Work Header

love dares you to change

Chapter Text

Tony hums as he accesses the highly explosive piece of equipment in front of him. His music is on as loud as it can be, and there are empty bottles of whiskey littered around his workbench. 

It’s a perfect night. 

Well, it would have been perfect if JARVIS hadn’t decided he was going to try and stop Tony from building his newest missile. 

“Sir, I highly recommend waiting until your blood alcohol level is under at least .10 percent before you begin attaching those wires,” the AI advises. “The last thing any of us would want is for the mansion to explode, killing every resident here.” 

“Boring,” Tony sings. “You think death scares me? I’m living life on the risky side, JARVIS, and sometimes that means playing a little booze and bombs, don’t you think?”  

“As ridiculous as that sounds, Sir, I was more referring to the four year old boy who is currently asleep in his bed upstairs.”

Tony pauses, hands hesitating over the machinery. He forgot about Peter. 

Well, he didn’t forget about him, more like got drunk enough to become ignorant to the fact that the boy was living under the same roof as him, and yet has not been in the same room as Tony for… how long has it been?  

Tony squints his eyes, trying to remember the last time he saw the kid. Maybe he should go see him, make sure the boy is still breathing. Quickly, he shakes his head. That is in the best interest of literally nobody. Peter doesn’t need him ruining his life. 

It was four and a half years ago, the day Tony’s life was changed forever. A young woman, a drunken fling the man barely remembered, had arrived at the mansion’s front doors with tears in her eyes and a determined look painted along her face. 

A few weeks and five prenatal paternity tests later, Tony had no choice but to admit that he was the father of her child. The child that she did not want to keep. 

Tony didn’t want to keep it. Him. The baby. He knows first hand the kind of damage that a Stark man can inflict upon a child in their care. He remembers the harsh words, the disappointed glares, and the violence whenever Tony got in Howards way. He didn’t want to become that person. 

It was Obadiah Stane, in the end, who forced Tony to keep the baby. For financial matters, for press matters, so that the kid can’t come knocking on his door in 18 years and demand money.  

So Tony kept the baby. The mother was out of the picture; with one firm non disclosure agreement and a promise to never return to try and claim Peter back, she disappeared from her son’s life.  

To fill the maternal gap that was now in the baby’s life, Tony hired nannies, caretakers, cooks, tutors, everything he could think of until soon the boy had a small army at his disposal. Anything the boy wants, the boy gets. Everyone is happy. 

He sees the kid, from time to time. Never tries to get too close, and as the boy got older, Tony began to sense that Peter feared him. He knew that was bound to happen eventually, so he began to keep a further distance than usual. Peter is healthy, he has all of his needs taken care of, and JARVIS is always monitoring him to make sure nobody is harming him, nor taking advantage. 

Tony laughs dryly. “Well, would accidentally blowing up my house and consequently murdering my son count as first degree murder, or second?” JARVIS doesn’t respond, emitting a disappointed air from the silence alone. Tony scoffs, but nevertheless doesn’t go to touch the machine.  

Instead, he stumbles his way up the stairs of the lab. He wanders into the kitchen, where he gathers a handful of nuts from a bag and pops them all in his mouth before making his way to his bedroom. 

A benefit of having so many caretakers working around the clock is that visually, there is no sign that a toddler even lives here. Everything is always being cleaned within minutes of the mess being made, and even then, Tony has had several reports that Peter is a very polite and tidy kid. One of the nannies is always nagging Tony, cornering him with concerns about the boy being too quiet. Despite Tony’s reassurances that there is never anything wrong with being a little quiet, she is adamant that the boy must have something wrong with him. He has contemplated letting her go, but that would lead to a whirlwind of backlash that he definitely does not want to deal with right now, and anyway, Peter seems to like her enough.  

As he makes his way to his bedroom, he glances down the hallway. When the baby first came home, Tony had ordered Peter’s nursery to be as far away from his own bedroom as possible. He barely got any sleep as it was, how was he expected to sleep with a wailing infant? 

He sees Peter’s bedroom down the hallway, the door kept half open, a soft yellow light emitting from the inside, where Tony is sure a nightlight of some kind is on for the comfort of the boy. He contemplates going over and peeking in, but then quickly decides against it. The last thing Peter needs is to wake up and see his absent father staring down at him. 

Quickly, he retires to his own bedroom, and passes out in a nice drunken stupor for what remains of the night. 


When Tony first opens his eyes, it is to the blinding light of the morning sun, which causes his morning headache to begin its swelling. 

“Good morning Sir,” JARVIS greets. “The time is currently twelve thirty-three in the afternoon. You are scheduled to receive an Apogee Award tonight in Las Vegas, the ceremony commencing at nine o’clock, though it is expected you arrive an hour early.” 

Tony groans. “Forget about that. I’m thinking casino night.” 

“Sir, there is a specific presentation dedicated to you and you are expected to be there to accept the award.” 

“Make Pepper go and accept on my behalf,” Tony says. 

“I’m not sure a personal assistant will be deemed acceptable to accept an award such as this,” JARVIS says. 

“It’s fine,” Tony shrugs. “I’m sure Obie will be there.”

“Sir, I”- 

“Mute, JARVIS.” 

He spends the rest of the day working in the lab and getting ready to go to the casino to hide from the award show. His BAC is finally low enough for JARVIS to allow him to work on his explosives, so he makes quite a lot of progress during the hours before he leaves. 

As he makes his way up the stairs to get ready for the night, the nanny from hell stops him in his tracks.  

“Good Evening, Mr. Stark,” she says in her stern voice. 

“Ah, yes… Cindy?” He says. 

Sierra, Sir,” she corrects with a glare. 

“Right,” he nods. “What is it that you’ve decided is a problem with my son today, Sierra?” 

Sierra coughs slightly, as if to clear her throat, before continuing. “Nothing at all, Mr. Stark. Peter is perfectly healthy.”  

“Then what is it you need me for?” Tony asks, dramatically looking at his watch. 

“Well, Peter had his parent teacher conference earlier today, and as you decided it was below your pay grade to attend, Ms. Potts did.” 

Right. Pepper did mention a parent teacher conference. He faintly remembers telling her that he was not going to be caught dead in a germ filled classroom with snotty kids. 

“Okay. I’ll make sure to get the 411 from her later. I’m sure he’s doing fine in all his preschool classes.” Tony says.

“He is doing fantastic at school, Mr. Stark. I’m sure Ms. Potts will tell you all about it,” Sierra says. “I was simply wondering if you would allow me to buy Peter pizza for dinner to celebrate his hard work? A reward system works very well developmentally while children grow up, especially around absent”-

“Right,” Tony cuts her off, not wanting to hear her spiel about him being an awful father. He knows what an awful father can truly look like. “Pizza. Sounds delicious.” He digs into his pocket for his wallet and hands her a 100 dollar bill. “Keep the change.” 

Before she can say anything else, Tony moves past her and heads up to get ready for the casino. 

He’s feeling lucky tonight. 

 “Mr. Stark! Excuse me, Mr. Stark! Christine Everhart, Vanity Fair magazine. Can I ask you a couple of questions?”

Tony looks at Happy as he begins getting inside of the car. “Is she cute?”  

“She’s all right,” Happy replies. 

Tony turns around and approaches her, allowing the security to let her through. 

“Hi,” he says. 

“You’ve been called the da Vinci of our time,” she says. “What do you say to that?” 

“Absolutely ridiculous,” Tony responds. “I don't paint.”

“And what do you say to your other nickname? ‘The Merchant of Death’?”

Tony purses his lips and nods slightly. “That’s not bad. Let me guess. Berkeley?”

“Brown, actually.”

“Well, Ms. Brown,” Tony says, beginning the same statement he has made for years. “It's an imperfect world, but it's the only one we've got. I guarantee you, the day weapons are no longer needed to keep the peace, I'll start making bricks and beams for baby hospitals.”

“Ah, yes, but you do make regular donations to one baby hospital in particular, I believe the same one your son was born?” She states this as if it were a question. “Is that correct, Mr. Stark?” 

“Indeed,” Tony says. “Nothing but 100% quality care taking wherever the Stark’s go. That has a cost.” 

“How is your relationship with your son?” 

“Perfect. He’s inherited the mind that every Stark needs to thrive in the world.”  

“Will he be taking over Stark Industries in his future?” Ms Everhart asks.

“I don’t plan on leaving anytime soon, if that is what you are asking,” Tony jokes. “But yes, that is in the itinerary.”  

“How do you feel that you’re going to be raising your son in the world of war profiteering?”  

“Tell me, do you plan to report on the millions we've saved by advancing medical technology or kept from starvation with our intelli-crops?” Tony asks. “All those breakthroughs, military funding, honey.” 

“You ever lose an hour of sleep your whole life?”

“I'd be prepared to lose a few with you.”



He doesn’t sleep that night. Never does, in fact, whenever someone else is in his bed. Instead, he goes to the lab and spends what little remains of the night in there. 

“JARVIS, give me an exploded view of that,” he asks. 

“The compression in cylinder three appears to be low,” JARVIS says.  

“Log that,” Tony says. “I’m gonna try it again, right… now.” He hears his music being cut off, and whips his head over to where Pepper is walking towards him. “Please don’t turn down my music” 

“You are supposed to be halfway across the world right now,” Pepper says.  

“Why are you trying to hustle me out of here?” Tony says.  

“Your flight was scheduled to leave an hour and a half ago.” Pepper reminds him. 

“That's funny, I thought with it being my plane and all, that it would just wait for me to get there.” 

“I need to speak to you about a few things before I get you out the door,” Pepper says. 

They talk for a few minutes about things regarding the policy, Tony making sure to add a few dramatic yawns when it gets too boring. 

“I need you to sign this before you get on the plane.”

“What are you trying to get rid of me for? What, you got plans?” Before Pepper can answer, he notices something god awful and pink behind the paper he is currently signing. “What… what is that? New art project?”  

He lifts the contract and sees that it is a children’s drawing, the sloppy words ‘Happy Birthday’ written on the front.  

“It’s your birthday?” Tony asks.  

“Yes,” Pepper says.  

“I knew that,” Tony says. “Already?” 

“Isn’t it strange? It’s the same day as last year.”  

“Get yourself something nice from me,” he says.  

“I already did,” Pepper says. 


“It was very nice,” she says. “Very tasteful.”  

“I’m glad you liked it,” Tony says.  

“Unfortunately, it’s not the best thing a Stark has gifted me on my birthday,” Pepper says in a sad tone.  

Tony glances back down at the card. It truly is awful, the entire page filled with pink scribbles and a stick figure of a woman holding hands with a smaller, child-like figure. He grabs it off of the clipboard and opens it. On the inside, there are even more pink lines, though in giant letters that take up most of the page, the words “Love, Peter” are written in blue. 

“Awful choice for a colour combination, really,” Tony says.  

“Tony,” Pepper scorns. “Peter made that for me on his own. Nobody had to tell him it was my birthday. I mentioned it to him maybe three weeks ago, and he remembered to make me that card.” 

“Good memory,” Tony nods. “Better than me.”  

Pepper shakes her head. “There are a lot of things he has that are better than you.”  

“Ouch,” Tony says, grabbing his heart. “Words hurt, Ms. Potts.” 

“If you really want to give me a birthday present, say goodbye to your son before you leave,” Pepper says. “It will mean the world to him.” 

“I have to make that plane though, you’re already mad I’m late,” Tony says in haste. The last thing he wants to do is go try to bond with his son. 

“Well, what’s ten more minutes?” Pepper says. “I’m sure they will understand if you mention Peter.”  

“I’m only going to be gone four days, maximum,” Tony argues. “I’ve gone much longer without seeing him before.”  

Pepper huffs out a laugh that is more like a cry. “Mr. Stark. Tony. That little boy is four years old and he thinks his father hates him.” 

Tony jerks back. “What?” 

“I spend quite a lot of time with Peter when I’m here,” Pepper says. “He’s a really sweet boy. He’s smart, and charming, and he makes everyone fall in love with him the minute they see him. But for some reason, his father doesn’t want to be in the same room with him.”  

“I’m a busy man,” Tony says. 

“You make time for the casino,” Pepper says. “For Christine Everhart. Make time for Peter, or he’ll grow up to resent you.”  

Tony scoffs. “Stark’s have hearts of iron, Ms. Potts.”  

“Well than the paternity test made a mistake, because Peter has a heart of gold,” Pepper says. “Go say goodbye to your son.”  

She leaves the room without another word. Tony stands there for another moment, wondering what the hell had just happened, but he decides to go to find his son anyway. It’s better to not be on Pepper’s bad side. 

“JARVIS?” Tony asks.  

“Young Peter is in his bedroom, Sir.” JARVIS informs him.  

Tony makes his way to Peter’s bedroom, walking slowly as if attempting to convince himself not to.  

When he gets to the room, the door is open just as it had been a few nights ago, and Tony slowly peeks his head in. 

Peter is on the floor by his bed, two Star Wars action figures in his hands, quietly making them speak to each other. From the looks of it, Han and Luke are now in a relationship and are wed to be married, and Princess Leia is… with Chewbacca? Tony smiles uncomfortably toward the boy, before clearing his throat to announce his presence.  

Peter’s head jerks up swiftly at that, gasping and eyes widening like saucers when he sees who his visitor is. As quick as a mouse, the actions figures have been thrown under the bed as if to hide the fact they were ever there, and the boy has run over to his desk, grabbing a thick mathematics book. 

Tony remembers buying that book, he remembers the conversation with Peter’s tutor. The man had insisted that Peter be advanced in his classes, move up a few grades, and Tony had refused. He knows first hand what it is like to be the youngest person in a class by several years, and it is not fun. There is bullying, resentment, and a lack of friendship that comes with constantly moving up. Tony had come to an agreement with the tutor, that the man could teach Peter more challenging, mind alerting topics, though Peter remains in the grade he is in. 

He hates that Peter feels like he has to abandon his toys for his homework. He is reminded of Howard, who never let Tony have any toys because he felt they were a distraction Tony didn’t deserve. He isn’t sure when Peter felt that Tony thought the same way, but he would have to have some words with the boys caretakers. 

“H-Hi D-Daddy. Dad,” Peter stutters out. Tony isn’t a big fan of the stutter as well. Peter has been having weekly appointments with a qualified speech pathologist, though that doesn’t seem to be helping, in Tony’s opinion.  

Tony smiles awkwardly. “Hey kid. You don’t have to stop playing, you know.” 

Peter shakes his head. “I.. I d-don’t wanna play anym’re.” He lifts the book up. “It’s t-time to read. I wanna read now.” 

Tony feels a sharp pain in his chest and he isn’t sure what the hell is wrong. He hates having to talk to Peter. He feels an uncomfortable distance between them, knowing that he has no way to relate to this child. The feeling scares him. He just knows that if he were to spend more time with Peter, the more the feeling will grow, and he will inevitably turn into Howard. A cold, unforgiving man who resents his son. He can’t have that. 

Tony leans against the doorframe. “Okay. Whatever you want, kid.” 

Peter looks up at him, squinting his eyes. “Are you o-okay, daddy?” He pauses and furrows his brows. “Dad, I mean.” 

Tony isn’t sure where that came from, either. Which one of the boys caretakers had convinced him that he isn’t allowed to call Tony ‘Daddy’ anymore. The kid is only four. Even Howard allowed Tony to call him that before weeding it out around the age of six.  

“Yeah,” Tony replies. “I’m fine. I’m going on a trip for a few days. I wanted to make sure you were okay before I left, if you needed anything.” 

Peter looks confused. “I-I’m o-okay, dad. Sierra got me a whole pizza last night.” 

Tony smiles. “I heard. Maybe tonight she’ll get you some ice cream, if you’re good.” 

Peter wrinkles his nose and looks at Tony wearily. “M’only allowed to have j-junk on special days, l-like c-c-conference days.” 

“Oh,” Tony says. He didn’t know that. “Well tell her I said you can.” 

“O-okay,” Peter says, tilting his head slightly. He opens his mouth and shuts it several times. Tony wants to tell him to spit it out, though holds himself back. After waiting a few more moments, Peter seems to decide against whatever he was going to say, and deflates slightly. 

“Well, I better get going,” Tony says, noticing the awkward air Peter seems to be in.  “I’m really late for my plane.”  

“Oh,” Peter says, looking at the floor. He shifts slightly, and walks over to Tony. Looking up at the man, he shifts again, arms raising slightly before falling back into place. “Um. Have a good trip, daddy.”  

“I’ll try. Go play,” Tony says, placing a finger under Peter’s chin to lift his chin. He makes eye contact with those giant, scary brown eyes, before walking away without another word. 

He saunters down the hall to the sound of Peter talking to himself, and just as he closes the front door, hears a faint, “No, Luke!” and smiles slightly. 

As he steps onto the plane, Rhodey scolding him for being so late, he makes a mental note to tell the nannies that Peter is allowed to eat whatever he wants, as long as he keeps a balanced diet. 

Of course, he never gets that chance, because that day he gets bombed with weapons painted with his name. 

Chapter Text

It’s been three months since they brought the baby home. Tony isn’t even sure who “they” are. It surely wasn’t him. No, he was much too busy getting completely wasted and hiding in the safety of his lab to drive a baby home from the hospital. It was only until later that night he had been told that the baby had been safely delivered home. 

He cries a lot. The baby, that is. Not that Tony knows that from personal experience, having given direct orders to have the nursery be as far away from his bedroom as possible. There are times, however, early in the morning, when Tony stumbles home drunk from his latest conquest and hears the distant cries, the soft hushes of the nursemaids. He pretends he doesn’t hear them. 

It’s been three months, and Tony hasn’t been in the same room as his son. Hasn’t held him, hasn’t fed him, dressed him, nothing. It’s for the best, Tony reasons. He hasn’t the first clue about those kind of things, and he isn’t willing to risk hurting his son by trying. 

So, he has kept his distance. Let the professionals take care of Peter, for now. 

Unfortunately for all parties, Obie has organized a press conference that comes along with the added benefit of a photo shoot, to welcome the newest generation of Stark into the world of cruel, judgemental media. 

So here Tony is, hovering outside of the nursery for the first time ever, about to meet his son. He doesn’t want to, but he figures he should at least see the child before he is forced to take a photo with him. The last thing he needs is for Peter to be sporting a third nostril and Tony’s surprised face to be shown in the paper. He can see the headlines now. 

“You can come in, Mr. Stark,” the voice of Peter’s most recent nursemaid calls. They had a bit of trouble with the last one, he has heard. “No need to be afraid. Peter is being an angel this morning.” 

Tony bites back telling her that no Stark has ever been synonymous to angels. It’s all a farce, a play in order to get people to like you. So that they don’t have to know who you truly are. 

A safety mechanism. 

Slowly, he inches his way into the nursery, getting his first look at the surroundings. The walls are a nice soft blue, a colour the interior designer that sworn was perfect for a baby boy. Somebody has painted a rainbow along the bare wall, where a wooden rocking chair rests. The nursemaid is currently sitting in it, her arms softly rocking the baby back and forth. Tony’s steps hesitate even more after seeing him. 

Peter is so small. So delicate. His brown eyes are open, wide and staring up at the maid with wonder filled to the brink. 

Tony will ruin him. 

He is just about to turn and run away when a soft voice calls him back over. “It’s okay, Mr. Stark. I know it seems frightening at first. Babies are much stronger than they look. Come hold him.” 

“That’s not a good idea,” Tony argues. 

“Nonsense,” she says. She stands up, moving the boy to rest his head against her shoulder, the baby not fussing one bit at the movement. She walks over to Tony, extending her arms slightly to offer Peter to him. “Arms just like mine, and you need to make sure you support his head. Babies are stronger at three months, but his head can still wobble. It’s best to be safe until he can pick his head up completely on his own.” 

That’s a lot. He steps back, away from the danger. The maid isn’t letting up though, and god, he doesn’t even know her name, yet he trusts her with his child more than he will ever trust himself. 

He reaches out, grabbing the infant and trying to mimic the same position she had him in, Peter’s head resting on his shoulder. 

This isn’t so bad. Peter didn’t seem to care much about the transfer, perhaps used to being shoved from one person to the other. The good thing about multiple caretakers is that they all get breaks from him. 

His panic rises to a whole other level when the boy moves his head slightly, looking up at the man that is holding him. Brown eyes meet their matched set, as Peter sets his eyes on his father for the first time in his short life. 

Then he starts wailing. 

Peter makes a small grabbing motion toward the maid, screaming his little head off. Tony quickly extends his arms to give the boy back, realizing what a mistake this was. 

"No, Mr. Stark,” the maid says. “He always does this when he first meets a stranger. It doesn’t take long at all for him to become accustomed to different people, you’re just a new face. Keep holding him.” 

A stranger. That’s what he is to his son. Nothing but an unfamiliar face who causes panic in the tiny little human. 

He shakes his head. “No, that’s quite enough, thank you,” he mutters quickly, handing Peter off to her, forcing her to take the child. “Now, I expect to meet you at the conference tomorrow?” 

She sighs. “Well, I don’t work tomorrow, but I believe Mary is the caretaker scheduled at that time.”

“Perfect,” Tony flashes her his best smile, despite the feeling of dread filling his entire being. “I’ll make sure to look out for Mary. Bye.” 

“Wait, Mr. Stark”-

He’s gone.


Tony doesn’t remember the last time he was awake at seven in the morning, let alone dressed in a suit and ready to attend a meeting scheduled to last nine hours. He even manages to have enough time that he can go to his own kitchen before Happy arrives with the car to make himself a good cup of coffee; not like that blasphemous bean juice they serve at the meetings. 

That was his first mistake. 


Tony pauses in the doorway. In his kitchen, his two year old son sits in a bright green high chair that Tony has never seen, a pile of fish shaped crackers in front of him. 

Fish, Peter,” the nanny corrects. Peter squints his eyes up at her as he moves the fish along in a swimming motion. Suddenly, Peter much catch sight of the new presence in the room, and his eyes dart over to his father, his hands faltering in their movement. 

The nanny sees Peter’s eyes and tracks his gaze until she too is looking at Tony. “Oh, Mr. Stark!” She says. “What a nice morning we’re having! Can I make you anything for breakfast?” 

Tony raises an eyebrow at her. “Is that part of your job description?” 

She giggles. “Well, no.” She walks toward him and pretends to straightens his tie, despite the fact he knows it was immaculate. “Though, I would be happy to, for you.” 

He glances down at her, smirking at her obvious attempts of flirting. Despite her lack of subtleness, she is quite cute, so he plays along. “Well, is this an attempt at getting a raise from your boss?” 

She smiles. “Just trying to show my appreciation, Sir. Working under you offers so many… benefits.” 

Tony hums. “We at Stark Industries pride ourselves in providing only the best support to those who show extreme potential.” 

“And I show potential?” She says, brushing her hair over the shoulder and batting her eyes at him. 

“Very much so,” Tony says. “I see a well fed child who isn’t dead, so you’re doing wonders.” 

She laughs. “Well, I wouldn’t consider goldfish crackers to be a quality meal, Mr. Stark, but Peter is the pickiest eater I have ever seen. It’s better to let him eat what he can than to let him starve in his refusal to eat his greens.

“But you don’t want to hear about your son’s eating patterns right now, I’m sure,” she says, trailing a hand down the front of his shirt. 

“Well, I do get enough of that from Nanny number 3,” Tony half jokes. There is currently a fairly experienced nanny in their service who has taken it upon herself to voice all her concerns about Peter’s eating habits. It’s getting quite irritating, if he is honest. 

Before she can respond, there is a loud crash, startling both of them from their position. They jerk their heads over to see Peter, who is standing in his high chair seat, a major spilt cup of milk on the floor, surrounded by an abundance of fish crackers. 

“Peter!” The nanny scorns. The boy’s eyes widen in what looks to be fear. “Sit down right now! Do you want to get hurt?” 

Peter shakes his head and slowly sits back down in the chair. “M’s’rry, ‘son.” 

“My name is Allison, Peter, say it right. Look at the mess you made, you know I have to clean that up, right?” 

Tears gather in Peter’s eyes as he looks down at the mess. “I clean,” he offers, making a grabbing motion towards the mess. 

The nanny- Allison, sighs. “No, that’s not your job, Peter. It’s mine. I have to take care of your messes. You’re a really messy kid, you know that?” 

Peter sniffs as the tears begin spilling. “M… M’s’rry!” His breathing picks up and he starts to make louder cries. 

Tony, fear filling him at the prospect of tears this early in the morning, uses this opportunity to flee the scene. As he walks away, deciding he can bear the bad coffee if that means not having to be in that room for one more minute, he hears Allison scorning Peter much harsher than Tony believes she should. For the amount they pay her, surely she can handle cleaning up a small mess that was made by a two year old. What right does she have to scorn him like that, to make him cry? Is that how normal people scorn their children? 

Whatever the answer may be, he makes sure that by the end of the day, Allison is out of a job, and there is a fresh new pack of fish crackers in the kitchen cabinet. 


“Not now, JARVIS,” Tony says, his face inches away from his latest creation, his hands as steady as they can be as he adjusts the capsule. 

“Sir, Mr. Stane is outside demanding to be let in,” JARVIS says anyway. 

“Obie isn’t my boss, JARVIS. I’m the CEO of Stark Industries, I’m his boss.”

“Be that as it may, Sir, he claiming not to leave until you speak with him.” 

Tony sighs. “Fine. I don’t care. Let him in,” he says, waiting for the doors to open. Soon enough, Obadiah walks in, and with a small figure trailing behind him. 

Tony freezes. If he knew Peter was with him, he never would have granted them access into the lab. He is working on some dangerous weapons, machinery scattered everywhere, a big red flag in the safety category when it comes to children. 

“Tony, my boy,” Obie says, patting his shoulder. 

“What is he doing down here?” Tony says. “He has rules, number one being never come into the lab.” 

“Look, Tony,” Obie sighs. “I think it’s high time Peter starts learning to build some real machinery. None of that lego shit he does now. He can clearly build, and he is smart, so he needs to be engaged.” 

“He’s three.” 

“You were only four when you built your first circuit board,” Obie points out. “And he wants to learn. Isn’t that right, Peter?” 

Peter huddles closer to Obadiah, nodding his head. 

“Use your words,” the older man says, placing his hand on Peter’s head. 

“I… I want to build things for you, Daddy,” the boy says. 

Tony hesitates. He can’t let Peter around these types of machinery, not when he could easily blow himself up. But Obie always seems to know what’s better for Peter, and he’s right. Tony did build the circuit board at age four, but that was more because he was trying so desperately to impress Howard that he would have done anything. His father hadn’t even appreciated it, giving Tony nothing but harsh criticism and a long list of everything he had done wrong. 

He doesn’t need Peter to build him a circuit board for him to know the kid’s intelligence. The reports he receives on the boy’s education is a clear enough statement of that. He told himself he would never pressure Peter to do anything. If he keeps his distance, doesn’t let Peter get too close, Peter can never seek that kind of reassurance from Tony. He will never have to know what it feels like to be constantly let down, constantly belittled for trying. 

“It’s not safe for Peter in here,” Tony says. 

“What’s not safe about it?” Obadiah asks. “You grew up in the same kind of environment, or did you forget that your father had the exact occupation you do?” 

“Of course I know that,” Tony says. “There are explosives all over this room. Dangerous equipment.” 

“Then tell him not to touch it,” Obie says. “Peter’s a bright boy, and he will make sure not to touch any of it. Right?” He looks down at Peter for confirmation. 

Peter nods. “I-I ‘on’t t-touch anyt’ing.” 

“Good boy,” Obie says, clapping his hands together. “So, it’s settled. Peter will stay in here until it’s bedtime. His nanny will come and get him.” 

Tony looks at the time. “It’s two in the afternoon.” 

Obadiah nods. “Plenty of time to get some work done. Give him the right equipment, I’m sure he can come up with something.” 

Tony shoots the man a stern look. “Can I talk to you?” He looks toward Peter, who is looking up at him with a look that is similar to… admiration? “Alone. Peter, go upstairs.” 

Peter’s entire face falls, though he nods and treads up the stairs, reaching way above his head to make use of the hand railing so he doesn’t fall. The minute he is out of earshot, Tony whips his head back to Obadiah. 

“What’s your MO here, Obie?” 

“Look, Tony,” Obadiah says. “I know you aren’t too… fond, of Peter. You never wanted to take him in. But he can be so useful to this company.” 

“He’s three.” Tony feels like a broken record. 

“When the article first came out in ’74 about your circuit board, people went nuts!” Obie exclaims. “They all wanted to know more about the future of Stark Industries! Our numbers went through the roof!”

“You want to use my son as an exploitation piece?” Tony asks. 

“That’s a strong word,” Obadiah says. “I’m using every resource we have to keep SI on top.” 

“I can do that plenty on my own, with the weapons I build,” Tony says. “I don’t need to stoop so low as to exploit a three year old’s mind to do it. I’m not Dad.” 

Obie’s face shifts into something less sympathetic. “Look, Tony, it’s time you grew up. You can’t keep playing the victim card here. Your father provided you with everything you needed to become the man you are today. If you want this company to thrive well after you’re dead, you need to step up and put some better expectations on that boy. 

“You know what I found him doing when I retrieved him?” Obie continues. “He was playing with  a doll, Tony. A little girl’s doll.” 

“How is that my problem?” Tony says. “Him playing with dolls as a toddler isn’t going to change his ability to make weapons when he is in his twenties.” 

“He is soft! Soft boys grow into soft men!” Obie yells. “Soft men don’t build weapons! They become passive, letting others walk all over them!” 

“I don’t care!” Tony exclaims. “I won’t let my son be tore apart by the media! I won’t let that happen! I refuse to become Howard!” 

Obadiah scoffs. “One of these days, you’re going to have a wake up call. You’re going to learn that everything Howard did only made you stronger, made you smarter.” 

If it takes hurting my son to make him smarter, he can be the dumbest thing to ever live, for all I care.” 

He turns away from the man with that last statement, going back to his work bench. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Obadiah get up and make his way up the stairs. Before JARVIS closes the door behind the older man, Tony is able to make out one last sentence, this time addressed not to him. 

“Your dad doesn’t want to see you, Peter.”  

It’s the last time he saw his son before he was blown up. He allowed his son to believe that Tony encouraged studying over playing, that dolls and action figures is not something he would encourage. 

He stood at the entryway of the bedroom, watching as his son’s hesitant face moved closer and closer, before he was right underneath him. He watched as those little arms twitched, moving and raising as if to…

To hug him. 

Peter wanted a hug. He wanted a hug from his father, to say goodbye. Tony didn’t allow it. What he did allow, was for Peter to come to the silent realization that Tony didn’t want to hug him. Didn’t want to touch him. 

He’s in hell. There is no other alternative. He has never quite believed in that kind of thing, but he knows that if it all were true, he would have nowhere else to go but down below. 

And here he is. 

As the flames engulf him, his vision fades in and out, his entire being filled with utter agony, watching as the face of a strange man gazes down at him. While his body burns, being ripped apart, his mind settles on one fact, a fact that he knows was the price of his ticket to hell. 

‘You’re going to die without ever knowing what it feels like to hug your son.’ 

Chapter Text

He wakes up disoriented and alone. There is a tube in his nose, some sort of make shift cannula. He pulls it out, allowing the pain to overcome him as long as he gets the unknown danger out of him. 

All at once, Tony is overcome with an overwhelming thirst. He looks to his left, desperately searching, and finds a small jug of water on the table beside him. He reaches for it, clawing and stretching his arm as far as it will allow him to. He must be more out of it than he thought, because his hand shakes and knocks over the cup beside it. 

As he painfully attempts to turn over to reach the jug, his gaze lands upon an older man, shaving in front of a small, dirty mirror, humming. Tony freezes. He watches the man for a moment, seeing his eyes track Tony as he shaves. 

Tony wants to say something, but his throat is so raw, so he slowly attempts to grab at the water once more. However, as he moves his other hand over the steady himself, he notices that there is something restricting it from reaching over his chest. His gaze falls the wire to a car battery sitting to his right. 

Panicking, Tony tracks the wire that leads up toward his own chest. Terrified, Tony claws at his own shirt, a shirt he knows does not belong to him, and rips it into shreds in order to see the damage that was done to him. 

There is a gaping hole in his chest. 

It looks to have been covered by some sort of dirty machine, though the diameter alone is enough to have Tony hyperventilating. 

He isn’t sure how long he is in the cave before he understands why he was truly brought here, but it isn’t very long before he learns many things.

For one, the man had saved Tony’s life, digging out pieces of shrapnel that were lodged into Tony’s chest from the bomb shavings. What pieces he was not able to get out, he built his own electromagnetic in order to keep the shavings in place. It’s smart. If Tony himself were not the victim, he would have openly praised the work. 

The man doesn’t seem to like this very much. Understandable, Tony reasons. A Stark to a man like him is nothing but a capitalist monster who profits off of the misery of others. Of war. He doesn’t understand, and Tony doesn’t feel like explaining himself to the man. 

They want him to build the Jericho missile for them. He might not understand Arabic, but that much he knows. The old man does an exceptional job at translating, and Tony understands. He builds them the missile, or he dies. 

He refuses. 

His captors take immediate action when those words leave Tony’s mouth. Suddenly, a bag is dropped onto Tony’s head and he is dragged into a small, dark room, barren besides a bucket of water laying on the inside. 

Tony freezes. 

He knows what is going to happen. He knows, and as he grips the car battery in his hands, the only thought that is on his mind is don’t let it get wet. 

The men dunk his head in the water, holding him at exponentially long periods of time, before he sees black dots flood in his vision. He gasps, struggles to be taken out, yet all the while he makes sure the battery is kept well above his head. He refuses to give them the pleasure of watching him electrocute himself to death. 

It goes on forever. He loses track of time quite quickly, yet it seems to drag slower and slower every time. Each time he is placed under the water, it seems that another hour is added to the session. 

Just as he feels his consciousness fading away, a small voice is placed into his head. 


Tony panics. Is Peter here? What do they want with him? He’s only four, he can’t build them things. Or is that what they want? They know the legacy that the Stark’s have, popping out genius after genius, knows that if they raise Peter, he can grow into a loyal weapons dealer. 

Before he can think of this anymore, his vision slowly fades out and all thoughts are vanished as he is dunked into the water once more. 

He was taken to a room with several soldiers, one man screaming Arabic into a camera.

At the time, Tony had assumed the video was a simple ransom demand. He scoffs while thinking out it; Stark Industries does not offer ransom. They never have. However, the two events do not seem to match up in his mind. Why would they bother making a ransom video if all they wanted from him was a weapons supplier? Wouldn’t it have been much easier to simply allow Stark Industries to think Tony was dead? 

A few days later, Tony is hauled outside of the cave where he is being kept, his roommate in tow to act as translator. Outside, he is greeted with many more soldiers all sneering at him, as well as what looks to be hundreds of Stark Industries weapons. The boxes date decades back, to when Howard was still alive. Tony doesn’t understand how they managed to acquire that much of his product, but nobody there seems to want to answer his questions. 

“Quite the collection, isn’t it?”

“How did they get all of this?” Tony asks. Before the man has a chance to answer, though Tony doubts he even would, the leader of the group is marching up to Tony, once again demanding the missile to be made. 

“…When you are done, he will set you free,” his fellow hostage finishes the translation. 

Tony looks around him. He knows people like this. Has been steadily working to fight people like this his entire life. They are not merciful people. One Jericho missile is not enough, will never be enough. Tony may not be killed here, but he will never be allowed to leave. Not if he manages to supply them with whatever it is they want. 

“No, he won’t.” 

“No,” the other man agrees. “He won’t.” 

Tony leans more, in the following days. 

He learns that these men, using Stark weapons - weapons that should have never been put in their hands - had blown up the village his saviour had lived in. No wonder the man hates him. It was Tony’s hands, possibly drunk, in the comfort of his lab, which had created the thing that destroyed this man’s home. 

That they call themselves the Ten Rings, and have somehow been buying Stark weapons for decades in a secret black market. His new friend had assumed Tony was selling it them. He refused to comment of that particular statement. 

He learns that the car battery will only last him a week, and that his captors will not do a thing to help unless he agrees to build the missile. 

He doesn’t want to die. He refuses to die, really, here in the slums of who-knows-where. No, if Tony Stark is going to go out, it will be better than shrapnel to the heart. 

So, he knows what he has to do. 

He quickly gives his translator a his list of supplies to explain to their captors. Of course, the supplies are in order to build himself an arc reactor - miniaturized, and he isn’t even quite sure if it will work. His father had been working on this, years ago, though all of his models were theoretical and, well… giant. Tony needs it to fit inside his chest. 

The two work day and night in order to build it. Despite constantly telling Tony he wishes he would include him in his plans, the man never seems to doubt Tony’s ability. Nor does he question what Tony is building, despite the fact that it is quite smaller than a giant missile. 

Tony learns that his name is Yinsen. 

After that introduction, and Tony’s successful attempt at the arc reactor, which he has placed  in his chest to finally be rid of the car battery, he deems that it is safe for Yinsen to know his plans. The man has, in all fairness, also been kidnapped. The man looks at Tony’s plans for his suit, his plan to get the two of them out of that cave, and nods his head. 


That night, Tony and Yinsen are taking a break before they start building the suit, playing a game of backgammon. As he rolls, he looks up in question at the man. 

“You still haven’t told me where you’re from,” Tony says. 

“I’m from a small town called Gulmira. It’s actually a nice place,” Yinsen explains. 

“Got a family?” Tony asks. He wants to know if he can trust the man, fully, but also he is bored. He wants to know more about the man who saved his life. 

“Yes, and I will see them when I leave here,” Yinsen explains. He pauses for a moment before looking back up from their makeshift board at Tony. “And you, Stark?” 

Tony pauses. “Well… I have a son.” He says the words with a grain of salt, no emotion attached. He isn’t even sure that Peter counts as family, anymore. Yinsen must have had a wife and children, loved them dearly. Tony can’t even stand to be in the same room as Peter without getting scared off. 

“Oh?” Yinsen says. 

Tony nods. “His name is Peter. He’s four.” 

Yinsen hums slightly. “And what is your relationship like with Peter?” 

Tony makes a questioning noise. “What do you mean? I’m his father.” 

“Yes,” Yinsen nods. “But what is your relationship like? How do you think Peter is feeling, knowing his father has been missing for so long?” 

Tony hadn’t thought of that. He has thought of Peter, sure, all the time. In his constantly terrified state in the cave, Tony thinks about his son more than he ever did before. How is Peter dealing with this? Is he upset? 

“He probably doesn’t even know I’m gone,” Tony says. That truth hurts him. He has kept his distance from Peter for so long, that the boy is unlikely to notice any kind of difference in his life now that his father has disappeared. Have they even told the boy, or does he just think that Tony has gone on another bender? 

“It’s been quite some time since you have been home,” Yinsen reminds him. 

“Yeah, but…,” Tony pauses off for a moment. “Peter and I don’t talk very much.” 

“And why is that?” 

“I don’t know, he just…,” Tony trails off. 

“Isn’t what you expected your son to be like?” Yinsen guesses. 

Tony shakes his head. “I don’t want kids. Stark’s aren’t meant to have kids, you know? Mine was awful.” 

“And yet you have become that same person,” Yinsen says. 

“What?” Tony says. “No, I’m not like my father. Howard was demanding, he wanted me to do things before I was ready, never took no for an answer.” 

“So in your attempts to not become cold, you have removed yourself from his life.” 

“It’s for the better of everyone that it remain like that,” Tony says. 

“You’re scared,” Yinsen says. “You’re scared your son will push you away, so you pushed yourself away first.” 

“I’m not scared of him pushing me away,” Tony defends. “I’m concerned he won’t get a good life with me controlling him.” 

“So, by secluding yourself from his life, what kind of life will he live? Is there a mother in the picture?” 


“So he has nobody.” 

“That kid has more caretakers than the Prince of England does,” Tony defends. “I wouldn’t just leave him on his own. He can have whatever he wants.” 

“Just not you,” Yinsen says. 

“He definitely doesn’t want me,” Tony says weakly. He knows that isn’t quite true. The day Tony had left for Afghanistan, Peter had desperately been finding a way to communicate with Tony, to tell him he wanted a hug, probably to tell him he wanted Tony to love him. 

“The only thing more heartbreaking than a father who isn’t in your life is a father who is physically there but refuses to see you.” 

It worked. Today, there are escaping. 

It took a few weeks, perhaps even months. Tony had long ago lost track of the time. He was taken in February. There is no way of knowing how long he had been in the captivity of the Ten Rings. There is no way it had been a year, right? Maybe six months, even less. He still isn’t too sure how long he had spent recovering from the bomb. 

Briefly, he wonders if he missed Peter’s birthday. A ridiculous notion, really. For four years, August 10th had always been spent in a drunken haze that involved being far away from the young boy as possible. It isn’t as if this birthday would be any different than usual. 

Either way, he doesn’t think it has been six months, yet. The Ten Rings have a very swift deadline set for Tony, and though he doesn’t have an exact number, he knows six months is far too much for them. 

He doesn’t get as much time as he would have liked, though. They get the suit on him. In a perfect world, they would have another day or two to work out the rest of the hydraulics. The program for the suit doesn’t load as fast as he would like, and the guards have started to notice that Tony is not, in fact, building a bomb. 

Yinsen secures the last of the suit on Tony as the program slowly gains percentage. The soldiers are nearly here, and Tony’s explosion scare could only deter them for a few more minutes. 

Tony isn’t worried. He can’t afford to be. He is getting out of here today, one was or another. This has to work. He will never get another chance. 

“I’m going to but you more time,” Yinsen suddenly says. The man had not been as confident as Tony, his panic growing evermore with every second. 

“What?” Tony shouts. “Stick to the plan. Stick to the plan, Yinsen!” 

Yinsen doesn’t stick to the plan. 

The bar hits 100%. 

Tony gets out. 

Yinsen doesn’t. 

Tony finds him, bullet wounds littering his body, his mouth pouring a steady trickle of his own blood. 

“Stark,” Yinsen says. 

“Come on,” Tony says desperately. He knows there is no way Yinsen is going to get out of here alive. It doesn’t stop him from trying. “Move for me, come on. We got a plan. We’re going to stick to it.” 

“This was always the plan, Stark.” 

Tony doesn’t understand. The plan was to escape, to make Mark I and get out, maybe introduce Yinsen to the glories of private jet champagne, and then fly him home. 

“Come on,” Tony practically begs. “You’re going to go see your family. Get up.” 

“My family is dead. I’m going to see them now, Stark.” Yinsen’s eyes are half-lidded, and a small smile lights up his face. He doesn’t seem upset. It’s as if this was truly his end goal this whole time. 

“I’m going where I can be with the ones that I love,” Yinsen says. “Now you go and do the same. Go home to Peter.” 

“Thank you,” Tony mutters. “For saving me.” 

Yinsen shakes his head slightly. “Don’t waste it. Don’t waste your life. Be the,” Yinsen is cut off by a powerful cough that allows a large amount of blood to pour out. “Be the father he needs to you be.” 

He walks until his legs can’t go on anymore. And then he walks some more. 

He feels the thirst quench in his throat, overtaking all of his senses, until he is nothing but stumbling mess and a determined mantra of Don’t stop walking. Keep walking. Keep walking until you are home. 

Eventually, he spots a US helicopter flying above him, and he allows himself to drop to his knees. He waits for them to land and soon enough, his Rhodey is walking out, and wrapping his arms around him. 

In the embrace of his best and possibly only friend, Tony finally allows himself to feel relief. 

Later, when Tony has managed to acquire some water to quench his thirst, and a meal light enough as to not upset his starved stomach, he asks about what he has missed. 

“We’ve been looking for you this whole time, Tony,” Rhodey says. “We never gave up. I never gave up.” 

Tony nods. “Out there by coincidence or because the cave exploded?” 

Rhodey huffs out a laugh. “That, too.” 

“How’s life back home?” Tony asks. 

“The company is still going strong. You’re disappearance actually spiked a major influx in buyers, I’ve heard,” Rhodey explains. “Obadiah Stane sure was happy about that.” 

Tony shakes his head. “I don’t care about that.” 

Rhodey furrows his eyebrows. “What do you mean? You asked.” 

Tony sighs. “No. I asked about my home. How’s Peter?” 

Rhodey suddenly seems to be paying much more attention than he was previously. He looks awfully confused, but he still answers the question. “He’s fine, last I talked to him.” 

Tony nods. “Good. Nobody tried to take him?” 

“No,” Rhodey says. “Did they threaten to take him?”

“God, no,” Tony said. “I just wondered.” 

There is silence for a few more moments before Rhodey breaks it. “That the only reason you asked about Peter?” Tony remains silent for a few moments, trying to figure out how to explain it without sounding like a complete idiot. 

“I’ve been a bad father to him,” he decides on, letting his eyes wander to his lap. 

“Yeah,” Rhodey agrees. 

Tony jerks his head up. “What do you mean, ‘yeah?’”

“You’ve been a shitty dad to Peter,” Rhodey says. “It aint no secret, man. You haven’t spent more than a few hours, tops, with him, in his entire life. That’s combined.” 

Tony sighs. It’s the truth. He just didn’t realize that it was as noticeable to other people. Pepper knew, of course, but she spent most of her time in that house. She sees first hand how distant Tony can be. He tells Rhodey as much. 

“Tones, everyone knows,” Rhodey says. “Everyone who even has a glimpse of the Stark household knows.”

“Do they all think I’m an awful person?” 

Rhodey shakes his head. “Nah, man. They all think you’re a busy guy who has to deal with a mistake that came from an unemotional one night stand. Most of them think you’re… I don’t know, honourable, or something. For taking him in.” 

“Nothing about what I’m doing to Peter is honourable,” Tony says. 

“You will see no arguments from me on that,” Rhodey says. 

“I’m going to change,” he says suddenly, looking into Rhodey’s eyes. 

“Okay,” Rhodey says gently. “You need to think about what that kind of change entails, though.” 

Tony tilts his head slightly to the side. “How do you mean?” 

“Look, Tones,” Rhodey explains. “You’ve been held captive for three months. I don’t know what they did to you there, but that changes a man. Maybe you’re in shock, maybe you had too many hours to think about things you’ve done wrong.

“However,” he continues. “If you decide now that you want to change, to suddenly make an effort in that boy’s life, and then in a month, even a year from now, go back to what you were before, I’m going to kick your ass.” 

“I won’t,” Tony promises. 

“Good,” Rhodey says. He waits a few moments, and then smiles down at Tony. “I’m really glad you’re back, Tony.” 

He told them not to put him in the wheelchair. Of course, they didn’t listen. Either way, the minute the platform of the plane opened, he stood right out of it. Rhodey kept a firm grip on his free hand, the other being wrapped in a sling. 

Tony looks out at his first look of American soil in three months. They’ve made sure not to alert the press, yet, so that his homecoming would be as laid back as possible. 

Looking out onto the platform, Tony sees the Rolls-Royce, Happy standing in front of it as serious as ever, and in in front of him stand Pepper and his son. 

Peter is gripping Pepper’s hand, his body slightly behind her, as if hiding from Tony. Tony, with the assistance of Rhodey, limps towards the three of them, but he only has eyes for the small boy wearily glancing up at him.

Stepping up to the group, Tony is suddenly stricken with an immense amount of fear. What if Peter doesn’t want him back? What if he is so afraid of Tony already? What if Tony is too late? 

Staring down at the boy, Peter’s grip tightens, one hand holding her own, the other grasping at her skirt. 

Suddenly, Tony bends down, cringing slightly at the pain it sends through his joints. It doesn’t matter. He kneels down on the pavement so he can be eye to eye with Peter. He doesn’t know what to say. How does one explain to a toddler everything they regret? Maybe Rhodey is right, that he will soon get over this sudden epiphany and not want to see Peter all over again. 

However, Yinsen’s face pops into his mind. Tony made that man a promise, to try harder, to work at being a better father. Yinsen went home to his family, now Tony has to go home to his. 

Peter, it seems, has learned lines for this homecoming. He looks up at Pepper, in slight panic, and the woman nods down at him and smiles, despite her own face of bewilderment at Tony’s actions. 

“Um… W-Welcome home, S-sir,” Peter says. 

Sir? What’s up with that? Tony swears right then that he is going to track down whoever is teaching his four year old son that those are the proper titles to be calling his father. 

Tony looks into Peter’s eyes, as wide and brown and a doe’s, and finds himself noticing details about the boy he has never bothered to, before. Peter has a mole, right beside the bridge of his nose. How had Tony never noticed that? 

Suddenly, Tony reaches out with his free hand and wraps it around Peter. The boy startles slightly, as Tony presses Peter’s head into the crook of his shoulder. He turns his head and presses his face into the side of Peter’s head, and for the first time, he is hugging his son. 

To his credit, Peter doesn’t get scared away, and he brings his hands gently up to wrap around Tony’s shoulders, his touch as light as a feather. Tony isn’t sure if the hesitation is due to his confusion at his father’s sudden interest in physical affection, or an awareness of the man’s injuries. Whichever it may be, Tony feels… light. An air he has never experienced before, holding his son close to him. 

“I’m sorry, Peter,” Tony says. 

Peter doesn’t respond. That’s okay, Tony thinks to himself. He still has a lot to work on. He doesn’t know his son. He has four years of Peter’s life to catch up on, to learn. He swears right then and there, that he will do everything he can to make up those absent years. He can’t promise he will be the best father, because he won’t be. He will make mistakes, he will have days where he doesn’t know what the hell he is doing. But none of that matters. What matters is that he, for the first time, will try. And that has to count for something. 

He inhales slightly, smelling an odd mixture of strawberries which seem to be coming from Peter’s hair, and another scent, one he cannot determine, though the possibility strikes him that this be Peter’s natural scent. A scent Tony never got the pleasure of knowing, in his estrangement from the boy. He shakes his head slightly, inhaling again. It doesn’t matter right now. 

For now, he focuses on the present. It took three months, but he did it. 

He’s home. 

Chapter Text

Tony holds Peter for as long as it takes for him to believe he has memorized his son’s scent. The entire time, Peter’s hesitant grip remains, as if wondering who the man in front of him is, and what he did to his father. 

When they finally part, Tony looks up at Pepper for the first time. His assistant has tears in her eyes as she looks down at the scene before her. 

“Tears for your long lost boss?” Tony asks. Pepper shakes her head. She is staring at Peter, and Tony turns his head to look down at the boy as well, to scope out what is making her cry. 

Peter hasn’t moved, is standing in the same spot he was previously, though his hand is hovering over the side of his head, right where Tony’s lips had been, a small smile painted along his face. 

Tony cringes slightly. Peter seems in awe of what just happened, looks to be processing every step that led to the hug. Tony isn’t sure what he has to do to make sure that Peter never has to feel like that again. 

“Do you want to head out, Boss?” Happy suddenly calls out, breaking Tony from his thoughts. Tony gives his affirmative and steps into the car. 

“Let’s go to the hospital, Happy,” Pepper says, getting in the car beside him. 

“No,” Tony says. “No, no. That’s the last thing I’m going to be doing today.” 

“Tony,” Pepper begins, but Tony is quick to cut her off. 

“I’ve just spent three months in a cave,” he says. “No, I want two things. First, an American cheeseburger. Second, I need you to call for a press conference.” 

“A press conference?” Pepper says, confused. “Whatever for?” 

Happy turns on the ignition and begins to put the car in drive. Before he can start, however, Tony notices something off about the situation. 

“Wait,” he stops Happy. “Where’s my kid?” 

Both Happy and Pepper turn to give Tony a confused look. “What do you mean, Boss?” Happy asks. 

“He was just here,” Tony says. “I’m sure you saw us hugging?” 

“Brian is driving Peter home,” Pepper says. 

“Who’s Brian?” Tony asks. 

“Only the same person who has been driving Peter around since he was a baby,” Pepper says. “You were very clear that you never want to be stuck in a car with Peter.” 

“Yeah, Boss,” Happy agrees. “Especially not the Rolls-Royce.”

Tony feels like a complete, utter monster. He thinks back to what he was thinking when he set that rule, where Peter isn’t allowed to be in a car with him. Deep down, Tony knows that at the time he had been thinking in Peter’s favour. He had isolated himself from his son in order to not hurt the boy, but as he has recently learned, he had only achieved hurting Peter in a different way. Clearly, his treatment of the boy had run so deep when nobody had to tell Peter he wasn’t allowed in the car. 

Looking out the window, he sees Peter skipping away from the car, tripping over his feet every few steps, to his own driver’s car, which is parked at the far end of the lot. Brian is standing outside of the car, most likely waiting to place Peter in the car when the boy arrives. 

“Hey, Peter!” Tony yells, sticking his head out the window. The boy in question stops dead in his tracks, and due to the fact that he was in mid-skip, causes him to fall over and land roughly on the pavement. Tony’s breath stops in his chest when he sees that, an utter, unknown panic filling his body. It lifts slightly, when the boy simply gets up and brushes the dirt off of his pants, turning and running back to the car. 

“Yes, S-sir?” Peter stutters out. 

Again with the Sir. Peter never called him that before he was kidnapped, so in the three months Tony had been away, somebody must have taught the boy that this was the proper way to address his father. Tony hates it. 

“You don’t have to call me that,” Tony says sharply.

“O-Oh,” Peter says. “I’m s-sorry.” 

Don’t apologize,” Tony says, lowering the tone of his voice. He doesn’t understand where this is coming from. He isn’t sure what the proper way to parent a child without messing them up entails.

“You want to drive with me?” Tony says. “We’re making a few pit stops, though you’re welcome to join.” 

Peter’s eyes widen. His gaze moves from Tony to Pepper, where he seems to be silently asking her for opinion. Whatever she is doing behind his back, Tony isn’t sure, but soon Peter looks back to his father. 

“I… I’m not allowed in your cars, Dad.” 

Tony feels his heart breaking. “You are now, kid. It was wrong of me to not let you drive in the fun cars.” 

“I…,” Peter stutters, looking as if he is trying to come up with an excuse to not go. “I don’t have my s-seat.” 

“You’re seat?” Tony asks. 

“His car seat, Tony,” Pepper clarifies. “He’s four, and a small one at that. He needs it to be safe.” 

“Does Not-Happy have a car seat in his car?” Tony asks, gesturing to where Peter’s driver is still standing outside of his car. 

“Of course he does,” Pepper confirms. 

“Well then go get it from that car!” Tony exclaims. “Happy, you’ll do the honours? Get to know Not-Happy.” 

Huffing, Happy gets out of the car and stomps over the where Brian’s car is. The two of them unhook clips and straps until the seat has come free, and the larger man is walking back to the Rolls-Royce, car seat in tow. 

Happy places the seat in the middle of the back, in between where Tony and Pepper are sitting. “You know,” Happy grumbles. “It would help if you actually moved out of the car and give me some space to install this thing.” 

“I think I pay you enough for you to figure it out,” Tony jokes. 

Once Happy has finished securing the seat belt, Tony moves over slightly, wincing at the pain of his injuries, and allows Peter to crawl into the seat. Pepper buckles the boy in, and soon they are driving away. 

“Burgers, Happy!” Tony reminds the driver. He looks down at his son, who is playing with one end of the straps that is securing him in the seat. “Do you like burgers, kid? I mean, who doesn’t? Of course you do.” 

Hesitantly, Peter looks up at Pepper. The woman smiles down at him. “Peter has never had a hamburger, Tony.” 

“What?” Tony asks. 

“You were the one who enforced the clean eating regiment for him,” Pepper reminds him. “Besides, usually red meat upsets his stomach.” 

“I swear he had a pizza like,” Tony stops to think. “Two days before I went away?” 

Pepper nods. “Sierra does tend to be more lenient towards those rules, especially on special occasions. Others, however.” She shrugs to finish her sentence. 

“Okay,” Tony pauses to think. “So, never had burgers. Ever had french fries?” He asks Peter. Seeing the boy shake his head, he asks “Okay. So, what is your favourite food?” 

Peter shrugs. “Steak makes my tummy hurt.” 

“Okay,” Tony nods. “What doesn’t make your stomach hurt? That tastes good?” 

“I don’t know,” Peter says. “The pizza Miss Sierra gave me was yummy.” 

Tony sighs in slight frustration. Of course, he knows it isn’t Peter’s fault that he is has a small palate. At age four, being forced to eat only vegetables and healthy foods must be extremely boring. He remembers Peter enjoying fish crackers, though that was years ago, and the man is unsure how long it has been since the boy has had those. 

“So, we’ll work on introducing you to more, greasier foods. I’ll get you some fries.” 

“Yes, s-sir,” Peter says, his focus going back to the strap he had previously been playing with. 

Tony doesn’t bother to correct him this time, and settles into a slight uncomfortable silence for the rest of the drive. 

Peter loves french fries. The minute the paper container was placed in his hand, Peter had looked to be in awe of the food in front of him. Overwhelmed, even. He hadn’t taken a bite out of one until Pepper reached over and stole one. She popped it in her mouth, giving Peter the courage to take one as well. 

As soon as the small fried potato had reached his mouth, the boy’s brown eyes lit up. He ate fry after fry, his small feet kicking lightly in the seat. Tony didn’t even begin eating his burgers until he was out of the car, in his amusement in watching his son enjoy his food. 

When they pulled up to the press conference, Obadiah was waiting for them. He assisted Tony out of the car, shaking his hand, and then his gaze travelled behind Tony where he must have spotted Peter. 

The man smiled. “Smart,” he said, quietly enough that nobody could hear them. “Make them think the boy was the only thing you thought of while you were away, how now that you’re back it’s hard to be away from him.” 

Tony gave the man a cold smile. “That’s the plan.” He doesn’t tell Obie about what he is truly doing, having Peter in the car with him. He knows the man would never understand. In his mind, Peter is an unfortunate casualty, a piece in Stark Industries’ game of success. The more the press thinks Tony has a good relationship with Peter, the more they can appeal to more buyers. 

Tony walks into the building, making sure Pepper has a hold on Peter, while he sets upon what he wishes to say. 

“Hey, would it be all right if everyone sat down?” Tony says. He is feeling his strength diminishing by the second, and knows that if he does not sit down within the next five minutes, he is going to pass out from exhaustion. “Why don’t you just sit down? That way you can see me, and I can… A little less formal.” 

He waits while the journalists and reporters all sit on the ground. Some have their note pads in hand, some have microphones out and pointing his way, all waiting impatiently for him to start speaking. 

Tony looks beyond them, to where Pepper is standing with Peter. She is speaking with some unknown man in a suit, and Peter is looking around the room in wonder. He has never been to a press conference, not one he was old enough to remember. After a few moments of gazing dreamily around the room, Peter’s eyes fall on Tony. The boy blushes slightly, and he raises one hand in a small wave. 

Tony smiles back, giving the boy his own little wave. He knows that what he is about to do is for Peter.

“My dad died very suddenly,” Tony says. “I was young, he wasn’t. There are things I want to ask him, have wanted to ask him for awhile.I would have asked him how he felt about what this company did. lf he was conflicted, if he ever had doubts.” Tony looks around the room, his eyes once again falling on Peter. “If he ever wondered if this industry was the best way to raise his son.

“I saw young Americans killed by the very weapons I created to defend them and protect them,” he continues. “I saw that I had become part of a system that is comfortable with zero accountability.

“What happened over there?” A brave journalist asks. 

“I had my eyes opened,” Tony says. Painfully, he stands up from the position he has been sitting in, and goes to stand behind the podium. “I came to realize that I have more to offer this world than just making things that blow up. I have a duty to be a father before I am anything else. Because of that, I have a duty to teach my son the values that I never got to learn. 

“And that is why, effective immediately, I am shutting down the weapons manufacturing division,” Tony says, before being cut off by a roar of outrage in the room. 

Speaking over the boom of the journalists, Tony attempts to finish the last of his sentence. “Until such a time as I can decide what the future of the company will be. What direction it should take, one that I’m comfortable with and is consistent with the highest good for this country, as well.” 

He finishes his statement, he stumbles away from the group, not wanting to answer any questions. He hears Obie trying to do damage control of what he just said, but he doesn’t care. Stark Industries cannot produce weapons if Tony himself refuses to make them. 

“What we should take away from this is that Tony’s back! And he’s healthier than ever. We’re going to have a little internal discussion and we’ll get back to you with the follow-up.” 

He isn’t going to be here long enough to have a follow up. He doesn’t care what Obie has to say. All he wants to do now is go back to his house, sleep in an actual bed, and figure out how he is going to slowly implant himself in Peter’s life. 

Obadiah does end up cornering him. He finds out about the arc reactor, about Tony’s plans to build a new one. He rips into the smaller man about how irresponsible it was that he had made that kind of decision alone. 

He doesn’t care. He lets Obie give him his speech, humours him enough that the man lets him go. 

He ends up back at the mansion, where he plans to go find Peter. 

“J?” Tony asks. 

“Here, Sir,” the AI responds. “May I say that it is wonderful to have you home.” 

“Thanks, buddy,” he says. “Is Peter home?” After the conference they had separated. Pepper had taken the boy home, knowing that Tony would have to deal with the repercussions of everything. 

“Indeed, Sir,” JARVIS replies. “He is currently asleep on the floor of his bedroom.” 

“What?” Tony says. “It’s five in the evening.” 

“Five o’seven, to be precise, Sir,” and boy, did Tony miss him. “Though everyone is trying to weed Peter out of his napping phase, exciting days such as today lead him to overexert himself. Also, Sir, he did not sleep for very long last night, anticipating your arrival.” 

“Oh,” Tony says. “Is it too early to be trying to stop him from napping, then?” 

“Many scientists agree that four is an acceptable age to stop having naps throughout the day,” JARVIS informs him. “But most suggest having the child decide if they are capable to staying awake through the day. If they feel tired around midday, parents are encouraged to let them sleep.” 

“Right,” Tony says, taking in all of that information. “So now is too late for a nap?” 

“Commonly, yes, as children who nap later in the day are prone to stay awake longer at night, though today is a rare occurrence for Peter.” 

“Right,” Tony agrees. “So, let him sleep.” 

“I’m sure Peter would enjoy sleeping in a bed much more than he would the floor, Sir,” JARVIS says. “If you would want to move him.” 

Tony pauses. He is sure that the AI is saying this in order to ensure that Tony go and see Peter. Before he was taken, it was very common for JARVIS to hint that Tony should go see Peter, but at the time the man had ignored him. This time, however, he takes advantage of that fact and goes to see the kid. 

Peter, as JARVIS explained, was heavily asleep when Tony stepped into the room. His mouth was hanging open as he clutched onto a small plush bear, surrounded in lego pieces. 

Tony takes a few minutes to just watch his son sleep. It strikes him that he has never what the boy looks like, asleep. Most people compare sleeping children to angels, Tony recalls. They aren’t wrong, he agrees, seeing the peaceful look painted on Peter’s face, the way he is softly hugging his bear. However, there are other things that Tony notices that makes him believe that his sleeping son is more comparable to a possessed angel. He may look angelic, though there is a steady stream of drool coming out of the boy’s mouth, and his left leg is kicking intermittently, as is warning off attackers. 

Tony smiles. It’s endearing, watching Peter sleep. However, JARVIS is right. He knows that Peter would be more comfortable in a bed, so he slowly picks the child up, groaning in pain. The kid, while light and completely within Tony’s range of weight lifting, is much heavier than he expected. Children are just so… small. He forgets that they are filled with everything that makes up a human weight, too. Adjusting to the weight, Tony lifts Peter higher and transfers him to the bed, injuries from Afghanistan aching. He had just had the sling removed this morning, and he guesses that lifting 50 something pounds is not recommended. 

As he moves to the bed, he is suddenly overwhelmed with an excruciating pain on his foot, as if he has just been stabbed straight through. 

“Fuck!” Tony shouts, startling Peter out of his sleep. “Fuck,” he whispers. 

“S’bad word,” Peter mumbles sleepily. He opens his eyes slightly, and upon seeing Tony carrying him, he starts slightly. “Daddy?” 

“Um,” Tony pauses. “Hi. Hi, Peter.” 

“What’re you doing?” 

“I’m sorry,” he whispers. “You fell asleep, I was just moving you to your bed. I stepped on something.” 

He looks down, seeing that his foot had made contact with a green lego block. He didn’t think that those small plastic toys could do so much damage. 

“S’lego,” Peter says, looking down as well. “You need to clean up your toys before you go to bed, Daddy, or else you can get ouchies. Especially with legos.” 

Peter sounds utterly exhausted, though Tony does notice that in this state, his stutter is almost none existent. 

“Good to know,” Tony says, feeling just a dull throb in his foot now. He walks the rest of the way to the boy’s small bed and places him down in it. “Now you keep napping.” 

“Okay,” Peter whispers, rubbing at his eyes. “Daddy?”

“Yeah?” Tony says, rubbing Peter’s stomach slightly. 

“You gunna put me to bed every night, now?” Peter says. Tony can’t read his tone. Usually, Tony is able to read everyone without much thought. His son, however, is so difficult to understand. He is so expressive, though Tony has no idea which emotions he is expressing. 

“Uh… If you want me to,” Tony whispers. 

“Oh,” Peter replies. “You don’t hav’ta,” the boy mumbles. “If you do, though,” he pauses to let out a large yawn. “I’ll make sure my room is very, very clean for you. So you don’t get any more ouchies because of me.” 

“Peter,” Tony whispers. “You don’t need to do anything for me. I can handle a lego once in awhile, okay?” 


“I’ve haven’t been the best father to you, and for that… I’m sorry,” Tony says. “I’ll spend the rest of your life making it up to you. I promise not to kick you out at eighteen, or to send you off to boarding school, or anything like that. You’re my son, and I forgot that. You don’t have to forgive me now, but I hope that one day you will be able to. I can’t promise that I’ll be the best father, because I have no idea how to be one, and also you scare me a lot, but I promise to try. No more hiding.” 

He finishes his promise, and looks down at Peter when the kid does not respond. He is greeted with a soft, sleeping face. His son is breathing softly, one of his hands resting on his bear, which his grip remained on for the entire trip, the other hovering over his mouth, where his thumb is planted directly inside, and he is slightly sucking on the digit. 

Tony smiles. Hopefully, Peter had heard none of that and Tony can live another day without the embarrassment of what he had just said. He isn’t sure what came over him, but it sure felt good coming out. 

He allows himself to watch Peter sleep for a few more moments, before lifting the comforter to cover the boy. Feeling the weight over him, Peter mumbles slightly. Tony shushes him, brushing some curls that have fallen into the boy’s face, and planting a small kiss on the boy’s forehead. 

As he leaves the room, shutting the door behind him halfway, remembering that Peter likes the door to be left open, Tony leans against the wall right outside the room and sighs. 

“What just happened,” Tony whispers to himself. 

“I believe, Sir,” JARVIS says. “That this was the moment you truly became a father.” 

Chapter Text

The next few days find Tony working just as hard as he has his entire life, and yet his mental state seems clearer than it has ever been. He knows, of course, that it must have something to do with the lack of alcohol he is putting in his body. It could even be that he no longer is being weighed down with building weapon upon weapon for Stark Industries. 

Or perhaps it all has to do with Peter. 

Tony has been trying to get close to Peter, in the time since he has been home. He makes sure to keep some distance, because whenever Tony gets a little too close, the boy is displays behaviour that is akin to a frightened deer in traffic headlights. It’s as if Peter is cautiously allowing Tony to get close to him, step by step, as to avoid getting hurt in the long run. 

It makes sense to the man. Peter has seen more of his father in the past few days than he has in his entire four years on this planet. Titles aside, he doesn’t know who Tony is. The man is a stranger to him. 

Tony remembers years ago, when Peter was only a baby. When he had met him for the very first time, bundled up in the nursemaid’s arms. He remembers the woman telling him that Peter doesn’t do too well with strangers, that it takes him some time before he knows he is safe around them. He remembers thinking that he will never get close enough for Peter to see him as anything other than a stranger. 

He’s paying for that mindset, now. Peter is on edge with him. The child that Tony had put to bed the other night, half asleep and desperate to be tucked in, is not the same as when he is awake and lucid. He is hesitant, as if terrified of making one wrong move, a move that could mean losing his father all over again. He is desperate for approval, and despite Tony’s reassurances that the can do whatever he wants, Peter always seems to think his dad wants him to be studying. 

After Peter fell asleep that night, Tony had stumbled exhausted into his own bedroom for the first time in three months. He had fallen straight onto the bed, and hoped to close his eyes and sleep for the rest of the week, but his fall was broken by several crinkly items. Looking down, Tony had seen multiple non-perishable food items, ranging from granola bars to fruit snack. 

“What’s this?” He had asked. 

“I’m sorry for the inconvenience, Sir,” JARVIS had replied. “Early on in your disappearance Peter had been tipped by an unknown source that you were likely not being fed well, wherever you were. He attempted to place the snacks in the lab, but due to his limited access rights, had chosen to put them in your bed where you could enjoy them when you came home.” 

Tony had been silent for a long moment, taking in that information. “He left food out for me?” 

“Every time he was given a snack, Peter would tuck it away until he could leave it for you,” JARVIS replied. “I would look in your bedside table, Sir.” 

Tony quickly opened the drawer, where he knew there were some items his son should not be seeing in there. Upon opening it, however. Tony is greeted with about a dozen miniature water bottles, all in a neat little pile. 

“Peter knows how dry it can get it in the desert, Sir. He thought that if you weren’t being fed right, you might be thirsty as well when you arrived home.” 

Tony had sat there staring at the bottles for almost twenty minutes, pondering how he was able to help create such a perfect, caring child. As far as he knows, Peter has had no steady good influence in his life. He has had some decent nannies, sure, but they always end up leaving, one way or another. 

Even Tony had that growing up, in Jarvis. The human Jarvis, that is, who tried as hard as he could to teach Tony values and manners when the boy’s own parents couldn’t have given less of a damn. 

Peter didn’t have that. The caretakers in his life come and go faster than he can get used to them to build that kind of bond, usually. The boy lives with nobody watching his back who truly cares. He spends his time wondering when Tony will start to love him, and what he needs to do to let that happen. 

It confuses Tony, though, why Peter is so hesitant to let Tony get close to him. While Tony has been just as busy as he had before his kidnapping, though working on much different things, he makes sure that he spends a decent amount of time with Peter. He makes sure he is present when the boy is eating breakfast and dinner, and has been there to tuck Peter in every night, just as the boy requested. 

Every time he is in the room with Peter, though, the boy’s demeanour significantly changes. He goes from looking carefree to tense, hesitant. His eyes flit around the room constantly, as if making sure he has an escape, or perhaps looking for a hint at whatever game Tony is playing. 

Despite this, Tony does manage to find some things out about his son. He finds that Peter likes peanut butter, but only when it is slathered onto crackers, definitely not bread. When Tony had tried to be a good dad and make his son toast one morning, Peter had stared at the piece of bread for a very long time, as if mentally fighting with himself about which was more important; his hatred for peanut butter on bread, or making sure his father doesn’t get angry. 

Eventually, the latter had won out, and the boy took a hesitant bite from the corner of the bread, desperately trying to hide his cringe. Tony had just been about to ask what was wrong when Sierra, who happened to be Peter’s nanny for the day had rushed in looking for him, apologizing for being late and not making him breakfast. 

“Oh, Mr. Stark,” she had said, startling when she looked his way. “I apologize for any inconvenience, Sir, usually Peter stays in his room until I get him for the day.” 

“I got him,” Tony replied. “No worries. I made him breakfast.” 

Sierra looked at towards Peter, then down at the barely touched piece of toast in his hand. “How about we get you some fruit, Peter?” 

Peter nodded and slowly put the piece of toast down. Sierra started chopping up some strawberries and placing them into a bowl for the boy, while Tony furrowed his eyebrows. 

“I’m sorry,” he said. “Am I missing something here? Is fruit a normal routine?” 

Peter looks toward Sierra for help while the woman places the bowl down in front of him. “Just giving Peter some variety, Mr. Stark. Choices are good.” 

Peter nodded quickly, popping a piece of strawberry in his mouth. 

It wasn’t until later, after he had cornered the woman, that she had begun explaining. 

“I’m sorry if I worried you, Mr. Stark,” she started. “I was unsure how to explain it with Peter around. He is very sensitive when it comes to topics like this, especially if there is a chance you may be upset.” 

“Upset about what?” Tony asked. “I made the kid toast.” 

“Peter doesn’t like peanut butter,” she explained. “And even worse, you didn’t cut the crust off his bread. It’s like eating a brick slathered in sand for him.” 

“Then why do we have a jar of peanut butter?” He asked. “I don’t eat it.” 

“He eats it with his crackers as a snack.” 

“Is that a punishment?” He asked. “You just said he didn’t like it.” 

“Of course not!” Sierra exclaimed. “I would never punish a child like that. It encourages bad eating habits in the long run. Peter normally doesn’t like peanut butter. Crackers are an exception.” 

“Is that normal?” Tony asked. 

“Quite. Children have very unique eating habits. Now, if you don’t mind, I need to go help him have a bath.” 

With his approval, Sierra had left the room, leaving Tony to ponder what he had just been told. As he always does when he realizes how much he doesn’t know about Peter, Tony begins to feel like a monster. But an even worse thought struck his mind. 

Peter had been afraid to tell his father that he didn’t want to eat the breakfast he had made him. 

What did he think would happen if he told Tony? Would he fear punishment? Did he think Tony would want nothing to do with him once the time came? 

He shakes off that thought and goes down to his lab. He has a suit to build. He can deal with the crushing relationship he has with his son later. 


“We could fire up the horsepower, try and maximize the,”- 

Sir,” JARVIS cuts him off. 

“What is it, J?” He asks, taking his welding mask off of his face. 

“You told me to notify you with any problems regarding Peter.” 

“What?” Tony exclaims. “What’s wrong with him? Is he hurt?” 

“No, Sir,” JARVIS says. “It seems as if Peter had a nightmare, and he is now been awake for an hour. Protocol states that when Peter is not in bed for longer than an hour during the hours of eight at night through five in the morning, someone must be notified.” 

“Why didn’t you tell me he was having a nightmare?” Tony asks. 

There is a brief pause. “That is not a protocol, Sir.” 

“Make it one,” Tony orders. 

“Noted,” JARVIS replies. “You or any other caretaker of Peter’s shall be notified if he is having a nightmare.” 

“No,” Tony says. “Just me. Unless I’m away or something.” 

“Of course, Sir.” 

Tony drops what he was working on in the lab and rushes up the stairs, making his way to Peter’s bedroom. He hesitates before he gets to the room, where the door is slightly open to give the boy some peace of mind while he sleeps. The lamp on Peter’s bedside table must be on, as there is a dim light falling out of the room. 

He approaches the door and knocks lightly. He hears a slight gasp and peeks in to see a tiny body rushing to the bed, crawling in as he if had never left. 

“Daddy?” Peter’s shocked voice comes from under the sheets, where he is hidden besides his wide, doe eyes peeking out. 

“Hey, Peter,” Tony says, entering the room. “I heard you had a nightmare. Don’t want to go back to bed?” 

“I… I, uh…,” Peter stutters out. He lets out a small, defeated sigh. “I wanted to play.” 

“You didn’t have a nightmare?” Tony asks. 

Peter shakes his head. “I don’t know. Scary dream, but I wasn’t that scared, Daddy! Promise! I just wanted to play!” 

Listening closely, Tony notices that Peter has a slight lisp when he says words with hard r’s in them. The word scared comes out more like “scawed.” He finds it oddly endearing. 

“There’s nothing to be ashamed about, buddy,” Tony says. “If you had a scary dream, it’s alright to be scared about it.” 

“Really?” Peter asks. “Obie say that I have nothing to be scared about.” 

Tony pauses. “Has Obie been saying a lot of stuff about things you should and shouldn’t do, buddy?” 

Peter nods. “He say you want me to be a good boy, and-and that being brave like Daddy and Uncle Rhodey would be a… a good start. He say that, right JARVIS?” 

“Indeed, young Sir,” JARVIS replies, a bitter tone filling his voice. 

“Don’t listen to Obadiah, Peter,” Tony says. “You’re four. You’re allowed to be scared.” 

“But,” Peter stutters. “But I don’t want to be scared! I want to be like you, Dad! Like when you were when you were in the dessert.” 

“The desert,” Tony corrects him. He pauses for a second, taking in the fear that is written along Peter’s face. A fear that he knows now is directed at him, more specifically his approval. He walks from the door and hesitantly sits on the edge of his son’s bed. 

“I’m going to let you in on a little secret, okay buddy? But you can’t tell anyone else, I have to maintain my reputation.” Peter nods, eyes growing as wide as saucers. “When I was in the cave, in the desert… I was terrified.” 

Peter gasps. “You?” 

“Yeah,” Tony confirms. “Me. I was so scared.” 

“Scared of the big, mean men?” Peter asks. 

“Some, yes,” Tony says. “They were quite big. But I was more scared of what would happen to me.” 

“What do you mean, Daddy?” Peter asks. He has moved out from the covers by now, and has crawled to be kneeling right beside where Tony is sitting. 

“I was afraid that something bad would have happened to me before I got the chance to know you,” Tony admits. 

Peter’s brows furrow and he tilts his head to the side. “You know me, Dad. I live with you.” 

“That’s true,” Tony nods. “But I don’t know anything about you.” 

“Yes you do,” Peter says. “You’re my dad.” 

“I know,” Tony says. “I know I am. You’re the most perfect thing I’ve ever made, you know that?”

Peter blinks. “You made me? I’m a robot?” 

Tony freezes. “Um, no. No, you are a human.” 

“Then how did you make me? How are humans made?” 

“Oh, Jesus Christ,” Tony mumbles, trying to figure out how he can get himself out of this mess. Peter is four years old, for God’s sake, of course he wasn’t going to understand any of this. He wouldn’t understand the deeper meaning of the things Tony is trying to say without truly saying it. 

“That’s a naughty word,” Peter says.

“Oh,” Tony says. “Sorry.” 

“It’s okay. Adults are allowed to say them,” Peter says, as if it had been told to him time and time again. Maybe it had been. 

Tony feels a sudden burst of affection towards his son. It overwhelms him. He lifts a hand up, making to stroke a stray curl out of Peter’s face, but then the absolute worst thing that can happen to him comes true. 

Peter flinches away from him. 

It’s miniature, such a small move that if you weren’t as observant as Tony was you may have missed it. But there is no denying that the swift movement that Peter had made was him trying to avoid his father’s touch. 

Tony immediately draws his hand away, and Peter looks as if he is longing for the touch to come back, staring at his hand, so he hesitantly places it back, softly cupping the side of Peter’s face. 

The boy leans into the touch, allowing Tony to hold him there, and Tony wonders how often the boy is even touched at all, let alone in an affectionate manner. The childcare providers he had hired are efficient, they are hardworking and have experience in making sure a child is raised in a safe environment. But are the affectionate? Do they allow him to hug them, to give him comfort when he’s upset? Even worse, why did Peter flinch when he went to stroke his hair away?

“Peter,” Tony says gently. “Has anyone ever hurt you?” 

“What?” Peter says, eyes widening and looking to the side, purposely avoiding his father’s eyes. “No!” 

“You can tell me if they have,” Tony says. “I would never get mad at you for anything like that.” 

“No!” Peter says. He moves away from Tony’s hand and crawls away from him, until he is on the far side of the bed. 

“Okay,” Tony says defensively, standing up from the bed. “I’m sorry if I upset you, buddy.” Peter remains sitting curled up on the edge of his bed with his arms wrapped around his knees. Tony knows when he isn't wanted. 

“Well, I guess I’ll leave you alone, then,” he says, awkwardly shuffling towards the door. 

Before he can get to the doorway, however, he hears a small sniffle, and turns to see that Peter had buried his face into a pillow, no doubt in order to hide the fact that he is crying, now. 

“Hey,” Tony says, rushing back over, his heart feeling like it has ripped out of his chest. “Hey, now, can you look at me, Peter?” Peter shakes his head, curling around the pillow. “Come on now, baby boy, can you please look at Daddy?” 

Peter pauses, the words seemingly shocking him. He lifts his head halfway out of the pillow and glances at Tony. 

“There’s my handsome boy,” Tony says. Peter sniffs once more before inching the rest of his face out of the pillow. 

“M’sorry, Daddy,” Peter says. He makes a desperate attempt to wipe his tears away. 

“Don’t apologize for crying, buddy,” Tony says. “Were you crying because I asked if someone was hurting you?” Peter hesitantly shakes his head. “Was it because I was leaving?” Peter nods, burying his face in his pillow. 

“You could have told me you didn’t want me to leave,” Tony says gently. 

Peter shrugs and mumbles something into the pillow. 

“You’re going to have to lift that face out of the pillow if you want me to hear what you’re saying.” 

Peter lifts his face up slightly. “Sierra and Kat were talking ‘bout how you don’t love me.” 

“What?” Tony says, alarmed. 

“They say that you were… tram… tram’tized, from being in the dessert with the bad men, and it made you crazy.” He glances over at his father. “They say you only love me ‘cause of that, and that soon you will be better, like before, and you’ll outgrow me like I grew out of my pink shoes.” 

Tony remembers those shoes. He remembers the sparkles, the horror he felt while watching seeing the boy prance around in them last year. Sierra had told him that kids Peter’s age grow out of shoes so quickly that they’ll only be around for two years tops, before he needs another pair.

“I don’t even have those shoes anymore!” Peter exclaims. “They gone! I don’t want you to grow out of me an’ throw me away!” 

“Peter, baby,” Tony says. “I’m never going to throw you away.” 

Peter sniffs. “You’ll forget me, like before.” 

“No,” Tony says. “I won’t. I promise I won’t.” 

“You,” Peter says, pausing to let out a large, wet sniff. “You shouldn’t make promises you can’t keep.” 

“I know,” Tony says. “That’s why I am making you this promise. I won’t break it.” 


“Really,” Tony confirms. “You’re my son.

“I,” Peter sniffs. “I be your son this whole time!” 

“I know,” Tony says once again. “I was… lost, before.” 

“Lost?” Peter asks. 

“Yeah.” He tries to think of a way a four year old would understand. “I was here. You saw me sometimes.” Peter nods. “But, up here,” he points to his head. “I was lost.” 

“Oh,” Peter mumbles. “You couldn’t find me?” 

“More like I couldn’t find myself, buddy,” Tony says. “I couldn’t find Peter’s Daddy.” 

“But you found him, now?” Peter asks, hesitantly. 

“I found him,” Tony confirms. “This time, I’m making sure he never gets lost again.” 

Chapter Text

“JARVIS, are you there?” 

“At your service, Sir.” 

“Engage Heads Up Display.” 

He’s done it. He has made a functional, better version of the suit from the cave. Well, he thinks. So far, he has only tested his flight ability, but for the most part, everything seems like it has been working. 

It’s been slow going, however. As much as he works on this, he will never be as fast as he used to be. It’s worth the wait, however, because the time he is spending away from the suit is being spent getting to know Peter. 

He’s fired most of the care taking staff, as well. He knows that someone has been hurting his kid. JARVIS doesn’t have an answer, which means that the person responsible is smart enough to do… whatever it is that they are doing outside of JARVIS’ eyes. Because he lacks his AI’s resource on this one, Tony needs to weed people out to figure out who the culprit is. 

Sierra has been kept on staff, despite the comments Peter had overheard. Apparently, it had been the middle of the night during a shift switch, and the two women had been sure Peter was in his bedroom. It had been mindless gossip, and those two were the ones who have been in Tony’s service the longest. They have so many reasons to think Tony that way. He had to get rid of one of them, though. It’s always the ones who have been there the longest that are the ones who are to blame, usually. Sierra has never done anything but express her own worry about the boy, and is often vocal about her disproval of Tony’s lifestyle. It isn’t her. It can’t be.

In an attempt to make Peter like him more, he has allowed Peter access to the lab whenever he wants, as long as Tony himself is in there. The boy, it seems, is a little genius. He can keep up with some of the smaller things Tony says, which is very impressive considering he is pretty sure most teenagers wouldn’t be able to understand. Adults, even. 

The past few days have been spent in the basement, much to Peter’s dismay. The boy isn’t necessarily forbidden from the basement, but Tony has told him that dangerous things are being tested and he isn’t allowed in the room when he is working. 

That’s for the best. Especially when he is trying to keep everything about the suit off the grid. The last thing he needs is a four year telling everyone about his father’s new suit. 

However, since he has fired most of the child care providers, and he can’t force the two women who are left to work 80 plus hours a week to take care of the boy, so he has to be present whenever they are not around. Working in the basement means that someone needs to be there with Peter, and as much help as Pepper can be with the boy, she takes care of almost all of his Stark Industries duties, so he can’t ask her to help. 

Thankfully, Obadiah had agreed to come over and watch Peter for a few hours that evening, so Tony was able to work on his suit in piece. He was pretty sure the man had only agreed to scope out what Tony was working on, so after a brief conversation with the man that perhaps he should stop telling Peter to call Tony “Sir,” he had locked the man out of both the lab and the basement. 

He had left a few hours ago, Peter having gone to bed and no longer needing assistance, so Tony decided now was the best time for a test run. 

“All right,” he says. “What do you say, J?” 

“I have been uploaded into the system, Sir. We’re online and ready.” 

They go through a walk around test, maneuvering the suit to in order to ensure the capabilities. It’s fantastic. The logistics are perfect and Tony is feeling elated with joy at his creation. 

“Test complete. Preparing to power down and begin diagnostics.” 

“Hm,” Tony says, disappointed. “Tell you what, do a weather and ATC check. Start listening in on ground control.” 

“Sir, there are still terabytes of calculations needed before an actual flight is,”- 

“JARVIS,” Tony cuts him off. “Sometimes you got to run before you can walk.” 

“I do hope you plan on teaching Peter better self preservation manners than that,” JARVIS snips, but nonetheless does what Tony had ordered him to. 

“The Peter argument isn’t going to work here, J,” Tony says. “I can’t blow up the house with him in it if I myself am not in it.” 

“Ready? Three, two, one,” he says before the flight power begins with no build up and Mark II begins to set off. 

It’s thrilling. The rush he is getting is better than any high he has ever felt in his life, and he keeps pushing its limits before he has flown around most of the city, and makes his course go higher, higher, and higher. 

He gets cocky. JARVIS warns him of the ice buildup that is bound to occur, and yet, he goes higher. 

The suit ices up. Loses power. 

He begins to fall. He falls, desperately trying to break the ice around the suit, and all he can think about is that he is going to die in a metal suit. His son will grow up being told what an idiot has father had been. His son. He is going to break his promise to Peter…

The ice breaks. The power comes on, just in time, and Tony manages to get back to the roof of his mansion, heart pounding in his chest. 

“Kill power.” 

The repulsers stop with no build up, and suddenly he is crashing down, breaking the piano in the living area, going down even further, and he ends up crashed straight into one of his cars, nearly splitting the thing in two. Despite the damage, the alarm of the car decides it is going to mock him, and begins blaring its horn. 

Just as Dum-E is hosing him down with the fire extinguisher, he hears a small gasp at the bottom of the stairs. He looks over and sees Peter huddling against the railing, staring up at the man. Tony lets his helmet be disengaged and looks over to the boy. 

“Daddy?” Peter asks, voice raised over the car alarm. 

“Hey, Peter. Uh, what’s up?” 

“Why are you a robot?” 

“You like it?” Tony asks. Peter shrugs his shoulders, examining the damage. 

“I told you not to come down here, buddy,” Tony says. 

Peter flinches slightly. “I’m sorry. It’s just… I heard a loud noise, and… and I come downstairs and there is a hole in the living room.” 

“Right,” Tony says. “You’re okay?” 

Peter nods. “The piano ‘s broken.” 

“That’s okay. It’s more for decoration than anything. Wait, do you play piano?” Peter shakes his head. “Oh, okay. That’s nice. Do you want to?” 

“Are you okay, Dad?” Peter asks, ignoring his question. 

“Great, bud,” Tony says. 

“Okay,” Peter says. “I’m supposed to be in bed.” 

“Right,” Tony says. “What time is it? JARVIS?” 

“It is currently 12:13 in the morning, Sir.” 

“Great,” Tony says again, feeling like a broken record. He is trying to hard to seem nonchalant about the suit, or why he is laying on top of a broken sports car. 

“Do you need me to come with you, Peter? Tuck you in, or something?” 

“No!” Peter said. “I can do it myself. I’m a big boy.” 

“That you are,” Tony agrees. “Don’t even need Pull-Ups anymore, I hear.” 

Peter shakes his head. “It was too loud. Are you going to play robot more?” 

“No, buddy, I think I’m done for the night. I’ll go to bed as well. Are you sure you don’t want me to come in and say goodnight?” 

“Uh-huh,” Peter mumbles hesitantly. “Goodnight Dad.” He turns on his feet and bounces back up the stairs, gripping the railing with one hand while the other travels to his mouth, where he places his thumb. Tony isn’t sure whether he should be encouraging that or not, but it seems to be something the boy only does when he is overtired. 

“Night, bud,” Tony says, watching him go. When the boy is out of sight, he lets his head fall back against the wreckage.

“Jesus Christ, JARVIS, turn that car alarm off.” 

When Tony wakes up that morning, the first thing he realizes is that the sun is shining much too bright for it to be early in the morning.

“J?” Tony mumbles. 

“Good morning, Sir. The time is 12:48 in the afternoon, and the temperature remains a steady 74 degrees.” 

“Where’s Peter? Why didn’t you wake me up?” 

“Peter requested that I not wake you up, so I watched over him and allowed you to sleep.” 

“Peter wakes up at like six in the morning, J,” Tony says. “He needs to eat and, and do something. That’s almost seven hours he’s been by himself.” 

“Peter has helped himself to a box of Lucky Charms and has spent the morning reading his physics textbook.” 

“Oh,” Tony says. “Okay.” At least the kid managed to get some food in his system. 

He gets ready for a few minutes, changing into his day clothes before seeking out Peter. JARVIS had told him that when the house is empty, Peter usually spends his time in the living area, though due to the fact that there is a giant hole in the floor of that particular room right now, he is in his bedroom. As Tony approaches Peter’s bedroom, he hears a high voice coming streaming out. 

“-positively charged rod is brought close to a neutral… ins…. isnsula… ator… such as…. as… poly….. polys…. st…., that word, it can attract the bound electrons to move round to the side of the atoms. This is the closest to the rod and cause the positive… nuc.. nu-clay, to move to the other side of the atoms. Does that make sense, bunny?” 

Peeking in, Tony sees that Peter is curled up in the corner of his room, his stuffed bunny in hand, book resting on his knees. It seems that he has advanced to tenth grade physics. 

“This has a name, bunny, it’s called,” Peter pauses and looks over the text once more. “Pol…. polar… like polar bears! Polarisation. I’ve heard of that before, bunny! Mr. Julian teached me it!” 

“Knock, knock,” Tony says, entering the room. 

Peter looks up from his book guiltily. “Hi, Dad.” He tries to subtly hide the bunny in between the book and his knees, it seems, as if trying to hide the animal from Tony. 

“Hey buddy,” he smiles at the boy. “We teaching Mr. Bunny all about polarisation?” 

“No,” Peter denies quickly. “That… That’s stupid.” 

‘Why?” Tony says. “I’m sure he appreciates the help. I heard he didn’t do so well on his last test.” 

Peter furrows his eyebrows. “Bunny takes tests?” 

Ah. He took the bait. “Of course. How else would he advance to other grades?” 

“I don’t take tests. Mr. Julian just makes me tell him what I know before he tells me I can move on.” 

“That’s a test.” 

“It is?” Peter asks. 

“Sure,” Tony says. “It’s an oral one, but it’s still testing you on your knowledge.” 

“Oh,” Peter says. “Does Bunny take oral tests?” 

“Nope,” Tony says. “Mr. Bunny takes special, bunny tests. They don’t teach him nearly as much as he needs to know, so he relies on your teaching to help him pass.” 

Peter lets out a tiny squeal. “Bunny, is that true?” He whispers to the toy. He sits in silence for a moment before nodding. “Okay. I’ll teach you more from now on. You need to learn to be smart and useful. Daddy doesn’t like it when you’re useless.” 

“Wow,” Tony says. “Back-up there, buckaroo.” 

Peter tilts his head. “What?” 

“Who told you that?” 

“You did,” Peter says nonchalantly. 

“Excuse me?” Tony says, his voice raising in panic. 

Peter’s eyes widen and he huddles into himself. “Y-you just told me that Bunny needs to learn to do good on his test.” 

“No, no,” Tony says. “When have I ever told you that I don’t like when you’re useless.” 

“Oh,” Peter says. He seems to visibly relax, as if he wasn’t worried about what Tony was actually freaking out over. “I don’t know.” 

“Peter,” Tony says gently. “I have never thought that you were… useless.” 

“Okay,” Peter says. “Th-that’s good, Dad. Thank you.” 

“Why are you thanking me?” 

Peter blinks. “You said I wasn’t useless.” 

Tony nods. “Right. Who told you that I wouldn’t like it if you were?” 

“I told Bunny,” Peter replies. 

Tony sighs, dragging a hand through his hair. “Who told you?” 

Peter’s eyes widen as if realizing that he had made a grave mistake. “N-nobody!” 


Peter lets out a small whine and curls into his bunny. “N-Nobody tell me that! I thinks it myself!” 

“Please, baby. Tell me who it was.” Tony says, desperately. He knows it’s wrong, using that particular pet name, knowing it shocks Peter every time. 

This time, though, Peter refuses to budge. So much, it seems, that he has begun to get angry. “No!” 

“I promise, Peter,” Tony says gently. He isn’t sure at what level of bargaining it takes to settle things with a toddler. This is all very new territory for the man. “No matter what they said to you, none of it is true.” 

Instead of calming the boy down, this seems to enrage him even more. “Yes it is! You don’t love me!” 

Tony freezes. So, he’s going there. 

Of course he loves Peter. He is his son, the only good thing that Tony has ever made. He spends his time with the kid now, he does everything that should show Peter he loves him, he tells him-

He’s never told Peter that he loved him. 

He’s been doing better, attempting to build this relationship from the wreckage it was when he arrived back home from Afghanistan. He assumes the boy would have simply… known that Tony loves him, though he never says it. 

Of course he doesn’t. He’s four. Peter hasn’t been socialized well enough to understand how to interpret hidden and silent gestures. In his mind, he most likely sees that his father wasn’t there, and then suddenly he was. Suddenly, this man who he has been hearing about for four years, seeing once in a blue moon, has come into his life and expects everything to simply… be okay. 

It isn’t like that. Tony is a fool to think it ever could be like that. Peter is young, yes. He is impressionable, and it is likely that he can grow up and never remember the first four years of his life away from Tony. In a sense, that is what Tony has been leaning on, this idea that Peter is still a toddler, his life’s barely begun, so in the long term, it shouldn’t matter that he wasn’t there. 

He hasn’t been focusing on the present. Peter in ten years may not be able to remember how his father had neglected him in the first few years of his life, but the Peter today does. He knows a life without Tony better than he knows a life with the man in it. 

Tony jumps into things too fast, he knows he does. That is why he had taken the test run too far last night. He is impulsive, impatient, and wants things to go his way from the very start. That isn’t how you raise a child. Especially not a child like Peter. 

He wants to open his mouth, to tell the boy that he loves him, but he finds the words die in his mouth. He can’t do it. 

He’s never told anybody he loves them. Not truly. Sure, there have been a few times he has expressed his love for Pepper and Rhodey, but those were often sarcastic rebuttals, a relieved, smug tone when he managed to get out of something he didn’t want to do. Tony has never expressed his love for someone outright like that. 

He knows why. If Tony says it out loud, admits that he loves someone, he’s admitting a weakness. Stark men are made of iron. It’s the phrase he has heard time and time again throughout his childhood. Never admit your weaknesses, because someone will use it against you. 

He stares at Peter, watching as tears gather in those large brown eyes, eyes that match Tony’s own. Peter does look so much alike to him, only… so much more emotive. Peter wears his heart on his sleeve, he lets people see what he is feeling. He needs to grow out of that, or else he will inevitably get hurt. 

The silence has gone on for too long. Peter’s anger subsides, leaving nothing but a saddened distress as the tears begin to leak out of his eyes. Of Tony’s eyes. God, how was Tony able to create such a delicate creature such as Peter? 

Peter, seemingly having enough of the heartbreak that is standing in a room while your father attempts to come to term with his feelings, grabs his stuffed bunny and flees the bedroom, a sob just quiet enough that Tony is able to feel even worse. 

He loves Peter. So, why can’t he say it? 

Because once you admit it out loud, there is no going back, a voice inside his head says to him. A part of you still knows the best thing to do for that boy is to run away, don’t weigh him down with your own problems. A part of you longs for the easier way out, and that is leaving Peter behind. 

How could he do that? How could Tony ever do that to the boy? Does he seriously have that many problems that he is incapable fo expressing his love to his son? 

He shakes his head. He can’t do this. He doesn’t know how to. He doesn’t think there is any true way to reason to a four year old about these kinds of things. 

Be the father he needs you to be. 

He remembers the promise he made Yinsen. It’s harder than it looks, though. What does Peter need? He can’t be the father Peter wants because the boy is too hesitant around him. He wants affection, but he runs from it the minute it’s offered. 

He’s cautious, Tony thinks to himself. Who wouldn’t be, around a stranger?

Tony doesn’t know what to do. He can build a suit, he can become the person the world needs him to be, so why is it so hard when focusing on one little boy? 

“JARVIS,” Tony mumbles. “Where did he go?” 

“Peter has currently resided himself in the lounge. He is safe, and I am playing him Tchaikovsky to calm him down.” 

“Tchaikovsky,” Tony repeats back. 

“Yes, Sir,” JARVIS confirms. “It was discovered quite some time ago that Peter’s anxiety levels significantly drop when classical music is playing. He particularly enjoys Swan Lake.” 

Tony goes down to the lab. He locks the door. 

Chapter Text

It has been just a little less than twenty four hours since Tony retreated to the lab with his tail in between his legs. He had sent Sierra over to start her shift early to watch over Peter, offering her overtime for it. The woman had agreed, yet her shift ended sometime early that morning, so Tony had no choice but to ask Pepper to come over. 

By the time JARVIS had informed Tony that Pepper had arrived and had woken Peter up for the morning, Tony had forgotten about it and got back to working on fixing the icing problem. 

That didn’t last very wrong. 

“What is wrong with you?” 

“Oh, hello dear, what an unwelcome surprise,” Tony says, not looking over at the woman. 

“Do you think this is a game, Tony?” Pepper shouts, marching over to where he is standing. “Is Peter nothing but a toy for you to throw away when you don’t have any need for him?” 

“Of course not,” Tony defends, but every attempt he tries to make is cut off. 

“You are that little boy’s hero,” she continues. “I have no idea why, but to him, you hold the entire moon up with your bare hands.” 

“We had a misunderstanding,” Tony says. 

“As a parent, it’s your job to clear up any kind of misunderstanding, Tony,” Pepper says. “Peter is a child. He doesn’t know how to read the hidden messages you like to give so much. Children are very literal.” 

“Did he tell you what happened?” Tony asks. 

“No,” Pepper says. “He doesn’t like to tell me how he’s feeling.” 


“I don’t know, Tony,” Pepper sighs. “Mr. Stane has really gotten through to Peter about certain things.” 

“Things like what?” Tony asks. 

“For one, Peter thinks that everything he tells me gets directly reported to you,” she lists. “I know you’re aware of his beliefs towards how you feel about him.” 

“That I don’t love him,” Tony says. 

“I wouldn’t go that far.” 

“He told me,” Tony says quietly. 

“He told you?” 

“That I don’t love him,” he clarifies. “Straight up.” 

“Did you deny that?” Pepper asks. 

Tony’s silence gives her enough of an answer. She looks at him as if he were a completely different person than the man she has learned to tolerate. 

“What did you say to him? When he told you?” 

“Nothing,” Tony answers honestly. “I was so shocked that I just kind of… stood there. He ran out of the room crying a minute later.” 

“Oh my god,” Pepper whispers. “What is wrong with you?” 

“You already said that,” Tony said. “I thought you already knew. Why did you come in here huffing and puffing if you hadn’t already known?” 

“Because Peter told me that you didn’t want to see him anymore!” 

“I never said that!” Tony shouts. 

“You let him run off crying, right after not telling him you loved him, when he was clearly looking for a response,” Pepper shouts. “You didn’t follow him, than pushed his caretaker at him. What was he supposed to think?” 

Tony is silent for a moment. He looks over at the hologram he had been working on, pondering every choice he had made in the last four years. 

“I’m not cut out for this,” Tony whispers. “I knew I would be an awful dad, that’s why I stayed away.” 

The only thing making you an awful father right now is your inability to show how much you care about him,” Pepper says. “I know you love him. I can see it when you look at him, even talk about him.” 

Tony scoffs. “Yeah, brushing him off and pretending he never existed.” 

Pepper shakes her head. “No. You did that because you didn’t love you. Not because you don’t love him.”

She reaches into her bag to retrieve a cardboard box. She places it on the desk next to him and places a hand on his shoulder. 

“Don’t let your personal insecurities determine your relationship with your son,” she whispers. “You made a promise to build a relationship with him, so keep it.” 

Pepper turns and walks out of the room, heels clicking alongside her confident strides. Right before she reaches the stairs, she turns towards him one last time. 

“I’ve dealt with a lot of your shit, Mr. Stark, but I don’t know if I can stand by and watch you break his heart one more time.” 

After she is gone, Tony looks toward the box she had placed on the table. He hesitantly opens it, and peeks inside. 

There, in a nice glass case, sits the arc reactor he had practically forced her to take out of his chest for him. He had told her to dispose of it, yet it seems Pepper had another idea. The edges of the reactor now display a message, one that Tony knows Pepper meant as a warning. 

Proof that Tony Stark has a heart.

He finds Peter in the lounge. The boy is sitting cross legged on the floor with his back turned to him, facing a makeshift television screen projection that JARVIS must have set up since the living room was destroyed. Star Wars is playing, one of the original ones, not the prequels. Tony isn’t sure which exact movie is playing. He never had any time as a kid to watch them when they first came out, though Rhodey made him sit through them once when he was in his twenties. 

He approaches the boy, observing his face as he takes in the movie. Peter seems very involved in the contents of the film, so Tony isn’t sure if now would be a good time to intervene. 

“Hey, kiddo,” he whispers. 

Peter jerks his head over to where his father is standing. “H-hi, Dad.” 

“What are you watching?” 

Peter’s eyes glance in the direction of the screen. “S-Star Wars. I… I can turn it off?” 

“Don’t do that,” Tony shakes his head. “I’ve only seen Star Wars once. Can I join you?” 

Peter’s face is painted in hesitation, clearly wondering what his father is up to. Nonetheless, the boy nods and soon Tony finds himself sitting beside the boy, giving him enough space that they both feel comfortable. 

They watch the movie in silence for about half an hour, before Tony decides to try and make comments about the movie, if only to decrease the level of tension that is filling the room. 

“You’d think with the best engineers in the galaxy, Darth Vader could have found a quieter respirator.” 

Peter glances over at the man sitting next to him. He shrugs slightly. “’S part of what make him scary.” 

“Does he scare you?” 

Peter shakes his head. “Not me. But… but Sierra say that she was scared of him when she was little. And, and that a lot of people are, too.” 

“You’re really brave, then,” Tony comments. 

“No,” Peter says. “Not like you are, Daddy. I just like Darth Vader.” 

“You like him?” 

Peter nods. “He’s Luke’s daddy.” 

“I know,” Tony says. “But he’s the bad guy.” 

“No, Daddy,” Peter says as if Tony were an idiot. “Emp’ror Palpatine is the real bad guy. Darth Vader is bad, too, but he was bringed to the dark side through cor.. corru…,”

“Corruption?” Tony offers. 

“Yeah,” Peter nods. “And he loves Luke.” 

“Oh yeah?”

“Uh-huh,” Peter says matter-of-factly. “He saves Luke at the end of ‘Jedi, by killing the Emp’ror, who hurts him a lot. 

“Well,” Peter continues. “He kills him because the Emp’ror is hurting Luke, and Darth Vader doesn’t like that. He loves Luke and wants Luke to be happy, I think, so he loves Luke more than being evil. So he kills the real bad guy for Luke.” 

Tony is speechless. He didn’t think a four year was capable of analyzing a movie so in depth the way that Peter just has. Looking closer, Peter could possibly be… projecting? There is no question that Darth Vader is an awful father. He cuts off Luke’s hand, for God’s sake. Time and time again, he hurts Luke, yet… Peter focuses on the good. He focuses on what the guy does in an impulsive act of fatherly love, ignoring all the other times he was awful. 


Tony wants to tell him. He wants to sit beside him, give him the longest hug that the two have ever shared, in the very limited pool they already sit in. He wants to tell Peter that he loves him. That he could never hurt him, would never hurt him again. 

He doesn’t. He doesn’t, because like every time Tony has to do something that involves his feelings, he chickens out. 

Instead, he smiles and looks toward the makeshift screen, watching the duel that is currently happening. 

“Yeah, and he’s got a killer suit, huh?” 

“Uh-huh!” Peter smiles. “Just like your robot suit!” 

The two fall back into silence, and before Tony realizes, the credits have started rolling and Peter is bouncing up and down in excitement. 

He isn’t sure whether he should apologize for allowing Peter to run off yesterday. If there is something that can make up for what was said, or lack there of. Peter has seemed to forgotten all about it, though, just happy to be in his father’s presence. Pepper would be so unhappy with him if she knew that he had just ignored it, but what she doesn’t know won’t her her. 

“Hey, bud,” Tony says, realizing that Pepper had said she was going to spend the day with Peter. “Where’s Pepper gone to?” 

“She went to the party thing,” Peter says. 

“What party?” Tony asks. He wasn’t told of any kind of party, let alone invited to one. 

“I don’t know, Dad,” Peter says. 


“A charity gala for the Fire Brigade, Sir,” JARVIS says. “Mr. Stane accepted the invitation on behalf of Stark Industries and was asked to pass the news along to you.” 

“Funny,” Tony hums. “I never received any invitation.” 

He looks down at Peter. Clearly, he is the only person in the building right now and has to o something with the kid. He considers calling Sierra, but knows she has just worked a 20 hour shift and needs some rest. 

“Hey, Pete,” he says. “Want to crash a party with your dad?” 

Getting Peter ready was much easier than he thought it was going to be. The boy, despite visibly disliking the process, seems to know exactly what to do to put on a suit. He has problems with his little tie, but Tony quickly does it for him. 

When the boy is dressed, Tony quickly changes into a suit of his own, as well as styling his hair in order to ensure that he is in the best dressed person at that whole gala. 

“Are you gunna do mine, Dad?” Peter pipes up from behind him, where he is sitting on the bed. “I can, but… but sometimes I get the gel on my suit, and it makes everyone mad.” 

“We don’t need to style your hair, bud,” Tony says. “The curls are charming.” 

Peter frowns. “Obie say they are ugly and make me look crazy and… and homeless. I dunno what that means, though. He say it’s bad.” 

“Jesus,” Tony says. “Obie needs to cool it with the comments. I think the curls are perfect, buddy. That’s all that counts.

“Besides,” he continues, bringing his voice to a mock whisper. “What would he know. He’s bald. He’s probably just jealous of your curls.” 

Peter giggles slightly, but he still looks in the mirror and runs his hands through his curls, trying to tame them. 

When Peter seems to be less upset about the state of his hair, Tony leads him to the car garage, where he chooses the shiniest Audi he owns. He goes to the closet in the corner of the room which he had stocked full with car seats. He carefully installs one into the seat of the car, and places Peter in it, adjusting his straps. 


Peter nods, shifting slightly in the seat for good measure. 


He makes the trip to the venue in no time, though still makes sure to drive slightly less recklessly than he usually would. He does have precious cargo. 

When they arrive at the gala, Tony is met with camera flashes and loud voices begging for his attention. He ignores them, throwing his keys toward the valet, buttoning his tuxedo up, and walks to the back door of the car. 

Upon opening the door, the shouting gets even louder. It’s not everyday the press get to see Tony with his son. Besides the brief press conference, where Tony wasn’t even with Peter, there have been no sighting. This is a golden opportunity for the news. 

“All set?” 

Peter nods, shyly looking out toward the crowd. Tony unbuckles him and picks him up for extra measure.

Tony immediately has his eyes set on Obadiah, who seems to be giving an interview on the other side of the carpet. He lifts Peter so the kid is sitting more securing on his hip and walks towards them. On the way, he is stopped by a blonde woman who practically throws herself in his pathway. 

“Hi Tony, remember me?”

“Sure don’t,” he replies. 

He keeps on walking, head set straight ahead, though he catches Peter looking around in fascination. The boy does, on occasion, attend events alongside Obie, though they always make sure he is sheltered not in a crowd such as this. Tony knows how frightening it can be as child, and he said to never allow Peter to be involved. 

This is different, he tries to promise himself. Peter is with him, and Tony will make sure nobody bombards the kid. Howard always encouraged Tony to talk to the news reporters, hungry for the attention he could receive from his son’s achievements. Tony refuses to let that happen to his own son. 

He approaches Obadiah, a giant smile planted on his face. “What’s the world come to when a guy’s got to crash his own party?” 

“Look at you,” Obie says. He then turns his attention to the boy in Peter’s arms. “What a surprise. You even brought my favourite little boy. How you doing champ?” 

“G-good,” Peter says. 

“Stuttering,” Obie says, pointing at the boy as if warning him off. Peter shies back into Tony’s arms while Tony frowns at him. This isn’t the place for that kind of conversation. 

Obadiah places an arm around them, turning them so they can pose for a picture. While this is happening, Obie whispers in his ear. 

“Take it slow, alright? I think I got the board right where we want them.” 

“You got it,” he smiles. He turns away from the man, bouncing Peter slightly. He didn’t know it could get this tiring holding up a kid. “Come on, Peter.” 

Inside the venue, Tony considers heading straight for the bar, but he knows that despite being away from the cameras, there are prying eyes everywhere. The last thing he needs is for someone to report Tony drinking while his son is right beside him. 

Peter spots Pepper before he does. He boy gasps, his posture straightening in Tony’s hold. Tony’s eyes trail after Peter’s gaze and they land straight on her, her beautiful blonde curls falling perfectly over an open backed dress. 

“Wanna go say hi?” He says, not waiting for Peter’s nod before walking over to her. 

“You look fantastic!” Tony exclaims. “I almost didn’t recognize you. Peter had to point me in the right direction.” 

Pepper’s eyes travel to Peter. She smiles sweetly at the boy, trailing her hands over his head, before looking back at Tony. 

“What are you doing here?” 

“Peter told me you were going to a party,” Tony says. “We didn’t want to miss the fun.” 

“Hm,” she hums. She turns her attention back to Peter. “Don’t you look like a dashing little prince, huh?” 

Peter smiles at her. “Daddy wouldn’t let me do my hair like they usually do.” 

“I love your hair,” she says. 

“Where’d you get that dress?’ Tony asks. 

“It was a birthday present,” Pepper says. “From you.” 

“I got great taste,” Tony says. “Don’t I have great taste, Peter?” 

“You look like a princess, Miss Pepper.” 

“Why, thank you, handsome man,” Pepper replies. 

“You want to dance?” Tony asks. 

“Oh, no,” Pepper says. “Thank you. I would love to dance with Peter, though.” 

“Oh, really?” Tony says. “Maybe it was a bad idea bringing him here. I’m losing my charm.” 

“Who could resist this face?” Pepper says, placing her hand back on Peter’s cheek. “Do you want to dance, Peter?” 

Peter looks at Tony hesitantly, then nods. Pepper smiles and extends her arms, silently ordering Tony to hand him over. 

“Alright, I can take a rejection. I’ll just be… over there.” He points toward the bar. “Have fun, you two.” 

He makes his way over to the bar and orders a scotch, resigning his fate to just watching perhaps the two most important people in his life dance together. Sure, Pepper is just his assistant, but he knows her and trusts her more than he does everybody else. There is just… something about her that makes Tony truly feel comfortable around her. 

“Mr. Stark?” Of course, his moment had to be ruined. 


“Agent Coulson,” the man offers. 

“Right,” Tony says. He briefly remembers Pepper saying something about a Coulson. “From the…” 

“Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division.” 

“God,” Tony scoffs. “You need a new name for that.” 

“Yeah, I hear that a lot.” 

The man is talking to him about a debriefing, something he has heard time and time again, from the FBI, the CIA, and he is just not willing to do. He settles himself to ignore the man as much as he can, watching as Pepper sways Peter around on the dance floor. 

The boy is comfortable with her. Tony can see it in his face, in the relaxed posture he has as his hands loosely fit around her neck. It is the most comfortable he has ever seen Peter, and it’s all because of her. Suddenly, he watches as Pepper smiles down at the boy, and begins to walk him to stairs of the venue. 

“Mr. Stark?” 

‘Right,” Tony says. “Let’s just put something in the books.” 

“How about the 24th at 7:00p.m. at Stark Industries?” 

“Tell you what. You got it. You’re absolutely right. Well, I’m going to go to my assistant, and we’ll make a date.” 

Tony quickly rushes away from the conversation, making his way to the stairs in search of his son. 

He searches for about ten minutes, looking in the bathroom stalls, the empty rooms, assuming perhaps Peter needed a few moments of quiet. He ends up on the balcony, where he sees Pepper standing near the ledge, still holding onto Peter. 

As he gets closer, he notices that Peter is asleep, or perhaps half asleep, in her arms. She now has his head resting on her shoulder as he lazily holds onto her. 

“It was wrong to bring him here, Tony,” Pepper whispers. 

“Totally harmless.” 

“It’s way past his bedtime,” she points out. “But asking me to dance with you?” 

“No one was watching. You didn’t even say yes.” 

“Everyone I work with was watching,” she said. “And you know I only got out of it by taking Peter.” 

“I’m a little confused as to the problem, here,” Tony says. “It’s just a dance.” 

“It’s not just a dance,” Pepper responds. “You don’t understand because you’re you. And everybody knows exactly who you are and how you are with girls and…all of that, which is completely fine. But, you know, then me, you’re my boss, and I’m expected to be dancing with you.” 

“I don’t think it was taken that way,” Tony says. 

“It makes me look like every other girl who tries to…,” she trails off. 

“Hey,” Tony says. “I wouldn’t let any other girl even look at Peter, let alone hold him like this.” He points to where she is gently cradling the back of Peter’s head, as if to prevent it from falling and hurting his neck. 

“That makes it even worse,” Pepper says. “One day I’m your assistant and the next I’m dancing with you, then suddenly I’m seen with your child? Your child who is never seen with you?” 

“You’re so good with him,” Tony says. “I would never trust anyone else with him. Only you.” 

He want to kiss her. He wants to lean in and kiss her, do what he has not even let himself dream about. 

But he isn’t about to do it like this. Not over Peter’s head. Instead, he looks into her eyes to let her know that he is serious. And he is. 

“Let me buy you a drink,” he says. 

“I would like a vodka martini, please,” Pepper whispers, staring at him with wide eyes. 

“You got it,” Tony says. “Add it to my tab. I need to get him hime.” 

Pepper nods, handing Peter back over to her. He takes the boy gently, placing his hand in the same spot hers had been, using what he had seen her as a reference. 

As he makes his way out of the venue, desperately hoping nothing wakes Peter up, he is stopped by none other than the reporter he had slept with right before he had gone to Afghanistan. 

“Wow. Tony Stark. Fancy seeing you here.” 


“Christine,” she clarifies. She looks at Peter, though does not make a comment, thankfully. Instead, she is more interested in a different topic. 

“You have a lot of nerve showing up here tonight. Can I at least get a reaction from you?”

“Panic,” Tony says. “I would say my reaction is panic.” 

“I’m referring to your company’s involvement in this latest atrocity,” she says. 

“Yeah. They just put my name on the invitation. I don’t know what to tell you.” 

“I actually almost bought it, you know. Hook, line, and sinker.” 

“I was out of town for a couple months, in case you didn’t hear.”

“Yes. I heard all about it. I also heard your little speech about accountability,” she says. “About wanting to build something your son can grow up to be proud of. How you want him to live a life different from yours.” 

She shoves a few photos right in front of his face. “This is what you call accountability? It’s a town called Gulmira. Heard of it?” 

He has. Tony knows she is expecting him to say no, to not care about a little town on the other side of the ocean. This is Yinsen’s town. 

The town is in ruins. The Ten Rings are carrying more Stark Industries weapons. They’re still dealing. Someone is still dealing to them. 

“When were these taken?” 

“Yesterday,” she confirms. 

“I didn’t approve any shipment,” he defends. 

“Your company sure did.” 

“I’m not my company,” he says. “Excuse me.” 

He holds Peter just a slight bit closer and goes to find Obie in the one place he knows he would be. 

Outside the gala, Obie is waving cameras out of his face. 

“Hey,” Tony says. “Have you seen these photos? What’s going on in Gulmira?” 

Obadiah lowers his voice, so low that nobody around them can hear. “Tony, Tony. You can’t afford to be this naive. You have a child, he can do that for you.” 

“You know what? I was naive before, when they said, ‘Here’s the line. We don’t cross it. This is how we do business.’ lf we’re double-dealing under the table…,” He pauses and looks at the man to scope out his face. As always, Obadiah wear the perfect poker face. “Are we?”

Obadiah looks down at the sleeping child and smiles. He turns them so they can get one more photo for the news. 

“Tony. Who do you think locked you out? I was the one who filed the injunction against you. It’s was the only way I could protect you.

“Besides,” Obadiah continues. “It will be easy, after tonight. ‘Tony Stark distraught after kidnapping. Wants to rebuild relationship with his son and has retired from the business’.” 

The only word that Tony can think of at this moment is.. betrayal. He stares at the cameras, face solemn, as he takes in what has been told to him. 

He walks away. It’s what he does best. However, this time, he is taking matters into his own hands. 

He quickly gets Peter into the car seat and drives home, contemplating what has been told to him. How could Obie have been the one to do this to him? Tony has known the man his entire life. If he is capable of this, what else has be been doing? 

Getting back to the mansion, Tony carries Peter up the stairs and into his bedroom. Peter truly must have been tired to sleep through all of that. He lays the boy down on his bed, and only the feeling of being taken out of his father’s arms is what finally wakes him up.

“Daddy?” Peter asks sleepily. 

“Sh, Peter,” Tony says. “Go back to sleep. Daddy has work to do.” 

Chapter Text

“The 15 mile hike to the outskirts of Gulmira can only be described as a descent into hell, into a modern day Heart of Darkness. Simple farmers and herders from peaceful villages have been driven from their homes, displaced from their lands by warlords emboldened by a new-found power.” 

The news is playing while Tony sits on his couch, gauntlet in his hand. 

“Villagers have been forced to take shelter in whatever crude dwellings they can find in the ruins of other villages, or here in the remnants of an old Soviet smelting plant. Recent violence has been attributed to a group of foreign fighters referred to by locals as the Ten Rings. As you can see, these men are heavily armed and on a mission. A mission that could prove fatal to anyone who stands in their way. With no political will or international pressure, there’s very little hope for these refugees.” 

Tony can’t believe it. He trusted Obadiah. He has known the man his entire life, and never would Tony have imagined him capable of this. 

“Around me, a woman begging for news on her husband, who was kidnapped by insurgents, either forced to join their militia… Desperate refugees clutch yellowed photographs, holding them up to anyone who will stop. A child’s simple question, “Where are my mother and father?” There’s very little hope for these refugees, refugees who can only wonder who, if anyone, will help.” 

He stands up from the couch and starts shooting things around the room with his gauntlet to test its strength. If he is going to do this, it needs to work. Glass shatters, the sound echoing around the room. 

I’ll help, Tony thinks. I created this mess, I’ll end it. 

He considers going to talk to Peter before he leaves. Tony has no idea what he could be walking into, what could come from this. Shaking his head, he stands on the platform to put on Mark III. Everything will be fine. He will destroy the weapons they have, kill as many of them as possible, and get out of there without a scratch. He will figure out the rest later. 

The flight takes less time than he thought it would, but that is good. The quicker it takes to end all of this, the better. 

The village is in ruins. The Ten Rings are gathering the residents up, throwing them into trucks, shooting men at random. 

Tony watches as a young boy is physically thrown from his father, the soldiers kicking and shouting at the man. The boy is crying, screaming for them to stop, desperately trying to get to his father. Tony thinks about Peter, what the boy would do in that situation. Would he fight that hard to try and save Tony? 

He quickly attempts to rid himself of that thought. He cannot fathom what he would do if Peter were in this situation. What he would do if Peter were in this kind of danger. 

The minute Tony lands, the entire group is shooting at him. The bullets penetrate the suit slightly, but do not do very much damage. Quickly, Tony manages to take down as many as he can, and when they realize that their bullets are not doing any damage and turn to the residents, Tony has JARVIS locate the hostiles and shoots them all at once. 

He leaves Bakaar to the residents. Allows them to decide what should happen to them. 

Just as he goes to fly off, a missile hits the side of Mark III and Tony is sent crashing to the ground. Looking up, he sees a tank straight ahead, ready to fire. 

He takes them down. 

After he has located all of the Stark weapons in the areas and disposed of them, Tony is off. 

Then he is vastly corner by the American Army. 

He gets a warning that they are coming through a phone call from Rhodey. After teasing the man for a few moments, Tony sees two fighter jets approaching him from behind. He hangs up the phone, spends the next ten minutes trying to avoid the jets, before calling Rhodey in a desperate attempt to call off the kill on sight order they have for him. 

“Hi, Rhodey, it’s me,” Tony says. He is hanging onto the bottom of one of the jets, using the few moments he has in their blindspot. 

“It’s who?” Rhodey teases, mocking the conversation that Tony had previously had with the man. 

“No, you don’t understand,” Tony says. “You asked… What you were asking me about, it’s me.” 

“No, see, this isn’t a game. You do not send civilian equipment into my active war zone. You understand that?” 

Desperate now, Tony screams into the phone. “This is not a piece of equipment. I’m in it. It’s a suit. It’s me!” 

Rhodey doesn’t answer, but Tony assumes he called off the order, because they do not attempt to shoot at him any further. There is a sudden shock in which they spot him hanging onto the bottom of one of the jets and try to shake him off. He ends up crashing into the wing of the other jet, and spends the next while saving the pilot who has been ejected from the crashing jet. 

“Tony, you still there?” Rhodey finally says into the speaker. 

“Hey, thanks,” Tony says. 

“Oh, my God, you crazy son of a bitch. You owe me a plane. You know that, right?” 

“Yeah, well, technically he hit me,” Tony defends, smiling. “So, now are you going to come by and see what I’m working on?”

“No, no, no,” Rhodey says. “The less I know, the better. What am I supposed to tell the press?” 

“Training exercise,” Tony suggests. “Isn’t that the usual bullshit?” 

“It’s not that simple,” Rhodey says. 

“Not my problem,” Tony replies. “I’m just a civilian, remember? I need to get home to my kid.” 

“Right,” Rhodey says. “Don’t pull that shit on me again.” 

“Doubtful,” Tony jokes, hanging up the phone. 

“Alright, J, take me home.” 


“It is a tight fit, Sir. The more you struggle, the more this is going to hurt,” JARVIS says. 

“Be gentle, this is my first time,” Tony says half seriously. 

“First time doing what?” 

Tony’s head shoots to the staircase where he sees Peter, holding the hand of Pepper, the latter looking shocked. 

“Are those bullet holes?” Pepper asks in fright, walking closer to him.

“You was shot?” Peter asks, huddling closer to Pepper. 

“No, I wasn’t… well I was shot at, but I wasn’t shot.” 

“Do you need a band-aid?” Peter asks. 

“You know what?” Tony asks, knowing that Peter needs to leave the room if he is going to have this conversation with Pepper. “A band-aid would be great.” 

Peter nods, turning away from them and rushing up the stairs. 

“What is going on?” Pepper shouts. “What is this?” 

“It’s… complicated,” Tony says. 

“I think I can handle it,” Pepper replies, her voice still a bit shaky. 

He tells her everything. He tells her more than he was planning to. About his kidnapping, about the weapons he found, about Yinsen. By the time he is done talking, Pepper looks very pale. 

“I… I need some time to process all of this,” Pepper says. 

“Of course,” Tony says. “It’s not everyday your very handsome boss takes down an entire terrorist group in one day.” 

Pepper doesn’t smile. She walks out of the room right as Peter bounces back in, a handful of Spongebob bandages in hand. 

“I got them!” Peter says. 

“Great,” Tony says quietly, watching Pepper retreat from the room. 

A few hours later, Tony has a face full of yellow band-aids as he works out the dents in Mark III, when Pepper walks back into the room. 

“Hey. You busy? You mind if I send you on an errand?” He asks. 

He knows that he needs to get on top of the weapons dealing fiasco. He also knows that it would be extremely suspicious if he were caught himself looking through the files. He has never physically gone to SI to look at the files, and he can’t open them here without raising flags that will go straight to Obadiah himself.   

“I need you to go to my office. You’re going to hack into the mainframe and you’re going to retrieve all the recent shipping manifests,” he says. He hands her a USB stick. “This is a lock chip. This’ll get you in. It’s probably under Executive Files. lf not, they put it on a ghost drive, in which case you need to look for the lowest numeric heading.”

“And what do you plan to do with this information if I bring it back here?” 

“Same drill. They’ve been dealing under the table, and I’m going to stop them. I’m going to find my weapons and destroy them,” Tony explains. 

“Tony, you know that I would help you with anything, but I cannot help you if you’re going to start all of this again.” 

“There is nothing except this,” Tony says. “There’s no art opening. There is no benefit. There is nothing to sign. There is the next mission and nothing else.” 

“Is that so?” Pepper asks. “Well, then, I quit.” 

“You stood by my side all these years while I reaped the benefits of destruction,” Tony shouts as she walks away from him, throwing the USB stick on the table. “And now that I’m trying to protect the people that I put in harm’s way, you’re going to walk out?

“You have a son, Tony,” Pepper says. “A son who needs his father, not some hero who fights terrorists in a metal suit. You’re going to kill yourself, and I’m not going to be a part of watching you break that little boy’s heart all over again.” 

“I’m doing this for Peter,” Tony says. “I shouldn’t be alive, unless it was for a reason. If that reason is simply to be Peter’s father, I would have come to my senses years ago. This is bigger than just that. 

“I’m not crazy, Pepper,” Tony says. “I just finally know what I have to do… I know in my heart that it’s right. Isn’t that what parents should be teaching their kids? To follow what they think is right?” 

Pepper is silent for a moment, but nonetheless walks back to where Tony is sitting. 

“You and Peter…,” Pepper trails off. “You two are all I have.” 

She takes the USB once more, and heads towards the door. 

“Miss Potts,” Tony calls her back. He waits for her to turn around. “I need one more thing from you.” 

“What is it?” 

“I know the… consequences, of what I’m doing,” Tony says. “What could happen to me. I was nearly taken down by a goddamn American fighter jet.” 

Pepper nods, staying silent as she takes in what is being told to her. 

“I just… I need to know that Peter is going to go somewhere where he will be taken care of. Where he’ll be loved,” Tony says, staring into her eyes. “If something were to happen to me.” 

“You want me to…?” Pepper trails off. 

“Yes,” Tony nods. “Only if you want to. He has nobody else. I didn’t… I didn’t realize how much it means to a child to have a parental figure. I never had one, not really. For four years, the most consistent thing he had was you.” 

“I was barely around,” Pepper whispers. 

“You were around enough for him to make a you a birthday card. Signed with love and everything,” Tony replies. “You were more a parent to him than I was.

“I’m not asking for anything definitely,” Tony says. “No adoption, nothing like that. Just, if I were to become… unable, to care for him. For whatever reason. I want you to take him.” 

“I would be an awful… parental figure,” Pepper says. 

“No,” Tony shakes his head. “You’re perfect.” 

Tears have gathered in Pepper’s eyes. She stares so deeply into his eyes, and her hands have traveled to rest on Tony’s cheek. 

“I’ll do it,” she saying, nodding slightly. “If you can’t be there, of course.” 

“Thank you,” Tony says. “I’ll make it official tomorrow. Put you in the will.” 

Pepper nods, letting out a small sniffle. “So, I’ll just… go get this data.” 

Tony nods, watching as she retreats. 

He knows that the last thing he plans on doing is dying from this, but a weight is still lifted off of his chest, knowing that Peter will be in good hands if anything were to go wrong. 

Tony decides to spend the time Pepper is off getting his information with his son. He imagines that would be the best way to keep his mind off of everything, knowing how much Peter intrigues him. 

Peter is pleased to see that the band-aids are still on his father’s face, smiling to himself about how he was able to heal Tony. 

Despite this, the boy is determined to not allow Tony to do anything that could potentially “rip his stitches”. Tony has tried explaining that he doesn’t have stitches in, but Peter seems to believe that his Spongebob bandages are covering actual cuts. 

Due to this belief, Peter has decided that they will spend the night reading, in order to relax. Tony has never seen Peter reading anything other than expensive textbooks that are far beyond his age level, but today Peter picks up a children’s book all about different birds that live in the jungle. 

He reads it to Tony flawlessly, and the man stares at him wondering just when he had become able to read so well. It pains him slightly, knowing he missed so many milestones. He missed Peter’s first word, he doesn’t even know what it was. He wonders if anybody does. 

He’s noticed that the boy stutters significantly less, when he is not stressed or worrying about things. When he spoke to Tony before, in the limited amount he did, the man was barely able to perceive what he had said through the stammering. Now though, the words flow freely, his stress gone knowing that Tony is encouraging him rather than tearing him down. 

“Hey, Pete?” Tony says quietly, interrupting Peter’s reading. When the boy looks up at him, curls falling into his eyes, Tony reaches to brush them out of his face. 

“I am truly sorry,” he whispers. “For not spending time with you, before.” 

“That’s okay, Daddy,” Peter says back. “You was busy.” 

“That’s not a good excuse,” Tony says. “I should have made time for you. I shouldn’t have let you believe that… I only wanted you so you could be… useful.” 

Peter’s eyebrows furrow slightly. “Daddy?” 

“Yeah, buddy?” 

“Why do you think that’s so bad? Me being useful for you. I can be.” 

“I know,” Tony whispers. “I know you can be. But you don’t need to be. I’m supposed to want you unconditionally, no matter what.” 

“But… he say…” Peter trails off. 

As if a lightbulb had just gone off in his mind, Tony suddenly knows. His endless search, the way he fired three quarters of the staff in order to weed out the culprit… it was all for nothing. He thinks back to the day of the party, the way Peter had stammered over a greeting to the man, his quick disapproval of it. 

“Peter…,” Tony says gently. “Has Obadiah been telling you that stuff? Is he the one who has been hurting you?” 

Peter’s eyes widen. His eyes flicker to the door, as if considering making a run for it. 

“It’s okay,” Tony consoles the boy, stroking his hair. “You can tell me. He’s been doing a lot of bad things, recently.” 

“He has?” Peter mumbles. 

“Yeah,” Tony says. “He’s not going to be in your life anymore. But you need to tell me. Has he hit you?” 

Peter’s gaze falls to the floor, his thumb trailing into his mouth. He nods slightly. “M’sorry.” 

“I’m not mad at you, honey,” Tony says. “He should have never laid a hand on you. Or told you any of those mean things.” 

“He… Obie just wanted me to be good for you,” Peter says. 

“I never asked him to do that. I never asked him to do a lot of the things he has been, recently. I’m going to stop him.” 

“Really?” Peter’s wide eyes shine as he stares up at Tony. “How?” 

Just as Tony is about to reply, his phone buzzes with a call from Pepper. “Exactly like this.” 

He answers the phone, pressing it into his ear, but just as he goes to greet the woman, he finds himself frozen. 

He’s paralyzed. 

“Daddy!” Peter shouts, but the presence that has come up behind Tony quickly shoves the boy back down. 

“Breathe,” he hears Obadiah’s voice behind him. The man holds a device in front of Tony’s eyes, a device Tony recognizes as one of his own creations; something to cause short term paralysis. 

“That’s awful mean of you, Tony, saying those things about me to him,” Obadiah says. “He’s at the age where everything said to him will shape who he will become. Thankfully, I started early.” 

Tony can’t move. He can’t move, and he is terrified, and he can’t even look at his son. He can’t feel Peter’s presence in the room any longer, but he knows he must be there. He wants to warn Peter to run, to get as far away as he can, to run to Pepper. 

But he can’t. 

“When I ordered the hit on you, I worried that I was killing the golden goose,” the man continues, physically moving Tony’s face from side to side. “I figured it would be okay, though, because the golden goose left behind another. One young enough that I could mold it into whatever I wanted it to be. 

“But, you see, it was just fate that you survived. You had one last golden egg to give.” 

He reaches into Tony’s chest and yanks out the arc reactor. 

“S-stop,” a weak voice comes from beside Tony. 

“You shut up now, Peter,” Obadiah says. “The adults are talking. Do you want to be punished?”

Tony doesn’t hear a response, but whatever non-verbal cue Peter had given is enough for Stane to turn his attention back on Tony. 

“Do you really think that just because you have an idea, it belongs to you?” He asks Tony, leering down into his face. “Your father, he helped give us the atomic bomb. Now, what kind of world would it be today if he was as selfish as you? What kind of world will it be if I allow you to raise your son to be a priss?” 

Obadiah turns his attention back to the reactor. “Oh, it’s beautiful. This will be your legacy. A new generation of weapons with this at its heart. Weapons that will help steer the world back on course, put the balance of power in our hands. The right hands. 

“Of course,” he continues. “The world will never come quietly unless there is a face behind the weapons. Stark Industries fans will never take lightly to an outsider, no matter how long he has been single handedly running the company.” His eyes glide over from Tony to where Tony knows his son is sitting beside him. 

“That’s where you will come in.” 

Tony feels a fresh new rush on panic come into him. It’s one thing for Stane to threaten him, to ensure that he will never interfere with his plans. But to involve Peter? Sweet, naive Peter, who’s soul will be absolutely damaged by Stane. Tony can’t let that happen. 

“Too bad your little plan to have Pepper adopt in your untimely death wasn’t made official. Need I remind who Peter goes to when that happens? Who he went to, while you were partying in Afghanistan?” 

“I wish you could see my prototype. It’s not as…well, not as conservative as yours.” Obadiah says, standing up. 

“Peter, come here,” Stane demands. 

“N-no,” a small whimper. 

Tony watches as Obadiah’s face grows cold, and he begins to glare at the child. 

“You will come here… right now,” he says in a quiet, threatening tone. “Or I will make sure you will regret it for the next month.” 

“D-Daddy,” Peter begs, finally coming into Tony’s line of vision as the boy sits in his lap. He wraps his arms around Tony’s neck. “Daddy, I’m s-sorry, d-son’t make me go! Please don’t let him take me, I d-don’t want t-to go.” 

“That’s it,” Stane says, physically yanking Peter away from his father. 

Tony is helpless. He sits there, limbs completely immobile, and settles on making his face look as apologetic as he can. As loving as he can. 

I love him. 

Tony is going to die, on this couch, without ever having told his son that he loves him. He had so many chances, and Peter is going to grow up in an awful, abusive environment, the same as Tony’s but worse, thinking his father never loved him. 

I love you, Tony prays is showing on his face. I love you so much. 

As Obadiah walks away, the last thing Tony sees is Peter’s betrayed, tearful face, begging Tony to come and save him. 

The door shuts behind them. 

Chapter Text

Tony knows that the paralysis is wearing off when he is able to feel his heart giving out. Whether it is the physical pain of the shrapnel making its way into his heart or the soul-crushing agony of losing his son, Tony doesn’t know. 

His breath is short, panting desperately for air. He knows it has only been ten minutes, that the paralysis won’t fully wear off for another ten, at least five. 

It doesn’t matter. 

The minute he can feel his legs, Tony is staggering off of the couch and towards the elevator. He needs to get his son back, he needs to stop Obadiah before he can kill Pepper, God, he needs to get downstairs. 

He stumbles into the elevator, legs shaking, and crumbles against the wall as it heads down to the basement. All of his thoughts are on Peter, on how the boy could be feeling right now, Jesus, did he even know that Tony had been paralyzed? Or did he think Tony allowed him to be carried off like that, that he wanted it? He can’t even imagine what the man is saying to the boy right now, what he is doing with Peter. 

As the elevator doors open, Tony staggers into the lab, but the paralysis seems to kick him with one final jolt, and he is falling onto the floor. Lifting his upper body up, Tony crawls along the lab floor, towards the table where he knows the glass case is resting, where his only chance of surviving is. 

Reaching the table, Tony reaches out to grab the reactor, but the paralysis is not wearing off, and he can’t seem to get his legs to start working again, and he falls back against the table. 

Defeated, Tony allows himself to completely shut down. This is it. This is how he is going to die. Broken and crumpled on the floor with the knowledge that Obadiah Stane is going to mold Peter, break Peter, into becoming the monster Tony has always feared. 

Out of the corner of his eye, however, he sees the glass case, getting closer and closer to him, and he looks up to see Dum-E grasping the case, offering it. Tony takes the case, shock filling his core, whispering “Good boy,” before swiftly breaking the glass case and sticking it into his chest. 

Useless while the paralysis still holds him, Tony crumples onto the floor and allows his heart to begin working again without the threat of shrapnel. 

Within a few minutes, Tony feels himself growing stronger. Very soon after, however, he hears the door of the lab opening and footsteps approaching. 


Rhodey. The man runs into the room, straight to Tony, lifting him off of the floor into a sitting position. Tony, finally having gained full control of his arms, grasps at Rhodey’s leather jacket. 

“P-Peter,” he gasps out. 

“What?” Rhodey says. 

“He… He took Peter,” Tony mumbles, resting his head on Rhodey’s shoulder. “Obadiah.”

“What do you mean, he took Peter?” Rhodey says. 

“He took him!” Tony says. 

“Tony, calm down,” Rhodey says. “Pepper is with five agents. They’re about to arrest Obadiah. They’ll get Peter.” 

Tony thinks back to Obadiah taunting him about his suit. Telling him about his own prototype. 

“That’s not going to be enough,” Tony says. 

“What do you mean, man?” Rhodey asks. “You’re speaking crazy.” 

“He took my son, Rhodey!Tony shouts. “He’s been hurting him! All this time!” 

Rhodey places his hands on Tony’s shoulders, shaking him slightly. “Tony. You need to calm down. We’ll arrest Stane, we’ll get Peter back. He’ll be just fine.” 

“He has a suit,” Tony says. 

“A suit,” Rhodey says. “Like yours?” 

Tony nods. “I didn’t make it for him. It’s a long story. Hurry, I need to put mine on, I need to stop him.” 

Tony allows Rhodey to help him up and then rushes to the platform where he puts on the suit. As the pieces fall over him, Rhodey stares up in awe, but holds his tongue, knowing that Tony is out of his mind with worry about his son. 

“You need me to do anything else?” Rhodey asks, right as Tony is about to fly out. 

“Keep the skies clear,” Tony says. “Then get Peter. Go find him, please.” 

Rhodey nods, and with that confirmation, Tony flies off, hearing Rhodey’s faint yell of “And nice Band-Aids!” 

“How do you think the Mark I chest piece is going to hold up?”

“The suit’s at 48% power and falling, sir. That chest piece was never designed for sustained flight.”

“That’s fine,” Tony says, trying to convince himself. “Keep me posted.” 

As he flies through the air, he calls Pepper in a desperate attempt to get any input on the current situation.

Pepper picks up the phone within two rings. “Tony! Tony, are you okay?” 

“Pepper, if you’re still at SI, you need to get out of there, you need to”- 

“Obadiah has gone insane, Tony!” 

“Obadiah…, Pepper, have you seen Peter?” Tony exclaims. 

“Peter?” Pepper asks, her voice raising significantly. “What happened to Peter?”

“Obadiah, he… he took Peter, he took him right from my grasp, Pepper, I… I couldn’t do anything to stop it.” 

“Oh my god,” Pepper says. her voice getting thick. “Oh my god.” 

“Pepper, have you seen him?” 

“No!” Pepper says. “It was just Obadiah, he was… he built a suit,” Pepper says. 

“Get out of there right now!” Tony yells into the phone. 

Right as he says that, however, the receiver picks up loud noises coming from Pepper’s end, crashing, until Tony is able to hear Obadiah’s voice cutting through. 

“JARVIS, more speed. I don’t care what it takes, go!” 

He gets to the tower within a minute. The minute he does, he sees Obadiah’s suit crashing through the roof of SI, and Tony crashes straight into him. 

They end up crashing onto a highway, cars swerving desperately to avoid them. A car filled with a woman and several children slam on its breaks in order to not crash into them, and Stane uses this to his advantage. 

Picking up the car, Obadiah sets to throw it at Tony’s suit. 

“Put them down!” Tony shouts. He hears the children screaming in the car, so similar to how less than an hour ago, Peter was screaming for him. 

“Awe, thinking about Peter?” Stane taunts him. “Don’t worry Tony, once you’re dead he’ll be exceptional with me.” 

Tony has JARVIS divert the power in the suit to his chest in order to hastily shoot down Obadiah away from the car. It works enough for him to release the car and for Tony to careful grab it and place them down. 

Stane soon come flying back, grabbing onto Tony’s suit and lifting him up in the air. 

“I have been holding you up for 30 years, Tony,” Stane says. “I built this company from nothing, and I got no thanks! No gratitude! You never cared about anyone apart from yourself!” 

He grabs Tony by the neck. “This is my second chance. My time to do things right. I knew Howard didn’t raise you properly. He coddled you, didn’t push you hard enough. Now, look what you’ve become. Peter will be everything you never could and more. He’ll be ruthless.” 

With that, Stane throws Tony straight into a bus, all the while shooting a missile straight at the man. Tony is thrown back from the force, yet manages to regain his stance in the suit, despite the fact that Mark III itself is falling apart. 

Stane sees that Tony has regained his balance and is now hovering in the air. “Impressive! You’ve upgraded your armour. I’ve made a few upgrades of my own!” 

“Sir,” JARVIS pipes up. “It appears that his suit can fly.” 

Not allowing the panic to fill him, Tony quickly comes to a realization. If this was his first flight, than Obadiah most likely doesn’t know about… 

“Take me to maximum altitude, J.” 

Despite JARVIS warning him that the suit’s power would not be able to withstand that kind of height, Tony makes him do it, praying Stane takes the bait. It works. 

By the time Obadiah catches up with him, Tony is already within the range he wishes to be. 

“You had a great idea, Tony, but my suit is more advanced in every way!” 

“Yeah,” Tony says, rage filling his core. “How’d you solve the icing problem?” 

Showing confusion as his electronics must be shutting down, Stane begins to plummet towards the ground. 

So does Tony, mind you, after his suit runs out of power. 

Running on back up power, Tony manages to make it back to the ground in something that resembles one piece. 

“Pepper!” Tony shouts, praying the phone call is still connected. 

“Tony!” Pepper responds. “Oh my god, are you okay?” 

Before Tony can respond, Obadiah is hovering right in front of him, even angrier than he was before. 

“Nice try.” 

With no power in the suit, his repulsers and missiles all offline, Tony has no choice but to use the only thing he has left as Obadiah grabs him from behind and begins attempting to crush the suit. 


The flares work just enough so that Tony is released from Stane’s grasp, and Tony stumbles away from his hold. He hides behind a pillar on the roof while Obadiah commends his attempts and urges him to give up. This is not a fight Tony will be able to win. 


“Potts,” Tony says, noticing that the call is still running. 

“Tony!” Pepper says. “What’s going on?” 

“This isn’t working. We’re going to have to overload the reactor and blast the roof.” 

“How are you going to do that, Tony?” Pepper asks. 

“You’re going to do it,” Tony says. “Go to the central console, open up all the circuits. When I get clear of the roof, I’ll let you know. You’re going to hit the master bypass button. It’s’ going to fry everything up here.” 

“I’ll do it,” Pepper says. “You need to get off the roof, Tony.” 

“I’ll buy you some time,” Tony says, completely ignoring her. 

Through the smoke of the flares, Obadiah searches for Tony. Tony manages to use this slight visual disadvantage to his own benefit, sneaking up behind the man and jumping on his back. He begins ripping out wires of Stane’s suit at random. As Obadiah hastily attempts to get Tony off of him, Tony is praying that Pepper has managed to find the bypass. 

Obadiah finally manages to get a grip of Tony’s helmet, throwing the younger man off of his back. Tony goes flying across the roof, his helmet being yanked off of him. 

“I never had a taste for this sort of thing, but I must admit, I’m deeply enjoying the suit.” Obadiah taunts, leering as he steps closer to where Tony is crumpled on the roof. He closes his fist around Tony’s helmet, crushing the thing and discarding it off of the roof. 

“You finally outdid yourself Tony. You made your father proud. I’ll make sure Peter makes him proud, too.” 

“Tony, it’s ready!” Peppers voice floods through. “You need to get off of the roof!” 

He cannot respond though, because Stane is firing at him and the glass underneath him shatters. He quickly manages to grasp onto the support struts. Looking down, he sees that Pepper is right underneath him, shielding herself from the glass. 

Obadiah attempts to launch a missile at him. The aiming is way off, and he soon realizes that Tony had ripped out his targeting system. Nonetheless, the man maneuvers his body to each time, the missiles are getting closer and closer to Tony. 

“Pepper,” Tony shouts. “You need to do it now!” 

“I can’t, Tony!” Pepper responds, staring up at him. “You’ll die!” 

“You need to push it!” 

“Tony!” She screams, trying desperately to reason with him. “There has to be another way!” 

“Push it!” 

“And kill Peter?” 

Tony looks up. Obadiah has now ceased his firing of the missiles, and is instead looking straight on at Tony, smirking. 


Tony’s gaze flies around the roof, but he can’t see Peter. He knows that voice though. That’s his kid. 

“Dad?” There. Behind one of the pillars. 

“You blow up this roof, Tony, you’ll kill him,” Obadiah states. “You think I wouldn’t bring every leverage I have? Come on out now, Peter, don’t be scared.” 

Tony can’t think straight. He thinks he sees movement from behind the wall, he sees Peter begin to slowly walk out from his hiding place. Would Obadiah do this? Would he risk the life of a four year old just to get what he wants? 

He thinks about the car. The man was willing to kill all of those children just to kill Tony. Collateral damage. 

“Pepper,” Tony says, looking down and seeing Pepper with her hand over the button, just about to push it. “Pepper, don’t push”- 

She pushes the button. 

The roof is erupted in blue light, as the power begins to fill. The first blast knocks Tony’s grip off off of the support strut, and he goes tumbling down into the control room. 


He watches blearily as the reactor’s energy shoots into the sky, distantly he hears screaming. 


The light around him begins to fade, or maybe it’s his vision. He hears someone call his name, distantly, but he doesn’t care. He closes his eyes, allowing the subconsciousness to fill him, hoping that maybe he’ll just never wake up. 

He started the night by losing his son. By having the boy ripped from his limp arms while the child screamed to not be taken. 

His night ended much the same. Instead, this time, it’s much worse. He still heard his screams, watched helplessly as he was taken away, but this time Tony can hold onto no kind of hope.

He killed his son. 

Chapter Text

The paralysis is back. 

He doesn’t remember adding a delayed affect into the gadget, but it must have had that underlying feature, because Tony has found himself completely unable to move. 

Peter is gone. 

Gone, gone gone. 

Tony lays there, watching as the lights flicker above him, desperate to remain on, while the roof above him collapses. He hope it collapses on him. 

Distantly, he questions if Obadiah made it out. God, he better not have. Not when he dragged Peter into this. Sweet, innocent little Peter who had no business being anywhere near Tony’s problems.

Tony wonders what would have happened if he had just stayed away from all of this. If he hadn’t used his suits, hadn’t made them. If he had died in the cave. 

Peter would still be alive if Tony had just died in Afghanistan. He would be living at the hands of Obadiah Stane, being a pawn in whatever game the man decided to play that day. But he would be alive. 

Tony has heard, before, how sorrowful it can be when your child dies. How parents find it hard to go on after that, after losing such a big piece of themselves. He never understood how truthful those saying can be. 

He feels as if someone had shot him directly through the chest. Whatever pain he had experienced while Yinsen cut through his chest is a paper cut to the hurt he feels when he thinks about his son. 

It’s all his fault. 

He got close to Peter. He knew this would happen, the consequences of getting close to Peter. Stane had Peter on the roof because he knew Tony would step down if the boy was there. He knew Tony’s weakness, and Peter got hurt because of it. 


Damn Yinsen. It was all his fault, in the end. He forced Tony to start being a part of Peter’s life, and now Peter is dead. Stark’s were never made to be fathers.

Tony, can you hear me?” 

A blurry figure is pushed in front of him, directly in his line of vision. He blinks a few times, watching as the blurry figure morphs into Pepper’s face. 


Tony whimpers slightly and looks away from the woman.

“Tony, we need to get out of here, the roof is collapsing,” Pepper says desperately, hand spreading over the arc reactor, which is flickering, but refuses to die. 

“Go,” he whispers. 

“No,” Pepper says. “You’re going to get up and come with me. Can you move?” 

“No,” Tony replies faintly. “Leave me.” 

“Tony, the building is collapsing, please,” Pepper says. 

Tony looks above them, where what is left of the roof is close to caving in, right where Tony is laying. He would likely welcome the weight if he were alone, though from the looks of it, Pepper is not leaving without him. He can’t have Pepper dying because of him, too. 

Slowly, Tony takes Pepper’s hand and allows the woman to drag him away from the wreckage. Just as they get onto the lawn away from the building, the last of the roof decides to collapse. 

“Oh my god,” Pepper says. “Tony, are you hurt?” 

Tony shakes his head slightly, frozen in place. 

Pepper’s phone suddenly begins to ring, and without taking her eyes off of Tony, she picks it up. 

“Rhodey?” She asks into the speaker. “No, he’s right here with me, I’m fine, I don’t know about him. I think he’s in shock. We need to get him to a hospital.” 

“No,” Tony mumbles. 

“This isn’t up for discussion this time, Tony, look at you! You need to get checked out! You…,” she trails off, listening to whatever Rhodey is saying to her from the other end of the phone. 

Tony fades out of the conversation. He stares into the wreckage of what was Stark Industries, where he left his son to die. Where… oh god, Peter is still in the wreckage. Tony needs to find him. 

He takes a few steps forward before Pepper’s hand closes around his arm. 

“Tony, what are you dong? We need to go.” 

“I need to find him.” 

“Obadiah’s gone, Tony, nobody could have survived that explosion.”

It is as if all of the air in Tony’s body has ceased to exist. He can’t breathe. Nobody could have survived that explosion. 

“We killed him,” Tony says. 

Pepper’s eyes widen. “Tony, he was going to kill you,” she says. “You did what you had to do, for the good of everyone.” 

“Peter,” Tony mumbles. 

“Peter’s with Rhodey, Tony,” Pepper says. 

Tony pauses. “No he isn’t.” 

“Yes, he is,” Pepper responds, placing a hand on Tony’s cheek in order to get his attention.

“Rhodey went looking for him as you asked, he went to Obadiah’s apartment,”- 

“Peter is dead.”

“What?” Pepper replies, jerking back from him. “No, he isn’t. He’s with Rhodey, he’s safe.”

“He was on the roof,” Tony whispers incredulously. “He brought Peter there. He was there when the roof blew.” 

“No,” Pepper says. “I don’t know what you saw, but it wasn’t Peter. It wasn’t him, Tony.” 

“My… Peter’s alive?” 

Yes,” Pepper says, wrapping her arms around him. “Oh my god, yes, He’s alive and safe.” 

Tony breathes in long and hard. He doesn’t want to believe it. He isn’t sure what that was on the roof. A hallucination? It couldn’t be, not when Obadiah was interacting with Peter as well. A projection, maybe? 

“We need to go, Tony,” Pepper says. “You need to get checked out, you could be hurt and not know it.” 

“I need to see Peter.” 

“Okay,” Pepper says, knowing not to argue this fact, especially when Tony is still fifty percent sure Peter is dead. 

She takes his arm and pulls him towards a car that Tony does not recognize. 

“Mr. Stark,” a man says upon Tony’s entrance into the vehicle. He recognizes the man as the agent who had confronted him at the gala. He can’t think of a name to save his life. “We need to debrief you.” 

“What you need is to take me to my son, or I’m going to freak out.” 

He isn’t sure what he had done that made the man agree, beckoning his driver to start the car, but Tony assumes he must look like a giant mess right about now. 

There is silence in the car as they drive towards Obadiah’s apartment, apart from the slight movement of Tony’s restless feet as they bounce up and down. Pepper places her hands in one of his at one point during the drive, though Tony barely acknowledges it. 

“We have arrived, Sir.”

The car has not even stopped the whole way by the time Tony rips the door open and flings himself out of the car. He runs to the front of the building, where the doorman seems recognize him. The man tips his hat in greeting before allowing Tony entrance to the building. 

The ride up to the penthouse apartment Obadiah resides is the longest of Tony’s life. He needs confirmation that his son is alive, that he had been tricked, that Peter wasn’t on the rooftop when it blew, that there is still life in his small little body. 

When the doors finally open, Tony is greeted with a small whimper. He gasps, staring down at the scene before him. 

Rhodey sitting on the floor, legs splayed in front of him, and a small body is curled up in his lap. 


Tony rushes over, desperate to see his child, what Stane had done to him, but right as he sinks onto the floor, knees banging hard against the hardwood, Peter begins to flail wildly. 

“No!” The boy yells, curling even further into Rhodey’s chest. “N-no!” 

“Peter,” Tony cries out, feeling tears escaping his eyes. “Peter, it’s… it’s okay, you’re safe.” 

Peter doesn’t respond, hiding his face. 

Rhodey looks up at Tony from his spot on the floor and shrugs slightly. He places his hand on Peter’s back, stroking it gently. “Pete,” the man says. “It’s your dad. Him and Pepper came to get you.” 

At the mention of Pepper, Peter’s head lifts from its spot where it had been buried. He glances up, pointedly ignoring Tony, and looks behind him where the man knows Pepper is standing. All at once, the boy begins to struggle out of Rhodey’s hold, and once the older man releases him, he runs and throws himself at Pepper. 

Pepper catches him, falling to the floor herself to hold Peter close to her, her hand resting gently on his head as he rests it on her shoulder. 

“Oh, honey,” Pepper whispers. “You’re okay. It’s okay, you’re safe.” 

“D-don’t make me go back to him, Mommy, please don’t,” Peter whimpers. 

The three adults residing in the room freeze when Peter refers to Pepper as his mother, leaving Pepper speechless for a few moments before she can contain herself. She eventually responds, tears gathering in her eyes. 

“Peter,” Pepper soothes. “Baby, Obadiah isn’t going to come back, I promise.” 

Peter sniffs. “No!” He replies. He takes her head off of her shoulder, and whatever she sees makes her eyes widen significantly, but before she can do anything else Peter leans in and whispers “Daddy.” 

Tony’s heart has broken several times in the past twenty four hours, and it has once again the second Peter uttered those words. He knew that Peter was afraid of him, and he tried so desperately to help the kid overcome those fears and realize Tony meant no harm. He fears that there is no coming back from this event. That Peter will forever know of Tony as the man who allowed him to be ripped away from him. 

“Peter, honey,” Pepper says, tears finally spilling out of her eyes. “Your dad didn’t want any of this to happen to you.”

“H-he let Obie take me away! He hurted me!” Peter replies. 

“Your dad didn’t want him to take you, baby,” Pepper said. “It broke his heart when he watched you leave.”

“But…,” Peter trails off, and in his silence places his hand on Pepper’s face to wipe the stream of tears away. “He just looked and let him take me. He looked, and… and I goed on his lap and he d-didn’t hold me. He wanted to get rid of me! He hates me!” 

The numbness that Tony felt after the explosion, the feeling that had been slowly been replaced with hope at hearing that his son was alive, has returned. There is nothing that he feels within him that isn’t completely, utterly unfeeling.

“He was hurt,” Pepper said. “He couldn’t hold you.” 

“Why?” Peter asks. 

“Ask him yourself, sweetheart,” Pepper says.

“N-no,” Peter says, burying his head in her shoulder once again. 

“Honey,” Pepper says. “I’m sure your dad is feeling very sad right now, hearing you say these things about him.” Peter whispers something in her ear, something much too quiet for Tony to pick up. “Ask him yourself.” 

Pepper goes silent, then, and Tony watches as Peter slowly, oh so slowly, lifts his head off of Pepper’s shoulder once more and turns to face his father. 

Tony suddenly wishes that Peter had not turned around. 

His face is littered in bruises, the skin around his eyes swollen from both crying and what looks to be the result of a few hard hits. 

Tony’s breath leaves his body. “Pete,” he sighs, getting up and slowly walking up to the boy.

Peter makes a small step back so that he can clutch onto Pepper’s skirt. Even so, he allows Tony to step closer until he is crouching beside the boy. He places his hand, ever so gently, on Peter’s face, careful to avoid the bruising. Peter, thankfully, does not flinch, so Tony leaves it there. 

Tony suddenly wishes that Obadiah Stane were alive. Alive so that Tony could kill him in the slowest, most painful way possible. 

“Baby,” Tony says again when Peter does not respond. 

“S’it true?” Peter whispers. “T-that you were hurt?” 

“Yeah,” Tony nods. “It’s true, Peter, I swear. You remember the thing he put on my neck?” 

Peter nods. “You jumped. Was it cold?” 

“No, it wasn’t cold,” Tony explains. “But it paralyzed me, for a short time.” 

“Oh,” Peter says. “Like you c-couldn’t move?”

“Exactly like that,” Tony says. “I wanted to hold you, Pete, to make sure he wouldn’t take you, but I couldn’t.” 

“Oh,” Peter repeats. “Obie said you told him to take me, ‘cause you got tired of me like the nannies said.” 

“Never,” Tony says. “I will never get tired of you, and I will always want you with me.” 

“O-okay.” He doesn’t sound too sure, but Tony is willing to take small steps. 

“Nothing Obadiah has ever said to you is true, Peter,” Tony says, placing his hand on Peter’s chin to lift his head so the two were making eye contact. “Nothing. Everything he said while I was in Afghanistan, or before that.” 

“So…,” Peter says quietly. “So I don’t have to build weapons?” 

“No,” Tony whispers. “You don’t have to build anything. You can be an artist, if you’d like.” 

“I… I like to build, Daddy.”

“Me too,” Tony says, smiling sadly. “Let’s just build things that help people, instead of hurt them, yeah?” 

Peter nods. “Okay.” 

“I love you,” he says suddenly. Peter startles there, eyes growing wide as he stares into Tony’s face. 

“Y-you do?” He asks quietly, as if saying it any louder would make it untrue. 

“I do,” Tony confirms. “More than anything in the world.” 

“R-really?” Peter says, tears growing in his eyes. “‘Cause it’s n-not nice to lie, a-and Obie said that,”- 

“Hey,” Tony says gently. “What did I say about nothing him saying being true. I love you. You are my son and I love you more than I could ever love anything else.” 

“Even Pepper?” Peter asks. 

Tony glances up at that, at the woman standing just behind them. She is smiling down at the scene, though tears still flood her face, and yet there is nothing that he finds more beautiful than that. 

“Pepper has a special place in my heart,” Tony confirms. “But you have all of it.” 

“All-all of it?” Peter asks. 

“Every bit,” Tony confirms. “I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to say that. I never wanted you to not know.” 

“I love you, too, Daddy,” Peter says. 

Tony knows that he doesn’t deserve Peter’s love. That he could spend a thousand lifetimes trying to make up for the way he had treated that boy, and still not deserve his love. Yet, Peter gives it to him, heart open and full of kindness. It is times like these that Tony thinks that the DNA test had been lying. That there is not a way in hell that a person like him could make a person like Peter. 

He curls his hand into Peter’s hair, planting a soft kiss to the top of the boy’s head. 

“Rhodey,” he says softly. “Does he need a hospital?” He had given Rhodey a pair of his sunglasses that are directly linked to JARVIS. He knows that the man must have used them to scan Peter the second he had seen the bruises that littered his body. 

“No ‘ospital,” Peter says sleepily, curling into Tony’s lap. Tony wonders then what time it was, and how long the boy has been awake. Tony ignores the boy’s request, and looks towards his friend. 

“Scan’s came out clean,” Rhodey replies. “Superficial bruising. Nothing a hospital can do that we couldn’t at the mansion.” 

“Right,” Tony nods, thankful. The only thing he wants to do is go back to the mansion, where he can ensure Peter will be safe. 

Can Peter be safe there, though? That is where the boy had been snatched away from him, where he had remained helpless as Peter was carried away from him. He shakes his head to clear his thoughts. He can’t be thinking about that right now, not when Peter needs him. 

He looks down to his son, only to find the exhausted boy asleep against his chest. Carefully, and oh so painfully, Tony stands, lifting Peter along with him. 

“Tony,” Pepper says. “You need a hospital.” 

“No,” Tony says. “I’m not taking him out of my sight. I’m fine.” 

Knowing it would be no good to argue with Tony after a night like this, Pepper instead nods and leads them to Rhodey’s car, leaving the SHIELD agents to drive back to wherever it is they came from. 

“Mr Stark,” Agent Coulson says. “We need to debrief you.” 

“Let’s wait on that,” Tony says. 

“There’s also the matter of what we are going to do about Mr. Stane,” Coulson continues. “He is, in a legal manner, the head of Stark Industries.” 

“Tomorrow,” Tony said. “Right now, I am going home.”

That night passes in a blur of bandaids, nose kisses, and a whole lot of insomnia. 

Tony isn’t sure what causes the insomnia. Is it the adrenaline coursing through him from the fight, from the rollercoaster of emotions from learning your son isn’t actually dead? 

Maybe it is simply fear. Fear that Peter would be taken away from him in the night. The first thing Tony did upon his arrival back to the mansion is to change all of JARVIS’ access codes, yet there is still, lurking in the back of his mind, a million questions beginning with what if. 

What if Obadiah survived? 

What if Tony had fallen into a coma from the blast, and Peter is actually dead? 

What if What if What if What if What if What if What if. 

So he stays awake, watching Peter’s chest rise and fall, softly snoring from his blocked nostrils. The boy’s soft hand remains curled around Tony’s arc reactor, protecting his father even in sleep. He needs to fix that, to build another that can withstand the suit, but that is for another day. 

For now, all he does is watch Peter, thinking of the pain the boy must be in. 

The bruises will heal, but will the child’s mind? Can he ever go back to being the naive child he was before? 

Or was Peter ever really naive? Tony is unsure how long Obadiah’s influence has withheld the boy, but he knows it must be at least a year or two. He thinks back to the limited contact he had with Peter before Afghanistan. Almost all of those interactions had Obadiah’s presence, a steady hand guiding Peter to do what he wishes. 

He thinks about how Obadiah had so easily taken what was Tony’s. He thinks about the Stark Industries engineers, how they all must have known, been told what Tony had created. How else was the man able to obtain such a high tech suit in such a short amount of time? 

SHIELD will want to cover this up. Say it was a training exercise, that Obadiah was uninvolved, and then in a few short months announce the man’s retirement. 

How long before the news gets out? With the endless amount of people who know, despite non disclosure agreements, it will always get out in the end. Tony has been in the business far too long to know that secrets are less safe the more people know. 

He weighs the pros and cons of coming clean to the world. About what the world has, from what Tony has gathered, deemed Iron Man. If he keeps quiet, stays out of trouble, than Peter can remain safe, another child of another deviant celebrity. If he comes clean, than Peter is suddenly the child of a… a superhero. All eyes will be on him. Isn’t that what Tony wanted in the first place? 

However, if he keeps quiet, another Obadiah can easily creep out of the shadows. Blackmail, threats, it’s all things Tony is used to. He remembers the kidnapping threats that his own father received, the nonchalant dismissal the man always gave to them. Tony doesn’t think he can handle another scare like that, not again. If he comes clean, tells the world, he both places a target on himself and Peter, but he also shifts on the world’s radar as defenceless weapons dealer to dangerous. Nobody will want to try anything, and nobody will have anything to hold as leverage against him. 

He stares down at Peter’s face, wishing desperately to know what the boys future will look like in either scenario. Is a more public appearance worth more protection? He sighs, closing his eyes and resting it on the wall behind him, and tries to sleep. 

They give him a speech with a list of excuses. 

He throws the cards down and tells the world that he is Iron Man. 

His world will never be the same. 

That’s fine, Tony thinks. As long as Peter is safe.