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close to my heart, never to part

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”Peter, maybe we should tell someone…” Ned said with uncertainty once Peter finally stopped retching.  

 

Peter shook his head from where it was practically inside Ned’s toilet bowl. “We can't. I don't want to worry May. I'll be fine by tomorrow morning.”

 

“I knew you shouldn't have gone out tonight.” Ned ran a hand through his hair anxiously. They were supposed to be sleeping for their trip to Florida tomorrow. Ned’s family had an extra bed in their beach house and bought Peter a plane ticket as an early Christmas present.

 

They had been planning this trip since the beginning of the summer. May had used the free week to herself to get extra shifts in at work.

 

She was working that night and their flight was at 6 the next morning, so Peter slept over at Ned’s house. He hadn't planned on patrolling that night, but there had been a report on the police scanner (of course, Ned had one; he was Spider-Man’s guy in the chair) about something weird going on in the warehouse district.

 

Peter suited up and ran out to save the day with Ned monitoring through his eyes. Ned couldn’t remember much of the fight; it was dark and everything was happening so fast. One second Peter was kicking ass and the next he was on the ground after a loud shout.

 

Ned remembered how he had panicked. Screaming Peter’s name while the thing ran off. It took 23 seconds, the most terrifying 23 seconds of Ned’s life, for Peter to respond. He moaned painfully as the screen blacked in and out, letting Ned know he was blinking. Finally.

 

Even after he was awake, he wasn't very coherent so Ned was forced to sneak out his window and go find him. Maybe he would have been annoyed if he hadn't been so worried. He found him hiding in an alley, holding his side. Ned helped him up and supported his weight until they were climbing back into Ned’s window.

 

It hadn't been the first time they snuck out the fire escape, but it was definitely the first time with one of them close to unconsciousness. Which was weird because Spider-Man got into lots of trouble.

 

But this time, it was different. Ne wasn’t sure why, but he had a bad feeling about it.

 

Now, almost an hour later, Peter was clutching to Ned’s toilet with white knuckles. The retching had only started a half hour ago, but it still wasn't over. It wasn't even normal puking; it was violent, painful, gagging, and gasping for air.

 

Apparently, the 20-second break he had was enough for his body before he was back to heaving. Ned hated seeing his best friend in pain like this.

 

He was already kneeling next to him (thank God he had a rug in here or his knees would hate him), but he continued to rub his back soothingly. “Maybe...maybe we should call someone? Mr. Stark? You haven't gotten sick like this since before the bite.”

 

“N-no, Ned, he doesn't--.” Peter cut himself off with another round of puking. When he stopped, he let out a whimper and fell against the wall.

 

“Peter,” Ned sighed. He didn't understand why he had to be so stubborn all the time.

 

“‘m fine. Already feelin’ better,” Peter mumbled, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. “May’s tacos are just coming back to haunt me.”

 

Ned eyed him and declared, “If you're not done in the next 15 minutes then we're calling Mr. Stark.”

 

Blindly, because his eyes were now shut, Peter reached out and patted Ned’s shoulder. “‘m fine, bro. Just need to sleep.”

 

“I don't think you should be coming to Florida, Peter--.”

 

That had Peter shooting up in awareness. “No! I can go. I want to go.”

 

Ned frowned sympathetically. He knew how much Peter wanted to go. He'd never been anywhere out of New York for vacation and he was excited to be spending it with Ned. “Peter, if you don't feel well, then you don't feel well. We can...we can plan another trip, okay?”

 

Peter groaned, trying his head away, mumbling about how unfair life was. Ned squeezed his arm once. “Let's just see how the night goes, okay?”

 

Peter nodded before throwing up again. Ned sighed. This was going to be a long night.


As it turned out, their night didn't end until 2 when Peter finally stopped throwing up everything in his stomach. Ned cleaned him up and then dragged him to his bed. The minute his head hit the pillow, he was out.

 

Ned sighed as he watched Peter sleep. He still looked pale and he was covered with a thin layer of sweat. He was upset that because of this Peter may not be able to go on vacation with him, but he was more worried that something was wrong. Peter wasn't supposed to get violently sick like this. He had super healing. That should include the flu, right?

 

He tried not to worry about it as he crawled into bed next to him. Luckily, Ned had a queen size mattress and was very useful for sleepovers so Peter and Ned weren't cramped together. (But even the space between them didn't matter some nights-- Peter was like a freaking leech in his sleep).

 

That night was no different and Peter was curled up in a ball with his back pressed against Ned’s side. So Ned didn't understand why he didn't wake up when it happened and how didn't he know something was different.

 

He didn't realize until he blinked open his eyes a few hours later and saw a baby laying on top of his chest,  staring back at him with big brown eyes. Familiar big brown eyes.

 

Ned shot up in bed. “ Peter?!”


”Um, boss, I think you wanna come up here…” Tony heard Happy’s voice over the speaker in his workshop.

 

Tony didn't even look up from his computer. “FRIDAY, can you open the intercom?” After the soft beep, Tony said, “What are the rules, Hap? No bothering me when I'm working.”

 

Happy hesitated. “This is an emergency, Tony.”

 

The sound of his voice made Tony pause. “What's wrong? Is someone hurt?”

 

“Um, just come up here and see…”

 

Tony swallowed and was almost afraid to ask. “Is it Peter?”

 

There was no response and that's when Tony knew. He cursed and didn't bother to save and shut down anything he was working on before running out of the room. He was skipping steps as he ran up to his main floor.

 

He was upstairs in less than a minute. He had to make sure Peter was okay. Happy would have told him if he was seriously hurt, right? He would have said something. But, when he reached the main floor, the sight in front of him stopped him in his tracks. There was Peter's friend, Ned, pacing around with a hand in his hair and Happy was there looking slightly disturbed...with a screaming baby in his arms.

 

Where was Peter?

 

Tony looked around the room, but no one else was there with them. He let his breathing slow down slightly because if Peter wasn't here and Happy wasn't rushing him to get the suit, then Peter wasn't bleeding out somewhere.

 

He focused on the other obvious issues: why was Ned here without Peter and where the hell did Happy get a baby from?

 

“Uh, Happy, what's the emergency? Where's Peter?” Tony asked, still feeling worried about the kid’s well-being.

 

Instead of Happy answering, the toddler's crying stopped and he squealed loudly. “Oh knee?”

 

Tony frowned at the kid and then turned back to Happy. “What's wrong with his knee?” He asked as the kid continued to yell those two words.

 

Happy fixed his hold on the kid when he started to try and jump from his arms. “He's not talking about his knee.” He grunted when a small hand smacked him in the face. “He's saying ‘'ony’ like your name, ‘Tony’.”

 

Tony raised his eyebrows and took a step back. “Why does he know my name? I don't have a kid.”

 

“Mr. Stark,” Ned finally spoke up. “That's because he's Peter.

 

Tony couldn't hold back his laughter. How often was it that your friend and some teenager tried to pass off a toddler as a 15-year-old kid? His laughter died down when he saw Ned and Happy didn't look like they were joking.

 

“Wait...are you serious?” He looked at the kid closely. He had wide brown eyes and a mop of brown curls on his head. Tony had never seen baby pictures of Peter, but he could see the resemblance now.

 

His face was red from crying, but when he saw Tony, his tears stopped and he sniffled softly every few seconds. “'ony,” he said in a soft voice as one hand reached out to grab him.

  

Tony ignored the tug in his heart that wanted to pull the toddler close to his chest. Instead, he turned to Ned. “How did this happen?”

 

“He was fighting something and it shot him.” He added quickly when Tony's eyes widened, “It wasn’t like a bullet or anything. Maybe a dart or a ray gun.” Like that made a difference. “And then he continued fighting until it ran off. We think it was an alien or some kind of mutant.”

 

“How do you know all this? You were there?” Tony asked, trying to ignore Peter as he started to cry again.

 

Shaking his head, Ned said, “We’re having a sleepover. He went out and I'm his Guy In The Chair.” He seemed sheepish when he admitted, “I hacked into the suit so I could see through his eyes.”

 

“So, the suit was recording? Or did you disable that for him, too?”

 

Ned blushed. “I'm sorry about that again, Mr. Stark, but no, I don't disable anything from his suit...not since DC. I know you're only doing this stuff to protect him.”

 

“Mhmm,” he hummed in disbelief. “Do you have his suit?”

 

“Yeah, in here.” Ned patted the backpack on his shoulder.

 

“Okay, good, you give me that. Happy, give him back the kid and we'll call you when we figure out how to fix this.” Tony clapped his hands together once.

 

“No, I can't keep him, Mr. Stark!” Ned shook his head. “I'm supposed to be going on vacation today. If I'm not at the airport soon, my mom will leave without me. I already have to figure out how to tell her Peter can't come without her calling May.”

 

Happy took the teen’s side. “He's right, boss. Peter can't be left with a kid and he can't be on his own. We need to watch him until this is sorted out.”

 

“Doesn't he have an aunt?” Tony refused to look at the little boy in Happy’s arms still calling his name.

 

“No!” Ned shouted but then cleared his throat when he saw how Happy and Tony stared at him. “You can't tell May! She'll kill him and take his suit away. I brought him here hoping you could figure it out before you go to her. She'll only worry and she can't take care of a baby right now. She's working triple shifts at the hospital to keep the apartment over their heads and food on the table.”

 

Happy looked at Tony with wide eyes and he pulled the kid a little closer. “Tony…”

 

Tony pinched the bridge of his nose. “Okay, okay, fine. Happy, you watch the kid while I figure out how to undo this.”

 

“But, boss, he wants you,” Happy said. As if on cue, the kid started to whine Tony's name again.

 

Tony sighed and dared to steal a look at Peter. His face was red and his chubby cheeks were wet with tears. One hand held tightly to Happy’s collar while the other reached out to Tony beseechingly.

 

“Fine. I'll watch the kid and figure out what happened and how to undo it and keep your parental guardians off your backs,” he grumbled, making sure he was clearly unhappy about it.

 

Happy held out his arms and waited for Tony to take the squirming child. The cries stopped the moment that Peter was in his arms. “'ony, 'ony, 'ony,” he started mumbling into Tony's neck as he hugged him.

 

“Yeah, yeah, kiddo. It's Tony.” He patted his small back softly as Peter wiped his tears and boogers on his shirt.

 

Ned handed the backpack to Happy. “His suit and cell phone are in there.”

 

Tony looked at the toddler in his hands and ran his finger over the t-shirt he was wearing like a dress. They would need clothes that fit him before continuing.

 

“Thanks, kid,” Happy said. “We're going to figure this out. Don't worry.”

 

Ned looked nervously over at Peter. “Please tell me if anything happens...keep me in the loop. And take care of him...please.”

 

“We will, Ned. Don't worry about it. We'll call you with any and all news,” Tony said reassuringly.

 

Ned nodded hesitantly before walking over to Peter. He put a hand on the boy’s back to get his attention. Peter lifted his head and turned around to face Ned. Ned smiled when he had Peter's eyes on him. “I'm going now. Will you be okay with Mr. Stark?”

 

Peter reached out and grabbed Ned’s nose. It looked like he squeezed it hard, but Ned only laughed. “Go?”

 

“Only for a few days. And you can call me whenever you want okay? Your phone is in the backpack.” Ned’s voice was soft and patient with Peter like it was normal that his best friend was de-aged to a baby.

 

Peter leaned forward to wrap his arms around Ned’s neck. He left a wet kiss on his cheek and then was back against Tony's chest. Ned grinned and said, “Be good, okay?”

 

“I good!” Peter insisted, his face looking very serious.

 

Ned ruffled his hair once. “Have fun and be careful.” He turned back to Happy and Tony. “Thank you so much, again. If you need help, just give me a call--.”

 

“No, enjoy your vacation. We've got this covered,” Tony said. He held Ned’s eyes until he finally relented and agreed to relax while Peter was being looked after.

 

“Give him a ride home, Hap,” Tony said before Ned could leave. “And see if his family needs a ride to the airport.”

 

Happy didn't hesitate. “Of course, boss.” He nodded once to Ned before they left.

 

Once they were both gone, Tony was left with just Peter. The kid was behaving for now, at least. His little hand was holding onto his shirt so tightly it would probably permanently wrinkle it, but Tony didn't stop him.

 

He walked over to the elevator and clicked the button for the infirmary. He wished he had Bruce here to help him out with this; he’d know exactly what to do.

 

The elevator doors opened and Tony walked into the infirmary. He set Peter down on the nearest table and waited until he wasn't going to fall over before addressing FRIDAY, “FRIDAY, I want you to scan him over. Check his blood and vitals and maybe see what we can see what's going on.”

 

Immediately, a holographic light shined over Peter's body several times, scanning him from head to toe. It didn't take too long since he was so small now. His wide eyes turned to Tony at the light and the voice with no body.

 

“That's FRIDAY. She's a friend,” Tony explained as he picked up his tablet from the table. Peter looked around the room, searching for her. “She's an AI. Like a computer.”

 

Peter looked content with that answer, so Tony looked down to read the information on his tablet. He spoke to himself as he read, “Everything seems fine. Hey, FRI, you have a guess on his age?”

 

“About 2-years-old, boss.”

 

“2? How the hell am I supposed to take care of a 2-year-old?” Tony exclaimed, running a hand through his hair. “Does he have any memories or skills from when he was older?”

 

“I'm not sure, boss. It's hard to tell,” FRIDAY answered.

 

“I want to check his blood. Maybe the dart put a drug into his body.” Tony put the tablet down next to Peter. He moved it away when small grabby hands stating reaching.

 

He went over to the small desk and pulled open the drawer. He took out a small syringe and an alcohol wipe. He came back to Peter's side, but the kid did not like the sight of a needle.

 

“No! No!” He squeaked, his voice cracking.

 

“Shh, Peter. It's okay. I just need to take some blood so I can see what's going on with you.” He took one of Peter's small hands and wiped at his bicep. He had Peter distracted so maybe he could take some blood without him even knowing.

 

“No. Pwease,” Peter begged. Tony eyed him trying to figure out if the kid was playing the baby sympathy card or if that's just how he pronounced the word.

 

“It'll be over soon. Can you count to 10?” Tony paused and asked, “FRIDAY, can 2-years-old count to 10?”

 

“Not typically, boss.”

 

But then Peter was softly counting, “One, ooh, free, fou, five, sick…”

 

Tony smiled at him. “Hey, that's pretty far and only a few mistakes. I forgot you have Super Brains, don't you?” As he was speaking, he brought the syringe to his arm and as quickly and safely as he could, drew some blood.

 

He inspected the small vile and grinned at Peter. “See? That wasn't too bad.” Peter held his arm and started whimpering as he curled up in on himself. “Oh, don't be such a drama queen.”

 

“Ow,” Peter moaned miserably.

 

“Don't start that. You're fine.” Tony patted his leg and turned back towards his desk. He set the syringe of blood aside so he could come down here later and study it.

 

Turning back to Peter, Tony looked him up and down. “So 2, huh?” Peter sniffled and looked up at him. “We're gonna have to get you some smaller clothes. That shirt is too big and I don't think you're wearing pants or underwear...do you wear underwear or are you still in diapers?”

 

Peter wiped at his eyes and reached out for Tony. Tony ignored him in favor of checking his watch. “Stores should be opening soon. I'll have Happy pick you up a change of clothes,” he said as he sent Happy a text.

 

He lifted Peter up once the whining started back up and balanced him on his hips before he could grab onto his chest. “I'll put you down for a nap upstairs so I can work on this. Do you have to use the restroom before you lay down? Because if you pee on my sheets, you clean it up.”

 

Peter either didn't understand what he was saying or didn't know how to respond because he stayed silent. “'ony,” was all he seemed capable of saying.

 

“I'm holding you, kid, stop the crocodile tears.” Tony rolled his eyes wondering why he got stuck with this job. There was a reason he didn't have kids. And that reason was clear as day in his mind every time he looked at the toddler.

 

He made his way back into the elevator and up to the main floor. Hopefully, Peter would go down quickly and sleep. Walking through the living room, he went down the hallway into his bedroom. He walked into the en-suite bathroom and showed the toilet to Peter. “Do you have to go? Because I'm not joking about my sheets. They're the softest and most expensive sheets you'll ever feel and if you pee on them I will shave your head.” Tony brought him to the toilet and bunched up the t-shirt under his arms. With closed eyes, he held him over the seat. “Okay, I'm not watching, go.”

 

“'ony,” Peter said, sounding slightly panicked as his hands grabbed onto Tony's wrists tightly.

 

“I won't drop you,” Tony promised. He waited a few seconds until his arms started to get tired. “Nothing?” Tony peeked an eye open and saw Peter looking back at him in confusion. “Do you know what to do?”

 

“Go.”

 

“Yes. Number one, number two. You do it in the toilet so I don't have to clean it up.” If this kid wasn't potty trained, Tony was already thinking about how much he would have to charge the maid to change the diapers.

 

Tony let the shirt drop and lifted him back up. “I gave you a chance,” he warned as he carried him into his bedroom. He laid him on the large bed and pulled the blanket over him. “Sleep.”

 

He tried walking away, but he heard the ruffle of blankets and, “'ony.”

 

Tony turned around to see Peter already crawling after him. “No. Tony has work to do for you . You need to stay here. I'll put on the TV.”

 

He flipped on the television and put on a child's cartoon. He turned back to Peter, but he didn't seem to be happy. Tony sighed and laid him back down. “You asked for this,” he said as he pulled at the t-shirt well below his feet. He grabbed the ends and tied it in a tight knot so the shirt was like a sack.

 

Peter looked down at where his feet were hidden and grunted. He looked back up at Tony, looking as angry as a little 2-year-old could. “You should have listened.” Tony shrugged his shoulders. Peter furrowed his brow and tried kicking his feet. Tony laughed at him when he couldn't get free. He pulled the blanket back over him and stood up. “Now you stay here. I need to figure out how to get you back to yourself.”

 

He could hear Peter struggling as he walked away, but he didn't stop. “FRIDAY, let me know if he's about to hurt himself. Other than that, I have work to do.”

 

He went back to the infirmary where the syringe of Peter's blood was lying on the counter. He carefully poured in a dish under a microscope and studied it carefully. “Scan for any cells or bacteria or particles that don't belong in Peter's blood, FRIDAY.” The best part about having an AI was all of the cool tricks it could do in a short period of time that would take Tony hours.

 

Minutes later, FRIDAY was saying, “I have detected abnormal anomalies in his blood.”

 

“Can you tell what they're doing?”

 

“They're slowly trying to kill off Peter's immune system,” FRIDAY answered, not sounding too worried because she was just a robot.

 

“What? What does that have to do with Peter being a toddler? And why isn't his healing working?” Tony asked, looking back at his blood trying to see if he could spot the cells trying to kill Peter.

 

“It seems Peter's aggressor turned him into a child because children have weaker immune systems, if any at all, at that age. And his body is trying to fix itself. It is trying to get rid of whatever is keeping him this age, but it's too busy defending itself from the cells attacking the immune system.”

 

Tony followed her every word, trying to figure out if there was some way to stop this.

 

“Any normal person would have died within hours. But Peter's body keeps killing off the toxin, only to have more take its place.”

 

“So, Peter is a baby until we can get the toxin out of his body and then the spider bite will heal him up good as new?”

 

“Correct. But the toxin is getting stronger and Peter is only 2. He does not have a good chance of beating this,” FRIDAY so rudely pointed out.

 

“Hey, no talking like that in my house. We're gonna fix him.” Tony refused to let Peter die like this. He refused to let him die at all. Unless it was of old age. “So, he's still got his spider powers then, huh?”

 

“His healing won't be able to work while the toxin is in his body. It's too busy with that; it won't protect him from anything else.”

 

Tony scoffed. “Well, I'm not sending him into battle so that's okay.” He drummed his fingers on the table. “We need an antidote to flush everything out of his system.” He turned to FRIDAY and said, “Can you isolate the toxin so I can go through it and then we can figure out how to reverse it?”

 

“Of course, boss, but this is alien science. I'm not sure how long it will take to figure something out,” FRIDAY replied.

 

“I like to believe we're smarter than aliens, FRI.”  FRIDAY started her scan and displayed the progress on the computer screen so Tony could watch. “You know, if Bruce were here, we'd have the answer already,” Tony said. He really missed his science buddy, but he hadn't heard from him since Ultron. He hoped he was doing okay and didn't get himself into any trouble.

 

“While I decipher this, I suggest going to see Peter, boss.”

 

Tony glared at the ceiling. “Peter's fine.”

 

“He has not stopped crying since you left, boss,” FRIDAY challenged.

 

Tony rolled his eyes, trying not to hear those cries in his head. “He's building character. He can't cry and just get what he wants all the time.”

 

“But, boss--.”

 

“No more talking unless it's about the toxin.”

 

FRIDAY went silent.

 

Part of Tony missed the company even if it was in the form of an AI but he didn't apologize. If he went up there, Peter would attach himself to him. Tony couldn't have that for either of their sakes.


It had to be a half hour later when the doors to the infirmary opened behind him. Tony suddenly remembered why he preferred to work in his lab; nobody could barge in without the code.

 

“You've got to be kidding me, Tony.” That was Happy, but he didn't sound so happy.

 

Tony glanced at the computer screen, seeing FRIDAY had 60% of the toxin identified. Then he turned around to face Happy...and Peter.

 

“You can't leave a baby on another floor and hide away in here!” Happy scolded him as he held Peter close to his chest. “He was screaming up there.”

 

Tony crossed his arms over his chest. “Which is why I'm here. Where I can work in peace and quiet.”

 

Happy rolled his eyes. “It doesn't work that way. You can't just leave him.”

 

“Then why don't you watch him? You're his point guy!” Tony refused to look at the small bundle in Happy’s arms as he hid his face in his neck.

 

“He doesn't want me , Tony.” He took a deep breath and continued in in a calmer voice. “He obviously has some memories of being a teenager. He knows who people are and he knows he adores you. Why can't you just sit with him until he’s back to normal?”

 

Tony turned back around to work on the computer. 22% “We both know why. And I'm surprised you even have to ask.”

 

It was so quiet, Tony thought that Happy left. But then he spoke up a few seconds later, “You're not Howard.”

 

Tony squeezed his eyes shut. He had been hoping to avoid this conversation.  

 

“Howard was a shitty dad. But you're not. I've seen you with Peter and you already act like his father. It's just easier to ignore when he doesn't actually rely on you. But now he does. You can't just leave him to fend for himself like this.”

 

“I shouldn't be watching him. I'm not a dad. I'm not meant to be a dad,” Tony argued.

 

“And why not?”

 

Words that Tony had heard too much as a child slipped out before he could stop them, “Because I break everything I touch.”

 

Happy’s hand was suddenly on his back. “You know that's not true.”

 

Tony stayed silent.

 

“Just...give him a chance, okay? Stay with him today and if it doesn't work out, then I'll take him.” Happy turned Tony around slowly.

 

Tony's eyes fell on the baby in Happy’s arms and he fixed his own arms to cradle the boy. Happy smiled and lifted him carefully into Tony's hold. Tony fixed his positioning so it was safe for Peter and comfortable for both of them. He looked down at the toddler and saw those big brown eyes staring up at him.

 

And for the first time in a long time, Tony didn't mind being handed something.

Chapter Text

”I just picked up the bare essentials,” Happy said as he dropped the two bags down by Tony.

 

Tony looked down at the bags and then back up at Happy. “Yeah, I can see that.” He picked up the bags and put them on the cushion. He opened them and saw a shirt, a pair of pants in one and a bag of diapers in the other.

 

“I tried, but shopping for a baby is hard.”

 

Tony shook his head, pulling out the diapers. “I'm not changing him. We're not encouraging him to poop in his pants; we're teaching him how to use the toilet.”

 

He turned to look where Peter was sitting on the floor with a spoon and cup. He wasn't sure what else to let him play with. He didn't seem too happy with them but Tony had nothing fit for a toddler.

 

“He can't help it. He won't be like this long, right? So, just put him in a diaper because that's safer than having him walk around with nothing at all.”

 

They both looked over at Peter. He was only wearing the long t-shirt Ned dressed him in. He stood up, trying to balance himself on his two legs. He stumbled slightly on the t-shirt that tangled his feet, but he caught himself before falling. He looked over at Tony and smiled.

 

“Good save,” he praised with a smile of his own. When Peter turned away, he frowned. “I can't do this, Hap.”

 

“Of course, you can. You said you've got FRIDAY working on it. He should be back to himself tomorrow, right?” Happy patted his arm.

 

“Sure.” Tony wouldn't be surprised if he had the solution by tonight. “But what about before then? What does he eat? How do I get him to bed?”

 

Happy shrugged his shoulders. “I don't know. Maybe ask Google?”

 

“Tony Stark does not ask Google,” Tony retorted.

 

“Well, you better figure it out soon before the kid eats that spoon.” Happy nodded his head over to where Peter was sucking on the spoon.

 

Tony pushed himself off the couch and grabbed the spoon from his tight grip. “Oh, come on, Peter, I have actual food in the kitchen.”

 

“Get him dressed first,” Happy advised. “I'll look through the cabinets for something for lunch.”

 

Tony nodded and lifted Peter up with one arm and the bags with the other. He carried him into the bedroom and laid him on the bed. He threw the bags on the bed and asked, “Do you really need a diaper? Can't you just pull down your pants?”

 

Peter was already trying to turn onto his stomach to crawl away. Tony grabbed him and laid him back on his back. “Nu-uh. Stay still until your butt isn't naked anymore.” At least Ned had the decency to put something on him that covered him.

 

He grabbed the bag of diapers and ripped it open. He inspected one of them and said, “If I can invent a new element, I can put a diaper on, right?”

 

He pulled out one and opened the flaps, figuring out how they worked. He smiled and said, “This is easy.”

 

Tony tried pulling up his shirt, but Peter smacked his hands. “No look!”

 

“Seriously? You can't do it, so shut up and we'll get it done. Neither of us is happy about this.” He placed the diaper down and lifted Peter up by his ankles and put him down on top of it. Then, after a deep breath, he pulled up the other side of the diaper and covered Peter. Or at least, he thought he covered him up. He wasn't going to lift up the shirt until the diaper was on.

 

And he lifted it up to see he was right. He grinned and pulled the sticky tabs open to secure the diaper on. “Hey,” he said to Peter. “I did it!”

 

Peter looked down and then started to try and pull it off. Tony grabbed his hands. “No, stop that.”

 

“Big boy!”

 

Tony rolled his eyes. “Yes, you're a big boy. But right now we don't have underwear so you have to wear this.” Peter still tried to pull off the diaper so Tony continued, “And you know who else wears diapers?”

 

Peter's fingers stopped moving and he looked up at Tony.

 

“Captain America,” Tony whispered loudly.

 

Peter gasped. “Cap?”

 

“Yup. He's like 90-something-years-old. He has bladder issues,” Tony said. He was surprised to hear a small giggle from Peter. He looked at him as Peter kept giggling. Tony found himself smiling softly. “You think that's funny?”

 

Peter nodded, still giggling.

 

“Do you even know what I said? Or are you just laughing?” Tony asked as he pulled out the change of clothes. He didn't get an answer from Peter so he took off the large shirt. Then he started to pull the smaller shirt over his head and then the pants.

 

The giggles stopped slowly and Tony looked at the clothes. “They're a little big but they're better than the shirt you were wearing.” Tony picked him back up and started to walk back into the kitchen. “Now, when you feel like you have to go, tell me and I'll take you to the bathroom. The diaper is only there for accidents.”

 

“Go! Go!”

 

Tony paused and looked at Peter. “Do you have to go?”

 

Peter shook his head with a small grin.

 

“You're a little shi-- poop , you know that, right?” Tony asked as he continued to walk down the hall and Peter giggled again.

 

Happy looked up from the counter when they walked in. “You got the kid laughing?”

 

“I told him about my Forehead of Security,” Tony replied.

 

“Oh, haha,” Happy said sarcastically, “very funny.”

 

Tony grinned as he took a seat at the table with Peter. “So, what do we have for the little guy to eat?”

 

Happy put a bowl of oatmeal in front of him. “This was all you had for a toddler that could count as an actual meal.”

 

Tony eyed it skeptically. “Really? Wow, I need to get some actual food in here.” He lifted up the spoon with some oatmeal to Peter’s mouth.

 

“I do!” Peter said loudly. “I do!”

 

With raised eyebrows, Tony handed Peter the spoon. “Be careful, that's your only clean set of clothes.” Peter was too busy grabbing the spoon with his chubby fingers to listen to Tony’s warning. He struggled with holding it with one hand and it took a full minute for the spoon to reach past his lips. He smiled proudly but forgot the oatmeal was still in his mouth so it dribbled down his chin. Happy chuckled from the side as Tony rolled his eyes. “You're supposed to swallow the food, kid.”

 

Peter’s tongue stuck out as he licked at the oatmeal that escaped. He smiled again after he swallowed. He stuck the spoon back in the bowl and lifted it back up but there was no oatmeal.

Tony looked over at Happy and said, “I'm not teaching this kid how to use a freakin’ spoon.”

 

Happy looked down at Peter and raised his eyebrows. “You're gonna need to teach him a lot more than how to use a spoon.”

 

Tony looked down and-- okay, how the hell did Peter already spill the entire bowl all over himself? He grabbed the bowl from Peter’s hands and was surprised at the strength in his grip. “I told you to be careful!”

 

Happy was already handing him a towel. “I think we've established baby-Peter only understands 25% of what we say.”

 

“Oh, great,” Tony grumbled as he scrubbed the oatmeal off the shirt they had just put on him. “Peter, look at this mess you made.”

 

When Tony looked up, all he saw was Peter sucking his thumb and twirling his hair as his eyes drooped. Tony quickly grabbed the hand from his hair. “Now you've got oatmeal in your hair.”

 

“So’y,” he mumbled over his thumb.

 

“He's probably exhausted. He hasn't slept all night and he's a baby now. They're supposed to get like 12 hours a night and naps during the day.” Happy said as he walked over and ran a hand through Peter’s hair causing the kid to blink his eyes open again.

 

“Let's get him to bed and then I can finish working on the antidote.” Tony stood up and turned Peter around. He curled into Tony’s chest instinctively.

 

Tony carried him back into his bedroom even though he was only there a few minutes ago. He laid Peter down at the top of his bed carefully. His eyes opened again for a brief second before shuttering closed. Tony heaved a sigh of relief.

 

He walked over to his desk and sat down. He turned on his laptop and whispered to FRIDAY, “Hey, FRI, how are we going with that toxin?”

 

“100% identified. I have taken the liberty to start the formula for the antidote,” she answered.

 

Tony smiled. Finally, something was going right. “Pull it up, I'll start working on it while I have some time.”

It took a little over 2 hours, but finally Tony had the formula figured out. “Can you scan this over, FRIDAY? Let me know if it will actually work?”

 

“Comparing to the toxin level in Peter’s blood, this will work once it is made into a liquid substance. One dose a day and that will get rid of the toxin, allowing his body to heal him to his correct age.”

 

Tony frowned. “One dose a day? How many days is it gonna take? Two? Three?”

 

“Two weeks.”

 

Two weeks ?” Tony repeated incredulously.

 

“Minimum of two weeks, Boss.”

 

“I can't, no, FRIDAY, I can't watch this kid for two weeks!” He shot to his feet and started pacing around the room. “I'm not meant to take care of kids. Can't I just give it to him at once? Let him get rid of it all tonight.”

 

“Not unless you would like to risk an overdose.”

 

Tony ran a hand through his hair. “This isn't going to work. I should bring him to May. He's her kid.” Tony looked behind him where Peter was still sleeping under the blankets.

 

“You heard Ned. With her schedule, she cannot take care of a child,” FRIDAY argued.

 

“And I can?” Tony was already shaking his head.

 

“Of course, you can.”

 

“How do you know? Peter doesn't need me to ruin his--.”

 

“'ony?”

 

Tony froze in place. He must have woken Peter up with his yelling. Tony turned around and saw Peter sitting up in bed. He had the blanket wrapped tightly around him and he was staring up at Tony sadly.

 

Tony walked over to him and say next to him on the bed. “What's wrong?”

 

“No go.”

 

Tony furrowed his brow, trying to figure out what he was trying to say. “No go?”

 

“S’ay.” Peter’s little hands grabbed onto Tony’s arm.

“I'm not going to leave.” Tony placed one hand on top of his.

 

“Mommy and Daddy leave. Un’ca Ben leave. Aun’ May leave. 'ony no leave. Please.” His eyes were watering.

 

Tony immediately pulled Peter up into his arms while he sniffled. “No one is leaving you, Peter. I'm just watching you for your Aunt May. She had to go away for a few days. But you're safe here with me.”

 

Peter nuzzled his head against Tony’s chest. Tony sighed as he glared up at the ceiling. He could practically hear FRIDAY saying, I told you so.

 

Yeah, she was right. Tony couldn't just leave Peter on his own. He was the one that got him into this mess. He was going to make sure Peter got through this okay. ”So you've decided to keep him?” Happy asked with a knowing smirk as they walked through the front doors to Babies R Us.

 

“He's not a stray dog, Hap.” Tony pushed the shopping cart as Peter sat in the front seat. He was happily babbling as he played with Tony’s fingers on the handle.

“So we're here because...?”

 

“We're here because we have nothing to take care of him with. And the one set of clean clothes he's wearing is still stained with oatmeal.” Tony walked to the section of the store with all the furniture.

 

“And you're going to do this all by yourself?” Happy was looking around the store and his gaze landed on a screaming child that didn't want to listen to his mother.

 

“Peter isn't like a regular toddler. He knows enough to not have a tantrum.” He looked pointedly down at Peter. “ Right, Peter ?”

 

“Righ’, Pe’er,” Peter mocked with a gummy smile.

 

Tony looked over at Happy. “We’re still working on our ‘T’ sound.”

 

Happy chuckled. “Yeah, I know, 'ony.

 

Tony rolled his eyes. “Just help me find a good high chair.” Tony looked at the variety of choices. He felt one and made a face. “How are we supposed to clean cloth? We know this kid is definitely going to make a mess.”

 

“This one has a plastic-ish cover.” Happy pointed to the one he was staring at.

 

Tony huffed. “Are you even trying? That one is pink. Peter’s favorite color is red.”

 

“And pink is a shade of red,” Happy said diplomatically just to get out of this store.

 

“Peter, do you want pink?” Tony turned around to the shopping cart where Peter was too busy leaning over and chewing on the handle. Tony quickly pulled his head away. “Why do you eat everything?”

 

Happy looked genuinely concerned as he walked over to them. “Well, Spider-Man needs to eat 10x more than Peter Parker. And all he's had today was oatmeal and it's almost 7 o'clock now.”

 

Tony stared at Peter with wide eyes. “Are you hungry?” Peter’s stomach growled. “Why didn't you tell me you needed food?”

 

Peter perked up. “Food!”

 

“Be careful,” Happy warned. “People may think you starve the kid.”

 

“Haha,” Tony said sarcastically. “Let's just finish this shopping so we can get him something to eat.” He looked at the last high chair. “Let's get this one. It's got some comfortable cushion and when he gets it dirty, we take it off and throw it into the washer.”

 

Happy pulled the ticket. “Excellent choice. Let's keep going.”

 

They picked out a playpen and car seat easily enough. And by easily enough, it took a while to find the car seat that fit Peter perfectly and a playpen that was comfy for Peter to sleep in.

 

Getting to the diaper aisle was where he paused. Before he could even ask, Happy said, “Don't look at me. I'd grab the nearest bag and make the kid live with it. But seeing as how long it took you to pick this stuff out, I think we're gonna be here a while.”

 

Tony looked at all the different brands, sizes, and styles. Thankfully, a woman that had just quickly pulled a box off the shelf was walking past. Before she could leave the aisle, Tony said, “Ma’am, do you mind, uh, helping us out?”

 

She looked from Tony to Peter and then back to Tony. She smiled and asked, “First time shopping for him?”

 

“He's my sister’s kid. I have him for the next few days,” Tony lied easily. Hopefully, she didn't recognize him. That's all he needed was to see Peter on the cover of every newspaper.

 

Despite how in a rush the woman looked, she paused to help. “How old is he?”

 

“Uh, just under two,” Tony said, hoping FRIDAY was right.

 

The woman nodded so it must have been the right age for his size. “He looks small, so I'd think 4 would be a good size. You want to make sure they're not too big or else they'll leak and if it's too small, they could hurt him.”

 

Tony grabbed two bags of 4. “And I want to potty train him…” he trailed off when she started to laugh.

 

“I know, I'm in a rush to get my little one out of diapers too. But it really depends on the baby. My first one didn't train until she was almost three. But my second was starting by her second birthday.” She looked at Peter. “Has he ever tried before?”

 

Tony responded hesitantly, “Yeah...a few times.”

 

She turned back to the shelf and pulled down another bag. “Then try Pull-Ups. They're diapers so it's okay if he has an accident but they're easier for him to pull down.” She handed it to him. “Don't rush him if he's not ready. Maybe try these sometimes during the day. But keep the diapers on at night.”

 

“Thank you so much,” Tony said genuinely. “Really. Thank you.”

 

“It's no problem. Have a great night and good luck with him.” She smiled before leaving the aisle.

 

“Hey, Boss,” Happy said as he pulled a bag of Pull-Ups off the shelf. “You're on these diapers.”

 

Tony turned and saw Iron Man and the other Avengers on the bag. He was ready to throw it in the car but before he could, Peter let out a loud squeal of delight. He reached out his arms and made grabbing motions at the box.

 

Tony smiled softly as Peter said, “Iron Man!” He forgot how much Peter adored him growing up and still did but he was better at hiding his fanboy tendencies when he was older.

 

Happy threw them in the shopping cart as they left the aisle. “Where to next, boss?”

 

“Clothes. He needs pajamas, shoes-- oh my God, I need this.” Tony steered to the left quickly where the showing baby chest carriers were displayed. Tony picked up the one that resembled his Iron Man suit, even with his arc reactor in the middle. “Happy, I need it.”

 

“What am I, your mom?” Happy rolled his eyes. “If you want to spend $150 on a carrier, be my guest.”

 

Before Happy even finished his sentence, Tony was throwing it in the cart. “Best investment all year.” He continued to push the cart back towards the clothes aisle and was a little overwhelmed by the number of clothes. He wasn’t even sure where he was going to start until he saw the graphic tees in the back.

 

Peter would like those more than the other too baby-ish clothing. Especially the Star Wars rack. “Hey, lookie what they’ve got, Pete.”

 

Peter’s eyes widened and he shrieked, “S’aw Waws!”

 

If Tony were keeping him longer than two weeks and didn’t know he grew up to fine, Tony would have signed him up for speech classes. “S t a r Wa r s,” Tony corrected, emphasizing the consonant sounds. But Peter was too busy staring at all of the shirts.

 

“Help me pick out some cute shirts. Who’s his favorite?” Tony asked Happy as he searched through the racks for shirts that would fit him. He frowned and complained, “They go from 18 months to 24. What if he’s between?”

 

“One has to fit,” Happy said as he searched for shirts on the other side of the rack.

 

Tony held one shirt of each size to Peter’s chest. “The 18 month is too small but the 24 is just a little too big. We’ll go with the 24,” he told Happy.

 

Since he wasn’t sure which was Peter’s favorite character, he just picked about one of every shirt. He had a Luke Skywalker, Han and Chewie, Darth Vader, and Yoda. “What else are you a nerd for…” he trailed off when he saw the extensive collection of Avengers outfits. “Oh, man, we hit the jackpot.”

 

He put 5 different Iron Man shirts in the cart and was ready to walk away, but Peter was still reaching out for another shirt. Tony’s eyes followed it and he saw the one shirt he was trying to avoid. It was Iron Man and Captain America standing side by side and smiling. “'ony, please!”

 

Tony sighed and grabbed the shirt. “Fine. But you’re only wearing this when all of the others are dirty.” He handed it to Peter and he smiled widely, looking down at it.

 

Happy came over and dropped a few pants and pajama sets into the cart. Tony was glad they had this part of the shopping done. “Let’s just do one more walkthrough and see if we find anything else.”

 

Happy’s stomach growled and he said, “Then food?”

 

Tony nodded with an amused smile. “Then food,” he agreed because Peter was going back to chewing things (he was currently working on one of the hangers).

 

Thankfully, it didn’t take long for them to reach the cash register. Tony had picked up a few sippy cups, bibs, snacks and a pair of sneakers. The cashier was surprised at seeing all of the things he was putting on the counter but she didn’t say anything. Not even when the bill went up to almost $700. She was a little shocked when Tony paid it all in cash.



Once they were in the parking lot, Tony made Happy hook up the car seat. He and Peter shared a few laughs listening to Happy curse his way through setting it up. Tony hoped that Peter wouldn’t repeat any of the words he heard.

 

Peter wasn't a huge fan of the car seat and whined at first but once Tony promised food, he shut up happily.

 

“Where are getting some chow?” Happy asked from the front seat.

 

Tony checked his watch. “It's already after 8, so let's get something quick. McDonald's?”

 

Happy nodded and drove to the nearest McDonald's. Unfortunately, in Manhattan, there were no drive-thrus so they were forced to park in the street and go inside.

 

Tony held Peter in his arms as they walked in and told Happy, “I shoulda taken out that carrier.” He was very excited to use it.

 

Happy rolled his eyes. “We’re laying low, remember?”

 

Tony huffed but knew Happy was right. If Iron Man was walking around with Iron Man merchandise, someone would surely notice. “We’ll save a table while you grab the food. Maybe get the kid some chicken nuggets. That's easiest to eat.”

 

While Happy did that, Tony walked to the other side of the small restaurant where there were tables and chairs. Thankfully, it wasn't that crowded and the four people that were there were too engrossed in their phones or food to even notice him.

 

He grabbed a wooden high chair and pulled it over to the most secluded empty table. Tony was glad that Peter was clingy and had a strong grip so he didn't drop him as he dragged over the chair. Tony sat Peter in it and took a seat on the bench.

 

Peter was curious about this new place; he was examining the chair and the red table and everything around him. His eyes landed on the one thing Tony didn't want Peter to see: the inside playground in the back.

 

He turned back around and it was almost funny how wide his eyes were and the little ‘o’ his mouth made.

 

“No,” Tony said immediately.

 

“'ony! Please!” He kicked his little feet in more of excitement than upset.

 

Tony wrinkled his nose. “Do you know how many germs are in there? And you have practically no immune system right now or a healing factor. You're a regular old human baby and you're not playing in that.”

 

“Fun!”

 

“You know what else is fun? Staying healthy,” Tony said matter of factly.

 

Peter let out a small whine, but he stopped arguing. He continued to stare at the playground longingly though. Tony was just thankful no tantrum was thrown. And the pouting didn't last long because soon Happy was walking over with a tray of their food and Peter was smiling widely. Tony wasn't sure, but there may have also been some drool dripping down his chin.

 

Happy took the booth across from Tony and put the tray in the middle. “Big Mac and a large fry each for us. Happy Meal for pipsqueak.”

 

Tony took the small Happy Meal box and placed in front of Peter. Peter’s eyes traced his every move. Tony laughed as he pulled out the chicken, fries, and the bag of apples. Tony left the toy in the box because that was for after dinner.

 

Tony started eating his own food, but he watched Peter for a moment to make sure he was okay. He went straight to nibbling on a chicken nugget without any issues so Tony ate his own.

 

The three of them ate their meals silently. Usually, there was some conversation, but they were all just so exhausted from the day, having been up with Peter since 5. Peter was lucky enough to squeeze in a nap but Happy and Tony weren't.

 

Tony glanced over at Peter every now and then to see how he was doing. He was surprised to see before he was even halfway done with his burger, Peter was sitting quietly without any food in front of him

 

“You're all finished, Pete?” Tony asked. Peter nodded. “Are you still hungry?”

 

Peter hesitated but just said, “I okay.”

 

Tony knew he was lying. There was no way 4 chicken nuggets and 5 French fries were enough for him. But Peter was such a good kid, he would sit there and act like it was. Because that was what he was given.

 

“Peter, it's okay if you're still hungry. You need to eat and it's not a problem to get more food.” He paused as he watched Peter eye his burger. He asked again, “Are you still hungry?”

 

Peter nodded timidly. Tony’s heart hurt that he was really just going to sit there and watch them eat so he wasn't a bother.

 

“Happy, go get him another box of nuggets,” Tony said and ignored the slight huff of annoyance. “It'll take like 3 minutes and we won't eat your burger.”

 

Once Happy was gone, Tony pushed forward Happy’s box of fries to Peter. “Eat.” Peter immediately reached over and grabbed a fry. Tony watched him suck on it before sticking it back in the box. He must like that salty taste.

 

As Peter worked through Happy’s fries, Tony said, “You know, kid, when you need something-- anything , don't be afraid to ask. At this age or when you're back to normal. You're not a nuisance and I don't mind helping you. You just gotta tell me when you need it.”

 

Peter nodded his head and said, “Sorry.”

 

“No. Don't apologize. You have nothing to be sorry for. Just talk to me, okay?” Tony asked softly. Peter gave him a small smile. Over his shoulder, he saw Happy coming back so he moved the fries back to his spot.

 

Happy put the box of 10 nuggets in front of Peter and sat down. While Peter dug into his new food, Tony watched Happy grab for a fry and put it in his mouth. Tony couldn't hold his laughter at the face he made before spitting it back out.

 

Happy glared at him. “Tony, it's not funny. Why did you put my food in your mouth.”

 

Unable to speak due to his laughter, Tony shook his head and pointed to Peter. Happy turned taco look at the toddler who was innocently munching on his chicken. He turned back to Tony and whispered, “Sam was right. He is a little asshole.”

Once back at the tower, Tony gave Happy the job of setting up the high chair and playpen. Tony had the fun job of getting Peter ready for bed. Which not only involved getting him into his pajamas but changing the diaper he put on him this morning.

 

He could smell it wasn't a clean one and he really wasn't looking forward to this. “I really hope you remember all of the shit I'm doing for you.”

 

Peter wasn't being fussy about Tony pulling off his diaper like before because he was no doubt tired of sitting in his own crap. Tony felt bad he hadn't thought of changing him earlier.

 

They were on the floor of Tony’s bathroom floor with three towels underneath Peter and another under his head. Tony wasn't changing him fast enough and Peter started to pull the tabs on his diaper. Tony quickly took over and pulled it off.

 

He tried to not think too much about it. Peter was a toddler now. He wasn't a 15-year-old kid. He needed Tony’s help because he couldn't change his own diaper. Tony didn't even have the worst end. He couldn't imagine being de-aged into a baby.

 

So Tony started breathing through his mouth and pulled down the diaper, using the front inside of the diaper that was still clean to get most of it off Peter. He pulled him up by his ankles to keep him out of the mess and used the other hand to grab a wipe and start cleaning.

 

A few moments later, he was clean and the diaper was rolled up on the side. Tony lowered his legs to get a clean one that they bought earlier. “We’re going to work on using the toilet like a big boy. But don't worry about it at night, okay?”

 

Now that Peter was in a clean diaper and was no longer squirming uncomfortably, he was smiling again up at Tony.

 

“Feel better?” Tony laughed.

 

Peter tried to roll over and get away, but Tony lifted him up under his arms and sat him back down. “You need pajamas.” He leaned over where he pulled out a Star Wars pajama set.

 

Peter got excited seeing it and tried grabbing it. Tony pulled off his shirt while he was distracted and then started to dress him. It was a little difficult because Peter was jittery with excitement, but Tony got it done.

 

Tony mentally patted himself on the back because he did a damn good job getting a kid ready for bed for the first time. He was just lucky Peter was an easy toddler. “How about we see how Happy is doing, huh?”

 

Tony stood up and waited for Peter to walk after him but he just stood there making grabbing motions with his lifted hands. Tony frowned but still picked him up. “You do know how to walk, right, kid?”

 

Peter ignored him in favor of wrapping his little arms around his neck. “Hold.”

 

“Just for today. But tomorrow you're using those little feet of yours,” Tony said, exiting the bathroom into his bedroom.

 

Happy heard them come in and straightened up. He dropped a pillow into the playpen and said, “You survived.”

 

“Barely. Is his bed ready?” Tony walked over, ready to plop him down.

 

“Yeah. Borrowed a blanket and a pillow so he had something to sleep with.” Happy always pretended to care less about the kid, but Tony knew he had a soft spot for him.

 

“What do you say, Pete?” Tony prompted as he lowered him into the new bed.

 

Peter looked around the jail-like-bed and then looked back up at them. The look on his face was like he had been betrayed by them. “'ony?”

 

“You can sleep there. It's comfy.” Tony leaned over and patted the pillow encouragingly.

 

Putting his hand in there was a mistake because Peter grabbed on and refused to let go. Tony pulled as hard as he could without hurting Peter, but he didn't budge. He looked over at Happy and said, “I can't get him off.”

 

Happy was watching in amusement as Peter clung to him like a leech. “Well, he is Spider-Man.”

 

And, wow, yeah, that made sense. Peter still had his powers. Tony wasn't really sure how he could choose to use them but they were still there. And right now, Peter didn't want to let go of Tony so he wasn't letting go.

 

“I have some work to do,” Tony said patiently. “Can you lay down until I'm finished and can come upstairs?”

 

Peter looked like a kicked puppy as he clung to Tony’s arm. “No go.”

 

“I'm not leaving you, Peter. I just need to get some work done.” He ran a hand through his curly hair. Tony didn't think he was going to listen but finally, he let go and fell into the playpen. He landed on the pillow and lied down. “If you need anything, just call me, okay?”

 

Peter stuck his thumb in his mouth and started to twirl his hair around his fingers. Tony knew he was so tired he'd fall asleep minutes after he left.

 

Tony nodded his head at Happy. “C’mon, let's let him sleep.”

 

“What about us?” Happy moaned over a yawn.

 

“You can go, Happy. I'm just going to the workshop to fix up the antidote. FRIDAY and I came up with the formula earlier today.” Tony patted his shoulder.

 

“I can stay if you need any help,” Happy offered.

 

“No. Go and sleep. You deserve it. Thanks for everything,” Tony said genuinely.

 

“Hey, when your best friend's kid is turned into a kid, you can't just let me suffer alone.” He grinned before turning away to go to his floor. “Night, boss.”

 

“Goodnight, Hap. Sleep in tomorrow. That's an order.” It had been almost an hour when FRIDAY finally interrupted Tony’s work. He was just about finished making it into a liquid so he could give it to Peter in the morning.

 

Unfortunately, it had to be put directly into the bloodstream so it would have to be a shot. Tony was not looking forward to that.

 

“Boss, I feel like I should inform you that Peter is still awake.”

 

Tony paused his work and said, “What?”

 

“I have told him to sleep, but he refuses to because he is waiting for you.”

 

Tony groaned. That's just perfect. “Alright. FRI, I'll be right up. I just need to put these in the fridge.” He carried the tray of vials filled with the antidote over to his small fridge in the corner of his lab.

 

“Shall I inform him you're coming up?”

 

“No...just, tell him to go to bed.” Tony sighed, pulling off his gloves and throwing them on the counter. “Does he look tired?”

 

“Very.”

 

Tony grumbled under his breath and used the time it took to get from his workshop to his bedroom thinking about how he was going to explain to Peter that he had a bedtime.

 

But any thought of a reprimand was wiped from his mind when he saw Peter standing up in the playpen, gripping the bar tightly. He was a short kid so all Tony could see were his eyes and the top of his head.

 

The moment Tony walked into the room, Peter starting bouncing up and down. “'ony back!”

 

Tony walked over slowly and sighed deeply. “Peter, you're supposed to be sleeping.”

 

“You gone.”

 

Tony ran his fingers through Peter’s hair. “Now I'm here, okay? Sleep.” Tony walked over to his bed and pulled off his shirt and then his pants. As Tony was climbing into bed, he saw Peter had walked to the side of the playpen against his bed and was still staring.

 

“I feel kinda weird with you watching me undress.” Tony lifted the blanket up and slid into bed. Peter covered his eyes with his hands but didn’t move otherwise. “Goodnight, Peter,” he said, pointedly, hoping that Peter would see him sleeping and follow suit.

 

His eyes were closed for a few minutes and he really thought that Peter had given in and went to bed. But then heard the mattress creak by his feet. Then it went quiet. A few seconds later, the small creaks were back and Tony could feel the dipping of the mattress by his legs. Then, the blanket was being lifted up and something was lying next to him. Tony felt a little hand start twirling his hair and he smiled slightly.

 

Tony peaked an eye open to see Peter curled up on his side. He was sucking his thumb and twirling Tony’s hair with closed eyes. Tony rolled his eyes because Peter had waited for Tony to ‘fall asleep’ before he climbed out of the playpen.

 

Tony knew he should pick Peter up and put him back in so he learned he had to sleep by himself. But he was already cuddled into his side and he didn't have the heart to put him back in there.

 

He didn't fall asleep until he heard Peter snoring softly by his ear.

Chapter Text

He felt the kicks before he heard the whimpering. It only took him a second to remember who he was sharing the bed with. His eyes shot open and he turned to the small boy next to him. Peter was kicking his little legs wildly and shaking his head furiously as he whimpered.

 

He let out a small cry and Tony rolled over to put a hand on his arm to shake it. “Hey, Pete, you’re okay.” Peter wasn’t showing any signs of hearing him. Tony leaned closer and took one of his small hands in his. Peter squeezed it back tightly and after a few more minutes of Tony soothing him, his eyes opened. The pool of tears in each of his brown eyes started to spill out as he gasped through his sobs.

 

Tony pulled him into his arms and held him close. He hated seeing Peter so hurt and vulnerable like this. Tony wasn’t sure if this was a horrible nightmare or if Peter just couldn’t control his emotions at this age. “You had a bad dream?”

 

Peter hid his face in Tony’s chest and his hand started to hit his sternum. His whining increased when he couldn’t find what he was looking for. Tony frowned, taking his hand in his before he could continue to scratch him. “Peter, what are doing?”

 

Now he was using his strength to pull his fist still held by Tony to his chest. He started hitting him with little grunts. “Hey, stop. What’s wrong?”

 

“Ligh’.” Was all he said.

 

Then it clicked together in his head. “Peter, are you looking for my arc reactor?” Peter nodded his head and stopped hitting him to wipe the tears off his face. Which was weird because he hadn’t met Peter until after he got rid of it, but Peter had known him, so maybe he remembered it.

 

“Gone. You hurt?”

 

Tony shook his head. “I’m okay, Peter. I got it removed.” He leaned over and turned on the lamp on his bedside table. The light seemed to calm Peter down slightly and if he weren’t panicking Tony would have thought it was adorable how wide his eyes were as they tried to adjust to the brightness.

 

But then Peter recovered and he wrapped both arms tightly around Tony’s chest, or at least as around as his little arms could reach. He could already feel Peter’s snot drying on his chest but Tony put a hand on the back of his head to keep him close. “Do you wanna tell me what happened?”

 

Peter only whimpered and snuggled closer to Tony. Tony wasn’t sure if the nightmares were because he was now a baby or if he’d been having them before and was hiding them from him. Peter whispered, finally, “Scary.”

 

“What was scary?” Peter didn’t answer him so he asked a different question, “Do you remember?”

 

“'ony,” he moaned miserably and Tony knew he wasn't getting anything out of Peter right now.

 

Tony just held him close and stood up. He rocked Peter carefully, rubbing his hair and whispering in his ear soothingly as he walked around the room. He tried to lull Peter back to bed.

 

It took a while but soon his cries turned into sniffles and then he was snoring. Tony continued to rock him even after he was asleep. He sat in bed and leaned against his headboard to relax while he still held Peter.



 

 

He hadn't even realized he fell asleep until he was opening his eyes and sun was streaming in through his window. He blinked a few times and looked down at the warmth in his arms against his chest.

 

Peter was still there, sleeping soundly as he sucked his thumb. Tony smiled softly down at him. He was so little like this. And while, as a teenager, Tony knew Peter needed guidance, he didn't depend on Tony. He could go about his everyday life without relying on him. But now, he needed Tony. He couldn't survive without Tony taking care of him.

 

And Tony had not been looking forward to it. Tony Stark doesn't do kids-- well, he didn't do kids. Now as he held this little thing in his arms, Tony wished he could stay this size. He wanted to have a kid of his own to hold during the nightmares. Maybe Happy was right. Just because Howard was a shit father didn't mean he needed to be.

 

He used a finger to card some of Peter’s curls off his forehead as he continued to stare down at him. Sure, every parent always thought their kid was the cutest because they're a little biased, but Tony actually believed with all his heart that this little toddler in his arms was the cutest thing he'd ever seen. And he still had that puppy calendar Happy got him for Christmas.

 

But, back to his adorable kid (that wasn't even really his so his opinion couldn't possibly be biased): he was small and was chubby like a typical toddler. Especially his cheeks. He had the biggest brown eyes that Tony hoped he never used to get what he wanted because if Peter mastered the puppy dog eye look as a teen, he didn't want time see him try them out a toddler.

 

But his favorite part about Little Peter had to be his curls. Tony had seen his curls before when he's sweaty after a fight or when it's wet or when he just woke up. But usually, he styled his hair so it wasn't noticeable. As a baby though, he had wavy curls all the time. Tony needed to tease Peter about it later when he was a teenager again.

 

That was two weeks away. What seemed like an eternity last night, now seemed like the blink of an eye. Tony only had this little boy for two weeks. They had a lot of mischief to make.

 

As if Peter could feel the staring, he blinked his eyes open and after a few seconds, he was awake enough to see who was holding him. He smiled around the thumb still in his mouth.

 

“Good morning, Peter.”

 

Peter pulled his hand out of his mouth and reached up to grab Tony’s nose. Tony scrunched his face when he felt Peter’s wet thumb against his skin.

 

“Good morning, 'ony.”

 

Tony smiled down at him. “Hey, that was pretty good. A full sentence without flubbing up the words. Except for Tony.” He laughed and said, “This is actually the first time you've called me Tony. Which is weird. Big kid you says Mr. Stark and little kid you says 'ony.”

 

“Mis’ah Sa’r!”

 

Tony blinked. “Kiddo, your speech is horrendous.”

 

Peter grinned like he didn't understand a word Tony said and Tony really wasn't sure. Sometimes, it seemed like Peter knew what was going on in a conversation, but other times he didn't.

 

“Well, we better start our day. FRIDAY has some medicine for us to help you get bigger.” Tony put Peter down on the bed as he stood up. He stretched his arms high over his head, hearing something pop. “Don't get old, kid, it sucks.”

 

But Peter was still stuck on the medicine. “I not sick.”

 

“No. But you're little. You need to be big.” Tony grabbed a t-shirt to throw on since he was still in his underwear.

 

Peter jumped to his feet and bounced on the bed. “I big boy!”

 

Tony rolled his eyes. “Then, come on, big boy. Let's change that diaper.”

 

Peter fell down and crawled to the edge of the bed and jumped to his feet. Tony watched curiously as he picked himself up and stared up at Tony. He nodded his head. “C’mon, stuff is in the bathroom.”

 

He started walking and to Tony’s surprise, Peter started walking behind him without asking to be lifted up. He was waddling uncomfortably so Tony assumed his diaper was full and he wanted out of it.

 

Peter went to the towels that were still laid on the ground and he laid down on them. He looked up at Tony expectantly. “Okay, got it, kid.”

 

Tony sat down in front of him with his bag of diaper changing supplies. He felt like Super Nanny as he pulled out diapers and wipes.

 

“We’re gonna stick with diapers today. But maybe in a few days, we'll try using the potty okay?” Tony said, hoping Peter understood as he pulled off his pajama pants.

 

Thankfully, he only went pee so it wasn't that messy to clean. Soon, he had a new diaper strapped on and Peter was jumping to his feet and running away into the bedroom.

 

Tony picked up his pajamas and the dirty diaper before following him. He threw out the diaper and put his pajamas on the bed. Peter was running around and giggling whenever he tripped. Which was often because he was still unsteady on his legs and they couldn't keep up with Peter. “I forgot how much energy you always have.”

 

Tony let him chase himself around, giggling at nothing while he finished getting dressed and brushed his teeth. When he stepped out of the bathroom, Peter was trying to do a somersault but failed each time. He was sticking his butt in the air and trying to push off the ground his feet, but he kept rolling to the side instead of straight.

 

“Hey, Energizer Bunny, put some clothes on,” he called over as he pulled out an Iron Man shirt and shorts.

 

Peter looked over and squealed at the sight of the shirt. He ran over and was lifting his arms up so Tony could pull the shirt over his head. Tony did so while asking, “Is that you speaking? Are you trying to say something and because you're little it comes out like that? Or do you just squeal when you're excited?” He was genuinely curious.

 

Of course, Peter didn't answer. Tony rolled his eyes fondly as he watched Peter smile up at him. He seemed much happier than last night. Maybe because he didn't remember the nightmare. Tony had no idea how toddlers’ brains worked. He hoped he didn't remember what had scared him so badly for the kid’s sake.

 

Once Peter was dressed, Tony carried him into the kitchen to start breakfast. He didn't have the chance yet to go food shopping, but hopefully, they had something other than oatmeal Peter could eat.

 

He was surprised to see a box of cheerios in the cabinet. Maybe Happy picked it up for them. Tony grabbed the box of cereal and a banana from the counter.

 

He sprinkled some Cheerios on Peter’s high chair tray for him to eat. He started to peel the banana for him as well. Peter picked up a Cheerio between his two fingers and ate it slowly. He made a face and looked at Tony. “Milk.”

 

“You make too much of a mess.”

 

“'ony, milk. Please.” Tony made the mistake of looking at him. He was giving him the puppy dog eyes. Dammit.

 

Tony sighed heavily to let Peter know he was not happy with his pouting tricks. “Fine. But, the milk goes in your mouth, okay? Nowhere else.”

 

Peter gave him a toothy grin and smacked his hands excitedly against the tray. Tony couldn't help smiling back as he grabbed the milk, bowl, and spoon. He poured the cheerios into the bowl and then some milk.

 

“Do you need help with the spoon?” Tony asked, watching Peter grab it. He wasn't holding it correctly, but he was able to get a mouthful of milk and cereal into his mouth without spilling more than a dribble on his chin.

 

While he ate his cereal, Tony cut up the banana and dropped the pieces on his tray as well. Peter eyed the slices warily. He put his spoon down and hesitantly reached his fingers out to pick up a banana. He made a face at the feeling of the fruit before squishing it between his fingers.

 

He let out a surprised giggle and looked up at Tony. He held out his hand like Tony hadn't seen what happened. “Yes, squishy. Now eat it.”

 

Peter turned to the other bananas and gave them the same treatment. “Squish. Squish,” he said with another giggle.

 

Tony rolled his eyes and stopped fighting him. If Peter wanted to make a mess and it kept him happy, then he was going to let him do it. After a few seconds, Peter got tired of it and lifted his hands to Tony.

 

Thinking he wanted Tony to clean off his fingers, he shook his head. “No. You can lick it off. It tastes yummy.”

 

He grunted and wiggled his fingers to Tony. “Ea’.”

 

Tony frowned. “I'm not eating your mushy bananas.”

 

Peter kicked his foot against the tray. “'ony need food!”

 

“I'm not hungry and I'm not licking squashed bananas off your dirty fingers,” Tony said petulantly.

 

Peter picked up a banana slice he didn't completely destroy. He waved his hand at him again with a small pout. “Ea’. Yummy.”

 

“Fine. But, this isn't a thing, okay? This pouting will not get you whatever you want.” Tony raised his eyebrows and he hoped Peter understood him because he didn't want to see these puppy dogs eyes all the time.

 

Peter smiled and opened his palm as Tony leaned close to him. Before he could do it himself, Peter was shoving the banana in his face. Tony sputtered as he attempted to lick the mess off his lips. “Peter,--.”

 

“Yummy?”

 

“Yes, but--.”

 

“Ea’ more.” He scooped up more in his hand, ready to feed Tony again.

 

Tony pulled back. “How about I make my own bowl? I don't want to eat your food.” He didn't wait for a response before standing up and getting his own bowl and spoon.

 

Peter watched him intently as he poured his cereal and milk and cut up another banana to drop the slices in his bowl.

 

Tony sat down and started to eat his breakfast. He hadn't realized how hungry he was until that first bite. He needed to keep a better eye on his eating schedule and make sure he was having at least 2 meals a day.

 

Tony continued to eat while he listened to Peter mumble words that didn't sound like English. He kept an eye on him to make sure he was actually eating and not just making a mess.

 

Peter had seen Tony put the bananas in his bowl, so Peter was attempting to move all the squashed fruit from his tray to his cereal. He tried using his one hand to get it off his other, but then it just got stuck to that hand. Tony was amused at watching him until Peter grunted in frustration.

 

Tony said, “Okay, I'll help.” and used his spoon to scrap the banana off his tray. Then, he carefully used his finger to push it into Peter's bowl. “There you go.”

 

Peter smiled and said, “F'ank you, 'ony.”

 

Tony rolled his eyes at the kid’s inability to speak. But, he was pretty good for not even 2-years-old. The kid was smart even as a toddler. “You're welcome, kiddo.”

 

Once he was finished with his cereal, Tony brought the bowl to his lips and started to drink the leftover milk. Out of the corner of his eyes, he noticed Peter lift his bowl to copy Tony.

 

Before Tony could stop him, he was tipping the bowl to his mouth and the milk and cereal started pouring on him. He was shocked like he didn't expect that to happen. He put his bowl back on the tray and blinked over at Tony.

 

Tony wasn’t surprised that Peter made the mess; Tony could already tell he was going to be a handful. His parents probably debated locking him in a closet every now and then where he couldn’t break anything.

 

He looked at the dried oatmeal in his hair and the milk all over the rest of him. Tony really wanted to avoid bath time for as long as possible. Obviously now, that wasn’t going to be an option.

 

Once the initial shock of spilling the milk all over himself wore off, Peter turned back to his tray and picked up banana pieces to eat. Tony rolled his eyes. “Nope. C’mon, Pete, let’s get these clothes off you.”

 

Peter shook his head wildly and pressed his dirty hands over his wet shirt. “No!”

 

“Don’t you want a clean and dry set of clothes?” Tony started to pull off the tray, careful not to spill any more milk on Peter.

 

“I like f'is shir’.” Peter looked down at his t-shirt where a picture of Iron Man was covered in milk and cheerios.

 

Tony smirked. “You have plenty more Iron Man shirts, kiddo.”

 

Peter pouted but didn’t argue. Tony set the tray on the table and then unbuckled Peter from the seat. He cringed as he lifted him up and Peter pulled himself up against his chest. Now Tony would have to change his shirt as well.

 

He carried him out of the kitchen and into the bathroom. Peter clung to his shirt as he sang quietly under his breath. Tony smiled softly, wishing he knew what song he was singing. He didn’t stop until they were in the large bathroom.

 

“Baf?”

 

“Yes, ‘baf’. Look how dirty you are.” Tony placed him on the counter and held out a hand to make sure he was steady before taking a step back.

 

“'ony ‘ake baf.”

 

“'ony doesn’t need a bath,” Tony said as he turned on the water. He let the warm water run over his fingers to check the temperature. He turned back around to see Peter watching him curiously.

 

“Bubbas,” he said when he noticed Peter staring.

 

Tony scrunched his eyebrows. “What?”

 

Peter tried again, speaking slower and more deliberately. “Bu...b ull .”

 

Tony laughed in understanding. “You want a bubble bath?” Peter nodded with his own smile. “Well, alright, I’ll share some of mine.” Tony leaned over and pulled out a bottle of soap from under the counter. He didn’t use it often, but sometimes he liked to treat himself a nice bath. What? That was completely normal.

 

After pouring some soap into the water, enough to make plenty of bubbles, he turned to Peter and said, “Don’t tell Happy or else I’ll have to share.”

 

Peter giggled, watching the water rise and the bubbles grow.

 

Tony stepped forward and grabbed Peter’s hands to help him stand. Peter was too busy staring at the bubbles, he didn’t realize Tony was trying to get him undressed until his pants were being pulled down. He knew the shirt was coming next so he squealed and held onto the hem of his shirt. “No!”

 

Sighing, Tony said, “ Yes . You need to wash all of your food off. Maybe if you knew how to eat, we wouldn’t need to do this.”

 

“'ony ba’f.”

 

“I’m not taking a bath.” Tony pulled his shirt up and got it off of him, but it was stuck to Peter’s hands. “You already lost, kiddie. Let it go. I’ll get you more shirts with my face on it off Amazon if you really want.”

 

Peter frowned and hesitated before letting go of his dirty shirt. Tony threw it to the ground where he threw the pants. He’d have to wash that quickly so he could give it back to Peter. He turned Peter around to face the wall as he pulled off his diaper that wasn’t dirty yet. Once he was naked, he lifted him up under the arms and carried him to the bathtub.

 

But, just as he toes touched the water, he screeched, loudly and pulled up his feet. “No, 'ony!”

 

“Yes, Peter.”

 

But, Peter was stronger and faster. Somehow, he jumped into Tony’s chest and buried his head in his shirt. He was crying as Tony pulled him away again. “Peter, what’s wrong?”

 

Tears fell down his cheeks as he said, “Dark, col’, no swim!”

 

Tony ignored the fact that Peter was naked and pulled him back away from the tub. “What?”

 

“I fall in wa’er.”

 

Then Tony remembered the night Tony had his suit fly in and save him from drowning in his own parachute. “Peter, no, you’ll be okay. I am right here and the bath is short enough for you to stand up if you want.”

 

“Scary.”

 

Tony nodded. “Yes, I know it’s scary, but this isn’t. Baths are fun.”

 

“Promise?” Peter asked as his tears slowed to a stop.

 

“I promise. I’ll be right here.”

 

Peter nodded with a sniffle and Tony took that as an okay to lower him into the bath. He didn’t look away from Peter’s eyes. The water was warm and Peter looked down quickly when he was sitting and the water reached his chest. He let go of Tony hesitantly to stick his hand in the water. He pulled it back up and smiled softly when he saw it covered in soap suds.

 

He looked up at Tony and laughed. Tony grinned. “See? I told you that you’d like it.”

 

As it turned out, that’s all Peter needed before he was having a ball. He was splashing the water and blowing the soap around. Tony had to retaliate when Peter blew suds right in his face. Tony got Peter’s hair wet and spiked it up like a mohawk. Tony pulled out his phone so Peter could see his reflection using the camera. The minute Peter saw himself, he started giggling so hard his face turned as red as his suit.

Tony couldn’t help laughing along and gave him a beard made of soap bubbles. Peter giggled even harder until he stopped making a sound and only wheezed. “Okay, okay, you gotta breathe, kiddo,” he said through his own laughter as he snapped a quick picture.

 

Peter stood up, but he was covered by soap. He lifted up a hand of suds and reached towards Tony. “I already have a beard,” he told him, but Peter didn’t listen as he slapped his hand lightly on his cheek. The soap stuck to his cheek and must have looked funny because Peter started laughing hysterically.

 

Tony reached out and put a steadying hand to his back when he fell to his butt. He kept laughing. Tony rolled his eyes and continued to wash the food out of his hair while he got his giggles out. Maybe he’d get rid of all his pent-up energy in the bath.

 

Peter was good at entertaining himself while Tony washed him off with a rag. He had to stop his playing when he was almost finished. He poked him in the cheek and when Peter looked up, he handed him the rag. “Wash yourself under the water.” He waited for Peter to take it. “I am a lot of things, but child molester is not one.”

 

Peter’s hand disappeared underneath the water and he started to giggle again. Tony gave him a weird look. He didn’t giggle when Tony changed his diaper. “You ticklish, weirdo?”

 

Lifting his foot out of the water, Peter rubbed the rag over it and let out a giggle. Tony ran a hand over his face before clarifying, “Not your feet, Peter. Wash where your diaper goes.”

 

“Oh,” Peter said and started to stand up, but Tony stopped him.

 

“No. Underwater. Nobody but you touches or sees your private area.” Was Tony seriously giving Peter the ‘let’s avoid getting sexually assaulted’ talk?

 

“Wha’ bou’ you?” Peter cocked his head to the side. “You change my diaper.”

 

“That’s different. You can’t change your own diaper, but you can wash yourself now. Make sure you wash well.” Tony closed his eyes because this was weird enough without him watching. “Let me know when you’re finished.”

 

Tony waited for the “Done!” before opening his eyes. Peter handed him the cloth and Tony draped it over the side of the bathtub. He finished washing his hair as Peter splashed and made explosion noises.

 

When it was time to get out, Peter didn’t want to leave. “You give me a hard time about getting in and now you’re giving me a hard time about getting out.” He grabbed a towel that was hanging up and held it open.

 

The sight of a fluffy towel had Peter quickly getting up to his feet to allow Tony to wrap him up. Tony picked him up and held him close to his chest. Tony ruffled Peter’s wet hair with the towel and smiled at the mess of curls it left.

 

Getting him dressed again went smoothly; Peter was excited to get back in another Iron Man shirt. The trouble didn’t come until Tony brought him down to his workshop to get his shot.

 

“No!” Peter screamed, trying his best to run away from Tony, who was holding the syringe.

 

Tony rolled his eyes because the kid could barely walk; there was no way he was getting away. Tony would let him crawl for a few seconds before taking a few steps over and lifting him up.

 

But, Tony forgot about Spider-Man .

 

Peter wanted to get away from him and the only way out without getting caught was up on the walls. He didn't even realize he was walking the wall until he was on the ceiling.

 

“Peter!” He called, his heart racing. If Peter fell, Tony wasn't sure he'd land safely. “Get down from there now!”

 

“No!”

 

“Peter Parker, if you don't come down here now, you will be in so much trouble.” Tony walked directly underneath him with his arms raised.

 

“No sho’!”

 

“You need to get big again and only the shots can do that. It won't hurt.” Tony didn't like how red Peter’s face was getting as he hung upside down.

 

“No!”

 

Tony smirked when he came up with a great idea. “Peter, do you wanna talk to Ned?”

 

Peter's eyes widened. “Ned?”

 

“Yes. I'll call Ned for you,” Tony promised. “Just crawl back down here, get your shot and then you can talk to Ned.”

 

Peter hesitated as he thought it over and then started crawling down. Tony followed him and the moment he was close enough, Tony pulled him off the wall. Now that he was safe in his arms, Tony could calm down.

 

“No more walking on walls or ceilings, okay?” Tony said, his voice stern so Peter knew that was not okay. Peter smiled and nodded his head. Tony shook his head. “No. No smiles. Bad Peter.”

 

Tony meant it lightly, but the minute Peter’s lip started to quiver, he felt horrible. “No. Don't cry either. Just stay on the ground, okay? I just don't want you to get hurt.”

 

Peter sniffled loudly with his dramatics. “‘Kay, 'ony…”

 

Rolling his eyes, Tony pulled him close to his chest as a hug. “Let's go get your shot done while you still have the crocodile tears going so we don't go through the tantrum more than once.”

 

Tony set him down on the desk and rubbed his bicep with an alcohol pad. He felt Peter’s muscles tense and tried to massage his arm to calm him down.

 

“What are you going to talk to Ned about?” He asked to distract him.

 

Peter twitched. “S’aw Wa’s.”

 

“Is that all you nerds discuss? Star Wars ?” Tony raised an eyebrow.

 

Peter didn't look offended. “No. So much.”

 

Tony nodded his head; he was close to having Peter’s attention away from the needle. “Ned is your best friend?” Peter nodded. “How long have you known him?”

 

Peter didn't need to think. “Sep’ember fif’ ooh ‘ousan’ an’ sick.”

 

September 5, 2005. Peter knew the exact date. Tony smiled. “You've been buddies forever, huh?”

 

“Bes’ frien’s.” Peter smiled. “Ne’ is so funny. So nice.”

 

While Peter was looking up at Tony with bright eyes talking about Ned, he quickly stuck him with the needle and injected the antidote. Peter didn't even flinch.

 

“There!” Tony said, pulling back the empty syringe. “You're all done!”

 

Peter furrowed his brow, stared at his arm and then back at Tony with wide eyes. “Ow,” he whined.

 

Tony laughed and accused, “You didn't even feel it, baby.” He grabbed the band-aid he had ready and covered the small dot. “You'll live.”

 

Peter started tugging on Tony’s shirt. “Call Ned!”

 

“Okay, hold your horses.” Tony pulled him off the desk to sit him in a chair. He grabbed Peter’s phone from his backpack on the desk and handed it to Peter. “You know how to work that?”

 

With his tongue peeking out between his lips as he studied the screen, Peter typed in his password and found Ned’s contact with the skill of teenage Peter. Except baby Peter started to giggle uncontrollably at the sight of Ned’s contact picture.

 

He held up the phone to show Tony. “He looks pretty silly there,” Tony agreed in amusement. “Does Ned have a matching one for you? Because that I need to see.”

 

Peter didn't answer him as he pressed call. He waited with bated breath as the phone rang. Tony clicked the speaker button so he could hear the conversation.

 

“Hey, Pete,” Ned’s voice came over the speaker.

 

Peter grinned brightly up at Tony. Tony laughed but pointed to the phone. “Answer him.”

 

He nodded quickly and squealed into the phone, “Ned! Hi! I miss you!”

 

Ned chuckled. “I miss you too, buddy.”

 

Peter gasped and looked up at Tony like he was saying, Ned misses me! He turned back to the phone and his excitement was gone. “I go’ sho’.”

 

“You got shot? What?” Ned sounded worried.

 

Tony quickly cut in. “He got a shot to help reverse this. He's fine.”

 

“Oh, you figured that out?” Ned asked, sounding hopeful.

 

“Two weeks of shots should undo it for his healing factor to make everything right again,” Tony informed him.

 

Two weeks?” Ned parroted. “What are you going to tell May? He was only supposed to be on vacation with me for a week.”

 

“I'll cross that bridge when we get to it.” Tony knew May couldn't find out. Not that he had already started hiding it. What she didn't know didn't hurt.

 

Peter smacked Tony’s arm with a grunt. Tony stared down at him with raised eyebrows. “What?”

 

“I ‘alk wif Ned!” He glared, pulling the phone close to him.

 

Tony rolled his eyes. “Okay. I'll let you have your girl talk.” He said louder to Ned, “Talk to you later, Ned. The boss is taking away my phone privileges.”

 

Ned laughed. “Talk to you later, Mr. Stark.”

 

Tony left Peter alone after that. He went over to his desk where he was working on a voice modifier. He had to put audio files together of Peter speaking so he could create a headset that let his voice sound like Peter’s. May wouldn't be tricked easily and there was no way she was letting Peter go two weeks without calling her.

 

Peter spoke with Ned for the next few minutes and Tony smiled. He didn't follow all of the conversation, but it was kind of cute to hear Peter speaking with Ned. Ned didn't baby him or treat him differently; he spoke like teenage Peter was listening.

 

And Tony really believed he was. Sure, Peter had his moments of acting his current physical age of two, but there were too many times of him seeing a little bit of teenage Peter leak through for him to ignore.

 

He really hoped Peter was coping okay. He couldn't imagine having his brain shoved in a tiny body that couldn't make a ‘T’ sound or walk long distances.

 

If big Peter was in there, Tony knew he was going to crack soon and little Peter was going to make it even worse by crying and making himself miserable. Tony prayed that day was not soon and maybe he went back to normal before it got that bad.

 

But for right now, he was going to listen to Peter giggle with Ned as they talked. Right now life was good and that was perfect.


 

It was perfect for most of the day...until dinner came around and Peter didn't want to eat any of the food Tony put on his tray. In Peter’s defense, it was the baby food that the Toys R Us worker had suggested and that stuff couldn't be as good as Tony’s steak. But there was no way Tony was giving Peter a meat that was hard to chew.

 

Tony asked him once more to eat because he needed it. Peter sighed and looked miserable, but he brought his spoon slowly to his mouth. He made quite a show of putting the orange colored mush in his mouth and swallowing it.

 

But Peter was a good kid and when Tony asked him to do something (most times) he listened.

 

He finished his plate and watched Peter take his last spoonful. It was all over his face and the bib Tony had learned to put on him while eating. But Tony figured that Peter missed his mouth on purpose tonight.

 

“Hey, Pete, how about we do some food shopping?” Tony asked as he wiped Peter’s face clean. “I'll pull it up on my laptop and you can pick out foods you'll eat.”

 

“Naners!” Peter smiled, kicking his feet in excitement.

 

“What?” Tony raised one eyebrow in confusion. He deserved an award for keeping up with these conversations with Peter’s speech problems.

 

He turned to the counter and pointed with a little finger. “Naner!”

 

“I don't...what's a naner?” He looked around where Peter’s finger was pointing but saw nothing sounding like ‘naner’.

 

“No,” Peter said quickly, “ Naner .”

 

Oh, like that cleared things up. “Naner. Ah, yes, my favorite snack.”

 

Then Peter was standing up from his seat and getting ready to climb down. Tony had to remember to buckle him in next time. He was so good, usually, Tony didn't bother.

 

Tony took a step forward and took Peter in his arms; Peter happily clung to him. “Kiddo, no climbing like a monkey.”

 

Peter ignored him in favor of pointing to the counter and saying, “'ony, coun’er!”

 

Tony sighed and walked them closer. He sat him down on at the counter and Peter crawled to the back and grabbed the bananas. He held them up to Tony and smiled, proudly exclaiming, “Naners!”

 

For a moment, Tony didn't move. Then he broke out in laughter. “Naners?” He couldn't control his laughing as he clutched his stomach. “Bananas, Peter. It's bananas.”

 

“Naners!” Peter insisted like he was saying it correctly.

 

Tony laughed so hard he couldn't breathe for a few long moments. “You're killing me, kid,” he said finally. “Just wait till I tell Happy.”

 

Instead of pulling Peter away to start their online shopping, Tony peeled a banana for him. He held it just out of Peter’s reach. “What is this?”

 

“Naner!” Peter said, now sounding frustrated.


Tony laughed again and handed it to him before picking him up. “I can't wait until you're big again.” He grinned down at the toddler as he chewed happily on his fruit. “You're never going to hear the end of it.”

Chapter Text

Luckily for Tony, he never had to leave the tower for his groceries; he could easily order it all online and have it delivered the next morning. It saved a lot of time and most times Tony was lazy so it paid off.

 

The look on Peter’s face when Tony started unboxing all of the food was priceless. Tony saved his box last; the box was filled with everything Peter had eagerly picked out while they were shopping online. Oreos, Goldfish, and, of course, bananas seemed to be his favorites.

 

“Or’os! Naners! Fish!” He started making grabbing motions at the food. He was actually drooling down his chin. Tony ruffled his hair as he started to fill the cabinets with all of the food. Peter started babbling incoherently as Tony walked around the kitchen with more and more food.

 

Tony was doing his best not to step on him or trip over him, but he was making it extremely difficult. He was jumping around and trying his best to attach himself to Tony’s leg. Tony chuckled as he watched Peter trip over his feet but get right back up.

 

Tony placed a box of mac and cheese on the counter while he looked down at Peter. “Pete, you have to slow down. Your legs can’t keep up with you. Slow that brain of yours down. Though, that must be impossible for you.”

 

Whether Peter physically couldn’t slow himself down or he just chose to ignore Tony, the rest of the morning Peter spent jumping around and climbing on the walls. It started as an attempt to try and sneak some Goldfish from the top cabinet. Tony continued to grab the back of his pants and pull him down.

 

It was funny at first to watch Peter get close only to be pulled back into Tony’s arm to start all over; he was a persistent little booger and Tony was tired of having to pull him down. He was trying to get some paperwork done for the company and if he didn’t finish what Pepper sent him (weeks ago) she was going to come and make sure he got it done. And then she’d see Peter. That couldn’t happen, so Tony had to be responsible and start clearing off his to-do list.

 

He led him over to a small bookshelf in the rec room and pulled off a large book towards the top. Dropping it by Peter’s feet, he said, “Have fun while Mr. Stark works, okay? Look at some nice pictures.”

 

Peter giggled as he tugged the book into his lap, finally sitting down. He smacked the cover with a squeal. It was a picture of Tony, the one he had taken for this biography specifically. “Hey, what did that handsome devil ever do to you?”

 

“'ony!” Peter yelled while stabbing the hardcover with his pointer finger.

 

Tony leaned down to pick Peter up in his arms. He cradled Peter in his arms while Peter held the book. “Yeah, that’s me. There are plenty of pictures to look at in there. Have a blast with that until I’m finished. Then we’ll have some lunch and I’ll put Star Wars on.”

 

Peter was already staring at the first page and didn’t even look up at the mention of his favorite movie. But, it kept him occupied so he wasn't squirming in Tony's arms while he carried him down to his workshop.

 

Tony wasn’t sure if he was actually reading the words on the page, but it was definitely holding his attention so Tony let him be. He worked on one of the piles Pepper had left for him. He was thankful for the silence and after a while of signing his name on paper after paper, he almost forgot Peter was sitting in the room with him.

 

“Is he reading your biography?” Happy’s incredulous voice came from the doorway to his lab.

 

Tony turned to look at Happy and then he turned to Peter on the couch across the room. He was still staring intently at the book. He continued to watch Peter as he answered, “I really don’t know. I think he’s just staring at the pages. Unless two-years-old can read at that age.”

 

Happy walked in with a small shrug of his shoulders. “I don’t know. Most two-year-olds can’t, but Peter’s not most two-year-olds. The little punk is smart and I really don’t think he deserves to know all about your life.”

 

“Haha, you’re just jealous you don’t have your own book.” Tony raised an eyebrow with a grin.

 

“But, at least I got my own chapter.”

 

“Well, I had to give the best to my Head of Security.” Tony smirked when he saw Happy’s frown.

 

“I think it's time for you two to go upstairs and eat. It's almost 6 and the kid is chewing on a screwdriver.” Happy raised his eyebrows.

 

Tony whirled around in his chair and sure enough, Peter had the handle to a screwdriver in his mouth. He nibbled on it as he continued to look at the book.

 

Jumping out of the chair, Tony rushed over to him and pulled it out of his grip. “Peter, do you know how dirty that is? And how dangerous?”

 

Peter finally looked away from his reading to stare at Tony with his wide doe eyes.

 

“Are you hungry?” He asked with a softer voice. Peter nodded his head immediately. Tony rolled his eyes. “You're supposed to tell me when you're hungry, kiddo. I eat like twice a week, so you have to remind me.”

 

“Fish?”

 

“No, you need real food.” He jerked his head motioning for him to follow. “Come on.”

 

“'ony, up please!” He had one arm wrapped around the book and the other raised towards Tony with beseeching fingers.  

 

“Are your legs broken?” Tony cocked an eyebrow and Peter stared down at them. He looked back up at Tony and shook his head, his brown curls bouncing. “Then walk.”

 

Tony started walking, expecting to hear the soft padding of his feet on the floor. But instead, he heard, “Happy, up please!”

 

Tony turned to face Happy and give him the look, but he was already picking Peter into his arms. “You can't contradict me in front of the kid.”

 

“C’mon, he said please.” Happy smiled fondly down at Peter as he started to chew on Happy’s tie.

 

“I thought you said every time he opened his mouth he reminded you of why you never had children,” Tony said in a flat tone with raised eyebrows.

 

“That's Big Peter. If you let him know that you care, he gets attached and he never shuts up.” He paused for a moment before continuing, “So, you better hope he doesn't remember all of this or else you're screwed.”

 

Tony furrowed his brow. “What do you mean?”

 

“Please,” Happy said dismissively. “This kid has thought of you like a dad since you first started mentoring him and now it's all coming true.” He mumbled under his breath in and near afterthought, “I think he actually called you dad once. He let it slip and thought I wouldn't hear…”

 

Tony avoided Happy’s eyes and sniffed. “I don't know what you're talking about.”

 

Happy rolled his eyes as he pulled his tie from Peter’s mouth. “Yeah, okay. Look me in the eyes and say that; maybe this time I'll believe you.”

 

“I'm doing what anyone would do in this situation. I couldn't let the kid wander on his own.” Tony huffed because what kind of a man did he think he was?

 

“But you didn't have to go to the extremes that you did. Get him all that stuff and make sure he has his favorite snacks.” Happy smiled softly at him. “He's lucky to have you...and for what it's worth, I hope he remembers all of this.”

 

Tony looked over at Peter and the minute he saw those big brown eyes staring over at him, he felt his lips turn into a fond smile. Peter’s mouth parted in a wide grin.

 

The selfish part of him wanted Peter to remember too. But, Peter didn't need Tony as any type of parental figure. He deserved better.

 

Once Peter was grown again, everything would go back to normal. Like nothing had ever happened. Hours after dinner, Peter still refused to put the book down. It came to the point where Tony was watching television by himself because the toddler curled into his side was too busy reading his biography.

 

It wasn't even that interesting. It was every boring detail about his life that some people felt the need to know. At the time this was published, Tony felt honored to have some following with people studying his biography like it was the Bible. But now, after he'd grown and matured, it all felt so trivial.

 

But Peter was captured by the book. He couldn't put it down even to eat or get his diaper changed. Tony debated on hiding it while he was asleep, but he didn't want to deal with that tantrum.

 

And there was also the problem that Peter seemed to be ready to take the book to bed with him. He was hunched over in his playpen staring down at the pages wrinkling them with each quick turn.

 

The sight was a true testament to how distracted Peter was. He didn't even argue the playpen like he did the night before. He didn't like sleeping alone in the crib like bed; he liked sleeping in the big bed with Tony.

 

Tony leaned over the wall of the playpen and announced, “It's bedtime. The book goes down and the light goes off.”

 

“But, 'ony! I need ‘o read!”

 

“Nope,” Tony said shaking his head. “You need to sleep. You can read tomorrow.” He reached down for the book without looking at Peter’s face; he didn't want to see the puppy dog eyes.

 

Once he collected the book and tucked it under his arm, he guided Peter to lay down. He rubbed his back soothingly, hoping to lull him to bed.

 

“Sleep wi’f 'ony?” He asked hopefully as his eyes blinked tiredly.

 

“You can be a big boy and sleep by yourself.” Tony smiled and was thankful when Peter didn't argue the point. Instead, he shut his eyes and seemed to fall asleep almost immediately.

 

That should have been his first clue. When Peter hadn't argued a bit so he could sleep with Tony after yelling about the same thing only hours earlier.

 

But he didn't realize until hours later when he woke up before morning. He wasn't sure what time it was, but he knew it was still night because his internal body clock was screaming, ‘Go the fuck to sleep!”

 

All he cared about was the sniffling breaking the silence of the room. Tony squinted his eyes in the dark room...well, dark except for by the foot of his bed. He saw a light shining and it was coming from Peter’s crib.

 

Tony frowned wondering why Peter was up and so upset. He would have usually just climbed into bed with him. Crawling to the bottom of the bed, Tony peeked over the playpen and saw Peter reading his damned biography again. The light was shining from the flashlight on a cellphone.

 

Tony wanted to let him know that he did not appreciate sneaking, but Peter was crying and that was most important. “Kiddo, what's wrong?”

 

Peter’s head shot up and he jumped so fast to his feet with one hand still on the book, he almost fell right back down. But Tony was grabbing him and pulling him up.

 

“Poor 'ony!” He said between small sobs.

 

“Why poor me?” Once Peter was in his arms, he moved back to the head of the bed and cradled Peter in his arms.

 

“Firs, you mommy an’ daddy and then Ja’vis! And Obie ‘rick you!” Peter gave his chest a tight hug. “Your life so sad.”

 

Tony’s eyes widened. He should have never given that book to Peter. Of course, he could read it all. “Pete, no, I didn't have a sad life. Sure there were some sad parts, but everything that happened in my life led me here. It all led me to meeting you.”

 

Peter sniffled but didn't say a word.

 

“We all have sad moments, but that's why we have family and friends to make us smile, right?” Peter remained silent so Tony tickled his sides to get him giggling. “Right?”

 

His tears dried away as Tony continued to tickle him mercilessly. “Yes! Yes! Yes!” He gasped with a grin.

 

Tony slowed down when Peter started having trouble taking in breaths of air. He pulled the blanket up and crawled under it with Peter still close to his chest. He laid him down next to him and Peter curled into his side.

 

“I'm okay,” he assured him after a few minutes.  “I’ve had a very happy life. I had Jarvis for years and Pepper and the team...” he paused thinking about the Avengers, people had once thought of as above family. Maybe he still did. “And Happy and my bots and now I have you .” He tapped the tip of Peter’s nose.

 

Peter smiled warmly up at Tony briefly before sticking his face into his side. Tony rubbed his back and felt his warm breath on him as it evened out.

 

“So you can read, huh? You've still got all your brains?” Tony was absentmindedly running his fingers through Peter’s hair. He felt Peter nod his head. “I didn't know if you could...my biography was not the right choice obviously.”

 

“I smar’, 'ony. Like you.” He picked up his head. “You gra’ua college so quick!”

 

Tony laughed. “Yeah, but you could too. You're smart enough.”

 

“No’ like you.” Peter let his head fall down again and snuggled close to Tony.

 

Tony wished that he was so much better than Tony is so many different ways. What would it take for him to understand? “Good boy, get some sleep. No more reading my book. You've had enough tears.”

 

“Good nigh’, 'ony,” Peter mumbled as he brought a thumb to his mouth to suck.

 

“Good night, Peter,” he whispered before letting his own eyes fall shut.

That morning, Tony watched Peter carefully. The past three days, he had thought of Peter as a two-year-old, but now he was beginning to understand that he was a 15-year-old trapped in a 2-year-old body. He still had his brain and his memories, but he couldn’t help but give in to his physical age.

 

Tony wondered how that worked. Did Peter know he was trapped? Or was his awareness blocked from him? Did he have any idea at all what was going on?

 

“Peter,” he said, just to see. Peter looked up from his high chair tray and smiled. He obviously knew who he was and he knew who Tony was. But wouldn’t he be much more upset if he were acting like a baby involuntarily? Because if he had all of his memories and the capability of a teenager, he would not be so happy and smiley all that time.

 

“Wha’?” Peter asked, reminding Tony that he had said his name a few seconds ago but didn’t say a word.

 

“After your food, we’re gonna go get your shot and I want to play some fun games with you, okay?” Tony asked, coming up with a great plan to test out what Peter knew.

 

“Book! I need ‘o finish my book!” Peter yelled, turning away from his tray of goldfish.

 

“You don’t need to finish that thing, Peter. It’s boring and you know the end.” Tony hated to know that Peter even read about Afghanistan. No wonder the kid woke him up crying. He shouldn’t have to know everything Tony went through.

 

“Book!”

 

“No more book.” Tony shook his head.

 

“'ony!”

 

“No more book,” Tony repeated with raised his eyebrows.

 

And because Peter was such a good kid, he didn’t argue the decision. He hunched his shoulders as he nibbled his food until the tray was clean. Tony lifted him up and said, “Let’s get your shot done and then we’ll have some fun.”

 

“'ony, I ge’ so many sho’s! Why?” He wrapped a hand around his arm with a little pout.

 

Tony felt bad. He hated having to give Peter his shots and listen to his little sniffles every morning. Only 11 days after today. Soon it would be over and Peter would be big again. “I know, buddy. I’m so sorry I have to hurt you every day. It’s only to help you.”

 

“‘most done?”

 

Tony hesitated. “Almost done, yes. You can be a brave boy for a little longer, right? For me?”

 

Peter nodded right away. “Yes, for you, 'ony.”

 

Tony smiled and before he knew what he was doing, he pressed his lips against the top of Peter’s head. He shocked himself with the kiss. He hoped maybe Peter didn’t notice it, but then Peter was staring up at him with wide eyes.

 

“Peter, I’m sorry, I don’t know why I--.”

 

Peter leaned closer and kissed Tony’s cheek. His cheeks burned red with a blush. He turned his head away and stared down at his hands where he was gripping Tony’s shirt tightly.

 

Tony smiled softly. Happy’s words rang in his head. Peter hadn’t had a father figure in his life since Uncle Ben. Now, he was little and vulnerable. Tony could be there for him and give him what he was missing. And Tony would get a little of what he was missing too.




Tony carried Peter to his lab where he could sit him down comfortably and give him his shot. Peter didn’t sniffle after this shot; he briefly winced before looking up at Tony. “I brave, see?”

 

Tony couldn’t help but smile. “Very brave.”

 

“Fun now?” Peter asked, bouncing in his seat.

 

“Of course, let’s go have some fun upstairs. Let me just get some stuff.” Tony turned and grabbed the tablet from the table in one hand and picked up Peter in the other.

 

As Tony made his way back upstairs, Peter started to babble unintelligibly in his ear. It was one of those times when he was probably telling an important story, but he was talking too fast so none of the words made sense. It was better to just humor him and nod his head at the right times.

 

Once they were upstairs, he dropped Peter on the couch while the kid continued to talk. Tony wished he knew what had him so interested that he barely stopped to even take a breath. He handed him the tablet after turning it on and selecting the right program.

 

Peter’s story stopped and he said something else, staring right at Tony. Tony frowned and said, “Say it again, Peter, slowly.”

 

“Wha’ we doin’?”

 

“I want to see you use that brain of yours.” He nodded his head towards the screen where there was a math problem waiting to be solved.

 

Peter frowned. “Ho’ework?”

 

Tony had to be careful to make sure he didn’t say anything that turned away Peter. “No, it’s a game. The more questions you get right, the harder they are. I want to see how far you go...show me how smart you are.”

 

Peter nodded and turned to his tablet with a determined stare. He started clicking away and Tony watched over his shoulder as Peter answered all the questions correctly. He passed through the addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. He started to slow down when he reached the trigonometry questions. But, with some extra work, he was able to answer most questions correctly.

 

Tony watched in amazement as he continued until he finished all the questions almost an hour later. He looked up at Tony with a hesitant look. “I do ‘kay, 'ony?”

 

Tony raised his eyebrows. “Okay? You did amazing, Peter.” He took a seat next to Peter. “You’re so smart, do you know that?”

 

Peter smiled, looking bashful. “Fank you, 'ony.” He looked down at the tablet with a small smile. “You wan’ me do more?”

 

“Do you want to do more?”

 

Peter hesitated before answering, “No...bu’ I can if you need mo’e.”

 

Tony pulled Peter into his lap, bouncing him up and down slightly. “No, Pete, I think you’re done for today. How about you go down for your nap and we can have some actual fun when you wake up.”

 

“I like s..science,” he stumbled as he attempted to say the word. “Chem’she and phy...sick and bi’goly. I can play f’ose games.” He started grabbing for the tablet as Tony put it away.

 

Tony laughed at his inability to say his favorite subjects. “No more work, kiddo, unless you really want to do that. But I was thinking of having actual fun.”

 

“I no sleepy.” Peter spun around in Tony’s arms and started to climb up his chest. Tony laughed as he rubbed his back.

 

“Really? This is usually the time you fall asleep.” Tony said, looking at his watch. “Are you skipping today’s nap?”

 

“I don’ nap,” Peter mumbled stubbornly. Tony laughed; it was one of those moments when Peter was channeling more of his teenage self.

 

Tony was going to have a great time making his life difficult. “No? So what do you call that time of the day when the sun is still up but your head is sound asleep on a pillow?”

 

Peter didn’t answer him and instead buried his head in his shoulder. Tony laughed, rubbing his back. Tony didn’t say a word, hoping Peter would let himself fall asleep. Peter fixed the positioning of his head to be more comfortable and Tony thought he was getting ready to fall asleep. But, almost 10 minutes later, Tony peeked down to see if Peter had fallen asleep yet and he saw big brown eyes staring up at him.

 

“Hello,” Tony said in amusement.

 

Peter smiled around the thumb in his mouth. “Hi.”

 

“Are you going to sleep?” Tony asked running a hand through his hair. Peter giggled, shaking his head. Tony sighed. “Oh, yes, you are. Come on, I’ll sleep too.” He shut his own eyes and waited a full 60 seconds before cracking one eye open.

 

He saw Peter staring right back at him with a full grin. “Hi,” he said again.

 

“Hello, Peter.” Tony rolled his eyes. “Come on, close your eyes.”

 

He squeezed his eyes shut that was too forced for him to sleep. He opened his eyes once more with a giggle and said, “Peek-a-boo.”

 

Tony couldn't help the laugh he let out. “Peek-a-boo? Really? How mature. Now close those eyes and nap. Tony says so.”

 

Peter looked to debate it for a few seconds and Tony wondered if he was finally going to give him a hard time, but instead, he let his head fall to Tony’s shoulder. Tony winced when his head smacked against his collarbone.

 

A few long minutes later, Peter whispered, “Can’ fall ‘sleep, 'ony.”

 

Tony sighed as he started to rub his back soothingly. He remembered when he had trouble sleeping his mother used to sing until he fell asleep. He looked around the room to make sure Happy wasn't here before he started to sing softly, “Baby mine, don't you cry. Baby mine, dry your eyes.”

 

Peter lifted his head up to stare at Tony; he was just as surprised as Tony that he was singing. Tony eased his head back on his shoulder.

 

“Rest your head close to my heart, never to part, baby of mine,” he continued to sing until he felt Peter start to relax in his arms. Just as the song was ending, Peter was snoring softly in Tony’s arms.

 

Tony sighed in relief. He didn't want to see a cranky Peter when he didn't get his rest. And he needed quiet time to call May with his voice modifier without Peter getting excited and making noise.

 

He would rest his eyes for a few minutes just to make sure Peter was really asleep before setting him on the couch and getting up.

 

Ever since Peter had turned back a few years, Tony had gotten no peace and quiet unless Peter was sleeping. And that was rare for Tony to be able to rest at the same time. He deserved a short break…



Tony woke up later to the sound of the TV blasting with explosions and cartoon-y voices. He blinked his eyes open and squinted at the screen until his eyes could adjust. He saw an familiar cartoon playing that was obviously Star Wars if he could guess by any of the lightsabers being swung around.  

 

Peter had probably asked FRIDAY to turn on the television. Speaking of Peter, Tony looked to where he felt a weight sitting on his thighs. There Peter was smiling as he chewed on a piece of food. Tony smiled until he saw where he was getting that food. He watched as Peter lowered his hand into his diaper and pulled out a Cheerio.

 

“Peter!” Tony shouted causing Peter to jump up and drop the Cheerio on Tony’s leg. Peter picked it back up to eat it, but Tony slapped it out of his fingers before it could reach his mouth. “That’s disgusting .”

 

Peter pouted. “Hungry.”

 

Tony sighed. “Peter…” He wasn’t sure why Peter never told him when he was hungry. He always just sat there and let his stomach rumble until Tony brought out food. He thought maybe it had something to do with Peter as a teenager. After the spider bite and he started eating 3x the amount of food, he probably never had enough food because he was too good of a kid to ask May to buy more food. “You don’t have to hide your food for later. Just ask . Please.”

 

Peter still looked unsure when he told Tony again, “Hungry.”

 

“Then let’s go get something to eat after we get you out of that diaper. No saving for winter.” Tony sat up and picked Peter up into his arms. He carried him into the bathroom to change his diaper solely to get rid of those hidden Cheerios. He pulled off Peter’s pants and a few Cheerios fell out. Tony rolled his eyes and looked at the flap of his diaper above the tabs keeping it in place. Inside, Tony saw the collection of broken Cheerios. But, it stopped before reaching actually inside his diaper where his pee was soaked up. Even though his food stayed out of the gross part of his diaper, it was still disgusting.

 

He threw on a new diaper with a firm, “No more sticking food in here. Okay?” He carried him into the kitchen and set him on his feet. Peter watched him as he started to empty out a counter cabinet. “I’m going to fill this up with your snacks. So now if you get hungry throughout the day and you don’t want to come to me or if I’m busy, you can crawl over and get yourself some food.

 

Peter grinned and clapped his hands together. He must like that idea.

 

“I’ll keep little bowls in there for you to fill up and carry around and sippy cups will be on the lower shelves of the fridge for you.” Tony started to put his Goldfish, Oreos and other snacks in the cabinet. When he got to the bananas, he peeled one and handed it to Peter. “Here, kiddie. Have a naner.”

 

Peter giggled and took a big bite of the fruit. With a full mouth, he said, “F’ank you, ‘ony!”

 

Tony ruffled his curls and smiled softly. “Not a problem, Peter. No more diaper eating. Seriously.” He leaned down to pick Peter up in his arms.

 

“‘Kay, ‘ony. No more. I promise.” Peter said through another big bite and spit pieces of bananas on Tony’s cheek.

 

“Disgusting,” Tony said, but then he looked at Peter and his wide smile. He rolled his eyes fondly. “You’re lucky I love ya, kid.”


Peter giggled loudly and Tony changed his mind. He’s the lucky one.

Chapter Text

Peter woke up in a bad mood. Nothing happened; there was no nightmare or any other real reason for it. But, by 5:30 in the morning, Tony was woken up by a whining toddler. Peter was squirming next to him and pulling at his small pajamas.

 

Tony ignored him at first. He kept his eyes shut as he listened to Peter whine and grumble. He couldn’t fall back to sleep after listening to his short grunts of frustration that turned into small cries.

 

Rolling over, Tony raised his eyebrows at him. “Peter, what’s wrong?”

 

Peter flinched and continued to pull on his pajama shirt. He didn’t stop until he was finally able to get his arm out of the sleeve. Tony wasn’t sure why he did it, but in the next moment, he was pushing his arm back into Peter’s shirt. Peter screamed, “No!”

 

Tony blinked. Peter was a good kid, as a teenager and toddler, and would never scream at him. “Hey, no screaming like that,” Tony chastised. “Use your big boy words and tell me what’s wrong.”

 

Instead, Peter started whining unintelligibly and kicking his feet. He was pulling off his pants once he was out from under the blankets.

 

“Is your diaper dirty? Is that what this little fit is about?”

 

Peter opened his eyes and looked at Tony with tear filled eyes. Tony hated the pain he saw in them and not knowing what was causing it or how to fix it. He took one of Peter’s hands in his. “C’mon, buddy, just tell me what’s wrong.”

 

Peter pulled back his hand like it had been burned. He didn’t tell Tony what was bothering him; he just cried harder.

 

Tony’s patience was thinning.

 

“Fine. Let’s get your diaper changed.” He threw the blanket off of him and stood up. He leaned over the bed and scooped Peter in his arms. Instead of latching onto him like he usually did, Peter started to smack his hands against Tony’s chest.

 

Tony frowned as he carried him to the bathroom counter and laid him down. Peter didn’t quiet down even slightly until Tony started pulling his pants off. While he pulled down his pants, Peter pulled off his shirt and soon, he was sitting in only his diaper.

 

“Seriously, dude? You wanna make my job that much harder?” Tony asked before he pulled the tabs off his diaper. Once the diaper was off of him, Peter’s sobs turned into small sniffles. It wasn’t that heavy, but it wasn’t dry either. Peter had sat in worse, so Tony wasn’t sure why he was making such a big deal about it.

 

He started to open a new diaper, but the tears started up again. “No, no, no!”

 

“You need a diaper on, Peter.” He wasn’t arguing this. He held Peter’s ankles as he slipped the new diaper on him. Peter’s cries started up again and Tony wasn’t sure which was worse: a naked Peter running around the tower or his screams.

 

Once he was covered, Tony reached for his pajamas. Peter saw that and immediately started screeching. Tony winced because it was too early for this shit. “ Peter , stop your screaming. You need your PJs, we’re going right back to bed.”

 

“No!” Peter tried turning to escape and Tony didn’t want to risk him falling so he grabbed him under the arms and gave in.

 

“Fine. You can stay in your diaper. Just no yelling or crying.” Tony wanted to pull him close to his chest, but Peter was pushing against him to get away. He dropped him back in his bed and Peter whined lowly as he curled into the soft sheets. Tony tried to tuck the blanket over him, but he refused it. Tony wasn’t going to get into an argument now, so he let Peter lay down and make himself comfortable. He was going to try and get some rest.

 

But that was proved impossible when Peter spent the next 20 minutes whining and twisting and turning beside him. After another solid kick to his kidney, Tony was sitting up in bed and rubbing the sleep from his eyes. “Okay, I’m up, you little shit. Let’s start our day.”

 

Tony gave him his daily shot that only upset Peter even more and then brought him into the kitchen. He plopped him into the high chair and a second later, Peter was trying to climb out of it with fat tears falling down his cheeks. For the first time since he bought it, Tony was forced to secure the buckles around Peter so he didn’t climb out. Peter hated that. But it was for his own good.

 

He turned his back on the screaming toddler to get his breakfast. He poured him a bowl of cheerios and a sippy cup full of apple juice. He walked back to the high chair and placed it on his tray. “Are you hungry?”

 

Peter answered by letting out a loud scream and grabbing the bowl with one chubby hand. Before Tony could stop him, he was throwing the bowl to the floor. Tony watched with wide eyes as the plastic bowl crashed to the floor and cheerios went everywhere.

 

Tony looked back at Peter with a frown. “Peter, we don’t throw things. You’re going to clean that up when you get out.”

 

Peter was squirming so much in the seat, trying to get out of the restraints, Tony thought he was going to knock the chair over next. Tony held his shoulders and tried to hold his gaze. “Peter, what’s gotten into you? You have to tell me what’s wrong.”

 

Peter had his eyes squeezed shut and Tony doubted he was getting anywhere with him. So he let go of him and turned back to the counter. He made another bowl of cereal for himself and sat down at the table.

 

Peter continued to cry and opened his eyes briefly to stare over at him. “'ony!” He yelled. That was the first thing Tony had understood him say all morning.

 

“Stop crying and tell me what's wrong or I can't help you,” Tony said, trying not to give in to Peter’s pained cries.

 

He cried some more but didn't say anything else. Tony sighed and ate his breakfast. He went to the bathroom and brushed his teeth and got changed and was ready to start in the day just over a half hour later. Peter was still crying in his chair.

 

Tony unbuckled him and the minute he was out of the chair, Peter gasped and choked on a sob he held back. His fingers curled into Tony’s shirt and he started to make his move to cuddle up to his chest. Tony held him back and Peter looked surprised. “No hugs or cuddles until you clean up your mess.” He dropped him to the floor carefully without looking at his face. He'd pick him right back up if he saw his puppy dog eyes.

 

Peter dropped to his butt immediately and started kicking his legs wildly. The bowl Peter was supposed to pick up went flying across the room.

 

“Peter, stop it. This isn't cute or funny. Clean up your mess.” Tony shivered. He was sounding way too much like his dad this morning.

 

Peter crawled over to where the most Cheerios were spread, but instead of picking them up, he swiped his hand through them to make more of a mess. And then he turned to stare at Tony.

 

Tony’s eyes widened then narrowed. “Peter Parker, clean up those Cheerios or no Star Wars ,” he said with a loud authoritative voice.

 

Peter kicked his feet again with grunts and crushed Cheerios beneath his feet until he tuckered himself out. Then he laid down and continued to scream and pound his fists against the floor.

 

Tony never thought the day would come when he witnessed Peter Parker having an actual tantrum. Not even when he was first de-aged. Peter just didn't seem like that type of kid. But here he was, screaming nonstop for the past 2 hours and kicking and banging and throwing.

 

“You wanna be loud, kid?” Tony asked more to himself because there was no way Peter could hear him over his screams. “I'll show you loud. FRIDAY, play my workshop playlist.”

 

Suddenly, through the speakers, AC-DC was blasting. Tony smiled as Peter faltered and turned to him with wide eyes. Then he screamed louder.

 

Tony narrowed his eyes. “Louder, FRI.”

 

The music increased and so did Peter’s screams.

 

It went on like that for a few minutes until the music was so loud, the room was vibrating and Peter was screeching so loud Tony was surprised he wasn't popping his own eardrums.

 

“Kick it up one more notch, FRI.” Tony knew the kid couldn't go much louder. He'd have to give up soon.

 

“Boss, I don't suggest that.”

 

“I don't care. Do it.”

 

“But, boss--.”

 

Before Tony could argue back, a loud voice from the elevator caught his attention. “What the fuck is going on up here?” Happy yelled, covering his ears with his hands.

 

The music stopped and Peter’s screams turned to sobs. Tony turned to him with a scoff. “That's right. Now that there's company, you're gonna play the victim like you haven't been a little brat all morning long.”

 

“Tony,” Happy said seriously, “you're arguing with a two-year-old.”

 

“He started it.”

 

Happy sighed heavily and walked over. “What's wrong?”

 

“Ask the kid. He's been whining since he woke me up at ass crack o’clock in the morning.” Tony glared at Peter while the kid cried some more. When was this kid gonna run out of tears?

 

Happy stepped over the mess of cereal and looked down at Peter. “What's wrong?”

 

“He's not going to tell you,” Tony said, crossing his arms over his chest.

 

Happy turned to Tony and asked, “When did he start getting upset?”

 

“He’s been upset all morning. Since he woke us both up at 5 o’clock, he’s been whining and crying like a baby ,” Tony said pointedly, staring down at the little brat.

 

“Tony…” Happy said with a roll of his eyes. He kneeled down to Peter’s level and reached out to put a hand on his shoulder. Peter whined and pulled away, wiping his eyes with a little fist.

 

“He doesn’t like touching right now. Definitely a big no. That’s why he’s in just diapers. That was another tantrum.” Tony looked down at him, still trying to piece together what was wrong.

 

“He doesn’t even want to cuddle with Mr. Stark?” Happy smiled, brushing his fingers over Peter’s curls lightly.

 

“It’s ‘ony now.”

 

“Oh, right how could I forget?” Happy scoffed. “So just the touching? Maybe he’s just cranky.”

 

“He doesn’t want the clothes or a diaper or his food or my music…” Tony trailed off, thinking about everything that had happened this morning. Then he realized. He stared at Peter with wide eyes. “Sensory overload…”

 

“Sensory what?” Happy parroted in confusion.

 

“Ever since he became Spider-Man, his senses are dialed up to like 11,” Tony said, remembering what Peter told him the first night he met him. “Some days, it’s even worse. Today is one of those days.”

 

He kneeled close to Peter and kept his voice low. “Pete, is everything bothering you? The lights and noises and smells?” Peter didn’t respond. But Tony turned up to face the ceiling. “FRI, dim the lights. Every light in the tower.”

 

The minute that the lights lowered, Peter’s shoulders slumped and he cracked an eye open. He looked around the room as his sobs quieted down. His eyes found Tony and he whispered, “F’ank you.”

 

Tony immediately felt like the world’s biggest asshole. He was purposely blasting his music when Peter was having a bad day. And no wonder he threw the Cheerios; they have a strong odor.

 

“I'm sorry, kiddo. Is there anything else I can do?” Tony asked softly.

 

Peter reached out a hand and grabbed onto the fabric of his shirt. “Sof’.”

 

“You like this? You want something soft?” Tony didn't wait for an answer before turning to Happy. “Go to the closet down the hall with the Christmas boxes. In a big Green one labeled, blankets, there's a Rudolph one on top. Bring it out.”

 

Happy nodded and hurriedly went to find the blanket. Tony turned back to the little mess of tears in front of him. He held his arms out. “Wanna come here? I can give you a really soft hug.”

 

He smiled as Peter rose to his feet and hurried into his arms. Tony kept one hand on his diaper and ran the other through his hair. Baby Peter loved that and with his overloaded senses, it felt even nicer. He let out a happy whine and nestled himself against Tony’s chest.

 

“I’m sorry I was an asshole today,” Tony whispered. Peter just curled his fingers tighter into Tony’s t-shirt. “I didn’t know,” Tony said, like that made it any better. “I wouldn’t have yelled at you or blasted my--.”

 

Peter interrupted him with a quiet, “Shh!” and a finger to his lips.

 

Tony didn’t want to shush because Peter deserved an apology. But, Peter was already leaning his head on Tony’s shoulder to calm himself down.

 

“We’re gonna have a quiet day, okay?” Tony wanted to rub his back soothingly, but he knew to have as little as possible touch Peter’s bare skin. “Let's take a little nap since we were up so early.”

 

Peter let out a whine as he curled tighter into Tony’s chest. Tony just held him close, beating himself up for being such an idiot. Peter wasn't a bad kid; he should have known something was bothering him when he started throwing the tantrum.

 

He didn't move until he heard Happy’s heels clicking on the floor a few minutes later. He kneeled by them and held out the large blanket. Tony carefully held Peter out in his arms to let Happy wrap it around him several times.

 

Peter curled into the soft fabric immediately. Tony could see the relief at the feeling of something soft against his skin. “This was my mom’s favorite Christmas blanket…I'm gonna let you borrow it, okay?”

 

He nodded his head. “I be very careful,” he said earnestly.

 

“Thank you,” Tony said in a low voice to mind his hearing. “She used to wrap me up in this every Christmas Eve and read my favorite Christmas stories to me.”

 

Tony carried him over to the couch and laid on the couch with him. He fixed their positions so they were both comfortable. Tony didn't close his own eyes until Peter was snuggled against his chest, wrapped in the soft blanket, and snoring gently.

 

 

Tony wasn't sure how long he fell asleep for, but the sound of giggling was what woke him up. Half of him was exhausted enough to ignore it and go back to bed, but there was a weird feeling on one of his hands that had him curious enough to open his eyes.

 

He blinked open his eyes and saw Peter sitting on the empty spot on the couch next to him, still wrapped up in nothing else but that blanket and hopefully, his diaper.

 

But it was what he was doing that really caught his attention. He was slumped over as he held Tony’s hand in on hand and a marker in the other that he was using to color his fingernails with.

 

“Is the goth look back in?” He mumbled tiredly.

 

Peter looked up with a grin and held up Tony’s hand to show him his black fingernails. But that wasn't what had Tony bursting out in laughter.

 

It seemed that Peter had chosen not only to color in Tony’s nails but his own face as well. He somehow managed to recreate Tony’s facial hair on his face. It wasn't drawn perfectly, but it was done well enough to recognize.

 

“You must be Tony Stark!” Tony grinned, sitting up to trace a finger over his Sharpie goatee. Peter giggled some more.

 

“I tried to stop him,” Happy spoke up from where he was sitting on the chair. He was laughing as well.

 

“No, you didn't,” Tony said dryly. Happy grinned with a shrug of shoulders.

 

“Happy gave me marker!” Peter said, waving the Sharpie.

 

Happy was holding his stomach now with laughter. Tony gave him an unimpressed look. Between his gasps of laughter, he admitted, “Okay. I got him the marker, but the idea was all his.”

 

Tony turned back to Peter where he was about to color his own fingernails, but Tony quickly grabbed the marker. “Nope. You put your fingers in your mouth. Let's go give Happy a makeover.” He smirked.

 

Peter nodded, jumping up quickly. The blanket fell to his ankles, but at least he still had his diaper on. Tony and he both turned to Happy where he was starting to look a little nervous.

 

“Get him,” Tony said simply and Peter jumped from the arm of the couch into Happy’s lap. Happy grabbed the kid and started to tickle his sides mercilessly.

 

“Help! 'ony!” He gasped trying to push Happy’s hands away from him.

 

Tony watched with a laugh and grabbed his phone to snap a picture. He looked down at the screen and laughed. Happy was sitting with Peter lying down on his lap and he was digging his fingers into Peter’s sides. Peter was upside down, looking up at the camera, with one hand on Happy’s and the other reaching up for Tony. His face was bright red, except for his black marker facial hair, and there was a pained smile on his face.

 

Tony grinned as he set it as his new lock screen.


”He's being extra annoying today, Tony,” Happy said as he watched him chase the toddler from the ceiling.

 

“Thanks for the observation,” Tony responded sarcastically. “Hey! Get down here, brat!”

 

Peter giggled from his spot in the corner of the ceiling. He took a bite of the cookie he grabbed during the pursuit.

 

“You know, this would be much easier if you listened to me…”

 

Despite everything going on, Tony said, “No, Happy. He's not an animal. He's a human being.”

 

“Sure isn't acting like it,” Happy noted with raised eyebrows.

 

Tony ignored him but spoke to Peter loudly, “Hear that? If you don't behave, Happy is going to get his secret toy that will only be fun for him.”

 

When Peter stuck out his tongue to blow raspberries, Tony narrowed his eyes. “Go get it, Hap. And two pairs of socks.”

 

Peter paused his brattiness to stare down at Happy curiously until he left. “Where he go?”

 

It was Tony’s turn to smile. “You'll see.”

 

They had a staring contest until Happy returned. Peter looked uncertain while Tony was overjoyed. Next time, Peter wouldn't go running when Tony was only putting on Star Wars for him. Sure, it was the third time today watching it, but he loved that movie and there wasn't anything else to do.

 

Once Happy was back holding a handful of stuff, Tony put his plan into action. He grabbed the banana off the counter and started to peel it. Peter's eyes widened. “'ony, no!”

 

Tony waved it up at him. “You want the last banana? Then you better come down here before I eat it.”

 

Peter didn't hesitate before he started his journey back down. He didn't look happy now that his fun was ruined, but he still held a flicker of hope in his eyes for the yellow fruit.

 

“My naner!” He announced as he fell into Tony’s awaiting arms. He grabbed it and took a proud bite. He was so enthralled with his banana he didn't notice Happy come up behind him.

 

Tony held Peter under the armpits and away from him so Happy could strap the vest around his chest. Peter looked down at it when he heard the snap of the buckle.

 

Tony shared a laugh with Happy. “No more wall crawling for you.” Happy tugged on the leash attached to the back. Peter craned his neck around to try and peek at what Happy was pulling on.

 

“Wha’ fis?” Peter used his hand not holding the banana to try and get free. He didn't look to be enjoying the new addition to his wardrobe.

 

“You know, I never understood why parents would put their child on a leash like a dog...until you . You are the reason they invented these, Peter Parker.” Tony placed Peter down on his feet while Happy held onto the other end.

 

Peter walked in a small circle and saw the leash. He followed it back to Happy’s hand. He tugged on it softly, definitely not as hard as he physically could. Then he turned back to Tony and asked, “I bad boy?”

 

And, yes, Peter hadn't been listening to a word Tony said, but Tony didn't want to call him a bad boy. Because Peter would take it seriously and believe he upset Tony. He wasn't really upsetting him, just driving him insane.

 

“You cannot be this crazy, Peter. No climbing walls or ceilings or cabinets. Okay, buddy?”

 

“'ony mad.” Peter wasn't asking.

 

“I'm not mad.” But then he turned to Happy. “You still have the socks?”

 

Happy handed him the pairs of socks he was holding. Tony kneeled down and slipped the socks on his feet and then his hands. Peter had a hard time holding the banana with a sock over his hand, but he didn't argue it.

 

Keeping duct tape around everywhere paid off because Tony could grab the roll off the kitchen counter and start taping up the socks around Peter’s wrists and ankles.

 

Tony looked at Happy when he heard the man chuckle. “I didn't even think of that.”

 

The kid looked truly miserable. But he wouldn't be able to climb walls with socks over his hands and feet-- hopefully.  

 

“Maybe now he'll listen to us when we tell him to come down.” Tony couldn't afford to give in to Peter. Especially when he was disobeying them. Tony only had rules to keep him safe.

 

Peter let his head drop in shame. He sniffled softly and held out his hand without looking up. “Here. You can have my naner.”

 

Tony shook his head. “I don't want your naner--.” The ringing of a cell phone cut him off. It wasn't his ringtone, so Tony knew it was Peter’s. And only two people called him so it had to be May or Ned. Tony checked the caller ID and of course, it was May.

 

“Watch the kid. I have to pick this up,” Tony said before hurrying out of the room. He rushed to his bedroom where his voice modifier was sitting on his dresser top. He put it on and said, “Hey, May.” He was still creeped out to hear Peter’s voice instead of his own.

 

Then he picked up the phone and repeated, “Hey, May.”

 

“Hey, Peter, I was just calling to check in and see how you're doing. You didn't call last night.” She was laughing because Tony had made sure to call her every night to tell her all about Florida. He even had FRIDAY photoshop some realistic pictures of Peter and Ned to send to May.

 

Tony had the scheme working perfectly, but he forgot to call last night because he fell asleep so early with Peter.

 

“Sorry, Ned and I crashed the minute we got back to the hotel.” Tony always tried his best to sound like Peter, not his voice but his vocabulary as well. It wasn't too hard to speak like Peter; he just needed to ramble and get excited over geeky things.

 

“That's okay, I just missed your voice.”

 

This was where Peter would get embarrassed. Or maybe when it was just him and May he'd love the attention. “I miss you too.”

 

“Don't worry about me. You have fun with Ned. I'll see you soon.”

 

Tony smiled. He didn't see this side of May. This soft side was reserved for her nephew, her boy. It was the voice any mother had with their baby. Tony wished he heard it more from his mother. He would do anything to be able to talk to her again. Even to share an ‘I love you’ one last time.

 

“I love you,” Tony said, lost in thought.

 

“I love you too, baby,” she said softly. “Is...is everything okay?”

 

Tony swallowed thickly. He couldn't let his own emotions screw Peter over. “Y-yeah, I'm fine. Just wish you were here.”

 

“Maybe one day…” Her voice was hopeful but not enough to sound convincing. Tony knew she was thinking of expenses and her job and how she wouldn't give herself something as luxurious as a vacation when she struggled to keep a roof over their heads some months.

 

The minute Peter was back to normal and May had some time off from work, Tony was going to finance their dream vacation. And he wasn't taking no for an answer.

 

“Ned is calling me. We're gonna get something to eat,” Tony said, knowing he needed to wrap this up before he messed up.

 

“Okay, have fun! Tell Ned I said hi. Talk to you later, sweetie. I love you.”

 

“I love you too, Aunt May.” Tony smiled again before hanging up the phone. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly.

 

Peter was lucky to have May and she was just as lucky to have him. Too many kids think they outgrow their parents’ love and they don't realize how much they need it until it's too late.

 

But Peter was different. He never pushed May away when she insisted on hugging and kissing him in front of Tony. His cheeks flushed, but he always hugged her just as tightly and returned every kiss and ‘I love you’.

 

He was a great kid.

 

Which made Tony feel even worse when he walked back into the living room and saw Peter sitting on the floor. Happy was on the couch with the handle of the leash in his hand. Peter sat still, looking ridiculous in his covered hands and feet.

 

Tony sat down next to Happy. Star Wars was still playing, but Peter wasn't paying attention.

 

“He's mad at us,” Happy whispered loud enough for Peter to hear even without his enhanced senses.

 

“I don't want him falling and breaking his neck,” Tony said back. “Hanging from ceilings is a sure way to do that.”

 

“He needs something to do,” Happy said. “He's been sitting in this tower for days watching the same movie over and over.”

 

“He likes this movie!” Tony said, staring down at the toddler who was hunched in on himself.

 

“Maybe the first 50 times.”

 

Tony sighed. “Then what do I do? There's not much here to entertain a baby if you hadn't noticed.”

 

“Maybe get him some toys.” Happy shrugged his shoulders. “It doesn't have to be a rattle but something to keep baby Peter happy.”

 

“I guess I could look on Amazon tonight for something.”

 

Happy hesitated. “I think you should take him out.”

 

Tony turned to face him. “What?”

 

“I think you should take him out,” Happy repeated. “He's getting cabin fever. Maybe a trip to the toy store to pick out some toys will get some of this energy out.”

 

“So, we want him climbing the ceilings at Toys R Us now?” Tony scoffed.

 

Happy sighed. “No. He’ll behave. He's a good kid.” He turned to look at Peter. “And I think he learned his lesson from this. If you're really scared of him getting away, bring the baby leash.”

 

Tony huffed. “I will not be caught in public with that . I'm pretty sure it's a form of child abuse. I'll take my Iron Man carrier.”

 

Happy rolled his eyes. “Seriously?”

 

“Yes, seriously. It's badass.”

 

“Ah, yes, because nothing says badass like a baby strapped to your chest.”

 

“I don't pay you to give me sass. Get the car ready we’re going to the store.” Tony stood up and walked to pick up Peter in his arms. He turned to Happy and took the leash from his hand. “Hurry up before I change my mind.”

 

Only 45 minutes later, Tony found him and Peter walking down the aisle of Toys R Us. Peter was sitting in the bench of the shopping cart while Tony pushed.

 

Peter was quiet and still hadn't said a word since Tony taped him up. Tony had taken off the tape and vest and promised he wasn't mad, but Peter was still upset. He thought he had gotten Tony mad. No matter how much Tony told him they were okay.

 

“Peter, usually kids are jumping and laughing at toy stores. Especially you, probably.” Tony raised his eyebrows as they started walking down the aisles.

 

He wheeled the shopping cart into the Star Wars section. “Look at all of these toys.” But Peter was staring down at his feet.

 

Tony sighed and used a finger to lift Peter’s chin up. “I'm not mad, Peter. If I were mad, I wouldn't be spoiling you at the toy store. Pick out anything you want.”

 

Peter looked up hesitantly. Tony smiled and grabbed a Luke Skywalker action figure off the shelf. He held it to Peter. “He looks pretty cool.” He grabbed a Han Solo from the shelf. “Or maybe he's more your style.”

 

Peter’s gaze turned to something behind him. Tony followed his gaze to a little plushie. Tony raised his eyebrows and plucked it off the shelf. “Really? A mini Chewbacca?”

 

“‘wok!” Peter yelled. His voice was sudden and loud compared to how quiet he'd been. Tony pulled the Ewok doll off the shelf and handed it to Peter.

 

Peter turned it over in his hands and studied it intently. He pulled it close and hugged it. “Do you like it?”

 

Shaking his head, Peter handed it back to Tony. “No. No’ sof’.”

 

Tony chuckled. “Okay. We’ll find something else. How about these little figures? They have mini lightsabers and guns. We can have battles.”

 

“Pew pew!” Peter said, smiling.

 

“Yes. Pew pew. But we have to pick out our soldiers.” Tony pulled Peter out of the shopping cart and set him on his feet by the toys. “We'll each pick 5, okay?”

 

Peter paused, looking unsure if he deserved a toy until Tony started to grab his own off of the shelf. Then Peter stood on the bottom shelf to lift himself up.

 

Tony grabbed a few for himself. He chose all the ones wearing black or with the red lightsabers. He knew Peter would most likely picking the good guys. Tony would make it easier by splitting it by the light side and the dark side. Even though he wanted his team to consist of 5 Han Solos.

 

He looked down to see Peter holding several boxes. He looked unsure as he showed Tony his choices. Tony smiled and nodded his head. “Nice picks. How will I ever beat you?”

 

Peter smiled back and held them up higher. Tony nodded his head. “Yes, it's okay. Put them in the cart.” Peter looked back at him once more before dropping his collection into the cart. Tony followed suit.

 

After they had that, Tony grabbed a few other Star Wars toys Peter may like. It wasn't like they'd be a waste after Peter grew up. When he was a teenager again, he'd still love the toys, if the Legos on his shelves were any indication.

 

They finished that aisle and before they went to the checkout, Tony steered them towards the Avengers aisle. Yeah, they were cool enough to get an entire toy collection.

 

They didn't have as much Captain America stuff as they used to, but there was still a decent amount. (More than Clint ever had). Tony grabbed the large box of action figures that had one of every Avenger. They were plenty of toys that resembled the Chitauri from New York, but Tony did not pick any of those up. And luckily, Peter didn't ask. They could make their own villains.

 

“One more thing and then we're done; pick out a backpack to hold all of your toys in.” Tony motioned towards a wall of kids backpacks.

 

Peter looked up at the large selection and lifted one finger to point at an Avengers backpack. It had all of them on it with Captain America and Iron Man leading in the front.

 

Tony rolled his eyes. Of course, Peter would choose that. He grabbed it off the shelf and said, “Okay, let's go. Anything else you want before we leave?”

 

Peter looked up at him quickly and then turned back to stare at his feet.

 

Tony kneeled down to get to his tiny level and said, “Kiddo, seriously. If there's something you want, tell me. I don't want to have to come all the way back out.”

 

“Really?”

 

“Yes, really.” Tony ruffled his hair with a small smile. “I'll follow you.” He stood up and put his hands on the handle of the cart, staring down at Peter expectantly.

 

Peter started to take slow steps out of the aisle. His cheeks were tinged red as he walked out of the aisle. He seemed unsure of his decision so he wasn't rushing to get there or else he would have been stumbling over his feet every other second.

 

Tony silently followed him as he waddled to the other side of the store where all of the pink aisles were. These were the aisles filled with Barbies and dolls and princesses. But Tony wasn't going to say a word; if Peter wanted a Barbie, the only thing he would say was: “Ken or Barbie?”

 

But he walked past almost every aisle without stopping until one of the last ones. He gave one last look at Tony. His eyes seemed to scream, “Is this okay?” Tony nodded his head.

 

Peter then took a step forward into the aisle where there were all of those Fur Real friends. But he didn't stop for any of those either. Not until the aisle was almost over and Peter plopped by a basket of stuffed dogs.

 

He started to tug on the hem of his t-shirt as he looked back up at Tony. “Puppy?” He asked in a small voice.

 

Tony didn't answer immediately as he looked at the pile of stuffed animals back to Peter. He was giving him big doe eyes. “Yes, Peter, you can pick out a puppy.”

 

Peter let out a short giggle before leaning forward so quickly he almost lost his balance. He dove into the pile and Tony grabbed the belt loop on the back of his jeans before he fell in head first. He sorted through the toys for a few minutes until he finally pulled out a small brown one. He squeezed it tight to his chest.

 

Tony smiled softly. “Do you like him?”

 

Peter nodded his head after pulling him away with a smile. He kept one arm wrapped around the toy and lifted his free hand up to Tony. Tony leaned over and pulled him up into his arms.

 

Peter held him up to show Tony. He smiled and said, “He's cute. Are you going to give him a name?”

 

Peter pet his head as he thought. He didn't answer until Tony had him sitting back in the shopping cart bench. “Benny.”

 

Tony’s face softened. “Benny? That's a very nice name.” Tony knew he was naming him after his late uncle. “I like it.” Peter smiled widely and squeezed the dog into a tight hug.

Chapter Text

The toys seemed to do the trick. Over the next few days, Peter entertained himself battling with Tony and the action figures. Even though it was a Star Wars battle, Peter insisted on using the Iron Man action figure.

 

And when Tony had work or other things to do, Happy watched over Peter. No matter how exasperated Happy acted around him, Peter still adored him and attached himself to him. Happy also liked to strap the leash on him and tease the kid until Peter used his super strength to drag Happy around.

 

It was highly amusing, to say the least.

 

When Peter stopped and Happy had a minute to catch his breath, Tony expected Happy to yell at the kid, but all he did was laugh and say, “Damn, kid, you're strong.” Peter giggled, feeling very proud of himself.

 

And thankfully, Peter had learned his lesson from the socks and refrained from climbing up walls. But, after a few days, he was definitely getting restless.

 

Tony tried to play different games with him. He pulled out the Wii, which he hadn't used since Clint and Sam had their last Mario Kart battle. But the remote was too big for Peter's hands and he couldn't hit the buttons fast enough. Tony shut that off when Peter started whining in frustration.



Currently, Peter was poking Tony in the side of the arm and repeating, “I'm bored. I'm bored. I'm bored.”

 

Tony sighed. He needed this kid to cork it. He grabbed Peter’s little finger before it stabbed him again. “Hey, I've got a great idea. How about we call Ned? He's supposed to be coming home soon, right?”

 

Peter started bouncing up and down. “Ned! Ned!”

 

Pulling Peter’s cell phone from his pocket, he handed it to Peter. “Call him and we’ll say hi.”

 

Peter’s fingers moved rapidly across the screen and soon the phone was ringing. Ned picked up not too long after. “Hey, Pete.”

 

“Ned!” Peter yelled like he hadn't spoken to his best friend in years.

 

Ned laughed. “How are you doing, buddy? Being a good boy for Mr. Stark?”

 

Nodding his head, Peter said, “Yes. I so good 'ony buy me puppy.”

 

“Wait,” Ned said after a moment of hesitation. “I know you have trouble with your speech, but did I hear right? A puppy?”

 

“Yup!” Peter answered happily.

 

Before Ned could have an aneurysm, Tony spoke up, “Don't worry, Ned, it's a stuffed puppy. We went to the toy store.”

 

“Oh,” Ned said with a laugh. “That's a relief. I was about to tell you I don't think May can handle a puppy on top of Peter.”

 

“He is quite the handful,” Tony agreed.

 

A smack on his arm interrupted his conversation. “Hey!”

 

“Oh, cool it, kiddo. We still love you.” He tweaked Peter’s nose. Peter swatted Tony’s fingers away with his hand not holding Benny. He never went anywhere without that dog.

 

“I'll be home soon. Maybe I can drop by the tower and give Peter a few presents I got him.”

 

“Of course,” Tony said while Peter started his incoherent babbling about presents. “If he doesn't die of boredom beforehand.”

 

“What?”

 

“All I hear from Peter is how bored he is. I got him toys to play with and a Happy to drag around, but he's slowly going insane. And I don't blame him; he's been in this tower for the past week.” Tony wrapped an arm around Peter and pulled him in closer.

 

“Maybe take him out today. Get some ice cream or go to the park,” Ned suggested. “Peter loves playgrounds.”

 

Tony sighed. He'd been thinking of taking Peter outside for the afternoon, but his fear always won. “I just don't want anyone to recognize me and wonder why I've got a kid. Until he's back to normal, Peter is like any other vulnerable toddler.” Tony added as an afterthought, “Except, he's brilliant, can climb walls, and lift over 200 pounds.”

 

“He’ll be fine. Take him to a park that not a lot of people go to. There's a good one in Queens between Peter and I’s apartment building that is usually quiet.”

 

“Leeds, if I go to this park and tomorrow Peter’s picture is stamped on every newspaper, I'm blaming you,” Tony warned without any real heat behind his words.

 

Ned just laughed. “Okay, Mr. Stark. But nobody even reads papers anymore. You'll be fine.”

 

Famous last words. ”You're lucky you've got Ned or else we would not be here right now,” Tony said as he walked inside the gates of the park. He had Peter strapped to his chest in the Iron Man carrier and a diaper bag on his shoulder. He brought diapers, wipes, an extra jacket for Peter and plenty of snacks just in case he needed a change or it got chilly or he got hungry.

 

Peter was facing Tony so their chests were pressed against each other. He couldn't see where they were yet, but he was twisting around trying to see.

 

Tony was relieved to see that the park was empty. Ned was right when he said it was a small park where not a lot of people visited. He stopped by the bench and dropped the bag down before pulling Peter out of the carrier.

 

Peter was kicking his legs wildly, craning his neck around trying to see where they were. His only other two trips outside didn't last long before they were back in another building. But now they were staying outside.

 

When Peter couldn't get a glimpse of what was behind him, he settled on smiling brightly up at the sky. Tony found his own lips curling softly at the sight. Peter had been through so much trauma in his short 15 years; he deserved carefree moments like this.

 

Tony set him on the bench and said, “don't move,” as he pulled the carrier off and set it on top of the bag. He blocked most of Peter's view of the playground, but Tony was sure he had to have a bit of recognition.

 

“Here we go,” Tony said as he pulled Peter back up into his arms. He turned them around and immediately, Peter started kicking his feet excitedly and squealed loudly.

 

“Play! Play!” He was trying to jump out of Tony’s arms, but Tony kept a tight hold on him.

 

“Before we play, I have a few rules, okay?”

 

Peter’s eyes were still staring widely at the playset, but he nodded anyway. “‘Kay!”

 

“I will be within hands reach of you at all times and that means you can't climb anywhere I can't reach. Which brings me to the most important rule: no Spider-Man-ing. No climbing anywhere that wasn't meant to be climbed. Understand?”

 

Peter nodded his head multiple times. “Un’ers’an’!” His pronunciation was even worse than usual due to his excitement.

 

Tony smiled and finally started walking him over to the playset. He lowered Peter to the ground by a set of stairs and Peter was immediately bounding up them as fast as he could. Which wasn't that fast since he was crawling up the stairs; he knew his walking gave him limited speed when he was too energized to control his feet.

 

Tony followed him on the ground as Peter explored the bridges and tunnels in the playset. He was squealing and Tony could only catch a few words. But he was paying more attention to the smile on his face.

 

There was no doubt Peter and Ned had been here plenty of times. They probably hung out by the swings or the picnic table, definitely not in the playset meant for pre-schoolers. Peter had visited here before, but this visit was giving him an entirely different perspective.

 

He chased himself around the shaking bridge for a few minutes until Tony suggested moving on the slide. Peter nodded and hurried to the twisting slide like there was a deadline. He peeked his head inside hesitantly and let out some loud squeal. He pulled back as it echoed back.

 

Tony laughed. “That's pretty cool.”

 

But when Peter looked back at Tony, he didn't look so happy anymore. In fact, he looked unsure. “‘all,” was all he said.

 

After a week of this, Tony knew when there should be a T by the sound of the word Peter says. “It looks tall, but it's a lot of fun. If I could fit up there, I would take a ride.”

 

Peter shook his head.

 

Tony came to the foot of the slide and patted it encouragingly. “Come on, buddy, I'm waiting right at the end.”

 

From his position, Tony could no longer see Peter, but he heard him ask, “Ca’sh me?”

 

“Of course, I'll be right here.” Tony kneeled by the opening. With a smile, he pulled out his phone and clicked record. He fixated it where Peter would exit. “Come on, kiddo.”

 

A few seconds later, he heard the clamoring of feet at the top and then Peter was sliding down. He could only see the silhouette of Peter inside the tube, but he could clearly hear his squeal of delight. When he finally emerged at the bottom, he was upside down and looking up at Tony with a toothy grin.

 

Tony leaned in with the camera and laughed loudly. He had to make sure the camera picked up Peter’s hair that was now standing up straight because of static electricity. “How was that?”

 

“Fun! Fun!” Peter giggled, trying to twist himself around. He did so but not without falling to the ground. He pushed himself up with some more giggles. “Again!”

 

Tony wasn't going to be the one to say no to this kid. Especially not when he was this happy. So they spent at least another half hour playing around until Peter’s stomach let out a low growl.

 

It was time for a lunch break.

 

Peter sucked down a banana, a yogurt cup and bottle of juice quickly. Tony knew he was hungry a lot and appreciated all of the snacks, but he still wasn't understanding that he could tell Tony he was hungry whenever he wanted. He always waited until Tony offered the food. He supposed that was the good kid in Peter that didn't want to be a burden to anyone. Even for nourishment, his body needed.

 

After they ate, Tony let Peter play in the sandbox. He figured this would be a good way to let Peter have fun without making them both exhausted. At least there would be no difficulty in getting Peter to bed tonight.

 

Feeling rather tuckered out himself, Tony sat down at the bench only a few feet away from the sandbox. He watched while Peter dug around in the sand. He was pushing around plastic trucks that had been left there and was talking to himself. Tony guessed he was creating his own story. He loved that about the kid. Watching him play with his toys in the tower was always so intriguing because Peter always had a new story. His brain wasn't just brilliant, it was creative too.

 

Tony watched Peter talking to himself, wondering if he should document it to go with all of the other videos he had taken throughout the day. He was happily babbling one second and freezing the next second when he got company.

 

He picked his head up and stared at the little girl next to him. Her dark hair was pulled back in a ponytail and she was wearing clothes that looked too expensive to be sitting in dirty sand. She studied Peter with big brown eyes and smiled. “Hi! I'm Kyra.”

 

Peter twitched and he turned his wide puppy dog eyes to Tony. Tony nodded his head with raised eyebrows. Peter looked back to the girl and opened his mouth to say something when a loud shouting interrupted him.

 

“Kyra! Kyra! Where'd you go?” A teenage boy came running in frantically. He didn't calm down until he saw the girl sitting in the box. The boy rushed over and through his pants, he said, “Kyra, you were supposed to wait for me.”

 

“I wanted to play,” she replied indignantly.

 

“I know. I was going to take you before you ran ahead.” The boy, who Tony guessed to be her older brother, ran a hand over his face.

 

Tony didn't see anything wrong with the picture of an obviously worried older brother chasing after his rambunctious little sister until Peter was whining and quickly backing away in the box. He tried to pull himself up but fell over. He would have landed on his face if the boy hadn't caught him under his arms.

 

“Woah there, little guy,” he said with a laugh. “Be careful.”

 

Peter was smacking his balled fists against the boy, desperately trying to get away. “'ony!” He called, sounding frantic.

 

Tony shot off the bench. He wasn't sure what was upsetting Peter near to tears, but if he didn't feel comfortable, Tony would save him. He took Peter from the boy’s arms and Peter dug himself into his chest. Tony rubbed his back and whispered soothingly.

 

“Not a fan of strangers, huh? I wish Kyra was like that.” The boy scoffed as he looked down at the girl that had her eyes latched on Peter.

 

“He's shy,” Tony replied in a clipped voice. Something about him was bothering Peter and he wasn't going to ignore it.

 

“I'll bet,” the boy said as he looked at Peter too. Tony was a little grateful the attention was on Peter because his sunglasses and ball cap did little to hide his appearance if someone really looked. “He can still play with Kyra if he'd like. I know she could use some friends.”

 

“We were just leaving,” Tony said. “He needs his nap.”

 

The boy looked a little sad but didn't argue it. “Yeah, I get it. Kyra gets a little moody without her naps.”

 

“So do you, Flash,” the little girl replied as she stuck out her tongue.

 

The boy opened his mouth to defend himself when Tony found himself saying, “Flash?”

 

“Yeah, my parents called me Eugene, but that name is completely stupid and…” He continued to babble on about some sob story of how awful his name was, but Tony wasn't listening. Because that was Flash.

 

Tony’s mind drifted off to a conversation Peter and he had a few months ago

 

“It's just a little bruise? Peter, your eye is swollen shut.”

 

“I'll be fine. I've had worse.”

 

“Who did this?  Who hurt you?”

 

“What?”

 

“You just got out of school and I have your suit for repairs so this didn't happen to Spider-Man. Who is hurting you?”

 

“Mr. Stark, everything is fine.”

 

“Peter. Who. Hurt. You.”

 

“Mr. Stark--.”

 

“Peter, I will give you to the count of three. One. Two. Three.”

 

“...Flash.”



And then another a few weeks later.

 

“You stink like a gas station bathroom.”

 

“Thanks.”

 

“That's not a joke, kid. Where the hell were you today?”

 

“I showed Flash up in the decathlon meeting so he showed me the bottom of the second-floor toilet afterward.”

 

“Kid…”

 

“it's fine, Mr. Stark, really.”



And then finally to one only last month.

 

“Mr. Stark…”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Nevermind. I-it’s dumb.”

 

“You've got my attention now, kid.”

 

“Do you...do you think my parents would be proud of me...if they were still here? I mean I'--.”

 

“Of course. Kid, where the hell would you get the idea otherwise?”

 

“Flash said--.”

 

“Okay, I'm gonna go a stop you there, kid. Every time you mention this Flash kid I see more and more of how much a dick he is. You can't believe a word he says to you.”

 

“I don't, but he had a point.”

 

“He had no point. Your parents would love the man you've grown into. Flash obviously has some of his own issues he's trying to overcompensate by making your life a living hell.”

 

“But,--.”

 

“No, buts, Peter Parker. You are a brilliant boy any parent would be proud to call their son.”



Tony blinked, staring down at Peter. The toddler had his head tucked securely into Tony’s shoulder and he knew exactly why. This was the kid that spent his life tormenting Peter.

 

Tony held him tighter and narrowed his eyes even though Flash couldn't see it behind his sunglasses. Tony wanted to yell at him and give him back the bruises he gave to Peter, but he couldn't deck a kid with two smaller kids watching.

 

“Go now, 'ony,” Peter whispered. Tony threaded his fingers through his sweaty hair.

 

Flash heard his whisper and said, “Oh, I wish we would have come earlier. Kyra never has a playmate when she comes out.”

 

Tony eyed him warily but didn't say a word. The ringing of Flash’s phone saved him. Flash huffed in irritation and pulled out his phone.

 

“Hello?...Yeah, I have her...We're at the park...I would have told you if you were listening...You had an important phone call, I know...You're always too busy for us so it's okay...I'm sorry, sir...fine, we'll be home soon. Kyra is playing with a friend. Bye. See you soon.” Flash’s smile was replaced with a grimace. “Sorry ‘bout that. My dad is a dick.”

 

Tony scoffed. “I know the feeling.”

 

“If you guys wanna go, I understand. I'm gonna keep Kyra out a bit longer. Parents will barely know we're gone.” Flash sat on the wooden side of the sandbox.

 

Tony wanted to leave so Peter didn't have to be near his bully anymore. But maybe Tony could end this here and now. He lowered Peter to the ground next to Kyra. Peter’s nails dug into him painfully and he let out high pitched squeals of disagreement.

 

Once he peeled Peter off of himself, he took a seat next to Flash. He sat there silently, watching as Kyra tried her best to get Peter to play with her. Finally, after taking one more look at Flash, Peter gave in and started to play with Kyra.

 

“I know it's hard,” Tony said softly. “To have parents that aren't there like they should be.”

 

Despite how nice Flash seemed when he first introduced himself, speaking with his father left him in a sour mood. “It's fine. My dad has a busy job. Never there for us when we need him, but showering us with money sure helps,” he sarcastically.

 

“My father wasn't the best. And I resented him for it. Still do. But if there's anything I've learned from it, you shouldn't let someone else control your feelings.” He didn't do this heart to heart stuff, but if it meant getting this kid off Peter’s back, he sure as hell was going to try.

 

“I'm fine.”

 

“Taking it out on other people doesn't help. It probably just makes you even more miserable.”

 

Flash stared at him, wondering how he could possibly know but tried to play it off anyway. “I don't know what you're talking about.”

 

“There was a kid I used to pick on in high school,” Tony started his fib, hoping Flash would relate to it like Tony knew he could. “My dad would push me around and call me names, but I couldn't say a word back without getting a mouthful of blood so I stored all of that anger until the next day at school. I found a kid that looked easy to target. He was small and one of the most down to earth kids I knew. He was always smiling and I hated it.” Describing Peter from Flash’s point of view was easier than he thought it would have been. “I was jealous. Why did he get such a perfect life? I wanted him to be miserable like me. So I spent my years in school making his life miserable.”

 

Flash went silent.

 

“Turns out the kid didn't have such a good life. He was dealing with a lot of shit at home I didn't understand. He was just better at controlling his emotions and not taking it out on other people. I wish I could be as strong as that.” Tony stared down at Peter where he was finally opening up to the little girl and was pushing around a truck next to her’s.

 

Flash shrugged his shoulders, avoiding Tony’s gaze. “I'm not like that. I mean, sure, I tease this kid sometimes, but it's all in good fun. Besides, he's a freak so really, he's lucky I'm the one that picks on him and he doesn't get some of the worse kids.”

 

Tony couldn't even look at this kid. He stared straight ahead at Peter where he was giggling. “So, this kid should thank you for bullying him then?”

 

Flash chuckled. “Yeah, why not?”

 

Tony ground his teeth, doing his best from knocking this kid out. “I'm not laughing. Someone being different from you,” smarter than you, Tony corrected mentally, “doesn't make them a freak.”

 

Flash bristled. “You did the same thing as me. What do you know?”

 

“Exactly. So I know how this ends if you keep it up. So don't.” Tony was getting sick of the attitude. “I know if someone were bullying your sister, you would not want her hurt like you're probably hurting this kid.”

 

They both turned to look over at the little ones. Peter was crawling over with a toy truck in hand. Peter picked himself up and balanced with his hands on Tony’s knees. He glanced at Flash hesitantly before turning back to Tony. “Broke!”

 

Tony took it in his hand and saw the pebble stuck in the wheel preventing it from moving. He showed this to Peter. “See, the rock is stopping it. Just push it out and it'll work like new.”

 

Peter stuck his little finger in and dug out the pebble. He rolled it on Tony’s leg and smiled when it worked. “Fank you, 'ony!”

 

Tony ruffled his hair. “You're welcome, kiddo.” He watched as Peter made his way back over to Kyra to show her their toy was back to normal.

 

“He's a cute kid,” Flash commented, most likely trying to drop their previous conversation.

 

Tony faced him and didn't speak right away. “I know,” he said finally. “And I can promise you that if I ever saw someone hurt him, I would find that kid so fast and when I finished with him, he'd be begging to apologize.”

 

Flash was staring at the other side of the playground when he said, “The kid...the one I pick on...he doesn't have an older brother to look out for him. Or even a dad. He's got nobody.”

 

Tony tried not to let his hurt for Peter show. “He's alone too, huh? Sounds like you two are in the same boat. Maybe instead of giving him such a hard time about it, you should just leave him alone. He probably has enough to deal with; I don't think he needs more things to worry about in school.”

 

Flash swallowed thickly. “I...He would never forgive me. Not for all of the shit I've put him through.”

 

“You'd be surprised.”

 

“I'll...I can't just roll over and give up. No matter how much I want to, not after being me for so long. I'm graduating this year anyway. I'll back off a bit. I won't be his friend though.” Flash was tapping his leg nervously.

 

“You don't have to.”

 

“He could use another friend. Dork only sits with his boyfriend during lunch...” Flash trailed off when he saw Tony’s glare. He squeezed his eyes shut. “I'm sorry...force of habit. I can't stop this easily. I know it sounds bad, but it's my coping mechanism.”

 

“Find a new one,” Tony said dryly. “Try building Legos.”

 

Flash’s head whipped to stare at him. Tony cleared his throat and stood up. “Well, it looks like we’ll be going. Kiddie needs his nap.” Tony walked over to Peter and held out his hands; Peter jumped right into his hold.

 

“Bye! It was nice playing with you,” Kyra said with a smile and a wave.

 

Tony carried Peter back to the bench and sat him down. Peter edged away from Flash, but Flash scooted closer. “Hey, thanks for keeping my sister company.”

 

Peter tugged at his t-shirt and just nodded his head.

 

“What's your name?”

 

Peter let out a soft whine.

 

Flash chuckled. “Shy, huh?” Peter flinched as Flash ruffled his hair.

 

Tony snapped the last strap to his carrier on and picked Peter up again. The toddler curled into the safety of Tony’s arms immediately. He had trouble getting him into the carrier, but once Peter was secure, he wrapped his arms and legs tightly around Tony’s chest.

 

“We’ll be going now. Good luck with your father and remember what I said.” He ran a hand through Peter’s hair. “Karma’s a bitch and I'd hate to see what's coming to you.” Once back at the tower, Peter’s afternoon of playing was starting to catch up to him. He was yawning every few minutes so Tony heated up some mac and cheese for dinner. Right after Peter polished off his bowl, he took him in for a bath.

 

Tony pulled his diaper off and carried him over to the warm water. Tonight, Peter didn't ask for toys or splash around. He let his eyes fall shut as he cleaned the dirt from today’s playing off of him.

 

He made it a quick bath because, before long, Peter was leaning heavily into Tony’s arms. Tony rinsed the last of the conditioner out of his hair before picking him up. Tony wrapped him in a towel and carried him into his bedroom.

 

He slipped the diaper underneath him and secured it before dressing him in pajamas. Peter didn't stir until Tony was standing up. He let out a low grunt and reached his hand out to grab Tony. His little fist latched onto his shirt.

 

“S’ay,” he said, using his other hand to suck his thumb.

 

Tony knew there was a mess in the bathroom to clean up and a few other things he had to take care, but they would all still be there in the morning. He pulled open the covers and crawled in next to Peter.

 

Peter hummed with a smile as he curled into Tony’s side. Tony pulled him even closer and whispered, “I had fun with you today.”

 

“Me ‘oo.”

 

Tony started to rub his back softly, hoping it would lull him to sleep. Peter was quiet for a long moment and Tony thought he was sleeping until he heard his soft voice again.

 

“'ony, why people mean?”

 

His heart hurt. He knew exactly where this question was coming from. “I don't know, kiddo.”

 

“No’ fair.”

 

“No, it's not,” Tony agreed.

 

Peter’s next question was more hesitant than his first. “‘o…’o you f’ink I'm a freak?” He was clutching to Tony’s shirt tightly but refused to look up at him.

 

“Do I think you're a freak?” Tony repeated in disbelief. “Peter, you're not a freak .”

 

Peter nodded his head jerkily. “Yeah. Kids in school ‘ell me. Only Ned like me.”

 

Tony pulled Peter up so he was standing on his stomach and looking him in the eyes. “More kids like you. And even if they don't, Ned is a great friend.”

 

Looking down didn’t help Peter avoid Tony's gaze because he was now above him. “Wha’ I do? Why f’ey no like me?” He wiped at his nose with a sniffle.

 

Tony didn't know how much crap Peter went through at school because of those kids, but he knew Peter did it without even one complaint. He endured every shove and name and punch. But contrary to how he acted, it definitely did bother him.

 

“You didn't do anything, Peter. They're just jealous of how smart you are. They want to be like you.”

 

Peter shook his head as tears fell down his face. “No one wan’s ‘o be Pe’er. Pe’er no wan’ ‘o be Pe’er.”

 

Tony frowned, wondering how felt so low about himself. “Why not? Tony Stark wants to be like Peter Parker.”

 

Peter shook his head, finally looking up. “No. 'ony, you're perfec’.”

 

Tony chuckled because how did this kid believe this stuff? His admiration for him was so genuine. “I'm far from it, kiddo, but thanks. I'd rather be as smart as you. And as brave as you. And as strong as you. And as handsome as you.” Tony tapped him on the nose and Peter giggled.

 

“You like Pe’er?”

 

“I love Peter.”

 

Peter smiled warmly down at Tony. “Pe’er loves you ‘oo.”

 

Tony pulled Peter down to lay on his chest as pressed a kiss to the top of his head. “I'm glad.”

 

“F’ank you, 'ony.”

 

“For what?”

 

“For being so nice.” he paused and added, “And ‘alking wi’f Flash.”

 

Tony held him just a little bit tighter. “You're welcome, buddy. Hopefully, he'll leave you alone now.”

 

“He mean.”

 

“I know.”

 

“He hur’ me, bu’ s’kay. I don’ wan’ him ‘o hur’ anyone else.” Peter picked his head up to look at Tony.

 

“The next time he lays a finger on you, tell me,” Tony demanded, hoping Peter would remember this conversation when he was older again.

 

“He no ‘ouch me many ‘imes. Only when I ‘alk back,” Peter told him. “He calls me names. He calls me so many ba’ wor’s.”

 

“He's just trying to make you feel bad. Nothing he says is true. Not a damn thing.” Tony needed to get this through Peter’s mind for him to understand.

 

“You know wha’ his fav’ri’e is? He go’ duh whole school ‘o say i’.” Peter shifted, looking around like he was afraid of being heard and then in a loud whisper, he said, “Penis Parker.” He deflated and admitted, “I ha’e da’ one.”

 

Tony’s eyes fell shut as he heard the broken sound of Peter’s voice.  It wasn’t fair that a kid like him had to hear that stuff at school. He had to go to school and keep his head down as the kids called him names like Penis Parker . Peter was the last kid on earth that deserved that.

 

“You know they’re all idiots, right?” Tony asked softly.

 

Peter shrugged his shoulders.

 

“Peter Parker is incredibly smart, funny, handsome, and nice. He’s going to grow up into one of the best men humankind has ever seen. He’ll probably invent something life-changing, win a few awards, maybe the Nobel Prize.”

 

Peter giggled. “No’ ‘mazing like ‘ony S’ark.”

 

Tony hummed, pretending to think. “You’re right. He’s even amazinger.”

 

“I wanna be jus’ like you!” Peter proclaimed, shifting so he was looking up at Tony.

 

Tony couldn’t fathom why. “Why not better? I’m not that special, kiddo.”

 

Tony would never forget the next four words that came out of Peter’s mouth. Because as he said them, he looked so genuinely confused like he couldn’t understand why Tony didn’t know it before he told him. “Because you’re my hero.”

 

Tony thought about all of the danger Peter put himself into to keep people safe and all of the trouble he put up with not just from evil villains but also from school bullies. He smiled as he told Peter, “And you’re mine.”

 

“‘Ony,” Tony heard him whisper softly. He waited for Tony’s soft hum before continuing. “Can you sing me a song?”

 

Tony pretended to be inconvenienced by his request. “A song?” He sighed deeply in over exaggeration and Peter giggled. “Well, I guess.” He waited for Peter to settle against his chest before he sang in a sweet voice, “Little one, when you play pay no heed what they say. Let those eyes sparkle and shine, never a tear, baby of mine.”

 

Tony ran his fingers through Peter’s soft curls and that helped soothe him to sleep. Tony drifted to sleep to Peter’s little snores and his wet drool dripping to his chest. He wouldn’t give this moment up for anything else in the world.

Chapter Text

Tony woke up to the sound of loud sniffles. At first, he thought he had dreamed it, but then he heard Peter whispering from somewhere else in the room and there was no longer a warm bundle pressed against his side.

 

Tony shot up in bed, blindly reaching for the light switch on his lamp. Was Peter okay? Did he fall off the bed and get hurt?

 

He flipped the switch and immediately searched the room for Peter. He saw him sitting in the corner, hugging his knees to his chest.

 

Tony assumed it was a nightmare. And if it was, why didn't Peter wake him up? Throwing the blanket off himself, Tony stood up to walk over to Peter. He took a seat next to him on the carpet and mimicked Peters position.

 

He didn't say anything; he listened to Peter mumble over and over. “Pe’er. Pe’er. Pe...er.”

 

Tony frowned, trying to figure out why he was saying his own name repeatedly. He rubbed Peter’s back to try and get him to pick his head up. “Peter?”

 

Peter didn't pick up his head, but he stopped saying his own name. “'ony...S’ark. 'ony S’ark!” He was gripping his hair tightly and pulling it in frustration.

 

“Woah, woah,” Tony said, immediately moving to get Peter to stop hurting himself. He took Peter’s small hands in his and rubbed them softly with his thumbs. “Hey, buddy, let's not go crazy just yet, okay? Maybe wait until you're back in May’s care.”

 

“Pe’er an’ 'ony,” Peter started saying, sounding like he wanted to cry.

 

Tony was a little worried. Part of him wondered if he should call Happy for help or have FRIDAY scan his brain. Maybe something was wrong. Was the de-aging taking a toll on his mind? Was the daily medication and spell too much?

 

“Dumb. Dumb. I so dumb.” He started banging his forehead against his knees.

 

Quickly leaning forward, Tony pulled Peter into his lap. He held him close while Peter kicked his legs. “Peter, you are not dumb.”

 

“I don’ wanna be a baby!” Peter screeched, twisting in Tony’s hold.

 

Tony felt his heart skip a beat. He realized he wasn't slowly losing his mind; he was starting to understand the situation he was stuck in. “I know, Pete. You're going to be back to normal soon.”

 

Peter shook his head. “I can’ say any’fing righ’! Can’ walk wi’f no falling! I wan’ ‘o be big ‘gain.” Peter was rubbing at his wet eyes with a balled fist.

 

“Shhh,” Tony whispered. “I know it's hard--.”

 

“Pe’er. 'ony. Why can’ I say it righ’? I f’ry so har’!” He let his head fall against Tony’s chest. “‘s no’ fair! No righ’! I s’upid!” Peter started to sob.

 

Tony carded his fingers through Peter’s hair. “No. No. Not stupid. And I know you try so hard. But remember the other day, when I told you your brain thinks so fast that your legs can't keep up? That's the same thing happening with your speech. Your brain thinks so fast that your mouth can't form the right words.” Tony hoped that was enough to calm Peter down.

 

“Bu’ I f’ry…’alk slow. S’ill can’ say ‘e.” He shook his head and tried again, “‘e. ‘e. ‘e.” He kicked his leg and grunted in frustration. “Like. 'ony and Pe’er. Can’ say duh ‘e.”

 

Tony could only understand 70% of what Peter just said. He knew he was dealing with Big Peter desperately trying to get past Little Peter.

 

“You're a big boy. I know. Before you know it, you'll be back to yourself. Not much taller, but older.” Tony grinned, but Peter didn't appreciate his joke. With a sigh, Tony said, “I know. I'm sorry. We’re gonna get through this.”

 

“No’ a baby,” Peter mumbled.

 

“Yes. Of course, not. How about we try out your big boy pants?”

 

Peter straightened up. “No more diapers?”

 

Tony hesitated. “Well, not completely gone. Today we’ll try out your Pull-Ups and see how that goes before getting rid of it.”

 

Peter hunched his shoulders slightly. “‘m sorry.”

 

“Why are you sorry, buddy?” Tony asked softly.

 

After a few miserable sniffles, Peter mumbled, “I ‘rouble. No’ wor’f i’.”

 

Tony was quick to argue it, “Hey, no. Don't you say stuff like that? You will never be a problem to me...you're family, okay? Family sticks together even when the shit hits the fan.”

 

Peter looked up at him with wide eyes. “Fam’ly?”

 

With a soft laugh, Tony nodded his head. “Yeah, kiddo. Family.”

 

Peter shot off of Tony’s lap clumsily and wrapped his little arms around him. “Love you, 'ony.”

 

Tony felt his eyes burn and a lump grow in his throat. He wrapped his arms arms around Peter to pull him closer. With a kiss to the side of his head, he whispered, “I love you too, Peter.”


 

Tony made a big deal of slipping the Pull-Ups on Peter when he changed his diaper. He chose the Iron Man one and Peter let out a loud squeal. While the sound was high enough to grate on Tony’s eardrums painfully, he found himself loving the sound. When Peter let out a squeal like that, he was happy. (It was the tantrum squeals he could live without).

 

Peter stood up and looked down at his Pull Up. He grinned and started to stomp his feet in excitement. “Big boy!”

 

Tony nodded, holding out a hand just in case Peter fell. “Yes. You're not supposed to go in these. So if you feel like you need to go, tell me and we’ll get here quickly. It's okay if you have an accident.”

 

“I use duh ‘oile’!” Peter proclaimed proudly.

 

Tony started dressing him in his clothes while he could get Peter still. “Was that English?” Peter didn't answer Tony and the moment he finished buttoning his pants, he started walking out of the bathroom.

 

“Can we have a ba’le?” Peter asked hopefully and even though he had been acting more of Big Peter, Tony knew this request to play with the action figures wasn't far off. He probably did this every weekend with Ned.

 

“After breakfast and your shot,” Tony said, following him out. Peter groaned, but made his way to the elevator. While he was down in the lab, he also worked on his plan for keeping May from knowing that Peter wasn’t Peter.

 

Ned would be returning later that day, so she would be expecting Peter. But, Tony was going to do the only thing he could think. He was going to use his voice modifier and call May to tell her that he had a last-minute internship retreat. It would only be a few days long, maybe a week.

 

Of course, she would try to argue it, but Tony would come up with anything to let him stay. He’d think of something and pray May said yes.

 

Just as Tony was about to give him the shot, Peter gasped and shot up to his feet. “‘Ony, need ‘o go!”

 

“What?” He asked at first, surprised at his sudden outburst. But then it clicked in his head when he remembered Peter was wearing Pull-Ups. “Oh, shit, yeah.” He picked Peter up under the arms and started running.

 

Together they rushed to the nearest bathroom while Tony repeated, “Hold it in, hold it in, hold it in,” like a mantra. In record time, he had Peter hoised over the toilet seat with his Pull-Ups around his ankles.

 

Tony watched Peter’s face, waiting for him to go. But he didn’t. Tony waited. Still nothing almost two minutes later. “Peter, are you going to go anytime soon?”

 

Peter looked embarrassed as he apologized, “Sorry, ‘ony. False ‘larm.”

 

With an unimpressed look, Tony lowered Peter and pulled his pants back up. “Was this just to get out of your shot?”

 

“No! I f’ink I need ‘o go,” Peter insisted with a little pout.

 

“Okay, okay. But, I’m not twenty-years-old anymore, kiddo, so I can’t run like that. No more false alarms.

 

Peter nodded his head seriously.

 

Honestly, Tony shouldn’t have been surprised when Peter had another seven false alarms. Tony tripped over his backpack on the last run and that’s when he laid down the law. “No more, Peter. If your next emergency is real and you pee yourself, then maybe you’ll learn not to be the little boy who cried wolf.”

 

Now Peter was sitting on the floor making little groans of frustrations as he tried playing with his toys. After almost a full minute of doing this, he gave up with playing. “‘Ony,” he said miserably. “Need ‘o go!”

 

Tony barely looked up from his magazine. “That’s nice, Peter.”

 

Peter turned back to his toys, pulling Benny close to his chest. He lasted another twenty seconds before he shrieked at Tony, “‘ony, please!”

 

The desperation in his voice had Tony pausing his reading. Peter really did look miserable as he sat on the rug. He sighed heavily and gave in. “One more try. I mean it, Peter.” He pulled Peter into his arms and started their run again.

 

When he finally made it into the bathroom and had Peter positioned over the toilet, Peter...started going! Tony smiled proudly. “Peter, you’re doing it, buddy!”

 

Once the frantic need to make it on time was out of Peter’s worries, he smiled back. “I did i’!” He giggled as he kicked his feet.

 

Tony helped him clean of and pull his pants back up. He ruffled his hand through his hair. “I think you deserve a surprise for this.”

 

“I have or’o?” Peter asked hopefully.

 

Tony laughed and started walking toward the kitchen. “You can have an Oreo, but I think I have something even better…”

 

The sound of pattering feet against the tiles floor had Tony smile. “Wha’ is i’?” Peter called, sounding excited. “‘ony!”

 

Tony let him chase after him without saying a word. As he grabbed bananas and a package of Oreos, Peter ran around his feet, trying to see what he was doing on the counter. “‘Ony! I can’ see! Wha’ you doing?”

 

As he hummed a happy tune that only got Peter more anxious, Tony pulled out a gallon of ice cream from the freezer. Peter’s eyes widened as he followed him back to the counter. “‘Ony! Wha’ you need i’cream for?”

 

“I’m hungry,” he replied, making sure not to step on Peter’s fingers. The kid was no crawling after he fell over and couldn’t keep up with Tony on his feet.

 

“I hungry ‘oo!” He whined a little, sounding frustrated.

 

Tony sighed like Peter was inconveniencing him. “Fine, squirt, you can help with snack time.” He bent down and put his hands under Peter’s arms to lift him up to the counter. Peter giggled the whole way up.  

 

Peter’s big eyes looked at all the ingredients on the counter surrounding him. He didn’t know which he wanted to try to eat first. He grabbed for a banana, but Tony stopped him. “No. We have to mix it all together.”

 

While Peter looked at him in confusion, Tony pulled over his blender. He used a spoon to start filling the blender with the vanilla ice cream. Peter was mesmerized as he watched the ice cream fill it up.

 

Then, Tony put that to the side and started to peel bananas into the mixture. He glanced at Peter from the corner of his eye when he noticed him stealing a spoonful of ice cream. “Hey, keep your dirty paws off that.”

 

Peter grinned widely at him around the spoon as he ate another mouthful. Tony rolled his eyes as he finished up the bananas. When he was done with that and went for the Oreos, Peter scooted closer with peaked curiosity.

 

Tony knew he’d join in when he started to crush the cookies over the blender. And sure enough, seconds later, Peter was giggling. “Can I help?”

 

“Sure, kiddo,” he answered, pushing the box of cookies closer to him.

 

Peter picked up a cookie and started to crush it in his hands. Tony worked through four cookies while he was still working on the one. He was turning it into crumbs. Tony held his hands to stop him as he laughed. “Okay, slow down, buster, we want chunks of the cookie.”

 

“Oh, sorry,” he apologized as he dropped the crumbs and squished cream into the blender. He picked up another cookie and watched Tony do it before he followed him. They put in a few more cookies before Tony said they were all finished.

 

Then he covered the blender and turned it on. He watched in amusement as Peter jumped slightly and turned his wide eyes to Tony. It was like he had never heard a noisy blender before. Tony laughed. And said over the sound, “It’s blending it all together for us.”

 

Peter watched the concoction swirl around the glass blending cup until Tony let go of the button. He continued to stare even as Tony pulled out two cups from the counter and began to fill them up.

 

When he had two if them, he slid one over to Peter and kept the other for himself. Peter didn’t immediately go to take a drink so Tony took a sip of his first and then gestured for Peter to do the same. He seemed to be waiting for a reaction from Tony before he took a sip of his. Tony rolled his eyes and took another large sip. “It’s yummy. You try,”

 

Peter took Tony’s word for it and hesitantly took a sip. Tony was able to tell the exact moment the milkshake hit his tongue because his eyes lit up and he lifted the cup higher to get more.  Tony held the cup, making sure that Peter didn’t spill it all over himself like he did with the oatmeal. But, Peter stopped himself when he put the cup down with a scrunched face. “Ow,” he moaned.”

 

Tony laughed. “You gave yourself a brain freeze.”

 

But Peter still went for more. He took a small sip and smiled widely at  Tony. “Yummy.”

 

“I know.”

 

“Make more ‘tomorrow?” He asked, already pulling out his puppy dog eyes.

 

Tony smiled at his milkshake mustache. “If you finish this e ntire thing before tomorrow, I’ll think about it.”

 

“Good,” Peter said seriously. “I need more. Much more.”

 

Another point to Tony for ending a day on another high note. Peter got his delicious treat and Tony now had a few fewer diapers to change. It was a win-win situation

 

Of course, it wouldn’t stay like this forever, but for now, Peter was safe and happy and that’s all Tony could really ask for.


 

“I’ll be there soon. The cab is only a few blocks away. He doesn’t know I’m coming right? I want it to be a surprise.” Ned sounded excited over the phone.

 

“Your little buddy is still out cold.” Tony smiled as he ran a hand through Peter’s bed head curls.

 

Ned laughed and said, “He likes to sleep in.”

 

“Don't worry. I'm waking him up after this call so he's up when you get here. FRIDAY will let you in.” Tony took a seat on the bed next to Peter.

 

“Thanks. See you soon, Mr. Stark.” Ned hung up the phone and Tony put his in his pocket.

 

He spared a few extra minutes to watch Peter sleep. Not in a creepy way, of course. Just to see how peaceful he looked with each steady rise and fall of his chest. He was curled up on his side facing Tony with one arm outstretched to the side of the bed that Tony laid on last night and one arm wrapped around Benny, tucking him close to his chest.

 

Shaking his shoulder lightly, Tony said, “Peter, wakey wakey.” He didn't stir so Tony shook him again. “Peter.” He didn't stop shaking him until Peter was groaning and shoving Tony’s hand off of him.

 

Peter peeked one eye open at him grumpily. “Sleep,” he said.

 

Tony shook his head with a laugh. “Maybe next time you'll go to bed at a decent time, party animal.” Last night, Peter had been up late watching some cartoon Star Wars show on Netflix and playing with his action figures.

 

Peter let out a low growl. Tony blinked. “Did you just growl at me?” Peter responded by turning his head away from Tony and pulling the blanket over his head.

 

Tony grinned. “No, no.” He stood up and grabbed the edge of the blanket before giving it a quick tug. The blanket well flying off of Peter and the mattress. He dropped it to the floor.

 

Peter whined and curled up even tighter before pulling a pillow over his head.

 

Tony loved a good challenge. He jumped onto the bed, landing on his hands and knees before slowly crawling over to Peter. The boy seemed unaware of Tony’s close proximity until it was too late.

 

He grabbed the pillow and tossed it behind his back. Peter immediately went to grab another one, but Tony grabbed his wrist. Peter kicked his legs in irritation with his eyes squeezed shut.

 

“It's morning time, Sleepy Head.”

 

Peter shook his head.

 

“Okay...you asked for this,” Tony said slowly before letting go of Peter’s wrist. Without missing a beat, he started tickling Peter’s stomach.

 

Peter’s eyes shot open as he began to gasp. “S-s’op, 'ony!”

 

Tony laughed along with Peter’s giggles and shook his head. “No can do, buckaroo.”

 

Peter squirmed desperately as he begged for Tony to stop. His face was bright red and there were small tears leaving the corners of his eyes. Tony didn't pull his hands back until he heard Peter yell, “I up, 'ony! I ge’ up!”

 

Leaning back, Tony let Peter catch his breath. He did so and pushed himself up to glare at Tony. Grinning, Tony told him, “You're not very intimidating. About as scary as a little puppy.”

 

“No!’

 

Before Peter could lay back down, Tony pulled him into his arms. He squeezed him tightly and said, “You're cuddly like a puppy too.”

 

Peter twisted in his grip so he was facing Tony. He put two hands on his chest and pushed himself up so they were eye level. “I no’ a puppy!”

 

Tony pinched one of his cheeks. “Puppies are adorable too.”

 

Peter gave up trying to argue Tony and let himself fall to Tony’s chest. “You mean, 'ony,” he mumbled with no conviction.

 

Tony laughed as he stood up. “I know. Now let's go get something to eat.” He was about to leave the bedroom when Peter almost dropped out of his arms. Tony followed his movement so he didn't fall. “Peter,--!”

 

“Forgo’ Benny!” He started making reaching gestures for the stuffed dog lying on the bed. Tony rolled his eyes and grabbed it. Peter pulled it into his arms with a smile. “Fanks, 'ony.”

 

“You're welcome, kiddo.”

 

---

 

After his diaper change and shot, Peter was strapped to the highchair with a tray full of cheerios. He was telling Tony all about the episodes he watched last night, but it was mostly just incoherent chatter.

 

FRIDAY cut Peter off mid-sentence, “Sir, there is someone at the door.”

 

Tony grinned. “Let him in, FRI.”

 

Peter frowned, staring up at the ceiling before he turned back to look at Tony. “Happy?”

 

“Not Happy…”

 

“Who?” Peter insisted.

 

Tony took a bite of his banana and shrugged his shoulders. “Surprise.”

 

Peter started kicking his feet. “I wanna know!”

 

“He won't come if you throw a tantrum.”

 

After a brief pause, Peter guessed, “San’a?”

 

Tony laughed loudly. He wished it was Christmastime. He'd love to see Peter’s face on Christmas morning as he rushed down the stairs to see what awaited him under the tree. Maybe May wouldn't mind sharing him when the time came. “Aw, kiddo, as cute of a guess as it is, nope.”

 

Peter paused his sleuthing to grab a piece of banana and stuff it in his mouth. That seemed to distract him enough not to keep annoying Tony. Then the clearing of a throat caught both their attention.

 

Tony looked up and saw Ned standing there with a bag. Peter’s high chair was facing the other direction so he couldn't see, but he knew someone was there. “'ony, who?”

 

“Just my friend. Haven't seen him in a while. You don't mind cleaning up the kitchen while we play, right?” Tony asked as he motioned for Ned to walk over.

 

Tony kept his eyes on Peter’s face as Ned walked over. The minute Peter saw his best friend, his face broke out into a big toothy grin. The squeal he let out was high enough for only dogs to hear probably. He started kicking his feet and smacking his hands against the tray. “Ned!”

 

Ned smiled widely. “Hey, buddy!” He ruffled Peter’s hair and just like a puppy, he leaned into the touch.

 

Once Ned pulled his hand away, Peter turned to Tony and asked, “I come down?”

 

Even though Peter hadn't finished his breakfast, Tony pulled the tray off and placed it on the table. He turned around to see Ned already unbuckling the straps. Once free, Peter jumped into his arms.

 

“I miss you,” he said into Ned’s neck.

 

Ned squeezed him in a hug. “I missed you, Pete.”

 

Peter pulled back and asked, “Vacation fun?”

 

“Not as fun as it would have been with you, but it was fun.” Ned was a natural at holding Peter steady, even as the toddler bounced in his hold.

 

“I'll put together a trip for you too,” Tony offered, feeling bad that they missed out on their opportunity this time.

 

Ned immediately insisted, “Mr. Stark, you don't have to do that!”

 

“It's the least I can do.” Tony waved his hand dismissively.

 

“You've already done so much,” Ned said, shaking his head. “I can't ask you for more.”

 

“Don't even worry about it. It's Peter that has given me all the trouble,” Tony teased as he tweaked Peter’s nose.

 

“I'm sorry if he was bad--.”

 

Tony laughed. “He was fine. He's a great kid and whenever he had a rough day, it wasn't your fault.”

 

“I'm just feel bad dropping him on you,” Ned said, glancing at Peter, who still didn't stop smiling at Ned.

 

“We've had a great time.” Tony nodded his head to the living room. “We can sit and tell you all about it.” He picked up Ned’s bag now that his hands were full.

 

Ned followed Tony into the living room and they sat down on the couch. Peter immediately jumped to his feet and ran to the television where his backpack was. He ran it back over to Ned and dumped his toys on the couch cushion. “Look wha’ 'ony buy me!”

 

Looking at the pile, Ned smiled. “They're so cool.” He picked up one of the Star Wars. “These are the ones you've been begging for.”

 

Tony watched Peter nod his head rapidly. He hadn't known these were the ones Peter wanted; all he knew was that they were the coolest ones in the aisle. He hoped he didn't mess up May’s plan to buy them for him. But he doubted that no matter how much May adored Peter and would do anything for him, that she could afford to buy every figure in the series.

 

This reminded him to talk to May and see how she was doing financially. Maybe he could help with some things, even though he knew she'd refuse. He could at least help when Christmas came in a few short months. Or when Peter was big again he could give him an actual intern position with a Stark employee salary.

 

Tony focused on Peter again to see he was just finishing naming every figure to Ned. Then he ran over to the chair where he left his stuffed dog. Tony wasn't sure if he was going to show Benny to Ned. He thought maybe he'd be too embarrassed, but even if Peter was his normal age, Tony didn't think Ned was the friend he got embarrassed around.

 

He held the brown dog up to Ned with a smile. “This is Benny!”

 

Ned smiled softly. “Benny? He's cute. Did you pick him out?”

 

Peter nodded. “And I name him!”

 

Ned ruffled Peter’s hair again, this time more softly. He looked over Peter’s head to Tony and said, “Mr. Stark has you spoiled, huh?”

 

“He buy me naners and or’os and fish!” Peter exclaimed. “They in my snack box.”

 

Ned turned to Tony and said in a low voice, “You didn't have to get all this stuff for him. I know this is only half of it, maybe less.”

 

Tony smiled and said, “It was no problem. I'm a billionaire and I wanted to spoil Little Peter. Most of it was for me. Especially the Iron Man carrier. Maybe I'll let you try it.”

 

Ned laughed but was silenced when Peter yelled his name. “Ned!” Ned turned his attention back to him and apologized.

 

Peter smiled and before Tony could stop him, he was pulling down his pants. “Peter,” Tony said, feeling embarrassed for him.

 

Laughing again, Ned assured him, “It's fine. I've seen him in less.”

 

Tony furrowed his eyebrows at the pair, wondering just how close they were. “I'm not even gonna ask.”

 

With his pants around his ankles, he was pointing to his Pull-Ups. “I big boy! No more diapers when I ‘wake,” he said proudly.

 

“What a good boy you are,” Ned praised. “And Iron Man is on them.”

 

Peter grinned up at his friend. “He's my favorite.”

 

“Oh, I know. They match your boxers.”

 

Peter started giggling.

 

Boxers? Peter had Iron Man boxers? He was such a nerd, Tony thought. But part of him was touched that he was Peter’s favorite.

 

“Hey, Eminem, how about you pull your pants up and show Ned around.” Tony raised his eyebrows.

 

Peter did so with a bashful smile. Once he had his jeans back around his waist, he grabbed Ned’s hand and said, “Come on!”

 

Tony watched as Peter dragged Ned around with a smile. They went to the kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, and the living room before stopping.

 

Peter didn't have to ask twice before Ned was playing Star Wars with him. They laid on the floor like that for hours taking turns blowing each other’s teams up.

 

It was weird to see how well they got along even with Peter’s current predicament. They seemed used to this game and the rules remained the same. There was a point system, a certain way to kill someone, a certain way to die. Ned didn't baby him; he even argued when Peter tried to say his Iron Man (Ned hadn't been able to convince him that Iron Man wasn't in Star Wars) survived yet another attack.

 

Tony stopped in to drop a plate of snacks by them to munch on. Ned thanked him while Peter hurried and started stuffing his face with Goldfish.

 

Their game lasted long past the afternoon and didn't stop until Tony interrupted them. He'd been watching Peter closely for the past few minutes and noticed how he was scrunching his face and bouncing on his knees.

 

“Peter,” Tony said knowingly. “is it time for a potty break?”

 

At the mention of the bathroom, Peter’s hand shot to his pants, but he shook his head. “Play.”

 

“Your game can pause. Your bladder can't.” Tony knew he was only being difficult because he was excited to finally see Ned. Usually, he was over the moon at the chance to use the toilet like a big boy.

 

“Bu’!” Peter turned to Ned with wide eyes.

 

Ned smiled softly. “I’ll be right here when you get back,” he promised.

 

Peter hesitated for only a second before jumping to his feet and running over to Tony. With a laugh, Tony picked him up and balanced him on his hip. “We’ll be right back.”

 

Their trip to the bathroom was quick and soon Peter was running back into the living room with an empty bladder and hands smelling of hand soap.

 

“See?” Ned said, “I'm still here.”

 

Peter giggled as he came close to Ned’s side and his friend wrapped him in a hug. Tony smiled down at the two. Peter was incredibly lucky to have Ned as his guy in the chair.

 

In this situation alone, he would have been in so much trouble without the help of his best friend.

 

“Hey, Jedi Masters, how about we get some dinner and we put on a movie?” Tony stood up, knowing by now they had to be hungry for dinner. (He noticed Peter started chewing on the collar of his shirt).

 

“Sounds good,” Ned agreed and went to stand up, but Tony placed a hand on his shoulder.

 

“Sit. I'll bring it out and we’ll have a picnic.” He gestured to the toys. “Just clean these up and ask FRIDAY to play any movie you want.”

 

When Tony came back a few minutes later with mac and cheese and hot dogs separated on 3 plates, he shouldn't have been surprised to see Star Wars playing on the television screen.

 

He rolled his eyes and said, “I can quote this movie by now.” He paused as he looked at the menu. “Episode I? Usually, Pete starts with IV.”

 

Ned groaned. “Believe me, I know. He always wants to watch the last three first because he believes in the release date order. I think in any good Star Wars marathon, you should start from the beginning.” He turned to look at Peter, who was chewing on the remote, and said pointedly, “The real beginning.”

 

Peter paused his chewing to stick out his tongue.

 

Ned turned to Tony and said in a stage whisper, “I think it's just because of his huge crush on Han Solo.”

 

“Ned!” Peter squealed loudly with red cheeks.

 

Tony handed him his plate of food and ruffled his hair. “Don't worry, Princess Leia, your secret is safe with me.” Peter glared at him, but it did nothing but make him chuckle.

 

Despite the teasing, Peter wormed his way into Ned’s lap once they were done eating. Ned barely noticed besides for moving to lean against the couch so Peter was more comfortable. The little guy just curled into his friend’s lap and sucked his thumb contently while they watched the movie.

 

Tony hadn't been watching the movie. He spent the time watching Peter. The kid was staring so intently at the movie and his eyes widened and he giggled and he gasped and he flinched at all the right parts like it was the first time he was seeing the movie. But he knew better.

 

Tony could see it in Peter’s eyes; he loved this movie. But Tony wasn't sure if it was because the trilogy as so freaking amazing or if because it was something he shared with his best friend.

 

During one of the slower scenes, Ned turned to Tony and said, “He's got this whole headcanon about what Han Solo is doing when this is all taking place. It's very detailed, and frankly, a little creepy.”

 

Tony grinned as he questioned, “Headcanon?”

 

“Yeah, like, a theory or interpretation of a character in a movie. Their backstory, their relationships, their personality. It's a lot of fun to do; Peter and I do them all the time with our shows.”

 

Tony nodded in understanding. So not only was Spider-Man a super nerd, but he was also a super fanboy...interesting. Tony would definitely use this to his favor later on. But for now, he was just going to let Peter enjoy himself embarrassment free.

 

Watching one movie turned into three before Tony knew it. He turned to see Ned laying down, still awake, with Peter on his chest sound asleep. Tony smiled at the sight. As adorable as it was though, Tony knew he couldn’t leave Ned lying on the floor like that.

 

Tony got up and kneeled next to them and carefully picked Peter up in his arms. “You wanna crash in the guest bedroom? I can carry him in for you.”

 

Ned looked at Peter as he unconsciously grabbed onto Tony’s shirt. He smiled softly and said, “You can sleep with him. I’ve had more than enough Peter cuddles to last a lifetime. And I’m sure there are plenty more up the road.” At Tony’s questioning look, he explained, “Peter gets clingy when he’s tired.”

 

Tony appreciated the thought and knew Ned was only trying to make Tony feel okay for taking Peter, but he couldn’t help but hear the underlying message. Peter was going to be a teenager again soon and sure, Ned had years of times like this ahead of him with his best friend, but Tony didn’t.

 

He smiled anyway. “Thank you, Ned. You better get your rest because he likes to wake up nice and early most mornings.”

 

Ned laughed. “Goodnight Mr. Stark.”


 

The next morning when Tony picked his head off his pillow, he realized he had a great night. Peter didn’t wake up with a nightmare or wake him up just because he wanted to. In fact, he was still asleep when Tony woke up.

 

Which was weird because that was the second morning in a row he’d overslept. Tony frowned and started to shake him awake, but he stopped short when he felt the heat from Peter’s shoulder practically burn his palm.

 

He moved his hand to Peter’s forehead. He was burning up. “FRIDAY, read his temperature.”

 

FRIDAY answered a few seconds later, “101.3 degrees, sir. It seems he has a fever.”

 

Tony sighed and bit back his retort of, “No shit, Sherlock.” He had more important things to deal with than a smart-mouthed AI. Like the little boy with the fever. Tony scooped him up in his arms and brushed his sweaty bangs from his forehead.

 

Peter moaned, blinking his eyes open. They looked dazed and unfocused, but when they met Tony’s face he smiled slightly. “Morning, ‘ony.”

 

“Good morning, buddy,” Tony said.

 

“No feel goo’,” he moaned as his own smile slipped off his face.

 

“You've got a fever,” Tony told him as he walked into the bathroom to change his diaper. “I told you to be careful; you have no immune system and what do you do? You get sick.”

 

Tony tried to sound serious, but if Peter’s laughing was anything to go by he saw right through it. He stopped quickly and whined, “Laughing hur’s my hea’.”

 

Tony rolled his eyes and started changing his diaper. “You remember in McDonald's? The big playset? You're probably getting sick just because you looked at it. Imagine how sick you'd be if you actually played in it?”

 

Peter was letting his eyes drop closed again. He just wanted to sleep off the sickness.

 

“Boss, it is highly unlikely that he attracted sickness from that,” FRIDAY unhelpfully pointed out.

 

Tony rolled his eyes. “I know, FRI. It was probably climbing all over the playground and putting his dirty fingers in his mouth.”

 

When he went to put the pajamas on him, he let out a low whine. Tony knew he was burning up so settled on leaving him in his Pull-Ups.

 

“Let's go see how Ned is doing.” Tony lifted him up and cradled him. The heat from his back burning his palm was a little worrying.

 

He walked outside and saw Ned walking towards the kitchen. He looked over at Peter with concern. “Your ceiling lady told me you were getting up...and Peter wasn't feeling well.”

 

Tony carded his fingers through Peter’s hair. “Just a fever. He's going to rest it off today.” Tony lowered him to the couch and Peter curled into the back cushion.

 

“I don't want to bother him, but will you two be okay?” Ned asked hesitantly, coming over to Peter.

 

“We’ll be okay,” Tony confirmed.

 

Ned leaned over and kissed Peter’s forehead. “Wow, he's really burning up.”

 

Tony nodded. “I think it's his body trying to get rid of the germs and age him up at the same time with no immune system.” He tried to keep the worry about of his voice so he didn't set it off in Ned.

 

“Will he be okay?” Ned started to run his fingers back and forth through Peter’s sweaty curls.

 

“He’ll be fine. I'll keep an eye on him with FRIDAY,” Tony assured him. “I'll get us some breakfast before you head back. Happy can get you a ride.”

 

“My mom can pick me up before she goes to work, it's okay.”

 

“Nonsense.” Tony waved his hand. “It's his job and I really don't need him freaking out about the kid.”

 

“Happy? As in the grumpy guy that picks up Peter from school sometimes?” Ned asked.

 

“He's not that grumpy.”

 

Ned raised his eyebrows. “When Peter was chasing the vulture dude, I tried calling him to help and he hung up the second he knew I was a friend of Peter’s.”

 

“That was a...difficult time.”

 

“Yeah. He cares about him more than he shows.” He laughed. “One time he saw Flash try to hit Peter with his car so the next day he ran over his backpack. Flash was furious. It was hysterical.”

 

“Happy knew about Flash?”

 

“Kinda? Flash doesn't bother Peter in the open when adults can see. He's more of a corner him in the bathroom after decathlon practice kind of guy.” Ned looked angry as he paused his soothing hair petting. “I try so hard to protect him, but Peter gets himself into trouble when I'm not there so I can't get hurt too.”

 

“Why doesn't he fight back?” Tony remembered when Peter told him how Peter Parker couldn't try out for football then so how could he now? Maybe he was afraid of someone wondering how he suddenly was able to fight his bully back.

 

“He says if Flash gets bored of him, he’ll move onto someone else that doesn't have healing like him,” Ned said sadly. “But, honestly, he did this before the spider bite. He's always had the need to protect everyone. Especially me. That's how we met. He told some kid off for calling me fat. Peter’s eye was black and blue for two weeks after that. We've been best friends ever since.”

 

“He's a great kid.”

 

“He's been my hero,” Ned said simply. “Long before he was Spider-Man.”

Chapter Text

After breakfast, Ned grabbed his bag and Happy drove him back home. Peter moved to give him a weak hug, but other than that he laid on the couch with closed eyes.

 

His cheeks were flushed with his fever. He moaned pitifully every so often and that was the only sign Tony had that he was awake. Sometimes when he didn't make a noise for a while, Tony whispered softly in his ear until he peeled open his heavy eyelids. His eyes were hazy and unfocused. Tony ran his fingers through Peter's hair and whispered soothingly to him.

 

Finally, he seemed to fall asleep. Tony knew his body would only recover if he got some sleep. While he slept, Tony busied himself with cleaning up. It was weird to have dead silence in the tower. Usually, Peter was babbling and giggling somewhere.

 

In the far corner of the living room, Tony found a pillow and throw blanket Peter had set up when he liked to read. That stupid biography was tucked underneath the blanket. Tony picked it up and flipped through the pages. Coloring caught his eyes and he flipped back to the page that wasn't black and white like all the others. Someone had drawn on the empty space and margins with crayons.

 

Reading the words scribbled in red crayon nearly brought tears to his eyes. But he didn't let them fall because Starks don't cry . Especially not over a kid’s drawing. Tony paused that thought and looked over at the adorable sleeping lump on his couch and then back down at his book.

 

Screw it, Tony thought. This was a great reason to cry. Suck it, Howard.

 

On the page of Tony’s family, Peter had drawn a picture of himself. The kid was no artist, but it was the best damn drawing Tony had ever seen. There were two stick figures, one tall and one much shorter, but they had crazy long arms so they could hold hands. Both wore huge smiles.

 

It looked like the picture took up more room than Peter planned so his writing was squished into any space available.  

 

 

Peter Parker-Stark. Tony’s pretend son. Loves science and Iron Man.

 

His handwriting was atrocious, but the words were all spelled correctly.

 

Tony smiled softly as he traced the letters of Peter’s name on the page. He wanted to frame this somewhere everyone could see. He wanted everyone to know who Peter Parker-Stark was. But he didn't want to pull it from the book right now. So, he shut it carefully and put it on a high shelf where no one could find it.

 

Then he turned back to where Peter was sleeping on the couch. He quietly walked over and lifted Peter up. He was still hot, but he wasn't burning up as much as he was earlier.

 

Holding Peter to his chest, he laid down on the couch and closed his eyes. He fell asleep to Peter’s soft snores.


He woke up to someone ironing his chest. It was burning hot. Too hot for an iron. Someone was holding a fire to his chest. That was the only thing that could explain the heat burning his chest. 

 

His eyes didn't snap open until he heard Peter’s soft sobbing. Now that he was wide awake, he found exactly what was burning him. Peter.

 

“FRIDAY, what's his temperature?” Tony yelled, sitting up and cradling Peter.

 

“104.7, boss.”

 

“Shit. Why didn't you wake me up?” Looking down at Peter, he saw his face pinched in obvious discomfort. Tony caressed his face softly. “It's okay, Peter. Shhh.”

 

Peter continued to cry like he didn't hear Tony. And maybe he didn't. Tony couldn't tell.

 

“I suggest running a cold bath," FRIDAY said.

 

“Yeah, okay, I'm on it.” Tony hurried to the bathroom without jostling Peter too much.

 

In the bathroom, he kept Peter tucked in one arm while he used his free hand to turn on the cold water. As it started filling up, Tony rocked Peter softly to try and help him feel better. He pulled off Peter’s diaper and was surprised that the plastic didn’t melt off because he was so hot.

 

Tony continued to hum softly to try and soothe Peter as best as he could. Peter wasn’t having any of it. He was too miserable. Tony didn’t blame him.

 

Once the bath was filled up high enough, Tony lowered him down slowly into the icy water. Peter gasped and thrashed and screamed for Tony to stop, but he ignored the loud cries. “Peter, we need to cool you off.”

 

“‘oo cold!” Peter screeched, grabbing onto Tony’s neck and using his spidey powers to hold on tightly.

 

Then Tony remembered the night Vulture dropped Peter into the cold lake and the first time he tried giving Peter a bath and how he freaked out. There was no way Peter was lucid enough to let himself be dropped into a freezing cold tub of water.

 

“Hey, buddy, how about I come in with you, okay?” Tony suggested. He pulled Peter close as he stepped a foot inside the bath. He hissed at how freaking cold it was. Only for Peter.

 

Peter continued to cry, but at least he stopped fighting Tony. Tony slowly lowered himself into the tub until he was laying down with Peter on his chest. Tony was already shivering before the water even touched Peter.

 

When it did, Peter let out a loud yell, but Tony held him close and talked to him to distract him, “We’re in the bathroom. Just taking a bath to cool you down. You’re okay.”

 

“Don' leave me!” Peter shouted with a cry.

 

“I'm not going anywhere,” Tony promised, kissing the top of Peter's sweaty head.

 

Peter continued to sob as Tony used his hand to drip cold water over his burning body. He continued to do that for almost a half hour until Peter's sobs died down into whimpers.

 

“Check his temperature again,” Tony requested in a quiet voice. Peter wasn't sleeping, but he most likely had a pounding headache and Tony didn't want to make it worse.

 

“101.3.”

 

Tony sighed in relief. It wasn't perfect, but it was lowering. With some children's Tylenol and a good rest, hopefully, the rest of the fever would be gone by tomorrow.

 

Sitting in a frigid bath for another half hour wasn't going to help, so Tony slowly stood up. Peter stirred in his arms. “'ony?”

 

“Shh, we're going to go lay down for a few hours.” Tony carried him to the counter and laid him down. Peter let out a short squeal and grabbed onto Tony's wrists. “I'm just putting a diaper on you. You're sleeping and don't feel well enough to jump up when you have to go.”

 

Peter seemed okay with that answer, but the minute he picked him up again, he wrapped his arms around Tony tightly. Tony had a feeling he wouldn't be letting go anytime soon.

 

They laid down together in Tony's bed and Peter snuggled into the pillow, letting out a soft sigh when Tony covered him with a blanket. He laid down next to him and Peter grabbed onto him and pulled himself close. Tony felt the heat radiating off his skin burning through his t-shirt. But Peter only held on tighter.

 

Ned was right. Peter was a cuddler when he was sick.

 

His kissed the top of Peter’s head as he clung to him like a koala bear. “Please feel better, kid, please.”


 

The next morning, Tony was relieved to wake up with a sweaty toddler still clinging to him. He was sweating; that meant his fever broke. Tony’s eyes shot open and he looked down at the bundle in his arms. “Peter?” He asked hesitantly.

 

Unlike the previous two days, Peter’s eyes opened when he heard his name being called. He blinked a few times before smiling brightly up at Tony. “‘ony!”

 

Tony smiled back. “You feeling better, kiddie?”

 

Peter nodded as he pushed himself up. “Yeah! Head no hur’ and no’ so ho’!”

 

“You fought through the nasty fever.” Tony ruffled the hair on his head with a smile. Peter looked just as relieved as Tony felt. “And do you know what finally feeling better after a day of lying in bed miserable means?”

 

“Wha’?” Peter asked, showing his little teeth in a grin.

 

“It means you and I are going out for a nice lunch today. Maybe we’ll make a stop at the Lego store.”

 

“‘ony! ‘ony! “ Peter started to chant in excitement. “Now? We go now?”

 

Tony laughed. “Sure, kiddo. As soon as you're dressed.” Tony had never seen the kid move so fast to get out of bed.

 

Today was going to be a good day.


 

Well, at least it started out as a good day.


Peter ran through the Lego store babbling excitedly about all of the Legos. Tony stood along the wall and watched. (He may have bought a few sets, including the Millenium Falcon, for him to pick up for Peter’s birthday, but that was a surprise).

 

There was a small bowl of Lego pieces and for almost an hour, Peter stood at the table building a cool flying jet/car with missiles out of random blocks. Even the workers were impressed with a two-year-old’s ability. Tony smiled proudly when they displayed it one of the cases.

 

They went to a small cafe after their adventure in the Lego store and that’s when it all suddenly went to shit.


 

“Do you enjoy making messes?” Tony asked Peter as he used a napkin to wipe his face off. He had more of his lunch on his face than in his mouth.

 

Peter’s giggling stopped at the same moment he heard a woman behind him say, “Tony Stark?”

 

Tony cursed under his breath. He had been doing so well keeping his cover. How did this woman recognize him under his shades and hat? Even if someone did think it was him, Tony thought that having a kid by his side would confuse someone enough to doubt themselves. But not this woman.

 

Tony turned to face her, doing his best to block Peter from her view. “I think you have me confused with someone else--.”

 

She grabbed the empty seat at his table and sat down. “Mr. Stark,” she whispered. “I won't be long, I promise.”

 

Tony sighed. “What can I do for you?”

 

“I just wanted to tell you how amazing you are! And I've been following you since 2008 when you fixed your father’s company. I'm amazed at what you've--.”

 

A whine interrupted her and her curious eyes peeked over Tony’s arm and she smiled at the toddler. “Aww, he's so cute.”

 

Tony was going to kill this kid. He was trying to keep him away from the woman. And with her attention on him, he seemed even more uncomfortable. He grabbed Tony’s arm and squeezed painfully. “You asked for this, kid,” Tony grumbled.

 

But Peter kept whining and looked close to crying. Tony assumed it was because Peter didn't like strangers, so he did his best to get this woman's attention off of him. “So, you want a picture? An autograph?” Tony asked, already pulling over a napkin and a crayon from the table in front of Peter.

 

She was still focused on Peter. “Hey, cutie, what's your name?” She reached out towards him but stopped immediately when Peter let out a loud shriek.

 

Tony turned quickly to Peter. “Hey, dude, come on. We're in public. You cause a scene and everyone will look.”

 

“Is he okay?” The woman was still leaning close.

 

Tony ignored her and put a hand on Peter’s back. “What's wrong? Dirty diaper? Tired? Hungry? Tell me.” He had no clue why Peter had gone from happy to upset in a matter of seconds.

 

Peter whined out, “'ony, bad.”

 

Tony frowned. “What's bad?” He rubbed Peter’s back soothingly.

 

He shut his eyes and let out a low, needy whine before curling into Tony’s touch. Something was wrong. Before Tony could figure out what, he was knocked off his seat by an explosion.  

 

He blinked open his eyes but couldn't see anything through the thick smoke. But he realized that was the point. Someone threw a smoke grenade into the restaurant.

 

Was New York being attacked again? Was it some kind of terrorist attack? Tony blinked, trying to push himself up. He could barely hear anything over the ringing in his ears but there was one sound as clear as day.

 

“'ony! 'ony! Help!”

 

Tony quickly shoved himself up, ignoring the pain in his wrist from landing on it harshly. He needed to get to Peter. This was for Peter. Someone wanted Peter.

 

“Peter!” He screamed, blinking through the dirty air. He couldn't see anything. But he still heard Peter calling him. He wasn't in the high chair and Tony knew someone grabbed him. Tony ran as fast as he could towards the front door of the restaurant. He had to catch whoever the hell was trying time steal his kid. Once outside, he’d be able to see.

 

He jumped through the broken window and landed on the sidewalk. He looked around widely at the dozens of people screaming and rushing through the streets. He needed to find Peter. He did a 360 looking around for someone running with a kid in their hands.

 

He couldn't hear Peter’s screams anymore. So whoever had him was keeping him quiet. “Peter! Where are you?” He yelled desperately. He could feel his eyes burning and he didn't think it was because of the smoke. He couldn't lose Peter.

 

Just when Tony thought he'd lost, he saw a man running down the block with a kid in his arms. Tony couldn't see his face since the man was pressing his head against his shoulder and it could have been any dad holding his son running away from the blast. But those curls were so familiar. Those were Peter’s curls.

"Stop!" Tony yelled at them, knowing it was useless. The man only ran faster and so did Tony. He didn't care as he shoved past people and got yelled at. He just cared about catching up to Peter.

 

Maybe Tony didn't have Captain America’s speed, but he had the strength of his will. He had the need to get his boy back. He was running so fast he caught up with them only a minute later. He wanted to tackle them, but he couldn't risk Peter.

 

“Let him go!” Tony yelled as he stayed on the man's tail.

 

The man turned his head to see how close Tony was. He looked panicked and started running faster. Tony couldn't even recognize the man. This wasn't one of his past enemies looking for revenge.

 

This idiot obviously had no idea what he was doing because he led their chase all the way to a dead-end alley. He was back against the wall and he held Peter against his chest with one hand. He pulled out a gun and held it to Peter’s head with the other.

 

Tony had seen many people held at gunpoint and seeing someone he loved with a gun at their temple was sickening. But to see a kid, his kid, in this position was worse than anything. Tony stopped a foot away and raised his hands. “Get your gun off his head.”

 

The man was shaking; he was panicking. “I won't hurt him. You'll get him back. As long as you put 50 million in a bank account.”

 

Tony paused. “This is about money ? You're holding a gun to a 2-year-old for money?” He growled angrily. “That's disgusting.”

 

“I'm j-just doing my job. Come with me and I'll give you the information and then you get your kid. Even trade.”

 

Tony scoffed, “ Even trade ? You steal my kid and then demand my money and think it's an even trade? You've got to be fucking kidding me.”

 

The man narrowed his eyes. “What's worth more to you? Money or him?”

 

“Okay. Fine. You win. How about you lower that gun and we go get you your money? No one has to get hurt.” Tony slowly lowered his own hands, but before the man could move, Tony triggered the mini blaster on his watch and shot the man right in the stomach.

 

Tony had to move quickly. The man dropped both the gun and Peter. He locked eyes with Peter and saw the fear in his wide eyes. The duct tape over his mouth was keeping him from yelling anything.

 

Tony dove, just in time to catch Peter in his arms. The minute, he had him in his arms, he pulled him close. He ran a hand through his sweaty hair and held him tightly. Peter grabbed onto his shirt like his life depended on it. Tony shushed him soothingly as he grabbed the tape and ripped it off. Peter let out a soft cry but didn't complain otherwise.

 

He let his tears fall and sobbed, “'ony!”

 

Tony pulled him as close to his chest as he could and rubbed his back. “You're okay. I've got you.” Peter whimpered and nuzzled his head into Tony’s shirt.

 

Tony turned to the man gasping on the pavement. “Next time you hold a gun to someone, make sure you turn off the safety. Moron.” He walked away from him but called out just before he left the alley, “I’ll send someone over. Let them know their suspect is here.”


"We can't stay here,” Tony said without pausing his packing. He had one arm wrapped around Peter as the boy clung to him.

 

“Tony, I know you're worried. I am too. But you can't just leave. Where are you going to go?” Happy asked from the doorway.

 

“Upstate.”

 

Happy scoffed. “That's a great idea. Good luck sneaking a baby into the compound.”

 

Tony turned around to grab another pile of Peter’s clothes. “It's huge. I'll have FRIDAY let me know when the coast is clear. Or we’ll climb through my window.”

 

“How about you just sleep on it?” Happy tried to convince him.

 

Tony turned around and wrapped his other arm around Peter. “Someone tried to kidnap him today, Happy. Not because he's Spider-Man or because I'm Iron Man. But because I’m rich and they saw me out with him a few times.” Tony shivered at the thought: “If those wannabe criminals can plan something like that, imagine what a little more experience and effort can do.”

 

“Nothing will happen. He only has a few more days of this. Have him stay inside until he's back to a teenager. Nobody will come after him in here.”

 

“Ross already wants me up there to discuss the changes to The Accords. I can't keep giving him excuses. I might as well just go up there. With all of that security, Peter will be safe.”

 

Happy didn't say anything else and Tony assumed he left, but when he turned back around he saw him walking closer. “You haven't put Peter down since it happened. You need to take a shower, have something to eat.” He held out his arms. “I can hold him.”

 

Tony felt Peter’s fingers dig harder into him. “I know. And I trust his life with you, but right now I just need to hold him. I need to know he's okay.”

 

Happy sighed, but he looked like he understood Tony’s request. “Okay, fine, but if you change your mind and need some help just call me.”

 

“In a few hours, we're going to need a driver. We're taking a jet to upstate. I want to get there when it's dark and hopefully, everyone is sleeping.”

 

“Okay, boss,” Happy said. Tony wasn't sure if his friend approved of his decision or not. If he didn't, he didn't say anything. He only leaned close to Peter and rubbed his arm softly. “I'm glad you're okay, squirt.”

 

“F’anks, Happy,” Peter replied with a smile.

 

“I'd ask for a hug but I don't think you're letting go of Tony anytime soon,” Happy said in amusement.

 

Surprisingly, Peter let go of Tony with one hand to pull Happy in for a side hug. Happy hesitated in shock before he wrapped his own arm around the boy. He pulled back after a few seconds and said, “Alright, you two take care of each other until tonight. Maybe take a nap once you get your adrenaline crash.”

 

Tony already felt his catching up to him, but he wasn't going to shut his eyes until they were safe in the compound.  Happy seemed to read his mind and stared him right in the eyes, “Call me if you need something. Anything . Please take care of yourselves.”

 

“I make sure 'ony is okay,” Peter told Tony with a smile.

 

Happy laughed. “Thanks, Peter. I'll see you later.” He gave the kid one last smile before saying his final goodbyes and walking out of the room.

 

Once they were alone, Tony turned his head to face Peter. He ran his hand through Peter’s hair and then down his neck and back checking for something, anything that he may have missed. “You're sure you're okay?” Tony asked.

 

Peter leaned his head against Tony’s shoulder and looked up at him. “I’m okay. No owies.”

 

Tony laughed and pulled Peter even closer with a hand on the back of his neck. “Good. That's good.” He walked them both back to the couch and sat down without loosening his hold on Peter. He spent the next few seconds listening to Peter breathing softly before he spoke again.

 

“I'm sorry, Peter...for not listening to you earlier today. I should have known something was wrong and I should have never let anyone get their hands on you and hold a-- a gun to your head.”

 

“Very scary, 'ony, but no’ your faul’. You save me.” He squeezed Tony tighter. “F’ank you.”

 

Tony huffed because why the hell was this kid apologizing to him? He didn't do anything wrong. But, he didn't argue it because he was too tired. Happy was right-- he was crashing. He felt his eyes drooping shut, but he refused to loosen his hold on Peter. Even slightly. And Pete didn't seem to want to let go of him either.

 

So maybe closing his eyes for only a few minutes would be fine...


A few minutes turned into a few hours because before he knew it, someone was shaking his shoulder. He tried to ignore it at first, but then he remembered the events from earlier that morning and his eyes shot open.

 

He rolled onto his stomach, protecting the sleeping bundle in his arms. Or at least he was sleeping until Tony suddenly flipped him over. Peter blinked up lazily at him and Tony took a careful look over his shoulder. Happy was standing there, holding up his hands in defense as if saying ‘I mean no harm.’

 

Tony sagged in relief. “Happy, what the hell?”

 

Happy looked flustered. “I'm sorry, Tony, but you weren't getting up and the jet is waiting. FRIDAY let me in.”

 

Tony nodded his head as his eyes shut and he attempted to regulate his breathing. He heard a little grunt and remembered Peter was still pinned between him and the mattress.

 

“Sorry, Peter!” Tony apologized and quickly rolled off of Peter. “I didn't know who was in here.”

 

“Are these the bags you're bringing?” Happy nodded to the duffle bags waiting by the bed.

 

Tony nodded. “Yeah. Do you mind getting them? I have to grab Peter’s diaper bag.”

 

At the sound of this, Peter’s cheeks burned red slightly. “I'm sorry, 'ony.”

 

Tony frowned. “What's wrong?”

 

“I go.”

 

“Where did you go? Are you apologizing for earlier today because that was not your--.”

 

“Uh, boss, I don't think that's why he's apologizing,”  Happy muttered after clearing his throat.

 

“What... oh .” Tony looked down at Peter’s noticeably full Pull Up. He lifted Peter up and avoided putting pressure on the diaper since he knew Peter uncomfortable enough. “It's okay, buddy.”

 

“I baby ‘gain! I go in big boy pan’s.” Peter sniffled, looking and sounding miserable.

 

“No, you're not a baby,” Tony quickly reassured him. “It's my fault for not bringing you before we fell asleep. And for not putting you back in a diaper. It's not your fault; you can't control your bladder yet while sleeping.”

 

That seemed to upset Peter even more.

 

“I don't think you're helping, Tony.”

 

Tony glared at Happy before turning back to Peter. “You know that Happy wet his bed until he was in like third grade?”

 

Happy’s face paled before suddenly turning bright red. “Private conversation told to you in secret,” he hissed. “Yet another one you shared with the kid. If he remembers this, I will hand you my resignation immediately.”

 

Tony laughed. “Like you could ever live without us.” He poked Peter on the cheek, trying to elicit a smile from him after the bedwetting tidbit didn’t.

 

Happy rolled his eyes. “Just get him ready. I'm going to bring the bags down to the car.”

 

“We’ll be down soon,” Tony promised as he watched Happy walk away. Then he turned his attention back to Peter. “Let's go get you dressed and pack a bag for the plane, okay?”

 

Peter was quiet while Tony carried him to the bathroom. The Pull Up felt heavy. Heavier than normal after a nap. He wasn't sure if he should bring it up or drop it. But since Peter ready seemed upset by it, he didn't think asking would make it much worse. Maybe it would help him.

 

Tony laid him out on the changing mat and saw how Peter refused to meet his eyes. “You know, it's okay, Pete. I would have had to change you anyway. It was just my fault for not changing you into a diaper.”

 

He pulled off his pants and then his Pull Up. He weighed it in his hand and asked hesitantly, “Did you have a bad dream? Did something scare you? Is that why there's so much?”

 

Peter, bless him, tried his hardest not to cry, but before long he was bawling. And not his crocodile tears when he didn't get his way, he was sobbing, for real. Tony wrapped a towel around him and quickly pulled him into his arms. Rocking him in a soothing gesture, Tony hushed him, “Shh, it's okay. You can tell me.”

 

“I so scared!” He sobbed into Tony’s shoulder. “I don' wan’ be ‘aken ‘way from you.”

 

Tony’s fingers tangled into Peter’s curls as he held him closer. “No. You will not be taken away from me. I will protect you with all my heart. No one will hurt you .”

 

“I wan’ be s’rong ‘gain. I keep you an’ Happy safe.” Peter’s fingers twisted harshly in Tony’s shirt he was soaking with snot.

 

“That's not your job, kid,” Tony said softly. “Don't worry about us.”

 

After a few sniffles, Peter said, “I dream duh man ‘ake me from you. He hur’ me and I cry for you, bu’ he hide me.”

 

Tony held him closer, hoping to soothe any more sobs before they came. “It was just a nightmare. You're safe here in my arms. Now and forever.” Tony hated all the words coming out of his mouth; he couldn't make a promise like that. But he would do anything to ease the kid’s fears.

 

For the next few moments, Tony just held Peter. He held him until his sobs slowly died down. Then he pulled him away and suppressed the urge to place a kiss on his forehead. “Are you okay?”

 

Peter nodded, wiping at his runny nose.

 

“I'm gonna get your Pull Up on and then we’ll put together that backpack. Wanna bring some bananas?”

 

Peter finally let his lips curl into a small grin. “Naners.”

 

Tony laughed as he stuck Peter’s legs through the Captain America Pull-Up. These went on like underwear and while it was easier than the diapers, it was still too hard for Peter to do. But he always tried to help.

 

After Peter was dressed, Tony followed him around the room as he asked for certain things to be packed. He picked out a book, his Avengers action figures, his Rudolph blanket, and of course, his Benny.

 

Tony packed a diaper/snack bag as Peter did that. He already had a bag of Pull-Ups and diapers packed, but having some extras on hand was always good. He also grabbed some bananas, crackers, a snack bag of mini Oreos, and a tall sippy cup full of apple juice.

 

“Are we ready?” Tony asked with the bag hung on his shoulder. Peter looked up at him with a smile as he held onto his backpack straps. “Let's get going then. Happy’s probably having a hissy fit waiting for us.”

 

Peter walked out of the doorway onwards the elevator without falling. He still swayed and wobbled, but he was doing much better at staying on his feet. They took the elevator all the way down to the main floor and Peter finally tripped when he started to run towards the car.

 

He pulled himself right back up and hurried to Happy’s side. “Hi, Happy!”

 

Happy rolled his eyes as he opened the door for him. “I saw you less than 15 minutes ago.”

 

“Hi,” Peter said again with a giggle.

 

With another roll of his eyes, Happy lifted Peter up and sat him in his car seat. He took off his backpack and buckled him in. Once finished, he gave it back to Peter to hold in his lap. “Don't get too comfortable. You're switching rides soon.”

 

Tony patted Happy on the back. “So quick to get rid of us, huh?”

 

“I could use a few days without screaming and crying,” Happy admitted.

 

“Hey, the kid’s not that bad.” Tony frowned, feeling the need to defend Peter.

 

“Oh, I wasn't talking about the kid.” Happy raised his eyebrows.

 

With a glare, Tony let out a sarcastic laugh. “Very funny. Get in the car before I show you how much I appreciate your clever wit.”

 

Happy laughed as he sat in the driver's seat. Tony took the passenger seat and spent the short drive using the rearview mirror to watch Peter. When the toddler caught him watching, he kicked his feet with a giggle and waved.


They were pulling up to the airport soon and Happy helped Tony take out all of the bags. The crew from the airplane hurried over to take it from them and loaded the plane.

 

“Thanks for everything, Hap,” Tony said with a hand on his shoulder. He wished he could invite Happy upstate with him, but he didn't want to push anything with Ross and despite what it seemed like, Happy had a life and couldn't be expected to ditch last minute on a trip that would last a few days.

 

“Stay outta trouble. And call me if you need anything,” Happy said seriously.

 

“We’re going to be fine,” Tony assured him.

 

“I know,” Happy sighed before turning to the little one in Tony’s arms. “And you, make sure he doesn't do anything stupid, okay?” Peter laughed. Happy smiled. “I guess the next time we see each other, you'll be normal size again, huh?” He reached to ruffle his hair and Peter shut his eyes, leaning into the touch. “Well. Thank you for a week of many gray hairs, ulcers, and heart attacks. But then again, you did that as a teen too.”

 

Peter laughed guiltily, staring up at Happy with his big brown eyes. Happy gave in with a, “Ah, what the hell,” and pulled Peter into his arms. He hugged him tightly and kissed his chubby cheek.

 

“Maybe when he's big again, you'll stop purposely locking him out of the car,” Tony said with a smirk.

 

“That was once.” Happy handed Peter back to Tony.

 

Tony rolled his eyes as he fixed his hold on Peter. “Yeah, sure.” He checked his watch and then nodded to the jet. “We're taking off soon. I'll call you when we land.”

 

“Thanks. Fly safe,” Happy said with his goodbyes. Peter waved wildly at him until he was in the car driving away.

 

“Okay, buddy, ready to go?” Tony asked as he turned towards the jet and started walking. He stopped when he heard Peter's breathing quicken to a panic. He furrowed his brow in worry. “Kiddo, what's wrong?”

 

“We ri’e in play?” Peter asked with wide eyes.

 

Tony furrowed his brow. “What?”

 

Peter didn't respond to question, instead, he continued to panic. “Play crash! No go!” He shook his head while wiggling in Tony’s arms.

 

Tony looked over at the parked jet and then back to Peter. “The plane?” Peter nodded. “It's not going to crash, buddy. My planes are the safest in the business.” He smiled reassuringly.

 

Still, Peter shook his head. “No, no! It crash an’ vul’shure ‘ack me!”

 

Tony frowned in thought, trying to figure out what he was talking about when it suddenly dawned on him. Petter was thinking back to homecoming night when he tried saving Tony’s plane, but it crashed. That's why Peter was getting so upset.

 

Rubbing his back, Tony told Peter, “No, this won't crash. There is no bad man going to hijack it and there is no spider to wreck his plans. The ride will be completely safe.”

 

Peter looked over at the jet hesitantly and Tony knew if he didn't want to get on it, then he was calling Happy to turn the car back around. Sure, the trip would take a few extra hours by car, but if it kept Peter happy then Tony was willing to do it.

 

“You si’ wi’f me?” Peter asked quietly.

 

“Of course, I'll sit with you, buddy. We can play games to make the time pass. Before you know it, we'll be there.”

 

“‘kay,” Peter said, still clinging tightly to Tony’s shirt.

 

“Such a brave boy,” Tony praised with a smile. Peter smiled back.


On the plane, Tony took a seat with Peter in his lap and Peter didn't move to change seats. Tony didn't ask him to either. He held him to his chest and pulled his stuffed dog from his backpack. “Benny will sit with us too.” Peter giggled and pulled the toy into a hug.

 

The flight lasted not much longer than an hour. Peter didn't move from Tony’s lap, even after he calmed down. They passed the time by playing a game on a StarkPad until they landed in the compound.

 

Tony stood up, balancing Peter on his hip and picked up the duffle bag they were sharing along with the diaper bag. His hands were full, so he was glad he put his earpiece to communicate with FRIDAY in before they landed.

 

“FRI, how is the inside looking? Find us a clear path to my room,” Tony requested.

 

“Right away, sir,” FRIDAY replied instantly. Tony carried the bags and Peter to a back door and waited for FRIDAY’S instructions.  

 

“Everyone seems to be asleep or otherwise occupied in their rooms. If you hurry in now you should be able to get in without being noticed.”

 

Tony nodded, already getting into his serious demeanor. “Pete, not a word, okay? Nobody can know you're here.”

 

Peter nodded back just as seriously and held a finger to his lips. Tony wrapped him inside his jacket anyway and tucked his head underneath his hand just in case.

 

They stepped inside and Tony quickly but quietly followed FRIDAY’s directions. They were only a few doors away when FRIDAY suddenly said, “Captain Rogers is leaving his room. He will be in the hall in thirteen seconds.”

 

“Shit,” Tony hissed. Steve’s room was in between where they were standing and Tony’s room. There was no way they'd make it in time. “Peter,” he said quickly, “time to climb the walls.”

 

“But, you sai’--.”

 

“I know what I said!” Tony snapped before softening his voice. “I know what I said, but now you need to be out of sight. So climb .” Tony held him to the walls and with his backpack strapped to his back, Peter started scaling the wall until he was on the ceiling.

 

Tony turned his gaze away from him just in time for Steve to walk out of the door. Steve paused the moment their eyes met. They had been on much better terms since Siberia and months of ignoring and then talking and apologizing. But there was still the awkwardness and the hesitance. It was no surprise that they weren't like they used to be. But they were trying.

 

“Tony, I had no idea you were coming in tonight,” Steve said, continuing his walk toward him until they were only a foot apart.

 

Tony shrugged his shoulders, hoping Steve left so Peter could come back into his arms. It was late and Peter was getting tired; Tony didn't want him to lose his grip and fall. “Last minute trip. Ross has been on my ass for weeks. Might as well get it over with.”

 

Steve didn't respond right away; he looked like he was having a heated debate in his mind. Tony knew what was coming-- an apology, just like Steve always tried to apologize for what happened. They had been through this before: both of them apologized for their respective mistakes and started to put it behind them, but Steve still felt the need to bring it up whenever they saw each other.

 

Tony spoke up again before Steve could say a word, “Well, I'm gonna crash.” He jerked his thumb towards his bedroom door. “Long flight.”

 

Steve nodded immediately. “Of course, sorry for keeping you.” He looked down at his feet and started walking past him.

 

Before he turned his attention to his feet, Tony caught a glimpse of the sadness in Steve’s eyes, the regret. Before Steve could disappear down the hall, Tony said, “Hey, Cap.”

 

Steve quickly turned back to him. “Hmm?”

 

“It's good to see you again.”

 

Steve smiled as his shoulders sagged slightly. “You too, Tony.”

Chapter Text

The next morning, Tony woke up to a knocking at his bedroom door. He groaned, wondering why FRIDAY had let them on his floor. Maybe it was Happy? He could ignore him. But the knocking continued.

 

He cracked an eye open in irritation, but then it quickly turned to worry when he remembered that he wasn't in the tower anymore. He was in the compound.

 

The knocking continued and Tony looked down at the toddler curled up in his chest. Last night after changing Peter into a diaper and pajamas, they had both crashed in the bed. It was smaller than his bed at the tower since he hadn't had the chance to really makeover his room here yet and Tony had none of Peter’s baby furniture here. So, they curled into the small bed and stayed close. Not that either of them minded, especially after the scare they had at the cafe.

 

“Shit, shit, shit,” Tony mumbled as a voice joined the knocking.

 

“Tony? Are you awake? We’re having breakfast and I figured you want to join us,” Steve said.

 

Tony looked down at Peter as he didn't even stir. They had a long day yesterday and he was exhausted; he wouldn't be waking up this early yet. Tony wanted him to get as much rest as he could. He was obviously paying heed to his advice.

 

He wrapped Peter in the Rudolph blanket and pulled the comforter over him so he couldn't be seen. Thankfully, he was so small he looked like a pillow tucked under the blanket. Just before opening the door, he kicked the diaper bag behind the door.

 

Steve stood on the other side with a hesitant smile. “Good morning, Tony. We're having breakfast now if you wanted to join us.”

 

“Yeah,” Tony grunted because he hadn't gotten his morning coffee yet. “I heard ya’. I'll be down in a few minutes.”

 

Steve frowned, staring at him as he held the door almost shut with just enough to peek himself out in. He didn't want Steve able to see inside his room and figure out from the small backpack or the miniature clothes that Tony was hiding a kid in here. “Okay...I'll meet you down there I guess. Vision made pancakes and Clint is making omelets.”

 

“Mm,” Tony said with no real passion behind it. “Sounds good, Jimmy Dean, save me a plate.” He shut the door with a quick smile before turning back inside. The lump hadn't moved so Tony assumed Peter was still asleep.

 

He walked over and pulled the comforter from over his head so he had fresh air to breathe. He smiled softly down at him. He was still wrapped up in his mother’s blanket and because Tony had left him, he was cuddling with Benny. His face was so soft and innocent; Tony never wanted to have to wake him up.

He ran his fingers through his curls before walking to the bathroom to get changed. He came back out and Peter was still sleeping soundly. Tony figured he had enough time to run get some breakfast and quickly bring it back to Peter. Just in case, he left a note on the bedside table.

 

I'm getting food. Will be back soon. Don't leave this room or answer the door for anyone!

-Tony

 

Tony knew Peter could read, but he kept it short just in case. With one last look at Peter, he left the room and headed towards the communal kitchen. Unlike the tower, each member of the team didn't have their own floor and rooms. The team was getting too big for that and there wasn't the room here after fitting in the training rooms and other necessities.

 

When he made it to the kitchen, he walked into a scene he hadn't seen in almost a while. The Avengers, his family, sitting around the kitchen table.

 

Clint was by the stove, flipping omelets as Natasha sat on the counter next to him, eating pieces of chopped peppers. Vision was filling plates with pancakes as Wanda smiled at him. Sam was talking to Steve as they sat at the set table.

 

Tony watched as Wanda started to bring over the plates of pancakes and Clint followed with the eggs. After everything was on the table, they all took their seats. It looked like they were working as a team in sync. They had a lot of practice doing this.

 

Steve was the first to notice Tony in the doorway. He shot up from his seat and pulled out the empty one next to him. Tony laughed. He actually saved him a seat. He ignored the curious looks from the others as he took his seat.

 

“I'm starved,” he said as he starting cutting into his pancakes. He took a bite and grinned over at Vision. “Delish.”

 

“When did you get here?” Clint asked, not unkindly.

 

“Last night past your bedtimes.” He tore off a piece of the omelet and stuck it in his mouth. “Wow, bird brain, if the whole Avenger thing doesn't work out, you can always be my private chef.”

 

“I would turn it down, but that doesn't make it easier for me to poison you the next time you glue my arrows together.” Clint smirked, falling right back into the banter.

 

“Boys, boys,” Natasha said, with a smirk of her own. “Let’s keep it civil.”

 

They started to eat in comfortable silence until their played started to clean. Even Steve’s, who had four times the amount as anyone else. Sam spoke up first, “So, Stark, finally here to help us tie this all up?”

 

“I can only keep Ross on hold for so long,” Tony answered, unsure if Sam was upset with him still. Not everyone was as forgiving as Cap.

 

He was pleasantly surprised when Sam let out a laugh. “Yeah. And it's much more fun to mess with him in person anyway. Ask Clint.”

 

With a mouthful of food, Clint started to rattle off his achievements, “Tied his shoes together during a meeting, put pink dye in his shampoo, spitball right up his nose,--.”

 

“Okay, Trickster, we get it.” Natasha rolled her eyes with a grin.

 

“The man asked.” Clint shrugged his shoulders.

 

“Count me in on your fun.” Tony winked, trying to slowly get up from the table. He needed to get back to Peter.

 

Before Tony could make his excuses, Steve asked, “What have you been up to the past few months? We haven't heard much from you.”

 

Tony knew everyone's attention was on him and he groaned inwardly. “Same old stuff. You know. Making sure my company doesn't fall apart, making new stuff for you idiots, mentoring my spider.”

 

“Spider-Man?” Natasha asked and Tony nodded.

 

“That punk ass brat,” Sam growled.

 

Tony raised an eyebrow at him. “ He's the punk ass brat? Yeah okay, buddy.”

 

“You didn't fight him. Kid doesn't shut up.” Sam waved his fork. “Maybe that should be his first lesson: no talking during battle.”

 

Tony laughed. He knew Peter had quite the mouth on him when he was in the suit. It was such a contrast to Peter Parker. The mask gave him the confidence that Peter Parker lacked. “Come on, banter is always the fun part.”

 

“You would take his side.” Sam huffed, turning back to his food.

 

Tony stood up as he brought his dishes to the sink. “He learned from the best.” Tony really had no idea if Peter got his witty comments from him, but he liked to think he did.

 

“Where are you going?” Steve asked with a curious frown.

 

“My room.”

 

“Ross wants to see us. As soon as possible.” Steve stood up and followed him back to the stove where Tony was filling up another plate.

 

“Tell His Majesty, I'll be there soon. Just let me digest my food.” He doubled the food because he knew Peter needed extra food and he hadn't eaten much yesterday.

 

“Hungry?” Clint asked from the table, watching him amusement.

 

“You have no idea,” Tony answered, turning around to walk back to his room.

 

“He'll be waiting for us in the conference room in a half hour,” Steve said to him as he walked away. “The sooner we do this, the sooner we finish.”

 

Tony knew it was selfish of him to put this on hold for so long. Team Cap wasn’t completely pardoned, not until the new accords were signed. But after all the pain they put Tony through, they could wait a bit longer.

 

He made it back to his room and with one look over his shoulder to make sure no one followed him, he balanced the plate in his hand and opened the door. “Hey, Pete, you up?”

 

He looked over to the bed and felt his heart stop beating. It felt like the arc reactor was back in his chest and failing. This couldn't be happening. Peter was sitting on the bed alright...and so was Rhodey.

 

“Rhodey!” Tony said in shock, unsure of what else to say.

 

Rhodey turned to face him with a smile. He bounced Peter in his arms and practically cooed, “Here's Daddy. I told you he'd be right back.”

 

Tony was still too shocked that Rhodey found Peter to tell him he wasn't Daddy . Peter quickly turned in his hold and smiled up at him. “'ony!”

 

Seeing Peter helped ease some worry away. It was only Rhodey and he didn't seem upset. And as long as Peter was safe and sound, they could handle everything else.

 

Tony smiled down at him and whispered, “Hey, kiddo.” He extended his arms to pull Peter up in his hold. Now that he was up close, Tony noticed how red his eyes looked. Like he had been crying.

 

He ran his fingers through Peter’s hair. “What's wrong?  I was just getting you some breakfast.”

 

Peter let his eyes shut at the soothing contact and leaned against Tony’s shoulder. He didn't answer other than a soft hum.

 

Rhodey answered instead, “He was crying. I was walking by your room and heard him. He kept calling your name.”

 

“You said you no go! I wake up and you gone!” Peter’s voice cracked and Tony knew he would start to cry again if he didn't stop him.

 

“Hey, hey, don't cry, buddy. It's okay. I'm safe and you're safe.” He started to bounce him in his arms soothingly.

 

“I've been sitting with him. He was really upset until I sat down and told him you wouldn't be long,” Rhodey said from his spot on the bed.

 

Tony nodded. “He doesn't like to be alone. If he doesn't get physical attention like hugs and cuddles, he whines.”

 

Rhodey smiled at his teasing tone. “He's a smart kid. When I showed him the note he was able to read it.” He looked impressed. “How old is he? A year old?”

 

Tony laughed. “15.”

 

Rhodey stared at him like he had ten heads. “Tony--.”

 

“This is Spider-Man. He was de-aged during one of his patrols and until he's back to normal, I'm taking care of him.”

 

“So, he's not…”

 

“My son?” Tony finished for him and Rhodey nodded. With a smile, Tony said, “No, but I'd be lucky if he were.”

 

Rhodey stared at the boy curiously. “But, he seemed like any other toddler. A much more intelligent toddler but still…”

 

“He's got his memories and stuff, but his instinct is his physical age. Although more recently, bits of Big Peter have been bleeding through.” Tony placed him down on the bed and handed him the plate of food.

 

“How long has he been like this?” Rhodey asked, still watching Peter.

 

“Almost 2 weeks.”

 

Rhodey’s eyes widened. “ Two weeks? You've been caring for a baby for two weeks?”

 

Peters' head whipped to face Rhodey. “I no' a baby!” He insisted with a shriek. Rhodey raised his hands in defense with raised eyebrows.

 

Tony ruffled Peter’s hair as he looked at Rhodey. “See? Big Peter.” Then he turned back to Peter. “You’re not a baby. We know. He was talking about Happy.” Peter looked up at Tony with a loud giggle around the fork in his mouth.

 

Rhodey still didn’t look like he understood how Tony could have possibly been watching over Peter. “What about his family? How have you been feeding him? Dressing him?”

 

Tony sighed, taking a seat on the bed next to Rhodey. Then he started to tell him the story --a shorter version, of course. He told him everything: the good times where Peter was probably the cutest kid on earth and the bad times when Peter had his little tantrums that really tested Tony’s patience. Rhodey was smiling up until Tony told him what happened yesterday and why they needed to escape the city.

 

Rhodey stared over at the kid, who was currently smiling as he used his little fingers to stuff more pancake in his mouth. “Someone tried to kidnap him?”

 

“Yeah,” Tony’s voice cracked slightly, but he hoped Rhodey didn’t notice. Thinking back to seeing some dirtbag holding a gun to Peter’s head was not something he was ever going to forget.

 

“I mean, I know he gets into a lot of crap with people when he’s Spider-Man, but that’s different. That’s when he can actually defend himself and win. Now he’s just…”

 

Tony nodded his head. “Believe me. I know.”

 

“So how many more days?” Rhodey asked, trying to get their minds off a hurt two-year-old Peter.

 

“Two or three more days maybe. We’re almost done.” Tony started rubbing Peter’s back and the kid leaned into his touch with a content hum. Tony noticed Rhodey staring and he turned around to look at him. “What?” He asked.

 

“Nothing,” Rhodey said with a smirk. “I just always knew you’d be great with kids.”

 

In the past, Tony would have immediately pulled his hand away from Peter and put up a wall because Tony Stark did not do feelings. Especially with ones that related to Howard Stark in any way. But after spending so long with Peter and acting like his dad, Tony found himself smiling at the compliment.

 

“Too bad it won’t last,” Tony found himself saying out loud.

 

Rhodey placed a hand on his shoulder. “He’s not going anywhere, Tony. Like you said, he’s got his own memories and thoughts up there. He doesn’t stop needing a dad after two.”

 

Tony smiled. He knew Peter looked up to him, but there was a difference between being a role model and being a father-figure. Tony didn’t want to mess up this relationship because he rushed things and made a big deal of something Pete maybe didn’t even want.

 

“Stop,” Rhodey said suddenly. Tony stared at him. “You’re overthinking this. You’re thinking that this kid wouldn’t want you in his life more. He’s got nobody except his Aunt, Tones. Now suddenly, he’s got a dad and then you’re just gonna take that away?”

 

“It’s only been a few days,” Tony said, trying not get his hopes up. “I was just there to help him when there was literally no one else.”

 

Rhodey chuckled. “You say that, but we both know even if there were 50 other people to take care of him, you would fight them tooth and nail unless it was you.”

 

Instead of responding, Tony watched Peter as he finished the last pieces of egg off his plate. He didn’t seem to be listening to their conversation; he was too busy focused on his breakfast and talking to Benny.

 

“Yeah...maybe I’ll think--.”

 

A pounding interrupted him. “Tony! Ross wants us there now!”

 

Tony looked down at his watch and saw he had left the kitchen table almost 45 minutes ago. He jumped to his feet and called out, “I’ll be right there!” He turned to Peter and then Rhodey. He didn’t even need to ask the question on his mind.

 

“I’ll watch him and make sure no one finds out. Go.”

 

Tony nodded gratefully. “I will be back as soon as possible. He should be fine. He likes that dog and the blanket and his toys are in his backpack.” He looked down and saw the diaper bag behind the door. “Ah, shit, I didn’t get a chance to change his diaper. I can do that really quick--.”

 

“Tony, go. I know how to change a diaper. My sister has four kids.” Rhodey smiled.

 

“We’re training him. He should be able to make it but not during the night. So, after this diaper change, he should be fine. Call me if he has a tantrum. Sometimes he gets moody and--.”

 

“We’re fine. Go before Steve knocks down the door.”

 

Tony glanced towards the door where Steve was still knocking and then he kneeled down to Peter’s eye level. He put a hand on his shoulder to get his attention. Peter looked up from his dog to smile at Tony. “Hi, 'ony.”

 

With a grin, Tony said, “Hey, Peter. I have to run with Steve to do some work stuff, but I will back soon okay?”

 

Peter’s smile disappeared. “You go ‘gain?”

 

“Just for a bit. But Rhodey will be with you this whole time.” Tony rubbed his leg. “He’s fun, right?”

 

“I miss you,” Peter said softly.

 

“I’ll miss you too, but it won’t be for long. I promise.” Tony cupped Peter’s face in his hand and rubbed his cheek with a thumb.

 

Peter nodded his head even though he didn’t look very happy. “‘Kay. I wai’ for you.”

 

Tony laughed. “Alright. I’ll be back soon, buddy. Be good for Rhodey.”

 

“I goo’ boy.” Peter nuzzled his head against Tony’s palm.

 

“Yes, you are a very good boy.” Tony ran his fingers through Peter’s soft curls, wishing he didn’t have to waste what little time they had left of Peter like this with Ross.

 

But Steve was quick to remind him with a yell, “Tony!”

 

Tony hurried to his feet and said goodbye to Rhodey and Peter before opening the door and stepping out before Steve could see inside his room. Steve glanced at the shut door once before he started walking down the hall.  

 

“Ross has been sitting there since noon. It’s almost one-thirty!” Steve said, sounding frustrated.

 

Tony waved him off. “It’s fine. He could use some more patience.” He patted Steve on the shoulder. “Now come on. Let’s get this over with.” The sooner he got this over with, the sooner he could get back to Peter.

--

It was a few hours of writing and arguing and reading before they finally came to an agreement. It was dinnertime and Tony hadn’t seen Peter all day. He checked his phone every few minutes, waiting for a frantic call from Rhodey. But it never came.

 

When they finally walked out of the conference room, Steve turned to Tony and smiled hesitantly. “That wasn’t so hard…”

 

“Speak for yourself, Spangles. That is five hours I will never get back again.” Tony sighed.

 

“Do you want to get some dinner? I’m sure they have some leftovers in the kitchen if we missed it,” Steve suggested.

 

Tony wanted to go straight for Peter, but he figured he’d get some food for him before he went in. “Sounds good, Cap.”

 

Once in the kitchen, he put together a plate of chicken from the leftovers. Steve watched him in amusement as he piled piece after piece. Then he went through the cabinets and pulled out a box of crackers and granola bars.

 

“What’s up with your appetite today?” Steve asked, sounding actually concerned.

 

Tony threw a chip into his mouth from the open bag he grabbed. “I’m pregnant,” he said dryly and then laughed at Steve’s horrified face. “It’s a joke.”

 

“That doesn’t answer my question,” Steve said.

 

“Goodbye, Cap,” Tony said pointedly as he nodded his head and walked out of the kitchen down the hallway. He just turned down the hallway when he saw Ross outside his door with a hand on his knob. Tony hurried his pace. “Hey! Paws off, bub, that doesn’t belong to you.”

 

Ross pulled his hand away like he had been burned, but played it off coolly. “I’m not an idiot, Stark.”

 

Tony glared at him. “Oh, really? You had me fooled.”

 

Ross straightened his suit jacket. “You’re onto something. Not only did you help them escape--.”

 

“I told you that wasn’t me.”

 

“--then you help them hide. Escaped convicts.”

 

“You mean heroes that didn’t agree with you?” Tony rolled his jaw. Sure, there was a time when he couldn't stand to see anyone from Team Cap, but they were still his family. And nobody talked about his family like that, except for him.

 

“But then you show up randomly after months of me pestering you...you’re hiding something.” He stared down at the armful of food he had.

 

Tony rolled his eyes. “Oh, please, you’re just bored now that you don’t have The Accords to tear us apart. Go have some fun with yourself somewhere else. Your door has a lock and I’ve got some lotion if you want to borrow it. Seeing as that’s the only attention you’ll be getting in a while, I think I can spare some.”

 

Watching Ross’ face turn bright red had Tony smirking. “Watch your back, Stark.”

 

Tony narrowed his eyes and took a step forward. “Is that a threat?”

 

“Just some friendly advice,” Ross said with a smirk of his own before turning around and walking to the other end of the hallway.

 

Once he was gone, Tony let out a quick breath of relief before hurrying into his room. Rhodey and Peter were still there, but instead of the bed, they were sitting on the floor playing with Peter’s Avengers action figures.

 

Tony lowered the food onto his bed and smiled over at them. “Who’s winning?” He asked in amusement.

 

Rhodey looked up at him with a lopsided grin. “We didn’t get much time to battle. We spent the first 40 minutes arguing over who got to be Iron Man.”

 

Tony’s smile softened as he looked down at where Peter was making the Iron Man and Captain America dolls...dance? He finally noticed Tony standing there and looked up at Tony with a big grin. He jumped to his feet and let out a shrill yell as he waved his dolls. “'ony! 'ony! Back!” He started running towards Tony, but he tripped over his feet and fell. He smacked the front of his face against the floor with a thud, but he popped right back up with a grin.

 

Rhodey moved forward calling Peter’s name. “Peter! Are you okay?”

 

Tony put a hand on his shoulder. “Don’t worry, he does that 50 times a day.” He turned to Peter and helped him up. “Pete, what did I say about moving too fast?”

 

Peter was jumping from one foot to the other. He dropped his toys during the trip so his hands were free to reach for Tony with wiggling fingers. “Up! Up!”

 

Tony laughed and leaned down to pick him up. He held him above his head and brought his face closer to Peter’s stomach. He blew raspberries and Peter immediately started to let out loud giggles. Tony didn’t stop until Peter was wheezing breathlessly above him. He lowered him back into his arms. “Were you good for Rhodey?”

 

Peter nodded his head with his flushed cheeks. “I goo’ boy! We play and run!”

 

Tony turned to look at Rhodey. “Run?”

 

Rhodey pushed himself up with a groan. “He said he had to go to the bathroom and it was an emergency so I tried to hurry him to the bathroom. I fell,” he mumbled, looking embarrassed, “and I felt horrible. But he stood up with a grin and told me about how he falls when he tries running too. Spent the next 15 minutes showing me.”

 

Tony rolled his eyes because, for a kid so brilliant, he was incredibly dumb sometimes. “I told you: he’s a handful.” Even as he spoke, Peter was kicking his legs and squirming.

 

“He was great. He’s better potty trained than you,” Rhodey teased.

 

“Oh, come on, that was one time! The suit has a filtration system!” Tony fixed his hold on Peter before he fell out of his arms.

 

“That’s no excuse, Tones,” Rhodey said, shaking his head as he made his way to the door. “I'm gonna go get something to eat. I haven't left this bedroom since this morning.”

 

Tony grabbed his sleeve before he could leave. “Hey, Rhodey, thanks. For watching over him.”

 

Rhodes smiled. “You're welcome, Tones. It's just nice to see you happy.” He looked down at Peter, who was pulling at Tony’s ear as he babbled. “Don't let this one go.”

 

Tony followed his gaze to the kid and he smiled as well. “Believe me, Rhodey, I'll keep this kid as long as I can.”

--

The next morning, Tony woke up again to a ball of warmth curled into his chest. But this time there was no knocking on his door. So Tony could hold Peter and enjoy it.

 

Tony knew the minute Peter was okay again, he would not want to be near Tony like this again. He wouldn't want someone as messed up as him trying to help him grow. He had an aunt already. He didn't need him.

 

Besides, Tony didn't want him thinking that he was trying to replace his Uncle Ben. That would never happen.  

 

Once Peter was his normal age once again, he wouldn't need Tony to help him or be there for him to do something as stupid as changing a diaper. In fact, Peter would most likely beg to never see Tony again.

 

So he was going to lay here and enjoy Peter’s company until--

 

“Boss, Captain Rogers is looking for you. It is an emergency.”

 

Tony sighed heavily. “What kind of emergency? The world is ending kind or the remote is missing kind?”

 

“I am not sure.”

 

Tony sighed again to let his AI know how inconvenienced he was by this. He took one last look at Peter sleeping on his side and then rolled over to sit up. “Where is he?”

 

“His room.”

 

Tony grumbled under his breath as he made his way across the room. It was still early and he hoped to be right back in his room to Peter. He continued to grumble and complain under his breath until he was just outside Steve’s door. He raised his hand to knock on his door but stopped when he felt a sharp prick on the back of his neck.

 

“What the fuck?” Tony said as he brought his hand to his neck. He already felt dizzy. He turned around, but his legs refused to listen and he fell against the wall. He wanted to yell, but his tongue wasn't working either.

 

The last thing Tony saw before unconsciousness stole him was Ross looking down with a smirk. “I told you to watch your back, Stark.”

Chapter Text

When Tony opened his eyes again, he wasn’t sure where he was or how much time had passed. It didn’t take him more than a second of being awake to remember what happened, who had done this to him. He stumbled to his feet, but not before falling back to his knees once.

 

He smacked his hands against the door to the small closet he was locked inside. “Help! Let me out!” His voice was loud and desperate; it sounded foreign to his own ears. But he couldn’t help it because Ross locked him in here while Peter was alone in his room.

 

His phone wasn’t in his pockets and he didn’t even have on a watch. They must have stripped him of anything that could help communicate before throwing him in here. They didn’t want him to be found because Ross knew that there was no way in hell he’d get Peter with Tony protecting him.

 

But maybe he was lucky. Maybe Peter was awake and sensed the danger and hid or he somehow escaped. Maybe Rhodey visited his room before Ross had the chance to grab Peter. Maybe Ross didn’t even want to take him.

 

As much as Tony wanted to, he couldn’t believe any of those possibilities.

 

“Can anyone hear me?” Tony begged; his throat hurts from yelling. His head pounded and didn’t appreciate the loud noises. His body was still fighting off the last of the drugs in his system. But nothing was going to stop him now from getting to Peter.

 

So, he beat the door with his fists and screamed for who knew how long until finally he heard the voice of an angel. “Tony?”

 

Tony could have sobbed in relief. He leaned against the door and said, “Cap, you need to get me out of here. Open the door.” He jumped a foot in the air when he heard a voice right behind him.

 

“I have a great stuck in the closet joke, but I don’t think now is such a great time.”

 

Tony whipped around to see Clint staring down at him, trying to hide the concern in his eyes. “Barton, how the hell did you get in here?”

 

Clint pointed to the open vent in the ceiling. “I heard you in the vents. Came to see why you were yelling.”

 

Tony could kiss the man he was so relieved. “I’ve never been so happy to have a bird in our compound before.”

 

Clint blinked. “Thanks?”

 

Steve interrupted them. “I can’t get it open. I think it’s jammed electronically. I can try to grab--.”

 

“Step back, ladies!” Clint yelled as he pulled out his bow and an arrow. Tony took a step behind him and he pulled back. He released it and it hit the doorknob, beeping only three times before exploding.

 

Tony flinched, but when he looked again, he saw that the door was off the hinges and he was free. Steve rushed forward, sounding anxious, “Tony? Clint? Are you guys okay?”

 

Clint put his bow back in the strap on his back and stepped over the broken door. “We’re fine, dear. Though I still don’t know why our damsel was in there in the first place.”

 

Tony didn’t pause. He didn’t have time. He was immediately running to his room. “Ross! He did it!” He heard two sets of feet behind him as he ran down the hallway. It took way too long to get to his room that was on the other side of the compound, but Tony knew Ross did that purposely.

 

When he finally reached his room, he barged inside and screamed, “Peter!” He darted to the bed and threw off the blankets and almost cried at the empty mattress. He fell to his knees and looked under the bed, hoping to see Peter curled up hiding and waiting for him. But he wasn’t there. He wasn’t in the closet or the dresser or the bathroom. He wasn’t anywhere.

 

Steve and Clint came inside just as he started pacing around his room. “No, no, no, no, no, no,” he mumbled, running a hand through his hair. “Fuck!” He screamed suddenly, startling both men in his doorway. He sent a fist into the wall, feeling slightly satisfied when it went right through the plaster.

 

Before he could do it again, Steve ran to his side and grabbed his arm. “Tony, calm down, what’s wrong?”

 

“He’s not here! That fucking bastard took him. I’m going to fucking kill that son of a fucking bitch.” Tony roared, not remembering the last time he’d used the f-word so many times in one sentence.

 

Steve held onto his shoulders and tried to calm him down. “Who, Tony, who?”

 

“Peter. Peter.

 

Clint stepped in closer and Tony noticed how his eyes flickered to the bag by the wall that was spilled over on its side. Diapers, wipes, and Peter’s pajamas covered the floor by it.

 

“Who’s Peter?”

 

“Spider-Man.”

 

Steve paused. “Spider-Man? Why does he have Spider-Man? When did he get here?”

 

Tony didn’t have time to tell the story. “He has Peter. He knocked me out this morning. What time is it? How long have I been out?” He turned to the clock on his dresser and wanted to throw up when he saw the time. It was past 6.

 

“Maybe I missed part of the story...but I don’t think Spider-Man still wears diapers,” Clint said as he picked up a stuffed dog. Benny.

 

Tony grabbed the puppy from his hands and held it close. “He was compromised during a mission. De-aged to a toddler. I almost have him back to normal. Ross wasn’t supposed to find out.”

 

“We’ll get him back, Tony. I am nowhere near his biggest fan, but I don’t think he would harm a child,” Steve said carefully.

 

“Yeah, don’t count on it, Captain Optimistic,” Clint grumbled as he picked up the shirt Peter was wearing yesterday. It was that stupid Captain America and Iron Man one.

 

Steve shot Clint a look, but the archer shrugged his shoulders. “He’s not a kid. He knows what the real world is like.”

 

Which was entirely true. Tony didn’t have a good dad, he was kidnapped and tortured for three months, he was betrayed by Obie, he almost died (several times), and he fought monsters for a living; he knew how dark and cruel the world could be. But, none of that scared him as much as the thought of Peter being in the hands of Ross.

 

“We have to get him back. I don’t care what I have to do. I want him back. Now.”

 

Steve smiled, though it didn’t reach his eyes. “Then we better get to work.”


 

They went through the security cameras, but they didn’t get anything. It turned out, someone managed to shut down everything linked to FRIDAY temporarily until they had what they needed.

 

An hour after Tony escaped from the closet, they were no closer to finding Peter. Steve convinced him to spare time to fill in the rest of the other Avengers so Tony, Steve, and Clint were all crammed into a small room joined by Sam, Natasha, Vision, Wanda, and Rhodey. Rhodey looked miserable; he had apologized to Tony dozens of times for not protecting Peter, but he was in PT sessions all day and didn’t know what was going on.

 

“Our only objective is getting Peter back,” Tony said from the front of the room. “I don’t care what is done or who gets hurt or killed. Though, I prefer if you could leave the bastard Ross for me I would appreciate it. Do whatever you need to to get him back.”

 

No one disagreed and Tony felt like it was old times. When the Avengers were still a family and had each other’s backs without a doubt in tough situations.

 

“He’s been missing for 11 hours already. We don’t have time to spare,” Steve added and all of them were up and starting their own searching. They were all scrubbing through videos, hoping to catch him anywhere. They were tracing his travel history, trying to see where he resided when he wasn’t at the compound.

 

Nobody asked any questions and nobody gave Tony a hard time. In fact, it seemed as if everyone put the past year and a half behind them.

 

Not long after they started, Clint shouted, “Hey, I think we found something!” He had his screen projected against the wall where they could see three men walking to a white van. It wouldn’t have been that suspicious if they hadn’t kept the back doors open while the truck was running.

 

A few minutes later, Ross came hurrying out with a wild bundle in a sheet. Tony knew exactly what was inside it before he saw it escape. Peter landed on his hands and knees and picked himself up to run back inside. Tony tried not to focus on how wide his eyes were and how wet his cheeks were.

 

“Run, kid, come on,” Rhodey said as they watched with bated breath. Maybe he escaped and was hiding somewhere in the compound.

 

But their hopes were crushed when Ross reached and grabbed him easily. He dragged him to his feet and shook him roughly by his arm, yelling something that wasn’t caught on the video. Peter leaned forward before anyone could blink and bit Ross on the hand. His strength proved to be incredible when he latched onto Ross couldn’t get him off. Tony felt proud seeing the man howl in pain. He shook him hard, trying to detach Peter, but he didn’t budge. Not until Ross pinched the kid’s nose between his fingers and he was forced to let go in order to breathe.

 

Peter fell to the ground, but just as he was rising to his feet, Ross slapped him across the face hard enough to send Peter crashing back to the ground.

 

Tony growled. “I’m going to kill him.”

 

“I’ll hold him down,” Rhodey offered.

 

Back on the screen, Peter was being thrown into the van before it sped off. Clint paused it when the license plate came into view.

 

“Wait,” Wanda said. “We found the GPS’s for all vehicles.” She started typing away from her spot next to Natasha. After a moment, her excitement died. “It stops a few miles out.”

 

Steve sighed. “They must have changed vehicles.”

 

“Wanda,” Tony said, “Give us the coordinates of the last known location. Let’s pull up any nearby CCTV cameras.” She nodded and started typing away.

 

“Boss,” FRIDAY said, suddenly, “if I may interrupt?

 

Tony furrowed his brow. He had barely gone to FRIDAY for anything for this. Her cameras were all shut off when it was going on. He didn’t think she had much to share. “What, FRI?”

 

“I may not have been recording, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t seeing.”

 

Clint spoke up first. “What does that mean?” He turned to Tony. “Why is it being so fucking cryptic?”

 

For once, Tony agreed with Clint. “FRIDAY, this isn’t time for puzzles. Either you can help us or shut up.”

 

“I saw Secretary Ross take Peter.”

 

“We know who kidnapped him,” Tony said through clenched teeth, trying to hold his patience. JARVIS would never waste his time like this.

 

“Peter knew he was being taken.”

 

“Goddamn it, FRIDAY,” Tony roared, “I will rewrite your code if you don’t spit it out.”

 

“He grabbed his phone. Secretary Ross did not think to check a toddler for a phone.”

 

It took a second for Tony to understand. “FRIDAY, are you saying what I think you’re saying?”

 

“I am sending his location to Captain Rogers’ cell phone.”

 

Tony whirled to Steve where he was already holding his cell phone and staring at the screen. He lifted it up to show Tony. “He’s only three hours out.”

 

That was good because it would be quicker and easier for them to reach them, but it was also bad because that meant that they only wasted 3 of the 11 hours Peter was missing in transportation. The rest of the time, they were doing whatever they wanted to him.

 

Steve looked at Tony and he knew exactly what he was asking. Tony nodded his head once. Steve turned to face the others and said, “Avengers, assemble.”

--

A three-hour drive was only a half hour flight in the jet. They were there before long, just on the border of Canada and New York. Here fields and woods went on for acres. Their GPS led them to a large building that looked like a miniature version of the compound.

 

Tony knew Peter was inside, but he couldn’t just barge in. They had no idea what kind of security was in there. Tony hoped Ross was confident enough to not think he would get caught and therefore, didn’t have a lot of defense.

 

“Clint and I will go in first and clear the path,” Natasha said as Clint checked his bow.

 

“I’m not hiding in the back,” Tony said.

 

“You’re going in behind them with me,” Steve said, putting a hand on his shoulder. Tony nodded.

 

“And I'm joining,” Rhodey said in his suit.

 

“I'll stay and watch the jet,” Vision offered from the side of Wanda. She didn't want to go in there anywhere near Ross. She still wasn't over what he did to her in The Raft. She said she'd help, but Tony let her stay here unless they really needed her.

 

“Let's go then,” Tony said, not waiting for anyone before leaving the jet. He heard the others follow him immediately. It was showtime.  


Waiting for Clint and Natasha to clear the halls was almost unbearable. He was so close to Peter. He just wanted to run to him now.

 

Finally, Clint said over the comms, “They're down.”

 

That was all Tony needed to hear before he was hurrying forward, following the GPS tracker he had up in his helmet. He went down endless hallways and a few flights of steps until voices stopped him.

 

“Increase the voltage by 5%.” Fucking Ross.

 

“But, sir--.”

 

“How is that wound looking? Healing yet?”

 

“There is no difference yet. We do not believe he has advanced healing.”

 

“Hmmm. So he's not a mini super soldier? Then how does he have that strength? Speaking of strength, does he need another dose to weaken his muscles?”  

 

“I don't think so, sir. He isn't fighting us much.”

 

“He has quite a tolerance to both pain and exertion.” Ross’ voice cooed in a condescending way, “How are you dowsing, buddy? Don't slow down.”

 

Peter’s voice broke out in a small sob, “No more please.” There was a short pause before Peter let out a loud yelp.

 

Tony was ready to storm in, but Natasha knew better and advised, “Not yet, Tony. Clint doesn't have a clear shot yet and we're outnumbered.”

 

Tony inched forward anyway. He had to see what they were doing. He peeked his head around the doorway and saw a large room with machinery and computers and medical equipment. But he only cared about the center of the room where his little Peter was running on a treadmill with wires and electrodes strapped to his body.

 

He stopped running and fell to his knees. Through his heavy panting, he said, “Can’ run no more.”

 

Ross, that son of a bitch, used Peter’s speech impediment against him. “You can run? So then why aren't you?”

 

Peter shook his head as tears fell down his cheeks. He tried so hard to get that ‘T’ sound out. “ Can’. Can’. I can’!”

 

“I know you can. So show me.”

 

Peter just sobbed.

 

Ross sighed. “I wish you wouldn’t make me do this.” He turned to the man by the machine. “Hit it.” The man followed his boss’ order without hesitation.

 

Peter seized up as he yelled in pain. When the man finally released the button a few seconds later, Peter’s body relaxed as he fell to his side. He continued to cry.

 

“Get up and run,” Ross said.

 

“Please no.” Peter’s body was trembling. “I wan’ 'ony.”

 

Ross kneeled down and grabbed Peter by the cheeks to focus his attention on him. “I don't care. You don't get Tony until you finish. Get up and run.” He threw Peter’s head to the side as he stood back up.

 

“Barton,” Tony said, “what the fuck are you waiting for?”

 

“Almost.”

 

Peter pushed himself up and started to run slowly. “Faster!” Ross yelled, but Peter couldn't. Ross walked closer and held down a button on the treadmill. The conveyor belt below Peter’s feet increased in speed and Peter had no choice but to run faster.

 

But he couldn't keep up with the speed. He tripped on his feet and hit the treadmill hard. It sent him flying off of it to the ground. His sobs continued. “‘m sorry. ‘m sorry.” He didn't pick himself up.

 

“Get up, brat,” Ross said between clenched teeth as he walked over to him.

 

Peter shook his head. “I wan’ 'ony. I nee’ 'ony. 'ony!” He called with a cry. He was waiting for Tony to save him. He didn't care about being outnumbered. He was going in there.

 

But before he could rush in, an arrow sailed through the air and landed on the machine controlling the electrocution. Everyone's heads turned to the arrow and the room went silent before Ross muttered, “Oh, fuck .”

 

Then the arrow exploded.

 

The room broke out into chaos. The arrow took out half a dozen people while the others went on high alert, pulling out their weapons.

 

Tony took that as his cue to storm in. He headed in straight for Ross and Peter. Around him, people were screaming and fighting. Natasha was taking down three guys at a time. Arrows were sailing left and right. Steve was throwing that shield around like a frisbee. Sam was flying through the room, clipping people with his wings. And Rhodey was having his back when he was too focused on Peter to see if anyone was coming towards him.

 

Ross turned around just as Tony came up behind him. He grabbed Ross’ suit jacket and pulled him close. He didn't hesitate before using his free hand to slap Ross across the face. Tony smile when he saw the bruise already forming.

 

Around him, the fights were slowly stopping. The men and women in white coats knew they weren't winning a fight against The Avengers.

 

Tony was still running on his adrenaline even after the room quieted down. The others came up close to him. All Tony saw was the terrified look on Ross’ face as he held him. He could just hear Peter’s sobs over his heavy breathing.

 

“Tony--,” he heard someone say, but he ignored it.

 

Tony threw Ross harshly against the treadmill. “Get up,” he said.

 

“S-stark--.”

 

Tony raised his hand and his gauntlet whined, charging up. “ Get up and run.”

 

Ross looked around at everyone watching. Clint stepped beside Tony and raised his bow. “You heard the man. Run.”

 

He stood up with his hands raised. “Okay. Okay.” But before he could run, Tony sent a taser shooting out of his gauntlet. It hit Ross in the chest and he fell with a scream.

 

After a few seconds, Tony stopped the electricity. Ross gasped for air.

 

“Get up,” Tony said again.

 

“I can't move,” Ross said angrily.

 

“Not my problem,” Tony said before tasering him again. This time he didn't stop. Not until Steve had a hand on his arm.

 

“Tony, I know you're angry, but don't stoop to his level. Don't let him make you feel like this.”

 

Tony’s eyes flickered from Ross’ seizing body to Steve and then back to Ross.

 

Sam spoke up too, “Yeah, man, don't kill him. That's too easy of a punishment.”

 

Tony saw in his helmet that he was indeed killing Ross. He'd fry him if he kept this up much longer. He didn't want him to die. Not yet. He wanted him to suffer.

 

He shut off the taser and Ross sagged lifelessly, almost in unconsciousness. He moaned painfully as his eyes drifted closed.

 

Sam and Steve rushed forward to grab him in custody. They held him roughly as they pulled him up to his feet. Just because they stopped Tony from killing him didn't mean they weren't going to hurt him.

 

Tony finally let his hand fall and he breathed heavily, attempting to calm himself down. Clint stood in front of him, looking scared, “Tony, the kid wants you.”

 

The kid. Peter. Immediately, Tony said, “Open up the suit. Now.” The armor peeled away and Tony wrenched himself free.

 

He hurried to where Peter was curled in Rhodey’s lap. Natasha was sitting next to them, carding her fingers through Peter’s hair.

 

Falling to his knees, he pulled Peter from Rhodey’s arms. Peter's eyes widened in fright at first, but when he saw who was pulling him, he let out a rob if relief, “‘ony!”

 

Tony hugged him closely. “I'm here, kiddo. I'm right here.” He ran his fingers through his hair as he kissed his temple.


He sat there for a few minutes just listening to Peter cry. He rocked him back and forth and whispered, “It's going to be okay. I promise.”

Chapter Text

Everything was hazy until they were sitting in the jet a half hour later. Tony hadn't let go of Peter and he was still clutching him close to his chest.

 

Rhodey was the one to finally convince him to come back to his senses. “You can still hold him. We just have to check him over.”

 

Tony lowered his arms so everyone else could get a good look at Peter. He still wanted to stay close to Tony, but he listened when they asked him to uncurl so they could look at him.

 

There were a few bruises on his body that would usually heal easily with his powers. The one covering the left side of his face made everyone in the jet angry. There were red welts where the electrodes were stuck. But other than the obvious wounds and his tears he looked okay.

 

Except for the smell.

 

Peter was still in the same diaper Tony put on him the other night. Almost 24 hours without getting changed.

 

Now that he was safe in Tony’s arms, he seemed to notice it as well. He pinched his face and squirmed uncomfortably.

 

“We're gonna get that off of you as soon as we're back in the compound,” Tony promised. “I don't have the diaper bag on me.”

 

Peter didn't like that answer. He whined slowly that turned into a small sob. Tony hushed him, rocking him. He looked up when he felt a hand on his shoulder.

 

Clint was standing without a shirt because it was in his hand as he offered it to Tony. “Here. There are wipes in the first aid kit. I'll help you wrap the shirt around him like a diaper.”

 

Tony paused, unsure of what to do.

 

“He's been sitting in that for hours. He's already got a rash probably. Let's ease as much pain as we can.”

 

Tony nodded and laid Peter down on the bench. Everyone turned away to give the kid some privacy. Steve handed him the bag of wipes. Tony took it gratefully and set it next to Peter.

 

He took in a deep breath before pulling off the straps. But what he saw first shocked him. Stuffed in his diaper was a cell phone. Tony looked up to Peter and said, “You hid it in your diaper?” He asked incredulously.

 

Peter nodded, looking eager to just get this diaper off of him.

 

Clint laughed as he pulled out the diaper between two pinched fingers. “He's a smart kid. Ross would have found it in his clothes when he took them off.”

 

“He's so smart,” Tony praised as he started cleaning him up. He took his time, making sure to clean him well. Peter whined and tried to pull away whenever Tony wiped his butt, no doubt because of the pain. He was bright red.

 

When he was cleaned up, Clint leaned over to wrap him up in the t-shirt. “Is it soft?” Tony asked.

 

Clint nodded and Tony felt it for himself. It was soft; Tony hoped it didn't hurt his already irritated skin. “Let's just hope he can hold it in until we get an actual diaper on him.”

 

Tony pet Peter’s head, matting down his curls. “He's potty trained. They just didn't give him a chance in there.”

 

“So this is Spider-Boy?” Sam asked, now that he was decent.

 

“Spider-Man,” Tony corrected him.

 

Sam raised his eyebrows. “You're really going to try to make that argument right now?”

 

Tony pulled Peter back into his arms. “Don't tease him. He has enough self-esteem issues as it is.”

 

“How did this happen?” Natasha asked, watching Peter carefully.

 

“He was fighting something. It shot him with a weird gun. His buddy brought him to me like this,” Tony explained.

 

“And he...does he know?” She asked slowly, looking back up at Tony.

 

“Yes and no. He remembers things of being normal, but he acts like his physical age.” Tony was getting tired of explaining this.

 

“And you've been watching him?” Steve asked.

 

Tony nodded. “For almost two weeks. In a day or two, he'll be back to normal.”

 

“You could've come to use for help,” Steve said softly.

 

“Yeah, man, I've got three doctorates in raising kids.” Clint smiled down at Peter as he fell asleep.

 

“I didn't want it getting out for reasons just like we're in now. And I think the kid will be mortified when he finds out you saw me change his diaper.” He looked around the room jet, especially at Sam who had too much fun making fun of him. But he knew the teasing was all in good fun. Sam wasn't like Flash.

 

“We're not assholes,” Sam said. “The kid was being experimented on by Fucker McGee.”

 

“Who the hell hurts a toddler like that?” Rhodey scoffed.

 

“Fucker McGee,” Clint answered, glancing at Sam in amusement.

 

“He’ll be okay?” Steve asked hesitantly.

 

Tony looked down to the sleeping bundle in his arms. Now that he was safe in Tony’s arms, he was going to be fine. “Yeah.”

 

“Good. We’ll be landing in a few minutes. Then you can get him dressed and settled and I'll make some dinner,” Steve offered.

 

Tony nodded, thankful that soon he was going to be able to clean Peter up properly, but not thankful that that meant he could no longer avoid calling Happy to tell him the news. He deserved to know.

 

For Ross’ sake, Tony hoped he went straight to prison. On second thought...nah, Tony hadn't seen Happy beat the shit out of someone in a while.

 

Ross would be a good start. 

--

Happy had been panicked and worried Tony could hear it in his voice. Before Tony hung up the phone, he was rushing to get on a jet to the compound. Tony told him not to worry because the kid was fine. Happy insisted on seeing that himself.

 

Once he had Happy handled, he turned to Peter where he was lying on the bed. He was still in only Clint’s shirt, but now he was awake and staring at Tony. His eyes hadn't left him since Tony put him down.

 

Tony sat down next to him and rubbed his leg soothingly. “It's okay, buddy, I'm right here.”

 

In a flash, Peter’s hand shot out to grab one of Tony’s fingers. “No go,” he said.

 

“I'm not. I promise.” He squeezed Peter’s finger before looking down at the shirt. “How about we get you in a pull-up? I'll let you pick out the superhero.”

 

Peter looked like he wanted to look away. But he wasn't ready yet to let Tony out of his sight. “Sorry. I didn’ mean ‘o go.”

 

“No, it's okay. That wasn't your fault,” Tony immediately tried to calm him down.

 

“I ‘old him I nee’ ‘o go, bu’ he say no!”

 

“He's a mean man. I know it wasn't your fault.”

 

Peters face scrunched up slightly. “I ask to give me new diaper bu’ he laugh.” His eyes started to well up. “You laugh ‘oo? And duh o’fer ‘vengers?”

 

“No, Peter, we would never laugh at you.” Tony’s mind went back to the conversation he had with Peter the night they met up with Flash.

 

“I so e’bsrass. They know I'm a baby!”

 

“They don't care about that. Don't worry. The only thing they care about is if you're okay.” Tony looked at Peter’s little, bruised body. “Are you okay?”

 

Peter nodded his head.

 

Tony tried again. “Peter. It's okay to tell me. I know he did bad things to you...please tell me what.”

 

Peter’s lower lip trembled as he finally said, “He lock me up. I call for you and he hi’ me ev’ry ‘ime I say your name.”

 

Tony pulled Peter into his arms, needing to have him close. Peter was calling for him while he slept in a fucking closet.

 

“Scary people in whi’e coa’s. Doc’ors. They ‘ake my blood and s’ick needles. I cry and say, s’op, bu’ d’ey ignore me’”

 

Tony shut his eyes, trying hard not to imagine little Peter strapped down while people tested him for his abilities. Tony wasn't even sure how he knew Peter was special. Maybe he walked in and Peter was hiding on the wall. It didn't matter. They had wanted information and even though Ross was going to jail, Tony would make sure everything he discovered was destroyed.

 

“Cu’ my ‘ummy and make me run so much. Meanie say I see you ‘gain if I run. I f’ry so hard.” Peter buried his head in Tony’s chest and cried.

 

Tony rubbed his back, careful not upset any scabs or bruises. “I'm here now. And until you're a big boy again, nobody will take you out of my arms.”

 

Peter held him tighter.

 

“What hurts? Does anything still hurt? I may need a doctor to--.”

 

“No!” Peter screeched, pulling back. “No doc’ors!”

 

“Right. I'm sorry,” Tony apologized. “ I'll check you out then. What hurts?” Peter shrugged his shoulders. “Peter.”

 

“My ‘ummy,” he said, placing a hand over the largest slice on his body. It was scrabbling but it looked a bit inflamed. “An’ my cheek.” His face was still a dark purple from being slapped so many times, no doubt.

 

“Anything else?” Tony asked.

 

Peter took a little too long to answer, “...no.”

 

Tony raised his eyebrows as he stared at Peter. “ Peter , what hurts?”

 

Peter looked down at Tony’s chest as he pulled on his shirt. His cheeks burned red underneath his bruised skin as admitted, “My bu’ hurts. Where my ‘iaper goes hurts.”

 

Tony chuckled. The poor kid. “It's okay. That's something I can help with.” He turned around to a small bag on the bedside table. “Had this speed delivered before we got here.” he pulled out the small tube and showed Peter. “It'll help with your rash.”

 

He laid Peter down and started to unwrap the shirt from around him. Like he knew it, his bottom was still bright red. It definitely looked painful. Tony grabbed the tube and squirted a drop on his finger. Before applying it, he assured Peter, “This will feel nice.”

 

When he first touched Peter, the cold temperature of the cream made him flinch, but once Tony started rubbing it in, he relaxed with a sigh.

 

Tony grinned at his happy moan. “Told you.” He continued to cover Peter’s skin until the red was covered in white. “Now your pants. Who do you wanna wear? Are we feeling Thor today? Hawkeye?”

 

Peter shook his head with a small smile. “No!”

 

“Oh, how could I be so stupid? You want Cap!”

 

Giggling, Peter disagreed. “No! I wan’ my fav’ri’e!”

 

“Who is that, Giggles?”

 

Peter pointed up at him and said, “You!”

 

It never ceased to warm Tony’s heart when he was reminded how much Peter looked up to him. He wasn't new to fans, but Peter was different. He didn't look up to him because of his past days or because of his money or even because he was Iron Man. He looked up to him because he was Tony Stark: MIT graduate at 18, inventor of a new element, the brain behind the Iron Man suit and Stark tech.

 

Tony smiled as he grabbed the Iron Man Pull Up. “You're too nice to me, Peter. My ego is big enough as it is.”

 

Peter was too busy smiling at his Pull Up to listen. “I big boy ‘gain.”

 

“Yeah, yeah. Now come on in. I want to get you some good and band-aids.” Tony pulled him up, careful of his owies.

 

They, or rather Tony walked while Peter was carried, to the main kitchen and Tony was surprised to see the team sitting around the table. He paused and Peter let out a squeak of surprise before hiding his face in Tony’s shoulder.

 

Tony wrapped his hand around Peter’s head. “What are you guys doing?” They weren't even eating; they were sitting at the table creepily.

 

Natasha answered honestly, “Figured you had to come out and eat eventually. Especially with how much you fed him the first day.” She crossed her arms over her chest with raised eyebrows.

 

Tony ignored her. “The sun isn't even up yet. What are you guys doing awake?”

 

“Waiting for you and the kid,” Sam answered. His eyes were on Peter.

 

“That's weird.” Even though he wanted to run and hide with Peter, he knew they meant no harm and Peter was hungry. His stomach growled that second as if he could read Tony’s thoughts.

 

Client grinned.  “We can all have an early breakfast.” He stood up and walked over to them to whisper to Peter, “Our brave boy needs some food to build up those spider bones.”

 

Peter lifted his head to look at Clint, but he didn't say a word. He just stared back at the archer.

 

Clint’s eyes flicked down to Peter’s Pull Up. “I have those.”

 

The kitchen went silent and Peter stared harder like he was trying to figure out if Clint was making fun of him and waiting to laugh. Tony glared, ready to kill Clint.

 

But Clint stared right back without a malicious look in his eyes. He even smiled. Peter relaxed in Tony’s hold.

 

“The Cap ones are my favorite. But I don't look as nearly cool as you do in them,” Clint tried again.

 

Then finally Peter smiled. He even laughed. “Why no’ Hawkeye?”

 

Clint turned his now wide eyes to Tony like he couldn't believe the kid knew who he was. Tony smiled back. Yeah, his kid was pretty freaking awesome. He turned back to Peter and tried to play it cool. “Yeah, that dude is cool.”

 

Peter nodded song excitedly, seeming to come out of his shell. “Yeah! You shoo’ arrows! No special powers, jus’ you!”

 

Clint’s face softened. “Yeah, kiddo, just me.”

 

Peter gave him a wide toothy grin making the bruise on his face look even more out of place. “F’ank you for saving me.” He twisted in Tony’s arms to face the table as well. “F’ank you all.”

 

Laughing, Clint asked, “Are you sure your Stark’s kid? Because there's no way you got your manners from him.”

 

Peter hugged Tony around the neck. “‘ony.”

 

Tony chuckled. “‘ony needs his coffee so tell birdbrain to finish this conversation at the table.”

 

Clint held out his arms. “I'll hold him while you get your coffee.”

 

Tony immediately pulled Peter in closer. “Nu-uh. The last time I put him down, he was kidnapped. Not happening.”

 

Clint rolled his eyes. “Ross is gone, Tony. And we’ll only be a foot away with the rest of the Avengers. It'll be okay.”

 

Tony didn't budge. “I'll be fine. The kid can stick to me while I pour.”

 

“Seriously?”

 

Tony nodded and he thought Clint was finally going to give up until Peter said softly, “S’kay, ‘ony. I be safe.” Tony didn't want to let him go.

 

Steve decided to butt in. “Come on, Tony, you haven't put him down since we got him back. Have you even went to the bathroom yet?”

 

“Don't have to go.”

 

“Oh, so when you do have to, you'll carry him in there with you?”

 

“I'll borrow one of Clint’s Pull-Ups.”

 

Peter started giggling at that. “You silly, ‘ony.”

 

“Tony, come on,” Clint said softly.

 

“Fine. You can hold him.” Tony pulled Peter back when Clint stepped forward. “If you stand right next to me.”

 

“I'll be right at the table, okay? I don't want to get in your way when you're using hot water.”

 

Tony stared at Clint while he thought. There was no ulterior motive for Clint to hold Peter. He could trust him because not only was he a dad, but he was his teammate, his family. Just like everyone else at the table. They would all do whatever they could to protect this ball of sunshine named Peter. He learned that earlier that night (was it technically last night if it was now the next morning?).

 

Tony silently handed Peter over to Clint and while he clung to Tony’s sleeves at first, he let go when Tony told him it was going to be okay.

 

“Come to Uncle Clint,” he cooed in a very creepy voice.

 

Tony made a face. “You sound like the weird uncle that is secretly a pedophile.”

 

“Hey, watch your mouth in front of my nephew.” Clint glared with no real heat behind it.

 

Tony rolled his eyes and said, “Uncle Clint?”

 

“Well, if you're the overprotective dad, then I get to be the fun uncle.” Clint bounced Peter in his arms. Peter grabbed onto Clint to keep his balance while giggling.

 

“Why hello there, Giggles,” Clint said with a smile as he walked to the table. He sat down at his chair and settled Peter on his lap.

 

“Hi, Clin’!” Peter used one hand to grab Clint’s nose while he bounced in his lap.

 

Tony turned around to get his coffee done and Peter back in his arms as quickly as possible. He heard the others talking and Peter answering in his troubled speech. Tony smiled.

 

He turned around while his water boiled. Leaning against the counter, he watched the scene in front of him with a smile.

 

Clint was bouncing Peter on his knee every time he tried to grab a strawberry from the archer’s plate. Peter let out small grunts of frustration between giggles.

 

Steve saw Peter’s suffering and picked up a strawberry to his mouth. Peter immediately took it from Steve with his teeth, getting his fingers as well. His face lit up like it was the first time he had ever tasted a strawberry. He made grabby hands towards Steve. “More! More!”

 

Steve continued to feed Peter strawberry after strawberry and when he wasn't going fast enough, he grabbed the plate from his hands. Once that plate was gone, Wanda offered him her bowl.

 

Peter grabbed it with his red stained fingers and started to stuff his just as red face. Rhodey eyed him warily. “He looks more like a Barton than a Stark.”

 

Clint laughed loudly and patted Peter’s shoulder. “How does that sound, kiddie? Want me to be your pops?”

 

At the sound of pops, Peter twisted in his grip until he was staring back at Tony. He reached out his hand and went to grab for Tony, but he waved instead. Tony rolled his eyes. “Hello, Peter.”

 

Peter watched him, looking like he wanted to say something. Maybe about the comment Clint made, but instead, he settled on smiling and saying, “Hi, ‘ony.”



As breakfast continued, Peter was passed around the team like table salt. He went from lap to lap. Each time getting another hug and coos about how adorable he was.

 

Honestly, if anyone could see them now, Earth's Mightiest Heroes, reduced to a puddle because of a little toddler, they'd be laughed at. Aliens would come to earth just to make fun of them.

 

It was especially unnerving to see one of the deadliest assassins playing peek-a-boo with Peter. But every woman had a maternal side to her...even Natasha Romanoff.

 

Tony didn't understand how anyone would be able to look at Peter and want to do anything else to him other than make him giggle and smile.

 

He really didn't understand how Ross could look into those big brown eyes and continue to slap and kick and shock him. How was he able to listen to his cries and know he was the one to cause them?

 

Tony shivered at the thought.

 

But Peter was okay now. He was currently curled into Steve’s arms. He looked even tinier compared to the Super Soldier. But Steve was so gentle with him. A gentle he didn't know a man of his size could have.

 

He stayed there until more company joined. They heard him before he even made it to the dining area. His feet pounded hard against the tiled ground while he called out, “Tony!”

 

“In here!” Tony yelled back, noticing how Peter perked up at the familiar voice.

 

Happy ran into the room, looking a little flushed and panting slightly. He looked from Tony to everyone else until his eyes stopped on the small bundle in Steve’s arms. Happy visibly deflated and in a broken voice he said, “Oh, kid.”

 

But Peter didn't notice his somber mood. To him, he was happy to see a friend. “Happy!” He squealed, jumping up and balancing on Steve’s legs.

 

Happy came forward and pulled Peter into his arms. “You just can't seem to keep yourself out of trouble, huh?”

 

Peter smiled and buried his face into Happy’s neck. Happy kissed the hair just behind his ear and whispered, “It's gonna be okay.”

 

And it was.

 

Tony knew this as he looked around the table. Yes, they'd had their differences and they'd had their fights, but at the end of the day, they're a family.

 

Tony looked at Peter curled in Happy’s arms and smiled.

 

A still growing family.


That night came too quickly.

 

Tony knew this would be his last day with Little Peter and he made the very best of it. He was selfish and kept the two of them locked up in his room. He had the TV playing a movie quietly in the background, but Tony focused on Peter.

 

He cherished his last battle with him, every giggle he made, every time he stopped playing or talking to just hug Benny, every little smile he looked up at Tony with.

 

Tony wasn’t ready to say goodbye to this little boy. And, sure, he knew, Peter wasn’t going anywhere. But, he was. The kid he had spent the past two weeks with was leaving. And who knew who’d he be replaced by. Would this Peter like Tony? Would he push himself away?

 

Tony wasn’t ready to let him go.




He knew as he got Peter ready for bed this would be the last time. He looked up and asked, “So you're sure he's done fighting this, FRI?”

 

“Yes, boss. By morning, his healing will have brought him back to normal.”

 

Tony looked down where Peter was too busy petting Benny to hear what Tony was saying. He didn't want this to be the end. He knew Peter was going to want to leave the moment he was big again.

 

“Peter,” Tony said to grab his attention. He didn't continue until Peter was looking up at him. “I'm gonna put you in one of my big shirts tonight, okay? When you wake up you're not going to be fitting in your tiny little PJs anymore.”

 

Peter didn't argue as Tony pulled the shirt over his head. It fit him like a dress and reminded him of the first day when Ned brought him over in the long shirts.

 

Once he was dressed, Peter rolled over to crawl under the blankets. But Tony grabbed him and pulled him back. “No no. I can't wake up in bed next to a 15-year-old boy wearing only a t-shirt. You're sleeping in the room next door.”

 

Peters eyes widened and filled with crocodile tears. “No snuggles?”

 

“No more snuggles.” Tony hoisted him up and started to carry him into the adjoining room where he could have his own bed but still be close enough to Tony.

 

Peter started to smack his chest to try and stop him. “Sleep wi’f ‘ony!”

 

“Don't throw a tantrum, Peter. You won't win,” Tony only said because he knew Peter would win. He wanted to let Peter come sleep next to him one more time.

 

“I don’ wanna be ‘lone.” Peter let the big tears drip down his cheek. “‘ony, I wan’ you!” He grabbed tightly onto Tony’s t-shirt.

 

“I'll be here when you wake up, buddy. Just come through this door.” Tony ran his fingers through Peter’s curls.

 

“Why no snuggles?” Peter whined as he wrapped his legs around Tony’s chest.

 

“Because 50-year-old men do not snuggle with 15-year-old boys,” Tony said pointedly.

 

“Bu’ you snuggle wi’f me. S’kay. Daddies can snuggle wi’f d’eir babies.” Peter rubbed his head against Tony softly with a little sniffle.

 

Tony had to take a steadying breath before he spoke because he was afraid his voice was going to break like his heart was. “Peter...I'm not...you're not my baby and I'm not your daddy.”

 

Peter lifted his head off Tony’s chest and frowned. “Yes!”

 

“No, Peter.” Tony was starting to worry maybe Peter was losing his memories of being a teenager.

 

With frantic nodding and bouncing curls, Peter said, “No’ real daddy, bu’ you love me. You ‘ake goo’ care of me.”

 

Tony felt his eyes burning. He wished he was Peter’s real father. He wished he was the one that raised him and had the right to be proud of him. But Peter had his Aunt May and Peter wasn't even a toddler; he was a teenage boy. A teenage boy that didn't need Tony Stark to change his diapers or peel his bananas or carry him around.

 

“How about I tuck you in? I'll sit with you until you fall asleep.” Tony carried him into the adjoining bedroom.

 

“Lay ‘own wi’f me?”

 

“Only until you fall asleep,” Tony said with raised eyebrows as he lowered him into bed and laid down next to him.

 

“F’ank you.” Peter smiled as he laid his head on a huge pillow.

 

“You're welcome. Now it's time to shut your eyes and sleep.” Tony lifted the blankets over both of them. Peter moved closet until was sharing Tony’s pillow.

 

Peter lifted his little hand up to play with Tony’s facial hair that was not as kept as usual. As it turned out, taking care of a toddler didn't leave him much time to himself. “Love you,” he whispered.

 

“I love you too.” Tony took Peter’s hand in his. “Sleep now.”

 

Peter started to suck his thumb and used his other hand to twirl his hair. Before shutting his eyes, he asked, “Can you sing ‘o me?”

 

Tony sighed, acting like it was an inconvenience, but really he was happy to sing to Little Peter one more time. “Fine. Close your eyes and listen.”

 

Peter snapped his eyes shut and snuggled into Tony’s arms. Tony held him and hummed softly before singing, “From your head down to your toes, you're not much, goodness knows. But, you're so precious to me. Sweet as can be, baby of mine.”

 

Peter wasn't asleep yet, but he was close to it. Tony let his own eyes shut as he listened to Peter’s soft breathing.  “Goodnight, Peter,” he whispered.

 

“Goodnight, ‘ony.”

Chapter Text

 The next time Tony opened his eyes, it was morning. There were the familiar soft brown curls tickling his nose, but it took a few extra seconds to realize what was wrong.

 

Sure, he had spent the past two weeks getting to know what having Peter leeched on him during the night felt like, but this was different. Peter wasn't just curled around his chest; he was curled around his entire body.

 

Tony looked down at the boy snuggling against him and he didn't see the little two-year-old. He saw the 15-year-old. Peter was back to normal.

 

Which meant that Tony was not allowed to be here. He went to slowly start extracting himself from Peter’s tight hold, but all of a sudden, Peter's steady breathing stopped as he froze. Then slowly, he lifted his head off the pillow to look at Tony. Tony knew it wasn't a good time, but he couldn't help but think how adorable he looked with his still half asleep eyes and his messy bed head.

 

Tony quickly dismissed that thought because it wasn't normal for a grown man to think a teenage boy was adorable. Even if he was a tiny toddler only hours earlier.

 

Suddenly, Peter jumped off of the bed and pulled down on his shirt. It was no longer a dress, but it still reached his mid-thigh. “Mr. Stark, I am so sorry!”

 

Tony sat up, quickly trying to assure him, “Kid, there is nothing to apologize for.”

 

“I can't believe...I can't believe I did that.” Peter stumbled slightly, probably getting used to his regular body again.

 

“Peter, calm down.”

 

“I'm leaving now. Don't worry, Mr. Stark,” Peter said, quickly turning away from Tony, looking around the room.

 

“Peter,” Tony said from the doorway. “Don't be ridiculous. Just--.”

 

“I'll catch an Uber back. It's fine,” he interrupted him as he pulled on his shirt nervously.

 

“You're not getting an Uber back. You're not leaving,” Tony snapped before taking a steadying breath. “Please just sit down for a second. Let's talk--.”

 

“No!” Peter practically shouted.

 

Tony clenched his teeth. He wasn't about to pretend this never happened. If he let it go now, they would never talk and things and it would always be awkward between them. “Peter,” he said with a warning in his voice. It reminded him of the days of Peter’s tantrums.

 

Peter seemed to notice this too because his eyes shut and shook his head. He tried again, “I want to leave. I don't want to be here.”

 

“I know you're embarrassed, Peter, but please don't…” Tony wasn't sure how to finish this request. What was he even asking of Peter? What did he want from him?

 

“With all due respect, Mr. Stark, you weren't the one in a diaper for the past two weeks.” Peter still refused time look him in the eyes as his cheeks burned red.

 

“You weren't the only one outside of your comfort zone,” Tony challenged, even though he knew it couldn't compare. Peter drew the shorter stick this time.

 

“Mr. Stark--.”

 

“And stop with this ‘Mr. Stark’ crap. You don't go from Tony to Mr. Stark again,” Tony said, hoping the kid would actually listen. “I don't want you to think this was your fault. I don't want you to think you have to be embarrassed by this.”

 

“I was a baby ,” Peter said. “I...I remember everything and I don't...I couldn't even say my own name.”

 

“Peter, you did the best you could.” Tony took a step forward. “It wasn't your fault. You physically couldn't do it. But you did your best, which was better than any other kid I've known.”

 

“That's because I'm not a kid!” Peter yelled, losing his temper again. “I don't need to be babied or coddled or held. I'm fine .”

 

Tony’s posture sagged in realization. Peter wasn't getting upset because of the humiliation. (Well, not entirely). “Peter,” Tony said softly.

 

“I know I get too attached. I can't help it. May says I have a big heart and that's my best superpower, but sometimes I hate it.” Peter ran a hand through his hair, that was not as curly as Little Peter’s, but curly enough. “I feel more. Especially since the spider bite and it enhanced my sense. I feel emotions triple as much as I used to feel them, which was already intense. So, you know, everything is out of whack and sometimes it's hard to hold back.”

 

“You don't have to hold back, Peter,” Tony said, wanting to pull Peter into a hug. He had gotten so used to Peter as a baby searching for physical comfort when he was distress. It hurt to see Peter hugging his arms around his own chest, trying to comfort himself.

 

“Yes, I do. Because if I don't...I can't lose people I love. Not again. My parents were my best friends for the first six years of my life and then suddenly they're gone.” Peter looked up at Tony and he was surprised to see the water in his eyes. “And then I had Uncle Ben and now he's gone too.”

 

Tony knew about his past: about his parents that died in a crash and the murder of his uncle right in front of Peter. He died in his arms.

 

By now the tears were steadily streaming down Peter’s face, but he continued, “I still have May and Ned, which is bad enough. But now you're here and Happy. And it scares me, Mr. Stark, it scares me how much you mean to me when I've only known you for a few months. I can't lose another dad,” his voice cracked as he failed at holding back a sob.

 

Tony couldn't stand to stand here and watch Peter try to comfort himself. In two quick strides, he was across the room and putting his hands on Peter’s arms.

 

“You're not going to lose me.”

 

“You can’t promise that,” Peter said forlornly, wiping his eyes trying to control his sobbing.

 

Tony knew he was right, but he pulled Peter in for a hug anyway. Immediately, Peter wrapped his arms around Tony and clung to him like he was being dragged away by the devil himself. He lost control of his tears again and sobbed into Tony’s chest. Not for the first time, Tony felt his shirt soak with tears.

 

Tony wrapped one arm around him to pull him closer and used the other one to thread his fingers through Peter’s hair. “Shh,” he soothed softly. “It’ll be okay, kiddo. It will be okay.”

 

They stayed like that for a few moments until Peter pulled away hesitantly with a sniffle. “I’m sorry. I know...I make people uncomfortable hugs and always needing to be close...sometimes I forget not everyone is as tolerating as Ned.”

 

“Kid, you don’t have to apologize. Just come here.” Tony pulled Peter back into his arms. Peter’s hands dug so hard into his back, he could feel his fingers through the shirt.

 

“I'm sorry,” Peter said again, but Tony wasn't having it.

 

He held Peter tighter when he warned, “Peter…”

 

Peter pulled away to meet his eyes. “No, I'm sorry for making you watch me the whole time and for all the trouble I caused.” His cheeks flushed when he said, “Believe me, I remember all the crap you did for me.”

 

Tony laughed as he remembered the first time he changed Peter’s diaper and he told him that. “Good. When I'm old and in diapers again, I expect the same treatment.”

 

Peter just rolled his eyes, blushing even more. “ Mr. Stark.”

 

“C’mon, kiddo, it's funny. We can laugh at it now that you're out of the diapers.” Tony lowered his hand to poke Peter in the side. “I know you can giggle. I miss it. C’mon.”

 

“Maybe Baby Me giggles, but Teenage Me doesn't,” Peter said stubbornly, shoving away Tony’s hand.

 

“Yes, he does,” Tony challenged, tickling his sides. He smiled in triumph when Peter let out a quick laugh before shutting his mouth.

 

“I'm not a baby, stop,” but this time, there wasn't much heat behind his words.

 

“You know you and your baby counterpart have more in common then you think.” Peter rolled his eyes. “You have the same smile and ridiculous amount of energy. Your brown curls and big brown eyes. The same diaper rash on your butt.”

 

Peter jumped back with wide eyes and a bright red face. “How'd you know?”

 

Tony laughed loudly. “Well, I wasn't sure if it healed or not until you just told me.”

 

Refusing to meet Tony’s eyes, Peter mumbled, “It’ll heal soon.”

 

Tony slung an arm around Peter’s shoulder with another laugh. “Come on, tomato butt, I have your cream in the other room. And I want to bandage up some of these wounds and make sure everything went okay with the transformation back.”

 

Peter looked at the door in apprehension. “Are the others out there?”

 

“Probably,” Tony answered. “They're worried about you. And they probably want to see what you look like in your regular age.”

 

Peter sighed heavily, but he allowed Tony to steer him out of the room. “That's not how I wanted to meet the Avengers.”

 

“If it makes you feel any better, I'm sure they won't bring up me changing your diaper.” Peter groaned as he covered his face with both hands. Tony laughed. “This is payback, kiddo.”

 

“For what?” Peter asked incredulously.

 

“For making me change your diaper. And bathing you: you splash too much, you know that? And chasing you around the tower. And just having to deal with you. You're a handful.”

 

Peter blushed. “I'm sorry, Mr. Stark.”

 

“I'm busting your chops, kiddo. If I really didn't want you I would have stuck you with Happy.”

 

“You guys make good dads.” Peter was finally teasing back.

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Oh yeah. Especially the leash. A+ parenting,” he said sarcastically with a laugh.

 

Tony found himself laughing. “That one wasn't as good as the Iron Man carrier right?”

 

Peter scoffed as he looked up at him. “Not even close.”

 

“That's my boy,” Tony said afraid he threw his head back with a laugh. Peter was smiling beside him. “Now come on, let's make sure everything is okay.” They weren't stopped before they made it to the infirmary, surprisingly. Dr. Helen Cho was waiting for them as they walked in.

 

She smiled softly, but Peter still froze in the doorway. He turned his wide eyes to Tony and said, “I thought,” he cleared his throat before continuing after his voice cracked. “I thought you said no doctors.”

 

Helen’s smile faltered only slightly as she glared in Tony’s direction. Then in the next second, she was pulling her white coat off and smiling ever more warmly at Peter. “No doctors. Just a concerned friend.”

 

Tony rolled his eyes. Peter may have been 2-years-old a few hours ago, but he surely wasn't now. He wouldn't fall for a trick like that just because she took off her white coat. He was a teenager and he was...smiling back?

 

Tony did a double take at the kid that was paler than a ghost only a second ago. He turned to Helen as she urged him over and patted the table.

 

That's when Tony realized he wasn't afraid of doctors; it was the white coat that brought back the painful memories. Huh. Tony made a mental note to burn every lab coat in his lab. Or maybe just dye them a bright color.

 

Peter sat up on the table and then immediately sought out Tony. Like a child going to their checkup for the first time and needing their dad right by their side. Tony was happy to oblige.

 

Helen was already checking his heartbeat and breathing by the time Tony got to his side. “Everything sounds okay,” she said. “Can you do me a favor and pull off your shirt?”

 

Peter hesitated slightly as his eyes drifted to Tony. Rolling his eyes Tony said, “I've seen you in less, kid. Now’s not the time to be modest.”

 

So, Peter pulled off his long-sleeved shirt and Tony understood why he had been so hesitant. Covering his chest, the welts were still burning bright red and angry bruises matched. Tony felt particularly sick when he noticed the dark bruises on his wrists that looked like someone had restrained him.

 

Peter was twitching with nervous energy as he pulled at the string of his sweatpants. He refused to look up at Tony.

 

“They're all dead.”

 

Peter’s head snapped up. “Mr. Stark, you don't have to kill them.”

 

With a shake of his head, Tony said, “They're either all dead or rotting in prison. Already.”

 

“Oh,” Peter said like he was shocked that someone would go through that just to protect him.

 

Helen interrupted the moment by pressing on his ribs carefully. “How do they feel? Any tightness? Sharp pains?”

 

“They never kicked hard enough to break a rib,” Peter answered.  

 

Tony was angry all over again. They kicked him? They kicked a poor, defenseless toddler?

 

“I'm checking to see if all your bones are okay after you grew big again. I don't know how it works, but your skeleton obviously changed sizes in a very short time. I want to make sure you're okay and your bones didn't shift incorrectly.”  

 

“Oh,” Peter said with a blush on his cheeks.

 

Helen smiled as she continued to check him over and poke around asking if it hurt. Peter replied no to every inquiry until she ran a thumb over the bruise across his cheek. Peter hissed with a wince.

 

“I'll get you some cream to put on the bruises and burns,” she said as she pulled away.

 

“I'm okay. They'll heal soon.”

 

Helen raised her eyebrows. “Let's take care of them until they're healed then, huh?”

 

Tony smiled at the kid as if to say, “Ha!” Someone else was finally telling this kid super healing didn't solve everything.

 

Peter’s shoulders deflated as he nodded. “Okay. Sorry.”

 

Helen laughed softly and rubbed his arm soothingly. “It's okay. We just worry about you.”

 

“Speaking of worrying, I think it's time we find the team so they can end theirs.” Tony clapped his hands together and rubbed them.

 

Peter sighed heavily. “Do I have to?”

 

Yes, ” Tony replied, handing Peter his shirt. “Here. Put this on before Clint plays connect the dots with your chest.”

 

Peter grabbed the shirt from his hand in a hurry and pulled it on. He hunched in on himself and pulled the sleeves long past his hands. Tony wondered where he found the large shirt that obviously wasn't his. Maybe he raided Tony’s closet.

 

“Please keep me in the loop. If anything feels off, don't be afraid to call me,” Helen requested.

 

“We will and don't worry, FRIDAY is always monitoring him with scans.” Tony put a steadying hand on Peter’s arm as he jumped off the table out of habit.

 

“Okay.” She turned to Peter and smiled softly. “Feel better, Peter.”

 

“Thank you,” he returned with a smile. He turned back around to Tony and started walking out with him.

 

Tony watched him out of the corner of his eyes and said, “It's weird seeing you walk on your own two feet again. I'm so used to being your personal chauffeur.” He tried to ignore the part of him that missed it. He wished Peter was a small little bundle of craziness and cuddles again.

 

“You're more than welcome to carry me. I could use the rest.” Peter grinned.

 

Tony stopped his steps. “What's wrong? You're not feeling well?” He wrapped an arm around Peter just in case--.

 

“Mr. Stark, calm down, I'm fine. It was a joke.” Peter patted his arm. “I'm okay.”

 

Tony sighed in relief but tried to mask his worry with his own joke. “Okay, good because you're no longer 40lbs of cuteness; you're too many pounds of attitude.”

 

Peter laughed. “40lbs? I don't think so.”

 

Tony shrugged his shoulders. “You were a chubby toddler.”

 

Peter rolled his eyes. “You're lucky that your Iron Man carrier didn't have a weight limit then.”

 

Tony laughed with a nod. “That is true. It'd be a shame if you broke it. I plan on handing it down to you when you have your own mini-Parker.”

 

“I'm only 15.”

 

“It’s never too early to think about the future,” Tony teased.

 

“For that future, yeah it is,” Peter scoffed.

 

“I don't want to think about you recreating actually...I can barely handle one little Parker,” Tony said as he turned down the hall to the kitchen.

 

“First of all, I'm not little and second of all, you have nothing to worry about. On the days my child goes to Grandpa Tony’s house. I will feed them nothing but sugar.”

 

Grandpa Tony . It was meant as a joke, but Tony took it to mean something more. He tried to play it cool though. “ Grandpa ? I am not that old, Mr. Parker. I'd be the cool uncle.”

 

Peter pretended to think it over and said, “That’s Ned.” He paused and smirked over at Tony. “And Happy.”

 

“No, no, no, kid. If I’m a grandpa then so is that senior citizen.” Tony pulled Peter close and started to give him a noogie.

 

Peter laughed as he tried to push himself out of Tony’s hold. Tony knew if he wanted to, he could easily get out. “M-mr. Stark!”

 

“Alright, alright,” a voice said in front of them. “Let’s not kill the kid before we make sure he's okay.”

 

Tony let go of the kid and he took in a deep breath to control his breathing. “Sounds fair,” he said, looking at the kid’s bright red cheeks.

 

Natasha stepped forward and pulled the kid into a hug. Tony saw how Peter curled into her arms with a smile. “Hey, малыш,” she whispered in his ear.

 

“Hi, Natasha,” he said back. He tried to hide his disappointment when she pulled back to look him over.

 

“So you’re the famous Spider-Man?” She laughed as she tweaked her nose. “Good thing you've got that mask because you're not very scary.”

 

“And you are?” Clint asked, coming up next to them, with a smirk.

 

“Watch it, birdie. I can kill you with a look .”

 

“Oh, she's got me there,” Clint said seriously. Then he turned to Peter and put a hand on his shoulder. “How ya doin, kid?”

 

Peter nodded. “Good. Yeah, I'm fine.”

 

Clint took his chin in his hand and tilted his head so he could get a better look at the dark bruise on his cheek. “Yeah, I can see that,” he said, raising his eyebrows. Peter smiled, but Clint saw through it and huffed softly. “Come here, kiddo,” he said before pulling Peter forward into his arms.

 

Engulfed in yet another hug, Peter relaxed with a smile again. Until Clint said, “And that shirt I gave you? Keep it. It's a gift. Merry Christmas.”

 

Peter blushed. “I'm sorry...I was hoping we weren't going to talk about that .”

 

Clint laughed. “Nope. But if you help me pull a prank on Tony, maybe I'll be distracted enough to forget.”

 

Before Peter could answer, Tony said, “Remember all the crap I did for you. Pull a prank on me and every picture and video from these past two weeks will get posted on my Facebook page.”

 

Peter look actually worried. “Pictures? You took pictures?”

 

“New plan,” Clint said. “confiscate his phone and replace baby pictures with my nudes.”

 

“Oh, God,” Tony said. “Do that and you're kicked off the team. Permanently. Forever.”

 

“Are you going to join us in here?” Steve called from the kitchen. “Breakfast is getting cold.”

 

“He's antsy to see you,” Tony whispered. “Get in there and get your hugs.”

 

Peter blushed, but Tony knew he was enjoying it. He had gotten so used to the hugs as a toddler he was gonna have to wean himself off them. Or maybe he didn't have to. If only Tony weren’t so emotionally constipated.



Breakfast consisted of mostly the rest of the team taking turns fussing over Peter. Rhodey even thanked him for keeping him company the other day. He also apologized for not protecting him the next day. Peter got quiet when he told Rhodey it was okay. Tony had a feeling this would be something Peter would be dealing with for a while. He couldn't help but feel responsible.

 

After they had finished making a big deal of it, they noticed Peter starting to get a little uncomfortable with all the attention on him so they let the topic of “Wow, so this is you when you're a teenager” drop.

 

Tony kept his eyes on Peter throughout the meal, afraid that he wasn't 100% okay yet. And even though the kid was smiling and laughing, Tony knew something was wrong. He kept glancing towards the door before looking back down at his plate and then back to the door again.



He didn't stop until later when they were back in Tony’s room and they were putting together everything they brought.  

 

“You okay, kiddo? You look like you're watching your back.” Tony finally asked after the umpteenth time Peter glanced at the door. Tony was afraid he was still on edge from Ross.

 

“I'm fine. I just...thought I'd see Happy.”

 

Tony frowned and realized Happy hadn't shown his face since last night when Peter was still a toddler. Oh. “He's probably just sleeping in.”

 

“Did I make it weird? When I was a baby?” Peter asked. “I kept hugging him and I kissed him, right? That's weird. I weirded him out.”

 

Tony sighed, hoping FRIDAY was relaying this to Happy so he'd get his butt down here. “You didn't weird him out, kid. He likes you though he tries hard to not show it.”

 

“Yeah, I guess…” Peter said in a voice that definitely didn't sound like he believed Tony.

 

“Maybe he's getting--.” Tony was interrupted by a quick knock and the door opening.

 

“FRIDAY said you guys were in here…” he trailed off.

 

Peter whirled around to give him a small smile, but he didn't say anything. Tony rolled his eyes. He caught Happy’s eye and nodded his head towards Peter.

 

Happy looked panicked for a brief second before he said, “You look better.”

 

Tony rolled his eyes again.

 

“Not jumping on any more ceilings, right? Because I left my leash at the tower.”

 

Peter laughed. “I think you'll need a bigger leash.”

 

“Don't tempt him, kid, he’ll do it,” Tony warned. “And if he gets to use the leash, I get to use the Iron Man carrier.”

 

“No!” Happy and Peter said at once. They looked at each other and laughed.

 

Tony fake pouted. “I thought you liked that.”

 

“Sure, maybe when his feet wouldn't be touching the floor while he was strapped in it,” Happy said.

 

Shrugging his shoulders, Tony said, “Touché.”

 

Then the room fell into silence. It wasn't awkward, but it wasn't exactly comfortable either. Tony tried to catch Happy’s attention again. Happy finally looked up and saw Tony’s gesturing. He sighed.

 

“I'm glad you're feeling okay, kid.”

 

Peter started playing with the hem of his shirt. “Thanks, Happy.”

 

Tony thought he was going to have to spell it out for Happy, but before another moment passed, Happy was pulling the kid into a hug. Peter immediately returned it with a relieved smile.

 

When Happy pulled away, he cleared his throat and tried to get back to his stoic self, but he failed. “I had a blast with you as a little one. We should get together more often to plot against Tony.”

 

Peter laughed. “Sounds fun. This time without the diapers.” He looked up at Happy as if he was trying to figure out if it was okay to joke and if Happy was serious.

 

“I'll have to pick you up for lunch one day. This time you'll get to sit in the front, not that dumb car seat. And our lunch will not end with flash bombs and attempted kidnapping.”

 

Tony noticed even through Peter’s smile, he flinched and grew a little anxious at the word “kidnapping”.

 

Happy continued on like he didn't notice. “But, we don't have to worry about that anyway. Tony Stark has the big bucks, not Happy Hogan. The only thing they'd use you against me for is my wonderful security skills.”

 

“If you have such wonderful security skills how would they get him from you in the first place or even know you two were out?” Tony raised his eyebrows.

 

“Stop ruining my hypothetical story with your logic.” Happy huffed.

 

“Go whine to someone who cares,” Tony said not cruelly, just desperate to get Happy away so he could speak to Peter alone.

 

Happy didn't respond to Tony’s comment, but at least he knew Tony long enough to understand what he really wanted to say. He turned to Peter before he left and ruffled his hair. “Okay, kiddo, I'll let you two finish packing. Call me when you're ready to go.”

 

Peter nodded and then Happy was out the door. Peter didn't move though; he just breathed heavily as his chest rose and fell unevenly.

 

“Hey, hey,” Tony said, coming to stand in front of him. “Calm down, kiddo.”

 

Peter’s wide eyes flew up to Tony’s face as one of his hands grabbed his own chest painfully. “I can't breathe, I can't--Mr. Stark, it hurts .”

 

Panic attack, Tony realized.

 

Tony cupped Peters cheeks with his hands to try and keep his eye contact. Peter grabbed them with his own hands right away. “Hey, buddy, I'm right here. You're okay.”

 

Tears streamed from the corner of his eyes and Tony wiped them away. “You're okay,” Tony repeated, but Peter’s breathing only increased as he let out small sobs.

 

Tony moved one of his hands off his cheek to bring Peter’s hand to his chest. He placed Peters hand flat on his chest and his own on top. He breathed slowly, taking large breaths. “Follow my breathing. Nothing else but my breathing, okay?”

 

Peter nodded and he tried. But his breath kept hitching with a pained sob. “I'm sorry--.”

 

With a soft voice, Tony said, “Shh, it's okay. Just keep trying. In...out...in...out.”

 

After a few more tries, Peter finally had his breathing under control and that look of fear and panic in his eyes was gone. His tears came to a slow stop, but Peter didn't let go of Tony’s hand on his cheek.

 

Tony used his other hand to wrap around Peter’s shoulders and pull him in for a hug. “I'm sorry,” Peter apologized. “I don't know why that happened. I was fine and then Happy…”

 

“You don't need to explain it to me, Peter. You had a panic attack. That's not your fault.” Tony guided them to sit down on the bed. Tony knew his panic attacks used to leave him feeling exhausted.

 

Peter slumped against Tony’s side.  “I don't mean it to, but sometimes something just triggers me and I'm back there strapped to a table and he's cutting into me and I feel so lost and scared.”

 

Tony had already guessed what Peter was going through it, but hearing him say it out loud hurt even more. “You were kidnapped, Peter. That's a good reason to be on edge.”

 

Peter scoffed. “On edge? I'm over the cliff by now. I feel like I'm a two-year-old all over again. And I know if that happened to me when I was normal then it wouldn't hurt me this much. I wouldn't be this scared.” The hand on Tony’s chest tightens.

 

“It's normal to be scared after what happened,” Tony said softly. “I've had plenty of panic attacks after some things I went through.”

 

“I should be stronger. I just...I feel like I'm a baby all over again.” Peter looked close to panicking again, so Tony took the hand off his chest and held it in his hand.

 

“It's normal to feel frightened after what happened. It will get better.”

 

“Yeah?” Peter asked, his voice sounding hopeful.

 

Tony smiled. “Yeah.” He wasn't sure if the fright was a side effect of being a toddler for so long and Peter still was having trouble getting a hold of his emotions, but Tony knew even if it wasn't, he'd stay by his side every step of the way until he was better.

 

“I'm sorry, Mr. Stark for everything--.”

 

“Stop it, kiddo. No apologizing and for the love of JARVIS, stop calling me ‘Mr. Stark’. It's Tony.” Tony moved his hand from Peter’s cheek to brush some hair off his forehead.

 

“Okay...Tony,” he said slowly, looking up at him questioningly.

 

Tony grinned. “There you go, kiddo. Sounds even better with the ‘T’ in front.”

 

Peter rolled his eyes. “You are banned from bringing up anything that happened in the span of me being a toddler.”

 

“Aw there's no fun in that,” Tony teased. “And then how would I find out how Benny’s doing?”

 

For a moment Peter looked confused, but then his face turned bright red. “ Tony …”

 

Tony twisted towards the other side of the bed and leaned over to grab the stuffed dog and the blanket Peter had wrapped around himself since Tony gave it to him. He plopped Benny in Peter’s lap. Even though his cheeks were still flushed, Peter ran his hand over the stuffed dog to pet him.

 

“The other toys are yours too. The Star Wars and Avengers ones. Though I don't think I could pry Iron Man from your grip if I wanted to.” He paused to think about Peter’s spider powers. “Literally.”

 

“Those are...those are baby toys,” Peter argued, looking down at his lap where the stuffed dog still sat.

 

“They're not baby toys,” Tony said. “They're your toys. Whether you're two, fifteen or one hundred and fifteen.”

 

Peter smiled hesitantly and held Benny in his hands. “Thanks.”

 

Tony wrapped the blanket around Peter’s shoulders. “This is yours too.”

 

Peter immediately went to pull it off. “Mr. Sta-- Tony, I can accept this. Your mother gave it to you and--.”

 

“Her grandmother gave it to her mom and then she gave it to her and then she gave it to me,” Tony said with a soft smile. “And now I'm giving it to you.”

 

Peter's eyes widened. “But Mr. Stark...why me?”

 

Tony shrugged his shoulders. “The tradition seems to be to pass it down through the family.”

 

“But I'm not--.”

 

Do not finish that sentence, Peter.”

 

“But--.”

 

“You're the closest to a Stark kid that there will ever be,” he said, leaving no room for an argument.

 

Peter smiled and he pulled the blanket tighter around his shoulders. “Thank you, Tony.”

 

Tony wrapped his arm around Peter and pulled him closer. Peter let his head lay on Tony’s shoulder. “You're welcome, kiddo.” He pressed his lips to the top of his head in a small kiss.



So, Tony had never wanted a kid. He wasn’t meant to have a kid. He’d only hurt them. He’d ruin their lives because he broke everything he touched. Or so he thought, so he was told.

 

But this boy in his arms was broken before Tony met him. He was broken and Tony was going to be the one to put him back together, one piece at a time.

 

He was meant to have kids.

 

With this kid in his arms right now, nothing else felt more right. And even if Tony didn't need a kid (LIE), Peter needed a dad and he was going to be there for him from now until forever.