Cut from the Same Cloth
By Elizabeth Bathory
As the sky began to turn pink with the rising summer sun, Virginia "Pepper" Stark awoke from a surprisingly peaceful night. The twins were now four months old and sleeping about six hours a night at a shot and Tony had not awoken from any nightmares, which were luckily coming fewer and farther between than they used to. Pepper slid gently out of the bed as to not wake Tony and padded down to the twins' rooms. She peeked in Emma's room first and saw that their daughter was still soundly sleeping. Pepper learned early on, especially with Emma; let a baby sleep when they are sleeping. She then went down to Jamie's room and heard happy giggles. Pepper peered in the crib and saw Jamie rolling from side to side, playing with his right foot and a small giraffe rattle.
"I see you get up early like I do," Pepper cooed as she picked Jamie up out of the crib and changed him before heading down stairs to feed him in relative peace. She had a play date planned with one of the other new mothers that she had met through various interlinking social circles. Betty was a friend Pepper had back in college and she had a baby, Eric, about a month older than the twins.
About two hours later, Jarvis' voice broke through Tony's snoring. "Sir? I would like to inform you that Miss Emma is awake but her breathing seems off."
Tony shot up in bed when he heard this. He had gone to bed when Emma did at two in the morning so his foggy brain hadn't quite made it back to full working order as he went into Emma's room.
Tony peered into Emma's crib and heard the rasp in her breathing and immediately noticed her lack of exuberant energy. As he picked her up, he heard small coughs come out of her small body.
"Jarvis? Does Emma have fever?" Tony asked Emma whimpered and rasped against his shoulder.
"No sir. I detect some congestion as a symptom of a cold. It is recommended that rest and hydration will help to alleviate the discomfort but only time will eliminate the virus."
"I guess that is a help." Tony said dryly as he grabbed Emma's blanket and wrapped it around her as he went down stairs.
Pepper was playing with Jamie on his baby mat, letting him kick at all the dangling toys and bat at them as they swung. She smiled when she saw Tony coming downstairs with Emma. The smiled faded when she noticed how lethargic Emma was when she was usually a bundle of energy. "Tony? Is she alright?" Pepper asked with instant concern as Tony came over.
"Jarvis thinks she has a cold." Tony said.
"I'll cancel the play date then. I should be here to take care of her." Pepper insisted.
"Don't cancel," Tony told her as he went into the kitchen to grab Emma's bottle. "You have been looking forward to this for weeks now. Take Jamie and have fun. I can take care of Emma."
"Tony, I just can't leave when my baby is sick."
"Pepper, have fun with Jamie. Emma and I will be fine and you know that she never quiets down for you for some reason." Tony insisted as gently as he could.
Pepper felt Emma's forehead as Tony gave her the bottle and felt that it was cool. She sighed as she looked at Jamie playing happily on the floor. "As long as you call me if anything goes wrong, I want you to call me right away."
"Pepper, stop worrying. I can handle this just fine. Jarvis can give me anything I need to make her feel better and you know very well that I would not let anything happen to you or either of our children." Tony said reassuringly.
"I will be back tonight but if you need me sooner, call me." Pepper insisted as she gathered up Jamie and the baby bag. She kissed Tony good-bye and very reluctantly left to meet her friend Betty.
About an hour after Pepper had left, Tony had finished feeding Emma and her coughing started back up again. The coughs were so harsh sounding coming from her as Tony held her to try to comfort her.
"Jarvis? What do the websites say about this? I am open to suggestions here." Tony asked as he winced as he listened to Emma cry and cough.
"It is suggested that the air be conditioned by a humidifier or a vaporizer or she should be put in a steamy room with few drops of menthol or eucalyptus. It will help to ease her breathing."
Tony thought about it for a moment. "Well since a humidifier is out of the question, Jarvis, turn on my shower."
"As you wish, sir."
"It's better than nothing, right princess?" Tony whispered to Emma as she whimpered against him when he went up stairs.
The bathroom was already filled with steam when Tony opened the door. He grabbed a small bottle of eucalyptus oil that Pepper had and placed a few drops on the floor of the shower before he undressed Emma and himself and stepped under the hot water.
Tony let the hot water beat down on his back to protect Emma from it. For more than a half an hour, he rocked her gently under the steam and the soft eucalyptus scent. He smiled as he heard the rasping go down and Emma's breathing became easier. As Emma seemed to be sleeping against his shoulder, Tony stepped out of the shower, dried off and got himself and Emma dressed. In that short time, Emma woke up but was clearly more relaxed than she was earlier.
"How about we do something fun, princess?" Tony asked her as Emma looked up at him. "Any objections to a movie?"
Emma smiled as she reached up and grabbed his ear.
"Since there are no objections…Jarvis…cue up a movie for us." Tony said as he rewrapped Emma in her blanket and headed downstairs.
"What movie would you like, sir?"
"I need something kid friendly but something I can sit through as well," Tony said as he got Emma's bottle ready and threw some microwave popcorn in for himself. "Can't do a movie without snacks." He said with a smile as he rocked Emma. "Jarvis, I got it. How about The Wizard of Oz?"
"I would think the witch would be a little frightening, sir."
"I'll cover her eyes but I can't sit through Care Bears. That would drive me nuts."
"Very well, sir. The movie will start as soon as you are comfortable."
The microwave beeped and Tony pulled out his popcorn and grabbed Emma's bottle with one hand and held Emma with the other. He set both on his table and sat down, setting Emma on his lap so her back rested against his stomach. Tony covered both of them with a blanket and then gave Emma her bottle as he told Jarvis to start the movie.
As father and daughter watched the movie, Emma was quiet but attentive. Tony was listening carefully to her breathing and was relived that it was still relatively clear. As the movie played, Tony was watching it with a whole new light.
"When I was little, I always like the Scarecrow most of all since he was the one with the brain. But now, I have a whole new respect for the Tin man," Tony told Emma as he rubbed her belly gently. "Besides for the whole metal warrior bit, I totally understand him wanting a heart now. He was turned cold by his circumstances and then being able to care for someone allowed him to feel again. Your mom is my heart and she always has been. She's even held my heart in her hands. Then you and Jamie came along and it grew."
When the movie ended, Emma was definitely tired and getting cranky. She was exhausted but would not go to sleep.
"Sir, she needs to sleep." Jarvis interjected as he started rattling off suggestions which Tony tried but they only made Emma cry and cough louder.
"Jarvis, those suggestions suck." Tony spat out as Emma screamed. "Okay, forget the internet. I am doing this my way. Jarvis put some music on."
"What sort of music would you like, sir?"
"Something slow, soft and easy to dance to." Tony exclaimed as he positioned Emma so her head was on his shoulder.
Jarvis started "So Close" from Enchanted, and Tony started to move with Emma as if he were slow dancing. He started to sign to her softly and her cries quickly quieted. Within moments, Emma was sound asleep against her father's shoulder.
Tony didn't stop as soon as she fell asleep. He had Jarvis keep the music going – Chicago, Billy Joel, Survivor, Bon Jovi and anything else Tony had that fit his request. Tony was enjoying this and he found a seemingly surefire way to get Emma to sleep that was his and his alone.
It was dark out by the time Pepper got home. She had Jarvis open the door for her and Jamie and she was taken back when she walked into a darkened house and Jarvis did not turn up the lights. She was about to ask Jarvis what was wrong when she noticed the reason on the couch.
From the dim lights alone, Pepper saw Tony sound asleep on the couch with Emma tucked against him with her head on his shoulder. Pepper walked over and pulled the blanket Tony had draped over his legs up a little further so it covered both of them and kissed his forehead softly before heading upstairs to put Jamie to bed.
As she climbed the steps and looked back at her sleeping husband and daughter and wondered how Tony got Emma to sleep so peacefully. That was one mystery she needed to solve.