know what you'll let me do; I need to know how not to overstep.'

'I don't understand,' Tony scowls.

'Ok,' he takes a breath as he turns to face Tony on the couch. 'Will he know I'm his father?'

Tony stares at him.

'Alright,' he'll have to accept that as a negative. 'How often can I see him? Do you want to... supervise my visits?'

Tony is a sudden flurry of motion as he grabs Steve's wrist as he shakes his head rapidly,

'Of course he'll know you're his father. You can...' Tony just seems bewildered. 'As much as you want, Cap; Jarvis will always let you up.'

It feels as if a sudden burst of warmth has arrived in his chest and before he realises what he's doing he's pulled Tony into a hug,

'Thank you,' he whispers as he presses his face between Tony's neck and shoulder.

Tony is rigid in his arms but just as he's about to let go he feels arms slip around his waist and Tony melts against him.

'Thank you,' he repeats as tries not to enjoy the feel of Tony in his arms too much.

'You're... really pleased?' Tony sits back.

'I'm going to be a dad,' he can't repress his smile.

'Yeah,' Tony grins back. 'Yeah, you are.'

Chapter Text

Steve can't stop smiling.

Tony only thought he wouldn't want to be involved; he never wanted to exclude him.

It's upsetting to realise how little Tony trusts him, but knowing what he now knows he can hardly be angry with him.

Of course, when he thinks about it, he realises that Tony trusts him not to hurt Pete but not not to hurt Tony himself.

Which is upsetting all in itself.

It doesn't help him with the crushing warm glow of feeling in his chest whenever he looks at Tony.

Tony: his son's Dada.

Pepper appearing from her room stops him from saying anything to spoil things.

'Hey, Pep,' Tony greets her.

His own smile dims a little.

'Good morning,' Pepper glances between them and stops at the edge of the room. 'Am I interrupting?'

'No, ma'am,' he straightens up where he's sitting. 'Good morning.'

It isn't her fault she knew before him.

She smiles,

'You've sorted things out between you?'

'Mostly,' he glances at Tony.

'Cap is going to come up and spend time with Jim whenever he wants,' Tony confirms with a tentative smile.

'Good,' Pepper approves and walks closer.

Natasha did say that the people that knew before him were probably the ones to convince Tony to tell him.

'Tony, did you read the email about the Gala?'

'I did not,' Tony lounges back into the sofa cushions.

'Then would you like me to make your dinner choices for you?' Pepper smiles with a fake looking sweetness.

'What were the choices?' Tony picks up his tablet with a sudden urgency. 'Jarvis, put me down for the terrine, the salmon and the tart.'

'Yes, sir,' Jarvis agrees. 'Will Peter require a meal?'

'Yeah,' Tony puts the tablet back down. 'Terrine, risotto and the mousse. Cap, have you chosen?'

'Me?' he blurts in confusion and looks between the other two.

'Are you still coming?' Pepper asks.

'You were coming to look after Pete, remember?' Tony reminds him.

'Oh, umm, I'll have the same as Tony?' he glances back to Pepper.

'Good choice,' Tony smirks.

'Would you like to see the menu?' Pepper looks amused.

'Oh, no, that's fine,' he makes himself smile, 'I'm sure I'll love... terrine?'

What the hell is terrine?

'Sure you will,' Tony agrees before looking to Pepper, 'Pete and Cap need to be at our table.'

'Of course,' Pepper looks back to her tablet. 'That'll make the table the four of us, Bruce and Jan.'

'Bruce is coming?' he's surprised.

'Not that Bruce,' Tony replies. 'Jarvis, what is your surveillance there?'

It shouldn't surprise him that Jarvis would handle surveillance for Tony.

'My presence in the Mansion is limited, sir,' Jarvis replies. 'You have never been on site long enough to require full integration.'

Wait, the Mansion?

'We need to change that,' Tony scowls. 'Get me everything I'll need.'

'You're going to fully integrate Jarvis into the Mansion in the three and a half days before the Gala?' Pepper doesn't sound convinced.

Howard's Mansion?

'Pete is going to be there,' Tony points out. 'Have you heard the term 'kidnapping risk'?'

'I'm not saying it's a bad plan; I'm telling you, you don't have time.'

Tony owns a mansion that he inherited from his father but hasn't spent enough time there to even install his best friend?

'I have time,' Tony disagrees. 'Pete, gather up your toys; we're moving house.'

'Tony!' Pepper objects immediately. 'You can't drop everything to rewire the Mansion!'

'Kidnapping. Risk.' Tony sounds the words out

'So don't take him!'

'I'll be there all night! I'm not leaving him for that long.'

'What about Florida?' Pepper gestures. 'What about the coding meeting? The publicity shots for the Gala? The budget meeting on Monday?'

'When was the last time I went to a budget meeting?'

'Oh, just ignore all the rest of what I just said...'

'Thanks, I will.'

'Tony!'

'Pepper?'

'You're the one that wanted to hear from Florida.'

'I'm going to the Mansion, not a technological wilderness; I'll get cell coverage there.'

'You are infuriating,' Pepper taps away on her tablet. 'You're still doing the photo shoot; they'll meet you at the Mansion tomorrow.'

'Deal,' Tony grins.

It feels like some sort of bizarre privilege to watch interactions between these two.

'Dada, I can't find my elephant,' Pete has obediently put a selection of toys into a brightly coloured box.

'Jarvis, order a new one.'

'Sir, I could instead direct you to the location of the original elephant?'

'Will it hold us up?'

'Tony!' Pepper objects as she brandishes her tablet at him.

'What have I walked into?' Colonel Rhodes steps off of the lift.

'We're moving,' Tony walks to his friend, claps him on the shoulder, and strides off towards his bedroom.

Rhodes looks at him suspiciously,

'Captain?'

He feels himself tense,

'Colonel?'

'James,' Pepper steps forwards, 'he's moving to the Mansion to install Jarvis.'

Rhodes doesn't look entirely convinced.

'I'm not angry with him,' he blurts.

'Cap,' Pete tugs on his pant leg, 'I want my elephant.'

'Ok,' he pulls his gaze away from Rhodes, 'where did you last see it?'

'Dunno,' Pete pouts.

Tony reappears with two suitcases which he drops by the lift,

'Come on.'

'My elephant!' Pete objects and clutches at Steve.

Tony just looks confused,

'I'll get you another one.'

'I don't want another one,' Pete replies quietly.

Tony just looks even more baffled.

'Sir,' Jarvis cuts in, 'the elephant in question is under Peter's bed.'

'Go with your Dada,' he smiles, 'I'll get your elephant and meet you in the garage. Ok?'

Pete doesn't look convinced and doesn't let go.

'Oh fuck I'm a terrible parent,' Tony declares and disappears back towards the bedrooms.

'Dada!' Pete's grip on his pants tightens briefly before he scrambles over to the suitcases. 'I want to go with Dada...'

'Pete, he's not leaving without you,' he tells him quickly.

'Dada?'

'Here,' Tony reappears, brandishing an elephant, and immediately has a three and a half year old attached to his legs. 'Pete?'

'He thought you were leaving without him,' he scolds.

Tony looks horrified and drops to his knees to scoop his son against him,

'I didn't... I got the elephant!'

Pete curls against his father and presses his face against the glow of the arc reactor.

'Baby, I would never just leave you,' Tony looks up at them beseechingly.

'It'll be alright, Tones,' Rhodes tells him quietly. 'I'll take your stuff to the Mansion; see you there.'

Pepper smiles at Tony, shoots Steve a look that he can't decipher, and leaves the room.

Tony stands up, still cradling his son, and takes a hesitant step towards Steve,

'I was only just in the other room?'

'He's three,' he smiles and steps close enough to tug Tony into an odd one armed hug.

Tony slumps against him and rests his head under his chin so Steve wraps both arms around him and Pete.

'I'm not going to be any better a father than Howard was,' Tony sighs.

'Tony,' he pulls back enough to catch Tony's eyes. 'You went back for the elephant.'

Tony gazes at him with those big brown eyes.

God, if only he could kiss him.

Chapter Text

There are reasons why kissing him is a bad idea.

Many, many reasons.

He can't think what they are, right now, but he still drops his gaze to his son and steps away from Steve.

'Hey, baby,' he murmurs into his son's hair. 'It's ok. I'm right here and I have your elephant.'

'I want to come with you...' Pete's voice is muffled against his chest.

'You are coming with me,' he confirms. 'We're going to the Mansion. Oh, Cap, get his bike?'

Steve looks confused but does fetch the red bike from Pete's room,

'There's a garden?'

'A garden?' he gives Steve a bemused look. 'One, yes, of course there's a garden; it's a mansion. Two, haven't you been there before? And Three, he isn't going to be playing in the garden.'

'I haven't been there,' Steve places the bike by the lift.

He considers that as he finally convinces Pete to take the elephant from him,

'Thought you and Dad were pals.'

The look on Steve's face when he's trying to be diplomatic is precious; the man has no poker face at all.

'We got along all right,' Steve replies. 'But we were at war at the time. And we were overseas.'

'He didn't bring you back for any slumber parties then?' he grins.

'No,' Steve smiles back. 'And, for the record, I'm much better friends with you than with Howard.'

He's never quite sure how to take Steve's random compliments.

He flashes up a grin,

'Aren't you sweet.'

'He's Captain America,' Pete lifts his head and looks between them.

'What's your point, kiddo?' he shifts Pete a little on his hip.

'Captain America is heroic and brave.'

'Yeah,' he grins as Steve looks embarrassed and a little proud. 'Well, he's sweet too.'

'Oh,' Pete considers that. 'Because you're his favourite?'

What?

He looks over as Steve makes a strange noise in his throat.

'Favourite, huh?' he laughs and presses a kiss to Pete's hair. 'Your favourite maybe.'

'Course you're my favourite,' Pete gazes up at him.

'Good, because you're mine,' he tells his boy.

Pete beams at him.

'Jarvis, fly a couple of the suits out to the Mansion for me,' he adds as he walks to the lift.

There's a small pause before Steve gets into the lift with them and then Jarvis sends them down to the garage.

'Do I have one of those kid seats?' he wonders aloud as he contemplates his car collection.

'I have had one installed in your new Audi, sir.'

'Ok,' he drags Pete's bike over to the car and manages to get it into the trunk one handed while Pete still clings to him. 'In you go,' he adds as he puts Pete into the back of the car and works out the seat belt.

'What about Cap?' Pete squirms in his seat to try and see over his shoulder.

'What about him?' he glances to where Steve is standing beside one of his other cars with his arms crossed.

'Cap is coming too?'

'Cap? No, I don't think...'

'Is Cap not allowed to come?' Pete's lip quivers.

'He's...'

'I'd love to come,' Steve interrupts. 'If there's room for me?'

'It’s a mansion,' he tells him with a relieved smile. 'I'm sure we can fit you in somewhere.'

'The suite beside yours is being prepared,' Jarvis confirms.

He waves a hand vaguely in the air,

'Sorted. Do you need a lift?'

'I need to pack,' Steve shakes his head. 'I'll see you there,' he ducks his head into the back of the Audi and presses a kiss to Pete's cheek, 'I'll see you at lunch, ok Pete?'

'Ok,' Pete beams.

He jumps into the car and puts on his sunglasses as he revs up the engine,

'See you there, Cap.'

Steve stands waving until they're out of sight.

Chapter Text

It's a few hours before Steve rides through the Mansion gates on his new bike. He has his duffle strapped down behind him and his shield on his back.

The gates to the driveway have been left open, so he doesn't have an excuse to pause and take in the sight in front of him. Instead he takes in the expanse of the building as it rises up to fill his vision.

He parks the bike right by the main double doors and gets off to untie his bag. The doors open as he starts up the steps and a man in a suit looks down at him.

'Good day, Captain Rogers,' the man greets him with an English accent.

'Uh, hello?'

'If you leave your belongings here they will be taken to your suite,' the man continues. 'This way to Master Stark, please.'

He hesitates as he looks around the entrance hall before he drops his duffle. He keeps his shield with him.

'This way, Captain,' the man gestures and leads the way.

They walk through a room containing only portraits and through another set of large double doors into what can only be a ballroom.

A ballroom with a ceiling that must be four storeys high, a giant sweeping double staircase that dominates the opposite wall and with a floor that, if waxed, could plainly be incredibly beautiful.

The floor isn't waxed. The floor isn't even clean.

The reason why is actually what has stopped him from appreciating any of the view before him.

Tony is wearing the boots from one of his suits and is hovering up by the ceiling. He watches as Tony adjusts his position, clearly checking something in his eyepiece, and then drills a hole into the ceiling and a cascade of plaster falls down to the floor.

'Master Stark,' the man, Steve is assuming he's a butler, calls up, 'your guest has arrived.'

Tony waivers in the air as he looks down at them,

'Cap!' he drops down. 'Alfred, you remember you don't work for me?'

Alfred mutters something about learning to answer your own damn door and leaves the way they came.

'Tony, what are you doing,' he smiles as his friend touches down. 'And where's Pete?'

'Making the holes for Jarvis' sensors,' Tony gestures vaguely with the tiny drill in his hand. 'Once I have them all made I can insert the sensor net and then I have to install the induction charging under the floors above. Pepper made me promise not to rip anything out of the way...'

Now he looks he can see the tiny, nearly imperceivable, holes covering nearly half the ceiling.

'Wow...' he murmurs.

'Pete's on his bike in the east wing,' Tony keeps talking, 'by the library I think.'

'You're tracking him,' he gesture to his own face to imply Tony's eyepiece.

'I put sensors on his bike and on his helmet,' Tony agrees.

'I didn't think he'd willingly leave your side,' he smiles as Tony's focus visibly flicks to his little display every few seconds.

Tony shrugs and moves away to a table scattered with several tablets, Tony's phone and several pieces of the Iron Man suit that presumably donated its feet to Tony's current venture. Tony pushes a couple of things around before turning and returning to him holding an ear bud,

'Here,' Tony holds it out to him, 'so you can hear Jarvis.'

'This is Avenger tech,' he scowls at it. 'We shouldn't be on these channels outside of missions.'

'This is Stark tech,' Tony just smirks, 'and Jarvis can keep them private; how do you think they work in the field?'

'I hadn't thought about it,' he admits and puts in the ear bud. 'Hey, Jarvis.'

'Hello, Captain,' Jarvis is nearly as clear as at home. 'Peter was convinced to explore the Mansion by Mister Pennyworth, who agreed to accompany him.'

'Alfred?' he asks.

'He's Bruce's butler,' Tony nods. 'Jarvis is jealous that his job has been stolen and that my kid's affections are being appropriated.'

'Mister Pennyworth has a distinct advantage over me at this time,' Jarvis retorts. 'Peter is speaking to us both, however.'

Tony grins,

'He'll be happy you're here, Cap; he was telling me you should stay in our room if we couldn't find one for you.'

'Well, it wouldn't be the first time you've offered me your bed,' he replies.

'And yet you shun me,' Tony gives an exaggerated sigh. 'What am I to think, Cap?'

'Maybe I need to be wooed first,' he lies with a smile.

Tony laughs,

'Sounds like you're high maintenance.'

'Yes,' he agrees dryly, 'my random whims would surely bankrupt you.'

Tony just grins,

'You don't know what you're missing, Cap; I'm quite the catch.'

It takes more willpower than it should for him not to say something that takes the joke too far.

'I'm not so lucky as to ever be able to have you.'

Like that.

Does his brain stop working whenever Tony smiles?

He opens his mouth and tries to think of something, anything, that will stop Tony looking at him as if he's insane.

'Cap!' Pete calls out from behind him. 'Dada! Look! Cap is here!'

'Yeah,' Tony doesn't look away from staring into his soul.

'Dada, are you angry?' Pete gets off his bike and goes to hold Tony's hand.

'No,' Tony shakes his head and looks down at his son with a smile. 'Have you scouted the perimeter? All secure?'

'Yeah!' Pete grins, 'and I only crashed five times!'

'Good work,' Tony lifts Pete onto his hip. 'Where's Alfred?'

'Making sandwiches,' Pete gazes up at the ceiling. 'Have you finished letting Jarvis move in?'

'Not yet,' Tony hovers into the air, 'do you want to drill some holes for me?'

Pete laughs in delight as they rise up to the ceiling.

He escapes while they're distracted.

'Why did I come here?' he groans.

'I believe you wished to keep Peter from being separated from you when it would have clearly caused him pain,' Jarvis replies promptly.

'Ahh... Can Tony...?'

'You and I are speaking privately, Captain.'

'Jarvis, why do I keep making an ass of myself?'

'I am afraid I cannot answer you.'

Chapter Text

'Dada, where did Cap go?'

'He's probably unpacking,' he replies as he contemplates the ceiling through Jarvis' overlay.

'Can we go find him?'

He's pretty sure Steve doesn't want to see him right now,

'I'm working, baby,' he shifts them in the air to get a new angle, 'you can go find him if you want. Get him to take you to Alfred so you can both eat.'

Pete rests his head on his shoulder, much easier now his helmet is off,

'I want to stay with you.'

'Of course you can stay, but I have to keep working,' he drills another hole to match a mark indicated by Jarvis.

'Oh.'

Pete's quiet for a few minutes,

'Dada?'

'Yes, Pete?'

'If I go find Cap and we get food can I come back here after?'

'You can always come and find me if you want to,' he flashes a smile at his son.

He had been forbidden to go anywhere near where Howard worked and, if he ever dared to, he soon regretted it when he was sent away to Maria.

'Dada?' Pete asks after a moment.

'Yes, baby?'

'You are my favourite and I'm your favourite so that's fair, right?'

'Sure.'

'But you're Cap's favourite too so that's not fair? Cap needs to be someone's favourite.'

'He's lots of people's favourite.'

'But he needs to be your favourite or it's not fair!'

'I'm his favourite billionaire and he's my favourite super soldier,' he grins. 'Does that make it fair?'

Pete thinks about that,

'Umm, maybe.'

'It's maybe fair?' he grins as drills another hole.

'I guess,' Pete nuzzles his head under his chin.

'Do you want me to let you down?' he asks when Pete is quiet again.

'And I can come back?' Pete checks.

'I promise,' he agrees and lands to let Pete down. 'Jay, tell Pete how to find Cap, ok?'

'Of course, sir,' Jarvis agrees.

He watches Pete walk away talking to Jarvis using his own ear bud before collecting what turns out to be a cold coffee,

'Jarvis, did Cap really imply that he isn't good enough for me?'

'That was the impression I received,' Jarvis sounds approving, the over protective bastard.

'So what do I do?' he puts the coffee back down and fiddles with a tablet.

'Sir, that rather depends on how you perceive Captain Rogers.'

'Jay, he's Captain America. He is the actual Captain America.'

'You are Tony Stark,' Jarvis replies, 'you are Iron Man.'

'Granted,' he allows. 'What would Pepper tell me to do?'

'Ms Potts would likely instruct you to speak with him, sir. Shall I call her?'

'No to both of those!' he can only imagine how badly those conversations would go. 'What do I say to him? Hey, you're more than good enough for me but don't take that as encouragement because I can't let anything happen between us.'

'Sir, may I ask why you are dismissing Captain Rogers as a potential match?'

'You realise the potential fallout?' he laughs. 'We're running a team together, he lives in my current main residence and we're about to have a kid together; I can't let our relationship collapse. Also I'm pretty sure Pep made me promise never to fuck virgins.'

'Might I suggest the possibility of things not ending badly?'

'Jay, I didn't make you to play matchmaker.'

'I strive to out perform my original programming,' Jarvis deadpans.

'I couldn't even make things work with Pepper.'

'That should not deter you from ever making another attempt.'

'Try setting me up with someone other than Steve Rogers,' he scoffs. 'Has Pete got to him yet?'

'Your attempt at changing the subject is not subtle.'

'But you love your dada; so you'll allow it,' he taps his eye piece. 'Where's your brother?'

'Peter is approaching Captain Rogers' suite now.'

If nothing else he can rely on his AI.

'Great, let's get back to work,' he lifts back into the air.

Chapter Text

Steve is barely getting over the size of the suite he'll be staying in when he hears a knock at the door.

'Captain,' Jarvis speaks through his ear bud, 'Peter Stark is at your door.'

He grabs open the door and grins at the little boy,

'Hey, Pete.'

'Cap,' Pete gazes up at him and fidgets.

'Where's your Dada?'

'Working,' Pete pouts. 'Dada said I could come find you.'

'Of course,' he earns a smile. 'Do you want to come in?’

'Uh huh,' Pete takes a strangely tentative step into the room.

It’s heartbreaking to think that Tony lived through this, and that he lived it much longer than Pete had to.

‘I was just looking around the place,’ he gestures around the living room that is the first of the four rooms in his suite; the other three being a bedroom and bathroom to the right and a study to the left.

‘Dada’s room is bigger,’ Pete tells him.

‘Yeah?’ he can only imagine what the Master Suite must be like.

‘Do you want to see?’ Pete asks as he climbs onto the window seat to see outside.

‘No thanks,’ he smiles. ‘I was thinking of going to get some food. Do you want to come with me?’

'Alfred said he would make sandwiches,' Pete informs him as he drops back off onto the floor.

'Sounds good,' he offers his hand to Pete.

'I think we go this way,' Pete beams as he leads him down a hallway.

'I'm sure Jarvis can help us if we get lost,' he smiles down to where Pete is practically bouncing as he tugs on his hand.

'Peter is leading you in the correct direction, Captain,' Jarvis confirms.

'I essplored earlier,' Pete tells him, 'with Jarvis and Alfred!'

'You explored,' he corrects with a smile. 'Was that with your bike?'

'Yeah! Dada put little cameras on my helmet,' Pete points at his head.

'That's clever,' he is lead down a staircase that he definitely didn't come up.

'Dada's a genius,' Pete reports seriously.

'With some things,' he agrees quietly.

'Here!' Pete lets go of his hand and runs off down the hall before careening through a door to the left. He jogs after him and catches the door before it swings closed, 'Alfred, this is Cap!'

He glances around the old style kitchen. Tony either had no say in the design of this room or has never been here in order to object to it.

'Hello again, Master Peter,' the butler smiles. 'Can I help you, Captain Rogers?'

'Cap came to get food,' Pete climbs onto a stool beside where Alfred is slicing a ham.

Alfred wordlessly gives Pete some of the meat,

'Would ham sandwiches do for you, Captain?'

'Thanks,' he smiles. 'Can I help at all?'

Alfred considers him for a moment,

'You might consider using the monstrosity to your left,' Alfred gestures to a very out of place looking chrome coffee machine, 'if you desire coffee rather than tea.'

'Alright,' he laughs and presses the buttons he's memorised to mean a simple white coffee with one sugar.

'Will Master Stark be joining you?' Alfred has prepared three plates of food, two of which he places on a small table across the kitchen.

'No, Tony's working,' he helps Pete into his chair as Alfred huffs.

'I shall take his food to him then,' the older man replies, 'enjoy your food, gentlemen. Call me if you require anything else.'

'Thanks,' he smiles. Pete makes a sound that might mean the same, but he's taken a large bite of his apple. 'Don't talk with your mouth full,' he laughs as Alfred leaves them alone.

Pete just keeps eating.

Pete's last mouthful has barely been swallowed when, with his eyelids starting to droop, he gets down from the table,

'I want Dada.'

'You need to have your nap, Pete,' he smiles.

'With Dada,' Pete insists. 'He promised.'

He would really rather have a little more time before seeing Tony again.

'Come on,' he holds out his hands and then lifts Pete into his arms, 'I'll take you to your Dada.'

'Promise?' Pete asks even as his head drops onto Steve's shoulder.

'I promise,' he confirms.

Jarvis directs him back to the ballroom and he steps into the room to see Tony's already dropping down to meet him.

'He's asleep but I promised I'd bring him back to you,' he reports as Tony performs something of a visible check of his son.

'Thanks,' Tony hesitates for a moment before reaching to take his son. As soon as Pete is transferred Tony turns and walks away.

'Tony...' he follows helplessly as Tony crosses to put his son onto a couch at the side of the room.

'Yes, Captain?' Tony isn't looking at him.

'I'm sorry, ok? I get that you aren't interested.'

Tony shoots him a quick look.

'Please tell me we can pretend I didn't say anything?'

Tony scowls at him,

'We would be a terrible match.'

Something in his chest tightens at those words.

'Yeah,' he lies and tries to smile.

Tony looks briefly conflicted before a smile washes over his face,

'I'm afraid there's not a gym here,' the subject is changed, 'but the grounds should take you a couple of hours to run around.'

He accepts the reprieve,

'Sounds good,’ he renews his efforts to smile back. ‘I was thinking; if you're going to be working I might take Pete out for a few hours? I mean, if that's ok?'

Tony shrugs,

'If he wants to.'

'I'll see if any of the others want to come,' he adds, strangely desperate to continue the conversation.

'If there's a better babysitting option than Captain America then it's got to be additional Avengers,' Tony agrees and taps his eyepiece before lifting back into the air.

‘I’ll… go then.’

‘Sure,’ Tony doesn’t look at him. ‘Jarvis’ll call you when Pete wakes up.’

‘Great, ok,’ he watches Tony pathetically for a moment before forcing himself to walk away.

He knew he could never have Tony, so why does this hurt so much?

Chapter Text

Ok, so he feels like he just ripped out his arc reactor by rejecting Captain America.

He rejected probably the only person on the planet who can still like him after dealing with him on a daily basis.

He rejected Steve.

Who knew someone could look so terribly crushed while trying to smile?

‘Jarvis, where's Rhodey?'

‘Colonel Rhodes is in his suite reading. Shall I place a call?'

‘Yeah,' he's dropped back to the floor now Steve's gone.

‘Hey, Tones, what's up?'

‘I broke Captain America.'

‘What?' Rhodey doesn't sound impressed.

‘He implied he wanted to be with me and I shot him down.'

‘Literally?!' he can hear the sudden alarm in his friend's voice.

‘Figuratively,' he corrects with an eye roll.

‘Right,' Rhodey lets out what must be a sigh of relief.

‘What do I do?'

‘Tony, if you rejected him he probably doesn't want anything to do with you right now,' he can see his friend is leaving his room.

‘We need to be ok,' he pushes his fingers through his hair. ‘There's too much riding on us.'

‘I've seen the way you look at him,' he gets a look. 'I'm not surprised if he thought he had a shot.'

'I can't be with him,' he dismisses, 'not like that.'

Rhodey's gaze sharpens,

'Tony, if you are seriously telling me you are lying to that man for his own good again...'

'Rhodes, this isn't the same.'

'It sounds pretty similar to me.'

Aren't friends supposed to be more supportive than this?

He never gets this from Jarvis.

'You in the ballroom?' Rhodey shifts on the screen, 'I'm coming to you,' the connection drops.

'He's forgiving me for Jim, so he'll forgive me for this, right Jay?'

'I don't believe Captain Rogers believes this is something he needs to forgive you for, sir.'

'I rejected him.'

'I suspect Captain Rogers believes the fault to be with himself, rather than with you.'

'He thinks I rejected him because of... him?'

'You have given him no other reason for your decision.'

'We'd be a terrible match,' he points out as Rhodey enters the room. 'I told him so; we're from completely different times, we have completely different interests and if we break up, and break up badly, then we mess up the Avengers and... my kids.'

'Tony, have you considered telling him your reasons rather than pretending you aren't interested?'

'That would be ok?' he asks. 'That doesn't sound like a thing that would be ok.'

'Better than making the guy think he imagined your flirting.'

'I flirt with everyone.'

'Uh huh?' Rhodey doesn't sound convinced.

He spots a sandwich on the table and lifts one corner of the bread to investigate,

'I flirt with you.'

'Tony, you like him,' he's ignored.

'Yeah,' he takes a bite, 'but that doesn't change anything.'

'You're so certain that it'll end badly.'

'Playing the odds,' he shrugs. 'And the risk to the team and to my boys if we break up isn’t...'

'Isn't worth the possibility of a happy, lasting, romantic relationship with the father of your son?'

'This is the same game I played when I took the risk with Pepper; I'm actually trying to be more mature now. Do you realise what could have happened if Pep held a grudge when we broke up?'

'And you don't think you learnt anything from that experience that could make you better at this?'

'I learnt that even someone as amazing, brilliant and patient as Pepper can't handle being with a jerk like me.'

He gets a glare for that,

'Let's be fair here; you and Pepper broke up because the two of you were too busy running SI to have time for each other.'

'It's not like we have time for anyone else either,' he shrugs. 'And Pep was the one who pointed it out; I was happy.'

'You told me it was mutual.'

'It was mutual. Just as soon as I realised she wasn't happy.'

'Tony...'

'And you know what? Maybe Steve wouldn't do that. Maybe he'd stick it out for the kids and the team and he'd see I was happy and he'd just be stuck in a relationship he didn't want anymore and that isn't any better than him leaving.'

'Why when looking forwards do you always come to the worst possible scenario?'

'Because those are the ones to plan for,' he takes another bite of the mystery sandwich.

Rhodey shakes his head and sighs,

'You're impossible.'

'We just need to be friends,' he reasons. 'He can be happy like that, right?'

'Can you?'

Chapter Text

'Jarvis, where's Pepper?' he leaves Tony to his work and stalks out of the ballroom.

'Ms Potts is in the library in the east wing, Colonel Rhodes.'

'That's the fifth door on the left past the green staircase?'

'The sixth,' Jarvis corrects.

'Thanks,' he sets off.

Down the corridor, turn left and the staircase is up ahead. He counts the doors and the raps on the sixth as he pushes it open,

'Pepper?'

'James,' she smiles at him from where she's seated with a couple of tablets and an open laptop.

'Captain Rogers has a crush on Tony and Tony is rejecting him in case it goes bad.'

Pepper puts her tablet down and waits for him to continue.

'I got him to tell the Captain about Jim and now I'm tagging you in; it's your turn.'

*          *          *

'Jarvis,' Steve closes the door to his suite behind him and leans against it, 'could you maybe just shoot me before I say anything like that to Tony?'

'Of course, Captain Rogers,' Jarvis deadpans.

'I never meant for him to know,' he sighs. 'I knew he wouldn't want... How did this happen?'

'Captain, I have not known you for long enough to know if you actually wish for a recap of...'

'No,' his laugh sounds strange, 'I don't. And I know that you know I don't.'

He realises he's smiling; that was probably Jarvis' goal.

He pushes his fingers through his hair with a sigh,

'This place is incredible,' he changes the subject. 'Has Tony really never spent time here?'

'Not since he was a boy,' Jarvis confirms.

'He grew up here,' he sighs. 'This is where his mother... This is where they lived?'

'Records would suggest so Captain. I was not yet created and sir does not speak of it.'

'But he has parties here?'

'Not often.'

He looks out the window and across the gardens behind the mansion,

'He hates it here,' he sighs and retrieves his sketch pad from the coffee table and settles himself in the window seat, 'I'm beginning to think Tony does a lot of things that he doesn't like.'

There's no reply.

He didn't really expect one.

*          *          *

'Captain Rogers.'

He jolts and gazes down at the nearly finish portrait of Tony.

He closes the sketch pad,

'Yes, Jarvis?'

'Agent Romanov is attempting to contact you.'

'Oh, my phone is... Where's my phone?'

'At Stark Tower, Captain Rogers. Shall I put her through on this frequency?'

'Thanks Jarvis,' he readjusts his ear bud unnecessarily. 'Natasha?'

'Rogers, you've been in this century for long enough to remember to carry your phone.'

'Hello to you too,' he realises he's smiling.

'You've forgiven Stark then?'

'Of course I have,' he sighs. 'You knew I would.'

'I knew you would,' she agrees. 'You're that sort of man.'

'You always sound like you're insulting me.'

'I'm not insulting you,' he can hear that small smile of hers in her tone.

'What can I do for you?' he asks with a smile of his own.

'Just calling to tell you I'll be out of town for a few days,' she reports. 'I have a lead I need to chase down.'

'Do you need any help?'

'No, Captain,' he thinks he hears a weapon being primed and then disarmed. 'I'll be fine. Jarvis will be able to contact me if you need me.'

'Alright,' he files the information away in his head; two at the Stark Mansion, three at Stark Tower and one away.

'Steve, are you ok?' she's just as good at reading him like this than in person.

'I told him,' he blurts.

'Told him,' she murmurs. 'And what did he say?'

'That we're a terrible match,' he tells her with a glance to his closed sketch book.

'Idiot...' she groans.

'Yeah,' he laughs.

'Господи, дай мне сил совладать с идиотами,' that didn't sound complimentary. 'Try not to do anything stupid until I get back.'

'Be safe,' he smiles.

He hears her laugh before the call is dropped.

'You'll listen out for her, Jarvis?'

'Of course, Captain.'

*          *          *

'Dada?' his son's voice pulls his attention from rechecking his deployment design for the induction chargers.

'Hello, baby,' he looks over to the couch.

Pete blinks open his eyes and looks around,

'Where's Cap?'

'I don't know.'

'Oh,' Pete sits up and looks around. 'Where's my sword?'

'You left it in our room,' his eyes flick back to his tablet and he makes himself put it down.

'Thor said I should always carry it,’ his son frets.

'Thor also says that mechanised carriages are no substitute for good horses.'

'What's a mechanised carriage?'

'A car.'

'Oh. Are horses better than cars?'

'No.'

'Oh.'

Pete looks thoughtful as he swings his legs on the couch,

'I've not seen a horse.'

'Sure you have.'

'Nuh uh,' Pete shakes his head. 'I saw pictures though.'

'Pictures,' he thinks back; when was the first time he even left Stark Manor? When would he have seen his first animal?

'Are you sad, Dada? Don't be sad,' Pete comes over and holds up his arms.

'I'm only a little sad, baby boy,' he smiles as Pete pats his face.

'Why?' Pete cocks his head. 'I've seen cars. Cars are better than horses.'

'Very true,' he agrees. 'And I have a lot of cars.'

'Can I have a car?'

'Sure,' he agrees, 'you can't drive until you're bigger though.'

'Oh,' his son pouts. 'But I can ride in it?'

'Of course you can.'

'And you can drive it? Or Cap?'

'I don't know if Cap would be able to drive your car,' he grins, 'but I'm sure you'll be able to convince any of the other Avengers to join you.'

'Does Cap have a car?'

'No, just a couple of bikes I think.'

'Like mine?'

'Motorbikes,' he corrects. 'And you can't ride them until you're much older.'

'Why?'

'Because it's dangerous and I have no intention of losing you or letting you be hurt.'

'Oh,' Pete smiles at him.

'I have work to do, squirt,' he presses a kiss to his son's forehead before putting him down. 'You play, ok?'

'Jarvis will read to me,' Pete declares.

'If that's alright with Jarvis,' he agrees as he reclaims his tablet.

‘Jarvis is the best at telling stories,’ Pete tells him as he sits under the table with a tablet of his own. ‘He does all the voices and makes the sounds!’

‘I created the world’s first fully sentient AI and you’ve become an audiobook?’

‘So it would seem, sir.’

‘Do I need to give you an allowance for babysitting your brother?’

‘Sir, I do not believe even you could afford me if I desired to be paid.’

He laughs,

‘Good boy.’

Chapter Text

'We can seriously take this?' Clint takes another slow lap of the Audi as Steve straps Pete in.

He had come downstairs to find Tony working hard and Jarvis reading Pete a story. It had taken more courage than it should have to call up to Tony and suggest Pete might like to leave the Mansion for a while.

'We're taking Pete out and this car has the safety seat thing,' he fiddles with the straps.

'Right,' Clint agrees as his hand hovers an inch from the bodywork. 'So, you're telling me that Stark is trusting us with two things he loves at once and that doesn't seem strange to you?'

Tony had looked incredibly unconvinced.

'He's trusting me with Pete,' he grins, 'you're just here to drive the car.'

Clint is here because Tony would never have let Pete out without a second Avenger to watch him.

'He's not lent me a car before,' Clint gets behind the wheel.

'Sir does not view his possessions as things to be kept to himself,' Jarvis replies from the dash. 'You could have borrowed one before now if you wished.'

'Hello Jarvis!' Pete fidgets in his seat as Steve tries to tighten the straps.

'Hello, Peter.'

'Ah, Jarvis,' Clint seems to be caressing the steering wheel, 'first Skynet, now KITT?'

'Jarvis, add KITT to my list,' he closes the back door and gets into the front.

Using Jarvis to keep track of his ever increasing list was such a good idea.

Clint just laughs and revs the engine as they pull off down the drive.

'Where are we going?' Pete gazes out the window.

'Columbus Circle, right?' Clint glances over. 'I don't think any of Stark's cars have ever been to a mall before.'

'Your Dada gave you some spending money, right Pete?' he checks.

'Uh huh,' Pete confirms as he squirms to look back at the Mansion.

'Then we'll see if there's anything you want and get a coffee and a muffin. Or maybe not a muffin. I'm a little sick of muffins.'

'Ice cream is what we need,' Clint informs them.

'In November?'

'It's never too cold for ice cream.'

'I like ice cream,' Pete adds.

'Ice cream then,' he agrees.

'Can I have sprinkles?' Clint asks.

He gives his team mate a look and Clint grins back shamelessly,

'Please Mom?'

'I'm not your mother,' he groans.

'Stark is Dad,' Clint is loving this, 'that makes you Mom.'

'Why did I bring you?'

*          *          *

'Time to get the charging net into place,' Tony presses the final sensor for the ballroom into position.

'It will be good to see you again, sir.'

'I'll get some of the floor up and deploy it.'

'Assuming it unfurls as you have designed,' Jarvis displays an upsetting lack of faith, 'a square foot should be more than adequate.'

'Pepper will be delighted,' he treks up the stairs.

'The north east corner of this room will be the correct location for deployment,' Jarvis adds images to his display.

'One floorboard,' he grabs the crowbar up from the floor and spins it in his hand.

'Yes sir,' Jarvis confirms even as he jams the crowbar into the floor.

The charging net deploys beautifully, just as he designed it, and glows a soft white colour when it starts to transmit power to the sensors below.

'How's that, Jay?'

'If you would be so kind as to return to the ballroom so that I might calibrate the sensors,' Jarvis requests.

'You want to calibrate the room using me?' he puts the floorboard back and goes back the way he came.

'You would seem to be the obvious choice.'

'You're such a daddy's boy,' he walks to the middle of the ballroom and turns in a slow circle.

'Calibration complete,' Jarvis speaks from the room rather than his earbud.

He grins,

'Hey, buddy.'

*          *          *

'So you want the Iron Man plushie?' he can't help the amusement he feels watching Tony's boy choosing between the range of Avengers plushies.

'Maybe all of them?' Pete gazes up at him.

'I don't know. How much money did your Dada give you?'

Pete blinks at him and carefully places an Iron Man toy on the floor before pulling a black card from his pocket.

Clint starts laughing.

'A credit card?' he sighs and rubs his eyes.

'That's just what I'd expect from Stark,' Clint grins. 'Come on, kiddo, let's get them all.'

Pete beams.

He can't help his grin as he follows them.

'I want my ice cream now,' Clint tells him after Pete has paid.

Pete tries to insist on carrying the bag himself but, as it's larger than he is, Steve manages to convince him to hand it over.

'You're supposed to be being a second adult here,' he looks around as they step out of the shop.

'I'm more like the occasionally helpful teenager,' Clint gestures to the left and leads the way.

'Next time I say you can come I'm making sure Natasha can come too,' he threatens good naturedly.

'Mean.'

'It's ok,' he smiles, 'you can have sprinkles.'

'Best Mom ever,' Clint claps him on the arm.

They get ice creams and walk along window shopping. Clint and Pete seem equally attracted to shiny things.

'It's an incredible watch,' Clint gestures through the glass. 'I borrow that card from Pete and Stark will never even know...'

'If you want the watch just tell Tony you want it for Christmas,' he suggests.

Also the watch is enormous and flashy and horrendously expensive.

'Ah, Steve?'

'I said no,' he rolls his eyes.

'Steve, where's Pete?'

'He's just...' he's not there.

Oh, God, he's not there.

Chapter Text

'Sir, Peter is calling from an unknown number,' Jarvis interrupts him from finalising the locations for the sensors in the hallways.

'What?' he scowls. 'Pete?'

'Hey, Dada!' Pete's face appears on his tablet. His eyes look wet.

'Pete, where are you?'

If he wasn't painfully aware of what a heart attack feels like he would swear he was having one.

'Dunno,' Pete's lip trembles and he sniffs. 'The man will tell you; the man knows where we are.'

His mind blanks as he stares at his son.

'Dada?' Pete gazes at him.

'I'm going to come and get you, baby boy,' he promises, 'everything will be fine.'

'Ok,' Pete smiles and disappears as the screen pans to the floor.

And then an unknown voice from off screen,

'Mister Stark?'

'What the hell are you doing with my son?!'

*          *          *

'Where is he?' he rakes their surroundings with his eyes. 'We can have only looked away for a minute!'

'I can't see him,' Clint shakes his head.

'He must be here,' he insists. 'Where could he go?'

'Steve, we've looked,' Clint shakes his head but keeps looking. 'We need help.'

'He must be...' he rakes his fingers through his hair in desperation as he searches desperately between the other shoppers.

'Steve!' Clint snaps.

'He can't have gone far?' he pleads.

'Steve,' Clint hisses, 'all it would take is one bad guy to recognise the kid and they'd know they're in the money. Can you imagine how much money Stark would hand over to get that kid back?'

His stomach drops,

'You really think he's... You think someone took him?!'

'I think we need to get the exits covered,' Clint gets his phone out.

'Not SHIELD; we can't risk anyone knowing he's missing,' he swallows heavily. 'Call Tony.'

'Can't,' Clint looks awkward. 'He blocked my number after I kept spamming him.'

'You did what to...? Never mind,' he shakes his head. 'Give me your phone.'

'Who are you calling?' Clint grimaces as he hands it over. 'Thor will be terrible in this situation, Tasha is away, Bruce would be even worse than Thor...'

'I'm calling my number...' he navigates Clint's phone contacts to find 'Rogers, Steve'.

'You think Stark will answer it?' he sounds amused.

'I'm hoping Jarvis will,' he bites his lip.

'You think the AI will answer your phone?'

'He knows we're together so he'll think it's odd if you call me...' he presses call and raises the phone to his ear.

Please let this work.

Please let Pete be ok...

*          *          *

'What are you doing with my son?' he demands of the empty screen and then hides his surprise when a young man appears.

'I didn't take him!' the guy blurts.

'What do you want?' he asks.

'Don't fire me!'

'You work for me?' he glares.

'He just turned up!'

'What?'

'And did something weird with my phone...'

'You didn't take him?'

'And I've closed the store and please don't fire me...'

'Where are you?' he asks again.

'The Stark Industries store at Columbus Circle,' he guy looks miserable. 'Please believe me?'

'Sir, the image on your screen matches employee details of a David Clarke,' Jarvis adds into his ear. 'No criminal record, no suspicious internet activity, no suspicious known associates. Tracing the call indicates his location as within the mall visited by Peter, Captain Rogers and Agent Barton.'

'Where are Captain Rogers and Agent Barton?' he demands.

'I don't know,' Clarke looks miserable. 'He turned up on his own.'

'I'm on my way,' he gestures for his suit. 'Do not go anywhere.'

*          *          *

'Voice mail,' he reports. 'Jarvis? Jarvis, it's Steve. Jarvis, we need to talk to Tony. It's really very important...'

'Steve, this is never going to...'

'Good afternoon, Captain,' Jarvis interrupts Clint. 'Sir is busy at this time. May I take a message?'

'We lost Pete!' he hisses desperately down the phone. 'Jarvis, bring up all the cameras covering the exits and the surrounding streets. Can you access the cameras inside?'

'Sir is aware of the situation, Captain,' Jarvis replies tersely. 'We shall update you when we can,' the line cuts off.

'He hung up on me...' he stares at the phone and then at his team mate.

'What?' Clint stares back.

'They already knew we didn't have him,' he feels himself curl slightly as if bracing for a blow. 'Someone must have contacted Tony. You were right; Pete was kidnapped.'

'Shit... Stark's on it though; he'll get him back,' Clint puts a hand on his arm.

'Tony is never going to trust me with his sons ever again,' he isn't really listening. He finds a bench against the wall and sits down with his face in his hands.

*          *          *

He quite likes the ice cream.

It would be better if Dada was here. It isn't fair that Dada has to work.

He's never seen this many people before. They all seem very busy and they all have a lot of bags.

Cap has his bag.

He looks at the shiny watches through the window.

Dada has better watches.

He has to pee.

There will be a toilet behind that picture of a man!

Reaching to wash his hands after is hard and he doesn't like the hand dryer; it's very loud.

A man helps him push open the door as he goes back to Cap and Clint.

He can't see them.

He stands still and looks through all the people.

Did they go without him?

He wants Dada now.

He starts walking; maybe he'll find someone.

Maybe he should find the window with the watches.

He can't find the watches either. The watches can't have all gone?

He sniffs as he looks around.

Oh! That says Dada's name. He can find Dada there, or maybe Jarvis if Dada's busy!

This door opens on its own.

'I want Dada,' he tells the man wearing Dada's name on his shirt.

He man looks at him, looks around and then back to him,

'Err, what?'

'I want Dada,' his voice goes funny as his lips sticks out.

'Right,' the man nods, 'ok. Who's your Dad then?'

He sniffs and wipes and his eyes.

'Hey, it's alright,' the man crouches down, 'what's your Dada's name? Do you know his name?'

'Anthony Edward Stark,' he reports with another sniff, 'of Stark Industries.'

The man stares at him, blinks and then says a very bad word,

'Stay here,' he gets pushed behind a desk and the man makes the other people in the shop go out of the door. 'Kid, I can't get the guards to put your Dad's name over the tannoy; there would be a riot.'

'I want Dada,' he hiccoughs and starts to cry.

'I'll call the Head Office,' the man gets out his phone.

The phone looks a little like Dada's phone.

'I don't suppose you know your Dada's cell number?' the man gives him a strange smile.

'No,' he sniffs and rubs his eyes, 'but Jarvis does.'

'Jarvis is a myth,' the man laughs, 'just an Easter Egg.'

'Jarvis isn't an egg,' he takes the man's phone.

'Hey be careful with th... What are you doing?'

'Jarvis can always find Dada.'

'How did you bring that up? I didn't install...' the man peers down at the screen as he connects the phone to Jarvis' home. 'Ok, now it just looks like the Matrix.'

'Jarvis, Cap went away and I want Dada now.'

'Peter,' Jarvis makes the man jump backwards, 'I am redirecting your call to sir.'

'Dear God!' the man says some more very bad words. 'You just got straight through to... Oh, he's going to think...'

'Pete?' Dada appears on the screen.

'Hey, Dada!' Jarvis is great at finding Dada!

'Pete, where are you?' Dada scowls.

'Dunno,' he sniffs. 'The man will tell you; the man knows where we are.'

The man makes a strange sound and Dada stares out of the phone at him.

'Dada?' he gazes at the phone...

'I'm going to come and get you, baby boy,' Dada promises, 'everything will be fine.'

Chapter Text

He makes good time and does a quick aerial lap of the block before landing at the back entrance to the SI store. Jarvis makes quick work of the security lock and he steps inside.

The HUD lights up with messages as he takes in the shelves of his tech. He ignores it as he continues to the front part of the store and to something infinitely more valuable.

He steps through another door and comes face to face with a wide eyed young man,

'David Clarke?' he demands as Jarvis scans the room.

'Mister Stark,' the man jolts and puts his hands into the air. 'Don't shoot!'

'Dada!' Pete appears from behind the counter.

'Pete,' he sighs in relief. The suit opens and he steps out to drop to one knee and scoop his boy to his chest. 'You scared me, baby boy.'

Pete makes a small whimpering sound and then bursts into tears.

*          *          *

'Steve,' Clint interrupts his self recriminations, 'Stark's calling.'

He holds out his hand wordlessly,

'This is Captain Rogers,' he answers quietly.

'Captain,' Jarvis responds frostily. 'Your presence is required at the Stark Industries store.'

'Jarvis, is Pete ok? Did Tony get him back?'

'Peter is upset but unharmed,' Jarvis reports. 'The Stark Industries store please, Captain.'

'They're at the Stark Industries store,' he hands back Clint's phone. 'Do you know where that is?'

'Yeah,' Clint looks surprised, 'this way. Does he know who has the kid?'

'Pete's fine; he's with Tony,' he tries to catch on to the relief he should be feeling.

'That's great,' Clint grins before his face falls and he groans, 'Stark's still going to kill us.'

'He has every right,' he points out.

'Steve, come on, it was an honest accident,' Clint puts a hand on his back. 'Kids get lost all the time.'

'And you think the parents of those kids are calm and collected about it?' he challenges.

Clint grimaces,

'You'll feel better when you see Pete.'

They arrive at a store front with the familiar Stark logo over the door. There's a closed sign on the door and all the glass is tinted white like Tony's workshop when he doesn't want to be disturbed. Clint knocks twice and a young man opens the door and ushers them in.

He looks around the glossy and shiny store and his gaze immediately catches on Tony.

Tony's sitting on a counter, an Iron Man suit at his shoulder, with Pete curled against his chest.

'Oh thank God he's ok,' he takes two steps forward before faltering to a stop as he registers Tony's expression.

'Rogers, Barton,' Tony's gaze is flinty.

He flinches at the sound of his surname,

'Tony, I'm so sorry. We only looked away for a moment...' he shakes his head. 'It's my fault. I'm sorry. Is he ok?'

Pete's head lifts at the sound of his voice,

'Cap?'

He keeps quiet under Tony's renewed glare but Pete squirms enough in his father's lap to turn red rimmed eyes to him,

'Dada, Cap and Clint came back.'

'So they did,' Tony agrees.

Clint keeps quiet.

'Is he ok?' he asks again, quietly.

'He's fine,' Tony snaps. 'Give me my keys.'

'Tony,' he implores as Clint fumbles the Audi keys out of his pocket.

'I don't like to be handed things,' Tony grits out to Clint who promptly drops the keys onto the counter.

Pete has curled back up against Tony's chest and tucked his head under his chin,

'Are you angry, Dada?'

'Not with you.'

'Are you angry with Cap, Dada?'

'Yes, baby.'

'Why?'

'Because he lost you,' Tony presses a kiss to his son's head. 'I can't lose you, Pete.'

'Is not Cap's fault I had to pee,' Pete pouts.

'He should have been watching you,' Tony retorts.

'Oh,' Pete considers that.

'Tony?'

'Clarke,' Tony continues to ignore him and addresses the young man with his arms tightly crossed against his chest standing against the wall. 'Charge me for one of the latest Stark phones.'

'Yes Mister Stark,' the man jolts.

Tony sighs,

'You'll have your own phone, baby,' he tells his son. 'And you can call me and Jarvis directly.'

Clarke returns with a small box and hesitates at the register.

'Jarvis?' Tony glances back at his armour which jolts to life.

'Of course sir,' Jarvis walks to the counter and produces another of Tony's black credit cards from somewhere within the armour. When he returns to his creator with the phone Tony takes it from him with no hesitation and gives it to Pete.

'Jarvis,' Tony adds, 'transfer twenty thousand dollars to Mister Clarke as a bonus.'

Clarke makes a strangled noise in his throat.

'Take the rest of the day off,' Tony adds; effectively dismissing Clarke from his own store.

The man hesitates for a moment and then grabs a bag from behind the register before disappearing out of the door.

'Tony, please?' Steve steps up to the counter beside Tony as Jarvis returns the armour to its previous motionless state.

Tony's eyes flash fire as his gazes fixes on him,

'Rogers, you lost my son,' his tone is horrifyingly calm.

He flinches.

Tony stands up and shifts Pete onto his hip,

'Where's my car?'

'The second level,' he picks up the keys and offers them to Tony without thinking.

'Alright,' Tony accepts the keys and steps around him. 'Jarvis, collapse the suit.'

He finds himself staring at his hand and then looks up to meet Clint's incredulous gaze.

Doesn't like to be handed things? Clint mouths at him.

He shrugs and looks away.

'Are Cap and Clint not coming?' Pete causes Tony to falter in his walk to the door.

'In our defence,' Clint finally speaks, 'he didn't tell us he needed to pee.'

He tries to shoot Clint a quelling look.

'We would have never just let him go on his own,' Clint continues, 'and you can't blame us for...'

'He's three!' Tony spins back around to snap at them.

'And a half,' Pete adds quietly but Tony doesn't seem to notice.

'You only came here because you wanted to take him out!' Tony gestures wildly. 'What could have possibly been so interesting that it distracted you both?'

'I...' Clint is clearly already regretting trying to argue with Tony about this.

'Do you have any idea how many people would like to get their hands on my son?!' Tony's voice rises. 'Do you have any idea what they could have done with him?'

'Dada...'

'Tony...'

'He could have been killed!' Tony doesn't acknowledge the interruptions. 'He could have ended up with AIM! What is wrong with...?'

Tony abruptly stops shouting as Pete bursts into tears in his arms,

'Hey, baby.... Shush it's alright.'

'Stop it, Dada...' Pete manages between heart wrenching sobs.

'It's alright,' Tony hugs the boy close, 'I'm sorry, I'm sorry...'

Pete continues to cry loudly as Tony rocks him,

'Dada...'

He tries to remember if he's actually seen Tony's son cry since he's been with them; he can only ever remember Tony's presence being enough to make Pete happy.

'It's alright,' Tony repeats, 'I'm taking you home now.'

Pete nuzzles his face into his father's chest but continues to make devastating sobbing sounds.

Tony pets his son's hair and turns to make for the door before stopping again when Pete lets out another wail,

'Naaaahgh!' Pete squirms. 'Cap is coming too?'

Tony shoots him a look over his shoulder,

'Of course he's coming.'

'And Clint as well?' Pete sniffles and wipes his eyes.

'Glad I get a mention...' Clint grumbles under his breath and then immediately throws up his hands and takes a step back as Tony turns to glare at him.

'Yes, Barton can come too,' Tony doesn't exactly sound delighted.

'Oh,' Pete rubs at his eyes. 'Ok,' he settles against Tony's chest.

This may be the most awkward car ride he has ever taken.

‘Dibs on riding in the back,’ Clint hisses at him as they follow Tony out of the door.

Great…

Chapter Text

Pete falls asleep on the way home and his team mates are silent as he fumes.

Clint bales almost before he's stopped the car but Steve hovers around looking like a kicked puppy.

He pops the trunk so Jarvis can reform the suit and then goes to the back door to retrieve his son.

'Tony...' Steve tries before trailing off.

'Rogers?' he asks blandly and doesn't miss Steve's flinch.

'I swear this will never happen again,' Steve has one hell of a moping face. 'I'll never let go of his hand, I'll wear one of those bizarre headsets that you have or Jarvis can just come with us and...'

'Rogers,' he interrupts and tries not to enjoy the resulting cringe.

'Please,' Steve actually begs, 'please, Tony. I will never let this happen again. Not with Pete and not with Jim...'

'Will you stop?' he snaps. 'It's over. I fixed it. No harm done. Just forget about it.'

Steve dithers as Jarvis picks up the bag of toys from the trunk.

'Dada?' Pete lifts his head briefly but then settles back down.

'Do I need to go back to the Tower?' Steve asks quietly.

He'll admit that the look he shoots at the other man doesn't actually answer the question.

Jarvis falls in step with him as he walks to the Mansion entrance. Alfred opens the doors as they reach the top step,

'Welcome back, Master Stark,' Alfred steps to the side. 'Will Captain Rogers be joining you?'

He turns to look down to where Steve is still standing by the car,

'Yeah,' he looks straight into Steve's eyes. 'Let him in.'

*          *          *

Pete's still sleeping so he puts him down on the sofa as he gets back to work. Jarvis settles the armour in sentry mode and stands beside his brother.

He's completed the sensor net installation in the hallway, and the small room between the ballroom and the entrance hall, now he's doing the blue lounge and next he'll tackle the entrance hall itself. 

He masterfully ignores Steve standing below him for over half an hour before Steve finally speaks,

'Thank you.'

He sways in the air and looks down,

'What?'

Steve is watching Pete but looks up at the sound of his voice,

'Thank you.'

'For what?'

'Implying that you'll forgive me?' he receives a crooked smile.

'Wasn't your fault,' he looks away.

'Not true,' Steve disagrees quietly.

'He's a Stark,' he lands and glances at Steve before looking back at the drill in his hands. 'I should have sent Jarvis with you.'

'Jarvis is the only way I've found to keep track of you,' Steve offers him a weak smile.

He offers a small smile in reply,

'Sorry I shouted.'

'No,' Steve denies instantly, 'don't. Clint was an ass.'

He shrugs,

'I made my kid cry.'

'I made him cry first,' Steve shoots a look at Pete.

'Do you want a drink?' he asks suddenly. 'I really think I need a drink.'

'Don't you have... work?' Steve gestures vaguely at the ceiling.

'It can wait,' he shrugs.

He'll just have to add working into tomorrow night to working through tonight.

'Then I'd love to,' Steve offers him an adorably shy smile, 'if you really want me to join you.'

'Sure,' he shrugs again before waving Steve to a free sofa and fetching a decanter and two tumblers from the cabinet on the wall. 'Here,' he pours two generous measures and hands one over to Steve.

'Thank you,' Steve has carefully sat as close to the arm of the sofa as he can.

'Cheers,' he clinks their glasses together as he sits down next to Steve.

*          *          *

Tony probably stayed seated for all of five minutes before he was up and working again.

There's conversation now though. If it can be called a conversation when Tony does more than ninety percent of the talking.

It's nice just to listen to Tony's voice.

After a while Tony's monologue tails off into the occasional comment to Jarvis so he decides to slip away.

Maybe he'll go for a quick run around the grounds...

'Captain Rogers,' Pepper makes him nearly jump out of his skin.

'Ms Potts,' he stumbles to a stop.

'Walk with me,' she instructs.

Some part of him is a good soldier after all because he falls in step with her without a word.

'Captain,' she leads him to a library and gestures him into a seat before sitting across from him, 'I owe you an apology.'

'Oh,' he blinks at her in surprise, 'ma'am, that's...' It's still not really ok. 'You're Tony's friend; I understand why you'd keep his secrets.'

She nods in acknowledgement,

'Still; I'm sorry Tony didn't tell you sooner.'

He shrugs,

'Did you ask me here just to say that?'

'No,' she crosses her legs and leans back. 'Captain...'

'Steve,' he interrupts with a smile of his own.

'Steve,' she agrees. 'I need you to tell me what you want from Tony.'

He stares at her as his brain short-circuits.

'What?' he manages to ask quietly.

'Steve, you like Tony,' she tells him straightforwardly. 'I know you told him so and I know that he turned you down.'

'If you know that,' he realises he's sitting very rigidly but can't make himself relax, 'then you know it doesn't really matter what I want.'

'Humour me,' she smiles.

'Why?' he scowls.

'Because Tony is my best friend.'

'He doesn't want to be with me,' he feels his scowl slip and looks down at his lap.

'Imagine he did,' Pepper persists. 'What would you want? What would be your ideal scenario?'

He shoots her a pleading look,

'Pepper...'

'Please,' she stares at him. 'Steve, what would you want with Tony?'

'Why?' he drops his head into his hands.

She just looks at him.

'Everything!' he blurts. 'He's Tony... He's...' his mind spins. 'Why are you asking me about something that will never...?'

'Tony thinks you'll be a bad match because of him!' Pepper interrupts. 'He thinks the world of you.'

'You think I should... ask him out?'

'What would you want from him?' she presses him.

'I would...' his mind is still spinning. 'I'd move in with him. We'd raise the boys together...' he falters before finally admitting 'I'd marry him, if he'd have me.'

Pepper smiles at him,

'You are so sweet.'

'Yeah,' he scoffs and drags his fingers through his hair.

'Thank you, Steve,' Pepper stands up.

'Right,' he agrees, confused, as he stands as well and is shown to the door. He falters and turns back to Pepper when he reaches the hallway, 'I'm in love with him, Pepper.'

His heart can't decide if it wants to swell or lodge in his throat.

Pepper puts a hand on his arm and squeezes before closing the door between them.

Now he really needs that run.

Chapter Text

He runs for hours.

He finally makes his way back up the drive in the dark. There are a few rooms lit up downstairs but the rest of the house is dark. Lights turn on on the steps up to the front door as he approaches and he can hear Tony's music from somewhere deeper into the Mansion.

'Welcome back, Captain,' Jarvis greets him as he steps inside.

'Hey Jarvis,' he smiles, 'Tony's been working hard then?'

'Yes, Captain,' Jarvis confirms. 'My presence now stretches across much of this floor.'

'That's good,' he rolls his shoulders as he makes his way into the building towards the kitchen. 'Where's Tony?'

'Sir is working,' Jarvis replies simply. 'Do you wish for me to interrupt him?'

'Oh, no,' he declines as he enters the kitchen. He opens the refrigerator and finds a plate of food with his name on, 'has Pepper spoken to Tony?'

'No, Captain.'

Well, that's something.

'Maybe I should ask her not to,' he ponders as he eats his dinner.

'You might ask her, Captain,’ Jarvis agrees, ‘but it would not change her mind.'

'It won't change anything,' he adds quietly after he's finished eating.

Jarvis doesn't reply.

*          *          *

He's dancing to his music as he works when he's alerted to Steve's return by a drop in the volume.

'Don't turn down my music,' he complains.

'Hey, Tony,' Steve smiles up at him.

'Cap,' he greets. 'You enjoy the change of scenery?'

'Sure,' Steve agrees. 'Where's Pete?'

'In bed,' he looks back to his work. 'It's really quite late.'

'I was going to turn in,' Steve tells him. 'What about you?'

'Is that an invitation?' he smirks in response.

Steve shoots him one of those looks he hasn't been able to decipher,

'You really think you'd be able to cope slumming it in my room? Pete reliably informs me that yours is much bigger.'

'You want to discuss whose is bigger?' he grins and watches Steve blush.

'Goodnight, Tony,' Steve rolls his eyes.

'Night,' he turns back to his drilling.

Jarvis turns the volume back up as Steve leaves.

'Get me more coffee, Jay,' he rubs his eyes.

'Certainly, sir.'

*          *          *

He wakes with a jolt and looks around wildly.

Right; he's in the Mansion. What woke him?

'Hi Cap,' he jolts again as Pete crawls up from the end of the bed in his Iron Man onesie dragging his blankie.

'Pete?' he rubs his eyes. 'Jarvis, what time is it?'

'Jarvis isn't here,' Pete climbs under the covers next to him. 'Dada isn't here either.'

He watches as the little boy curls up beside him before suddenly looking up at him with Tony's eyes,

'I can sleep with you?'

'Yeah,' he agrees helplessly, 'of course you can.'

'K,' Pete closes his eyes and falls asleep pressing his blankie to his face.

He sits there for another moment before reaching for the earpiece Tony gave him before,

'Jarvis?'

'Captain,' Jarvis responds promptly, 'you are up late. What can I do for you?'

'I... Pete's here. Is Tony still working?'

'Indeed, Captain. I shall let sir know Peter's location.'

'Great, thanks Jarvis. Goodnight,' he lies back down and takes out the earpiece.

He settles down on his back and gazes at Tony's son beside him,

'Goodnight, Pete,' he tells him quietly.

If he stays awake to watch the boy sleep for a while then it's not like anyone around here can take the high ground when it comes respecting privacy.

*          *          *

When he wakes again he finds Pete still sleeping beside him. He smiles and closes his eyes.

He can skip his run today.

*          *          *

'Cap,' a small hand pats his face.

'Hey, Pete,' he opens his eyes and smiles.

'Hey Cap,' Pete beams at him before climbing onto his chest. Steve huffs a breath as two smalls knees dig into his gut. 'Do you need coffee to help your brain?'

'Coffee does sound good,' he agrees. 'What would you like?'

'Coffee tastes funny,' Pete tells him.

'I think you'll like it when you're older,' he grins and sits up to topple Pete to his side.

Pete grabs his blanket and holds up his arms to be picked up. Steve obliges him and has stepped out of his suite before he remembers he isn't wearing a shirt.

'Good morning, Captain,' Jarvis greets him as soon as he's in the hall. 'Hello Pete.'

Well, he can't turn back now.

'Where's Dada?' Pete looks across to where the door to Tony's suite is standing open.

'Sir is upstairs in the east library,' Jarvis reports. 'Would you like directions?'

Up a staircase he's never seen before and along a hallway he can hear music ahead.

'Dada!' Pete squirms as soon as Tony comes into view and runs to his father's side.

Tony's wearing his normal work clothes with the Iron Man boots. He's standing with a box of what Steve assumes must be the grain-of-rice sized sensors for Jarvis in one hand and the drill he had been using hanging from a wrist strap.

'Hey,' Tony puts the sensors down and scoops up his son, 'it's my two favourite men.'

'Hey,' now he's not holding Pete he's much more aware that he's half naked.

'Cap needs coffee for his brain, Dada,' Pete pats Tony's arc reactor.

'Help yourself,' Tony turns to gesture to a half full jug of coffee on a chair across the room.

'This is cold, Tony.'

'More for me then,' Tony beckons for the jug.

'Would you like anything else for breakfast?' he hands over the coffee reluctantly.

'What's on offer?' Tony gulps the last of the coffee straight from the jug.

How does he find this man attractive?

'Eggs,' Pete tells them. 'Thor says eggs will make me grow.'

'Good luck with that,' Tony puts the jug down.

He laughs,

'It might be worth a try. How do you like your eggs?'

'Dunno,' Pete's playing with the light from Tony's chest with his fingers.

'Scrambled,' Tony replies as he abandons his drill beside the box of sensors. The Iron Man boots drop off as Tony walks over to him. 'I like the new look, Cap; half naked with bed head is a look you really pull off well.'

He blushes as one hand flies to his hair,

'Pete didn't seem keen on waiting before coming to find you.'

'I'm so proud,' Tony pats his abs as he walks past.

He can only imagine how outnumbered by Starks he'll feel once Jim is born.

Chapter Text

He leads the way down to the kitchen and heads straight for the coffee machine,

'Jarvis, where's Pepper?'

'Sir, it is ten minutes past seven,' Jarvis points out, 'Ms Potts is in bed.'

'Slacker...' he watches the coffee start to run through.

'I think some of the things in this kitchen might be as old as I am,' Steve searches through some cupboards.

'Probably,' he agrees as he lets Pete down. Pete clambers onto a chair beside Steve to watch what he's doing. 'I haven't been here much since Dad died. This all dates from back then.'

Steve glances back at him; the bastard probably noticed he didn't mention that of course Maria died at the same time.

'It's a shame,' Steve comments lightly, 'it's a beautiful building.'

'Sure,' he pours a couple of mugs of coffee and joins Steve by the stove.

'Why is the Gala here?' Steve stirs the eggs. 'You must have other properties?'

'Galas for the charities supported by the Maria Stark Foundation are always held at the Stark Mansion,' he shrugs.

There's a sudden tension in Steve's shoulders,

'You support charities in her name?'

'She's dead,' he drinks some of his coffee, 'what I do with her name is up to me.'

The eggs appear to have offended the good Captain.

'It was Obe's idea,' he adds, 'and I figured it was a good way to give her the finger...'

'Did he know about her?' Steve's casual tone is completely at odds with how every muscle in his back is tensed.

That’s a hell of a lot of glorious angry muscles.

'Probably,' he tries to get his brain working in the right direction. 'Why?'

'Are you angry?' Pete is looking between them.

'No,' Steve's a terrible liar.

‘You look kinda angry,’ Pete tells Steve. ‘Maybe Dada can fix it? Dada fixes things.’

‘He does,’ Steve agrees and shoots him a smile, ‘but I’m alright. I just wish I woke up sooner.’

‘Right,’ he shakes his head to try and clear it as he pulls a tablet from his pocket. 'How many rooms to go, Jay?'

'Twelve on the floor we were on,' Jarvis tells him, 'and the hallway, the floor above and the bedrooms that we skipped last night.'

He groans,

'It's going to be a long day isn't it, buddy?'

'Sir, may I remind you that the press will be here in four hours for your photo shoot?'

'Fuck,' he groans and slumps forwards beside the stove.

'Tony!' Steve scolds.

'Nnnnaarrrgh!' he scrubs at his hair with both hands. 'Fine; I'll have to eat and get another few rooms wired before getting ready for them.'

'Acknowledged, sir,' Jarvis confirms.

'Here,' Steve hands him a plate of eggs.

'You're an angel,' he doesn't bother sitting down.

His son finds himself a seat at the table; he's clearly been domesticated. Steve puts plates on the table for himself and Pete before returning to usher him over too,

'You've got time to eat so you've got time to sit and eat,' Steve instructs.

'Barely,' he complains as he sits down. 'Jarvis, when Pepper wakes up tell her I have the flu.'

'Yes, sir.'

'You're sick, Dada?' Pete's so immediately worried.

'No, baby,' he steals Steve's coffee.

'Does Pepper have another Board Meeting for you?' Pete asks before cramming a large amount of food into his mouth.

'Worse,' he grins, 'I'll be seeing reporters!'

Pete makes a horrified noise through his food.

'Pete can hang out with me while you're busy,' Steve finally smiles again.

'I want to stay with Dada,' Pete objects.

'We could do that,' he considers it. 'Jarvis, run that past Pepper when she wakes up.'

'Before or after I inform her of your dire illness, sir?'

'Smartass,' he finishes Steve's coffee.

'But Dada,' Pete has managed to swallow, 'what about Cap's brain?'

'What?'

'Coffee is important for brain function in adults,' Steve grins at him.

'Well, that's true,' he agrees as he considers the two empty mugs. 'You want another?'

'I wanted the first one,' Steve laughs. How is he so chirpy in the morning?

'Right, sorry.'

'Don't worry about it,' Steve tells him. 'Eat your eggs.'

*          *          *

Tony eats a little before becoming distracted by something on his tablet. Pete doesn't seem to mind his father's distraction; he's chattering happily about his new toys.

'Sir,' one of Tony's suits walks in carrying a small box, 'your delivery has arrived.'

'Right,' Tony tenses and shoots a quick glance towards him, 'thanks, Jarvis.'

Jarvis hands the parcel over and the suit walks back out.

'Right,' Tony repeats quietly before thrusting the box out to him, 'here.'

'You got me another present?' he reluctantly accepts it.

'Yeah,' Tony shrugs.

'Shall I open it?' he hesitates.

'Sure,' Tony feigns disinterest.

He opens the box to find a small white baby grow. On the front are written the words 'My Daddy is a Captain!' over an image of his shield.

'It seemed like a good idea at the....' Tony frets and cuts himself off. 'Oh, fuck, ok I messed up. I'll get rid of it.'

Tony reaches out but he clutches his present to his chest,

'What?'

'You're...' Tony waves a hand at him.

'Are you sad, Cap?' Pete gazes up at him.

'No,' he shakes his head and looks back at Tony, 'no! This is... This is great, Tony.'

'Really?' Tony doesn't look convinced.

'Yeah,' he laughs suddenly, 'yeah, Tony, you did good.'

Tony looks conflicted for a moment before adding,

'You'll be a great dad, Cap.'

He knows he's smiling goofily,

'You think?'

'Cap is Dada?' Pete looks confused as he looks between them.

'Cap's going to be a Daddy,' Tony corrects before shooting him a look, 'or a different name if he wants?'

'Daddy sounds good,' he smiles at the baby grow.

‘Why?’ Pete asks.

‘Because little boys should all have great dads,’ Tony tells his son.

‘You’re the greatestest,’ Pete declares firmly to his Dada, ‘but maybe Cap can be the nearly greatestest?’

‘Sounds fair to me,’ he grins at Tony’s bemused look.

‘Sure,’ Tony accepts, ‘if you think so.’

Pete looks pleased before turning on him,

‘But if you are a Dada-y will you not visit anymore?’

‘Hey,’ he reaches over to cup the side of Pete’s face, ‘I’ll be visiting all the time. I promise.’

Pete beams,

‘Ok!’

Chapter Text

'Sir, Ms Potts is showing a reporter and photographer to the study,' Jarvis tells him.

'Thanks, Jay,' he straightens his jacket. 'When the last of your sensors arrive from the Tower have them sent up.'

'Of course, sir.'

'I want to go with Dada,' Pete objects from where he's sat at a desk colouring with Steve.

'Sorry, baby,' he presses a kiss to his son's head. 'I'll be back soon.'

'Good luck, Tony,' Steve smiles up at him.

'Luck?' he laughs.

'Telling you to have fun would probably be a mistake,' Steve grins back.

'Too busy to have fun,' he winks.

Steve laughs and looks away.

'I want to go with Dada,' Pete repeats with pout.

'We talked about this,' he checks his hair in the mirror. 'I'll go in first and call you if it's safe, ok?'

'Ok,' Pete doesn't seem convinced.

'Good boy,' he heads out.

'Hello, Mister Stark!' the reporter jumps to her feet as he steps into the study.

'Please, Tony's fine,' he gives her his trademark grin.

Her name is Tammi and he remembers sleeping with her in DC a few years ago.

'Tony,' she smiles, 'whenever we meet you always seem to have so much going on.'

What did she interview him about last time?

'Not just when we meet,' he settles onto the sofa opposite her and skilfully ignores the photographer. 'I've always got a lot going on.'

'Stark Industries, the Avengers, your Arc Reactor rollout, the Charity Gala and your son,' she lists, 'how do you keep it all straight?'

Was it the new Stark phone?

'Fair point,' he allows, 'but I do deal with most of those things all of the time.'

'It's incredible, Tony. How do you find the time?'

No, maybe the piece covering the Grande Prix when he finally made time to go again?

'Well, have you not heard? I have been described as a Superhero,' he winks at her.

'I think you would have to be.'

Did she actually just flutter her eyelashes?

'I do what I can.'

'Ok, let's start at the beginning,' she tones down her flirting. 'Stark Industries has changed a lot over the years but with you and Ms Potts in charge it's more profitable than ever.'

These women never like Pepper...

'Pepper and I are a great team. I handle the tech side and she wrangles the business side,' he grins, 'and me.'

'She's an important part of what you do?'

The sex was probably nothing special; he can't remember.

'Apart from my kid, Pepper is the most important person in my life. I wouldn't get anywhere near as much done without her.'

'Many people think she's still just your secretary.'

'Pepper was never just my secretary,' he tells her. 'Also, for the record, I'm not sure there is such a thing as just a secretary. Anyway, she was CEO for a week or so.'

'That was quite a crazy week.'

'I've had crazier.'

She laughs charmingly.

Tony manages not to roll his eyes.

'This was maybe one of your better weeks?' she smiles. 'Your announcement earlier this week has gone across very well. The Arc Reactor rollout has a lot of people very excited, what can you tell us?'

'I can tell you that this is the result of a lot of hard work by a lot of people. This has been my aim for SI since I came back from my little vacation in Afghanistan. With all of the Stark Industries' facilities running on Arc Reactor power we'll be the greenest international company out there.'

'So this is good for more than just Stark Industries?'

'If we can get everyone else on board then this will be good for the world. Except the oil companies; they don't like me much.'

'I bet!' her smile becomes more teasing. 'The press conference was something of a surprise, by the way.'

'Yeah, that's on me. I got the data from our trial run in DC and wanted to get things moving.'

'I meant the adorable surprise at the end!'

'Oh, he's quite cute, isn't he?' he smirks.

'I can't imagine why you've kept him hidden until now.'

'You're right; he's a particularly impressive three year old and I should have never kept him to myself.'

'What can you tell us about him?'

'His name is Peter Jarvis Stark, he's three and a half and he's the best drain on my resources that I've ever created.'

'What about his mother? How did you meet?'

Isn't that the pertinent question?

'A little over four years ago the question of having an heir was raised at an SI Board Meting,' he lies between his teeth. 'One of the people there suggested the idea of surrogacy and it stuck with me. Ten months later I brought Pete home and I've never regretted it for a second.'

'But what was she like?'

'Lovely woman. She was a surrogate for me but we don't have any contact other than that,' he smiles.

'Still no new person in your life? That will make a lot of our readers happy,' the flirting is back.

'Ha! I am single, but I'm afraid that won't be changing any time soon. I'm finding being a single father works quite well for me.'

'I'm sure I speak for many single ladies when I say we'll keep our fingers crossed that you'll change your mind!'

'Alright,' Tony shrugs, 'but I'll give you fair warning; Pete hogs the sheets and wakes up at a horrifyingly early time in the morning.'

'Oh, but I know you love your late nights!'

'Luckily I live with people who are better at the waking early thing than I am.'

'The famous Ms Potts again?'

'Of course, and Cap actually. Pete is quite convinced that Cap making me coffee in the morning is essential for my health,' he aims for charming with his grin.

'You have your live in babysitters then?'

'Cap certainly is, but as much as Pepper loves the kid she's mostly too busy to look after him if I can't.'

'She's been out on the west coast recently?'

'Yeah, she tries to keep out of Avenger business.'

'So you're on your own with them, then?'

'No, the Avengers are a team; we look out for each other.'

'And what about when you're out as a team, do any of them in particular have your back?'

'As I said, we're a team.'

'Come on, Tony! You must have a favourite?' she wheedles.

'I suppose I spend the most time with Bruce,' Tony smiles.

'You mean the Hulk?'

'Sure, but he's not generally big and green at the time.'

'Doesn't that get... dicey?' she isn't convinced.

'Nah, he's a teddy bear,' he tells her. 'In both forms, actually.'

'Well, that must be a relief! You've had to have your tower repaired enough already!' she laughs.

Tony bites his tongue and keeps smiling,

'The Tower is at more of a risk from me and Thor than from Bruce.'

'Thor's back in town?'

'Dropped in a couple of days ago,' he confirms. 'Made my kid's day by giving him a sword...'

'A sword?!'

'Tell me about it,' he sighs.

'How are the rest of the team?'

'Barton's an overgrown kid who eats peanut butter with a spoon,' he grins. 'Romanoff thinks we're all idiots but I'm pretty sure Pepper has made her promise not to kill me.'

'And Captain Rogers?' she cuts in with more enthusiasm than necessary.

'Cap's a morning person,' Tony tells her, as if that explains everything. 'I'd generally find that offensive but he feeds my kid breakfast so I let it slide.'

'And will they be coming to the Gala in the week?'

'Cap will be there,' he confirms with a smirk. 'He scrubs up nice.'

'I know that look, Tony!' she calls him out. 'What are you planning?'

'I just like the baffled look Cap gets when he's out of his element,' enjoys it a little too much actually.

'Tell us about the Gala.'

'It's a fundraising event for the Maria Stark Foundation and their ongoing efforts to support children's charities in New York. I supply the venue, catering and entertainment and all the people have to do is bid high enough to get an invite.

'A pretty exclusive event! I hear our readers can get involved in the fun at home by bidding on an online auction of items donated by various guests; did you donate anything?'

'Sure,' Tony blags it and grabs his phone knowing Jarvis will bring up the answer without being asked, 'signed Avengers posters, one of my cars, a month's loan of my yacht and a prototype for the next StarkPhone with personal tech support for a year.'

His car?!

'I know a lot of people who would give their right arms for a day of tech support from you!'

'Donations in US dollars only,' he grins.

Which car?

'I have to mention one of the cars I recognised outside,' she acts like she's asking him to reveal a secret, 'is Bruce Wayne here?!'

'Not yet, but he'll be here for the Gala,' he confirms.

'But you have his car?'

'Apparently,' Tony grins, 'but you'll have to ask him.'

The door opens a crack and attracts their attention. Pete peaks inside,

'Dada?'

'Hey, baby,' Tony smiles his first genuine smile since he walked into the room.

The door opens further to reveal Pete wearing a Captain America costume, with a shield, as he runs to his father,

'See what Pepper found for me?'

'I do,' Tony gets a knot in his stomach as he realises that costume was his. 'So you're Captain America now?'

'No,' Pete scoffs, 'I'm Captain Stark. That's better because I can be like you and Cap at the same time!'

Tony notices that the red gloves are actually from an Iron Man costume,

'Much better,' he agrees.

'This must be Peter,' the reporter is gesturing crazily to her photographer, who is ignoring her as he's already snapping away. 'Can I ask him some questions?'

''May I',' Jarvis corrects into his earpiece. 'Sir, Captain Rogers is in the hallway and wants to know if you wish him to enter.'

'Sure,' he tells her as he makes a swiping negative motion with his hand for Jarvis. 'But I have final say on what you print if he tells you any business secrets.'

'Of course,' she beams. 'Hello, Peter, I'm Tammi, have you been having a good day?'

'Yes,' Pete stares at her.

'Have you been playing with your Dada?' she tries

'Yes,' Pete confirms.

'And what do you like to play with your Dad?' she beams.

The first interview with the Stark Heir with photographs; she's going to be rich if she plays this right.

'Cars,' Pete turns shy and tucks himself under his father's arm.

'And will you be coming to your Dad's party?' her eyes glow with the victory fire of having an exclusive.

'Dunno,' Pete maintains a death grip on his shirt.

'He's coming,' Tony cuts in.

'And who is your favourite Avengers?' she tries to coax out more than a one word answer.

'Dada,' Pete replies loyally.

'How about your second favourite, baby?' Tony takes pity.

'Cap,' is the immediate reply.

'And what do you want for Christmas?' she's clearly ready to wrap this up.

Pete just stares at her.

Christmas in the Stark household was never really a thing...

'What toys do you want?' Tony hopes she thinks he's just prompting.

'I want a Lamborghini,' Pete decides, 'and a little helicopter.'

'A toy Lamborghini?' she asks uncertainly.

'No,' Pete refuses. 'I want to play with the engine; it has to be big.'

'Oh,' her gaze flicks between Pete and Tony, 'but only a little helicopter?'

'Dada needs the helipad for the Queenjets,' Pete tells her with giant innocent eyes that Tony can't pull off anymore.

'Oh,' she says again, 'of course.'

'Quinjets,' Tony corrects.

'Queenjets,' Pete agrees.

'Ms Potts is on her way to interrupt, Sir,' Jarvis announces in his ear.

About time.

'I...' she seems to have forgotten her words.

'I'm sorry to interrupt,' Pepper is not sorry. 'Tony, something's come up.'

'Time to go, kiddo,' he shifts his son onto his hip as he stands. 'Lovely to see you again, Tammi.'

Pepper hands him another tablet as they fall in step and exit the room.

'I love you,' he tells Pepper.

'I know,' she bats her eyes and walks away.

'Cap!' Pete squirms, 'I saved Dada!'

'You sure did,' Steve looks a little sheepish as he pushes away from the wall to join them.

Tony sheds his suit jacket and steps into the Iron Man boots as soon as they get back upstairs.

'A Lamborghini?' Steve asks quietly as Pete starts drawing in the corner.

'You heard that?' he smirks.

'You're going to get him one, aren't you?' Steve sounds amused.

'Why not?' Tony agrees. 'Apparently I'm going to be gaining a space in the garage after the Gala...'

'Ms Potts did inform you of her intention to select items to be donated if you did not make the decision yourself,' Jarvis tells them.

'I didn't think she'd take a car!'

'You think the interview went ok?' Steve is cold heartedly indifferent to his plight.

'I lied through my teeth for much of it,' he shrugs, 'but sure, she bought it.'

He watches Steve shoot a look at Pete before continuing quietly,

'You're lucky he didn't say anything to give you away.'

'I wasn't expecting the question about Christmas,' Tony fiddles with a tablet.

'He doesn't know what Christmas is,' Steve has that trying not to look sad expression on his face.

'No,' he agrees. 'Now stop reading into it.'

There is no way Steve won't read into it.

There's no way Steve won't now have formed some theories.

'Tony...'

'I have work to do,' Tony lifts up to the ceiling and ignores Steve.

'Sure,' Steve gives in and quietly joins Pete with his action figures.

Chapter Text

Steve plays with Pete as Tony keeps working above them. Pete insists on swapping rooms each time Tony does but Tony barely seems to notice.

When lunchtime rolls around it's Alfred that brings them up some food without any prompting.

'Tony?' Steve calls up when Tony apparently doesn't notice.

'Hmm?' the sound comes from around the tablet Tony has in his mouth.

'Tony, come down,' he tries again.

'Cap?' Tony blinks down at them in confusion.

'Dada!' Pete pipes up. 'Look, Dada, Alfred put crisps in my cheese sandwich!'

'Chips,' Tony lands to accept the mug of coffee Steve's holding for him. 'They're chips, Pete; let's not let Jarvis and Alfred turn you English.'

'The sandwich is crunchy!' Pete is apparently indifferent to linguistic differences.

'Right,' Tony finishes his coffee and looks around for another.

'Why is Jarvis English?' Steve puts half a sandwich into Tony's hand in the off chance it will trick him into eating it.

'I didn't program him that way,' Tony shrugs. 'The original Jarvis was English, of course, but they never met.'

'I never met him,' Steve adds mildly.

Tony smiles suddenly,

'You'd have liked him.'

Steve smiles as Tony takes a distracted bite of the sandwich and then gives it a confused look even as Steve guides him to where Pete is sitting.

'And would he have liked me?' he asks.

'Everyone likes you,' Tony scoffs. 'I bet even Red Skull collected your trading cards...'

'That's disturbing,' he wrinkles his nose.

Tony just laughs as he pours another coffee.

*          *          *

After lunch Steve leaves Pete napping and Tony adjusting some sensors that Jarvis reports are out of alignment.

He retreats to his room and opens his sketchbook to a new page as he settles in by the window.

Watching his friend casually overdose on caffeine as he forces himself to work through his exhaustion isn't his idea of fun.

He didn't try and stop him.

Tony isn't his to worry about like that.

Ok. Steve's definitely going to worry, but he can't say anything.

'Captain,' Jarvis speaks through the earpiece he's gotten used to wearing, 'incoming call from Agent Romanov.'

'Put her through,' he sits up straight, 'Black Widow?'

'Hey, Steve,' she sounds winded.

'Is everything alright?' Steve's on his feet now.

'Fine,' Natasha says before groaning quietly.

'Not sure I believe you,' he fights to keep his tone light.

'Just a little shrapnel,' she reports. 'Stupid mistake on my part. I got away. Location is secure.'

'You need a pick up?' Steve winces at each of her gasps, knowing she's digging metal from her own flesh.

'Negative,' she refuses.

'Okay...' he replies. 'Then why are you calling?'

'Just checking in,' Natasha huffs a breath. 'Clint told me what happened.'

'You've been shot and you're worried about us?' Steve rolls his eyes.

'The shrapnel's from a bomb, actually,' she corrects. 'Are you back at the Tower?'

'Clint didn't tell you that I'm not?'

'Clint's retreated to an old SHIELD safe house,' she sounds amused.

Steve manages a laugh,

'I'm still at the mansion.'

'Hmm,' Natasha apparently approves. 'Good.'

'Mission status?' he asks after the line is quiet for a minute.

'Nearly complete,' she replies and gives a little sigh of relief, 'have you ever noticed how shrapnel is always disappointingly small compared to the amount of pain it causes?'

'Sure,' he rolls his eyes.

'I'll be back in a couple of days,' Natasha adds.

'Alright,' Steve agrees. 'Be safe.'

'Yes, Captain!' she agrees cheekily and the line goes dead.

*          *          *

For the second night in a row Steve jolts awake as the door to his suite opens. This time he knows what to listen for so he recognises the padding of small feet coming closer.

'Lo,' Pete climbs up and crawls over to him with his blanky.

'Hey, Pete,' he smiles and tucks the boy in beside him before falling back to sleep.

*          *          *

Something wakes him again and he tenses until he sees a familiar blue light coming closer.

'Tony?' he calls out quietly.

The light jolts as its owner stumbles, it sways in place for a moment before lurching back into motion.

Tony comes into view. His shirt is hanging open, which explains the light, he has no pants on, his hair is a mess and his eyes are drooping.

'Did you come for Pete?' he asks quietly.

Tony just keeps walking towards him and then sheds his shirt.

'Tony?' he tenses again.

The genius sways in place for a moment and almost looks like he'll manage to focus on Steve but then he shifts the covers just enough before collapsing face first onto the bed to Steve's left.

'I...' Steve shifts away uncomfortably and freezes as his movement causes Pete to stir and grumble to his right.

He takes a deep breath and tries to convince even one of his muscles to unclench.

His heart is hammering.

The sofa!

He'll get out from between the two Starks and sleep in the other room.

He shifts his weight as he prepares to climb over his friend.

Tony makes an odd noise in his throat as he shifts over and presses his face into Steve's arm. Steve thumps his head into his pillow as Tony's hand curls around his bicep to keep him in place.

Steve groans in despair,

'Please no...' he whispers as he tries to gently pry Tony's fingers from his arm.

Tony makes an irritated sound and nuzzles closer.

Jarvis would likely be laughing if he could.

He gives up for a moment to try and think this through.

This of course allows Pete to roll over his right arm and resettle with his back against Steve’s side.

So now both of his arms are trapped.

Great.

He sighs and glances to where Pete is now asleep in the crook of his left arm and to where Tony is pressed against his right.

He feels like he's stealing something.

He feels dishonest.

But it doesn't mean anything, right?

And he's not exactly enjoying it?

And Tony has been awake for something like 44 hours...

Steve lets himself relax.

It'll be fine; Tony won't care.

*          *          *

Steve sleeps better than he can ever remember doing before.

He wakes at half seven in the morning, well passed the time he would normally be up, and feels incredibly comfortable.

And then he remembers that the man he has an unrequited crush on is asleep beside him and the good feeling shrinks rapidly.

Tony is still curled against him, snoring softly, with his left hand clutching Steve's left bicep.

He's gorgeous.

'Cap?' Pete is suddenly climbing over him and dropping down between him and Tony. 'Cap! Dada is back!'

'Yes, shhh!' Steve hushes him quickly, 'your Dada needs some more sleep.'

'Oh,' Pete considers this.

'So speak quietly, yeah?'

'Ok,' Pete agrees without lowering his voice at all. 'Why does Dada need more sleep? Does Dada need coffee?'

'He was up late with Jarvis,' Steve manages to slip his arm away from Tony and sit up. 'Come on, we'll get some breakfast and come back for your Dada later, ok?'

'But coffee makes Dada awake now!' Pete objects and pats Tony's cheek before Steve can stop him.

'Everyone stop talking,' Tony complains without opening his eyes.

'Good morning, Tony,' Steve can't help his smile as Tony wraps an arm around his son.

'Cap,' Tony briefly opens one eye. 'Why are you in my bed?'

'Sir, it is you who is in Captain Rogers' bed,' Jarvis corrects.

Tony cracks his eye open again and looks around,

'What the fuck am I doing here?'

'Tony!' Steve scolds.

'Last night you were quiet certain you would sleep better in this room,' Jarvis informs him. 'You cited proximity to Pete, the flow of zen and bed bugs as your reasons.'

'Flow of zen?' Steve grins.

'I was delirious,' Tony tells him.

Steve resists the urge to pet back the hair that's falling across Tony's forehead.

But then he's also resisting the urge to lean over and kiss him.

Steve gets out of bed without doing either of those things.

*          *          *

Thinking actually hurts.

Which does explain why he's in Steve's bed and not his own.

'Dada?' Pete pats his face. 'Do you need coffee?'

'Definitely,' Tony groans as he pushes himself upright. 'You go make sure there's some in the pot for me, ok?'

'Kay!' Pete beams and leaps from the bed and runs from the room with his blanket flapping behind him.

'You should get some more sleep,' Steve tells him even as he steps closer with the clear intention of catching him if he falls.

'Later,' Tony dismisses. 'I'm awake now.'

'Sure you are,' Steve catches his elbow as he sways too far to his left.

Tony lets the momentum of Steve's gentle correction send him into the soldier's bare chest,

'You're so warm,' he reports as he presses his face against Steve's skin.

'Yeah,' Steve fidgets awkwardly. 'Are you alright, Tony?'

'Jarvis has compete integration,' he reassures the soldier as Steve steps away from him.

'All respect to Jarvis,' Steve grabs his shoulder as he sways again, 'but that isn't what I asked.'

'You angry with me, Captain?' he tries to tease but it comes out just sounding small.

'You are far too important to be hurting yourself like this,' Steve gazes at him seriously.

'I'm fine,' he dismisses. 'Come on, Pete'll be waiting.'

Steve doesn't look convinced.

'I just need coffee,' he grins and then glances around, 'and pants...'

The world spins a little.

'Tony?' Steve may have said his name a couple of times.

'Pants and coffee,' he goes to the closet and puts on the first pants he finds.

They're much too long.

'These are your pants,' he tells Steve.

'Yeah, they are,' Steve grins. 'Do you want a shirt?'

'After coffee.'

'Alright, come on, genius,' Steve walks with him out of the suite.

Chapter Text

Steve gets dressed in the time it takes Tony to manage a pair of pants.

He can't help but think he should be insisting that Tony goes back to bed.

Instead he escorts Tony, slowly, down to the kitchen.

There's no sign of Alfred, or Pete, in the kitchen so it must have been Jarvis that turned on the coffee machine.

Tony nearly trips over where the legs of his pants come down over his feet in his haste to get to the coffee.

'Jarvis,' Steve watches him in dismay, 'is he alright?'

'Yes, Captain,' Jarvis tells him. 'Sir just needs more sleep.'

'The coffee won't help.'

'Sir has slept two hours in the last forty eight,' Jarvis replies, 'coffee won't prevent sleep for long.'

'Stop talking about me,' Tony sways his way back over.

'Sure, Tony,' he makes sure he's close enough to catch Tony if he falls.

'Where's Pete?' Tony looks around as he breathes in the vapour from his coffee.

'Peter became distracted on his way through the ballroom,' Jarvis reports.

Steve gets out the ingredients for waffles and the ancient looking waffle iron.

'Distracted?' Tony walks over and lounges at his side.

'Peter has discovered that he can slide a long way across the floor on his knees if he has a run up,' Jarvis reports.

Steve grins to himself and keeps stirring.

'Fair,' Tony turns and slides down the cabinet to sit on the floor by Steve's feet. 'Coffee?'

A mug is waved in the air, level with his waist.

'Sure, Tony,' he takes the mug but doesn't move to refill it.

Pete appears through the door with the knees of his onesie thoroughly scuffed,

'Dada!' he climbs into his father's lap. 'Cold, Dada?' he pats Tony's bare chest.

'Yeah,' Tony gathers his son into a hug.

'Sit at the table,' Steve smiles down and watches Pete scramble to obey.

Once Pete's eating Steve pulls Tony to his feet and takes his own overshirt off to put around his friend's shoulders.

Tony hums and blinks at him.

‘Tony, you still with me?’ Steve waits for Tony’s gaze to focus.

‘Hey sweetheart,’ Tony smiles at him before stepping round him to the coffee machine.

Steve smiles back hoplessly as Tony pours himself another coffee,

‘Do you want a waffle, Tony?’

Tony sways his way back to his side with his coffee and dosn’t reply.

Steve opts to take this as a yes and plates a waffle and some fruit and takes it, and Tony, to the table.

By now Pete has finished his own food and jumps down from the table,

‘Time for clothes now,’ he tells Steve quite seriously.

‘Yes,’ Steve agrees with a smile. ‘Shall we wait for your dada?’

‘Jarvis can help me,’ Pete bounces to he door. ‘Jarvis always helps with bath time.’

‘Umm..?’ he stands torn between following Pete and staying with Tony incase he tries cracking his skull open.

‘Sir does not like baths from his time in Afganistan,’ Jarvis replies calmly. ‘I bath Pete using one of sir’s suits.’

Christ…

*             *             *

Tony picks his way through the fruit and tears the waffle into pieces. Steve watches him patiently long after finishing his own breakfast.

‘Steve?’ Tony blinks at him.

‘Yes, Tony?’

‘I think I need to go back to sleep now.’

‘I think that’s a really good idea,’ Steve smiles at him.

‘Where’s Pete?’ Tony asks once Steve has gotten him to his feet.

‘Pete is helping Alfred polish the silverwear ahead of the Gala,’ Jarvis replies.

‘Of course he is,’ Tony mutters and butts his head into Steve’s arm. ‘Steeeeeeve. Steve.’

‘Yes, Tony?’ Steve already had one arm around his friend’s waist to keep him upright but has to catch hold of his shoulder too.

This is a bit like hard work.

‘I think I need more coffee.’

‘I think you need to sleep,’ he replies. ‘Come on.’

‘You’re warm,’ Tony tells him pressing his nose into Steve’s throat as he steps closer.

‘Yeah,’ he swallows. ‘Bed time, Tony.’

Steve has given up now; he scoops Tony into his arms and carries him back up the stairs. He was expecting Tony to object to this treatment but he just flings an arm around Steve’s neck and falls asleep.

‘Ok then,’ he mutters to himself.

He nudges open the door to Tony’s suite with his foot and carries his friend inside. There are toys across the floor and a door standing open to the left which leads to a large bedroom.

‘Here we are,’ he manages to prop Tony up in a sitting position on the bed as he tugs the covers out of the way.

‘But the bedbugs!’ Tony whines before turning over, curling around his pillow and falling asleep.

Steve chuckles quietly,

‘Sweet dreams,’ he tells him hopelessly and tugs the covers up.

He is so far gone it’s embarrasing.