Filler chapter. I got most of my adoption info from (slash) child-adoption (slash) overview. I get ticked very easily and would like to let you all know that adoptions don't happen from one day to the next like fanfiction makes it out to be. It's a long process no matter how much money you have.
"I don't mean to burst your bubble but there are a lot of laws concerning adoptions, Tony," Pepper said first thing in the morning while he was eating breakfast. "In the US alone it takes at minimum six months to even be approved to become an adoptive parent. In the UK it can take up to eight months."
Tony looked up from his eggs and frowned. "Can't you just pick a kid you want and pay adoption fees?"
"This isn't a dog we're talking about, Tony," she chided and sat across from him. "Even the adoption process for a dog doesn't happen in one day in most places. The fact of the matter is that you probably won't be able to take Harry with you back to Malibu or New York at the end of the week."
"Can't you pay someone to move the process along, though?"
Pepper passed him the bowl full of fruit and sighed. "No, Tony, I can't. The approval is mostly to figure out if the adopting parents are capable of taking care of a child; whether or not they're financially able. They also check criminal records and the UK asks for three references to show that you're capable of being a parent."
"You can't fast track that part? It's not that hard to see that I'm financially able and to check my criminal records," Tony said with a roll of his eyes. "I'm pretty sure you can just check it on the Internet anyway."
"There's also the fact that there are waiting lists for potential adoptive parents," Pepper said with a resigned sigh. "You can't decide to adopt Harry on a whim."
Tony leaned back in his chair, pushing aside the breakfast and looking over to the open bedroom to Harry curled up in the middle. "What if I already went through the approval process?"
"Then it'd take about ten to twelve weeks for everything to be finalized," Pepper said and took out some sheets of papers from the folder sticking out of her purse. "But you need to be approved first and go through all the check lists before that ever happens. Some people wait five years before they're ever approved or even seen by an adoption court, Tony. This is not going to happen from one day to the next."
"I was already approved."
"What? When were you approved?" The papers that were in Pepper's hands slowly slid to the table, blotting up oil from the eggs and water from the fruits at the revelation. "When did you apply to be an adoptive parent?"
"Just before you started working for me. Ten years ago?" Tony answered with a shrug. "It took a year and a half to get approved by some adoption agencies. They send me profiles of kids every once in a while to make sure I'm still interested. They stopped coming after Afghanistan but came back again after the whole saving New York thing from Vanko and Hammer's stupidity."
"You're approved to adopt kids?! I didn't even know you wanted kids," She exclaimed just as Tony was about to leave the room to go wake up Harry for breakfast. "How come I didn't know about this?"
"It was a closed thing. I paid a lot of people to keep it quiet," Tony grumbled. "It's not that I wanted kids ten years ago or anything like that it's just that I wanted the possibility of them some day is all. There are age restrictions in some places for adoptions you know."
"I'd thought you'd get married one day and have kids," she tried to explain as she followed after him and stared at the sleeping baby. "Adoption never even crossed my mind. I mean, I even figured you'd already have some kids somewhere out there in the world with the amount of—of," she made a motion with her arm to clearly symbolize all the womanizing Tony had done in his forty-one years.
"Can you imagine me bringing a kid into the world?" Tony said and then cocked his head to the side. "One of me is good enough. We don't need a tiny version of me running around and breaking people's hearts, Pepper."
Pepper huffed and tried to understand all that she had just been told but couldn't really wrap her head around the fact that Tony "genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist" Stark wanted to adopt children. She couldn't comprehend that Tony wanted to adopt children even during his days as a party animal. It was something that just didn't compute in her head whatsoever.
"You've wanted kids all this time?" Pepper asked as Tony came out of the room with a sleepy-eyed toddler in his arms. "Since when have you even been interested in children, Tony? You never gave any indication that you'd want one or that you'd want to adopt. There were no clues."
"My favorite color is apple green," Tony said as if it answered all of Pepper's questions. "You don't see that written down or spoken about anywhere do you? It's just something that is; I don't talk about everything in my life, Pep."
"But an interest in a child, Tony, is not something you keep quiet," Pepper said.
"It is if I don't want the kid to get kidnapped."
Pepper took a deep breath and thought about it while Tony settled back at the small table. "You're right. Kidnapping would be a big possibility if you were to ever have a kid or if you would adopt. You're a big name in the world and a child of yours would be ideal for kidnapping attempts. I'll talk to our lawyers and contact them about getting you an adoption court order with a London based Family Proceedings Court. We want to keep this as hush-hush as possible to prevent any accidents. We'll also have to hire a nanny, live-in, you think?"
"Not live-in," Tony groaned as he stared up at Pepper. "I had live-in nannies and I hated them all. Someone who is willing to travel because of the international meetings we have. Preferably someone with a college degree that is certified in CPR and first aid. They would have to have extensive background checks before they start. I don't want anyone from SHIELD sticking their nose into this or anyone that could have worked for any of the other companies I had weapons' contracts with."
Pepper nodded as she took out the electronic pad from her purse and began to tap the instructions and lists that she needed to make all of this possible for Tony and Harry. "We'll need to also hire security to prevent kidnappings, like you said. The security we have now is fine for us but we'll want to raise security for Harry. Security that can't be seen would probably be best."
"Child proofing the house," Tony suggested as he brought a spoonful of eggs to an eager mouth. "Do you think we can get away with child proofing the Tower?"
"No," Pepper said drily as she gave him a look. "The living spaces will be child proofed but the rest of the Tower is for business. It wouldn't make sense to have child rails in the R&D department if Harry isn't going to be in it."
"I could program safety features into JARVIS," Tony suggested. "JARVIS would be the best nanny, admit it."
"JARVIS is an AI, Tony. He doesn't even have arms," Pepper said and tapped some more into her tablet. "I just got an e-mail from one of the lawyers. He's drawing up forms to see how fast it can be done but he says that you might have to live here for a while before you can get the adoption finalized. What I said earlier about the ten weeks might be closer to what would be expected from you."
"Around two and a half months?" Tony asked and then looked out at the drab day. "I'd be here until the end of February, Pepper. The weather here sucks. Are you sure they can't move it along?"
"They did. For something like this it'd take at least six months. Be lucky you already had everything ready and that he was abandoned," she chastised and handed over the sippy cup with orange juice over to the reaching tiny hands.
"Ask him to try for less time. I don't want to be here during cold and flu season," Tony whined as he looked outside again. "He sneezed yesterday, Pepper. What if he's infected with something?"
"Did the base doctor say there was anything wrong with him?" Pepper tried to reason while pushing the bowl of fruit closer to Harry.
"I don't think he was a children's doctor."
"I'll get everything settled with the courts and getting you forms and a birth certificate," she said as she stood from the table and ruffled Harry's hair with a smile. "Try to not corrupt him while I get everything ready."
"Say bye to Pepper, Harry. Even though she is absolutely no help with your possibly infected self. You'll cause the next zombie apocalypse with your sneezes, I'm sure."
Tony looked up from the diaper he was trying to fasten to Harry's wriggling butt as Pepper came into the room with Happy in tow. He had already been peed on earlier when he had tried to change the toddler's diaper but he had apparently not been done and had ended up showering Tony. A bubble filled bath time later, Tony tried it again and Harry would not stop his wiggling about.
"I'm almost done," Tony said to the room at large but mostly to Harry since the wiggling seemed to have increased along with the giggles. "No naked time. If I'm not allowed to have naked time neither are you."
"Tony, I talked to the lawyers and they said they'll give you an estimation of how long this is all going to take within twenty-four hours. As it is, you might have to wait a while to get all the forms," Pepper said flatly and grinned when Harry tried to sit up and Tony pushed him back down.
"Did you get the picture I sent you?" Tony asked instead and finally managed the last sticky flap. "He took a handful out of my plate and just shoved it in his face. It was pretty cute."
Pepper showed Tony the screen to her StarkPhone and the other man grinned. Harry has been smiling toothily at the camera with spaghetti and noodles covering his face when Tony had taken the picture. "How was bath time?"
"We had to deal with it twice," Tony grumbled and didn't bother with the pants since Harry was already running over to Pepper and Happy. "At least he knows how to aim."
Pepper's nose wrinkled but the corners of her mouth were already twitching at Tony's misfortune. She grinned down at Harry and put out her arms for him to walk into, which he did eagerly. Happy raised a brow but presented Harry with a stuffed white rabbit and a green bow.
Harry curled his entire tiny body around Pepper, with the stuffed rabbit between them.
"Don't forget to say 'thank you' to Happy for the bunny, Harry," Pepper said as she turned on the side for Harry to see Happy.
Harry's head twisted around and he already had one of the ears in his mouth. "Tankoo"
"You're welcome," Happy said with a smile and ruffled the soft hair.
"Boo, Boo!" Harry called and flapped his arms towards Tony.
"I'm coming," Tony said with an indulgent smile. He plucked Harry from Pepper's arms and Harry rubbed his cheeks against his stubble.
"Ook, bun-buns," Harry said cheerfully, presenting the stuffed rabbit to Tony with a toothy smile. "Tankoo bun-buns."
Tony raised a brow as Harry then proceeded to stuff the ear back into his mouth, babbling around it happily. Once he had the ear firmly in his mouth he curled his arms around Tony and curled his fingers in the hair in the back of his head.
"Is this a thing?" Tony asked Harry as he tried to move his head away but Harry whined and clutched at the hair tighter. "Pepper, he already has a thing. I'm gonna go bald in the back."
"It's kinda cute, though," Pepper said as she turned Tony over and tried to unlatch Harry's tiny little claws from digging in. "He'll let go eventually when he gets tired. He should be asleep by now."
"Don't babies usually take naps?" Tony grumbled and scooted Harry higher up his chest. "Harry's been dancing and running around all day. I need another tablet," Tony said without preamble and as if he had been talking about technology the entire time. Pepper raised a brow and Tony pointed to the table that they had eaten breakfast at. "We were playing Fruit Ninja and Harry was trying to cut open a pomegranate and it flew across the room and crashed into the wall."
Happy stared at the cracked screen and showed it to Pepper.
"Are you using him as a scapegoat, Tony?" Pepper asked with a raised brow and hands on her hips.
"No, that's what happened," Tony said and glared at the tablet. "Fruit Ninja is a full contact sport, Pep. If you don't slash those pomegranates within five seconds you lose a good amount of points. Harry was just a bit too enthusiastic with the slashing and it fell."
Pepper sighed and took the tablet from Happy. "At least it wasn't your phone this time. Maybe you shouldn't download Fruit Ninja anymore. It's just fruit not the new specs to something you've been trying to figure out."
"You get mad when I throw things when I'm inventing," Tony said matter-of-factly.
"That's because you go through tech faster than you can build it or it can be manufactured," Pepper said with a roll of her eyes. "No more Fruit Ninja for you two. Download a drawing game or something. That way Harry can be artistic and you can draw out plans for things."
"Whatever," Tony grumbled. "Not letting me play Fruit Ninja. Who does she think she is?" he continued as he went over to the bedroom and dumped his little bundle in the middle of the bed. Harry made a disgruntled noise of displeasure and clutched at air. He curled around the rabbit and settled into the bed.
Harry would be his in no time if the lawyers would just hurry things along. Hopefully there wouldn't be any problems and he'd just be able to take the little boy with him. He wasn't particularly sure how exactly the green-eyed toddler had crawled all over his every thought and how exactly he had managed to attach himself so thoroughly.
Hope you enjoyed this filler chapter.