A/N: *ahem* HOLY HELL WAS THIS A BITCH TO WRITE. But it is finished, and I hope you like it. Reviews are a gift from the gods. C:
Thanks to Alyssa for beta'ing; you're my bub
What in the love of fuck is that noise? Tony's still sleep ridden mind wondered, not letting his eyes open.
Jesus Christ. It was Saturday, Tony knew it. There was no reason anyone should be disturbing his beauty sleep. He moaned and flopped an arm to get Steve's attention. "Steeebe."
Steve seemed to be just as determined to stay asleep, because he grunted and rolled half away. Tony didn't have the strength to try harder.
"Ugh. WHO IS MAKING THAT GODDAMN NOISE?" he yelled, for lack of better option. Steve grunted again.
"Agent Barton and young Master Anthony are playing with foam swords, sir. It's become a fierce game." Jarvis announced. "Good morning, sir."
Oh. Well, that may have been a better option, asking Jarvis. "Tell 'em to zip it. People sleeping."
The noises quieted after a minute, and Steve scooted back closer to Tony, putting one arm draped on his belly. Tony hummed and relaxed again, hoping to catch a few minutes of sleep before they had to get on a plane and bring everyone to Malibu.
He'd just started to fade again when the door creaked open a little and he shot up, blinking blearily at the light that creeped in. "Not cool, Clint."
"I was looking for Ca- holy cow!"
Tony squinted a little harder and saw Anthony in those Iron Man pajama pants (okay, he needed to talk to whoever's idea that was) gaping at them. Wait. Oh, God. "Anthony—"
"I'm dating Captain America!" he exclaimed, and then looked behind him. "Uncle Clint, I'm dating Captain America! You were right!"
In the distance, Tony could hear Clint laughing. That fucker.
Next to him, Steve was chuckling lowly, trying to stifle his laughter.
"What are you laughing at? I just discovered I was gay a good 20 years before I was supposed to!" Tony moaned.
"We should get up," Steve muttered, sighing.
"Tony, your miniature self is running around yelling that he's dating me. We might want to sit him down and explain to him that he can't, you know, spread that around."
"He knows that, Steve. I know that." The billionaire sat up and yawned widely. "Whatever. I need some coffee anyway."
"Mmm," Steve mused, "I almost hope Clint didn't listen and let Anthony stay up late. Then he'll sleep and not end up climbing the walls during the trip."
"Desperate hopes." Tony said, and then slid out of bed. "Please tell me it's only Reed Richards that's coming."
"And possibly Johnny Storm." Steve's mouth twitched.
"Your slightly younger and much more annoying clone?" Tony joked.
"I don't understand why people think we look alike!" Steve said indignantly. "Want to join me for a shower?"
Tony's eyebrows waggled suggestively. "I'll take that as an order, Captain."
When Tony and Steve went to the main kitchen, fully awake and freshly showered, they saw Clint and Anthony scarfing down breakfast and Bruce talking worriedly on the phone.
"Yeah, just tell them it's a really distant cousin from his dad's side. Really distant." Bruce ran a hand through his dark hair, and exited the room when he realized there were too many people. "What are they saying now?"
"What's going on?" Tony asked, snatching a piece of toast and taking a bite.
"Some asshat from SHIELD let loose that a kid appeared here and how it had something to do with you. Now the media is crowding around the entrance, saying bullshit like he's your son from a one night stand," Clint growled. "Coulson is talking to them now and Natasha's running security measures."
"This is exactly why we need to get out of New York before it hits the fan." Steve frowned. "We were hoping to dodge the press this time."
"I'm used to the press," Anthony said through a mouthful of eggs. "I don't like them though."
"None of us do," Steve said dryly, ruffling Anthony's hair.
"Do they know I'm dating Captain America?" Anthony asked, raising his eyebrows. Tony had a disturbing mental image of little Tony stepping up to pedestal with Steve holding his hand and announcing their love and frankly he wasn't sure whether to laugh or grimace.
"Yes, they do." Tony said carefully. "They don't know a lot, but they're…eh, okay with it, more or less."
Anthony shook his head, bewildered. "I'm dating Captain America."
"Still Steve Rogers, bud." Steve grinned. "And you won't see me until you're a lot older."
"Legally older," Clint chimed in, and all three of them made a face at him.
"Mini me, are you finished with your breakfast?" Tony asked as he finished off his toast. Anthony slid out of his seat and nodded. "Okay, follow me. If they get too good of a look at you the whole 'you're my kid' theory is going to go through the roof, and we're going to be in trouble. So we're going to disguise you."
"Can I have a beard?" Anthony asked, grinning. Tony snorted. "No?"
"I demand input," Clint interjected. "I have a box full of disguise shit anyway."
"Language." Steve admonished, narrowing his eyes at the archer.
"That's okay, Cap, I don't care," Anthony gripped Clint's arm. "C'mon, show me."
"I'm not even going to ask why you have a box of disguises, Barton." Tony scoffed.
Half an hour later, Anthony was surrounded by different hats. Tony had said no to the Captain America one, and glasses and a few fake mustaches were also quickly discarded.
"What about this one?" the boy asked, slipping on a black wool hat.
"Nah. Doesn't fit you." Clint remarked. He tugged it off the boy's head and threw it on the floor. He dug through the large cardboard box, muttering to himself.
"Hey, Tony?" Anthony asked, as he walked up to the large windows in the lounge area in Tony's penthouse. "After we get to Malibu, can we go to the store?"
"Um. Okay. Why?" Tony inquired, watching Anthony closely at the corner of his eye. "We can send Hawkass to get us a carton of milk or twelve if we wanted."
"Well, uh," Anthony fumbled with his hands, wringing them restlessly. "It's stupid. You'll think I'm stupid."
"I'm you, kid." Tony laughed softly. "There's not much you can tell me that I wouldn't already know you thought of."
"Do you remember our third birthday?" Anthony didn't look at Tony.
"No." Tony sighed. "Too long."
"That was when Auntie Peggy gave us that Captain America toy. That was the last few toys I, we, had. Remember that?"
"Yes." Tony swallowed. Damn. That stupid toy had been his sacred object up until… "He took it from you just a little bit ago, huh?"
Anthony gave a tiny nod. "Seeing that Captain America hat made me think of it. Do you think I could, um, bring it with me? I'd hide it, say Auntie Peggy got me a new one since I lost the other one if he did find it again."
"Let's…" Tony's throat suddenly felt very dry. "Let's ask Bruce later, shall we? I'm pretty sure we can."
"Okay." Anthony's grim look vanished into a smile within seconds. How do kids do that?
"Found the perfect thing!" Clint called, scrambling over to them. He held up in one hand "hipster glasses", thick rimmed and positively…okay, when Clint put them on Anthony looked kind of adorable. "Now both of you. Close your eyes."
When Tony obliged and then opened them again, he choked out a laugh. The hat Anthony had been forced to wear was furry and bright pink, like a piece of sandwich meat left under a bed for 3 weeks and then dyed neon.
"It's very…pimp." He managed, trying not to fall to the floor and laugh hysterically until his sides hurt.
"What did you do to me?" Anthony demanded, small hands fumbling around the hat.
"Oh, please, don't be so dramatic. No one would suspect you as his kid now. He wouldn't let his kid walk out in public like that." Clint's tried to keep his face stoic, but his lips twitched upward involuntarily.
Anthony scrambled over to the wall size mirror near the bookshelf and moaned dutifully. "This is so stupid looking."
The combination of the furry neon pink hat and the glasses did look pretty ridiculous. But hey, at least no one would suspect anything.
Pepper was going to kill Tony when she saw a kid with that outfit on the news. He should call her and explain, since he may have sort of failed to mention that his six year old self had been brought to the future by Loki. Oh, yeah. Cold, heartless murder.
"Okay, bud, let's get the rest of your stuff together. We've gotta go." Clint said, picking up Anthony before the boy could say anything else.
"Can you not manhandle me?" Tony snarked, and Clint stuck his tongue out at the man as Anthony laughed.
Getting out of the tower and to the airport wasn't too bad, considering. The Avengers sort of huddled around Anthony, still in Clint's arms, saying no comment and repeatedly asking for no pictures for the privacy of "Mr. Stark's cousin."
It wasn't a secret that Tony loved flying, but he didn't realize how young he was when he enjoyed it. He did remember getting excited if his father let him go with him on a business trip on a plane. Those planes weren't as great as Tony's own, however.
Tony liked his own planes, thank you.
Anthony did too, if his constant questions of how Tony had built the thing were anything to go by and the fact he wouldn't sit still. At all. He was always moving. If his body wasn't a flurry of activity, his mouth was.
"I didn't build these directly. I just made the blueprints and monitored what goes in." Tony rubbed a hand over his face.
"Oh. What kind of engines does this one run on?" he asked. Tony stifled a groan. He now shared Steve's wish that Anthony would just sleep.
"What time did Clint put you to bed last night?"
"Um, not very late." Anthony said, smiling innocently.
"Young Master Anthony was directed to bed at approximately 1:30 AM by Ms. Romanoff, due to Mr. Barton forgetting the time." Jarvis said. Both Clint and Anthony glared up at the ceiling of the plane as Steve looked at them disapprovingly. "Sir, Ms. Potts is calling."
"Dammit." Tony sighed and dug his Starkphone out of his pocket and went to the now empty snack room. "Joe's whore house, you got the dough we got the hoe." He drawled, smirking.
"Tony, why do you have a child that's said to be…well, either your second/third cousin or your son?" Pepper asked calmly, too calmly, and that was scary if anything.
"See, that's funny. I was just going to call you."
"I'm sure. Care to explain?"
"Well, it's not my fault, let's begin with that. No, he's not my illegitimate kid. And no, he's not my cousin."
"Then who the hell is he, Tony?" Pepper sighed.
"To put it in the simplest context possible…it's me. From the past. Loki brought him, or me, here."
There was a long pause, and Tony could imagine Pepper debating whether or not he was covering his own ass or telling the truth. In his defense, since the whole Avengers thing started, weird things have happened.
This just happened to be one of the even weirder things.
"I'll confirm that he's your cousin then." she said, her voice tight. "Dammit."
"Just say the whole confidentiality rights crap. Parents don't want their names disclosed, and no pictures of their kid going viral. Throw in some lawyer threats, too. That'll shut them up."
"I'll see what I can do. Are you all going to Malibu?"
"To see if we can zap him back to his right time, yeah. It's more…private. Reed Richards is flying down too." Tony explained.
"Sounds like a party." Pepper snorted gently. "CEO regulations aside, how are you doing with this?"
"I don't know. Fine, I suppose." Tony shrugged one shoulder, knowing she couldn't see it. "It's not really as bad as it was."
"But he knows he's in the future?" Pepper had the worried voice.
"Yeah. And that I'm him and all that. This morning, he found out I was dating Steve, remind me to tell you about that later—"
"What about when he does go back? He's you! Do you really expect him to keep all that a secret? You're…what, six?"
"Tony," she warned. "Even I know this could be dangerous."
"Don't worry. We'll figure something out so that he doesn't alter the present. My present, anyway," Tony assured. "Somehow."
Pepper did that long sigh again. "I have to go, Tony. Keep me updated."
"Okay. Steve will ring you."
"I love you, you know that? In the—"
"Not creepy, platonic way. I know. I love you too," Tony said, smiling a little. "Bye, Pep."
"There better not be anything bad on the television about you in the next few days!"
"Who was that?" Anthony asked him as Tony slipped out of the snack room. The atmosphere had changed in the jet since he took the phone call. Clint, instead of being a little shit and encouraging Anthony's hyperness (like he usually did), was passed out on one of the chairs, and Steve was…well, that didn't change. He was sitting comfortably and reading The Hobbit, looking up to smile warmly at Tony.
Anthony was practically bouncing.
"My CEO, aka best friend. Pepper Potts."
Anthony giggled. "That's a funny name."
"Yeah. Don't let her hear you say that," replied Tony, letting his expression turn serious and a little terrifying. Anthony's eyes widened and he nodded his head.
"Don't scare him, Tony," Steve chided, shaking his head.
"I can scare myself."
"Nuh-uh. Then you'd grow up with my fears that you created for me," Anthony said smugly, shaking his index finger.
Tony sighed. "I can't win here. Are we almost there?"
"Another hour, Tony."
"…How come you didn't create, like, supersonic speed? I bet we could, you know. Let's get Jarvis to do some research on that and—"
Tony groaned, sat down, and buried his head in his arms.
Within minutes of getting to the mansion, Anthony picked out his room, insisted that he wanted to be alone, and from there fell asleep without even taking off his shoes.
Tony was waiting for a pot of coffee as Steve came down from upstairs. "Hey. What's he doing?"
"Sleeping, finally," Steve said, walking over to Tony and kissing him. "We've barely had any alone time lately."
"No kidding." Tony sighed, nuzzling Steve's neck and wrapping his arms around him.
"Storm and Richards will be here any minute, turns out. I thought they'd be here tomorrow, but…yeah."
"Okay. Uh, hey, have you considered that the kid is from, I don't know, not from the past but from an alternate universe? I mean, we've seen it before. More than time travel." Tony murmured.
"Bruce said that the mark on his wrist was a Norse symbol dealing with time, like a spell. And it seems like his past is right on with yours."
"Have we even asked?"
"Yes, he's got an asshole dad. Yes, he's still got the whole prodigy child of Stark Industries thing going on. But you never know." Tony insisted.
"Well, that's why Thor's looking for Loki, to see if we can't get some answers and maybe a quicker method of getting him back."
"You…you, uh, seem…" Tony cleared his throat, rubbing the back of his neck. "Nothing. It's nothing. I'm going to go wait for the asshats."
"Steve." Tony patted his shoulder and went off, hearing Steve's soft chuckle as he did. He went to the front entrance, where the fountain was, and leaned against the cement wall waiting for the car.
In truth, he couldn't care less if they came and no one was around. But he needed to think.
And how selfish he was to think what he was thinking.
Keeping Anthony was too risky, even if he was from an alternate universe. Or time travel. It was insane to even consider it, Tony knew that. There was no way he was going to babysit his bratty self, anyhow.
He wasn't bad at six, but he was (or will be, whatever). Tony has the paparazzi photos to prove it once he reached 12, and written police reports.
Whatever happened when you were a kid, it's turned you into who are now, and that's not so bad, right? Steve said that to him, once or twice or a thousand times, and well, maybe now's a good time to keep that in consideration while they send that kid back to-
Don't go there, Stark.
His attention jerked from his thoughts to the fancy car that Tony had arranged to pick up Richards and Storm from the hangar, and he swear he felt whatever patience that Anthony had left in him leave like a light switch at the sight of Johnny yelling, "Yo, Stark! You got any drinks for me? I'm the guest of honor!"
"You want a drink, you get it yourself. I'm still Tony Stark, and I'm not your maid." Tony replied, scowling as the two got out of the car. "Welcome to the best free vacation house you'll ever get."
"Vacation, huh?" Johnny grinned. "What are some benefits?"
"None. I lied, it's not a vacation. You're here to work and get mini me out of here." Tony said, walking up to Richard and shaking his hand. "Reed."
"Tony," Reed greeted, smiling slightly. "Been a while."
"Yeah, can't say I missed your pretty face. Dr. Banner is already down in the lab, setting up. Want to head down?"
Reed nodded, and tossed his bag to Johnny. "You can take that right?"
"Am I a pack mule?" Johnny sputtered. "Don't leave me here."
"Call Steve, if you want. I'm sure he'd be happy to help." Tony put a hand on Reed's shoulder and led him toward the door, leaving Johhny with the driver who seemed content enough to get the hell out of dodge.
"So, how's babysitting?" Reed asked. Tony just glared.
A few hours later, Tony went down to the lab from a late lunch and maybe a make out with Steve in his bedroom that didn't escalate the way Tony wanted. Apparently Steve was paranoid of Anthony walking in on them, seeing much worse than them half asleep and fully clothed in bed just that morning.
Nothing looked that much different, though, in the hours that he left Reed and Bruce down there, and that was a surprise because in past deals when they had to work together as genius minds, they had made a mess of practically everything in just a matter of minutes. And instead of bustling around or hunched over a desk they were idly looking through Jarvis's database filled with everything about Norse mythology and spells that Loki might have used.
"Tony, hey." Bruce looked up. "So, the only real way that we're ever going to get anything figured out with Anthony is if we actually talk to Loki. I'm not magic."
Tony's teeth still gritted at the mention of magic. "Yeah. It was kind of a long shot. Still, though, we can still maybe take a quick look."
"Well, we decided we may be able to work on something else useful for us and Anthony instead." Reed cut in.
"According to everything we've looked at, Anthony is from our past and not an alternate universe past. That means it really does matter what little things might do if he does something different than before." Reed began, not looking at Tony.
"Obviously. Which is why we have to…" he narrowed his eyes. "You want to make sure nothing will change."
"Yes, exactly. There's a serum that I've worked on that erases memories. If I can just alter it and have Loki fine tune it to the exact date and time, he won't remember anything and he'll wake up in bed like nothing ever happened."
"No," he growled.
"Tony, listen," Bruce sighed. "It's too risky—"
"No, it's not—"
"He's six, Stark. Do you really expect him not to spill? Or he might change something by just one action."
"He's me, Reed. I'm a genius."
"It's not fair to him! That's a lot of pressure, either way. I know you've always seemed like you can handle everything, but you're forgetting you're human and you mess up. Tony, him keeping those memories would be too hard. They'll confuse him."
"God, haven't you people watched Monsters Inc. or something? You know, leaving the kid alone, still letting it have rights—"
"That's a kid's movie. This is real," Bruce said firmly. "We have to, Tony. You can talk to him if you want."
"Reed, give us a minute." Tony's jaw clenched, motioning his head toward the door, and Reed shook his head and went upstairs. "No, Bruce."
"Is this about Howard? Or the company, and what happened to you?"
"Fuck, no. It's not."
"Oh? So you don't want him to know what you know and make sure you have an easier life? Avoiding the weapons? Not listening to your father? Catching Obadiah and altogether not getting kidnapped?" Bruce crossed his arms.
"No!" Tony threw up his hands. "I just want him to know that at least he'll be happy. It takes a while, but he will be. I will be."
"Be serious, Tony. He, you, will try to make it better. That's what you do. That's what you were fucking born to do. He's not going to stop because you told him to, since when do you even listen to yourself?"
"You can't erase his entire memory of this. What happens if that damn serum doesn't work and he doesn't remember anything at all? His entire life, gone?"
"Then help us fix it up. You can make sure that doesn't happen."
"Forget it. I like you, Bruce, you're my friend. But this? What you want to do? I'm not letting you."
"I don't want to, Tony. You should know that," Bruce said softly, reaching out to Tony, who jerked away. "I'm sorry, Tony."
"Yeah, whatever." He turned on his heel, to the stairs, passing Reed. "You can go back down. And you can leave tomorrow."
"You're not needed. Sorry for the false alarm," he said coolly.
"I'll arrange for a plane to pick you and Johnny up," he said, not looking back. When he reached the top of the stairs, he peeked out. Steve was sitting on the couch with Anthony beside him, and they were messing with a tablet that was displaying what Tony recognized as an art program that he'd created for Steve to use.
"What's that do?"
"It's a paint tool. See?"
"Why did you draw a bunny?"
Tony let himself be seen then, turning the corner. "Hey."
"Hi, Tony," Anthony said distractedly, still focused on the tablet.
"Did you sleep good? You better have. Those beds are expensive and I hope I didn't buy them for nothing."
"Okay. Well, good. Uh…." He turned. "Steve, can I talk to you for a second?"
"Sure." Steve stood and followed Tony to the kitchen, leaving Anthony on the couch with the tablet. "What's going on? You seem upset."
"Upset? Nope. Not at all. Right as rain, all that." Tony smiled. Okay, so it could be a good idea to tell Steve about Bruce and Reed's "project." There was a good chance that Steve would understand Tony's reasoning of why that's not a good idea, but then again there was also a possibility that Steve would agree with Bruce and Reed and he wasn't sure if he could handle that, because he'd be watching this, his time with Captain America and seeing how good he became, slipping away from his younger self like it never happened and it didn't seem fair because he could have done so much better and saved some pain and loneliness—
He jerked from his thoughts, realizing he'd faded off and probably had been staring at Steve blankly for some time. "Yeah?"
Tony sighed, wishing he could just out and say what he needed to. He'd been good, so good, lately about telling what was wrong, and not hiding away and letting others figure him out. It was a little disconcerting that he was very strongly pushing back the urge to tell Steve about what Bruce and Reed were planning and how he wasn't going to allow it. "We need to go to the store."
"Store? Why?" Steve eyes roamed around the fully equipped kitchen in confusion.
"No, like…a toy store."
"Anthony told me he doesn't play with toys because your father said you couldn't." There was that look again, that pained, 'Oh, Tony' face that he hated because ugh, pity.
"That's just what I said to everyone, because no, I wasn't allowed it, but I cheated. Not past seven, I got bored, but you know. Anyway, I had one thing that was my favorite, didn't care what changed as long as I had the thing and I lost it and he asked if he could find it and…"
"Bring it back with him." Steve finished. "Did you ask Bruce about it?"
Tony opened his mouth to say no, but yes came out. It didn't matter anyway. Tony was going to get Anthony back without anyone knowing beforehand, because Tony could not let himself watch the six year old version of him get his mind wiped.
"I guess we can, then. Johnny went down with the others to the beach, and I'm not sure how long they'll be there."
"No one will want to cook." Tony shrugged. "I can buy out a restaurant for a few hours, have a nice, private dinner."
"Tony, there's no point in that." Steve rolled his eyes.
"Except for showing me how awesome it is to be rich," Tony returned. "It's done. I'll get us a pizza place. Tell the others."
Steve must have decided not to bother to argue. "Okay. Why don't you get out the most kid-friendly car you have?"
"I don't have kid-friendly cars, Steve."
"Something as close as you can get, then," Steve said. "I'll get him ready and meet you outside."
Tony nodded and went down to the garage again, where Bruce and Reed were still working. They looked up at him and Bruce opened his mouth to say something, but Tony raised a hand to shut them up.
"Going to the store. We're going to a pizza place after if you want to come," he said curtly, getting into his Audi and reveling in the feeling of it roaring to life.
"Okay," Bruce said quietly, or maybe it wasn't quiet, Tony wasn't quite sure over the sound of the engine. Tony felt guilt tug at his gut, at how upset Bruce seemed, the way his shoulders hunched and his head was down. Bruce was a good guy, and knew why Tony had refused. Of course he did. Next to Steve, Bruce knew him better than anyone. He was trying to keep Tony safe, not purposely shoving him back into a hectic life.
Tony kept thinking about that as he revved the engine and shot out of the tunnel leading to the entrance of his mansion, and grinned proudly at Anthony's face lighting up.
"Whoa! That's an awesome car!" He ran forward, hands probing against the red, inspecting.
"This is the most kid-friendly car you could find?" Steve asked accusingly, crossing his arms. Okay, honestly, Tony didn't remember to think about safeness.
"Yes. Absolutely. The best one I could think of." He smiled innocently.
"I don't care. Can I sit in shotgun? Can I? Can I, please, Cap?" Anthony pleaded, pulling on Steve's hand.
"No," Steve said firmly.
"Aw, c'mon. It's not that unsafe."
"He's six, Tony!"
"He's sitting in the back." And that tone of voice left no room for argument if anything else did.
Anthony pouted for less than a second or two before leaping into the back seat, Steve going around to the passenger seat. "Can Uncle Clint come too?"
"He's busy, he'll meet at us at the pizza place for dinner, okay?"
"Okay," Anthony agreed and leaned forward in his seat. "Go fast."
Steve buckled his seat belt and motioned for Anthony to do the same. "No."
"You are such a party pooper, Steve," Anthony imitated Clint, grinning, and Tony snorted a laugh.
"Oh, just go," Steve grumbled, but he smiled, and the car took off.
They decided to skip out on the busy, crowded stores in hopes of avoiding any press and instead settled on going to a Wal-Mart that was close to being shut down for lack of business because this was Malibu and there were bigger and better places to go. Tony already had on sunglasses and he slipped on a handy sweatshirt tucked into the back seat, putting up the hood.
Steve's identity was safe enough and so was Anthony's, since he had been wearing his disguise. Tony sometimes regretted always flaunting himself way back when, and okay, sure, he did similar now but not as much. He liked his privacy now, especially since he had Steve and the other Avengers around.
Anthony practically sprinted ahead of them to the door, tugging it open and waiting for Steve and Tony to follow him before running off into the store.
"Did we just let a spoiled rich kid run free into a Wal-Mart?" Tony asked, immediately regretting this.
"It can't be that bad, right?"
Wrong. Tony had muttered that he hadn't been in a toy store very often. Steve learned the hard way that mature or not, Anthony was still a kid that acted like any other when in a place like this. Within twenty minutes of scurrying around trying to keep up with Anthony, Tony snatched out his Stark Phone and said he had to take a call.
"You're leaving me alone?" Steve said incredulously.
"Business matter, Steve. And pizza." Tony grinned devilishly. "Good luck!"
No sex for him tonight, Steve thought to himself, annoyed. He turned around where Anthony had been a second ago to find it empty. Damn. "Anthony? Where are you?"
"Here!" came a voice and Steve could hear the squeaking of his sneakers as he came around the corner. "Cap, come here. I need you to help me pick one out."
Anthony was reaching up on his tip toes in a car section, loaded with Hot Wheels big and small. "These are way better than the ones at home. Wait." He froze. "Can't have too many. Dad will find them."
"Why don't you get a very small one then?" Steve reached up far past Tony's head and took a small package of cars. "This one?"
"Okay," he said automatically, reaching for it, but he didn't look thrilled.
"Anthony, if you don't love it, you can tell me and we can pick one out that you really like," Steve said carefully.
Anthony hesitated, then looked up, his neck craning back and looking at the selections. "That one." He pointed to a red and gold colored car, not very big and not too small. Steve's lips twitched into a smile.
"Are you sure?"
"Yes," Anthony said slowly, looking at Steve in a way that sought approval. Steve nodded and took it off the handle, handing it to the boy. "There's one more thing I need to get."
"You know what it is?"
"Yeah. Follow me." Anthony darted to another aisle with Steve close behind, this one decorated with sports toys. He leaned down and started taking out balls in the front and putting them aside. He reached in and pulled out a Captain America toy. "Best one I could find and I hid it so I could get it later."
Hiding all emotion, Steve took it from Anthony and inspected it. It was a good model, not too detailed and not as modern as to raise suspicions. "It's great, bud."
"Yeah?" he grinned.
"Yeah. Are you ready to go?" he asked, giving the toy back to Anthony and holding out his hand.
Anthony slipped his hand into his, gripping his treasures tightly with his other arm. "Let's go show Tony."
"He'll approve, I know it."
They went to the checkout, where an older lady smiled at them as Anthony placed his things on the table. She looked up at Steve as she checked out the toys for them.
"No. He's uh, my nephew," he lied easily, squeezing his hand.
"Well, you're very good with him," she commented, still smiling, and finished putting the toys in a bag. "That'll be $12.95."
Steve paid and gave the bag to Anthony to carry, and they headed out the car.
As they were walking, Anthony remarked, "She's right, Cap. You should have kids with Tony."
"I don't think we can," he teased, and Anthony rolled his eyes.
"Not that way. But you could adopt someone. My mom was thinking of adopting before me, and then she said she didn't want any more kids. But she's pregnant again, so that didn't really work—"
Steve stopped in his tracks. "What did you say?"
"You can adopt a kid?" Anthony looked at him confusion.
"No, after that. Your mother is pregnant?"
"Uh-huh. 7 months, so pretty soon the baby will be here." He blinked. "I don't have a little brother or sister in the future?"
"No, I don't—" Steve's heart rate quickened. This could mean a various array of things, some good, most of them bad. "We need to talk about this later."
"Cap?" Anthony sounded frightened, and Steve tried to calm himself, mustering a smile.
"It's okay, buddy. It just surprised me. We'll talk and figure this out with Bruce and Tony, okay?"
"Okay," the boy said uncertainly and followed Steve the rest of the way without a word from either of them.
On the way back from the store, they went straight to the pizza place, where everyone else was waiting. Anthony went immediately to Clint and showed him his car, grinning madly. Steve noticed that Johnny and Reed were absent, while the rest of the Avengers minus Thor was there.
"I didn't think Johnny would miss out on pizza." Steve remarked to Tony. Tony shrugged.
"I think something came up."
They stood quietly for a minute, watching Anthony switch between each Avenger showing his car. Captain America, Steve noticed, was still tucked away safely in the car. He remembered, then, the pressing matter.
"Tony, I need to ask you something, and I need you to be honest with me," Steve said suddenly, leading Tony to a quiet area. "Please."
"Was your mother ever pregnant after you?"
"What?" Tony exclaimed incredulously.
"Anthony said your mother is 7 months pregnant," Steve breathed, calming just slightly at Tony's absolute shock.
"Then he can't be from our past. I know for a fucking fact that my mother was never pregnant after me. She—" Tony shook his head. "No. He has to be from an alternate universe."
"Yeah. Something like that." He looked hard at Tony. "You're sure? No close call? No miscarriages?"
"Steve, babe, no. I promise. I would have remembered." Tony smiled shakily. "Can you imagine me having a little sibling? Me? I'd terrorize the kid."
"I think you'd be a good brother from an early start. Anthony seems excited."
"Anthony's a different Tony." He raised an eyebrow. "Let's eat and talk to Bruce later."
"Sounds good," Steve agreed, sneaking a kiss. "And after that…"
"Rogers, you sly dog," Tony murmured, looking past him with a smirk. "Children around. Two."
"Who's the second?" Steve asked, already knowing the answer.
Three hours later, Anthony was fast asleep in bed, in his pajamas and his new Captain America toy tucked safely beside him. His car was on the bedside table next to him.
Tony was leaning against the doorframe, watching Steve thread his fingers through the boy's hair. "When did he start needing you to put him to sleep?"
"He was pretty upset the first night," Steve said, remembering how Anthony had cried onto Steve's shoulder when he learned of the abuse. "He's used to his mother."
"That's different about him, too. My mom wasn't really affectionate in ways of kissing a boo boo better."
"What did she do, then?" Steve cocked his head.
"She would read famous poetry to me, telling me lessons of what they meant and how I can use them to help me. Especially after they realized I was a genius," Tony said fondly.
"And how young was that?" Steve asked, genuinely curious. He'd never asked, not really, when Tony's intelligence had been revealed.
"I'm not sure exactly. I think I was two when they suspected it, and I remember getting tested a lot when I was 3. That's when I started working with engines, and yeah, the whole built a circuit board at 4 thing."
Steve shook his head. "I can't imagine being in the public eye since birth. I'm barely used to Captain America being so famous, to have people stop in the street and stare at you when you're in costume."
"Yeah, you'll get used to it fast. You'll be signing those autographs like a pro soon enough." Tony said and tapped Steve's shoulder. "C'mon. Talk to Bruce, then bed."
Steve nodded, patting Anthony's shoulder one more time and going to Tony's workshop where Bruce and Reed were.
"Hey, Bruce." Tony greeted, and Steve frowned at the tone. It wasn't warm like Tony always spoke to Bruce. He looked at Tony questioningly, who shook his head and mouthed "later." "We've made a breakthrough."
"Steve told me about the baby." Bruce nodded. "Definitely alternate universe."
Tony squinted at him, lips pursed. "Are you going to do the thing?"
Bruce smiled, albeit weakly. "No need now, right?"
"What thing?" Steve asked exasperatedly.
"Reed and I were making a serum that would rid Anthony of any memory of being sent to the future." Bruce admitted. "I didn't want to, but Reed said it was best."
"Rid Anthony of any memory of…" Steve repeated, "Bruce, you weren't actually going to do that."
"Anthony's a genius, and he would want to use what he knows now to change his future. Tony would change, and so would everything and everyone around him. I didn't want to Tony to lose anything he has now." Bruce shuddered out a breath. "I am sorry, Tony."
Tony waved a hand. "Not mad anymore. I'm a forgiving person."
"I'm going to pay for it later, aren't I?" Bruce gave a hint of a smile.
"Not subtly." Tony winked, and then glanced back at Steve. "That's why I was upset earlier."
"Why didn't you say something?" Steve asked, eyes narrowing.
"I just needed to think about it. I was going to tell you. It doesn't matter. No word from Thor about Loki, I assume?"
"No, no news. Do you even have any idea why Loki would bring a younger you from an alternate universe?"
"I think I'd have mentioned it earlier if I did." Tony looked at him with a "duh" expression. "To piss me off? 'Cause that worked."
"He likes mind games," Steve muttered. "This might be a trick of the game."
"A game of…what? What could be, what should be, what isn't?" Tony mused. "So far, the only different thing is my mother being pregnant. So, a life with me having a sibling. That would change a lot, I think."
"One thing changing everything." Bruce nodded. "Okay, let's assume this is a game of his. Does he expect us to win it?"
"But if it's a trick, doesn't he just get his enjoyment and then…poof?" Steve wondered. "Like nothing happened?"
"To only mess with me? He usually has a bigger game plan." Tony shrugged. "I don't know. I'd have to talk to him."
"So we wait for Thor?"
"We're going to have to, if we want to get anywhere." Bruce sighed, and Tony questioned just how long does it take for Thor to crawl under a bed and catch a god of mischief hiding.
His answer came a day later, after spending the day down at the sparse sandy beach at the bottom of the cliff, to the side. Tony didn't go down there much, but apparently beach had excited some certain members of his team and Anthony, expecting an awesome, Tony Stark style beach. Not true, Tony hadn't focused this mansion on the beach material. They wanted a nice beach, Tony had a long list of better ones worthy of awe.
Anthony made sandcastles. It was both hilarious and weird because wow, a Stark making sandcastles. Clint helped, and that made it even funnier.
Johnny got incredibly drunk and good thing he was a happy drunk because Steve looked ready to tear him to shreds. Thor threw him in the water at one point, and Anthony laughed for 5 minutes straight when Johnny heated up the water in annoyance and Clint ran out screaming that his ass was on fire.
Reed and Johnny were only staying to see Anthony off, since Tony wasn't as wary of Richard's intentions as he was before. He got a scrapbook-worthy (Pepper was making one, she told him, it's hidden in her office somewhere, full of blackmail photos) picture of Reed and Bruce laying under an umbrella, one of Clint running around holding his ass, and Natasha spitting out her drink because of a wayward beach ball. He may have also taken one of Anthony for safekeeping, but whatever. No one has to know.
All in all, it was a good day.
That night, Steve and Tony were entangled in blankets, curled around each other, when Tony heard the first burst of thunder. At first, he dismissed it, wanting to go back to his peaceful, post-sex slumber, but then it got louder and the lightning was almost unnatural and Tony knew enough that hey, Thor.
Steve jumped up, still butt naked, and told Jarvis to wake up Anthony and tell him to get dressed in the pair of clothes he was supposed to wear home. The green sweatshirt he'd came in was cut to pieces because the nests that he and Clint made, but the flannel pajamas were still there.
They dressed quickly and met the team downstairs. Anthony looked drowsy, slumped in Clint's arms, who looked just as half asleep. Johnny was missing, probably not particularly willing to get up, as was Reed and Bruce, awaiting Thor's arrival into the mansion.
"Did he find Loki?" Tony asked.
Natasha shrugged. "I'm not sure. I haven't seen him."
Right on cue, Thor strolled in with Loki in tow. Tony automatically scowled at him, and the god sneered right back.
"I have arrived back with my brother, friends," Thor said, a bit tiredly. "He says he does not plan to be hostile."
"Oh, good. Just in time for lovely explanations." He crossed his arms. "Care to explain why you brought a six year old me from an alternate universe?"
"Why should I tell you anything?" Loki raised a thin eyebrow, smirking.
"You were in my not-dream," Anthony pointed to him, frowning. "But you had a helmet."
Loki ignored the boy. "Truth is, this didn't go exactly according to plan."
"What, exactly, didn't?" Steve inquired, staring hard. Loki wasn't one to stand down from a glare, though, even if it was Steve's glare.
"Stop gazing at me like I am about to make you combust into dust." He rolled his eyes. "I am here willingly, not planning to kill you. Not today."
"Why did you do this, Loki?"
Loki shook his head. "'Tis early in the morning, yes? Dawn is rising. What do Midgardians drink in the morning? Coffee? Give me a moment. It's been a long trip. Drink…coffee. And get young Stark out of here."
"Brother…" Thor warned.
"Not your brother—" Loki snarled.
"Whatever you have to say, you can say it now and in front of Anthony." Natasha's nose wrinkled in annoyance.
"There are rules, dear Spider, to magic. Confidentiality matters. You understand, don't you? Go, coffee."
Tony glanced at Steve and Bruce, made a motion with his hand, and they nodded. "Clint, Nat, take care of Anthony and brew some coffee, yeah?"
As much as Tony didn't like it, he was now sitting in the living room with Loki silently sipping coffee, Steve fiddling with his hands in his lap, and Bruce sitting awkwardly while Thor stood watch next to the couch where Loki sat.
"Are you done?"
"No, but I don't think you're patient enough to let me finish," Loki sighed, setting down his mug. "Thor tells me you recognized the time symbol on young Stark's wrist, so you assumed it was your past self."
"And you've figured out that our friend here is from an alternate reality?" He looked amusedly at Tony.
"Yeah. What kind of alternate are we talking about here? And why send a kid version?"
"Something went wrong with my work, which is not often. I was looking into different realities for…entertainment purposes, I assure you, and I came across a familiar Stark in one. This one, I thought, was particularly interesting. I had a nice chat with a much older version of Anthony, as you're calling him, at about your age." Loki smiled, if not a bit devilishly. "He didn't believe me that I had met you, an alternate, and that things are much different here but very much real, just as he and I."
"Okay, and the mistake was…what? Sending kid version?"
"Yes. Instead of sending current him, I sent him from the age he became…separated from your reality. When his life became alternate. I won't bother explaining that kind of complexity…"
Tony wanted to mention that he was perfectly capable understanding, fuck you very much, but he kept his mouth shut.
"What…what changed Anthony's life, then? His sibling?" Steve asked.
"Ah, yes. The big change. Leonard William Stark." Loki shook his head. "The opposite of you."
"You met…Leonard?" Tony asked, mind swimming with the thought of him having a brother. He'd never really imagined it, not really. It was never an option.
"Leo, as he prefers. The quiet genius, the brother in your shadow. His birth changed you, for better or worse you can decide. I don't really care. The point of this was to mess with the other Stark's head. Instead you ended up with a very confused child."
"So you're going to send him back?"
"Without any memories of this, yes."
Tony closed his eyes, heart dropping. Steve's hand found his and he gripped it tightly. "I don't suppose we can debate that."
Loki blinked. "Why does it matter to you? He's not part of your world."
"He's a kid with a harsh life. Can't blame a guy for feeling a little guilty for sending him back without any hope, any sort of comfort for his future." Bruce spoke up.
Loki huffed a little, flabbergasted. "I will never understand you. Well, send him back in. Let's get this over with."
"Whoa, there, Reindeer Games. Sit back down and finish that goddamn coffee. He's not going anywhere until…" Tony was at a loss. When? The situation was explained to Anthony? His memory would be cleaned anyway.
"Until what, Stark?" Loki purred.
"All right, asshole. Just…is there any way that Anthony can go back with his memory?"
"No," Loki said firmly.
"Loki, might you make an exception—" Thor began.
"Thor, you know as well as I do that there are procedures to be followed, especially when it comes to messing with these kinds of parallels."
"Isn't an alternate universe meant to be changed?" Tony glared.
"Oh, for the love of all that is…you want to alter his world. That is perfectly fine. But he has a decent life, mind you." Loki shook a long finger at him. "Wife, children, your captain lover the godfather of his children, I could go on."
"Wife?" Tony repeated, aghast. "Kids?"
"Oh, don't strain yourself thinking about it. Anyhow, do you still want to mess that up for him?" Loki asked. "Last chance."
"It's okay, Tony," said a voice. Tony whipped around to see Anthony climb out of the goddamn air vents, dammit Clint, that's your fault, and hop onto the floor. "He can get rid of 'em."
"Anthony, buddy…" Steve said, sad and defeated. He knows it's not his choice to make, not his, or Tony's, or Loki's. It was Anthony's, because six years old or not, it's his life and his to shape.
"I wish I could remember you guys, but…" He gripped the marking on his wrist. "Maybe I'll see you anyway, you know, if Loki sends future me to here."
"Not likely." Loki snorted.
"Yes likely." Tony shot him a look.
"Then I wanna do it. He says I did okay." Anthony bit his lip. "But can I say goodbye first? And bring my toys?"
"Your…toys." Loki threw up his hands. "I really do not care."
Anthony walked over to Bruce and held out his hand. "You can say it's from…um, I don't know, anonymous? That I have to keep it a secret from who I got these from and I'll find out someday. I can do it. Deal? Can we do that?"
Bruce smiled softly and gripped his hand. "Deal."
Anthony grinned and then it faded as he turned to the rest. "It feels weird saying goodbye if I'm not even going to remember it."
"But we will." Steve walked up to the boy and put a hand on his shoulder. "We will remember and we'll be thinking of you, and your brother. Okay? Say goodbye for our sakes."
"Okay." His grin returned and he threw his arms around his neck tightly. "Thanks, Cap."
"You're very welcome." Steve smiled, and Tony left the room for Anthony to finish his goodbyes with Thor and he went to the kitchen where Natasha and Clint were waiting.
"Well?" Natasha asked, standing.
He smiled faintly. "Time to go."
Clint's face dropped. "Oh. Just like that, huh?"
"Just like that, ya big softie."
"Shut up," Clint grumbled and shoved past him, Natasha following suit, but she stopped and turned back to Tony.
"Are you okay?" Stoic as ever, but still looking concerned, he thought, damn, she's good.
"Peachy." He shrugged a shoulder and smirked. "As per usual."
Natasha smiled ever so briefly at him and continued back toward the living room and Tony figured he was due to say goodbye, too.
Clint was hugging Anthony like a teddy bear, and Anthony was gasping "I can't breathe" when he let go. "Don't do anything I wouldn't do, kid."
"I won't remember," Anthony laughed and let Natasha pick him up and fucking cuddle him and what the fuck, that's the most adorable thing Tony has ever seen from Nat, and for a split second he's nervous she can read minds because she's glaring at him over Anthony's head.
"Goodbye, кролик," she murmured.
"Are we ready?" Loki asked, face impassive. There was a box cradled in his arms, and he knew exactly what the package was.
"Yeah, just a minute." Tony leaned down on his knee and motioned for Anthony to come to him. Natasha put the boy down and he hesitantly went to Tony. "Bye, mini me."
Anthony reached out, as he did days ago, to touch the arc reactor. He rested his palm on it, and smiled at Tony. "I woulda been happy to turn out like you if I ever did, you know."
"Good to hear," Tony said and patted his cheek. "All right, scram. Be good to your brother."
Anthony snorted as he went to Loki's side. "This is me we're talking about." And well, that was good enough for Tony.
"Good luck, dear Anthony. We will meet again, someday, even if you don't remember us," Thor said in finality.
Steve came up next to Tony and squeezed his hand tightly. Tony watched as a bright, greenish light consumed Anthony and Loki in a swirl of energy. His ears roared with a sound he didn't know, and he realized his eyes closed. When he opened them again, both Loki and Anthony Edward Stark were gone.
Tony was glad to say even four days later back at the Stark Tower, Clint moped the most. He'd caught him on several occasions holding that stupid nest that Clint made with Anthony, the one the kid made on his own must have been put into the box with his toys.
To be honest, Tony still felt a little strange when he didn't hear a giggle or the sound of the kid running down the hallway or him talking to Clint at breakfast in the morning, the short term pattern already stuck to him. Steve seemed to be missing the kid too, from the way he brought him up a lot and was "not in the mood" for any sex at all.
He hoped this ended soon, that they could move on because hey, Tony Stark is right the fuck here.
Funny how it was impossible to think that Anthony was him and now it was impossible to think he wasn't. Not technically.
He can't wrap his mind around it.
He looked up from his desk to Steve, and from the way he was dressed in sweats and a form-fitting t-shirt, he just came back from his morning workout.
"Hey. Wanna head up to breakfast?" He started to stand.
"In a minute." Steve halted him and pulled him out of the chair and whoa, okay, he's up against the wall and Steve is kissing him with those wonderful, wonderful lips of his… "I need to ask you something."
"If you're going to ask if you can kiss me again, then god yes," he breathed, trying to lean in again.
"No, listen." He put a finger to the man's lips. "When Anthony and I were walking from the store to the car, you know how the conversation of babies came up?"
"Babies?" Tony parroted, not following.
"I found out that Anthony's mother was pregnant when he told me you and I should…" he stopped, thinking.
"Should what? Fuck and get pregnant?" He raised an eyebrow.
"No, adopt. And it's too early to say anything definite now, but that made me think, you know, of maybe getting there, someday, when we're both ready. But baby steps, right?" Steve laughed shakily. "Okay, this isn't really a baby step."
"Steve, what the hell are you trying to get to?" Is he asking if we can get a kid because I'm not the parental type, I'm not ready, I can't, I'd mess them up, I'd- I don't know, maybe if Steve was there, then maybe I can do it, but…
"Tony. Tony, I'm trying to ask if you will marry me." Steve was beet red, hands fumbling with Tony's.
"Marry." Tony didn't comprehend, staring at Steve with wide eyes.
"Yes, husband and husband, wedding, the whole thing because Tony, I love you. I love you so much and I don't want to let you go. I don't care if—"
Fuck it. Steve's the best thing Tony's ever had, and he wouldn't let him go if it killed him, and—
Tony grabbed Steve's face and tugged him close. "Steve Rogers, I would like nothing more than to marry you."
Steve breathed out a laugh that was almost a sob and wrapped his arms around him and kissed him, hard, and it felt just as good as the first time they kissed, because they were both giddy with excitement, holy shit they were getting married.
Tony decided this was the best happily ever after he was going to get, and that was just fine with him.
A/N: Thanks for reading!