When I was a little kid I used to throw the worst tantrums sometimes (which is strange bc I am super chill now). But like, me screaming so hard I would get a bloody nose or throw up. Potential little Peter prompt??? I just feel like Tony as a caretaker would be so stunned and flustered in this situation 😂
I’m sorry this took so long to answer, and I hope you like it!!!
Tony used to laugh at parents that talked about the ‘terrible twos and threes.’ He scoffed at people in the grocery store whose four year olds threw themselves on the ground screaming or whose elementary aged kids threw things or talked back or fought with each other in the aisles. He wasn’t sure exactly what all of those parents were doing wrong, but he knew it had to be something. Because his four-year-old son was an angel, and he was killing this whole ‘single parenting’ thing. Sure, he’d only been doing it for three months, but still. His son was perfect and well-behaved and quiet and loved science and being with his dad or uncle Rhodey, so yeah…Tony had to say, all this talk of tantrums and screaming being inevitable was just bad parenting disguised as natural life stages.
And then he took Peter shopping.
He’d taken his son shopping once or twice, when the boy’s mother had first died…when he’d been informed by a team of three lawyers and a social worker than his one-night-stand of almost five years ago was dead and that he was next in line for the job of raising his son. He didn’t really remember Mary all that well, but he’d be damned if he left his kid in the hands of strangers, no matter what Obie said. Or Pepper. Or Rhodey. He couldn’t exactly blame them. He’d been hungover when he’d received the call.
But in the three months of having the kid, he’d only gotten blackout drunk twice, so he thought that was a step up. Unfortunately, the second time had come the night before this shopping trip. It was getting close to Christmas, and memories of Christmas brought memories of the night his parents had gone out, never to return. Memories of a car crash and memories of losing himself and never quite finding himself again.
Tony shook those thoughts off. He’d promised Peter that the two of them would do something the night before, and then he’d gotten drunk instead. It hadn’t been a conscious decision. It had started with a drink. And then a refill. And then Pepper had been helping him to bed and Rhodey had been picking up his son from the living room sofa, and they had both been so angry. But Peter had been fine! He’d been sitting on the sofa in the other room, watching TV and seeming to entertain himself.
To make it up to the boy, Tony had decided to take him shopping for an early Christmas present. Kids loved toys, right? So, ignoring the stony looks from Pepper and a voicemail from Rhodey, he had bundled an unusually quiet Peter up into his winter coat and driven the two of them to the nearest mall. And…it was a lot. He clung tightly to Peter’s hand once inside, the crowds of parents and kids pressing into them on all sides. He’d gotten drunk in front of his kid…he wasn’t going to lose him in the shopping mall the next day.
Just the thought, those words…drunk in front of his kid, made a wave of hot shame overtake him, and he nearly stopped in the middle of the aisle on their way to the toys. He’d gotten blackout drunk when he’d been watching his kid. Even Howard had never done that. What if something had happened? What if Peter had gotten hurt, or, god forbid, had tried to drink some of his alcohol? He couldn’t have stopped him! Or what if Tony had suddenly become a mean drunk and hurt him? What if he had done something and he couldn’t remember because he’d blacked out!
Peter stood beside him in the aisle, the two of them inching along, and Tony squeezed his hand, heart clenching when the boy didn’t look up. He was four. He’d been forced to live with his father that he’d never met after losing his mother in an accident he didn’t understand and then his dad had drank himself to sleep in front of him.
What the hell was Tony doing?
“Alright, kid. How about we find you a toy and get something to eat, huh?”
Peter didn’t say anything, just nodded, and Tony led him toward the toy aisle that was so packed they could barely get in. Swearing under his breath, Tony started to lead Peter to another aisle, but the boy held fast. Tony glanced back at him, but Peter wasn’t looking at him.
“Why don’t we look somewhere else?”
Peter shook his head, trying to tug his hand out of Tony’s, but Tony held fast. He couldn’t lose his kid in a shopping mall after only having him for three months! “Pete, we’re going to look somewhere else. This aisle is too crowded.”
“I don’t want to.”
The words surprised Tony, and he blinked at the boy before something rose in him…an anger that Howard had put in him. Pulling more firmly, Tony lowered his voice and started to kneel down. “If you don’t come with me, then we’re going home.”
“No!” Peter screamed it, yanking his hand almost completely out of Tony’s, and on reflex, Tony tightened his grip even more, then recoiled when the boy screamed, legs dropping out from under him and his body slamming into the ground. “Let go! Let go! I don’t want to! Let me go! I hate you!”
Tony glanced around, too aware of the eyes on them, and reached out for the flailing boy, torn between embarrassment and anger. “Peter, stop!” he hissed. The boy ignored him.
“I hate you! You aren’t my daddy! I want my mom! I want my mom!” He wailed, feet kicking against Tony when he started to pick him up, head thrown back against the floor over and over so hard that had Tony been less angry, he would have been worried.
“Stop it! Right now!” He reached out, grabbing both of Peter’s arms in a bruising grip, yanking him off the floor. “Peter, stop!” Other parents were averting their eyes and herding their children away and he knew that someone would start filming soon if they hadn’t already. It would be on the internet before morning. Tony Stark, a failure as a son and a failure as a father.
Peter continued to scream at the top of his lungs, and Tony held him by his upper arms, giving him a quick, furious shake before he even realized what he was doing. The boy kept fighting him, and then, to Tony’s horror, there was blood beading up under his nose.
Had he done that? Had he hurt Peter?
He dropped his hands as though he’d been burned, taking a step back and feeling his stomach clench painfully…and then a dark haired woman was there, a hand on his arm as she steadied him. “Sir, why don’t you just take a minute?” she urged, then, before he could answer, she knelt in front of Peter who had stopped screaming and now just stood there, looking so small, arms wrapped around himself as he sobbed silently, blood running from his nose.
“I didn’t mean to…” Tony whispered, shaking his head.
“Come on, honey. Why don’t we get you cleaned up, huh?” The woman offered, holding out her hand, but Peter shook his head, cringing away. “Do you want to hold my hand or your dad’s?”
“Dad,” Peter rasped, and Tony held out his hand without thinking, watching as his son stared at it for a moment, wary, before taking it. Then the woman led them both to the family restroom, Tony shell shocked, Peter still crying. Once they were all inside, she grabbed a paper towel and ran it under cool water, then handed it to Tony.
Moving forward on autopilot, Tony sat on the closed toilet lid, wiping the blood from Peter’s nose and lip and chin…there was nothing he could do about the stain on his shirt. Still, he took the second paper towel the lady handed him, wiping Peter’s face with a shaking hand. The boy just stared at him, brown eyes huge and red-rimmed. “Pete? Buddy, you okay?” Peter didn’t answer, lip wobbling, and when Tony reached out a hand to touch his cheek, Peter dropped his head, eyes slamming shut, a tear running down his cheek, breath coming in a hitching gasp as he tried not to cry. “Hey…baby, I’m…I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done that. I shouldn’t…did I hurt your arm?” Tony pulled his sleeve up, running a gentle thumb over the red place there. “I’m sorry.”
The woman hovered behind them, but when Peter didn’t answer, she stepped forward. “Hi, Peter. Do you want to talk about why you were so upset?” Peter blinked at her, moving a little closer to Tony’s legs. Then she knelt down and held out a hand. “I’m May. I’m a nurse. Do you know what a nurse does?”
Peter placed his hand in hers then, after glancing back at his father to make sure it was okay. “Work at a hospital.”
“That’s right. I help people at the hospital. I saw that you were upset and I wanted to help. Can you tell us why you were so upset?”
Peter was quiet, and May smiled. “Was it because of all the people? I know it was really loud in there.”
The boy shrugged, and Tony wanted to tell her that he was four…that there was no way the kid knew how to put feelings into words like that…but then Peter spoke, voice soft and halting.
“Daddy…said we’d do something fun yesterday but…but he drank the grown up stuff and got sick and then we couldn’t go.”
The words were like an arrow through Tony’s chest, and he closed his eyes for a moment, dropping his head. Peter had seen him. He’d seen him while he was drunk. Of course he had.
“Mommy never did that. I…I want her…” Peter voice broke then, and Tony reached out for the boy before he could break down again, pulling him close and wrapping his arms around him. When he looked up at the woman who had introduced herself as May, he expected judgement. Condemnation. Instead, she was smiling softly at him, eyes full of nothing but compassion.
“That must have been scary, seeing your dad sick.”
Peter nodded against his shoulder, and Tony pressed his nose to his son’s hair, breathing in deep. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, buddy. I’m…I’m not going to do that again, okay?”
Peter pulled back, holding out his tiny pinky finger. “Promise?” he asked, his eyes so full of trust. If Tony promised, he realized, he had to do it. He had it. He couldn’t let this boy down. Not again.
“Yeah, baby.” He wrapped his pinky finger around Peter’s, letting Peter shake their hands up and down. “I promise.”
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