Chapter 1: Chapter 1
Tony dragged the hologram up and over, trying to figure out where the image and the actual product deviated as Morgan ran back and forth across the lab with the ‘bots.
They'd gone back to Manhattan and Stark Tower so Peter could continue going to school at Midtown without the family being split up too badly.
Tony remembered when Peter was born. He'd been an idiot kid, barely in his thirties and in the middle of his most hedonistic and self-destructive years, but still smart enough to know he wasn't ready to be a parent even if the idea of a kid was something that sounded so… terrifying yet hopeful? Thankfully, Peter's other parent was of a similar mindset: put the kid up for adoption. They didn’t want a kid at all, ever, and he wasn’t ready for one.
The kid had apparently grown up to be better than Tony could've ever hoped for: smart, kind, and with enough hope and compassion oozing out of him to be contagious. It made Tony proud to be able to finally get the chance to be a part of his life, no matter the circumstances behind it.
What was weird was his luck had done a complete 180° and he'd gotten three kids instead of the one.
Pepper had been great about the whole thing, but she always was about everything. They'd never discussed kids, but she told him one night since that it didn't sound so bad and it was nice having little feet running around the tower and her office.
Happy had been relegated back to chauffeur duty, taking Peter back and forth from his and May's apartment and school as subtly as possible. He'd also thoroughly vetted one of his top guys to drive the younger two all the way up to their school every day.
The professor had offered Peter a place at the school, but he had declined, saying that he couldn't ignore his responsibility of being Spider-man.
That had made Tony proud, if a little nervous, and it still made him feel the same way now.
Speaking of now: he realized he hadn't been paying as much attention to his work as he should have and the gauntlet began smoking and making a high-pitched whine as it started to overload.
Immediately, his attention went to Morgan who was running in his direction. Tony went to call for his armor to envelop her, but the eleven year old had already tackled him to the ground and used the spare parts lying around to build a case around the malfunctioning component just in time for it to explode.
A loud boom! echoed from the container, smoke billowing from the cracks. Tony stared. That was… way too close for comfort.
The boys came skidding in from the chem lab, worry etched into their faces and Peter armed with his web-shooters.
“We're fine,” Tony called, hand running absently across Morgan's back. The little girl shook, anxiety running through her veins after the fact.
Dum-E wheeled over and sprayed the mess with a fire extinguisher.
“Thanks, little guy.” AJ patted his arm with his ever-gloved hand, making the 'bot chirp happily before rolling away.
“Let this be a lesson to you,” Tony lectured, standing and brushing himself off. “Always pay attention to where and how you're grounding your wires.”
Peter's eyebrows rose.
F.R.I.D.A.Y.’s voice came over the speakers: “Boss, did you want me to call the cleaning crew?”
Tony looked over the mess and the kids, noting how the worst of the mess was just the remains of the foam from the extinguisher. Morgan hadn’t even gotten a scratch on her, landing on top of him instead.
“No, I think we’re fine.” He ruffled Morgan’s pixie cut. “Nice job, kid.”
She smiled, taking in the sight of her handiwork.
“What do you guys think about pizza and a movie?”
The whoops of delight were answer enough.
The elevator doors opened, allowing Pepper onto their floor.
Tony smiled at his fiance over the pizza boxes as he set them on the counter.
“How was your day?”
Pepper smiled tiredly, kicking her shoes off and dropping a stack of papers on the table.
“That bad, huh?”
She leveled him with a look.
“I am going to go change, we are going to eat as a family, and then we are going to do something mindless.”
He held up both hands in surrender.
“We were planning on a movie and pizza? The kids were just changing into their PJs.”
Some of the tenseness came out of her shoulders, a look of defeat taking over.
“I’m sorry, it’s just-” She seemed to search for the right words, but was unable to grasp them.
Tony rounded the counter and pulled her into a hug.
“I know.” And he did.
It’d been hard the last few months.
First, they’d wound up with three kids out of nowhere. That would throw anyone for a loop, even someone as tough as nails and prepared for everything as Pepper, but then there was the whole mutant rights issue.
Tony was dealing with the political and news side of things, and that was going about as well as expected, but the fallout was hitting Stark Industries hard, which left Pepper as the CEO to answer to the board. They hadn’t been sure if either she or Tony should even be allowed to have any say whatsoever in the company in case this whole thing blew up in their faces.
Of course, she’d been her usual self, proving (as always) that she was perfectly capable of making proper decisions that were well thought out and completely non-partisan during the meetings, but they were still stressful.
Tony let her go to their room and queued up the movie just in time for the kids to come down. AJ saw the papers on the table, his eyes lighting up.
“Mom's home already?”
“Yep, she’ll be out in a minute.” Tony checked the clock. “Hey, Pete, is May coming over tonight or did she have to work?”
The teenager plopped on the couch, wrapping himself up in the fluffiest blanket Tony had ever seen. (Was that a spider thing or just a Peter thing? He’d have to ask May.)
“She’s supposed to be here, maybe just a little late.”
Morgan helped him bring the pizza boxes over to the living room, setting them on the coffee table for everyone to start digging into.
Pepper came out and joined them; AJ curling up on the end of the couch, Morgan in between the parents, and Peter on the other end in his blanket cocoon. (Eating pizza that way should have been impossible, but that boy always found a way to do everything.)
Morgan had picked the movie and somewhere along the way, Tony had started scribbling plans for a smaller, less bulky version of Baymax. AJ had thrown in his own ideas and Peter had made a few suggestions. Morgan thought it was cheating if she helped, but had offered to help with the building later on when it came to a prototype.
Pepper paused the movie somewhere during the armor creation scene (which, Tony had to admit, was awesome) so they could brainstorm. Diabetes testing and anxiety treatment included, all in the form of something the size of a teddy bear.
AJ got up to get something to drink, so Tony didn’t notice that anything was wrong until he heard the glass shatter.
Immediately he and Pepper were in the kitchen, quickly trying to bypass the mess.
Peter grabbed both their arms before they could get very close.
“It’s okay, just give him a minute.”
Tony really looked at his son, standing stock-still with his gloved hand on the counter and his eyes glazed over with a golden haze to them. Oh .
He hadn’t actually seen him do this yet. He didn’t think Pepper had, either, otherwise she would’ve told him.
Tony could barely see his chest moving and he wasn’t blinking at all. It was almost like he’d turned to stone.
“F.R.I., can you monitor his vitals for me, please?” The AI chirped in response, displaying steady but lowered readings on the wall.
Morgan grabbed a broom and started sweeping the glass away from AJ’s feet.
“Make sure he doesn’t fall,” Peter called as he went and grabbed a blanket from the couch. “Sometimes he loses his balance when he tunes back in.”
Pepper rounded to their son's back, ready but not touching him in case that sent him spiraling off into something worse. Tony walked around to his side, studying the data on the screen and waving a hand in front of his face for a moment to see if he reacted.
“Is there anything we should or shouldn’t do?”
Morgan dumped the glass in the trash and joined her mother.
“The usual: no touching, keep your voice low, and just wait it out.”
Peter came with the blanket in his hands right as AJ blinked rapidly and stumbled forwards into the counter, his knees buckling just a little bit.
Tony held out a hand to steady him, but remembered not to grab his arm just in time.
“Hey, Sweetie.” Pepper’s voice was soft and low. “You okay?”
The teenager swallowed, his eyes wet. He refused to look up from the counter and his right thumb kept rubbing at the middle finger on the same hand through the leather.
“AJ,” Peter prompted. “What did you see?”
Tony had made sure to read every file on that hard drive, memorizing every word, so he could ensure that all of the time travelers had the easiest transition into their new lives, but he’d paid special attention to his own children.
The tabloids and more legitimate news sources had always called Tony the Futurist, but in AJ’s case, that was actually true. Since he was a toddler, he had been clairvoyant, getting glimpses of the future that didn’t quite make sense or had weird context until you were in the middle of it .
And it certainly didn’t help that ninety-five percent of the foresight he got involved some catastrophe or death of some kind. The kid’s mental health was probably about as good as Tony’s at this point.
They were all silent as he stood there, opening and closing his mouth, trying to start a sentence and failing to find the right words. He would look to Tony and quickly look away as his bottom lip began to shake.
Tony knew that expression well, like he was looking at someone with an incurable disease. Crap. Okay, this was fine. They could figure this out.
Finally, AJ was able to take a deep, shaky breath.
“Dad, can I skip school tomorrow and go with you to your meeting?”
Tony met Pepper’s eyes and then focused back on AJ.
“Should I cancel it instead?”
He frowned, screwing up his nose.
“No, nothing’s going to happen tomorrow. I just-” He paused. “I think someone bad is going to be there, someone that wants to hurt us.”
Tony watched his hand. It hadn’t stopped it’s motion, as if he was fiddling with a ring that wasn’t there. Weird finger to wear one, but okay.
“Okay, we’ll let the school know you won’t be coming and we’ll have Happy raise security. Sound good?”
He nodded. He still hadn’t relaxed, but that would have to do.
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
The meeting happens.
Pepper Potts has definitely earned her place as CEO.
I didn't get the chance to edit like I wanted this morning, so I'll probably come back and fix that later today.
I love AJ and one of my readers was talking to me about chapter one and they made me so happy. Leave me comments or come say hi on tumblr. I love hearing people talk about these stories because it reminds me that people actually care about them.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Tony adjusted his tie. This was going to be a long day, but if he was going to war, then he was going in the best armor that Pepper would allow: a three-piece suit with a baby blue tie that hid the slight glow of his new nanotech prototype. (Pepper knew about the latter part and had actually insisted on it.)
AJ had insisted on wearing a suit, even though both of his parents had said he didn’t have to. He was a teenager and they’d already managed to pass his gloves off as an eccentricity easily enough, but he didn’t want to stand out anymore than he already would.
They entered the boardroom, Tony flashing his signature Stark Grin™ at the occupants.
A few of the company’s board members came by to shake his hand, politely nodding or even outright ignoring AJ. That was fine by the kid, but rubbed Tony the wrong way. It just felt… wrong.
They kept their smiles on their faces, though, and continued making small talk with the big names of the company and the visiting potential partners.
had shown up in the last decade or so and made a pretty decent name for itself creating medical equipment for the most part and they were really adamant about getting into mental health as well.
When they heard about Tony’s work on B.A.R.F. (which had been going by it’s full name and would have to have a name change before it went into production) they had immediately asked to be a part of “such a ground-breaking innovation in the world of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder therapy.” Tony had quickly reminded them that there were so many other things it could be used to treat, but they were already sold.
One of the oldest members of Stark Industries came over, taking Tony’s hand in her fragile one and holding with a strength that belied her appearance.
“Tony, it’s so good to see you out of the lab.” Ms. Yumako was probably in her nineties and had always been like a grandmother to him, even if he didn’t get to see her very often. (Though, that was partially - mostly - his fault.)
“I’m sorry, I’ve been busy.” He put his arm around AJ’s shoulders. “Between the new prototypes and these guys, it’s all been a little hectic.”
“You must be Anthony.” She held out her hand before withdrawing it quickly and lowering her voice. “I’m sorry, I understand you don’t generally like to shake hands.”
AJ shrugged, smirking and lowering his own voice.
“To be honest, I don’t think anyone here really wants to shake my hand besides you.”
Tony frowned but a playful look came over Ms. Yumako’s face, making her look more like a mischievous child.
“Well, then, I think you could get away with more than even your father.”
The two laughed, loud enough for Pepper to look up from her conversation on the other side of the room with a questioning look in her eyes. Tony shook his head with a smile, indicating that he’d tell her later.
It was almost time for the meeting to start when a man came up behind Tony. He was tall, large and muscular. He grasped Tony’s hand as soon as he turned around and shook it vigorously.
“It’s so good to meet you. William Everson, Founder and CEO of Phenomenologies .” His grin reached ear to ear.
Tony was taken aback by his energy for a moment but soon matched it.
“Hey, nice to meet you.” He gestured to AJ. “This is my son; he wanted to come see his parents at work, hope you don’t mind.”
Tony didn’t miss how AJ blanched when Everson’s attention turned to him.
“Well, good morning, son.” The man held his hand out. “How are you liking it so far?”
Tony’s eyes widened slightly when he noticed how AJ had covertly slipped his right glove off before shaking the man’s hand. The boy’s face was pleasantly friendly and curious like any other kid would be when they visited their parents at work; entirely unlike AJ.
His brown eyes lightened just a shade as his touch-activated ESP kicked in, but he answered the man’s question with enough faked enthusiasm to throw his father for a moment.
“It’s kinda boring, but there are a lot of new people to talk to so I guess it’s cool.”
“Just you wait. We haven’t even gotten to the most boring part yet.” He turned and patted Tony on the shoulder, giving the genius a perfect view of the class ring on his right middle finger. “You've got a good kid here.”
And he was off schmoozing it up with the others.
Tony kept his smile plastered on his face, but he knew it didn't reach his eyes. The mask on AJ, though, would've given the Black Widow a run for her money.
He stepped closer to his father and leaned in as he slipped his glove back on.
Tony side-eyed the other inventor.
“That's the guy you were talking about?”
Tony pursed his lips and eyed his son.
“I thought you didn’t do the whole-” He gestured vaguely, not wanting to use the word psychic in public, just in case they were overheard. “Without permission.”
AJ looked at him with the most serious expression Tony had ever witnessed, voice a whisper so low it was barely audible.
“Only with permission or if lives are at stake.” He looked around, fear in his eyes. “He wants to sell B.A.R.F. to the military to get inside people’s heads to extract information. He’s also violently anti-mutant, but he’s smart enough to keep that to himself, which makes him even more dangerous.”
Tony’s stomach sank. He knew this whole meeting sounded too good to be true.
They were all called to their seats, Tony making his way next to Pepper in a slight daze. He leaned over in his seat, touching her wrist to get her attention and whispering in her ear.
She studied him for a moment, taking in the look in his eyes before putting on her game face and jotting down a note for her assistant before the meeting began.
For a while, it was as if nothing was amiss. They discussed prices and equipment and development. Where would it be built? Who would be in charge of marketing? Yada, yada, yada. Tony did not care as long as it was easily accessible to those who needed it most. He’d honestly be happy giving it away for free if the board would allow that.
AJ’s knee kept bouncing throughout the meeting. The others might be able to pass that off as a teenager’s energy, but Tony could see his eyes darting back and away from Emerson every time the man’s attention was on the other end of the table.
Ms. Yumako must’ve caught it, too, because she frowned and cast Tony a look. What’s wrong?
Finally, Pepper’s assistant, a kind and hard-working kid named Kyian, came rushing back into the boardroom with wide eyes. He handed her a small stack of paper and her expression hardened after reading the first few sentences.
She held up her hand, stopping the discussion of percentages immediately.
“Why is your company interested in this technology?”
The table silenced, the Stark employees’ eyes widening. They all knew that tone. Virginia “Pepper” Potts only ever used that tone of voice when someone broke Stark Industries’ Golden Rule: No Weapons.
Emerson, to his credit, didn’t allow his smile to slip in the slightest.
“We already told you: To help those who are unable to get past trauma live better and more fulfilling lives.”
Tony bit the inside of his cheek. Quoting his own PR team? Really? Come on, man.
“That’s not quite true, is it?” Pepper slapped the papers on the table for all to see.
At the very top of the first page was the seal of the United States Government.
Emerson, smile still in place, gulped. He opened his mouth, but Pepper cut him to the quick.
“Yes, I’m sure you can explain, but how about I tell you what I see there.” She placed her finger on one of the paragraphs. “Yes, there are agreements to provide medical equipment, which we can respect, but here we see a deal for non-consensual information gathering.”
She flipped to a different page.
“Here’s another deal to provide a machine to the CIA for a means of torture.”
“Now, we would never-”
“It doesn’t matter what you put on paper that they were going to use it for,” AJ interrupted. “The only thing that matters is what your actions would have caused.”
Emerson glared but AJ didn’t break eye contact, his jaw set in defiance.
“We here at Stark Industries have a code of ethics,” Tony drew the attention to himself. “We are open about it and before we ever even come to these meetings, we make sure that our potential partners are aware of our No Military Weapons Contracts policy.”
“But these aren’t weapons contra-” one of Emerson’s lackeys tried to argue.
“A weapon isn’t just a bomb or a gun,” he said, cutting the other man off. “It’s anything that causes harm to another person, whether they’re the same as us or entirely different.”
Emerson glared, obviously knowing he’d been found out.
“But the fact that you tried so hard to hide these deals tells me you knew exactly what you were doing.” Tony knew that Pepper was already making plans to dig deeper into all of their future deals to ensure this wouldn’t happen again.
“I think we’re done here.” Ms. Yumako stood, using her cane to steady herself before making her way to the door.
The rest of the boardroom cleared out pretty quickly after that, leaving the three of them to collectively let out a sigh of relief.
“Okay, spill.” Tony nudged AJ’s elbow. “How’d you know it was today and how’d you know it was him?”
AJ’s clairvoyance shouldn’t have been that accurate.
“I saw the B.A.R.F. glasses and assumed it had something to do with the meeting today. They were-” He paused, looking pained. “On someone and the person was surrounded by people with military badges.”
He took off his gloves and laid them on the table, cracking his knuckles as he stretched his arms above his head.
“I saw an image of a hand with a ring on it; a class ring from Wharton.” He shrugged again. “It was a lucky guess.”
Pepper narrowed her eyes, nodding to the gloves.
“A good enough hunch to make you risk everything.”
By everything , they all knew she meant outing himself as a psychic. The world wasn’t kind to those and probably wouldn’t ever be.
AJ chewed his bottom lip, looking up through his lashes at his parents.
Tony threw his arm around his shoulders.
“You did good, kid.”
Bruce and the Hulk are next!
I meant to write Rhodey after that, but... @couchpotaito on tumblr gave me plot bunnies, so Des, the next two stories are entirely your fault.