Ianto's nightmares didn't return for the rest of the night and they all awoke in the morning pleasantly refreshed despite their unusual sleeping situation. Steve was the first to open his eyes; he found himself lying on his side with mere inches separating his face from Tony’s. At some point during the night, Tony had also turned onto his side and both men now lay with Ianto cradled between their bodies. Looking at Ianto brought a tender smile to Steve’s lips; the little boy lay on his side, just like his father while Tony’s arm rested gently around his son’s waist. Ianto was using his bunny as a pillow and had his thumb between his Cupid’s bow lips. The words innocent angel popped into Steve’s head and he felt a swell of emotion fill his heart; ‘I hope Tony understands what an incredible gift you are, young man. As impossible as it would be, I truly wish you could be my son as well.’
Tony was the next to wake up; Steve saw the signs just in time to close his eyes and pretend he was still sleeping but he wasn’t fooling anyone. “I know you’re awake,” Tony whispered.
Feeling silly, Steve looked into Tony’s browneyes and smiled. “Good morning,” he whispered back. “Someone slept well,” he nodded towards Ianto. He reached down to stroke the fringe from Ianto’s forehead just as Tony moved his hand to do the same, and their fingers met in a fiery display of invisible sparks. Both men jerked away and then stared at one another with a mixture of surprise, intrigue, delight and confusion. They were saved from exploring the situation any further when Ianto stirred between them and came to life with the amazing energy of a child but the last look that passed between Tony and Steve clearly said that their discussion wasn’t over, not by a long shot.
Unfortunately, despite hopes that Ianto’s nightmares had been the result of his tumultuous day, they still made a brief appearance the next night. Unable to actually sleep, Tony had dozed lightly, holding the baby monitor on his pillow next to his head and he was out of bed and across the hall at the first hint of Ianto’s distress. This time, Steve was the only one who showed up in the nursery; he’d been unable to fully fall asleep and he’d heard Tony talking softly to Ianto. Without even discussing it, they made the decision to move Ianto's crib into his father’s room; it was clear that Ianto slept better knowing that there someone close by to hold him after he awoke.
As much as he would have like to stay upstairs and play with his son all day, Tony Stark had projects to oversee and schedules to keep. The other team members all had business outside their warm little world to attend to so the tower emptied by mid-morning. Unable to put off going to work any longer, Tony was forced to retreat to his lab and it fell to an excited and eager Steve to look after Ianto, an assignment that he undertook with great relish.
Over breakfast the adults had unanimously decided that until they had the DNA test results and it was a proven fact that Ianto was indeed Tony's son they would keep Ianto's existence from Fury and SHIELD. But with almost a week to go before the answer was known, the secret was beginning to weigh heavily on them all, including Loki.
The fact that no one had noticed the new outfit on Ianto's bunny made the God of Mischief pout like a child; he wanted to see their reactions. Idris found it highly amusing to watch Loki stomp around her halls like a grumpy bear muttering snarkily to himself about self-absorbed humans.
It seemed like time had deliberately slowed and was slipping by at a snail’s pace; Bruce had taken to barricading himself inside his lab in order to escape Tony's constant demands for information on whether or not the test results where done yet. Even Bruce admitted that it was pretty chicken of him to hide away, but it was the only sure way to stop him from bringing out the big green guy. It was probably just as well that Bruce did exercise discretion; he wasn't sure that Ianto or the Hulk was ready for that meeting just yet. To tell the truth, he actually had no clue how his alter-ego would act around such a small and innocent child and he didn't want to accidently hurt Ianto.
Tony was a nervous wreck and his non-stop pacing was driving them all crazy, particularly the women; he was on Natasha and Pepper’s very last nerve. “Tony, wearing a hole in the floor won’t make the test results come faster,” Natasha snapped out, her patience at an end. She turned to glower at Pepper, who’d just stopped her from throwing a coffee mug at the anxious father.
“Well, excuse me!” Tony halted in mid-step and glared at the redhead. “I’m a little worried here! This is only the most important test result of my life, and it doesn’t matter which way it goes, my life will never be the same again.”
"I get that, Tony, really I do, but how will you get your hands on those results when you're dead because you pissed me off and I killed you to stop all of your damn pacing?" Natasha pointed out with a sickly-sweet smile on her face, one that warned Tony he was walking on very, very thin ground.
Trying to keep the peace, Pepper intervened, "Look at Ianto, he doesn't care, why don't you take a lesson from him?"
Tony looked down at Ianto who was ignoring everything – especially the adults – and playing quite happily with his stuffed bunny. Something was different about the bunny and Tony stopped to take a closer look; somehow his fluffy body appeared to be wearing an outfit similar to Loki's. "Where the heck did he get that?" Tony demanded and looked accusingly around the room.
Everyone followed Tony's gaze and while Steve frowned with concern, Pepper and Natasha each raised an eyebrow as they all realised what Tony was talking about: their sweet Ianto was currently playing with a fuzzy-tailed, long-eared version of Loki, the God of Mischief.
"You don't think Loki has something to do with how Ianto got here?" It was Pepper who finally voiced the question on all their minds.
"We can't know for sure,” Steve shook his head while Tony scowled deeply, “and even if he does I don't see what Loki hopes to achieve by using a child," Steve commented.
"It doesn’t matter what he wants; I still don’t want my son playing with a bunny dressed like Loki! Tony glared at the offensively attired bunny. “Not when he could be dressed up in an Iron Man costume!" and then he blushed as he realised how childishly jealous that sounded.
"I don't think Ianto likes that idea," Natasha commented when she noticed that Ianto had stopped playing with his bunny and was instead sending a child’s version of a steely glare at Tony.
They watched in amazement as Ianto’s eyes narrowed before he tightened his grip on the bunny and shuffled around on his bottom the best he could to give them his back. "I'd say the subject is closed, people, Ianto has spoken. Beside, a silly costume isn’t going to hurt anyone." Pepper flashed Tony a reassuring smile knowing that Loki was still a sore subject for all of them.
"Fine, but if it turns out to be evil I'm burning that bunny," Tony declared firmly.
The five days dragged on and by the end even Thor and Ianto were on edge; the waiting was killing them. They all wanted to know if their precious little boy really was Tony's son.
"Sir, Mr Banner has left the lab and is on his way to your location," JARVIS announced, news which immediately brought huge smiles of anticipation to everyone's faces.
Tony's leg began bouncing as he impatiently watched the door like a hawk and even Ianto got caught up in the excitement although he didn't have a clue why. All he knew was that everyone he loved was happy about something and that made him happy. He started babbling quietly to his bunny, sharing his thoughts on the matter and the fact that the still oddly dressed bunny agreed with him made him giggle.
"Well, what does it say?" Tony practically pounced on Bruce the instant the poor man stepped foot inside the kitchen.
For a moment Bruce thought about making Tony wait, just to get back at him for the non-stop pestering and nagging he’d had to endure for the past week, but then again he had a feeling that these past five days have been trying enough for the man. He really wanted to say, “May I have a drum roll please,” but he managed to refrain.
"Congratulations, Tony Stark, you are officially a dad," Bruce informed Tony with a big grin on his face.
Tony blinked several times as his brain processed the information he’d been waiting so long to hear and then a huge smile spread across his face. With a whoop of joy, he scooped Ianto up into his arms and flew him around his head in a big circle. "Hear that, little man, I'm your daddy!"
Ianto looked deeply into Tony’s eyes, and Tony would later swear that for just a second, he saw the vastness of the Universe looking back at him. Shaking his head, he continued, “and do you know what that means?” He swooped Ianto around in another circle, narrowly avoiding flying him right into Thor’s head. “That means you’re my son!”
Caught up in Tony's irresistible excitement Ianto began babbling happily and waving his bunny at everyone as Tony jubilantly danced them around the room. With a proud smile, Bruce shook his head in amusement as he watched father and son interact so joyfully with one another.
"THIS IS INDEED GLORIOUS NEWS, MY FRIEND!” the God of Thunder boomed out his congratulations. Overcome by the momentous news, he forgot all about keeping his voice down. “We should celebrate and hold a massive feast for this joyous occasion." Thor was happy for his friend; it was clear to everyone that Ianto and Tony truly cared for one another.
"That sounds like a wonderful idea and since Clint and Phil are due back today we can make it a joint party," Pepper suggested.
Tony grinned down at Ianto; oh, he couldn't wait to see Clint and Coulson's reaction to meeting Ianto. 'I wonder if I can finally make a certain cool and calm super-agent lose his composure!' Tony thought with giddy enthusiasm; today was truly shaping up to be a good day. ‘Actually though, given the confirmation of Ianto’s paternity, getting one over on Clint will just be icing on the cake!’
Pepper looked closely at the small boy in Tony's arms and realised that she could clearly see Tony in Ianto’s features. 'How did I never notice that before? I guess I didn't want to see it until I was sure that they really were father and son. I couldn't be happier for you, Tony; you finally have someone who will love you unconditionally. Maybe, just maybe, Ianto will be the key to getting you and Steve to get your acts in gear and finally admit that you belong together. That would make this perfect.' Pepper fought the urge to roll her eyes as she noticed how Steve had nonchalantly drifted over to join the new little family.
“You know Clint is going to have a cow because he missed all this excitement and I promise you, he's going to be pouting about this for days," Natasha murmured as she came to stand beside Pepper.
Pepper giggled, unable to keep a straight face as she said, "I have a feeling he and Ianto are going to get along great; they’re the same age in maturity."
“Nah,” Natasha’s smile grew even wider. "I think Ianto just might be a little more mature than Clint."
"I have a feeling that it’s more than just Clint we’re talking about here," Pepper added as she watched both Tony and Thor make funny faces at Ianto who clapped his hands and chortled with glee.
Natasha and Pepper shared a knowing grin there was no doubt about Ianto was more mature than half of the Avengers and in some ways that was a little sad. But at least Ianto would have them, two sensible females, and Bruce to balance things out. "You know Darcy's going to love him." Natasha had come to adore the feisty young woman who proudly reminded everyone that she had Tasered Thor the first time they met.
"What are the odds that Darcy will find a baby-sized stun gun and begin training Ianto right away on how to use it?" Pepper could see Darcy doing precisely that and she began to prepare a mental list of who she wanted to see zapped first. And second. And third. And...
A wicked smirk curled Natasha's lips. "Even if she can't find it, she'll convince someone to make one for her." One thing she had learned about Darcy since the young woman had joined SHEILD was that once she had her mind set on something there was simply no stopping her. It was just a shame that she wasn't due back till next week because Natasha was eagerly looking forward to her meeting Ianto. 'Oh well, I'll just have to amuse myself with Clint's reaction for the time being.'
"Honey, we’re home! Did you miss us?" Clint called as he came prancing into the Avenger Tower’s living room only to stop short and do a comical double-take when he noticed the building’s newest addition. Clint Barton had seen a lot of strange things in his life – a lot of inexplicable things – but the sight of Mr Macho, Tony Stark, cradling a small child to his chest, a miniature human being wearing, of all things an Iron Man shirt was defiantly new. He wanted to say, “When did we start baby-sitting the neighbour kids?” but there was something about the look in Tony’s eyes that told him not to be too flippant, so he settled for, "Who's the mini fan?"
The answer came in unison from all directions: "Tony's son!"
The man in question was seated on the floor playing with the Black Widow and Iron Man plushies while Ianto danced his bunny around them both. Tony took a great amount of joy at the sight of SHIELD's top agent losing his composure at the group’s announcement and he nearly tripped over his own two feet as he staggered towards the closest chair. It was rare to see Phil Coulson affected by something and Tony was going to enjoy this moment for a very long time. 'Mental note: save that CCTV footage for later.'
In the years to come, Tony would take great pleasure in watching and re-watching the CCTV footage – courtesy of JARVIS, naturally – of Clint’s mouth literally falling open and his eyes bugging out of his head as he looked from Tony to Ianto and back again to Tony. The man was absolutely flabbergasted, and as far as Tony was concerned, his long-awaited victory just kept getting sweeter with time.
Clint sat with his elbows on his knees; he blinked and opened his mouth as though to speak, and then closed it before blinking again several times. His team-mates could see the wheels turning in his brain as he tried to wrap his mind around the unexpected and inexplicable news. Finally the super-agent gathered his wits about him and kneeling down to get a good look at the little boy who had crawled into the security of his father’s lap and now sat happily in Tony's arms, quietly studying the newcomer.
Unfortunately, the only thing that came out of Clint’s mouth was, “Huh?” and he stared stupidly at the little boy.
For a moment Ianto just stared back the man before lifting his bunny and with perfect aim, he bonked Clint on the nose.
"That's my boy!" Tony proudly crowed as Clint stumbled back from Ianto and fell onto his butt with a shocked look on his face that quickly morphed into an extremely childish pout.
"Yeah, okay, he's Tony's son, all right." Clint climbed to his feet, regained his seat and folded his arms over his chest as he stuck his lip out and began to sulk. "Why doesn't your son like me?" he whined pathetically at Tony.
Too busy making silly faces at Ianto to pay any attention to Clint, Tony shrugged. "I guess he must have good taste."
As he knew it would, Tony’s pronouncement only made Clint pout more and of course had Natasha and Pepper wondering just who the real child in the room was. As they had predicted earlier, it was clear Ianto really was so much more mature than either Tony or Clint.
"Do we know who the mother is?" Coulson, who had followed Clint into the Tower and then just stood in the living room doorway watching and listening, asked calmly. His question caused Clint to perk up; he found that he was rather interested in knowing what woman would ever give up such an adorable child and entrust his health and welfare to Tony Stark.
Bruce shook his head. "Not just yet, no, but I’ve set up a search program to compare Ianto's DNA with every single sample that's on record. It's a huge data base, so it’s going to take a while."
Tony had scrambled to his feet, a bit gracelessly given the bundle of squirming child in his arms, the minute he’d noticed Coulson at the door. The incident with Ianto bonking Clint on the nose was quickly forgotten and the archer quickly took advantage of Tony’s momentary distraction as he snatched Ianto from his father’s arms. Ignoring his shout of outrage Clint danced Ianto across the room and then dropped to the floor amidst the pile of toys and sat Ianto across from him. Without hesitation, he began playing with the stuffed Hawkeye teddy bear lying next to him making it cavort and frolic around Ianto and his bunny, much to Ianto immense delight The little boy was babbling a mile a minute to his new friend, clearly delighted to have someone who loved to play as much as he did.
The corners of Coulson’s eyes crinkled up into his version of a smile as he watched his lover play with the small child who had easily and fully accepted him as a playmate. While it was indeed a sweet picture, at the same time Coulson couldn't help but hear the little voice in the back of his mind worrying about what his lover just might end up teaching the small boy. Visions of Clint taking Ianto on unsanctioned fieldtrips through the Helicarrier’s air ducts flashed across his eyes. 'This could be a real problem; who knows what kind of trouble Clint’s going to get them into.'
There was no absolutely doubt in Phil's mind that Clint was going to enjoy taking every possible opportunity to teach Ianto all the naughty tricks he knew. 'Good lord, now I really am a baby-sitter!' Coulson shook his head in wonder; ‘how in the hell did my life turn out like this?' He watched Tony and Thor as they joined Ianto and Clint in playing with the wide variety of toys that littered the floor. 'Oh right! I met Tony Stark.’ He sighed deeply, knowing that despite the problems and surprises that accompanied such a friendship, ‘I know I wouldn't change anything.'
The joint welcome home/welcome to the family party was a complete and unrivalled success right up to the moment when, ten minutes after everyone had finished dinner and gone into the living room to relax, Clint had stolen Ianto away to the toy pile when Tony was in the bathroom. Fortunately, Ianto had taken to his Uncle Clint pretty well and was content to be in his arms for most of the night.
Sitting snuggled up on the love seat with Pepper, Natasha was convinced that Ianto wasn't paying any attention to whatever Clint was telling him as he spent most of his time playing with and babbling to his stuffed bunny. Natasha fought the urge to laugh out loud when at one point, Clint had tried to convince Ianto to play with the stuffed Hawkeye bear instead of the rabbit, and after enduring the man’s persistent attempts to swap out the bunny for the bear, Ianto had responded quite pointedly by bonking Clint on the nose again although this time it was with the Hawkeye bear.
With his beloved bunny back in hand, Ianto had then crawled several feet away refusing to even look at Clint for the rest of the evening; every time Clint sat down next to him or moved into his line of sight, Ianto would turn his back to him until he’d finally stopped trying.
Clint had pouted for an hour, telling anyone who’d listen that he was just trying to get the bear equal play time while Natasha had made sure that JARVIS sent her a copy of that footage. It was about to become her computer's new background.
In spite of that one little hiccup in the evening’s activities, Ianto had been the hit of the extended family’s small get-together, bringing them together like nothing else ever had. But as the night grew darker sleep began to call to the young child and Tony happily reclaimed his son from his toys. When a still pouting Clint had asked if he could put him to bed, Tony had arched one eyebrow and responded, "Oh for crying out loud! Go play with Coulson; my son needs his sleep."
Freshly bathed in clean pyjamas and with a now naked bunny in his arms, Ianto was tucked into bed with his father, where he now started every night; once he’d fallen deeply asleep, Tony would take him put him in his own crib. Nestled against Tony the little boy let the familiar and reassuring sound of his father’s heartbeat wash over him and sooth him to sleep. As he dropped off, he wondered how long it would be before his other father joined his growing family.
******Having heard Ianto’s last thought, the TARDIS knew that the time had come to reveal the next piece of the Ianto Jones/Stark puzzle. 'Oh, this is going to make Loki very happy,’ she rubbed invisible hands together. ‘I wonder if he'll bring popcorn?' The TARDIS was rather fond of hot, buttery popcorn even if she could only eat it when she was Idris. "I'll have to ask him the next time he visits, but it’ll have to wait, for now it's time to set the next stage of our plan in motion."