Chapter 1: A Small Surprise
Tony had just gotten off of the phone with Peter when Pepper walked into his makeshift lab in the apartment. "Tony? ...What's wrong?", she asked when he didn't acknowledge her presence beyond a small nod of his head.
"I miss my partner in crime, that's all.", he said with a smile. "He's doing good now, though. Was telling me about the party he went to last night.--"
"--A party? Our Peter went to a party?", Pepper asked with her eyebrows practically meeting her hair. Peter wasn't exactly the party-going type and she hadn't exactly expected that to change over the last several months.
"Not that kind of party, dear. He's not me.", Tony chuckled. "It was him and a bunch of his nerd friends getting together to play some new online nerd game. They all sat in the same room together socializing via chat bubbles while eating take out.", he added with a shake of his head. "He's a mess."
After redistributing some old papers and rags, Pepper took a seat on the edge of the couch. "When's he coming to visit?"
Tony smiled because his kid who had practically begged to come home a couple of weeks ago hadn't mentioned it again, not even one time since then. "After Parents weekend, I think. That's in two weeks. He hasn't stopped talking about it. Which reminds me he wants to know if you're coming with."
"Of course, I wouldn't miss it. Already reworked both of our schedules.", Pepper replied with a smile of her own.
Tony nodded his head and went back to what he'd been working on, spreading out holographic images and expertly manipulating them so that they would come together as he wanted them too. All the while his mind drifted back to his conversation with Peter and he found himself grinning stupidly as he tried to picture him sitting on the floor with his laptop and eating pizza with a bunch of friends. Mostly because it was such a 'Peter' thing to do. That's the kind of college experience he'd wanted his kid to have. Acting like the goofball that he is, making friends and learning a few new things.
After a few moments, he remembered his wife's presence and turned back towards her. "I'm sorry, did you need something?", Tony asked still slightly distracted but it was unusual for Pepper to come in there when he was tinkering so he couldn't help but assume she had something pressing to discuss.
Pepper smiled and started to get up. "I wanted to talk to you about something but I'd rather wait until your not so distracted.", she said with a laugh. It clearly wasn't the time to having any kind serious conversations with the man. His head was in Massachusetts. Then an idea struck her. "Should we go out for dinner?"
"Sure", Tony replied not really thinking much of it. There was some big merger coming up with the company and she probably wanted to make some sort of travel plans. That seemed likely, especially since she was also asking about when Peter was coming home. "I'll be done in here by six."
Pepper laughed lightly. "Six huh? So I should plan on leaving for dinner at eight? ... or nine?", she teased, knowing that he wouldn't actually do that to her. He hadn't in years.
Brushing the images he had before him aside in favor of half-heartedly glaring at his wife Tony replied, "No. I said I'll be done by six, I'll be done by six."
Exiting the room, Pepper laughed, "I believe it when I see it."
Once she's turned her back, Tony petulantly stuck his tongue out and went back to what he was doing. True to his word, by six he was walking into the bedroom ready to shower and take his wife to dinner. "Did you have somewhere in mind?", he asked once he found Pepper inside of the walk-in closet. She was eyeing one of his favorite dresses. A blue one. Blue was her color.
"Let's go to Malone's", she said with a contented sigh. "We haven't been there in ages. Not since--"
"--Our Rehearsal dinner.", Tony finished mostly to prove that he did remember it. She often accused him of being able to memorize random facts but nothing personal. That wasn't entirely true though. He remembered everything. With great detail but sometimes it was easier to pretend that he didn't. "What made you think of that place? It's over an hour away and don't we need a reservation?"
"Well, it's only six and you're Tony Stark. I think you can work it out", she replied with a sly smile, knowing that her husband would eagerly accept the challenge.
Which Tony did and they were soon sitting down by the window in the restaurant that had kick-started wedding day. They sat there with their meals for some time, just reminiscing. Soon the conversation turned to Peter because it nearly always did. "I'll never forget the look on his face when I asked him to be a groomsman. I thought he was going to explode before he could even give me an answer.", Tony laughed. That seemed like ages ago. Peter had been fifteen at the time but still very much an excitable child.
"Mm-hmm, then that was all he could talk about for weeks until the actual day of--"
"--then he was a nervous wreck.", Tony laughed at the thought. "Poor kid, I thought I was going to have to talk him down before we ever walked into the church. ...he did well though. I was proud of him."
"I think he's the only thing that kept you from being nervous yourself.", Pepper said teasingly, though they both knew that was probably true. After the rehearsal dinner, Peter had gone to the hotel to stay with all of the other men, though he shared a room with Tony. From the time they got up the next morning, Peter had been a ball of nervous energy. He'd rambled for the entire ride to the venue and fidgeted in place up until the moment the music started. Tony'd spent the majority of the day assuring him that he was doing fine and begging him to relax. "He's a good kid."
Tony smiled at that. "He really is.", Tony sighed out. After that, there were a few beats of silence before Tony noticed something and frowned. "Is that not the right wine?"
Pepper tried to hide her smile by biting her bottom lip but Tony saw it. "I'm pregnant, Tony."
The universe stilled. The clanking of the glasses and bustling of the people around them went silent. There was nothing left in the world except for Pepper and himself sitting at that table. All he could do was look into her eyes for what felt like several minutes before reality came rushing back and realized that he hadn't actually said anything yet. "Pregnant?", he repeated stupidly. It shouldn't have been a surprise, they'd been trying for a while though he'd all but given up. Perfectly content with his little family of three.
Moving their plates aside so that she could reach across the table to take her husband's hands, Pepper started to tear up. "You're happy, right? This is what we wanted?"
"Of course I'm happy.", Tony said as his fingers intertwined with hers. "I just, I wasn't expecting it. It's a bit of a--"
"--Surprise!", Pepper said over him with a wet smile and an emotional laugh.
"How long have you known?", Tony asked as everything started to sink in and a little spark of excitement was starting to ignite in his chest. A baby. They were going to have a baby. His family was growing but this time it was different. By the time Peter had wormed his way into his life he was fourteen years old. The hard part was done and he got to reap the benefits. This would be a whole new ball game.
Wiping her eyes on the corner of the pristine napkin from her lap, Pepper continued to smile. "I've known for about a week. The doctor confirmed it today. He thinks we'll have a baby around the first week of June."
"Pete'll be home.", Tony uttered with a growing smile because he would have his whole family together right from the start. "...and he is going to be the best big brother ever." Then after some quiet thought, he shook his head and laughed. "Do you think this one will turn out as good as that one because I'm going to be involved this time." He'd said it in good humor but there was an ever so small voice inside of his head feeding him doubt.
Pepper cocked her head to the side and tried to decide if he was serious or not. "You think you weren't involved with Peter?", she asked with skepticism.
In reality, he knew that he had been very much involved with Peter. He had been since the kid was fourteen though not quite so much so in the beginning. Either way, he hadn't been the one to teach him how to walk or talk. Then there were his manners, empathy and all of the other things that made him so... good. None of those things had been from his influence. "I... well, not the important parts. All I did was mentor him and make sure he had the chance to meet his full potential. Everything else just sort of... fell into place. May and Ben...his parents... they did all the hard work."
"Peter is going to be a great brother and you are going to be a great father.", Pepper said softly because she had no doubt.
"How can you be so sure?", Tony asked mostly out of curiosity because her unwavering confidence in him was always something that fascinated him.
Laughing as if he'd asked the most ridiculous possible question, Pepper replied without hesitation. "Because you already are, Tony. You can't possibly believe that you're not. You've been Peter's dad for years now."
That he knew. It had never been said outright, Peter had never called him dad and he'd never claimed Peter as his son. However, there was no denying the sentiment. He'd been calling Peter his kid for so long that people no longer questioned it. It was practically common knowledge, Peter was Tony's kid. "Trust me, I know he's my kid. Always will be.", he said with a genuine smile but he could help but think that being a good father to an infant sounded vastly different than being a good father to a teenager. "This is going to be completely different though. Exciting... but different."
"You'll be fine.", Pepper scoffed, her voice dripping with playful sarcasm. "...and from what I understand you're a pretty smart guy."
"Eh. I'll figure it out as I go along.", Tony said with a smug grin spreading across his face. "How hard can it be? I'm a genius."
Chapter 2: A Small Resentment
Parents Weekend had been a success. Peter had gotten to Introduce Tony and Pepper to his new friends, show them some of the things he'd been learning and maybe his favorite part of all, go out to a sit-down dinner with them on their last evening in town. Tony had found a nice enough Italian place that wasn't terribly far from campus and made reservations so that they could be sure to be seated in a back corner.
The entirety of the weekend had been spent being dragged from activity to lecture to tour by Peter. The only problem was that at every stop Tony, Pepper or both had been cornered by professors and students wanting to talk to them and ask questions. At this point, Peter was used to having to divide his time with the public when out and about but he'd missed his family and was eager to sit down with them and enjoy their company uninterrupted.
As they piled into the L shaped booth Peter found himself inadvertently scooting a little bit closer to Tony than was strictly necessary but the man didn't seem to mind. They ate while Peter filled every moment with chatter. By the time they were clearing the plates, the two adults knew every detail of everything that Peter had been doing over the last month and a half.
While Peter was happily talking up a storm, Tony couldn't seem to take his eyes off of him. Peter was so... big. Grown. Practically an adult and he was about to start another kid from scratch. A smile overtook his face as the excitement once again swelled within him. He wanted so badly to cut Peter off and share his own good news but he didn't. This was Peter's time. He didn't want to take away from that.
"You're going to come to the Brunch thing tomorrow, right?", Peter asked as they waited for the desserts that Tony had ordered them. He knew they were, they'd already discussed it but for some reason, he felt compelled to ask again. He was already kind of dreading them leaving. He was happy at school, of course, but he'd missed this. Sitting at the table with his family. He still missed May and wished she could have joined them but he'd needed this. Time away from school with some of the people he loved the most.
"Yes, Peter. We have our tickets. We'll see you at nine.", Pepper gently replied as she continued to sip on her glass of water.
Peter nodded his head and started to lean ever so slightly onto Tony, taking the man slightly by surprise. Peter had always been a bit...clingy, however, in the last year or so those tendencies had started to taper off some. Things like, sitting closely together and hugging were still common but it had been a while since Peter had melted into his side and he couldn't help but smile and wrap an arm around him in return. "After that, Pepper and I are going to head home.", Tony carefully reminded.
"I know...", Peter replied with a sigh. "...and I sighed up for clean up duty so I'll be busy after that anyway."
Hearing that Peter already had plans for after they were gone was a relief. While it had been several weeks since Peter's break-down and he'd been thriving ever since Tony had still been a bit worried. He supposed he would always worry. Now he was going to have two kids to worry about. The idea made him smile that soft smile that had only ever been directed at Peter.
"What's wrong?", Peter asked in confusion as Tony stared off into space.
"Huh? Oh, nothing, Bud. Just thinking.", he said as he pulled his focus back to the kid beside him. "Think you can get away next weekend? I could come to pick you up after class on Friday and Happy could fly you back Sunday evening."
Peter's eyes lit up at the invitation. "Yeah. That would be awesome. I have a paper due that Monday but I'm sure I can finish it before then.", he rapidly replied with enthusiasm. He was finally going to go home. The idea of sleeping in his real bed in his real room was exciting but mostly it would mean another whole weekend with Tony and maybe they would even work in the lab some. He missed the lab. He missed New York. He missed being Spider-man. Going home for a few days sounded perfect.
Just as Peter had counted down to Parents weekend, he diligently counted down to his visit home. He'd remained studious and well-focused throughout the week. Making sure that the had everything in order and complete. He didn't want any distractions while he was at home. As such the only thing he'd packed up to bring with him was a few stacks of flashcards for the road and when Tony finally got there to pick him up he'd been elated. "I'm so happy to be going home.", Peter said as they pulled into the interstate.
"We're happy to have you home. We've missed you, kid. It's too quiet without you there.", Tony said as he stole a glance at the seat beside him. "We should be back by seven if we don't have to make any stops. Pepper's going to make you that chicken that you like, with the tomatoes and cheese and stuff on it."
"She didn't have to go to all that trouble but that's awesome.", Peter replied with gratitude.
"Are you kidding me? It's no trouble. She loves you.", Tony reminded, not that Peter really needed reminding but it felt like the right thing to say and when Peter smiled and said that the loved her too, he knew he'd been right. He hadn't lost his touch in the last month or so. He still knew exactly what to say to make his kid smile.
From the moment they arrived back in the apartment, Tony was already itching to share the news. All throughout dinner he kept looking pleadingly towards Pepper and then back at Peter. He was smiling so wide that it must have looked suspicious because Peter would stare back at him with a confused look and after some time he finally spoke up. "Why are you two acting so weird?"
Pepper gave Tony a small nod to indicate that he could go ahead and reveal the secret and he took no further persuasion to do so. "We've got some pretty big news, Pete.", Tony said with enthusiasm. "Pepper... well, Pepper should tell you."
Feeling completely unprepared for any kind of big news, Peter started to feel a bit anxious. It didn't matter that they were both smiling or that Tony was giddily bouncing his legs under the table, he couldn't seem to shake the idea that he wasn't going to like whatever they were about to tell him. "What is it?", he asked with trepidation.
"It's good news, kid!", Tony said with a laugh. "Relax about it."
When Peter nodded his head Pepper took a deep breath. "I'm pregnant. We're going to have a baby sometime at the beginning of summer.", Pepper kindly explained as she watched Peter's face for any kind of reaction. Though unlike Tony who had been taken aback for a moment before smiling. Peter seemed to be calculating something as his brows knit together in an unreadable expression.
Those words had washed over Peter like a bucket of ice water causing his heart to drop. He could see Pepper and Tony smiling at him in excitement and he knew they were expecting him to be excited too. He tried. He spent several seconds trying to tell himself to smile and act happy but he couldn't seem to shake the feeling that was building up in his stomach and rising high into his chest. It almost felt like he was... sad but that made no sense. Babies were a good thing and this was going to be Tony's baby. Tony's baby. That thought seemed to be what sent him over the edge because he could feel stinging tears start to prick at his eyes. "A, uh, a baby. That's, that's really great.", Peter said but it came out bland and unfeeling. The complete opposite of how he'd meant to sound.
"Pete?", Tony asked, reaching under the table to place his hand on his kid's knee. "What's wrong, Buddy?" This was happy news. He'd expected Peter to be bouncing off the walls, suggesting names and asking a hundred questions, not for him to be... crying?
"N-nothing's wrong. Congratulations.", Peter said with a forced smile. "I should, I should probably go study. That's really great news, though and, um, thanks for dinner, Pepper it was great.", he stuttered out trying his hardest to sound glad while fighting the lump building in his throat. Once he got into his room he flopped face-first down onto his pillows. "What is wrong with you?", he asked himself out loud as he buried his face and allowed the tears to come. He knew they'd been trying for a baby. Tony had talked about it for a while but that had been well over a year ago. He assumed that it was just something that was never going to happen and didn't really think much about it once the subject had been dropped.
As Peter lay in his bed trying and failing to sort out and pinpoint his reaction, he was unaware that he was the current topic of conversation in the kitchen. "Well, that's not what I expected.", Tony uttered quietly once Peter had made his hasty exit.
"Me either. I thought he would be thrilled to hear that he was going to have a little brother or sister. When I spoke to May she said he used to beg for one when he was younger.", Pepper mused as she tried to decide if they had gone about this the wrong way. Maybe telling him first thing when he got home had been a bad idea. He did look tired.
After some quiet contemplation, Tony abruptly stood up and started to cross the room. "I'm going to go talk to him.", he said with determination. Usually, he was an expert on everything Peter but this time, he couldn't for the life of him, sort out what that reaction had been about. He needed to talk to him.
Knocking lightly on the door, Tony waited for an invitation to enter. Once he had received it he walked in to find Peter laying on his back across his bed. "I don't know what's wrong with me.", Peter miserably stated before Tony had a chance to get a word in. "It really is good news. I know you and Pepper had been wanting a kid and--"
"--We have a kid, kid. We have you. This is another kid. We're just adding to the numbers at this point.", Tony said with a shrug of his shoulders as he continued to try and sort out what was going on his boy's head.
Taking a deep breath, Peter rolled over onto his side so that he could get a better look at Tony. "This is your real kid, though.", Peter muttered, suddenly acutely aware of his parentage. Tony called him his kid and treated him like a son but there was nothing binding about it and he couldn't help but feel like this new baby was going to overshadow him even though there was a small voice of reason telling him that he was overreacting.
Tony was taken slightly aback. Did Peter actually think he was being replaced? The man couldn't wrap his brain around that. He always made a point of telling his kid how much he was loved. Something his father had never done for him but he'd made certain to do frequently with Peter. The same as he would his next child. "Pete... you're my real kid too. Even if you weren't born mine. That's not changing. I love you, Buddy.", he pointed out with care. He'd not expected Peter to be so thrown off by the idea of him having a biological child because it made no difference to him. In fact, there were brief moments when he wondered how it could ever be possible for him to love another child as much as he loved Peter.
"I know. I love you too.", Peter said as the unwanted jealousy continued to nag at him. He didn't like feeling that way. Especially since he did know that Tony loved him. He'd proven it time and time again. He just couldn't shake the feeling no matter how hard he tried. After a few minutes of silence, Peter looked towards the man that he'd seen as his father for the last several years and took a deep breath. "I'm happy for you." He figured if he kept saying that, it would eventually be true.
Tony smiled, hoping that he'd been able to reassure Peter of his place in his life. "You know, you're going to be the big brother, right? I'm going to need your help. I can't possibly do this on my own.", Tony said with a laugh.
"Being a big brother sounds nice, I guess.", Peter replied with a sigh. He'd always wanted to be a big brother when he was small but May and Ben had no interest in having any other children. He'd been an only child for his whole life. Maybe he needed time to get used to the idea. "June huh?"
"That's what they're saying.", Tony said with a smile before giving Peter's shoulder a nudge. "You up to the job?"
"Yeah.", Peter sighed out not feeling nearly as confident as his mentor sounded. "I think so."
Reaching out and patting his kid on the knee, Tony looked Peter over and smiled with pride. "Well, I know so."
Peter nodded he head in agreement as he continued to fight back the negative feelings that were insisting on invading his head. All he could do was trust that things would fall together as they should... as he hoped. That even with a new baby in his life, Tony would make room for him because he honestly didn't know what he would do if he didn't. Tony had become an intricate part of his life and he thought that he'd become an intricate part of Tony's. They'd shared milestones with each other. Peter had served in Tony's wedding and Tony had sat proudly through Peter's graduation.
Since then Tony had become Peter's only constant. He'd moved on to college, May had moved on to her new job, his friends had moved on too... but Tony was still there. Then as if he could read the thought's churning in Peter's head, Tony's voice rang out with seriousness. "I'm not going anywhere, Pete. That's not going to change.", he said before rising from the bed and leaning over to kiss the very top of Peter's head. "You'll always be my kid."
Chapter 3: A Small Mistake
Peter had spent the majority of this trip home going out as Spider-man. Tony nor Pepper questioned it. He hadn't been out in ages and it was safe to assume that he wanted to take advantage of his proximity to the city. That's not completely what he was doing, though. Sure it was nice to be in the suit again. He'd missed the adrenalin rush that came from swinging from building to building and he'd missed the pride that came from helping. However mostly, he was avoiding the two other adults who occupied the apartment.
Ever since the news of the new baby had been announced it seemed like that was all that they talked about. Or course, it wasn't really. They talked about work and Peter's education too but at some point, the conversation always fell back to the baby. They tried to include Peter in the conversations. Called him big brother and asked him his opinions but he still hadn't really adjusted to the news. He'd just recently turned nineteen and the idea of being a big brother didn't hold the same level of appeal that it once had. When he was small he'd wanted a playmate. He didn't really need that anymore.
On his last night in the city, he sat up at the top of the tallest buildings and thought about everything for a while. He knew Tony loved him, there was no doubt but he knew that Tony would love the baby too, maybe more because the baby was going to need him more. The man's focus was going to have to shift to the child that required the most attention and Peter was old enough to take care of himself. So, as he sat, he made a decision. He was going to make a point of not relying on Tony so much. It was time for him to learn how to pick up his own pieces.
The next day Tony opted to drive Peter back to campus rather than allowing Happy to fly him. He felt like he needed more time with his kid. Like, something wasn't quite right. "What's up, Bud?", Tony asked after forty-five minutes of solid silence.
"Nothing. Just tired. I might have patrolled too late last night.", Peter replied with a small smile before leaning his head onto the window.
Tony nodded in understanding and reached over to pat Peter's knee. "Hmm. At least you don't have any classes until tomorrow afternoon."
"Yeah but I need to review and revise my paper. I'll have plenty of time though."
"Should have brought it with you, Kid.", Tony said with a glance to the side. The boy had indicated that he didn't have anything he needed to do when they'd left. Then again, he hadn't been home in a while. He probably wanted to spend all of his time swinging and visiting. "I could have gone over it with you."
"Nah. I've got it, Tony. It's fine.", Peter lightly assured.
"Alright. I trust you.", Tony replied with a smile before glancing beside him once more. Peter did seem tired but he also seemed... off. "Two weekends in a row... I'm going to miss you."
"Mm-hmm.", Peter agreed quickly. "I'll miss you too." He would miss him. He would miss him a lot but with a baby coming into the picture he decided that he may as well get used to it.
The following weeks went fairly well. He stayed busy with his classes and his study group. While weekends were spent with friends and this one was no different. He was sitting in the floor of the common room playing online games with a few other guys. He hadn't told anyone on campus about the pending addition to his family. No one had told him that he shouldn't. He just figured if it had big news when Tony named him his heir, then news of a new baby Stark coming into the world would be paramount. Besides everyone would congratulate him as Ned had and he didn't feel like he deserved that. The baby wasn't even born yet and he was already stupidly jealous of it.
Sighing when he lost his round once again, Peter rearranged himself to look over his shoulder. "I'm gonna call it a night.", he announced and was met with a chorus of well wishes. Then as he was rounding the corner to the stairs that led to his room he paused at a flier. It was out of place because the dorm didn't allow unapproved fliers to be taped to walls. There was a specified bulletin board for approved events. Shaking his head, he grabbed it and crinkled it up in his hands to throw away.
However, by the time he reached his room, he was curious and smoothed out the paper to read it. It was for a party because of course, it was. He rolled his eyes but didn't throw it away. Instead, he laid it on his desk where he spotted his picture frame. Glancing between the faces, he sighed when he saw Tony's and turned the frame over before the image could hurt. Then, looking at the paper once more, he decided that maybe he would go. Tony had told him to have fun and try new things because it was part of growing up. So rather than changing into his bedclothes, that still smelled like home from where Pepper had washed them, he slipped on a long-sleeved shirt and a hoodie and started towards the nearby address. It was just close enough to campus that the scooter he's bought would get him there in half of an hour and that seemed reasonable.
Once he pulled up to the house he started to question himself about what he was doing but the back of his mind kept urging him forward. 'Do it. Everyone does. It's practically a right of passage to go to a college party.', his brain pressingly told him causing him to push aside all rational thinking and walk up to the front door.
There wasn't anyone there that he would say he was friendly with but there were a few familiar faces. One of the boys he recognized from one of his core classes crossed the room towards him. He was older and much more charismatic than Peter. It struck him as odd that the boy who had never paid him any mind would suddenly be approaching him at a party. "I didn't think I'd see you here, Parker. Did think you had it in you."
"Oh, yeah, well, I was just sort of checking it out. I, uh, can't stay long.", Peter clumsily replied. He knew he shouldn't be there. He could smell the alcohol on the other boy's breath. He didn't quite know how Tony would react to him being there but given the occasional comments he'd made over the years, he doubted he would be crazy about the idea. Then, a sudden spark of defiance shot through him and he found himself following the older boy towards the kitchen.
In the movies, drinking was always portrayed as a way to wash away your feelings, an escape from reality and that did sound appealing. Maybe after a few drinks, he could forget about Tony and the pending baby. It didn't seem to work that way, though. By the time he'd downed his third drink, he was a teary mess. It was as if every ounce of hurt he'd been harboring over the last couple of weeks had doubled in size.
At some point what he was upset about seemed to fade into general sadness and he suddenly longed for Tony to hold him. Without much thought, he pulled out his phone and dialed the number. He didn't even have to be coherent to do so, the man's number hadn't changed in years. It was muscle memory at this point. Given the late hour, Tony answered on the first ring. "Kid?"
"Tony.", Peter cried into the phone. "Can you come?"
Hearing the music in the background and the crack in Peter's voice, he knew his kid had gotten in over his head and he didn't hesitate. "I'm on my way, Buddy but it's going to me a minute to get there. Are you there with a friend?", Tony asked with concern. It sounded like Peter was at a party... drunk. ...and that was so out of character for him that it was frightening.
"No.", Peter replied simply. Talking was taking more effort than it should at the moment and his misery was settling heavily in his stomach. "Hurry."
With his anxiety rising he made a split-second decision to take a suit to a nearby hotel and cut the trip to thirty minutes. He could have a room reserved and a cab waiting when he got there. "Alright, I'm coming as fast as I can. Stay put and stay awake."
As he waited for Tony to arrive, his level of intoxication continued to climb. It wasn't that he was continuing to drink as much as he'd so rapidly taken in the drinks that the effects were still building. Then, just as he was about to fall asleep on the couch between several other drunk students a hand was grabbing him by the shoulder. "Pete. Hey, Buddy."
"Tony?", Peter slurred in return.
"In the flesh. Let's get out of here, alright?"
Peter nodded and struggled to stand. When Tony wrapped his arm around him to help him to his feet, the tears started all over again. "Sorry. 'm sorry.", he muttered quietly as Tony shushed him and guided him towards the waiting cab.
"I got us a hotel for tonight. It's not far. You feel sick?", Tony asked as he opened the back door of the vehicle. When Peter indicated that he wasn't, he climbed in beside him and signaled for the driver to start their trip. Then before they could even get out of the driveway Peter was sobbing onto Tony's shoulder. Tony sighed and started rubbing the boy's back. He'd always imagined that Peter would be erratic and impulsive as he was when he was drunk. However, when he thought about it, this made sense too. Peter had always had strong emotions and alcohol was a depressant. "It's alright, Buddy. Almost there."
They got to the hotel and into the room, Peter was already half asleep and Tony had to bare a good bit of his weight to get him to the room. From there he ushered Peter into the bathroom, assuming correctly that he would be in critical need of a toilet before being put into a bed, still crying. "What's wrong, Buddy?", Tony said as he wiped at Peter's wet cheeks.
"You're going to have a baby.", Peter whimpered defeatedly.
"Yeah, I am.", Tony agreed with mild confusion as he cocked his head to the side and ran a hand through Peter's hair and down the side of his face. "Does that make you sad?"
Peter leaned into Tony's hand as it came to rest on his cheek. "You're going to be busy.", he quickly replied. He was tired and his head was still swimming, making the words he'd been planning on keeping to himself flow past his teeth with ease. In his current state anyone probably could have asked him anything and gotten an honest answer. Which wasn't really a good thing considering the kinds of secrets he kept. His vigilante alter-ego being high on the list
"Not too busy for you. You're important too.", Tony assured. He really thought they were past that train of thought and he was now kicking himself for not saying anything when he realized that Peter was no longer calling him daily and that when he did call, the conversations were much shorter. He'd assumed it was because he'd had a weekend at home and didn't need the daily contact anymore. He should have known better.
"The baby will need you more. You won't have time for me.", Peter explained as the tears began to fall heavily again.
"Is that what you think?", Tony asked sadly. "Kid, I'm here now because you needed me. You asked me to come and I did. I'll always make time for you. You're my kid too."
"...but you're not my dad.", Peter said, making Tony's heart rip in two. "You're this baby's dad."
Feeling as though he'd been punched in the stomach, Tony had to hold back his own emotion as he thought up the best response to that. Peter was fragile and not quite of his own mind right now. "I, Pete... I'm, I'm your dad too. I have been for a while.", he hesitantly admitted. He thought that was implied and never realized that perhaps it wasn't. Anytime he told Peter he was his, the boy agreed.
"I know I'm your kid. You always say that. You've never called me your son. That, that's different than being your kid."
Tony wanted to tell him that when it was only he and Pepper talking, they called him their son, that he called him 'son' inside of his head on a regular basis but decided against disclosing that at the moment. Instead, he brought his brows together in question and asked him, "Do you want me to call you my son?"
"Yes.", Peter replied before breaking down into another round of tears that Tony was quick to wipe away.
"Do you want to call me your dad?", Tony asked cautiously. He couldn't decide if this was a conversation they should be having right now or not but it was happening all the same and he legitimately wanted to know. They could revisit the subject when Peter was sober, he thought as he sat there, holding his breath in anticipation, awaiting his kid's answer.
Looking up at the man who he had, in his thoughts, called his father more times than he could count, Peter felt almost relieved. "Can I?"
"Yeah, kid. Of course, you can.", Tony heavily sighed out as he allowed himself to breathe once more. Then as he saw the boy's eyes start to close he hopped up off of the edge of the bed and walked towards the tiny kitchen to get a cup. He had no idea how much his kid had actually drunk but he knew he needed some actual hydration and the sooner the better. "Let's drink some water before you go to sleep. You're not going to feel so good in the morning."
Having finished the cup, Peter laid back down onto the unfamiliar pillows. "Can I go to sleep now?", he yawned, flinching when the action mildly hurt his head.
"Yeah, go ahead. I'm going to step just outside of the door to call Pepper. I'm coming right back but if you need me, shout.", Tony said softly. "Good-night, Pete. Love you."
Those words seemed to confuse Peter even though he'd heard them thousands of times over. "Even though I messed up?", he asked with trepidation.
Giving a small smile, Tony sighed. "Yeah, kid. You could make a hundred mistakes and I would still love you."
Peter nodded in response. "Good-night. Love you too."
Stepping out into the hallway, Tony sighed. It would have been an outright lie to try to tell himself that he hadn't been hoping that Peter would call him dad just then. He and Peter were going to have a lot to talk about in the morning and unpacking those confessions was pretty high on the list. If fact, it was right up there with finding out why his nineteen-year-old was drunk in the first place but right now he was going to make his phone call and get back to his son. Then with one last glance at his already sleeping boy, he shut the door and dialed his worried wife.
Chapter 4: A Small Confession
Having not actually gone to sleep until well after three, Tony assumed that Peter would sleep until noon. However, he was awoken several hours later by the door of the bathroom creaking open and clicking shut. Sitting up on the edge of his own bed and scrubbing his hands up and down his face, he waited for the kid to come back out. As he did so, Tony looked him over and started close the distance between them. "How're you feeling, kid?", he asked as Peter began to clumsily climb back into the bed.
"Like Hell.", Peter grumbled, bringing his hands up towards his temples. "My head hurts."
Tony nodded and hummed in agreement. "Well, that's to be expected.", he stated with no room for argument but went to fetch the pain medication he had brought with him all the same. "Drink the whole glass. Your head hurts because you're--"
"--Dehydrated. I know, Tony.", Peter interrupted as he accepted the glass and drained it within seconds along with two of his pain-killers.
Resting his hand on Peter's forehead, Tony sighed. "It's still really early, Pete. You should try to go back to sleep."
"I can't", Peter replied without explanation. His head ached, his stomach was iffy at best and he had a very clear recollection of everything that had been said before he fell asleep. Apparently, he drank just enough to loosen his tongue but not enough to forget he had done so. He couldn't decide if he was happy about that or not. He'd never expected there to be a day where he and Tony actually talked about their relationship. It had always been something of a mutual assumption based on affection and mannerisms.
"Why not?", Tony asked but he was pretty sure he knew why. If the kid's brain was working then there was no way he would sleep and there was certainly plenty to be contemplating at the moment.
"...because I made you worry and now I'm worried that I worried you.", Peter all but whined before sitting up and leaning on the headboard as his hands fidgeted in his lap. "I feel like I disappointed you."
Taking a seat beside Peter on the bed Tony sighed. "Oh, I'm disappointed alright. ...and while we're on the subject, let me make it very clear that I'm not just disappointed, Pete. I'm pissed.", he said calmly but with some obvious heat. His voice was also dripping with sarcasm but not the fun kind that happened when they bantered in the lab. This was the kind that only came out when Peter had really screwed up. "You're nineteen. Nineteen. You have nearly two more years of law-enforced sobriety ahead of you. Now, since you can't go back to sleep how about you explain to me what made you think that going to a party and getting drunk was such a fantastic idea."
Suddenly feeling the urge to defend himself, Peter looked towards Tony and tried to square his jaw. "Everyone gets drunk at college. It's not like I was the only underage person there."
"Yeah? Well, you were the only one there that I care about, kid.", Tony firmly asserted. He couldn't care less if there had a five-year-old in that room drinking straight vodka. In fact, he wouldn't have even noticed. Peter had been his only focus from the moment he answered that call right up to that very second. "Now talk to me. Please. I am literally and shamelessly begging you to tell me what's going on."
Memories of his drunken confessions flooded into his head once again causing him to blush and falter. He'd never intended to say any of that to Tony. It was meant to remain a secret. Something that he dealt with on his own. "I, I already told you..."
'So he does remember.', Tony thought to himself. "So all of this was because you're what... Jealous?", he asked sounding nearly appalled.
"Maybe... I don't know. It's complicated. I don't even know.", Peter rapidly rambled, making Tony soften his features. "It just, it seemed like a good idea at the time. It was supposed to make me feel better. I didn't know--"
"--You know alcohol is a depressant, Pete.",Tony returned before beginning to falter a bit himself. He didn't love to talk about his past but was starting to think that maybe he should have had some sort of an extended conversation about it before Peter started college. It never crossed his mind that he would need to. Peter was a good kid. Almost too good. He had a moral compass made of gold. "It's not a... a cure-all. Please don't go that route. I've already been there, done that and I can promise you that it causes more problems than it solves.", he explained. "No more drinking, kid. I'm here for you to talk to."
"I know, Tony.", Peter said as his eyes began to water. "Everything had been so hard recently and I felt like I was finally getting it all under control and then... then..."
"...then we told you about the baby.", Tony filled in were Peter's words had failed.
Knowing for a fact that he was overreacting in the worst possible way, Peter tried to own up to his irrational thoughts while explaining his lack of judgment but the more he spoke the worse he felt. "I'm being stupid about it, Tony. It's super selfish and I hate feeling that way but I can't make it stop. I hoped...Well, I wanted to forget about it"
"You can't just forget about it, Bud. That's not going to make it go away.", Tony said softly as Peter started to lean into him the same way he had when he was younger and needed someone to help pull him together. It made Tony's heart sink and sing all at once.
"It's not even that I want it to go away. I want to be happy about it like I should be but my stupid brain keeps telling me that this is going to change after.", he explained as he waved a hand vaguely between them.
Tony squeezed Peter further into his side. An action that came naturally. Comforting Peter was second nature. "What? Us? How many times can I tell you that it won't?--"
"--I know it's stupid, Tony. I know.", Peter said with a bit of irritation. He was frustrated with himself. That combined with all of the physical pain he was currently in left him in need of a deep breath to keep it together.
Realizing that it might be time to bring the conversation to an end, Tony relinquished his hold and started to turn in such a way that he could see Peter's face. "I'd like to ask you a few things but if you're tired we can pick this back up later..."
"I don't want to do it later.", Peter curtly replied. Besides he was pretty sure he already knew where this was going and he would rather get it over with. "You can ask me now."
Softening his tone, Tony took a few moments to decide how he wanted to start. "Alright. Do you really want to call me Dad?", he all but whispered, having decided to jump right in.
Peter being completely unsurprised by the line of questioning answered easily. "I've always called you that in my head. Like, ever since I was sixteen or so.", he said with a verbal shrug. "Only I never said it out loud. I didn't want to freak you out."
"It doesn't freak me out, Kid.", Tony said with a light chuckle because it seemed they had both been playing the same card for years now. Neither of them wanting to chance over-stepping an undefined line. "You know I've been calling you my kid forever now. I wanted to call you my son so many times but I didn't want to freak you out. I thought it was implied, Kid. You are literally my first child. Everything I do with this new baby? It will be based on everything I learned from taking care of you. You made me a dad, Buddy."
Those words had Peter's eyes watering once again only this time the tears escaped and began to fall down his cheeks. He wiped them away almost as quickly as they came and before he knew it he felt Tony's arm wrap around him again. "I love it when you call me your kid. When you told MIT that I was your legacy... it was like, the greatest thing I could ever hear. I felt like I was really your's that day."
"You are really mine, kiddo. That's not changing."
Feeling way better about the situation, Peter took in a shaky breath. "I know. Well, I know that now.", he said as he wiped his eyes and sat forward on the bed so that he could rest his aching head in his hands. Then after a moment of quiet, he laughed lightly. "I can't believe you flew a suit here just because I asked you to come."
"Kid, I would do anything for you.", Tony said assuringly. "You're my son."
Lifting the head out of his hands he looked Tony over as if he were sizing him up. "You really don't care if I call you Dad?"
"Nope.", Tony quickly replied before a smirk formed on his lips. "Might even love it. Has a nice ring to it."
Peter laughed and gently flopped down onto his pillow. "I'm going to be a big brother.", he mused, this time with some amount of excitement. With the doubt in his mind having been quieted, he was able to consider the possibilities of what that role could mean.
"You are. ...because you're my kid too", Tony smiled back, emphasizing their relationship.
Peter nodded and placed his hands behind his head. "I'm going to teach them everything I know. Including how to annoy you.", he said with a smirk as he looked towards the man who was now laying on his side with his head propped up on a hand.
"I would expect nothing less.", he affirmed with a nod of his head and a small laugh.
"Good because I mean it. You're going to have the only toddler in Manhattan that makes pop culture references.", Peter laughed out lightly.
"As long as you teach 'em the good stuff too. Like, how to cuddle and find the good in everyone.", Tony said with soft admiration. Those had been the first two things that popped into his mind but there were so many traits that he hoped his children would share. He knew they would be different of course but if Peter could instill just a tiny fraction of his qualities into his second child then he would feel blessed.
"I can do that.", Peter whispered as he thought about all of the other things he could potentially teach a new sibling.
"You know, Pepper and I have talked about it. When the baby comes, we want you to be there.", Tony offhandedly mentioned. After all of the emotional talk about Peter being his son, it reminded him of the conversation that he and Pepper'd had from the very beginning. "We want to be a family of four before we start letting anyone else in the room."
The notion made Peter smile. While he loved his aunt and was content with that little family of two. He'd also become a part of the Stark's family. What had been a family of three was going to become a family of four. How he had ever doubted his place in this part of his family was a mystery even to him. "That, that's really awesome.", he said before a yawn slipped out of him.
"Try to get some more sleep. I know I'm going to.", Tony replied as he rose from Peter's bed in order to climb back into his own. "We can talk more when you wake up."
"Yeah.", Peter readily agreed. Then, as he rolled over to face Tony's side of the room he hesitated but only for a moment. "Good-night. ...Dad."
Hearing Peter call him that felt frighteningly astounding and it was all Tony could do not to gasp. It was a moment he used to imagine but never actually thought would come into existence. Especially not after the kid had started college but he was grateful. "I love you, kid.", he whispered as he continued to think about how his family was growing and changing and in all of the best possible ways.
As he and Peter both drifted off to sleep they unknowing had the same words going through their heads. 'A family of four.'