After a very heated discussion with Fury about Steve’s current state, the Director left the Avengers with a censored message stating that Tony better fix this mess or else.
Fury didn’t finish, trying to be careful of the child watching him with curious eyes, but the other Avengers got the message.
Mini Steve had been with the Avengers for two days since Pepper’s arrival and he’s grown very attached to Bruce, following him everywhere. It was clear he wanted to do whatever Bruce did or be held by the gamma ray scientist. If it wasn’t for Pepper, then Steve would probably be in the same clothes that he had shown up in. Pepper had been so extremely busy the past two days, trying to organize Steve’s paper work and medical files, keeping the media out of their business and overall trying to keep Steve alive that she hadn’t had the time to shop for necessary items. But on day three of playing ‘mommy’, she finally got some luck
“Okay!” Pepper claps her hands together excitedly. “Time to go shopping.” She announces, a huge grin plastered on her face. The three men around her, sans Thor, simultaneously groan. Thor had lucked out from shopping by returning home to Asgard in hopes of finding some help.
Frowning, Pepper places a hand on her hip and she glares at all of them, “Well, I’m sorry, but as someone who actually cares, I’m getting sick and tired of watching Steve crawl around with nothing, but a diaper on. It’s been 8 days and none of you have bothered to find a shirt for him to wear.”
“We did give him a shirt!" Clint defends, "And we do care about him, we just…” the archer then trails off in thought.
“... don’t know how to take care of children.” Bruce finishes.
Raising an eyebrow, Pepper shakes her head. “A shirt that actually fits. Putting one of Steve’s old over sized t-shirts doesn’t count as clothing. The poor kid has been walking around without proper clothing for eight days. It’s high time to go shopping for baby clothes.”
“Well have fun.” Tony says, concentrating on the tablet in his hands.
“Excuse me?” Pepper asks in disbelief, her tone warning Tony to stop staring at his computer and pay attention to her. The look in Pepper’s eyes makes Tony gulp and visibly shiver.
“I-I… I mean… um…” Tony stutters.
“You mean that since you made Steve become a toddler who needs clothes, you’d be happy to drive me to the store.” Pepper says innocently, her eyes giving away her annoyance with him. “You’re so sweet, Tony. But you have to stay here and figure out how to change Steve back.” She then turns a hopeful glance towards the other two. “Would either of you two like to help me?”
Pepper frowns at the silence that follows her question. Neither Clint nor Bruce volunteer to go. Sighing, she places her hands on her hips, staring at them, waiting expectantly.
They sit like that for more than 4 minutes, Pepper waiting and the others trying to ignore her piercing glare. Seeing that this wasn’t going to end anytime soon, Clint decides to just end it. Biting his bottom lip, the archer- against his will- volunteers, not wanting to upset the strawberry-blonde redhead any further. “I’ll go.”
“Me, too.” Bruce agrees defeated.
“Great. Let’s go. Come on, Steve, we’re leaving!” Pepper calls down the hallway, all smiles once more. Soon the others hear tiny little footsteps running down the hallway.
“’m toming, Peggy.” Steve’s high pitched voice rings from the hallway before the toddler makes it into the room, hurrying to take Pepper’s hand. “We go bye-bye.”
“Yes, we’re going bye-bye.” Pepper smiled down at the little boy.
“Booce and C’int toming, too?” Pepper nods her head and smiles as Steve bounces excitedly before launching himself into Clint's arms. Steve had gotten visibly more comfortable with the archer in the three days since Pepper got back. “Tome on C’int! Let go.” Steve says, tugging on his shirt. Clint chuckles and tosses the diaper bag to Bruce before placing Steve on his shoulders.
“Okay come on, kiddo.” Clint says, bouncing out the door with Bruce and Pepper following closely behind.
“How about this one?” Clint asks, holding up a red-black shirt, jeans and a baseball cap with glasses that match the ones he’s currently wearing.
“Very fitting.” Pepper says, busy looking through racks, taking a glance at the outfit. “Really, Clint? Matching sunglasses?” Clint smirks and hands Bruce the outfit before walking off, something catching his attention. Bruce takes the little outfit and places it in the buggy. They had been shopping most of the morning and their cart was nearly full of baby outfits.
Steve sat in the child seat of the buggy, strapped in happily, playing with the stuffed Avengers dolls Pepper got him. Steve would occasionally point at something that caught his attention and every time he pointed, Bruce would throw it in, obviously having a little too much fun with Tony’s credit card.
Steve, every time he saw other toddlers, he’d offer them kind smiles and, if they smiled back, waved at them. Steve was a natural at making people like him. If only he wasn’t so shy.
A few minutes later, Clint came back carrying an assortment of clothes that ranged in theme from shorts, to leather biker jackets. All the shirts he had picked had something either to do with America, Avenger theme, or, of course, birds.
Bruce and Clint were busy cooing over all the baby stuff, testing different styles on the two year while he just sit there and let him. Pepper had the honor of watching and trying to calm Steve down when he got a little hyper. He’s still a two year old; they get hyper when they’re happy, and when they’re hyper, accidents happen. And Steve still processed his super-strength, though on a much smaller scale, so Pepper finds her charge extra hard.
By the time the three made it to the check out, Steve had knocked over a rack of CDs, bent the handle bars of the cart, and tore a couple of clothing items. Before Pepper could start placing the clothing on the counter, Clint shouted, “Wait!”
The archer rushes off without another word down an aisle, only to come back with his arms full of Avenger themed toys.
Bruce raises an eyebrow at the toys in Clint’s arms, shaking his head with amusement, “Really, Clint?”
“What? Look, he loves it!” Clint says pointing at Steve, who had excitedly grabbed the first two things that his hands touched: a miniature version of his shield and a bow with plastic arrows.
Shaking her head, a smile spreading across her face, Pepper sighs and takes out her wallet and pays for the shopping expedition.“Let’s go.” She smiles.
After paying for the clothing, Bruce, Clint and Pepper head to the car to go back to the Tower. Happy takes Steve, who’s starting to fall asleep, and places him in the car while the others put the clothes in the back.
When everyone is in the car and the shoppers are on the way back to the Tower, Pepper, Happy and Clint make small conversation as Steve sits in his new car seat Pepper had gotten him and Bruce busies himself with watching Steve try to stay awake, his little eyes shutting occasionally only to pop back open. Chuckling to himself, Bruce runs his hands through the child’s hair continuously in a soothing gesture. At the calming touch, Steve starts to fall asleep faster and only has enough strength to reach out and grasp Bruce’s index finger in his tiny one before he does.
The conversation of the other three dies slowly and soon the only noise in the car is the rumble of the engine. They continue their path towards the Tower.
Steve jumps awake at the sound of a phone ringing, his little body jerking upward so fast that his vision becomes blurry. “Booce.” Steve winces, reaching out to him.
“I’m sorry for waking you, Steve. It’s okay.” Steve starts to sniffle and make the hiccup sounds he always makes just as he’s about to cry. “No, no, no. Don’t cry, buddy, it’s okay. Just go back to sleep.” Bruce pulls out his phone and silences his cell phone. Steve calms down once the shrill ringing is gone and insists on Bruce picking him up. Looking over at Pepper, who nods her head and requests Happy to pull over. Bruce looks down at Steve and shakes his head smiling, “You’re a handful, Steve. And needy, too.”
Steve just blushes slightly and squeals happily when Bruce unbuckles his seat-belt. Latching onto the doctor’s shoulder, Steve is hoisted into Bruce’s lap and is cradled in the crook of his arms. Steve places his head on Bruce’s chest and listens to the comforting rhythm of his heartbeat. It’s not the same as Natasha's, but it does for the time being.
Within minutes, the young boy is asleep and cradled safely and comfortably against Bruce’s chest. Pepper can’t help, but give a small ‘Aw’ at the sight of them. Bruce blushes and brushes his nose against Steve’s cheek. Steve smiles at the touch and blindly reaches out to grab Bruce’s hand again. Clint watches the whole interaction between the doctor and child, their reactions to each other. He leans over at Pepper, discreetly whispering to her as if not to gather Bruce’s attention.
“This is the most calm and collected I’ve ever seen Bruce.”
“Me, too. He’d make a great father someday. If only he’d just trust himself around kids. I’m glad Steve is attached to him now; it’ll give him some confidence and faith in himself. He needs it.” Pepper agrees, smiling down at the happy sleeping Steve in Bruce’s arms. Giving Bruce a small nudge, Clint settles down in his seat quietly whispering to Pepper.
Bruce turns, about to take Steve to his room, when his phone starts ringing again, only quieter than the first time. Steve doesn’t wake up like the last time, but he does stir a little. Slipping a hand behind him to retrieve his phone, one arm wrapped tightly around Steve, Bruce checks the screen to see who’s calling him.
“It’s Fury.” Bruce says, eyes furrowing in question. Pepper and Clint halt and turn to face the scientist. They exchange a glance before Clint walks up to him.
“Hey, Bruce, why don’t you give me Steve?” Clint offers, holding out his arms. “I’ll put him in bed.” Bruce looks like he’s about to object, but after a pause just nods his head and carefully passes Steve over. Clint takes the toddler and gives Bruce a nod before walking down the hall, Pepper following. Looking after them until they are out of sight, Bruce finally answers.
“Fury.” Bruce greets, putting the phone up to his ear.
“Dr. Banner, we need you to come in. Now.” Fury says urgently, his voice hard.
“What is it?” Bruce asks instantly already heading back towards the elevator.
“An agent was crucially injured. A collasped lung, two bullet holes; one in the lungs, one in the shoulder, and she has internal bleeding. She’s currently being transported from England.” Bruce freezes, nearly falling over from shock.
“Natasha.” Bruce breathes.
“Okay, little buddy,” Clint says, placing Steve down on the bed. “Had a long morning. We all need a nap.” Clint takes off Steve’s shoes and socks and the oversized shirt he wore, leaving him just in his diaper. Steve barely even notices, way too far under to even be cautious of those around him. Pepper walks in the room, carrying a small blanket and the stuffed Avenger themed dolls they got him.
“Here, Steve. I found this in Tony’s stuff, which I intend to question him about later.” Pepper says, already placing the small blanket on the baby and surrounding the dolls around him, making sure the Black Widow and Hulk doll are directly on either side of him on purpose. Clint can’t help but let out a small laugh.
“JARVIS, take a picture of this.” After a quick flash in the room, Clint and Pepper turn to leave, but they are stopped in their tracks by a pale faced Bruce standing in the doorway. Upon noticing his pale skin and worried expression, Clint walks up to him and grips his arm tightly. “What is it, Banner?” He questions urgently.
“Natasha.” Bruce says, urgently motioning for them to follow. Outside the hallway, Bruce closes Steve’s door and turns his attention on the anxious CEO and the waiting archer. “That call was from Fury. He said that Natasha is on her way from England, but she's injured."
Pepper steps, her eyes glancing back and forth between Bruce and Steve's room. "Injured? How badly injured?"
Running an anxious hand through his hair, Bruce lets out a shaky breath. "Very. Collapsed lung, two bullet shots and she's bleeding internally. She was playing her undercover role and during a discussion with the suspect, he shot her when she wasn't looking. She was shot twice. I have to go to headquarters and prep for surgery.”
“Is she okay?” Pepper asks, her eyes wide.
Bruce bites his bottom lip, “I don’t know. That’s why I have to go.”
“Do Tony and Thor know?”
“We’re coming to headquarters.” Clint announces, already heading down the hallway to the elevator.
“What about Steve?” Bruce asks.
“I’ll stay with him.” Pepper volunteers. “Just promise to call me as soon as she’s out of surgery and let us visit her when we can come see her. I think Steve would like to see Natasha again.”
“I don’t think that’s such a good idea.” Bruce says, “Give it a few days, just until she’s better and recovered.”
“Fine, but make sure she’s okay, Bruce.” Pepper begs to the doctor as he turns and follows Clint into the open elevator.
“I will. Watch Steve.” Pepper nods and watches as the elevator close, Clint and Bruce both inside. Biting her bottom lip, Pepper glances at the door that contains a sleeping Steve and another room that contains a large waiting bed with her name on it. She debates on whether she should go lie down in her own bed or join Steve. Finally the latter wins and she climbs into the bed with the small child, smiling to herself when Steve turns on his side and presses his back against her chest. Pressing a kiss to Steve’s forehead, Pepper lays her head down and closes his eyes her mind wandering over to Natasha.
Please be okay. She thinks to herself, before letting sleep overtake her.