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Tracking the Sun

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Steve!”

Ducking just in time to avoid being hit in the forehead by a metal pipe, Steve swiveled on his heels and swung his fist up to land a devastating punch on his attacker’s jaw. The beta Wolf flew back, the metal pipe he had been wielding falling from his hand and skidding across the concrete floor.

Natasha darted in from behind and finished him off with a quick kick to the back of his head. The Shifter’s eyes rolled back and he crumpled to the ground. Straightening up, Steve flashed her a grateful smile. “Thanks for the warning.”

The redhead nodded distractedly as her eyes skimmed the room. “Where did Clint go?”

“He went after the alpha. I’ll catch up to him if you can clean up in here.”

Natasha nodded again and Steve turned to head back outside, his footfalls echoing in the now silent warehouse.

SHIELD had sent them another mission and Steve had assigned himself, Natasha, and Clint to Cincinnati to carry it out. He had let the others stay at home; Bruce had reached a breaking point in some research project he was working on, Thor and Loki were flying back to the States from Europe, and Tony…well, someone needed to watch Peter. Steve really just hoped that Tony remembered to cook three meals a day for Peter. Cats didn’t always need to eat consistently but Wolves, especially growing pups, needed food almost constantly. And with Bruce being so busy…but Pepper was sure to be keeping an eye on things. And if all else failed Peter knew where the crackers were in the pantry.

Steve was brought suddenly back to the present as he was hit with the smell of another alpha Wolf. SHIELD had sent them out to deal with a Wolf pack that had been causing trouble in a rougher part of Cincinnati. It was a small pack but they had started tagging, both with scent and spray-paint, to mark out what they were calling their territory. Although it was against the law, SHIELD probably wouldn’t have intervened but then they had started to brawl with other Shifters and, even worse, harass some local humans. Things were better now between humans and Shifters than they had been a year ago but SHIELD wanted to stamp out anything that could bring that bad blood back as quickly as possible.

He heard Clint let out a shout and skidded around a corner to find the marksman pointing his bow with an arrow notched neatly on the string at the pack’s young alpha who he had crowded up against the side of the building. The Wolf’s eyes were darting around like a caged animal with his lips drawn into a hard, desperate line and Steve knew that he was going to have to act fast before this got messy. Or before their target ended up earning himself an arrow through his chest.

Rushing forward, Steve body slammed the other alpha hard enough that he heard the brick on the wall behind them crack. In another second Clint was at his side and together they wrestled the struggling Shifter to the ground. Clint produced a set of industrial-strength zip-ties from his pocket and between the two of them they quickly had all of the alpha’s limbs restrained in such a way that it would be physically painful for him if he tried to shift into his Wolf form. Steve heard footsteps coming up behind them and identified it as Natasha who had undoubtedly restrained the beta back in the warehouse. “Are you two alright?”

“Yeah.” Steve grunted as the other alpha snarled and elbowed him in the side by thrashing his body. “Yeah, we’re fine. Did you call the local SHIELD agents?”

Natasha nodded and came down to crouch next to them, observing the Wolf on the ground with a cool eye. “They already picked the others up and they’re on their way.”

Clint scowled down at their adversary through his sunglasses. “This guy doesn’t know when to quit!”

“Screw all of you!” The Wolf reared up but Steve quickly got him back under control. “Who the fuck do you think you are, coming in like this?”

Steve sighed. After all the trouble this alpha and his pack had put them through, Steve didn’t know why he had even hoped he would go quietly. “We’re with SHIELD and frankly you’re lucky we didn’t call the regular police to pick you up instead.” Lord knew they would only be too happy to thrown these hooligans in prison and they would become just another statistic of down-and-out Shifter communities. “Now you have the right to remain silent, and I suggest you exercise that right until you call your attorney or one is provided to you. The SHIELD agents will inform you more about your legal rights when they arrive.”

“Where is the rest of my pack?”

“They’ve also been restrained and some have already been taken into custody.”

“What about Sarah?”

Steve narrowed his eyes in confusion. “Who?”

“My fucking mate! What’d you do to her?”

The young Wolf was still in a rage and Clint had to reach in to help Steve hold him down so the alpha wouldn’t hurt himself with his restraints. Steve hadn’t known the names of the Wolves they had just dealt with but there had only been a handful of females among them. And if he recalled their scents properly, the one coated in the alpha’s scent was a tough-talking blonde beta who had tried to kick Clint in the groin. If so then she was one of the first they had come across and was probably already with SHIELD. “She’s fine. She’s with SHIELD so you’ll probably get to see her soon. If you get a hold of yourself and calm down.”

It didn’t quite work but the Wolf’s trashing decreased, allowing Clint to pull back and stand next to Natasha. Steve rested all his weight on the alpha beneath him while his packmates cycled around to check on their other Wolves and make sure they hadn’t managed to wiggle out of their restraints. Soon the sound of sirens reached Steve’s ears and he knew that their back-up had arrived.

The local SHIELD agents quickly took control of the situation as soon as they arrived on site and Steve gladly let them, willing to respect their jurisdiction rights. They had been generous enough not to impose on Steve’s activities after learning that he and his team was being sent in to handle the matter and Steve was happy to repay that by staying out of their way as they wrapped things up.

Two agents, one male, one female, both human, walked over and took custody of the alpha, freeing Steve up to find his team. They weren’t too hard to find, having reappeared back on the sidewalk at SHIELD’s arrival. For the first time Steve got a close look at Clint and realized that the Hawk had four cuts sliced down his arm, the limb unprotected by his sleeveless tactical gear. They weren’t deep but they were enough to make Clint glare down at the exposed skin on his arm with a scowl.

Walking over, Steve nodded towards the wounds when the Hawk glanced up at the sound of his footsteps. “It looks like he got you a bit.”

Clint tisked and flexed the bloodied arm. “Yeah, the dick started to shift then decided against it, but managed to change just enough to get his claws out.”

Natasha raised her brow judgmentally but Steve could see a teasing glint in her gaze. “Slowing down?”

 Clint rolled his eyes behind his shades and pulled his bow over his shoulder as Steve began to lead the way back out to the car. “Hardly. I was a little distracted by all the teeth.”

“Make sure to have Bruce disinfect those when we get back. Who knows what sort of garbage these Wolves crawled through?” Clint winced as he took in the alleyway around them. Steve followed his gaze around and tilted his head to agree with Natasha. Trash had piled up along the sides of the buildings and there was a distinct odor of urine and rotting food in the air; a ripe breeding ground for bacteria. In fact, the faster they could get those cuts cleaned out the better.

“Maybe we should take care of that on the way back. There’s a First Aid kit underneath the passenger’s seat of the van.”

Clint grinned up at him. “You always have a plan, don’t you?”

“I try.”

They loaded up into the car SHIELD had provided them with practiced efficiency, Steve instinctually putting himself in the driver’s seat while Natasha took shotgun and Clint slipped into the back. Steve barely had the engine started up before Natasha dug around under her chair and pulled out a small First Aid kit and tossed it back to Clint. “Can you handle that on your own?”

Clint caught the kit midair with a sour pout on his face. “I think I can do that much.”

Natasha didn’t look quite convinced but Steve wasn’t worried. He knew that Natasha and Clint both had taken several intensive field medic courses throughout their careers with SHIELD since before Steve came along they had both tended to go on solo missions and only had themselves to depend on if they were injured. And even though when Steve glanced in the rearview mirror it looked like Clint was just botching it up as he tried to wrap a bandage around his arm the Hawk had to make it work somehow. He had survived this long, after all. Moreover they’d be at the airport in less than forty minutes and Natasha could rebind it for him if it was as awful as it was sort of looking in the mirror.

The drive was quiet, broken only by small conversations about their mission. Natasha was already on her tablet—her StarkPad, pre-market edition—and typing in the basics for the reports they would all have to submit once they got back to SHIELD headquarters in the city.

In the quiet Steve’s thoughts drifted back to his family as he drove them to the airport. Now that the excitement from being out on a mission was starting to wear off the longing to get back to Tony and Peter was growing more intense. He tried to not let it become a distraction while he was out in the field but he didn’t see the harm in indulging in those kinds of thoughts after it was over and he was on his way home. Except he wasn’t going to be able to go directly home since they had to be debriefed first.

Security lines were non-existent for them at the airport since they were taking a special SHIELD-issue plane back which meant that as soon as they pulled up to the tarmac they were able to load up and take-off the moment the runway was cleared. Once they were resettled Natasha deemed that Clint had done a decent enough job with bandaging himself up and had let him sleep. As a Hawk, Steve had learned that Clint tended to sleep whenever they flew in airplanes—whenever he was awake he tended to get antsy and would constantly be eyeing the windows and emergency exits. Natasha used her extra time to clean herself up in the small lavatory while Steve located a pad of paper and a pen and decided to get a jump on his own report.

The plane ride was short and simple. They had clear skies, no turbulence, and it was over before Steve realized they had even crossed a state line. As they started to descend he peeked out the window and in the distance saw the wooded area where he knew Tony’s house was. A wistfulness hit him square in the chest but he swallowed it down, knowing that he’d be with the rest of his pack soon. That he’d be back with his family soon. As he turned away from the window Natasha gave him a knowing look but didn’t say anything about it.

They landed in the municipal airport and Steve woke Clint up so that they could disembark and go out to the new car that SHIELD had waiting for them. It only took them a few minutes more to navigate the city traffic and reach SHIELD HQ. A few agents greeted them as they walked into the lobby and Natasha grabbed Clint to stop him from flirting with a cute brunette human and herded him to the elevator. Steve in return struggled to hide his smile, knowing that he shouldn’t encourage unprofessional behavior like that. Especially when he wanted to stay on Natasha’s good side.

Natasha pressed the call button for the elevator a little harder than necessary then turned back to look at Steve just as he managed to school his expression into a neutral, curious look. “Can you go clear things with Agent Coulson?”

His neutrality broke as he blinked in surprise but nodded as he realized that she was giving him a quick escape. “Of course. Do the two of you have everything else handled?”

“It’s not a problem. Go ahead and head back home when you finish upstairs.”

“Are you sure?” It wasn’t that he thought they couldn’t do it, he just didn’t want both of them to feel like it was something they had to do just to give him a break. Not that he didn’t appreciate it. Because he definitely did.

“I’m sure.”

Steve looked over at Clint to search his face for any sign of annoyance but by then the Hawk had caught on to what Natasha was planning and looked perfectly fine with it. “Alright. Thank you. If I  remember right, Bruce should have been scheduled to be working here in the lab today so could you make sure that he gets home too when you’re ready to leave?”

Clint grinned as the elevator reached their floor and the doors silently slid open. “Worried that he’ll forget to check the clock again?”

Smiling back, Steve tilted his head. “I’ve learned the hard way from Tony.” From both Tony and Bruce. Although where Tony usually knew what time it was and just didn’t care if he worked until three or four in the morning, Bruce entirely lost track of the hours when he was the lab. Clint was actually the best at pulling him away, though Steve was half certain that it was just because the Hawk just liked the excuse to bother Bruce.

The Hawk’s grin widened and he winked. “Don’t worry. We’ll drag him out kicking and screaming if we need to.”

Steve smiled again at the imagery Clint’s words brought to mind. He would pay money to see that. But Steve kept that to himself; he wouldn’t put it past Clint to try it out to earn a quick buck. “Thanks.”

They all stepped into the elevator and Natasha and Clint rode it up with him until they exited on the fourth floor, leaving Steve alone to take it up to the fifth. SHIELD’s new building had the same basic design as the one that had been destroyed by Hydra agents but it definitely had a new modern look to it. Before it was bureaucratic but now it looked like Tony had come in and had a field day. Which he sort of did. Stark Industries had offered a very generous donation during reconstruction and SHIELD had used it to install a communications system that even Tony admitted to being impressed by, though he had told Steve that he could have done better.

The elevator came to a stop and the doors slid open to reveal a long hall lined with touchscreen panels displaying maps, current events, and Shifter statics from the city and the nation as a whole. Invisible to the naked eye, a security system nearly as complex as JARVIS was monitoring the entire building and reading the vitals and identification of everyone inside it. Everything had been designed to reduce the likelihood of another attack like the one that had razed the building before and put SHIELD above all the other government and public agencies in terms of technological advancement.

It had taken a while for Steve to get used to it but now he was able to navigate through all the gadgets and screens to find what he needed. Including Phil Coulson. He nodded politely to all the agents that he passed—they all knew who he was—and walked straight to a door that for security reasons was no longer labeled with a name but with a number. But just as everyone in the building knew who Steve was everyone knew that room 5704 was Agent Coulson’s office.

Steve knocked and was immediately answered by a quick “Come in”. Obeying, Steve pushed the door open and stepped into the office. Coulson was seated behind his desk but rose to his feet when Steve walked in. “Steve, good to see you whole and healthy.”

“Yes, sir.” Steve reached forward to shake the man’s hand. “It’s good to be back.” Even though they hadn’t been gone all that long.

Phil nodded as if he could read between the lines and motioned towards the chair placed on the other side of the desk. “Have a seat.”

“Thank you.” Steve didn’t really feel like sitting after the drive and the flight but it seemed like the courteous thing to do as Phil sat back down.

Closing a few windows on his computer screen, Coulson clicked another button and a fresh page popped up. “Since you’re here I’m sure that Romanov and Barton are filing their own account but could you tell me your side of the story?”

This was the standard procedure between them. Every agent had to file their own personal report about the mission so that SHIELD could get a complete view of everyone’s roles and the decisions they made throughout. It was up to the senior operative—in their case it was Steve despite the fact that Natasha and Clint had more experience with SHIELD—to compile all of the reports and submit them to their supervisor, which was nearly always Phil. Steve and Phil usually bent the rules a bit by going through part of the process together through conversation rather than through more paperwork.

Steve frowned thoughtfully at Phil’s request, wondering how far back he would have to go and how much detail he would have to give in his account. “Has the SHEILD office in Cincinnati contacted you yet?”

“They sent a cursory report in an email.”

Good. That meant that Coulson already had the basics and that nothing Steve had to say would be a surprise. Settling back into his seat, Steve folded his arms over his chest and began at the start. “As you know the mission was to stop a city-based Wolf pack from intimidating the locals and claiming blocks as their territory. Clint, Natasha, and I split up when we arrived and between the three of us spoke with enough folks to figure out who was in charge of the pack. Once we had a name and a location, we tracked down one of the pack members and I requested an audience with their alpha. They obliged but they weren’t particularly welcoming when we went to talk. I asked them to stop or else SHIELD was going to step in and they were going to have to face the consequences.”

Phil quirked a brow curiously. “And how did they respond?”

Steve frowned at the memory then shrugged. “They laughed. But then they realized that we were serious and they got angry.” That hadn’t been a pleasant situation to be in. Steve hadn’t been seriously worried about his safety because he had Natasha and Clint at his side but it had still been uncomfortable. “They told us to leave and since it wasn’t a good situation we left to plan out our next move. We probably would’ve spent a little longer planning but they started coming after us since we hadn’t fully removed ourselves from what they considered their territory. We knew we had to take action and contain them before a civilian got injured so as they came at us we began to fight back. We started arresting them and handing them over to SHIELD, one at a time and then in small groups. Since we had started we figured that we should push forward until the job was done so we worked our way into their territory and through the pack until we had the alpha cornered in their den.” Their den had been an abandoned warehouse. “There were a few other betas with him but after a bit of a struggle we were able to subdue them without any casualties.”

The whole time Steve had been talking, Coulson had been typing. “No real problems with the city government or local law officials?”

“No. But we stayed under the radar for the most part. I’m not sure that they were even aware of our presence in the city.”

“Good. That means the SHIELD agents were doing their job. Speaking of whom, did they work well with you?”

Phil’s question was innocent enough but there was an underlying protective tone that made Steve want to smile. Because it was…cute that Phil was concerned about how other SHIELD agents were treating him and Steve could only imagine what sort of reprimand the Cincinnati branch would have received if Steve didn’t have a favorable answer. “There was a mutual respect between us. They let us handle things on our end and we did the same for them.”

“Good.”

“Is there a concern there?” Steve honestly didn’t know how other SHIELD agents felt about using Shifters as field agents and couldn’t help but wonder if it was a concern for some despite the fact that SHIELD was built around protecting and giving equal rights and opportunities to Shifters. And to control them, which in Steve’s mind was exactly why it was so important to have Shifters working for them.

“No, I just wanted to gauge their ability or wiliness to cooperate with our special operatives, such as yourself. We need to be able to keep our own people in line if we want to appear like a united force to rest of the world. Which is becoming more and more important these days.”

Phil’s elusive answer didn’t really answer any of Steve’s questions about why the other agents might not have worked well with him but he decided that if it became an issue Phil would tell him about it. Maybe it was just as simple as he said. He had no reason to doubt him. “I understand.”

Phil nodded, typed a few more words, then turned to give Steve his full attention again. “It looks like we’re all settled out here for now. If you’d like, you can stay in here to finish the rest of the paperwork or I can set you up in the common room down the hall. I think they might have a football game on but having that in the background might make filling out your report more entertaining.”

Steve appreciated the dry joke but right now he didn’t want to do either of those things. He bit the inside of his cheek to help him resist the urge to wiggle around in his chair like a school kid on a Friday afternoon. “Is there some way that I can fill the paperwork out back at the house?”

Phil blinked then nodded sympathetically. “Of course. I’ll email you the appropriate forms.”

“Um…”

The man paused at Steve’s uncertainty then smiled. “Or perhaps I can just go get a hard copy that you can take home and fill out by hand.”

“Thank you.” Steve could turn his computer on at home and print out the forms but things were a lot easier this way. He still didn’t get the world’s obsession with doing everything digitally. Which was a little funny since he was mated to the world’s greatest proponent of digitization and automation.

Phil stood up and slipped around Steve to exit the room. The forms must have been kept somewhere nearby because Phil reappeared a moment later with a folder in hand. “Here you are.”

Steve rose as he took the papers from the SHIELD agent. “Thank you.”

The man waved away Steve’s thanks with another small smile. “Either bring the forms back here or, if you’re busy, I can drive by and pick them up. Say ‘hello’ to Peter for me.”

“Of course.”

Phil smiled then walked back around to his desk and turned back to his computer, undoubtedly getting right to his portion of the mission write-up. Tucking the papers under his arm, Steve moved to walk out of the door. Then he stopped himself at the threshold and rested his hand on the doorframe. “Phil?”

“Hmm?”

Steve frowned, unsure if what he was about to say was appropriate.  But over the years Steve had known him he hadn’t ever heard Phil mention anything about a family or significant other. Even someone as enveloped in their job as Phil was had to get a little lonely. Plus, he liked the man. “Instead of just driving by to pick up paperwork, would you be interested in coming over to the house for dinner sometime next week? I’m sure Peter would love a chance to see you in person.”

Coulson blinked in surprise before a small, genuine smile spread across his face. Steve had to wonder if anyone had ever made such an offer before and was instantly happy that he had. “I would like that very much. Thank you.”

“Does Thursday work for you?” Steve knew that Tony would be home early Thursday and he didn’t think that Bruce, Clint, or Natasha had any firm plans.

“Thursday would be great.”

Steve nodded and they exchanged one more smile before Steve took his leave, letting the SHIELD agent return to his duties. And so that he would be able to get back home faster.

SHIELD could have provided him with a car but Steve didn’t want to trouble them or wait the fifteen or so minutes it would take them to find a free agent and have a car pull around to pick him up. Instead, Steve just walked out of the building, took a step off the curb, and flagged down a cab. The ride would be a little expensive since Tony lived outside of town but Steve’s income could cover it. Steve thrummed with energy the whole drive over and he couldn’t keep himself from fidgeting as the taxi turned the corner onto the long road that led to the Stark Mansion. He was almost home. Almost home. He wanted to get out and run but he had the paperwork and his clothes with him, and he didn’t want to freak out the cab driver. Although the man was already giving him funny looks in the rearview mirror, probably because he couldn’t stay still.

As soon as the car reached the main driveway Steve practically threw a stack of bills at the driver and jumped out the cab, just remembering to keep a hand on the folder. Hurrying to the front door, Steve took a moment to collect himself and then reached for the door handle.

Steve could hear voices drifting out from the media room as he pushed the front doors open and he was smiling before he could realize it. A quick glance around the foyer proved the everything was just about the same as he left it. Bringing a child into the home might have encouraged most people to redecorate but not Tony Stark. He had left all of his expensive furniture, technology, and art exactly where it had always been, some of which were very child accessible. Nothing was a danger to Peter but Peter was definitely a danger to it and during the first few months some fairly pricy objects had been damaged beyond repair. To his credit, Tony never got angry when something broke, simply called it survival of the fittest and had it replaced. The only thing that had really changed about the Stark Mansion was now there were kids’ toys scattered about amongst all of the pack’s other possessions. Usually Steve tried to pick them up—or, more often, encourage Peter to pick up after himself to try and instill some good habits—but it was obvious that Tony had no such inclinations.

Steve’s thought were interrupted as JARVIS’s voice echoed out from the ceiling. “Welcome home, Sir. Master Stark, Master Rogers has returned.”

There was a crashing noise from the next room but before Steve even had the time to be worried about it Tony was rushing out, a grinning Peter gathered up in his arms. “Thank fu—freaking god you’re back. Here, take him.”

Steve smiled and opened his mouth but Tony cut him off before he could utter a word with a quick shake of his head. “No, just, seriously, take him.”

Steve obeyed and let Tony slide Peter into his arms before turning around and disappearing without another word. Steve watched his mate scurry away and told himself not to take it personally. He knew that Peter demanded a lot of attention and that Tony needed an equal amount of alone time that the Panther was probably near desperate to return to. So as soon as Tony disappeared from view Steve just looked down at Peter with a light smile.

The boy instantly returned it, also too used to Tony by now to be bothered by the Cat’s attitude. “Hi Pop!”

“Hey, Peter.” Leaning down, Steve gently headbutted Peter and he giggled happily. It was a standard Wolf greeting, especially between family and was an unspoken invitation for Peter to initiate contact between them. “How are you?”

Peter cuddled closer and reached up to wrap his hands around Steve’s neck, half crawling up his chest in an effort to get closer still. He wasn’t always this clingy but it was a natural and welcome response for a young beta to have to his pack’s alpha’s return. Especially when the pack alpha was his father. “I’m okay.”

Squirming some more, Peter maneuvered himself to look over Steve’s shoulder, his arms still wrapped tight around his neck. “Where’re Clint and Natasha?”

“They’re filing a report in town. They’ll be back for dinner. Speaking of, are you hungry?”

“No, I’m alright. Dad just gave me some Pop Tarts.”

At least Tony fed him something. Though Steve was pretty sure that those Pop Tarts had belonged to Thor. “In that case, do you want to go practice? Has your Dad been practicing with you while I was away?”

Peter became a little sullen, pulling his arms away to clutch at Steve’s shirt instead of his neck. “He, he did yesterday but not today. And the day before a little bit.”

“Do you want to show me what you learned?”

“Um…” Peter’s voice trailed off and his eyes sheepishly darted down to the ground. The look was entirely too doubtful, too hesitant, too uncomfortable for Steve to stomach. There was no reason that Peter should be feeling that way about his own abilities. Not when he was only four years old.

So Steve backtracked a bit and soothed a hand through Peter’s fluffy brown hair. “How about we just go through your usual practice to warm-up then?”

Peter’s chin bobbed up and met Steve’s relaxed gaze. The little boy’s anxiety slowly melted away at the new request and Steve was glad to see it. He had gone through his ‘usual practice’ for about five months now. If he had shrunk from that Steve really would have been worried. “Okay!”

Steve set Peter down and he scampered through the house out through the back door in the kitchen. Laughing, Steve took off after him and easily overtook him as he scurried across the grass towards the large structure in the backyard that Tony called the Shed while Steve and the rest of the pack called the Gym.

Either way, it was a new workout facility they had built in back of the house. It looked like a large garage from the outside and was equipped with weights, padded mats, and a miniature obstacle course to help build agility. Each of them had some specialty equipment installed as well; Steve, for example, made sure to hang up a punching bag in the corner of the room for when he really needed to burn off some steam but didn’t have time for a long run. Once Peter’s abilities made themselves known Tony had gone so far as to install a series of metal bars on the ceiling for Peter to use though Clint had quickly adopted them as his own personal perches.

Peter didn’t waste any time once they got inside, having memorized the whole routine months ago. Even though Steve had seen it a hundred times it still awed him to watch Peter walk up to the metal wall of the gym, put his small hands up against the surface and simply start to climb. Bruce and Tony had personally analyzed Peter’s hands with the boy’s permission and had discovered that he actually had the same small hairs that real spiders had on his palms and to a lesser degree on the soles of his feet. They had also looked at the small holes on his wrists where his webs came from. Then they had ended up accidentally triggering them and had spent the next two hours cleaning the sticky fibers off of Peter and Tony’s lab. Although Peter couldn’t shift into his Wolf form, in a way he always existed in a half-shifted state.

When he reached the top of the wall, Peter unstuck one hand and shot out a web, attaching it to one of the metal bars then released the wall entirely and with a giggle swung away from it. The momentum carried him in a semi-circle arc all the way up to another metal bar that he caught hold of and scrambling up onto it. He spent the next few minutes just jumping from bar to bar and Steve tried not to worry. When they had started bringing Peter in for exercise both he and Tony had been afraid that the toddler was going to seriously injure himself but so far he had only fallen twice during all of his goofing around. Both times they had caught him before he hit the ground but Bruce assured them that even at his age if Peter fell he wouldn’t seriously hurt himself since the floors were padded and Shifters were much more durable that human children.

His thoughts were brought back up and he watched Peter shimmy clumsily up the thin metal pole that attached the bar to the ceiling. The ceiling was made of polished metal, it was on an incline, and Peter had to be upside-down as he moved but he didn’t hesitate for a second. Steve smiled up at him as he crawled his way across the ceiling until he was right above Steve. Tipping his head back, Peter smiled back and then his expression widened into a grin. “Pop, catch me!”

Last time Steve helped Peter out with his exercises he was having a bit of trouble finding a graceful way back off the ceiling but this seemed to work alright. Reaching his arms up over his head, Steve waved for Peter to come down and Peter let himself drop. Steve grunted as Peter fell down onto him and he caught him easily in his arms. “Gotcha!”

Peter laughed and flailed about until Steve was holding him just as he wanted then leaned forward to cuddle against his chest. Steve’s smile softened and he tightened his hold on the boy and took in his unique scent. It was predominately Wolf with an undercurrent of a ‘something else’ Steve knew to be Spider all drowned out by the smell of his pack, particularly him and Tony. Steve couldn’t think of a more perfect scent in the entire world.

“You two look like a Norman Rockwell painting.” Steve looked up and smiled to find Tony standing just inside the doorway. “You know, if he had painted Shifters.”

“Tony, what is it?” Steve had expected the Panther to hide out for at least another hour or two and would have been happy to give his mate the time he needed to decompress. 

Tony shrugged off Steve’s confusion. “Just wanted to let the two of you sickeningly adorable dogs know that Bruce just called. He met up with Natasha and Clint at SHIELD and they’re dragging him home for dinner.”

Steve’s eyes widened and he looked down to check his watch. “Are they coming back already? I should get something started.” He hadn’t even noticed how much time he had spent watching Peter play around. No wonder he seemed tuckered out.

“Too late. I already ordered pizza.”

Steve sighed but nodded his head in thanks. “You didn’t have to do that.” He would have been happy to cook. Tony always hated having to cook but Steve never really minded. And it made him feel bad when Tony had to spend more money on them, even though he knew the Cat didn’t care.

“And you shouldn’t have to cook after you just got back from a mission.”

“Ya, but—“

Tony interrupted him. “Peter, you’re good with pizza, right?”

Steve knew he had lost the argument when Peter brightened and he spun his head around to smile at his Dad. “With lots a meat on it?”

“Of course.”

“Yay!”

Steve laughed at Peter’s excitement and shook his head. “Okay, okay. We’ll do pizza. Let’s go inside and get ready.”

Sending Steve a victorious smile, Tony turned and watched his mate leave the gym with Peter still in his arms with no apparent intention of being put down any time soon. Tony was still smirking as Steve walked by and Steve figured it was just because Tony was now enjoying the fact he was momentarily stuck with an arm-full of wiggling Wolf cub. Steve definitely wasn’t expecting the hand on his ass and started in surprise as Tony almost—no, there was nothing almost about it—Tony shamelessly groped him right behind their son’s back. Biting his lip to keep in any embarrassing noises, Steve reached one hand back and subtly smacked his mate’s hand off. “Tony…”

“Hmm?”

Steve was almost amazed at the Cat’s abilities to sound so completely normal. “How about you go and get the table set?”

“Fine. Spoilsport.” Peter giggled as Tony stuck out his tongue. Steve rolled his eyes but mouthed ‘later’ over Peter’s head and Tony winked back before turning on his heels and heading up to the kitchen.

They had barely made it back into the house when there was a noise coming from the front of the house. Steve grunted as Peter used his chest as a launching pad, springing off of him and running through the house towards the front door with a wide grin on his face. “Uncle Bruce is home! Clint and Natasha are home!”

Tony raised a brow and Steve could only smile back at him as they listened to the sound of the front door being wrenched open followed by a surprised shout, a thud, and a laugh from Clint. It sounded like Peter had tackled Bruce to the ground again. Tony shook his head. “One of these days Bruce is going to shift when Peter jumps on him like that.” Tony was joking but there was a very real underlying warning in his tone.

“He’s usually able to sense Peter coming.”

“I’m going to say ‘I told you so’ when it happens.” 

“I see you two are already back to normal.” Bruce walked in to the room with Peter’s arms wrapped tightly around his shoulders, the boy clinging onto the beta’s back so firmly that Steve knew he had to be using his Spider abilities to hang on. There was a weary smile on his face as he nodded to Tony and Steve. “Steve, it’s good to see you home again.”

“You too, Bruce.”

The beta adjusted Peter’s hold as the boy’s arms slid up towards his neck. “Does someone have dinner going?”

Tony grinned as the beta’s stomach let out a low rumble. “Hungry?”

Bruce gave Tony an unimpressed look and Steve stepped in before Tony could tease Bruce anymore. “Don’t worry, pizza’s on the way. Where are Clint and Natasha?” He could smell them on Bruce and had heard them come in with him.

“They went upstairs to clean up after the mission.”

Tony glanced at Steve out of the corner of his eyes. “Something you should’ve done.”

“Hey!” Steve had meant that to come out a bit more annoyed than amused. Oh well.

“You smell like Wolf and piss.”

Steve paused then realized that he had spent the better part of the morning in a strange Wolf den and the alleyway next to it had had a particularly potent urine smell. Pulling up the hem of his shirt, Steve sniffed it and, sure enough, it was a little more pungent than he had realized.

Peter frowned then made Bruce gag lightly as he pulled at the beta’s neck. “I think you smell okay!”

“See?” Tony waved towards Peter with a smirk on his lips that Steve suddenly wanted to kiss away. “Even Peter can’t give you more than an ‘okay’.”

Despite his words, the look Tony was giving him was pushing Steve’s limits and Steve knew that if he didn’t nip this in the bud his mate would get his way and they’d be up in bed before dinner even got there. “Alright, you win. I’ll go take a shower.”

Tony smile turned sly. “Maybe I’ll come and—“

Across the room, Bruce rolled his eyes as Steve flushed. “The pizza’s almost here, it’s going to be a really quick shower.”

Tony’s eyes scanned up and down Steve’s body and Steve’s throat went dry as Tony licked his lips. “I can make it quick.”

The way Tony was still looking at him was not playing fair. Steve felt his resolve wavering until Bruce loudly cleared his throat. “Maybe Steve should just get cleaned up. We don’t want to hold dinner up. I’m sure Peter’s hungry, aren’t you?”

“Yeah!”

Peter’s chirp shook Steve out of his arousal and he was immediately embarrassed for losing any semblance of control in front of his son. “Y-yeah. I’m just, okay…I’m going to go upstairs now. Be right back!”

As he turned tail and hustled towards the stairs he heard Bruce let out a long sigh. “You’re terrible.”

Tony’s response drifted over to his ears as he reached the base of the staircase. “Give me a break, it’s been a whole week…”

Steve didn’t think he had ever showered so fast. He hurried for several reasons: he didn’t want to waste time up here when he finally had the majority of his pack together again, he didn’t want to be stuck in the shower when the pizza arrived, and—most importantly—he didn’t trust Tony not to try and sneak in if he took too long. And while that would have been a very good, very enjoyable thing, the timing just wasn’t right. Not when Bruce, Natasha, and Clint had just gotten home. And not when Peter was still awake. Swearing under his breath, Steve turned the water as cold as it would go and pressed his hands against the tile of the shower wall to keep his hands off of himself.

In no more than three minutes Steve was out and toweling his hair off, his skin shivering lightly as he warmed himself back up. The chill had been worth it though. It now felt like he could see Tony again without tackling him to the ground and rutting against him like he was in heat. At least he hoped so. Tony had been right; it had been a whole week. And suddenly that seemed like forever.

Steve looked up as he heard the doorbell ring and practically fell over himself as he fumbled to pull some new pants on. Shaking his head to try and get a bit more water off, he tugged a shirt on over his damp hair and hurried out the door. In the hall he saw that Natasha and Clint both still had the doors closed to their rooms and knocked on each. “Dinner’s here.”

He heard some rustling around in Clint’s room. “Be right out!”

“Make sure you come down, you could use the food.” He wouldn’t put it past Clint, or Natasha really, to skip dinner in favor of finishing up any extra work or winding down, but they needed the calories. As far as Steve knew none of them had found the time to eat all day.

Yes, mother.”

Taking the hint, Steve left them alone to finish up and jogged the rest of the way down stairs. The pizza delivery man had already come and gone by the time he reached the main floor of the house so he moved directly into the kitchen. Steve claimed his seat at the head of the table with a grateful sigh and smiled as Tony sat down on his right. Peter scrambled into his seat on his left and Bruce sat down next to him, Natasha and Clint arriving not a moment later and sitting next to each other beside Tony. There were two empty seats at the far end of the long table that Steve insisted be left out for Thor and Loki even when they weren’t in the country. It was a tradition of respect and acknowledgment that Steve had carried over from his time leading the Howling Commandoes.

Peter kicked his feet excitedly under the table as Bruce passed around some plates and flipped open the lid to one of the three extra-large pizza boxes sitting in the center of the table. It might have looked like a lot of food but if he wanted to Steve could have eaten a whole pizza by himself. They were lucky that Natasha and Clint were relatively light eaters, otherwise they would have needed to order a fourth.

Dinner was fairly normal by their standards. Everyone was lively and talkative. There was a lot of conversation, a little teasing, a lot of off-color jokes phrased just innocently enough so that Peter couldn’t understand them, and the constant risk of a food-fight. Steve just barely managed to keep the peace but he was enjoying himself even as he glared at Clint as he threated to throw a piece of pizza crust at Bruce. Because he had missed this. And the way Tony’s leg kept brushing up against his under the table was nice. More than nice but Steve wasn’t going to let himself think that way because they were at the dining table and it was inappropriate.

But it was clear Tony didn’t feel the same.

Almost as soon as dinner was finished and the dishes were clean Tony managed to find an excuse to follow Steve into the library. Steve had honestly been looking for a pen so he could start the mission paperwork while it was still fresh in his mind but when he looked up the Cat was a mere three feet away and closing in.

Knowing he had been spotted and not minding in the least, Tony grinned and purposefully let his eyes drag up and down Steve’s body with so much heat in his stare that Steve swore he could feel it on his skin. It took half a second of eye-contact with his mate to make Steve completely forget about paperwork and pens. Steve licked his lips and Tony laughed, reaching out to get a tight grip on the fabric of Steve’s shirt to draw him in for a light, teasing kiss. That quick touch of lips was all that was needed to break the thin layer of self-control he had left. Tony wanted him, he wanted Tony—God, did he ever. Even one week was too long to not be able to touch his mate. Steve grunted and stared to back them out of the room, into the entry hall, and up towards the stairs.

They hadn’t made it halfway across the foyer before Bruce was hurrying after them, a towel tucked over his arm from drying the dishes. “Hey, Steve. I was hoping to have a quick word with you and Tony?”

Tony leaned back to look around Steve’s shoulder and glare at Bruce. “He’s busy.”

Steve sighed. “Tony…” He wanted to continue this just as much as Tony did but the pack had to come first.

But Tony wasn’t having it. “You’re busy.”

 Steve sucked in a breath as Tony subtly reached forward and rested his hand on Steve’s belt buckle. The gesture wasn’t sexual in itself but the promises it held were enough to make Steve break propriety. “Sorry. Excuse me, Bruce.”             

Steve let Tony drag him up to the second story and down the hall to their room, all the while trying to keep a smile off of his face. “That was rude.”

Tony grinned and with one more tug had them both in the bedroom.  “You know what’s really rude? You giving me blue-balls all night. That’s down-right cruel—“

Steve ducked down and quieted his mate with a kiss. The moan Tony let out when their lips touched sent a curl of hot pleasure down through Steve’s gut and a low growl escaped him as Tony nipped at his bottom lip until Steve’s mouth opened and they deepened their kiss. Tony adjusted his stance and Steve shivered as he felt a brush of a tell-tale hardness against his thigh. “Tony…”

“I think it’s about time we—“

This time Tony was cut off not by Steve but by the pitter-patter of small feet on the ground. Steve jerked back from his mate just as Peter bounced into the room, a warm smile on his face as Steve belatedly realized he had forgot to shut their bedroom door behind them.

“Pop, can you read me a story before bed?”

Later Steve would look back and be impressed by how quickly he was able to recover his composure. There was only a slight tremble in his voice and he turned back and nodded at his son. “Of course. Go get your pajamas on and brush your teeth. I’ll come in when you’re all done.”

Peter scampered off to do as he was told. As he left the room, Steve turned back to Tony with a small smile. “ I guess I’ll be right back.”

There was a frustrated frown on Tony’s face and he reached out to run his hands down Steve’s hip, his blunt nails scratching against the rough fabric of his jeans. “Come on, let’s just put him to bed in an hour or two. It’s only eight thirty.”

Swallowing, Steve rested a hand on top of Tony’s as the Cat’s touch began to wander further south. “That’s late enough for a four year old.” Tony snorted and Steve tilted his head. “You didn’t let him stay up all night again while I was away, did you?”

“Don’t be ridiculous. Just until nine…or eleven or twelve.” Steve sighed and Tony pulled his hand away to wave it dismissively in the air. “Does it really matter? It’s not like he’s in school yet.”

“Wolves need routine. We need discipline.”

Tony scoffed before a thought seemed to strike him and his brow quirked up. A dirty smile slid across his lips and Steve immediately knew he had walked himself into an innuendo. “Well, who am I to deny you discipline? How about you pick a short story to read so I can knock a little discipline into you?”

Steve flushed red but couldn’t help but smile back and bow his head down for one more kiss before turning and leaving their room. When he reached Peter’s room, which was the room he used to stay in before he and Tony started sleeping together, the boy had just gotten back from the bathroom and was finishing pulling on his pajama top. Smiling at the sight, Steve crouched down to help him untangle his sleeve and grinned as Peter finally tugged the shirt all the way on and his head popped out the top hole. “Did you brush your teeth?”

“Yup!”

“Did you use the potty?” Peter had been relatively easy to potty-train according to the horror stories he and Tony had read about in parenting books but sometimes he still forgot to try to go before bed, which resulted either in a late-night bathroom run or waking up to wet sheets.

“Yup!” Running over to his bed, Peter snatched his favorite plushie off of it and ran back over to Steve. “Can you read me a story now?”

“Of course. But how about a short one tonight, okay? We’re all a little tired.” Steve thought that was probably true. Just because he had another motive for finishing up early didn’t mean his first was a lie.

“Okay.” Peter padded over to the small bookcase in his room, his stuffed wolf dangling limply from one arm. Clint had gotten him the toy as a joke but to the Hawk’s chagrin Peter had fallen in love with it and refused to sleep without it. Steve stood and watched with a fond smile as the boy crouched down and pursed his lips together in exaggerated concentration.  Finally he seemed to settle on one of the books and gently tugged it free from the books around it. Holding it up, Peter toddled back over to his bed where Steve was waiting for him. “This?”

A Dr. Suess classic. “That’s perfect.”

Peter smiled and clamored up onto the bed with one hand clutching the book tightly to his chest and the other still keeping a firm hold on his stuffed toy. Steve sat on the edge of the mattress and Peter snuggled up against him, his head resting on the alpha’s lap as his arms wrapped around his stuffed wolf. Smiling down, Steve ruffled his boy’s hair then ran his hand down to scratch lightly on Peter’s back. He hummed happily and pressed even closer, his nose burying into Steve’s cotton shirt as he passed the older Wolf the book.

Steve kept his voice low and calm as he read, the words sounding more like a lullaby than prose, and even though it was a short book Peter’s eyelids were beginning to droop before Steve was even able to reach the last few pages. As he finished, Steve gently closed the book and set it on the small table beside Peter’s bed before carefully lifting his son off so that he could slip off the covers. Peter only yawned and nestled back into his sheets, not needing any more coaxing to settle in. Steve’s expression softened and he leaned down to tuck the covers in around his small body and press a light kiss to the top of his head. “Good night, pup. Sweet dreams.”

Pulling his stuffed wolf closer, Peter yawned widely again before he was able to answer. “’Night, Pop. ‘m glad you’re home.”

“Me too.”

For many reasons.

Their room was dark when Steve stepped back into it and he paused a moment after closing the door behind him to let his eyes adjust. He could smell Tony and the heady musk that had already filled the air. Steve still couldn’t see that well but didn’t need to in order to know that Tony had a smirk on his face as he spoke. “Lose the shirt.”

Steve faltered before a smile spread across his own lips. He reached down to the hem of his shirt and tugged it up over his head. It was impossible to resist flexing a bit, knowing that Tony had to be watching from the bed, as he carefully folded up his shirt and placed it next to the dresser.

“The pants and underwear too, while you’re at it.”

It wasn’t an entirely unexpected demand but it still brought a blush to Steve’s cheeks. “You better be naked over there.” That would only be fair.

“I guess you’ll just have to come over here and check for yourself.”

Steve smirked at the response but did just that and strode across the room fully nude and with the beginnings of arousal spreading through him like a wildfire. He knew the room well enough to make his way to the bed without his sight. He stretched his hands out in front of him as he came closer to the mattress and pulled himself up onto the comforter when the tips of his fingers hit the soft duvet. Pulling in a long breath of air through his nose, he growled appreciatively at the scent of his mate ready and waiting for him. Tony’s hands found his shoulder and guided him up to lie next to him, wasting no time in pressing their lips together.

It started gentle and chaste, half dry press of lips, half breathing in each other’s scents. But soon the kisses were becoming deeper and Steve felt himself growing drunk on Tony’s smell as the Cat nipped at his bottom lip until he parted his lips and their tongues met. It had only been a week but suddenly it felt like it had been forever since Steve had last touched or tasted him. He couldn’t keep his hands to himself but Tony didn’t seem to mind, humming into his mouth as Steve’s hands slid their way down Tony’s sides until he was resting his palms on his mate’s bottom and could pull Tony’s hips in tight against his. Tony swore under his breath and clutched at Steve’s shoulder before he threw one leg over Steve’s hip and made them both gasp as their erections rubbed together.

The momentum from the change in position rolled Steve onto his back and he bit his lip, only letting a muffled grunt escape him, as Tony leaned down and whispered against his ear. “Stay.”

It was a command, the kind that you’d give a dog, but Steve knew it wasn’t meant as an insult and couldn’t help but get excited as another wave of Tony’s alpha pheromones washed over him. The Cat’s smirk grew and he crawled on top of him so that he was straddling Steve’s waist with his hands pressed down onto the mattress on either side of Steve’s head. The look in Tony’s eyes was pure want and it made heat flare up and pool low and hot in his belly.

The next thing Steve knew they were rutting together. The stimulation was nice but it wasn’t enough and Steve growled out as much. Tony only smirked again, the expression shakier this time and belied by the flush in his cheeks. “You’re gonna have to beg for it.”

Steve scowled, his voice graveled and husky already as he let out a protesting groan. “Tony…”

“Discipline, remember?”

“Not going to happen.” It was always like this: half a game, half a real test of wills. Steve gasped as Tony gave a particularly brutal thrust and arched into it but didn’t let himself release the whine that threatened to burst from his throat. They both made sure that it was never malicious but fighting for dominance had become an almost necessary part of their bondings. Maybe it would be simpler if Tony was an omega, if Steve had a mate who was instinctually programmed to roll onto their stomachs and present themselves on his command, and he would be lying if he said that part of him still didn’t find that appealing.

But a bigger part of Steve loved the way Tony challenged him and met every touch, push, and kiss with as much or more power. The way things escalated and they ended up tangled together, pinning each other down and both licking, kissing, and biting everywhere they could reach. It was a different fulfillment, a different kind of rush, and Steve never wanted to be without it again.

Tony was biting and nipping his way down Steve’s neck when the spell was momentarily broken, Steve jerking as Tony’s cell phone chirped from the bedside table. Tony snarled, glared back at it, then ignored it with the complete dismissal only a Cat could muster to return to his assault on Steve’s neck. A few seconds later there was another chirp, followed by another, and on the fourth Tony hissed and threw himself across Steve’s chest to snatch up his phone. Steve thought he was going to answer it until Tony drew his arm back and chucked the phone across the room so hard that it hit the wall with a loud snap.

Steve lifted an questioning eyebrow as Tony turned back to glower down at him but couldn’t stop a smile from pulling the corner of his lips up when Tony rolled his eyes. “…Probably a solicitor.”

Steve snorted and rested his hands back on Tony’s hips. “I’m sure.”

Tony’s glower slipped off his face at the feeling of his mate’s fingers on his skin. A groan rolled out of Steve’s throat as Tony ground his hips back down. “Sassy…”

Steve gasped as Tony gave a particularly forceful thrust down and his grip tightened on Tony’s hips. It was getting hard to breathe. Everything in him wanted to throw Tony across the bed and fuck him absolutely senseless but he was so desperate from all the teasing that he was pretty much willing to do anything Tony wanted, as long as it brought some relief. He hadn’t felt this worked up since their last heat had hit. It almost scared him, what he was willing to do for his mate. “You bring the worst out in me. And the best.”

“And I’m planning seeing both tonight.” Pausing just long enough to wink at him, Tony slunk down Steve’s body, letting his hands drag down his overheated skin.

Steve threw his head back as Tony used his shoulders to nudge his knees farther apart. “God, Tony. Please…!” The ‘please’ slipped out before Steve could stop it but he didn’t have it in him to be upset at that point.

He heard Tony chuckle, dark and dangerous, and the Cat licked a stripe up the inside of Steve’s thighs before wetting down two fingers. “Good boy, keep on begging for me.”

If he had been in his right mind Steve would have called it off at that remark but he was too far gone. After almost two years together Tony knew how to play his body like a fiddle: where to touch, where to lick, where to bite. How to let his scenting oil seep out so that the smell drove Steve crazy. Whether he was taking Tony or, like tonight, Tony took him, the Cat knew just what to do to reduce Steve into a sweating, begging, rutting mess. And Tony was taking way too long prepping him as he slipped one finger in him, and then a second. “Tony, come on!”

Tony grit his teeth. “You know as well as I do this always takes too damn long.” Alphas weren’t bred for patience when it came to sex. What they were meant for were omegas. Omegas who happened to self-lubricate. Even betas—according to Tony—were easier to open up. 

Pardon me, Master Stark, Master Rogers—

Tony jerked in surprise and Steve yelped as he jammed his fingers in a bit too hard. JARVIS genuinely seemed remorseful as they both looked up at the ceiling. “I apologize, sirs. Doctor Banner is requesting your presence downstairs.

Groaning as Tony pulled away, Steve leaned back against his pillow and tried to stop his chest from heaving. “Was, was it Bruce who was calling?”

Tony didn’t answer him, responding to JARVIS instead even as he moved to straddle Steve’s waist again. “Tell Bruce to wait until morning.”

I’m afraid he’s insisting that there is an important matter he needs to discuss with the both of you.”

Tony met Steve’s eyes, the Cat sitting back on top of Steve’s legs. A silent conversation passed between them. Neither of them really wanted to go but apparently it was important. Steve let out a breath and wishing that he had taken the time to hear Bruce out earlier. “We should go.”

“I knew you were going to say that…” Tony growled but rolled off of Steve. He turned back to take in the view one more time then raised his brows and waved at the erection Steve was still sporting. “Well, you better get that under control before we leave.”

Steve blushed but took the advice to heart and quickly began to think of unappealing things to try and kill his arousal. “What about you?” He wasn’t the only one showing evidence of their tussle.  

But Tony only shrugged as he pulled out an old t-shirt Steve was pretty sure was his and tugged it on. “I don’t care. Bruce gets to see what he gets to see.”

Despite what Tony had threatened he too had gotten his erection down by the time they had made it down the stairs. Bruce was waiting for them in the media room. It looked like only other person still up was Natasha, the redhead tucked into an armchair with her phone. Tony didn’t pay her any mind though and went straight for Bruce, a snarl on his lips but no real heat in his voice. “This better be important. You interrupted—“

Bruce at least had the good graces to look apologetic but cut Tony off before he could finish complaining. “I can smell what I interrupted, you don’t need to explain it. And it is important.” He looked over from his seat on the couch as Natasha silently tucked her phone away and moved to stand and allow them some privacy. “Wait, Natasha, you stay too.”

Now Steve was on guard, an anxious feeling growing in his chest. “What is it, Bruce?”  The way that Bruce had said that made it obvious that he wanted Natasha to be a part of this conversation.  But Steve couldn’t think of any business he and Tony had with Bruce that also involved Natasha but none of the rest of the pack. Natasha looked equally confused which did not bode well. The Spider almost always knew any important news before anyone else.

The beta scooted forward in his seat. His nerves showed by the way he couldn’t keep his hands still, fiddling with his sleeves and adjusting his glasses. Steve glanced over at Tony and saw that his mate’s brows were drawn together. All the earlier playfulness had been wiped from his face to be replaced with a concerned frown as Bruce began to explain. “The project I was working on, I just finished it today. I have been meaning to get around to it for a while now but the weeks just went by so fast…”

Tony interrupted as Bruce began to ramble. “What was your project?”

“Peter. Peter was my project.” Steve sucked in a quick breath. Steve knew Bruce and Tony had both done research on him but he didn’t know Bruce was still at it. What had he found after all these months? Was something wrong with Peter? “Since he has been relatively stable the priority wasn’t very high so I haven’t gotten the chance to really explore his genetics as much as I would have liked to. I’m sure we’ve all had the same thought about the rarity of the genes Peter was spliced with.”

Now Steve knew why Bruce had wanted Natasha to stay. She tensed in the armchair, her eyes narrowing at Bruce. “Cut to the chase.”

“The Spider DNA is yours, Natasha.”

Steve couldn’t believe it. And going off the looks on their faces, neither could Tony or Natasha. The redhead opened her mouth, then pursed her lips, then tried to speak once more. This was the first time that Steve had seen Natasha literally rendered speechless. “How is that possible?”

Bruce sighed. “Somehow they must have gotten your DNA. Can you think of any way that Hydra would have gotten a sample of it?”

She shook her head emphatically. “No. No, not even SHIELD has it.”

Growling, Tony crossed his arms over his chest. “Well they got your DNA somehow.”

Bruce leaned forward, his eyes locked on hers in an intense stare. “A hair sample, a blood sample, anything?”

Steve trusted that Bruce knew what he was talking about but the more he thought about it, the more the pieces just didn’t seem to fit. If Natasha had really been private enough over the years to not even allow SHIELD to have her genetic information he didn’t see how Hydra would have gotten it. It was true that trace evidence might have been left during any one of their missions but, “I find it hard to imagine that the scientists working for Hydra would have gone out looking for a single strand of Natasha’s hair—“

“Wait.” Steve’s jaw snapped shut as Natasha suddenly looked up to reconnect with Bruce’s stare. She had fallen silent for a moment and her eyes had gone out of focus as she delved back into her memory. “I cut my hand.”

“What?” Steve mentally worked back through his own memories to try and recall when Natasha had injured herself.

“I cut my hand on some glass during one of our earlier missions together, when we were hunting down Loki.” Her eyes grew wide. “The cut wasn’t deep so I didn’t give it any thought but—“

“—But they would have had plenty of time afterwards to see the blood and swab it. And there’s a simple test they could have run to check what sort of Shifter the blood came from.” Bruce closed his eyes and raked his fingers back through his graying hair. “It wouldn’t have taken them long to isolate and replicate the DNA sequence with the instruments they had in their labs.”

Steve shook his head. “So the DNA Hydra used on Peter came from Natasha…Are there any others out there with her DNA?”

Bruce’s head bobbed back up. “No. Well,” the beta winced, “none that are still alive. Peter was lucky, there were two other Shifters in the lab who Hydra tried to splice with Spider DNA but it didn’t take.”

Rising to her feet, Natasha paced over to the window, her hands gripping the sill as if to try and stabilize herself. “Is there any way that this makes me legally responsible for him? For Peter?”

“No, not as far as any court would be concerned. Peter is Tony and Steve’s child.”

Steve was just as comforted to hear Bruce’s answer as Natasha was. He knew Tony felt the same as he heard the Cat let out a long breath. And the more Steve thought about it, “It’s odd but, it’s actually a relief to hear.”

Bruce tilted his head. “What is?”

“That the Spider DNA in Peter came from Natasha. At least we know you. And you’re pack, you’re family. In a way it sort of seems like we were meant to adopt Peter.  What were the chances?”

A weak but grateful smile worked its way onto Bruce’s lips. “The chance that the Spider DNA in Peter came from Natasha? About one in three, based off of the statistics SHIELD has on Spider Shifters.”

Tony, who had been oddly quiet until then, finally spoke with a quirk of his lips. “You take the magic out of life.”

Bruce smiled back at him even as hesitation lingered in his expression. “Like you’re one to talk. But you two are okay with that?”

Steve’s answer was immediate. “Of course.” It was how things were; they couldn’t change it so the only thing to do was accept it with open arms.

Nodding his agreement, Tony’s grin widened. “I’m not upset with Natasha, if that’s what you’re getting at. It’s not like she’s going to try to claim custody, are you Mama?”

Natasha narrowed her eyes and even from across the room the glare she sent him could have brought grown men to tears. “You call me that again and I will castrate you.”

Bruce smiled wearily at the exchange before returning his attention to his alphas. “Do you want me to try and explain any of this to Peter?”

Tony and Steve looked at each other. “If he ever asks, we won’t lie to him about it.”

Steve frowned as Natasha fidgeted by the window. “Are you alright with that, Natasha?”

“I…yes, fine. I just don’t want him to think I was actively involved with what happened to him.”

“When he asks—if he asks—we’ll make sure that he knows it.”

With their conversation over, Tony had all but dragged Steve back up to their bedroom. Tony released him as they reached the door and had thrown himself back onto the bed before Steve was able to lock the door behind them.

Tony rolled back under the covers and leaned his head back on the pillow, closing his eyes with a low groan. Steve smiled and crawled onto the mattress to lean over him. Feeling him hover, Tony flicked one eye open to glare up at him. His annoyed expression melted away though as Steve lowered himself down to press their lips together. A rumble rolled up in Tony’s chest and he pressed himself up to meet Steve halfway and teased his tongue into his mate’s mouth. Then he realized what position they were in and growled.

 Steve yelped as Tony broke the kiss and surged forward, knocking him onto his back. He blinked up to find Tony smirking down at him. “I don’t think so…How about we just start where we left off.”

“I’m okay with that.” Tony’s growls slowed to a happy rumble.

Steve huffed out a breath as Tony’s hand found his arousal and stretched his own arms up over his head. Tony chuckled, his voice hot against Steve’s neck. “Not such a bad way to end a job, is it?”

“No…” It really wasn’t, Bruce’s talk included.

He felt Tony smile against his skin and closed his eyes as the Cat began to kiss and lick at his throat between words. “And just think, we have the whole next week to ourselves.”

Oh. Wait. Steve blinked his eyes open. “I forgot to tell you, I invited Phil over for dinner on Thursday.”

Tony froze then seemed to deflate, a large huff of air hitting Steve’s neck as Tony sagged. “You deserve an award for killing the mood.”

Laughing despite himself, Steve nuzzled Tony’s ear. “Sorry. Sorry…I’ll make it up to you.”

“You better.”

Steve’s laughter faded into a warm grin as he tugged Tony back into place. “I will. Come here.”

In Steve’s defense, he did make it up to him.