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Tony didn’t know what to do with himself when he got back to the tower. With every suffocating thought of Penny, his hair grayed and his wrinkles deepened. Wow, he was getting old… and he was impossibly worried for Penny. What an amazing girl. What a prodigy of a teenager. He was somehow simultaneously proud of her, which made no sense. Despite her impending status of teen mother, he couldn’t help but feel pride at the thought of her.
And something else… another biting, thieving emotion... no, he pushed it down. But it fought him viciously and hollowed out his chest. He wasn’t great at naming specific feelings, but he searched for it, clumsily sorting through his jumbled mind. It took a few long moments, but when he finally found it, it sprung out, right-smack in his face.
The guilt and shame at feeling such a thing followed swiftly. I’m just mad at the world, Tony decided. The cruel, unfair world… the same world that had given him a dirtbag for a father and taken both his parents from him and given him— a self-centered, privileged, rich boy— such an impeccable mind. The same cruel, unfair world in which Pepper couldn’t conceive or hold onto a pregnancy.
Penny Parker was a child… a seventeen-year-old child, and she was having a child. It just wasn’t fair.
Familiar footsteps echoed throughout the penthouse, and Tony snapped his head toward his wife. Her presence pulled him from his zoned-out, lost-in-thought state and he gradually became more alert. "Hi," he greeted. Somewhat disoriented, he blinked at her.
“Hey, I heard something’s going on with Penny; is she okay?”
“Pepper, she's…” Tony froze. This was a difficult, near impossible, subject for them. How was he going to deal with this? How could he tell Pepper?
Sitting on the sofa next to him, Pepper frowned, her eyes trailing and deducing him. “What?”
Tony knew she could see right through him. She had a way of knowing when something wasn't right with him.
Penny was like their kid. And she was having a kid. And Tony was in denial. But Helen had confirmed it. Penny wasn’t just going crazy… Tony almost wished that she was. He felt like he was going crazy. He couldn’t breathe. The edges of his vision started to go black. Pepper was rubbing his arm. Her voice was firm yet tender.
“Tony, I need you to calm down. I don’t know what’s going on with Penny, but you’ve gotta breathe.”
It took nearly a full ten minutes to get his breathing back under control… and another five minutes later, he was still crying in Pepper’s arms.
When he had finally calmed down enough, he took a slow, deep breath and said brokenly, “You’ve gotta promise not to freak out when I tell you this.”
Pepper raised her eyebrows at him. “Me freak out? You freaking out this bad is seriously scaring me, Tony.”
Tony shook his head slowly, trying to focus on each measured breath. “It’s not life-threatening or anything. It’s just… a really sensitive topic. Especially for you, Pep.”
Pepper was an intelligent woman. Her blue-gray eyes went round as she fit the pieces together in her head. “Tony… She’s not…”
“Pregnant? Yeah. About six weeks.” Tony couldn’t help it; he still thought his heart was going to pound out of his chest.
“Oh, God.” Pepper pressed a hand to her forehead, her eyes falling shut. “Tony, she’s seventeen.”
“Yeah, I know,” he snapped. Noticing the way Pepper flinched, he quickly apologized. “Sorry. I'm sorry. I'm just… I trust the kid, and that she knows her body… better than anyone else does, I mean.”
Pepper’s hand slid down next to Tony’s, and she laced their fingers together, nodding as she listened intently.
Tony squeezed her hand and smiled gently before he sighed and continued, “She’s had three years to get used to being genetically different like this… but she told me she thought she wouldn't have kids. So she did something dumb and didn’t use birth control and now… now she’s stuck with a kid she doesn’t want, and a pregnancy that could be extremely complicated.”
“What’s she gonna do?” Pepper asked quietly.
He shook his head. “I don’t know. I think abortion’s out of the question, though. Good ol’ Catholic May.”
Tony remembered trying to get Penny to tell him what was wrong… encouraging her to share what was on her mind… and he’d gotten way more out of her than he was prepared for. Instead of her saying something like “I got a bad grade on my rhetorical analysis essay,” or “I’m grounded for a week,” or “my ibuprofen doesn’t work,” something that wasn’t a huge deal or could easily be fixed, he’d gotten this life-altering news. He remembered the tiny headstones under the tree at his and Pepper’s cabin, and he was heartbroken. Even more than that, he was bitter.
There would always be those luckier than him and Pepper.
But, then again, most people weren’t lucky enough to have a relationship with Spider-Girl. No, he corrected himself. With Penny Parker. Sweet Penny who cared about everyone more than she cared about herself.
Tony could only hope and pray to God that the kid would be alright.
Penny was so tired.
Not so much physically. She was mentally exhausted. She just wanted to sleep, but she knew that she wouldn’t be able to if she tried. Her anxiety was too much. Anyway, she had more important matters to attend to. Someone she needed to speak with. She took her key out of her bag, unlocking and opening the door to her apartment as if in slow motion. She shuffled inside, her mind too overwhelmed to form one comprehensible thought. All she could focus on was that tiny heart. It was still there. Beating. Drumming. Echoing. She swallowed the rough lump in her throat.
Standing dumbly in the middle of the living room, she found the person she was looking for.
Aunt May stood over the couch, folding laundry with some cheesy TV show on in the background. Hearing Penny come in, she grabbed the remote to turn off the noise and turned to her niece with a warm smile. “Hey, baby. How’d it go?”
Penny stumbled forward and bolted her arms around May’s waist before she even thought about it. She desperately needed the comfort.
Wrapping her arms around Penny and returning the hug, May slumped forward with worry. “Oh, Pen…” Her hands rubbed and stroked and comforted like they had so many times before. “What’s the matter?”
Penny leaned into May’s familiar, motherly warmth, fighting to keep her tears at bay. “I had to see Dr. Cho,” she murmured.
“But I thought you went to Stark Tower.”
“I did… Mr. Stark drove me to the Compound.”
“Okay… Why did you need a doctor, honey?” May gently pushed Penny back and held her at arm’s length, glancing her entire body over. “Are you hurt?!”
“No,” Penny whined.
“Well, are you sick?”
“No. I…” Penny sounded like a five-year-old child. She hated that. “I did something bad. I’m so sorry, May…”
May frowned at her. “Okay…” She carefully took hold of her niece’s wrist and led her to the couch so they could sit together. “You wanna tell me about it?”
Penny nodded reluctantly, allowing her aunt to slip a reassuring arm around her shoulders.
“May, I… I’m pregnant.”
Penny felt like her world stopped spinning. Aunt May gasped softly and drew Penny into another hug, but didn’t say a word. Penny buried her face in her aunt’s shirt and wept for a long time. Finally, Penny leaned her head against May’s shoulder and choked out a question. “Don’t you… Don’t you wanna talk about it?”
May stroked her hair back gingerly. “We will. Once the shock wears off. Once we’ve both calmed down. Just rest for now, Pen. It’s gonna be okay.”
So Penny did. She settled down with her head resting in May’s lap and her legs curled up, and she fell asleep.