A/N: It's here! The end! What a ride, for them and for all of us! I'm ready to get out of the year 2012 though, that's for sure!
I want to thank everyone, so so much! Without all the support and kind words, and just seeing how much you guys really like this, it helped, and it kept this story full of life. I loves you all! Even all you lurkers! I see numbers, and I know you're there, and you're amazing as well!
Unbeta'd, and Marvel owns more of this than I do. Also, all music/movies/tv shows belongs to those that wrote/performed/produced/etc them. I use them for humor and good times.
Also, if you go to my Tubmlr page (megaranoelle. tumblr. com) you can catch some behinds the scene stuff about the fic. No spoilers, promise. Maybe you can influence the story.
Tony hummed a little, waking up to a soft sensation against his cheek. It felt nice, and the repetition of the motion almost put him back to sleep. He opened one eye just a crack and saw the shadow of the thing that was causing the feeling on his face. Opening his other eye, just a little more, he saw that the object was Jamie's hand petting his cheek. Her face lit up when she saw that he was awake and she made a soft cooing sound.
"'addy," she called out to him, and he smiled at her. Steve was still asleep, creating a warm cocoon around Jamie and Tony, arm still across Tony's waist. "Otay?"
Tony licked his lips, realizing that his lips were dry, and he needed a little effort to make his mouth not so dry, before he could answer her. "Yeah." Although his voice was still just a little raspy. "Yeah, I'm okay, baby." He lifted his arm, with a little more effort than he thought he'd need, and messed with her hair a little. "I'd say that you probably needed a haircut, if I didn't think that your Papa would break every pair of scissors in the state at the suggestion." He tugged very gently on some hair and she giggled. "Joke's on him though; he's going to have to learn how to do your hair."
"Mean," Steve mumbled huskily, eyes still closed. Jamie turned excitedly when she heard his voice and started to pat his face with both of her hands. His face scrunched up, but Tony could tell that he was trying not to laugh as well. "Tony, there's something on my face. Do you mind getting that?"
"I'm healing," Tony replied, making a show to snuggle into his pillow a little more. "Sorry, babe." He made a noise of protest when Steve's arm left it's spot over his waist, but he was then grabbing Jamie with them, and Tony smiled at her laugh.
"I found it," Steve announced, blowing a raspberry on her cheek. She let out a squeal of laughter, wiggling around. "It's loud, too."
"It's all yours," Tony said with a little smirk. "Literally, she is all you. I didn't realize just what I was getting myself into, but-" He squawked and wiggled, almost painfully, when Steve poked his side. "You still have to learn how to do her hair if you're not going to cut it."
"I'm sure that Jarvis will pull up some videos," Steve said, cuddling Jamie to his chest.
"Oh no no," Tony shook his head, pulling his head up a little. "No cheating, mister. You need someone to show you, first-hand experience." Steve raised an eyebrow at him. "And you can't ask Mary, because we had a boy, and she never had to do his hair, not really. She used scissors." Steve made a face, as if he were hissing at the prospect, and Tony rolled his eyes. "And a video can't show you the little nuances. I bet that if Natasha weren't still upset with you because of our own personal Hydra agents, she still wouldn't be able to show you anything about doing baby hair."
"Are you trying to set me up for failure?" Steve tried to pout at him, but then Jamie's little hands were pulling on his bottom lip. Tony had to cover his mouth before laughing loudly.
"I'll help you out, just this once." He was sure that Steve was attempting to give him a deadpan expression, but Jamie was too busy playing with his face. "Rachel raised a little girl, and Meg is raising a little girl almost the same age as Jamie. I'm confident in your abilities." Steve gave him an annoyed hum, then moved his head to push his lips against Jamie's hands.
Tony let his head rest against the pillow, closing his eyes again, just for a second. When he opened them again, Jamie was gone, and Steve was sitting on the bed next to him, legs crossed, looking at a tablet. He took in a deep breath and caught Steve's attention. "Hey, sleepy head. How are you feeling?" Steve reached out to run his hand through Tony's hair, and the brunette pushed his head against the warm hand.
"Guess, I'm a little more tired than I thought," he mumbled out. "Where did Jamie go?"
"Bucky came up to watch her, actually," Steve admitted. "He needed to make sure that she was alright after all the excitement." Steve kept an eye on him for a few second longer than usual. "Do you remember what happened?"
"You'll have to be a little more specific I think." Tony let out a little sigh, then attempted to push himself up. That was when he became acutely aware of just how much his body hurt. He pulled in a breath, then felt Steve's hands there to help him up. "I remember going to Strange's place, shit, and Loki was there." Steve dropped a kiss on Tony's forehead as they got him in a more comfortable position.
"I'm already aware of that, it's okay," Steve assured him.
Tony hummed and nodded. "He was gonna try and help, and I think he went into my head. Then, like it was all set up, and I was headed back, but something stopped me." Steve tilted his head a little, looking at Tony curiously. "I don't know who, or what, but it stopped, him, from finding me again. I, I really can't explain it too much, Steve, because I'm not sure what I remember or not." His head was brought to rest against Steve's chest, fingers carding through his hair and rubbing at his scalp. "There was two much magic around, and then Strange, and Loki, and," Tony paused, frowning. "There was someone else there. The Maximoff girl?" Tony tried not to tense up when Steve didn't deny it. "Then there was just, pain. It was all too much noise, too much happening." Steve kissed his head again.
"We'll figure this out when Dr Strange comes back over sometime." Steve leaned his head on top of Tony's, hand rubbing his arm up and down. "He said that he put up a shield, something that's clocking you from being found, so we should have a little time."
"Where's Peter? I didn't miss his birthday, did I?" Big brown eyes looked up at Steve, begging to let him know that he didn't let down his son.
"He's down with Mary, with Wade. They're doing their schoolwork." Tony relaxed a little bit. "His birthday isn't until tomorrow, you didn't miss it."
Tony nodded a little. "I'm tired, Steve." He closed his eyes again as Steve wrapped strong arms around him, sharing the sentiment.
"I think that might be able to change, maybe just for a little bit."
The next day Tony had been unable to help with decorating for Peter's birthday. As soon as the little boy had seen that Tony was awake, he had plastered himself to his Daddy's side. He and Wade made sure that Tony felt better, and that he wouldn't get sick again. It took Tony having to trap them on the couch in the morning with a blanket and a movie, while Steve cooked them birthday pancakes. Mary, Coulson, Bruce, and Bucky were on decorating duty, and Steve would join them. Rachel and William were making the cake and the rest of the food, along with the kitchen staff downstairs.
Tony really didn't mind. He had the two boys practically buried into his side and stomach on the couch, and he smiled when he smelled the pancakes before he saw them. Steve walked out to them with a tray in his hands. There were empty plates stacked up, with another plate loaded with blueberry pancakes, syrup, butter, and silverware. Steve was walking a little slower than usual, and Tony could see why when he looked down. Jamie was walking behind him, handing onto his pant legs as they walked so she could keep her balance.
"Just this one time, we can break the rules," Steve said as he set the tray down on the coffee table in front of them. Jarvis had automatically paused the movie they had been watching. "We can eat out here, because it looks like everyone is comfortable out here. Next time though, we eat at the table." The boys grinned, scooting up a little. Tony leaned in to grab Jamie as Steve sat down on the ground, splitting up the pancakes onto plates for everyone.
Wade and Peter both scooted down to the floor as well, knowing they would be able to eat better if they didn't have to hold onto their plates. Steve had set aside one plate with one smaller pancake on it, and set it off to the side. He put the pancakes on a plate, and tony knew it was his as he watched him putting syrup on it. The exact amount that Tony liked. Steve leaned in to give him a quick kiss, then took Jamie from his arms. She wiggled happily when she saw the pancake that was just for her, and grabbed for it.
Tony couldn't resist running his hand through Peter's hair as he started to eat, before turning to his own plate. "Is everyone gonna be at my party, like last year?" Peter asked in between bites of his breakfast. Tony glanced at Steve. The last he had known there was a standoff between Clint and Natasha, and Bucky, (and by extension Meg.) The two Avengers weren't going to show up if Bucky and Meg were going to be there. Steve had growled a little, thinking that it was unfair to make them not show up. If Captain America trusted them, then that should have been enough, but Barton and Romanoff didn't agree. Peter spent more time with Uncle Bucky and Miss Meg more than he did the other two, but they also weren't to make the boy choose.
When Bucky and Meg had volunteered to stay back, for the sake of Peter's party, Tony could see the disappointment roll off of Steve. Disappointment in his team members.
"They're gonna try," Steve said. "We told everyone so they could try and get the day off of work." Tony took that as a sign that Steve had no idea on if the spy twins were gonna show up or not. A part of Tony thought that it was unfair to keep them in limbo like that, but he also wasn't entirely in a stable state of mind at the moment. "But all of your friends from school are going to be there. It'll be fun seeing them again, I bet. Uncle Rhodey said he was going to try and make it, too."
Peter just nodded and continued eating happily. Steve met Tony's eyes for a second, before they went back to their own food.
Tony and Mary walked off the elevator, Peter's presents in hand, and headed for his bedroom. Mary and Coulson had blessedly decided to chaperone the slumber party that was happening, but they had decided it would be a good idea to move most of the presents up to Peter's bedroom upstairs. Tony slowed a little as they approached the living room, then took a step in front of Mary.
"Tony-" He shushed her and took a step closer to the living room. There were two heads sitting on the couch. He recognized them both.
"I assure you we do not mean to interrupt," Stephen Strange's voice called out. "That's why we waited up here." Tony rolled his eyes, then lightly bumped Mary's shoulder to keep her moving.
"You're going to be waiting a much longer time!" Tony called out as they disappeared down the hall. Mary turned her head to look at him as they walked into Peter's bedroom. "I'm really not in the mood to deal with Strange right now. I'm not thrilled that he showed up unannounced, and on Peter's birthday."
"Seems like you've been generally annoyed the whole day," she commented to him, setting the toys in the corner with Peter's toy chest. Peter liked to organize his toys a special way that neither parent was able to figure out yet. "You were able to hide it from Peter though, so I didn't say anything."
"People have generally been annoying me," Tony said with a shrug. "Specifically, your husband's charges." Mary let out a little sigh. "I don't really wanna talk, or argue about it."
"You stay up here, I'm going to go and get Steve and Bruce." Tony let out a sigh as Mary left the bedroom. His head dropped back and he fought back giving out an audible groan.
He made his way back out to the living room, this time Dr Strange was standing up, his red cloak always in place. The second person was still sitting on the couch, but his head was slightly cocked, making it clear that it was Loki still around. Tony wiggled his nose a little and walked past the man who more than likely saved him, but he could find himself to care at the moment.
The elevator let off a soft ping and Steve and Bruce walked into the living room, Bucky behind them already looking a little broody. Tony sat on the couch opposite of Loki, not looking at anyone, but aware of where everyone was. He became intensely aware when there were a few more sets of feet stepping in as well. Barton, and Romanoff, (who hadn't showed up until nearly the end of the scheduled party time, thus ensuring that Bucky and Meg stayed away,) and the surprising sounds of Rhodey's boots. Any other time Tony would have jumped up at the prospect of his best showing up, but something had been grating on his senses, and by extensions, his nerves, all day long.
Also, he hadn't exactly filled Rhodey in on everything that had happened.
"Doctor," Steve greeted, crossing his arms in front of his chest a little. "We weren't exactly expecting you to show up this soon, not today at least." He heard Tony trying to hold back a snort, then the sound of Tony's glasses hitting a side table as he pulled them off.
"Yes, well, I guess I had thought that we had rested for longer than we actually did," Strange replied, turning to face the blonde now.
Tony lifted his head a little and saw that Loki was looking at him, the back of his head still facing the others. Hazel eyes ticked over to see where Barton and Romanoff were standing, keeping their distance from Bucky, and then something clicked in his mind. Loki smirked a little, as if reading his mind.
"What exactly brings you to the Tower, Strange?" Natasha asked. She may have been dressed in her civvies, but she still exuded assassin.
"We've obviously come to speak about everything that has transgressed, and what shall still continue to happen," Loki spook up this time, knowing the chaos that would erupt in the room. Clint and Natasha were instantly reaching for their own hidden weapons, pointing them at the seated man, Rhodey was in a fighting stance, Bruce taking a step back as Bucky stepped forward to stand next to Steve. Steve, Tony, and Strange were the only one to not react in any way.
Loki started to turn his body on the couch, and almost surprisingly Natasha was the first to fire off a shot from her gun. Loki's image wavered and disappeared as the bullet passed through him. Tony jumped up from his spot, shooting a glare her way. He felt the air displaced behind him as Loki appeared again. "Dammit Romanoff!" Tony shouted. "There are children in this Tower, only a few floors away."
"Loki is behind you," she growled in retaliation, her and Barton repositioning their weapons, pointed towards his face too close for comfort.
"Put your damned weapons down, he's not going to do anything."
The two agents looked at him like he had lost his mind. "I can vouch for the truth of this statement," Strange spoke up. Natasha rounded one gun to point in his direction now, and he just let out a sigh. "I've had him under my most watchful eye for a little time now. I think that if he were going to attempt another interplanetary coup, he would have done it by now."
"You've been housing a universal criminal?" Rhodey asked, a little bewildered. He was still taking his cues from Steve and Tony though.
"This is moving very far from the point of this visit," Strange interrupted, now looking a little bored. Tony let out grunt and dropped down to the couch again, moving a hand to his head as if he had a headache.
"I really don't think that right now is the best time," Steve told him.
"What the hell is he talking about?" Barton demanded. Tony closed his eyes tightly. "Why the hell is that monster here? Why is he with someone who's supposed to be one of the good guys, at least in our files? And what does it sound like you've known where he was all this time?!"
"Barton, I'm going to need you calm down," Steve said turning towards the two. He was pulling out the Captain America voice, spreading his feet a little to take on the stance.
"Things don't exactly seem to going too well, do they?" Loki's voice sounded softly by Tony's ear. He was taking the bet that the other two wouldn't shoot through Tony to get to Loki. Tony let out a low growl, but Loki just let out a slight chuckle, moving away from his ear. "Tempers seem to be flaring."
"I think we're owed some explanations, Captain," Natasha demanded, pulling a glare from Steve.
"I think you don't get anything unless you've earned it," Bucky barked back, standing behind Steve's shoulder.
"I'm not surprised that a traitor like you would be standing up for that scum." Clint spit in front of him, keeping eyesight with Bucky. That had both Super Soldiers tensing in anger.
"Really, I don't think that right now is the time-"
"You came here uninvited," Rhodey looked over at Dr Strange as he tried to cut in again. "I think that it's plenty obvious that this is not a good time."
"It's never going to be a good time to talk about what we need, too," Strange countered.
"I really doubt that it's more important than knowing that Loki is actually, in fact, alive," Clint said tightly.
"Actually, I'm going to have to argue that, and say that you're wrong. You really don't know the gravity of what's happening." Strange looked over at Steve. "We do need to discuss everything that we saw, what we felt. I have a theory about what had stopped me from completing my spell the first time."
"What spell?" Rhodey asked, and Tony wanted to groan. This was going on far longer than he actually had the patience for.
Someone moved in front of Tony, and he tried hard not to open his eyes, but he almost felt compelled to do it. Loki was crouched in front of him, with a slight frown on his face. "Are you alright, Stark?" Tony grit his jaw, a fire lighting behind his eyes. Loki actually shifted back away from him. "Captain."
"I attempted to help Anthony with a problem, and I ran into a few complications," Strange kept talking, not noticing what was happening just behind him. "On a promise to Rogers, I gathered my resources to bring him back, and I needed the help of others, including Loki."
"You knew about this?" Barton growled out, looking at Steve.
"When I feel that it is time for you to know about what happens, then I will let you know," Steve fire back, voice thread and low, thrumming with a barely concealed threat to back down. "When I get all the information is when I will release what we know. You've already proved that when you don't get all of the information, you go running half-cocked, and endangering others."
Tony took several deep, and vaguely controlled breaths in, and out, through his nose. It was too much. There was shouting, then more calm voices, then gruff tones. People were moving around him, and the air seemed to pulse with too much energy, too many emotions around him. He couldn't focus on the thoughts in his head, couldn't hear himself. There was a twinge his arm and his hand slapped down to cover it suddenly.
The sound of smacking skin had caught Steve's attention, and that's when he saw Tony. Almost vibrating on the couch. Loki looked over at him, slowly standing up to move away from Tony. He wasn't spooked, but the look in his eyes said that he didn't want to take the risk of a bomb going off in his face. And that's what Tony looked like. Steve started to step closer, as did Rhodey, but Bruce had put a hand on Rhodey's arm to stop him, shaking his head a little.
Barton was too riled up to see what was happening though. Natasha was keeping Bucky's attention, eyes flickering over to see what had suddenly caught Steve. The archer moved with Steve, both getting closer to Tony. Loki moved to stand by Dr Strange, now watching with curiosity. "You can't just ignore us, it doesn't work like this."
"Shut up, Barton," Steve hissed, frowning as he watched Tony. Hazel eyes moved, too quickly to be normal, looking at Clint as he got closer to Tony.
"Dammit, Rogers-" As he had kept moving, Clint had reached Tony first, accidentally bumping Tony's knee. That seemed to be all that was needed.
Tony reacted in a flash, hand flying out to grab one Clint's wrist, his leg sweeping out to bring the man to the ground, his other hand pressing down at his throat without cutting off any air. Tony was breathing heavily through his nose at a wide eyed Clint, weapons sliding out of his hands. It only took a second for Clint to react though, only being caught off guard once before his training kicked in.
Bucky moved to help Tony and Natasha was there to stop him from getting closer, guns holstered as she used her own martial training.
"Tony!" Steve had moved when he saw Tony bring Clint to the ground, but a cold hand on his arm stopped him. Steve ducked down and turned, grabbing the wrist of the person who grabbed him, pausing for a second when he saw the blank face of the Iron Man armor behind him.
Clint flipped, forcing Tony down to the ground. As he got to his feet, the armor had abandoned Steve and was there, pinning Clint to the couch with an outstretched hand. The repulsor in the palm started to glow, not firing, but enough to make Clint freeze. Steve moved, not thinking before reaching for Tony's arm. He was about to pull away, but Tony was already turning, his arms moving. Palms slapped at Steve's wrist and hand, forcing them down. He knew that Tony's motive was to keep his attacker's hands and arms close together, keep them from being able to move them, that way they couldn't grab him to incapacitate him. It was one of his fears, after the AIM attack in the summer, being unable to get to the kids.
Steve moved back and stopped moving his arms. Tony had grabbed his wrist, moving to break it before his eyes locked in with Steve's. They widened and he suddenly stepped away from Steve. Steve held his hands up, showing him that he wasn't hurt.
"Stark!" Tony whipped around at Natasha's shout, and saw the Iron Man armor still pointed at Clint, the other hand now pointing over at Natasha and Bucky. Tony took a hurried breath, sounding more like a gasp, then moved his arms in a specific motion. The armor powered down, and Tony moved one arm and it fell the pieces on the ground. His hands and arms were shaking as he stared at the pile on the ground. Clint moved towards him and Tony jumped back and away from him, hands flying up to protect his head.
"Don't," Tony breathed out. "Don't touch me."
"What the fuck was that, Stark?"
"Don't!" Tony shouted as he moved backwards away from everyone. "Fuck!" He turned and practically ran from the room and down the hall. Steve looked over at the others, and it was Rhodey's eyes that he caught. There was a slight nod, and Steve was turning to follow the genius. Rhodey would take care of the now unwelcome guests in the Penthouse.
"Sir has already retreated to the workshop," the AI informed him as Steve made a beeline for the private elevator. The elevator was just hitting the floor where Tony kept his larger workshop, on that nearly twenty floors below the Penthouse. "My sensors pick up that he is experiencing an extreme Sensory Overload episode." Steve bit his bottom lip as he waited for the cart to return up to him, foot tapping on the ground. "He has always suffered from the effects of sensory overload, but it has not become more prominent until after his return from Afghanistan, and more recently after the Battle of New York."
Tony took the most direct route to what he knew would be a safe space. He didn't need to put in the code, Jarvis was already opening the hidden door in the back of the workshop. Any other day, Tony would say that he had built a nest, but on days like this, it was the only thing that he could trust. The room was dark and cool, lots of pillows and blankets around, the floor padded with lots of cushioning, and custom made bean bag chairs. He went for the furthest corner of the room, dropping into the oversized cushion that would practically swallow him. The fabric had been painstakingly fabricated so that it wouldn't irritate his already overstimulated sense of touch. The room was quiet, with insulation and extra noise canceling foam on the walls, and the temperature was constantly regulated.
He took a deep breath, throwing his arms over his head, and closed his eyes tightly. Tony was appalled with himself, ashamed. He was physically fighting with Clint, then he had tried to attack Steve. And when had he called the suit to himself? Why would he do that? Had he felt threatened?
Yes. If Tony really thought about it, and that was the only thing that he could do at the moment, the whole day had been building up to something like this. After breakfast, everything just seemed to annoy or irritate him if it didn't go to plan, or make Peter happy. He let out a strangled cry. What if Peter had been there? Or Jamie? Or Wade? What if something had happened to any of the other kids that were staying there?
Any other time, Steve was one of the quietest people that Tony knew. But his ears picked up everything right now. He felt Steve kneel down on the ground next to him, but Steve hadn't touched him. Tony pulled himself into as small a ball as he could, trying to hide inside of the beanbag.
Steve held onto his hands, wanting to reach out to pull Tony to him, wanting to run his hands through his hair to try and comfort him. Sure, he noticed there were times that Tony would shrug off the touches when he was working in the workshop, but he figured it was just something to do with the way that Tony worked. Afterwards, Tony would always make up for it, wrapping arms around him as they cooked in the kitchen, little kisses dropped on the couch with the kids. He never really thought about it. But now, it all added up, staring him in the face. Tony had just been able to hide the little attacks whenever they happened, he obviously had a system if this room was anything to go by.
Tony lifted his head a little, eyes craving the darkness, adjusting quickly, even if it was blurry without his glasses. "Steve," Tony whispered a little. "I think I need help." A sad frown crinkled Steve's forehead, and he could see how the blonde wanted to reach out. It was just how they comforted each other. Tony pushed one arm out towards Steve, and the man almost surged forward at the offering. Both hands wrapped around Tony's hand, feeling the slight twitches in his fingers. "What if Peter had been around? I wasn't seeing anyone, I didn't know what was happening. I didn't know that I had called the suit. What if I had hurt our kids?"
Steve kissed Tony's knuckles. "We'll find someone, babe," Steve said quietly. "It'll be alright." Tony nodded a little, hand tightening around Steve's.
Tony took a breath, flexing his hands on the steering wheel of the car. "I don't know if I can do this."
Steve leaned in to kiss his cheek. "I do know that you can do this." He put his hand on Tony's leg, giving it a quick squeeze. "I'll be right there in the lobby, waiting for you. Come on." Steve slipped his hand into Tony's, tangling their fingers.
Tony finally nodded and they both slipped out of the car. He pushed his glasses further up his nose, tapping the button on the side to turn them into sunglasses, and let out a little calming breath when he felt Steve take his hand again. He shifted his hand a little, locking their fingers together, and took the first step towards the office building. Tony liked that it was a bigger building, where he could hop in the elevator, and no one would know right away that he was headed to a psychologists office. He looked at all of the names on the plaque just inside the main lobby, and noted that most of the name had PhD's attached at the end. Maybe he should have taken a better look at the building itself.
They found the office to Dr D. Cavanaugh and walked in, Steve pulling out the initial paperwork that Tony had pre-filled out, handing it the receptionist. They were told that it would be a few minutes, so Steve led Tony towards a loveseat. "You should give me your phone." Tony raised an eyebrow at Steve at the suggestion. "You won't be able to use it as a distraction, and you know that I will come in if there's an emergency."
"But, what if-"
"Peter and Wade are studying with Jarvis and Bruce today, and Rachel and William are watching Jamie," Steve shot down all of Tony's excuses. "I've told them that if anything were to happen to call me first. Jarvis will get a hold of me, and you know he can, since you made my phone." Steve kissed Tony's knuckles. "The first few meetings are the most nerve wrecking ones, I know this."
"That's how you know exactly how I was going to try and get out of it?" Tony asked, watching Steve nod. He let out a little sigh, slumping a little in his seat.
"Like you wouldn't be able to rig your phone to ring, or heaven forbid even give off the Avengers alarm."
Tony let Steve slip his hand into his pocket to pull out the phone. "I don't know if that last one would work," Tony muttered a little. "I'd rush out here and you'd be sitting here, not on alert." Steve hummed, a little smirk on his face. His squeezed Steve's hand one more time before the door opened. "Thanks for coming with me."
Steve kissed his cheek. "Anything for you." He watched Tony stand up, walk over to the classy wood door and follow the woman who had opened the door and walked inside.
Once inside, Tony looked around the room, not turning his sunglasses off. He thought that maybe this woman was another secretary, or PA to this Cavanaugh. It wasn't until the brunette sat down in the chair in front of the official looking desk. There were a couple of chairs and a couch in the room, and Tony took the single seat that was nearly the furthest away from the desk. The woman pulled out some papers and Tony nodded to himself a little.
"You're here to do the little paperwork stuff until Dr Cavanaugh comes?" The woman looked up at him, putting on a pleasant smile. She folded her hands over her knee. "Is he not coming? Because a friendly call from the office would have been nice."
"I am Dr Cavanaugh."
Tony blinked a little. "You look all of Fifteen," he blurted out, pulling his glasses off.
"I'm sorry that I don't look as grey as some of my other colleagues." She never lost her pleasant smile, or looked away from Tony. "Would you feel more comfortable with an older gentleman?"
"If that's something that would make you feel more comfortable, then I can help you pick someone." She leaned forward a little, and Tony felt himself relaxing just a tiny bit. She was the least intimidating woman he had ever met, and it was throwing him off. "The most important part of coming to the sessions if that you feel comfortable. This will be a safe space for you, Mr Stark, and I won't be in the least bit offended if you prefer a male professional to a female one."
"Uh, no, that's- No, I mean- I'm not sexist," Tony rushed out, tripping over his words. She merely chuckled softly. "No, it definitely doesn't have to do with your gender, or even your age. Really it has nothing to with you, at all."
"You're not entirely sold on the whole idea of talking to someone else, a stranger really, about your problems." Tony nodded to her, folding his glasses in his hands. "You wouldn't be the first the think that, and you won't be the last. Even with a celebrity status such as yours, that feeling can be amplified, along with other negative thoughts about it." Tony slipped his glasses back on, not looking at the Doctor. "I actually wish that I saw more that are constantly in a spotlight sought out our services. It could really help coping mechanisms, a way to deal with the immense amounts of stress that come with life."
Tony's nose twitched a little, and he crossed his leg over one knee. One hand slipped into his pocket, fingers wrapping around a paperclip that hadn't been there before. Tony tried not to smile, knowing that Steve had put it there after taking his phone, knowing that Tony needed something to keep his hands busy with. "Alright, so if I go ahead and say yes to this, where are the papers we both have to sign? Like, I gotta keep myself, and all interested parties, protected. Doctor-Client privileges don't cut it in my world. And I'm sure there's more I have to sign? And then what do I call you?" The young woman opened the notepad in her lap, pulling out some papers. As she held them out for him to take, Tony stared at her hand for a second. "Uh, I don't like to be handed things."
"Ah, of course," she nodded and put them down on the arm of the chair, along with a pen, and went to her notepad, unfazed. "You can call me Danielle if you'd like. What would you like me to call you?"
"Um," he ran his eyes through the papers before answering. "Tony, call me Tony. Mr Stark was my Dad, Anthony was what my mom called me." He signed the papers he needed too before slipping the papers back over to her. "You're willing to take me on as a client?" Danielle looked up, and interested look on her face. "I'm Tony Stark. I have a whole slew of problems, and those are the ones that don't touch the reasons on why I'm Iron Man. And I am Iron Man, I'm an Avenger, and I get call outs often."
"Probably doesn't hurt that you're dating Captain America." Tony raised an eyebrow at her. "He's very clearly sitting out in my waiting room right now." Tony huffed a little from his nose. "I won't lie," she said, as she leaned back in her chair a little, still the picture of professionalism. "When I saw the name in the books, and I got the advanced papers from your legal team, I did a little digging. I'm surprised you didn't bring up your children first." Tony tilted his head a little. "I'm a parent myself, so I know how important a child can be to, basically anything else in our lives." Tony's face softened a little at the thought of Peter and Jamie.
Then he was reminded why he thought it was time to come. "You're right, they are the reason that I'm here."
Steve had picked up in one of the many ebooks loaded on his phone, (and tablet), still on his mission to catch up with pop culture. By his count, Tony would be almost done with his first sessions, and since Tony hadn't stormed out, he figured that it was going pretty well so far. Until Tony's phone started to ring. Steve lifted it up, seeing Pepper's picture on the phone, and frowned a little.
"Pepper?" He answered, letting her know that it was not going to be Tony on the other end.
"Steve, where's Tony?" Steve frowned when he recognized her business tone.
"He's currently in a meeting," he told her. He wasn't sure if Tony had told Pepper exactly where he was going yet. "He should be almost done. What's wrong?"
Pepper sighed a little, and he could picture her rubbing the spot on her nose, eyes closed. "Is he at a therapist's office?" Steve raised his eyebrows. "How prepared are you for a media storm?"
"What happened Pepper?"
"Take a look at any of the social media apps that Tony put on your phone. I'll wait."
Steve frowned but held up his phone again, pressing Tony's phone between his ear and his shoulder. He opened up the first app in the social media folder that Tony showed him. It was also set up to show any alerts regarding the Avengers, Tony, and himself.
Who's the crazy one? Tony Stark, or Captain America driven crazy by Tony Stark?
There was a picture in multiple posts, of Steve and Tony walking into the office building, holding hands as Steve reached for the door handle. There were a few different shots, but they were all caught after they had gotten out of the car, and with the names of those who worked in the building in most shots.
Clearly Tony Stark has been a bad influence on Captain America. They should have thought about that before putting Stark on the Avengers.
Someone clearly didn't warn Cap enough from Stark; Probably couples therapy
Raise your hand if you knew the relationship wouldn't last
Then Steve saw what Tony and he had been afraid of since announcing they were together. Pictures of them out together, mostly of dates, where they thought they had been hiding enough, spliced next to pictures of them walking into the building, claiming that things were rocky. Then pictures of either him or Tony, out with the kids, alone. Everyone wanted to make a story where there wasn't one.
"How bad is this going to be?" Steve asked quietly, still going through some of the responses.
"I don't know. Don't let Tony see until you get back to the Tower," Pepper suggested. "I'm on my way there now, I've got the PR team coming to the offices to prepare for this."
"Some of these pictures have Jamie in them."
"I'll be waiting for you back at the Tower."
Steve sighed as Pepper hung up. He wasn't worried about the inevitable backlash their dating had caused, he didn't care what anyone thought about him. He wasn't ashamed of who he was, of who he loved. He was worried about the exposure on the kids, especially for Jamie, much like Tony was worried about the exposure on Peter. While it was true that they hadn't seen, or heard, from AIM or even Hydra, it didn't mean that they would have given up looking and plotting. He also knew that Tony was going to blow a gasket.
The wooden door opened all too quickly for Steve's taste, and Tony was walking out, the doctor behind him. "I'll see you next week," she told him with a smile, then tapped a card that was in his hand. "And use that if you have, too."
"Thanks," he gave her a nod, before turning back towards Steve. The blonde got up from his seat, giving a polite nod to Dr Cavanaugh, and slipping his arm around Tony's waist. He pressed a little closer to Steve, and there was a sense of calmness around him. Steve really hated that they'd have to break that when they got back home.
Except they didn't make it home before the chaos started. In the time that they had been inside and the pictures had been posted, more cameras and people had gathered. Tony blinked, caught off guard for a second. Steve went to pull away, but Tony just followed him, and gave him a look. That's when Tony took over, pushing them through the group of cameras and shouted questions.
"That was fast," Tony muttered as they approached the car. He unlocked it, watching Steve move past the paps to his own door, and they got inside.
"Just remember to not run them over," Steve told him, thankful for the tinted windows of Tony's car. He watched his boyfriend closely, saw him white knuckle the steering wheel a couple of times, before they pulled out until they were free of being surrounded. "Pepper called not too long ago." He saw Tony glance over at him before looking back out at the road. "The picture broke online not too long ago, she'll be waiting for us back at the Tower."
"The kids?" Tony asked. Steve tried to remember that being photographed was nothing new to Tony, it had been happening to him practically since birth. He had told Steve that he didn't care what they said about him, or what pictures they took of him, as long they didn't drag Steve, or the kids, through the mud as well.
"Still inside the Tower. Jarvis is combing the internet for pictures of the kids where they clearly got too close," Steve informed him, looking down at his phone. While Tony had finished his appointment, Steve and Jarvis had teamed up to assess the damage, and then try to control it as much as they could. "He's trying to suppress as many pictures of them as possible. All the things they're jumping to is ridiculous." He shook his head a little. "I don't think this would such a big deal if they hadn't of seen the name on the building right away."
Tony reached over to take Steve's hand with one of his. "I'm sorry, Steve. If you want, we'll get the lawyers-"
"I told you before, I don't care. I'm not ashamed of being Bi, and I'm not ashamed to be seen dating you." Steve turned his attention to Tony, holding onto his hand. "They can say whatever they want about me, because I know how I feel, and as long I know that you're happy, then I'm happy. Whatever they print about us, we know the truth of how we feel, of our family, and we'll work with the kids on the press as they grow older." Tony let out a little sigh, nodding his head, and Steve brought his hand up to kiss his knuckles. "I love you."
"I love you, too," Tony murmured back, squeezing his hand. There was a moment of silence and then Tony let out a little groan. Steve turned his head slightly to look over at him. "That was such a domestic moment. I have to get you that house now, don't I? And a ring. We're all but married at this point." Steve couldn't help but smirk a little at his rambling, looking back down at his phone, still holding Tony's hand. "We dated, then we had second kid, then we moved in with each other. I don't even know what kind of order that is. And how you put up with me and my crazy rambling, I'll never understand."
"You are the one for me, that's all I'll say," Steve said with a smile.
Tony watched Steve in the art room with all three kids that day, watched as he tried to keep Jamie trapped between his feet while he worked with Peter and Wade on color theory, and colored pencils. Jamie had pieces of paper in front of her and crayons in her hands, mostly content to work on the floor, sometimes growing curious enough to want to see what the boys were working on.
Turning back, he headed for the kitchen to get started on some sandwiches for lunch. He groaned a little when he saw a familiar red cloak flapping at him. Dr Strange and Loki were seated on the stools to the kitchen island. "I should be thanking you for waiting a week since our last meeting." Tony was a lot more cordial this time around, even if he still wasn't happy to see them. "You're gaining another shadow there, Doctor, I'd keep an eye on that."
"The cloaking spells around him are stronger when he's around me," Strange said, turning in his seat as Tony walked by and over to the fridge. "Also, he kind of knows more about what we encountered than anyone else."
"Which thing in particular?" Tony asked, sparing a glance over at them. "They thing that wanted to use me, or the thing that tried to trap me?"
"That's what we're here to talk about." He watched Tony pulled out some food, then reached to turn on the coffee maker. "Any chance of that coffee finding its way over here?" Tony just looked at him, blank faced. "Or not, it was just a question." Loki snorted softly, crossing his knee over the other.
"So, I'm judging by the lack of nightmares that you've done whatever you set out to do?" The engineer asked as he continued to move around the kitchen. He might as well get this over with, and do it while he was marginally more relaxed than last time.
"I've been able to shield your mind, yes," Dr Strange nodded, setting his hands on the counter, folding them together. "I can't remove whatever influence was left there, but that would be more of Loki's expertise. I can't erase the progress that the Titan has made, or what he will make towards Earth, but we know that we've at least slowed him down." Tony grunted a little with a nod.
"I can't remove the influence on you, not while he still lives," Loki spoke up, and Tony shot him a small glare. "As I've said before, and I shall say again, I can't do much that includes the brute without the staff, and gem, back. Should I try anything, he would be able to find me, and I would be used, again, as helplessly as you have been."
"You concern is touching." Tony rolled his eyes. He grabbed a knife, pointing it in Loki's direction. "There really isn't much that's stopping me from calling up the suit and blasting your face in."
"I nearly revealed myself to save your worthless hide," Loki responded with a sneer.
"But," Strange interrupted them, "he wasn't seen. The Titan only knows of my presence and power, and possibly that of Wanda Maximoff-"
"Yeah, that's something I'm incredibly pissed off about," Tony threw out there.
"But since he doesn't know our magical signatures, he won't be able to follow that." Stephen shot Tony a look, but had continued like he hadn't been interrupted. His cloak flapped a little in annoyance. "I had no other choice but to bring her to help, after I was able to figure out just what we were up against. She had been inside of your mind, so she would know any shortcuts we could use."
"I'm putting an embargo on entering my head," Tony decided. "You people are already driving me crazy."
"Yes, we saw with your foray to what Midgardians call a 'shrink'," Loki said with a smirk in his voice.
"I will not hesitate to stab you."
Strange cleared his throat a little, a small disapproving frown on his features. "As for the interfering force that both helped and hindered, that is still a complete mystery to me. It's not like something I've ever encountered before, and I can't seem to find it again. I can tell for a fact that it's not malevolent, though."
"I could have told you that," Tony said with a snort. He had started to assemble the sandwiches, cutting crusts off for Peter and Wade. "It told me as much, that it was trying to help." Loki and Strange watched him intently, waiting for all the information that he had. "It was trying to hide me from the Big Bad. And then when you showed up, it tried to stop you, but that's because it didn't know that you were trying to help. I think it was because He was there at the same time."
"You were able to glean all of this, but were too weak to fight your way back?" Loki almost scoffed.
"You're welcome for information that you didn't even have," Tony shot back. "You're also welcome for not putting out the word that your back, and calling for your brother." Loki nearly hissed, and Tony didn't try to stop the smile from crossing his lips. "Tensions are a little high in the building, if you hadn't noticed, so I'm sure it will be no problem to get that word spread."
Dr Strange sighed a little, letting his head fall onto his hand. "Perhaps it's time we left."
"Yeah, that wouldn't be a bad idea." Tony had turned to pull out some oranges. "Good ole' Captain America will be done with his lesson anytime, and I really don't want my kid seeing Loki's face again. He's gotten past his nightmares, and I'd rather they not start up again."
"I'm so happy to see that I'm so often on the minds of your family, Stark," Loki nearly purred, before standing up. "I shall take my leave. I anticipate when our paths will cross again, Anthony Stark." He gave a mocking bow before turning, disappearing with his second step.
Tony looked over at Dr Strange. "There must be a fan-freaking-tastic reason that you're keeping him hidden, and around."
"There usually is a good reason for what I do," Strange replied with a little smirk. "Till we meet again." Tony raised an eyebrow but nodded to the man and went back to peeling the orange he was working on.
"This is my life."
"This is going to end so badly." Tony had one arm wrapped around his stomach, his other hand pressed up to his hand. Steve was standing next to him. "Just, so awful."
"You can't look at it like that," Steve said, but he didn't have his usual optimism in his voice. "You need to have a little bit of faith." Tony shot him a look, and Steve almost winced. "I know."
"It's your fault."
"You should know better."
"One would think."
Tony sighed and ran his hand through his hair. Letting out a longer sigh, he turned to face Steve. "Alright. We have to face the music. There's no changing this, no getting around it. We made our bed, now we have to sleep in it, and hope that no one throws the dirt on us just yet."
"So morbid," Steve muttered before reaching in to pick up the finely designed ice cream cake on the counter. Tony picked up the several ice cream containers, and they looked at each other. "None of the kids are going to sleep tonight."
"Not with all the sugar that you're about to be responsible for pumping into their bodies," Tony replied with a smile. "The candles are lit, let's go give our daughter her first birthday cake." Steve bit his bottom lip, looking down at the Sleeping Beauty themed cake, and walking out to the living room. Bucky was holding onto Jamie, sitting on the floor with Meg's twins in front of him. Peter and Wade were perched on the couch, each practically hanging over Bucky's shoulders. Steve smiled at seeing Bucky there this time, and to see the kids so happy.
Everyone had been invited to Jamie's first birthday party, just like Peter's. There had been no answer from Barton and Romanoff, but Bucky wasn't going to miss another party because they wanted to play games, specially not for his goddaughter. They had made it up to Peter by making a special breakfast for him the morning after his birthday, and giving him his gifts. This time Meg had been across the country, unable to get back in time thanks to one of the sculptures she was working on and a shipping mistake that couldn't wait if they wanted to salvage the project. She made sure Bucky had brought her present for the little girl, and her apologies to Tony and Steve, again.
Jarvis lowered the lights a little, and everyone looked over to the lights of the cake now. Jamie gasped softly when she saw her Daddy and Papa, then the candles. Mary got the singing started, and Jamie was clapping when she realized that everyone was singing to her. Bucky held onto her with a smile, lifting her up a little when Steve reached them. He got down to one knee and smiled at her.
"You gotta blow out the candles, baby girl." Steve mimicked blowing, pursing his lips, waiting for the one year old to follow suit. She had seen Peter, and Tony, blow out some candles, and she squealed now that she knew it was her turn. She started to blow as well as she could, Steve secretly helping her out. She clapped, eyes big, and looked at Steve. "You did it!"
"I di' it! I di' it!" She exclaimed, (not quite sounding out the 'T'), and bounced on her feet, excited. Steve couldn't help it as his grin got wider and bigger.
"Rogers must have been the cutest baby ever," he heard Sam murmur to someone from behind him. "If he was anything like her."
"She is his clone," Coulson answered, a little amusement in his voice. "There's a good bet that he was a little like this."
"Let's cut some cake," Rachel said as she swooped in to take the cake from Steve's hands. Jamie reached out for her Papa and Steve happily bundled her up in his arms, blowing a raspberry on her cheek. She squealed and pushed at Steve's face a little, wiggling her body. Steve laughed, holding her close.
"Don't torture the little one," Tony said, his head swooping in over Steve's shoulder, pressing a kiss to Jamie's cheek. She giggled some more. "We need to get her into a sugar coma first."
"Sugar!" Wade proclaimed, jumping to his feet. Peter followed him, both look expectantly at Tony.
"Alright," Tony chuckled a little. "You can both have a corner piece of cake, and an extra scoop of ice cream, if you help your moms pass out the cake and ice cream to the everyone else, okay?" The boys started to whisper to each other, in their made up language that Tony was still trying to decipher, before looking back at him.
"Deal!" Wade said with a decisive nod.
"Alright. You'd better get over to and tell Mary that I said you could both have a corner piece, before she gives them awa-wah!" Tony wrapped his arms around Steve as the boys rushed past him, nearly knocking him over. "Okay, we know that bribery works especially well on the boys." Steve chuckled a little. He lifted Jamie up so she could give a sloppy kiss to Tony. "Mmmmm, yes, now I feel much better!"
"Can you stop acting like a domestic family?" Bucky spoke up, leaning back against the couch, still sitting on the ground. Conor and Rowan were using his legs to push themselves up, wanting to climb their Uncle Bucky. "My stomach can't handle it." They could see that he was trying not to smirk at them.
"I'm sorry that you have such delicate sensibilities," Tony retorted. "I would have thought after the Army, and babysitting all these kids, that you'd have an iron stomach."
"As per usual, you beat all odds, Stark," Bucky fired back playfully. Tony grinned, almost preening, and Bucky rolled his eyes. "This one, it had to be this one, Stevie?"
"Yeah," Steve said with a little laugh. "It had to be this one." He kept one around Jamie, his other snaking out to wrap around Tony's waist. He saw Peter carefully hurry by, carrying a plate over to Bruce, and then run back to get more. Wade was right behind him, handing a plate to Sam, and doing the same. Steve leaned his head back a little, pressing a kiss to Tony's neck. "I like this one, I'm going to keep him." Tony wrinkled his nose, like he did every time he tried not to smile too widely. "Hopefully for a good long time."
"Careful, thems' strong commitment type words," Bucky said, looking at him pointedly, one arm going out to catch Conor before he fell over Bucky's leg. Rowan was trying to climb up his shoulder. "One might think you're sweet on him, sweet enough to make a statement."
Steve watched a blush work up Tony's neck, coloring his cheeks a little. He pulled Tony down closer to him, planting a soft kiss to his lips. "I'm as sweet on him as the cake we got." Tony shoved Steve's shoulder a little, hiding his face in Steve's neck now. Jamie giggled, patting Tony's head with her hands, and Steve nuzzled her cheek with his nose.
That night, they'd stay up with Peter and Jamie, helping them burn off the last of the sugar rush. They'd all be wrapped in a blanket, in the big bed, a movie marathon playing. And when the kids had fallen asleep, Steve would lean over, kiss Tony slowly, tangle their fingers together until they were resting over the sleeping kids. Tony would fall asleep first, and Steve would soon follow, a small smile on his face. There'd be no nightmares that night, and they'd all get the much needed rest owed to them.
A/N2: Woooooo! Thank you all again!
So, if it feels like there are things that were left untouched; there are. And (most of) it's done on purpose! It purposely leaves it open, and it leads into the over-arcing plot in my head. I'll say it again, we are going to see the kids grow-up, and we're going to see Spiderman! And some Deadpool!
Let me here your thoughts! Leave it here in the comments, or if you want to write more, or start a conversation, I have an email for that! Just for all of you! MegaraNoelleWrites at gmail com
The next "chapter" will be a preview of what to expect!