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The Bonds Made

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July 20, 2013

 

Steve followed his usual morning routine, cradling his six-month-old daughter in one arm. After her morning feeding, Piper happily crawled around on the blanket. Steve sighed, setting down his coffee mug, and started flipping through the channels.

He hadn’t sleep last night. For once, his restlessness wasn't due to nightmares or stress, but energy. He had too much of it. Instead, Steve spent the night running laps. Hours of running earned him less than an hour of sleep. He craved activity.

Steve sighed again. He loved Piper more than anything in the world, but he wanted to do more than be at home with her. Following the daily baby routine wasn’t fulfilling anymore, not that he didn't love every intimate moment with her. He just wanted something more.

Tony wasn't stopping him from working or forcing him into the stay at home omega life. Steve had fallen into it. It became a habit. When Steve grew up this was what omegas were supposed to do. This was the kind of life his mom and Bucky wanted for him. There was a time when he actually wanted a life like that, but then he’d realized there was so much more out there. He shook away the thought.

When Steve’s maternity leave ended nearly two weeks ago he had expected a flood of requests, but there was nothing. He'd checked in with S.H.I.E.L.D to make sure they were aware of his availability, but nothing happened. 

Piper was an easy baby, not posing many of the challenges most infants did, so most of his days were spent coming up with new ways to stimulate her mind. Even with her limited vocabulary, she could get her message across without crying. She was already answering yes and no questions. The only issued he'd been having with her was teething.

“Papa?”

“Hungry?” asked Steve.

She shook her head so Steve joined her on the floor. Piper offered him Plats, the platypus lovey Peggy gave her. Piper only offered up her treasured toy when she thought someone was having a bad day.

“I’m fine, sweetie,” Steve

Piper whined and wrapped her tiny hand around his finger, squeezing it.

“Daddy is coming home today.”

“Dada!”

“What? Is he your favorite?” Steve teased.

Piper instantly seemed more interested in a nearby toy. Steve smiled. Tony was in China, having gone stir crazy after his surgery. Bedrest was torture for Tony. At times Steve was almost tempted to tie him to the bed. That thought planted far too many blush-inducing ideas in the omega’s head. He touched the second band he wore on his ring finger. Made of the melted down metal pieces removed from Tony's heart, it was one of Steve’s most prized possessions.

He looked up in surprise when the elevator doors opened. Tony wasn't due home until later tonight. Natasha strode in, dressed in civilian clothes.

“Nana,” gurgled Piper in greeting.

Natasha frequently visited unannounced, seeming to find comfort in their company. Steve enjoyed it. Natasha's visits meant a chance to spar. It kept his skills sharp. She joined them on the couch, snatching the remote.

“What’s the occasion?”

“Don’t you have a session in a few hours?” replied Natasha.

"So, you came to babysit," Steve asked. There was no point in asking how she knew.

"And I wanted some quality time with my goddaughter," she agreed.

Steve just nodded.

Natasha eyed him. “You were hoping I came with a mission.” He nodded again.


“Do you think you’re ready?”

“More than,” huffed Steve. He was itching for it.

“I’ll see if there’s anything we can use you for.”

“Thanks,” said Steve with a sort of sheepish relief.

"There's nothing wrong with you."

“What?”

"Wanting to do more than the Papa thing – it doesn't mean you're a bad parent," explained Natasha.

“Would you want more?”

“I don’t know. I was made so I could never have such a chance.”

“Sorry.”

“Don’t be.”

Soon enough it was time for him to leave for his session with Dr. Turner. Piper was too busy playing with Natasha to notice him leaving.

 

*****

He sat on the couch across from the aging beta.

“Something on your mind, Steve?” Dr. Turner asked.

The question went ignored.

“How’s Piper?” A mention of Steve’s daughter was always a conversation starter.

“Good.”

“Your maternity leave is over are you worried about leaving her?”

“No, it’s the opposite,” sighed Steve.

“You want to leave.”

Steve put his head in his hands. "What kind of parent wants to leave their pup? Is this the postpartum depression coming back?"

“I don’t believe so.”

“Then what’s wrong with me,”

“Nothing.”

“Nothing?” repeated Steve.

"How would you feel if you were forced to stay at home with Piper?"

“I love her,” Steve hedged.

"I know, Steve. Anyone can see that, but that's not what I asked. Give me some descriptors," said Turner gently.

“Bored, unfulfilled, uninteresting.” Steve’s guilt grew with every word.

"And there's nothing wrong with that"

“What?”

“But I’m an omega. It engrained into me to care and love my pup,”

"And that's what you're doing," affirmed Turner.

"How? I want to leave her."

 “You aren’t failing as an omega. How does your inner omega feel about leaving Piper?”

“Fine, Piper’s healthy and I trust in Tony’s skill to protect and care for her,”

"Then what's the issue?"

"This goes against every omega instinct."

"You are thinking too traditionally, Steve. Many people have gone through what you're experiencing. There are entire books about it. I would recommend The Feminine Mystique it tackles that exact subject. It was written by a female omega,"

“I’ll consider it.”

*****

The rest of the session went smoothly.

Piper smiled when she saw Steve as he returned to the tower.

“Miss me?”

Piper nodded. He scooped her up in his arms. She beamed up at him. and he could see her teeth were coming in.

"I love you,"

"Luv you."

Steve smiled. There was still enough time to spar. He needed to get this energy out.

"You want a training session," Natasha offered.

He nodded. Steve packed a bag so Piper would have something to do. She got fussy if she didn't have something to engage her mind. He set up a play area for not far from the sparing mat for her.

"Papa play?"

"Yes, Aunt Natasha and I are going to play." Steve emptied a box of Lincoln Logs in front of her. "Be good."

By the time they finished he'd worked up a good sweat. When they went to check on Piper she was tackling a Curious George stuffed animal.

"She's learning quickly," said Natasha.

They spent the rest of the day together.

“Will you be staying for dinner?” asked Steve.

"Sure, what you are making?"

“Pasta,”

“Passta," said Piper.

He put Piper in the playpen. She whined, pressing against the mesh barrier of the enclosure. "It will only be for a little while, Piper. I need to make dinner,"

“Dindin?”

“You already had dinner.”

He got started. Natasha worked on the sauce. Piper started pouting.

“Should I get her?” asked Nat.

“No, she needs to learn to be patient,”

Piper kicked angrily against the pen, causing it to scoot. Steve put the water on to boil. Plop, he looked back to see one of Piper’s toys floating in the water. He fished the teething giraffe from the pot.

“Impressive aim,” said Natasha.

“Piper,”

“Papa,”

“You’re not getting this back,”

She chucked another toy at him. He caught the block.

“Don’t throw things.”

“Don’t trow tigs,” mimicked Piper before she tossed another block at them.

Natasha laughed. “She really doesn’t like that playpen,”

"Ever since she started crawling she hates being penned in," explained Steve.

"I don’t blame her."

"I can't imagine what she'll be like when she starts walking," said Natasha.

"That's what a child leash is for,"

It might be a good investment. Piper seemed like she would wander. He went to the playpen, taking out all the toys. She glared him before crying. He hated hearing her cry, but eventually Piper went quiet, seeming to understand it was getting her nowhere. When the pasta was done and plated, he took Piper out of the playpen. She whimpered and cuddled against him.

“Sorry,"

“It’s okay,”

He set her down on the blanket near her favorite toy a pile of large Legos. Piper loved snapping together the pieces and building new shapes.

“That will keep her busy,” said Steve.

Natasha flipped through the channels stopping on TLC. Say Yes to the Dress was on.

“You like this?”

“A guilty pleasure,” she admitted. Natasha loved watching the reality TV shows. How ridiculous they were never made her smirk. It somehow made her feel better about her own life. She watched Say Yes to the Dress for a different reason; it was something she could never have. She would never have that moment.

“Nat, why haven’t they put me to work?”

“They don’t want to push you into something you’re not ready for or some bullshit excuse like that.”

“Do you think I’m ready?”

“Yes, but the question is do think you are?”

“I do.”

“I’ll make sure they know that.”

Around ten Natasha got ready to leave. Steve walked her to the elevator, Piper asleep in his arms.

“Thanks for visiting.”

“I love seeing her.”

“She always loves a visit from her, Aunt Nat.”

“I’ll call you if I could use you on an assignment.”

“Thanks.”

Steve put leftovers in the fridge for Tony before carefully setting Piper down on their bed. He took his Stark pad from the side drawer and downloaded The Feminine Mystique. Steve only used it to read. Most of what he read was nonfiction that caught him up on current events and important public figures. Halfway through he heard Tony come in so did Piper.

“I didn’t think you’d be awake,” greeted Tony.

“Can’t sleep.”

“Nightmares?”

“No, too much energy,”

“I’d be happy to help you work it off,” smiled Tony.

Steve laughed. "Always looking for an excuse."

"With you as my husband can you blame me."

“No.”

“So, is that a yes?”

“No.”

“I had to try.”

“There’s leftovers in the fridge if you’re hungry.”

“Ate on the plane.” Tony changed then joined Steve in bed. “What you reading?” he asked.

“A book Turner recommended,”

“Enjoying it?”

“It puts a light on things.”

“Is that good thing?”

Steve nodded. "How would you feel about me working again?"

"Steve, I've told I don't mind. It will be good for me to spend more time with Piper."

"Are you sure?"

“Yes,”

Tony kissed him.

“Do you mind if I sleep?” he asked.

“No,” said Steve.

 

(July 21, 2013)

 

Steve woke up the early next morning to the sound of his phone ringing. He quietly left the bed taking his phone into the bathroom.

“Hello.”

“Hey, Steve.”

“Nat.”

“I’ve got a job for you.”

“What’s the assignment?” he asked eagerly.

“It’s with S.T.R.I.K.E team,”

“When?”

“In a week, but there’s a catch,”

Of course, there was a catch. “What is it?”

"It's five days. Can you do that?"

Steve sighed. He would have to use the pump. A week would give him plenty of time to make enough bottles for Piper while he’s gone.

"I can do that. Thanks, Nat,”

She hung up. All he had to do was tell Tony. The alpha accepted the idea of him working in theory, so hopefully, he'd be just as accepting in reality. He tucked his phone into his pocket, returning to their bedroom.

“Papa, hungry.”

He took Piper to his chest. She latched. He winced when accidentally bit him.

“Teeth, Piper,”

She tried following his request, but hunger outweighed her patience. Steve sighed accepting it. Maybe transitioning to the bottle wouldn't be a bad idea. When she was done, Steve put her in a yellow dress. The sunflower headband she wore stood out in her dark hair. He set her down on a blanket so she could play. Tony never was a big breakfast person, especially when he was jet-lagged, so Steve just ate two bagels.

“What to go on a run?” he asked Piper.

“Yay!”

“Jarvis put a pot of coffee on for Tony.”

“Of course.”

Tony woke around 8:30. Steve’s side of the bed was empty. He probably went for a morning run. The smell of coffee lured him out of bed. He poured himself a mug. Tony went through fridge taking out last night leftovers. He took several bites before putting it back in the fridge. Steve came back an hour later. He seemed relaxed.

“Have a good run?”

“Yeah.”

“Dada! Dada!”

“There’s my little girl!”

Tony took her from Steve tossing her into the air. She giggled.

“She missed you,”

“I was only gone a few days,”

"That's an eternity to her,"

Tony nuzzled Piper as she purred. Steve's fingers tapped nervously against the counter.

“Say what’s on your mind,” said Tony.

“I got an assignment.”

“When?”

“A week, I’ll be gone for five days.”

Tony gulped. He would be alone with Piper for five days. That would be the longest the two had ever spent together alone.

“You don’t want me to go,” said Steve.

"No, that's not it. The idea of being alone with Piper for five days is a bit intimidating, but I'm sure I'll manage." With his free arm, he hugged Steve.

“So you’ll let me go?”

“‘Letting’ implies I can make you do anything.”

“You’re okay with me going?”

“Yes.”

 

(July 28, 2013)

A week later Steve woke at four in the morning to leave for the mission. His bag was already packed and ready to go. Tony and Piper were asleep. He glanced back at the bed. Piper was tucked securely in Tony's arms. He returned to bed and kissed them both.

“I love you,”

He crept out of their room and to the elevator. Steve got onto his bike. It had been years since he was last on a motorcycle. He started the engine and speed off to S.H.I.E.L.D. Steve pulled into the parking, freezing for a moment when he saw Agent Coulson's empty parking space. He shook off the feeling. Coulson died over a year ago.

Steve changed into his desert uniform. He paused before putting on his shirt. S.T.R.I.K.E team, especially if Rumlow a member of the assignment, would never let him live it down if he started lactating on assignment. He wrapped his chest before putting on his shirt.

“Ready to go, Cap,” said Natasha.

He nodded, surprised she wasn't dressed in a black jumpsuit. Instead, she wore baggy cargo pants, a t-shirt, and a cotton shawl over her head. He nodded, following her to jet and the four members of the S.T.R.I.K.E. team. Rumlow smirked at him.

“Finally, off diaper duty.”

Steve nodded but stayed silent. It was best not to feed into it. Doing that would only egg Rumlow on. He got into the jet, taking a seat next Natasha. It was a long flight to Egypt. Their target was hidden in the Mount Sinia mountain range. It was supposed to be a place of peace.

Tony woke up to Piper wailing. At some point, while they were sleeping she'd gotten out of his arms and crawled to Steve's side of the bed.

“Papa!”

He picked her up, rocking her gently. Her cries turned to soft whimpers. He gently rubbed her back.

“Papa?”

“He’s at work.”

Her small brow wrinkled. She didn’t understand. Piper wouldn’t understand even if he explained what work was. He rubbed her back.

“Change,” she whined.

"Didn't need to tell me that, sweetie,"

She squirmed uncomfortably in his hold.

“Hold on,”

Tony set her down on the changing table. He took a breath before unfastening the diaper, throwing it out and putting her in a fresh one. Ever since they'd started introducing solid food her diapers had taken on a new level of stink, apparently, that was normal.

“Parrots or elephants?” he asked holding up two onesies.

Piper looked between the two and pointed to the parrots, then smiled. It was a small distraction. Eventually, she would figure out that Steve was gone.

“Parrots, it is.”

“And shoes?” Tony picked up several pairs of shoes. Piper pointed to a pair of red sequined shoes with little flowers along the band. He slipped them onto her tiny feet. She instantly grabbed at her sparkling toes, giving a happy squeal.

“You have an interesting taste in style, Pipes,”

She pointed to a drawer.

“Stay.”

She nodded. He pulled it open. It was filled with headbands and hats. He took out several, holding up different options. She pointed to an orange one lined with small orange flowers.

“Satisfied?”

She nodded.

“Hungry,”

Tony picked her up and placed her on her blanket in front of a pile of blocks. He put a bottle in the warmer and Jarvis turned on the news. The toys seemed to catch her interest while Tony waited for the warmer to bing. He tested it against his wrist. When he tried taking her from her toy she cried.

“Toy!”

“It will be there later.”

“No.”

Tony sighed. He would be hearing a lot more of that in the future. He prayed she wouldn't be half as rebellious as him. Shit, he put his mother through so much when he was teen. He glanced down his baby daughter playing. It was almost impossible for him to believe she’d ever grow up. Why couldn’t she stay this way it would make things so much easier?

She had no idea what he was thinking. Piper was too occupied with the wooden magnetic blocks. She was obsessed with them, unable to figure out how they stuck together. They were big enough for him not to worry about her choking on them. About ten minutes later hunger overcame her interest.

“Hungry.”

Tony scooped her up, offering her the bottle. She huffed, pushing away the bottle.

“Papa?”

“He’s not here,”

She screamed.

“We’ll try this again later.”

He put her in the high chair and put on her bib. Tony placed a bowl of mashed avocado in front of her. She instantly jammed her hands into it and flung a handful of at him.

“Nope.”

He took the bowl away. She huffed at him but settled her back in her chair. He offered her a spoonful of the greenish mush. She opened her mouth to eat, and eventually finished off the entire bowl. He wiped off her face. How she managed to get it all over her face was beyond him. On the second attempt, she accepted the bottle. He hummed to her as she ate. Those innocent blues eyes looked up at him.

“You are so perfect.”

Once she finished he set her back down and packed a diaper bag. Dum-E and U would keep her entertained in the lab. The bots hadn’t lost their fascination with her. He picked her up again and took her to the lab and made a play area for her. As soon as he set her down Dum-E and U sped over to her.

“Dum, U!” cooed Piper.

The two bots happily entertained her. Every time she tossed a toy they'd go rushing after it. Sometimes Tony had to break up fights between bots over who returned the toy to her.

 

*****

Their jet finally landed. Steve instantly got out his seat stretching out. A wave of heat hit him as they stepped foot into a desert. Large sand dunes surrounded them.

“I thought we were meeting at the base?” questioned Steve.

“This is the base, Cap,” said Rumlow.

He looked to Natasha. She nodded. The ground shook under their feet. A massive building erupted from the sand. How many places like this did S.H.I.E.L.D. have? A stern, middle-aged woman stepped out. She seemed irritated. Her curly chestnut hair was tied in a ponytail. Her olive skin weathered from years of working in such terrain. She was dressed in lightweight clothes with her arms crossed. Her brown eyes only softening slightly when she spotted Natasha.

“Neema,” greeted Natasha.

"It's nice to see you, Natasha."

Neema just glared at the rest them. “Follow me.”

Steve relaxed instantly when cool air touched him. He wasn’t built for this kind of heat. The team followed Neema into what seemed to be the heart of the base, where she immediately pulled up an attack plan. The wrath of the woman’s glare seemed to be focused on Rumlow. Steve couldn’t fault her for that. The plan seemed pretty straightforward.

Steve tensed when ‘Ten Rings’ was mentioned. They had kidnapped he and Tony, mutilated his mate, and exposed his unborn daughter to a dangerous chemical. He had a dog in this fight.

“This is pretty straight forward. I don’t see why we need your assistance. My people can handle this,” said Neema.

“Don’t get your panties in a bunch, we’re only assisting,” said Rumlow.

The beta’s hand went to her knife.

“You haven’t changed,” she said.

“Still hanging onto the past. The promotion hasn’t changed that much,” he said.

Neema’s hands fisted. Natasha cleared her throat, breaking the tension between the two.

"A large team will draw too much attention. It will be better to go in with a small squad. Natasha, Captain Rogers, one of my men, and I will make up that group. Rumlow you and your men will provide backup,” said Neema.

Rumlow’s jaw locked.

“Is that a problem?” she asked.

"This is your operation," he said.

"And I thought that fact escaped you," said Neema.

There was something so satisfying about seeing Rumlow put in his place.

“When do we go?” asked Steve.

“Tonight,” she said as they left the debriefing room.

“What is Neema’s position?” asked Steve.

"She head of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s operation in North Africa. She worked ruthlessly to get the position,” said Natasha.

Steve got the idea that ruthless wasn’t only describing Neema’s work ethic.

“What’s her history with Rumlow?”

"They trained together and were rivals for a while, competing for the head of S.T.R.I.K.E. Rumlow was lead on a deciding mission. He miscalculated. Got the entire team was killed except for him and Neema. Him being him, he pinned it on her. By the time it was cleared up he was given the position and she was demoted,” said Natasha.

"And how does she know you?"

"I was the one who cleared things up, but the higherups wanted Rumlow,”

“Why?”

“The board wanted him. There’s always a glass ceiling,”

He spent most of the day with Natasha. Around five his chest a slight ache spread across his chest.

“Steve?”

“It’s nothing.”

She raised an eyebrow. He sighed.

“I didn’t get a chance to nurse Piper before I left.”

“Oh.”

Steve laughed. It so rare that he left Natasha speechless. She seemed to have a response for everything.

“Do you need to do anything?”

“No, I’ll be fine,”

Part of him was tempted to call Tony but now wasn’t the right time.

“It’s okay to miss them,” said Natasha.

Steve didn’t think he’d be missing them so soon.

“It doesn’t make you weak.”

Soon enough it was time to head out. He boarded a jet with Natasha and Neema. They landed as close to the target area as possible. Their small squad made their way toward the base. A dark narrow entrance came into view. Steve crept forward shield at the ready. Instantly ducking as gunfire pinged defenselessly against it. He took out the gunman.

The tunnel forked. He and Natasha split off to the right. They were forced into a single file approach as the tunnel narrowed further. In some areas, he was forced to lower his shield to side at some points.

His keen muscle memory of battle activated for the first time months. The activity he craved for months was finally satisfied. It was over to soon. He continued through the maze of tightly knitted maze of tunnels, Natasha watching his back. An explosion went off shaking the ground.

“Neema?” Natasha called over the radio.

“We’re fine.” Neema replied. "One of them ran, setting off a booby trap. Keep a lookout."

Their pace slowed, barely missing several pitfall traps with spiked barbs. The space was too large for the average person to jump.

“Get on my back.”

Natasha climbed onto his back and Steve easily made the leap, even with her added weight. She slid off him. It took hours just for them clear the maze. Steve sighed knowing it would take days too clear this out.

 

*****

 

Tony sat in bed with the Piper cradled in one arm. With the other, he worked. He'd managed to keep her mind off Steve's absence for most of the day. He gazed down at her, her blue eyes verging on closing. She yawned, falling asleep. He doubted tomorrow would be easier than today.

Around one in the morning, he was able to fall asleep. Three hours later Piper's screaming woke him up. Jarvis instantly turned on the lights. His eyes stung as they adjusted. He searched for any signs that would have caused her to make such a sound. She seemed okay, dry diaper.

“What’s wrong, pumpkin?”

She only cried. He picked her up taking her into the kitchen, taking a bottle from the fridge. While waiting for it to warm he hummed to her. He gave her the bottle as she reached for it

“I thought we passed the late night feedings, Pipes.”

Her eyes began closing again after she finished off half the bottle. He walked back to the bedroom.

“Papa.”

She reached toward the studio doors. Ah. That's where she thought he was. Steve would lock himself in his studio for hours when he was having a bad. Tony thought Piper would put that together. He sighed, pushing open the doors to the studio. Piper looked around. The confusion was so clear in her expression. She started whimpering.

“He’ll be back in four days,”

She started wailing. Looked like three hours of sleep would be all he’d get today. He sighed and started walking her around the penthouse, all the while singing Steve’s lullaby to her:

Rest tired eyes a while
Sweet is thy baby’s smile
Angels are guarding and they watch o’er thee
Sleep, sleep, grah mo chree
Here on you mamma’s knee
Angels are guarding
And they watch o’er thee
The birdeens sing a fluting song
They sing to thee the whole day long
Wee fairies dance o’er hill and dale
For very love of thee
Dream, Dream, grah mo chree
Here on your Mamma’s knee
Angels are guarding and they watch o’er thee
As you sleep may Angels watch over
And may they guard o’er thee.
The primrose in the sheltered nook
The crystal stream the babbling brook
All these things God’s hands have made
For very love of thee
Twilight and shadows fall
Peace to His children all
Angels are guarding and they watch o’er thee
As you sleep
May Angels watch over and May the guard o’er thee

 

 

July 29, 2013

 

By the twentieth verse, Piper fell asleep, so Tony put her to bed again. Hopefully, there wouldn't be any more disruptions. At six in the morning wailing resumed. So much for sleep. He went through Piper’s morning routine. Even after being fed and changed she wouldn’t stop crying. Maybe it was the teeth. He took her teething ring from the freezer offering it to her. She threw it and screeched.

“Can’t make easy for me can you?”

“Papa!”

“He’s not here.”

She screamed directly in his ear.

“That won’t make him come back.”

Those tearful blue eyes did a number on him. They had the same effect as Steve’s -something he would do anything to repair. There was nothing he could do to mend this. Was it to soon to call Steve? It would be twelve in Egypt, the middle of the workday. Waiting until night would be better.

Steve checked his phone for what had to be the hundredth time today. Tony hadn’t called him yet. He expected a call as soon as he left.

“Is someone homesick?”

He glared at Rumlow. The alpha had taken some shrapnel to the leg and was overplaying it to get out of the heavy lifting. They’d spent the night there. Steve went back in to grab another crate. It would take days to catalog, which meant hours of work potentially in front of a computer. He tossed Rumlow a clipboard.

“What’s this?”

"Since you can't help with the physical labor start on the paperwork."

“What’s the rush? Missing your family,”

“Get to work,” said Steve entering the cave.

Steve didn't get a single phone call that day. He couldn't call home himself. This was something he had to get used to this. He would have to go on assignments, so both he and Piper would have to adjust. Steve tucked his phone into his back pocket.

 

August 1, 2013

 

Tony was exhausted after three days with less than six hours of sleep. He wasn't the only one lacking sleep. Piper’s crankiness led to several holes in the walls penthouse from the toys she'd thrown. He would have to patch those holes before Steve got home.

“Sir?”

The only period of silence he was granted was when Piper ate. He could stay up for days at a time with ease working on a project, but that was different. He didn't have a crying pup breaking his concentration.

“What?!”

“I’m only reminding you that Piper has an appointment with Dr. Banner today in an hour,” said Jarvis.

“Fuck.”

Human interaction was the last thing he wanted to deal with right now, but Piper’s checkup was more important than his preference.

“Want to see, Uncle Bruce?” Tony cajoled.

“Bru.”

Piper smiled. It was the first one he'd seen all day and Tony relaxed. Seeing that single expression melted his stress and tiredness away. He put her down in the playpen. She didn't fuss, yawning softly. A small victory. Tony laid down on the couch. He only needed a few minutes to close his eyes, that’s all. In what felt like seconds later, Jarvis woke him up.

“Sir.”

“I’m up.”

He brought Piper to the medical floor. She was only half awake. He rocked her in his lap, waiting for Bruce. The door opened.

Bruce stopped and stared at the tired man hunched over in the chair, bouncing an equally tired pup in his lap. There were bags under his eyes and he was unshaved.

“You look terrible,” said Bruce.

Stark glared at him.

“I thought she was sleeping through the night.”

“She was then Steve left for work.”

“Oh, when will he come back?”

“Tomorrow. Will it always be like this?”

“She’ll adjust.”

“How long will that take?”

“It’s different for every child. Shall we get started?”

Tony handed her over. He closed his eyes resting them for a few minutes, trusting Bruce to take care of her.

“Bru,”

“Hi, Piper,”

She smiled tiredly.

“Not making it easy for your dad are you,”

He performed the average checkup. Everything was fine. Bruce put Piper back in her clothes, Piper nodding off in his arms. Tony was asleep in the chair.

“Jarvis.”

“Yes, Dr. Banner.”

"When Stark wakes up tell him I have Piper."

“Of course.”

Bruce quietly closed the door, taking Piper up to the penthouse. He laid her in her crib. She was out in seconds. Bruce couldn't leave her. There was something wrong about leaving her alone. He settled in the rocking chair across from her, taking a book from his bag. There was something so peaceful to this.

He paused on a page resting the book on his lap. Piper was an amazing child. He truly looked forward to seeing what the future held for her. Children had never been something he'd thought about. It wasn't an option now, of course. Piper was probably the closest he'd ever come. Her parents were some of the few that would ever trust him with a child. He returned to his book.

Tony woke around three in the afternoon. Piper!

“Don’t worry, sir, she’s with Bruce,” said Jarvis.

Tony instantly relaxed. His back was stiff from sleeping in the chair. “How long was I out?”

“Five hours.”

Tony rubbed the sleep from his eyes. He needed a shower. Hopefully, the green giant wouldn’t mind babysitting for a little while longer. When he got to the penthouse he found Bruce laying on the floor running an intelligence test on Piper. She thought it was a game.

Tony shrugged not caring. He constantly tested Piper’s growing intelligence. Bruce didn’t notice when he walked by. He went to his room, shedding his clothes, and got into the shower. The hot water helped wake him up. He toweled off and changed into fresh clothes before heading to the kitchen.

“Bruce, I can take over.”

“Oh.”

“Unless you want to watch her a bit longer.”

“If you don’t mind.” said Bruce.

“She’s all yours.”

Tony instantly went to bed, out as soon as his head hit the pillow. Around eight he relieved Bruce of nanny duty. As soon as Bruce left the crying started up again. The quiet was nice when it lasted.

Steve paced outside the campsite. The night was so much more tolerable than the heat of the day. The sky was beautiful. He checked his phone. Steve twisted the rings on his finger. It was three in the morning here but he was still on New York time. It finally rang.

“Tony.”

“Hey, sweetheart,”

His voice was tired. In the background, Piper was wailing.

“I’m sorry to call you at work but she won’t settle down and my voice isn’t doing it for her. Could you sing to her?”

“Sure.”

“I’ll put you on speaker.”

Piper instantly became alert when she heard Steve’s voice.

“Let me see her,” said Steve.

He smiled when saw Piper. Her face went alight and she sniffled, her tears drying.

“Hey, sugar lump.”

“Papa.”

“I miss you so much.”

She reached out. His heart ached not being able to touch her.

“Having trouble sleeping?’

She whimpered. He started singing to her. When she fell asleep to the song, Tony took him off speaker.

“Thank you, sweetheart,” said Tony

“I don’t mind. I miss you and Piper.”

“I miss you too.”

Steve wanted to reach out and cuddle his mate. Steve sighed. He’d done his job. Now it was time to go home.

“You must really miss us to sigh like that.”

“I should have taken a shorter mission. We’ll start slower next time so we can get adjusted,”

“Yeah.”

“I love you, Tony.”

“Love you too.”

“I’ll be home soon.”

“See you soon.” Tony hung up.

Steve smiled. They would be leaving later today. He couldn't wait to see his family. He groaned, his chest growing damp. The stains were too prominent to hide, luckily most of the camp was asleep. He heard laughter.

“Someone clearly misses his pup.”

He glared at Rumlow.

“You should be with your pup.”

For the first time, he found himself agreeing with Rumlow. He knew the alpha meant a more permanent stay, so Steve only glared at the alpha. Anything more would only tip off Rumlow’s ego. He went to the tent he shared with Nat. She was working on something on her laptop. He took off his shirt drying his chest with it before putting on a fresh one.

“Ready to go home?” asked Natasha.

“Yes.”

On learning that Steve was coming back, Piper was finally settling down for him. She napped, ate, and played with little fuss. It had taken her nearly five days to accept the idea that Steve was away. He would catch her staring at the elevator door every now and then.

“Papa?”

“He’s coming home today.”

She smiled. Tony sat down with on the pink fluffy blanket beside Piper and built a block tower with her. Blocks, Legos, Lincoln logs anything she could build with; she never lost interest in them. Piper handed him Plats.

“I’m fine, baby girl.”

“Dada.”

“Yes.”

“Luv you.”

He kissed her on the forehead.

“Love you too, pumpkin.”

Tony got up, instantly stepping on one of Piper’s Legos.

“Fuck!”

“Fuc!”

"No, Papa will kill me if you learn your first curse word so soon."

“Fuc!”

She smiled brightly. This was more than mimicking behavior. Piper was teasing him. No, he was overthinking this.

“Dora?”

Tony groaned. The last time he watched Dora the Explorer that damn theme song was stuck in his head for days. “Please anything else? Like Sesame Street or Bob the Builder?”

“Bob.”

“Thank you.”

 

August 2, 2013

 

Steve arrived back at the New York S.H.I.E.L.D. facility at eleven that night. It would be close to one in the morning when he got home. He swung onto his bike, starting up the engine and speeding home, not caring if it earned him several tickets. Steve pulled into the garage. He toed off his shoes before entering the penthouse.

“Welcome home.”

"Thanks, Jarvis."

Steve maneuvered through the toys littering the room, shed his clothes and got into bed with his mate and pup.

“Hey, sweetheart,” murmured Tony.

“I didn’t mean to wake you. “

“It’s alright. I’m happy to see you.”

Tony kissed him. Piper stirred against them.

“Papa,”

She wriggled out of Tony’s hold, scooting toward Steve. He held her closely, breathing in her scent.

“I missed you so much, Piper.”

“Papa,” she purred, quickly falling back asleep.

“Glad you’re home.”

“Me too.”