"Enugh," Tony grunts as Steve quickly hands him the 27 pound one-and-a-half year old. He hoists the child outward with straightened arms, holding him as far away from his chest as possible. "Uh Steve? I don't really do the holding thing..."
Steve looks up from his opened suitcase halfway across the room. "Tony!" he nearly shouts, running to take the child back. "You can't hold him like that. It's dangerous."
Tony doesn't reply, but instead watches as Steve takes the baby with care into his loving and cradling arms. "Oh, it's okay Peter, Papa's here..."
"Uh, I'm here too…" Tony protests matter-of-factly.
"Not if you keep holding him like that you won't be," Steve chuckles, trying to lighten the mood for a still offended Tony.
Steve looks back at his cluttered blue suitcase lying face up, unzipped, on the living room couch. Turning back to Tony, his eyes suggest that holding a child isn't at the top of his current 'Things To Do' list.
Tony undesirably yet willingly takes the baby back and holds him properly close so that the little head looked over his shoulder. "And you're going away for… how long?"
"Hopefully just the weekend," Steve sighs, returning to his unorganized luggage. "But you know how Fury is... He says I need to take care of a bomb scare in Bangladesh... who knows how long that could take."
"Bangladesh?" Tony asks, his eyes locked on the boy's hair. "Isn't the whole... terrorist thing my division?"
"It's not a terrorist," Steve says, most of his focus (and weight) being put the suitcase that wasn't zipping all the way closed. "It's not a terrorist... It's some illegal mining thing on SHEILD territory. Anyway, they need me to take care of it because the bomb plans originally belong to the US." Biting his lower lip, he's finally able to close the zipper. "Or something like that."
"Why can't they send Barton or Romanoff to do it? Sounds more like their thing." Tony pats the baby on the back awkwardly after a little mewl escapes his tiny mouth. He's half asleep by now and verging on cranky. Terrific timing.
"I don't know, Tony. Maybe they're busy with other missions. They probably have other things to deal with."
"And a two year old is not one of them."
Steve can't help but smile. Tony rarely worries, but when he does it's somewhat adorable. "By the way," Tony continues "That whole, SHIELD not granting maternity leave is bull."
"Considering no one was pregnant and Fury didn't necessarily want us to adopt…" Steve begins to make his way towards his husband before he can finish his thought, a sportive smile creeping onto his face.
"What if we told him we were raising him to be an Avenger?" Tony cocks an eyebrow, only half-joking.
Steve's face immediate shifts from playful to serious. He was always doing that... laughing one minute and then completely strict the next. "He is not joining the Avengers."
"Well I don't know," Tony says, turning Peter around in his arms so that he faced forward. "Look at him... He could be, uh... Super fast? Or stealth. Or we could give 'im, like, duel whips. I mean come on. Whips are so underrated nowadays and they're pretty badass I mean no one ever fucked with Indiana Jones. Besides, name another superhero department with whi-"
"Indiana what?" Steve cuts him off.
Right. 1940s things. Forgot.
"Remind me to add 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' to our movie watching list," Tony says, making a mental note of needing to assign each Avenger with a different decade in order to get Steve caught up. He'd have to fit the classic action film somewhere in between 'Ghostbusters' and 'Star Wars'.
Steve nods slowly with a hit of unsureness until he remembers his flight is supposed to leave in less than thirty minutes. "I'd best be going," he says, looking at his watch. "Plane's taking off soon."
"Why is it that I'm the only one who seems to understand the whole 'private jets will wait for you' concept?" Tony has been following the solider around their living room for the past five minutes. He was only supposed to be gone for three days, but not having him there to help with the baby would not be an easy feat. It'll be the first time Tony is forced to act as a single parent.
"Well, I arranged a 4:15 flight, dear." Steve exhales, beginning to become annoyed by his partner's constant excuses.
"And you're sure they can't get Barton to do it?" Tony tries again, still not looking forward to being alone for the weekend. Had it just been him, there'd be no problem. He could've sat in the lab all day, making improvements on his suit and repulsor rays and whatnot. But things weren't so relaxingly carefree and introversive now that they had a son. That was the main concern. Pulling all-nighters by chugging liquor mixed with Redbull was not exactly permitted on the recent 'Things Parents Should Do' list.
Steve pinches the bridge on his nose and breathes deeply.
"You're sighing audibly why are you signing audibly?"
"You need to stop worrying." The corner of Steve's lip lifts into a reassuring half-smile and he places a hand on Tony's free shoulder (the other being occupied by Peter's head). "You'll be fine without me."
"Yeah but," Tony adjusts the baby's body to prevent him from slipping. "What if something goes wrong? And I won't know what to do because I can't call you because you're in combat and then one thing will to lead to another and eventually New York is destroyed and all hell breaks loose."
"Um... Ask JARVIS?" Steve says as more of a statement than a question, not entirely sure why Tony wouldn't have thought of that in the first place.
"That's ridiculous Steve. JARVIS is an AI he's never been a parent."
"Though I'll admit I may not be capable of reproduction, I am widely informed on many subjects, including maternal and paternal duties," JARVIS speaks up, causing Steve to raise an eyebrow, showing off his infamous 'I told you so' expression.
"Oh... shut up JARVIS. No one asked you," Tony barks, sending Peter into giggles.
"See? You'll be fine. And there's always Pepper. Plus, there's no reason you shouldn't be able to call me, considering I learned how to use that cellular telephone thing."
"But-" Tony begins to argue; though he is caught in his words, unable to navigate whatever counter comment he was prepared to make.
"Crud, I gotta go," Steve groans, looking at his watch again with disgruntled eyes. Tony's slightly amused by his husband's word choice.
Hurrying to the door, Steve grabs his suitcase by the handle as his other hand reaches for the knob. "I'll be back soon as I can. Don't forgive to give Peter a bath, he didn't have one last night. Oh, and I left the number for the pediatrician on the counter-"
"I'm not worried!" Tony protests, inching his way closer with each of Steve's instructions.
Steve gives another little smile, but this one isn't necessarily positive or negative. All it seems is a little ancient. As if his eyes are young, moist, and startling blue against his wrinkling skin. He had the body of a twenty-five-year-old, yet when you looked at him you saw something much more elderly.
There's a quick kiss between the parents, and Steve slightly bends at the waist to peck the top of Peter's hair.
"Be good for Daddy, Peter. He's going to need it."
"Paw!" Peter babbles, reaching his arms toward the already reclining Steve.
"Love you," Tony says with a shallow smile.
"Love you too." Steve's voice is a combination between sincerity and hastiness.
"Oh… and Steve?" Tony calls out, right before the front door can hide his husband.
He doesn't ask 'what?', but the annoyed raised eyebrow on Steve's face indicates he's impatiently waiting for Tony to conclude whatever statement he needed to announce.
"Don't-uh… don't jerk off. While you're there."
"… Goodbye Tony."
"I'm serious!" Tony yells back, feeling the tickle of Peter's hair on his straining neck. "I want you wound up when you come back!"
There's a hint of a shy smirk, and then faster than a bat out of hell, Steve is gone.
There are a few moments of complete silence until it's broken by a sigh. Tony realizes there's no point in staring at a closed door, and turns around to place Peter on the couch in order to give his weary arms a rest.
"Okay~" He huffs, removing the heavy weight off his shoulder and onto the sofa. "What to do with you…"
Bedtime? No… it was only 4:00.
Dinner? Again. Only 4:00.
Nap? Oh would you look at the time? 4:00 already!
"Papa!" Peter whines, extending both arms out with wriggling fingers. "Pa! Papp-ee?"
"No, no, no, Petey… Papa isn't here. But, uh, look! D-Daddy's here…"
Peter looks discontent and furrows his eyebrows. "Pa!" He yells again, his face beginning to turn red.
"Uh-oh. Oh no. Please don't cry. Uh-" Fear washes over Tony, who is suddenly realizing how hard these next few days are capable of being. "Pops'll be home in a few days. But you get to hang out with me! That's-that's not such a bad deal-"
Peter begins crying.
"Okay, yeah you're right it is a bad deal."
"Perhaps the young boy is hungry? Or a diaper change is in order?" Suggests JARVIS, speaking loudly over the baby's wails.
Diaper change? Tony lets the words run through his head. He's obviously changed Peter's diapers before… though Steve was much better at it. Steve did it with much more ease. Steve didn't require a gas mask and nose plugs to get the dark deed done. Perhaps Tony could get a robot to do it…?
"Papa!" Peter sobs, along with other little noises and gibberish.
"You want Steve," Tony groans, taking a seat next to the baby. The cushions decline with his weight, and Peter topples as a result. His father presses both hands over his face in anguish.
Peter takes a few deep breaths and sniffles. He's done crying, yet his eyes still water and his cheeks remain flushed.
"I want him too…" Tony sighs into his warm palms.
Peter babbles his typical baby noises, and crawls onto Tony's lap without much ease. "Peesh!" He grins somewhere in between the incoherent nonsense.
Tony pauses; realizing 'peesh' means something in 'Peter Talk'. He tries to scan his extensive memory in order to remember what this the specific word in Peter's made-up childish language meant. His cupped hands give him the clue. "Peek-a-boo? You want me to play peek-a-boo?"
"Peesh!" Peter's smiling and rocking Tony's arm with his tiny hands, four little teeth separated by gaps now showing.
"Uh, okay!" Tony sighs, shrugs his shoulders, and then quickly mumbles an instruction for JARVIS to momentarily cut the security cameras. He hesitantly puts both hands to his face – goddamn, Steve was so much better at this sort of thing- and says behind his palms, "Where's Daddy, Peter?"
Through the spaces between his fingers, Tony can see the slightest hint of his son's wide brown eyes, staring back in wonder.
"Here I am!" Tony says with a trace of enthusiasm, separating his hands quickly to reveal his bearded face. Peter erupts into giggles.
Satisfied with his son's response, Tony decides it wouldn't hurt to try one more time.
He covers his face again. "Where I am? Peter? Are you there? Hello? I seem to be having performance issues with my face. There seems to be something interfering."
Peter scrunches up his nose with a small giggle, anticipating one of –which to him will be- the funniest moment of his life thus far.
"Peek-a-boo!" Tony quickly uncovers his eyes and leans forward, giving Peter a desirable fright.
The sound of his laugh is pleasurable and rewarding. That was the funny thing about kids. You could hear the same noise, coming from some stranger's child laughing, and it wouldn't mean anything to you. It's either annoying or background noise worth ignoring. But seeing your own child, eyes shut tightly with a wide smile, laughing without a care in the world… it makes you feel happy. It makes you feel safe and protected and worth living. Because you suddenly realize that you've blessed this small fragile person with the gift of happiness.
It was the most rewarding feeling Tony had ever received.
Like a predator, he jolts his hands forward, grabbing Peter by his tiny sides and furiously starts tickling him. Peter emits a panicking yelp, but it's soon replaced by more shrieks of laughter.
Right as he's giving Peter as raspberry, Tony hears the ring of his phone and feels its vibrations in his right jean pocket. He fumbles to get the Smartphone out of his pants and into his hands after recognizing the personalized tune as 'Star Spangled Man With a Plan'.
"Hey~" he coughs as he presses the green 'answer' button.
"Very cute, Mr. Stark." Steve's voice comes from the phone's speaker.
"Uh-What's cute? Shouldn't you be on your plane by now? Wouldn't want to be late for that…"
"I'm still in the car on the way over, and you know what's cute! That video you just sent me!" Steve says as if the answer should be obvious.
"I didn't send you any-" Tony begins to protest, but stops when the puzzle pieces of his mind finally come together with a synapse connection. "JARVIS," he says sternly, not taking Steve off the line.
"My apologizes Master Stark," JARVIS says with as much remorse a robotic voice can hold. "I did turn all security cameras off, as you asked, but I could not help myself from realizing Master Rogers would appreciate a glimpse of your activities with young Peter."
"Awesome," Tony sighs sarcastically, completely embarrassed by the fact JARVIS had just given Steve access to three years worth of blackmailing material. "Hey, Jarvs? Remind me to lower your personality levels by 10%."
"I do not understand why you are so unhappy. I suspect you would have asked me to send him a more 'explicit' video later tonight anyway."
"You're a real prince, JARVIS," Tony sighs.
He returns the phone to his ear. "So… you saw that? How much of it?"
"Yes I saw it, and it was very adorable. Look, honey, I have to go, we're pulling up to the jet. Tell Peter I said hi! I'll call you when I land."
"But how much did you-"
"I miss you too!" Steve interrupts, and suddenly the line is dead, leaving Tony to sulk among the couch's pillows in silence.
"Ish a peesh!" Peter smiles, his chubby cheeks brightly flushed from having laughed so hard.
Tony can't help but smile and takes the child into his arms. "You and me kid," his scratchy voice says as he looks into the wide pools of brown staring back at him.
"Jish appa!" Peter exclaims, to which Tony doesn't understand.
"What's up little guy? What do you want?" Tony asks, secretly hoping the answer wasn't 'papa'. He didn't think he could handle that rejection from his own kid.
"Da! Da!" Peter stands up on Tony's lap, balancing himself with one small hand on the arc reactor and the other pulling on his dad's facial hair.
"D-Dad?" Tony stammers, slightly pained by the tugging on his face.
"Da-dee. Dai-dee Iwuvoo," Peter smiles, looking his father in the eye.
Wide, gaping eyes that is. Did he just say… did he just say his first sentence?
Sure Peter was a bright kid, able to string together little words to form a general idea. But they weren't sentences. They were "Pa! Banan-aw!" or "Up! Up!"
Nothing short of "Daddy I love you."
In fact out of every possible thing that could've come out of the toddler's mouth, "Daddy I love you" was the last thing Tony expected to here. "I want to peruse a career in nuclear fission after finishing my mushy squash and pumpkin baby-food" would've been a more predictable statement.
"J-JARVIS," Tony yells out to the empty house. "Get Steve back on the phone."
"Mr. Stark, I do not think Mr. Roger's is in an appropriate situation-"
"Get him on the phone now! I don't care if you have over take the fucking radio waves! Just let me talk to him."
If robots could sigh, JARVIS would have. "Putting you through now."
There was a short pause, which felt very long to the impatient Tony, and then Steve's beautiful voice (which was beautiful even when irked) was heard. "Tony are you okay? You came up on the emergency telephone line… what's wrong?"
"Peter! Peter-Peter he-" Tony gasps and struggles to finish his sentence. He hadn't realized how intoxicated with adrenaline he was until now.
"What's wrong with Peter?" Steve asks urgently.
"No! No, no, no, no, no. Peter- Pete's fine- he's- Fuck! Steve! Peter- he fuckin- fuck!"
"Is Peter there? Don't curse around him, you know how I feel about-"
"He spoke!" Tony finally exclaims after locating the words he'd be searching his brain for.
"He… spoke?" Steve asks skeptically. "Tony, he speaks all the time…"
"Yeah, no. I know. Steve. But not like this. He looked up at me and he said, 'Daddy, I love you'!"
There was nothing but static on the other end. If it weren't for the ambience noise in the background, Tony would've thought there was a break-up on the phone line.
"He… he said what?" Steve's voice finally came, sounding somewhat… weak? No, weak wasn't the right word. It sounded sort of… vulnerable. Not in a bad way. It was domestic and soft and cracked a little as it came out.
"Yeah, yeah! He did! Here he's right here," Tony picks up Peter from the couch almost as if he were expecting to show Steve their child. "Tell Papa what you told me, Peter. Tell him that you love him. Say 'Papa I love you'," Tony says quietly. He doesn't necessarily want Steve to hear his instructions, however, he doesn't exactly care either way.
"Pawpy?" Peter asks timidly, trying to find the source of Steve's voice, which was coming from hidden speakers along the walls. "Pap-ee?"
"Peter? Baby? Sweetie, I'm right here." Tony could almost hear Steve pulling the phone closer.
"Papa!" Peter squeals in delight. "Papee-I-wuv-joo," Peter says extremely quickly, the declaration of love sounding like one word.
There's a sort of gasping noise on the under end, and Tony beams to himself in pride.
"Oh my… God… Peter!" Steve laughs, not because he's amused, but because he's purely too ecstatic to do anything else. "T-Tony did you hear that?"
"No, actually, I missed it," Tony says, placing Peter into his playpen that sat in the corner of the room.
Steve is still chuckling, some of which is caused by Tony's sarcastic remark, and the other is the remaining surprise that came with Peter's first sentence. "Look at you, Anthony. I've been gone for twenty minutes and the baby's telling you he loves you. Looks like you're not such a bad dad after all."
Tony just shrugs to himself, making his way towards the kitchen so he can heat a bottle of milk.
"Psh," he rolls his eyes, "And to think you worried about leaving me alone with him."