Contrary to what everyone believed, Tony's arc-reactor had not made his chest numb.
He could still feel—even felt like his senses had been heightened, actually—every little touch, or ghost of breath, so when he felt those familiar, small fingers circling the blue light, his eyes slowly peeled open to settle on Peter.
It was 4:10am.
Sighing, "Couldn't sleep, buddy?"
Peter looked up to where he was curled up on slumbering Steve's chest, his eyes slightly glassy and wide, mumbling, "No."
With a sad smile, Tony reached over and brushed Peter's hair away, feeling the slight slick of sweat covering his forehead; he was shivering, too, a common sign from his aftermath of nightmares, and it tore at Tony's heart, to see his son this afraid, to see a mirror of himself whenever he was sucked into the darkness of his own mind.
"What happened this time?" Tony shifted closer and dropped his voice to a whisper, careful not to wake Steve. "Monsters?"
Sniffling, Peter shook his head. "You and Papa."
"Papa and me?" For a moment, Tony frowned, confused as to what he and Steve could possibly be doing in his dreams, but then again, the imagination was a complicated and amazing instrument, and could create all types of scenarios and scarring scenes, unfortunately. He rubbed Peter's back, shushing him with soft words, "Would you like to tell Daddy about it?"
He nodded, "You—you were flying, with the rocket, into the hole, and you never comes back." With each sentence, he hiccupped, his lip starting to wobble as tears formed in his eyes. "You left Daddy. Why'd you goes?"
Silently cursing and wrapping his arms around them, not bothering to be careful for Steve's benefit now, seeing as he'd wake up soon enough, he peppered kisses over Peter's head and damp face. He shook in Tony's arms, clinging to his back, his breath releasing in harsh pants and broken sobs.
God, he hated this.
This was the presses fault. No way in hell could Peter have known of the New York incident without seeing it in the newspapers or on the television. All it took was a slip onto a different channel, or find an old article, or even a stranger walking up to you on the street, gushing on how much of a fan they were and of your achievements.
Of course, Tony was the one who'd encourage and purposefully invite the press into his life—one example with offering his home address—but all that had changed when he'd married Steve, settled down, and adopted Peter. His priority was his loved ones, to protect them from any harm, no exceptions. He hadn't wanted to expose his past until he and his family were completely ready to listen and understand.
He used to absorb all the attention, but now he was beginning to hate the invasion.
"It's okay, Daddy's here," he murmured, cradling Peter against his chest—after he'd climbed into his lap—yet it didn't seem to be working, and when it wasn't working, Tony panicked. "Shh, it's okay. Please stop crying, Petey, it's okay."
Next to him, Steve moved, speaking around a yawn, "What—Tony, Peter?"
Peter let out a cry. "Papa."
Instantly, Steve sat up, wide-awake. He scooted over; his side pressing into Tony's, and his features were twisted in concern, his long, bulky arms coming around to hold them closer. "Have you been telling him stories again, Tony?"
"Er, excuse me, that was the one time," he said in defence when Steve stared at him pointedly. "And I think I've learnt my lesson from that when he didn't sleep for two nights—besides, now is not the time to discuss that, trying to console our son here, you know, it'd be nice if you helped—"
"Okay, Tony, calm down. You look more distraught than Peter."
"It's because I am."
Holding back a smile, Steve leant forward, placing a large hand on Peter's back. "Hey, little man."
"Papa..." Peter whimpered, dried tear tracks on his flushed cheeks, and he peeked up from his arm, still curled up in a tight ball. "Da—daddy went, a—and he no come back!"
Steve handled it a whole lot better than Tony ever could or would in the future; he smiled fondly—instead of his husbands distressed expression, which probably only terrified the child more—and brushed away Peter's freshly-shed tears. "Peter, look at me." He did. "Daddy's still here, see? He's right here with us."
Wide-eyed and lips still trembling, he gazed up at Tony, reaching up and splaying his hand against his stubbly cheek. It took several quiet moments before Peter finally asked in a cracked voice, "You no leave, Daddy?"
"No," Tony said, and his own voice shook, because the times like this always broke him. "Of course not. I'd never leave you or Papa."
Peter sniffed. "Promise?"
Tony felt Steve hand laced through his own, followed by a gentle squeeze. He nodded. "I promise."
Half an hour later and Peter eventually calmed whilst wedged in-between his fathers, his cries drifting off into whimpers before completely slipping into a sleep.
By this point, both Steve and Tony were awake, no heavy-lidded eyes or need for sleep—despite the fact they each barely gained three hours a night from their own nightmares, caring for Peter, and hours of work for S.H.I.E.L.D—but it also gave them a sliver of time to themselves before dawn appeared and the day would start again. The few hours, even minutes, they shared together, they cherished as if they were their last of the day.
Not that they didn't like spending time with Peter; they loved it. Only sometimes, when up to their necks in toys, screaming the house down, and food thrown all over the house, it was exhausting. Along with everything else, they questioned whether they'd ever have time for date nights each month, or could go for a walk in the evening, or just sitting at home watching a movie together in peace. But, if they were given the choice to have all the times to themselves or a lifetime with Peter, the answer would be Peter. Every time.
"Think this'll happen again?"
Lazily, Tony's head lolled to the side to face his husband. "The nightmares?" He frowned. "Well, considering he sleeps in own bed more than his own, has a dozen nightlights, and asks us to check every crevice in his room for evil creatures, I'd take the wild guess of yes, it's likely to happen again."
Steve huffed a laugh. "I meant of New York."
"I hope it won't continue," Tony sighed. "But I'm probably wrong on this one."
"You. Wrong? That is a first." When Steve received a glare, he smiled, leaning down to peck Tony's lips. "If it happens again, it happens again. We can't exactly prevent it. As he gets older, he'll understand it better, right?"
Tony sighed, resting his head on Steve's shoulder. "I suppose so."
"Besides, he's fond of your arc-reactor. It's like a nightlight. It calms him down."
His fingers idly traced the blue, glowing light, feeling it slightly buzz and pulse under his fingertips. "It calms me down." Pausing, deciding whether to say it or not, he rushed out, "It's like... our protection."
"That's not unusual." He chuckled. "Like father like son."
Tony snorted. "I think that only applies to those blood-related."
"Not when it's you," Steve said. "You have a heavy influence over him."
"And that's a bad thing?"
Smiling, Steve kissed him again, lingering this time—his movements even more cautious than Tony's, in attempt to not crush Peter still sleeping between their chests—before pulling back, murmuring, "Not at all. You're both perfect the way you are."