Guilty Parenting

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Tony Stark was not the parenting type. At least he certainly hadn't ever thought so. He had been a self-proclaimed playboy for years, and even though he and Pepper had finally begun their relationship, being tied down with a kid was the last thing he felt ready to deal with at this point in his life. The Avengers were about to begin moving into the newly remodeled tower in New York, so there was no way that the environment would be anywhere near childproofed. Hell, with the arrows, guns, shields, and hammers flying around that place at any given moment, social services would have a kid taken away in minutes.

But even despite every one of those things being valid concerns, here he was, sitting in a hospital lobby waiting for a nurse to bring you out to him. The battle against the Chitauri had been a violent one, with a loss of life that he would carry with him as guilt for years to come. He saved as many as he could on that day several months ago, but when he woke up on this morning he learned that your parents weren't amongst those who were so lucky. He had no idea who they were, and if he had crossed their paths and failed to save them, but it didn't matter; this was his responsibility.

Guilt had brought him to the chair he sat in now, and guilt would make him meet you for the first time. How could he deny you that much, when he was such a major part of why you were there in the first place? You had the right to look him in the eyes, and he would give you anything you wanted to begin to make any of this okay. They say that there's a direct correlation between generosity and guilt, and guilt was a fantastic motivator for a man with endless resources.

"Tony Stark?"

Tony bolted up from his thoughts and the inner monologue that berated him, standing quickly to meet the nurse coming his way. "Yeah, that's me," he answered nervously, clearing his throat of the dry burning of fear. As soon as he saw you, all of maybe three years old, he couldn't bring himself to make another sound.

"Mr. Stark, this is (Y/N)," she smiled, looking down at you as you wobbled at her side on unsteady and uncertain feet, holding her hand as tightly as you could so that you didn't fall over. "All we need is a few signatures, and you two are good to be on your way."

"Um, yeah...about that..."

"Is there a problem?"

"No, uh, no problem...exactly..." he stammered, his eyes fixed on you, wide and full of anxiety. "It's just that I'm worried about...where I live..."

"Sir, if I may," JARVIS broke in, "might we have a word in private?"

Tony looked down at his watch and gave it a few quick taps, smiling softly when he noticed you watching his every move as if you were studying him, your curiosity at the voice coming from the device making you take a step closer. "(Y/N), I'll be right back, okay?"

"It talked."

"Yeah, that's JARVIS," he said. "When I'm done I can show you if you want."

"Is he in there?"

Tony chuckled under his breath, visibly relaxing as you questioned him about something that he was comfortable with and knew how to answer. Ask him anything about kids or how to take care of them and he was lost; ask him about JARVIS and you might not get him to ever shut up. "Not exactly," he answered, "he's like a computer...but more, I suppose. He helps me with a lot of things. I'd be lost without him."

"Like me."

"I'm sorry?"

"Like me," you repeated, "I'm lost too. You and me are the same."

"Sir, a moment," JARVIS repeated.

Tony didn't hear him at first, his mind frozen in shock at what he had just heard. He had just been completely enlightened by a little kid, who could see a truth that he had been avoiding, and it both scared and intrigued him. He had been lost for a lot of years, but it took seconds for you to make him understand. "Uh, right, sorry J. (Y/N), just a minute, okay? Stay there."

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