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The Fairest of Them All

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This is the fifth costume shop that Tony has found himself in and he can feel the migraine forming behind his eyes. The screaming and temper tantrums from numerous kids at each store only seemed to get progressively worse as the day dragged on and Tony was seconds away from buying the entire chain of stores just to kick everyone else out. Thankfully, Stephen is by his side, and while he is chuckling at Tony's visible frustration, he's also rubbing soothing circles in his back and reminding him why he's putting up with it all in the first place: Peter.

Tony and Stephen had always picked Peter's Halloween ensemble so it aligned with their own theme, or gave him a choice of some preselected options. Peter had given a very convincing speech this year though about how he was a big boy at five years old and wanted to choose for himself, which is how Tony found himself in a hell that rivaled Chuck E. Cheese. He had tried in vain to help Peter search online for the perfect costume - cough, Iron man, cough - but his kid wasn't impressed with the findings, opting to hunt in person for the perfect one.

It was a week before Halloween, so their options were already pretty slim, but Peter took the decision process very seriously. He had outright refused to be any of the Avengers, which stung, but also eased Tony’s mind that his son didn’t prefer to be Captain America like so many others. Tony isn’t sure he could have handled that sort of betrayal. Peter also wasn't impressed with the typical picks of video game characters, pirates or other superheroes. So far, Tony was holding the only two options that Peter hadn't blatantly said no to, which happened to be a cowboy and fireman costume. They were no Iron Man, but they were solid choices.

Peter was exploring the last aisle of the store as Tony and Stephen conversed when Tony heard "Daddy! Papa! I found it!" screeched before Peter came dashing over to them with a garment in hand.

Tony kneeled to be eye level with his son who was bouncing around ecstatically. "You did, hmm? And what did you decide on?" Peter held up his selection, showcasing the Snow White garb he had chosen. "Wow baby, it's beautiful. You're going to be so pretty."

"Yeah! I'm going to be a princess," Peter proclaimed as he excitedly nodded. "I like the red shoes that come with this one."

"Yeah, I like the red too sweetheart," Tony affirmed with a smile. "Okay, go put these other two back and we'll go pay for this one." As Peter ran off to return the unchosen costumes, Tony rose up and practically crashed himself into Stephen's chest. "Oh, thank God. I don't think I could have made it to another store."

"I know, honey," Stephen chuckled. "Let's get you home. I think you and Peter could use some shuteye."

Back at the tower, Tony and Stephen had no chance of being able to put Peter down for a nap. The boy could hardly contain his enthusiasm as he pranced around in his costume to show Pepper and Rhodey. They both clapped and hollered like he was walking a catwalk at some elusive fashion show as he twirled on the tiled floor of the penthouse. Pepper even put some makeup on Peter to complete his look and showed Stephen each step so he could apply the same technique on Halloween. The blissful moment left Tony enchanted, thinking that he would brave a million stores just to see his son with that smile again.

When October 31 finally rolled around, Peter was a bundle of energy as Tony got him dressed in his costume for school and Stephen’s shaky hands carefully applied his makeup. As his husband added the finishing touches, Tony left to make breakfast so they wouldn’t be late. Tony was busy plating the food when Clint arrived on their floor asking if Tony could design some new arrows for him.

Clint’s plea of why he needed them cut off mid-sentence though as Stephen entered the kitchen holding Peter in his arms in full getup and he took in the sight of them. Tony took that as his cue to walk away and come back to that topic after he had about six cups of coffee. He quickly dropped off his family’s breakfast at the table before telling Peter, “Wow, princess. You look so pretty. You’re going to have all the dwarves after you.”

Peter beamed at the compliment before digging into his eggs. “Thanks, daddy. I can’t wait to show Ned,” he responded with a mouth full of food.

“Is Ned still coming over tonight to go out trick or treating with us, bunny?” Stephen asked.

“Mhm,” Peter happily hummed. “He said he’s gonna dress up like Daddy.”

“I knew I liked Ted,” Tony joked as he fixed himself his first cup of coffee.

Peter gave Tony an exasperated look for forgetting his best friend’s name before directing his pleading eyes to Stephen. “Papa! Tell Daddy he’s wrong!”

“It’s Ned, sweetheart,” Stephen explained with a smirk on his lips. “Don’t worry Pete, Daddy’s just being silly.”

Peter shook his head at their antics and Tony smiled fondly at the two before he noticed Clint was still standing there with a puzzled look. “Cat got your tongue, birdbrain?”

Stephen and Peter seemed to startle, only just realizing that someone else was on their floor. Clint’s eyes never left Peter as he asked, “You’re wearing a dress?”

“Clint...” Tony warned.

Peter was unfazed by the question. “Yeah! I’m Snow White!”

“You didn’t want to be a superhero or anything...with pants?”

“No," Peter said without hesitation. "I liked the sparkly red shoes.”

“Petey, finish your breakfast,” Tony ordered as he pulled Clint roughly by the elbow a few feet away. “What is your problem?”

“My problem? Your son is wearing makeup and a dress to school,” Clint scoffed. What’s your problem? He’s going to get the shit kicked out of him. Is he gay?”

“He’s fucking five, asshole. If he wants to dress up as a Disney princess, he’s going to. If he does wind up being gay, who gives a shit? He will still be loved and cherished. So, I suggest you back the fuck off,” Tony growled as he shoved his finger into Clint’s chest, “because I’ll be damned if you, me or anyone else tell my child what he can wear or who he is supposed to be.”

“Do you even care about him? He’s going to grow up with no friends if you let him parade himself around like–“

“Like what?” Tony interjected.

“You know exactly what, Stark,” Clint berated. “Remember how awful you claimed your childhood was? Why set him up for the same ass-kicking?”

“Get. Out,” Tony snarled.

Tony was still fuming as Clint left when Stephen came to stand by his side asking, “Everything okay?”

“Oh you know, just an early helping of reprimanding with a side of snide comments about our parenting,” Tony quipped.

“Let the peanut gallery make their comments,” Stephen urged as he wrapped his arms around Tony. “You focus on Peter while I clean up.”

The rest of the morning was a flurry of commotion as the adults rushed to get ready for their day before taking Peter to school. Tony managed to drop Peter off at school with a quick kiss just as the bell rang, and then he and Stephen were off to SHIELD for an Avengers meeting. He was dreading having to see Clint so soon after this morning but pushed his anger deep within where he kept most of his feelings bottled up.

The meeting had been pretty standard. There were lots of requests for Tony to build this and fix that and lots of complaints about a few recent close calls on missions. Tony was just about to doze off when his phone rang and he saw the number for Peter’s school flash across the screen. Steve bristled at the interruption and Tony flashed an apologetic smile as he held up his phone. “It’s from Peters school. I’ve got to take this.”

The sound of the school counselor crackling over the speakerphone filled the room as she requested Tony to come immediately to pick up Peter. Tony cast a wary glance at Stephen as he asked, “Is he okay?”

“Peter is fine, Mr. Stark,” the receptionist replied. “When can we expect your arrival?”

Tony was already gesturing to Stephen to gather his things as he tried to find out the meaning of the unexpected phone call. “Sorry, you’re going to have to elaborate. Is he ill? Did he have an accident?”

“No, nothing like that. He’s being sent home for violating the school's dress code,” she explained.

“Are you kidding me? Did he take off his costume or something?”

“I’m afraid his attire is the problem, Mr. Stark. School policy clearly states that costumes cannot be…risqué.”

“Let me get this straight,” Tony huffed as he pinched the bridge of his nose, “you’re sending my child home because his Halloween costume is a dress? Is that correct?”

“Yes, that is right,” she affirmed.

Clint dares to snicker and Tony stares daggers in his direction. “Of all the–You know what, I’ll be right there. Make sure the principal is free to meet with me for wasting my time.”

Tony muttered a half-hearted apology towards Steve before stalking out of the room with Stephen hot on his heels. The sorcerer drove them to the school while Tony stewed in his rage in the passenger seat. He couldn’t believe the gall of these so-called adults admonishing Peter’s choice of costume.

As they parked and made their way up the steps, Stephen slipped his hand into Tony’s and gave a firm squeeze in solidarity. They found Peter seated in a plastic chair just outside the principal's office with tear tracks littering his face, streaking the makeup his husband had so gently applied only hours earlier. Tony hated to see his sweet boy’s body racked with sobs and he practically ran to him and lifted him into his arms.

“Oh, baby. You’re okay,” Tony cooed.

“Daddy,” Peter wailed. “I-I w-was bad.”

“You could never be bad, pumpkin,” Tony soothed. “Who told you that?”

“Ev-Everyone,” Peter hiccupped.

“Their wrong, Pete. I promise you they are so wrong. Here, go with Papa,” Tony said as he passed his son into Stephen’s waiting arms. “Daddy needs to talk to your principal before we go home, okay?”

Peter dug his face into the crook of Stephen’s neck as he sniffled, but nodded in response.

“Mr. Stark, it’s a pleasure to see you,” Mr. Morita greeted as Tony entered the office. “Please have a seat.”

“Cut the shit. Tell me why you’re sending my boy home for a dress,” Tony demanded.

The principal gulped nervously in response to the hostility he could sense. “Some of the other parents complained that their children felt uncomfortable. Our hands were tied.” He shrugged in a what can you do gesture.

“So, your school panders to bigots? The press will love that,” Tony chided.

“Please, Mr. Stark,” Mr. Morita pleaded, “we're just trying to ensure that the school is a safe environment for everyone.”

“And who’s looking out for my son? It’s the goddamn twenty-first century and you’re telling me that a boy playing dress up as a princess is disturbing? Frankly, I’m disgusted by this entire administration,” Tony scolded.

“Mr. Stark–“

“Save it,” Tony griped as he waved his hand dismissively. “You’ll be hearing from my lawyer.”

Peter's face was still buried in Stephen’s shoulder when Tony exited the office and Tony couldn’t quell the anger within him. He was on the phone with Pepper the minute they entered the car and spent the entire drive back to the tower detailing the day's events while she cursed on the other end. Knowing her, she would have the PR team release a hellish statement regarding the incident and pull all Stark Industries funding from the school district before he even hung up.

Stephen was an angel, murmuring reassurances to Peter the whole car ride home and peppering his face with kisses as his cries slowly died out. Tony had never been more thankful for his husband than at that moment.

Tensions were still running high by the time they made it home. After the mishap with the school, Peter was adamant about not wanting to trick or treat. He was terrified of being taunted or punished for his choices. It broke Tony’s heart.

As Peter sat on the couch in the living room quivering, he asked in a sorrowful tone, “Daddy, why was everyone mad that I was Snow White?”

“No one is mad that you were Snow White, bunny,” Stephen assured softly.

“Uh-huh,” Peter exclaimed. “The kids said I should have been a boy, b-but I’m already a boy.”

Tony’s heart hurt at the thought of Peter’s peers picking on him. “Yeah, you are,” he said as he crouched in front of where Peter sat on the sofa. “Some people just aren’t as brave as you are, baby.”

“Did they not like my dress?”

“They just didn’t like that you wore a dress, Pete. But, that’s their problem. Not yours. You understand?”

Peter nodded, but he was far too young to comprehend why wearing a feminine outfit would upset others. “Were they mad that I got to be a princess?”

“I think they were,” Tony agreed. “You know how I always tell you that you can be whatever you want?” Peter dipped his head in acknowledgment. “Well, some kids don’t have parents that let them decide. They tell them that they have to be a certain way, so some of your friends just don’t understand because they’ve never been told that they could be a princess if they wanted to.”

“That’s mean,” Peter whispered. His brows furrowed in thought before asking, “Can we tell them, so they know they can be pretty if they want to?”

“Pepper is telling the world as we speak, baby. Soon everyone will know.”

“So, I can still go trick or treating in my costume?” Peter asked hopefully.

“Absolutely,” Stephen and Tony replied in unison.

By the time Ned came over and they were preparing to leave, Tony and Stephen could still sense Peter’s worry. Tony had never encountered a problem he couldn’t fix though, and he wouldn’t let this be the first. “Pete, Ned, get your shoes on and your buckets ready. Stephen and I are going to get our costumes on,” Tony called as he guided Stephen to their room.

“Costumes?” Stephen asked hesitantly.

“Yep,” Tony said, popping the p as he handed his husband the outfit he had texted Pepper to rush order after leaving the school. “They do always say actions speak louder than words, so I thought what better way to deliver the message than to showcase it ourselves.”

“You are one of a kind, Stark” Stephen chuckled as he quickly changed.

“So, I’ve been told,” Tony said smugly.

When they reentered the room, Peter and his friend's jaws dropped before erupting into high pitch giggles. “Daddy, you’re a princess too! And Papa is our Prince!”

“That’s right, Pete. You’re not the only princess in this tower,” Tony said as he twirled in his Cinderella costume. “Prince Papa is going to escort us on this fine evening.”

Stephen did a curtsy in his Prince Charming getup before offering his outstretched hands to Peter and Ned. “Shall we embark on our candy foraging excursion, little ones?”

The sight of his husband escorting their sweet little boy and his best friend had Tony melting internally. Tony knew that no matter what scrumptious candy they received that night, the two boy's smiles would be the biggest treat to him.

The night went off without a hitch. Pepper’s scathing comments towards the school district had been plastered all over social media by the time they went door-to-door with the kids, and everyone they came across made sure to stop and compliment the two boys as they passed. It was one of many reminders of why Tony would never leave New York, the city that always rallied around his family and showed their support in amazing ways.

By the end of the night, both boys were listless from the festivities and hauling heavy buckets filled to the brim with tasty goodies. “Bunny, you and Ned did so well,” Stephen congratulated. “You’ve got candy to last all year.”

The two boys sluggishly nodded and Tony could tell they were quickly losing steam now that the night was ending. “Alright, let's get you two sleeping beauty’s back to the tower,” Tony laughed, steering them in the direction of home.

Tony elected to carry Peter as they made their trek back to the tower while Stephen held Ned. Both were sound asleep by the time they arrived and were gently deposited into Peter’s bed.

Tony watched from the doorway as Stephen wrangled them both into pajamas and then tucked them in. As he exited the room and the door shut with an audible click, Tony greeted him with a long, slow kiss. “How’d I get so lucky to land my own Prince Charming?” Tony murmured into his husband’s lips.

“Easy,” Stephen replied fondly, “you were the fairest of them all, darling.”