When Pepper entered Tony’s flat, he was awake, as usual. But, unlike usual, he was not working on some new gadget. Instead, he was sitting on a blanket with a small baby who was clinging to a teddy bear with one arm and sucking on the fingers of his other hand, and offering him blocks.
“Okay, Peter, where does this one go?” Tony asked in a patient voice.
The baby stared at the cylindrical block, opening his mouth slowly. He took his fingers from his mouth and took the block in his hand, staring at it and then at the small table with holes of different shapes.
“What do you think?” Tony asked, as if this were a puzzling question.
Peter tried forcing the block in the triangular hole, and made an annoyed squalling noise when it didn’t work.
“Be patient, Peter,” Tony urged him gently. “Where else might it go?”
Peter tried the circular hole this time. He squealed excitedly when the block went into the hole easily.
“You’re so smart, Peter!” Tony beamed. “Good job!” He lifted the baby into his arms, gently tossing him in the air while he giggled madly.
“Hmm?” Tony paused, hugging the baby close as he looked up at Pepper. “Oh. Hi.”
“Who’s this?” Pepper asked, looking at the baby. The baby was watching her too, but quickly lost interest and turned to smack at Tony’s face, demanding his attention.
“Yes, I know,” Tony said in a patient voice. “This is Peter,” he added to Pepper, kissing Peter’s cheek, making him squeal.
“I don’t know if he likes your mustache,” Pepper told him.
“What? Lies.” Tony blew a raspberry on Peter’s other cheek. The boy squealed again, then giggled madly. “See? He likes it. It just tickles him.”
“So, you finally got a baby.”
“Sure did!” Tony beamed with pride. “Isn’t he perfect? Little Peter Parker Stark.”
“Shouldn’t he be sleeping?”
“He was sleeping,” Tony replied defensively. “He just woke up and wouldn’t go back to bed.” He set Peter back on the blanket so he could play with his toys.
Pepper shook her head, sighing. “You really are a bad influence. Your kid is going to have a terrible sleep schedule.”
Tony bent down and covered Peter’s ears, looking indignant. “Don’t listen to that mean Pepper, Peter.”
“Does Happy know about this?” Pepper asked, ignoring Tony’s words to Peter.
“Did you know about this?” Tony asked.
“Then he probably did, too.”
“Why didn’t you just say you were planning to adopt a baby?” Pepper asked, turning to Tony with curiosity glimmering in her eyes.
“Too many factors.” Tony shrugged. “Something could have gone wrong. I didn’t want to get my hopes up until I actually had a kid.”
“When did you get him?”
Pepper was now watching as Peter snuggled with his teddy bear, cooing softly at it.
“The adoption was finalized yesterday afternoon.” Tony smiled fondly at Peter. “He’s already been so great. I love having him here.”
“You really didn’t need another reason to have a terrible sleep schedule.” Pepper shook her head and turning away. “You never get enough as it is.”
Tony looked at her, immediately flaring up with indignation. “Excuse you. I will not have you speaking in such a tone around my baby.”
Pepper turned on her heel to retort, but froze instead, staring at something behind Tony.
“How old did you say Peter is?”
“About five months. Why?” Tony turned to Peter again. “Peter! Goddammit, kid!”
Peter looked up from where he was, now halfway across the room and trying to pull himself onto the glass table. “Baah?”
“Don’t scare me like that,” Tony said, moving to scoop him up. “God, kid. At least you weren’t on the ceiling again.
“Ceiling?” Pepper demanded sharply. “Again?”
“That wasn’t my fault,” Tony told her, another indignant tone entering his voice. “He climbed out of his crib after I settled him down for the night and somehow got on the fucking ceiling. He was just crawling around up there enjoying life. Kid nearly gave me a heart attack.” Tony eyed Peter with false disapproval. “Looks like he was trying to do it again.” Tony carried Peter to his high chair and settled him in it.
“Stay,” he told the baby firmly, walking to the cupboard. “Hmm… how about peaches for breakfast, kiddo?”
Peter giggled, clapping his hands in approval.
“Peaches it is!” Tony declared in a dramatic voice. Peter beamed at him, still laughing. Pepper had to admit Tony did seem to have a way with the child.
“Here comes the leaf!” Tony said, making the spoon drift down toward Peter like a falling leaf, who giggled.
“What, no Iron Man jokes?” Pepper asked.
Tony turned to her, his expression exasperated. “That, my dear Pepper, would be considered cannibalism, and I am not about to encourage that behavior in my son.”
Pepper snorted as Tony turned back to Peter and offered him the spoonful of peach baby food.
“Mr. Stark!” called a voice.
“Kitchen, Happy,” Tony replied, gently cleaning some peaches off Peter’s cheeks. “Look! The leaf is back!”
“The what?” Happy paused at the entrance to the kitchen holding a mountain of paperwork, looking somewhere between frazzled, confused, and concerned.
“He’s talking to his new baby, Happy. Don’t worry.” Pepper told him.
“Ah, baby, right, right,” Happy said absently, beginning to thumb through the various papers he was carrying before looking up. What Pepper had said had just registered with his brain. “Baby?”
“There’s another leaf! It must be fall!” Tony said in a sing song voice, offering Peter a third spoonful of baby food. Peter opened his mouth wide, staring into Tony’s eyes with rapt attention.
“That’s a baby,” Happy said, staring at Peter.
“You’re right,” Pepper agreed. “That is a baby.”
“But- when did-”
“Yesterday afternoon,” Tony said in a gentle coo. “Does Peter want some more?”
Peter squealed in affirmation.
“What a big boy! Someone is going to grow into a big strong spider, yes he is.”
“He’s going to what?” Pepper and Happy said together sharply.
“He crawls on ceilings and walls, JARVIS says it’s because of the radioactive spider. Ergo, spider baby.”
“Back up for a minute. Radioactive spider?” Pepper demanded.
“Crawling on ceilings and walls?” Happy asked weakly, staring at Peter. It was an expression that clearly said Happy did not, under any circumstances, want to be asked to watch Peter for any period of time, extended or no.
“That’s right,” Tony cooed, nuzzling Peter’s nose with his own before offering him another spoonful of baby food. “He’s my sweet little super baby, aren’t you? Aren’t you, my precious little angel?”
“Nya,” Peter replied, opening his mouth so Tony could give him his next spoonful of baby food.
Tony beamed. “I love this baby.”
“Tony!” Pepper said, snapping her fingers in front of Tony’s face. “Tony. Back up. Radioactive spider?”
Tony looked up. “Yes.”
“Care to elaborate?”
“No.” Tony turned back to the jar of baby food.
“No?” Pepper repeated in disbelief.
“It’s confidential information about Peter and I’m not sharing it. No.”
Pepper and Happy glanced at each other, eyebrows raised.
“The important thing is my baby boy is a sweet, lovely little angel who just so happens to have amazing powers. My sweetheart.”
Peter reached out and patted at Tony’s face with his small hand. Tony’s expression went from soft to completely melted. “Neee.” Peter said, before giggling.
“I know,” Tony said, nodding with understanding.
Happy looked to Pepper with a miserable expression on his face. She just shook her head and held her hands out. “Here, Happy. Let me see those papers.”
Tony kept a close eye on Peter, watching as he walked across the floor by himself. Tony’s arms were held out to catch his son in case he fell, but the boy was doing a very good job by himself.
“Come here, Peter,” Tony said encouragingly. “Come on, come to Daddy.”
“Ah!” Peter reached for Tony, padding closer to him, and finally collapsing into Tony’s arms as he reached him. Peter made a little huffing noise, as if he had knocked the breath out of his tiny lungs with the fall into Tony’s chest.
“So smart,” Tony praised him, hugging him close and offering him the teddy bear he was now reaching for. “What a smart, smart boy you are, Peter.”
Tony lifted Peter into his arms, moving to carry him towards his lab. He pulled up a hologram report, which momentarily distracted Peter from his teddy. He stared at the hologram, completely engrossed.
“Yes,” Tony said, as if Peter could really read the report, “it’s all about you.”
He flicked through a few things, finally looking down at Peter. “I wonder. Did you crawl on walls first or walk first? You seem oddly balanced for someone your age. That’s probably a byproduct of your powers. I just wish I knew more.” Tony sighed. “I really hope I don’t do something wrong.”
Tony looked down at Peter. He’d lost interest in his hologram report and was giggling as he moved his teddy bear’s arms around, almost like it was a puppet. “I wouldn’t trade you for anything, Peter, but I don’t know how I’m going to do this. What if you have more powers than crawling on ceilings and walls and amazing balance? What if you have some insane weakness I don’t know about and I hurt you?”
Voicing the fear out loud seemed to make it more real. Tony hugged Peter tightly close. “I just want to protect you,” he whispered into Peter’s mop of thick, wavy brown hair. “I don’t want you hurt because of me.”
Peter squalled in annoyance; it was hard to play with your teddy bear when your dad wanted to cuddle.
Tony smiled, setting the child into a playpen. “You behave,” he said. He’d dug out the playpen cover he’d gotten; originally he’d thought it would serve to give Peter shade if Tony set up the playpen outside for some reason, but now it served a more important purpose: keeping Peter in the playpen where it was safe.
He turned back to his holograms once the cover was securely over the playpen. “JARVIS,” he began.
“Keep an eye on the young Peter?” The AI asked.
Tony smiled to himself. “Right. Keep an eye on the young Peter.”
“I hope that blasted crib cover gets here soon,” Tony yawned, rocking Peter, who yawned too, but kept tapping at the arc reactor anyway. Every time Tony thought he might be about to drift off, he tapped at it again.
Oh well. Not like he would be able to sleep anyway. Not until he could be sure Peter couldn’t get out at night and hurt himself. He had to be sure.
So, for now, sleep was off the table.
Ah, well, it wasn’t like he hadn’t had sleepless nights like this before. Granted, they weren’t always by choice, but fear was an excellent motivator to keep one awake, and the thought of Peter falling off the ceiling and getting hurt before Tony could save him was enough to make him feel like he was on the urge of vomiting.
He could just have Peter sleep in the playpen for a few nights, but that did not sound acceptable to Tony in any capacity. He had standards for his son, goddammit.
Peter yawned and snuggled closer to Tony, his little hand slipping away from the arc reactor. Tony smiled. “That’s my boy,” he murmured, rubbing Peter’s back. “That’s my boy.”
The arrival of the new baby supplies was, quite frankly, a relief to Tony. He was ready for a nice nap.
He was just fixing the crib cover over the crib, where Peter was dozing, when there was a loud knock on the door.
Peter woke up and promptly began to cry. Tony didn’t blame him; the part of him screaming for sleep wanted to lay down on the ground next to his crib and join him in his sobbing.
Unfortunately, Tony was an ‘adult’, and therefore, had ‘responsibilities’. What a load of bullshit.
“I never get any respect,” Tony grumbled, freeing Peter from the crib and carrying him to the door. “It’s always something. As soon as I get some me time, someone has to come along and ruin it. Take notes,” he added, looking down at Peter, “only you get to interrupt me when I want to sleep without a rant like this. I might kill whoever is behind that door if they kept me up for a stupid enough reason.”
Tony reached the door and opened it.
Nick Fury stood on the other side.
“Oh, not you,” Tony said, his voice coming out in an almost pathetic whine. “Can’t this wait?”
Fury ignored him, entering the room and turning to Tony with a dramatic sweeping motion of his long coat. “Tony Stark. I’ve come to recruit you for a mission.”
“I just want to sleep, Fury. Postpone the mission. Tell the bad guy I’ll be ready to fight him on Saturday.”
Fury’s expression didn’t change. “This is serious, Stark.”
Pepper appeared in the doorway then.
“Excuse me!” Tony protested. “This was our nap time!” He pointed to Peter, who was glowering around the room from his place in Tony’s arms.
“Nick!” Pepper greeted the man, smiling. “How are things? Happy told me you were here, and I suspected this one wouldn’t cooperate.”
She jerked her thumb at Tony.
“Hey!” Tony protested. “His name is Agent, not Nick.”
Pepper gave him a withering look. “This again? You seem to know a lot of Agents, Tony.”
“And it’s a stupid name,” Tony said, in a tone like he was agreeing with Pepper.
“This,” said Fury, ignoring Tony’s protests, “is about the Avengers Initiative.”
“So not me,” Tony said loudly. “Remember, I don’t play nice with others. I’m volatile. I only care about my own self interest. Glad we got that squared away. Bye bye.” He gestured for Fury and Pepper to leave through the door. “Wave bye bye, Peter.”
“This about more than personality profiles,” Fury growled. “This is about something much, much bigger.” He offered Tony a large, oversized computer.
“I’m holding a baby,” Tony said indignantly.
“I can take him,” Pepper offered.
“You will not, he’s mine and he’s staying here.” Tony hugged Peter tighter. “Besides, I don’t have a babysitter capable of handling him.”
Pepper glared at him.
“I’m sorry, did you learn to fly recently and not tell me?” Tony asked. “Can you get him off the ceiling?”
Pepper’s glare vanished, replaced by a look of reluctant agreement.
“I thought so.”
Fury was watching him intently.
“This mission is important to the survival of the planet.” He paused, turning his gaze to Peter for the first time. “That includes your son.”
Tony glanced down at Peter.
“....I still need a babysitter.”
“I can handle that,” Fury said, “if you agree to this.” He tapped the computer.
Tony looked at him suspiciously. “Trial period,” he said at last. “I look this over while you watch him.” He pointed to Peter. “If you screw up I don’t join.”
“Fair,” Fury agreed, holding his hands out for Peter. Tony reluctantly handed him over, taking the computer instead and carrying it to his desk while Pepper smirked at his back.
Only a couple of hours later, Tony had finished his homework, with some extra additions to make sure he understood exactly what the stakes were.
Fury was sitting on the floor with Peter, holding out blocks to him so he could stack them haphazardly. As Tony reached them the structure collapsed and Peter burst into a fit of delighted giggles.
“So?” Fury asked, looking up.
Tony glanced down at Peter, still unsure. “He climbs on walls. And ceilings.”
“I can handle walls and ceilings.”
Tony narrowed his eyes.
“I’ll make you a deal. No high ceilinged rooms.”
Tony nodded slowly.
“...Fine,” he agreed at last. “I’m in.”
“Better go pack,” Fury told him.
Tony picked Peter up in his arms and hugged him close. “Come on, kiddo,” he said, trying not to let on how absolutely sick with worry he felt. “Let’s go get your teddy bear.”