Pepper Potts was a beautiful, red-headed, no-nonsense slave drive, something that Steve and Bruce were quickly learning the hard way.
"No, it's not right! Come on, you two, think! The crib shouldn't be that close to the window; if Ianto sleeps near an open window it can make him sick to say nothing of how easily he can be kidnapped by a determined person, and last but not least, what if there was a storm that breaks the window then Ianto could be hurt by flying glass!” Pepper stood with her arms crossed over her chest and surveyed the two men with angry dismay, the look in her eyes just daring either one of them to say something. After a moment, she finally shook her head and pointed to the empty spot between the wall and the door. "Over here, I think,” she declared decisively and then she stood back and waited for them to do her bidding.
Bruce and Steve wisely chose to say nothing as they once again lifted up the crib and moved it to the spot Pepper indicated. Of course the place she was talking about was directly across from the door leading to Tony's room, and the placement of the crib there made sense as it offered the most protection and would no doubt give Tony a bit of piece knowing he could keep a close eye on Ianto just by looking across the hall.
While they were busy getting the crib into the right spot Pepper was sorting through the baby blankets trying to figure out which ones would be the best for Ianto to sleep in, which would keep him cosy but not too warm in the summer nights but be just enough to keep off the chill. She finally settled on one that matched a set of sheets with teddy bears all over them; they were light and just too cute not to use.
"JARVIS, make sure that there is a twenty-four hour live feed on Ianto's room and on Ianto wherever he is," Pepper ordered.
"Already done, Miss Potts; per Mr Stark’s instructions, I have installed several new cameras that will ensure full coverage of Master Ianto’s room both inside and out, and I have rerouted the video feed to everyone’s personal tablets. Should a problem or danger arise then you will all be alerted simultaneously," JARVIS informed them.
‘Is that a hint of pride I hear in JARVIS’ voice?’ Pepper grinned and nodded her head. "That's a good idea, thank you, JARVIS." She knew Tony wouldn’t be the only one who would be reassured by JARVIS’ caution. Even though Ianto had only been in their lives for a very short time he had become as important to them as he was to Tony. Although she’d never wanted children of her own, there was something about Ianto that triggered instincts and desires Pepper hadn’t realised she possessed. The few seconds she’d held him in the kitchen had pushed all of her maternalistic buttons. Now the need to protect him from the evils of the world including everything from the little boo-boos of childhood like a skinned knee to the big hurts of adulthood like a broken heart was paramount in her soul.
Pepper cast her eyes up towards the ceiling. ‘Please, if there is any justice in this world, you will allow a miracle to occur and let Ianto be Tony’s son. In all the years I have known him I’ve never seen Tony care about anyone as instantly or as deeply as he does Ianto. So I’m begging you, please do not let this be a trick. I don’t think Tony could survive losing Ianto.’ At this thought, Pepper cast a quick over at Bruce and Steve; she could see lightness in their eyes that had never been there before and she knew precisely who to thank for putting it there.
‘In fact I don’t think any of us would survive losing Ianto; he brings to the party that we’ve all been missing. I swear on all that is good and holy that I will fight whatever forces I have to keep that look, that lightness, and that love in our hearts. So whoever you are up there, you better make sure that Ianto stays with us.’
“She’s a fierce one.” Loki commented and his admiration was obvious. Since Pepper hadn’t specified which God or deity she was speaking to, he’d easily heard her prayers.
The TARDIS, who was still in her Idris form, nodded her head with a knowing look in her eyes. “Pepper Potts will play a very important role in Ianto’s life and future; while he’ll become close to all the women on the team, it is Pepper who will fill the void where a mother’s love and influence should be.”
“All the women including… her?” Loki clenched his fists at his sides as he tried to keep the heartbreak from his voice and eyes, although he knew he’d failed when Idris gently cupped his chin, tipping his head up until he met her glance.
“I know it hurts to think kindly about the woman your soul mate has fallen for, but yes, Loki, Jane Foster will be a part of Ianto’s life. You must have faith, my dear one, I promise you that Thor will rise above the hurt he is feeling for you and finally understand just why it pains him so to think of you as his enemy.” Idris kept her voice gentle; she didn’t like it when any of her friends were suffering, but especially when it was due to unrequited love. “I have seen it; Jane will remain a part of Thor’s life but only ever as a friend, nothing more. There is another out there waiting for her, loving and longing for her, and she just needs to open her eyes to see him.”
A deep shuddering breath was the only response Loki was capable of making and that was all Idris needed to pull Loki into a hug, one he sank into gratefully. It had been so long since anyone had cared enough about him to hug him and make him feel wanted and he actually belonged. Even though he’d have loved to stay in Idris’ arms and enjoy the feeling of warm and love that she provided, he knew that if he didn’t move and soon, he wouldn’t be able to prevent a tear or two… or a hundred… from falling, so he tightened his rip for just a second and then pushed himself away.
Idris wasn’t fooled for a minute, but she let him maintain his aura of manliness. “So, I think things are working out quite well down there, don’t you?” She turned the monitor so they could see Tony, who’d fallen asleep again and let his tablet slip to the floor, and Ianto, who was held securely over his father’s heart.
As strange as it was Loki found himself thinking of Idris and young Ianto as his family and he vowed to the Universe that he would do everything in his power to make sure that Ianto was raised in a loving family which brought forth his next question, “So when do you plan on springing the name of Ianto’s other parent on Stark? Because I’m telling you right now, I want to see his reaction from a front row centre seat with an extra-large popcorn in my hand when he learns who he’s sharing a son with!” There was a distinct sparkle of naughty mischief gleaming from his eyes.
Idris shook her head but couldn’t stop her own hint of a smile appearing. “I thought I would wait until they know for sure that young Ianto is Tony’s son then, when Dr Banner starts looking for Ianto’s other parent, I will visit him and hint that he should check closer to home for the answers they seek.”
A bark of laughter escaped Loki’s lips; he was rather enjoying the fact that the Lady of Time had such a wonderful sense of mischief and humour. “What about the nightmares that are sure to come?” Loki was well aware that while they may have de-aged Ianto and given him a fresh start the memories of who he had been and the life he’d lived before still lingered just beneath the surface. The day would come when they would be awakened and probably not for the better and both Loki and Idris knew that the key lay within Jack Harkness.
Sooner or later no matter where he is in the Universe, the immortal known as Captain Jack Harkness would feel the planet Earth tugging at his soul, whispering to his heart, calling him back.
Back to Ianto Jones.
A sad almost resigned look entered Idris’ eyes. "I wish there was something we could do to either stop them or lessen their impact, but I can’t. I'm afraid that when Ianto – when any of us – well, not me, as I do not sleep – but when any living being sleeps the barrier between his memories and conscious is at its weakest and therefore Ianto is vulnerable. There’s no way to prevent it other than to never let him sleep and we both know that’s absolutely impossible. No, all we can do is be there for him when the nightmares strike and offer whatever comfort we can."
Loki didn’t like her answer but he knew that Idris was right; their options were extremely limited to the point of being nearly non-existent. "All right, then, we wait and, as much as I dislike them, I know that the Avengers will do everything in their power to help Ianto grow to up to be a strong and honourable man and I can't think of anyone he would be safer with than them." Loki hated to admit it but it was clear that Pepper and the three Avengers had come to truly love Ianto and in his heart he knew that they would gladly give their lives if it meant keeping him safe. "I am kinda wondering though how your dear Captain Harkness is ever going to get close enough to say ‘hi’, much less successfully woo Ianto given who’s raising him."
"It is true, I do love Jack, but you must understand, he carries a part of me within him and so he will always be special to me but I saw the way he treated Ianto, I felt Ianto’s pain when his heart was broken over and over again. Jack was blind to the treasure he held in the palm of his hand; Ianto Jones was his one, the missing half of his heart and the mate to his soul. Unfortunately, my immortal foolishly let his fear of rejection and loss and lust for another who was completely unworthy of him guide his actions.”
The TARDIS’ avatar shook her head sadly. “But I have seen Jack since he lost Ianto and life without his young Welshman it is slowly killing his soul. Unless something changes soon he will become nothing but an empty shell destined to wander the Universe alone forever.” Her expression brightened considerably; “Winning Ianto back will be just the challenge he needs to reawaken his soul and heart and if I know Jack – and I believe I do – he will be up to it."
Idris knew the never-ending torment Jack was putting himself through over his treatment and subsequent loss of Ianto and she was sure that once he learned that Ianto was alive and better yet that he would live as long as he would Jack would be overjoyed. He would do whatever it took to ensure that they spent the rest of their lives together and he would spend every second of that eternity making sure Ianto never again doubted his absolute and inalienable place in Jack's heart.
The all-knowing tone in Idris' voice had Loki raising an eyebrow. "You know this for sure, don't you? You've seen them together in the future, haven't you? You’re absolutely, positively, can’t-possibly-be-wrong about Ianto’s place with Jack, right?” He needed some reassurance if he was going to allow Ianto to remain with Tony Stark, Steve Rogers and the other Avengers. If Idris couldn’t give him that, then he was going to start making plans to remove Ianto from their grasp at the first hint of trouble.
A soft smile played upon Idris face as she remembered the last time she’d checked on Jack and Ianto's future. They were on their twenty-fifth honeymoon, and it seemed as though Jack was rather enjoying – in fact, maybe just wee bit too much – his habit of making his claim to Ianto’s heart crystal clear whenever someone tried to make a move on his Welshman. "I have their love only grows stronger with every passing day and that they are together side-by-side and hand-in-hand right up until the very end. Their love will become legendary throughout the Universe. I promise you, Loki, it is quite the fairytale and one of time’s a most beloved and well-known love stories," Idris finished off in an almost dreamy tone.
Loki's other eyebrow joined its mate somewhere up in his hairline. "I take it you're a fangirl then?" He had learned of the power fangirls held as well as the dangers they posed when he’d last been on Earth. In fact, he had been shocked and even a bit flattered to learn that he had his own personal army of fangirls. 'I wish I’d known about them when I was trying to take over the world, they would have been so incredibly useful in my quest!'
Reading the thoughts going through Loki’s eyes, the TARDIS put her foot down firmly. "You will not go down to Earth, you will not seek out your fangirls and above all, you will not use them to create an army. No one is ready for that kind of power and the Universe is simply not mentally, emotionally and physically equipped to survive a battle of fangirls." Idris shivered in her high button-top boots; she had seen the many future battles that were the result of fools messing with fangirls’ OTP's and the disasters that inevitably followed in their wake. She knew that there would be many wars fought in the future and soon all the Universe would tremble when they went to war.
At the horrified look on Idris’ face Loki swallowed hard and he actually took a step backwards. "I don't think I want to know."
"Wise choice of action." Idris almost wished she didn't know either but she did enjoy the Janto-shippers as the Jack/Ianto fans would eventually call themselves and their passionate defence of their pairing.
It was some time later that afternoon when Ianto awoke from his nap ready for more play time with the funny man who gave great hugs. There was only one problem in his plan: Tony had fallen asleep while waiting for Ianto to wake up. A tiny pout graced Ianto's normally cherubic face and he did the only thing he could think of. With just a hint of naughtiness in his eyes, he reached out and…
Twitching and sputtering softly, Tony woke up to something because something kept tickling his nose. Annoyed that he’d been dragged from a very ‘energetic’ dream, he squinted his eyes against the light and came face-to-face with the stuffed bunny that Ianto refused to let out of his sight. Looking past the bunny he found himself staring into Ianto's big blue oh-so-innocent eyes, which lit up happily when he saw that Tony was finally awake. "All right, little guy, I'm up; there's no need to tickle me anymore."
A joyful coo escaped Ianto and he wiggled with delight as he realised that Tony was finally ready to play with him; now he just needed to find the other nice man and they could all have fun together.
"Well, well, look who's finally awake!"
The newcomer voice's brought another happy coo from Ianto as he tried his best to turn around and face the very person he wanted to see. Unable to get loose from Tony’s grip, he made a small unhappy sound when he discovered that he couldn't get his head to turn all the way around like he wanted. Whimpering in frustration, Ianto squirmed even harder as he tried to get away.
Tony felt a stab of jealousy when he realised who it was that Ianto really wanted to be with. "I think your littlest fan would like some attention, Cap," he tried to maintain a tone of civility in his voice.
"Really?" Steve's eyes lit up as he moved closer to Tony and Ianto, he’d been wanting to hold Ianto ever since he’d first laid eyes on the little guy but Tony hadn't been willing to share, not that Steve could blame him. "Can I hold him?" Steve asked shyly looking like a little boy himself; another second and Tony expected to see the man shuffle his feet and blush.
Tony's heart melted at the look and he knew he couldn't deny Steve anything, ever. "Of course! You're the one he wants, see?" Tony shifted as he sat up and turned so that Ianto had a clear view of Steve, and the effect was instantaneous. Ianto's little arms lifted as high they could as he tried to reach for Steve and his squirming increased to the point that he planted one small trainer-clad foot right in his father’s groin.
Steve barely contained his guffaw of laughter at the way Tony’s face turned bright-red and his eyes sort of bulged out, and when he heard Tony’s choked out squeak of pain, he had to bite down hard on the inside of his cheek to maintain his composure. “Are you…” chuckle… “o…” snort… “okay, dude?”
“Uh, I will…” moan… “be…” Tony coughed loudly and the sound drew Ianto’s attention. The little boy turned around just enough to shoot Tony a blinding smile before continuing his attempts to reach Steve. Regaining his composure, Tony tried to tighten his grip on the wiggling child but Ianto was just too determined.
"Whoa, little dude, Uncle Steve is coming!" Luckily Steve swooped in like the hero he was and quickly grabbed Ianto just as Tony lost his grip on him.
Ianto squealed with pure delight as Steve raised him up in the air and flew him in a wide circle over his head and his peals of laughter brightened even the darkest corners of the world.
"Hey there, little guy, did you have a nice nap?" Steve asked Ianto as he settled the child so he was resting comfortably against his chest. Ianto began babbling happy and at a rapid-fire pace; there were no real words but Steve had a feeling that would soon change. There was a glint of deep knowledge in those intense blue eyes and if he was truly the son of Tony Stark then he would be talking up a storm in no time. "You're going to be a little mischief maker just like your father, aren't you?"
Ianto’s t-shirt had rucked up exposing his bare skin and Steve couldn’t resist the unspoken invitation; he gently tickled Ianto’s soft belly, making him giggle madly and grab at the man’s fingers. He gabbled something that sound to Steve’s fanciful ears like, “Stop that!”
“You’re an awful lot smarter than we realise aren’t you?” Steve studied his small charge thoughtfully. “In fact, I’m willing to bet that this whole cute thing, with the giggling babbles and helpless baby looks is all just one big act, isn’t it? You’re secretly plotting to take over the world, are you?”
Ianto merely smiled enigmatically and Steve knew that he had his answer. "We’re going to have to keep a very close eye on you because something tells me trouble is going to find you just as easily as it does your dad." Steve surprised himself with how easy it was for him to call Tony Ianto's father. ‘It just sounds so right!’
"We’ve already made plans on for doing exactly that,” Pepper spoke up as she placed a pile of clean clothes next to Tony. “That one has troublemaker written all over his adorable little face."
Tony's eyes went wide in amazement as he spotted Bruce trying to move around despite having his arms laden with clothes piled so high that that Bruce could barely see where he was going. "You can see, right? I don't want you to trip and hurt yourself and make the other guy come popping out, because as awesome as he is and I am a big fan of the Hulk, I'm not sure that Ianto will be able to understand why his other favourite uncle turned into a big green rage machine."
Behind his burden Bruce rolled his eyes. "I'll make sure to keep that in mind as I try not to kill myself with all these soft, fluffy baby clothes."
“Umm…” Tony turned his attention to Pepper. "Yeah, mind telling me what is up with all the clothes? Did you buy out all the children clothing stores?" Tony had never seen so many tiny pieces of clothing – there were shirts, vests, pants, trousers, jumpers, socks, pyjamas, a towelling robe and a few things Tony wasn’t quite sure of – surely Ianto wouldn't need all of these. ‘Unless it’s all disposable and I’ll never have to do laundry?’ He barely stopped himself from laughing aloud at the thought.
‘Men!’ Pepper shook her head a sad look of resignation in her eyes. "Oh Tony, Ianto is still a small child and he's growing like a weed which means he’ll go through all this clothing in a few months. Buying things in a variety of sizes is a wise course of action to make sure you don't wake up one day and realise that Ianto’s clothes are too small for him and your son gets to run around naked all day. Plus I picked up this." With that Pepper proudly held up a miniature black Iron Man t-shirt with a full-colour picture of the hero in full armour emblazoned across the chest.
There was a sharp wolf-whistle from both Tony and Steve while Ianto clapped his hands and crowed loudly, even though he really didn’t understand why. "Well now, that I like!" Tony’s face lit up as if the shirt were actually for him, and his grin grew wider as he spied a few other Iron Man shirts, as well as those with images of his other teammates. There were a few Captain America, Thor, Hulk and Hawkeye mixed up in the pile Pepper had placed down along with team t-shirts with all the Avengers on it.
'Oh yeah!' Tony made an imaginary fist-pump in the air. ‘My son is going to be the most stylish little guy around!' He grinned wildly at his friends letting his eyes linger on the vision that was the man of his dreams holding his son like the precious treasure he was and for just a moment, Tony let his imagination wander to what could be. Then, just as quickly, he returned to the subject at hand: Ianto Stark’s amazing wardrobe. Then he froze in place. ‘Ianto… Stark.’ Tony rolled the words over in his head. ‘Hello, this is my son, Ianto Stark.’ Iron Man felt a surge of pride burst his heart. ‘I really like the sound of that.’
Tony was yanked from his reverie when Bruce threw a small fleece at his head. “Hey! We’re talking here! You wanna join in the convo or just sit there with a goofy grin on your face?”
With precise accuracy, Tony grabbed a bright red trainer that was barely three inches long and lobbed it at Bruce. “I was just thinking about which outfit to put him in first.”
“Well, I think he should be dressed like you,” Pepper said loyally. “He is your son, after all.”
“Well, I prefer the Captain America one myself,” Steve offered. “What do you think, little man? You wanna look like a real hero?”
Letting his friends’ bickering wash over him, Tony started sorting through the closest pile of clothing and a sudden thought struck him. 'Huh, I wonder if we should all autograph them? Ianto would be the only child on the planet with a complete collection of Avengers autographs!' Tony was pulled out of his thoughts by something hitting him on the back of the head for a second time. “Hey!”
Pepper stifled a laugh when Tony turned to face a disgruntled-looking Ianto; it was obvious that he wasn't too happy at being ignored. Tony then saw the wicked look on Steve’s face and he realised that Steve had given his son the object that had hit him. Giggling happily, Pepper pointed at Ianto’s pissed-off demeanour; "Oh Tony, that look is so you!" As far as she was concerned, it really was precious to see Ianto giving his father the same sulking look Tony got whenever he didn't get his way. "It seems Ianto does not like to be ignored, remind you of anyone?" Pepper address her question to Bruce and Steve with a raised eyebrow.
Tony shook his head with a broad smirk on his face as he bent down to pick up the stuffed bunny Ianto had thrown at the back of his head. "I think I should keep this since you so generously gave it to me," he teased waving the bunny back and forth in front of Ianto's face. “He’s really soft and fluffy and I think he needs a name.”
Ianto's eyes narrowed dangerously and his face scrunched up and that was the only warning they got before he let out an ear-splitting wail.
"TONY!" Three voices admonished loudly as Ianto’s indignant cries only grew in volume.
"Tony, give Ianto back his bunny this instant!" Steve commanded in a stern tone.
Not that he needed to give the order, as Tony was already moving quickly towards Ianto with an enormous apology written on his face. He bent down to look the crying child in the eyes spoke softly, "Hey, little guy, there's no need for waterworks, I wasn't going to keep your bunny, I promise!” Ianto made impatient grabby hands for his bunny and Tony quickly handed it over feeling really badly as Ianto buried his face in the animal’s fur and gave the occasional sniffle. "Do you forgive me?"
Ianto peeked out around the toy and studied the man before him; he’d felt an immediate soul-deep connection between them from the very moment Tony had touched him back in the lab. He hated seeing the man so sad and since his bunny was safely back in his arms he didn't see any reason to be mad at him anymore. With a bright albeit damp smile, Ianto held out his arms to his father.
A sigh of relief immediately escaped Tony's lips as he gladly took Ianto into his arms and a smile appeared on his face as the small boy gave him a messy kiss on the cheek. As Ianto began babbling on again about whatever was important to him at the moment, Tony and Steve looked over his head and stared deeply into one another’s eyes for several intense moments before turning to listen to him intently.
"I think we have been forgotten," Bruce murmured to Pepper as he finally made his way over to join her on the couch and gratefully placed his load of clothing down.
Pepper smiled as she watched the intimate moment between Tony and Steve before they turned their attention to Ianto. She thought it was so cute that even though they couldn't understand a word he was saying they kept nodding and murmuring little responses. "And you would be right. While the children are busy why don't we get to work? If you’ll help me carry all of this upstairs I'll sort out the clothing and you can get to work setting up the baby monitors," she suggested. ‘I get the feeling these three need to spend a little time alone together.’
Now that he’d been given something truly useful to do, Bruce happily left the folding and organising of Ianto’s wardrobe to Pepper. It was clear that she planned on making sure little Ianto wore the most stylish outfits that he possibly could and there was no way he was going to get in between her and her fashion decisions.
Plus fashion just wasn't his thing.