“How’s it coming, JARVIS?”
“Almost in, sir.”
There was a pause as Tony shot through the inky blackness of the night sky, then he heard a woman’s voice over the speakers in his helmet.
“This guy’s all over the place.”
As Tony neared his target, he grinned to himself. “Agent Romanov.”
His music choice- Shoot to Thrill by AC/DC- flooded the speakers.
“Did you miss me?”
He saw Loki and Captain America look up at him, and he took a shot at the Asgardian, hitting him squarely in the chest and knocking him back a few feet. Tony landed hard, but impressively, and quickly pointed every gun the suit had at Loki.
“Make your move, Reindeer Games,” he growled coldly.
Slowly, Loki’s armor faded away and he held his hands up in surrender.
“Good move,” Tony praised him, putting his weapons away.
“Mr. Stark,” said Captain America in a formal voice.
Tony took a moment to be sure his voice was as cool as possible. “Captain.”
Once Loki had been safely bundled into the Quinjet, Tony took a moment to check the baby monitor in his room on the helicarrier. He could hear Peter’s soft breaths as he slept, and when he pulled up a video, saw that Fury had placed the crib cover over Peter’s crib, and he appeared to be sleeping soundly.
Relieved that his son was safe, and for now the threat to his life didn’t seem able to do much damage, Tony removed the helmet.
He glanced over at Rogers, inspecting him. How strange that his father’s true pride and joy was standing before him. Rogers wasn’t even Howard’s blood, and he’d still been his favorite son. Tony shook his head slightly at the thought.
One thing was for certain: none of his experiments would ever take Peter’s place. Nothing would, but especially not some serum-made superpatriot.
Thunder rumbled across the sky.
Nick Fury’s voice crackled across the Quinjet’s speakers. “Said anything?”
“Not a word,” Romanov told him.
“Just get him here. We’re running low on time.”
Fury’s crackling voice disappeared.
“I don’t like it,” Steve announced.
“What?” Tony asked. “Rock of Ages giving up so easily?” He shot Loki a disdainful look. If it wasn’t for that pretty boy Asgardian, he could be at home now, catching up on his sleep or playing with Peter.
“I don’t remember it ever being that easy. This guy packs a wallop.”
Tony resisted the urge to tease the word choice. “Still, you are pretty spry for an older fellow,” he told Steve in a falsely friendly voice. “What’s your thing? Pilates?”
“What?” Steve asked, looking lost.
Tony resisted the urge to roll his eyes with difficulty. “It’s like calisthenics. You might have missed a few things, you know, doing time as a Capsicle.” Tony smirked, trying to hide his amusement. If Rogers was to be Howard’s favored son, so be it. Tony could accept that. Now he was here, though, and Tony had hoped to never have to look him in the eyes in person. He’d hated Rogers since he’d been a child. If he had to associate with him, he didn’t have to be nice.
Rogers looked at Tony, his expression cold. “Fury didn’t tell me he was calling you in.”
“Yeah, there’s a lot of things Fury doesn’t tell you,” Tony replied.
A flash of lightning lit up the sky around them and thunder roared. The Quinjet shook.
Loki looked around, a slightly panicked expression on his face.
“What’s the matter?” asked Rogers. “Scared of a little lightning?”
“I’m not overly fond of what follows,” Loki replied. Tony could hear a hint of nerves in his voice.
Something landed on the Quinjet, and it shook again. Tony glanced to the ceiling, then seized his helmet and replaced it over his face.
The video of Peter sleeping in his crib was still playing. The baby whimpered in his sleep.
Reluctantly, Tony dismissed the video and approached the Quinjet ramp button. He needed to see what was on the craft.
Something landed on the ramp as Tony approached it; a man, with long blond hair, a red cape, and a hammer in his hand. Tony raised a hand, intending to blast the man away, but he swung the hammer into Tony’s chest and knocked him back across the Quinjet. In the suit, Tony gasped as the wind was knocked out of him.
The blond seized Loki by his neck, steering him to the edge of the ramp, and held the hammer out. The two shot off into the cloudy night.
Tony got to his feet, approaching the ramp again. “Now there’s that guy.”
“Another Asgardian?” Natasha asked from where she sat piloting the aircraft.
“Think the guy’s a friendly?” Rogers asked Tony.
“Doesn’t matter,” Tony replied. He recognized Thor from his homework, but this decision put Peter at risk, so Tony didn’t care if Thor thought himself a protector of “Midgard”, as he called it. “If he frees Loki or kills him, the Tesseract’s lost.” And if the Tesseract was lost, Earth- and more importantly, Peter- was in danger. Tony prepared to leap off the ramp and follow Thor and Loki into the darkness.
“Stark! We need a plan of attack!” Rogers roared at him.
“I have a plan,” Tony snapped back. “Attack.”
He activated his boosters and disappeared into the cloud cover.
“JARVIS, how’s Peter?”
“The young Peter is having a restless evening. Mr. Fury has checked on him three times since putting him down for the night.”
Tony couldn’t help the rush of anger. If Thor hadn’t taken Loki, he’d be closer to getting back to his son.
He also couldn’t help the feeling of surprise that flooded him as he searched the black night for the Asgardians. He hadn’t had Peter for very long, but he was already extremely protective of the small child. He wanted to hold his son in his arms and know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Peter was safe, and he wanted to to be close by, ready to protect him from any possible threat.
Granted, Loki was the biggest threat to Peter’s safety, but he still wished he was with Peter instead of scanning the treeline for the God of Mischief.
“Sir, I have located the Asgardians,” JARVIS’s voice announced as they reached a rocky outcropping on a mountainside.
“I see them,” Tony growled back, launching himself with full force at Thor, knocking him off the side of the rocky mountain ledge he stood on.
Tony landed neatly, but Thor skidded a few extra feet. He stood, glaring at Tony. His expression was dark. Tony allowed his helmet to open so Thor could see his face.
“Do not touch me again!” Thor growled.
“Then don’t take my stuff,” Tony snapped back.
“You have no idea what you’re dealing with.”
Thor’s tone was serious, but Tony couldn’t resist the temptation to make fun of him.
“Shakespeare in the park?” he asked innocently, looking around, before holding his arms out theatrically and taking a step forward, gesturing to Thor’s ensemble. “Doth Mother know you weareth her drapes?”
“This is beyond you, metal man,” Thor snarled. “Loki will face Asgardian justice.”
“He gives up the Cube, he’s all yours,” Tony replied contemptuously. He really wished he would; Tony had no desire to deal with Loki any more than was absolutely necessary. “Until then, stay out of the way.” He turned to walk away. “Tourist.”
He heard Thor shout and turned, but too late- the hammer slammed into his chest and Tony was thrown back, knocking down trees as the force of the hammer propelled him backwards.
He landed hard, and sat up, glaring at Thor. “Okay.”
Thor raised his hand and the hammer flew back to him. He began to swing it, preparing to speed off somewhere. Tony got to his knees, then shot a blast from a hand booster at Thor, knocking the lightning god back into a tree trunk. Tony propelled himself forward and kicked Thor, smashing him through the trunk. The hammer had been knocked aside, but Thor merely reached out to it and it flew to his hand. He raised the thing to the skies, and immediately the clouds lit up with electricity, which shot down to the hammer in the god’s hand.
Thor pointed the hammer at Tony, blasting the lightning bolts at him. Tony had to work to keep his footing at the force of the blast, and blinked at the sudden extreme brightness in the suit.
“Power at four hundred percent capacity,” JARVIS’s voice announced.
That could be useful.
“How about that?” Tony said to himself, before shooting two blasts at the thunder god with his hand boosters.
That seemed to be the last straw for both of them. They threw themselves at each other and flew off into the night. They smashed into a mountain and then right back down into the forest below, felling trees left, right and center. Any unlucky enough to be in either of their paths was quickly knocked down. Tony moved to punch Thor, and the god seized and began to try and crush each of Tony’s hand boosters as he threw them at him. A bit alarmed, Tony quickly charged a blast of energy and shot it at his opponent, making Thor recoil. While he was distracted, Tony quickly headbutted him. This was not his best move.
Thor stared at Tony in shock before headbutting him back, sending him flying. Tony did an awkward somersault on the ground before landing in a crouching position, ready to launch himself at Thor again.
Vaguely, he registered the first whimpering cries that signaled Peter was waking up from his previously deep sleep. Somehow, that just made Tony angrier. Fury would have to comfort his son while he was busy leveling a forest with some arrogant Asgardian for stealing his prisoner.
He launched himself at Thor and seized him by the shoulders, throwing him hard into a sizable felled tree trunk. The god of thunder retaliated by running to Tony, ducking his punch, and hitting him squarely in the back a few times. He grabbed Tony by the shoulders, swinging him into the air above his head, and slamming him down hard on the earth.
For a moment Tony was both winded and dazed. Then he saw Thor reach out. He knew what that meant. As the god tried to swing his hammer down on Tony’s chest, he propelled himself away, leaving Thor to beat dirt rather than metal. The god slipped and fell, and Tony turned gracefully in the air to aim another punch at Thor’s head.
“Hey!” A voice yelled.
An all too familiar shield sliced through the air, ricocheting off Thor and then Tony.
They looked up. Rogers stood above them on a broken tree.
Tony couldn’t help the anger he felt. This prick really had the audacity to act as if he was in charge? God, Tony hated him.
Rogers leapt down from his perch and landed on the ground, turning to Thor. “Now, I don’t know what you plan on doing here,” he began.
“I’ve come here to put an end to Loki’s schemes!” Thor growled back.
“Then prove it,” Rogers said, and Tony could sense the danger coming. “Put that hammer down.”
“Uh, yeah, no,” Tony said, turning to Rogers. “Bad call. He loves his ha-”
He was cut off as Thor swung the hammer into his chest and he was thrown backward several feet.
Tony grunted as he bounced along the earth.
“You want me to put the hammer down?!” Thor roared. Tony looked up to see him leap into the air. Lightning illuminated the scene, flying to Thor’s weapon. Rogers raised his shield, and Thor’s hammer made contact.
The noise was like a great bell chime, and light blossomed from the point where hammer and shield had connected. Tony was knocked back down, and Thor and Rogers were sent flying.
Once the light had gone, the sound had faded, and the dust had cleared, Tony slowly sat up, shifting and pushing away debris.
He groaned as he got to his feet.
I need a vacation.
Rogers and Thor got to their feet too. The trio eyed each other.
“Are we done here?” Rogers asked, as Thor looked around the clearing and Tony panted for breath.
Being back at Peter’s side was a massive relief for Tony. It was like not realizing he’d been panicking until he no longer was. Now his son (groggy and a bit cranky) was back in his arms, and all was well.
He rocked Peter gently, soothing his son back into sleep. Yes, it had been selfish to pick him up and wake him, but he’d been unable to help himself. He just wanted to hold his son in his arms and know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he was safe.
Peter huffed irritably in Peter’s arms, screwing up his face in an adorable scowl.
“We’re going to have to get going, squirt,” Tony told Peter conversationally.
“Besides, everyone is gonna find out about you eventually.”
Peter made a noise like he was trying to blow a raspberry.
“I’m with you,” Tony said firmly.
“But, unfortunately….I have to be the adult.” He sighed. “Do me a favor and don’t grow up, kiddo. No matter what anyone else tells you, take it from your dad: it’s not worth it.”
He moved to open the door and Peter began to whimper, reaching to the side. He looked over, and caught sight of Peter’s teddy bear sitting on the bedside table.
“Oh, you just want Teddy,” Tony said, looking at the bear. He picked it up and put it on Peter’s chest. He cooed appreciatively and snuggled with the teddy bear in his arms.
As he walked out, he caught sight of Coulson in the hallway.
“Ah, Agent,” he said, nodding to him. “How’s that cellist?”
“She’s doing well,” Coulson said, smiling. “How’s the baby?”
“Annoyed that I woke him up,” Tony replied.
Peter made a grumbling noise, as if to affirm this.
“A cutie,” Coulson said approvingly.
“The cutest,” Tony corrected. “When was the last time you saw the cellist?”
“Not for a while. I haven’t had much time to spend on a trip to Portland.”
“Well, we need to fix that,” Tony said.
“Iridium,” Tony heard Bruce say as they approached the control room. “What did they need the iridium for?”
“It’s a stabilizing agent,” Tony supplied. “Look,” he added to Coulson, gently repositioning Peter in his arms. “I’m just saying, pick a weekend, I’ll fly you to Portland. Keep love alive.”
Coulson nodded and walked off as Tony approached Thor. Tony pretended not to see the others were staring at the baby in his arms.
“Means the portal won’t collapse in on itself. No hard feelings, Point Break,” he added, patting Thor’s upper arm. “You’ve got a mean swing.”
He walked toward Fury’s platform. “Also, it means the portal can open as wide and stay open as long as Loki wants.”
Reaching the platform, he raised a hand out towards the crew, as if he were captain. “Raise the mid-mast! Ship the top sails!”
Peter giggled in his arms.
“That man is playing Galaga!” Tony added, pointing to a crew member. “He thought we wouldn’t notice.” He paused, looking around at Fury’s setup. “...But we did.”
He covered one eye with his free hand, looking around. “How does Fury do this?”
Hill gave him an exasperated look. “He turns.”
Tony looked around at the monitors, slipping a small device out of his pocket with his free hand and sticking it under a monitor, saying, “That sounds exhausting.”
He turned back to the other Avengers, his free hand moving to the teddy bear, making the bear cuddle Peter, who squealed with delight.
“The rest of the raw materials Agent Barton can get his hands on pretty easily. Only major component he still needs is a power source. A high energy density, something to kickstart the Cube.”
“When did you become an expert in thermonuclear astrophysics?”
“Last night,” Tony said, looking around the room, bouncing Peter. “The packet, Selvig’s notes, the Extraction Theory papers- am I the only one who did the reading?”
He looked around to the other Avengers, looking for a raised hand or some indication that he was not the only one to do his homework.
“I’m sorry, can we change the subject for a moment?” Natasha asked.
“Yeah, I’m with her,” Rogers agreed. “Is that a baby?”
Tony pretended to check. “No, no, this is a teddy bear,” he said, holding up the stuffed animal. Peter screeched angrily.
“You know what I meant,” Rogers snapped.
Tony looked down again. “Well, look at that. It does appear to be a very young human. Infant, baby, take your pick.”
“When did you get a baby?” Natasha asked.
“Uh, none of your business,” Tony replied.
“Who would give you a baby?” Rogers asked.
“Also none of your business. And for the record, the process to adopt is long and hard for a reason. I have a baby, he’s my son, he’s mine. End of discussion. Moving on.”
Rogers glared at him. “Fine. Does Loki need any particular kind of power source?”
“He’s got to heat the Cube to a hundred and twenty million Kelvin just to break through the Coulomb barrier,” Bruce explained, tapping his hand with a ballpoint pen.
“Unless Selvig has figured out how to stabilize the quantum tunneling effect,” Tony interjected.
“Well, if he could do that, he could achieve Heavy Ion Fusion at any reactor on the planet,” Bruce reminded him.
“Finally,” Tony said in a relieved voice, walking around towards Banner, “someone who speaks English.”
“Is that what just happened?” Steve asked Natasha as Tony moved to offer his free hand to Bruce to shake.
“It’s good to meet you, Dr. Banner,” Tony said. “Your work on anti-electron collisions is unparalleled. And I’m also a huge fan of the way you lose control and turn into an enormous green rage monster. But, as tempting as it would be, not in front of the baby.”
Bruce nodded. “Thanks. And no worries.” He smiled at Peter, waving at the child, who squealed at him happily and reached for him.
“You can hold him,” Tony said, offering the child to Bruce, who took him.
“Aren’t you a friendly little squirt?” Bruce asked.
Fury walked in. “Banner is here to track the Cube. I was hoping you might join him,” he added to Tony, who nodded in agreement.
“Let’s start with that stick of his,” Rogers said, looking around the table. “It may be magical, but it works an awful lot like a HYDRA weapon.”
“I don’t know about that,” Fury said in a cautious voice, waving to Peter who was staring at him with rapt attention. “But it is powered by the Cube, and I’d like to know how Loki used it to turn two of the brightest men I know into his own personal flying monkeys.”
“Aah?” Peter cooed, swinging around in Bruce’s arms to look at Tony.
“Very good, Peter,” Tony praised his son as Thor looked at Fury, then at the rest of the group, his expression confused. “Monkeys?” The god asked, his eyes flicking to Tony and Bruce. “I do not understand.”
“I do,” Rogers interjected quickly.
Behind him, Tony rolled his eyes and worked to stifle an exasperated noise.
“I understood that reference.”
Peter immediately made an annoyed huffing noise, and Tony had to stifle a laugh behind his hand.
He loved this kid.
“Shall we play, Doctor?” He suggested, gesturing to the door behind him.
“This way,” Bruce said, nodding and walking towards it while Peter giggled happily in Bruce’s arms.
“Peter,” Fury called.
Tony and Bruce paused, looking back at Fury.
“Your dad is a fucking nightmare.”
As soon as Fury had said “fucking”, Peter had burst into delighted giggles and clapped his hands eagerly at Fury.
Rogers and Natasha were giving Fury disapproving looks, but Tony was delighted.
“I found out by mistake that he loves listening to me curse. Tried it with Hill, too, but she didn’t seem to appeal to him in the same way.”
“Oh, this is going to be fun,” Tony smiled. “Do it again.”
“Peter, you’re the cutest fucking baby I’ve ever seen in my damn life.”
Peter was positively screeching with mirth. Tony tried and failed to stifle his amusement. “You are the best baby,” he told his son, wiping away a tear from his eye. “Oh, I might have to start doing Christmas cards, just so I have a reason to write all the cute things you do down in a letter and mail it to people.”
“I want those Christmas cards,” Fury told him.
“You’re on the list,” Tony agreed. “Now, Bruce and I better get going. I need to make a superbaby-proof playpen.”
“Shouldn’t you be working on the Tesseract?” Rogers demanded.
“Baby first, Tesseract later,” Tony replied, giving Rogers a cold smile. “Something you learn when you become a father is that your child comes first.” He thought back, and a part of him felt Howard’s ghost looming over him, glaring at him. “Nothing ever comes before your kid.”